Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack

How much is a good night’s sleep on a cozy pillow worth? Well, one Denver-based company may help “My Pillow” founder and hawker Mike Lindell find out before too long. A recent Colorado Politics story reports that, when Lindell bought no less than three hours of TV time on the little-watched One America News Network, he got Dominion Voting System’s attention. 

You may recall that up in Denver, the good folks at Dominion manufacture voting machines that are used around the country, in Canada, and in 62 of Colorado’s 64 counties. Now, unless you are fully submerged in the nonsense spouted by a certain former president, you likely have seen the news reports on the many, many times the outcome of the 2020 election has been check, recounted, and verified. Dominion’s machines worked quite well, as it turns out. While any large election will have a tiny handful of mistakes – such as the 37-vote error discovered in one Georgia county where a human made a math error (and not a Dominion machine) – we’ve seen court after court (many filled with Trump-appointed judges) confirm that the election was by and large properly counted. An interesting side note is that when the Trump legal team found themselves actually under oath (and thereby facing actual consequences if they lied) they repeatedly stated there was no actual evidence of voter fraud. In a Pennsylvania court, for example, under oath the Trump legal team agreed that “Petitioners do not allege, and there is no evidence of, any fraud in connection with the challenged ballots.” But I digress…

Which, of course, brings me back to a guy who makes pillows, the First Amendment, and personal responsibility.

Dominion Voting is based in Colorado and makes a quality product. And like any company, they want to protect the good name of their business. Over time, we have seen that sometimes companies find their images tarnished (or, frankly, destroyed) by their own actions. BP, the giant energy company, took massive (and well-deserved) hits to its reputation when a well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico brought months of unwanted negative publicity. But sometimes the companies involved are not at fault and are merely the victims of false rumors and outright falsehoods perpetrated by others for nefarious reasons. Dominion argues that this is exactly what happened to it, due to the lies it says were told by many on Team Trump, now to include Lindell. 

Dominion’s future as a corporation (and as a job creator in Colorado) is utterly dependent on its reputation. Should voting officials around the country (and around the globe) believe the fake news that their machines cheat, the company is likely doomed. Reputations are everything, which is why companies such as Corona Beer fought back against bizarre rumors that certain human-generated impurities (there, that should be polite enough) were used in the beer. The rumors were false, but Corona saw its sales drop dramatically for many months. 

And so it is with Dominion Voting.

As has been certified by state governors, election officials, Trump’s own attorney general, and many others, the Dominion machines worked just fine. And given their strong performance, the company likely hoped for more sales in coming months and years. So, it should not be a surprise that when Lindell bought TV time to declare the company to be, well, criminal and that they had “rigged” the 2020 election somehow, Dominion’s legal team took action. Lindell is now one of several alleged fake news promotors being sued for defamation and the suit is seeking damages of $1.3 billion. As it turns out, words matter.

The suit alleges that Lindell knowingly spread false information, in part as a marketing strategy. It seems being a Trump ultra-loyalist is good for the pillow business, with his sales increasing 30-40% since he started his campaign of disinformation. It is not known if the others being sued for similar slander (Rudy, Fox News, and others) have sent a “welcome to the party” note to Lindell.

Now, Lindell and the others are likely to cry out about their First Amendment rights, and how they are being persecuted for their speech. But it is important to remember a theme I often write about: free speech does not mean that you are free from the consequences of your speech. If I, for example, was an employee of Ford Motor Company and I hosted a podcast about how Ford is conspiring with, I dunno, the Martians to murder children, Ford is going to fire me. And then they will likely sue me for making reputation-damaging false statements. I can cry First Amendment all I want, but the protections of free speech are not absolute. You cannot lie in an advertisement and, say, claim that a rival company employs 5-year-olds to clear landmines. You cannot yell “fire” in a theater (unless, and this is very important, the theater is, in fact, on fire). And you cannot buy hours of TV time to falsely attack a person or a company, as the lawsuit alleges Lindell did, and expect to not face some consequences.

Dominion is a company of which Colorado should be proud. Lindell and his ilk are alleged to have made up false and damaging statements about an innocent company. We will see what the courts have to say about that. In the meantime, I suspect Lindell will have some trouble sleeping, given the financial catastrophe that may be in his future. 

Maybe a good pillow will help. 

I recommend he check Amazon.

Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

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