"Expedition Unknown" Host Josh Gates to Flee Country if Trump Elected; Plus: Trump Vows Tighter Libel Laws
Whenever I discuss anything that touches even remotely on politics, people get mad, and I get angry emails about it. These are almost always from conservatives. When I complained, for example, that Pres. Obama and Sen. Harry Reid, both Democrats, helped make a UFO museum a Smithsonian-affiliated “National” museum, I received not a single outraged letter, but even a passing reference to a conservative politician unleashes a deluge of complaints about bias and how discussing the contemporary influence of false narratives about the past should be off limits except to conservative pundits, who have some unique connection to revealed truth.
This is a very long way around saying that anyone who is upset with me for disliking all that Donald Trump’s authoritarian campaign represents ought to be even more outraged at Expedition Unknown host Josh Gates, who makes me look positively subtle in couching my criticism in facts and arguments. In a tweet this week, Gates explained that he’s planning to flee the country out of hatred for Trump:
In another tweet, Gates, who is clearly much more partisan than I have ever been, compared the Republican presidential candidates to everything from Grandpa Munster to a robot. Here’s the host of a cable TV history show with more than one million weekly viewers saying the kind of thing that in past election cycles would have quickly gotten a public figure booted off TV. It’s rather astonishing, really, that essentially no one cares.
But it’s no surprise that Donald Trump isn’t planning to stand for anyone making fun of him after he takes office. And this isn’t simply an opportunity to criticize Trump but to express deep concern at the billionaire’s stated desire to protect wealthy Americans, celebrities, and corporations by making it more difficult, if not impossible, to criticize them in print, on TV, or online. Trump announced on Friday that he wants to strengthen libel laws:
“One of the things I’m going to do if I win—and I hope we do, and we’re certainly leading—I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money,” Trump said. He then cited perceived liberal news sources by name and added, “We’re going to open up libel laws and we’re going to have people sue you like you’ve never got sued before.”
To Trump’s supporters, this sounded like a brave stand against the hated mainstream media, but the ramifications of Trump’s poorly considered plan are horrifying. For someone like me, whose entire public career is predicated on First Amendment protections, changing libel laws to make them more like those of Great Britain, or, worse, China, would make it impossible to continue to offer substantive criticisms of public figures, and not just politicians. As someone who frequently receives threats of libel suits from authors and TV personalities, for me this is a horrifying development. The essence of American libel law, as determined by the Supreme Court during its long-ago liberal phase, is that public figures have substantially less protection from libel than private individuals because entry into the public sphere means that they give up some control over what others say about them. As the Court found in New York Times v. Sullivan (1964), even mistakes are protected so long as they were made without malicious intent, since otherwise there would be a chilling effect on free speech that would essentially gut the First Amendment.
Trump wants to change that standard, to remove the requirement that accusers show actual malice in order to bring a libel suit. Note that his main criterion for libel is “negative” coverage, with “false” added as a tertiary afterthought. At first glance this seems like a temper tantrum by a man who doesn’t like being made fun of, but there is a very serious background to this, and one that (of course) touches on race: The original New York Times v. Sullivan ruling came about because public figures in the South used libel laws to try to force the media to stop covering the Civil Rights movement and the atrocities committed against Civil Rights protestors.
It is perhaps not surprising that the late Antonin Scalia, whom Trump praised as his Platonic ideal of a Supreme Court justice, thought Sullivan was wrongly decided and also would have liked to see libel law made stricter.
Consider how difficult it would be to provide substantive criticism not just of a public official but of the public figures and television shows I cover if I had to fear than even a minor misstatement or an honest mistake, or even just perceived “negative” analysis, could result in thousands or millions of dollars in libel judgments. Since only the wealthy would therefore be able to buy the right to free speech, such a change would return power to billionaires and corporations, and guarantee that whatever they chose to present as truth would go essentially unchallenged. The irony, of course, is that while Trump believes his action would curb the “liberal” news media (and it would make covering the news more difficult and expensive), it would also have the effect of giving the much more conservatively oriented (and profitable) nonfiction programming freer reign. Since shows like Ancient Aliens, Hunting Hitler, or Curse of Oak Island rarely refer to living people, and the dead can’t be libeled, even under Trump’s proposal, the revised law would result only in suppressing criticism. Those seeking to distort allegedly educational content for personal or political gain could use libel laws as a weapon to push radical agendas. Given the way we know corporations like Discovery Communications, the Walt Disney Company, A+E Networks, and NBCUniversal have happily stomped on the very idea of truth in pursuit of cash, and have happily catered to conspiracy theorists and promoted ignorance and lies, this should scare anyone who values free expression.
