Posted by: Debby Durkee | March 3, 2010

Libel tourism’s assault on our freedoms.

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Libel tourism’s assault on our freedoms.

Is the American right to free speech in the process of being infringed upon by those in other countries? The relatively new phenomenon of libel tourism can affect not just prominent Americans, but any Joe Blow down the street with a blog. This is from an editorial in the Arizona Republic.

Constitutionalists are becoming increasingly concerned about “libel tourism,” a legal phenomenon that allows foreign nationals to sue Americans for libel, first through the courts of a foreign country, then in U.S. courts.

One of the most prominent potential U.S. victims of “libel tourism” is M. Zuhdi Jasser of Tempe, an outspoken Muslim critic of Islamic fundamentalists worldwide.

A Saudi Arabia citizen criticized by Jasser on the activist’s Web site has threatened a libel suit against him in Great Britain, where libel is much more favorable to plaintiffs than in the United States. Jasser is concerned the wealthy Saudi could pursue a successful judgment from a London court in this country.

“It’s nerve-wracking because we’re not a billion-dollar non-profit,” said Jasser, who directs the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.

In fact, there are several recent examples in which Americans who either published books sold overseas or simply commented on the Internet have been pursued legally here as a result of judgments against them in other countries.

… Freelance writer Joe Sharkey, who writes a business-travel column for the New York Times, is being sued by the nation of Brazil, which contends he libeled the entire country when he wrote on the Internet about surviving a midair collision over the Amazon. Snip –

The investigation into the crash blamed Brazilian air-traffic controllers. Sharkey had the audacity to report those findings. Brazil claims Sharkey insulted Brazil and therefore every citizen. Good grief, if Americans sued every time our country was insulted, we’d all be bazillionaires! The Times has hired a lawyer for him.

Not all defendants against this modern-age assault on free speech have such deep-pocket defenders. As such, several states – including California, Florida, Illinois and New York – have passed legislation to protect U.S. citizens against foreign defamation suits.  Snip –

Federal legislation to address this problem has been sponsored by Sen. Arlen Specter, D-PA. Wow, every now and then old Arlen does a good thing. Arizona has also introduced a bill that would prohibit state courts from recognizing claims originating in foreign countries whose speech protections are inferior to ours.

We live in an age in which ideas and arguments fly across the globe almost instantly.

As Americans, we hold the right to express those ideas and arguments as unalienable. Assaults on those rights, like “libel tourism,” tell us just how rare, and fragile, they are.

The attempts to tear down our rights aren’t just being pursued from the left in this country, but from radicals in other countries. Radicals like to use our freedoms against us. They find weak spots in our system and exploit them. Vigilance is the proper role of a free citizen whether that freedom is threatened from within or without. Read it all here: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/opinions/articles/2010/03/02/20100302tue1-02.html

American exceptionalism under assault.

Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review have penned an excellent essay on American Exceptionalism and where conservatives fit in that ideal. Conservatives want to save that aspect of America, while liberals don’t seem to believe it at all, and that is why the battle is so fierce politically at the present. Here’s just a bit.

What do we, as American conservatives, want to conserve? The answer is simple: the pillars of American exceptionalism. Our country has always been exceptional. It is freer, more individualistic, more democratic, and more open and dynamic than any other nation on earth. These qualities are the bequest of our Founding and of our cultural heritage. They have always marked America as special, with a unique role and mission in the world: as a model of ordered liberty and self-government and as an exemplar of freedom and a vindicator of it, through persuasion when possible and force of arms when absolutely necessary.

The survival of American exceptionalism as we have known it is at the heart of the debate over Obama’s program. It is why that debate is so charged. In his first year, Obama tried to avoid the cultural hot buttons that tripped up Bill Clinton and created the “gays, guns, and God” backlash of 1994. But he has stoked a different type of cultural reaction. The level of spending, the bailouts, and the extent of the intervention in the economy contemplated in health-care and cap-and-trade legislation have created the fear that something elemental is changing in the country. At stake isn’t just a grab bag of fiscal issues, but the meaning of America and the character of its people: the ultimate cultural issue.

You can read it all here: http://nrd.nationalreview.com/article/?q=M2FhMTg4Njk0NTQwMmFlMmYzZDg2YzgyYjdmYjhhMzU=

More on our American rights and the voice they give to our American exceptionalism. National Review Online has sponsored a symposium on American exceptionalism. This is just a tidbit from contributor Matthew Spalding, who wrote that brilliant essay on progressivism that was featured on this blog here: https://politicallyempowered.wordpress.com/2010/02/02/lefts-overreach-inspires-return-of-the-founders/

In this political moment — this teaching moment — we must reclaim America’s exceptionalism as a nation based on an idea. To do so we must reconnect the good sense of the American people to the principles of the American Founding. Not as a matter of mere history, but as the source of permanent truths — truths that deny the progressive argument and challenge its project for our country.

You can read more of what Spalding has to say about American exceptionalism here: http://article.nationalreview.com/426714/what-makes-us-so-special/nro-symposium?page=3

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Responses

  1. Debby, your first article is just downright scary. I’m not a big one for government to get involved with many aspects of our lives but most Americans would agree that this one would be the right thing for them to defend be it state, federal of both.

  2. Yes, Beth, it’s called “prior restraint” — the ability to shut you up before you say anything (out of fear). And, this is directly against our First Amendment rights.


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