Thoughts on Revisiting New York Times v. Sullivan

I appreciate George’s thoughtful post on Justice Gorsuch’s view that the framework of New York Times v. Sullivan may facilitate the spread of falsehood. I have a handful of questions but few solutions. First, it strikes me that the problem is less the Sullivan standard than the subsequent cases that expanded its coverage from public officials to increasingly hazy categories of public figures. For reasons I suggest below, I do not see libel law as a viable means of ensuring that actual public officials–or aspirants to office–are spoken about truthfully. I would like to hear more about how the “actual … Continue reading Thoughts on Revisiting New York Times v. Sullivan

The Case Against Funding Local Journalism

This column by Brian Klaas of The Washington Post correctly diagnoses a malady of contemporary republicanism—the decline of local journalism and the rise of celebrity politics at the national level—but prescribes a perilous treatment: public subsidies. Klaas correctly notes that Americans trust local media more but pay attention to it less. But there is something worse than a continued erosion of local reporting: local reporting dictated, or substantially influenced, by government. It’s a bad idea for the same reason James Madison said public funding of religion was a bad idea. In his “Memorial and Remonstrance,” Madison had this to say … Continue reading The Case Against Funding Local Journalism

The Problem with Symbolic Legislation

This essay by Ronald J. Krotoszynski Jr. makes the relatively uncontroversial point that the laws recently passed in Idaho and Oklahoma banning the teaching of critical race theory in public colleges and universities are unconstitutional. Both a veritable mountain of Supreme Court precedent along with constitutional common sense suggest that this would be the case. A serious commitment to public education is simply incompatible with legislation that directs what can and cannot be taught. Although Krotoszynski cites a long history of Supreme Court precedent suggesting that’s the case, I think most of us would know this simply by consulting our … Continue reading The Problem with Symbolic Legislation

George Will on Free Speech and Conservative Media

George F. Will has this column out today on a transparent attempt by Democratic members of Congress to intimidate media outlets that, in his words, “distribute conservative content, or what nowadays passes for that.” Will’s conclusion is key: Disinformation is fundamentally a problem of consumption rather than supply. There is a point at which a people incapable of—or worse, uninterested in—distinguishing truth from fiction lacks the modicum of virtue that James Madison said self-government requires. If that is the case, the problem is far deeper than partisan or even extremist information ecosystems. Suppressing them would not help even if doing … Continue reading George Will on Free Speech and Conservative Media

Religion, Politics, and Double Standards

The New York Times and Washington Post ran admiring profiles this weekend of Rev. Raphael Warnock, the Baptist preacher running for the U.S. Senate in Georgia. Warnock, who sits in Martin Luther King Jr.’s pulpit at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, is an impressive figure who rose from poverty to earn a doctorate in theology. He went on from there to a successful pastoral career. The profiles, which document how Warnock has preached on issues from health care to criminal justice reform in the pulpit while taking his religious values to the campaign trail, show why Warnock has become a political force. … Continue reading Religion, Politics, and Double Standards