Almost six months ago, foreign-policy macher Richard N. Perle vowed to sue Seymour M. Hersh for writing an unflattering feature about him in The New Yorker. Perle told the New York Sunhe'd be suing in England because its libel laws are more favorable to plaintiffs than U.S. libel law.
"I'm talking to Queen's Counsel right now," Perle told the Sun.
As I wrote back then, Perle had little cause for a lawsuit and no real intention to file. His threat was a coward's bluff designed to intimidate other reporters from investigating his potential conflicts of interest. The bluff failed miserably when the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and The Nation all followed Hersh's lead to survey the peculiar intersection of Perle's business dealings with his official duties as chairman and member of the Defense Policy Board.
But on the long shot that Perle still lusts for the sort of litigation that might bring him sympathy if not victory, he might consider turning his attention to another of Si Newhouse's magazine properties— Vanity Fair. In a letter/photograph spread captioned "Separated at Birth" in the September issue, Vanity Fair letter-to-the-editor writer Art Dudley attempts to draw parallels between Perle and Nazi Minister of Propaganda Dr. Joseph Goebbels. Dudley makes much of the physical pose Perle assumed for Vanity Fair's photographer in the July issue, which he finds identical to that struck by Goebbels for Alfred Eisenstaedt. Dudley writes:
Here it is: the same arrogance, the same malice toward the photographer, the same all-around creepiness.
Perle isn't the first government official to use deceit and fear mongering to force an extremist, irrational, and ultimately violent view on an entire nation, or globe.
Say something awful about Richard Perle. Something vituperative. Revile him with both lungs, accuse him of the scurrilous, the gross, and the low, and I'll probably second you. But comparing the loud-mouthed libel bully/foreign-policy wheeler-dealer/revolving-door artist with a major abettor of the extermination of Europe's Jews seems to be … a bit of a reach. It's unfair to Perle, and it certainly slights Goebbels' beastly legacy to equate him with a policy wonk/venture capitalist/Defense Department adviser.
So, how about it, Mr. Perle? As a public figure, you have little chance of winning a libel or defamation suit against letter-writer Dudley or against Vanity Fair for publishing the cheap shot. But if you're in the market for public sympathy and still intend to pester Hersh and The New Yorker with a libel suit, add Vanity Fair to the mix! Plus, if you act now and sue in the United States, you can save money on serving both suits at the same time. The New Yorker is on the 20th floor of the Condé Nast building, and Vanity Fair is on 22.
The Fair Play for Perle Committee holds its meetings at firstname.lastname@example.org.