Tulsi Gabbard’s defamation action against Hillary Clinton, which was filed last month, has provoked a mixed reaction. Die hard Clinton supporters and the very few who don’t like the Congresswoman from Hawaii regard her filing the suit with contempt. Everyone else believes it is justified.
We can for the moment ignore the quantum claimed, although Tulsi certainly looked like a million dollars when clad in that white suit she walked into the arena where she would demolish the Presidential aspirations of the odious Kamala Harris in spectacular fashion. The big question is, can she win this action? Unless it is settled before trial in her favour, the answer is probably no, for two reasons.
The first is that, although dating to 1964, New York Times v Sullivan, still apparently the leading case for this type of defamation claim, severely restricts its scope for public figures. The second reason is by no means obvious. This is that while there is such a creature as a libel-proof plaintiff, Hillary Clinton has made herself a virtually libel-proof defendant. This needs some explanation.
Defamation is that which lowers a person’s reputation in the eyes of right thinking men and women. Traditionally, defamation actions have been expensive to bring, although ordinary people have at times sued successfully. For ordinary people, getting into print was either expensive or difficult. Every major media outlet had libel lawyers it could run dubious material by, and letters to the editor could be tailored to remove any possibly defamatory material.
The Internet and most especially social media has changed all that. YouTube, where the Clinton-Gabbard claim has been uploaded, is said to have up to 2 billion users, more than one person in four on the planet. That is staggering, and although not every YouTube user has a (Google) account, if only one person in a million posted one defamatory comment a year, that would be enough to keep every lawyer on Earth in court in perpetuity.
Some material posted to social media is grossly defamatory, indeed Hillary Clinton has herself been libelled many times, often in professionally crafted videos that claim she is an accessory to rape, at least one (certifiable lunatic of an) individual has accused her of actual rape, and many people take the Clinton Death List seriously. This list has now expanded to dozens of names, but ask yourself how many 72 year olds a similar list could not be compiled about.
That aside, her pronouncements since losing out in 2016 have become tiresome and bizarre in equal measure. The causes of her losing that election have now run well into two if not three figures, indeed she has blamed everyone on planet Earth for Trump’s victory but herself. The claim that Trump colluded with Russia in some bizarre fashion started with her, it was she who financed the scurrilous Steele dossier. She and her cohorts also cheated Bernie Sanders. She branded half of Trump’s supporters as deplorables – irredeemable bigots – and has since branded Jill Stein and Heaven knows who else Russian agents, puppets, assets…
When he heard the audio of her smear on Tulsi, Bill Whittle summed her up in a nutshell: “Hillary Clinton is insane”.
To be libeled by a respected politician is one thing; to be libeled by a madwoman who lives in a fantasy world is another thing entirely. If this case does go to trial and Tulsi wins, the reader should expect only extremely modest damages, because no one with half a brain now takes anything Hillary Clinton says with anything but a grain of salt. Or maybe a boulder.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.