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[As I was typing this, Singh won. Well, he won the right to use the defence of "fair comment", anyway. I dunno whether that amounts to the same thing.]

OK, everyone's giving Simon Singh the Big Up today because he's finally got his day in court, where the BCA is suing him for being rude or something. And, hitherto, I'd pretty much gone along with what appears to be a herdlike consensus of his being the rational voice in the wilderness speaking out against the quacks and snakeoil peddlars. Fine. Indeed, most of the coverage has given exactly that impression: that the test in this case is whether the BCA's claims are in any way supported by scientific evidence.

But, according to Wikipedia (usual, tedious and so-fucking-obvious-it-pains-me-even-to-have-to-mention-it disclaimer applies), that's not actually, technically, actually what it's about, apparently. The issue is whether Singh accused the BCA of deliberately misleading its members clients. Here's what he wrote:

"The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments".
 
OK, that seems pretty straighforward to me. And it seemed pretty clear, too, to - your friend and mine - Mr Justice Eady, that Singh was explicitly saying that the BCA was FIBBING, like a big bag of FIBBY FIBBING people with extra FIBS on top.

Now, Singh's statement's a bit of a stretch. You could argue, say, that the BCA should have known that these claims were bogus, which would at least leave it with the defence of stupidity (much as one might do with, say, claims of WMDs in Iraq). But no. Singh maintains that he didn't mean to suggest that the BCA was dishonest at all.

"If we go to trial it's almost impossible for me to defend the article, because it's something I never meant in the first place."

Well, fucksake. If you didn't mean it, you shouldn't have written it, should you? Because any argument that that is not what you wrote is, at best, disingenuous, and, at worst, FIBBING.

It's at about this point that I expect people to start muttering things like, "Well, psychonomy would defend the BCA. He's been advocating chiropractic ever since he went in a cripple and came out able to walk like something out of Life of Brian". And, yeah, I have advocated chiropractic. You would too.

I would also, however, point to the abstract for this, which makes what can be claimed for chirpopractic quite clear, and the basis upon which those claims are made ("Spinal manipulation/mobilization is effective in adults for: acute, subacute, and chronic low back pain; migraine and cervicogenic headache; cervicogenic dizziness; manipulation/mobilization is effective for several extremity joint conditions; and thoracic manipulation/mobilization is effective for acute/subacute neck pain").

The BCA is clearly wrong. It is, whether wittingly or through some complex, bizarre process of self-delusion, peddling snake oil. And it's obviously made a huge miscalculation in suing Singh. But that doesn't mean that he wasn't a bloody fool to phrase his article as he did, and an idiot to maintain that he meant something else.

If Singh wins the day today - and part of me hopes that he does, mainly because the consequences of the BCA winning are less palatable - let's not dress this up as some sort of victory of science over supersition, or free speech over draconian libel laws. It's a collection of people in the wrong suing someone else who was in the wrong. He might have been in the wrong for the best of reasons, but I've no doubt that the BCA would say the same of themselves.

It's like watching a bad movie, in which all the characters are so unsympathetic that you don't care who's left alive at the end. They're all as bad as each other.

Chief source.

Comments

"Now, Singh's statement's a bit of a stretch. You could argue, say, that the BCA should have known that these claims were bogus, which would at least leave it with the defence of stupidity (much as one might do with, say, claims of WMDs in Iraq). But no. Singh maintains that he didn't mean to suggest that the BCA was dishonest at all."

I don't follow this. If Singh's argument is that the BCA should have known that these claims were bogus, that doesn't necessarily imply any dishonesty at all, so why couldn't he claim that without suggesting that they were dishonest?
"I think the case is mainly about two things:"

Whereas I don't think it's about either of those things (for the reasons I state above). That is, it shouldn't be; if it is, it has become so only through consequent commentary and coverage.

"Happily promotes bogus treatments" is an ambiguous sentence in that it doesn't tell us whether or not the people doing the promoting hold complete, correct knowledge about what they are promoting (c.f. PR agencies). It might be taken to imply that they are aware that the treatments are bogus, but Singh immediately states that in this case bogus is a label that he is applying for reasons specific to the work he's done.

I haven't read the judgment (yet, assuming I even bother), but I hear that it deals with exactly this issue. My points would simply be that I do not find "happily promotes bogus treatments" to be ambiguous as you suggest, and that to take it as characterising the BCA's behaviour as malicious is reasonable. Whereas I find a defence of "Oooh nooo, I didn't mean *that*!" risible.

"My points would simply be that I do not find "happily promotes bogus treatments" to be ambiguous as you suggest"

Why not? Could you at least clarify this paragraph:

"Now, Singh's statement's a bit of a stretch. You could argue, say, that the BCA should have known that these claims were bogus, which would at least leave it with the defence of stupidity (much as one might do with, say, claims of WMDs in Iraq). But no. Singh maintains that he didn't mean to suggest that the BCA was dishonest at all."

I don't understand where the "defence of stupidity" drops out and leaves only dishonesty?

To rephrase the paragraph you quote:

"For Singh to say that the BCA is lying is excessive. He could have left the BCA with a defence of stupidity, but he did not (leaving malice as a reasonable interpretation of the motive he ascribes to it). However, he now says that he did not mean that."

(As for "going for it", I rather think he did. That's why they sued him.)

Hope that's clear. The judgment's out now, so this is all a bit redundant anyway.

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2010/350.html
"The natural meaning of the passage, in other words, was not that the BCA was promoting what it knew to be bogus treatments but that it was promoting what Dr Singh contended were bogus treatments without regard to the want of reliable evidence of their efficacy – a meaning which takes one back to the assertion that there was not a jot of evidence for the BCA's claims."
With which I obviously disagree.
And if he was going to characterise the BCA's behaviour as being malicious, why didn't he just go for it? Was he trying to make it look ambiguous but failed?

(Anonymous)

NATO takes over command of military operations in Libya

[b]NATO is taking over command of military operations in Libya from coalition forces, world media reported Sunday.[/b]

The UN Security Council imposed the no-fly zone over Libya on March 17, along with ordering "all necessary measures" to protect civilians from Muammar Gaddafi's attacks on rebel-held towns.

The 28 NATO ambassadors met on Sunday to decide on further military plans in Libya.

The United States transfers command for a no-fly zone over Libya to NATO, while coalition forces will continue to protect civilian population from attacks by Gaddafi forces.

The military operation in Libya, codenamed Odyssey Dawn, has been conducted so far jointly by 13 states, including the United States, Britain and France.

NATO members decided on Thursday to assume responsibility for the enforcement of a no-fly zone in Libya, but could not agree on taking full command of all military operations in the country.

Meanwhile, leaders of the 27 European Union states on Thursday issued a statement saying the EU stood ready to assist in building a new Libya "in cooperation with the United Nations, the Arab League, the African Union and others."

MOSCOW, March 27 (RIA Novosti)

http://en.rian.ru/world/20110327/163235937.html
Great post! I want to see a follow up to this topic

Psychonomy

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