Bob Jones slaps another threat of defamation

Bob Jones is already taking someone to court alleging defamation, but has threatened defamation against at least one other person as well.

For someone who has been deliberately provocative in writings over the years he seems to have a very thin skin when comments are directed at him. Or he just feels like abusing his position as a wealthy person, and he could be seen to be abusing court processes.

Pursuing defamation redress through the courts is a way of protecting yourself from attacks on your reputation, but it is really only available to people with a lot of money.

And it is open to abuse by people in powerful positions. I was threatened with defamation by a prominent MP a few years ago, one who is currently using the court to seeking damages on other matters, which is a questionable use of the law. I have had other threats of defamation from petty legal incompetents, who have also tried to inflict financial costs.

Last week: Sir Bob Jones files defamation papers against filmmaker Renae Maihi

Sir Bob Jones has filed defamation papers against filmmaker Renae Maihi.

In March, Maihi presented to Parliament a petition  to strip Jones of his knighthood that was signed by more than 70,000 people.

The defamation papers were received by the Wellington High Court “a couple days ago”, the court confirmed to Stuff on Wednesday.

It is understood Jones will argue the language used in that petition was defamatory.

Maihi started the petition after Jones suggested in his regular National Business Review column in February that a new public holiday should be introduced – called Māori Gratitude Day instead of Waitangi Day.

The column Jones wrote looked deliberately provocative but was probably best ignored.

Maihi’s petition seemed like a silly over-reaction – it could be seen as an attempt to suppress free speech.

But the subsequent defamation proceedings makes Jones look very heavy handed and petty to me. It is only something a person with a lot of money to spare could do.

For someone who talks tough Jones is either very thin skinned, or is being malicious in trying to inflict severe financial damage on someone who says something he takes exception to, or uses as an excuse to get publicity.

Yesterday Leonie Pihama posted Speaking Truth to Racism – in which she shows a letter from Jones’ lawyer claiming a comment she made in a tweet was “clearly defamatory” and demands an immediate withdrawal and retraction and apology also using twitter.

Pihama’s post is carefully worded but defiant. She concludes:

What is clear is that the threat of lawsuits is a tool being used as a means of silencing responses that challenge his views of our people. What is clear is that no matter how many suits he threatens or he files against those who stand up against the vitriolic attacks on our people, we will not stop calling him out, not now not ever. There will always be people who will speak truth back to racism.

Defamation proceedings are really only possible for the rich. They can be a valid response to attacks via speech, but are not practical for most people.

And threats of defamation can be insidious attempts to shut down valid speech.

For someone like Jones who has been liberal with his use of critical provocative speech over a long time his use of lawyers and courts to try to shut down comment and debate looks both hypocritical and an abuse of power and money.

This latest threat looks like an alarming escalation of a war of words into what is sometimes referred to as lawfare – and that can be a very uneven and unfair battle.

Dave Armstrong wrote in February: Sir Bob Jones says his Māori Gratitude Day column was satire. So what was he satirising?

Jones responded that his column was satire – that his idea of a “Maori Appreciation Day” was simply a “satirical suggestion”. It was, as Bob suggested, a “piss-take”.

…there you have it – definitely satirical but also pretty awful…

So yes, Bob Jones was being satirical, and if you like lazy satire that kicks people on the bottom then Bob’s your man. I prefer satire that challenges the pompous, wealthy and powerful and doesn’t require traversing a pay-wall.

Bob was once well-known for his maverick, iconoclastic ways and has made me laugh heartily in the past. Now he has announced that he will be taking legal action against Ranae Maihi for her petition. He believes that it is defamatory for her to describe what he wrote about ‘them’ as ‘hate speech’.

This threatened legal action makes the wannabe NBR satirist look just like all the wimpy, bureaucratic, tan-shoe-wearing, schoolteacher-types that Bob used to rail against. Real satirists don’t sue; they get sued.

That Jones wants to use his considerable wealth, legal resources and societal privilege to silence a lone, largely unknown filmmaker expressing an honest opinion makes Bob the Bill Rowling of satirists not the Rob Muldoon. Grow some balls, Bob.

Jones now seems to be trying to silence Pihama via his lawyer. Are there others he is slapping with legal letters who don’t go public?

To me this looks extremely heavy handed, petty and pathetic.

I think Jones is doing far more to tarnish his own reputation with his legal posturing than a word or two on Twitter could achieve.

Perhaps he is attention seeking – but that would be an abuse of financial privilege and could be an abuse of legal process.

