My web site has attracted considerable criticism. Many people say that it violates Dennis Prager's privacy.
They have a point. My writings do, at times, invade Prager's privacy. But only to the extent that Prager has violated his own privacy in public. I have written virtually nothing about his personal life that he hasn't said in front of dozens of strangers or published. And I have usually sent questionable material to him and his media rep in advance to give them the opportunity to ask for a rephrasing.
I wrote to Prager's media rep:
Perhaps we should have a chat one of these days. It would save Dennis a lot of time and hassle, if you would communicate to me what specific parts of my dennisprager.net HE objects to...
I promise to not take such reproval as endorsement... :) LOL
And perhaps we could let bygones be bygones...
Prager's personal assistant and media representative, Laurie Zimmett, replied to me:
Subj: Re: Luke
Date: 98-03-30 01:09:41 EST
I will provide you with only one example, one of many in which you have caused potential harm to Dennis. You put on the Prager List where he, and his children, can be found every Saturday. You gave the name, location and time. You had the information as one who came to pray, not prey. You put this information on line - very different from it appearing in any Jewish newsletters or Jewish newspapers. You put this on line for many to see - people who like Dennis, people who DON'T. You didn't take into consideration those who might like to harm him. At public events, I always arrange security for Dennis, but not at SSW. You have changed that. It was his shabbat, his one day of peace. No matter how you try to imagine what this did to him, you won't even come close. You will never know. I know that you will probably try to justify your actions as you always do, and as always, you will be wrong.
I will not go over your unauthorized biography on Dennis with you, nor your unauthorized web site.
Please don't write to me again.
I, Luke Ford, followed up with this post to the Prager List:
Subj: Prager-L: Privacy - Dennis Prager
Date: 98-03-30 02:44:11 EST
From: email@example.com (Luzdedos1)
I have been vigorously attacked both publicly and privately for diminishing Dennis Prager's privacy. One example was when I mentioned that DP attended, at times, Stephen S. Wise synagogue.
After receiving another blast on this matter this Sunday evening 3-30-98, I ran a quick search on Electric library and found numerous publications from the LA TIMES to the Jerusalem Report, to whom Prager had told that he attends Stephen S. Wise. For instance, Jerusalem (10-2-95) REPORT:
"Radio commentator and author Dennis Prager, like Milken a Stephen Wise Temple congregant, scored some valid points by noting that," If one member of a philanthropic family does wrong, and if that invalidates the family name, then clearly the Kennedy Center, Stanford University and the Carnegie Foundation should all change their names."
The Jerusalem Report is online and attracts thousands of visitors every week from around the world.
This Prager-List has 70 subscribers?
This is an example of the larger issue that Sharon raised in her thoughtful post last week. IMHO, when a person reveals something to thousands of strangers, whether through a radio show, a newspaper interview or the like, the person loses the right to privacy on such a matter, if he ever possessed that right in the first place.
Most of us remember the debacle over DP's wife's miscarriages. I was roundly condemned for reporting it. It was declared that I had lied. Then it turned out that DP had published the information in his own journal, for tens of thousands of readers.
DP makes his living by revealing his life. Personal revelation is key to DP's appeal. He constantly gives examples from his own life. As both a public figure and as one who constantly dishes out private information on himself, DP has even fewer rights to privacy than most folks, IMHO.
In short, I feel frustrated that despite my best efforts to reconcile these problems, I can't.
Laurie writes to me:
To Luke Ford:
This is a good example of how you do harm to Dennis. You either wish to hurt him or are a fool who does not consider the consequences of what he does.
Sub-Link: Is Prager anti-Mexican?
Reply to Luke Ford:
You exaggerate the reporting of Dennis affiliation with SSW. That you do not see a difference between this one blurb - within an article - in the Jerusalem Report and your posting on a news-group on-line: for those who would like to meet Prager here is the name, address, day of the week and hours he can be found at his synagogue...... is scary. Also, you have no idea what our response was to such information being disseminated in the J.R..
You are not a child. You should not need to be guided through your endeavors. Our office cannot guide you every time you choose to write a line on Dennis. You are obsessed with him. You write everyday, throughout the day. We would have to employ another person to take that kind of time to work with you. Either you are pretending your ignorance or, worse, you do not possess the capability of discerning that which is fit to print and that which is not. Either way, I do not have the time, nor the inclination, to be an editor of your projects. Instead, we have enlisted the support of legal services.
