No, Filing A Defamation Lawsuit Is Never The Only Way You Can Clear Your Name
from the do-people-not-realize-this dept
The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple (who, for reasons I’ve never understood, always refers to himself as “The Erik Wemple Blog,” which is really annoying for readers), had a truly bizarre article recently about Devin Nunes’ defamation lawsuit against CNN, in which Wemple suggests that maybe this Nunes lawsuit is “halfway decent.” It is not. As we discussed in our own post about the lawsuit, this one may be his worst one yet and has little chance of surviving.
Still, what I found most bizarre about the Wemple piece, is that includes this truly ridiculous paragraph:
There are those who believe that a courtroom is the appropriate place to feud about alleged dairy secrets. ?Kudos to Congressman Nunes for utilizing the court system to vindicate his reputation,? wrote defamation attorney Elizabeth Locke of Clare Locke LLP in an email (before the filing of the CNN suit). ?In the United States, a defamation action that seeks monetary damages is the only remedy available to those who have been defamed. We should be celebrating, not disparaging, those who use the courts to resolve their disputes.?
If you recognize the name of that lawyer, Elizabeth Locke, or her firm, Clare Locke, it might be because we wrote about them last year, in highlighting how the firm and Elizabeth in particular have truly bizarre views on free speech, support making libel laws more stringent, and the firm specializes in intimidating journalists and news organizations to kill stories about important and wealthy people.
Even leaving that aside, Locke’s quote is just so out of touch with reality. A defamation lawsuit is “the only remedy” to those who have been defamed? Bullshit. How about just proving the defamer wrong? We live in an age when anyone can publish, and so if someone has said something false about you, you don’t need to run to court and make use of the power of the state to try to correct the record. You can do so yourself.
Defamation law was originally designed in a time when there really was little recourse if, say, a newspaper defamed you. They controlled the media channel, and an ordinary person would have little direct recourse to present their side of the story. But that’s not true any more thanks to the internet. On the internet, if someone says something false about you, rather than going through an expensive and wasteful defamation lawsuit and tying up the court system, you can just go on the internet and tell your side of the story. If you do it well (and people can help you do this for a mere fraction of what a pricey defamation lawyer will cost you), you can have a much more effective “recourse” to the defamation. You get your side out there much faster and more thoroughly, and the court of public opinion can determine who is right. If you present your case compellingly, whoever defamed you will end up having their own credibility and reputation hurt.
All of that works entirely without resorting to the court system and the frequently abused system of defamation law, which Nunes has been using to intimidate journalists, political rivals, and critics. The fact that a newspaper like the Washington Post would quote Locke without pointing out how what’s she saying is utter nonsense is disappointing. Given Locke’s history of trying to threaten various news sources, it’s a shame that the Washington Post would even consider her a valid subject for a quote — at least without qualifying the statement.