But this isn’t a question of free speech

August 14, 2008 at 12:34 am (assorted miscellany) (, , , , , , )

So a story has been making the rounds, a story about a librarian who wrote a book with thinly veiled descriptions of the library’s patrons, and labeling most of them as crazies, perverts, and sex offenders. She self-published through PublishAmerica, which is reasonably infamous among writers as a vanity press, and the cover? Yeah, it’s a… picture of the library. She used a pen name — her own maiden name. From the Ludington Daily:

The surname Miketa is Stern-Hamilton’s maiden name, which may sound familiar to some because her father, Andrew Miketa, according to Stern-Hamilton, was a first string center with the Detroit Lions circa 1952.

Fascinating. So the library director fired her, and she’s started a lawsuit, and I visited a local blog to (I admit) see what kind of witch hunt the locals were on and whether they were planning to run the author out of town on a rail. Imagine my surprise when what I got instead were pages and pages of comments about the “fact” that a librarian was fired because the library did not want her to exercise the right of free speech. My suggestion would be to look up more information about defamation law in the US and think about how that might apply here. Given the apparent labeling of library patrons as “mentally ill” or “mentally incompetent” (taken from her termination notice as published in the Ludington Daily), I’d think they might especially want to reference the bit about defamation per se — this covers imputations that the person is mentally ill or is committing a criminal activity. Standard I Am Not a Lawyer disclaimers apply, but I’d think twice about hopping up on the high horse of Free Speech if I were the author.

My favorite part of the entire thing so far was a little exchange that occurred on the Ludington community blog. In the middle of the “her right to freedom of speech has been violated!” ziggurat, an anonymous user posted something to the effect that the author’s family were all a bunch of drug users and a drain on society (reasonably stupid post to make, I’ll grant). And the reply from the author’s outraged defenders?

Actually lud resident, that’s defamation. You’d better hope Ms. Miketa doesn’t read this because it won’t take long for someone to get your location and real name from your Internet Provider if she wants to sue you.

Free speech! Free speech! Until someone disagrees with us and writes under a false name, in which case we will out them and sue them for all they’re worth!

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