The courtroom battle between Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard fascinated America like few that came before it. According to the data firm NewsWhip, Depp and Heard’s dueling defamation cases generated more social media engagement than any other story in the country, including the Russia-Ukraine war, the pending Roe v. Wade reversal, and even Elon Musk.
Over the course of a six-week trial, Depp pulled off a stunning reversal of public opinion. Just four years ago, Depp was a villain in the public’s eyes, after Heard made sensational abuse allegations (ghostwritten by lawyers with the ACLU) in the pages of the Washington Post. But Depp conclusively showed that he, not Heard, was the victim of long-running domestic abuse. And while members of the media class shrieked in horror, the vast majority of onlookers were happy to see Depp emerge victorious, extracting about $10 million in damages from Heard.
Captain Jack Sparrow’s big win is proof that America’s courts remain a venue where Americans can defend their reputations and win justice for themselves, without playing by the ever-changing rules of a sinister and malicious media. And Depp’s win also demonstrates the viability of defamation law, specifically, as a way to vindicate one’s reputation against media smears. Defamation laws don’t just exist for deep-pocketed celebrities. They provide a path for all American patriots to win important victories, and at this very moment patriotic legislatures can help more plaintiffs achieve them.
Want to strike a blow against cancel culture and the power of the media? Then don’t simply complain, do something: Make it legally risky to throw around the allegations that are a canceller’s bread and butter. Expand defamation law, and make clear that bogus accusations of being a “racist” or “white nationalist” are factual smears and defamatory per se. Read more…