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If critics can’t find anything racist in all that material, why should an outright lie about what the man said be given a pass? As the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, you are entitled to your own opinion but not to your own facts.

Ultimately, this is not about Mr. Limbaugh or anybody else who is smeared with impunity. It is about the whole climate in which issues are discussed.

Without a range of opposing opinions being available to the public, the basic concept of a self-governing democracy is a mockery. If views that some people don’t like can be silenced or discredited by character assassination, the whole country loses.

The courts should not be the only line of defense. Common decency should be the first line of defense, so that people who smear others will pay a price in the outrage that their lies should provoke, even among decent people who do not agree with the target of their smears.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.