"IT IS IMPORTANT NOT TO SILENCE COMMUNICATION on the Internet, but it is just as important not to silence victims of defamation," writes lawprof Betsy Malloy in an article flagged by Stephen Bainbridge. When someone says free speech is "important" but something else is "just as important," I get edgy. One cancels out the other and then what have you got? Like Bainbridge, I want a high standard to be met before a court can force an ISP to disclose the real name of an anonymous or pseudonymous blogger or commenter. So much damage can be done by the mere unmasking. It is all too tempting to file a lawsuit to punish someone who's pissed you off. And, of course, victims of defamation are not "silenced" if they can't sue. What a disaster if we think of the courthouse as our primary speech forum! If someone's speech on the internet offends you, you can always talk back on the internet. Silence may nevertheless be the best choice, even if you're used to jabbering endlessly on line. I'm frequently defamed on the internet, but I do what I can to avoid amplifying the attacker's speech by reacting to it. There are times when I put my revenge in writing in a blog post and get that cursor right up to the "publish" button and then stop and remember what my mother used to say: "You'll only encourage him."
"CINDY MCCAIN, LIKE OTHERS, STANDS BY MAN." Ridiculous AP headline.
MICHELLE OBAMA — RETROGRADE AMERICAN WIFE, old-style leftist, affirmative action neurotic, or something else that I'm not even going to mention? Bob Wright and Mickey Kaus debate. The moose is deployed, and Mickey worries that he's trafficking in stereotypes.
PSST, MEGAN. Stuff like this has been around for ages.
TNR REPORTS ON THE NYT: "The publication of the article [on John McCain] capped three months of intense internal deliberations at the Times over whether to publish the negative piece and its most explosive charge about the affair. It pitted the reporters investigating the story, who believed they had nailed it, against executive editor Bill Keller, who believed they hadn't. It likely cost the paper one investigative reporter, who decided to leave in frustration. And the Times ended up publishing a piece in which the institutional tensions about just what the story should be are palpable." Lots of detail at the linked article.
February 21, 2008
Repeated here for your commenting pleasure: