A Better Way to Ban Alex Jones

“Hate speech” is extraordinarily vague and subjective. Libel and slander are not.

.. Most appallingly, he has insisted that these grieving families were faking their pain: “I’ve looked at it and undoubtedly there’s a cover-up, there’s actors, they’re manipulating, they’ve been caught lying and they were preplanning before it and rolled out with it.”
.. Rather than applying objective standards that resonate with American law and American traditions of respect for free speech and the marketplace of ideas, the companies applied subjective standards that are subject to considerable abuse. Apple said it “does not tolerate hate speech.” Facebook accused Mr. Jones of violating policies against “glorifying violence” or using “dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants.” YouTube accused Mr. Jones of violating policies against “hate speech and harassment.”
.. In the name of stopping hate speech, university mobs have turned their ire not just against alt-right figures like Milo Yiannopoulos and Richard Spencer, but also against the most mainstream of conservative voices, like Ben Shapiro and Heather Mac Donald.
Dissenting progressives aren’t spared, either. Just ask Evergreen State College’s Bret Weinstein, who was hounded out of a job after refusing to participate in a “day of absence” protest in which white students and faculty members were supposed to leave campus for the day to give students and faculty members of color exclusive access to the college.
.. The far better option would be to prohibit libel or slander on their platforms.
.. Unlike “hate speech,” libel and slander have legal meanings. There is a long history of using libel and slander laws to protect especially private figures from false claims. It’s properly more difficult to use those laws to punish allegations directed at public figures, but even then there are limits on intentionally false factual claims.

s Trump has already authored his own tell-all

Trump is damaged most, not by sabotage, but by self-revelation.

.. The president has recently taunted FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for “racing the clock to retire with full benefits,”

  1. attacked the “Deep State Justice Department,” taken credit for the lack of commercial airline crashes,
  2. urged“Jail!” for former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, called for the sacking of two journalists,
  3. claimed the news media will eventually “let me win” reelection to keep up their ratings,
  4. displayed a sputtering inability to describe his own health-care reform plan,
  5. claimed that a cold snap disproves global warming,
  6. boasted of having “a much bigger & more powerful” nuclear button than Kim Jong Un,
  7. tried to prevent the publication of Wolff’s book,
  8. and insisted he is “like, really smart” and “a very stable genius.”

.. More likely, Trump is exhibiting a set of compulsions and delusions that have characterized his entire adult life. You can’t have declining judgment that never existed. You can’t lose a grasp on reality you never possessed. What is most striking is not Trump’s disintegration but his utter consistency.

.. If the secret tape of a president threatening a private citizen with jail were leaked, it would be a scandal. With Trump, it is just part of his shtick.

.. The president’s defenders, in perpetual pursuit of the bright side, argue for the value of unpredictability in political leadership — which is true enough. But Trump is not unpredictable. He is predictable in ways that make him vulnerable to exploitation.

He is easy to flatter, easy to provoke and thus easy to manipulate.

.. The Chinese have made an art of this

.. “I like very much President Xi,” Trump has said. “He treated me better than anybody’s ever been treated in the history of China.” Contrast this with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has treated Trump like an adult with arguments and criticism. Big mistake.

.. Trump has revealed a thick streak of authoritarianism. “I have [an] absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department,” he insists.

  • .. “Libel laws are very weak in this country,”
  • Rivals are not only to be defeated; they should be imprisoned.
  • Critics are not to be refuted; they should be fired.
  • Investigations are not to be answered; they should be shut down.

.. we are depending on the strength of those institutions, not the self-restraint of the president, to safeguard democracy.

.. At the beginning, they could engage in wishful thinking about Trump’s fitness. Now they must know he is not emotionally equipped to be president. Yet, they also know this can’t be admitted, lest they be accused of letting down their partisan team.

.. GOP leaders are engaged in an intentional deception, pretending the president is a normal and capable leader.

.. they will, eventually, be exposed. And by then, the country may not be in a forgiving mood.

 

After Trump Seeks to Block Book, Publisher Hastens Release

Through a long career in real estate and entertainment, Mr. Trump has repeatedly threatened lawsuits against authors, journalists and others who angered him, but often has not followed through, and it was unclear whether he would in this case.

.. Mr. Wolff did not reply to a request for comment, but on Wednesday night said by email that he was “wholly comfortable with my numerous sources.”

.. Most presidents have avoided legal confrontations over unflattering publications out of fear of giving them more publicity and promoting sales, but it is not unprecedented. Former President Jimmy Carter, shortly after leaving the White House, threatened to sue The Washington Post over a gossip column item asserting that his administration had bugged Blair House, the government guest quarters, while Nancy and Ronald Reagan stayed there before the 1981 inauguration. The Post retracted the item and Mr. Carter dropped the matter.

.. Charles J. Harder, the president’s lawyer, has represented Mrs. Trump and other high-profile figures in cases against the news media. Based in Beverly Hills, Calif., he won Hulk Hogan’s landmark invasion-of-privacy case against Gawker Media and until recently represented Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood mogul.

