July 31, 2017

Rall vs Popehat

Ted Rall with Greg Palast. Egocentric nuttery squared?
Ted Rall has sued the L.A. Times for canning him as a freelance columnist. The brouhaha goes back to when Ted was arrested for jaywalking in Los Angeles 16 years ago. This is his latest in-depth piece about the issue.

YES. A full 16 years ago. (Hold on to that.)

And, no, as far as I know, Ted never sued the LAPD nor the arresting cop, for false arrest, police brutality, or anything else. He did file a complaint which was found to be largely unfounded, according to other information. That "other information" includes that Rall's story has apparently changed over the years. (Hold on to that.)

Years later, he talked about the issue on an official L.A. Times blog. The powers that be talked to the LAPD, decided Ted's version wasn't true, and eventually canned him, after writing their own follow-ups, on the op-ed pages from what I understand.

Fact is that, even if you're not in a right-to-work state, matters of opinion are treated differently than straight news, first. Second, you can still be fired for what's deemed cause.

Rall eventually sued, as noted. Then complained about anti-SLAPP motions and other matters not going his way. And lost a lawyer.

(Update, Jan. 8, 2019: Rall is almost certainly lying, and bald-faced in it, when he claims in a new piece that "I'm defending myself against Dr. Pat Soon-Shiong and the LA Times' defamation as a favor to the LAPD." Real translation? Ted's GoFundMe has run out of steam and Ted can't afford an actual lawyer to do it for pay, and no lawyer is doing it on contingency. Slightly more generous translation? Ted's discombobulated. Slightly slightly more generous? Ted's mind is OK, but his use of the English language is discombobulated. I'll stay with Translation Door No. 1.)

Hanging out with Greg Palast, per the photo — regular readers of this blog know my take on Greg, down to my inviting his doppelgänger Greg AtLast onto this blog — leads me to less respect yet for Ted. Click the Greg Palast tag to see what I think of him, as well as see videos of Greg AtLast. (And, per Ted's Aug. 1 missive, Greg is actually involved in this case for him.)

Now, irony time.

The Popehat on the prowl 
Popehat, aka Ken White, for the first time in some time, recently put out his anti-SLAPP spotlight. He's looking for lawyers who can do pro bono anti-SLAPP as he's apparently done occasionally in the past himself.

Like Rall, right?

Not exactly.

Earlier this week, Ken thoroughly took Rall to the woodshed.

And I largely agree.

I don't think Ted has a legal leg to stand on.

Not even with a storied (superannuated, not actively practicing) lawyer (TV writer and Hollywood hangout) Roger Lowenstein as appellate attorney (for an appeal that won't happen unless his Kickstarter or GoFundMe gets a lot more contributions). He's so "storied" that Ted links to a 1991 (Yes!) NYT story (I see what I did there) about him.

And, per a comment at Ken's piece, I question why he's pushing the suit, if not for publicity value.

I agree with Rall's stance on many political issues more than the typical Popehat reader. (Ken's blog, while it often focuses on civil liberties issues, can otherwise have a mild libertarian tilt in general.)

But, Rall seems way wrong on this. Legally, journalistically and otherwise.

If the problem with the arrest was as bad as he now claims, he should have sued LAPD and/or the arresting cop long ago. Yeah, immunity issues would have made it tough for that to stick, but ... give it a try?

Otherwise, per Ken? Dude, it was a jaywalking charge, first of all. GET OVER IT! (And, you weren't falsely accused, legally. You were charged and fined, and you either never contested it, or you did and lost. That's legally guilty.) Also, the LAPD says they could never get a hold of you to finalize the complaint process.

 Besides the issue of whether Rall's current statements are correct or not — L.A. is known for being quite serious about jaywalking. I got a warning from a cop in Hollywood in the 1980s, when he claimed I had walked when the walk sign was red. I was visiting my mom, and she had warned me.

And, per other links at White's post, including one by a commenter noting other lawsuits Rall has filed in the past (four of the five counts were dismissed in the Danny Hellman suit, and while the fifth count was technically active as of 2009, per Hellman, it surely has gone away by now), I'm losing more and more respect for Rall. Add in Ted's own emails as another issue.

