Friday, January 4, 2008

Paranoia As Defamation?

Among the oddest of the many odd claims in Susan O’Malley’s $2 million lawsuit against Sharad Karkhanis is the following item:

“Plaintiff fears that people who only know her through [The Patriot Returns] . . . will harm her.”

Why? Because Karkhanis noted (correctly) that O’Malley had supported the employment at CUNY of people convicted of or charged with terrorist-related activity.

The inclusion of this clause suggests the close coordination between the former PSC executive committee member’s lawsuit and the PSC leadership: PSC spokesperson Deborah Benz, asked for a comment on the suit, replied, “Free speech, however, has limits . . . in a post-9/11 world.” (This is from the same union leadership that said it was OK for Brooklyn College’s Tim Shortell to term all religious people—including his religious students—“moral retards.”)

One major problem with O’Malley’s claim: the law—at least to date—doesn’t allow paranoid musings to be offered as evidence. And O’Malley appears to have no other grounds to substantiate her claim.

The former UFS chairperson says that she’s afraid people “will harm her.” Has she received any threats of harm? The complaint mentions none.

Has she filed a report alleging threats with the Brooklyn Police? Or with CUNY Security? Again, the complaint mentions no such action.

In recent years, critics of neoconservative theorists have contended that the neocons’ theories have actually promoted rather than combated terrorism. By O’Malley’s reasoning, each and every person who has made such a criticism of the neocons (including some of the PSC upper leadership) has opened themselves up to a $2 million lawsuit. Surely the neocons have as much reason to fear that people “who only know them through” the anti-war criticism that their policies have promoted terrorism “will harm them” as O’Malley does to fear people who only know her through The Patriot Returns.

We no longer live in 17th century Salem, Massachusetts: the long hand of the law cannot impose sanctions just because an influential figure—like O’Malley at CUNY—feels afraid.


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