.. Mr. Harder threatened to sue The New York Times over an article documenting sexual harassment by Mr. Weinstein. But Mr. Harder no longer represents Mr. Weinstein, and no lawsuit has been filed.

.. In an author’s note, Mr. Wolff writes that many of the accounts that he collected “are in conflict with one another; many, in Trumpian fashion, are baldly untrue.” He said he sometimes “let the players offer their versions, in turn allowing the reader to judge them,”

.. Mr. Harder cited no specific statements that he judged untrue.

.. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain denied suggesting to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, that British intelligence might have spied on Mr. Trump’s campaign.

.. Asked on Thursday for examples of potentially libelous inaccuracies in the book, Ms. Sanders cited only an anecdote in which Mr. Trump seemed not to recognize the name of former Speaker John A. Boehner

Trump’s lawyer: Comments about sexual harassment accusers shouldn’t be judged literally

Kasowitz also argued that Zervos’s complaint should be dismissed because her original allegations against Trump were not true and, in addition, because Trump’s campaign-trail statements were protected by the First Amendment. A certain level of hyperbole is to be expected in the heat of a political campaign, he wrote, and such statements are legally protected speech.

During the campaign, Trump said the women who accused against him of inappropriately touching them were putting forward “made-up stories and lies” and “telling totally false stories.” Kasowitz argued those statements and others could not be considered defamatory but instead were “nothing more than heated campaign rhetoric designed to persuade the public audience that Mr. Trump should be elected president irrespective of what the media and his opponents had claimed over his 18-month campaign.”

.. But he’s making a legal argument that Trump’s comments should be held to a different standard because he was a candidate for office. Basically, he’s trying to move the bar for defamation higher, even if Trump’s comments were inaccurate. Which, again, he’s saying they’re not.

.. In effect, he wants Trump’s words to be taken seriously, not completely literally.

.. Trump’s comments about his female accusers, it bears noting, often went far beyond just saying they made up the stories. He called them “horrible, horrible liars” and called one of them a “crazy woman.” He repeatedly seemed to suggest they weren’t attractive enough for him to have done the things they accused him of. “You take a look. Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don’t think so,” he said. He urged supporters to look up another woman’s Facebook page and said she “would not be my first choice.”

Murray Energy seeks gag order against John Oliver

The CEO of America’s largest privately owned coal company wants to silence HBO host John Oliver while a lawsuit he brought against the comedian makes its way through court.

Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corp., sued Oliver for defamation earlier this month after Oliver mocked the coal company on his show, “Last Week Tonight.”

According to the Daily Beast, Murray’s lawyers filed a motion in Marshall County Circuit Court in West Virginia on June 28, asking the judge to bar HBO from re-airing the June 18 episode of Oliver’s show, and to prevent the comedian and the other defendants (including the show’s writers) from discussing the lawsuit in public.

 .. Murray Energy Corp. has a history of issuing lawsuits against the media, including a recent one against the New York Times for defamation.

Trump’s Italian Prototype

But the most important – and the most worrying – qualities they share is an ability to substitute salesmanship for substance, a willingness to tell bald-faced lies in pursuit of publicity and advantage, and an eagerness to intimidate critics into silence.

Berlusconi’s policy platforms, even his fundamental ideology, have always lacked consistency. During his successful campaigns, he said whatever it took to win votes; during his three terms in office, he used the same tactic to form coalitions. His only agenda was to protect or advance his own business interests.

.. Berlusconi’s greatest successes – especially during his 2001-2006 and 2008-2011 terms (he also served in 1994-1995) – lay in the manipulation of media and public opinion.

.. He somehow lulled Italians into believing that all was well in their economy and society, even in the wake of the 2008 global economic crisis, when plainly it was not. Under his leadership, Italy lost many years when its government should have been pursuing critical reforms.

.. How did Berlusconi achieve this? For the most part, he used the joke, the lie, and the smile. When that didn’t work, he resorted to bullying, including through libel suits.

.. In fact, few media tycoons – Berlusconi owns Italy’s main commercial television channels and several daily newspapers (either directly or through his family) – have ever been as freewheeling in their use of libel litigation to silence journalists and other critics.

.. (Full disclosure: As Editor of The Economist, I was the target of two libel suits by Berlusconi.)

.. All of these tactics are in Trump’s inventory. Trump is aggressive with his opponents, especially in the media. Throughout his business career, he has frequently invoked libel laws. If he wins the presidency, he has said, he will seek to control media criticism. And yet his essential message is optimistic, delivered with a joke and a big smile.

.. What is important is that both Trump and Berlusconi are ruthless and willing to resort to any means to achieve their (self-serving) ends.

 .. The only way to avoid Berlusconi-level disaster – or worse – is to continue criticizing him, exposing his lies, and holding him to account for his words and actions, regardless of the insults or threats he throws at those who do.

Can Libel Laws Be Changed Under Trump?

There is also the possibility that loosening libel laws could affect him in unexpected ways.

“Changing the laws to make it easier to sue would essentially be used to harm him,” said George Freeman, the executive director of the Media Law Resource Center and a former assistant general counsel of The New York Times. “He’s more likely to be a libel defendant than a libel plaintiff.”