Roger’s Rules

Some heartening news, and all the rest

I’ve written about the phenomenon of “libel tourism” here before. It wasn’t invented by Islamic jihadists–what, when you come right down to it, have they invented? But the noisome use, or threat, of litigation to silence legitimate criticism has become a specialité de la maison musulmane. If you’re a rich Saudi and you don’t like what someone says, threaten to sue. It’s amazing what an aposiopetic effect it has. And there’s the carrot as well as the stick: Cambridge University Press goes through their usual scholarly process with a book called Alms for Jihad. It is vetted by outsiders. It is edited. It is published. But Kalhid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi banker living in London, doesn’t like what it says about some of the charities he’s involved with, so he has his lawyers threaten Cambridge with a suit. Cambridge instantly, and cravenly, capitulates, pulps the book, writes to libraries that have bought the book asking them to remove it from their shelves, and issues a public apology that, inter alia, defames the authors of the book. Some months later, Cambridge gets £8 million from a Saudi prince for an Islamic Studies Center. Post hoc or propter hoc? You decide.

Anyway, there have lately been a few good rumblings about free speech, at least on this side of the pond. Two days ago, Governor Patterson in New York signed into law the The Libel Terrorism Protection Act, which, I hasten to explain, aims not to protect libel terrorism but to protect agaisnt it. As a story in Publishers’ Weekly notes, the act

the enforcement of a foreign libel judgment unless a New York court determines that it satisfies the free speech and free press protections guaranteed by the First Amendment and the New York State Constitution. It also allows New York courts, under certain circumstances, to exercise jurisdiction over non-residents who obtain foreign libel judgments against New Yorkers.

Good stuff. And I am happy to say that kindred federal legislation has been proposed by Pete King. Glimmerings of hope. Intimations of backbone. Let’s hope it continues.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of counter-tendencies as well: e.g., this from Andy McCarthy, or this from Robert Spencer, or . . . well, it’s a long list.