Silencing critics

This libel suit against PZ is terrifying – not just for people who write, but for people who read too. If suits like this are possible, then no one can say anything. Magazines of any substance will disappear, newspapers will become even more vacuous than they already are, books will become anorexic and very very dull. How can it be possible to sue someone for an unfavorable book review? Why wasn’t Stuart Pivar politely but firmly escorted out of the building and told not to return?

Note this bit from Blake Stacey:

Down in the comments, my Pharynguloid pals and I started noticing that the laudatory quotes Pivar had stuck on LifeCode couldn’t be traced back to their purported sources. In particular, an endorsement from Neil deGrasse Tyson turned out to be a chimera: the first part from an unrelated NOVA interview, and the second completely fabricated…PZ makes note of the puzzling endorsement situation. He says that he’s written several of the people whose names Pivar invoked, and Neil deGrasse Tyson had written back: “Tyson replied, and has said that part of the quote is an out of context reference to a completely different subject, and that another part is a fabrication. He has asked that Pivar remove his name from his website, which he has not done. Tyson’s name is also prominently used on the back cover of his book — I don’t see that going away, either.”

Isn’t that charming – and that’s the guy who’s suing someone for writing a critical review of his book. What’s the thinking here – that because Neil deGrasse Tyson ‘endorsed’ the book on Pivar’s website therefore a critical review must be not only libel but assault? That fabricating endorsements is okie dokie but saying a book is not good is libelous?

Tim Sandefur gives some legal analysis here.

Pivar (who appears to be a serial abuser of the courts) is demanding damages due to a book review Myers wrote in which he called Pivar a “classic crackpot.” Well, I’m here to say that Pivar is more than a crackpot. He’s a crackpot, an idiot, a moron, a fool, a bully, and an abuser of the legal system who deserves to be sanctioned for filing a frivolous and baseless case for no reason other than to infringe on PZ Myers’ constitutionally protected right of free speech.

He goes on to say that you can’t sue someone for libel for expressing an opinion (as in calling someone a fool) and that Pivar is a public figure and ‘a public figure cannot sue for libel except under very rare circumstances that are not present here. By publishing a book—especially a book with crackpot notions on scientific matters—Pivar has become a limited public figure at least, and has no grounds to file a lawsuit like this.’

Let’s hope the case gets thrown out before the ink is dry on the parking ticket and that it won’t cost either PZ or Seed a lousy rusty dime.

4 Responses to “Silencing critics”