Ted, at best, seems to be moderately misconstruing this while also apparently leading his most devoted fanboys to think he's just a couple of steps from the poorhouse if he can't win the suit.

I still appreciate some of Ted's deliberate contrarianism, like when, after a week's hiatus, he continued to draw Dear Leader Obama with a purple face and other things. (That said, the number of Obamiacs who didn't know who he was might make him a bit less famous than Rall himself wishes and some Popehat denizens think.) And, though I disagreed at the time, and still partially disagree today, with his opposition to the Afghanistan invasion, he was principled and up-front about it. And, per Ken's first link about Ted, he may have overstated things, but some 9/11 widows DID come off looking like grifters, whether they were or not.

I don't defend everything, though. His attack on Pat Tillman was over the top, in part because Tillman specifically wanted only to fight in Afghanistan, not Iraq.

In general, he's not a bad cartoonist, whether this is an affected style or simply his best. As a columnist? He's a good cartoonist. Due to the nature of the beast, some ham-handedness is allowed. But, that doesn't translate well into punditry, and Ted often doesn't try to tame it.

Beyond that, even someone who decried his firing damns him with faint praise, while semi-throwing him under the bus:
He's an over-the-top guy who views his life as an unending drama with himself as its main character.
Otherwise, though, he's a "mainstream left-liberal," if that doesn't sound oxymoronic, in today's punditry universe. He's certainly to the right of Counterpunch, and possibly to the right of a place like Alternet.

And, that gets to publicity. There's plenty of other columnists, and editorial cartoonists, out there who #resist Trump. Ted may be trying to figure out a way to separate himself from the crowd.

Voila! Sue the Times for not having his back with the authoritarian LAPD. Then double down on the SLAPP suit, darkly hinting that the Times is "buying" the law.

Of course, that squares the Palast circle. The conspiracy angles are the type of stuff he often digs.

And, the way he does the overly-heavy, tedious explainers about how appellate courts are different from "regular" courts and such? Maybe Rall will start losing some of his fanboys.


Anonymous said...

To be fair, it will be difficult for anyone to separate themselves from the crowd of anti-Trumpers.

That being said, I have always thought that Ted's skills rest with fiction, not political commentary.

His two novels masquerading as autobiographies are entertaining; "My War with Brian," where he imagines himself as Bruce Willis taking on the high school bully who tormented him; and "The Year of Loving Dangerously," where he depicts himself as a Casanova.

Rall is like a Walter Mitty, a beta male with dreams of being the alpha.

Gadfly said...

Well put on the Walter Mitty angle!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Gadfly.

Rall getting roughed up by cops; Rall getting fired because his cartoons rock the boat; Rall as the constant target of evildoers.

These are Walter Mitty fantasies.

In reality, Rall stirs the pot.

Who is Greg Palast? He sure looks sketchy.

Gadfly said...

Palast is an alleged lefty investigative journalist. Often adds 2+2 to get 5. Or worse. The fedora has been a schtick of his for more than a decade now; it's primary use is to hide his lack of hair up top any more. He has at least as inflated of a sense of self-importance as does Rall, and it didn't surprise me to see them hanging together.

Anonymous said...

I just looked at Greg's website.

The first thing that I noticed was a spot to donate so that he can conduct his "investigations."

The second thing that I noticed was that although Greg does not have nearly as many spots to donate as does Rall, both men have quite a hustle going.

Yet Rall's donations are tax deductible. Is the Rallblog a 513 (c) charity? Shouldn't Greg look into establishing himself as a non-profit?

Gadfly said...

Note back to Anonymous: Ted's now self-representing in his lawsuit, which means people stopped donating, I presume.

Also, donations to Ted do get laundered through a legit nonprofit. https://www.influencewatch.org/non-profit/sustainable-markets-foundation/

That said, the PIRGs, through their connection with Fund for the Public Interest, is skeezy; the uninformed don't know that it's been successfully sued more than once, although I'm sure Rall does. Hence, I stand behind "laundered" in the paragraph above