Reaction to Colin Craig versus The Civilian

Colin Craig’s legal action against a small satirical website – see Colin Craig versus The Civilian – has predictably been well publicised and discussed in social media, but it has blown up into mainstream media attention.

3 News – Colin Craig threatens satirical website

Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has threatened a satirical news website with defamation after claiming it published a story designed “to make him look ridiculous”.

MSN News – Website skewers Colin Craig’s legal threat

Mr Craig demanded a retraction and apology on the website and also $500 in legal costs.

He could not be reached for comment, but a spokeswoman told NZ Newswire he was aware the website was satirical.

Mr Craig, a millionaire, has previously complained about being defamed in satire pieces by Steve Braunias and Josh Drummond, published by Fairfax.

Radio New Zealand – Legal action threatened over satirical item

It’s also gone international, in Pink News in the UK: New Zealand: Conservative Party leader threatens to sue satirical website for ‘big gay rainbow’ article

And Craig responds via NZ Herald – Craig warns on satire quote

Conservatives leader Colin Craig says his threat of legal action against a satirical website for a post on the gay marriage bill does not mean he lacks a sense of humour – but warned any attempts to attribute false quotes to him would get similar treatment.

Mr Craig said he knew the post was satire, but others had not recognised it as such.

“I’ve had people say ‘gee, I’m surprised you said that Colin’. Not everybody is able to tell the difference

“I take these things pretty seriously. We are a serious political party and want to go a long way, so making sure that what is reported on what I have said, is accurate is important.”

When the Civilian’s response was read out, he laughed and said he would consult his lawyers about whether it was enough to halt further proceedings.

“It does clarify the point and that was what was important for me.”

Mr Craig said he did have a “well developed sense of humour”.

“But when it comes to statements being reported in the public sphere … there is no room for humour.”

Craig was interviewed on Firstline this morning: ‘No room for humour’ in politics – Craig (video)

and Story:

Speaking on Firstline this morning, Mr Craig said he enjoys “a good laugh”, but draws the line at false quotations.

“The problem is not everyone will understand what satire is,” says Mr Craig.

“It looks like it’s a quote from me and it’s clearly not. I take that pretty seriously.

“We’re a party doing very well, we intend to be in Parliament after the next election – and should be, all things being equal – so we’re serious about this, and if people want to quote me, fine, but they do have to actually make sure it’s correct.”

The Civilian has “quoted” a number of politicians in previous satires, and the main focus of the post getting all the attention was Maurice Williamson:

In contrast Mr Williamson, whose “big gay rainbow” speech became a worldwide internet hit, told 3 News the article is “a very funny piece of satire and I had no problems with it”.

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  1. Satire site or not – Craig seems to be sending a none-too-subtle message to the MSM regarding accuracy, which I suppose is fair enough – goodness me, how often have the MSM helped themselves to material and legwork from this website, not attributed any of it to the author, or simply mis-quoted context in the “material lift”? If I was a Journalist who was anti-Conservatives, I might make fun of Craig publically, but in a professional and private capacity, I would be more mindful that if I was to mis-quote Craig in the media, then I’m most likely up for a meaningful act of correction. One letter from a Lawyer equals this publicity – cheaper than an ad I guess:

    • But Craig didn’t send a message to the MSM, this was a quiet letter to a relatively small website. Their reaction and the reaction on social media has blown it up into an MSM story. I’m not sure that this is what Craig intended, I very much doubt it.

      No media takes kindly to being slapped with legal letters. It’s possible MSM may take note and take more care reporting Craig, but it’s also likely that they will just be more careful but with increased scathingness at any opportunity.

      There are easy ways of ridiculing someone without satirical made up quotes – for example by using Craigs actual quotes.

    • Steve, are you acting for Craig or the Conservative Party with your comments? I see you have posted the same comment on other blogs.

  2. A useful reference on media law:….

    From the website: Can humour be defamatory?

    “Yes. Humour, satire, sarcasm, cartoons and spoofs that make fun of people can be defamatory, by holding people up to ridicule unfairly. But it can be difficult to predict whether a court will say “although dressed up as a joke, the barb is defamatory and damaging” or “no-one would take this seriously, it’s obviously just a bit of fun”. Decisions have gone both ways”.


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