Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Cameron Slater, aka Whale Oil, fights the good fight [update 2]

After his (first) day in court to answer charges that he broke a court order for name suppression, the Busted Blonde wonders whether Cameron Slater (aka the-blogger-known-as-Whale-Oil) is Hero or Dork?

A few others will no doubt be asking themselves that same question, especially after his cogent ‘to-camera’ before heading into court this morning to seek an adjournment until he can enlist legal support for his defence.

Fact is, Whale might be all the things people say about him but, just like Larry Flynt who defended free speech through the American courts, on this issue Whale is fighting the good fight.

What  he did on his blog, for which he’s being prosecuted, was to hint about the names of two low-lifes who were then before the courts; two low-lifes who were yet to be proven guilty, it’s true, but who were given name suppression solely on the basis of their “celebrity”—and whose names are still suppressed even now their guilt has been decided.

I say that’s not good enough.  I say that justice must be seen to be done. In fact, I’ve said just that before:

    “In recent years New Zealand's courts have admitted TV cameras, for which our justices have patted themselves on the back for their “openness,” but at the same time they’ve more and more frequently enforced orders suppressing information about what's going on inside those courts.  Justice may be being done inside our courts (though reports suggests serious doubts on that score) but we can’t see that it’s being done.  We can see pictures, but we're frequently not allowed to know who's on trial, and what the evidence against them is.
    “Like a patronising parent protecting innocent children we’re given picture but no sound. We're being treated like children, with no justification for it.
    “Are we really that immature?  Name suppression, evidence suppression – in recent years the media has been gagged from reporting important details that would help we the people  to judge for ourselves whether justice is being done in the courts assembled in our names.
    “I've argued before that ‘It's unfortunate that our courts seem to have forgotten the crucial principle that underpins their work: that justice must not only be done must must be seen to be done. When justice is kept under wraps, all sorts of nonsense appears in the vacuum instead ... Why do the courts consider us so immature that we can't handle hearing the evidence for ourselves in media reports, instead of hearing only the nonsense that its absence has generated?’
    “Talking about suppression orders issued over the Emma Agnew murder back in 2007, Stephen Franks quite properly slammed this ‘recent fad to elevate privacy and possible embarrassment over substantive justice’:

    “The law around pre-trial contempt of court (and sub judice) is based on the theory that the risk of biasing judges and juries outweighs freedom of speech, including open disclosure of what is known and obtainable by insiders, or those determined to find out.
    “I am not aware of any balance of evidence to support [this] fear... Indeed the attempt to treat juries like computers, cleansed of any pre-knowledge, and sheltered by evidence exclusion rules from anything a judge patronisingly considers prejudicial, turns upside down the original justification for a jury of your peers.”

    “When ‘justice’ comes complete with gagging orders, then justice is neither being done nor seen to be done.  It's time to urgently reconsider their popularity.”


UPDATE 1: If you’re still undecided on the ‘Hero or Dork?’ question, then it’s time to forget personalities and start thinking in principles. Defending a poor bastard jailed in Finland for two years and four months on nine counts of "gross defamation, inciting ethnic hatred and inciting religious hatred" blogger Baron Bodissey put the relevant argument:

    “As was pointed out by several commenters at the time, Mr. Lehto is not the most appealing poster child for freedom of expression.
    “Unfortunately, one can’t choose only the most noble and upstanding people as defendants in civil liberties cases. When it comes to the suppression of free speech, authorities are more likely to pick off the stragglers — the unpopular, unpleasant, and unattractive media personalities who inhabit the fringes of public discourse.”

So if you’re “not impressed by this” or just think “this is actually attention seeking and it's not actually that productive,” then may I suggest you think things through more thoroughly. And harden up.


Greig McGill said...

I can't say I've followed this, so I might be way off base here. Can someone clarify for me whether the name suppression is pre or post judgement? I feel name suppression should apply to EVERY case pre-judgement, and NO case post-judgement. My reasoning is simply that people are always innocent until proven guilty, and even if proven innocent, the reputation/suspicion of guilt will stick.

