I answer questions on a site called Quora. Most of my answers involve legal issues, though sometimes I answer questions on general advice.
The reason I answer questions on Quora and not on most other sites, is because Quora has a policy called BNBR, which stands for Be Nice Be Respectful. In other words, Quora has a very clear policy on bad behavior. And unlike many other sites, Quora works hard to enforce that policy.
Just Take the Block
Like many sites, Quora provides a tool which enables you to block people who annoy you. I use it frequently. Most people, when you block them, just leave you alone. Unfortunately some people cannot deal with being blocked. Those people make the mistake of trying to go around the block. They find you elsewhere, and attempt to communicate with you. Quora takes efforts to go around the block very seriously. Quora’s response is an immediate lifetime ban from the site.
Now that you know the background, I can tell you what happened.
Someone Doesn’t Like My Answer
Someone on Quora asked a question involving what people thought was the worst precedent in the Supreme Court. I responded that I felt the chain of cases involving giving businesses “personhood” was a serious problem. I felt this for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it lead, almost inevitably, to Citizens United.
Just yesterday, a person who claims to be a lawyer (I have no idea whether he is) came onto my answer and insulted me. He didn’t swear at me or anything, he basically just decided to tell me that I was acting like an ill-informed lay person. I cannot remember the exact words of his comment. It didn’t contain anything substantive, of course. It basically just called me an idiot, without using those words.
Prior to blocking him I let him know why I was blocking him:
“Thanks for the insults. You know what I do with people who call me names? I block them. Next time, instead of throwing insults, engage in reasoned debate. You didn’t do that though. You just made a statement and insulted me.”
At any rate, I blocked him and forgot about it. I block people every day. So aside from shaking my head, I moved on, figuring that was the end of it. As it normally is.
He Tries to Reach me on Facebook
Unfortunately, the block wasn’t the end of it. The person sent me a message through the messaging system on Facebook. My immediate reaction to this was to block him on Facebook and inform Quora that he sought to reach me through messenger.
Did I ask for him to be banned? No. Did I say anything beyond letting Quora know he attempted to communicate with me? Nope. This is exactly what I told Quora.
Remember what I told you? That’s right, our friend apparently got banned from Quora.
I didn’t hear back from Quora, because unless they have questions they don’t say anything. They just do whatever they are going to do. So this was the entirety of my communication with the person and Quora at that point. And again, I figured we were done now. Apparently, I am silly.
He Doesn’t Get the Point – Moves on to Email
Now, it is, as you know, easy enough to find me online. The only thing keeping people from pestering me is one of two things.
- They are decent people and accept boundaries. (I thank these people.)
- They are afraid that I will do something if they bother me. (They are right.)
I think most people fall under 1. But this guy didn’t fall under either. So he sent me this message:
Little passive aggressive right? Claiming he wants a social media consult and offering a pseudo apology? How do I know it is pseudo. Don’t worry, I’ll get there. Now normally, I wouldn’t respond, but since the fellow claimed to be a fellow attorney in the community, I decided I would do so.
This is what I wrote:
At this point, I also wrote to Quora. I told them they didn’t need to ban this person.
Very silly me.
In response, Quora told me that they take the sort of conduct (seeking to go around a block) very seriously, but they can essentially give him a probationary stay. That is, as long as he doesn’t contact me again, or violate the rules again in this way, they will unban him. They also offered to tell him that I didn’t ask to have him banned.
I responded that I had told him I didn’t ask to have him banned, and great, thanks. As in, please go ahead and do that.
Remember I Called it a Pseudo Apology?
So, I figured we were done now. I had asked the person to leave me alone three times, right? 1. Block on Quora. 2. Block on Facebook. 3. Asked in email. I also asked Quora to lift the ban so he could go back on Quora.
We are done now, right?
Extremely silly me.
I should have blocked him in email, but I didn’t. Don’t worry, I rectified that mistake.
I Didn’t Tell Him How to Make Me Forgive Him
The one thing I hadn’t done is told the guy how he could make it so I forgive him. Why didn’t I tell him how he could make me forgive him? Two reasons really.
First, you cannot make someone else forgive you. You can offer an apology and hope they take it. Second, this person, who I do not know, decided to attack me online because he didn’t like my answer. Then when I made it clear to him that I didn’t want to be bothered, he kept bothering me. Exactly why would I forgive that kind of behavior?
