Sunday, June 17, 2007

Free Speech: Lee Kaplan v Yaman Salahi

To me, the most important principle for a free society is freedom of speech. Without this basic freedom, society gains the ability to control the information going to its citizens, and prevent healthy debate on crucial issues. Along those lines, blogging has become a vital piece of national debate in this country, and allows people to express their opinions, complete with thorough background information, in an organized fashion.

Admittedly, I disagree with many bloggers out there, and find some dangerous. But freedom of speech is naturally challenged by the extremes, and only by preserving the rights of these extreme speakers or writers are the rights of everyone preserved. Only by allowing the most hateful people to speak freely can we hear all sides of the debate, and really analyze the most difficult issues facing our society.

Yaman Salahi, a college student, has a blog called Lee Kaplan Watch. He has issues with a pro-Israel writer named, you guessed it, Lee Kaplan, who writes for FrontPageMag. Now I have to say I don’t know much of Kaplan’s work, but from what I’ve read so far, he is more conservative than I am, but not horrible or dishonest. Understand, though, I’ve only read a small amount of his work, and perhaps he’s worse than I know.

But regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Lee Kaplan, to my mind, Yaman Salahi has the right to blog about him. In fact, our society needs Salahi to blog about Mr. Kaplan, so that we can critically analyze Kaplan’s work.

Kaplan decided to sue Yaman Salahi for business interference, and actually won his case in small claims court. College student Salahi was required to pay $7,500 in damages. Oddly enough, since the case was settled in small claims court, the judge was not required to issue a response or explain his decision. But unquestionably, any decision limiting the rights of bloggers to speak their mind is, in my humble opinion, dangerous.

Salahi writes:

My first amendment rights have been subverted with support from the courts, which only shows that everybody is in danger of facing these abusive small claims court defamation suits. My speech has been punished by a ruling with no opinion explaining why or advising me what not to do in the future… I will never know what element of Kaplan's claim, if any, the judge agreed with, though Kaplan will certainly continue to claim that all of them were accepted, though he knows well that this is not the case.

In reality, I suspect that Kaplan’s views are closer to my own than Salahi’s. But if we allow bloggers to be censored, we threaten the very freedom of our society that makes it so appealing. Let’s hope that this decision is corrected, and the rights of bloggers are protected by our courts, as was intended by the first amendment of the constitution, protecting citizen’s right to freedom of speech.

Posted by Scottage at 2:02 AM / | |