Saturday, January 30, 2021

Condemning Virtue Signaling... virtue signaling. A long (for Twitter) thread denouncing (correctly) the foolishness of filing lawsuits for purposes of “making a point” rather than because a tort gas actually occurred.

I went “legal” there because that’s the point. You could reduce that 9 tweet thread to one simple statement: “No damages, no point.”

It’s true, courts don’t exist for virtue signaling; but, like God, they don’t need you to protect them. The first issue of a libel case is not the First Amendment and actual malice; it’s damages. You can’t sue someone for libel because you don’t like what someone said about you. You can only sue at all to recover damages; and libel isn’t actionable unless you can show actual damages. That the libel cost you money, in other words.(Yes, there’s libel per se, we’re setting that aside.)  In the context of these tweets, Lincoln Project can’t really sue Giuliani for his stupid statement they caused the Capitol riot. Whether they should, I suppose, is worth a discussion; but only in a fully ironic way.

Unless LP has lawyers of the caliber of Lin Woods, Sydney Powell, or Giuliani, Giuliani won’t even get a demand letter. In fact, let me shorten this: It may be defamatory; but even if it’s libel per se (you don’t have to prove actual damages), you might well end up with damages of $1. Literally.

And I’m pretty sure Popehat knows that.

The problem with libel as a tort is that it’s already legalized virtue signaling. It’s a tort for the wealthy and the well-off. If Donald Trump were to libel me by name tomorrow, could I sue him? Sure; but for what? Libel is limited to “actual damages.” I can’t sue for emotional distress or some inchoate injury. What actual damages do I suffer from the libel? Unless I lose my job or it damages my business, none at all. In my present circumstances, even losing my job wouldn’t pay the legal fees. I’d lose money, in other words.

When you hear about libel suits, the odds are it’s from England and it involves someone of high social standing. It’s a relic of the English class system: insulting a peer calls into question the class system. Libel was a protection of that system, nothing more. A peer could libel a peon with impunity; but it could not run the other way.

So pardon me if I’m not impressed with even the idea of a libel suit. Their raison d’etre is to keep the many-headed from disturbing the privileges of the few, anyway. Which is really the point of virtue signaling in the first place.
I know how he feels.

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