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Tuesday, August 12, 2003
So as you've doubtless heard by now, Fox is suing Al Franken for trademark infringement for calling his new book "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right." His publisher, Penguin, responds by calling NewsCorp "un-American." Good. I hope they have a lot of fun with this, since Fox has pretty much given them a free pass via their filing. Usually a company responds to lawsuits carefully, making sure not to say anything that could be used against them later or make the judge angry. But when you've got stuff like this:

"Franken is neither a journalist nor a television news personality," according to the complaint. "He is not a well-respected voice in American politics; rather, he appears to be shrill and unstable. His views lack any serious depth or insight."


The court papers refer to Mr. Franken, who is a former "Saturday Night Live" writer and performer, as a "parasite" who hopes to use Fox's reputation to confuse the public and boost sales of his book.

Mr. Franken is also accused of verbally attacking Mr. O'Reilly and other Fox personalities on at least two occasions, and of being "either intoxicated or deranged" as he flew into a rage at a press correspondents' dinner in April 2003. Mr. Franken has not filed a response in court to the suit. can pretty much reply however you want. Run with it, Al. The lawsuit's got no merit, anyway--say "parody" and it's gone.

I particularly like all this because, up until now, "Fair and Balanced" has been a very effective slogan which I quite admired, in its own horrible way. It's a self-conscious, cynical joke which they managed to take deadly seriously for quite a long time, and it would enrage liberals in a totally disproportionate way--because it was obviously untrue, but they wouldn't even admit to the criticism. But with this, that all changes. Franken makes kind of a lame joke about it, but because Fox reacts so very harshly, they validate the joke; they bring everyone inside it, and it goes from being make-funable in a "I don't believe they can possible think that!" way to make-funable in a "Hahaha, they know it's not true" kind of way. In other words, we can move from endlessly demonstrating why it's untrue to simply laughing at it. This is good. This means it loses some of its power.