The send-packs-of-lawyers strategy

The Heartland Institute is obviously not happy about those leaked documents. In fact they are so unhappy that they have threatened to sue anyone who has dared comment on the documents stating in a press release that “The individuals who have commented so far on these documents did not wait for Heartland to confirm or deny the authenticity of the documents. We believe their actions constitute civil and possibly criminal offenses for which we plan to pursue charges and collect payment for damages, including damages to our reputation.

This is of course absurd as a recent article by Mike Masnick over at Techdirt makes clear:

Pro Tip: Even If Someone Has Faked A Damaging Memo About Your Organization, Don’t Threaten To Sue Anyone Who ‘Comments’ On It

Now, I don’t care what you think of Heartland, climate change or anything along those lines. Whether you think it’s a wonderful organization or an evil organization… one thing I would hope we could agree on is that threatening people for “commenting” on documents with legal action, even if the documents later turn out to be fake, is not a good idea. I can certainly understand the temptation to try to get people not to comment, but the threat is pretty clearly bogus. The documents — and the leak of the documents — even if faked or altered, are still a public interest issue, and it’s hard to see how there’s any law broken in commenting about what’s in the documents. There may be legal issues for whoever leaked the documents, but those who are commenting on them? Sorry, that’s just silly.

Or as Phil Plait put it:

Hip, hip, hypocrisy!

Let’s hope the Heartland Institute pursues this perfidious document leaker with the same vigor, moral certitude, and righteous fury with which they went after the criminal who stole the climate scientist emails.

Oh, wait.

It must be nice to have an angry pack of lawyers to do your bidding.

10 thoughts on “The send-packs-of-lawyers strategy

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    1. Of course, Heartland needs a lot of time to actually confirm the authenticity and integrity (or lack thereof) of the leaked document pile. And of course, this is absolutely not a stonewalling tactic.

      — frank

  1. So Heartland denounce the strategy document as a forgery, the alleged strategy document specifies [redacted], but then a Heartland senior fellow seems to carry out one of the strategies outlined in the alleged strategy document and points the finger at [redacted]. Pure comedy gold.

    [ Sorry to scribble on your note, but we don’t want to have anything to do with propagating this incredibly implausible and viciously motivated accusation -mt ]

    1. Seriously?

      Er, is there some basis for granting HI or its pronouncements any credibility whatsoever under these circumstances?

      Please tell me you’re not rushing forward to be played on this, Michael.

    2. I think you’re misreading this, Steve. Heartland, following Mosher’s lead, is implying that somebody we know to be a reasonable person is the one who fraudulently made up the disputed memo to discredit their activities.

      I refuse to help them with their smear.

      I am not even convinced that the memo was faked. If Heartland wants to convince people of their leak scenario they probably ought to start by releasing their police report, if they really made one.

  2. I see strong parallels between Heartland’s actions those of the Church of Scientology in similar incidents. Both organistions are obsessed with messaging and public perception.

    Faced with a damaging “leak” and the problem of controlling both message and content on the Internet, HI and the CoS resort to ham-fisted threats of legal action and attempts to scrub the interwebz clean. Their victory condition is stopping people discussing the documents and their contents.

    Heartland’s attempt to have the documents and any references to them thrown the “memory hole” have a whiff of authoritarianism about it.

    Heartland’s motto is “Ideas that empower people”.
    Yes, and they have a team of lawyers to dis-empower you if the ideas aren’t friendly to their message.

    Phil P sums it up rather well methinks…

  3. I wonder if we are seeing a case of SLAPP (Strategic lawsuit against public participation):

    “…The typical SLAPP plaintiff does not normally expect to win the lawsuit. The plaintiff’s goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. A SLAPP may also intimidate others from participating in the debate. A SLAPP is often preceded by a legal threat. The difficulty, of course, is that plaintiffs do not present themselves to the Court admitting that their intent is to censor, intimidate or silence their critics.”

    Long time analysts of the denier and anti-environment lobby understand SLAPP is a commonly deployed weapon.

    I think we seeing a SLAPP in action here.

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