The anonymous bloggers on that other WordPress blog are at it again, putting words in my mouth. They claimed that I said one could prove a negative. No, I did not say or write that. However, since this is a commonly misunderstood point, I consider it worthy to elaborate on. While true that one cannot prove a universal negative, it is possible to falsify a positive. In essence this means that in some cases, a person can prove their innocence indirectly by showing proof positive of a contradictory fact. Perhaps they need to add Karl Popper and Aristotle to their reading list.
Here is an example. I can absolutely and very easily falsify the lie that was posted that my PhD was revoked. All I have to do is have FSU send a sealed copy of my official transcript to the appropriate parties. A classic example is that of the alibi for a crime. A person can prove they are innocent by providing proof they were somewhere other than the scene of the crime at the time it was committed. A person obviously cannot be in two places at once. Game over.
However, in the US justice system, as anyone who has ever been a juror as I have learns, the State in criminal cases and the Plaintiffs in civil cases have the burden of proof. In a criminal case, that means the person is innocent until proven guilty. The defendant does not have to prove he/she did not commit the crime. Of course, it helps if he has an alibi or can provide DNA evidence, but that is not what is required.
I will preface my remarks by saying that I have the utmost respect for actual clerks in the legal system who do their jobs and don’t misrepresent the legal systems in postings. The problem I have with this particular person who claims to be a hacker clerk is specifically with the way he misrepresents the legal system and seems to imply that the courts “like” Federici (is he claiming that they are biased in favor of him?). I can’t imagine his employer would approve of this. Recently a poster who appears to be a Federici supporter (although he denies knowing him) claiming to be a clerk at the courthouse posted to Fairfax Underground displayed egregious ignorance of US libel law, stating that the defendants he is suing have the burden of proof to show that the statements they made were wrong. That is the case in the UK, which is what made Simon Singh’s legal case so difficult, but it is not the case in the US. In the US, the plaintiff has the burden of proof to demonstrate that the alleged libelous statements made were factually false. This makes libel cases very difficult to prove, because the plaintiff has to come up with a way to falsify the statements made. Virginia is in the United States, not the UK.
In my case, if I could identify who is lying about me, it would be easy as I can easily falsify the lies that I was fired from FSU or had my PhD revoked by providing the relevant documents. However, the ACT website used fair use quotes directly from Federici’s self-published book, Help for the Hopeless Child. If Federici could produce a copy of his book showing that the quotes were nowhere to be found, he could win, but of course he cannot do that because these quotes are, in fact in the book. and anyone can look at the page numbers cited and see that.
The little anonymous “clerk” (I don’t know if he actually is a clerk — in my opinion he is someone who is lamely trying to scare me — but for convenience’s sake I will refer to him as that) also displayed incredible ignorance of what is required as evidence. He seems to think that unless people observed first hand, they cannot make any claims. Somehow in his little mind, he seems to be confusing the concepts of courts requiring direct evidence vs. heresay with what is permissible to say that would not be considered libel. If someone really could be sued for writing about anything other than direct observation, the courtrooms would be filled with journalists and anyone who has ever written a negative book review. That is just more nonsense that shows the little clerk, or whoever he actually is, didn’t learn much from his job. If he is really a clerk, I wonder what his boss would think about his mouthing off his ignorance, misrepresenting and making a mockery of the legal system and the fact he called himself a hacker clerk. The little clerk also seems to think that what he considers ranting about a person is actionable. No, it is not, unless the rants contain lies about facts. Fortunately, the little clerk does not get to make up the rules. The law is the law and the justice system is obligated to follow the law.
So yes, it is perfectly legitimate to critique someone else’s writings and recommendations that are being made in those writings and if the writings are recommending prone restraint procedures, it is perfectly fine to offer up an opinion on the danger of prone restraints, especially since several states agree and have banned them entirely and there is a large body of literature showing their dangers.
Being licensed and proclaiming oneself an “expert” does not mean that people cannot write about that person. Any person in the US is free to criticize anyone at any time for anything as long as they do not make a statement that is factually incorrect that damages the person’s reputation. If Federici follows through with his threats to appeal the case which he must do within 10 days of his previous legal loss in small claims, as plaintiff, he will have the burden of proof to show that a factually false statement was made maliciously that damaged his reputation.
Here’s a geography lesson. Virginia is in the United States, not the UK. In the UK, defendants have the burden of proof in libel cases. However, in the US, the plaintiff has the burden of proof, so unless Virginia has seceded from the US and become part of the UK, Federici will have the burden of proof, plain and simple.
Again, if Federici follows through with this lawsuit what is at stake here is academic freedom and freedom of speech on the internet. Rest assured that those who care about either of these issues will not be happy. If people can be hauled into court from out of state without sound basis, this would have a chilling effect on both because even if he loses, the defendants would be put through the time and expense of having to hire a lawyer, show up in court and present a defense. As I understand it, an appeal case is considered essentially hitting the reset button, meaning that certain things from the small claims case cannot be carried over, including possibly the jurisdiction issue which can once again be argued. Cases involving the internet are such a new area, they are difficult to predict, so let’s wait and see and hope that precedents get established that do not have chilling effects on a person’s right to free speech and academic freedom.