To The Clueless Wingnut Councilman Formerly Known As Rebuked Artily: Welcome to the First Amendment

To The Clueless Wingnut Councilman Formerly Known As Rebuked Artily: Welcome to the First Amendment

 

Good times with one Kirby Delauter, an oblivious actual elected official in Frederick, Md. who threatened to sue a newspaper for using his name without permission, thus earning the merciless ridicule of social media and national and local press, which called out his "astonishing lack of understanding of the role of a public servant,” sought to educate him about the "avantgarde experiment" called the First Amendment, offered him the first ever Kirby Delauter Award for Cluelessness In Public Office, suggested gleeful anagrams and alternatives to his name - Shirley Delaughter, Bakery Diluter, He Who Shall Not Be Named - and endlessly, snarkily repeated his "unauthorized" name. As in, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter.

Delauter, a hot-tempered right-winger who campaigned on the promise to "govern like a taxpayer" and once famously once told Headstart mothers they could ensure their children's future by staying married and at home, began digging his own hole when he blasted his hometown paper The Frederick News-Post for "unauthorized use of my name" - in a story about council parking spaces, yet. He wrote on Facebook that the offending reporter was "willing to sell your soul for the liberal agenda" and ended with a threat: "You need to know who you're dealing with."

Terry Headlee, the paper's managing editor, responded that in fact he knew who he was dealing with: someone who was legally entitled not to comment on any story about him but alas had showed he was "so ridiculously stupid that I’m speechless," citing a "pointless, misguided attempt to intimidate and bully the press (which) shows an astonishing lack of understanding of the role of a public servant.” Headlee was joined by an enthusiastic Twitter campaign, a flood of Reddit comments - some pertaining to that rumor of Kirby Delauter having sex with a goat in 1990 - and a riotous chorus of journalistic wise guys defiantly, repeatedly using the unauthorized name Kirby Delauter. They included Washington Post blogger Eugene Volokh, a professor at UCLA School of Law specializing in free speech law, who explained, "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."

The best retort came in a brilliant, scathing Frederick News-Post editorial titled, "Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter." It begins, "Knowing Councilman Kirby Delauter as we do, we weren't surprised that he threatened The Frederick News-Post with a lawsuit because we had, he says — and we're not making this up — been putting Kirby Delauter's name in the paper without Kirby Delauter’s authorization. Attorneys would be called, Kirby Delauter said...We spent quite some time laughing about it. Kirby Delauter, an elected official? Kirby Delauter’s making a joke, right?" It goes on to mangle the name with an array of alternatives, from Sherbert Deluder to the Councilman Formerly Known as Commissioner Kirby Delauter to anagrams like Rebuked Artily and Brutelike Yard. It eventually gets serious enough to acknowledge the sobering reality behind Delauter's ignorance at a time when press freedoms are under attack, including in a neighboring county where council members cited "international terrorism" to justify banning media from asking questions. Above all, the editorial notes, Delauter's idiocy illustrates a disturbing right-wing talking point that the media are "stooges hell-bent on pursuing some fictional left-wing agenda" - that, despite the hundreds of courageous journalists killed "in pursuit of the truth, or the most reliable version of it at hand in the most dangerous regions of the world." It doesn't mention what the first word of each paragraph spells out, but bravo. Howard Zinn: "The most revolutionary act one can engage in is...to tell the truth."

Sobering Update: A terror attack on a satirical newspaper in Paris has left at least 12 dead, reportedly including some of France's leading cartoonists. They had been repeatedly threatened by radical Islam groups for doing their job.

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