Your unauthorized web site and unauthorized biography on Dennis will not receive the assistance of myself nor anyone else in Dennis employ.
You have already harmed Dennis, you continue to harm him, one whom you say you love. Your actions prove otherwise.
Subj: Prager-L: Privacy - Dennis Prager
Date: 98-03-31 00:26:28 EST
From: ChrisDnld@aol.com (ChrisDnld)
In a message dated 3/30/98 12:44:11 AM, you wrote:
<<I have been vigorously attacked both publicly and privately for diminishing Dennis Prager's privacy. One example was when I mentioned that DP attended, at times, S>>
And you remain a dick for continuing to re-publish it, time and again. 1. It does you no good, and 2. it poses a needlessly increased threat to DP's safety and privacy. Once risked is bad, twice is worse, thrice is worse yet. They are not all equal.
He has a right to pose limited risks to his own family.
You, a self-imposed aquaintence, do not at any level. Sorry.
Subj: Re: Prager-L: Privacy - Dennis Prager
Date: 98-03-31 00:45:31 EST
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Sharon)
At 02:41 AM 3/30/98 EST, you wrote:
>This is an example of the larger issue that Sharon raised in her thoughtful post last week.
Your flattery is appreciated as such; however...
>Most of us remember the debacle over DP's wife's miscarriages. I was roundly >condemned for reporting it. It was declared that I had lied. Then it turned >out that DP had published the information in his own journal, for tens of >thousands of readers.
Earlier in this post you indicated that there were roughly 300 subscribers.
This particular question struck me hard, as a woman. There is one person that most of us seem to keep forgetting in the public exposure: Mrs. Prager. When I read the description of this item on your page, I cringed and felt profound shame, empathetically. It is probably difficult for most men to begin to understand this, but I think that there is ingrained in almost every woman a sense that procreation is strongly tied to her sense of self-worth. I can not begin to tell you how many times work that I have done has been minimalized with the phrase, "Well, you've never had children." Feminists from the 60's and 70's began to worry about their biological clock in the 80's and 90's. I do not know what Mrs. Prager's response was to Mr. Prager after discovering that this information had been revealed. My own immediate reaction on reading about it here was that that was none of my business and I wish I hadn't read it. Realizing that it was on an internet page where who knows how many people could read it, made me cringe.
Perhaps an analogy in a possibly comparable male scenario might help.
Suppose, Mr. Ford, that you were married. Suppose that you were impotent for several years before receiving treatment. Suppose that your wife taught at a university with 300-400 students in a class. Suppose that after your treatment, your wife used your impotence and treatment as an example in her class about new medical advances. Suppose that a decade later you heard an account of your impotence and subsequent treatment on 60 minutes. They could claim that it was public knowledge because it had been revealed in the class. How would you feel? How would you feel if because of a mistake that your wife made years ago, everyone you met after that asked, "Luke Ford? Aren't you the guy that........"?
>DP has even fewer rights to privacy than most folks, IMHO.
Again, I think that there's a problem with separating the work from the man. Everyone has a right to privacy - whether a public figure or an anonymous hermit. But, more importantly, his family has a right to privacy. The account by Mr. Prager of your conversing with his son and then using the information attained for web site, felt really scary.
Families are off limits.
People are entitled to personal boundaries, whether DP or Clinton or John Doe. We can give permission to others to enter those boundaries (come to our homes, babysit the kids, listen to our problems) but simple courtesy and respect for others dictates that we respect those boundaries unless invited to cross over. In Mr. Prager's response to you he said very clearly that he would like for you to desist invading his privacy. If you respect Mr. Prager and his family, it seems that this would be the appropriate response to his request. Attempting to cross those boundaries through his children feels really scary to me and feels an awful lot like pre-stalking type behavior.
>Then again, I could be completely wrong.
I've lost some papers that I got on the net regarding Judaic laws on speech; however, aren't there basic rules about spreading information, even if true, which could be embarrassing or even humiliating for the person described?
Subj: Re: Prager-L: Privacy - Dennis Prager
Date: 98-03-31 00:57:22 EST
From: email@example.com (Luzdedos1) [Luke Ford]
In a message dated 98-03-31 00:45:31 EST, you write:
> Your flattery is appreciated as such; however...
Do you truly doubt that my appreciation was genuine? I find the term "flatter" an ungracious way of accepting a compliment.
