“Totally Meghan McCain” parody columns

by Walter Olson on October 4, 2011

At RedState, Leon Wolf has been parodying the work of Senatorial daughter and talk-show personality Meghan McCain. McCain’s lawyer, Albin Gess of Snell & Wilmer, wrote RedState editor Erich Erichson to threaten litigation over the posts, which prompted this magnificent letter in response (PDF) from Georgia attorney Christopher Scott Badeaux, representing Wolf. It also guaranteed more critical attention to McCain herself and her work, including this cruel entry by Ken at Popehat.

What Ken calls “the use of money and power to achieve censorship” — particularly in jurisdictions where judges are averse to awarding sanctions and anti-SLAPP protections are weak — is a continuing problem long overdue for open public discussion.

{ 2 trackbacks }

“Totally Meghan McCain” Parody Columns & Potential SLAPPs | Public Participation Project
10.05.11 at 12:38 pm
Meghan Learns About the first Amendment » Right Thinking
10.11.11 at 11:07 am

{ 26 comments }

1 Melvin H. 10.04.11 at 2:52 pm

Okay, so at what point DOES Ms. MCCain have the ability to file a legal lawsuit against the site or the person, recognizing that a DMCA Section 230 smackdown would cover the website and/or the host of the site?

2 Ken 10.04.11 at 3:00 pm

“Cruel.”

You, sir, have made my day.

3 Ron Miller 10.04.11 at 3:54 pm

I didn’t think the letter was all that great. Taking shots at a young girl who is trying to have a voice (articulately or no), making an issue out of a silly typo, getting ridiculously high on a soap box and then releasing the letter to the media should not be cause for praise. Everything he says is correct, sure, but isn’t the lawyer high stepping into the end zone when he could just trot in? I read Ken’s post and he’s right too but I just can’t imagine finding the energy to attack this girl.

If we are going to start attacking people being famous and seeking attention for reasons other than their natural ability, don’t we have some even lower hanging and juicier fruit out there than a young girl. She’s in her early 20s, right?

I think letter like this make lawyers the focus instead of what is at issue.

4 John Burgess 10.04.11 at 4:04 pm

@Melvin H: Perhaps when the site or the writer violated a law like libel or fraud?

5 doug 10.04.11 at 5:22 pm

Cruel, very much so. Funny, yes. Her attorney should have explained the law to her before sending the letter. i dont find the fact she threatened a lawsuit against a paraody one bit funny. She got what she deserved.

6 Ken 10.04.11 at 6:32 pm

Ron, I might not have bounced Meghan McCain’s rubble if she had just been loafing around making money for no good reason. I’ll leave that to Red State.

But when she decided to be a censor, then she became fair game.

7 Patrick 10.04.11 at 6:46 pm

Taking shots at a young girl who is trying to have a voice (articulately or no),

Taking shots at an incompetent nepotist who but for her father couldn’t afford the time of day, much less a white shoe law firm, to issue baseless threats against a political parodist.

making an issue out of a silly typo,

One of hundreds. Did you know that Ms. McCain constantly boasts of her Columbia degree? Search her archives, and ask yourself whether Ms. McCain got into, and out of, Columbia on merit or because she traded on her powerful father’s connections. Ask yourself whether she has her “voice” based on merit, or her father’s connections.

getting ridiculously high on a soap box and then releasing the letter to the media should not be cause for praise.

Meghan McCain has a column at The Daily Beast, which owns Newsweek. She threatened a meritless lawsuit against a relatively powerless man in an attempt to silence him.

Where, praytell, should such a battle be fought if not in the media? In court? Leon Wolf doesn’t have white shoe firms eager to do his bidding in hopes of currying favor with his powerful father. McCain, and her lawyer Albin Gess, thought she could crush him like an insect with the threat of bankruptcy through legal fees.

Instead, Wolf and his cannier lawyer Christopher Badeaux turned the tables through cleverness and going to the very media of which McCain is, undeservedly, a part. Wolf fought City Hall and won.

You should be celebrating Wolf, not condemning him.

8 Mickey Kaus 10.05.11 at 12:19 am

I’m with Melvin, I think. The extension of DMCA Section 230 to essentially wipe out what everyone thought was the law of libel for Web publications seems like one of the great con jobs of our time, even if it’s in a good cause. Is there any chance Congress thought that’s what they were doing when they passed it? That’s why I’m not so sure the Supreme Court will agree with Badeaux’s interpretation, which is why it’s a little obnoxious of him to be so confident. I guess that is his job. And of course he’s right in this case.

9 Ron Miller 10.05.11 at 6:55 am

Cleverness Patrick. I could find a lot of 1st year law students to write that letter. I’m a lawyer, I can tell you one thing for sure: having the facts on your side goes a long way to be clever. He had a layup and he hit the layup. I’m not sure it is cause for spiking the ball.

10 Ron Miller 10.05.11 at 6:56 am

Last post should say “Cleverness, Patrick?” It will make more sense that way.

11 Patrick 10.05.11 at 8:40 am

It does. I’m a lawyer too, Ron. And while I wouldn’t have written that letter myself (insurance defense rolls conservative), it made sense in this case.

