In a postscript in my previous post about the future of the Louisiana Democratic Party, I thanked the website The Hayride for the inspiration. But I made a mistake. Instead of referencing the actual post that had inspired me, titled Louisiana’s Democrats Have Gone Completely Off the Rails, I referenced a post published several years ago on LouisianaConservative.com, misattributing The Hayride as the publisher. It was an honest mistake, though, to be clear, I take total responsibility for not double-checking the reference. The Hayride has published and promoted a series of articles that would have illustrated the same point I was making: That, in my opinion, it often promotes a corrosive agenda, that its writers are prone to promulgating far-right, radical conspiracy theories about their political foes, and that it sometimes advances a subtle but pernicious notion of cultural hegemony, which (personally) I find to be bigoted.

Again, I apologize to my readers for the misattribution, and once I was notified of it, I immediately revised the post. But here’s what I won’t and can’t do: I will not back down from my criticism of The Hayride. When its publisher Scott McKay first spotted the error in my previous post, he threatened me with a defamation lawsuit and issued somewhat of an ultimatum: Either I apologize to him within the weekend, or he lawyers up and sues me. In framing his demand, Mr. McKay made certain that I knew exactly who I was dealing with:

I don’t know what I’ll do now that I’ve discovered I contribute nothing of substance to Louisiana’s political discourse.

Strange that the Washington Post thinks we’re one of the most influential state political blogs in the country, one of three in Louisiana which made the list. Turns out that Lamar’s little blog didn’t pull off that trick, which is too bad. Because he’s got so much to tell us about important issues like Bobby Jindal’s homophobia or how stupid Louisiana College is for not swallowing their Obamacare medicine, and all.

There are a couple of interesting things here: First, it should be noted that one of the other three blogs named as “the most influential state political blogs in the country” is The Daily Kingfish, a website I have contributed to, written for, and occasionally, helped to edit since it was first created. When I attended the Democratic National Convention, it was as a representative of The Daily Kingfish. But that’s not really the point; I’m not interested in getting into a full-on battle of the egos here. What’s more interesting is that, in attempting to assert his own influence, Mr. McKay is unwittingly undermining his claim of defamation. If he is, in fact, one of the most important bloggers in the State of Louisiana, then he’d be hard-pressed to assert that he’s somehow not, at the very least, a limited purpose public figure. To be sure, my misattribution was not “defaming” Mr. McKay; it was a mistake, honestly made and immediately corrected- a wrong example of something for which I could have referenced a series of right ones. Regardless, there is something special about a blogger who publicly threatens others with defamation (as a private citizen), when simultaneously promoting himself as one of the most influential political bloggers in Louisiana, and, of course, it’s exponentially more difficult for a public figure or a limited purpose public figure to substantiate a defamation claim than it is for an ordinary private citizen.

But even if Mr. McKay believes he can prevail against me or, at the very least, bully me around with letters from lawyers, he’s already rendered his entire claim moot, something I doubt that his lawyer knew when he sent me this letter on Friday:

Thirty minutes after reading Mr. Sternberg’s letter, I logged into The Hayride and read the following:

The problem is, there is no difference in this context whether he (Lamar) says we do racism here, or bigotry. What he’s trying to say is that we’re not allowed to depart from his ideological position without getting tarred for it. And he’s hiding behind saying “it’s my opinion.”

Well, OK. In my opinion, just looking at his picture, this guy could be a child molester.

See how this works? I didn’t REALLY call him a child molester, I said he looks like he could be one. And anyway it’s my opinion – I’m entitled to it. Besides, aren’t most felons Democrats? THAT I can back up with facts. He’s a Democrat, and he certainly looks sketchy enough, so you can draw your own conclusions.

I don’t think Mr. McKay quite understands the distinctions here, but, even if he does, he conceded that his claim is completely without merit: He wants to sue me for stating that, in my opinion, he advances and publishes bigoted commentary. Apparently, he believes that an opinion on what constitutes “bigotry” (and therefore not being a bigot) can be proven as a matter of fact. No, my belief about the corrosive bigotry and conspiratorial lunacy sometimes promoted by his website is my opinion. Accusing or implying that someone is guilty or could be guilty of a serious crime, publicly implying that someone could be a child molester or inspired by a former domestic terrorist: That’s defamation. I’ve never accused Mr. McKay of doing anything illegal. I’ve never implied that he is a criminal or even connected to criminals. Whereas calling someone a “bigot” is definitively a statement of opinion, suggesting – publicly- that someone could be a “child molester,” regardless of whether it’s framed as an opinion or not, is a statement that can be proven or dispelled, definitively, by the facts.

