I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the Did Glenn Beck Rape and Murder a Young Girl in 1990 website, but it’s fairly amusing. It’s a political satire of the style of argument Glenn Beck likes to engage in, which involves requiring that someone prove a negative (“prove you didn’t do X”) and making claims in the form of an interrogative (“Hey, I’m just asking questions here. I’m not saying he did this. What’s wrong with asking questions?”).
Well now Beck is trying to kill the site by making a formal complaint (PDF) to an international internet governing body, the World Intellectual Property Organization. He wants the domain name taken away from the person who registered it.
Why would he do that rather than file, say, a libel suit? Because he knows he would lose a libel suit. He is a public figure and the site is clearly satirical. Under precedents like Falwell v Flynt, it is virtually impossible to win such a suit. The attorney for the site owner, Marc Randazza, has filed a response brief (PDF) that is hilarious in its attack on Beck’s thin-skinned and legally dubious argument. For instance, on the notion that someone might think the site was serious or that it was affiliated with Beck himself, he responds:
There is no indication that the Respondent has intentionally attempted to
confuse anyone searching for Mr. Beck’s own website, nor that anyone was unintentionally confused – even initially. Only an abject imbecile could believe that the domain name would have any connection to the Complainant.
We are not here because the domain name could cause confusion. We do not have a declaration from the president of the international association of imbeciles that his members are blankly staring at the Respondent’s website wondering “where did all the race baiting content go?” We are here because Mr. Beck wants Respondent’s website shut down. He wants it shut down because Respondent’s website makes a poignant and accurate satirical critique of Mr. Beck by parodying Beck’s very rhetorical style. Beck’s skin is too thin to take the criticism, so he wants the site down. Beck is represented by a learned and respected legal team. Accordingly, it is beyond doubt that his counsel advised him that under the First Amendment to the United States’ Constitution, no action in a U.S. Court would be successful. Accordingly, Beck is attempting to use this transnational body to circumvent and subvert the Respondent’s constitutional rights.
That’s brilliant. I like this lawyer. He also includes examples of Beck using exactly the same rhetorical techniques. For example, in questioning Muslim legislator Keith Ellison, Beck said:
“No offense and I know Muslims, I like Muslims, I’ve been to mosques, I really don’t think Islam is a religion of evil. I think it’s being hijacked, quite frankly. With that being said, you are a Democrat. You are saying let’s cut and run. And I have to tell
you, I have been nervous about this interview because what I feel like saying is, sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies. And I know you’re not. I’m not accusing you of being an enemy. But that’s the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way.”
And an analog from the website in question:
“Why won’t Glenn Beck deny these allegations? We’re not accusing Glenn Beck of raping and murdering a young girl in 1990 — in fact, we think he didn’t! But we can’t help but wonder, since he has failed to deny these horrible allegations. Why won’t he deny that he raped and killed a young girl in 1990?”
Randazzo says that the owner of the website “has merely presented Mr. Beck with a mirror. If Beck does not like what he sees, the Respondent is not to blame.” Seems reasonable to me.