Calling someone a rapist could be libelous August 5, 2006 6:28 AM   Subscribe

Calling someone a rapist on the sole basis of an accusation made to a reporter is wrong -- and could be libelous. The allegation against Girls Gone Wild producer Joe Francis is horrible and contains a lot of persuasive details, but that doesn't mean it's true.
posted by rcade to Etiquette/Policy at 6:28 AM (112 comments total)

Francis hasn't even been charged with a crime over the incident the reporter describes, and I can't find any reference in the linked story to a police report being filed.

Declaring that he is a rapist on the front page of a site this well-trafficked is unfair and repudiates the notion that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

I bring it up here because it seems legally actionable. The Los Angeles Times doesn't call him a rapist or alleged rapist in its headline. MetaFilter shouldn't either.

(As an aside, it's been too long since I brought something to the gray. Good times.)
posted by rcade at 6:30 AM on August 5, 2006


I think we need more data to establish that someone actually did call him a rapist.

Sure, it looks like rbs made a FPP calling him a rapist, but it could also have been someone logging in as rbs, you know? Or perhaps a spambot.

Also, note that not even the Los Angeles Times called out this FPP, so you don't have to either.
posted by sour cream at 6:38 AM on August 5, 2006


I think the post is fine. Personally, when I saw that link, I assumed that it led somewhere where an argument was being made that Francis should be seen as a racist. If that line had not been a link, or had read "Joe Francis is a convicted rapist" then it would have been problematic, sure. Personally, I think convention allows you to title a link in this manner such that readers will follow it to learn more about the charge, not that it necessarily is a declaration of guilt.

If the link said "Rumsfeld to resign" or "it's all over for Rove" and led to some article which discussed information that led to those conclusions, would you come to the grey and accuse the poster of publishing slanderous speculation as though it were fact? Even if the article doesn't explicitly accuse him of rape (and believe me, I think Francis is a horrific person and a rapist to boot and that the article went way too easy on him and his crew) I think the poster was well within his/her rights to title this link in this manner considering that it's part of the essence of the article.
posted by allen.spaulding at 6:44 AM on August 5, 2006


oh no someone call the internet police quick, there's libel afoot!!1
posted by cmonkey at 6:45 AM on August 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


I was wondering about that one. More and more we've had people emailing on the basis of things said about them on the site that they find via Google. Sometime's they're crappy self-linkers who then get their ass handed to them in a heavily linked fashion in MetaTalk and sometimes they're just folks who get mentioned in an unflattering way but then the mention shows up high in Google when you look for their name. Usually mathowie and/or I will tell the person they need to chill.

I sort of thought the title of that post would have been a better linked-to statement in the post itself and I do wonder somewhat about whether something like that is actionable.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:51 AM on August 5, 2006


I think Francis is a horrific person and a rapist ...

The general rule in the mainstream media is that you don't declare an accused person did something until they are convicted of it.

As horrible as Francis sounds, how can you conclude he's a rapist on the word of a person whose claim has yet to be scrutinized by police or the courts? Shouldn't we consider the possibility that a person as slimy and as rich as Francis -- who has settled several suits privately for various offenses -- might attract a false accuser mindful of a payday?
posted by rcade at 6:57 AM on August 5, 2006


I agree with rcade. (Sorry if that's the kiss of death) BTW, I wish you'd post more often, rcade. This place could use more level-headed people.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 7:03 AM on August 5, 2006


i agree with cmonkey, this sounds like a case for the internet police.
posted by keswick at 7:06 AM on August 5, 2006


As horrible as Francis sounds, how can you conclude he's a rapist on the word of a person whose claim has yet to be scrutinized by police or the courts? Shouldn't we consider the possibility that a person as slimy and as rich as Francis -- who has settled several suits privately for various offenses -- might attract a false accuser mindful of a payday?

This isn't about how I came to this conclusion, that's for the article in the Green. This is about the OP's right to title their link in this manner, which I support. I'd also support it if he/she wanted to call it "Claims against Francis are groundless" which would be equally warranted/unwarranted of a title.

You're being too sensitive here, creating an impossible standard: The general rule in the mainstream media is that you don't declare an accused person did something until they are convicted of it.

Great, now I can never tell the world that Bush is a lizard person. As I said before, this wasn't necessarily a declaration, but it followed a link-naming convention that might be closer to "article demonstrates that Francis is a rapist, more inside"
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:10 AM on August 5, 2006


er, watch the agreement there, Spaulding. The OP's right to title his/her link...
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:11 AM on August 5, 2006


A defamation claim by a public figure requires more than just proof that the assertion is false. It requires proof that the false statement was made maliciously or recklessly.

Francis is, by his own admission, a public figure. There's no way he could prove that rbs (or, by extension, MeFi) acted with the required level of intent, given the allegations made in the LA Times article. He could bring a nuisance suit, but that's always a possibility whenever someone has a bee in his or her bonnet about something.

(This is not legal advice, etc. etc.)
posted by brain_drain at 7:33 AM on August 5, 2006


All posts are (c) their original authors.

