Court Says Simon Singh Can Claim 'Fair Comment' In Calling BCA Claims Bogus

from the that's-not-bogus dept

We've written a few times about the UK libel lawsuit brought by the British Chriropractor's Association (BCA) against writer/scientist Simon Singh, because he called some of the BCA's claims (concerning what chiropractic work can do) "bogus." The courts had originally determined that the word "bogus" meant being deliberately dishonest and found him guilty of libel in a determination of how that word usage would be viewed at trial. In response, a large group of people have been ripping apart claims by the BCA with detailed analyses (stuff many in the press won't touch for fear of being sued as well). The case had become so involved that Singh stopped writing his column to focus on the lawsuit.

Thankfully, there's some good news, as the court has now decided that the original ruling was a mistake and Singh can use a defense of "fair comment" as the basis for his column. As such the trial will continue, but Singh is in a better position. Amazingly, despite all of this the BCA still wants to fight. At some point you wonder why they don't just back down. The more they fight, the more people expose them for making, yes, bogus claims. Singh and others aren't claiming that chiropractors don't do any good -- they're just questioning some of the more extreme, and scientifically unsupported, claims made by the BCA. If the BCA were smart, they'd focus on improving their messaging, not fighting back.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    NAMELESS.ONE, Apr 1st, 2010 @ 5:03pm

    and chiro docs should be banned

    bunch a wich doctoring bogus crap i say

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    No fan of chiro, Apr 1st, 2010 @ 5:26pm

    Most chiropactors do not have an adequate enough understanding of science to actually know what they do is scientifically implausible. Surely, it's about time they stopped calling themselves doctors, as that title implies they are more than they actually are.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    scote, Apr 1st, 2010 @ 5:39pm

    Wrong, Singh was **never** "found guilty of libel".

    "The courts had originally determined that the word "bogus" meant being deliberately dishonest, and found him guilty of libel."

    Wrong.

    The determination by Mr. Justice Eady on the "meaning" of bogus and such was a preliminary determination of what the "facts" and law would be at trial, not a finding of guilt. The recent appeal reversed Mr. Justice Eady's silly findings, including that "happily" meant "knowingly".

    The new ruling doesn't dismiss the case, it just changes what facts will be tried. Now that the appeals court has decided that Singh was expressing opinion subject to fair comment defence not fact and that he never said that the BCA knowingly made false claims, his victory is almost assured.

    Please review the Jack of Kent blog for full coverage:

    http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/

    The best part in the ruling was the citation of a US Appeals Court judge, who said:

    "[Plaintiffs] cannot, by simply filing suit and crying 'character assassination!', silence those who hold divergent views, no matter how adverse those views may be to plaintiffs' interests. Scientific controversies must be settled by the methods of science rather than by the methods of litigation. … More papers, more discussion, better data, and more satisfactory models – not larger awards of damages – mark the path towards superior understanding of the world around us."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Apr 1st, 2010 @ 6:58pm

    Re: Wrong, Singh was **never** "found guilty of libel".

    The determination by Mr. Justice Eady on the "meaning" of bogus and such was a preliminary determination of what the "facts" and law would be at trial, not a finding of guilt. The recent appeal reversed Mr. Justice Eady's silly findings, including that "happily" meant "knowingly".

    Aha. Thanks for the update. I've clarified the post.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    David Gerard (profile), Apr 2nd, 2010 @ 1:26am

    The BCA can't afford to lose

    The BCA is continuing to fight because the rule in the UK is loser pays costs. They can't afford to lose - they gambled on what they thought would be a sure thing, then Dr Singh unexpectedly fought back. If they withdrew their action, then just paying his costs so far would bankrupt them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Paul, Apr 2nd, 2010 @ 4:05am

    It’s amazing that people today whether involved in health care or not that continue to deny the plausible mechanisms of chiropractic and demand its whole grounding be within an evidence base that is hard to apply yet blindly back goal orientated healthcare without evidence as long as it is practiced by ‘medical’ doctors.

    What the Appeal Court determined is that scientific controversies should be settled by scientific debate rather than litigation and this would be preferential.

    However the reality is there are people like Singh who do not study the evidence carefully to arrive at a reasonable opinion and then expect to relay this opinion, despite it being prejudiced, inciteful and ill informed, and expect it to be received as conclusive.

    It’s a fine line and Simon Singh played it beautifully.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Ronald J Riley (profile), Apr 2nd, 2010 @ 4:20am

    Chiropractic Claims Are Bogus

    It is my hope that consumer protection agencies worldwide will now take notice of outrageous claims and force Chiropractors to quite claiming that they cane cure auto-immune illnesses and other claims which are not supported by hard evidence. This kind of clampdown would serve the public's interest and it would be poetic justice if such came out of this case.

