Things that used to be on a blog.
How to attack freedom of speech.
September 9, 2012
One of the things I have noticed over the years is that crooks
and quacks (often indistinguishable) do not reach for scientists or
experimenters when asked for evidence of their claims. Instead they
reach for lawyers who are employed to silence criticism. The tactics
vary, but he objective is always the same - make threats that imply
that awful things will happen to people who don't keep quiet. Here
are a few that have been tried on me over the years.
- Copyright violation - This was used by
a company who had
been found by the Federal Court of Australia to be operating an
illegal pyramid scheme and who didn't like me talking about it.
They claimed copyright on, among other things, a photograph
which had been altered to imply that they had an entire building
as their Australian headquarters when in fact they rented a
single floor, material from a web site which they had denied in
the Federal Court action had anything to do with them, and an
email headed "Death to Ratbags" which they claimed both
copyright on and total ignorance of.
- Trademark violation or dilution - This was the complaint of
a doctor who used a false university degree on the covers of her
books and her web sites. I didn't bother fighting this because I
had already succeeded in getting her to stop lying about her
qualifications, but I'm sure I could have won in court if I
tried. Think about the ramifications of not being able to
mention a trademark in any published criticism or comment about
any company. The idea is absurd, but apparently not as absurd as
claiming that, for example, diabetes can be cured. Another
person tried to claim that his name was trademarked so I
couldn't mention it but as he had published a web site about me
claiming that I am a pedophile and a Nazi I didn't really care
how offended he was.
- Malicious damage to business - This was the claim by the
pyramid scheme operators when they finally went to court. They
made three specific claims - the owner of the building where
they had their office (the building they suggested they owned in
their advertising literature) had instructed the managing agents
to terminate their lease and evict them, call centre operators
employed by Australia's two largest telecommunications companies
had been instructed to refer callers to my criticism of the
company, and, best of all, a Google search for their company
name brought up their web site lower in the list than mine. This
might all sound like a joke but all they had to do was prove
that I'd cost them a dollar in business and they would have won
the case. As one of their employees had committed perjury when
swearing an affidavit in court (he had no excuse of ignorance -
he was a qualified lawyer) I'm sure they could have found
someone to swear that they had not done business with the
company because of what I had said.
- Threat of bankruptcy - When I was sued in California along
with many other people (and some non-people) by
the late but not
lamented cancer quack Hulda Clark, one of her minions suggested
that the purpose of the action was to submit the respondents to
about $100,000 in legal fees each, plus travel and accommodation
costs. (The case was withdrawn when the court asked Clark's
lawyer to start producing evidence.)
A quack in Sydney who had
settled an action with the Australian Competition and Consumer
Commission lawyered up and tried to stop me reporting the facts.
Her lawyers talked about long and expensive litigation but they
went away when I told them that their client had issued a media
release saying that they had broken no laws and the ACCC were
corrupt. (I had notified the ACCC of the press release.) During
the course of my case with the pyramid scheme crooks they had a
windfall of $4 million when some funds frozen by a court in
another matter were released. Their exact words to my barrister:
"We now have unlimited funds to spend on this. Can your client
say the same?".
- General nuisance and disruption - Any legal action, win or
lose, is a distraction to real life. At the very minimum you
have to respond to credible threats and maybe spend a day or two
in court. Clark's lawyers had no intention of ever going to
court but they wanted the respondents to brief lawyers and be
ready to go to court at any time. I finally settled with the
pyramid scammers because they wanted to go into discovery mode,
which would have meant them taking possession of every computer
I own plus my business records and keeping all this for as long
as they wanted to.
- "Only people who are wrong are sued" - There are still web
sites out there that pretend that the Clark case against me is
continuing. I know of at least two web sites which refer to a
court order made with my full consent on the very first day in
court with the pyramid schemers and offer this as evidence that
I lost the case. In fact, I lost business over this matter
because some people simply won't do business with someone who
has upset a multinational corporation, no matter how many times
that corporation has been found to be operating outside the law
in other countries. Reputation is easy to lose, and often this
is the only motivation for initiating legal action. Sue someone,
then withdraw after the damage is done.
A new one appeared this week. On a Sunday morning I had the
police at my door to inform me that an application had been made for
an Apprehended Personal Violence Order against me, and I am to
appear in court in three weeks at a courthouse 735 kilometres from
my place by road to defend myself. The application was made on
September 5 and relates to something I said on April 29, so there
doesn't appear to be much urgency to the threat. The person making
the application lives 11 kilometres further away from my place than
the courthouse is, so I'm not about to drop in. My violent threat
was to say that someone who encouraged people to contact my family
and tell them I have mental health issues should leave my family
alone or I might respond and they might not like the response.
If the application were to be granted I would have certain
conditions placed on me. Let's look at what those would mean.
1. The defendant must not enter the premises at which the
protected person(s) may from time to time reside or work, or
other specified premises.
Would this mean that, for example, if the "protected person" came
to Sydney for a court case that I would be prohibited from entering
the hotel where she is staying? And what could "other specified
2. The defendant must not go within 100m of the premises
at which the protected person(s) may from time to time reside or
work, or other specified premises.
The "protected person" lives on a secondary main road that is
used as the alternative route when the main highway nearby is
blocked by flood or accident or major road maintenance is being
carried out. It is also on the most direct route to certain tourist
facilities. If I happen to be driving in the area and the police ask
me to detour along this road would I be within my rights to refuse
because that would take me within 100 metres of her house?
3. The defendant must not approach or contact the
protected person(s) by any means whatsoever except through the
defendant's legal representatives.
So if this person joins an Internet mailing list or forum of
which I am a member and which allows messages to be broadcast to all
members I must get my lawyer to post messages for me in case she
sees them? Do I have to block her IP address from access to my web
sites in case she reads something I have written, as surely this is
a form of contact? I should point out that the "protected person" is
quite free to post comments on this blog or any of my web sites, to
email me, to follow me on Twitter and to fully participate in any
forum where I have a presence.
4. The defendant must not mention the
name of the
applicant in any online forum in any derogatory manner.
I wonder why the words "name of the" were crossed out. How else
could I refer to the applicant? Oh, perhaps I could mention her
position in the organisation she heads. And I wonder if there is a
legal definition of "derogatory".
Of course I will be defending this idiocy. It is nothing more
than an attempt to stifle criticism and prevent me from speaking out
on a matter of extreme public importance. It takes some thickness of
hide to think that someone can accuse me of criminal activity, refer
to me using words like "total slime" and facilitate other people
lying about my (non-existent) criminal record and expect me to lie
down and be silenced.
UPDATE April 26, 2013
On April 26, 2013, the AVO application against me was dismissed
in the Lismore Local Court. The applicant cried while trying to
argue with the magistrate after the decision was announced. The
emotionally choked voice just made my victory even sweeter.
You can read the saga here.