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Lets Play Find the Defamation (updated)

Class, please watch the following video. There will be a quiz afterward.


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“Potato” is the credited response. Remember, it is not which answer is “correct,” but which is the “best” answer.

Nevertheless, science author Paul Brodeur reportedly seeks $1m from the producers of American Hustle for their portrayal of his article in the film. (source). Since I have not seen the complaint yet, I can only base my opinion on the clip and my erudite knowledge of defamation law.

I can’t see any such suit being anything more than bullshit.

This is a throwaway line by a not-too-bright character in a movie. The line says a lot more about the Rosalyn character than it does about Mr. Brodeur.

I will comment more after I get a copy of the complaint, and review it. But, my initial reaction is that this lawsuit damages Mr. Brodeur’s reputation a lot more than that line, which never made anyone with any sense think less of him to begin with.

Update, I have the complaint. Lets start with the nice things I have to say about it, just to start off nice.

The claim does not make me think “the dumbass who wrote this should be disbarred.” That is not the same as me saying that I think it has much of a chance of winning, but there are varying degrees of silly lawsuits. This is not wallowing down there on the other side of reality. I still predict it getting knocked out on an Anti-SLAPP motion, but I do not call for eternal shame and damnation on the part of the plaintiff or his attorneys. More of a “dude, that wasn’t the best idea.”

Here’s the kernel of the defamation.

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 12.52.48 PM

Its not just that Rosalyn interprets the Brodeur article to say that microwaves take the nutrition out of the food, but Irving then spends a while reading the article, but he seemingly fails to then discount Rosalyn’s position on it.

See, he should have slapped her and said “aaaaaahhhhhh shadaaaaap! Dumbass, that’s not what this article says.” Then, the movie could have gone into a little discussion about the relative merits of microwave ovens and nutrition.

All kidding aside, I can sorta see his point, on a human level. He’s a serious scientist from what I can find. Among his buddies at the science club, perhaps a few of them caught the super-obscure reference in the film. Maybe one of them made a joke at his expense? Did it damage his reputation? If you’re a scientist whose reputation can be trashed by an obscure reference in a movie like this, you must not have had a lot to protect.

I was once portrayed in a novel as a cowboy hat wearing, heavily armed, gator-boot wearing lunatic from Florida. I never wear cowboy hats. I have no gator boots. And I am not from Florida. I laughed, I turned the page, I moved on.

On a realistic level, I can’t see anyone looking at this and thinking that Mr. Brodeur was necessarily even a real person, who wrote a real article, or that either of the characters in the film were worthy of taking seriously on a subject like nutrition or physics.

Let’s Monday morning quarterback this complaint now. Chance of success? Not very high. Filed in a state with an Anti-SLAPP statute. Not too smart. The plaintiff lives in Massachusetts. Despite the fact that Massachusetts is generally a bad ass place, it has not yet passed a meaningful Anti-SLAPP statute. Asserting jurisdiction there would have been a bit of a stretch, but why not give it a try there? Maybe the defendants don’t bother to try and dismiss it for a lack of personal jurisdiction, and you can lose on the merits without consequences.

Now, I’d imagine that the studio will file an Anti-SLAPP motion, and I can’t see this complaint getting through it.

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