Findlaw: Abuse of Process

Civil wrongs that don’t result in physical harm can fall into a category called dignitary torts, which are torts that have caused harm to a person’s reputation or dignity. A few examples of dignitary torts are defamation, malicious prosecution, and abuse of process. Abuse of process refers to a person using the legal system in a way that is not necessarily serving the underlying legal action, but rather to achieve another purpose. Although this tort may sound similar to malicious prosecution, an abuse of process claim can be brought against someone even if the underlying cause of action for the lawsuit was valid.

I don’t know how much that applies in New Zealand.

45 Comments

      • PDB

         /  June 13, 2018

        To be fair one is referring to a policy being racist whilst the other is calling a person racist.

        • Gezza

           /  June 13, 2018

          To be logical, calling a policy racist implies those who support it are racist.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  June 13, 2018

            To be even more logical, if the policy is racist why not call it that? The question at issue is whether the person you are calling racist actually is.

            • Gezza

               /  June 13, 2018

              The question at issue will be what is racist.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  June 13, 2018

              No, when you accuse a person of being racist the legal question is whether that person actually is racist.

            • Gezza

               /  June 13, 2018

              The LEGAL question is whether the person actually is racist.

              The question at issue, in order to rule on that, will be what is racist.

              I win again.

              You know it dude. 😎

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  June 13, 2018

              No, the legal question will be that the defendant will need to prove that Bob Jones is racist as claimed. That will be based on his overall actions and statements. The plaintiff will need to prove that the accusation is damaging.

              You never win. You just give up ungracefully.

          • Blazer

             /  June 13, 2018

            I think Al wins this one…G.

            • Gezza

               /  June 13, 2018

              We’ll see. I’m not seeing any avatar, after all that effort I went to for you? Do you have an explanation?

            • Blazer

               /  June 13, 2018

              yes…got too hard with changing passwords and so on…for a novice like…moi.

            • Gezza

               /  June 13, 2018

              Sorry to hear that. You weren’t able to just use the same password you use for email?

            • Blazer

               /  June 13, 2018

              G…wordpress was linked to other sites that I had a different password…too hard.

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  June 13, 2018

    What did the tweet say? Seems to be basic info missing from this story?

    • I didn’t go looking forit (if it is still up) because I didn’t want to quote it or link to it, but the letter says:

      1. On or about 7 June 2018 you “tweeted” a message referring to Sir Robert as “racist Bob Jones”.

  2. I wonder if WO will do a post on the Streisand effect today. Maybe Jones will write about it there in his next post.

  3. Ray

     /  June 13, 2018

    Or maybe Sir Robert is using the Law to show that the word “racist” means nothing.
    That it is no more racist for Māori to criticise pakeha than Whites to criticise Māori
    and while there is a counter argument that only a perceived powerless person can’t be racist maybe that is just rubbish.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  June 13, 2018

      The lunacy here is that those who oppose racist laws, attitudes and policies are being called racist.

  4. Corky

     /  June 13, 2018

    Personally, I don’t care. Maori academics and screaming heads have had the floor and the country to themselves. Whitey is now standing up.

    • Gezza

       /  June 13, 2018

      It’s Bob Jones. Loudmouth & money are snowflaking.

      • Corky

         /  June 13, 2018

        Operative words: ‘It’s Bob Jones.’ Who else is talking on these brownflakes? Not many, if any.

        • Corky

           /  June 13, 2018

          * taking*

        • Gezza

           /  June 13, 2018

          Operative words “loudmouth” & “money”. I think he’ll be doing his dough, Corky. For a start there are so many definitions of racist with Bob’s track record he’s probably going to fit one or more of them. Arguing that it was satire probably won’t fly.

          • Corky

             /  June 13, 2018

            I think Sir Bob would have considered that. He will be looking at worst causing inconvenience and publicity and rarking up talkback callers. At best getting a win.Either way he wins in my opinion. Should he lose, I doubt the victors will perceive the hollow victory they have gained. Like Blazer says…he wont be around much longer so I doubt winning or losing feature high in his list of priorities.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  June 13, 2018

            Judging by his court record Jones will be odds on to win. His lawyers have always been very competent and won’t have lodged the suit without doing their homework thoroughly. I once was involved in a case with his then lawyer, Mike Camp. A very smart guy.

  5. Blazer

     /  June 13, 2018

    Jones won’t be around much longer…living proof,that money does not buy …happiness.

    • Corky

       /  June 13, 2018

      Maybe, but at least he will die in a mansion surrounded by the trappings of wealth…and the memories of a very successful life.

      And you, Blazer?

      • Blazer

         /  June 13, 2018

        who know’s….as Oscar said ..’lying in the gutter…still looking at the..stars’…could be worse…people are being killed by war every day.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  June 13, 2018

      I suspect Jones is a lot happier than you, B, judging by the tone of most of your comments.

