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Monday, May 26, 2008

If sucked, how would you know?

I've never really spent time at MomLogic. As a rule (of behavior, not of action; that is, analyzing my web-usage behavior will show a pattern that might indicate a rule, but I don't say to myself "Self, here's a rule we're going to follow") I tend not to read the more magazine-style parenting sites, even those with generally good reputations like Parents or Offsprung. I had never heard of MomLogic until a sweet, charming, witty, and potty-mouthed (she says things like "fuck" on her site) blogger I read, Stefanie over at Baby On Bored, regaled her readers with a story about her interactions with MomLogic.

The story she told painted MomLogic in a pretty unflattering light. But, it was her story to tell and heaven forbid bloggers stop telling the stories they have.

Apparently MomLogic didn't like the story much, and according to Stefanie they, in an act of what I can only call supreme douchebaggery, got some first-year flunky at a law firm to send out a cease and desist letter. (I'm just guessing that it was a first-year flunky. But I doubt a partner would waste their time drafting that sucker.)

They sent this letter to a writer. To a blogger. So, she blogged about it. She took down the original post, because in the end MomLogic seemed to be willing to spend the money to threaten, and she was in no financial position to hire someone to tell MomLogic to fuck the hell off. But she did let her readers know that she had received this When-you're-a-dick-everything-looks-like-it-ought-to-be-screwed letter.

Mysteriously, the post indirectly letting her readers know that someone had sent a letter and that that's why there was something missing from the site, is also gone. I don't know why. Maybe she felt genuine remorse over the whole thing. Maybe dragons stole it.

But imagine that she took it down because some website decided they didn't like it when bloggers wrote down anything bad about them. How would we know? She would feel like she couldn't write about it, so there'd be no history on her site. And without a post on her site, there'd be no linking, so no word-of-blog about it. I really don't know why she took it down, and she may have a very amicable relationship with them all of a sudden and she may not be able to talk about it because she's been offered partnership in the company along with a non-disclosure agreement. I don't know why a blogger would take down a post about a cease and desist letter just days after receiving it. But I have a vivid imagination, and the rest of this post is inspired by that quite possibly overactive imagination.

I had a conversation with an attorney on the plane from JFK to SFO last night. She practices family law for gay and lesbian couples in San Francisco, and as part of our lovely conversation we talked about things like Cambodia, health care in Canada, dissertations, residencies, and the Holocaust. You know, 'getting-to-know-you' conversation. :} At one point I was reminded of the following piece by Martin Niemöller:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

It may be using too large a hammer on too small a nail to invoke this kind of imagery in a discussion about blogging, and cease and desist letters.

But censorship-via-lawyer remains censorship. Was Stefanie lying about MomLogic? It's possible, in which case MomLogic would be well within their rights to challenge what they might have taken as libel. I don't know Stefanie at all well, so she might be an incorrigible liar. I have my doubts, but they're worth about as much as a cease-and-desist letter from a first-year flunky.

If she wasn't lying, though, then why send the letter? Because she said bad things about them on her blog? Tough. Lot's of people say lots of bad, and true, things about companies and individuals in lots of media. Having a lawyer at your disposal to draft letters to shut those people up is a convenient, and bullying, way to engage them. And once you start bullying people into silence you've crossed a line that is difficult to uncross.

It's funny to me that I wrote a guest post for Carmen about bullying a couple of months ago. I'm not sure what kind of schoolyard bully a company that deployed lawyers to silence a blogger would be most like. Not that MomLogic is necessarily a bully about this. I mean, as I said, Stefanie could be an inveterate liar and her stories should all be read as little fictions, in which case maybe sending the lawyers after her was the only option MomLogic had. I could totally understand that.

It's really hard to just talk to people. It's better to intimidate them with illusions of civil liabilities and threaten them with the cost of fighting off the lawyers in court.

I don't have a sarcasm font. In unrelated news I wrote that last paragraph in regular ol' Times New Roman.

P.S. I was inspired to write this post in the first place because someone who, according to MyBlogLog, authors MomLogic visited my blog today. That was nice. I like having new readers. I wondered how she came across it, though, and the only information Statcounter could give me was that she came via my Blogger profile. Well, coincidentally, I've been commenting on Stefanie's blog for a while now, using my Blogger profile, and I've been heartily in favor of her standing up to them if she's feeling unfairly intimidated by them. Also, coincidentally, Statcounter told me that someone visiting the blog around, oh, exactly the time that my MomLogic visitor came by happened to do a search of my site for the term "momlogic". I don't think she found anything. But, because I don't like to disappoint people I thought I would write something that would show up in future searches.


Swanny said...

