From Carol Burnett vs. The National Enquirer to William Westmoreland vs. CBS, lawsuits against the media have made their own headlines in recent years. This spirited account offers a close look at these attacks on the press and what they reveal about American culture, the legal system and libel law, and the way the press operates.
Why, Rodney Smolla asks, have so many people - people as various as Ralph Nader, Clint Eastwood, Lillian Hellman, and Jerry Falwell - taken to suing the press? Are they mainly interested in money, vengeance, or the restoration of honor? Is the press under fire because it has grown too arrogant? Are Americans becoming too thin-skinned, too devoted to self-image? How important is the protection of reputation and privacy in American society?
To shed light on these and other issues, Smolla examines both individual lawsuits and broader themes involving the economics of media litigation, the cultural forces that affect libel judgments, and the special problems posed by particular types of expression, such as fictional works. The media outlets discussed are as varied as the personalitiess initiating the suits - from The Washington Post and The New York Times to Penthouse and Hustler. Always lively and provocative, this book reveals much about the media's shortcomings and virtues, as well as the American character itself.show more