To cut to the chase, because this news is just too good to wait until Christmas to unwrap, the anti-SLAPP motion was granted and the claims of Higher Balance Institute have been stricken. In the process, the term "horse hockey" has been enshrined in American Case Law.
For those who have not followed this case from the beginning, SLAPP stands for strategic lawsuit against public participation. According to wikipedia, it is "a lawsuit or a threat of lawsuit that is intended to intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition." Judge Haggerty's opinion not only affirms the assertion that HBI had filed suit against Laura, SOTT, et al to silence this voice, but that such attacks are not acceptable in the eyes of the law.
To briefly recap the core of the case, we quote from Judge Haggerty's opinion:
On November 4, 2007, Knight-Jadczyk re-posted portions of The Oregonian newspaper articles concerning Pepin's arrest and acquittal and posted her own commentary which included, in part, the following: "It's really starting to look like this Eric Pepin and his Higher Balance Institute is merely a COINTELPRO and a front for pedophilia."What has actually happened here is that Truth and reason have prevailed. The stating of opinion, and in this case opinion that is backed up by documented fact, is constitutionally protected free speech! That we celebrate this as a great victory, which it is, reveals a great deal about the times in which we live; dark times, indeed. Judge Haggerty's opinion was by no means a foregone conclusion. HBI makes a lot of money while SOTT and Laura Knight-Jadczyk do not. Without the generous donations and encouragement from readers of SOTT that allowed the hiring of a crack team of attorneys from the firm of Cooper, White & Cooper LLP, along with a whole lot of work by people who are already overworked, things could have turned out very differently.
The court notes that plaintiff focuses its argument upon the "front for pedophilia" posting, and does not advance specific arguments regarding Knight-Jadczyk's other posting. The court has conducted an independent review of Knight-Jadcyzk's other comments and concludes that the following analysis is applicable to all of her postings.
On that same date, Knight-Jadczyk also responded to a post from another forum user who asserted that HBI serves a valid purpose to those seeking answers. Knight-Jadczyk posted, in part, the following:Horse hockey. There is nothing there except a pathological deviant and his deviant followers conning the public. There's nothing at all about "waking up" there. For example, most meditation will do little but put you back to sleep. It's an act of self-calming and falling into confluence with the psychopathic reality.Plaintiff's claims against Knight-Jadczyk, therefore, rely upon her assertions that "HBI is a 'front for pedophilia;' HBI is a "cointelpro" organization; HBI markets nothing more than an act of "falling into confluence with a psychopathic reality;" and HBI is "conning" the public. [...]
This court concludes that the postings by Knight-Jadczyk constitute information provided by "another content provider" under Section 230 of the CDA. Therefore, defendants SOTT, QFG, and QFS are immunized against those postings by the CDA. Because plaintiff cannot show a probability of prevailing on its claims against QFG, QFS, and SOTT, involving either the moderators' postings or Knight-Jadczyk's postings, the applicable anti-SLAPP statutes compel that the claims against these defendants are stricken. [...]
Defendant Knight-Jadczyk concedes that the CDA does not prohibit claims against her based on her own postings. Nevertheless, plaintiff cannot show a probability of succeeding on its claims against Knight-Jadczyk individually. [...]
Plaintiff maintains that Knight-Jadczyk's statements are false and defamatory. A defamatory statement is a factual assertion that subjects another to "hatred, contempt or ridicule" or tends "to diminish the esteem, respect, goodwill or confidence in which [the other] is held or to excite adverse, derogatory or unpleasant feelings or opinions against [the other]." [...]
Whether a statement is capable of a defamatory meaning is a question for the court. [...]
This court concludes that Knight-Jadczyk's statements constitute protected opinion.[...]
Finally, the court examined whether the postings were sufficiently factual to be susceptible of being proven. This examination also supports concluding that the postings constitute protected opinion. [...]
For the reasons provided, QFG's Special Motion to Strike Complaint, Knight-Jadczyk's Special Motion to Strike Complaint , and QFS and SOTT's Special Motion to Strike Complaint are granted.
