Miraculous Dune Shacks
To the editor:
I sincerely suggest that everyone — locals, natives, and much-appreciated visitors — subscribe to the Provincetown Independent. Not just during the summer months but year-round. This weekly paper is a treasured local news resource, the kind that few regions in this country can claim to have. The quality of the Independent’s journalism is never in doubt, and the topics covered are essential to the well-being of the region.
Paul Benson’s reporting on the problematic National Park Service leasing of traditional dune shacks [“Park Advertises 10-Year Leases on Dune Shacks,” May 11, front page] is an excellent example. The 1961 legislation that created the Cape Cod National Seashore (the word “park” was removed for good reason) promised to recognize and protect the unique way of life and culture of the traditional uses of the dune shacks.
It is a miracle that these dune shacks still exist, given the unrelenting assaults the federal government has mounted, first focusing on destroying the simple dwellings themselves and now on destroying their traditional culture.
If Sullivan Is Overturned
To the editor:
Your letter from the editor in the May 11 edition [“A Lawyer’s Master Class”] regarding the threats to the Supreme Court’s 1964 decision in New York Times v. Sullivan is right on point.
Sullivan grew out of a suit filed by the police commissioner of Montgomery, Ala. claiming that he was defamed by inaccuracies in an ad published by the Times. The newspaper was found liable by the trial court, and the plaintiff was awarded $500,000. The Times appealed, and the Supreme Court unanimously reversed the Alabama court and created the Sullivan rule.
In a 2019 opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas stated that Sullivan was wrongly decided and should be reconsidered. No other justice joined Thomas at that time. But in 2021, Justice Neil Gorsuch questioned the continued usefulness of the Sullivan rule, and Thomas reiterated his opposition to it. Another U.S. Court of Appeals judge also said that Sullivan should be abandoned. A number of cases now working their way through the federal courts are designed to bring the Sullivan rule back before the high court.
What would happen if Sullivan were overturned or severely limited? In all likelihood, legal chaos would ensue. News organizations, stripped of the protections of Sullivan, would be subjected to endless lawsuits by people with a grudge, both on the left and the right. George Soros, who has been accused of every sort of malfeasance by the right-wing media, would have a field day.
Tit-for-tat lawsuits would be the order of the day, and many smaller media outlets would likely be driven out of business by the cost of defending defamation claims. The big loser would be American democracy, as the free press would be a lot less free.