Just add the Standard Disclaimer:

"Metafilter Network LLC, as provider of this interactive information source ("Metafilter"), an interactive computer service, accepts no responsibility for the content or effect of information independently published on Metafilter by individuals or other entities having access to Metafilter. Such publications express the opinions of their authors as information content providers, and do not implicitly or explicitly represent official positions or policies of Metafilter Network LLC. Individuals and other entities having access to Metafilter assume full responsibility for the content and effect of information which they publish on or cause to be published by means of Metafilter, and all comments and other feedback should be addressed directly to such individuals or entities.

(Stolen from Dickinson College.)
posted by ?! at 7:35 AM on August 5, 2006


Please. You can sue over anything. But barring a change of venue to the UK, this ain't libel.
(Why is it only men who seem to want to defend Francis' honor?)
posted by klangklangston at 7:37 AM on August 5, 2006


I'm sure Francis has had worse things said about him. If he were to scan the internet for cases where people called him a rapist in order to quell such accusations, well he would be a very busy man indeed. At least it would keep him occupied from his scumly activities.

Scumly... I have to remember that one.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 7:38 AM on August 5, 2006


I think some of you are missing the point. The OP here has basically lied on the front page, which represents the veracity of the site. It's an editorial of sorts, which are normally strictly prohibited here. It's one thing to do it in the comments, but something altogether different when you make a FPP that's based on a lie.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 7:52 AM on August 5, 2006


Even with public figures as unctious as Francis, I hate to think there's no expectation of fair treatment on MetaFilter, a site with an online readership considerably larger than my local paper in a metropolis of 1.3 million.

Even if "Joe Francis is a rapist" doesn't rise to the standard of libel absent malice, treating an allegation like a fact because it seems very believable is gutter journalism. MeFi should aim higher.
posted by rcade at 7:58 AM on August 5, 2006


Why can't you just change the post title to "Woman claims Joe Francis is a rapist"? It's a little less attention-grabby, but a lot more libel safe, IMHO AANL (as a non-lawyer).
posted by dness2 at 7:58 AM on August 5, 2006


Abusive Husband Has Sense Of Humor About It

August 4, 2006

CARUTHERSVILLE, MO—It would be easy for abusive husband Glenn Osteen to complain. Out of breath, fists bruised and bloodied from repeated strikes against bone, one would almost expect the 39-year-old to surrender to frustration, to scream out in anger and demand that his wife unlock the bathroom door. Fortunately, Osteen has learned the secret to getting through rough times: a sense of humor.
more...
posted by blue_beetle at 8:13 AM on August 5, 2006


Declaring that he is a rapist on the front page of a site this well-trafficked is unfair and repudiates the notion that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

As a citizen, rather than a juror or judge, I am not bound to that. I can think somebody is guilty as sin even if the law disagrees, and can state my belief. For example: OJ Simpson is a murderer.

And I think holding a communal blog created by citizens up to the standard of a newspaper produced by professionals is absurd.

That said, unless the title is changed to something like "I think he's a rapist" or "woman claims he is a rapist," it seems like it might be actionable, and I wouldn't put it past that scumbag to sue MetaFilter.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:14 AM on August 5, 2006


Oops, I said "that said."
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:14 AM on August 5, 2006


and I wouldn't put it past that scumbag to sue MetaFilter.

That's pretty much what I assumed rcade was getting at from the start.
posted by Cyrano at 8:18 AM on August 5, 2006


It was one of rcade's points, and one I agree with.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:25 AM on August 5, 2006


I'm with rcade.
posted by dobbs at 8:26 AM on August 5, 2006


I'm with rcade, I took down the post.

It reminds me of insomnia_lj's posts about stuff. When I saw the post this morning I thought "summary quotes gone wild"
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:30 AM on August 5, 2006


I'm against rcade. The post is fine. Don't be such nervous nellies.
posted by jayder at 8:31 AM on August 5, 2006


rcade: The general rule in the mainstream media is that you don't declare an accused person did something until they are convicted of it.

Do I need to point out, that this is not the mainstream media? This is a bunch of yahoos leaving their opinions of the front page.

If matt wants to be cautious, that's fine.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:47 AM on August 5, 2006


I'm aware this isn't the mainstream media. But at what point did MetaFilter abandon blogger triumphalism and claim to be inferior to other media as a response to criticism? I thought it was a settled point that we kicked their ass.
posted by rcade at 8:52 AM on August 5, 2006


The whole article was built up to say that the guy is a rapist without actually 'saying' it -- worked quite well, but certainly sailing close to the legal wind. I reckon it'd be completely justified if you changed "Joe Francis is a rapist" to "Is Joe Francis a rapist?" -- but even as it was, it's hardly likely that the guy is going to sue Metafilter, is it?
posted by reklaw at 8:55 AM on August 5, 2006


I'm unconvinced (that it should have been taken down).
posted by rbs at 8:59 AM on August 5, 2006


Is it really about whether or not he'll sue? I was under the impression that you shouldn't do certain things because they're wrong, not because you might get caught. It's disappointing how many MeFites are eager to declare someone's guilt based on limited and questionable evidence. It's like your staunch liberalism got snagged on your militant feminism and the latter won: "Joe Francis is a douche who exploits women for profit, so let's ignore the burden of proof and jump at this opportunity to call him a rapist."
posted by cribcage at 9:02 AM on August 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


I also don't think it should've been taken down, just reworded.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 9:10 AM on August 5, 2006


Nobody said he was convicted of rape. Somebody did say he was a rapist.

