Can opinions be defamatory? Jacob G. Hornberger posted an article at fff.org earlier this week that said that: “Alex Jones Got What He Deserved.” SLL posted that article, agreeing with Hornberger’s conclusion in the introduction and in a discussion with a reader in the comment section. Andrew P. Napolitano has a different interpretation of the law. Hornberger has posted two follow-up articles, Part Two and Part Three are at fff.org and I’ve linked them here for those who want to read them. In Part Three Hornberger addresses Napolitano’s argument in the article below. From Napolitano at lewrockwell.com:
“Congress shall make no law abridging … the freedom of speech.”
— First Amendment to the Constitution
The iconic language of the First Amendment can be recited by schoolchildren, yet it is ignored by judges in Connecticut when the speech has been uttered by Alex Jones.
Since the modern interpretations of the First Amendment began in the late 1960s, opinions on matters of public interest have been protected speech, so long as some reasons for the opinions were articulated. The reasons can be inaccurate, and the opinions can be wild, bizarre or irrational. But if it is an opinion, it is protected speech — except in Connecticut and except if the speaker is Alex Jones.
Here is the backstory.
The tragedy of Sandy Hook — in which a young madman used his parents’ rifle to slaughter 20 schoolchildren and six adults before killing himself — is a lifelong horror for the surviving family members and their friends. This tragedy is also a matter of public interest implicating the right to keep and bear arms, school security, mental health and free speech.
When the First Amendment was ratified, America was a bold experiment in personal liberty. Yet, the First Amendment only restrained Congress. After the Civil War amendments were added to the Constitution, the courts interpreted the 14th Amendment so as to apply the First Amendment to the states as well.