> >Most of us remember the debacle over DP's wife's miscarriages.
> Earlier in this post you indicated that there were roughly 300 subscribers.
Dennis Prager published the information in his journal which has about 9000 subscribers and probably 100,000 readers.
This email list has somewhere between 50-300 subscribers. So fewer than 1/20th as many folks found out about this miscarriage stuff from me, compared to Prager's own hand. So give me a break!
>Realizing that it was on an internet page where who knows how many people could read it, made me cringe.
But when Prager published the information to the world, how did you feel?
> Perhaps an analogy in a possibly comparable male scenario might help.
I don't know how I would feel, but I wouldn't whine about the media invading my privacy.
>But, more importantly, his family has a right to> privacy. The account by Mr. Prager of your conversing with his son...
Oh give me a break. I simply wrote that David Prager plans to pursue a career in film, something that DP has said in effect over the air to hundreds of thousands of people.
>In Mr. Prager's response to you he said very > clearly that he would like for you to desist invading his privacy.
Prager invades his own privacy every day on the radio, to hundreds of thousands of people. It has yet to be shown where I have revealed anything that he hasn't said to thousands.
If DP were so hyper sensitive about the privacy of himself and his family, he would stop talking about them on the air and in speeches and in his journal.
His wife Fran is a former actress, not a profession for folks obsessed with privacy. David Prager wants to enter the media.
Give me a break!
Though I think Sharon, that your concerns are ably articulated, you come from a good place, you mean well, and you provide good challenges. I have deep respect for you. Be well.
> I've lost some papers that I got on the net regarding Judaic laws on > speech;
There are thousands of Jewish laws and these are important ones. But they cannot be taken out of context with the other hundreds and thousands. DP breaks Jewish law every day by reading the LA TIMES. Jewish Law would not allow reading a publication with bra ads. Modesty is another important Jewish law and value.
Subj: Re: Prager-L: Privacy - Dennis Prager
Date: 98-03-31 13:08:25 EST
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Mike Dang)
On Mon, 30 Mar 1998 22:50:05 -0800 Sharon <email@example.com> writes:
// It is probably difficult for most men to begin to understand this, but I think that there is ingrained >in almost every woman a sense that procreation is strongly tied to her >sense of self-worth....>>
MIKE: Assuming the above scenario, if someone met me said, "Aren't you the guy that [was impotent for several years before receiving treatment]?" I'd say, "I sure am. And boy do I regret not getting treatment earlier. So many wonderful pleasures I've missed out on. If I could tell every American w/this problem one thing, it'd be, "Get it fixed now. Time's wasting and there are so many beautiful pleasures you're missing out on every day. Go fix it now."
But why should I feel bad or embarrassed? If God or nature dealt me that hand then that's the hand I have to play. I'll make the best of the hand God dealt me, perhaps draw another card, e.g., try to correct it, but I see no value in being embarrassed over the hand God dealt me. I love Eleanor Roosevelt's (?) statement, "No one can make you feel inferior w/o your consent." So this is not something I can justifiably give my consent to about being embarrassed or feeling inferior.
From: ChrisDnld@aol.com (ChrisDnld)
In a message dated 3/31/98 10:41:24 AM, Luzdedos wrote:
<<There would be four-fifteen readers for every subscriber, that is the way this type of thing works. Let us suppose 8,000 subscribers. Multiply that by 10, equals 80,000 readers.>>
More made-up nonsense. Says whom?
Statistically, for each issue published, 2-10 non-subscribers may read SOMETHING out of it. Maybe 1% of those non-subscribers will read the entire issue. Most *subscribers* don't even read *every single article*. Many will never finish a single article in any given issue.
I'd say a total of 6,000 people read that particular, entire article. And YOU were the only one of them to take such special note of that sensitive personal info - enough so as to recall it 7 years later, and then to reprint it at will several times...despite DP's (easily presumable) unhappiness over it.
On Wednesday, April First, 1998, I, Luke Ford, received this. I don't think it is an April Fool's joke.
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP
March 27, 1998
Via Certified Mail - Return Receipt Requested
Mr. Luke Ford
264 S. La Cienega Blvd, #1417
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Re: Dennis Prager
Dear Mr. Ford:
Our law firm represents Dennis Prager. It has come to our attention that you attempted to have the domain name for Mr. Prager's web site on the Internet, dennisprager.com., transferred to you. Mr. Prager's Internet server informed us that they believe you attempted to transfer the domain name by sending a written request to Internic on fraudulent Dennis Prager letterhead. Internic halted the attempted transfer after it was informed that you were not authorized to transfer the domain name for Mr. Prager's web site or control the web site. These activities are violations of both civil and criminal laws in this state.
