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Directory of Mark Twain's maxims, quotations, and various opinions:

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LIBEL

Speaking in general terms it was always easy to get any print to say any injurious thing about a citizen in a newspaper, but it was next to impossible to get that paper or any other to right an injured man. We have a law of libel, but it is inoperative and merely cumbers the statute books. For several reasons: First -- The case must take its routine place in the calendar of the court and that ensures that some months must elapse before the courts get down to it, so that whatever injury the libel might do has been already done. Second -- A jury is afraid of the newspapers and always lets a newspaper off at the cheapest and easiest rate. As the result libel suits are very uncommon and whenever one is tried it simply serves as a reminder to later comers that the best way is to let libel suits alone and take what the newspapers choose to give you in the way of abuse.
- "About General Grant's Memoirs," Autobiography of Mark Twain (University of California Press, 2010)
Mark Twain and Newspaper

It is not my disposition to let those newspaper-libels pass unchallenged, but it my policy to do it. To answer them would but widen their currency & breed others. If the scene were England I would take hold of them at once in the courts & make their propagators very sick; but America has no libel law; there, a man's character is legally the prey of any journalistic assassin that wants it.
- Letter to Joseph Twichell, 10 April 1897

[Twichell] ... sends me a vast newspaper heading, the breadth of five columns 'Close of a Great Career' in which it is said that I am living in penury in London and that my family has forsaken me. This would enrage and disgust me if it came from a dog or a cow, or an elephant or any of the higher animals, but it comes from a man, and much allowance must be made for man.
- Notebook, 28 March 1897

 

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