May 29, 2018
Aretha Franklin Will Do Right, Sue Bad Satire Site Out Of Business
How much do you hate fake news sites like National Report, which serves only to get the gullible to recirculate poorly written “satire” as truth? All of the hate, right? This week, another of those sites, News Nerd, trotted out a story about Patti Labelle punching Aretha Franklin and now Aretha is suing. Go Aretha.
First, a part of the fake news story, which appears on a website that looks entirely like a real website until you scroll all the way down the page to find a brief “this is for entertainment purposes” disclaimer, except many people do not scroll down for that! Here’s the ill-written yet semi-realistic account of the LaBelle assault.
While Aretha Franklin was making her way to the stage, Labelle extended her hand to greet the “Respect” singer, when she threw epic shade in an effort to avoid her. […]
Franklin was quickly struck [by LaBelle] with a Mayweather style right and left and stumbled backwards, landing awkwardly. Bystanders subdued Labelle and escorted her outside of the venue. Franklin suffered only minor injuries.
Labelle was quickly apprehended by the Atlanta Police Department and charged with assault and battery. She was released on a $10,000 bail and will appear in court on April 16th.
See? That does not really sound fake! It sounds like a 10th-grader wrote it, but it sounds like a real story. And there were stock pix of Aretha and Patti rather than a ridiculous catfight pic like our lovely one above or clip art or something. And then everyone thought it was a real story and it got flung around the internet for days. Aretha had to issue a denial and point out that she was not, in fact, cold-cocked by fellow soul legend Patti LaBelle.
“I’ve never heard anything crazier – regarding myself and Patti allegedly fighting on March 20, in Atlanta,” she wrote, via Billboard. “On March 20, I was in New York City readying for my birthday [party], which we all had one fabulous time. Patti and I are cool and we always have been. I enjoyed her at the White House. Classic Patti.”
Aretha thought about this for a few more days and then thought “you know what? Fuck that site. I’m going to drop a lawsuit on their unfunny little noggins.”
Franklin has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the humor site the News Nerd, according to The Detroit News. “The stories were not presented as satire or humor,” she said through her publicist. “It was presented as a serious news story intended to depict me in a slanderous and derogatory way – defamation of character.”
Except a lot of argle and double the bargle from armchair internet lawyers who are not lawyers but play one on teevee explaining how this is satire and UNFAIR INPEACH ARETHA FRANKLIN. Let’s lawsplain why you should tell those people to shut up.
Parody or satire is totes cool in America, because freedom, but there’s a limit. Consider our favorite court case to cite ever, Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, in which 2 Live Crew sued Roy Orbison’s music publisher so that they could make a parody version of “Pretty Woman.” In order to reach a decision, the court had to quote the 2 Live Crew lyrics at length, which was, of course, hilarious.
Oh, pretty woman/Big hairy woman you need to shave that stuff/Big hairy woman you know I bet it’s tough/Big hairy woman all that hair it ain’t legit/`Cause you look like `Cousin It’
See? You are in no danger of thinking that is the real song. In the same case, the Court had to figure out how satire was different than parody, and went and found a dictionary (no, really) to help them.
Satire has been defined as a work “in which prevalent follies or vices are assailed with ridicule,” 14 The Oxford English Dictionary 500 (2d ed. 1989), or are “attacked through irony, derision, or wit,” The American Heritage Dictionary 1604 (3d ed. 1992).
What we do here at Happy Wonkette? That there is satire. When we mock David Vitter for being a culture scold who also too loves diaper sexytime, that is satirical, and that is why we do not get sued. (Also, because “truth.”) When you write something speculative — like if we said that Patti SHOULD cold-cock Aretha over we don’t know why, that is also totally cool. But if we write a totally legit-sounding post about how said cold-cocking occurred, or that David Vitter got arrested for speeding and was wearing a pile of soiled diapers when he was arrested, those things are probably not protected speech.
We don’t think Aretha will get $10 million out of News Nerd, a website of which we were blissfully unaware until one week ago. Even the traffic bump they got for the fake Aretha/Patti prize fight isn’t going to add up to eight figures. Maybe she’ll just get them shut down, which is a result we could all applaud, because those sites are deeply unfunny and represent a real problem of the internet: that young writers can put all their shit out in public before they are ready and before they have editors. Looking at you, BuzzFeed Community and Thought Catalog, which is basically a war crime for letting young people do that to themselves. We owe it to the youth of today to get rid of News Nerd and its ilk. Except Thought Catalog. We kinda need Thought Catalog because that shit is a goldmine for us and our needs come first.