Sentinel under Siege: The Triumphs and Troubles of America's Free Press

By Stanley E. Flink | Go to book overview

22
LIBEL AND LIABILITY

I think it's important to give judges more power than they now have to impose costs on the loser. I wouldn't make it a rule the way it is in England, but I would move it away from what is known as the American rule which is that each side pays its own costs, including all legal costs, and at least give judges more power to conclude that a position taken by one side or the other, particularly in a First Amendment context, was so frivolous that what was really involved was an effort to suppress speech. And if the judge makes that finding, I think it's important that he have the power to make the party that has misbehaved pay.

-- Floyd Abrams, First Amendment authority; partner, Cahill, Gordon & Reindel, New York

The First Amendment issues regarding freedom of expression multiplied dramatically in the twentieth century; but serious unfinished business remains, and many new issues are forming in the regions of high technology. The always-uncertain line between public and private information -- indeed the very nature of privacy itself in a modern society -- could bring the subject of libel into the media arena more frequently as time goes by, and at greater cost until some basic changes are codified. The technologies of fax, computers, satellites, and fiber optics -- among, others -- will demand the attention of constitutional lawyers and lawmakers in determining where free expression ends and private business commences. What kind of information, conveyed by what kind of device, should have the protection of the First Amendment? By what means can offenders be held accountable for misinformation deliberately and maliciously communicated, and by what means can such misinformation be corrected?

If the information necessary to informed political discourse, and therefore to the "self-government" Alexander Meiklejohn has so eloquently canonized, is to include art and fiction, drama and "docudrama," and the normally private data made public because the electorate needs to know about the character of those who may or do govern, by what criteria do society

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Sentinel under Siege: The Triumphs and Troubles of America's Free Press
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - IN SEARCH OF A ROLE 5
  • 2 - THE PRESS AND THE LAW 18
  • 3 - MALICE WITHOUT WIT 29
  • 4 - POMP AND PROVENANCE 45
  • 5 - PRACTICING FREEDOM 70
  • 6 - THE LIMITS OF LIBERTY 78
  • 7 - CRAFTING A CONSTITUTION 87
  • 8 - SAFEGUARDING LIBERTY 95
  • 9 - ENLARGING THE FOURTH ESTATE 100
  • 10 - THE BLOODIEST WAR 112
  • 11 - THE BOTTOM LINES 120
  • 12 - TURNING AWAY 140
  • 13 - THE FIRST AND THE FOURTEENTH 149
  • 16 - TRASH AND FLASH 172
  • 17 - THE IS AND THE OUGHT 180
  • 18 - THE CRITICS 188
  • 19 - FEAR AND LOATHING 197
  • 20 - THE WEIGHT OF OBLIGATIONS 209
  • 21 - THE PARADOX OF SELF-GOVERNMENT 218
  • 22 - LIBEL AND LIABILITY 234
  • 23 - FREE AS THE AIR 244
  • 24 - TRAINING THE WATCHDOGS 256
  • EPILOGUEO: PATHFINDING 262
  • Notes 271
  • SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY 301
  • ABOUT THE BOOK AND AUTHOR 309
  • Index 311
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