In the dispute between Mehdi Khalaji and Hossein Derakhshan, I sympathize with both Hossein and Mehdi, even though I have to take sides with free speech over truth.
Hossein has a habit of throwing wild accusations. But even if all of them were malicious lies, he is still expressing his personal political opinion which cannot and should not be silenced.
Political speech does not deal with facts. People do not read political blogs or opinion pieces to discover facts. Politicians accuse each other of all sorts of false things every day. They do not go to court and force the other to admit to lies and apologize. It happens only in very rare circumstances and even then, courrts in Western societies are extremely reluctant to issue a verdict against falsehoods in political speech.
Hossein has not been found guilty in a court of law. He has fallen victim to an aggressive lawyer and an internet hosting company that’s trying to cover its ass. If Hossein had a lawyer and there was a trial, I am sure the court would not have ordered his site be shut down. And it would not have forced him to remove ALL references to Mehdi Khalaji in his blog either.
No one likes to be called names, especially mean-spirited ones Hossein has unfortunately become infamous for. I understand Mehdi’s frustration because Hossein has put some silly lables on me too. But taking legal action seems like excessive force.
Mehdi is a well-known political analyst in a prominent think tank. He and his views will continue to be under public scrutiny. And in the Internet age of instant public reaction, no public figure can expect that he or she will be treated fairly. Far from it! There will be as many opinions as there are people.
Yes, Mehdi has the right to preserve his reputation and integrity. But at what cost? This is a time for more tolerance, not less. Mehdi would have been on a much higher moral ground if he had just replied to the accusations or simply ignored them. Now he also has to fight the impression that he can’t take a shot of words.
I know Hossein and Mehdi personally and have enjoyed their company. I know both of them would rather be fighting much bigger issues than turning against each other.