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Warren Kinsella: litigating as communicating

I am intrigued by one of those little one-line links that Instapundit did yesterday, this time to a row between a Canadian politician and some Canadian bloggers.

This was only a matter of time. Bloggers in Canada are deleting posts after Warren Kinsella, an aide to former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, threatened them with legal action.

By the sound of it, there is very little that the blogosphere can do to make this Warren Kinsella person think better of his threats, although I would love to be proved wrong about that. Even by the standards of regular party politicians, he sounds like a fairly unpleasant character. All bloggers can do is publicise that he has made the threats, which I think he will be very happy about. He may be nasty but he is not stupid. He wants to be known as a political bully, if only to sell his book about how to be a political bully. Postings like Instapundit’s, and Cicada’s, and mine, are probably the exact thing he wanted to get from his legal round robin.

What this ruckus does show is how important the Internet in general, and the Blogosphere in particular, are becoming in generating publicity. Kinsella, as the author of a book called Web of Hate, does not make the mistake of calling the Internet insignificant while simultaneously raging against it. But to all those who still say that the Internet in general and the Blogosphere in particular do not count for anything, this row will be one more item of evidence under the general heading of ‘You Wish’. I mean, if politicians do not rate bloggers, why do they threaten to sue bloggers when bloggers say things they do not like?

In the age of the Internet, suing people is starting to emerge as a whole new way of communicating a message, to a lot of people, very economically, a point also made by Tyler Cowen at the Social Affairs Unit blog, in a posting about how Big Music is suing lots of downloaders. That, Cowen says, is what Big Music is trying to do also.

9 comments to Warren Kinsella: litigating as communicating

  • Richard Easbey

    This Kinsella character is repulsive. Read some of the crap that crawls out of his keyboard…

  • Regardless of what anybody thinks about Mr. Kinsella, we can expect a lot more of this kind of thing in future years.

    Brian is right to suggest that this is indicative of the growing awareness and influence of blogging but the unavoidable corollary is that people with wealth and influence will be increasingly minded (and motivated) to hit back.

  • Richard Easbey

    Thanks, David. I was getting a little nervous that I was the only one to post a comment! lol

  • All that can be done (and has been done) is for us to publicize it and hope that embarrassment will serve as the proper deterrant.

    What happened is that two or three bloggers deleted their posts, but one held firm (ianism.com), and two others (lawyers) have posted criticisms that essentially dare Mr. Kinsella to sue them and go down in flames. He has not risen to the bait, choosing instead to label his critics as “mouth-breathers” and white supremacists.

    Such is proper Canadian political discourse today.

  • rob walsh

    i found something very similar today in fact. have a look at http://www.b3ta.com/newsletter/issue154/ (Link), a bit of the way down

    basically someone made a video that insults robert kilroy silk, wannabe fuhrer of the rather unpleasant UKIP here in britain (hell i may as well libel the git a bit more)
    and he has threatened to sue.
    have a look at the video, i find it pretty funny, but i think you need a bit of a weird sense of humour. however it is hardly an incitement to anything, just a funny video.

    i think that websites should be free say whatever they want without censorious gits with big wallets and no sense of humor being able to limit them in any way whatsoever. kilroy needs shaming too.
    (apologies if this is a bit incoherent, ive been out partying)
    anyway, my regards to all

  • This exposes a weakness in the armory of bloggers I think. As we don’t make money from this writing business we have every incentive to roll over when threatened. If we do then those with access to expensive lawyers win. If we don’t then we face potential ruin from legal fees.

    The answer to the conudrum is probably for everyone who is credibly threatened by such action is to persuade other bloggers to copy the message before deleting it. In addition we should all highlight such threats, so as to raise the cost of making them. In this way the message shifts but does not disappear.

  • Yup, I’m a “mouth-breather” and I’m holding firm. I admit I would have been willing to compromise with regard to wording on my post, but having it labeled ‘libel”, I am holdiing firm. And am prepared to go through all litigation that comes about because of it. My remarks may have been crass, but certainly not “libel.”

    In fact, I am standing up for Warern Kinsella’s right to insult others as well, including myself, as “mouth breathing” – actually something I was when a child as the result of an illness.

    Sue him over it? hah.. why?

    I may have been “idiotic” in my post that has garnered attention. .but I don’t recall any laws against idiocy.

    I don’t have tons of funds to fight whatever Kinselal wants to fight, but I’ve got determination. And if he wins, so be it.. then we in Canada will know exactly what boundaries of speech we have. And that will be a benefit to us, and the rest of the world as well.

    But I don’t expect to lose. The Statement Of Claim that I have recieved thus far, that has not been filed with any court, totally takes my writing out of context.

    So it shall be an interesting ride. I’ll learn alot from it.. if it continues.

    And I’m not stupid either. Mr. WK might be in for a few surprises of his own. We shall see…

  • Oliver Kamm and I were both similarly threatened about a year ago, by another Canadian politician, the vile Joe Comartin. After a letter from one of the world’s top internet law solicitors, Comartin backed down and left us alone. I suspect Kinsella may have done much the same.

  • rdg

    Anyone else notice that this ‘bon vivant’ lists Lenin as one of his personal heroes?