Greig McGill said...

I should clarify, I believe there should never be name supression post-judgement where a guilty verdict is returned.

Scalia said...

Name suppression can be pre, during or post trial and any combination of the above.

I thoroughly recommend Name Suppression and the Balancing of Rights and Freedoms and am surprised that PC did not link to it in his post.

PM of NZ said...

"attention seeking and it's not actually that productive"


Innocent until proven guilty underpins suppression. Unfortunately even when the charges may be for a despicable crime and dubious defendants. Upon conviction, immediately lifted irrespective of appeal potential.

Greig McGill said...

Scalia: I'm sorry, but that madness you linked to begins with "God, via the consent of the governed..." - I think I can probably write it off as cantaining any rational argument when it starts with invocation of mythological beings. :) I'm not sure I'd trust any conclusions which rely on a supernatural foundation.

Keeping Stock said...

Half-right PC - one of those for whom Cam is being charged is the "entertainer with his dick out in the alley" who has already been convicted and sentenced, and given permanent name supression. You may be thinking of The Comedian - Cam has done nothing wrong in that regard, and his not been charged in connection with that offender. The other one is the Olympian who is alleged to have raped his wife.

Jono said...

Didnt want to comment, just wanted to note that

Captcha = randion

Heh heh heh

Madeleine said...

Greig McGill bigotedly wrote:
"I'm sorry, but that madness you linked to begins with "God, via the consent of the governed... I think I can probably write it off as cantaining any rational argument when it starts with invocation of mythological beings."

Not a fan of The Declaration of Independance, Locke's Treatises of Civil Government and his Letter Concerning Tolerance and Newton's Principia, Capernicus' writings eh Greig?

They too all invoke God so they can't possibly contain any rational argument or contribute anything of value to cultural discussion.

Personally I prefer to assess the merits of one's argument before I draw any conclusions as to the rationality contained therein (or lack thereof). Given yours, I find you lacking.

Try reading the article Scalia linked to and assess the arguments contained in it before writing it off as irrational. I assure you it is nothing of the sort but then I've actually read it.

Greig McGill said...

Honesty please, Madeleine... read it? You wrote it, it seems. I'll leave aside your insulting and fairly patronising reply though, and read it.

OK. Done.

So: The opening really is the sticking point. "God" does no more than Odin, Zeus, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. If you're going to state something as a fact which the rest of the argument derives from, you'd better prove it. Given there is zero proof of a god, then from whence does the authority of the state come? It's not "via" the consent of the governed, it's directly from them, and if you're going to claim "god" forces their consent, then we might as well just abandon the concept of free will, and thus liberty, right now. I'm not interested in a religious argument, I'm simply stating the fact that there is zero proof for any god, and so to claim that the consent of the governed derives directly from such a being casts any further conclusions drawn into a dubious light, logically speaking.

That said, you're right, the rest of the article does seem logically sound. I apologise. I do take issue with being called a bigot though. I'm not intolerant of anyone. There's just only so much time in the day, and unless I missed the newsflash which said "gods, ghosts, and fairies scientifically proven", I tend to weed out what to read and what not to waste time on by the (usually fairly sound) yardstick of "does this immediately contain any flawed reasoning based on the existence of unproven mysticism?" - Note that I do the same thing for any article on economics which begins by quoting Keynes other than with derision, or any article on politics or philosophy claiming communism works. These things are clearly nonsense, and thus, not worth pursuing. Sure, they might be interesting or illuminating for purely entertainment purposes, but they're unlikely to contain anything useful. Sometimes my filters are set too tight. This is one such case.

As for the examples of invocation of god you cited, I'm fairly willing to make allowances for historical beliefs. There wasn't the easy access to information we have today, so believing in fairies was excusable. Today, it's pretty hard to understand why people cling to religion, other than perhaps out of a stubbornness to avoid reality. As for Jefferson et al. PC posted this a while back - it makes for a good read.

