US Blogger Successfully Defends Libel Action

Journalist-blogger Richard Silverstein has won a libel suit, brought against him by a certain Rachel Neuwirth:

…She sued me for libel in Los Angeles Superior Court because I called her a “Kahanist swine.” Her claim was that this was the same as claiming she was a Jewish terrorist since Kahane Chai, Meir Kahane’s Israeli political party, is designated by the U.S. Treasury Department as a terrorist organization.

…We won the case with an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) motion under which the defendant must prove that his speech was made in a public arena and furthered a public good and that the plaintiff was a public figure. Rachel’s key argument was that she is a private figure (she argued that she was merely a real estate agent) and…my blog was a private forum (because I “controlled” it), all of which are patently false since she herself calls herself an “internationally respected journalist” in her online bio.

…Unfortunately, others have threatened me with similar lawsuits in the past and perhaps some will do so in future. I think we have taken a stand that such intimidation will be met with a firm defense of my First Amendment rights and those of all bloggers.

Alas, not all bloggers have “First Amendment rights” for the simple reason that we are not all American. Where I live, there is no “anti-SLAPP legislation”, and there is not even legislation recognizing that the public good requires the free and unhindered scrutiny of those who choose to involve themselves in public affairs. Several responsible UK bloggers in recent months have had either to edit or to remove posts due to bullying legal demands, and in one case blogs were pulled by their webhost at the behest of a controversial billionaire (click “Silencer of the Blogs” button on the right for further details). Interestingly, among those dishing out the threats is at least one supposed “libertartarian” – the blogger Paul Staines, whose attack on Pickled Politics is dicussed here.

Silverstein adds:

The judge understood the important of protecting speech on an issue as critical and controversial as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…


(Hat tip: Jews Sans Frontieres)