Which is to say, someone stated an opinion.
posted by lodurr at 9:12 AM on August 5, 2006


If "Joe Francis is a rapist" is an opinion, how would the same information be reported as a fact? Does everything posted on MetaFilter have an implicit "I think" in front of it?
posted by rcade at 9:16 AM on August 5, 2006


I don't see why it matters if he's a Catholic or not.

Oh, wait. Rapist. Nevermind.
posted by Drastic at 9:21 AM on August 5, 2006


It kind of seems to me that Matt is not worried about being sued for libel, but rather is just trying to be fair to Francis. If he were worried about being sued for libel, the post and associated comments would have been removed entirely, but as it is, they remain accessible through this page and the link at the top.

But I was thinking back on the time that the subject of a post, Nikki Craft, begged and pleaded for a post to be re-phrased because she thought it misrepresented certain words as hers when in fact they were not. She was met with scorn and derision, and the post was not changed. Yet everyone is being hyper-vigilant about Francis's perceived rights and the post gets deleted almost immediately, despite the fact that these accusations have been aired publicly, in an article in a major U.S. newspaper, and are accompanied, in rich detail, by evidence of other physically abusive and sexually predatory behavior by the porn king.

I realize the two situations are not exactly parallel, but I can't help but think that there's some unacknowledged difference of treatment here --- a post gets changed if rich, scary porn king is the subject, because HE MIGHT SUE!!! ... but if a hysterical radical feminist is the subject matter, screw her.
posted by jayder at 9:22 AM on August 5, 2006


Just change rapist to asshole, and keep it up. It was a good article.
posted by graventy at 9:25 AM on August 5, 2006


Good to see that this was dealt with, though I would also have been happy with a rewording. Even if the OP had put quotes around the statement to show that it was the article writer's intent that would have been a great improvement and likely would not have set off this arguement at all.

Thanks to rcade and others who backed up my original assertion. Hopefully those who disagree take some time to think about how allowing this sort of FPP could have long-term consequences for Metafilter.
posted by Kickstart70 at 9:27 AM on August 5, 2006


It kind of seems to me that Matt is not worried about being sued for libel, but rather is just trying to be fair to Francis.

You come to this conclusion how, exactly?

despite the fact that these accusations have been aired publicly, in an article in a major U.S. newspaper,

Well, there you said it. The article contains accusations. The link, titled Joe Francis is a Rapist, is a declaration.
posted by dobbs at 9:29 AM on August 5, 2006


I was under the impression that you shouldn't do certain things because they're wrong, not because you might get caught.

Me too, but many people on MeFi disagree with us. MeFi is a pretty good sample of the real world, only with more geeks and less potential for physical violence.
posted by languagehat at 9:30 AM on August 5, 2006


Joe Francis, therapist.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:37 AM on August 5, 2006


less potential for physical violence.

Only until they invent the device that lets you punch people through the internet.
posted by darukaru at 9:50 AM on August 5, 2006


Don't take it down then, just put an "alledged" in there before rapist. It was a great story, and if not for the hellacious derail, it would have been a good conversation.
posted by klangklangston at 9:52 AM on August 5, 2006


Why is it only men who seem to want to defend Francis' honor?

Because some women find it impossible to be level-headed when the issue surrounds a pornographer, underage girls, and allegations of rape? Particuarly when the accused is such a distasteful person, and yet still gets girls to throw their panties at him. I think that really raises the ire of a lot of women, perhaps a lot of them wishing they could undo some similarly embarassing act of drunkeness and youth on their own part. The entire article was a slanderous pile of dogshit.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:56 AM on August 5, 2006


... therapist.

... or is he an AnalRapist?
posted by lodurr at 10:00 AM on August 5, 2006


"Because some women find it impossible to be level-headed when the issue surrounds a pornographer, underage girls, and allegations of rape?"

Really? Where are these women you speak of? In your own fevered dream?

"The entire article was a slanderous pile of dogshit."

Oh, bullshit. The article was both fair and a takedown, and meticulously documented. The only way to interpret it as slanderous is to be both illiterate and willfully titilated by Francis.
posted by klangklangston at 10:00 AM on August 5, 2006


Because some women find it impossible to be level-headed when the issue surrounds a pornographer, underage girls, and allegations of rape?

From the footer of the article:
Claire Hoffman covers Hollywood and the adult entertainment industry for The Times.
Maybe you're right. Maybe Claire Hoffman can't be level-headed when the issue surrounds a pornographer. Or maybe she's just used to people with higher professional standards, like, say, Seymour Butts.
posted by lodurr at 10:05 AM on August 5, 2006


rcade: I'm aware this isn't the mainstream media. But at what point did MetaFilter abandon blogger triumphalism and claim to be inferior to other media as a response to criticism? I thought it was a settled point that we kicked their ass.

