Oh, The Humanity

A friend pointed me to a carefully written, well-balanced article about the war and the left. It hurts that it is such a rare thing to see a journalist really consider an issue like this, with really legitimate pro and con arguments: is the suffering of war greater than, or less than, the suffering of the citizens of Iraq?

The author has a really good point: this is the one of the most difficult cases since Stalin– it’s not clear-cut like a lot of the others were. But you don’t see a lot of acknowledgement of complexity at all. Maybe I’m suffering from lone moderate syndrome, but I’m much more used to seeing the clueless sort of protestor. And what could be more evocative of current politics than a guy who chains himself to the wrong building?

Could be worse. You could be the Slut of Ronkonkoma.

Rummy Capone

MSNBC/Newsweek says “Donald Rumsfeld often quotes a line from Al Capone: ‘You will get more with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone.’” It’s a good point, really. But the problem is, we’ve been skimping on the “kind words” part…

Has anyone seen a credible critique of the Bush policy from the right? My feeling is that those who fail to line up 100% behind the prez are exiled and have their conservative credentials stripped, and that therefore, by definition, you can’t find one. But I’d like to see it. There’s a lot of people now who regard themselves as “balking hawks:” anti-Saddam, uncomfortable with unilateralism, distrustful of Bush, in favor of war only with UN backing, etc.

Libel, Slander, and You

What is it legal to write about other people? It varies, obviously, from country to country. US-wise, there’s a good libel and slander definition and backgrounder over at the Libel Defense Resource Center, as well as one with some international comments at the UH communications school.

The ‘Lectric Law Library has what appears to be a rather old British definition, including examples such as “denying the truth of the Christian religion” and defining it to be any insult which may provoke someone to revenge. Seems that libel law was originally designed to prevent feuds and duelling.

In the US, libel is defined as written defamation, and slander is spoken or gestured defamation. And what, pray tell, makes up defamation? For starters, the speaker or writer must know that the statement is untrue or at the very least have a “reckless disregard for the truth.” When made of public figures, defamatory statements are defined not just as knowingly false, but made with actual harmful intent, such as trying to screw someone out of a job, a raise, or an election.

What does that mean? Well, merely insulting or offending someone is not a crime. Telling the truth or stating an opinion is never a crime. In the case of a public figure, making an honest mistake or even a willing distortion is not a crime. It’s illegal to make false accusations about someone in order to get them fired. Conducting a smear campaign against a politician is a crime, provided that they are innocent and you know it. For example, it’s perfectly fine to accuse Bill Clinton of murdering dozens of people, as long as you have all the analytical skills of a pile of rocks.

My question: who’s a public figure these days?

Do Democrats Cause Cancer?

Not that I want to open the “Is Fox Biased” can of worms, but the Simpsons recently ran a really overt insult to Fox News: not just making fun of the channel, but running a news crawl with headlines like “Do Democrats Cause Cancer?” Why, asks Bill O’Reilly, is he so often labelled conservative? It’s more than Bill Moyers. He complains that he’s so often labelled, as a conservative or as a complete jerk, that it’s obvious bias. Well, maybe he’s labelled because he’s so adamant about it. Is Bill Moyers his equivalent liberal opposite? No, it’s Bill Maher (what is it with these guys named bill, anyway?). And trust me, Bill Maher is called a liberal blowhard just like Bill O’Reilly is called a right-wing blowhard. And that’s all I’m going to say about biased media.

Except that a woman who exposed lies published by Fox had her whistleblower case dismissed, becauseit’s perfectly legal to run a distorted, biased, and untruthful news agency. This is true: trust your sources. Because after all, freedom of speech means freedom to lie.

Speaking of freedom of the press, there’s a great autobiographical comic about one man’s relationship with pr0n. It begins, fittingly, when a friend finds a porno movie, and asks him, “Hey, wanna see two people doing it?” His obvious response: “Doing what?”