Oliver Stone is a skinky, skanky, skunk who rides sidesaddle!

I know it's not nice to insult people, and I try to be nice. Nor is it logical to engage in ad hominem rhetoric or stereotype people, and I try to be logical. I'm not always successful at living up to these standards, though. Sometimes I feel like letting loose, and usually I check myself.

I was all set to unload on Oliver Stone, and I started a post the other day in which I exclaimed,

what a pompous, self important ass!
Not a nice thing to say about Oliver Stone, even though I was provoked. By this:
Oliver Stone is making his most ambitious stab at American history yet.

The controversial director is creating a 10-part documentary series for Showtime titled "Secret History of America."

Narrated by Stone, the series promises to focus on events that "at the time went under-reported, but crucially shaped America's unique and complex history of the last 60 years," according to Showtime.

Subjects will include President Harry Truman's decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan, the origins of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, to "the fierce struggle between war and peace in America's national security complex."

The project includes "newly discovered facts and accounts" from the Kennedy administration, the Vietnam War and the great changes in America's role in the world since the fall of Communism in the 1980s.

"Through this epic 10-hour series, which I feel is the deepest contribution I could ever make in film to my children and the next generation, I can only hope a change in our thinking will result," Stone said in a statement.

I can only imagine what "secrets" he'll unveil in his ongoing quest to present conspiracy theories as history.

Will he reveal that J. Edgar Hoover thought FDR's plan to intern Japanese Americans was unconstitutional as well as unnecessary?

How about the fact that HUAC was dominated not by Joe McCarthy and the Republicans, but by Democrats?

That the Ku Klux Klan was founded as a terrorist arm of the Democratic Party?

I doubt it. Where it comes to tidbits like those, I'd be willing to bet that Oliver Stone is a real secret keeper.

But back to my statement that the man is a pompous, self important ass. I would have forgotten all about it (and probably never finished or published this post) had not a very colorful post written by Ace that I linked last night reminded me. Ace criticized MSNBC's Contessa Brewer in language which makes what I said about Stone look ridiculously tame, but which shares in common the negative characterizations of annoying humans by means of anatomical references. Calling a man an asshole is a simple example, as is calling a woman a c*nt. (In common usage, these words are not treated equally, and the former is less offensive than the latter; hence my need to substitute a typographical symbol to which I need not resort in spelling the name "Contessa.")

No matter how insulting language becomes, though, insults are considered opinions, and are not legally actionable unless they are specific accusations.

Insults and epithets are not normally considered defamatory because they are generally seen as outbursts of emotion, with no real substance except to show intense dislike. A fair critique of a restaurant, movie, TV show, or theater play is also not considered defamatory. However, if the comments or criticism are disparaging enough, they may result in a loss of business or reputation.

Opinions are also not normally considered defamatory because opinions usually don't contain specific facts that can be proven untrue. Merely labeling a statement as your "opinion" does not make it so. Courts look at whether a reasonable reader or listener could understand the statement as asserting a statement of verifiable fact. (A verifiable fact is one capable of being proven true or false.) This is determined in light of the context of the statement.

So, I am legally entitled to my opinion that Oliver Stone is a pompous ass.

I could also legally call him a bastard, a son of a outhouse whore, or just a motherf*cker, and because such terms are regarded as insulting (if dirty) language, no reasonable person would consider them statements of fact.

To call someone a motherf*cker is not libelous, but to falsely allege actual acts of sexual intercourse between him and his mother would be. Similarly, calling someone a "f*ggot" is not the same thing as saying that he frequents a particular gay bathhouse where he lies on his belly next to a tube of KY lubricant. But again, context is everything. Ace for example, might make such allegation in jest about a total stranger, even a heterosexual one, and his readers would all get the joke. Or I could say that someone I knew "stole" a car -- meaning simply that he got a good deal. Most of the time, if we hear that a guy licked his boss's asshole to get a promotion, we don't interpret that as meaning that he literally engaged in anilingus.

Which is all a roundabout way of saying I'm genuinely surprised that a New York court has held that a blogger can slander a model by calling her a "skank" and a "ho." At least that's what the court appears to have done; naturally the Slashdot fans are perplexed.

"Skank" and "ho" are simply insulting terms -- expressions that means no more than motherf*cker or bitch. If these are applied (as they seem to have been) to someone who was written up in the newspaper for being in an altercation at a bar, I don't see how they become actionable. Don Imus got in trouble for calling female basketball players "hos," but no one would have reasonably thought he meant to accuse them of prostitution. Interestingly, the more dry and technical the terms are, the more likely they might be seen as defamatory, so "prostitute" would be riskier than "ho" or "skank," and "homosexual" riskier than "f*ggot."

Anyway, I've rambled long enough about language, so I better stop before the Ho of Babylon comes to get me (and washes out my foul you-know-what with you-know-what).



Is there some rule that biblical skanks have to wear long dresses and ride sidesaddle?

Modest girl!

(But how will she factor into Oliver Stone's ambitious stab?)

MORE: Ann Althouse explains why the lawsuit by the model against the blogger is abusive of process:

The key is for courts to have a high standard in determining whether there really is defamation before they order that the name be revealed. Otherwise, someone who has not actually suffered a legally remediable injury can use a lawsuit for the wrong purpose: to inflict the injury of making a pseudonymous writer's name public.

Note that Liskula Cohen is now dropping her defamation suit against Port. That's good for Port. It's bad to be sued for $3 million. But it suggests that the disclosure of the name was the point of the lawsuit. Courts should not allow themselves to be used for that purpose. And Google's lawyers should fight hard to make courts see it that way.

Via Glenn Reynolds, who adds that but for the lawsuit, he never would have heard the words "Liskula Cohen" and "skank" together had it not been for the lawsuit.

Nor would I. Nor do I want to again!

Especially because Liskula, Cohen & Skank sounds like the name of a law firm.

Maybe Liskula, Skank & Cohen would have a better ring.

posted by Eric on 08.21.09 at 11:05 AM


Calling C*ntessa a c*nt might have been amusing. Or is that too obvious?

M. Simon   ·  August 21, 2009 3:49 PM

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