Well done, sir. As is so often the case these days (in this country, at least), those who perceive themselves to be in a position of power feel no compunctions about flaunting it.

Of course, for the last decade especially, we as a society have sat idly by and allowed it to happen.

I don't really have anything insightful to say. You raised some good points.

Also, kudos for wanting to make the world a happier place for those who would seemingly be out to see what you're meddling in.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

You go Backpacking Dad!

Headless Mom said...

I want friends like you. You Rock.

creative-type dad said...

Wow, that's wild. Somehow I think that kind of thing must happen a lot

Whit said...

I was at a party one night and Stefanie said she couldn't drink because she just found out she was pregnant with twins.

That shit was true, so I'm inclined to believe the rest.

I write for every parenting site ever created and I've never even heard of MomLogic. Cease and desist that.

Heather said...

Isn't that whole thing crap? I told Stefanie she should have told them all to go to hell, but it's easy for me to say - I'm not the one who was threatened with a lawsuit. Still, what a bunch of douches.

Danielle said...

Nicely written.

Hey! If they send you a cease and desist letter, can you post it for us? Pretty please! Just for fun!

Stefanie's books are hysterical. And true. So therefore, I believe everything that she says. Ever.

And MomLogic just appears to be a bunch of bullies.


MadWomanMeg said...

What a bunch of crap. It must be nice to have a bunch of law toting flunkies at their desposal. I second the request for you to post anything that might be sent your way. That would be rather entertaining!

Aunt Becky said...

I want a cease and desist letter almost as much as I want a blog troll.

Miss Grace said...

I'm pretty sure that that whole "intellectual freedom" thing that we're supposed to be guaranteed in this here country should cover this, but when you don't have the time or the money to fight it, what can you do?

Vanilla said... is a terrible, horrible website and I have nothing but bad things to say about them which I will say on my blog which is located at

*crosses fingers and hopes for new web traffic*


MereCat said...

Momlogic just pansied out of it in my opinion. That post shouldn't have been enough to freak 'em out if they were worth much to begin with.

Thanks for sticking up for our Stef!

Don Mills Diva said...

I'm with Whit - I've never heard of MomLogic, ergo it must be totally lame.

And also with Becky - isn't bad press still press? Doesn't MomLogic have the smarts or the guts to realize that?

Oh what I wouldn't give for a troll or a cease or desist letter I could sink my teeth into. I blogged about my dust-up with McDonals back in February and it was AWESOME.

Loralee Choate said...

I've been a victim of libel and it wasn't fun.

(Some asshat on a forum kept posting his name as a local public official and said that I gave him sexual favors. I threatened to sue if it wasn't taken down. You know, REAL libel, not "I don't like your opinion of me" that this momlogic thing smacks of).

If she wasn't lying and was truthfully portraying her opinion of the situation, she should be allowed to keep her post up.


Supreme douchebaggery, indeed.

for a different kind of girl said...

This is a great post, and not just because you used the words "supreme douchebaggery," which I loved and you should know I plan to use at any opportunity, be they appropriate or not!

I've never heard of this MomsLogic site, nor can I say I have a great deal of interest in clicking over there from here. I will, however, look forward to reading Stephanie's site. I find the bullying tactic to be vile. When I edited a small community newspaper, I remember getting a telephone call from some big city attorney about a story I wrote very carefully and factually that hadn't been in print more than a day. She yelled and threatened and yelled some more at me on behalf of her client, the subject of the article, until I finally had to hang up the phone on her. I admit, it was a nerve shaking experience, and in the end, I never heard from her again, but it leaves you questioning your abilities, and that's a part that bites a supreme douchebag.

(eh, my usage so not as awesome as yours!)

Stefania/CityMama said...

MomLogic--weren't they the site that had the forum with Hillary Clinton then asked her asinine questions like what kind of pizza did you order in the white house?

When I read Stefanie's post I was appalled not only at their treatment of her, but that a web company would choose to handle that situation like they did in this day and age of social media. If I had a nickel for everytime a blogger ranted about a company...A C&D letter? Really? That tells me a lot about how much they DON'T get it.

PS This is the third instance I've heard of them screwing bloggers over. But, like you say, that's what dicks do.

Carolyn B. said...

Huh. I thought the domain name "MomLogic" sounded pretty cool, but I don't think I'll bother them with my traffic now; bullies aren't appealing.

Earlier, I saw the link in my feed reader about Stefanie's response post about the C&D letter and, like you, was disappointed that it was deleted before I could satisfy my curiosity. But I understand why she might want to pick her battles, too.

On the plus side, I'm now subscribed to your blog like I already was to Stefanie's. I like your style. :o)

Mamique said...