    Ronald J. Riley,


    I am speaking only on my own behalf.
    Affiliations:
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Ronald J Riley (profile), Apr 2nd, 2010 @ 4:22am

    Witch Doctors

    How about forcing then to preface Dr. with Witch?

    Ronald J. Riley,


    I am speaking only on my own behalf.
    Affiliations:
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Ronald J Riley (profile), Apr 2nd, 2010 @ 4:26am

    Re: The BCA can't afford to lose

    "then just paying his costs so far would bankrupt them."

    I don't like loser pays because I think it gives more advantage to those with deep pockets but in this case BCA going bankrupt, followed by regulation would be quite gratifying.

    Ronald J. Riley,


    I am speaking only on my own behalf.
    Affiliations:
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    Ronald J Riley (profile), Apr 2nd, 2010 @ 4:35am

    It is up to chiropractors to prove their claims.

    Is this a BOC shill?

    I made the mistake of going to a chiropractor about twenty years ago. She took xrays of me and they came out completely washed out. For readers who do not understand what this means, she exposed me to far too much radiation.

    I have come into contact with quite a number of chiropractors over the years and had them try to BS me about what they could do. I think based on these experiences that there are quite a few quacks in the profession.

    Ronald J. Riley,


    I am speaking only on my own behalf.
    Affiliations:
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2010 @ 5:00am

    I find it hilarious that you would suspect someone else as a shill. Didnt you see the signature with all the org's that nobody gives a flying F that hes a member of? oh wait thats you, the whoriest whore in whoreland.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    vivaelamor (profile), Apr 2nd, 2010 @ 7:39am

    Re:

    "I find it hilarious that you would suspect someone else as a shill. Didnt you see the signature with all the org's that nobody gives a flying F that hes a member of? oh wait thats you, the whoriest whore in whoreland."

    Do you even know what shill means? Mr Riley may have some unpopular views around here but he is plainly not a shill because he discloses his affiliations. If he were lying about those affiliations in an effort to distance himself from other interested parties to which he is affiliated, then you might call him a shill. Given his disclosed affiliations I think it very unlikely he is being deceitful.

    That said, I hate long signatures in informal writing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2010 @ 8:27am

    "If he were lying about those affiliations in an effort to distance himself from other interested parties to which he is affiliated, then you might call him a shill."


    That is not the definition of a shill,

    "A shill is person who is paid to help another person or organization to sell goods or services. "

    I believe he is a paid mouth for those organizations (even if its himself paying himself).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    scote, Apr 2nd, 2010 @ 8:45am

    "However the reality is there are people like Singh who do not study the evidence carefully to arrive at a reasonable opinion and then expect to relay this opinion, despite it being prejudiced, inciteful and ill informed, and expect it to be received as conclusive."


    Meanwhile, back in reality, Dr. Simon Singh is co-author of the critically acclaimed Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine. Trick or Treatment is an examination of the scientific evidence regarding alternative medicine, which he co-wrote with the first academic professor of alternative medicine, Dr. Edzard Ernst. Dr. Singh *has* reviewed the evidence, and the evidence is that Chiropractic is based on a bogus, 19th century theory of vitalism created by a man who claimed that deafness, and essentially all disease, could be cured by working people's backs to unblock the flow of life energy. This bogus theory of "subluxations" is still taught to this very day in Chiropractic colleges.

    Most low back pain gets better on its own. When people are treated for something that gets better on its own they attribute the cure to the treatment rather than their own healing power. That is the primary reason people think that Chiropractic works. Studies have shown that Chiropractic is somewhat better than placebo at treating low back pain, but no more so than physical therapy. But Chiropractors claim to treat much more than low back pain, claims that are not supported by sound evidence. And that was what Singh was pointing out in his article--a fact that offends the BCA very much. Meanwhile, the Chiropractic theory of subluxations remains a modern example of witch doctoring.

    Clearly, paul, you are *projecting* when it comes to your claims about other people lacking of knowledge.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    vivaelamor (profile), Apr 3rd, 2010 @ 7:22am

    Re:

    "I believe he is a paid mouth for those organizations (even if its himself paying himself)."

    Oh, so you're saying he's a self promoter? Gee, why didn't I guess that's what you meant. Maybe because that's not what his use of the word was and your use of the word is hardly contentious! Yeah, there's absolutely no difference between being paid to anonymously promote a cause and doing so openly. I guess you weren't altogether wrong, just disingenuous.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This