Saturday, December 28, 2013

Defamation law is the DE-Formation of Law

As it is currently framed Defamation Law is a law designed to enable censorship, where it normally would not be permitted to exist, by preventing the imparting of information. Understanding this is critical to understanding why it is a threat to a foundational element of our rights and freedoms.

The right to receive and impart information.

Book Devourer an exquisite corpse by LRaymond and BDumaine
Book Devourer - exquisite corpse - L.Raymond & B. Dumaine Fig.1
We may live in a secular democracy (Australia) but our right to "freedom of expression" as it is termed is consistently tested and undermined by external and internal pressures. Defamation Law is one of these pressures. From within it prevents the imparting of information on grounds that a reputation may be diminished. From without Defamation Law presents a chink in the armour of secular democratic values to be undermined by religious or opportunistic internationals or trans-commercial interests.

In one such example HREOC - The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (Australia) assisted in both an internal and external attack on our rights and freedoms. By unreasonable means via its "Combating the Defamation of Religions" report it attempted to assist to institute blasphemy laws world wide, laws intended to undermine our freedoms from within. HREOC participated in an externally driven attack sponsored by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference designed to prevent any criticism of religion, primarily criticism of Islam, by using as its template English (British) Libel Laws upon which the poorly framed Australian Defamation Act of 2005 is based. The aims of the OIC and HREOC was to outlaw all criticism of thought and ideas critical of or antithetic to religion/s by utilising and aligning the framework of Defamation of Religions with (British) Libel tradition. It very nearly succeeded. Why Australians were not more concerned about such an attack on their rights, which were indeed under threat too, is a fair question to ask.

Freedom of expression, as it is currently termed in Australia, is a verbal underplay of the importance of what is referenced, and a diminishing of what should always be termed the Freedom to Impart and Receive Information or Freedom of Speech. How it is believed to work is that however much an individual, or public, or private entity, may wish to suppress information about their actions and deeds this aim will be balanced by the right to freely receive or impart information without fear or favour. This  however, is not the case. Any purported balancing of the ambition to suppress any and all negative information and the imparting of information is instead neutered by Defamation Law. The OIC, and others like HREOC recognise this is the weakness inherent within Defamation Law and attempted, and perhaps will again attempt, to exploit it. Suppression of information, in what ever form and for what ever reason, is what Defamation Law is ultimately framed to achieve. It was an almost perfect fit.

Absurdly the "objects of the act" (s.3 (b).) of Defamation Law and its proponents proclaim it is framed to preserve the right to receive and impart information by not unduly limiting these rights. How so? By limiting that which it proclaims it protects? With a self negating paradox the law and its advocates uphold a farcical contradiction no one within the legal industry will duly recognise. A criticised individual need only claim they are aggrieved by the information imparted about them, their deeds and actions, to achieve validation and representation under the law. Their grievance makes it defamatory to impart material that they would rather was not shared and the law allows for it to be quashed, hidden, pulled from the internet/publication, apologised for and compensated. Deep pockets assist the aims of those interested in securing censorship of their actions or protection from criticism of their ideas with the added inducement of significant monetary compensation for all concerned except the plaintiff(!).

As PILCH points out the law defines defamation as:

Material will be defamatory if it could:
  • injure the reputation of the individual by exposing them to hatred, contempt or ridicule;
  • cause people to shun or avoid the individual; or
  • lower the individual’s estimation by right thinking members of society.
For a defamation action to be successful, three elements must be satisfied:
  1. the information was communicated by the defendant to a third person other than the plaintiff (publication);
  2. the material identifies the plaintiff (identification); and
  3. the information/material contains matter that is defamatory, regardless of whether the material was intentionally published or not (defamatory matter).
PILCH's definition itself makes no distinction about the truthfulness of bad actions being defamatory. As PILCH imputes any information imparted can be considered defamatory and the defamed has a right to have such information suppressed.
There is not much in the way of the protection of one's right to impart information is there?
The OIC's intention was to utilise the various interpretations of libel/defamation law world wide to prevent criticism of religion/s by adapting a charter that would align "Defamation of Religions" to the concepts above and to acts of a criminal nature. HREOC in their report were only too happy to assist such aims.

HREOC's "Combating the Defamation of Religions 2008" Fig.2

Significantly the elements of "defamation of religion" were being technically aligned to and identified with defamation law. The assertion being that one's religion defines the individual holder of that faith, and so, to critique a religion, is to diminished and expose the individual, the faithful, to... "hatred, contempt or ridicule…" to "lower the individual's estimation…" and thus "injure the reputation". Here is how it would work. By critiquing a particular religion the critic "identifies" the faithful, the individual followers, of that religion with that criticism satisfying the three elements confirming defamation has occurred as criticism was: 1. communicated to other parties 2. criticism of religion identifies individual followers with religion 3. critical commentary causes one to feel injury and therefore defamation has occurred. All very circular reasoning designed to deploy a net of censorship so no ideas or actions may be critiqued.

As one who is enduring a defamation lawsuit I recognise defamation law as a law that is aimed to achieve censorship. If you want to prevent information being imparted you sue, just like Cripps has done with me and my co-defendant. The first legal letter we received charged us with committing a criminal act for which we could receive 3 years "imprisonment". The letter aligned itself to the concepts being discussed above, that is with "Defamation of Religions" by making specific reference to 474.17 of the Criminal Code 1995. This same section is quoted in the HREOC submission "Combating the Defamation of Religions 2008"!
"2.4.2 Section 474.17 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth) 
Under s 474.17 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code 1995 (Cth) it is an offence to use a carriage service (which includes the use of the internet or e-mail) in such a way that reasonable persons would regard as being menacing, harassing or offensive."

