Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Do We Want Juries Involved?

A flame war on the Info Theory (start at the bottom and scroll up) and Bitch PhD weblogs has been escalating. (There's a summary here.) Apparently, Paul Deignan, a grad student who writes the Info Theory weblog put some comments on the Bitch PhD weblog that were regarded as objectionable. This caused a third party to e-mail Deignan's advisor complaining about allegedly unprofessional behavior. This, in turn, caused Deignan to threaten a libel lawsuit.

I was on Paul's side up to the lawsuit threat. Can we trust juries to make sense of this? If there is a lawsuit, we can expect the Other Side to use that weapon next time (accompanied by calling anybody who objects a “hypocrite”) and there is a strong possibility we might get a jury as dumb as the first Merck jury.


Blogger Milhouse said...

Your objection applies equally to any legal action, for any civil or criminal case. Do we want juries determining whether someone has libelled another? I don't know, but if you don't then you should propose a better system. Someone has to decide these things.

Paul Deignan claims to have been libelled, by being falsely accused of sending threatening emails, of spoofing IP addresses, and of sexual harrassment. These are serious accusations, which could have repercussions for his career down the line. The traditional remedy for such libels is indeed the law suit, and it is common and reasonable for someone to ask "if it wasn't true, why didn't you sue?".

12:39 AM  
Blogger deignan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:18 PM  
Blogger deignan said...

Unfortunately, without the possibility of a lawsuit, there would be no recourse except flame wars (which are horribly destructive to all).

Lawsuits provide a framework for resolution. I am pleased to announce that Hettle has settled short of a lawsuit being filed. Others actually make money in these ventures and so are more immune to painless resolutions.

Also, the lawsuit must be mentioned up front if immediate calls for retractions fail. The other option is mentioning latter at which point it seems like escalation for a losing proposition. If Hettle had not made a point of contacting the advisors, it is likely that this incident might have been ignored. Since it was put on record, it must now be sorted out.

(As I see the situation).

1:22 PM  

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