WooHOO! My huge and hearty CONGRATS to Simon!
The British Chiropractic Association, an umbrella organization for chiropractors in Britain, had sued Simon for libel because he had written in a newspaper article that they "happily promote bogus remedies".
They said this was defamatory, and that Singh meant they knew that they were lying about the remedies. If you read what Simon wrote that’s clearly not true; he was obviously saying that they were happy to promote remedies that happened to be bogus, not that they necessarily knew what they were promoting was bogus. What Simon certainly was saying is that a lot of the so-called "remedies" chiropractors claim to work simply don’t, and have no evidence at all to support them. But he never said the BCA was knowingly lying to the public to promote quackery.
Simon Singh – the journalist who has been sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association for having the temerity to write that they happily promote bogus remedies — has won a big victory in the UK: he has the right to argue that his statement was opinion, and not a statement narrowly (and, in my opinion, incorrectly) defined by a judge.
Rebecca has the lowdown at Skepchick (some NSFW, but totally funny, language there), as does Steve at Neurologia. While this doesn’t mean Simon has won the case, it does mean he can continue his arguments, when before he had been stopped cold by a judge.
The BCA is looking ever-more ridiculous, mean, and venal in this case. We already know that many of the claims made by chiropractors and by the BCA specifically are totally wrong. The heat is on these guys. Now we can hope that the BCA will be handed their heads in this case… and if we really grab the brass ring, the UK’s awful libel laws will get reformed, too.
We’re on the verge of a huge, huge win here. It hasn’t happened yet, and there is much to do. But the light is there, on the horizon.
If you’ve been paying attention here the past few months, you already know that the British Chiropractic Association is suing Simon Singh because he dared tell the truth about them in a newspaper article.
After the BCA aimed, cocked, and shot themselves in the foot, a lot of collateral damage has taken place as well. You may remember what I called Chiropocalypse, where a lot of other UK chiropractors suddenly found themselves in hot water, making claims on their websites they couldn’t back up… and instead of backing up their claims with evidence, chose instead to take their sites down.
Well, it looks like those chickens have come home to roost. According to an article in the Guardian, one out of every four chiropractors in Britain is under investigation for false claims.
Let’s see, what are the words I’m looking for? Ah yes: this.
Even better, it looks like this happened because skeptics stepped up the pressure in direct response to the BCA suing Simon. This is basically a case of The Streisand Effect, and a happier outcome is hard to imagine. Unless, of course, that ratio rises to 100% of all chiropractors making false claims.
Tip o’ the herniated disk to Nigel Gomm.
Skeptic and journalist Simon Singh appeared before the High Court today in a hearing about accusations of libel. This case is critical for journalism, medicine, science, and skepticism, and you can get the background info on it in an earlier post I wrote. But basically, Simon was sued by the British Chiropractic Association over an article he wrote in The Guardian, and Simon has appealed, which is what today’s case was about.
His lawyer and that of the BCA presented their cases in front of three judges. According to reports by Jack of Kent and Crispian Jago (NSFW language in the latter), things went pretty well, though of course we can’t know until the judges actually rule. According to both reports, though, the judges seemed far more sympathetic to Simon’s arguments than to the BCA’s.
However, as Jack of Kent wrote:
Nonetheless, Simon may still lose: the Court of Appeal may decide that even if the High Court ruling is incorrect, it is not so incorrect that they should disturb the judgment.
In other words, it seems that they may disagree with the original ruling, but may feel it wasn’t so wrong that it’s worth the effort to overturn.
I of course hope they do. And once this case is won, we can then move on to the far, far bigger picture: reforming the UK’s horrible and draconian libel laws, which are unfair, and I think reasonable to characterize as backward and medieval. The way it’s set up, the burden of proof is on the accused to show what they said was not libel, rather than on the accuser to show that it is libel. That’s ridiculous, and what it winds up doing is making it hard for journalists to fairly write about many issues, because they may be scared of being sued and having to spend literally millions of dollars in defense.
That’s why I strongly support the reform effort.
I’ll be keeping my eyes on this, and you can stay on it as well by checking in on the blogs of Jack of Kent and Crispian Jago as well.