Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Libel suits & Unintended Consequences

Going through the various thoughtful and erudite comments regarding freedom of speech certain practical conclusions can be drawn.

1) One has total freedom of speech if no one cares what you say

2) Anonymous statements and blogs are much freer and safer than those blogs or media in which the author is known. This is because there is a major barrier to first identifying the person you might want to sue.

3) Comments that are clearly seen by the average person as motivated totally to hurt another are much more readily restricted than those that are possibly motivated by good or neutral intentions.

4) Comments made about rich and powerful people are more risky than about someone who has no money and is not influential.

5) Free speech is much more likely to be allowed if the attempts to suppress it leads to a more negative view of the focus of the comments than the comments itself.

7) Free speech is more likely if the publicity around the attempt to suppress it brings to light negative information that is more harmful to the person's reputation than the original claims.

8) Newspapers and other public media are much safer places to express views which are critical of others. While the blogs are very accessible and cost nothing to express views - they are completely vulnerable to extortion of those who have the time and money to sue or at least threaten to sue.

In view of the above, it would seem that if the issues recently suppressed were picked up by newspapers or anonymous blogs, the likelihood of free speech being suppressed would be much less. The fear of antagonizing a newspaper - because of the negative publicity that would be generated and uncovered - would minimize the likelihood of attack and also would minimize the likelihood of successfully suppressing the view. In addition the newspaper has the resources that would make any attack a financially costly and uncertain enterprise

It is ironic that the recipients of the greatest benefit from this situation are Rabbi Tropper and Thomas Kaplan. It is also interesting that the issues being criticized were introduced by the R' Tropper's ardent defender - Roni. The person who precipitated the present situation will must likely find that it has become a tar baby. A classic case of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

1 comment :

  1. Tar Baby-

    Although the term's provenance arose in African folklore, some Americans now consider "tar baby" to have negative connotations revolving around negative images of African-Americans.

    In recent years, several politicians who have publicly used the term have encountered some controversy, mocking, and censure from African-American civil rights leaders, members of the popular daily media, and other politicians.

    In an interview, Toni Morrison said "Tar Baby is also a name, like 'nigger,' that white people call black children, black girls, as I recall…."

    Could become more controversial than the name of the "Boys from Brazil".


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