Libel: the damage winning can do

About a year ago the conservative magazine National Review (disclosure: I’ve written for them and for a while served as a contributing editor on their masthead) was sued by a Muslim activist who claimed to have been defamed by an article containing inaccuracies about his connection to a controversial gathering. The communications director for the local chapter of the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) expressed the hope that the lawsuit would “deter hate-mongers from undermining the character and work of those who do not share their extremist views.” The magazine eventually succeeded in getting the suit thrown out and even got a small payment from the plaintiff, but its libel insurance policy carried a $50,000 deductible, and its total expenses exceeded $65,000. It’s opened an appeal for contributions to cover the resulting hole in its budget — a “post-defense defense fund”. As Voltaire put it, “I was never ruined but twice: once when I lost a lawsuit and once when I won one.”

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