In addition, your publication of Mr. Prager's essays, other writings and speeches on your website, dennisprager.net, without Mr. Prager's permission, violates his copyrights and other legal rights in such materials. In light of your misappropriation of Mr. Prager's materials, such materials will no longer be sold to you or sent to your addresses.
Accordingly, you must immediately stop all efforts to transfer the domain name for Mr. Prager's web site or to control his web site in any other manner, and all publication of Mr. Prager's essays, other writings and speeches on your website. If you persist in such behavior, we will have no choice but to pursue all legal rights and remedies.
Moreover, we believe that other behavior by you toward Mr. Prager and his family may violate California law, including this state's stalking laws. Accordingly, you must discontinue all inappropriate behavior directed to Mr. Prager, his family or colleagues. Mr. Prager in no way seeks to infringe on your abilility to exercise your consitutionally protected rights. However, your behavior, in turn, must afford Mr. Prager and his family the legal rights and protections to which they are entitled.
I do not intend to engage in any debate with you on these matters. I would urge you, rather, to take this letter seriously and conform your behavior to the requirements of law. Should you continue your inappropriate and unlawful behavior, we will have no choice but to bring you into compliance with applicable law.
Very truly yours,
Michael F. Perlis
Luke: Wow, what a mess I have gotten myself into! Intentions don't count for much sometimes. I try to take Dennis and his values to the world and I end up alienating myself from him and some of my closest friends.
I found this letter hurtful. Why use this approach to work out a problem? Why this unnecessary hostility? Why these hurtful words and threats and false accusations? That line about stalking his family was particularly untrue and unkind. I have made three dozen overtures to Dennis and his assistant to work out any problems they have with my writing on Dennis, but we can't seem to communicate.
Dennis is a tzaddik, a truly righteous man. Laurie is also a noble person as is Chris. Can't we reach an understanding about where good people can disagree?
Let me now review the attorney's letter.
<It has come to our attention that you attempted to have the domain name for Mr. Prager's web site on the Internet, dennisprager.com., transferred to you.>
LUKE: This is not true. I explained clearly and twice several weeks ago that my server confused dennisprager.com with dennisprager.net, but dennisprager.com was never threatened by their mistake. I never sent a written letter to Internic to switch dennisprager.com, and certainly no letter on Dennis Prager letterhead. This is a lie. I challenge Laurie Zimmett, who is behind these charges, to produce the evidence. To switch an internet site to a new server requires documentation. There will be no documentation found that will show that I, Luke Ford, tried to mess with Prager's site as alleged.
<In addition, your publication of Mr. Prager's essays, other writings and speeches on your website, dennisprager.net, without Mr. Prager's permission, violates his copyrights and other legal rights in such materials.>
This is true. I did wrong by Dennis republishing some of his materials without his permission. I will bring my site dennisprager.net within the boundaries of Fair Use.
<Moreover, we believe that other behavior by you toward Mr. Prager and his family may violate California, including this state's stalking laws.>
This is a particularly disgusting charge. I challenge the attorney and Laurie to come up with evidence for this. I have generally stayed away from Dennis and his family since January 20, 1998, because of the hostile attitude towards me largely created by Laurie. I have only seen Dennis twice since then and we only had brief interaction on one occassion.
<Should you continue your inappropriate and unlawful behavior, we will have no choice but to bring you into compliance with applicable law.>
These legal threats are disgusting for many reasons.
One, I told Dennis well ahead of time, days and weeks depending on the situation, of what I intended to do. I told him what essays of his I would like to place on my site (only those ones already easily available on the internet). I told him that I would pay him for those and share with him any revenue I made off my site.
Two. These sorts of disputes should be handled human to human. Dennis knows my phone number. He should've called me if he had a problem with my writings, not hidden behind a lawyer and an assistant's anger.
Three. A Jew does not resort to secular law. He tries to settle things first of all human to human. Then he seeks help from mutual friends. Then he seeks help from rabbis, or at last resort, a court of JEWISH law. Prager is always poking fun of American's propensities to sue, yet here for trivial reasons, he pulls out here his big legal guns.
