Niall Ferguson threatens to sue Mishra

Oh dear. We now hear that Ferguson is threatening legal action, which rather undermines my point about the classiness of ‘counter-speech’ over legal threats.

Author Niall Ferguson, who says he has been smeared by Pankaj Mishra. Photo by he Aspen Institute - Creative Commons Licence.
Author Niall Ferguson, who says he has been smeared by Pankaj Mishra. Photo by the Aspen Institute - Creative Commons Licence.

Oh dear.

A couple of weeks ago this blog praised the historian Niall Ferguson for keeping his acrimonius war of words with Pankaj Mishra on the letters page of the London Review of Books, and not in the High Court.

But yesterday we hear that Ferguson is threatening legal action, which rather undermines my point about the classiness of ‘counter-speech’ over legal threats.

I can see how Ferguson would want to pursue this issue to its conclusion.  I imagine there are few things more shocking for a historian and political commentator than to be accused of racism.  To demand satisfaction is a natural reaction.  However, reading Mishra’s review of Ferguson’s book again, the words written do seem to sit very much within the realm of opinion. It seems to me that a successful defamation claim by Ferguson would set a very worrying precedent for the future.

1 thought on “Niall Ferguson threatens to sue Mishra”

  1. Nothing much to add from my comment before; I think I have a slightly lower opinion of Mr Ferguson’s taste, so I’m not overly surprised he is going for the flashier option. He is a bit of a tosser.

    He must be aware his sandcastle is built on dodgy foundations, given his eurocentric presentation techniques. This compares badly with, for example, Boris Johnson and his varied output. In one show, he rather cleverly revealed modern Spanish irritation with foreign interest in Moorish architecture.

    Losing a court case would probably improve him no end.

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