Nobody likes a smartass.
Brian Bowman, a Winnipeg lawyer who says he’s not working for Mayor Larry O’Brien but for an unnamed client, wants to force Google to shut down or reveal the identity of an Ottawa blogger.
The blog, Zero Means Zero, has been an unapologetic, unrelenting and often unfair critic of O’Brien, as well as a conduit for City Hall gossip and general mockery of its denizens. The true identity of its author or authors is unknown.
The content can be repetitive and stale, but it’s clearly written on subjects of public interest.
It’s hard not to notice the irony in the wish of Bowman’s client to remain anonymous while unmasking this blogger.
The legal action was inspired by a recent U.S. court decision that allowed fashion model Liskula Cohen to expose an anonymous blogger who had branded her a “skank.” Now that the blogger’s identity is revealed, Cohen may sue for defamation.
This blogger hunt is likely also a prelude to a defamation action. With some exceptions, I find it difficult not to consider the complainants in such proceedings to be crybabies, bullies, and/or guilty as sin and trying to change the subject.
An anonymous blogger is neither Zorro nor Jack the Ripper, but this legal assault has made him, her or them a bit of a folk hero among some Ottawa bloggers.
Less inspiring were the reactions of some public officials. Bay Coun. Alex Cullen told the Ottawa Citizen: “Quite frankly, we would accomplish a lot by exposing who the blogger is.
Anonymity appears to give this person licence to say whatever they please. That’s not acceptable.”
I beg to differ, councillor. It’s the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that does that.
Anonymity simply protects against the understandable but undemocratic instincts of the powerful to stifle criticism by simply lawyering up and bankrupting their critics.
Another blog target, Alta Vista Coun. Peter Hume, seems to understand that harsh criticism comes with public office and instead advocates ignoring the big bad blog in hopes it will go away.