OnPoint by Keith Ng

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  • Rochelle Hume,

    A more useful change of defamation law might to make it illegal to threaten defamation action - without proof of actual defamation.

    If the allegedly defamed accuser can't prove defamation - they have to pay special damages to the publisher/author...

    It would be one way to remove some power from a deep-pocket litigant.

    It works in the Patent Law context, where it was made illegal to threaten breach of patent if the action complained of does not in fact breach the published patent. The intent was to prevent 'bully boy' tactics by deep pocket patent owners. I would have thought free speech was just as important as continuing innovation...

    Warkworth • Since Sep 2007 • 34 posts Report Reply

  • Joshua Drummond,

    If the Listener had a legitimate grievance, why didn't they go to the Press Council instead of bringing in the heavy guns? It's like gardening with dynamite. Why the over-the-top response? What was said that was So Very Bad?
    Now the Listener is in a tricky spot. If this gets out, they've got to defend the fact that they brought down the banhammer on what seemed to me to be a relatively harmless post - if there were errors in fact, they could have been corrected without the need to go nuclear, as someone else said.

    Since Nov 2006 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    If the Listener had a legitimate grievance, why didn't they go to the Press Council instead of bringing in the heavy guns?

    Is the publishing web site a member of the NZ Press Council? I presume they can only sanction members, not anyone who publishes stuff.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Joshua Drummond,

    I kind of wondered about that. But I assumed AUT Media would be. Just an assumption, of course, and we know where those get U and Me.

    Since Nov 2006 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth,

    Your interest is in the efforts of the CSC. IMO they are fringe and the more attention you pay them the more credibility they get.

    Yes, to an extent that's true, but there is little equivalence between the Leyland/de Freitas article appearing 70,000 copies of The Listener, and my criticism of that piece on a low traffic blog. The media in general seem happy to hide behind notions of providing "balance" or fostering "debate" when printing the CSC stuff, but seems to be happy to ignore the duty of accuracy they owe their readers. The CSC use this to get away with calling black white. And as Kim Griggs has noted in a comment at OnPoint, the lack of scientific understanding in the media is at the root of that problem.

    Bucolic in the backblocks… • Since Jan 2008 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • insider outsider,

    Joshua

    you have to be a member of the PC to be subject to it. Bloggers and individuals generally aren't. I suspect this wasn't an option for the Listener, hence my comments about the rules not applying.


    Rochelle

    You're in a logic loop. You can't claim defamation if you can't prove it. But you can't prove it without first claiming it.

    I think I understand what you are saying but defamation is one of those 'reasonable person' proofs and context can be important - patents might be a bit more clear cut.

    nz • Since May 2007 • 142 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth,

    Sorry, Kim's post is at Hard News...

    Bucolic in the backblocks… • Since Jan 2008 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • Joshua Drummond,

    The media in general seem happy to hide behind notions of providing "balance" or fostering "debate" when printing the CSC stuff, but seems to be happy to ignore the duty of accuracy they owe their readers. The CSC use this to get away with calling black white.

    I often wonder how to get around this problem. The media owes a duty to readers/consumers to provide "both sides" of the story, and it can be difficult to point out that some things are not necessarily adversarial. It reminds me of the Intelligent Design "debate" in a lot of ways. ID cries foul over media "mistreatment" of their repackaged creationist nonsense, demading equality, while actual scientists say "well, actually," and the point is missed entirely.
    That point, I think, is that the players are not being accurately named in the news stories that attempt to provide balance. Correct labelling could fix this problem. If it was pointed out that the CSC (and their ilk) are a front for conservative think-tanks in each story they were quoted in, you could provide "balance" whilst simultaneously pointing out that they are crackpots. Their credibility would, I think, diminish accordingly.

    Since Nov 2006 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • insider outsider,

    If it was pointed out that the CSC (and their ilk) are a front for conservative think-tanks in each story they were quoted in, you could provide "balance" whilst simultaneously pointing out that they are crackpots. Their credibility would, I think, diminish accordingly.

    Joshua

    I don't think there is any evidence they are a front. I think there is a bit of fevered imagination going on and fairly tenuous links are made and overweighted inferences drawn.

    I think it is misguided and bordering on offensive to doubt their views are anything but genuine. As Rob Hosking said "The idea that someone could have in good faith reached different conclusions to [your own] doesn’t seem to feature at all."

