Did British Blogger Sara C Nelson Commit Libel?
Freelance writer Vincent Vinturi’s dating book “LMR Exposed” was banned on Friday from Amazon after it offended British blogger-journalist Sara C Nelson, who publicly labeled it a “rape guide” after using her clout as a Huffington Post UK employee to exert pressure on Amazon in favor of removing the book from sale. Because of the actions of a British national, American citizens are unable to purchase the book, and questions have arisen as to the legality of Nelson’s actions.
On January 27, Vinturi published an article on ROK about bedroom seduction and how a man can know when a woman is ready to engage in sex. Here’s an excerpt from his piece:
She can be saying ‘no’ with her words and even with her situational body language. But if you’ve been unmistakably clear about your sexual intent and then she comes to your room, she is open to being seduced. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be there. I’ve had hour or more long battles with a girl who had come to my room and then protested that she wasn’t going to have sex with me… In the end, of course, we got naked. And, she appreciated it after the fact.
Vinturi attempted to bridge the confusion between a woman’s words and her body language, a problem that has frustrated men since the dawn of time. Expectedly, the article was received with criticism from those who didn’t read it carefully. One person who took offense was Huffington Post UK blogger Sara C Nelson. She disagreed with the article, located one of Vinturi’s seduction books on Amazon (available on both the American and UK storefronts), and began agitating for it to be banned. It was removed from Amazon stores within hours of her efforts. She writes:
The first comment under the now-defunct Amazon page promoting the aforementioned book reads: “Disgusting rape apologism. The author should be ashamed of himself for writing this and Amazon should be ashamed to sell it.”
HuffPost UK alerted Amazon to the page on Friday afternoon and it was duly taken down (too bad, Vincent). Our request for comment was simply answered with “This title is not available at Amazon.co.uk”.
After her “alert” succeeded in scaring Amazon, likely due to her Huffington Post credentials, she spat in Vinturi’s face about her successful effort in censoring a book that she has not admitted to reading. She also writes:
On Friday a wave of bile against Vinturi and his “work” was unleashed on Twitter.
I spent much time looking for this “wave of bile,” but I could not find it. Here’s the Twitter results for Vinturi’s book:
And here are the tweets sent directly to him, with Nelson’s victory tweet at the top:
Nine total tweets is the “wave” that Nelson believed justified the censorship and effective burning of a published work.
Did Nelson, who is on the career track to become a real journalist instead of a blogger-journalist that she is now, abuse her employment with a media company to engage in activist censorship on a work that she didn’t even read? In private, she went through the motions of giving Vinturi an opportunity to share his viewpoint, but judging by the tone of her emails, she was ready to act as judge, jury, and executioner of her own moral tribunal.
Her dialogue with Vinturi can be likened to a Soviet show trial where the verdict was already pre-determined by Nelson’s subjective interpretation of what she thinks could be inside a book she had not purchased or properly familiarized herself with. One can only wonder if Huffington Post management knows (or cares) that is has a rogue employee with a social justice bent who is using the company as a way to settle her personal ideological vendettas.
Was Ms. Nelson’s Journalist Activism Legal?
I asked historian and legal expert Quintus Curtius about Nelson’s activism in relation to the history of British press culture. Curtius stated, “I think that this attempt by an Englishwoman to censor the writings on an American work is truly disappointing. It flies in the face of England’s distinguished legacy of press freedom that goes back to the days of Defoe, Gibbon, Walpole, Johnson, and Milton. Those in England who would advocate such censorship would be well advised to look to their own traditions, for which they apparently have such little regard.” It’s worth nothing that British ‘hate speech’ laws have become far more stringent than those in America, resulting in the arrest of thousands of Britons for such acts as criticizing Islam on social networking sites.
I also asked Curtius about the legal implications of a British citizen censoring American writing. “Someone based in England or any other foreign country has no right to interfere with the broadcasts or communications of an American website. She is free to attempt to restrict access to ROK in her own country, provided she complies with all laws of her own country, but any such attempt to disrupt American free speech communications would run afoul of American laws.” Since Nelson censored a book and not a web site, it does not appear she broke American criminal law.
Civilly, however, she can be held accountable for punitive damages in the case of libel. Nelson publicly stated that Vinturi’s book is a “rape manual,” the meaning of which is unambiguous. If Vinturi can prove in an American court that his book does not advocate or encourage rape, he may have a libel claim against Nelson and the Huffington Post. Curtius shared his legal opinion on the matter. “Since Vinturi is not considered a ‘public figure,’ he would only have to show that: (1) A false statement was made, (2) The statement caused him tangible harm, and (3) Was deliberately made without adequate research into the truthfulness of the statement. It does look like he has a prima facie case against [Ms. Nelson] if he can show that she caused him monetary harm (financial damage) in some way.” We were not able to reach Vinturi before publication about his intentions of beginning a legal challenge against Nelson.
Ms. Nelson’s Personal Motives
To understand the intentions of Nelson, I researched her secret Facebook page located at facebook.com/sara.claudia.37 (her full name is Sara Claudia Nelson). Browsing through her 3,000 party photos and likes, I was unable to find an obvious vein of bigotry. Instead, I found what seemed to the interests of a standard British woman (Sesame Street, Hello Kitty, and Victoria Beckham), and a look through her Twitter account reveals a strong interest in cute animal pictures. Thus it can not be completely ruled out that the directive to censor a book for American sale did not come from Huffington Post management themselves.
Whether one agrees with Vinturi’s work or not, it is troubling for free speech advocates to see a blogger-journalist engage in a figurative book burning celebration on Twitter for being the principal reason that a published work was banned. It is also questionable that, in order to justify her activism, she blatantly misrepresented the “wave” of anger in response to Vinturi’s book, perhaps because she knew that there was in fact only token annoyance against it. By wrongly labeling the book as an illegal guide, she may now be subject to civil action in the United States.
The ROK editorial team believes in Vinturi’s free speech efforts to publish his work here and on Amazon, especially since said speech does not break international laws. With the rate at which information is globalized (a large percentage of our readers are international), it may be time to ask tough questions on what can be done when a British blogger-journalist singlehandedly prevents the sale of a book that was previously available to the American public, and how much liability both the blogger-journalist and the company that employs her are exposed to when they clearly misrepresent a published work. Sooner or later, questions like this will have to be answered, most likely in a court of law.