Last Friday…hang on, something is missing here. Somehow, the mood just isn’t right. It needs something appropriate, something to capture the uplifting mood that news like this should invoke.
Ah, here we are. Just hit play and read on.
Last Friday, a federal jury in Charlottesville, VA returned with a judgment on damages against co-defendants Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the author of the Law & Order: SVU fanfiction, the thoroughly, utterly, completely discredited beyond all recovery, story published in Rolling Stone, “A Rape on Campus,” and Rolling Stone magazine in Nicole Eramo’s defamation suit against them:
2.41 million pounds.
The 10 jurors found that Rolling Stone, in publishing the article, acted with “actual malice” in publishing the 9,000 fictional account of Jackie Coakley being gangraped at the behest of the non-existent Phi Kappa Psi fraternity member, Haven Monahan, during a party that occurred.
Actual malice, as laid out in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964), requires that the plaintiff prove by a preponderance of the evidence (50.1%) that the writer/publisher of the defamatory statements did so with a knowing or reckless lack of investigation.
The breakdown of the $3 million damages award $2 million of liability to Erdely and $1 million to Rolling Stone and its parent company, Wenner Media.
But it’s not over yet.
Rolling Stone and Erdely still have to deal with Phi Kappa Psi’s $25 million lawsuit against them; that trial starts next year.
Between the Rolling Stone case, the total destruction of Gawker, and the rise to prominence of the alternative media, I believe the American public has turned on the traditional/corporate press and is no longer willing to offer them wide latitude in the name of freedom of the press, which was never understood to protect a discrete class of persons who went to journalism school, but the right to exercise speech and transmit ideas using mechanical means (the printing press, leaflets, pamphlets, blogs, vlogs, websites, etc.) People have watched the corporate media manipulate the truth, or outright lie, as in this instance, in the name of pushing a narrative as truth.
These cases will not pose a threat to the First Amendment, but the are a loud, clear indication that the corporate media is in a death spiral and given their actions, they have no interest in trying to pull out of it. And a large segment of the American public has no interest in allowing them to peddle lies and propaganda as truth.