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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Payback


It's been clear for many years that there's a vast right-wing conspiracy willing to lie and slander to achieve their political ends: the charges that Clinton killed Vince Foster, that Kerry cheated to win his Vietnam medals. On a smaller scale, we have Luskin making criticisms of Krugman and DeLong that probably meet the legal definition of slander. And on and on.

The right-wing conspiracy tosses out slanderous charges right and left, but never seems to suffer for their lies, even though slander is a civil offense. I'm glad to see that some freelancers are filing state bar ethics complaints against the Swift Boat Liars. But payback for slander is a classic public good, and like all public goods, without collective action there won't be enough of it. From Kerry's perspective, there's not much point in going after these guys. The damage is already done, Kerry risks being dragged through courtroom mud, and he has better things to do with his time.

From the point of view of liberals, progressives, and Democrats as a whole, payback is a public good: it will deter future members of the vast right-wing conspiracy from signing up. The Bush administration knows this. Just look at what happened to John DiIulio after he revealed that the White House was run by "Mayberry Machiavellis." Or Valerie Plame.

Can't someone--the DNC, MoveOn, a 527--take up the righteous cause of just vengeance?
 
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