I didn't think many people believed this bullshit. The primary activity here on metafilter is collecting and commenting on the documentary and creative work of other people. As such, what appears on the front page should be seen as commentary and opinion, and rarely statements of fact.

rcade: If "Joe Francis is a rapist" is an opinion, how would the same information be reported as a fact? Does everything posted on MetaFilter have an implicit "I think" in front of it?

I think it is stupid for people to read any FPP without the implicit "I think."

cribcage: It's disappointing how many MeFites are eager to declare someone's guilt based on limited and questionable evidence.

It's disappointing how many MeFites are eager to throw away First Amendent protections on speech. Defamation law allows individuals to establish and state an belief regarding the guilt or innocence of a person, even if said belief has not yet been confirmed by criminal proceedings.

languagehat: Me too, but many people on MeFi disagree with us. MeFi is a pretty good sample of the real world, only with more geeks and less potential for physical violence.

I'm not defending this because I find it unlikely that MeFi will get caught. I'm defending this because it is not wrong to come to a personal belief that someone is or is not guilty of a crime, and to state that as a personal opinion. Reasonable beliefs and opinions are not defamation when expressed by individual persons in most U.S. jurisdictions. A quick search reveals that Dick Cheney has been called a traitor dozens of times with minimal qualifications.

If we are going to use the standards of "reasonable belief" that are used by other media sources, then "Britney Spears, under the influence of god knows what..." should be equally objectionable because of the unsupported implication that she is taking illegal or prescription drugs. Or what about this FPP on P!nk that considers it a foregone conclusion that copyright infringement has occured. (Some of the claims are supported by links, others are not.)

Now if the mods want to nuke this particular front page post. That's their choice. I was not especially fond of the wording myself. However, almost all of the arguments against this FPP are wrong, and wrong in ways that if consistently applied, would be lethal to MeFi as a community.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:06 AM on August 5, 2006 [2 favorites]


Dobbs, what is the difference between an accusation and a declaration?
posted by jayder at 10:06 AM on August 5, 2006


the accused is such a distasteful person, and yet still gets girls to throw their panties at him.

The world is an unfair place.

*throws panties at self*

It's not the same.
posted by jonmc at 10:10 AM on August 5, 2006


*throws panties at jonmc*

It's not the same.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:16 AM on August 5, 2006


*throws KirkJobSluder at jonmc*

Ok, that ROCKED!! Mefites Gone Wild!
posted by Kickstart70 at 10:20 AM on August 5, 2006


I second putting an alleged in there before the rapist. The article was interesting.

I don't see how the original post was libelous, most posts on metafilter are descriptions of what they link to, and the post linked to an article about Francis raping people.

Because some women find it impossible to be level-headed when the issue surrounds a pornographer

This has nothing to with pornagraphy and everything to do with rape.
posted by afu at 10:20 AM on August 5, 2006


jayder, does the article anywhere use the words rape or rapist to accuse Francis of the act? No. Why do you think that is? Because the newspaper is covering its ass as is Matt. They can say that the girl says she didn't consent to sex (they do) or that she accuses him of rape (ie, that she uses the word--they don't), but they don't come out and call him a rapist, because to do so could be deemed libelous. It's not a coincidence that the only mentions of the word rape or rapist in the whole article come out of Francis' own mouth.

Why is it only men who seem to want to defend Francis' honor?

Gimme a break, Klang. Saying that the called-out post is poorly worded is not defending Francis. He's a fucking jerkoff who'll get his soon enough.
posted by dobbs at 10:25 AM on August 5, 2006


I took it down because it was misleading, and I don't like it when people grab a news story then use it as a jumping off point to make very strong statements that aren't supported by the article (like insomnia_lj's posts about iraq). Calling someone a rapist is really big deal and it sounded like it was just hearsay at this point.

I would have taken down a post saying "Floyd Landis, steroid abusing drug lord of cycling" that linked to a failed doping test news article for the same reason of grossly misleading statements.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:28 AM on August 5, 2006


I am with rcade. You don't call someone a rapist without proof, no matter how sleazy he is. When Ann Coulter calls everyone who disagrees with her a terrorist, we all over her for it, and rightly so.
posted by LarryC at 10:28 AM on August 5, 2006


*sniffs*

*throws KJS motel room key, and laundry room key*
posted by jonmc at 10:48 AM on August 5, 2006


Joe Francis is a hideous monster, and that reporter is a dumbfuck.

"My favorite is explaining to dumb chicks why the qwerty keyboard is called a qwerty keyboard, and why the letters aren't in order," he tells me. "They're, like, 18 years old, and they're, like, 'Wait a minute, there were typewriters?' And you got to start there."

I give him a look that says I have no idea what he's talking about. I haven't spent much time with 18-year-old girls lately, but the ones I know have usually heard of typewriters. But a qwerty keyboard? Never heard of it.

posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:11 AM on August 5, 2006


The day is mine!

