Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Columbia Law Journal Examines Walter Block's Lawsuit Against the New York Times

The law journal at Walter Block's alma mater weighs in:
In the Times case, the paper published a story in January 2014 examining the political philosophy of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). It reported that Walter Block, an economics professor at Loyola, was “highly critical of the Civil Rights Act” and that he said slavery was “not so bad.” The story also reported that Block believed businesses like Woolworth’s were within their rights, historically, to exclude blacks.
Block sued the Times for libel, claiming “the quotations [were] taken out of context to give the impression that [Block] is a racist, a supporter of slavery, and/or against the Civil Rights Act … solely because of racial prejudices,” according to the judge’s order.
In response, the Times filed a motion to dismiss the suit and recover court fees under Louisiana’s anti-SLAPP law, which is intended to protect free speech and allow courts to weed out frivolous claims.
Under the anti-SLAPP law, defendants can get a libel suit tossed if the case involves an exercise of the freedom to speak on a public issue, and if the plaintiff fails to “demonstrate a probability of success on his or her own claim.”
The story obviously was an exercise of the paper’s freedom to speak, and the court quickly concluded it concerned a public issue: It featured a senator and presidential candidate, and it analyzed the nature of libertarian ideology, using Block as an example.
Next, with the burden on Block, the court said he failed to prove he’d likely win, ruling that the story’s content was neither false nor defamatory. First, Block did make the statements attributed to him. Second, taken as a whole, the article “does not rationally lead to an impression that Professor Block is racist”—it portrays him instead, the court said, “as an economist who supports limited government.”
For those reasons, the judge dismissed the suit against the Times.
Limited government Walter Block? I guess if you consider 100% total limits on government. SEE:Toward a Libertarian Society. From the book's blurb:
 He is an anarchist who rejects the state altogether...He is a firm advocate of the possibility and desirability of political secession.


  1. "Block did make the statements attributed to him." But what about the CONTEXT?! Are we never to consider "context" in evaluating whether there has been defamation? The offending statement was made at the end of story contrasting free labor and coerced labor. If reporters can pick and choose what to quote without revealing the actual context, no ones views are safe. But, Walter, you should have known that!

  2. "Second, taken as a whole, the article “does not rationally lead to an impression that Professor Block is racist”"

    When I read that in the original ruling, I thought:

    "This judge is an idiot or disingenuous, either way it's not good."

  3. Walter Block was indeed defamed by the article.

    Walter Block, an economics professor at Loyola University in New Orleans who described slavery as “not so bad,”....

    Block's statement was made in total sarcasm. Thus, the quote is purposefully out of context.


  4. The headline reads: “A pair of lawsuits highlight libel law’s complexity”. There is nothing complex about taking a deeply sarcastic statement and quoting it in a manner that gives the impression the speaker meant it literally.

    This case is an example of a judge who wanted Walter Block to lose and the decided to concoct a B.S. reason for him to lose. It happens all of the time. All the time.