JKSCHW at aol.com JKSCHW at aol.com
Wed Mar 15 08:08:43 PST 2000

All of this, going back to past debates on free speech, is why I go for

absolutist positions on free speech, defending Nazis et al, since one of the

hardest fought victories in US politics has been the elimination of most

criminal and civil threats to unpopular speech. "Free speech" may not be

the ideal when broadcasting it costs so much, but it is far better than the

libel and other laws in Europe that do little to suppress rightwing

attitudes (see Haider in Austria), but is used quite regularly to suppress

left dissent as in this case. And I say that not agreeing with LM's

political position on the former Yugoslavia. I agree with Nathan again. I am using up my quota. British libel laws are an infamous disgrace and this case shows why--again, I am with Nathan on that it makes no difference that I think LM is off the wall on the wars in former Yugo and many other issues. However, it would be awful if it were demolished because it supported its political position with a statement that might have been careless and false (or maybe not,who knows). American libel law is much better since the Warren court cosntitutionalized it--see Anthony Lewis' fine book, Make No Law, about New York Times v. Sullivan, the key case in that line. (We miss you, Justice Brennan!)

All that said, there are parts of American first amendment doctrine that are not so great, notably the rule that speech is money and so campaign expendiutures cannot be limited, see Buckey v. Vallejo. I am not sure Nathan would disagree that this is bad law.

The libel law and campaign expenditures doctrines are distinct from each other and distinct from the Brandenburg v Ohio doctrine that underlies the right of Nazis (and Commies) to advocate illegal conduct. You could keep Sulllivan and drop Brandenburg, but you shouldn't.


* * *

Despite the general rightwing swing of the US courts, broad free speech

protections, including limits on libel and other civil attacks on free

speech and press, have largely survived in the courts. There are few areas

where US law is far superior to other countries, but our press laws are one

of them.

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list