LGM said...

Speaking of bigots...

My dictionary defines a bigot as a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.

If you are pro-freedom, a supporter of Capitalism, a productive entrepeneur, an individualist, then surely there can't be anything wrong with being intolerant to differning creeds (such as any form of collectivism).

When it comes to the vermin who promote the sacrifice of other people, their property, their freedom, their values, their very lives for various collectvist ideologies, I'm intolerant.


Well, "bigot" is not necessarily a bad word.


LGM said...

Name supression.

It's probably best if name suppression is granted as a matter of course prior to a case being heard. This prevents the sly "leaking" of information to the media for publication prior to the establishment of guilt (contrary to the results of popular gossip and scuttle-butt, being arrested & charged does not prove guilt- it should not result in great harm being done to the accused).

Once the verdict of trial is in, then the context has altered. The normal result should be that the lifting of name supression occurs unless there is good reason not to lift it. For example, it may be important to keep someone's name out of the media in order to protect a witness or victim. There are other possibilities as well. In any event they would need to be considered by the court at the time.


Elijah Lineberry said...

I think if a Judge wants to give someone name supression he would have a good reason for doing so.

Accordingly such a ruling by a Judge is to be respected and honoured...(that is why we have Judges)...and not viewed as a kind of buffet where you can simply pick and choose what you like and what you want.

Katie5757 said...

How about.. justice being clear.. of course every conviction and without name suppression, will affect the career of the transgressor.. Musician or comedian.. why should they be above any other occupation??
Do the crime.. suffer the consequences.. so every musician and comedian can now be above the consequences of drunken behaviours??

Anonymous said...

He fights the good fight to get 100k per year because he's too 'depressed' to work. Google it folks, he's a sham. He makes a mockery of real mental health issues.

Mark Hubbard said...

Can't agree with you on this one Peter. This is not a free speech issue, it's a privacy issue.

I might forfeit my privacy by initiating force or fraud on others, but if I have done neither of those things and I cannot control my privacy from the mob, then I am not a free man.

What he did on his blog, for which he’s being prosecuted, was to hint about the names of two low-lifes who were then before the courts

Makes no difference if they be lowlifes - (and even then, what do we have to judge that on until we have facts?) Before a guilty verdict, unless it is an issue of public safety (from initiation of force or fraud) then there should be name suppression of all persons appearing before the courts.

two low-lifes who were yet to be proven guilty, it’s true, but

No buts. End of story. They've not been proven guilty yet, leave them their privacy (and thus their freedom -via their good characters - after the case if they were innocent.)

who were given name suppression solely on the basis of their “celebrity”

I agree with this part of your argument, there should not be supression by privilege: until the guilt is ascertained, there should be supression for 'all' people.

If guilty, then they lose their privacy. If not guilty, then none of your or my business, or the mobs.

start thinking in principles. Defending a poor bastard jailed in Finland for two years and four months on nine counts of "gross defamation

Lies said about my character are a fraud; too right I should have a legal avenue to sue for libel or defamation. Again, this is not a free speech issue: no one has the freedom to tell lies about me. Fine if they do, but they take the consequences.

The other limb of this argument is that defamation cases can become so open ended they squash free speech. This doesn't change the principle. Because some cases might be fraught with complexity that doesn't mean we take the easy route and give away privacy: we just fight those cases in court (this is almost a version of Kinsella's erroneous argument against IP on Mises - 'this is difficult so we might as well give the whole concept of IP away' ... well, not for me.)

If someone libels me, I can sue them. That is not an obrogation of free speech, it is the abrogation of a fraud being perpetrated on me.

And the overriding principle of all for me is if I don't have my privacy, I have no freedom. A society of big-nose Whaleoils is no society I'm interested in living.

The movement toward freedom is in the direction of privacy. Whaleoil is in the direction of Women's magazines and gossiping busy bodies. I can't stand either.