    What you want is turn opinion into fact. You don't need to. Facts speak for themselves.

    nz • Since May 2007 • 142 posts Report Reply

  • Joshua Drummond,

    you have to be a member of the PC to be subject to it. Bloggers and individuals generally aren't. I suspect this wasn't an option for the Listener, hence my comments about the rules not applying.

    I gave the Press Council a ring to check this out. Apparently they will consider a complaint about any print media source (not necessarily member organisations) with a large enough circulation/readership - for instance, there was one taken out against Craccum some time ago. They can likewise investigate a complaint against a publication's web site (the example given was if nzherald.co.nz published offending material on its site, then a complaint could still be taken.) Blogs, whether they are hosted by a print media organisation or otherwise, are, officially, a "grey area." There hasn't been a complaint accepted (or taken?) about a blog yet, and the Council apparently wouldn't have accepted one from the Listener about Hot Topic because they fall outside their sphere.
    Aplologies to everyone who knew this stuff already - I just wanted to find out for myself.

    I still think, though, that the Listener's response was over the top. There must have been other avenues avaliable to them that were not threats of legal action.

    Since Nov 2006 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth,

    I think it is misguided and bordering on offensive to doubt their views are anything but genuine.

    I'm quite sure their views are genuine, and they are perfectly entitled to try to influence public policy. That's their right, and I will defend it. However, what's really offensive is the way that they play fast and loose with the facts in support of their political argument.

    Leyland and de Freitas state in their Listener article that "the Arctic ice is back to normal". That is not true. It's not a matter of debate, or interpretation, it's simply not true. I would have expected a magazine with such an exemplary commitment to environmental issues to perhaps know that, and get it corrected before going to print. But they didn't.

    In this case, and many others, the CSC twist the facts, distort the truth, and make things up to suit their argument, and no-one in the press seems willing or able to call them on it. I am.

    Bucolic in the backblocks… • Since Jan 2008 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • insider outsider,

    Don't go into journalism Josh, your research of primary sources is too scary - what you really need to do is say "he said.... but she said no he's wrong". You can fill pages and pages doing that. ;-)

    nz • Since May 2007 • 142 posts Report Reply

  • Joshua Drummond,

    Okay. So not a front, just concerned citizens who go out of their way to speak at American conservative think-tank talks about how climate change is a "non problem" and how they should "have the courage to do nothing" (according to the original Listener article.)
    It is extremely well documented that there are organisations whose exclusive purpose is to come up with objections to climate change theory. We call these organisations "fronts." Are CSC a front? I don't know. But they're still wrong.

    Whether CSC's views are genuine or not doesn't matter a whit. As you say, we should let the facts speak for themselves. The fact is that the world's climate is undergoing a warming trend. This isn't a "non problem." The people who are saying we should ignore the facts, ignore the problem, deserve to have their opinions exposed for what they are, regardless of how "genuine" they appear to be.

    Since Nov 2006 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • Joshua Drummond,

    Don't go into journalism Josh, your research of primary sources is too scary - what you really need to do is say "he said.... but she said no he's wrong". You can fill pages and pages doing that. ;-)

    Uhhh... is that a compliment? Sorry, my sarcasm detector is playing up.

    Since Nov 2006 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    A more useful change of defamation law might to make it illegal to threaten defamation action - without proof of actual defamation.

    If the allegedly defamed accuser can't prove defamation - they have to pay special damages to the publisher/author...

    It would be one way to remove some power from a deep-pocket litigant.

    Speaking as a former journalist-defendant (albeit in a non-defamation-related case) who's not a lawyer and can't really afford lawyers, I would argue that it's the non-legal avenues that are the most effective. Last time, we had to go through the whole High Court process to overturn an injunction (and pay lawyers to do so), when ultimately, the process was useless. Our PR campaign cost nothing, was far more effective in putting pressure on the other party, and ultimately settling the issue in our favour before we even got a hearing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 543 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Don't go into journalism Josh, your research of primary sources is too scary - what you really need to do is say "he said.... but she said no he's wrong". You can fill pages and pages doing that. ;-)

    Yeah seriously. You rang up the Press Council and found out what experts in the field of complaints against media had to say and then reported it?

    Careful, that might catch on.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Rochelle Hume,

    Speaking as a former journalist-defendant (albeit in a non-defamation-related case) who's not a lawyer and can't really afford lawyers, I would argue that it's the non-legal avenues that are the most effective. Last time, we had to go through the whole High Court process to overturn an injunction (and pay lawyers to do so), when ultimately, the process was useless.

