Plots and Thoughts

English Libel Law – Shaming the Bullies

Posted in Observations, Strategy by Captain Optimistic on February 24, 2010

The British Chiropractic Association sued Simon Singh for writing a science column in which he called their claims “bogus”.  A judge ruled against him and he is currently appealing.  As the Libel Reform Campaign observes, their libel law is a global disgrace:

John Kampfner, the CEO of Index on Censorship:

If we don’t act we’re at risk of becoming a global pariah. There are US States who view English libel law as so damaging to free speech they have passed laws to effectively block the decisions of English judges. Our report is an important milestone in modernising our antiquated and chilling approach to free expression.

In the meantime, is there anything we can do to help?  I would like to propose a generalized strategy for dealing with those who use the law to oppress those with less power.  A Public Relations Denial of Service attack.  A DOS attack is – in essence – an attack on a network’s availability by request saturation.  Think of it as so many people calling into a hotline to complain the phone lines melt.  Imagine applying the same approach to a company’s reputation.  There could be no more ironic target than an organization misusing English libel law to penalize a critic.

This is political speech at its most raw and powerful.  The message we would send is clear.  If you attack free speech, we attack your reputation.  The British Chiropractic Association is using a law that is known to be a perversion to shut down criticism in the press.  This is morally repugnant and it deserves a response.

How would this work?

Large groups of people would criticize that association on their blogs, twitter, facebook, buzz, etc etc.  There are more than a few ways to do this (ironically engaging in actual libel as protest, calling them names, etc).  I would recommend one of two approaches:

  1. Put the Streisand Effect into play.  Repeat the claims they launched their lawsuit to silence.  This would entail some risk.
  2. Attack their honor.  Stomping out free speech is dishonorable, anti-democratic, and fundamentally against the code of ethics at the root of the free world.  Careful phrasing could make this approach rather risk free.

I could really use an example!

The BCA’s claims about curing asthma through chiropractic adjustment are bogus!  Talk to a real doctor today.

The BCA is silencing its critics.  Where do YOU stand on free speech?  Boycott BCA affiliated Chiropractors.

Doesn’t this put me at risk?

Perhaps.  But the more we band together, the more of us who take part, the harder it is for the offender to attack any more of us.  And with each lawsuit aimed at silencing further critics, the criticism would grow ever stronger.

What is so important about free speech anyway?

If a medical journalist cannot critique healthcare providers and methods it takes away a necessary level of protection for the public.

In situations where the law protects the powerful and punishes the weak, we need to come up with strategies to strike back.  Court costs and laws which favor corporations have made the legal world an unequal playing ground where individuals become victims.  There has to be a way for citizens to stand up for each other.  Perhaps that way can be found in grassroots public relations.

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