That’s a relief

Wow, after my post about Le Canard Noir‘s being threatened with legal action for criticizing the Society of Homeopaths, I’m glad to know that I won’t be being sued for having reposted his criticism.

Whines the Society of Homeopaths:

The Society of Homeopaths took the content of the 2006 BBC Newsnight programme on malaria very seriously and responded via press statements and media interviews promising action if it were required. We contacted the programme makers directly to ask for their evidence that any Society members had given dangerous or misleading advice to members of the public. They were unable to provide a single example. The Society’s professional conduct procedures cannot be invoked without a specific complaint, an alleged offender or any evidence. In these circumstances, The Society was unable to investigate a specific case. Nevertheless, as a further precaution, we reissued our Guidelines on advice for the prevention of malaria and sent a copy to every member within a day of the programme being aired.

The Society instructed lawyers to write to the Internet Service Provider of Dr. Lewis’ website because the content of his site was not merely critical but defamatory of The Society, with the effect that its reputation could have been lowered. Dr Lewis, in his article, stated as fact highly offensive comments about The Society and it is for that reason that The Society decided it had no option but to take action. The very crude abuse posted on various websites and e-mailed to The Society since our action suggests that these bloggers/authors are not people who are interested in a real debate on the basis of either science or the public good but who simply want to attack homeopathy, for the very sake of it.

Due to the unpleasantness and surprisingly vitriolic nature of the postings on the Quackometer website and others, The Society has taken a conscious decision not to respond to these bloggers.

Uh, homeopathic whiners: Le Canard Noir gave specific examples of members of the Society of Homeopaths violating the Society’s code of ethics by advertising that they could cure specific diseases. If that’s not enough, what is? I reiterate the relevant part of the Society’s code:

• Advertising shall not contain claims of superiority.
• No advertising may be used which expressly or implicitly claims to cure named diseases.

Le Canard Noir gave examples of members of the Society of Homeopaths publishing advertising that expressly and/or implicitly claims to cure named diseases, including asthma and malaria.

As for the “unpleasantness and surprisingly vitriolic nature of the postings,” the Society of Homeopaths deserves every word. It’s a great thing to see it squirm.


  1. #1 Flying Embers
    October 24, 2007

    If you expect to meet a homepathy advocate, be wearing sap gloves.

  2. #2 Ahistoricality
    October 24, 2007

    It’s kind of a weird decision: a little polite slander with data provokes legal action, but hard-core vitriol and free-floating libel…. OK.

    What they’re really afraid of is that some of these bloggers might actually force them to get a legal decision, which would establish a precedent which…. might not go their way.

  3. #3 PalMD
    October 24, 2007

    So they basically said that their feelings were hurt. They didn’t claim to be right.
    I’ll never understand British defamation laws.

  4. #4 Ex-drone
    October 24, 2007

    So The Society of Homeopaths has had to defend itself against The Guardian, the BBC, the House of Lords and several websites. In fact, they boast of a long track record of doing so. You know, when everybody is telling you that you are wrong, one option that you may wish to consider is that you are, in fact, wrong.

  5. #5 Gray Falcon
    October 24, 2007

    I may have already posted something like this, but still, it can’t hurt to be certain. I think that lawsuit threat qualifies as one of the counter-productive actions taken by an organization. All they managed to do was get some very bad publicity and the article mirrored on a dozen more websites.

  6. #6 csrster
    October 25, 2007

    They got called on their baseless threat of legal action and now they’re running scared. Score one for the blogosphere.

  7. #7 Andrew Dodds
    October 25, 2007

    Ex-Drone –

    It’s the other way around – in PseudoScience Land, people telling you that you are talking rubbish is proof that you are right. It’s a much better proof than this silly ‘evidence’ thing – nearly as good as an anecdote!

    Now I shall show that squares have 5 sides. Which hidebound group-thinking orthodoxy-pushers wants to try and prove me wrong?

