When I first started out in student media, I received a sound piece of general legal advice:
Defamation is easy. If you didn’t publish anything that was potentially defamatory, you wouldn’t publish anything about anyone at all. The consideration for publication isn’t “is this defamatory”, it’s “how likely am I to get sued”.
Being an ethnic group (i.e. Not an individual or legal entity), you can’t be defamed, so you get zero points.
On the other hand, being, say, married to a QC, that will get you lots of points.
The Listener was kind enough to give me a page to rebut Coddington this week. However, being the grown-ups that they are, they were a bit tetchy about the possibility of Coddington suing. Their Chief Subeditor spent considerable time going through checking all my stats, and in the end their lawyers went through the piece with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch, cutting out lines such as my claim that when Deborah Coddington just dropped in the “disturbing fact” that 4 out of 5 Asian pregnancies end in abortion, she was basically saying “Asians kill babies”, as well as the words “dishonest”, “malicious” and “irresponsible”.
I didn’t even try to get “making shit up” past them.
Incidentally, the 4 out of 5 stats was for teenage pregnancies. She just forgot to mention this. She has since admitted this mistake in the Herald on Sunday, but sans apologies. She doesn’t think that Asians will find “Asians kill babies” offensive?
I couldn’t help but think that, if North & South had spent half the time checking the facts on that cover article as the Listener spent checking my 700 words, they’d have done themselves a huge favour. But then again, maybe not. It’s not like I’m married to a QC. Heck, last time I had to pass a hat around to pay for lawyers.
But to date, I have not heard from Coddington, North & South, or their lawyers. I have no choice but to assume that their case is so solid, so self-evidently unassailable, that there is no need for defence or explanation. Therefore, the only honourable course of action is to concede that they are, in fact, right.
I have therefore closed all my P kitchens, thrown all my poached paua back into the sea (they can survive being frozen, right?), and sold my souped-up rice-rocket, my 1984 Honda City. I will be boarding a plane for Hong Kong shortly.
(Hat tip to Gareth Richards for the title.)