In 1996 Frank Sulloway had a publishing hit with Born To Rebel, a book arguing that birth order is an important influence on individuals’ destinies (supposedly, first-born children grow up conservative, later-borns want to rock the boat). There were doubters, however, and a critique has now appeared claiming that Sulloway’s data does not back up his conclusions. According to a summary of the situation by Alex Tabarrok (Mar. 20), the appearance of this critique in print was drastically delayed by Sulloway’s threats to sue the journal’s publisher and editor over defamation and other alleged wrongs. The journal’s publisher declined to publish even a debate on the book unless assured that it would not be sued, with the result that editor Gary Johnson and his association wound up publishing it independently, after nearly five years of delay. Tabarrok has much more detail about the story, which he finds “shocking” and “disturbing”.
Lawyers for author John Gray (Men are From Mars…) threatened a libel suit after a weblog said rude things about his on-first-glance-impressive educational credentials. That ensured more attention to the embarrassment, as Instapundit (Mar. 22) points out in a post with many links. (Plus: J.B. Howard Jr. has more on the case, Mar. 25). And the Michigan Court of Appeals has “dismissed a lawsuit in which the Michigan Education Association claimed the Mackinac Center, a free market think tank that has been at odds with the union on issues such as charter schools and education vouchers, had violated the privacy of MEA President Luigi Battaglieri by quoting him in a fund-raising letter. The court concluded that the letter ‘falls squarely within the protection of the First Amendment for discourse on matters of public interest.'” (Jacob Sullum, Reason “Hit and Run”, Mar. 22)(Mackinac Center, Mar. 19) More: John E. Kramer, “Calling the Bully’s Bluff”, Liberty and Law (Institute for Justice), Jun. (more on media and free speech suits)