I'm sensing a conspiracy here, lol!

Is this MomLogic's way of advertising? I've never heard of them before I read about them on Stefanie's blog, and now, yours.

I'm not falling for it! I will not go to check out their site, lol.

BTW, I only recently discovered your blog and I love it!

Lil Sass said...

Man, the blogosphere seems to be really connected today. As I am "making my rounds" tonight, your post connects to my post today. Long story short, I posted about a certain food product. Someone from the company who makes said food product visited my site (love that statcounter) for well over an hour today. Clearly I can't tell if it's some lacky intern who googled "fiber one bar" or the VP of Suing Bloggers but holy shit .... AM I GONNA GET A THREATENING LETTER? aaahhhhh!
Rock on BP Dad, Stephanie and keep fighting the power, bloggers. So long as your words are honest, you've got the right to say whatever you damn well please. I mean, this IS America, right?

Backpacking Dad said...

swanny: You're right. For the past ten years I've allowed George Lucas and Steven Spielberg to get away with changing their old movies and ruining their old franchises. No more, I say! Incidentally, I just saw Indiana Jones and I wish I had my $4.75 back.

jenn: Wherever you say!

headless mom: you have friends like me.

creative-type dad: I wouldn't be surprised. It's not too expensive to draft a cease and desist letter. And it doesn't commit you to anything later, so it's a one-time cost. Kind of. If you rely on it as a form of communication, then no one is going to talk to you anymore. And that's a cost.

whit: I'm so jealous that you've met Stefanie. And a sober Stefanie too :}

heather: Crap indeed. Allegedly :}

Danielle: In the event that I am ever sent a C&D by anyone, really, I'm going to post it. I don't like bullies, and I've never heard of a C&D that wasn't loaded up with threatening language. They're never just "Please stop whatever you are doing; we think it's wrong and hope that you will see reason." I might actually think about listening to someone who wrote that kind of letter instead.

madwomanmeg: That's what I'm here for.

aunt becky: am I not trolling enough? Crap. I need to start in on some personal attacks or something.

miss grace: you contact a punchy attorney who likes pro bono work. Every big law firm takes pro bono clients; they set their own standards for qualifying for pro bono work, but sometimes it's easier to meet those than you'd think. And sometimes attorneys can convince the firm to take on a client pro bono; so you want to ask a sympathetic attorney directly and maybe he/she will go to bat.

vanilla: I think it's hilarious you're trying to snag web traffic here :} I was positive you had way more readers than I did. Dude, you're on Alltop. Oh....maybe that's how you did it....;} Crap. And I see it worked too! Don Mills Diva stopped by...I've lost her forever......

merecat: you're welcome.

Don Mills Diva: I'll be spending all of my time trolling over at Becky's blog (she asked first), so I'll see if I can find someone to cover my shift at yours for me. :}

loralee: Now that's what you use a C&D for. Note to self: don't post anything as a fake public official again...

FADKOG: I hate the fact that being yelled at, or even spoken to, by an attorney about something can inspire butteflies and weak knees. Thank my stars that Emily is an attorney; I have an inside scoop on the way lawyers think when they are representing their clients. And once that curtain is pulled aside it's easy to see that the wizard is an unimpressive little man. It's the flying monkeys you have to watch out for, and they work for someone else.

stefania: oh my, did I say that? :}

carolyn b: My style is subject to change without notice. No refunds will be given. Please contact costumer service if you'd like to be ignored in 3 languages. ;}

mamique: Ah, you sussed it out. When Stefanie sent me the check for 93 cents to "bad mouth" MomLogic I thought "Gee, wouldn't it be easier for them to just buy some ad space through BlogHer or something?" But no, they wanted the controversy! Oh, the drama. Heh. (I'd actually love to see someone run a marketing campaign like that. I might actually buy whatever they are selling, because that kind of self-confidence is just sexy as hell.)

lil sass: I hope you get a threatening letter. You could use it as a placemat, or fold it up into a really tiny square and stick it under a table leg to level it. They're good for all kinds of things, even if they aren't any good at all for communicating with people.

Redneck Mommy said...


As hard as I try to annoy people, I've rarely ever been trolled or faced with a C&D letter.

I must try harder.

I'm not big on corporate bullies. I love them just about as much as I love the conservative politicians my husband keeps voting for.

Backpacking Dad said...

Redneck Mommy: and the mystery of why Boo can't get no luvin' has just been solved. :}

Stefanie said...

I may just be in love with you now!! Don't tell you wife though or she may send me a C & D letter as well.

