As noted below and elsewhere, there is a lot of heat going around right now about Newsweek and its erroneous story about a Koran being flushed down a toilet at Guantanamo. And while I agree with a lot of it, I have to argue against the most severe sanctions people are proposing against Newsweek — in particular, lawsuits for the deaths of those killed in the ensuing riots.
The purpose of such lawsuits is to hold people liable for reasonable and predictable reactions to their actions, and I don’t think the riots and deaths fall into that category.
I willingly grant the “predictable” element, but I draw the line at “reasonable.” The use of that is to justify the unjustifiable. The riots were a completely irrational and wrong response, and Newsweek should not be held responsible for what a bunch of religious, West-hating whackos do. Those lunatics are simply atrocities waiting to happen, and anything — anything — can be the trigger. One might as well find the woman who rejected Ted Bundy and blame her for all the women he subsequently murdered.
So, bring on the abuse, the sanctions, the penalties for Newsweek. Ban their reporters from covering events. Contact and boycott their advertisers. Pillory them in public. Blame them for the damage to our diplomatic efforts. Mock them. Deride them. Taunt them. Make them stand in the corner at press events while wearing silly hats. Use back issues as toilet paper.
But don’t hold them liable for the deaths. To do that is to excuse the real people to blame — the rioters themselves.