The Sciences

Some good news and some weird news with Simon Singh

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitOct 15, 2009 12:54 PM


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Simon Singh is a science journalist being sued by the British Chiropractor Association for saying they "happily promote bogus treatment". The libel laws in the UK are ridiculously draconian, putting all the onus on the person being sued, contrary to the notion of presumed innocent until proven guilty, and also contrary to the libel laws of essentially every other nation on the planet. A judge looked over the case and said that Simon's use of the word bogus meant that he was ascribing ill motivations to the BCA, and allowed the case to continue. Simon was initially denied an appeal to this ruling, but then appealed that... and yesterday a court said he does indeed have the right to appeal! This is definitely a victory, but what it means is that Simon can now continue fighting this ridiculous suit and this ridiculous libel law. So there's a long way to go. But in a weird twist, the ever-vigilant Jack of Kent saw a press release by the BCA today that ascribed malice to Simon's motivations for writing the original article. That's a big deal; if they pursue this line of attack then it may limit Simon's ability to defend himself. What's funny is that saying Simon is malicious is itself defamatory, and to me it seems that he could sue them for libel. I don't think he will, but... Jack of Kent later discovered that the press release was quickly edited, and the words about malice on Simon's part was removed. However, the 'net being what it is, the originally-worded press release is still out there.

[UPDATE: Jack has written a follow-up blog post about this, saying that the BCA has defamed Simon, and it appears Jack and I are in agreement. He also mentions that if Simon threatens to countersue the BCA -- which he has every right to do -- it may end the case right then and there. I know Simon well enough to know that he will think carefully about this; he wants to do the right thing in the long run, which is defend himself and show that the libel laws are awful. A happy aftereffect of this would be the global shaming of the BCA, which has been underway for months now; they have the most amusing ability to bend over backwards to make themselves look foolish... an ironic feat for a chiropractic association.]

Interesting. I know Jack is writing more on this, and I'll update this when he has more.

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