The thing is, as I told you but in case it interests anyone reading these comments, they are saying I signed a confidentiality agreement (I did) and apparently, thinking their site and business practice sucks ass is confidential! I don't think that telling my reading how they dumped me after doing a ton of extra work for them upfront before they even relaunched was confidential but I'm not a lawyer and it seems a little late in the game to go to law school. And yes, I did take the second post down because I didn't want to deal with ANOTHER C & D letter from all the comments from other people who hate their site. I wonder if they can send me a C & D letter for commenting on YOUR blog. I guess we'll find out.

Backpacking Dad said...

stefanie: Your secret is safe with me ;} And, uh, how would they know you've been commenting about them over here unless they were checking up? Oh...hang on....they are checking up. :}

Whether you violated a non-disclosure agreement or not isn't even really the issue. Because if you had divulged top-secret conversations in a post that also lauded them you can damn betcha that you'd never have heard from an attorney about it. The difference-maker, then, is the bad taste you had in your mouth, and that's what inspired the C&D tactic. So, they can try to justify their bullying tactic with an appeal to an agreement that they think you violated, but their reason for bullying is just juvenile. As juvenile as the high school bullies who can't keep up with the smart kid.

Laural Dawn said...

Wow. Interesting post.
I was following the momlogic stuff on stefanie's site, but came here from Cheaper than Therapy on a fluke.
Anyway ...
I agree with you.
She should be able to say what she wants.
I happen to like my work (and I'm mat leave) and being Canadian our laws are different anyway. But, since I've signed the confidentiality stuff I don't use the name of my company at all.
I work in the department that does all the web searches (and blog searches) for name recognition, and I just don't want to get into hot water. I'm really hesitant to say anything about work at all.
But, having said that, I like my job and the company is good to me.
If I hated it, I would not hesitate. (and I have no idea how they'd reciprocate!)

catnip said...

Good for you! I saw that post before she took it down. It wasn't long after that I started seeing twitter chatter about people unfollowing them in droves. It wasn't hard to figure out why!

Backpacking Dad said...

laurel dawn: it's a small bloggy world. I love Ali's site.

catnip: twitter chatter...ugh. Am I going to have to start a twitter account just to keep up with all of the cool kids?

BabyShrink said...

Yeah, it's the wild, wild west out here online. Companies get started, change, quit, and the lawyers run to catch up with whatever's happening out in cyberspace. I love Stefanie and would guess that since she's now got two books out (and counting), and MomLogic can't seem to find a stable readership, she'll come out on top anyway!

Stranahan said...

Great summary, thanks.

There's no way that C&D is enforceable unless there's lying libel or something. Criticism is protected speech.

GeekMommy said...

I love this post!

I suppose I'm lucky - by accident of birth and all - I have amazing attorneys in the family. Especially since they're high-powered civil litigators.

The one and only time someone ever sent me a C&D - they replied directing all further conversation to go through my attorneys - strangely, the only further communication was 'our client has decided that this does not violate their interests at this point and withdraws their C&D request.'

It only pays to be a bully if you have a subject who is easily bullied.
I'm sorry for Stefanie - and sorry for MomLogic - because in the end, they will push up against the wrong blogger if they continue with that kind of tactic.

Jessica said...

Wow, all I can say is wow. I just recently started reading MomLogic and thought it was a pretty good site. Then I started hearing rumblings on Twitter that my first impression may not have been accurate.

Anonymous said...

Great post.
Blogging = Editorial Opinion
Reporting News = Fact (most of the time)
Next time try posting a retraction and leave the original up. Claim to follow the standards set for the established world of media. That should take some time to figure out.

Amy said...

Wow, found my way over here via Twitter. That is the craziest thing I ever heard. I am so sorry she had to go through that- that really sucks!

Backpacking Dad said...

Babyshrink: Cheers to that.

stranahan: Yep. Although as it turns out, their justification isn't that they're being criticized; their justification is an interpretation of a non-disclosure clause. But you can bet their reason is the criticism.

geekmommy: I wanted to title this post "my wife is a civil litigator; bring it on", but I went in a different direction :}

jessica: I can't even keep up with Twitter, and I've only been on for an hour. It's madness!

anonymous: I don't know that I'd retract anything unless I thought it was wrong. If someone sent me a C&D I'd try to figure out if I had lied about something. And then I'd tell them to go to hell. :}

amy: it sure does.

VDog said...

Well played. Well played.

Anonymous said...

I love this hit you get when you Google 'momlogic':

Momlogic - for thinking moms who don't have time to think.

Now how could there possibly be a thinking person, mom or otherwise, who didn't have time to think?

Oh, I see now. Read our carefully veiled right-wing non-sense, no need to think!