June 3, 2003
TakeBacktheMedia.com Gets the Savage Treatment: Wife of Web site Co-Founder Slapped with Lawsuit
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
In an exclusive first interview with BuzzFlash.Com and BartCop.Com, Mike Stinson, co-founder of the watchdog web site, TakeBacktheMedia.com, reveals why his wife and other websites are being sued by Michael Savage.
This fight makes the Franken/O'Reilly imbroglio look like a bean bag toss.
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BUZZFLASH/BARTCOP: Who is Michael Savage suing and why?
TAKE BACK THE MEDIA: My wife, Julie Sigwart, was named in a lawsuit by Talk Radio Network (TRN) which was served to her on May 20th in person at our home. Talk Radio Network (regarding the Michael Savage radio show) makes allegations in the lawsuit which are not attributed to her but to our popular website called Take Back the Media -- which has garnered 32 million hits since its inception in January of 2003.
This reeks of a SLAAP suit, which are basically a waste of time as we understand in California, that's why they filed it in Chicago. It’s more hassle for us that way, since we and the other sites are in California or Arizona while Talk Radio Network is in Oregon -- not Chicago. That should tell you something.
You can read the legal suit papers at Take Back the Media.com. We've linked them there from another site being sued, Savagestupidity.com. Also named in the suit is michaelsavagesucks.com. They're good folks there and need help on this as well -- this is an attack against free speech on the Web and we need to fight this TOGETHER folks!
TRN is making a lot of claims between all the sites and they've lumped us all in together. Basically they are claiming these three websites have cost them an advertising contract (Culligan Co). It's nonsense and obvious harassment to intimidate and chill free speech on the web. It's utterly without merit.
One difference between all the sites named and Take Back the Media is that we are not specifically a Savage parody site. We don't sell Savage products and we don't rebroadcast him -- though several other sites on the web do, including ones not named in the lawsuit.
We did send folks over to the GLAAD website when they had a major boycott of Savage (http://www.glaad.org) going when he was being hired by MSNBC. (Who are they going to hire next? Charlie Manson?) The GLAAD folks basically shamed all his upscale advertisers there into not backing Savage's show. He lost Procter and Gamble, Kraft, Sharper Image, and others; a ton of them left. I think he's basically down to haircare products for bald guys now, but I can't stand to watch him so I don't know. Advertisers don't operate in a vacuum, I'm sure that once the word got out about how vile this character is that they ran from him like a turd in a punchbowl -- maybe that's what happened at Culligan.
If you go to Savagestupidity.com, there's a letter/email there where they asked Culligan directly (http://www.savagestupidity.com/culligan.html). Culligan answered that they dropped Savage for a variety of reasons. Probably due to what are considered by many to be a constant barrage of racist, mysoginistic, and homophobic remarks from his sloppy mouth. He's his OWN problem when it comes to advertisers, and that's my opinion -- I heard that we still get to have opinions, at least for a bit more in America.
BUZZFLASH/BARTCOP: Tell us about your site "Take Back the Media." What is your mission?
TAKE BACK THE MEDIA: Take Back the Media (http://www.takebackthemedia.com) has many facets and serves the progressive public by exposing hypocrisy in the media and the right wing through the use of political animations created by me and co-founder Don Waller, along with news, commentaries, humorous graphics, and Action Alerts such as our successful boycott of Rush Limbaugh’s sponsors.
The goal of Take Back the Media is to promote American democracy through diversity of opinions in the media, discourage further media consolidation, promote fair news reporting and call news organizations to task (we forced CNN to restore 750 missing words in a Hans Blix report by the weapons inspectors), and work to re-enact the Fairness Doctrine.
We also take pains to work with other progressive sites and keep a steady drumbeat going on topical issues -- I'd like to see all these sites join together and create a force that has to be reckoned with by the major media -- we've all shown that that can happen, but if we join up and become what I like to call the "13 Original Cyber Colonies" and create a rapid response team that disputes the lies in this administration and the media we will become the prevailing institutions of truth and beat them.
I'm kind of hoping that this will bring all the progressive sites together to fight back -- give these creeps and liars out there a taste of what Al Franken gave Billy O'Reilly at the LA book fair as seen on CPAN last weekend. I've been in O'Reilly's show and MSNBC and they threatened to shut off our mikes -- now we have these people trying to intimidate us and chill our free speech.
It's not going to happen, Savage! We are many and we aren't going to shut up!
BUZZFLASH/BARTCOP: Why is Savage suing your wife and not you?
TAKE BACK THE MEDIA: Good question. It's harassment pure and simple -- going after my wife instead of the Take Back The Media, a California corporation is sleazy. But it's the kind of thing I'd expect from this clown. It's either intentional or a stupid mistake by the lawyers he's hired. The other sites mention how his lawyers tried to take away their domain but screwed up the paperwork. They were laughing at them and it was kind of funny. Going after someone's wife? Real cute. As a Veteran (enlisted in 1971 during Vietnam) I fought for their right of free speech, but not their right to harass and intimidate and we will not back down.