How much money did this stupid letter cost? Probably a couple of hours of an attorney's time, at $300 an hour?
In 1991, Prager launched the Micah Center to great hoopla. After twenty years of exciting audiences with his brilliant speaking and writing, it appeared that he was finally going to harness the tremendous enthusiasm and talent of his fans.
Seven years later it appears another dashed hope. Why?
It must have something to do with his inability to manage people. He said on the radio the other day that he was a terrible businessperson. The primary talent required for a successful businessperson is to be able to harness the enthusiasm of others. Prager has not and may not be able to do that.
Dennis attracts the passionate attention of highly intelligent, ethical, ambitious folks like myself but instead of harnessing our talents he alienates us with stupid things like the letter I got from his lawyer.
Remember Thoughtmasters out of Orange County? A group of Dennis Prager fans that basicly died out? Why? They felt no support from their leader?
Prager's administrative skills are lacking.
DP often says how lonely he feels in Jewish life. That's partly because he hasn't built anything.
What does it say that Prager only hires women? I suspect that they are more docile and less challenging than ambitous men.
While Prager's radio show is far deeper than the competition, it is not nearly as entertaining. This is largely because DP has hardly developed as a talkshow host. His thinking is clear, but his talkshow host skills are almost nonexistent. He must refuse to listen to folks who could help him. He must refuse to hire and nurture creative and independent talent. He settles for mediocrity, because it is less challenging and more comfortable. He doesn't have to make the hard decisions of someone who actually builds something. Rather, he can just sit back and analyze.
I've had a stinking rotten cold all week and this all makes me feel even more ill. So go hug someone you love and tell them how much you appreciate them.
Passover is almost upon us. Time for spiritual cleansing as well as spatial cleansing of chametz (leaven) from our lives. XXX suggests one way that we can go about this is to understand the strengths that go with many of our enemies' flaws. If I think Laurie is sharp, that is just the flip side of her loyalty and devotion to Dennis Prager, for instance.
April 24, 1998
Strook & Strook & Lavan LLP
Dear Mr. Ford:
Your publication of Mr. Prager's essays, other writings, audiotapes and taped lectures and speeches on your websites, dennisprager.net and lukeford.com and elsewhere infringes Mr. Prager's copyright rights in such materials and violates the copyright laws of the United States, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq. Accordingly, your publication of Mr. Prager's copyrighted materials exposes you to an injunction to prevent such publication and an award by you for compensatory damages to Mr. Prager, profits you earn from publishing his copyrighted materials, and attorneys' fees and costs. In addition, willful copyright infringement can consitute a criminal act.
Moreoever, your unauthorized use of Mr. Prager's name on your websites and elsewhere for your commercial purposes violates California Civil Code Section 3344, rendering you liable for compensatory damages to Mr. Prager, profits from your unauthorized use of his name, punitive damages and attorneys' fees and costs.
Unless you immediately (i) remove all of Mr. Prager's writings and any transcripts of his audiotapes or taped lectures from your websites and any other place where you have published his materials, and refrain from publishing Mr. Prager's writings, audiotapes and taped lectures in the future, and (ii) cease to use Mr. Prager's name for any commercial purpose, including, but not limited to, using his name in the domain name for your dennisprager.net website, we will pursue all legal rights and remedies Mr. Prager has, including bringing an action against you for violating his copyright rights and unauthorized use of his name for commercial purposes.
Michael F. Perlis
Luke: This is such a lousy way for Prager to handle this matter.
My site on him is a labor of love to generally further the values he believes in. I have sent him far more money than I have made off the site.
My site www.dennisprager.net is simply the name for the contents of the site. It is about Dennis Prager. I have not used it to blackmail him into buying it off me. I told him what I was going to do days and weeks before I did it. He had every opportunity to talk to me about it. Instead he hides behind his lawyers and others. Disappointing.
I only included those Prager essays on my site which were widely and freely available on the net for free. I told him of my wish to do this months ago. Now, I guess he has spoken. So, I will bring my site into conformance with fair use provisions.
Most of the threats above are blather, just like most of the first letter I received from his sharks. Calling my site Dennisprager.net does not violate California Civil Code Section 3344. My excerpts from his speeches, radio shows and writings falls under the general rubric of covering the news.
I emailed Prager again on this stuff upon receipt of this latest letter. I gave him every chance to do the decent thing. He chooses to let others do his dirty work on this matter. So be it. Great men have great flaws.