I'm with rcade, right now. We're at Disneyland, and he's promised me we can go on the monorail. But first we're getting churros! We're having such a great time; I'll be sure to post pix later, kthxbye!
posted by Eideteker at 11:20 AM on August 5, 2006


I just want to know one thing: in what context, while convincing girls to take their tops off, does any discussion of keyboards (whether computer or typewriter) come up?
posted by scody at 11:24 AM on August 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'd say lots of people have never heard the phrase "qwerty" before. It's not like she doesn't know what a keyboard is. Also, note that he's the dumbass who thinks that typewriters didn't use the qwerty layout.

I mean, most people just call them keyboards.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:24 AM on August 5, 2006


in what context, while convincing girls to take their tops off, does any discussion of keyboards (whether computer or typewriter) come up?

hey, whatever works.

(it is illustrative that there's never been a Boys Gone Wild. of what, I'm not sure)
posted by jonmc at 11:33 AM on August 5, 2006


Guys Gone Wild.
posted by ericb at 11:33 AM on August 5, 2006


well, shut my mouth.
posted by jonmc at 11:33 AM on August 5, 2006


No, keep it open! ;-)
posted by ericb at 11:35 AM on August 5, 2006


scody, getting a girl to take her top off is sometimes an art form. While many will do it at a moment's notice, others require a little coaxing. So, as an example, if I show them my really cool phone that has a qwerty keyboard as an example of how rich I am and how I love gadgets, they might ask me what qwerty means. Of course, at the same time, I'd probably be showing them cameraphone pictures of "my" Porsche, while my hand slowly slides down....

::ahem::

I've said too much. :-)
posted by SeizeTheDay at 11:36 AM on August 5, 2006


SeizeTheDay, you smooth talker.

*removes top*
posted by jonmc at 11:37 AM on August 5, 2006


If you want an excuse to make somebody think they're stupider than you are, you can find one. You can even do it with regard to something that your interlocutor is familiar with. It's easy. "Christ, you're a bartender and you don't know that there's wine in the Bible? What kind of fucking idiot are you?"

We've all seen people like Joe Francis operate. It's just one of their techniques. That he can sucker in a reporter says nothing special about the reporter one way or the other. As I find myself having to remind people all the time, it's often the cleverest of us who are most easily conned. That fact is often (as it is for Francis) sauce for the goose for the con artist.

Personally, I think it should have stayed up. rbs would have gotten a drubbing for failing to make it clear (as though it needed to be made clear) that it was an opinion. That's supposed to be how things work here, right? Negative reaction from "the community" sets the standard? (Which is a rhetorical question: I'm well aware that libertarian online "communities" almost never work without occasional correction from a leader.)

And really, when is "x is a rapist" ever not an opinion? People don't usually bother to say "x is a [rapist / murder / thief / traitor]" about someone unless the appelation is in dispute. Compare: "Wayne Gacy is a murderer"; "Dick Cheney is a murderer." Which one aer you more likely to hear in conversation, and why?
posted by lodurr at 11:43 AM on August 5, 2006


There was a great MadTV 'boys gone wild' sketch. And by 'great' I mean queasiness-inducing, scrotum-shrinking.
posted by lodurr at 11:52 AM on August 5, 2006


scody: I just want to know one thing: in what context, while convincing girls to take their tops off, does any discussion of keyboards (whether computer or typewriter) come up?

Well, my impression of the article was a bit different from many people here. What I suspect happened was this article started off as a typical piece of shadowing a person who has become a mover and shaker in a particular industry. What the journalist found was that Fances appears to have a profound contempt for the subject of his films, the assault and alleged rape are just examples of this.

Most people never think about keyboard layouts, and if they do, they think in terms of ergonomic vs. standard, or in terms of nationality and language. "Qwerty" is technical geek trivia. WinXP does not use that term for describing most keyboard layouts, neither does OS X. You might as well talk about goto or lisp.

The point of that passage is how he uses a lack of understanding of geek trivial in order to belittle and insult the reporter and the women he films. Rather than just saying, "It's a name for keyboards that put 'qwerty' on the second row," which is a reasonable and polite response, he uses it as a platform to attack the reporter. He is rationalizing his actions by setting himself up as smarter than the women he films.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:01 PM on August 5, 2006


It's a shame that the original posting's lead-in was poorly worded, that discussion of it derailed, that it was closed to further commentary so quickly and that this discussion has, at points, deteriorated.

I read and commented on the article because it examined a pop culture phenomenon, addressed Francis's attitudes towards women and explored the branding & mass marketing of a socially unacceptable product. Although its writer clearly has an agenda, the piece is engaging and well-written. It's received a prominent mention on Defamer and, I believe, is already generating significant buzz.
posted by NYCinephile at 12:09 PM on August 5, 2006


the branding & mass marketing of a socially unacceptable product.

If Francis is a rapist that's deplorable, and his attitudes towards women are Neanderthal, but since when did ogling boobies become socially unacceptable (bluenoses aside)?
posted by jonmc at 12:11 PM on August 5, 2006


It's funny that you guys are mentioning this "use witty insult to give you power over your audience" mentality, because many dating books out there based on exactly that. (Not sure if you knew this already, if so, disregard)

Exactly how you've said, it puts your audience in a defensive position and forces them to question themselves (in a bad way), which often opens the door for you to say, "But I think you're really smart and cute anyway, despite your shortcomings."

