Monday, June 14, 2021

Briefly Noted: Babylon Bee Wins Big Over NYT

You may recall that satire site Babylon Bee has been threatening legal action against the NYT, which has been using various subterfuges to tag Babylon Bee as "right wing misinformation". Apparently realizing it was holding a losing hand, the NYT threw it in. Here's a short version from The Federalist:

New York Times Forced To Back Down After Smearing Babylon Bee

The New York Times was forced to back down from targeting popular satire website the Babylon Bee after months of smearing it as “far-right misinformation.”

In a reply to the Babylon Bee’s demands to retract “defamatory statements” about the satire site from one of the New York Times’ March articles, the Times said it has “removed the reference to the Babylon Bee from the article and appended a correction.”

Follow the link for more details. You can also read about it at Red State, which may include some extra tweets: The Babylon Bee Scores a Huge Victory Against the New York Times.

This is a big victory for freedom of the press, in that it demonstrates that there are some standards of accountability for Big Media. Nevertheless, it remains the case that asserting the right to a public life free of defamation from Big Media remains tenuous at best. Hopefully these issues of accountability will be reviewed by the SCOTUS in the relatively near future, specifically with regard to NYT v. Sullivan. I append several paragraphs from Wikipedia's article that demonstrates that at least some on the SCOTUS are aware of the threat that the outdated and politically motivated case poses to free public discourse:

In February 2019, the Supreme Court denied a petition brought by Katherine McKee, one of the women that accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault, which claimed that Cosby had leaked a letter that permanently damaged her reputation, and had sought civil action against Cosby on this matter. Lower courts rejected her case based on New York Times Co., stating that she "thrust herself to the forefront of a public controversy", making her a limited public figure and requiring the higher standard of malice to be demonstrated. The denial by the Supreme Court did not include a vote count, but Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the solitary opinion on the case, agreeing that denial was appropriate per New York Times Co., but stating that he believed that decision of New York Times Co. was made wrongly. Thomas wrote "If the Constitution does not require public figures to satisfy an actual-malice standard in state-law defamation suits, then neither should we".[25] The views of Thomas, a conservative, mirrored that of President Donald Trump, who had repeatedly called for the review of libel laws in the United States to give those defamed by others a "meaningful recourse in our courts".[25]

In March 2021, federal judge Laurence Silberman called on the Supreme Court to overturn New York Times v. Sullivan, stating that the New York Times and The Washington Post are "virtually Democratic Party broadsheets". Silberman's dissent also accused big tech companies of censoring conservatives and warned that "Democratic Party ideological control" of mainstream media may be a prelude to an "authoritarian or dictatorial regime" that constitutes "a threat to a viable democracy".[26][27]

Judge Silberman's dissent produced significant public discussion of Sullivan and potential reforms. Many conservative-leaning outlets endorsed Silberman's criticisms of Sullivan.[28] Most liberal-leaning outlets and several moderate conservatives condemned Silberman's decision for its tone and the substantive idea of loosening defamation standards.[29] However, some liberal scholars and a Harvard Law student writing in the Wall Street Journal embraced significant reforms to Sullivan.[30]


  1. The problem is any Leftist being sued for defamation will settle if they see the case is on a Supreme Court track.

  2. A bit o/t, but check out Taibbi today, quoting Barry Meier, one of the better MSM types, on how the MSM ducks fessing up on RussiaGate, esp. on Steele's dossier:

    < The Poynter Institute has not called me up and said, “Let’s have a symposium, and talk about this.”
    You know this, I know this, anyone who’s worked as a journalist knows this — *we’re very* thin skinned. We hate being criticized. >