To those who would sue us

10 Apr

Blogger Dan Buzzard wrote about homeopath Francine Scrayan in a post titled Scammed to Death: How Francine Scrayan killed Penelope Dingle. Briefly, Dingle was seriously ill with bowel cancer and Scrayan “treated” her with alternative medicine. Dingle died a horrible, painful death. The full story and the Coroner’s damning report can be found at Buzzard’s website.

As well, there’s an excellent post here at Chrys Stevenson’s blog titled When the Despicable cry Defamation. For some balanced commentary on the need or otherwise for defamation laws, Metamagician aka Russell Blackford  has a piece here as well as this highly recommended commentary and link on his blog.

Buzzard has now received a Cease and Desist order from Francine Scrayan’s lawyers, demanding that he remove the offending posts, as well as publish a retraction and apology. Scrayan reserves her right to sue him for defamation.

Only a couple of weeks ago, concerned parent Daniel Jeffares questioned literature distributed in his child’s school by the Bravehearts child advocacy organisation. In an attempt to discover the qualifications and experience of the authors of this material, Jeffares approached Bravehearts’ founder Hetty Johnston several times, only to be informed that his correspondence had been referred to her lawyers.

Then there is my own ongoing situation with Melinda Tankard Reist. This brilliant analysis of my circumstances by Scepticlawyer titled Once we suffered from crimes now we suffer from laws is  a must-read if you’re interested in some in-depth commentary on defamation threats. As well, there’s a Defamation category on the blog where you’ll find most of what’s been written here since I received the threats.

I don’t know if the situation with Buzzard is similar to mine, however the threats against me by Tankard Reist are viable for twelve months after the date of issue. At any time between now and next January, I can be served with a writ. One learns to live with threats, however my question is, why should anyone be obliged to, simply for expressing an opinion?

As with Reist, Scrayan could have chosen from any number of commentaries if she wanted to launch a defamation action. Instead, they both chose “unknown” bloggers. As Stevenson points out, this is a rather self-defeating exercise as individual bloggers rarely have the protection of moneyed institutions. Neither do we have unlimited access to lawyers who will defend us without a cent coming from our own pockets. What Reist and Scrayan might have achieved is a retraction and apology, which they could then use to self-publicise. They might have achieved this without risking the court proceedings an institution with deep pockets, unlike bloggers, may choose before capitulating.

Apparently these people think so highly of themselves they believe they are entitled to bully, intimidate and ultimately silence the opinions of others in order to defend their “good names.”

Reist and Scrayan depend on the successful provocation of deep fear. It’s no joke being faced with a legal situation that would certainly end in bankruptcy for many bloggers. I wouldn’t blame anyone who made the apology and retraction rather than face that prospect, and the prospect of such a dire threat hanging over his or her head for twelve months. And this is what these people count on, that the threat in itself will be sufficient to get them what they want.

Never mind that one is an advocate for public morality and the protection of children, and the other is a “healer.” In spite of their noble professions, or perhaps because of them, these women seem to believe they are above questioning, above criticism and fully entitled to threaten another human being with the loss of everything in order to protect their “reputations.”

Hetty Johnston, who has thus far only threatened to bring in the lawyers when her methods were questioned, is also a child advocate.

I’m in agreement with Blackford that we do need some form of defamation law, however its current manifestation allows those who would silence rather than debate, power to threaten and intimidate anyone who disagrees with their point of view. This does go to the character of such people. Surely they are capable of robust debate and engagement with other points of view without resorting to legal threats? And if they are not, if their characters are such that they are unable to defend their positions, should that weakness be supported by our legal system? And should people so apparently lacking in the courage of their convictions be granted the power to silence those who question them?  Do we really want a society in which our laws give a voice to bullies, while silencing  those who challenge them?

To those who would sue us, first read The Streisand Effect

To those who would sue us: toughen up, princesses.

To those who would sue us:

44 Responses to “To those who would sue us”

  1. Russell Blackford April 10, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    I think the blog post you wanted to link to was this one:


  2. Hypocritophobe April 10, 2012 at 10:09 am #

    It is a foregone conclusion that Reist and her Oompa Loompas (Selective Clout) hover over this site.
    (When they are not exploring their giant porn theme park.)

    As (it ‘appears’) do her Loyalty Trolls,both enlisted and ‘drawn to the flame’ kind.And her legal beagles, no doubt.

    Perhaps they can help locate Hetty,and ask her to cut open the dog who ate her homework, or at least sift through it’s barkers-eggs.

