Hey, I’ve got a dumb question.
Our enemies are engaged in an information war. They’re also using lawfare, leveraging our own legal sysem and rule of law to advance their interest. Last week, they’ve had two successful information fires: the Patterico-identified mess that Lex pithily characterized as
The point is not that the Times is happily swallowing and uncritically regurgitating terrorist propaganda. Itâ€™s that, if they were doing so, you wouldnâ€™t be able to tell the difference between that and what they wrote on 13 November.
…and this other faked-but-reported event identified over at Flopping Aces which includes some interesting sources and methods of how bad information gets injected into the news stream.
Information gets results, but those results are slow in coming and it’s hard to see stimulus-response except in hindsight. We’ve had enough time to see the results of this fake news–and the results of the corrections appearing in a box on A-12 after the initial report went all over the front page and NPR and caused opinions to form.
So what’s a standard by which a person or organization can call out, sue, or otherwise cause a chilling effect on blatantly false and insufficiently corrected news that’s known to be a force multiplier for an enemy’s war efforts? I’ll have to better understand the legal line between free speech and responsibility for that speech to know this question better, of course. But if there’s a “yelling fire in a crowded theater” standard, is there a legal analogy? If people are dying, directly or indirectly, because the AP picks up a phoned-in report from some Baghdad jounalist blindly regurgitating a jihadi stringer’s blatant lie, why is this not malpractice? Is there anything stronger to combat this than merely complaining (as was done for, say, Rathergate)? Put another way, what other corrective possibilities exist for speech that is still subject to the First Amendment, but also a blatant, killing falsehood intended and willingly used as a strategic attack on an American center of gravity?
Any ideas? Anyone have historical precedents–previous wars or other big issues, perhaps–that identify that line and what is do-able?