    Believe or not Keith, I agree with you completely. It is a rare case indeed where it is actually worth it to file in court...(convincing clients of that is not always easy) - but having the legal remedy available can change the negotiating power im/balance...

    Warkworth • Since Sep 2007 • 34 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    Now maybe APN went nuclear too early,

    No shit. Bit like the way they reacted to the reporting of the John Key "wages" gaff. Is there a track record forming? Should Scoop have a page a month for each APN action that has curtailed freedom of speech? Where are the Mugabe posters now?

    I don't think this is journo vs jorno. It's corporate vs an individual. And I agree, from personal experience, even the hint of this sort of stuff is very chilling.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1645 posts Report Reply

  • insider outsider,

    Uhhh... is that a compliment? Sorry, my sarcasm detector is playing up.

    yes and a criticism of current media practices.


    In terms of fronts groups, i see them as more groups that are created by special interests to have the veneer of independence and concerned citizen sponteneity. Happens all the time in the US on all parts of the spectrum.

    There is no evidence I've seen that CSC are such. I think they are genuinely likeminded. I don't know of any funding they get from indsutry. Perhaps wealthy individuals support them as they do Owen McShane's CRMS.

    I think it is a long bow to draw that, because some of them have been cherry picked by overseas groups because their views coincide, that they are therefore a front or that their views are being dictated from overseas and less than genuine.

    And just because ExxonMobil give some money to the Heritage Foundation, and because the HF ran a conference at which Owen and Brian Leyland spoke, it doesn't follow that Exxon is funding the CSC. People such as Dave Hansford and Greenpeace who push this line conveniently ignore all the other people who fund these organisations and seem to forget that for their logic to be true, then every other HF is also equally funding the NZCSC - (as I am as an Exxon Mobil customer if you want to take it to an absurdity).

    nz • Since May 2007 • 142 posts Report Reply

  • insider outsider,

    It's corporate vs an individual.

    That's why I think corporates should not be allowed to sue for defamation (gawd remember the Oprah defaming beef issue?) it should be for individuals alone.

    nz • Since May 2007 • 142 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth,

    I'd just like to point out that someone from APN is watching this thread closely. There's an APN IP semi-permanently visiting Hot Topic at the moment (according to Statcounter), and they're clicking through from here from time to time. I wonder if they have nothing better to do...?

    The intertubes are a wonderful thing, are they not?

    Bucolic in the backblocks… • Since Jan 2008 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Apparently they will consider a complaint about any print media source ... with a large enough circulation/readership -

    But what happens if they uphold a complaint and the blogger just ignores them? I doubt they'd persuade Google or another blog hoster to remove the pages without an American court order.

    Is there an agreement that large advertisers only use Press Council members?

    Yes, I could ring them up and ask, but isn't original research banned on the Interwebz to avoid outbreaks of accuracy?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • insider outsider,

    I'd just like to point out that someone from APN is watching this thread closely.

    It's not me. It would be nice if they sat and had a chat...

    nz • Since May 2007 • 142 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    That's why I think corporates should not be allowed to sue for defamation (gawd remember the Oprah defaming beef issue?) it should be for individuals alone.

    I'd imagine that it'd open it up as a free-for-all defaming every corporation around. Which can harm them, which can harm their income and employees who can lose jobs etc.

    And presumably if a corporation can't sue for defamation, to be fair, a corporation can't defame someone. That's not going to work.

    I'm sympathetic to the idea, but that'll just transfer the crud from the individuals to the organisations they've involved with.

    I'm more in favour of bringing corporations more into line with individuals, meaning they can be held more responsible for their actions.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Joshua Drummond,

    Cheers, insider outsider. The sarcasm detector is restored and working properly.

    But what happens if they uphold a complaint and the blogger just ignores them? I doubt they'd persuade Google or another blog hoster to remove the pages without an American court order.

    I guess that might be one of the reasons why the Press Council doesn't deal with bloggers right now. (Not to mention that Press Council rulings are not legally binding. They're influential, but extra-legal) A slippery slope ending in a can of worms, to mix cliches.

    They may, at some point, have to have a look at doing something about blogs though. As the immediacy and accessibility of the Internet leave print media behind, a self-regulatory body might need to be established for internet media - perhaps, in part, to avoid cease-and-desists being hurled at legit articles put out by small, relatively defenceless outlets... like Hot Topic.

    Since Nov 2006 • 119 posts Report Reply

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