Mistakes are an inevitable part of human nature, but there's a system for dealing with them the right way -- The Four A's: Assess the damage, Acknowledge your role, Apologize sincerely and Assassinate all accusers. But no matter how simple and logical this process may seem, there are plenty of idiots out there who just live for the chance to make a bad thing so, so much worse.
Despite only running for 12 episodes, Fawlty Towers is considered one of the best British sitcoms of all time. The show's success was mostly due to the character of Basil Fawlty, who utterly enraptured audiences in spite (or because) of the fact that he was an absolutely awful human being. John Cleese eventually revealed that the character was based on Donald Sinclair, a hotel owner he'd once encountered. However, his widow didn't like having her husband's name attached to one of the most successful British sitcoms in history, presumably because money once tried to take advantage of her in an airport bathroom and she never forgave it. So she adamantly denied that her husband was anything like the character in the show and, rather than chocking the whole thing up as some kind of situation or scenario employing falsehood or embellishment to comedic effect (if only there was a word for that), she loudly and repeatedly objected to the way Cleese portrayed her husband for 30 years after the series had finished. Which we imagine is 29 years past the point when anyone gave a damn.
No mention of whether she protested the portrayal of that hair.
Rather than letting the story fall into the sarlacc pit of pop culture's collective short attention span, Sinclair's widow revived the controversy again, just before she died. Unfortunately, this time it prompted a former waitress from the hotel to publicly refute her, stating that, if anything, Sinclair was even worse than Cleese had made out. If the widow Sinclair had just left the story alone, not only would nobody care, but it would be her and her husband's word against Cleese's. Worst case scenario, they come off as a couple of humorless buzzkills. Instead, she had to reiterate the story one last time and accidentally provoke the only witness to stand up against her in 30 years.
OK, we take back the hair comment.
Then she passed away, leaving the whole world to remember her as "that crazy lady who hated jokes."
A super injunction, aside from having the most bitchin' first name of all the injunction family, is a bit of legislation in the British legal system used to prevent the press from mentioning any part of a story. A regular injunction blocks a single key detail of a report; a super injunction swats that shit out of the air completely while yelling "THIS IS MY HOUSE." So when an anonymous Twitter user started leaking the hell out of a bunch of them like it wasn't a thing, people took notice. One story in particular stood out: That of famous soccer player Ryan Giggs, who had an "alleged" affair with a reality TV star.
But instead of scheduling a press conference to passive-aggressively apologize and laugh maniacally at the sharp upswing in endorsement deals -- you know, the good ol' fashioned American way -- Giggs immediately sued Twitter to have the information removed.
"If there's one good way to hush something up, it's to make a scene."
He was just another drop in a bucket full of many other super injunctions being leaked by the Twitter account. But, by suing, he now stood out from the crowd. So not only was there a sports/celebrity sex scandal being brought to public attention, but also the news reporting on it couldn't actually name the accused -- because it was forbidden ... taboo ... naughty. It was the perfect storm of media clusterfucks. Of course the people went looking when the news said "Mystery sports star nails mystery celebrity and we can't tell you about it." And they immediately found the details on Twitter. After the story broke, one paper published the following graph of Tweets related to Giggs' name:
17 viewers? England is weird.
The story became such a sensation that a member of English Parliament even got sucked into the hype, breaking the super injunction himself by naming Giggs, stating that, "It would not be practical to imprison the 75,000 Twitter users who had named the player." Because apparently British Parliament discusses everything, even where soccer players like to stick it on their down time.
But hey, at least Giggs got some of that sweet Twitter money from the settlement, right? Well, he would have, except for this law that states a company (like Twitter) cannot be held accountable for the actions or words of its customers.
To recap: Information about his super injunction leaked, and he tried to plug that leak with a stack of lawsuits, which created so much attention that Parliament itself broke the injunction just to essentially call him an asshole, and then it turned out that he was suing the wrong people anyway.
What's that thing that Homer Simpson says? "Oops," or something like that?
And then he slipped on a banana peel and fell down a manhole while "Yakety Sax" played.
Like most cognizant life forms, Helen Steel and David Morris think McDonald's food is pretty shitty. Unlike most cognizant life forms, however, when these environmental activists dislike a meal, they don't simply avoid the restaurant in the future: They make libelous photocopies and hand them out while standing in front of said restaurant, presumably because Yelp wouldn't be invented for another couple of decades.
Deciding that the best way to counter claims made by two isolated hippies with a copy machine -- claims that McDonald's was an underhanded company that operated unethically -- McDonald's allegedly hired private investigators to infiltrate Greenpeace and possibly even rob their office. When the case finally went to court, it looked open and shut, especially when the "McLibel Two" chose to represent themselves -- the legal equivalent of calling in sick to work because the dog ate your pants. However, despite staring down a billion dollar legal clusterfuck with nothing but good vibes and a dislike for processed chicken "meat," the pair held their own.
"We're English. Nothing they do to us could be worse than January."
The couple turned the proceedings into the longest libel case in English legal history, lasting a whopping 20 years. McDonald's spent millions in legal fees over a span of decades and eventually, finally, agreed to drop the case under the condition that the couple only criticizes McDonald's to their friends from then on. Seeing a potential end to a pointless lifelong legal battle, the couple jumped at the offer. Oh no, wait, they told the corporation that they'd agree to the terms if McDonald's agreed to only advertise to their friends as well.
Jesus, we hate it when they forget the free toy in the Happy Meal, too, guys, but maybe it's not worth an entire generation of court battles?
"When the Hamburglar kills us, our children will continue the fight."
McDonald's eventually prevailed, winning a 40,000-pound settlement. This would've been good news, if they hadn't already spent 10 million pounds and 20 years to get it. Still, though, it's a matter of principle: McDonald's won, and we're sure they put that money to good use. Or they would have, if the couple didn't then refuse to pay up. The pair later successfully sued Scotland Yard for unlawfully disclosing details of the case, and actually managed to come out 10,000 pounds ahead.
The lesson here being: If you want to sue someone, make sure they have something better to do with their time.
Oh, by the way, they're still doing it today.