December 12, 2016

JEFFREY TOOBIN: Gawker’s Fall & the Trump-Era Threat to 1st Amendment.

For decades, the news media benefitted from the deference paid by courts to the judgments of newspaper editors. The judge in federal court treated Gawker’s editors as if they were running a newspaper, and he declined to second-guess them about what constitutes the news. The jury in state court did the opposite. The question now is whether the law, instead of treating every publication as a newspaper, will start to treat all publications as Web sites—with the same skepticism and hostility displayed by the jury in Tampa. The new President and his fellow-billionaires, like Thiel, will certainly welcome a legal environment that is less forgiving of media organizations. Trump’s victory, along with Hulk Hogan’s, suggests that the public may well take their side, too.

I’m not sure exactly what “Trump-Era Threat” is supposed to mean. There doesn’t seem to be a threat from Trump, who knows exactly how to get what he wants out of the press. Are we supposed to feel threatened by an “era” merely because of its unseemly namesake? Perhaps then “Trump-Era Threat” is in the headline just to generate pageviews.

Who knows?

So then a more important question is, would the New Yorker have headlined a “Clinton-era threat” in Gawker’s wake had Hillary won the election?

Let’s talk about that Clinton-era threat — hypothetical, thank goodness — because it seems certain that there would have been one.

Hillary Clinton was the subject of the movie in the Citizens United case, which as a candidate she promised to see overturned — silencing political filmmakers for generations to come. It was on Clinton’s behalf (following her blunder at Benghazi) that an innocent YouTube videomaker was jailed for nearly a year. Just last week it was Clinton who urged “that Congress should take action against” purveyors of what she deems to be “fake news.” And forget mere threats, what about two years ago when Democrats tried to repeal the First Amendment? That, too, was backed by Hillary Clinton.

Whatever you might think of Donald Trump or the merits of the Gawker verdict, Hillary Clinton’s record on freedom of speech is atrocious — for which she has never been held accountable by the very press she has sought to control.

Even if Trump were to somehow turn out to be as hostile to free speech as Clinton is, at least he’d have Jeffrey Toobin et al. to hold him to account.

UPDATE: From the comments:

Was this summer the Era of Trump? First everything was George W Bush’s fault, even after he left office. Now it’s all Trump’s fault, even before he’s formally elected President.

Obama hasn’t even left the White House and it’s already like he was never there.

Faster, please.

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