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The Whippet #173: Heavy Business Pigeon

McKinley Valentine — 7 min read

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So I learned something interesting about Australia's legal system recently!

Some necessary context:

  • Australia's defamation law is notoriously restrictive on speech. People who sue for defamation are likely to win. Our laws are generally speaking more democratic than the US, like if you had to make a blanket heuristic for some reason, but absolutely not when it comes to defamation.

So the TV show I was working on last month, WTFAQ, we were doing a segment on data privacy etc. Because specificity always sounds better than generalities, you don't say "many companies are harvesting many kinds of data", you say something like "Google records what route you take to work, Amazon buys customer loyalty card data in bulk, [etc]".

And then if you're me, you immediately highlight it red and add a comment saying "we have no proof Amazon does this exact thing, although it is the kind of thing they do; Legal is almost certainly gonna veto it".

ABC's legal department is very uhhh safety-conscious and like I said, defamation law here is bad.

As in, I almost cut the sentence without even bothering to check with them.

BUT they surprised me by replying in about 3 seconds to say "don't even worry about it, it's fine."

It turns out you can't defame a company in Australia, that's not a Thing. Defamation law is designed to protect the reputation of people, and companies aren't people. I could have written "I personally visited the Amazon factory and there were rats everywhere, so many rats just running across all your packages and touching everything, and they were all diseased with fur hanging off them and frothing mouths" and it would be allowed.

(Legally allowed; I don't think it'd make it past Editorial Policies, the other mysterious gatekeeper department that scripts get sent off to.)

The exception is businesses with less than 10 employees, because if you say the "rats everywhere" thing about a roadside taco stand owned by one guy and his teenage son, it reflects very directly on the owner and harms his reputation.

So yeah, feel free to defame some companies in the comments. (Do not take legal advice from people who are repeating what someone else summarised a month ago in reference to a specific case.)

Legal rulings back in the news recently: in 2000, Mattel, Inc. attempted to sue the band Aqua (actually, MCA Records) over their song Barbie Girl, and put out press statements comparing them to bank robbers. MCA then countersued for defamation re: the bank robbers comment. The judge dismissed both lawsuits, basically saying [paraphrased] "no one is going to think the song Barbie Girl is an official release by Barbie; people understand that song titles tell you what a song is about, not who created and endorsed it. Also, people understand the term "bank robbers" was used to make an emotional point, and was not a literal allegation that MCA has robbed banks."

The ruling ends with the line: "The parties are advised to chill."

That is obviously the line that's gone viral, but someone posted "it's worth reading the whole ruling in full" with a link, so I read the whole thing in full, and it wasn't worth it, they lied to me. Be happy with your paragraph, which contains all the extracted value.

'Articles' icon

How curved is Chile?

by Atlasova

If you looked straight out from the northern point, parallel to the earth, the southern point would be 1,300 km below that plane.

actual explanation via a comment on reddit

"Just add weights to skinny pigeons and they'll stage a coo"

(Leaving the original headline intact with grudging respect)

So pigeons have a pecking order, and the bigger, heavier ones dominate. The dominant pigeons get more access to food and mating opportunities. (I spose more access to food is how they stay the biggest.)

For this project, scientists attached weights to some scrawny pigeons as a social experiment. Those pigeons became more aggressive and shot up the pecking order [source].

On first read, I thought the scientists made the scrawny pigeons do weight-training, and once they grew muscles they became more dominant.

But it's not even that! They just perceived themselves to be heavier, and started acting like a heavier pigeon would, and the other pigeons went along with it.

Let's just enjoy this before the self-help gurus hear about it and start putting out books called The Pigeon Effect and selling weighted business suits to help you dominate in the workplace.

Unsolicited Advice

Thinking about making new friends in adulthood

Just the generally recognised thing that it feels super weird and difficult to go from acquaintances to friends; it's almost easier to ask someone on a date, because there's an established structure in place.

But here's a thing I noticed. I was in Sydney for a few months, and it felt incredibly normal to reach out to people I've only known online, or met once years ago, because you can say "I'm in town for a little while if you want to grab a coffee." Visiting a place makes it normal to ask. But it doesn't help much if you want to make friends in the city you live in.

Before I left Melbourne, a twitter mutual messaged and said "it looks like twitter is dying, so I'm doing an experiment where I try and meet up with people I think are cool IRL" and that ALSO seemed like a normal thing to ask. That is a good experiment! Twitter IS dying! We SHOULD be less beholden to social media for our connections to each other!

(Since I am about to encourage you to do something similar, I will tell you what it is like to be on the receiving end: I was personally flattered, and I thought it was a cool and brave project for her to be doing. I was ALSO nervous about agreeing to meet up (what if we have nothing to say to each other and it's super awkward? What if she is very disappointed by how not-actually-cool I am? I actually have no idea if my twitter persona gives an accurate impression of me? What if I turn out not to like her IRL and then I will feel awkward and stressed about that? What if we DO get on well but then her idea of friendship is hanging out every week? etc). It really helped that I ideologically approved of the mission, because I didn't have to weigh up "will this go well yes/no", I could just say "this is the kind of thing it's good to do, regardless of how it goes".) (If you're reading this, Person I'm Obviously Talking About, I thought it went well!)

Anyway it seems to me that her message content, and a person visiting a different city, both fulfil the same function: they give a reason as to "why am I asking you now, when I never have before?" and they also lower the emotional intensity by making it half about the asker and what is going on in their life. It's way less pressure; you get the sense you're not the only person they've asked, that their "why now?" project will trundle along happily regardless if you turn them down.

(The opposite of being asked on a date, maybe? For a date, you want to feel like it's your personal qualities alone that prompted the ask.)

The thing is, I don't think it has to be any particularly 'good' reason. Just "I've decided to a do a thing where I meet a new person every month" or "I am on a quest to try every ramen place in the city; I am going to Ramen Place Near Your Work on Wednesday, do you want to meet up." (In that scenario, they've told you where they work at some point, you haven't stalked them. Also the Ramen Quest has to be real.) It also frames success as "met a new person this month" or "ate at ramen place" rather than "established a friendship". Now even if we don't get on at all, I haven't let you down, because I still helped you with your quest.

Anyway that's my current theory on how to make friends as an adult: phrase it in a way that gives a temporal reason for why you're asking now, one which lowers the emotional intensity of the ask and suggests you have your own stuff going on. (I guess this isn't "how to make friends" cause they might turn you down out of busyness or anxiety or predicting you wouldn't get on well - it's more "how to ask in a way that feels normal and socially acceptable".)

Every time I've written some interpersonal advice that makes sense to me, I get at least one reply saying "I would absolutely hate this, this would be the worst way to speak to me, literal opposite of correct advice" so you can go ahead and assume this is not universal, but I do think it could be the bridging step for some people.


Thanks you friends!

Nothing signals "heavy business pigeon" like supporting creators.

Big Pigeon in business suit standing on boardroom table
"Heavy Business Pigeon"
Man comforting a sad looking pigeon (about half his height)
"Heavy Business, Pigeon"
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