Can you sue over a bad book review?
Harvard historian and author Niall Ferguson received a bad review from the London Review of Books and now tells the editor he may take legal action.
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After an angry exchange of letters, this past weekend, Harvard historian Niall Ferguson threatened legal action against the London Review of Books, whose writer Pankag Mishra wrote a negative review of Mr. Ferguson’s most recent book, “Civilization: The West and the Rest.” In response, Ferguson told the LRB’s editor, “Don’t force my hand by forcing me to put it in the hands of lawyers.”
Wrote the New York Times, “It all started in the Nov. 3 issue of the London Review of Books, where Mr. Mishra, in a lengthy assessment of Mr. Ferguson’s book “Civilization,” accused him of writing triumphalist ‘white people’s histories…’ ”
In the review, Mishra called Ferguson “homo atlanticus redux” who “writes about being seduced away from a stodgy Oxbridge career … to the United States, ‘where the money and power actually were.’ ” He goes on, making reference to Ferguson’s written support of the US “devoting a larger percentage of its vast resources to making the world safe for capitalism and democracy” (even if necessary by military force, adds Mishra) and referencing an April 2003 New York Times Magazine piece in which Ferguson writes “I am a fully paid-up member of the neoimperialist gang.”
“Which gang you belong to may be at the heart of the conflict arising between right-leaning Ferguson and left-leaning Mishra,” writes the LA Times about the spat.
In an outraged 900-word letter to the editor published Nov. 17 in the LRB, Ferguson writes: