An Australian poster going by the name of AndyD on the JREF forums has recently had a run in with Ezio De Angelis, a self described psychic medium who was a finalist in the recent television series The One. This show pitted various psychics against each other in a showdown to determine who was Australia’s top psychic.
AndyD edited and posted on Youtube a satirical video of De Angelis conducting a psychic reading from ‘The One’. The principal edits were of the sitter providing many more negative answers than what was shown and the rationale of the video was to highlight the number of misses that had made their way to the cutting room floor during the editing process for the episode.
In late September De Angelis contacted AndyD and told him:
“This video is part of a pending Defamation and compensation action. It has already been removed from Bad Psychics.Com as part of this legal process.
In order to ensure that you are not implicit in the litigation you are required to remove the video and commentary immediately.”
This threat of legal action upset AndyD sufficiently to not only remove the video from Youtube, but also remove half of his posts on his blog. He has since reinstated most of the posts, but the video has not been put back on Youtube.
Without the benefit of viewing the video, it is difficult to judge if it is actually defamatory (and anyway I am no lawyer), but this is a common tactic attempted by some of the more high profile psychics to have blogs, articles, and websites that are critical of them removed from the Internet. Uri Geller is notorious for his litigation and famously filed action against Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal and James Randi which inadvertently resulted in James Randi and CSICOP parting ways.
Threats of defamation are not restricted to those who dabble in the supernatural world, but also in pseudoscientific realms such as the recent threat of legal action made by New Zealand Chiropractic Association against the New Zealand Medical Journal.
For those sceptics who have an Internet presence, they are open to the threat of litigation (whether it has a basis or not) and for most people the prospect of having the hassle and expense of a civil hearing is sufficient to give in to such threats.
In New Zealand the Defamation Act 1992 provides are two defenses that can be used, the first is that the defamatory statement is the truth, which on the face of it seems straight forward. However, the burden of proof lies on the person making the statement to show that it is true. The second defense is that it is an honestly held opinion. With this defense, the facts presented must be correct and it must be clear that it is the personal opinion of the person making the statement. Furthermore, the opinion must be genuinely held.
This should not be taken as legal advice and if you are the subject of legal action then make sure that you get advice from a suitably qualified solicitor.