Last September, outraged by a tabloid lie that I was uniquely positioned to debunk, I wrote a blog entry criticizing Britain’s Daily Star. I noted that they had simply fabricated two American gay rights groups thatÂ were purportedly criticizing the U.S. version of the sketch comedy show “Little Britain” for running “homophobic” skits. Other UK newspapers and web sites picked up the Star story, and it went semi-viral.
Cut to last month. To my astonishment, my little cyber-shout had actually created consequences in the real world. The Daily Star has paid damages and apologized to Little Britain’s stars for lying. Here are more details from the Press Gazette and BBC News.
Not only that, but a more-respectably daily, The Independent had to apologize — for quoting me! I had speculated that the Star story was really a publicist’s plant intended to drum up attention for the U.S. debut of the show. I didn’t name any names, of course, because if it was a plant, it could have been planted by a lot of different people. But that didn’t stop The Independent from passing along my clearly-labeled speculation. Oops. Under Britain’s rather onerous, plaintiff-friendly defamation law, they wound up having to apologize to Little Britain’s publicist for implying that the firm did a bad thing.
There’s a lesson in all of this, though I’m not completely sure what it is. Maybe just that I should have thought twice about setting off a shit-storm in the first place. None of the shit that hit the Star and The Independent landed on me, but that’s just because I got lucky.
UPDATE: Apparently, London’s The Times had to apologize as well.