The battle for freedom of speech is under way.
|Simon Singh is a great science writer and communicator. He is author of The Big Bang, The Code Book, Fermat’s Last Theorem, and, with Edzard Ernst, Trick or Treatment. They are superb books (buy from Amazon).
When Singh had the temerity to express an honest opinion, based on the evidence, about that very curious branch of alternative medicine known as chiropractic, the British Chiropractic Association sued Singh for defamation.This was their substitute for producing evidence for their bizarre claims.
Chiropractors seem to be particularly fond of litigation, perhaps because they are so short of evidence. Having had legal threats from them myself, I know how scary it can be, Luckily I was saved by a feisty a journal editor. Singh wasn’t so lucky. The history is recounted here,
The legal aspects of the case are being described by the lawyer who writes under the name of Jack of Kent. He has regular updates on progress.
Put briefly, Libel: A very expensive remedy, to be used only when you have no evidence. Appeals to alternative practitioners because truth is irrelevant
The iniquitous nature of England’s libel law has been described eloquently by Nick Cohen, in the Observer. It is used regularly by rogues and criminals from all over the world to silence their critics. All they need is money. Truth is irrelevant. It is a disgrace to a civilised country.
The cost of defamation cases in the UK is vastly greater than in any other country in Europe:: look at the graph.With enormous courage, Simon Singh has decided to appeal against the ruling by Mr Justice Eady. Scientists and journalists everywhere should rally to support him, if they value the right to express an honest opinion without being bankrupted by a law court. Singh is taking a great risk on behalf of anyone who values freedom of speech.
The charity, Sense abour Science (SaS), has started a campaign to Keep the Libel Laws out of Science.
Read the statement about the campaign on the SaS site, and the current list of signatories. The list of supporters is already very impressive. It includes, for example, professor Lord (Martin) Rees, president of the Royal Society and Astronomer Royal, to Dr Philip Campbell Editor-in-Chief of Nature, David Starkey Historian, Stephen Fry Broadcaster and Author and Baroness Helena Kennedy QC Barrister.
You can sign the statement yourself there. Do it. Now!
You can also get code for the button (above) to link your own web site to the campaign.
In 1894, a local Iowa newspaper, The Davenport Leader, wrote of the founder of chripractic, D.D. Palmer, thus.
“A crank on magnetism has a crazy notion hat he can cure the sick and crippled with his magnetic hands. His victims are the weak-minded, ignorant and superstitious, those foolish people who have been sick for years and have become tired of the regular physician and want health by the short-cut method he has certainly profited by the ignorance of his victim. His increase in business shows what can be done in Davenport, even by a quack.” [quoted in Rose
Shapiro’s book, Suckers]
Today, in the UK, no newspaper would dare to express an opinion like that.
We all hope that Singh will win the appeal. But even if he doesn’t win in the law courts, he will have scored an enormous moral victory. What’s more, chiropractic is now under scrutiny as never before. There is going to be a chiro-fest that will make the British Chiropractic Association rue the day that it decided to use legal bullying in place of reason.
They may even have signed their own death warrant.
Follow up will be posted here regularly
There is a good roundup of activity up to June 3rd here.
The Wall Street Journal (June 4th) discusses the case under the title Britain Chills Free Speech.
British Medical Journal editorial by Evan Harris (Lib dem member of parliament and doctor), Science in Court
Bait and switch. Oh dear, oh dear. Just look at British Chiropractic Association tell their members to hide their sins from prying eyes.
Excellent round-up of the recent outburst of writing about “chiroquacktic” (Tut, tut, is there no respect?).
Dr Crippen writes “NICE recommends a cure for all known disease” [Ed some exaggeration, surely]