Friday, August 8, 2014

How To Not Libel People

There's been drama... no, there's been DRAMA!!! with the launch of the free D&D 5E rules. If you're reading this, you probably know what's going on. You can check out Fail Forward or D&D With Porn Stars if you need to see what's what. I also liked this analysis by Mollpeartree and this evaluation by Richard and this essay by Mandy Morbid. There's tons more if you want to go down the rabbit hole.


If you accuse someone of things, you should provide evidence of your accusation. It's courtesy, it's intellectual honesty, it's sometimes even the law. Saying "these people told me in secret and I'm not sharing proof because secrets" is rarely enough. Your source's discomfort is not a defense. If you're reporting that Someone Said Something, you say who they are. People who won't go on the record are people you can't trust. Not everyone has the luxury of an adequate education at one of our nation's most publicly-funded journalism schools -- but I do. I paid my rent for years by reporting on what people said. Anonymous sources are bullshit.


To be fair, some people need anonymity to protect their lives or their livelihoods. I can see that. Heroic truth-tellers, whistleblowers, people who've suffered at the hands of the powerful. But these exceptions are rare. As far as I know, nobody's life or fortune is on the line here. Nobody in this fight is stabbing or stealing.

You don't have to like Zak S (I do, based on reading his stuff) or the RPGPundit (I mostly don't, based on reading his stuff). But if you attack them -- if you attack anyone -- you need to show your work. If you feel you can't, you need to show the reasons why not. If you can't do either of those things, you've crossed the line into libel.

Don't libel people. Don't hide behind anonymity. If you're in danger, get the police. If you're not in danger, own your statements.

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