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The real danger: libel laws

Reader comment on item: [Douglas Card and] My Day in Court

Submitted by Irfan Khawaja (United States), Dec 7, 2004 at 15:33

This story is yet another proof that the libel laws should simply be thrown out. If I spread falsehoods about someone, the falsehoods can only harm him if the falsehoods are believed. (Example: If I spread the rumor that Daniel Pipes is really part of a conspiracy based on the planet Neptune, who will that harm--him or me?) But if the harm in a false rumor comes from its being believed (not its falsity per se), why not sue everyone who believes it? The proposterousness of that last outcome shows the preposterousness of the very idea of libel laws. What a waste of time, effort and resources!

Even in this case, who believes that the legal procedure has led to the truth's coming out? For all we actually know, Card could really espouse the beliefs he once espoused, and for all we know, Pipes and Schanzer are not authentically convinced of his retraction. (Pipes very carefully says, "Mr Schanzer and I *said* we were convinced...." That doesn't mean they were convinced in the usual, colloquial sense of that word; it means that they were sufficiently convinced for legal purposes so that the case would be dropped.) The whole thing is a pointless charade. Or rather it has one and only clear purpose: it puts money in the pockets of the lawyers.

Imagine a person who (unlike Pipes and Schanzer) doesn't have the wherewithal to hire a good private attorney, and (unlike Card) doesn't have access to pro-bono representation. If he's accused of libel, what is he supposed to do? Go bankrupt?

Pipes is wrong that "free speech" is alive and well. He only says that because he happened to win this case. And he happened to win it because he's probably got a good attorney. Not true for the rest of us.
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