The End Of Discussion

Many in the media cheered on Dominion’s defamation suit against Fox News. They reveled in embarrassing emails showing some Fox on-air personalities doubted the Trump camp’s assertions of rigging voting machines. Going to trial might’ve produced even more damaging information on Fox and billions in damages, destroying the network.

Fox and Dominion settled out of court $787.5 million. Some were relieved it was over before Fox suffered more significant damage while cutting off the harm disappointed others. Both sides will rue this settlement.

The crux of Dominion’s case is Fox’s on-air opinion people allowed Trump representatives to make false assertions about Dominion voting machines on their programs. Emails showed some Fox luminaries had grave doubts about the Trump camp’s position. To them, his case was unsupported by facts. 

None of the Fox people questioning the Trump position were experts in the field. Being Fox News, many favored Trump’s re-election and expected to give his lawyers the space to make their case. Their opinion is just that, opinion. In any case, a president’s attornies and representatives making claims is news. Controversy is their business.

Let both sides present their case and let the viewers decide.

Fox on-air personality Maria Bartiromo never hid the fact she favored Trump and gave the Trump people space on her shows to present their case. She also invited the Dominion CEO to present his side. He refused.

As with most controversies, People in media can have mixed thoughts on the fairness of elections. In the future, differing opinions may be limited in media for fear of being sued. The last thing we need to do is cut off discussion.

Recently we’ve had ongoing controversies over the Covid vaccines—people such as Alex Berenson and now Presidential candidate Robrt Kennedy Jr. cast a critical eye on them. I praised Berenson’s original book on the Covid lockdowns but was startled by his subsequent book disparaging the vaccines. It turns out Berenson was right to point out the vaccines didn’t prevent covid spread, as I and so many wrongly assumed. 

Kennedy has a long history of opposing vaccines. However, in some circumstances, his opposition to the covid Vaccines is on firm ground. However, he is polling 20% for the Democratic presidential nomination. One could see it as a stopped clock is right twice a day, but he made some excellent points. Shouldn’t he be heard?

What if a vaccine maker claimed Berenson and Kennedy defamed their product, costing them sales, and sued the two and any media giving them a platform? If people refused to get the shots, it would cost the maker a fortune. After all, the FDA approved the vaccines, and the media had no reason to allow them to spread untruths. 

The FDA isn’t omnipotent, and laypeople can only know some facts. They featured people with opposing views, letting the public decide what works best. However, after this settlement, would CNN or Fox platform Berenson or Kenedy’s covid vaccine views or something similar? 

To some, the “facts” are held to be evident, and a counter view or explanation, if aired, will harm the public. Banning people who propagate another idea or answer must be prohibited in the public interest. Media platforms will avoid many views when faced with the possible loss of billions.

Consider the case of an Australian doctor raising the idea bacteria causes most stomach ulcers. These ulcers were far more prevalent in the 1970s and ’80s. The whole medical establishment claimed stomach ulcers were due to stress. An entire industry grew up based on this assumption. Many companies marketed products claiming to treat these “stress” ulcers and made big bucks.

Dr. Barry Marshall noted pathologist Robin Warren’s findings and concluded that bacteria is the culprit in stomach ulcers. He needed help to prove his contention, but the medical community turned its back. Unlike today, there were few platforms for him to promote his theory. In the era of Walter Cronkite, three major networks and the equal time provision promoting ideas that rock the boat found little reception.

Dr. Marshall ultimately experimented on himself, and the results proved his theory. Awarded the Nobel Prize in 2005, Doctors Marshall and Warren ended the suffering of millions of people with the proper treatment.

Do we want to return to a time when new ideas are restricted? Sure, some things won’t pan out, but others will. We only know which is which if we allow people to present them without fear of retribution.

The problem in the Dominion case is that the judge ruled that malice on the part of Fox was a question for the jury to decide. The presence of malice was supposed to be a high bar for this type of suit when the Supreme handed down the Sullivan decision. Still, if the judge doesn’t rule first on sufficient proof of malice to proceed to trial, it leaves everything open to possible jury prejudice. 

Had Fox proceeded with the case and lost at trial, there is no guarantee an appeal would be successful. A supreme court decision on this is needed to make clear the Sullivan decision on how we handle malice is required to maintain open discussion, but who can take the risk of going to court?

Media platforms will fear runniness litigation and curtail who can present their ideas. This position isn’t in our best interest, and we will be poorer. At least it won’t give me an ulcer.

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