Simon Singh is being sued by the British Chiropractic Association, for libel, in England. For those of you who were not made aware of the nature of English libel law in the infamous McLibel case, you should read up on it.
Like everyone else these days (including your dear author) this case has a facebook page. So you can read up on it there, if you like. But you could (and I do urge you) stay here and listen to me for a while.
Hold on to your retinas, there is a lot of reading ahead if you’re not already familiar with the case. First off, the British Chiropractic Association (heretoforeafter referred to as the BCA) writes a wretched little pamphlet claiming that they got the cure-all. Of course, they can even fix your baby’s neck!
So Singh, who is a scientist, wrote a rather unflattering bit in reply to “Chiropractic Awareness Week” (something I think all skeptics should celebrate). It was published (originally) in the Guardian UK, but since it was taken down, a kind freedom-lover in Russia has archived it. It hits on all the usual chiro-skepticism, and does not disappoint.
The case has much in common with that of Ben Goldacre that I wrote about, oh, thirty minutes ago. The quacks in question sued for defamation, and work that was critical of them was kept out of the public limelight. This is known in freedom of speech circles as a SLAPP.
So, Thursday, May 7th, on the National Day of Prayer, (I prefer the Day of Reason) Mr. Singh will be standing before court that wants to do the following: (readers note: I tried to condense this into a form I could claim as my own, but was not successful. Mr. Jack of Kent possesses all of the wit and Britishness needed to explain the issue, so you should just clicky the linky)
“(1) to determine what defamatory meaning(s) the words complained of bear;
“(2) to determine, in the light of the ruling at (1) above, whether the words complained of made and/or contained allegations of fact or whether they constitute comment;
Now, this trial will be held without a jury, in front of a judge only, so let us hope that he is rational. One would hope that, in order to prove that Singh was not just exposing chiropractic medicine as quackery, chiropractors would simply prove, using evidence and medical technique, that they can treat what they claim in the pamphlet – at issue here are, specifically, colic, ear infection, sleeping and eating problems.
How the manipulation of the neck has anything to do with these, I have no idea. I do know that people have had some issues after having their necks snapped. Of course, anyone who’s played a little Metal Gear Solid knows that.
Of course, if they can do that, I’ll eat my hat. (The “olive mix” hat if you want to imagine me eating it).
So, in conclusion, the BCA won’t send masked men into your house to break your neck while you sleep – and I only say that so that I don’t get sued. But, you still should support Simon Singh here and keep an eye on the case.
Remember: it doesn’t even fucking matter if chiropractic medicine is bogus or not. Singh was stating facts. Of course, since we’ve all read our Mark Twain, we know about “facts,” but we should also know that no one should be sued for them. Stating your claim is fine. Telling someone that they are full of bullshit – that is the concept on which this nation was founded!
Keep up the good work, Singh. Here’s a drink for free if you ever come to Jackson.