Now reading some comments I heard that some real media sources said something about this. Too bad us bloggers have decided to talk about it.
The closest that I seem to have found is that the blog for Scientific American has said something.
Now nicking this link from PT takes us to the complaint in question.
I might as well point out now that the plaintiff is Stuart Pivar. The guy who wrote the book Lifecode. It is the review that has caused all the problems.
Reading the complaint I see many facts that seem to be completely pointless to me, I would say that paragraph 10 in the complaint (3rd fact point) could really be some sort of appeal to authority.
Paragraph 10 states:
In 1982, with the late, celebrated artist, Andy Warhol, Plaintiff co-founded and provided the initial funding for the New York Academy of Art, a classical graduate school for painting and sculpture, whose current patron is H.R.H. Charles, Prince of Wales
As I said, what is the relevance for this?
But back to the point.
Here is the review by PZ Myers (Which is a repost). Here is another comment posted on the same day.
The biggest problem is that they don't mention in the complaint which post they are complaining about, the review, or the reasoning behind reposting the review. I suspect that it is the latter because the facts seem to fit it.
Paragraph 15 is the really the start of the matter at hand.
Paragraph 15 states:
On July 12, 2007, Defendant Myers launched a vicious attack on the integrity of Plaintiff's work on Myers' "Pharyngula" webiste, found on the internet at www.pharyngula.com.
(The hyperlink has been added in by me and is to the correct address).
Now then, from what I can see the post in question has no attack whatsoever, and can hardly be called vicious. The closest thing that I can even see as an attack is the use of the tag 'kooks' but bloggers everywhere should know that tags are completely opinionated. I could write a post about someone and use the tag 'wanker' if I wanted to (not that I ever will or may the almighty Google delete my blog), but it has no bearing on the actual person. But that is probably a false analogy.
What PZ Myers seems to have said is that the whole premise of the book is flawed.
The second post is just his annoyance about the media giving a book that has an idea that he thinks is completely pointless any time whatsoever. I see no attack just some criticism.
Paragraph 16 states:
On July 12, 2007, Defendant Myers maliciously, and without cause, defamed Plaintiff by referring him to as "a classic crackpot"
Last I checked in countries with freedom of speech that is not a crime. There are far worse words that you can use to insult someone. Does that mean that a psychic will sue James Randi for calling their stuff "woo-woo"? Or homoeopaths suing because he claims that their 'medicine' is a hoax?
Paragraph 17 states:
Upon information and belief, Defendant Myers' references to Plaintiff as "a classic crackpot" were necessarily intended to disparage Plaintiff's abilities as a scientific enquirer and were intended to hold Plaintiff up to ridicule and embarrassment in this specific area of Plaintiff's professional endeavors.
PZ disagreed with the argument, he is allowed to do that.
Paragraph 18 continues with the supposed defamatory remarks somehow coming up with the conclusion that Myers somehow holds complete sway over the entire scientific community and that by calling Pivar a "crackpot" means that his endorsements will somehow go away.
Paragraph 20 made me laugh:
Because Defendant Myers' defamation of Plaintiff has been disseminated widely throughout the world, his remarks were also likely and possibly intended to hold the Plaintiff up to ridicule in his business relationships as an industrialist, Plaintiff's social relationships and in his activities as a philanthropist
Now Pivar is the founder of Chem-tainer Industries (paragraph 9) , a business that has absolutely nothing to do with matters of biological research. I honestly doubt that people would stop business with his company because he has ideas that have been called 'crackpot'. It doesn't stop the other crackpots now doesn't it?
The same goes for Philanthropy. I am sure that nobody there would care that he has published a book that has been labelled as 'crackpot', it isn't as if he had committed mass murder or something like that.
The biggest irony is that he is really shot himself in the foot here. People would have read the entry by Myers, thought little of it, perhaps even bought the book so they could read for themselves what this guy was going on about and that would have been it. Now pretty much the entire blogosphere is talking about it, he is now being ridiculed because he decided to embark on a frivolous lawsuit.
Paragraph 21 cites the case McFaddn v United States Fidelity and Guarantee Company as possible precedent claiming that "crackpot" can be a slanderous term. Looking around (and managing to find something from Richard Dawkins) it looks like the case never went further then the Mississippi Court of Appeals, which means that they are citing non-binding precedent because I assume, as it is done here, only federal courts can produce binding precedent.
Paragraph 22 says that Myers has just decided to keep on attacking the book.
Paragraph 23 says:
Upon information and belief, [Neil de Grasse Tyson] has withdrawn any previous review of Plaintiff's work in relation to Lifecode due to the unwarranted and vitriolic attacks Defendant Myers has made on Lifecode and Plaintiff personally.
However they do not say what information Tyson received or why he wanted his comments removed. I managed to find them on Butterflies and Wheels, which found that the quotes were either taken out of context and made up.
