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Over Easy: Kirby Delauter and the Streisand Effect

Streisand Estate edit

Streisand Estate, Malibu

A Council member in Frederick County, Maryland who didn’t want his name in a news story is experiencing his very own version of the Streisand Effect*. Councilman Kirby Delauter’s name has appeared since Tuesday on websites, in newspaper columns, on news and opinion blogs, on the Twitter Machine, and seemingly in every other corner of the Internet, after he threatened to sue the Frederick News-Post if it dared to publish his name without his permission. Most Frederick County Council members don’t make the BBC, but Kirby Delauter did!

Seems he didn’t like a column published in the Frederick News-Post authored by Bethany Rodgers. So Delauter took to Facebook to call out Ms. Rodgers and the News-Post, and forbid them to use his name without his prior authorization. Delauter’s Facebook status update (since taken down) called out Rodgers (emphasis mine).

Shame on Bethany Rogers for an unauthorized use of my name and my reference in her article today. She contacted me by phone yesterday, I did not return her call and did not authorize any use of my name or reference in her article.
So let me be clear…….. do not contact me and do not use my name or reference me in an unauthorized form in the future.

As Techdirt put it rather succinctly,

Having firmly established who’s wearing the pants in this councilman/unruly press relationship, Delauter was undoubtedly surprised to find himself swiftly de-pantsed by Rodgers herself.

Bethany Rodgers responded to Delauter,

Wow. Well, just to answer a few of these accusations: First of all, there is no requirement to get a person’s authorization in order to mention them in the paper, particularly if that person is an elected official. It is not just our right but our responsibility to report on people like you, who occupy positions of trust in our government, and I make no apologies for doing that. I am aware that you asked me not to call you anymore. However, it is a journalistic principle to reach out to individuals who are part of the article. Again, it would be irresponsible for me NOT to do so, and I plan to continue giving you the opportunity to comment on articles that concern you. Whether or not you return my calls is up to you.

Delauter’s response? I’LL SUE!!

Use my name again unauthorized and you’ll be paying for an Attorney. Your rights end where mine start

One wonders what rights those are? Newspapers write about all kinds of people all of the time, and use their names without their permission. That’s how journalism works, Councilman Delauter, especially when you are an elected official. UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh puts it this way in his Washington Post blog, The Volokh Conspiracy.

Uh, Council Member: In our country, newspapers are actually allowed to write about elected officials (and others) without their permission. It’s an avantgarde experiment, to be sure, but we’ve had some success with it.

This episode of politicians behaving badly has not only produced a hilarious editorial response from the Frederick News-Post — do read it, it’s great — in which Delauter’s name is used 28 times, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, but has now caught the attention of many national news sites, and none of them make Mr. Delauter look good. (The eagle-eyed will notice that the first letter of each paragraph in the editorial spells out: K-I-R-B-Y-D-E-L-A-U-T-E-R. It’s a huge nyah, nyah, nyah to Delauter’s threats.)

And it all made me chuckle. I wonder if I’ll be sued now?

UPDATE: I wrote this post on Tuesday evening, and yesterday Kirby Delauter apologized (via NPR).
Kirby Delauter, Who Didn’t Want His Name In A News Story, Apologizes

*This photograph was made famous when singer Barbra Streisand sought to have its publication suppressed, on grounds of privacy. The “Streisand Effect” is a term that evolved from the controversy, referring to the unintentional consequence of increasing public awareness of something through seeking to suppress information.

Photo copyright (C) 2002 Kenneth & Gabrielle Adelman, California Coastal Records Project, Derivate Work of Alchemist-hp.

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I retired from the University of Notre Dame in the Office of Information Technology in 2010. I'm divorced, with two grown children and 8 grandchildren. I'm a lifelong liberal and a "nonbeliever."