Not long ago a fan came up to Claudia and I and gushed that he/she was glad that I “named names” in my blog. Claudia’s eyes narrowed and at breakfast yesterday after dropping our grandsons off at their schools we had a heart to heart.
As I’ve said before Claudia doesn’t read this blog. She hates listening to my phone conversations when I talk “politics.” For a political junky like me this is awkward. As I’ve also confessed here in the blog she used to forbid my mentioning anything about her work before she retired. I often failed to heed this demand. It may be fair to say that for her the old saying, “ignorance is bliss” has some validity. And yet all through my fight on the Red Plan I took issue with a great many folks even baldly accusing some of lying. I have never taken back those accusations. In one case the person so accused was a public figure and thus vulnerable to my attacks as the courts have given the public a great immunity from slandering “public” officials. The Accused’s policy was standard issue. He ignored me rather than react and thereby attracting more attention for my blog.
I’ve always followed a different course. When criticized uncritically I always respond rather than allow a faulty accusation to hang in the air unchallenged. Some examples: criticisms by teacher’s union officials about my thinking on the eve of a near teachers’s strike, off base letters to the editor from people passing on criticism of me handed them by my school board “colleagues,” accusations leveled at me to blacken my reputation because of my opposition to letting the Red Plan go forward without a public referendum.
The only people I’m inclined to keep anonymous are those at risk of being penalized for passing on embarrassing information and sometimes, my allies who could have their sources of information dry up if I were to divulge who told me something that could be traced back to some leaky source. And yet there is always the possibility that some particularly litigious person could take me to court for defamation. I can understand that motivation since I go to considerable lengths to protect my own reputation.
Slander suits are rare and hard to win but one could easily swallow up a retirement account. Even winning a case could prove costly. During the height of the Red Plan fight I had a draining family dispute running that drained $50,000 from my Mother’s portfolio to pay for lawyers. At the same time I was spending what ended up being close to $20,000 out of pocket for nickle and dime expenses to keep the “Let Duluth Vote” organization’s fight going and then I put another $20,000 at risk as my part to cover a $100,000 bond to keep our case alive in court. ISD 709 and JCI wanted our feisty little group to be held responsible for what they claimed, with some justification, might cost millions in construction delays.
Being the nail that stands up entails some risk and as Mao and other’s have pointed out is a target for being pounded down. I might be happy to tempt fate but Claudia, a peace loving sort, never signed on to be my Sancho Panza. So we had a long talk about my blog, what I’ve written and how much of a liability I’ve taken on with the things I’ve said. I had to condense into a breakfast conversation what I’ve written since the School Board entered into its war on Art Johnston last June.
The one figure most likely to take me to court has been written about obliquely. I’ve called this person a liar too most recently in one of my posts which has just been published by the Reader Weekly. The fact that I have not mentioned the name of this person is no defense for defamation. I might as well have said that the owner of the house at 212 Main Street was a thief. It would take little detective work to figure out whose actions I’ve been describing. That is my naming names. I’ve been more forthcoming in talking to the attorney investigating Art Johnston and my school board colleagues and the current Superintendent. Its quite likely that the beans I’ve spilled to them are protected in such a fashion that even they should not have been told. I’ve simply decided that when so much of a story hangs on the accusations of a liar that I’m inclined to tear at my legal constraints and the the truth out.
“Is it worth our retirement?” When Claudia posed that question to me I had to pause and think for a very long time before replying. I never answered the question. Instead I told Claudia a brief history of the blog’s contents from June when the accusations were hurled against Art. I described my early oblique references to the liar. Claudia, an old hand at personnel work, wanted to know if the things I was writing about were “protected” information. I had to acknowledge that they were which, of course, leaves us vulnerable. “Us” because while its me shooting off my mouth (or fingers) it was Claudia that earned most of our income and we became an “us” forty years ago in the old “for better or worse” mold.
All I wanted to do after breakfast was go to my computer and blog 10,000 words. Then I got tangled up in earnest, mind draining phone calls.