Williams Winter acting for and representing Robert Cripps in February 2011 Fig.3
Williams Winter letters of demand
And, so Defamation Law brings about the DE-Formation of Law. A law that serves the legal fraternity and those who can afford to engage it and/or for aim$ other than the good proclaimed is intended by the law, making it a law not worth the paper it is drafted to.

Defamation Law must undergo reform or simply go.

As Defamation Law is practiced it manifests itself in contradiction to its claimed purposes and it functions simply for the suppression of information, for the suppression of the criticism of ideas, for the suppression of the right to hold an opinion (which the dictionary defines as "a view or judgment formed about somethingnot necessarily based on fact or knowledge" which the Australian legal industry - judge$ included - ha$ decided mean$ $omething different, that does not square with the definition of the word opinion. Opinion as judged through the prism of Defamation Law becomes a thing that must be supported in fact, which is a perverse manipulation in itself by a $y$tem protective of it$elf above all, not the public good it claims to serve. There is no balance here, no protection of freedom of expression, instead it is a law designed to place "unreasonable limits on freedom of expression".

Defamation Law might eventually implode due to the manipulation and exploitation of its self designed weaknesses or it might undo all of our hard won freedoms. At the moment the law is doing a pretty good job suppressing our rights.

Further reading

Australian Defamation Law Vs the Muscular Citizen
This posting discusses arguments presented, and a review of, a 2005 Redmond Barry Lecture by publisher Morry Schwartz. My blog post title and discussion takes on the ideas raised and incorporates the quote "muscular citizenship". The blog discusses Defamation Law and the way it can be used, as in our experience, to erode rights unless a "muscular citizen" acts.

Attempting the Destruction of the Secular Muse
My counter argument to Robert Cripps' multiple declared claims the entire Humanist Transhumanist exhibition was "racist" purely for the elements critiquing Islam. Even though criticism of relgion/s formed one element only within a presentation of Surrealism consistent with its historical definition (see fig 4). Cripps claim was the entire exhibition was racist and due to any criticism of Islam and Islam alone. Cripps' epic misunderstanding of Surrealism was duly noted to him by us at the time, which he ignored and continued to dismiss, due to what I could and can still only conclude to be his complete ignorance of the genre and contempt of us.
Surrealism defined - taken at the National Gallery of Victoria by Demetrios Vakras (Dec 2013) Fig.4
ARTLEAKS-Artists exhibition critical of religion declared racist by gallery owner- ARE THEN SUED FOR WRITING ABOUT IT
A reportage to an arts community (like an online union for artists and arts workers) on the facts of our being sued and by whom and on what grounds.

Petition Calling for the Reform of Defamation Law - our petition calling for the reform of Defamation Law

This blog post asks the question is it racist to criticise religion and argues to contend that it is racist damages our hard won freedoms. Comments contained in this blog independently confirm Robert Cripps did claim the exhibition was racist. Comments that confirm his action, that convey truth, but that (according to Defamation Law) now in their imparting defame him because they may make others think less of him and so are defamatory?

So any truth makes Cripps look bad, and that since the truth defames him, then ALL evidence is "invalid" because it is defamatory! So no evidence can ever be produced without that evidence defaming Cripps.

Such action by our plaintiff and his crack legal team suggests that this is the latest in a long line of last ditch attempts to quash his difficult critics (us) by complaining that our resistance to censorship makes us more "worser" more "guiltier" defendants.

The whole legal affair has more than a little of the sense of the ridiculous about it and it has developed to become an epic absurdity. So at odds is our experience with the law's self-proclaimed good intention to protect the imparting of information that it cannot be perceived to have worth at all as it fails all such claims.

Addenda - 3 January 2014
From HREOC's "Combating the Defamation of Religions" page - HREOC supports religion = race identity arguments and states the criticism of religion can be said to constitute vilification and hate of a group of people on racial grounds. A concept rejected by Justice's Nettle et al in the Victorian Supreme Court of Appeal 2006 -

 "Appeal judges ruling in the Catch the Fire case in Victoria, (Catch the Fire Ministries Inc & Ors v Islamic Council of Victoria Inc [2006] VSCA 284 (14 December 2006): point 35 of the finding reads "The third difficulty with the Tribunal’s reasoning, as I perceive it, is ... the Tribunal’s failure to observe the distinction between hatred of beliefs and hatred of adherents to beliefs..."). The judges set aside a finding of vilification (made by justice Higgins VCAT) on the grounds that the criticism was of an idea (verses from the Koran), and not the individual(s) who held those ideas, and that it was not the intention of the law to protect ideas. In the current defamation act there is no such protection to criticise an idea, although the option remains that an appeal to the High Court will remedy this. Unless the law intends that an idea is legally protected from criticism, then criticism of an idea held by any individual cannot be considered defamatory of the individual holding it."

About Leeanneart

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Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
We are first and foremost human with a responsibility to the humanity within us and not to any faith, political, apolitical, social or societal group, union or faction. We are responsible for our own reputation, and for what deeds we do and what achievements or otherwise in life we enjoy. The rest is nonsense.