Well, here’s the thing.
I have been challenging MTR for a couple of years on the Drum, at On Line Opinion, and on my blog. Not once has she debated, denied, argued, or contested the points I’ve made about her, and about the position from which she speaks.
Tankard Reist has a much bigger public platform than I do and far more opportunity to respond to her critics. But rather than engage in any debate at all with me over the last couple of years, she has now chosen to threaten me with a defamation suit. If she proceeds, she will financially ruin me.
I have to ask myself why someone does that when there have been a million opportunities for her to refute my arguments about her, and she has taken up none of them?
I can only conclude that Tankard Reist does not wish to debate with me, or refute those parts of my articles that she feel are inaccurate, and/or offend her. Rather Melinda wants to silence me with the threat of litigation, and fill me with the fear of losing everything I have if I do not comply with her demands.
Demands that her lawyer, Ric Lucas of Colquhoun Murphy, the firm that successfully sued Bob Ellis after his Abbott and Costello book, has insisted I must not publish, in another attempt to bully, intimidate and control me. Mr Lucas does not want me to reveal to anyone what those demands are.
The two statements I made that offended Tankard Reist, according to her lawyer’s letter, are 1) I stated she is a Baptist, which he claims in the letter she is not, and 2) that I expressed my opinion that MTR is duplicitious and deceptive about her religion.
If I do not retract both these statements, apologise in a format MTR’s lawyer determines is sufficient for her needs, and pay for all her legal costs (even though there has been no writ served and the matter has not got anywhere near court, still they are demanding I pay the costs she has incurred to date) I will be faced with financial ruin as I defend a defamation suit.
Someone with the resources who feels offended can do this.
Tankard Reist had and continues to have infinite opportunities to address the perceived offenses, and to reveal to everyone her true position, if it is not what I have said it is. She has a large platform from which to do this and she could make me look quite wrong. In which case I would apologise without hesitation.
However, she does not, apparently, want to declare herself, so she has chosen the threat of litigation in the expectation that will cause me to shut up, and cough up, without even having to go to court.
Personally, I would not choose this path. I think it is much better for our society if individuals thrash out differences in transparent debate, rather than threatening one another with something that will silence contesting views, and make it less and less possible for anyone without money to express contentious views at all.
In the article in the Age this morning, Tankard Reist claimed she doesn’t mind being called a “Christian.” But I called her a Baptist and have been threatened with defamation for doing it. Why not just say what kind of Christian she is and correct me?
Apparently Tankard Reist can afford to bring this suit, and will not be financially ruined by doing so. I am assuming that no one would voluntarily ruin themselves just to shut someone else up. I could be wrong.
There is something terribly wrong with this picture, and the legal system that allows it. There is no sense of proportion. That Tankard Reist can make me pay with everything because I described her as a Baptist and expressed an opinion on the type of behaviour she exhibits when anyone questions her about her religion, is simply insane.
I can only say that her choice of litigation as a means of dealing with publicity about her religious beliefs really does nothing to correct the observations for which I am being threatened with defamation.