If he really wants forgiveness, he can just stop bothering me. Then what he will get is that I will completely forget about him. I suppose being forgotten about is a form of forgiveness, right?
There really wasn’t anything to forgive, initially. I wasn’t upset, I just didn’t want to communicate with him. Even now, at most, I am a bit bemused and somewhat irritated that another lawyer (assuming he is a lawyer) is acting like this.
I have a feeling this person is more emotionally invested in this encounter than am I. Probably because he got banned. I get that. I imagine it has to be upsetting to be banned from a place you want to be. I really wish he had stopped before he contacted me on Facebook. Or that he had stopped after the first email, when I asked for him to be unbanned. But he didn’t. A shame, really.
About Demanding Forgiveness
Let me tell you something about forgiveness. It is not something that anyone has a right to. If you want to apologize, and the person is willing to hear it, ok. But that doesn’t mean your apology will be accepted. In my case, I wasn’t interested in an apology. I simply wanted to be left alone. Something I repeatedly made clear. Each time the person sought to communicate with me, he made the situation worse. Why? Because he was refusing to accept the boundary I had set. He wasn’t really being apologetic. He was demanding that I see things his way.
People such as this aren’t apologizing. Really, what they are doing is demanding that the other person get over it. And that is what we can see here, with what I hope is this person’s last effort to communicate with me.
His Last (I Hope) Communication
My goodness. That’s quite an email isn’t it? Let’s unpack it.
Don’t Contact Me Again
Do I even need to explain the humor that comes with the person bothering someone telling that person to stop contacting them? Didn’t think so.
You Didn’t Give Me What I Wanted!
In his first line, we get him telling me that because I didn’t give him what he wanted, it is ok for him to keep bothering me. Also, you see, he is now the victim. I victimized him because I insulted him. Right? How did I insult him? I called him out on his behavior, and refused to accept his “apology”. Remember folks, this all is coming from the fact I blocked him from communicating with me on a website.
This is not uncommon behavior for people like this. These folks start problems for themselves and cannot handle the ramifications. Add in the potential fact that the person is a lawyer, and what you get is very bad lawyer bluster. It is hard to believe this person is a lawyer given his threats with their utter lack of legal foundation. But who knows. Some lawyers bluster. Especially when they don’t know what they are talking about.
He’s Wonderful – I Suck
Next we get a lecture and a statement of how wonderful he is, because he does pro bono work, and how awful I am, because I don’t know about harassment and I am making things worse. Of course, I never used the word harassment in my email. He did. I told him he needed to accept boundaries. Boy does he need to learn to accept boundaries. Oof.
He Didn’t Need to Apologize
He didn’t need to apologize? No, he didn’t. I didn’t ask him to apologize. Notice now he tells me how I am and what I am, and what I have done. This is a very typical response for someone who provides a fake apology. They get angry at the rejection of their alleged apology and lash out.
This fellow didn’t really want to apologize. He didn’t even apologize. No, what he wants is for me to see that I am wrong. I also assume he wants to be unbanned. (Too bad he would have gotten that if he had stopped.)
A true apology is offered with no expectation that it will be accepted. It is an honest statement of one’s contrition. Obviously, our friend here isn’t in the least contrite. Contrite people don’t act like this.
Fear of Survival????
I am not sure where he decided I had a fear for my very survival over his efforts to contact me. But now I am starting to wonder if I should be concerned, given his use of the language. I will assume not, for the moment. But I will have to reassess if this continues.
What I did do is recommend he read a book that talks about boundaries and the importance of respecting them. It is a very good book. I recommend the Gift of Fear to everyone who is interested in learning about boundaries and honoring their instincts. I suppose it is not too surprising that a person who keeps violating boundaries doesn’t want to read a book about them. I sincerely thought it would be helpful. Oh well.
I can only assume that he actually didn’t read my email. He was just looking for what he wanted to see and when he didn’t see it, skimmed what I wrote, saw a couple of words, and decided to send off his diatribe and threaten me with a lawsuit.
Next, we get that he has retained counsel because I made defamatory statements to Quora. Well, the problem for him is, I didn’t make any defamatory statements to Quora.
