So much for appreciating the American value of free speech for all regardless of the consequences. In his Congressional testimony, that is what Alexander Vindman, the man who claimed a whistleblower turned in President Donald Trump for making a perfect phone call, said he was all about having emigrated from the Soviet Union decades ago
During the impeachment inquiry, Vindman made much of the fact that he and his family had fled the Soviet Union, and that he had “a deep appreciation for American values and ideals and the power of freedom.”
But, when Vindman himself is the target as seems to be the case in a recent Byron York piece in the Washington Examiner that indicates Vindman was the driving force in the impeachment effort, not the whistleblower, he takes to the opinion pages of Lawfare, a notoriously leftist law effort:
Recent events have made the need for accountability more pressing than ever. Should anyone be surprised that viewers of right-wing media are radicalized when media personalities themselves promote radical ideas based on lies?
But while the rioters are being held accountable through the criminal justice system—and Congress at least had a chance to hold the former president accountable through the impeachment process—how can Americans hold the right-wing media responsible for its role in the attack? The mob that attacked the Capitol was born of hatred fomented by the right-wing media. These insurrectionists were raised for years on a steady diet of disinformation and half-truths, which produced fertile fields for radicalization.
The First Amendment gravely limits the available tools to seek accountability for the right-wing media. Policymakers cannot, after all, tell media organizations what to say. Except in the most extreme situations, which are unlikely ever to arise, prosecutors also cannot accuse them of incitement.
To do that is known as a “chilling effect” and it’s most definitely illegal.
Civil consequences, rather than governmental restrictions on First Amendment rights, could be a meaningful way to take what are fundamentally money-making ventures and demand truth from them, instill rigor in their reporting, and uphold accountability. Like a tabloid being sued and paying severe penalties, media companies and right-wing media personalities will claim that what’s at stake is freedom of speech. But defamation is not covered by the First Amendment, so this is, by definition, not true. And the generous standards in defamation law for purposes of protecting the press offer a true safe haven for good-faith actors even when they err. Putting companies in fear of the real costs in civil damages for slander, libel, and false claims that can cumulatively incite violence and that can individually harm actual human beings should have a restraining effect on their behavior.
It’s not defamation if it’s true.
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