Last year, a photo of a teenager at a party in Sydney went viral because of his mullet/ponytail combo haircut. Ali Ziggi Mosslmani, known as “Ziggy”, filed defamation suits against the Daily Mail, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and the Australian Radio Network for publishing the photograph and making fun of his extreme haircut, which was shaved at the front and long at the back.
The judge found that the reportage did not constitute defamation – in that they weren’t necessarily defaming him, and it was clear the “endless stream of hilarious memes featuring the teenager’s mullet” were about the mullet itself and not the bloke.
In his judgement, Judge Gibson said “The publication goes on to say that the photograph has generated 11,415 comments, 10,000 likes and 1.7m views, which suggests that the hairstyle has its fans and opponents, but is not indicative of ugliness; to the contrary, 10,000 people pressed the ‘like’ button,”.
It is Mosslmani’s claims about what the media organisations implied that make for interesting reading. Mosslmani claimed that:
- (i) That the plaintiff, by reason of permitting himself to be photographed with a mullet hairstyle, has justifiably exposed himself to ridicule by the defendant.
- (ii) That the plaintiff, by reason of permitting himself to be photographed with a mullet hairstyle, has justifiably exposed himself to ridicule by the public.
- (iii) That the plaintiff, by reason of his mullet hairstyle, has justifiably exposed himself to ridicule by the defendant.
- (iv) That the plaintiff, by reason of his mullet hairstyle, has justifiably exposed himself to ridicule by the public.
- (v) The plaintiff is a joke.
- (vi) The plaintiff is a ridiculous person.
- (vii) The plaintiff is a ridiculous person because he wears a controversial haircut.
Judge Gibson said Mosslmani’s case was “overpleaded” and appeared to be designed to “claim as many imputations as possible while simultaneously avoiding a defence of honest opinion or justification”.
Essentially what all this means is that the statement of claim from the plaintiff was excessive: many of the things he claimed in his original complaint were not valid, or had been overclaimed.
Hence, “Ziggi” was forced to pay the costs of the defendants filing their application, and had to submit another claim without the problematic claims. It can still go in front of a jury. Basically, ridiculing a mullet isn’t in and of itself worthy of a defamation lawsuit, and Mosslmani would have to resubmit on different grounds.
Read the entire judgement HERE.