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Chronicles of the Garden Variety Writers -- Week #15
I receive a letter on Saturday from Larry's attorney. The letter threatens me in stern wording with a lawsuit if I don't take down this website and stop writing about Larry in these chronicles. I am asked to cease and desist. The attorney accuses me of libel.
Damn. Just defending myself from such a frivolous (or is it?) lawsuit is likely to cost me some money.
I explain the situation to my own lawyer and show him the attorney's letter, and printouts of all these GVW chronicles. When he stops laughing, he tells me that Larry doesn't have much of a case -- I probably don't need to worry too much. I tell him I am not completely happy with his use of the word "probably" under these circumstances.
The legal definition of "libel" requires three things: One, the libel must be maliciously defamatory. Two, the material must be distributed to someone other than the offended party (i.e. published). Three, the defamatory statements must be about someone who is identifiable to one or more other persons.
OK, let's address all three points: Number one -- yeah, I'll bet some of the things I've written in the GVW blog would indeed damage Larry's reputation. But the things I've written about were just what I saw, not some falsehoods I've concocted for your amusement. You just can't make stuff like this up, you know? The other members of the GVW, unless they are totally brainwashed, are my witnesses. And malicious? That presupposes an intent to purposely harm someone. My intent was just to show what goes on in writing groups like this. I have no reason to want to harm Larry's career. I don't even know the guy, except for some stories I've read under his byline. But, for the sake of argument, let's say I am guilty on point number one.
Point number two -- the material must be published. Oops, it's looking pretty grim for your humble narrator at this point. Yes, I put the material on the Internet for all to see. Guilty on point number two. I'm two-thirds of the way to the big house.
Now let's look at that last point. Point number three -- the material must be about someone who is identifiable to others. Case closed -- Plante walks out of the courthouse a free man. The GVW blog is totally anonymous. I mean totally anonymous. Much more than just changing people's names, I changed, well, everything for the sake of keeping a cloak of anonymity around this group. You, the readers, don't know who they are, where they live, where and when they really meet. Of course, I can't actually show you how much I've altered without revealing more, but the fact is, you don't know nothing. (Sorry, that's the New Yorker coming out in me. You got a problem with that?)
Now, if Larry wants to proceed with his lawsuit, it will become a matter of public record, and his identity will be revealed. He will have to "out" himself. That's his choice.
To let Larry know what I think of his attorney's letter, I write my own missive. I'm sure my lawyer would disapprove, but I don't ask him about it. Instead, I drive to the Hemby Bridge library about an hour before the regular GVW meeting time. It's a special delivery.
I go downstairs to the library's meeting room and open the supply closet door. Yes, that same closet from last week. I move one of the chairs into the closet, facing into the meeting room. On the chair, I prop up into a sitting position an old "Yertle The Turtle" doll I've brought with me. The doll is a refugee from my attic, and belonged to my oldest daughter years ago when she was the right age for Dr. Seuss books. In between Yertle's arms, I place my letter. On the envelope's face, I've written "Larry" in large script.
I leave the closet door slightly ajar. I assume Larry and his cronies will check the closet from now on as a matter of course before each meeting, so I'm pretty certain Larry will get the letter. Here is what it says:
Do you know the story of Yertle The Turtle? He was the king of all the turtles, the king of all he saw. Does that remind you of anyone? Well, our leader Yertle decided that if he climbed up higher, he'd be able to see farther and thus extend the boundaries of his self-proclaimed realm.
To achieve the necessary altitude, Yertle ordered his loyal subjects to stack themselves on top of one another to form a tower of turtles, with himself at its summit. So by climbing on the backs of his fellow turtles, Yertle was able to see much farther, and claim more territory as his own.
But, alas, Yertle ordered his subjects to take him higher and higher, until the tower finally collapsed under its own weight, and Yertle fell back to Earth and was reduced to being king of the mud.
It's an interesting story, don't you think? That's all I wanted to say. Please keep the doll as a reminder of Yertle's story, and a token of my esteem.
Yours in court,
And this is probably where I have to end it. My lawyer will no doubt be aghast at what I've done, and will advise me not to talk about this, or write any more entries to this blog. Maybe I'll have more to say next week, or maybe not. It depends on what kind of case he can make.
I sure hope I didn't libel any turtles by unfairly comparing them to Larry.
Copyright © 2002 Brian Plante Count=5987
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