  8. #8 M. Dunne
    October 25, 2007

    Maybe the SoH treats truth like their homeopathic dilutions, the less of it there is the more truthful it becomes!

  9. #9 TheProbe
    October 25, 2007

    Holmes’ Free Marketplace of Ideas in action. It is a beautiful thing.

  10. #10 beajerry
    October 25, 2007

    It’s kinda like my five-year-old whining about me sitting in her imaginary friend’s seat.

  11. #11 ompus
    October 25, 2007

    The great thing about homeopathy is the way you can stretch a fifth of bourbon.

  12. #12 gimpy
    October 25, 2007

    It’s worth pointing out that although the SoH say they will ignore bloggers they are obliged by their Code of Ethics to investigate any complaint. I am in the process of wading through their advertising literature on my blog, a thankless task, with the aim of submitting a complaint about their frequent breaches of their own Code of Ethics in their promotional bumpf.

  13. #13 Disbelieving Brit
    October 25, 2007

    Speaking as a Brit, PalMD is right – the British defamation law is ludicrous and is routinely used by rich sleazebags to silence criticism via threats of recourse to law and possible crippling bills for damages. Even dafter, the plaintiff (the one sueing for defamation) does NOT have to give details of exactly what they think is defamatory. The merely have to say “this article would tend to make a reasonable person think less of us”…. and then the legal burden is on the defendant of the defamation action to prove to the court that every single thing they said was justifiable and said “without malice”.

    Needless to say, the law makes rich con-men and charlatans very happy. Perhaps the UK’s most noted exponent of the gagging libel suit was the late Robert Maxwell. Other enthusiasts include the businessmen and newspaper owners Lord (Conrad) Black and Richard Desmond.

    Perhaps the UK’s most celebrated libel action of the last 20 years was Jeffrey (later Lord) Archer‘s suing of the Daily Star newspaper in 1987 over allegations that he had had sex with a hooker. Archer won huge damages, became Lord Archer, and was later sentenced to four years for perjury (fabricating an alibi) in the 1987 trial.

    Another British Conservative politician who used the libel law was Jonathan Aitken, who was exposed as both a liar and also as a man who was prepared to put his wife on the stand to lie for him. Aitken was jailed for perjury in 1999. In a nod to US tradition, he found Jesus while in jail and subsequently indicated his intent to study for the ministry.

    More recently, a further instance of the “gagging” effect of the threat to sue under British libel laws has been prominently reported in the New York Times

    While wealthy businessmen and lying politicos have been the most noted enthusiasts for British libel law, pseudo-scientists have got into the act too. Dr Andrew “MMR” Wakefield famously took out an action against the investigative journalist Brian Deer, only to withdraw it later, widely interpreted as Wakefield’s being afraid to have the facts about his conduct aired in court.

    So I’ve got to say, palms to the US for that 1st Amendment, and for New York Times vs. Sullivan and so on.

  14. #14 DuWayne
    October 25, 2007

    How unfair. I get few enough comments as it is, the only one that I got, that wasn’t from David C, the same who contacted you about this, came from a retard (sorry legit retards, for the passive aggressive bash)supporting the SoH. You, nary a one. I will get right on posting about this too though. ‘Cause I really just love the idiots.

  15. #15 DuWayne
    October 25, 2007

    beajerry –

    That was awesome. I have a five year old and definitely concur. I quoted you in my post on this.

  16. #16 Ginger Yellow
    October 25, 2007

    I love the way that the organisation created to promote a supposed medical treatment has rules saying its members can’t claim to cure any disease. What exactly is the point of homeopathy supposed to be, then?

  17. #17 gimpy
    October 26, 2007

    Ginger Yellow, I believe homeopaths think that “all symptoms of ill health are expressions of disharmony within the whole person and that it is the patient who needs treatment not the disease”. So homeopathy doesn’t cure disease it heals from within! Look don’t ask me to explain it, homeopathy defies reason and logic (which is why it doesn’t work).

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