Thursday, April 10, 2008


It was uncharacteristically quiet in Left Blogistan today, with surprisingly little schadenfreude cake being served up over the libel suit(s) launched yesterday against some of our favourite Wingnuttians. My immediate reaction to the news yesterday was "Oh shit!?" and a quick hand stifling laughter. But after a few minutes the gravity of the situation, and its far-reaching implications, started sinking in. That feeling didn't improve as I read the Statement of Claim.

It's sometimes easy to forget that the laws of meat space also apply to The Internets. Although it might get a little crazier here on the Toobz, the rules of engagement are generally the same -- you can't say that someone did some nasty lowdown thing that they didn't do. Posting to a blog is like publishing a column in a newspaper -- if an editor writes a column that makes wild and unfounded accusations about someone, he can expect the law's great shit-hammer to come down on his head in due course.

There's nothing weird about Warman's lawsuit except the fact that the defendants didn't see it coming. (NOTE: According to the SoC, the defendants were advised this was coming a couple of months back, so they weren't completely gobsmacked.) Most of them have been poking at this litigious hornet's nest for months, so no surprise that it didn't end well for them, and for most of them, no sympathy from me. However, when I read the Statement of Claim I found the suit against SDA disturbing. Kate McMillan is being sued for things she didn't say or post herself: a post by a guest poster and remarks made by commenters.

Once again, I surprise myself: I really hope Kate wins this fight, so much so that I might even throw a few bucks into her defense fund (EDIT: Nah, I don't think so.*) It's bad enough that libel suits are flying around at all, but worse still for someone to be sued for things she didn't even say. Forget for a moment about the negative side of SDA (is there another?) and even whether there was tacit approval of the libelous statements on Kate's part -- she didn't make them herself, and that is all that matters. If she loses, it won't be good for anyone.

UPDATE: Okay, thanks to the education provided by my hard-working commenters, I'm becoming less convinced about what I blurted out in the last paragraph above. (I haven't lapsed into total ambivalence yet, though.)

*However, another issue that came up (thanks, BCL) is that Mark Francis of Section 15 is still fighting his libel suit, which also came about because of a link, and it's the precedent-setter, not SDA's case. I have to admit I was only vaguely aware of Mark's suit, and for some reason thought that it was finished, but it's not. If anyone is so inclined, that's where I'd "throw a few bucks".