BUZZFLASH/BARTCOP: Michael Savage is the kind of right wing "shock celebrity pundit" who only survives because of publicity. Is this a publicity stunt on his part? After all, he changed his last name to "savage," one can hypothesize, to help sell his demented brand of right wing ranting?
TAKE BACK THE MEDIA: Oh yeah, he changed his name to "savage" from WEINER -- now I'm not sure how that's pronounced. It's either WEENER or WHINER, anyone know? The question you pose here is the answer (as usual BuzzFlash is ON the money). We do believe this is a publicity stunt because his ratings are in the crapper. That's just our opinion but wiser folks than me have said the same thing. Go to Arbitron and look this guy up. As far as I know you can reach a status there where your viewership is so low that you don't even register on their map. Scarborough is rapidly reaching that status as well.
Newsflash for MSNBC: There already IS a FOX TV station. Hiring these right wing parrots ain't going to win you a Peabody. I think that these guys are clocking in at 200K viewers, per episode -- that's about as many people as are trimming their toenails in the USA at any given time.
Here's a goodie: Michael Savage claims he's a Prophet. Here's the link and the quote as transcribed from one of his shows: NewsMax-Savage October 24, 2001 "Strike and Hide Like Snakes" "You leftists have called me every name under the sun except the right name, which is prophet. And I warn you if we don't kick the enemy within out, they're going to kick us out of our own country. Make anything you want out of this cryptic statement I just made; I could care less." (http://homepages.bw.edu/~gbouw/altview.html)
Actually I think it's more about PROFITS than PROPHETS, but that's just my Constitutionally guaranteed by the First Amendment Free Speech center of my brain talking.
BUZZFLASH/BARTCOP: Is he doing this in part to bankrupt you?
TAKE BACK THE MEDIA: Sure, he's said he was going to go after EVERYONE that even looks at him funny. This guy is sue-happy. Here's a little quote from his program just to show you where he's coming from:
"You rats! You stinking rats who hide in the sewers! You think you can go after my income? You think you can kill my advertisers? You think I'm Dr. Laura? You think I'm going to roll over like a pussy? You're wrong. I'm going to find out where you get your money from. You live by handouts, all of you. You live off grants, all of you. You're a bunch of beggars, but you don't know how lucky you are. If you continue this, we're going to go after your funding sources. And we will do everything we can within the legal realm to cut off that funding! We are also going to go to the U.S. Justice Department under John Ashcroft! What you are doing is illegal! You think it's 1965 and I'm South Africa? I've got news for you: it's not 1965 and it ain't South Africa! I'll cut your funding off, and if you break the law any further, I'll put you in jail!" (http://www.glaad.org/publications/resource_doc_detail.php?id=3281)
There's plenty more there -- it's pretty scary, he's going after everyone that disagrees with him -- while he spouts platitudes and Biblical verse on top of it all about free speech. HIS Free Speech of course. Although if guaranteeing free speech amounts to the right to have a commercial TV and radio program, where do I sign up to get mine?
You've already seen the link where he claims to be a Prophet on one of his shows. I have a feeling that he's maybe had one too many coffee enemas, which I've heard he promotes. Personally I like my Starbucks in my Mouth, but that's just me.
He was an HERB salesman, I guess, at one point. Whatever herbs he's taking I think he should flush them down the toilet and get a grip on reality. At least the reality the other 300 million non-fans of his in the USA reside in.
BUZZFLASH/BARTCOP: How are you going to pay for legal costs?
TAKE BACK THE MEDIA: We exist through donations -- we have T-shirts with our logo on it that we send to folks that donate to keep the site running. Last night I posted a plea for help on the DemocraticUnderground (one of the best sites on the web) and the expert help, good vibe, advice, and links just poured in -- I actually had left to see a movie and get away from all this legal garbage (it does wear on you) and at the end of the movie as the credits rolled we got a call on the cell phone from someone that doesn't want to be high profile but is out there helping progressives that fight back who offered to send us enough money to hire an attorney! They had some great ideas and I want to give them props from right here, they know who they are, thanks!
But we still need more help, lawyers aren't cheap and we exhausted a lot of leads trying to get some pro bono help -- we had a wonderful film director sent to us from a good friend and I guess I may as well announce it here, Janeane Garofalo, a true patriot, joined our Advisory Board at Take Back the Media about a month ago -- she's the greatest!
The Director [Robert Greenwald -- a wonderful guy and founder of Artists United Win Without War] she worked with in "Steal this Movie" (and many others) called us and took up our cause with People for the American Way, who still may be onboard as legal help, it's not completely ruled out I guess -- they were worried about the time frame (we have until June 9th to answer this) and didn't have anyone freed up in Chicago to deal with this at this time.
So we have sent up flares and are getting some leads on lawyers who we think will do a fine job, maybe we can even sue Savage right back. Wouldn't it be nice to take some of HIS money and run a progressive site with it? Nice little bit of irony there, eh?
No, we definitely need donations, we'll put them to good use. Look at it this way, here's YOUR chance to go after Michael Savage with minimal investment -- it can all add up to a nice legal fund to take this guy and maybe sue HIM back to the Stone Age, where I think he'd be a lot more comfortable.
