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.

Metiria versus Pākehā men #1

While Metiria Turei has largely dropped out of the media spotlight there has been some ongoing commentary on her rise and fall over the last month. Two articles claim that she has been done over by white middle/upper class males.

Newshub:  Metiria Turei’s demise due to ‘race, gender and class’ – academic

For the last three weeks, the actions of former Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei have polarised our country.

Māori academic Dr Leonie Pihama described the coverage as “a clear attack that is grounded in the fundamental right-wing ideologies of race, gender and class”.

There were certainly attacks on Turei and her actions and attitudes to benefits and solutions to poverty.

But she started a highly political and contentious ‘mission’ and media had a duty to examine the whole story, not just the bits Turei wanted to promote to try to grow votes for the Green Party.

Some media coverage may have been over the top, but that’s not unusual in politics. Bill English has been hammered by media for months over the Todd Barclay issue, and he’s right wing-ish, white, male and relatively well off.

Polls showed that many people who leaned left were not comfortable with Turei’s actions and continued acceptance of law breaking.

Three quarters of people polled, including about half of Green voters and about two thirds of Labour voters answered yes to ‘Was it wrong for Metiria Turei to get a bigger benefit?’ – see Newshub poll: Most Kiwis say Metiria Turei was wrong to lie to WINZ

There was clearly:

  • left wing disapproval
  • clearly many of those who disapproved must have been female (at least half)
  • many must have been lower to middle class,
  • there must have been some non-whites who disapproved (as there was whites who approved).

It is fine for Pihama to question whether there has been some bias in reporting the Turei issue. There is always bias in media.

It is also fine to suggest that some ‘attacks’ were based on ideologies, race, age and class. Inevitably they would have been.

But stating that the coverage was “a clear attack that is grounded in the fundamental right-wing ideologies of race, gender and class” is not something one should expect from someone presenting themselves as an academic.

There was more. Discussion on this at Reddit:

She said a lot more than that:

“What we have is a clear attack that is grounded in the fundamental right wing ideologies of race, gender and class that serve the interests of domination and which reproduce systems of inequality and disparities. Metiria Turei embodies all of those things that white supremacy seeks to destroy.

“It seems that everywhere I turn there is a upsurge of white supremacy expressed as white privilege.”

A comment in response at Reddit:

What it says is actually the truth. Metiria Turei does embody all that white supremacists (aka Trump supporter type) because she is:

  • Brown coloured (aka not white)
  • A woman
  • Activist for the poor
  • Environment activist
  • Socialist
  • Secularist

The only reason she was hounded by the media is because she failed to anticipate that they would dig for, and find, more dirt on her. Lying about having a flatmate (although it was actually fine for her to have a boarder), and voting in a different electorate to your actual residence (John Key did the same thing while he was an MP) was no big deal.

What actually hurt her was the fact that the residence she put down was actually the baby daddy’s address, so the possible implication was that she she lied about living with him which meant she was never entitled to the benefit in the first place. Despite her years of political experience and the fact she was a co-leader if the Green Party, she failed to anticipate the media uncovering it all and connecting the dots.

But Pihama seems to think that it was unfair for media to join the dots. It was clear there was more to Turei’s story than she was willing to divulge.

It sounds like Pihama is biased based on her political  ideologies, race and gender (I won’t try to judge her class).