Personal attacks not accepted
June 7, 2010 - Jim Smith
At what point should one respond to personal, written attacks that arrive via e-mail?
For more than two years a Wood County man has been sending what I would consider libelous e-mails to me and several others at the newspaper, saying how we am denying him his First Amendment rights to free speech and/or free press because we won't publish his personal attacks.
His contention seems to be that it is the newspaper's Consitutional duty to publish every word he writes, no matter what it is, no matter how libelous, no matter how much of a personal attack ... and by not doing so the newspaper is denying him his First Amendment rights.
Obviously, he's just plain wrong!
I mistakenly responded to him once, explaining to him the First Amendment is not involved because no one has denied him his right to have published his writings or denied him his right to speak his opinions, but the newspaper is not bound by the First Amendment to print his views. Freedom of the press, which apparently is what he believes is being denied him, has been interpreted by numerous courts as meaning the news media has the Constitutional right to publish information without government control, censorship or prior approval. That right, though, is tempered by libel laws, invasion of privacy laws and defamation of character laws, among other things.
In the man's misinterpretation of the First Amendment, he continues to attack us for not publishing his personal attacks, which we do not permit in letters to the editor from him or anyone else.
At what point should his harassment be turned over to the authorities for legal recourse? I have to admit I don't have a good answer, but I'm getting close, considering I believe he has defamed and libeled various people by spreading his vile e-mails to countless people at the newspaper and, I can only assume, elsewhere.
Meanwhile, I will not respond to his e-mails.