March 19, 2004

Bruce Taylor, Declan McCullagh, and "rotten little kids"

Today I attended the debate " New Media Forums and the First Amendment", featuring Bruce Taylor of the "Free Porn" department, err, Department of Justice, on one side, and Shari Steele of the EFF on the other. Aside from the deep issues of the debate, I was able to satisfy my curiosity regarding one little mystery involving Bruce Taylor (recounted with permission).

As a bit of free, unpaid, working-for-nothing, voice in the wilderness, reporting, I mean "citizen journalism", I checked with him if he had really said something a recent Declan McCullagh CNET article quoted him again as saying:

It's not personal. Taylor relishes the chance to clash with First Amendment lawyers. "Every year we'll put a bill in there, every other year, just to keep the ACLU in business," he told me a few years ago, talking about his efforts to lobby Congress. "They should send me Christmas presents instead of hate mail. I'm putting their rotten little kids through private school."

So, knowing Declan McCullagh, I asked Bruce Taylor if he had actually said it.

He responded that he hadn't said it about the ACLU, he had been joking with Declan about porn-site lawyers, and didn't mean civil-liberties lawyers. He had written a letter of apology to various ACLU lawyers explaining he hadn't meant what was reported. I asked if the letter was available. He said, without irony, that Declan had a copy, and then listed to which ACLU lawyers he had sent it (I decided not to pursue this). These events happened years ago, note (so even if the first use of the quote, at the time, could be pleaded to be honest error, the second use, now, is surely deliberate).

Frankly, this story made much more sense. Porn-site lawyers, e.g. those who represent Larry Flynt/"Hustler" personally, often do make good money. In contrast, civil-liberties lawyers, those who bring legal cases on principle, are typically very poorly paid. Bruce Taylor surely knows this (as does Declan McCullagh). Thus a putting-kids-through-private-school joke works far better about Larry Flynt's lawyers than ACLU's lawyers. So, especially given Declan, I thought Bruce Taylor's explanation had the ring of truth. Declan McCullagh's "journalism" modus operandi is to fabricate meanings more than words.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in journo | on March 19, 2004 10:35 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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