Sent: 2005 02 20
Let me get straight to the point:
Ok, now that that is out of the way, I saw you on C-SPAN2 tonight and thought you made a very strong case. I taped the presentation and plan to show it to friends.
One problem, you irresponsibly passed on a defamatory lie about James Watt and it hurt your credibility very much in my eyes.
Please atone by reading this:
I hope you've been deluged with emails about this, if not, I'm glad I wrote.
Ed, Chicago Secular
I too will get straight to the point. Defamation is a legal term, not simply the generic equivalent of a falsehood. It can be spoken, which is slander, or written, which is libel. Regarding public figures, which James Watt certainly was at the time of this alleged quote, defamation requires not only that the statement be false, but that it be conveyed with actual malice. Actual malice means the speaker essentially knew that the statement was false, but said it anyway. I’m confident you have no direct knowledge of what Sam Harris knew, or didn’t know at the time this purportedly false quote was attributed to James Watt.
More importantly, anything short of defamation per se (which this is not) requires that the aggrieved party suffer damages as a result of the defamatory comment. I doubt that James Watt has been injured as a result of this statement being attributed to him especially considering that by his own words (per your link), he has made the ridiculous link between the necessity of conserving our natural resources and the anticipated return of Jesus Christ.
Bottom line, Mr. Watt has not been defamed as you have claimed, and you should be wary of throwing out such accusations without first understanding what you are talking about.
I’m amused that the Watt defenders - and Watt himself - consider this statement (wrongly) attributed to him as so outrageous. Watt I think has said that he has been characterized as a “religious kook” by this attribution.
Yet the millenialist POV exhibited in the quote - the coming armageddon - is a standard viewpoint of the republican base. Please - Left Behind has sold a zillion copies. Sam could only dream of such sales for his book. It’s no wonder so many people believed the quote when people who feel this way are openly invited to this republican White House to offer guidance on Middle East policy.
But you’d think from the reaction that Watt has been accused of pedophilia. Geez, get a life…thekeez
First, I’ll admit that I’m at least temporarily addicted to this board, and I may need to seek treatment.
Ed, I agree with your point, even though I still have high hopes for Sam Harris. Sam seems to have screwed up, as everyone does from time to time. But going public with such an inflamatory statement is not acceptable, much as Chris might imply.
Chris, all I can say is that I hope you reconsider your position. You appear to be a lawyer, and I certainly respect that. But keep in mind that America currently hates lawyers for a very good reason. Literalistic argument is unbecoming of a J.D., though it seems to be commonplace these days. Keep it in the courtroom, but good luck sleeping at night.
Thekeez, it may not seem serious to you, but then—you’re not James Watt. Incidentally, I don’t at all approve of Watt’s positions. But I do approve of fairness in what is publicly stated about those positions. Sam got it wrong. Fortunately, Sam has gotten most everything else right.