by James Killough
This will no doubt be the most post-modern post I’ve ever written. This is a comment to a comment left on Thursday by Seema Kalia, whose trials and tribulations I commented on in an earlier post. The Daily Beast has also commented on this combustion of comments with two words: “No comment.” This post itself will no doubt draw further comment, perhaps even some fire from Seema in the form of a frivolous lawsuit.
Why frivolous? Because the basis of Seema’s complaint against me, as well as The Daily Beast, is defamation, which as any TV legal drama will tell you is extremely difficult to prove in this country. However, despite having a Juris Doctor degree that should teach her better, or perhaps because of it, Seema has limitless resources and seems to be keen to use them to tidy up her image.
As the old ad campaign goes, there are some things money cannot buy.
Even though this entire blog was set up to chronicle my troubles and eventual lawsuit with my landlady, the Wicked Blais, the Spanking Galliano piece was the first time I tested the limits of defamation/free speech when it comes to a public figure, which includes someone who has willfully thrust herself in the news. I had never related an anecdote about a famous person I’ve known beyond a dinner party table, so it was quite thrilling, a combination of the adrenaline from doing something dangerous and the rush a show-off gets when he’s elevating himself by dropping names.
But once the ephemeral feelings were gone, the tremendous surge in hits to this blog that a salacious, topical story brought in was the true boon, and the most interesting aspect of having posted it, professionally speaking. Again, PFC is a content creation company, so we are always testing what works and what doesn’t.
A producer of mine, who also has a law degree, was concerned at the time that I would be setting myself up for a defamation suit from Galliano, but her expertise is entertainment law, so it is understandable that she didn’t understand the nuances of defamation, which aren’t nuances at all, really; they’re quite unsubtle. Basically, I can talk about anything that happens to me, and express my opinion about anything, without fear of prosecution, or of being forced to take down articles “by COB” (love that) simply because someone featured in them feels they defame her. To win a defamation suit in a country famous for its free speech, Galliano would have to prove that he didn’t lock himself in a lavish bathroom at the Plaza Athénée Hotel in Paris to do coke with my sober epileptic German lover, offer to fellate him and then get himself spanked, following which he would have to prove that this allegedly false story of mine (but it’s true) irreparably damaged his career.
I think he did that all by his lonesome.
Seema, in case you mistake this blog for an actual news outlet—and for someone who is so prodigious with her presence online, I don’t know how you could; we don’t even have an RSS newsfeed from other sites—the word “opinion” appears in the center of our header. This alone protects us under the First Amendment to the fullest degree.
Imagine if the fashion houses came running after our style guru James Tuttle every time he snipped apart a collection. He’d have nothing left to wear.
I should be far more concerned about drawing fire from the Times of India, which has even more limitless resources to prosecute me for defamation than Seema does, if the word “limitless” weren’t already an absolute. Alleging that the Miss India Pageant is rigged is pretty serious; it calls into question every pageant win ever in that country, and there have been a few Miss Indias who have go on to win Miss Universe. The problem is, the rigging was all caught on tape, and there was a vast audience watching that slipshod performance of petty corruption unfold onstage. Let’s not forget the weeping contestants themselves, the ones who should have won, who have been seething in their dressing rooms for nearly twenty years like so many Miss Havershams, no doubt shredding issues of that tabloid-ish broadsheet, waiting for their day of revenge.
With the formerly impregnable Rupert Murdoch on the run, I would imagine the Jain family, owners of TOI, have thought it wise just to ignore me and let another twenty years go by.
The one who should really sue me is Muammar Gaddafi, whom I have turned into Mama Gaddafi, fearsome black “booger” drag queen, disgruntled that she is repeatedly rejected from RuPaul’s reality shows. Regrettably, that falls under the heading of political satire. Mama G would have better luck sending one of her hit squads after me than pursuing me in court.
