A few days ago Kevin Williamson made a scandalous charge, that American libel law tilts too far in favor of publishers.
How scandalous? To begin with, you don’t typically find writers complaining that their protection from defamation suits is too robust. If you work in media or publishing, you read his column with one eyebrow raised. Maybe two.
If you’re trained in law, as I am, you might also have felt a frisson of shock at the idea that New York Times v. Sullivan shouldn’t be treated as holy writ. The Warren Court bequeathed to us many precedents that conservatives find questionable, but its preference for freer speech isn’t usually part of the brief against it.
Lastly, it made for strange bedfellows. The most prominent advocate for making it easier to sue the media is, of course, Donald Trump. Ron DeSantis, America’s thirstiest governor, has lately taken that position as well as part of his tireless quest to out-pander Trump among the populist right. One doesn’t often find Kevin aligned with a petty authoritarian given to grumbling that the press is too free while the word “TRUTH” blazes in giant Orwellian letters behind him.