I was amazed at how well this worked until I realized that bullies do this all the time and it isn't limited to just the dating scene. Everyone at some point or another has had a boss, teacher, parent, uncle, whatever, use an obscure factoid or some mild insult to create a dominant position over you.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 12:14 PM on August 5, 2006


Anyone else think there is too much jonmc nudity in this thread?
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:23 PM on August 5, 2006


Although its writer clearly has an agenda, ...

I think I would too if a guy who outweighs me by 80 pounds twisted my arm behind my back and slammed me down over a car hood while he ground his crotch against my ass. And no, coming over afterward and asking for a kiss wouldn't make it better.

... too much jonmc nudity ...

Well, it doesn't matter to me, but from what I can recall of the meetup pic I saw, I think our gay and het-female membership might enjoy it. I say, let 'im flash.
posted by lodurr at 12:32 PM on August 5, 2006


I think I would too if a guy who outweighs me by 80 pounds twisted my arm behind my back and slammed me down over a car hood while he ground his crotch against my ass.

Letting a physically assaulted reporter write a first-hand story that puts forward a rape accusation is a pretty bold move by the LA Times. I have to think they vetted the hell out of the piece with their attorneys, but you never know with the mainstream media these days, considering the Jayson Blair and Jack Kelley debacles.
posted by rcade at 1:16 PM on August 5, 2006


Letting a physically assaulted reporter write a first-hand story that puts forward a rape accusation is a pretty bold move by the LA Times.

I was wondering if anyone would point that out.

Francis is well-known, well-funded and has a well-documented history of litigiousness. If he or his attorneys sniff the slightest likelihood that the LA Times can't back up Claire Hoffman's version of the story, they'll almost certainly be letting the Times know. Along with a figure that could make it right.

So, yeah, I'm guessing the Times checked it out pretty carefully.

With regard to the tone of the piece: All in all, I think she showed some pretty amazing restraint.
posted by lodurr at 1:28 PM on August 5, 2006


I want Matt's and Jessamyn's first duty to be making sure Metafilter survives and prospers. Removing this post seems, in both retrospect and prospect, like a very reasonable execution of such a duty to me.

I think the post could have been saved by a question mark, as reklaw suggests, or by making the title the linked text, as Jessamyn suggests. The linked article is absolutely excellent in my view, with tremendous atmospherics and great narrative drive. Claire Hoffman has reached out and grasped Francis' essence in a way that, if he's lucky, may never happen to him again. He certainly has to hope it doesn't.

And she does it in an extremely subtle and effective way, by first making us identify with her, and then scene by scene identifying herself with Francis' girl victims, particularly the one who I am convinced was raped, and we are thereby force-marched along to an empathy we would not have been capable of on our own.

NYCinephile is right that Francisis an important "pop culture phenomenon." He is Marvin Harris' primitive capitalist, the Potlatch Party King, in startling modern dress, and his appearance, or reappearance, really does, perhaps, signal the beginning of the end.
posted by jamjam at 1:29 PM on August 5, 2006


Kinda relevant: How the fuck do you derail a thread like that and not consider yourself an asshole?
posted by SeizeTheDay at 1:53 PM on August 5, 2006


The primary concern seems to be about the wording of the FPP. I'll stick my neck out and repost the article with claims properly attributed to their sources within the article.

rcade: Well aside from combining the two incidents (which is reasonable given their proximity) how is this different from any other report of a rape or sexual assault? The reporter is rarely on the scene of a crime, and can only do what is done here: interview multiple witnesses, the accused, and the accuser.

All reports about what happened on the bus are carefully attributed to Szyszka, Francis or Burke. The incident involving the car hood is explicitly identified as Hoffman's eyewitness testimony, with supporting testimony provided by interviews from others on the scene.

In any defamation case, the LATimes will have a strong truth defense: Szyszka, Francis and Burke made those claims in interviews. If the LATimes is smart, it will have those interviews on tape. Hoffman is reporting events that were personally witnessed by her, and she has obtained other witness accounts by Coary, and Zaitz.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:57 PM on August 5, 2006


George W. Bush is a murderer.

He will never be convicted of murder in a criminal court, of course. But he's a murderer.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:08 PM on August 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


So, this:
Joe Francis is a rapist. Article from this weekend's LA Times Magazine about Joe Francis, of Girls Gone Wild (nsfw) fame/infamy, including his physical assault of the LA Times reporter and the rape of a GGW girl she (partially) witnesses.
is replaced with this:
Joe Francis Gone Wild: Claire Hoffman, L.A. Times adult entertainment correspondent, rides along with Girls Gone Wild (Slate, SFW) producer Joe Francis on an expedition to a Chicago nightclub. Hoffman claims that over the course of the night, Francis pinned her against the hood of a car. A woman who agreed to be filmed in the crew's bus claims that Fancis had non-consensual sex with her. Reposted with safer language.
and that is considered an improvement?

No need to wonder how Joe Francis gets away with it.
posted by Chuckles at 2:37 PM on August 5, 2006


Well aside from combining the two incidents (which is reasonable given their proximity) how is this different from any other report of a rape or sexual assault?