2/28/2016 08:42:55 am
It's because of Barack Obama being a military sissy that Donald Trump is going to elected President - and have there ever been such a boring lot of candidates for the Presidency ???
2/28/2016 01:16:57 pm
((Loud spitting sounds))
2/28/2016 01:38:24 pm
ISIS is nothing more than a nuisance. I say ignore them and let the locals deal with them
2/28/2016 02:57:15 pm
Senator John McCain !!!!
2/28/2016 03:05:35 pm
The likes of John McCain and Barack Obama, they are truly fantastic simpletons, and the UK politicians lack all common sense as well,
2/28/2016 04:47:16 pm
Uh...McCain and Obama were in the 2008 presidential race.
2/28/2016 06:38:00 pm
Do you follow and support politicians
2/28/2016 07:04:40 pm
Bobo summarizes the last GOP debate.
2/28/2016 07:56:18 pm
Now I know tm stands for TOTALLY MENTAL
2/28/2016 08:01:10 pm
Senator McCain was belly aching shortly after the start of the Civil War why nothing was done militarily to help the rebels.
2/28/2016 08:04:26 pm
And John Kerry won't achieve much with his fondling tactics.
2/28/2016 08:44:21 pm
Top news sources: Washington Post, New York Times, The Hill, Politico, Huffington Post, TPM, Slate, LA Times, Denver Post, Time, Reuters, and...Bobo.
2/29/2016 01:50:41 am
McCain wants American boots on the ground in Syria. Syria is not worth World War Three and McCain proves that politicians are goofballs.
2/29/2016 01:54:13 am
The only way to stop the slaughter in Syria is by America starting World War Three against Russia. Russia will fire back at the Americans, that's for sure - and that's why America are yip-yapping in negotiations rather than engaging in warfare like in Afghanistan and Iraq.
2/29/2016 02:18:20 am
2/29/2016 02:21:10 am
Yawn back at you tm - TOTALLY MENTAL GOOFBALL
2/29/2016 10:33:58 am
2/29/2016 10:54:11 am
I have to give points for the completely innane and asinine nature of your assessment of the situation. But points off for not having any actual reality basis for your thoughts.
2/29/2016 10:00:41 pm
ISIS wants a caliphate and to bring about the final battle (eventually, I am sure once they have power it will be delayed). If the locals can't defeat them they will form a state. We know how to beat a state so let's wait till they form something we can defeat or implode on their own.
4/6/2017 04:30:02 am
You are a complete idiot Time Machine. People like you are what is wrong with this world. Degenerates taking over who think or 'believe' nothing else matters but their own pathetic life. If brains were dynamite you couldn't blow your nose. Get a life shithead.
Cindi Van Kirk
12/20/2020 05:57:32 pm
Wasn’t this supposed to be about Josh Gates??
2/28/2016 11:21:08 am
"Note that his main criterion for libel is “negative” coverage, with “false” added as a tertiary afterthought."
2/28/2016 02:25:49 pm
I suppose it depends on what Trump means when he says "false". Though I try to not make assumptions about people, I tend to listen to politicians in the context of other things they say and with an ear for the connotative.
2/28/2016 06:43:57 pm
For anything to be libel, slander or collectively regarded as defamation in the States, it has to be false for the plaintiff's burden of proof; that is, untrue. That would be up to the finder of fact, which would be a judge or jury depending on how the case is presented. Another distinction comes into play when the plaintiff is a public figure. Then malice must be proved as well. In the States, truth is an absolute defense to a claim of defamation. In Great Britain, it is the defendant's burden of proof to prove truth when sued for defamation, and that's quite a distinction. So I would assume that "false" in this instance means untrue, given the context.
