This week I received paperwork from the Clerk’s office notifying me that the lawsuit initiated against me by Steve Chapman has been dismissed. Now that this legal cloud has been lifted I can give readers the full, behind the scenes story of the founding of this website without being concerned about how someone might use that information against me in court, and especially for long-time readers, it should be quite entertaining.
My connection with what was named back then “Black Velvet Bruce Lee” started when I was invited to participate in the blog by someone using the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. I never bothered to try to learn who this individual was, as his real identity was in many ways utterly irrelevant to me. We would email back and forth on occasion about stories but never met in person or spoke on the phone. To this day I do not know who this person was, and during the lawsuit I made it clear to everyone I knew that I didn’t want to know, since he was named as a co-defendant in the suit and had no interest in putting him in harm’s way.
Back in those days our claim to fame was digging up interesting stories concerning candidates in the Manassas area, and the candidate who was at the time a treasure trove of fascinating tidbits was Steve Chapman. I’d known of Chapman before and actually had one of his yard signs in my yard when he ran against Harry Parrish because of some of Parrish’s votes concerning gun control that had deeply upset me. After Harry died, Chapman ran again for the Republican nomination in a special election, but this time there was a nascent blog community starting in Virginia ready to shine the light on candidates much better than the local media would do at the time.
The original and mysterious BVBL was busy lampooning Chapman’s behavior, his questionable residency, and digging up juicy court documents describing his legal entanglements, and I was hooked. Here were stories the mainstream media wasn’t covering, they were shocking and amazing, and having been so mislead before in thinking this was a credible candidate by a thoroughly lazy Potomac News, here was the opportunity to complete the story that had been hidden from me and my neighbors and set things straight. I dived in as deeply as I could, and soon started getting a few leads myself about how some of the information on Chapman’s website was, well, a little inaccurate.
So on the eve of the 10th District Convention, the original BVBL posts a story about how Chapman’s claims that his company cleans the gravestones at Arlington Cemetery is a lie at the same time Shaun Kenney writes a post endorsing Chapman. A furious email exchange ensues between the original BVBL and myself where I express my concerns that he’s pulling the trigger on this story too soon, but since I’m the junior partner with a phantom, I don’t win that one. So since we’re in for a penny, I add the pounds and pen a scathing broadside against Chapman on this one based on all this evidence we had gotten.
The next day I’m out with Chapman at the 10th District convention handing out lapel stickers for Heidi Stirrup, and Chapman doesn’t know who I am. I figured that would change soon, and it did.
Threats of litigation ensue in the form of hilarious grammatically challenged letters from people claiming they’re attorneys, and original BVBL and I coin the battle cry “bite me” as a response. The blog community is highly amused by all of this, and a pretty interesting discussion about freedom of speech and the press starts up that is actually rather productive.
Within days I learn that Chapman has filed a lawsuit against me, and became so engrossed with it that he neglected to actually file as a candidate for the Republican nomination. As soon as the lawsuit drops, Black Velvet Bruce Lee disappears from blogger and I’m sitting in my family room one night pondering the implications of being the only publicly known participant in a blog that has disappeared because of a defamation lawsuit. Well, that’s not going to work for me. At all. So I re-establish the blog by myself, the original BVBL vanishes into the internet ether to never be seen again, and I keep the “bite me” flag flying high.
I get one set of interrogatories from Chapman’s lawyers, to which half of my responses are “I don’t understand the question” because of the author’s perhaps inadvertent assaults committed against the English language, and then hear nothing. For years. The suit languishes, and finally, years later, comes this long-overdue dismissal.
I don’t want anyone to get the impression as a result of this that Chapman is a bad guy. I really think he was just encouraged to do really dumb things by dumb people. Instead of some single guy chasing skirts around Manassas when he wasn’t powerwashing decks and playing a little loose with the rules, he’s gotten married to an absolutely tremendous woman, has some wonderful kids, and has been very supportive of a number of important conservative initiatives in a quiet and thoughtful way. I’m thoroughly impressed with the changes I’ve seen him make in his life, and hope with this seasoning he’ll be interested in taking on a bigger role. When he does so I expect I’ll be one of his supporters, this time not out of utter frustration with the individuals he might be competing with, but because of his own qualities and accomplishments.
So if you see a Chapman yard sign in front of my house some day once again, don’t automatically assume someone is playing tricks, or be all that surprised. It’s quite possible he will have earned that placement.
If you run into someone claiming to be the original BVBL, I’ll be interested in finding out who that was. I think he owes me a beer or three. I’m sure he had good reasons to run for cover, and I don’t second guess that decision on his part one bit. Standing up to six figure lawsuits isn’t for everyone.
Ultimately this whole experience teaches me that standing up for principle as you see it isn’t always easy but it lets you sleep well at night. If no one does this the bullies win, and I’d rather not let them establish the precedent that they get to roll all over everyone. Sadly, those who are eager to throw defamation lawsuits or threats of lawsuits against bloggers are still out there and hidden under rocks in every corner of the political spectrum. The most recent absolutely enraging example I’ve seen was when Joe Budzinski of NOVATownHall was threatened with a ridiculously stupid defamation lawsuit by Ron “I Have My Own Northern Virginia Tea Party” Wilcox, who deserves tar and feathers for being the penultimate asshole of the year for this one.
Does anyone but me notice what part of the political spectrum these lawsuits and threats of lawsuits seem to consistently come from? Perhaps from the same folks who rant about tort reform? Hmmm.
If only a few more folks were in the position to scream back “Bite Me!” when confronted by this crap, others wouldn’t be subjected to the same kind of challenges I’ve faced. Instead, it looks like we’re going to have to re-learn this lesson a few dozen more times until we get it right.
The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.
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