Tuesday, 17 January 2012

When Free Speech Costs A Bunch Of Money

It has reached the point where it would be irresponsible of me to not write about this.

I wasn't going to, because I wasn't familiar enough with the story. But now I've brought myself up to speed, and this is what's going on:

Anti-Porn Crusader Melinda Tankard Reist is threatening an internet blogger with an expensive and lengthy court proceeding because of comments made on her blog. The blogger, Jennifer Wilson of No Place For Sheep, summarises the situation impeccably here.

I'm not a legal expert, but it seems to me that Jennifer is covered by at least three complete defences to defamation in the form of Truth, Honest Opinion and Triviality. That is irrelevant, however, to the larger issue.

What we are seeing here is bullying. Melinda Tankard Reist is using her means and public profile to silence a single internet blogger over trivial (and that is my Honest Opinion) comments about her religious background, and her refusal to elaborate on them. Never mind that these comments were completely fair. Never mind that I, along with several thousand others, would never have found out about these comments if MTR hadn't decided to wave the big red litigation flag. The principle at stake here is free speech, and who is entitled to it in this country.

According to this, only the people with the money to drag a defamation case through court.

You see, you can't tout your commitment to free speech if you're going to stick a price tag on it so big that no ordinary person can exercise it. That's like saying that America does have universal health care, it just costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to get access to it.

Go ahead, the Australian Legal System says. You can say whatever you like. But if someone doesn't like it, even if the comments are fair and just, you'll be put through a process so time and money consuming that it will ruin you. Oh, did we mention that this process can be initiated by anyone that has the cash? There's no means test, or protections, or Prima Facie requirement that any satisfactory result may come of this process? Because that's a thing. So go on. Say those things. We fucking dare you.

This isn't the country that I want to live in. I'll be writing more on this, but for now it would be great to see this passed around to as many people as possible. Melinda Tankard Reist isn't immune from inquiry and comment and criticism. Don't let her bully you in to thinking that she is. If any legal action is taken against Jennifer Wilson, I'll be chipping in to help with the legal costs.

It's the least we can do to defend people's right to speak.

Edit: I can't believe I'm doing this...All content here represents my own honest opinon on the topic and as such should be exempt from a defamation claim. Honest Opinion is a complete defense to defamation claims.

1 comment:

  1. Completely agree, having had to face a similar action brought by a religious obsessive with very deep pockets. No matter what was said, it's impossible to fight when you don't have a spare hundred grand or more to throw away on this ludicrousness.

    Justice in civil court = whoever's rich wins.