What did I do? I told Quora he sent me a message on Facebook. And, of course, he did send me a message through Facebook. He even refers to it in his email. Therefore, it is a fact that he sent me a message on Facebook. And his sending me the message on Facebook is what caused him to be banned on Quora. Truth is a complete defense to claims of defamation.
What else did I do? I forwarded the emails he sent me to Quora. And I asked Quora, after the first email, not to ban him. (Silly me.)
There is nothing under the law of defamation which makes one liable for sharing someone’s actual words with a third party. Why? Because the person wrote the words himself. If this fellow is so concerned about how his actual words make him look that he wants to sue for defamation, perhaps he ought not use such language.
Now, of course, I have written this blog post. Well, all factual statements here are true. Everything else is my opinion of the person’s conduct and what that conduct means. And, of course, I didn’t use his name. Though I might choose to do so. Depending on the circumstances.
Don’t Threaten Lawsuits
It is funny, people throw around threats of lawsuits like they are nothing. Perhaps we can expect this in lay people. But a lawyer who improperly throws around a threat of a lawsuit is violating the ethics rules. I have already shown you why this fellow hasn’t got a lawsuit. Perhaps he doesn’t realize he hasn’t got one, I don’t know. But it is unwise for one lawyer to threaten another with a lawsuit when they have no legal basis for the suit.
So here we have an alleged lawyer threatening an ethics lawyer with a lawsuit and telling her she will be in violation of the ethics rules if she communicates with him. When, of course, she never wanted to communicate with him in the first place.
Let me remind you again folks. This is all over the fact that I blocked this person from communicating with me on a website.
Sigh. I’m really hoping this person isn’t a lawyer. Cause if he is, wow, embarrassing.
I Raise Him a Dragonetti
What would my response be if this person actually filed a lawsuit? I would return the favor and sue him and his lawyer under what is called Dragonetti. The Dragonetti Act allows people to sue both individuals and their lawyers when they bring frivolous lawsuits. And, of course, I would file an ethics complaint, both for the prior conduct and the lawsuit. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel does not look kindly on lawyers using improper threats of the legal system. I doubt they would have cared much about the initial conduct, but once we get to the second email, well in my opinion, we have crossed a line into inappropriate conduct.
Unfortunately, This is Common Online Behavior
This kind of behavior is very common. It is not limited to communications by men to women online, but it is more common for men to engage in this kind of aggressive behavior towards women than the opposite. Not to say that women never behave this way. But in the however many times I have blocked someone and had them seek to continue to communicate, it has always been men.
In my opinion, it amounts to a how dare you speak up, or how dare you shut me down. In this particular case, it is somewhat both, I think. Ridiculing me on my answer was a way of trying to embarrass me into being quiet or changing my opinion on a subject. Continuing on, refusing to accept boundaries, threatening to sue me? An impressive ability to refuse responsibility for one’s own conduct, as far as I am concerned. What I think we have is a sense of entitlement that one has a right to be heard when he wants to be, even if the other person is clearly not interested in hearing him.
The thing is, that in the private sphere, people do not have the right to be heard. They do not have the right to attempt to force their words into other people’s worlds. This is something that people need to understand. Other people have the right to walk away. And you have to let them. As hard as that might be for you.
Why Didn’t I Use His Name?
Now, I haven’t used the person’s name, as you can see. Why? I generally prefer not to do so. I don’t like to embarrass people publicly. I also don’t know if this person is using someone else’s name, meaning I could damage an innocent person’s reputation if I use the name. I also really don’t want to cause public embarrassment to someone over some silliness from a website. However, should future developments require me to reveal who the person is. Well, I certainly can do that.
Is He an Attorney?
I did look this person up to see if he is an attorney. I see there is no attorney with this person’s name in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area. There is one in New Jersey. There is another one in Delaware. I think that is the one this person is claiming to be. His banned profile had a link to a company in Delaware and a person by the same name works for that company as a lawyer. Is he actually this person? No idea. I could always reach out to his alleged bosses and find out, of course. Something I will need to do if he continues to bother me. That way I can determine where I need to send the police and whether to notify the Delaware bar. Hopefully, however, he just stops now. Of course, if he sues me, then the whole thing will become public.
Ah well. I’m comfortable with my words ending up in the public sphere due to a lawsuit. Is he? Especially given how quickly any such case will be dismissed. Until I turn around and file the Dragonetti suit against him and his lawyer, that is.