Tony Jones is tenacious, I’ll give him that. But tenacity is not always a good thing, especially if your end goal is as misguided as his. The ToJo Narcissist News of the Week this week the letter bearing the upside-down-Nike-swoosh-logo-letterhead of his lawyer, one M. Sue Wilson. I was made aware of this letter by Tony’s ex-wife, Julie McMahon, as were a number of other bloggers, one of whom has posted a copy in all its glory, with personal information redacted. The letter reminds Julie of a court order that instructs the parties, Tony Jones and Julie McMahon to cease posting about this matter and to remove their past postings, insofar as they are able to remove them. So far, so good. However.
Ms. Wilson then lists 56 individuals, most with contact information, and some 166 URLs where they would like posts removed or comments deleted, with proof of Julie’s requests provided to Ms. Wilson’s office by 5:00PM (CDT assumed) on 19 may 2015. This list includes several of my recent posts of course, and for the formal record, I have declined to remove or redact them. But let’s consider the egregious nature of this letter.
Firstly, the general consensus (after asking around) is that had Julie been represented (that’s legalspeak for “able to afford a lawyer”), this order wouldn’t have gotten past a judge, even one who is reportedly a former colleague of Ms. Wilson’s. (Of course whoever mentions that is obliged to add that this shouldn’t affect the judge’s impartiality, and I know that it won’t because I’ve seen several episodes of The Good Wife. Spoiler: the “good wife” is also just a legal wife, not a sacramental one.)
Secondly, um, hello? First Amendment, anyone?
Thirdly, the court has no jurisdiction over anyone who is not a party to the proceedings, and least of all does a district family court have jurisdiction over the entire internet.
Fourthly, I object to the manner in which the letter attempts to extend the requirements of the court’s order and render this extended compliance as fait accompli a mere week after being signed by the judge — before it can be overturned on appeal for reasons just cited.
Attention Bloggers & Other Listed Parties: I’m not a lawyer and am not here rendering legal advice, but my understanding is that this court has no jurisdiction over you or your posting, and the court order does not in any event establish a timeline for the removal of comments. I therefore encourage your noncompliance with these requests.
I’m of the “what I’ve written, I’ve written” school, and I don’t remove posts likely — not least because I don’t want to contribute to link rot if I can avoid it, nor because it must be acknowledged that things said online are bells that cannot be unrung. To remove a post and thinking it’s gone away completely is just to fool yourself. True, it may be harder to find, but it won’t be gone… and in ToJo’s case, it won’t be any less true. The attempts to silence are a renewed attempt to — let’s say it together, now — control the narrative. (I knew you all knew that, because you’ve been paying attention.)
Speaking of what’s true, I believe the fact of the matter here is that Tony wishes to silence. To silence a victim is to continue the abuse when in most cases, all the victim wants is to be heard. Once someone finds their voice, attempts to silence them can tend to have the opposite effect, and that’s what we’re seeing here. To those who would quash it, the truth is insidious. It just has a nasty habit of leaking out everywhere. Truth is also an outstanding defence against defamation suits, which we’ve yet to see here — likely because the process of legal discovery is generally just a really expensive way to expose things like that. And in this matter, I think the truth has already been exposed for those willing to see it.
I will admit to one bit of minor pleasure in this letter. I know that Tony’s lawyer certainly won’t have been the one scouring the internet for us baddies talking trash about ToJo. Which means that apparently Tony has nothing better to do than to go out and do it himself. As a narcissist, he’s got to enjoy reading about himself (is there really no such thing as bad press?) but I suspect he hasn’t enjoyed these mentions quite as much as he usually would, and to have to list them all so meticulously and follow all the comment threads for more mentions. So greetings, Tony — I hope you’re enjoying my post, even if you’re legally barred from commenting on it by your own action. I must pause and thank you for those 166 URLs that compose my new reading list. I was unaware of many of those posts, and find that I really must go and look them all up when I get the time.
In any event, this letter is just the latest volley in Tony’s lawfare campaign. It won’t likely be the last, simply because it is a campaign, and not a simple act. But for those who haven’t yet seen it (perhaps they’ve been unwilling), this is a good example of how it works. A month or so ago, back when Julie had a lawyer, a judge dismissed a similar request by Tony to have Julie go around scrubbing the internet for essentially the reasons given above. Now that she doesn’t have one, Tony’s legal pitbull ran to a different judge and got a quick ruling that she in fact should go and try to spit-shine the internet to rid it of all this unpleasantness. Once the ruling was signed, the lawyer added some chaff to see if the overinterpreted version could gain compliance along with the overreaching order, and get it all done before anyone noticed. To that, I say no. You can count me out.