I have talked here many times about the atrocious libel laws in England, and how they are used by cranks and crackpots (and others) to clamp down on freedom of speech. Most notably, skeptic Simon Singh is being victimized by the British Chiropractic Association, who decided to sue him rather than actually defend their dodgy claims about their practice.
Simon’s case has started a grassroots campaign to reform the libel law there, and this has gained incredible momentum. The Libel Reform Campaign website was put together by the group Sense About Science to provide information on all this. It has news, affidavits, and much more, all set up to keep you informed on the progress made about this.
Freedom of speech is so important on so many levels, but it’s pertinent to you, BA Bloggees, because you know how pernicious and prevalent quackery is. Many of the people behind such antiscience — the antivaxxers, the chiropracters, and others — would love to see us, the voices of reality, shut off. So go take a look at the Libel Reform page. Sign up, sign the petition, and make sure that your voice will not only be heard, but will continue to be heard.
Crispian Jago may be our single greatest weapon against nonsense that exists when it comes to the public. Why would I say that? Just go and read his brilliant satirical page, "The Ladybird Book of Chiropractic Treatment and English Libel Law".
Incredible. He sets the bar pretty high for himself — he did the Skeptics playing cards (he even made one for me), a homeopathic urine video, and much more. He’s hysterically funny, with a laser-sharp wit. When most of us are grinding our teeth and fuming, he is responding with humor that cuts right through the garbage and exposes the fetid underbelly of antiscience nonsense like chiropractic.
If you liked his Young Readers book, then please Digg it! Help spread the word, and show the world that science cannot be silenced.
Hero journalist Simon Singh has written a fantastic article for The Times Online about his libel case in the UK and libel in general: how it gags journalists and keeps people from learning important information.
If this article makes you angry, good. Do something about it.
Recently, science writer Simon Singh was sued by the British Chiropractic Association for having the audacity of telling the truth in a newspaper article about chiropractic: while it may have some small efficacy when treating back problems, there is exactly zero good evidence that it can treat illnesses, and in fact can be very dangerous when people get their neck manipulated.
The Australian Skeptics posted Simon’s original article so that it would get more attention. And it worked, kinda: like a fly to honey, one chiropractor took offense at what was written, and decided to send them a nearly logic-free letter. That’s fine, and pretty much what I expect from a vocal alt-med devotée. As justified, Eran Segev, president of the Australian Skeptics, responded.
All well and good, until…
… two weeks after responding we received a letter from the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) indicating Mr Ierano [the chiropractor] has lodged a complaint against Australian Skeptics. The letter attached to the complaint was the same one that Australian Skeptics had received and responded to.
Well, that’s a bit odd! I mean, why go to the trouble to pursue legal action against someone responding to your claims when it should be easy to present a simple rebuttal based on the evidence that chiropractic works?
… oh, right.
What’s funny is that originally, the BCA (the group suing Simon in the UK) tried to defend their position, and presented a poorly-researched, off-topic press release that somehow managed to make them look worse. Apparently, that’s a theme amongst chiropractors trying to support some of their less reality-based claims.
And while I’m using a light-hearted tone here, I’ll note that this is a very serious issue: there are people out there trying to stifle free speech. It’s that simple. The UK libel laws are draconian and designed to shut up any protest, making scientific objections and investigations into potential and real quackery very difficult. As Eran says on the AS page:
Australian Skeptics sees this complaint as lacking any merit even if it did not include some factual errors (e.g. the claim that a British court ruled Simon’s article is biased). We have prepared a detailed response to the HCCC and will be defending our right to publish articles relating to any scientific issue, as long as they are backed by scientific evidence.
Good on ya, mate!