Nicholas Carroll

Defamation by Geographic Region

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This is a brief description of differences in defamation patterns between urban and rural areas. It is followed by an overview of areas of the U.S. that generate higher than usual traffic to web pages about defamation, or higher sales of the ebook Fighting Slander. All statements are made per-capita; that is, with the region measured against the overall population of the U.S.

Nicholas Carroll
May 5, 2013

Cities and Suburbs, and Rural Areas

Cities show lower rates of both website searches for defamation and ebook sales than suburbs or rural areas.

It is likely this has nothing to do with libel or slander, and everything to do with how people access information. For nearly two decades I've studied book ordering data across the U.S. and Canada – mail-order in the 1990s, and online ebook orders since the early 2000s – and city dwellers simply don't order as many books. Because I've given this intense study, I will call the reasons "probable."

Probable reasons:
1. Before online ordering, city people had much better access to books, and were less likely to order from a distance source. Nowadays ebooks are commonly understood ... yet visitors and orders are still higher from rural areas, which probably leads on to reason #2:

2. City people tend to operate under a belief – incorrect, I think – that because they live in a teeming mass of humans, presumably worldly and educated humans, they can pick up information simply by asking around. While I have my doubts about that belief, it stands in clear contrast to rural areas, where more thoughtful people are fully aware that they cannot get sound legal information at the local supermarket, bar, or feedlot.

Differing Types of Defamation in City/Suburbs and Rural Areas

When people order Fighting Slander from a city or suburb, it is occasionally education-industry related, whether K-12 or higher learning.

More often it comes under one of four categories:

1. Kook stuff. Vendettas within and against apartment complexes leading to the spreading of rumors about anything from child molesting to black mold. People who have attacked major-league kooks online, and been attacked online in return, or members of homeowners associations making mountains out of molehills.

2. Blue-collar workers being slandered, usually by managers or former managers. The victims' stories have the ring of truth (more on blue-collar defamation in the web page Defamation In the Workplace).

3. Child protective services. There is continual uproar from both parents and foster parents about negative comments that social workers write into case files, the social workers' legal theory being that since these documents are intended for court, or might conceivably end up in a courtroom, then they are protected from defamation lawsuits through the same "absolute privilege" enjoyed by prosecutors in a courtroom.

4. Small business squabbles. Dog training and dry cleaners, martial arts schools, real estate and restaurants stand out, with owners slandering their competiors in ways that move into complete lunacy. Dentists are attacked more often than doctors (for reasons unknown). This behavior is seen in highly competitive business sectors that overlap in geography, typically businesses seeking specialized clientele. We don't hear from florists, in part probably because there is not much tittilating criticism that can be made of a competitor, but also because they tend to to be geographically distributed in a way that does not lead to much competition. The same holds true for mainstream psychologists or local diners; there's not much to differentiate them, and you don't see gurus, disciples, or squabbles between the two.

Rural areas have those types of defamation, but there are notable other patterns of defamation:

1. Newcomers who move to their dream getaway in the country, with money, invest in local real estate, start a business, and soon become targets for the local power elite. Note that this doesn't happen to people who simply retire to the country with money – it's when they successfully do business within the area. They don't have to take business away from locals – merely succeeding can be insult enough to annoy locals. If the rural area becomes overrun with new people, then the political and/or economic base of the locals often erodes or disappears – but the first newcomers can have a hard time with rumor-mongering and political/bureaucratic interference with their business and their lives.

2. Local women who inherit land or a business in a rural area, and carry on doing business instead of selling it. I cannot say that their crime was failing to sell out at a loss; it's the act of their continuing to run the business – God forbid they actually grow the business – that seems to enrage the Good Old Boys.
     In theory this also happens to men who inherit businesses or land in rural areas, and I never hear from them because they take their licking without a whimper. I wouldn't buy that theory, since I've heard from plenty of women in that situation, but never a man.

Overview of Different Parts of the U.S.

Atlanta, Georgia

The suburbs and rural areas surrounding Atlanta, GA are one of the most concentrated sources of website visitors, and hands-down the source of the most sales of Fighting Slander per capita.

Possible reasons:
1. The Southern "culture of honor." Atlanta being an area that draws new people from all over the U.S., it is likely that people unfamiliar with Southern cultural mores overstep the line into what is considered unpardonable insult by native Georgians.