McCain and Gess had made clear their intent to curbstomp Wolf using legal fee leverage, i. e. to file a SLAPP. The best way to fight a SLAPP, if you’re right, is to prevent it from being filed. Going to the media, with an over-the-top response likely to be picked up by blogs if not THE MEDIA, was the right thing to do. While I’m sure Gess isn’t going to file her suit, now, the public shame she is reaping will prevent the ninny from going to another law firm which might have lower ethics standards than Snell and Wilmer.

“Hi, I’m John McCain’s daughter, and I have a problem…”

Expense won’t stop a rich bully, but shame might. Shaming McCain was the clever response.

12 marco73 10.05.11 at 10:01 am

I had never read anything the real Meghan wrote, or anything from RedState. Now I know they both exist.
But I have to ask if we can now rename the Streisand effect to the Totally Meghan effect.

13 Ron Miller 10.05.11 at 10:40 am

Maybe there is tactic involved that I did not consider with respect to the media. Maybe. Or, maybe, the lawyer just wanted some attention, mocks typos while starting his letter off with one, and you are giving out retrospectively credit that was not earned. I don’t know.

(Ultimately, another point I think should be made here: the parody was not exactly funny. This was not SNL quality, that is for sure. )

Again, I’m not unmindful of the fact that Gess is on the right side of all of this legally and McCain is not one of the great thinkers of our time. But, as our commenters here can confirm, you don’t need to be Tolstoy to make a contribution on the Internet. She a young girl offering her opinions. People are reading because of who her father is. I think she’s #83,532 of people we should be trying to mock.

14 mike 10.05.11 at 10:41 am

I dont often agree with Ron, but this time I do 100%

15 Ron Miller 10.05.11 at 12:18 pm

I get a +1 from Mike. I’ll take it!

16 doug 10.05.11 at 1:29 pm

she is almost 27 and has had the benefit of good education, not really a young lady.

17 Hugo S. Cunningham 10.05.11 at 2:07 pm

McCain may be an unworthy target of satire, but that does not convert satire into crime. (I would feel differently about a target too young to defend herself.) The pain of this sort of satire passes quickly, but the costs of defending a meritless SLAPP suit (unless shut down quickly by what Patrick noted was a well-targeted media response) are a crushing deterrant to truthful journalists of limited means.

18 Smart Dude 10.05.11 at 4:15 pm

The letter from Christopher Scott Badeaux is a thing of beauty. Some gifted attorneys are capable of prose poetry.

19 DensityDuck 10.07.11 at 8:41 am

And, after all, it’s okay to make fun of her. She’s a Republican. It’s established as part of Title VII. “Sec 5(a)ii. None of the provisions of this statute apply to women who are Republicans.”

20 Hugo S. Cunningham 10.07.11 at 10:50 am

@DensityDuck

You see a liberal conspiracy to humiliate a Republican woman.
Did you check out the Redstate website that posted the parodies making fun of her? Its slant is right-wing Republican, the sort of people who distrust Sen. John McCain as not sufficiently conservative.

21 Melvin H. 10.07.11 at 12:31 pm

JohnBurgess: two words–Try Again! That is what I am trying to figure out here; where does a suit described as SLAPP cross into a legit suit for libel or slander, especially for a public figure?
Let us say, as an example, that instead of Sen. McCain’s daughter, this was the oldest daughter of a governor … In her case, the question of “whose child is it?” came up a number of times during and well after the last campaign ended. IIRC, even some far-left commentators, bloggers, and sites have intimated or outright said that the child is not hers–worse, that incest involving other family members is involved. If the daughter files suit (again realizing Section 230 applies except in VERY tightly limited circumstances), where does the line between SLAPP and libel/slander get crossed?
And ultimately, where can they go to get their reputation back?

22 Hugo S. Cunningham 10.07.11 at 2:36 pm

@Melvin H ref. John Burgess

A legitimate slander lawsuit happens when there is a slander– something defamatory and false that an unwary reader might believe to be true. But where is the slander here? The only thing defamatory is the suggestion that Meghan McCain is a mediocre writer, at most a matter of taste rather than a provable falsehood.

You may hold the traditional common-law belief that the courts, like the dining room at the Ritz, should be open to all comers (who can pay). Free speech activists believe that free speech needs special protection against frivolous lawsuits: lawsuits that cannot prevail under current Supreme Court standards, but which nevertheless are expensive to defend.

Twenty years ago, large newspapers could afford to defend themselves against frivolous libel suits (once the USSC’s NY Times v. Sullivan decision protected them against biased juries). Today, however, when web-based news runs on much smaller profit margins, they don’t make enough profit to pay for defense of legitimate journalism. Strong SLAPP laws are needed to tip the balance back in favor of openness.

23 DensityDuck 10.07.11 at 4:38 pm

@Cunningham

What I see is a bunch of people who tell us that sexism is awful, and that it’s not good to make fun of a woman, that demeaning one woman hurts all women everywhere…and here they are making fun of a woman. It’s not a “conspiracy”, but it does seem like their morals are more convenient than consistent.

24 Ken 10.09.11 at 8:46 pm

DensityDuck:

Can you please identify any one of your “bunch of people,” link to a place where they said it’s not good to make fun of a woman, and then link to where they made fun of her here?

Because I think you are generalizing in an unserious manner.

25 Ron Miller 10.10.11 at 5:13 am

I’m with Ken. You have set up straw men that I agree should be defeated.

26 DensityDuck 10.10.11 at 12:59 pm

I guess if you want to argue that RedState is actually a hotbed of bigotry and anti-feminism you’re welcome to go ahead and do it.

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