Earlier, by Peter Brimelow: The Sin Of SULLIVAN: Why Donald Trump, Tulsi Gabbard and I Are Suing For Libel
Once upon a time, a Southern police commissioner named L. B. Sullivan had sued the almighty New York Times for running an ad, 'Heed Their Rising Voices,' that he said defamed him.
The Supreme Court famously ruled that the New York Times was protected by the First Amendment—even if they had defamed Sullivan.
Naturally, the status of the parties largely drove the result in this case, as it did so many pro-journalism cases. Would a defamation case by a "civil rights" figure against a southern segregationist have fared the same?
Legal nuances—wait, isn't defamation a state law cause of action? How did it get into federal court? were brushed aside. The good guys won, and that's that.
Ben Stein wrote in the American Spectator in 1987 that
Twenty-six years ago a group of black clergymen placed an advertisement in the New York Times. It caused a trial for libel. The Supreme Court decided it on the basis of legal realism, i.e., who they liked better in the case, instead of on stare decisis. The result was a small lift for the civil rights movement, and a sweeping catastrophe for the legal rights of everyone outside the Inner Party of Mass Media.
Free to Libel | Reckless Disregard has a long history, February 1987
Today, defamation barely exists as a viable cause of action, which may or may not be something for journalists to celebrate. When people get the sense that others can be lied about with impunity by the press, doesn't press credibility suffer?
Now it seems that "misinformation" is the new defamation, and it's gaining ground as a weapon.
From the New York Times morning report:
5. Litigation represents a new front in the war against misinformation.
Fox Business canceled its highest-rated show, “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” on Friday after its host was sued as part of a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit by Smartmatic, a voting systems company. On Tuesday, the pro-Trump cable channel Newsmax cut off a guest’s rant about rigged voting machines.
The use of defamation suits has also raised questions about how to police a news media that counts on First Amendment protections. But one liberal lawyer said, “It’s gotten to the point where the problem is so bad right now there’s virtually no other way to do it.”
One question about "how to police a news media that counts on First Amendment protections" that isn't mentioned, of course, is whether we should allow suits against the New York Times or the Southern Poverty Law Center. (Listen to oral argument in Glen Allen's case against the SPLC here.)
So long as it's just Donald Trump and Lou Dobbs, sue away.
See, earlier, from VDARE.com (and donate to VDARE.com's Legal Defense Fund)