2. Oddly, though, a disproportionately high number of actual book orders are placed by people who have moved to the Atlanta area from elsewhere, usually from the North. It is possible that Northerners are more likely to think about legal action. Or that they are more likely to order a book, since the South has traditionally been known as a poor market for books. It is equally possible that although Northerners might not think in terms of "honor," they have less tolerance for the type of low-grade gossip that tends to exist in temperate climes. (This is no insult to Georgia; warmer areas in many parts of the world lend themselves to more social chit-chat than cold climes.)

Research Triangle, North Carolina

Research Triangle follows a pattern similar to Atlanta, probably for very much the same reasons.

Wisconsin and Minnesota

One thinks of these two states as mildly stiff-necked Midwesterners of German and Scandinavian ancestry, hardly the type to be slandering each other, or even making up tall tales. Yet they visit and order at higher rates than the national average.

Possible reason:
Midwesterners of German and Scandinavian descent (many or most of them Lutheran) may have the lowest tolerance for defamation of any culture in the U.S. An insult that might be shrugged off on the East or West coast might be intolerable in the WI/MN culture.

Southern California

A higher-than-average interest in defamation might seem either intuitive or counter-intuitive, depending on the reader's view of Southern California. Regardless, there is a high level of website traffic and book orders.

Possible reasons:
1. The California "mellow" personality tends to be a veneer. And despite the veneer of mellowness, Californians can remember a grudge as well as anyone. When coupled with "situation ethics" (a term expanded into pop psychology by the "me generation") one has a situation where people may be prone to take advantage without considering how they themselves would react.

2. Much of Southern California is part of the "Scammer's Triangle." (see below)

Seattle, Washington

Seattle and surrounding areas have a slight but noticeable prominence in both website traffic and orders for Fighting Slander (the latter being consistent with higher than usual sales of other legal guides over the last 15 years).

Possible reason:
Unknown. I've never figured this one out. Oddly, my publisher has noticed for 15 years that the greater Seattle area has a online order fraud rate about 40% higher than the national average (at odds with the sturdy pioneer image of the Pacific Northwest). I don't know if there's a meaningful correlation.

The "Scammer's Triangle"

The Scammer's Triangle is composed of the greater metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, CA (extending from the San Fernando Valley south to San Diego); Miami, FL (and the rest of Dade County); and New York City (including the New Jersey boroughs). These are all noted areas for online scams (and mail-order scams before the WWW took off). Scammers move in, set up a boiler-room operation, and when the area gets too hot, or the local law starts closing in on their operations, the scammers move on to the next area.

These areas are also notable for both high website traffic and orders for Fighting Slander.

Highly probable reasons:
1. The scammers themselves are not necessarily the cause of defamation; they are busy running their criminal enterprises and usually trying to keep a low profile. However they bring along less businesslike amateurs in their wake (often family members), and these people get into squabbles both locally and online.

(Many people are born and live out normal lives in these three areas, and are probably puzzled why criminals favor their cities. The answer is anonymity, I would guess; it's a lot easier to stay under your neighbors' radar in New York City than it is in Kansas City.)

2. Sheer coincidence. These areas that offer anonymity to criminals also happen to be areas that attract people with Instant Stardom ambitions, whether that happens to be Studio City or South Beach or the NYC restaurant scene.

Tentative notes on similar cities:
Denver, CO used to be a rest stop for scammers – a place to recuperate between a fast escape or a profitable haul. It now seems to be a minor scam center of its own, with the scammers often being people who intended to retire, but find they still enjoy the art of the scam – and being semi-retired, tend to scam locally, because they don't have the drive anymore to go national. Phoenix, AZ has come onto my radar in the last ten years, as has Las Vegas, NV. (While Las Vegas may have an international reputation as Sin City, to my knowledge we never hear from organized crime – it's amateur scammers and shysters who create most of the website traffic and book sales.)

Places We Rarely Hear From

Kansas City, MO. Des Moines, IA. Basically, the grain belt.



Democracy in America, Volume I and II. Alexis De Tocqueville.‎ University of Chicago Press, 2002.

The Nine Nations of North America. Joel Garreau.‎ Houghton Mifflin, 1981.

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America. Colin Woodard.‎ Penguin Books, 2012.

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