2/28/2016 08:33:26 pm
Right. So is he suggesting new laws, or is he just adding a new narrative to his campaign. To me, the context of his campaign is creating sound bites that suggest simple solutions to complex problems.
2/28/2016 10:31:07 pm
Presidents don't make laws. They enforce them.
2/29/2016 02:01:40 am
Donald Trump does have a point..
2/28/2016 11:36:33 am
This phenomenon of Trump is frightening in so many ways. The one you address here is just another of many. But if you listen closely to what the other two Republican front runners espouse it is hardly any more in touch with reality than The Donald is. He simply states out loud abhorrent and discredited ideas that the others must refer to using coded language. At the heart of it all is the party’s complete and utter disregard for critical thinking. In large part they are simply reaping what they have sown for so many years through climate change denial, acceptance of creationism and just generally attacking knowledge and education. This complete and utter meltdown of one of our two major political parties is, unfortunately, going to affect us all even if Trump doesn’t win.
2/28/2016 12:31:17 pm
I worked with Gates on a live production about 6 years ago and he was very outspoken about how liberal he was so this does not surprise me. I also would add he was really nice and went out of his way to spent time getting to know the entire production crew, which I cannot say for the others "hosts" involved in the production
2/28/2016 01:27:20 pm
Trump is a Liberal pretending to be a conservative because that's what he thinks that's the easiest route to getting elected.
2/28/2016 10:35:14 pm
I hardly see anything Trump stands for as being typical Liberal. If I had to describe him politically, I'd say he's a moderate with Conservative leanings on many social issues. The reason he is running as Republican candidate is because his message appeals to Conservative voters far more than to Liberal voters.
2/29/2016 02:09:39 pm
I see that people are not getting the point of my accusation.
2/29/2016 06:34:42 pm
So, you are a mind reader then?
2/29/2016 06:37:12 pm
I'm suggesting he still believes the same things he consistently believed before he became a media circus.
2/28/2016 01:44:45 pm
Trump is saying whatever he thinks will get him elected. If you watch carefully you can see that he has been moving more towards the center over the course of the campaign. This way he continues to add to his ranks since no one seems to leave him once they back him.
2/28/2016 05:49:26 pm
Frankly, I would still consider Clinton to be the lesser of evils. She was arrogant and careless, but no one has yet proved that she caused harm with her email server, nor that any classified material went to sources it shouldn't have--only that it was routed through a server that shouldn't have been used. On top of that, it's a little bit unclear whether the things she sent were actually classified at the time she sent them, from the way things have been phrased by the investigation.
2/28/2016 06:39:01 pm
But you are a voter and politicians are nothing but useless slobs
2/29/2016 04:28:21 am
When I compare Hilary's e-mails to the monstrous scam that was "Trump University" I must say I would prefer the candidate with the minor security risk of e-mails most, if not all, of whose content were classified after the fact over the one who allowed his name to actively bilk people out of their life's savings.
2/29/2016 09:49:09 pm
Those emails have found their way into the hands of Russia and China. That is definitely harm to our national interests
3/1/2016 12:33:17 pm
What's your source for that Crash?
3/1/2016 05:43:44 pm
Here is a link to an article on the mess. Several sources have related the hacking. Being inside DoD and knowing some of the stuff that has been hacked i would be surprised if it hadn't been hacked.
3/1/2016 06:11:31 pm
Crash, that article says nothing about her email getting hacked or foreign governments getting information from it. It looks like you made it up. Wishful thinking?
3/1/2016 10:09:49 pm
I don't think you read the whole article. About 3/4 of the way down it says "Intelligence professionals agree the server was almost certainly hacked by foreign agencies—probably by several."
