Watch your bobber, Bob
MEMO To: Self
Re: Avoiding Defamation Suits or Threats of Suits or Demands for Apologies
Though you’ve never been sued, Bob, in all of your many years banging like a banshee on typewriters, and learning — not so well — to delicately touch computers with your meathook paws, and although a couple of your employers were forced to issue retractions for your work, it is time you reminded yourself that it is never too late in this game to run afoul of people with power or money or influence (or all three) who might wish to make you aware of their ability to dull that knife of appraisal you (and others) seem to think you wield with impunity.
So, Bob, here’s a few reminders of how to watch your Ps and Qs, to keep a cautious and careful eye on your bobber, to put the odd blank in that overloaded gun of yours, to tighten up that loose cannon on your deck of denunciation.
(1) Don’t ever, under any circumstances, dredge up the past. That was then; this is now. Leave that stuff to the historians and the political scientists at MUN. After all, they crave a dose of excitement in their academic lives. Besides, what do we really have to learn from the past? Stay in the moment. And trust politicians (and ex-politicians) when they guarantee that everything will work out for the best. Take them at their word, at face value, not at two-face value, as you might saucily put it. That way, you’ll reduce the chances of some legal beagle nipping at your heels.
(2) Drawing attention to a politician’s (or ex-politician’s) physical stature is an absolute no-no. Forget using words like “diminutive” or “having a Napoleonic complex” (yes, I know, Joey is long gone, but he might be resurrected in another form, you never know). Those insults are uncalled for. Aside from touching off a temper tantrum in the odd politician (or expolitician), they’re also juvenile. Grow up, Bob.
(3) Also, while we’re referencing the nature of super sensitivity, there should be no inferences that a politician (or ex-politician) overreacts with regularity to even a hint of criticism. They’re human beings, for gawd’s sakes. Cut them some slack. They were — they are — in this for the good of us all. There are no egos. No self-aggrandizement. It’s all for little old us.
(4) Never, ever suggest that a politician (or ex-politician) could be, may have been an intimidating soul, capable of convincing his or her loyal subjects that the emperor is not naked, that his or her word is/was gospel, not to be challenged. Or else.
(5) Do not go off half-cocked with holier-than-thou homilies when a politician (or ex-politician) offers up the notion that it is the media’s responsibility to promote Newfoundland (and Newfoundland governments), that journalists here have an obligation to cheer on the Newfoundland causes, to aid where possible the never-ending Newfoundland quest for “have-province” status. When politicians (or ex-politicians) suggest we’re all in this together, that any deviation from a cheer-leading role is traitorous, then just accept what they have to say with humility. If guilty, stick that tail between your legs and run off into the corner — not to sulk, but to do your penance. Recite a dozen times: God guard thee, Newfoundland.
(6) Whenever a politician (or ex-politician) starts to bark about suing your arse or demanding apologies from this one and that one, even if the demands appear specious, do not fall back on that old argument that such threats from the powerful in society set off a chilling impact on the media’s mandate to demand accountability at almost all costs. And never, ever talk about the need of the media to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Come on, now: that’s cornball stuff, and you know it. It’s the cynic’s mantra. An excuse to get your jollies tearing strips off politicians (and ex-politicians). They deserve better.
(7) Always stick to “just the facts, ma’am, just the facts” in order to avoid possible suits. Any attempt to put in some sort of perspective what the elected leaders (or ex-leaders, or others in authority) have to say will only awaken the sleeping giant, or giants.
(8) Almost needless to say, but I’ll say it to you anyway, Bob: don’t go insinuating that politician (or ex-politicians) can be bullies. That’s a recipe for a day in court. Or an apology.
(9) Always remember that freedom of speech, freedom of the press, doesn’t give you the right to question the motives of politicians (or ex-politicians). That’s just taking advantage of your autonomy, taking it to extremes. Put yourself in their shoes for a change They are underpaid, overworked servants of the people.
(10) Finally, Bob, put this in your pipe and smoke it (it’ll be legal next week): Politicians (and ex-politicians) deserve much better than what they’re getting from the armchair quarterbacks, the Monday morning quarterbacks. Stick to that philosophy, and you won’t have to worry about suits and apologies.
— End of Memo —