Here’s how I see it: Because I did not provide Mr. McKay with the personal apology and mea culpa that he had publicly demanded (with the threat of litigation if I refused to comply), he is now engaging in actively defaming me– and not really for what I think or for what my opinions are; he’s not saying that, in his opinion, I am a bigot; he’s publicly suggesting that I could be a “child molester.” I’ve been called many, many names on the Internet, but this really crosses the line. It’s not clever. It’s not funny. And it’s not nuanced. It’s despicable and reckless.

Mr. McKay, at the end of his post, writes, “We’re not going to spend too much more time on this clown. We have lawyers for that. It’s clear we won’t get satisfaction otherwise, but that’s what we expected from the beginning.” I get it. He’s going to sue me, even though his own lawyer advises the mutually beneficial solution of a healthy political discourse.

Mr. McKay said he wouldn’t be spending “too much more time on this clown (me),” and immediately thereafter, he published another post about me, titled “One Reason We’ve Chosen Not To Take People Like Lamar White Lightly” in which he compares me to a man I’d never heard of in my entire life, Brett Kimberlin. As I gather, Mr. Kimberlin was arrested and convicted of planting explosives on the Indiana highway in the late 1970s. He got out of jail, created some type of charity for artists, received a portion of his funding from a George Soros-backed organization, and now is (apparently) lashing out against conservative bloggers, a story that only appears on far-right blogs. Mr. McKay writes:

We don’t think Lamar White, who has engaged in a politically-motivated spate of libel against us, is a threat rising to the level of a Brett Kimberlin {NOTE: Though the headline implies such}. White doesn’t, to our knowledge, have a violent or criminal past {NOTE: I do not have a criminal record and have never been arrested or detained}.

But the internet is a wild frontier in which truly scary individuals can run amok and cause a great deal of damage. And we’ve had run-ins already with undesirables on the Left – the Iron Rail Book Collective mob made some feeble attempts at Kimberlin-style harrassment here, though they’re not quite as talented as he is.

As such, it’s important for folks in our position to make sure it’s known we’ll defend ourselves. If White isn’t a Kimberlin or an Iron Rail nut, good. He seems to share some of the same philosophy, though, so we’ll be watching him and we won’t tolerate much of his misbehavior toward us before taking steps to stop it.

Because it’s clear there is a movement afoot on the Left to silence those they disagree with online. And White’s attempts to paint The Hayride as a haven for bigotry, incompetent and ineffective though they may be, dovetail with that movement. We won’t be silenced, as Frey, Walker and McCain won’t be silenced.

Today is Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day, and if you can make it to that link on Lee Stranahan’s clogged site you’ll be able to see more about what’s going on in the blogosphere. The idea is for so many bloggers to tell Kimberlin’s story that he’s unable to harrass all of them.

Oh, I get it now! Today was “Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day;” I missed the memo from Michelle Malkin. I’d never heard of Kimberlin or the Iron Rail. I’m not up-to-date on my right-wing fringe radical reading.

So for those of you keeping score at home: On Brett Kimberlin Day, Scott McKay compared me to Kimberlin- who he references as a domestic terrorist who uses the courts to silence his political opponents. But in a supremely ironic twist, Mr. McKay is threatening to use the court system to sue me for my political speech. He’s even issued public ultimatums and threats (“(W)e won’t tolerate much of his misbehavior toward us before taking steps to stop it”). Yet, in the very next sentence, he writes that “it’s clear there is a movement afoot on the Left to silence those they disagree with online.”

The cognitive dissonance and the hypocrisy here are pretty astonishing. I’m not going to wait for Mr. McKay to retract (though I asked him to do so, through his attorney), and I certainly don’t expect Mr. McKay to apologize to me. But I’m also not going to waste anyone’s time (particularly the court’s time). I’ll follow Mr. McKay’s attorney’s advice and strive toward a real and honest political discussion.

I have one other apology to make: I apologize for this distraction and for feeling compelled to address these issues. Mr. McKay obviously intended to provoke me, and I guess I took the bait. Forgive me.

One thought

  1. Have you taken a look at the Louisiana corporation’s database on the secretary of state’s website? Search for Scott McKay and/or The Hayride. Very interesting what you will find…

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