3/2/2016 12:37:39 am
Crash55, please provide proof of harm done. Something being in the hands of other nations does not constitute harm if what they know does not materially affect the actions of those nations toward us. Furthermore, anything that was not classified at the times the emails were sent most certainly reached Russia and China by dozens of other means. Therefore, my question remains: WHEN were the items classified? This would hardly be the first time a scandal was created out of nothing by political adversaries by creating a crime when none actually existed, nor the first time it was done by using shady means.
3/2/2016 07:28:06 am
You keep expressing as a certainty that which is unknown.
3/2/2016 05:46:56 pm
Did you read the articles at all?
3/2/2016 06:56:13 pm
I read the articles Crash and they don't say what you want them to say.
3/3/2016 07:17:37 pm
Gary you are the one being irrational and obviously lacking in reading comprehension.
3/4/2016 07:42:50 am
2/29/2016 07:35:11 am
Criminal Clinton? What crime did she commit?
2/29/2016 09:55:39 pm
Sending classified data over unsecured networks is a crime. If any DoD employee did what she did we would be in jail for a very long time. A few emails you may able to argue as accidental or improperly classified but not thousands. At last count there were over 1000 at Confidential or Secret levels and over 50 at Top Secret or SCI levels. You know if you are sending something that is TS or SCI.
2/28/2016 02:03:55 pm
"Note that his main criterion for libel is “negative” coverage, with “false” added as a tertiary afterthought.."
2/28/2016 02:17:49 pm
Did you watch Trump's rally where he said this? He placed "negative" first and gave it more verbal emphasis. Your interpretation of his emphasis may vary, but to my ear it sounded like he wanted "negative" to sound more important than "false."
2/28/2016 02:39:50 pm
No, I can't watch any of this stuff with either party. I try, but I just can't make it very long.
2/28/2016 03:08:34 pm
It doesn't really matter whether Trump appeared to want "negative" to sound more important than "false"- so long as he's got "false" in there somewhere he can defend his position as consistent with the First Amendment. What's intriguing, though, is that he goes on to develop an apparent shorthand term for what he wants to stop; twice in a few words he uses the term "hit piece".
2/28/2016 03:56:50 pm
I'd say, David, that to describe Trump as having "positions" is perhaps too strong a characterization, and he probably didn't think about his First Amendment views in any coherent way. I don't think he's really either liberal or conservative in the traditional sense but rather a nativist and a populist, and the randomness of his "positions" allows a wide range of people to read into them reflections of themselves, sort of like a horoscope.
2/28/2016 04:03:20 pm
Mister Trump's definitions are all "Trump-centric." He defines a "great guy: as almost anyone who agrees with him and insults anyone who does not. Even when he disavows an endorsement, such as those by David Duke and other white supremacists, he only fluffs it off - disavowing it in word only - but does not make the sort of strong condemnation he ought to. And he never stops to consider why such groups finds his proposals so palatable... now THAT is scary!
2/28/2016 06:41:23 pm
If you don't trust Trump, you must trust some other worthless politician somewhere.
2/28/2016 06:43:31 pm
Relentless attacks against fringe theorists - but politicians are as equally worthless as the fringe theorists. Those baboons supporting the politicians at the conventions, they are crazy and ignorant.
2/28/2016 04:49:38 pm
Don't worry Jason. Even though our current administration likes to pretend that it can go around the constitution, its crazy programs and executive orders keep getting struck down by the courts A President Trump can want to do a lot of things, but fortunately this is not China or the UK and the founders were wise to protect both speech and the press.
2/28/2016 05:48:57 pm
He may find decent bagels. I understand there are some good ones in Vancouver, and definitely great lox...
2/28/2016 05:51:22 pm
If he could find one or two pre-Columbian Norse, Basque or English archaeological sites in the St. Lawrence area that would be a nice start.
2/28/2016 06:41:49 pm
God I get tired of this sort of swill.
2/28/2016 09:27:31 pm
1) Popehat/Marc Randazza has posted on Trump's comments and is well worth the read.
2/28/2016 09:28:59 pm
Whoops... for those not in the know, Popehat is a great First Amendment blog by actual lawyers.
2/29/2016 08:55:02 am
Ever watch Tim Allen in Last Man Standing? He expresses his polical views in pretty much every show.
