Posted on | January 12, 2014 | 26 Comments
Alabama crazy-blogger Roger Shuler.
The title quote is Popehat blogger Ken White’s assessment of the Roger Shuler case as quoted in the New York Times:
For over six years, Roger Shuler has hounded figures of the state legal and political establishment on his blog, Legal Schnauzer, a hothouse of furious but often fuzzily sourced allegations of deep corruption and wide-ranging conspiracy. Some of these allegations he has tested in court, having sued his neighbor, his neighbor’s lawyer, his former employer, the Police Department, the Sheriff’s Department, the Alabama State Bar and two county circuit judges, among others. Mostly, he has lost.
But even those who longed for his muzzling, and there are many, did not see it coming like this: with Mr. Shuler sitting in jail indefinitely, and now on the list of imprisoned journalists worldwide kept by the Committee to Protect Journalists. There, in the company of jailed reporters in China, Iran and Egypt, is Mr. Shuler, the only person on the list in the Western Hemisphere.
A former sports reporter and a former employee in a university’s publications department, Mr. Shuler, 57, was arrested in late October on a contempt charge in connection with a defamation lawsuit filed by the son of a former governor. The circumstances surrounding that arrest, including a judge’s order that many legal experts described as unconstitutional and behavior by Mr. Shuler that some of the same experts described as self-defeating posturing, have made for an exceptionally messy test of constitutional law.
“You’ve got a situation where sometimes there’s no good guys,” said Ken White, a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles who writes about and practices First Amendment law.
You can read the whole thing. The real point — the key fact, which New York Times reporter Campbell Robertson can’t state in so many words — is that Roger Shuler is nuts. He is deluded, deranged and demented. Roger Shuler is bonkers, wacko, zany, off his rocker, a few fries short of a Happy Meal and cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.
Donald Douglas at American Power correctly identifies Roger Shuler as an “ax-grinding kook.” The ax-grinder — a person whose “politics” is in fact the manifestation of a deeply personal obsession — has in recent years become a familiar type of lunatic, and the problem is that our culture encourages such pseudo-politics.
What else is feminism, really, except the collective ax-grinding of digruntled female misfits? The insane controversy between radical feminists and transgender activists demonstrates the natural consequence of indulging the more extreme forms of identity politics. And if you start investigating the biographies of fringe activists in such movements, you will find no shortage of evidence of mental illness.
Roger Shuler is a heterosexual white male who claimed he was the victim of employment “discrimination” at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. This is what you might call a symptom.
“Shuler has not shown that any clearly established right has been violated. His only alleged evidence is a recorded phone call that he says supports the notion that he was terminated because of the political content of his blog. However, Shuler’s own transcript of the phone call shows only that his time spent researching content for his blog during working hours was a factor — and an ‘insignificant’ one, at that — in his termination. There is no evidence to suggest that the political content of his blog was a factor at all. Accordingly, we affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the UAB defendants on this claim.”
— 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, July 3, 2012
It might have been helpful if the 11th Circuit had added: “By the way, you’re crazy. Seek professional help, you nutjob.”
The decisive defeat of Shuler’s claim against UAB was no doubt a tremendous disappointment to him. Shuler’s habit of litigating pro se, acting as his own attorney, was evidence of an unrealistic confidence in his own abilities. He clearly believed he would prevail, and instead he abjectly failed. Are we surprised, then, that the “fuzzily sourced allegations” that led to Shuler being sued for defamation seem to have begun in mid-2012?
His “Legal Schnauzer” blog had trafficked in conspiracy theories and gossip-mongering for years, but in 2012, Shuler started cranking out the most absurd sort of defamatory craziness, publishing a letter by notorious conspiracy theorist Jill Simpson claiming that Karl Rove was sexually involved with Ali Akbar. I have speculated that this absurd falsehood originated with Neal Rauhauser, but wherever it came from, it was Shuler who foolishly decided to run with it — and both Rove and Akbar wisely ignored it. Evidently misinterpreting tactful silence as a license to engage in further defamation, Shuler then embarked on a course of publishing heinous smears for which he never offered any real evidence. Shuler’s reaction to being sued for defamation was as crazy as you might expect:
The Shulers refused to answer the door when officials came to serve court papers, stating their suspicions in blog posts that the visits were part of an “intimidation and harassment campaign” stemming from the reporting on another topic.
One afternoon as the Shulers drove to the local library, where Mr. Shuler had been writing his blog since they could no longer pay for their Internet connection, a member of the Sheriff’s Department pulled them over, saying they had run a stop sign. The officer then served them the papers, which the Shulers refused to accept, contending that service under such a pretext was improper.
“We were both throwing the papers out of the windows as we were driving off,” Ms. Shuler said in an interview.
The Shulers missed a hearing the next day, and the restraining order was superseded by a similarly worded preliminary injunction, which some free-speech advocates saw as a clear violation of Mr. Shuler’s First Amendment rights. . . .
The National Bloggers Club, a group led by the Republican activist Ali Akbar, who has also threatened to sue Mr. Shuler for defamation, released a statement condemning Mr. Shuler’s “rumormonger cyberbullying” but also criticizing the injunction as creating a potential chilling effect on blogging.
On the one hand, the injunction appears to be unconstitutional. On the other hand, Roger Shuler is crazy. How do you deal with such an irresponsible kook, who goes to the library to blog his reckless nonsense when he can no longer afford an Internet hookup?
Crazy people have rights, but sane people have rights, too.
Somehow, sooner or later, these lunatics must be stopped.