Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Libel

Well, seems like someone did not read my blog...Rush...calling civility the new censorship...and Pat Buchanan seeing "lynch mobs" in the criticism of uncivil discourse:(

And then there is Sarah Palin...clueless in a softball interview with Sean Hannity on Monday on Fox. She not only did not apologize or take back her comments about "blood libel", she defended them and made more mistakes. She said that the term meant a false accusation and was valid to use, even though the historical context was much greater. Two things are wrong with that: one is one of magnitude. Even if there was valid libel (which there is not) it is like calling a common handgun as a "weapon of mass destruction". Both can kill, but the capacity to do harm is vastly different...and it cheapens and waters down the term "mass destruction" to use it about a simple handgun. Likewise for her link to historical atrocities through the use of blood libel.

But beyond that she does not even seem to know the meaning of the word "libel". It is not, as she stated, merely a term for accusation. In legal terms there are three requirements to constitute and prove libel: falsehood, knowledge, and intent. First it must be a matter of fact, not opinion.To give one's opinion, however faulty it might be, is not libel. I think this is the biggest flaw in her argument. Second , even if it is facts that are gotten wrong it must be proven that the one saying (slander) or writing them (libel) knew that they were false. If you simply get a fact wrong, due to bad information that is not libel. And thirdly, there must be proven intent to defame or damage another's reputation or position in order to prove libel.

All these things are hard to prove and it is this way for the protection of free speech and for the free flow of ideas, opinions and, yes, criticisms when wrong is seen. It is more difficult to prove libel or slander when the case involves a public figure ..political or otherwise. Private individuals deserve more protection. Public figures have put their lives out there for all the world to see and so invite more criticism. The Palin's and Rush's and Hannity's of the world are such public figures and should not expect to be shielded from criticism.

And if Sarah Palin plans on running for higher office she had better not only develop a thicker skin, she must bone up on her basic vocabulary...or at least carefully read any speech she has written for her beofre she delivers it.

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