Ever since Get Off My Internets (GOMI) scooped Heather Armstrong (the blogger known as Dooce) on her trial separation / divorce news, (announcing it January 4th, Dooce announced it on January 17th,) Heather has been looking for a chance for payback. She delivered big with the threat of a lawsuit.
On April 26, 2012, GOMI posted an article regarding a tip received about Armstrong. The article stated that the author received a tip that Dooce was not on the announced “blog break,” but instead was in Los Angeles filming a video for YouTube.
The article noted that the information came from a “source,” and that if it was true, the author thought Heather was being manipulative when she said she was taking a break on April 17. In fairness, Dooce never defined what a “break” meant to hear, so we don’t know if taking a break from blogging but still participating in work activities qualifies as a break. Nonetheless, GOMI gave their opinion that the (alleged) acts seemed manipulative:
Dooce promptly headed to her own website to declare it all a lie. Heather Armstrong called the post on Get Off My Internets libel:
This is an outright lie. A total fabrication. I did not go to LA last week to film a goddamn thing. And the reason I’m pointing it out is so that if any of you catch wind of this outright deception you will know that they are being malicious and attempting to damage my reputation. I did not in any way “fake” a break.
GOMI, you might want to look up LIBEL.
The problem with that claim is that truth is an absolute defense of libel. The original post said “sources allege.” If indeed there was a source making that allegation, then the posting was absolutely true.
But ultimately, who cares? If Heather wasn’t doing what the sources allege, say so and move on. No need to wage an epic legal battle when either ignoring the allegation, or simply denying it would be sufficient. But if you’re Heather Armstrong, then the only reasonable reaction is to get irate and have your lawyers make demands! (Alternatively, blog traffic may be down and you need a good controversy to get people clicking again?)
On April 30, 2012, Get Off My Internets published an article entitled Heather Armstrong Strongarms GOMI. It said the “Post of a Million Outrages” was removed since Dooce had a lawyer threatening litigation:
Please be advised that the foregoing referenced statements are unequivocally false and defamatory. Ms. Armstrong was not in Los Angeles filming any show for YouTube on April 18, 2012, as the Article claims, and any purported “source” oh which you relied for that accusation is inaccurate. We believe that the statements in the Article and the tone of your subsequent comments, as well as your history of publishing attack pieces regarding Ms. Armstrong, will establish that you published these statements with malice, with knowledge that the statements were untrue, and with reckless disregard as to their falsity.
The lawyer invited GOMI to provide proof that there was a tipster who provided the information about Dooce’s alleged travel. GOMI declined, and then removed the post in question and posted snippets of the letter from the lawyer. Get Off My Internets also clarified:
I have now stated multiple times that reporting on Dooce has no malicious intent. My opinions are just that – my opinions. As far as some pattern of attack or whatever, that’s ridiculous; Dooce is a celebrity, and my previous posts about her are commentary and reporting on information publicly posted by her and her husband and are reported as news, not a planned attack. Since roughly 9 posts out of over 1,400 on GOMI are about Dooce, I’m not sure how that constitutes some malicious repeated long term attempt to disparage her, but that’s neither here nor there. I’m not revealing my source. They are free to come forward themselves and ask me for her lawyers information if they choose to show they exist. The rest of you are free to assume whatever you want in regards to their existence.
Please consider this my formal retraction of my statement, based on tips I received, that Dooce filmed a video for youtube on the date of April 18, 2012, in the city of Los Angeles. Due to apparent incorrect information published by me drama has ensued, which I never intended.
I never intended to impugn Dooce’s reputation for honesty and I hereby retract any claims I made that any video for youtube does, or will ever exist, which was filmed on April 18th in Los Angeles, CA.
It goes on to apologize to Heather Armstrong and to state:
In the future any tips I receive will be sent to Dooce for rebuttal or statement. I hope this makes up for any problems I may have caused Dooce by claiming she was filming a video for youtube on April 18, 2012, in Los Angeles.
Oddly enough, a new video including Heather Armstrong was posted on YouTube on May 2. There is no word on when this was filmed (during the blog break?) or where this was filmed. It might lend credibility to the claim that Dooce was traveling on business during her break, or it might not.
I am no stranger to receiving threats based on critical articles that I’ve written on this blog. Most of the time the threats are baseless (again, the truth is an absolute defense to defamation, and opinions are protected speech under the First Amendment), and occasionally the threats lead to expensive lawsuits which I win.
You know exactly what this situation with Dooce is. Someone with more money threatening legal action, hoping you’ll cave to their demands because you don’t have as much money for the fight. I am a believer in the First Amendment. I am also a believer that the original article posted by GOMI was no big deal. Until Heather Armstrong made it a big deal.
I have written before about Heather’s desire to have people “worship at the altar of Dooce.” It appears that in the more than 3 years since I wrote that article, nothing has changed.
Even if GOMI doesn’t continue to print articles about Dooce, I know that other bloggers will. She has made herself a public figure and has therefore opened herself up to public criticism. Heather Armstrong can’t silence the whole internet. (Look what happens when someone tries to sue the internet for saying mean things!) But I suppose that guy wasn’t as big and powerful as Heather Armstrong.
P.S. No, this site isn’t turning into a forum to criticize mommy bloggers. I just found a couple of newsworthy stories on mommy bloggers recently, and thought I’d comment on them.