Flicked

     There’s a great scene in “Broadcast News” in which Albert Brooks, playing a reporter, tries to interview a mercenary as he returns to the United States. The mercenary tells him, “F— you. F—, f—, f—, f— you. You gonna use that?”
     Brooks replies: “It depends if it’s a slow news day.”
     So true. News that might not make it into print one day might be on Page 1 on a slow news day. And a prospective Page 1 story might end up on page 22, or nowhere, depending on the weather, or on a pathetic person with guns.
     That’s true on this page too. Courthouse News covers more than 1.5 million civil lawsuits a year: more than 5,000 a day. It’s hard to believe, but on some days there just ain’t much news there. Then the next day there’s more news than you can shake a stick at.
     Fortunately for our readers, we’ve had good news days this week, so we did not have to inflict upon you a lawsuit from a man the Detroit Free Press calls a “serial litigator,” who challenged the constitutionality of the way Michigan is dealing with Detroit’s bankruptcy crisis.
     Now, Detroit’s bankruptcy is big news.
     Constitutional claims can be interesting legal news.
     But this lawsuit was not news.
     On page 6 of the 15-page federal complaint, the man’s attorney described the acts of Michigan’s governor and Legislature as a machtergreifung.
     That’s an interesting word choice.
     It’s uncommon to use German in a lawsuit in the United States.
     The judge might not understand it. The jury might not understand it, if it gets to a jury.
     In Germany, machtergreifung – “seizure of power” – is used to refer to Hitler’s seizure of power in January 1933.
     The only possible reason to use the word, in this case, is to compare Michigan’s government to Hitler’s.
     As a guy with 30 years experience reporting and editing news, I do not consider a statement like this news.
     It’s bile. Venom. It’s unhinged.
     So I flicked the story.
     I won’t mention the name of the guy who filed it, or his so-called organization, or the name of his lawyer, because this is not really a lawsuit: it’s a political statement. A vile one, typical of U.S. politics today, which are increasingly based upon insult and fantasy.
     Speaking of word choice, I say I “flicked” the story for a reason.
     Professional bicyclists flick an opponent when they agree that the guy violated an ethical rule: took unfair advantage in some way to gain an edge. The flick may be an elbow in the chest, knocking him off his bike. It’s generally done in the midst of the pack, so it’s difficult to see.
     Pro bikers do not consider flicking unethical: they consider it a fair action to take in return for an unfair one.
     Flick, in this case, comes from the German verb ficken.
     That seems an appropriate end to this report on that lawsuit.

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