Friday, April 24, 2009

Gardner v. Martino (9th Cir. - April 23, 2009)

You've got more rights under the First Amendment if you're a blowhard. Or, to put it as Judge Consuelo Marshall does (sitting by designation), if you're "an opinionated and arrogant" host of a radio show, you're harder to sue for defamation than someone who's actually reasonable.

To put it another way, the more you defame everyone, the harder it is for any particular person to sue you for defamation. Since, after all, everyone knows you just say whatever you feel, without any actual knowledge or validity. So, as here, even if you're accusing a particular business of "lying" about something, which may seem to be a statement of fact, it's really a statement of opinion if you say stuff like that all the time, and your radio audience just listens to be amused.

This particular case involves a show called The Tom Martino Show. Presumably it would include a wide range of other contemporary radio content as well.

To represent the holding mathematically, one might say: Defamation + Defamation + Defamation = No Defamation.

You can understand where this principle comes from, since if people really do not put actual faith in anything you say as a statement of fact, it's hard to call it "defamatory," since statements of opinion are protected. The heightened immunization of less valuable speech is nonetheless, at a minimum, interesting.