In a development that annoys me as much as one of my favourite novels being banned in some libraries, one of my favourite authors of non-fiction has been bullied out of having time to write columns for The Guardian by the British Chiropractic Association and the awful libel laws of the United Kingdom. It also seems probable that his book projects would be more advanced, if not for this pointless and anti-democratic headache.
Singh has been courageous enough to appeal the painful initial decision against his entirely fair and justified comments, as well as try to kick off a public movement to change the laws in the UK. The need to do so is broadly recognized, with several other jurisdictions having already passed laws to protect their citizens from ‘libel tourists’ who use the UK to file baseless or frivolous claims. Newspapers including the Boston Globe and New York Times have also complained about how British law imposes on them unjustifiably.
Having a free and democratic society depends on being able to express honestly-held and justified opinions without fear that someone will exploit the law to silence you. Hopefully, the lawmakers in the UK will change tack, reform their laws, and apologize to those who have been harmed by them already. We might also hope that people will recognize that the chiropractic view that all disease is caused by ‘subluxations’ in the spine is baseless quackery (a claim far bolder and less exhaustively justified than the one that got Singh in all this trouble).