    The Hetty Johnston ‘case’ is interesting because it seems to be using lawyers for ‘reverse defamation’.
    To mute the output of information.
    Again,it’s hard to draw alternative conclusions, when it appears Braveheart’s are hiding /withholding something.
    To make that appearance vanish, is simply a case of making good on Jeffares more than reasonable request.
    And more intriguing is why the ABC chose to shut down the topic so quickly.
    If there WAS legal shoulder tapping at Aunty, it will all come out in the wash, but currently it all reeks of off fish, cow dung and rodents.

    Politics, Society, Satire, Fiction, Fun Stuff


    • Jennifer Wilson April 10, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

      Hello everybody! Nice to be back and see you’re all in fine form.


      • Hypocritophobe April 10, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

        Happy Eggster


        • Jennifer Wilson April 10, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

          And to you too, Hypo. Did you have an egg hunt?


          • Hypocritophobe April 10, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

            Unless seeing them stare at you from the eye level shelf in the pantry, is hunting!
            I prefer to hide them.

            What WILL we all do when the Bunny stops ovulating?


  3. Doug Quixote April 10, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    Good morning Jennifer. You say :

    ‘In spite of their noble professions, or perhaps because of them, these women seem to believe they are above questioning, above criticism and fully entitled to threaten another human being with the loss of everything in order to protect their “reputations.”’

    This position goes with the conviction that they are right and righteous and that if you question their position, their right and righteousness, not only are you not right and not righteous but wrong and wrongful and therefore evil and to be demonised accordingly.

    The rest follows as night follows day : any and every means should be used to silence, cower and destroy their critics.

    This is a political issue , make no mistake, as the activists seek to influence political and legal organisations to accord with their way of thinking and to ban and censor in accordance with their wowser agenda.

    It is up to those of us who believe in free speech and the right of full and free debate to assure you of their moral and vocal support and to continue to do so in whatever forum is available to express that moral and vocal support.


    • Jennifer Wilson April 10, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

      Check out Scott Stephen’s MASSIVE dummy spit on the Pell/Dawkins Qanda episode:


      • Doug Quixote April 10, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

        Quite so; I have posted a major reply, thus:

        Last night on Qanda (ABC’s Questions and Answers) we saw one the greatest difficulties we face today displayed for all to see.

        Two intelligent and reasonably learned men who have reached prominence in public life debated across the fields of theology, biology, physics, astronomy, philosophy, metaphysics, semantics, archaeology, paleoarchaeology, sociology, anthropology, cosmology, psychology and probably several others.

        And the difficulty is that they trampled each of those fields, apart from the few where they had reasonable depth of knowledge, no doubt with the best of intentions to make their debating points.

        No one man or woman can possibly have enough depth of knowledge in each and every one of those fields to escape criticism, on each and every point raised and debated, from those who practice in the relevant fields.

        And it is a problem. The audience appeared to divide on many points into one of two claques, one obviously in the corner of the Cardinal, the other not exactly in Dawkins’ corner but rather, sceptical of or opposed to the Cardinal and his views. And barracking either way does not help. Dawkins asked a few times What is so funny about that? clearly not used to an Australian audience, which tends to react far more vocally and not remain impassive as a British or even an American audience might, unless prompted.

        The debate aired a number of important issues, and no doubt some of those watching might be more inclined to examine the issues raised in more depth, so it perhaps served a useful purpose despite the numerous inaccuracies on both sides of the discussion.

        We live in hope.”

        The above was the balanced post; of course Pell was spouting considerable nonsense and even said at the end that he sometimes wondered why he bothered! Tony Jones questioned that, the fool, and Pell replied ‘No not really . . .’

        And you wondered where Abbott gets it from!

        I have blogged in the past, facetiously, that Pell might be the next Pope or the one after, but he’ll need to brush up on his Vatican politics and official dogma first.


        • Jennifer Wilson April 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

          Yes, good summary DQ, and generous. I got rather irritated with both parties, but not as irritated as I became at the stupidity of the questions.


        • Hypocritophobe April 10, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

          “The above was the balanced post; of course Pell was spouting considerable nonsense and even said at the end that he sometimes wondered why he bothered! Tony Jones questioned that, the fool, and Pell replied ‘No not really . . .’

          Yep,Jones had him by the balls and instead of crushing them, he leant down and kissed them.
          Perhaps Jones,too, is a Catholic?
          Loyalty is a funny thing.


      • Hypocritophobe April 10, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

        If Stephens was as important as he thinks he is, and his word mash was as interesting as he thought it was,he would rival Shakespeare.
        He amuses me no end.What an ego, and he seems to believe he is ALWAYS more important than the topic in hand.(In hand!)

