Thanks, Obama. For once, I mean that sincerely.

H.R. 2765, known as the SPEECH Act, was signed into legislation today. This act maintains that foreign libel laws shall have no jurisdiction in U.S. courts. In the eyes of the government, U.S. citizens shall enjoy the protections granted by the First Amendment, no matter where they- or their published works -are located. This ends the practice of “libel tourism,” where those who feel offended by works published in the U.S. sue American writers in countries where the courts do not recognize the freedom of speech, and then expect the foreign judgment to be upheld under the premise of “Comity.”

For the most part, prior to the passage of this law, domestic courts would not accept comity as a legitimate justification for bypassing First Amendment rights. Nevertheless, it’s good to have these things spelled out explicitly. It would have been even better if the Act were instead a constitutional amendment that applied to all freedoms contained within (since U.S. citizens are expected to pay U.S. taxes, no matter where they reside), but then the bill probably would not have passed, seeing as how some members of Congress aren’t so enthusiastic about one or two of those Amendments. That’s okay, one step at a time…



First, a little bit of background.

Journolist was a private debate forum set up by Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein in 2007 to give left-wing journalists a place to discuss their opinions. When journalists discuss their opinions, the topic inevitably turns to journalistic strategies on how to represent their opinions to the public, and this is what happened on Journolist. Now, the Journolist archives have been acquired and sold to the Daily Caller, which is portraying the forum as a conspiracy against the public. They, and numerous other conservative sources are alleging evidence of attempts to coordinate media efforts to accomplish the goals of the Democrats.

Now, certainly we can call many of these journalists at the Washington Post, New York Times, National Public Radio, New Republic, Time, Newsweek, etc. biased, fraudulent, and rabidly anti-conservative. At the very least, this confirms the perception of “liberal media bias.” But can we actually call this a conspiracy?

In order to meet the qualifications of being called a “conspiracy,” there needs to be “an agreement between persons to deceive, mislead, or defraud others of their legal rights, or to gain an unfair advantage.” While it’s certainly true that many on that forum expressed that they were making a conscious effort to deceive, mislead, and defraud others in order to gain an unfair advantage, I don’t think we can really allege that there was any sort of “agreement” or “pact” to do so. Journolist was a debate forum, just like the DeviantArt Political Forum that I frequent, and I’m sure that topics were hotly debated. I’d hate to think that someone might pull up the DeviantArt archives and suggest that all of us were conspiring with some of the crazier forum members to overthrow “the Bush crime family” (in the words of one user, “roninbearz”).

Hence, in the spirit of “innocent until proven guilty,” I think there’s really not enough evidence to suggest that conspiracy happened as a result of that forum. Additionally, I’d suggest that the existence of that forum has done some good, as it has revealed the conscious efforts by many uncoordinated, yet like-minded individuals employed by major news corporations to spin the news in order to support their favored candidate. It reveals the “Tea Party Racism” myth as a consciously contrived political strategy, meant to consolidate support for Barack Obama. And finally, it teaches us not to take for granted the word of our sources, as “prestigious” journalistic entities aren’t necessarily objective, unbiased, or honest journalistic entities.

As I’ve often argued, the value of a source does not come from its name-brand. It comes from the strength of argument of the writers and the data they cite. The word of a paid journalist is worth far less than a link citation in a blog.

This is why I like the Cato Institute blog. Certainly, they’re biased. Certainly, they have an agenda. But so does everyone else. On the other hand, the Cato Institute is a research institution comprised of scholars who actually know how to do their research, cite sources, and analyze data in a way that actually generates knowledge, unlike all print media sources.