A more insidious threat is the Internet, Mr. Porter argues. Anonymous websites and blogs are havens of defamation, slander and libel because their owners and authors are difficult to trace or hold accountable.
The result is a strange libel universe comprised of two worlds that play by very different sets of rules.
In traditional print and broadcast media, publishing and entertainment companies publish corrections or pay damages when courts find they have wrongfully damaged reputations. In what Mr. Porter calls the legal netherworld, websites, blogs and a variety of digital voices operate with virtual impunity. Many of the voices are difficult to trace. When they are revealed, most have slim financial resources to compensate defamed parties.
“The slander is out there on the Web and you can’t put it back in a box,” he said. “You don’t know where the line is now. You don’t have access to someone with money who cares or is responsible about what they say … There just isn’t anyone around who is accountable for the words,” he said.
Of course, I think this is a good thing.
Parliamentarians are allowed to insult each other with impunity in the House of Commons without fear of being sued, but ordinary Canadians have no such safe zone — except, for now, the internet (more or less).
And in 2008, “reputation” is a funny thing. When Paris Hilton and Don Imus and OJ Simpson and the Duke Lacrosse DA can get rich and/or stay free no matter what they say or do; when no one get fired for incompetence even if it costs thousands of lives; when men are patted on the back for leaving women to die, and parents defend their little darlings’ every misdeed – it is clear that we’re not living in 18th century Kansas anymore, when a man or woman’s reputation and honour were their most treasured possessions.
Having a bad reputation has become an asset, not a liability. So how can traditional libel laws still apply?
Libel laws increasingly strikes me as an elitist anachronism that further props up a weak, victim culture of complaint and resentment.
People ask me how it feels to get sued. I tell them about Danny Bonaduce getting arrested for beating up a tranny hooker while stoned out of his mind; as the man’s said many times:
“It was the worst night of my life. It cost me $20,000 in legal fees and doctor bills to get out of that nightmare.
“And since then I’ve made $5-million telling the story over and over…”
You know guys who finance their first film by maxing out their credit cards?
This lawsuit is my movie.
Abosultely nothing bad will come of it. So far being sued has gotten me a book contract, brought in thousands of dollars in donations, doubled my site traffic and brought me new friends and admirers all over the world. It’s my kind of adventure: one that doesn’t involve ever leaving the house.
When the guy suing me loses/drops the case, and he will, I’ll get thousands of dollars back. And that’s just for starters.
It’s all good and it just gets better. I can promise you a VERY entertaining fight for your money, and unlike those pay-per-views outta Vegas, it won’t be over in the first round. So stay tuned.