Pivar had a few people to support the book, Richard Milner, Robert Hazen, Brian Goodwin, Dimitar Sasselov and Neil de Grasse Taylor. Taylor decided to have his comments taken off the website because they were false and it seems that Pivar has somehow attributed lying on his part into "PZ Myers convinced him through ad hominems". PZ Myers himself stated that he received a copy of the book to review ("Instead, Pivar sent me a copy of his book to review, so I'll focus on that.").
Also notice that if you look at the reviews section the one from Hazen is the longest on that page but he admits that he is not an expert in "this area of topology and mechanics" he says many things that make little sense to me but all the reviews no matter how long are supportive of the claims so what is wrong with a dissenting view.
Because of his standing in the blog community (He is considered the best of the science blogs) I suspect that Pivar would have thought that it would have been good to get a positive review from him, but it backfired when the brutally honest review (paragraph 19 says that Myers has described himself as a cruel and insensitive person), was a negative one.
So Pivar writes another version of Lifecode called Lifecode:From egg to embryo by self-organization which received an "even worse" comment. This would have annoyed him so he ends up with the decision to sue PZ Myers, which really is shooting himself in the foot.
He didn't get the result that he wanted and is now trying to get his revenge.
Paragraphs 24 - 27 are there to try and argue why the parent company is at fault.
Paragraph 28 says that Pivar mentions (on July 17 2007) that Myers had reviewed the earlier book.
All I can say is the Myers seems to have been getting messages from Pivar well before the second review came out.
This is the link to the second review, which is another negative one.
Paragraph 30 states:
Defendant Myers' defamatory remarks have caused the Plaintiff considerable mental and emotional distress
From a guy who has been bullied in the past let me tell you something. A bad review is nothing. If I could choose between getting a bad review or having a mob of people yelling names at me I would choose the review.
Paragraph 31 is trying to say that Myers has ruined the work of Pivar as a scientist, who I guess is most likely more at home in a Chemistry lab then a Biological one.
Paragraph 32 states:
By reason of the defamatory comments written by Defendant Myers and published by SMG, Plaintiff has been damaged by loss of book sales and diminished return of ten years of funded scientific research in special damages, a sum in excess of [US]$5 million.
(I added the [US])
Now from what I understand the suit is for US$15 million. So I guess the breakdown is US$5 million for supposed people not buying the book, and him not getting money for research. Even according to Amazon.com's "About the Author section, Pivar has no credentials in Biology. It says Physics, Mathematics, Chemical and Mechanical engineering.
In all honesty I doubt that he would get research grants for Biological work.
The final paragraph of fact, 33, claims that he has:
[Suffered], inter alia, the special damages referenced in Paragraph 30 supra, and gross impairment of his good name, public embarrassment, humiliation, impairment to his professional reputation, public impairment of his abilities and integrity, anxiety, emotional upset and public ridicule.
Well the public ridicule of him would really have increased since he decided to slap a lawsuit on PZ Myers and SMG and the other things are just complete rubbish from a guy who is trying to garner sympathy or is someone who can't handle criticism.
The declaratory relief says that he wants Myers to remove anything negative written about Pivar from his blog. What an interesting way to silence critics. If that happens then I will willingly give space on my blog for PZ Myers to post whatever the hell he wants and I am sure that others would be willing to do so as well.
The second claim is about business interference and the US$5 million.
The third claim is where the rest of the money appears, the US$10 million. That is damages for libel per se.
The next section is where it gets scary. Under 'Prayer for Relief' comes the reasons what Pivar wants to get out of this. I will copy this herein:
PRAYER FOR RELIEFWhat makes the whole thing scary is that would silence Myers from posting anything on his blog that criticises Pivar. Which may leave Pivar open to write a whole bunch of crap and pass it off as science.
WHEREFORE Plaintiff respectfully demands this court enter judgement in its favor and against Defendants Myers and SMG as follows:
1. Enjoining permanently the Defendants from making any future defamatory statements about the Plaintiff and immediately removing any remaining defamatory statements from their websites
2. Awarding on the Second Claim for such compensatory and punitive damages for the Defendants tortious interference with Plaintiff's business relationships as a jury may impost, but at least the sum of [US]$5 million, that constitutes Plaintiff's special damages.
3. Awarding on the Third Claim, such compensatory and punitive damages, inter alia for emotional distress and loss of reputation of at least [US]$10 million, or any sum as the jury may impost.
4. Granting such other and further relief as the Court seems just and proper, including the costs of this action.
It also would open the door up to other lawsuits against other people who criticise someone, even in book reviews where the book was sent to the reviewer by the author personally. It would also turn the US blogosphere upside down because they cannot say things that criticise.
Blogs are primarily an opinonative thing, we are not the proper media, we write about things we want to write about, we are not the news where we must be completely neutral on all issues, what makes a blog great, like Pharyngula or PT, Baghdad Burning or the BABlog. We know that they have a bias, but that is what makes them good to read, they have viewpoints that they support or don't support because they are written by real people, from real places in the world, about issues and situations that are important to them.
Do you really want to see that disappear in a blink of an eye?