When Francis assaulted the reporter, the police officer who witnessed it called in backup and advised her to press charges. At that point, she's part of the news she's covering, so it was an unusual decision to have her report the piece rather than passing it off to a reporter who's less open to accusations of bias.
posted by rcade at 2:42 PM on August 5, 2006


... who's less open to accusations of bias.

... and who'd have to completely re-research the story.

As I said before, I think she's shown amazing restraint. Look at how Francis is portrayed througout most of that article. His primary fan base will come away from reading it thinking he's a misunderstood hero.
posted by lodurr at 3:19 PM on August 5, 2006


His primary fan base will come away from reading it thinking he's a misunderstood hero.

I'll venture to say that his primary fan base does not read.
posted by jayder at 3:26 PM on August 5, 2006


and that is considered an improvement?

If it means the post can stay up, it most certainly is. More people seeing the article means more people who are likely to avoid supporting this guy's business.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 3:36 PM on August 5, 2006


I really, really doubt the people who buy Girls Gone Wild will stop doing so on moral grounds if the post stays up. He's an dorky bully to be sure, but if you're watching porn that involves taking advantage of inebriated girls with little fiscal compensation then you probably have a moral compass pointed in a different direction. I wish an incarnation could stand but using bias and misleading words only makes us look like crackpots. Seriously, present the facts as they are and let people decide -- there's no real need to help us realize the conclusion the article presents.
posted by geoff. at 3:46 PM on August 5, 2006


Connery-"I'll take the RAPISTS for $200, Alex"
Alex- "That's Therepists for $200"
Connery- " A-Ha! I win the Day!"
posted by Balisong at 4:30 PM on August 5, 2006


Balisong -- great episode

SNL Celebrity Jeopardy #4 [YouTube video].
posted by ericb at 4:59 PM on August 5, 2006


I agree with the deletion, post sucked. What's weird is that a whole argument between me and KirkJobSluder was deleted at some point. If a thread is going to be deleted, why clean it up?
posted by delmoi at 7:49 PM on August 5, 2006


I think the post is fine. Personally, when I saw that link, I assumed that it led somewhere where an argument was being made that Francis should be seen as a racist.

Joe Francis is totally a racist. You never see anything but pasty white girls (maybe with a tan) in his videos. No black girls, no mexicans, not even any Asians.
posted by delmoi at 7:50 PM on August 5, 2006


The crazier thing was the link to this story about Fracis being a rape victim. The link was removed from the thread.

Anyway, I'm sure he's a gigantic asshole.
posted by delmoi at 7:59 PM on August 5, 2006


This Dvorak keyboard is why I never get laid, isn't it?
posted by yerfatma at 10:31 AM on August 6, 2006


delmoi: No, that link is still in the comments. It was included in the second (now first) comment to the second post.
posted by ?! at 11:37 AM on August 6, 2006


But at what point did MetaFilter abandon blogger triumphalism and claim to be inferior to other media as a response to criticism?

The main point being if this was Jon Stewart being called a rapist then everyone would have been calling mathowie on his cell phone to remove it asap. But no one likes the GGW guy. In this respect the mainstream media is far far superior.
posted by the ghost of Ken Lay at 12:17 PM on August 6, 2006


People have mathowie's cell number? Why don't I have it? Can I have it? Who do you have to flash around here to get mathowie's cell number?
posted by dness2 at 2:04 PM on August 6, 2006


867-5309
posted by geoff. at 2:27 PM on August 6, 2006


I haven't read this thread but would like to take this chance to say that if anyone has ever committed rape and gotten away with it, Joe Francis knows what it's like. Don't get me wrong: he's been found innocent in a court of law.

Oh, and I can't wait for my chance to slip Francis ecstasy and roofies on top of hard liquor, bring him back to my hotel room, have him sign a waiver while he's out of his head, and then invite my friends and I to take turns ravaging his poop-chute repeatedly for six hours straight while the whole thing's being videotaped by one of my cousins to later be sold on late-night Comedy Central.
posted by item at 3:37 PM on August 6, 2006


But that would be wrong.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:00 PM on August 6, 2006


posted by delmoi Joe Francis is totally a racist. You never see anything but pasty white girls (maybe with a tan) in his videos. No black girls, no mexicans, not even any Asians.

Then again, maybe white girls are the only ones dumb enough and lacking self-respect to undress on-camera for Joe Francis.
posted by fandango_matt at 6:02 PM on August 6, 2006


It's disappointing how many MeFites are eager to throw away First Amendent protections on speech.

It's disappointing how many people invoke the First Amendment as if it were a knee-jerk reaction. What does the First Amendment have to do with anything? I didn't say you can't call Joe Francis a rapist. I said you shouldn't, because it's wrong to go around declaring people guilty based on limited and questionable evidence.

Joe Francis is a douchebag. That fact has absolutely no bearing on whether I choose to declare him to be a rapist based on that article. If something would be wrong to do to my best friend, why is it suddenly OK if I select some distasteful target?
posted by cribcage at 6:37 PM on August 6, 2006


I was under the impression that you shouldn't do certain things because they're wrong, not because you might get caught.

