FITS Threatened With Legal Action (Twice)
Twice in one day, FaithInTheSound - your favorite source for political satire and the insider scoop on South Carolina politics - has been threatened with legal action.
Oddly enough, it wasn't because of anything we said (which is pretty damned surprising if you think about it), but rather as a result of comments that were posted anonymously on our website. Odder still, one of the two threats against us came from an individual whom FITS went to great lengths to publicly defend on this blog.
But what's oddest about all of this brewing litigiousness? How can Reps. Ted and Mike Pitts look so much alike and not be related? Why does former Sanford advisor Chris Drummond use scissors when opening a candy bar wrapper? If J.W. Ragley's and Lachlan McIntosh's combined political wisdom is a tree falling in the woods, is it safe to call that tree a Chokecherry sapling? Does Katon Dawson refer to himself in the third person when trying to get frisky with his wife? How many more intenstinal villi does Jakie Knotts have than the average State Senator? And finally, when he used to play legislative softball, which side of the plate did Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer hit from?
At any rate, our legal team (pictured above) reviewed the anonymous comments, found they were in no way libelous, and our editorial board voted unanimously to leave them in place - a decision in keeping with the right to free expression all Americans enjoy as participants in what legendary Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once called the "Marketplace of Ideas."
In fact, in the words of another legendary Supreme Court Justice, William O. Douglas, "Freedom of expression can be suppressed if, and to the extent that, it is so closely brigaded with illegal action as to be an inseperable part of it."
To which we here at FITS can only add, "Amen, brother."
Oh, and if somebody could pass us an Annette Young-sized tumbler to raise a toast to those freedoms, that'd be great, too.
What the individuals threatening FITS with legal action did not understand is that actionable libel against a private citizen includes five components - defamation, identification, publication, falsity and actual injury.
Known as the "Common Law Five," these elements come to our modern system of First Amendment Jurisprudence from the British legal tradition, a.k.a. the "Good Old Days." For public figures, these standards are broadened even further to include what is commonly referred to as "actual malice," meaning that the individual making the comments also must exhibit "knowing falsehood" or a "reckless disregard for the truth."
You see, free speech is so important to our system of government - not to mention making fun of Dan Cooper and Bobby Harrell - that the barriers associated with restricting it are practically insurmountable, and rightly so.
Most importantly, if what you have to say on this or any other website is in fact the truth - there is literally nothing under the law (or under the sun) to keep you from saying it.
At the end of the day, we here at FITS did take the extraordinary step of removing several comments from a previous post owing to another legal enjoinment, one which is scheduled to expire on March 28, 2006.
We look forward to telling you the full story of our ongoing fight to protect your First Amendment freedoms at that time.
Until then, FITS is proud to offer a $200 reward to any individual who can provide us with photographic evidence of Dan Cooper's "Egg-tooth" at work during an actual meal ($300 if the Egg-tooth is shown coming in contact with any kind of pork product).