        Anyway the dummy spit could be professional jealousy,Drum-ming up more interest in him/Q & A or the ABC, or just petulance.
        Maybe he dipped out on getting an invite to the egg hunt,or did not get a Christian-gob-job gig over easter.
        Boo hoo.


      • hudsongodfrey April 10, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

        I’m almost at a loss as to whether to criticise Scott Stephens’ article or Q&A’s debate first.

        Q&A had some redeeming points so let’s start with John Safran’s tweet, “First audience member to speak in tongues gets a free DVD from me”

        Somebody later tweeted “If god doesn’t exist who gave rock ‘n roll to us?” in reference to a Kiss song title.
        Quickly folowed by some kind of Led Zeppelin referencing tweet to do with lack of wheelchair access to heaven, because they only have a “stairway”!

        So the humourists were on form if nothing else.

        The debate itself was perhaps too superficial and at times I’d agree ineffectual. Dawkins being peeved at the tittering audience, and both he and Pell getting tripped up by details and circling the drain for a time.

        Bob Dylan probably summed up last night’s Q&A better than most…

        Well the sword-swallower he comes up to you and then he kneels
        He crosses himself and then he clicks his high heels
        and without further notice he asks you how it feels
        and he says ‘Here is your throat back, thanks for the loan’
        And you know something is happening but you don’t know what it is
        do you, Mr Jones?

        As for Scott poor fellow, he laments too much pluralism and thinks education has something to do with inculcating virtues rather than incubating students’ critical faculties. And his piece doesn’t rise much above that. I too posted a comment on the ABC website as follows…

        It seems that if Scott’s question was offered to Q&A then it was ignored. It is in the meantime by no means assured that his idea of a common good obviated by an excess of pluralism is shared by many who may be reading him here. The possibility exists to be argued that there are multiple goods to be shared in a community some of them common while many are diverse and therefore well served by plurality. And that isn’t even a possibility that depends on setting up a dichotomy between atheism and theism. I think you could conclude in favour of pluralism on a theistic interpretation that simply values a kind of “god given” diversity over some of our more clotted religious traditions.

        And why Scott in your concluding lines do you have to fall back on the line “At a time when so many of our civil institutions have collapsed…”? Really which ones? Has this card not been played once too often without the fabric of society disintegrating about our very ears for that hyperbolic rhetoric to salvage any shred of credibility whatsoever?


    • Jennifer Wilson April 10, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

      Thank you DQ, I appreciate that last para very much.


  4. 8 Degrees of Latitude April 10, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    Thanks for this post Jennifer. There’s a lot of good reading in the links for anyone who might irritate a Luminary. My view is that the self-precious deserve everything they get, if they do not understand the crucial element in public debate – that there are other points of view and legitimate questions to be raised. Keep up the good work!


  5. paul walter April 10, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    Whenever I read of homeopaths on the loose, it’s definitely a “Silence of the Wethers” moment.
    A revisit of the MTR site revealed that it has, indeed deteriorated into delusive barking at shadows and much annoyance at naughty pictures.
    Unfortunately, the same could be said of SL, who has deteriorated to borderline psychotic on radicals, as happens from time to time, since the more intelligent post you refer to was produced, which demonstrates what’ she’s capable of when she’s rational.
    Not much hope of succour, though. Until the outbreak subsides, like Lady Macbeth she will not be comforted, not before the hallucinations involving subversives under the the bed remain unmedicated.
    Incoherence alarms, but in Francine’s case I suspect an onlooker might discover this is tempered by more a mundane discomfort extending outward from a hip pocket anatomical location,eg, it looks very contrived.
    As for MTR she is just slipped to a fitful level, a naughty, perverse and attention-seeking child, at the moment. Some counselling or even a good smack would suffice, but while her betters remain hell bent on fostering her victimhood entitlement mindset, and a return to normality seems distant.
    Definitely princessing, in contrast to SL, who is in robust “crusade” mode. Must ask her if she’s read Ayn Rand, next time am over there.
    But must compliment JW the more for a top post, that maintains the issues amenable to further exploration.


    • Jennifer Wilson April 10, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

      Thanks for the compliment, PW. I haven’t read SL for a while, will go and have a look.


    • helvityni April 11, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

      May I ask who’s this princessly SL ?


      • Jennifer Wilson April 12, 2012 at 6:52 am #

        “SL” is Scepticlawyer, Helvi, and I’ve just posted her reply to PW’s comments.


