Land of the Free to Be Ignorant and Ridiculous


Image: talkingpointsmemo.com

Image: aslkingpointsmemo.com

In the spirit of refueling, I downloaded an app with Dutch news from different media. And right away an article in Elsevier caught my eye.

It’s about a Muslim school in the town of Zaandam, that sued four parents of former students for slander and libel. The parents falsely accused the school of being a “terrorist school” with ties to Fethullah Gülen, the exiled Turkish founder of the Gülen Movement.

The Turkish government has placed Gülen on a most-wanted-terrorist list, but there is no evidence that he is involved in any terrorist activity. The judge ruled that the parents couldn’t spread rumors that the school was a terrorist school, but they could say that the school had ties to Gülen, because it does.

America has libel laws as well. Trump actually said, in February of this year, that he wants to open up the libel laws, so it would be easier for him to sue the media and “get lots of money”.

So I read up on defamation law (okay I googled it and read a Wiki article), and this is how I understand it: Apart from the fact that the libel laws vary per state, there are three reasons why it’s harder to sue for libel in the US than in most European countries. Freedom of speech is pretty much unconditional, the plaintiff has to prove that the libelist knew the claim wasn’t true, and the Supreme Court forbids libel claims “for statements that are so ridiculous as to be patently false”.

This explains everything. You have the first amendment right to tell lies, and the more ridiculous your lies are, the better, and all you have to do if someone manages to sue you anyway is say you didn’t have a clue what you were talking about: “What can I say, Judge? I’ve got shit for brains.”

So the more idiotic the lie, and the more ignorant the person spewing them, the more likely the situation continues unchecked. And if people hear something often enough, they start believing it. This explains America’s abundance of conspiracy theories, it explains the birthers, it explains Fox “News” and right-wing talk show hosts, and it certainly explains Trump.

Well. I’m not sure this Dutch news app aids in refueling as much as it perpetuates the trauma of having emigrated to this place.

2 responses to “Land of the Free to Be Ignorant and Ridiculous

  1. And Pres. Ronald Reagan’s administration eliminating the Fairness Doctrine didn’t help much either.

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