Democrats & Liberals Archives

Libel & McLibel

Fifteen years after activists in London provoked the wrath of McDonald’s Corporation, the European Court of Human Justice ruled that two defendants did not have a fair trial, and were deprived of free speech by a 1997 libel ruling against them in British Courts.

Whatever the merits of their original leaflet (and even the courts at the time found that the merits were considerable), when the threat of legal action mutes reasoned objections to the actions of the powerful, the public is poorly served. Libel laws are necessary to protect individuals, and yes even corporations, from suffering losses based on untruthful charges of wrongdoing, but when the claims are subjective and the plaintiffs are powerful, common sense needs to err in favor of protecting the free speech of those willing to challenge the mighty.

As former defendant Helen Steel stated recently, this "is not the end of the battle for the public to be able to criticize powerful organizations in our society."

In the United States, it's high time that the concept of Corporate Personhood be fundamentally challenged. I'm not expecting much help from the Bush administration in that regard, though. Just how global a concept has it come to be?

Posted by Walker Willingham at February 15, 2005 2:07 PM