    • Jennifer Wilson April 12, 2012 at 6:50 am #

      I received the following email from Scepticlawyer (SL Helvi) which I’m posting here as there’s been some difficulty accessing comments:

      Dear Jennifer,

      I am no longer able to comment on no place for sheep (there is some sort of log-in requirement that dyslexic me cannot operate), so I thought I’d write to you privately in response to Paul Walter’s awful slur of me on your latest thread.

      To wit: I would appreciate it greatly that if Paul Walter has a problem with something I say on my blog, he comment on my blog, to my face. What he has done on a third party blog written by someone I admire for her courage under fire is cowardly, and I dislike cowardice.

      Very roughly (what I wrote in the comments at your place but couldn’t post) was that I support people’s speech rights independently of whether I agree with them or not. I supported Andrew Bolt and disliked the way the Racial Discrimination Act was used against him, despite disagreeing with him. Many people have huge issues with that (including PW), but I have always tried to be a consistent defender of liberty.

      The post Paul Walter is referring to is this one:

      As you are no doubt aware, I am a classical liberal, which means I disagree with many ideas traditionally associated with the political left. That includes many of the ideas based around class conflict. I just don’t find them relevant or useful, and when they exhibit as foolishness (what happened at the Boat Race), then I will take aim.


      • Doug Quixote April 12, 2012 at 10:05 am #

        I particularly liked this comment to skepticlawyer’s article :

        “The trouble is Marcellous, if you want to take a pop at the British class system then Oxbridge is NOT the appropriate target! Yes the oxbridge conspiracy means virtually everyone who gets anywhere in the UK went there, but the colleges don’t have “legacy” spots like the Ivy League in the US for kids whose parents were graduates.

        The only people who get into Oxbridge are the ones who got the marks – it’s probably the closest thing to a pure meritocracy the western world achieves. Unfortunately there are so few places that only a few of those eligible will get in (applications to places varies between four to one up to nine to one depending on the year and specific course) and yes that means the privately educated and specially coached crew is more likely to get in than an insecure kid from a comp. simply because they do better in the interview. Four A’s at the most toilet-like of bog-standard comp will still beat two A’s and two B’s at Eton even if the Etonian is sixth generation Oxbridge.”

        from Deus ex Macintosh (April 10)

        Paul Walter, though we often agree, your comments about scepticlawyer seem out of line here; her view of Oldfield’s actions and apparent motivations seem quite reasonable to me.


  6. ST April 10, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    Jennifer, I would be very careful about likening your situation to Dan Bilzzard’s column.

    You questioned why MTR’s religious history was never questioned, and that this may influence her. This is a fair and reasonable question, one which you shouldn’t be sued for.

    Dan Blizzard’s columns go way too far. They don’t merely report the facts, but call her act witchcraft, and inferred material from the Coroner’s report which were not there.

    Even though you, and I, have the opinion that Scrayan is a fraud, Blizzard’s column clearly crosses the line, by some distance, between sensible public commentary, and outright slander.


    • Hypocritophobe April 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

      I actually don’t see ‘witchcraft’ as being an unfit description for the process of applying herbal medicine as per homoeopathy,or by other age old traditional means.
      I personally see many Christian ceremonies/rituals as a type of witch-craft.
      ‘Witchcraft’ is not necessarily a damaging insult,it can be just a description throwing something ‘not necessarily endorsed by science’, ( and which often offends mainstream medicine and main stream religion) in a basket.Some would wear it as a badge of honour.

      I’m not fully across the other content of Blizzard, which you condemn.
      There is a growing trend of ‘law to silence’,that’s for sure.
      And ‘bullying with threats’ for corporations to comply with political/commercial positions is also multiplying.

      Standing in front of the Gravy Train is fraught with danger.
      There are way too many lawyers with too much time on their hands.
      And way too many in politics.


    • hudsongodfrey April 10, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

      Much as you’d do better to have somebody like SceptiClawyer chime in at this point as to what the law actually says, I seem to recall that “slander” or defamation as defined under Australian law remains subject to the truth defence.

      Maybe Blizzard intends to subject the truth claims of homeopathy to legal scrutiny by way of defamation proceedings given that it seems society’s medical and legal protectors have otherwise failed to act.

      Homeopathy is that branch of alternative medicine claiming that highly diluted solutions of water retain “memory” of a therapeutic kind while somehow forgetting all the sewage they ever came into contact with! It has been found to be no more effective than a placebo. Perhaps SceptiClawyer might argue that sanctioning the parting of these particular ailing fools from their money risks proposing an ineffectual solution. And I may be forced to agree. However it is nonetheless tempting to regard it as a form of fraud, and to wonder what stops anyone using that existing body of law to act accordingly. Apart from those former “patients” who are deceased of course…

      Sadly what case against Jennifer relies upon would seem to be nothing more or less than a subjective interpretation of the intent behind her words in a Blog post. Here either or both sides are engaged in a battle of wills over a sets of claims that aren’t nearly a provable or should I say disprovable as homeopathy’s claims of efficacy. Were it only that easy to empirically prove Reist’s claims to be as baseless as those of the snake oil dispensers that Blizzard is dealing with!