No camera for you.
posted by NortonDC at 7:50 PM on August 6, 2006


Shit! What will we do? Any day now, Joe Francis's army of lawyers will come and sue us all to doom! Metafilter will be shut down and become a portal for pictures of nekkid ladies, Matt and Jessamyn will be locked away, those agreeing with rbs will be disappeared, and rbs himself will probably be dragged out into a public square, shot by the Internet Police, and his body sunk to the bottom of Lake Michigan.

Oh, thank God, the post has been deleted. We are safe. Let us never forget that the internet is serious business!
posted by schroedinger at 7:53 PM on August 6, 2006


And lest we forget, all of the executions will be videotaped and immortalized on YouTube as a warning to future insulting statements made in the hallowed halls of the World Wide Web.
posted by schroedinger at 7:54 PM on August 6, 2006


cribcage: I didn't say you can't call Joe Francis a rapist. I said you shouldn't, because it's wrong to go around declaring people guilty based on limited and questionable evidence.

There is such a thing as unlimited evidence? Or unquestionable evidence?

I would argue the contrary. 4th Amendment protections demanding due process do not and should not apply to our interpersonal encounters with people. The majority of crimes and other nastiness will never see a police report, much less a court room. When friends and loved ones are victimized by a crime, we are not obligated to stand around, scratching our asses, until such a time that the formal justice system grinds forward to a conclusion.

If something would be wrong to do to my best friend, why is it suddenly OK if I select some distasteful target?

Well, I have called someone who I formerly thought was my friend a rapist when confronted with testimony that was impossible to deny, and offered no profit to the accuser. It was one of those cases that never saw the inside of a courtroom, but still, several of us knew what happened, and were not ashamed to call it rape among ourselves.

Now, I'm not going to call Mr. Francis a rapist. And perhaps it is a good idea for Metafilter to establish a standard somewhere between that of informal speech and formal publictation. (But again, this standard seems to be inconsistently applied, with only an accusation of Mr. Francis deleted.) What I'm arguing here is a principle, that it is in no way wrong to come to an opinion regarding guilt before a criminal trial, and to express that opinion verbally or in writing.

And in many cases, we have an ethical perogative to come to such a conclusion and express such an opinion.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:58 PM on August 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


... maybe white girls are the only ones dumb enough and lacking self-respect to undress on-camera for Joe Francis.

Or maybe GGW is just Joe Francis's personal vision of titillation. No racism, just bad business. Because, hey, if he'd do a little variation, he might expand his markets.

Anyway, "lack of self-respect" takes a lot of different forms. I think here we're mostly looking at a commodification of this reconceptualization of female fetishization as "feminine power". The girls "get what they want" (notoriety, swag, attention -- as Joe Francis imagines it and as many of them conceptualize it for themselves) by using their commodified sexuality. As far as I can see, that's mostly a white-girl thing. Which is far from saying that female sexuality isn't used for influence by "ethinic" girls; I expect, though, that it's mostly white girls who've been sold this mass-market line about sexuality-as-power by ex-Mousketeers fronting for the media industry. If they'd actually been raised in a millieu where sex was really used as a bargaining chip, they probably wouldn't sell it so cheap. As it is, they've devalued the currency so much that we get GGW.
posted by lodurr at 3:24 AM on August 7, 2006 [1 favorite]


[Good points, lodurr]
posted by klangklangston at 6:47 AM on August 7, 2006


The story generates its share of buzz on Digg.
posted by NYCinephile at 9:21 AM on August 7, 2006


There's actually been a number of really good discussions on Susie Bright's blog about this contemporary trend of young women enthusiastically involved in GGW and the like. Being a standard-bearer for the sex-positive movement, and being a feminist, Bright is basically caught in the middle of the two opposing arguments. Is this a regressive sexist trend or is it a progressive sex-positive trend?

My opinion, though it seems contradictory, is that it's a combination of both.

I think those of us in the sex-positive community/movement have a responsibility to fight these regressive sexist elements, but in the end I suppose I see it mostly as the typical way of things: two steps forward and one back. I don't know when we could ever expext to march to utopia as unambiguously as we wish we could.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:29 AM on August 7, 2006


EB: I've become profoundly disillusioned by the sex-positive community in general and Susie Bright in particular. Where at one time it seemed to be a positive exploration of sexuality and culture, it has become so phobic of offending anyone that it's impossible to say anything other than, "rah, rah, rah." It's my opinion that Bright and Sparkle have largely dropped the ball from critiquing mainstream porn to becoming apologists for it.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:08 AM on August 7, 2006


It's too bad it wasn't a better framed post. There is indeed a LOT of much more damning (and better written) journalism about that creep, Joe Francis, out there. I think it's only a matter of time until he's taken down and it would be nice if MeFi could help.
posted by persona non grata at 3:26 PM on August 7, 2006


The Girls Gone Wild videos, as advertised endlessly on late night cable channels, creep me right the hell out. It's the ubiquitous glaze in the eyes.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:39 PM on August 7, 2006


Gawker's coverage and its readers' comments.
posted by NYCinephile at 7:32 AM on August 8, 2006


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