Critical Mass

Critic vs. Litigious Author

By Steven G. Kellman

Last March, the International Herald Tribune was forced to pay $114,000 for allegedly libeling the prime minister of Singapore in an article analyzing the “dynastic” politics of that nation. Standards of libel vary throughout the world, and libel shopping has become a common phenomenon for lawyers seeking venues most amenable to a favorable judgment. However, the case reported by Jennifer Howard in the Chronicle of Higher Education (click here) is particularly egregious because it is an attack not on the factual accuracy of a news article or even on an unsympathetic editorial or column but on a book critic, for a review that is in fact relatively restrained. If this action succeeds, is any book critic anywhere safe from the vengeance of a litigious author?