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: