Got a little story this morning about the Streisand Effect -- which, if you're unfamiliar with the term, is that thing where an inept attempt to censor information leads to that information being disseminated far more widely than it otherwise would have been had the person who wanted the information censored just let it go ... let it goooooo!
(The Streisand Effect got its name when Barbra Streisand attempted to sue a photographer, who while documenting California coastal erosion also snapped her beachfront domicile -- which the singer-actress viewed as a breach of privacy. Ironically, it was her lawsuit, and not the photographer's compendium of visual research, that ended up drawing attention to the photos of Streisand's home, as well as getting this "effect" named after her. See also: Dan Snyder.)
Today's story of the Streisand Effect and its discontents takes place in Frederick County, Maryland, where a man named Kirby Delauter is the county councilman elected to represent District 5. Seems that Delauter took umbrage at a story that appeared in the Frederick News-Post on Jan. 3, concerning -- of all things! -- the assignment and availability of parking spaces to county council members.
Delauter is actually just a bit player in this story, which largely concerns the parking space grievances aired by another councilman named Billy Shreve, with whom Delauter agrees. But Delauter apparently has nursed a grudge with the reporter of the parking space story, Bethany Rodgers, and he decided that the time was ripe for him to flip his lid on Facebook, in full view of the world.
In so doing, Delauter made one of the most idiotic demands I have ever heard in my life: "Shame on Bethany Rodgers for an unauthorized use of my name and my reference in her article today. She contacted me by phone yesterday, I did not return her call and did not authorize any use of my name or reference in her article."
Nah, son, that's not how this works. Let me kick it to UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh for a brief legal explanation, because he's making the best fun for all of us with his comment: "Uh, Council Member: In our country, newspapers are actually allowed to write about elected officials (and others) without their permission. It’s an avantgarde experiment, to be sure, but we've had some success with it."
Rodgers jumped into this Facebook thread to attempt to explain journalism to this poor, lost, parking-space bereft lamb and earned this response from Delauter: "Use my name again unauthorized and you'll be paying for an Attorney. Your rights stop where mine start."
On Tuesday, Rodgers' paper responded with an article about this Facebook thread, in which the name "Delauter" appears 13 times. The story quotes the paper's managing editor, Terry Headlee, like so:
"Kirby Delauter can certainly decline to comment on any story," Headlee said. "But to threaten to sue a reporter for publishing his name is so ridiculously stupid that I'm speechless. It's just a pointless, misguided attempt to intimidate and bully the press and shows an astonishing lack of understanding of the role of a public servant."
The article then goes on to document some sort of localized outbreak of stupidity among area county council members, with Billy Shreve making a cameo appearance:
Shreve, R-at large, told The News-Post in a phone interview he supported Delauter taking legal actions.
"I did not see his post, but I think The News-Post is extremely biased and someone should sue them," Shreve said.
Forget parking spaces -- I'm not sure these men have the intellectual depth to handle driving.
At any rate, the news about Delauter's bizarre Facebook meltdown is now trending on Digg and being shared on Twitter, and the Frederick News-Post story about it is outperforming the original, anodyne story about the parking spaces. And thus did the Streisand Effect yield unto the world one more cautionary tale.
UPDATE, 2:33pm: The editorial board of the Frederick News-Post ups the ante and published an editorial response to the news, titled "Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter," in which the name "Kirby Delauter" appears 28 more times. "Legally," the editors write, "Kirby Delauter has no case." Eagle-eyed readers will spot an Easter egg in the first letter of each paragraph!
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