The other day I received a communication that moved me to write this column. The communication wondered why celebrities are prominently mentioned in AdLLaw’s mission to protect the deceased from defamation. Actually, it went beyond wondering why celebrities are included; it went so far as to suggest that celebrities should be excluded. The recommendation was that our focus should be on the average citizen with whom the masses can identify.
AdLLaw uses many people as examples of those who are being defamed after they have passed on. Celebrity examples include Betty Ford, Michael Jackson, Steve Jobs, Whitney Houston, and Amy Winehouse. We also have in our materials records of a young woman who was killed in a terrible car accident whose family endured seeing vile and horrific information being spread on the Internet about their relative.
Read more here: http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=3872556&page=1
We have information on U.S. soldiers whose funerals were picketed by a religious group that used the funerals as a platform to spread their bigotry and hate. The group picketing the funerals of fallen soldiers is not aiming their hate at the individual; however, their actions are mentioned in our materials because they bring hardship to the families of the soldiers in the form of added grief and suffering. One father did try to sue for damages, citing, among other things, the intentional infliction of emotional distress. See more here:
Above are listed just a few examples of the defamation of those who are deceased. They range from the most high-profile celebrities to soldiers fighting for our country to anonymous citizens living their private lives. Defamation can touch anyone, and while there is truth in the fact that most people do not know a celebrity and cannot relate to their lifestyles, we can all identify who they are. For that reason, when they are defamed we are more aware and more attention is given.
Several years ago. Dale Earnhardt, a NASCAR icon, was killed in a shocking accident while racing at Daytona (Florida). The accident happened on live television during the race broadcast. Millions of people saw it play out in their living rooms. Dale Earnhardt was a name so synonymous with the sport that almost everyone could identify him. There was a tremendous amount of coverage of his life and death, and the public outpouring of grief and emotion was incredible. My local radio station had a discussion about the event, and people called in commenting on how wrong it was to feel grief for this man who was killed when the focus of our sorrow should be on our troops. I don’t normally call in to talk shows; however, in this instance I did. I was one of those who saw this horrible accident happen. I explained that when people can put a face to a name, and when they see a tragedy happen in real time, it affects them on a different level. People could identify with what happened. It did not mean there was no sorrow for our fallen troops, but the masses do not have faces to put with a soldier who has died, and they don’t see war played out live in their living rooms. That was why there was so much public grief for Mr. Earnhardt: people could relate.
I use the Dale Earnhardt example to explain why celebrities are a part of the AdLLaw campaign. People are aware of the stories of celebrities and may be outraged at the treatment a celebrity receives in the media. One of the problems with the media is the assumption that celebrities cease to be human once they are famous. A celebrity is still a person…they have lives to live; they have feelings; they have loved ones; they deal with the normal issues of being a human being. They deserve the same respect that any human should receive. That is why they are included in AdLLaw’s mission. Not because they are famous, but because they are human.
People are more aware of the treatment Michael Jackson received in the media than they are of the treatment of Nicole Catsouras, the young woman killed in the car accident. The grief endured by the family of Ms. Catsouras is no less important than the grief endured by the family of Mr. Jackson; it is simply that the masses are more aware of Mr. Jackson’s plight.
The goal of AdLLaw is to change the law nationally so that a family can sue for damages when their deceased loved one is defamed. While living, a defamed person can seek relief for themselves in a court of law for slander and libel. However, at the point of death, current law considers the person to no longer exist. That leaves the gates wide open for anyone to maliciously report untrue “information” about the deceased without fear of repercussions. AdLLaw believes that a person lives on in his or her legacy and reputation. When a person, famous or anonymous, is defamed after they are gone, their loved ones should have a way to seek relief in a court of law.
Perhaps when AdLLaw is successful in its mission, we will be one step closer to becoming a kinder and gentler society. Maybe respect and honor will be restored in our media. There might be a return to integrity in reporting and to thought put into words before they are spoken or written — not just in the media, but by each individual also.
The following video sums up why celebrities are included in this initiative. We are all people; we are all a part of the human race. Regardless of our social status, race, sexual orientation, nationality, political affiliation, or religious belief, we are all people — with the same right to dignity and respect after we have passed on. Watch the video here: http://video.foxnews.com/v/3934406/huckabees-opinion/?#sp=show-clips
AdLLaw’s mission is not to curtail freedom of speech, but to hold people accountable for their words. We believe this initiative and our fundamental right to free speech can coexist. To learn more about AdLLaw, please visit us at https://antidefamationlegacylawadvocates.org/2013/10/22/whats-so-special-about-the-adllaw-initiative-and-petition/
Support the #AdLLawInitiative by signing the PETITION
Edited and Republished by: MJ Brookins
Original story posted here: http://thejamcafe-mjtpmagazine.presspublisher.org/issue/may-issue/article/celebrities-and-AdLLaw
May Issue, ADLLAW – Celebrities and AdLLaw
By Barbara Owens,Journalist and AdLLaw secretary – Thu, May 31, 2012