Maurizio – Omnologos

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Simon Singh’s Unfortunate Mistake

with 4 comments

I do not think Simon Singh‘s loss in the libel case brought by the British Chiropractic Association can be reversed.

If Singh’s original sentence was the following (the article has been withdrawn)

[The BCA] is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments

then the implication that the BCA is knowingly promoting bogus treatment could hardly have been spelled out more clearly.

People may argue about the opportunity for the BCA to throw itself into what was obviously going to be a high-profile case.

But if they had left Singh’s words unchallenged, surely at the BCA itself they could have open the floodgates to legal actions by unhappy clients…and especially unhappy had they learned that the BCA did not believe in its treatments.

There is a general consensus that English libel laws are just unfair and can be used in lieu of censorship. But Singh wasn’t exactly born yesterday, and must have know those laws for a long time.

Written by omnologos

2009/May/22 at 07:46:19

4 Responses

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  1. […] blog entry on Omnologos criticising Simon’s choice of words and arguing that the BCA’s decision to sue was […]

  2. He hasn’t lost the libel case…the decision made so far was on the way Singh used “bogus”, and once that meaning is decided on they can move on with the case.

    That sentence from the article is a quote mine, and doesn’t capture what Singh was actually saying. Singh was criticising chiropractors for claiming to be able to treat illnesses such as asthma. These are claims that are not backed up by any evidence, and thus are bogus. This is what Singh was referring to as the BCA’s bogus claims. Unfortunately the judge decided on a definition of bogus that was clearly not what Singh meant, so this is why he’s appealing.

    The libel laws are ridiculous, and of course Singh knew about them before writing that article, but he wasn’t saying anything fallacious so why would he give the laws any thought? Singh is doing a brave (and expensive) thing by appealing the decision, as he’s bringing attention to the libel laws so they can receive the criticism they deserve.


    2009/Jun/16 at 16:40:28

    • thank you linzeebinzee…so you are saying the issue was not in the “happy” (i.e. knowingly promoting bogus products)?


      2009/Jun/16 at 16:50:17

      • Correct, the issue was with “bogus”…by bogus, Singh meant wrong, but the judge ruled that Singh meant purposely fraudulent.

        Here’s the full quote from the article: “The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.”

        What he was saying was that the BCA was promoting claims that are demonstrably wrong.

        The judge decided that Singh would have to defend the position that the BCA was being purposely fraudulent, but that wasn’t his position, because he has no way of knowing whether or not they were being purposely fraudulent and that would be hard to prove. With British libel laws the way they are, the defendant has to give the evidence that what they said was true. Problem is, the judge defined what Singh said as something different from what he actually meant, so how could he defend that?

        I’m rambling…anyways this is just my take on it.


        2009/Jun/16 at 23:36:41

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