Trebuchet of mud

Jesse Singal on Chase Strangio’s casual defamation of him and subsequent evasive maneuvers to avoid blame for the defamation:

Yesterday, GQ ran an interview between Saeed Jones and Chase Strangio, one of the highest-profile attorneys at the ACLU, about trans kids that contains the following passage: I think what we’re seeing now is this moment where there are these loud voices who feel so empowered and emboldened to speak out with just utter hatred for trans people. And a lot of it emerging from the UK anti-trans discourse in JK Rowling and then that sort of being an impetus for this Substack brigade, asI [sic] like to call them—that idea of the self-victimized, well-paid writer who wants nothing more than to be able to hate others without consequence. That sort of famed victimhood of censorship, which is really just self-censorship and complaining, whether it was JK Rowling, or Abigail Shrier, and Bari Weiss. And then it became sort of the cause of Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Greenwald and Jesse Singal and all these other people who are just somehow finding their moment to be like, “Oh yes, trans people are so disgusting. And I feel that way. And now I get to frame this around my right to speak without criticism.” I did not necessarily anticipate the magnitude of the public discursive escalation and the sense of empowerment that people feel attacking trans people, and doing so while fueling a very dangerous set of legal and policy objectives that I think even these people would claim to not be aligned with. [emphasis mine]

Well you see it all hinges on how you interpret “to be like.” If you take it to be a ubiquitous substitute for “say” then it seems defamatory, but if it’s an actual comparison then…it’s entirely unclear what Strangio meant.

I’m kidding. It’s the ubiquitous substitute for say thing.

The bolded passage is straightforwardly defamatory. I don’t know if it rises to the level of legal defamation, which is a high threshold in the United States, and I have no plans on suing anyone. But in the straightforward sense of “lying about people in public to attempt to harm their reputations,” it obviously qualifies.

So Chase Strangio, arguably the face of the ACLU at this point, decided to fabricate allegations about a number of journalists in the pages of GQ. Not the behavior you’d expect from someone in that sort of position. Strange times, I guess.

There’s a lot about Chase Strangio that you wouldn’t expect from someone in that sort of position.

That was yesterday. Today, Strangio backtracked a bit, seeming to blame this both on an absent period but also on us rubes who “are choosing to read [the passage] in a particular way.” (The “particular way” in question being “the exact plain meaning of the text, as per basic linguistic conventions regarding the use of conjunctions,” I guess. God, we’re idiots!)

Strangio four hours ago:

Yes people “chose to read it” the way it was written. How foolish and uninclusive.

Then a staff attorney popped up to do some more parsing of the meaning so that Strangio would look like an innocent bystander.

Singal sums up:

I just find this sequence bizarre:

1. High-profile ACLU staffer defames a bunch of people.

2. Said staffer blames the defamation on a missing period and/or people reading the sentence the way a human would rather than the way a lawyer would.

3. ACLU staff attorney chimes in publicly to say, in effect, “Well, it isn’t technically libel because of this nerdy legal rule.”

I don’t understand how anyone at the ACLU could possibly find this acceptable. I’m not wrong in thinking the organization used to be better-functioning and more professional than this, right?

He’s not wrong but that was before Twitter.

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