      • Hypocritophobe April 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

        “Were it only that easy to empirically prove Reist’s claims to be as baseless as those of the snake oil dispensers that Blizzard is dealing with!”

        Will this example suffice?

        “Ever feel like you’re living in a giant porn theme park?”

        PS: I wonder what the giant ‘slippery side would look like?
        And how much for a ride?
        It’s not a bad concept.Theme Park for AO.
        I reckon it would ‘clean up’ in the $$$ department!
        Sexpo 24/7.
        QLD would definitely welcome the Giant Porn!

        I mean didn’t they just vote for a ‘ _____ ‘ (insert word of choice) ?


    • Ashley April 10, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

      Just to provide some context to your claims, the late Penelope Dingle (nee: Brown) made a written account of an opinion consistent with that of Buzzard. Still think he went too far?


      • Hypocritophobe April 10, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

        I suggest people save a copy of the letter.
        Wiki has a nasty case of galloping ‘consumption’ these days.


        • Doug Quixote April 10, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

          It’s in the coroner’s report.


          • Hypocritophobe April 10, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

            Even better.


  7. Doug Quixote April 10, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    Having read the Buzzard blog and the coroner’s report, I would suggest that the homeopath Ms Scrayen may consider herself lucky not be the subject of criminal charges over the death of Mrs Dingle. The coroner actually found that “the death was the result of natural causes” though he criticised those involved, including Ms Scrayan “whom I did not generally regard a witness of truth”. The letter addressed to the homeopath by the deceased was accusatory and poignant.

    The sister of the deceased is currently suing the homeopath in a civil matter.

    Altogether a miserable state of affairs; it is hardly surprising that the homeopath seeks to suppress any further damage to her reputation by threatening defamation proceedings.


    • hudsongodfrey April 10, 2012 at 11:29 pm #

      As I said Doug… they should at the very least get done for fraud! But the more I try the harder it is to bring to mind any other profession where you can do so much harm to other people without being called to account for it, (outside of politics… maybe?)


  8. Hypocritophobe April 11, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    Didn’t take Newman long to show he will be having a tilt at Fed Politics.
    He has played the tough guy card pre-COAG, to announce his arrival on the big stage.
    Looking more and more like the conservative Premiers will sabotage this meeting on behalf of Abbott.
    Politics keeps plummeting southward.No doubt Clive and Gina are scamming behind the scenes,too.


  9. hudsongodfrey April 11, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

    May be of interest


  10. Doug Quixote April 11, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    “May be of interest” is an understatement, HG! My contribution :

    Another excellent article Mr Brull.

    The anti-porn campaigners are right because they are right, and anyone opposing their rightness and righteousness is obviously wrong and wrongful.

    To quote Ditum :

    “it is alarming that Dines is misrepresenting research in order to propagate an ideological line that is counter to human rights.”

    And that is hardly surprising, considering that the evidence for causation is very flimsy indeed.

    The anti-porn lobby are desperate enough to use any and every means to persuade the legislators, in particular, and the people in general that more “regulation” is needed. Of course what they want is to promote their bacwa – the banning and censoring wowser agenda.

    This battle needs to be fought and refought each and every week it seems, and at the risk of repetition it does not really admit of any new arguments – they are all well-worn with use, and unless some lightning bolt of fresh research becomes available, the old arguments will be endlessly recycled.

    The anti-porn campaigners have religious fervour on their side and little else, it seems to me. The banning and censoring wowser agenda is sagging at the ends and sagging in the middle, but the bacwa goes on regardless. After all if one is both right and righteous, what evidence is needed?


    • Hypocritophobe April 11, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

      “This battle needs to be fought and refought each and every week it seems”

      Which is precisely why good ol’ MTR is suffering the side effects of GHD syndrome.
      and is feeling like she is “living in a great big porn theme park”

      Maybe she and Drum Major can console each other.


  11. hudsongodfrey July 28, 2012 at 9:25 am #

    Well I mean if you can tweet Jokes about bombs surely you can Blog about religion?!


    • Anonymous July 28, 2012 at 9:45 am #

      A stupid suit,like many others.

      The people who Tweet “Fuck me dead”,on their messages, will be breathing a sigh of relief.
      (I think??)



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