So, in a word: HELP! :)
BUZZFLASH/BARTCOP: Isn't it a bit odd that a right wing shock celebrity is suing someone for what they said or wrote?
TAKE BACK THE MEDIA: That's a really good point! All these advertisers are running away from him like scalded dogs and he's attacking other folks for that -- typical really when you think about it, look at Bush, O'Reilly -- they all do that, scream about "personal responsibility". THEN the Savage makes remarks like these:
- The United States "is being taken over by the freaks, the cripples, the perverts and the mental defectives"
- Gays and lesbians are "perverts" and that "the gay and lesbian mafia wants our children"
- America is a "'she-ocracy' where a minority of feminist zealots rule the culture...together, they have both feminized and homosexualized much of America to point where the nation has become passive, receptive and masochistic"
- MSNBC's Ashleigh Banfield is "the mind-slut with a big pair of glasses"
- When speaking of immigrants, "You open the door to them, and the next thing you know, they are defecating on your country and breeding out of control." (http://www.glaad.org/action/campaigns_detail.php?id=3295)
And he thinks he's going to get high profile advertisers with that talk? My mother would have asked him, "Do you EAT with that mouth?" He's said worse than this if you can believe it. The funny part is that I saw on the MSNBC site where they call his outlook "fresh"...fresh?
Maybe it's a good thing he's not so popular -- I mean, what if, say, the Chinese Mafia heard him referring to Asians as “little soy eaters” and Chinese people as “little devils” (http://www.mmtconline.org/cgi-script/csNews/news_upload/Press_20Releases_2edb.A2001.pdf)
I would think that they wouldn't take so kindly to remarks like that. But he's the one that goes on and on about personal responsibililty and all. I guess that's his business, or lack of business when advertisers flee after remarks like those linked above.
If you want to see something really cute go to his website and view the photo of him fondling a wax figure of Barbara Streisand. Classy.
BUZZFLASH/BARTCOP: Do you plan on pulling your punches on your site as a result of the suit?
TAKE BACK THE MEDIA: Nope.
The truth is, we really don't even talk about the guy, there are plenty of sites that do that, and very well. My personal take on it is that most of America doesn't listen to Hate Radio or Hate TV, and that this guy was going to sink into obscurity anyway -- so why waste bandwidth over him. GLAAD cleaned his clock in record time by shaming his major advertisers.
Talking trash is sometimes fun for entertainment but he's really not even very good at it -- not too pretty to look at in my opinion either -- keep the sunglasses on please...
We need better content than the garbage being thrown at us now, and maybe we need to create our own progressive station. Like the wonderful AnShell people are doing with Progressive radio only we want to get images and film content as well which can be interactive on top of it.
BUZZFLASH/BARTCOP: Aren't Savage's ratings sinking?
TAKE BACK THE MEDIA: From what I understand nobody is watching him -- relatively speaking, of course, it IS TV. According to some ratings systems out there I think he may not even be registering on the scale. I don't know anyone who watches him. Do you?
We honestly believe this is a PR stunt designed to get him some press -- we didn't even want to bring it up, we thought we'd just get someone pro bono to get the suit dismissed and keep him off our pages so as to not give him any PR. But then I realized that this guy is costing me time and money and that this needs to be addressed.
Not to mention the intimidation and chilling of free speech factor. Like I said before, an attack on any one of our websites is an attack against ALL of us and needs to be dealt with as harshly as possible. Plus, he wants to take my wife's hard earned money for running HIS nasty mouth? I don't think so. A real man would show up on my doorstep and ask me to step outside -- but this is a guy that screams he won't be a "pussy" and then sends lawyers after my wife. That's MY definition of a "pussy" (and I apologize to whoever that may insult -- except for you Savage.)
I would be willing to wager that he's sinking and sinking fast -- from what I understand he's been dropped by a station in San Francisco recently, that's his home town, isn't it? Excuse me while I get a hanky. :)
BUZZFLASH/BARTCOP: What do you have to say to other websites who might now feel intimidated by the threat of a lawsuit from right wing celebrity pundits.
TAKE BACK THE MEDIA: DON'T back down! There are Guardian Angels out there for the Progressives. Get the word out and people will show up, like Gangs of New York and Unions, it can work if we work together. WE ARE a force, when they come after us we need to pull the wagons in a circle just like they do in the right wing. Adopt THEIR tactics, they've shown they work and that's what we have been doing on Take Back the Media. They hate it when we mimic their moves.
I worry about the progressives, seems like when they are attacked they go into musk oxen mode, all in a circle for protection, but all facing different directions. We need to join ALL of us into a cohensive force, and the web has proven that it works.
I think we need to adopt the attitude of the Three Musketeers: "All for One and One for ALL."
Heard a good one the other day: Bad News: We're the Underdogs -- GOOD News: We're PITBULLS.
Do NOT give up -- it's OUR country, WE are in the majority and it's time to shout THEM down. Just like Al Franken when he told O'Reilly, "We're not taking it anymore."
Thanks to Buzzflash, Bartcop, DemocraticUnderground and all the other 13 Original Cybercolonies for getting the word out!
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
otherwise noted, all original