2/29/2016 01:14:00 pm
Nice post Jason and I'm a conservative/libertarian (but against interventionism). Trump is just out there and he is what we deserve. For decades the political class has demonized the "other side" to such an extent that the folks believed it. Both sides did it very well. And the total trashing of the Constitution and Bill or Rights by both sides won't even discussed in the media.
The troll Krampus
2/29/2016 06:51:11 pm
This comment is for politics in general: Politics is just a dog and pony show for the common masses. "Government" is a structured hierarchy that is only in place to protect the elites of a society. Elites supporting elites in an effort to increase wealth and power.
3/1/2016 10:46:27 pm
Mr. Colavito,I think that a lot of conservatives are tired and angry for being the scapegoats for all the world's problems. We're accused of being racist or homophobic simply because there are those people in our ranks. Many on the left blame America or those on the right for whatever is wrong with the planet. I think that those constant attacks tend to make some of us who have those views very sensitive.
3/2/2016 12:51:23 am
Mr. Marino, I would like to take this opportunity to hold up a mirror. Not every liberal is in lockstep with our most outspoken crazies, either, and we ALSO get tired of being told that we're tree-hugging socialist hippies who want to take everything away from the people who have it so that nobody has anything. Liberals have been blamed for "everything that is wrong with our country," too. I would remind you that the Westboro Baptist "Church" ain't liberals. And frankly, when I hear someone bitching that "we don't have the same free speech rights as ___" it is almost always because they want to be able to say whatever they want to whomever they want without anyone being allowed to object. Well, sorry, free speech doesn't work that way. You, a conservative, are allowed to spit out whatever you want on the floor, such as this rant blaming liberals for Trump. I, a liberal, am equally free to tell you that you are full of crap.
3/3/2016 12:55:15 am
Look,V. I'm not blaming you for that. And I CERTAINLY wouldn't use the words you used. If I were looking for a church to worship at,the Westboro Baptist Church would be LAST on my list because they're a bunch of loons and I don't want to associate with them. But,when you have people like Sean Penn or Bernie Sanders cozying up to paranoid loudmouths like Hugo Chavez,who many might say is just as bad as Donald Trump is or slugs like Fidel Castro,the Sandinistas,or the Soviets,that's what will happen.
3/2/2016 10:12:07 am
Trump would be opening himself up to lawsuits because he's written "...purposely negative and horrible and false articles..." about many people.
12/17/2016 12:00:21 am
Bye Josh. Vancouver is nice this time of year. And, they have more monsters in Canada as well.
12/21/2016 02:28:05 pm
Since we now know Trump will be #45, the cowards(as in Josh Gates-of whom I was a TV fan) should be packing. Their passion aside, they are not the folks with gumption, that made this country great. Him saying he will leave the US in the light of a Trump victory, could have also been heard from loyalist when #1 was voted in and from every opposition party since. In a Democracy you do not throw in the towel and vamoose because someone other than your choice of leaders was the choice of the majority. Having our leaders chosen from 1 party or the other in our two party system, will almost always leave half of our populous with a leader they neither voted for or will be happy with! So get over it! O'Bama is finally leaving and the country is still in tact, no matter how slight!
12/25/2016 06:05:35 pm
I am very disappointed that Josh Gates is taking this stance. I had always like him and his shows but if he is going to be one of those cry babis that cannot accept America's decision on our next president, I will have to boycott his shows. I always thought he was well educated, but if he supports Obama, I must be wrong. Obama was a traitor to the American people. He put into effect some of the worse policies any president ever implemented. He was an am bar assent to the American people and caused so much violence with his racism. So, good bye, Josh Gates and good bye Exposition Unknown.
1/24/2018 12:45:02 pm
Well, I see that he is still in the United States of America. Just like the other loud mouth Liberals, all talk, no action.
6/23/2019 10:20:03 pm
I used to like Josh Gates. Oh, I still do I guess, as long as I read nothing more about his brand new home in Canada where he moved after Trump became President. Buy watching him will be different now. I’ll know. I now always know.
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I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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