I Disagree With All Of My Friends

Fox News report.

About two years ago, Maia Lazar had a journalism advisor at Ribet Academy named Eliot Stein, a resident of the San Fernando Valley.

Mr. Stein says that when his journalism class revolted against Maia their Editor, he called her at home to try to resolve the situation.

Maia became upset. She had various issues with Mr. Stein.

On the advice of her mother Cathy Seipp, Maia did not go to Mr. Stein to try work things out with him, but instead she complained to the school and blogged about her teacher (without naming him).

There was a big fight.

When Ribet tried to suspend Eliot Stein for one day, Mr. Stein walked away from the school.

“The clash was not with the teacher, it was with the students,” Mr. Stein told me March 26. “The students found Maia condescending and arrogant. They loved me.”

Mr. Stein says he’s ready to give up the domain name cathyseipp.com and to abandon this feud if both sides to it (he and Maia) will sign a non-disparagement agreement.

I believe people, even 14 year olds, should always try to work out their problems directly with the person who’s causing the problem, before they go to those in charge.

If you are old enough to blog, then you are old enough to learn that whenever you blog something negative about somebody, that person may devote the rest of his life trying to make you miserable. Even when you are right in hurting someone (exposing their bad behavior to protect the innocent) through your speech, you are usually going to be hurt in return.

When you go over someone’s head, there’s a high likelihood that that person is going to lash back at you and hurt you, even if you are in the right.

I don’t agree with infantilizing teenagers and treating them as incapable of resolving their own problems. I’ve always despised kids who ran to the teacher or to the principal to complain about another kid without having first tried to resolve their problem with that kid.

Eliot Stein bought the domain name cathyseipp.com and used it to write negative things about Cathy, Maia, me and our friends.

“What do you expect?” I said to Cathy when she solicited my opinion. “You got rid of him. Of course he’s going to be angry. Yes, it sounds like he did things that made Maia uncomfortable, but it makes sense to me that he would want to attack you and your daughter. It’s your fault for not owning your own domain name.”

Cathy was disgusted by my view and I didn’t bring it up again.

Over the past week, there’s been a concerted effort by friends of Cathy to shut down cathyseipp.com and the anti-Cathy, anti-Maia writings of its owner Eliot Stein. My friends have gone to enormous lengths, called in their friends in the media, law and investigation for help.
I disagree.

It’s wrong to memorialize one First Amendment warrior by shutting down another’s writing.

Elliot Stein’s website about Cathy Seipp and Maia Lazar and me and others is free speech. We as journalists/bloggers/writers should be the last people to try to shut down someone’s mockery of Cathy. The site was not nice, but so what?

Maia and Cathy probably contributed to Stein leaving his job. It is not surprising that Mr. Stein would want to lash back at Cathy and Maia. I don’t think Maia deserves special legal protection against internet mockery just because she is in grief.
It is Cathy’s fault for not registering her own name as a domain name. Mr. Stein saw open property and he bought it and that is fair and it should now belong to him to do as he wishes.

I think I oppose all libel laws.

Yes, on moral grounds, I think that much of Mr. Stein’s anti-Cathy, anti-Maia writings were objectionable. They were a little too cruel. But Eliot Stein has every legal right to be cruel to Cathy and Maia, to be cruel to Cathy and Maia on cathyseipp.com (or any dotcom) and to be cruel to Cathy and Maia on cathyseipp.com on the week Cathy died.

I similarly disagreed with Cathy on the Sandra Tsing Loh – KCRW affair when Sandra got fired for saying “fuck” on the air (it was the engineer’s fault for not blanking it out of the pre-recorded segment). If I had been in charge of KCRW, I would not have fired Sandra, but if KCRW wanted to fire her for it, they should have every legal right to do so (perhaps Sandra should’ve listened to the segment before it was to be aired to make sure her obscenity was bleeped). Sandra can find other outlets for her talents.

Harriet emails:


I started reading Cathy’s World after her diagnosis–although I didn’t know it at the time–when I was anticipating a move to Los Angeles. From her blog, I was able to glean some really valuable insights into my soon-to-be adopted home, and for that I am grateful.

But all along, I knew something was amiss in Cathy’s world. The total opposition to differing point of views, the dressing down reserved only for those she disagreed with–it all rankled. And the sicker she got, and the stranger things sounded (that bizarre fight over Maia leaving out some teabags), the more heartsick I felt.

I know something about parents who insist on strict adherence to a “truth” that they’ve determined, and I feel some anxiety for Maia, surrounded by people who–seemingly, at any rate–hold one, uniformly positive perspective.

So from my distant observer’s point of view, I am grateful to you for exploring the contradictions inherent in Cathy’s personality. When I am gone, I would much rather be known for both my flaws and my strengths (the more impressive for my having overcome the flaws), than only for some fabricated, falsely positive mask, and I think you do Cathy a service.

If it calms Elliot Stein’s nerves at all, you can tell him that at least one of your readers had already assumed much of the Cathy’s version was deeply flawed. His response was embarrassingly over the top, but I suspect his judgement is warped from interacting with the bizarro rules of Cathy’s World.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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