      • Blazer

         /  June 13, 2018

        misery loves company Al…maybe you and Jones…could go….’fishing’.

  6. PartisanZ

     /  June 13, 2018

    Might be relevant …?

    “Can blacks be racist? The answer, of course, will depend on how you define racism.

    If you define it as “prejudice against or hatred toward another race,” then the answer is yes. If you define racism as “the belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race,” the answer is yes. And if you define racism as “prejudice and discrimination rooted in race-based loathing,” then the answer is, again, yes.

    However, if you define racism as “a system of group privilege by those who have a disproportionate share of society’s power, prestige, property, and privilege,” then the answer is no. In the end, it is my opinion that individual blacks can be and sometimes are racists.

    However, collectively, blacks are neither the primary creators nor beneficiaries of the racism that permeates society today.”

    https://ferris.edu/HTMLS/news/jimcrow/question/2009/march.htm

    Personally I don’t see “calling-out” Bob Jones’ racism as being racist.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  June 13, 2018

      I agree, accusing Jones of racism is not racist. However advocating for racist policies and attitudes is.

    • Dave K

       /  June 13, 2018

      Ahhh….nothing like postmodern identity politics for a breath of fresh air

    • sorethumb

       /  June 13, 2018

      How about ethnocentrism (invidious attitudes to those outside ur group) and toxic meta narrative as developed by post modernist hard liners (against Pakeha)?

    • Corky

       /  June 13, 2018

      “Can blacks be racist? The answer, of course, will depend on how you define racism.”

      Yeah, Philosophical Relativism at its best: ”Hey dude, you are pissing on my trouser leg.” No, I’m not..what you are experiencing is a biological shower of indeterminate causation.

      Blacks can be more racist than whites. When you are on their turf and are white, you will know about it

  7. Westie Bob

     /  June 13, 2018

    Maybe it is to teach a lesson to the social media trolls who think it is fair to try to attack peoples livelihood/employment ,friends and family because they disagree with someones politics.

    • Blazer

       /  June 13, 2018

      as mentioned ,suing for defamation is a rich man’s game…that fact alone makes it totally unfair in an egalitarian…society.

  8. sorethumb

     /  June 13, 2018

    Racist or conservative. In NZ racist means: “not with the program”
    Jordan Peterson and the Failure of the Left

    Conservatives of this stripe mistrust radical movements that are ready to rip apart a cultural fabric that took generations to weave in pursuit of some idealistic vision of social justice. They believe that there is such a thing as ‘human nature,’ and that it’s highly fallible, and inevitably bedeviled by problems such as envy, corruption, and greed.
    Consequently, such conservatives have no faith in leftist visions of a transformational ‘revolution’ that will definitively destroy oppression and establish a truly just society. Instead, they see them as dangerously naïve, and likely to produce violent anarchy and/or repressive authoritarianism. While acknowledging the realities of social injustice, they believe that political reforms need to be cautiously incremental—in a word, conservative.
    https://quillette.com/2018/05/22/jordan-peterson-failure-lef

  9. Andrew Geddis has added:

    The targets of both have been Māori wahine who speak out strongly on te tino rangatiratanga. Yet if you want to go looking for people who have called Bob Jones a “racist”, you can find lots of examples.

    I won’t link to any because I don’t want to get anyone into any trouble, but if Bob Jones was wanting to find people to sue for calling him “a racist asshole” or “a corpse compelled by witchcraft to say the most obviously racist thing in any given situation”, it’s not hard.

    So of all the comments made about him, Jones apparently has singled out those by two high profile Māori women and chosen to use the legal system to vest consequences on them … that seems statistically unlikely to be just chance.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  June 13, 2018

      Oddly enough the person who initiated a large public petition calling Jones a racist and seeking punitive action has been sued. Normal people, which obviously doesn’t include Geddis, would consider that selection gender neutral.

      I don’t imagine Jones spends much time following Twitter since he reportedly refuses to own a smartphone so someone must have alerted him to Pihama’s insults. No doubt someone sexist and racist according to Geddis.

  10. Mick

     /  June 14, 2018

    Joke, satire, slip of the tongue, late night drugged up diatribe, whatever – denigrating another ethnicity from a position of power and influence is racism, pure and simple and it should be vilified and punished as such. Jones is not a race, he’s a bloke, so condemning him can’t be racist, he’s just being seen as an arrogant twat like all his defenders. That’s not racism, it’s a considered, angry perception and reaction to his awful comments.

  1. Bob Jones slaps another threat of defamation — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition