Remember this name: Cass Sunstein. He’s a Harvard Law professor who has been appointed to head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. And according to Kyle Smith of the New York Post it’s the bland titles that should scare you the most.
“Although obscure,” reported the Wall Street Journal, “the post wields outsize power. It oversees regulations throughout the government, from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.”
Another ‘czar’ in the Obama administration. But this is one with a difference. Mr. Sunstein thinks that bloggers have been rampaging out of control and that new laws need to be written to corral them.
Sunstein questions the current libel standard – which requires proving “actual malice” against those who write about public figures, including celebrities. Mere “negligence” isn’t libelous, but Sunstein wonders, “Is it so important to provide breathing space for damaging falsehoods about entertainers?” Celeb rags, get ready to hire more lawyers.
Hence, in the best (by which I mean worst) of Post-modern tradition Sunstein is contemplating changing the meaning of the word ‘libel’.
Sunstein may try to make good on the implicit threat that runs through his book: that he would redefine libel as the spread of false information and hold everyone up the ladder responsible.
If this happened, the blogosphere would turn into Pluto overnight. Comments sections would slam shut. Every writer would work on a leash shorter than a shoelace.
And to enforce the new ‘law’ on the internet, mr. Sunstein wants to engage in government sponsored lawfare against ordinary citizens.
You blog about Obama-Ayers. You get a letter claiming that your facts are wrong so you should remove your post. You refuse. If, after a court proceeding proves simply that you are wrong (but not that you committed libel, which when a public figure is the target is almost impossible), you lose, the penalty is . . . you must take down your post.
How long would it take for a court to sort out the truth? Sasha and Malia will be running for president by then. Nobody will care anymore. But it will give politicians the ability to tie up their online critics in court.
Sunstein, trying to fair, argues that libel awards should be capped at $15,000, or at least limited for anyone demonstrating financial hardship. But $15K is the limit you’d pay to your opponent. The legal bill is the scary part, and the reason bloggers already have plenty of reason to be careful about what they say, even if they don’t much fear a libel conviction.
And there you have it. The concept of Freedom as the Obama administration thinks it applies.
This piece in the Post is, of course, an early warning op-ed. Mr. Sunstein isn’t officially appointed yet. And even if he is, I doubt radical legislation like this makes it through both Houses unscathed and indeed alive.
But I heartily endorse Mr. Smiths conclusion:
Sunstein is an enemy to every news organization and blogger. We should return the favour and declare war on him.
For if he gets his way, the blogosphere and indeed all independent news-gathering and opinion will be dead or forced underground. (h/t IBA)
[UPDATE001] Sunstein is not the the first or only anti-human, anti-freedom ‘czar’ about to be appointed by The One. From Michelle we get news of the designated Science and Technology czar, John Holdren and his peculiar views on the application of science to mould humanity. And the MSM is ripping him a new one over it… NOT.