vast majority of what pundits write online generally signifies not all that much in the scheme of things and thus there is a certain room to move. Occasionally though there is claimed vilification.
Immediately, the questions in law are:
1. Was there substantiation for the vilification – evidence, stats?
2. Was the readership of the publication large enough that it might constitute a libel?
Another consideration is:
3. Is there an editorial policy at the site and if so,did the remarks conform to that policy?
If for no other reason than N3, yesterday’s events might move Iceland Review to write and implement an editorial policy for remarks made by contributors. A couple of points they might also consider, usually looked at by an adjudicator:
4. Was there “harm”? They particularly look at N2 for that.
If I claim “harm” in that the remarks vilified a group of which I felt part and if there was no “substantiation” of those remarks offered, then there is a case.
Of course, it cuts both ways. They can counter with an objection to the use of a photo, a name in a title and the use of the expression “as bad as the Muslim terrorists”. They can request an immediate takedown. Which comes to the next point:
5. Was a reasonable time offered for evidence to be found for the remarks and/or for the takedown? This is usually seen as 24 or 48 hours.
In the case of my post yesterday, I chose to immediately take down the remarks cited by IR in their response. Those remarks by me were not going to help the cause in that form and there is also another consideration:
6. Who bears the responsibility for the remarks?
In my case, that is mine host and myself, therefore I am representing him and must take his wishes into account. That is, N.O. and OoL are not “free” sites, they must conform to rules laid down by the host. In IR’s case, it is clearly the publisher and online editor, whom I wrote to, cc-ing to the writer. And what are those rules?
7. That we can write anything we like, even something the hosts disagree with, as long as:
a. It can be substantiated [i.e. within 24 hours];
b. It is not illegal [which includes avoiding “clear” libel].
Part of my career was as an academic and scholarship was one area taught to students. I insisted with students that as long as the remarks had not come from thin air, that they had back-up, then they had a case. I didn’t at that time but could later have used the Michael Mann hockey stick as an example.
If they stated that man-made global warming justified climate legislation and I took issue with that, then as long as they stated their evidence or could access it within 24 hours, they had done what was required of them. For them to quote the hockey stick, though I could subsequently attack the quality of that back-up, it was still sufficient for that student as it constituted substantiation.
On the matter of saying that those against Islamic radicalism were “haters”, I went on to provide my substantiation for my objection. I suggested to IR that the writer also provide her substantiation for what I consider her “vilification” of a group of which I felt a part or else take down those remarks.
One defence given by the IR editor and which was also stated by James Strong at OoL in the comments thread, was that the writer was “entitled to her opinion”. This of course leads to the question:
8. When is “opinion” vilification?
And there is one which goes with that:
9. Was the person claiming vilification given the right of reply?
At OoL and N.O., the answer is yes. The comments threads are open. At IR, the answer is no – they did not give me that, the comments thread was blocked to me. IR said I “must have defamed” to be blocked but I’ve stated what I said on the first occasion.
Which comes to a tenth point:
10. IR was not set up as an overtly political site, with a record of fighting these sorts of cases. It is a features magazine on one country. It is a bit like a “sleepy hollow” and thus I have no desire to “gun for them”, as one would, say, for Cameron or Obama.
But I would suggest they do need to realize that if there is an international political hot potato which moves upwards of hundreds of thousands of people, even into the millions, to march on that issue, then for a columnist to write strong remarks on one side of the argument only, without substantiation and without the right of reply – that is a sticky wicket indeed. That goes beyond “opinion”. Particularly if there is copious and cogent evidence at hand for the counter”opinion”.
In the case of gay “marriage” and the question of Muslim radicalism, I’d suggest that those are very much two international hot potatoes at this time, causing millions of people to rally and march and best either avoided or else there almost certainly would be international comeback.
And finally, why write this post now? Understanding how boring this is for the reader, nevertheless, it is a case study in itself and can be referred back to any time such a situation arises in the future which, given the nature of OoL and my site N.O., is quite likely to happen.