Imagine that scenario for a moment: HBI prevails or at least achieves their likely goal of simply burying Laura and SOTT under a mountain of debt. Not only would SOTT and the SOTT forum be silenced, but all voices of truth on the Internet would be one step closer to the same fate. The potential ramifications of this case were enormous.
So, the timing of this ruling, on the cusp of the Winter Solstice, is downright poetic. The long nights are coming to an end. Light and warmth are returning, Spring is just around the corner. But what does that really mean?
We might be tempted to relax, figuring that justice will finally prevail. After all, it really does seem like a new day is dawning, doesn't it? The eight year Winter of the Bush administration is almost behind us. A new administration is being formed, lead by the first African American President of the United States, and the freedom to speak our minds even against those with the wealth to put the wheels of the justice system in motion against us has been affirmed.
But this is not a time to relax. Celebrate, yes, but not relax. This light in the darkness should give us hope, but not the false belief that everything is now made right and there is no more work to do! Make no mistake about it, this victory in the courts does not bring an end to attacks on our freedom of speech, nor does it necessarily gain any new ground in the struggle to end oppression. What has been won is the holding of a position. We have not stepped further backward toward greater oppression, but more attacks are happening now, and even more are coming. You can take that to the bank (assuming the bank hasn't gone bust!)
This victory does give us hope. The Goliaths with their money and the ability to wield the legal system that comes along with it can be beaten by the Davids. It doesn't happen by merely hoping or placing blind trust in "the system" and "having faith" that truth will win in the end. This David had to fight, fight hard, and fight with eyes open wide to the reality of the situation; and with help from many others. That is the hope. With knowledge, understanding and networking, we can fight!
Every culture has some sort of celebration in the dead of Winter, whether it be solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the New Year, whatever. These celebrations all involve the coming together of friends and family to share food, to share warmth, and to help those in need. For too many of us, those aspects of the celebrations have become habitual obligations. Having grown up In an age of well stocked grocery stores and energy for heat and light delivered right to our houses, it's easy to lose sight of the need to work together that is part and parcel of Winter celebrations. We go through the motions, but do we remember what is behind those motions?
The Goliaths can be fought, but not by lone Davids. In every fight, sacrifices must be made. Those in the thick of the battle make the greatest sacrifices, but their sacrifices will amount to nothing without the support of others. Even if that support is only a small donation of money, it is meaningful and vital in that it is part of a community working together toward the common goal, in this case defending free speech. As the environment warms and life seems to get easier, do we relax our vigilance, or do we fight even harder against oppression?
Like this case, Winter Solstice brings the hope of better days ahead. But do not forget that the coldest months follow the Solstice. It takes a while for the 'light' and warmth to gain dominance again. There is still so much to do. Political prisoners are still being tortured, children are still being starved and killed, entire populations are still being exploited, and bailouts are still being handed out to the wealthy as you and I struggle to make ends meet. All of these taken together as just "me against the world" can be overwhelming. Facing these problems with the vain hope that a new administration or anyone else will fix it all, or that somehow justice will prevail while we sleep,will lead to nothing but more problems.
Facing these problems by working, and working together, to overcome them can lead to positive results. We have just seen it happen.
For today, thanks to the work of Laura Knight-Jadczyk, the SOTT team and everyone who has given time, money or any other form of support to this fight, Internet freedom of speech has not taken the severe blow it could have taken. For that, we can and should give thanks. How we give thanks is the key. I propose the best thanks that can be given, the only thanks that is meaningful, is to use this for-the-moment protected Internet freedom of speech while we still have it. Use it for everything it is worth.
What has been won is our ability to continue to speak and learn in the open, for the time being. Take this opportunity. Read SOTT and discuss what you read on the forum and elsewhere. Knowledge protects. Get some while the fruit is still relatively easy to reach.
Happy Winter Solstice - the promise of the Return of the Light!