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March 3, 2003

A reader's letter about our review of Be Careful Who You SLAPP, and William Steinmetz's response.


Subject Be Careful Who You SLAPP review

Dear Mr. Frye,

I finished reading Be Careful Who You SLAPP finding it a most informative and well written book only to come across your review and wonder if there are two books with the same title. For God's sake, how could your review miss the fact the authors lost the lawsuit? So much is mistated. The authors very clearly introduce their story as a biographical account of their litigation experience. No where do they infer the book to be a treatise on SLAPPs. The Preface alone makes it clear that this is a personal story about the Varian SLAPP which continues to be well publicized. And I see no mention of Saddam Hussein as your review states or a suggestion that one of the author's ex-wife is a psycopath or incidents of old friends stabbing anyone in the back. Where did this come from?

While I must confess that I passed over much of the legalese thankfully footnoted 145 times, I found the chapter on the anti-SLAPP statute to be a great overview of the whole problem with corporate tyranny. For your review to ask the questions, "Is the internet protected by free speech? Are anonymous postings legal? What is slander on the internet?" and claim they remain unanswered by the authors only required a cursory look at the14 page index to see that these topics are covered throughout the book.

Thanks for letting me sound off, but I think a book review should at least be done by someone who has read the book.

Yours truly,

Wendy Taylor

...and William Steinmetz's response

If that's all they set out to do, it's still a crappy book. Stating their purpose, which admittedly they did, does not excuse this.

As far as the Saddam Hussein mention or ex-wives, I never said that either of them had ever made such a comparison; I was drawing a portrait of the sort of people that the authors were, and how unpleasant they were. The only thing I directly accused them of was, "And yes, Varian is compared to Nazi Germany within the first twenty pages."

The information may be provided somewhere within the book, but TRUST me when I say it's lost in the reams of their court transcripts. Like Wendy, I too skimmed a lot of this book, but I did read every single page and it's not summed up easily anywhere. One could make the same bad argument for a lousy computer book "Well, it's not easily organized, but if you read the book via the index, you can find it." According to the index, there are five pages devoted to slander, and a hundred and forty-three devoted to Susan B. Felch's personal problems. Do the math on what the real concern is here, and whether you're likely to find it easily.

As far as they're concerned, they won. I myself wasn't too thrilled with the court case myself, but as far as the authors presented it, their triumph was that they were able to post on the internet. I quote the book "In the meantime, like any Americans, we are free to post the truth." I thought the review was damning enough; I could have dissected the court case and tried to really go through and see where they won or lost, but since they were presenting it as a triumph, I figured I'd go along with it. My bad.


May 10, 1998

Name: Stew Gleed
Email Address:
Message: I found this and I am giving to this to a couple of students for their information on it..Here I am also giving it to some people on the internet..Please respond by Tuesday(5/12)

The present age has been characterized as the INFORMATION AGE, an era in which the movement of signals and information has replaced the physical exchange of things. To a large extent, "virtual reality" is threatening to replace "physical reality."

I am having everybody define a topic(title), and clearly present your main point(thesis) and then arrange evidence to support your main point.

As background and evidence for this essay, read the following essay in Technology and the Future: Sherry Turkle, "Identity in the Age of the Internet."