Now that Mama G is winding down, it’s Marcus “Marcia” Bachmann’s turn to be tarred and feathered in true Revolution-era Tea Party style by being feminized up and down the dark humor halls of PFC. Not that ex-gay Marcia needs any help with those fabulous flapping wrists she has. It’s only a matter of time before skeleton dildos and meth hookers come tumbling out of that closet and sweep Marcia and Michele back to the forgotten frozen flyover tundra from whence they slithered.
Aside from the Daily Beast lawsuit, in which she alleges that Nick Summers “planted” a story about her, the reason you know that Seema is serious about going after everyone with defamation suits is the wording in her comment. She calls it a “deliberate retaliatory and defamatory smear campaign that has left me unemployable in both the fields of law and journalism.” Indeed, in order to have the slightest chance of winning a defamation case, Seema has to prove in court that this purported smear campaign, which implies a conspiracy, has damaged her employability and caused her loss of income. If I were the wife of a super-wealthy hedge fund manager, I really wouldn’t go there, but I wouldn’t go any place Seema has been so far with this.
And it pays to remember that it is still the Great Recession: publications that would hire you as a journalist are closing down everywhere; lawyers are bagging groceries at Trader Joes, if they are lucky enough to get the job. But it’s understandable that you would be a little Marie Antoinette in you attitude towards the realities of the job market, Mrs. Vedula Murti.
Even though I have read the PDF docs Seema sent me via email, with again a veiled threat of a defamation lawsuit, I am not interested in commenting on her case except to say that I agree with State’s Attorney Cyrus Vance that it does not warrant further investigation into Trinity School’s finances. (Seema, you are more than welcome to post links to your proof in the comments section for readers to judge for themselves.)
This might lead her to suspect I am in on this greater smear campaign conspiracy. Before you let that paranoid-obsessive earwig wiggle its way into your mind, Seema, you should disabuse yourself of it completely. While I did attend Trinity, I am a total deadbeat alum to them. As an artist who lives by the seat of his pants on the best of days, I will probably never have enough discretionary capital to make a donation beyond buying a cupcake at a bake sale, which is not the sort of fundraising event Trinity would ever engage in, anyway. As for my association with Newsweek/Daily Beast, I did get a comment for this post from their PR guy, Andrew Kirk, after Seema herself started making comments and sending emails, but that was just a halfhearted attempt to seem somewhat journalistic.
One word that I used about Seema in my original post, “demented,” is the only thing that can be perceived of as slightly slanderous, but certainly not by a court. I’m not using the strict definition of the word demented; despite the fact she has referred to herself on her own Facebook page as “unhinged,” and in the court documents she filed as having suffered a “breakdown,” I am not saying that Seema suffers from dementia; that would belittle people who are actual victims of that terrible disease. I am using the word in its informal context, which is defined as being “driven to behave irrationally due to anger, distress, or excitement.” This is clearly supported by subsequent words in my post, in which I urge Seema to drop the case and let go of her rancor like a helium balloon.
I would still urge that. Lawsuits are stressful, frustrating and can be unhinging, especially if you aren’t getting anywhere with them.
If you are still inclined to sue me, Seema-jan—and I do mean the “jan” (dear heart) because I understand how upset you must be over all this, and I am not uncompassionate—I am a very difficult man to reach, as elusive as the Scarlet Pimpernel. I have no property, few tangible assets, and I am basically itinerant, and plan to stay that way; it makes my work that much easier and unencumbered. But I’m not a bad man, or unreasonable, so if you do want to continue this discussion you are free to leave comments here, provided you don’t schiz out too badly, in which case the comments will be removed at my discretion.
If you are thinking about digging up dirt to fling at me, you would be wiser to do that to people who don’t wish, like I do, that their reputations were more tarnished than they already are. For anything more serious, I direct you to my attorney, my dear longtime friend and all-around wonderful human being, Mark Beigelman, one of the finest entertainment lawyers in the business.
And this whole thing has been nothing if not entertaining, so thank you for that.