There’s nothing those operating on the fringes of science hate more than people questioning their means, methods, and conclusions. To question is to be sued, unfortunately. Ken White has again fired up the Popehat signal in hopes of securing a skeptical blogger some legal assistance in fighting off a clearly bogus defamation suit by a junk scientist offended by the blogger’s dismantling of his junk science.
Pepijn van Erp blogs about science and pseudoscience from the Netherlands. He praises good science and skewers and critiques the bad. Wait a minute. Is that the Jaws theme playing? Yes. Yes it is — because blogging about junk science is a great way to get threatened or sued. In my experience, purveyors of “non-mainstream” science are unusually litigious and sensitive to criticism. You’ve seen it here at Popehat with “atavistic” cancer theorists and vaccine truthers and naturopaths and fans of questionable cancer remedies and AIDS deniers. I blame the crystals.
Pepijn wrote about a guy named Ruggero Santilli. I see that Wikipedia, which has a four thousand word article about Bigfoot, notes that some scientists view Santilli as a “fringe scientist.”
Santilli has argued against skeptics before, primarily racking up losses. He has his supporters though, ones that claim the mainstream scientific community’s refusal to recognize Santilli’s groundbreaking antimatter “research” is mainly due to the community being chock-full of Jews. So there’s that.
Santilli has many pet theories, none of which have garnered much in the way of legitimate support.
Why is he viewed [as a fringe scientist]? Well, you can read Pepijn’s post about Santilli’s claim that he discovered a new type of gas from specially distilled water. Or you could read Pepijn’s post about Santilli’s claim that antimatter produces “antimatter-light” that can be focused using concave (NOT convex. NEVER convex.) lenses.
Santilli doesn’t care for being called a “scam artist,” “mad professor,” or “cunning scam artist.” (He’s also apparently upset antimatter ITSELF has been defamed by Pepijn’s posts.) But rather than provide evidence supporting his conclusions, he has decided to sue Pepijn (and others) in Florida.
The lawsuit [PDF] itself is an enjoyable read, especially as it pursues the standard M.O. of bogus libel lawsuits: name multiple defendants including those shielded by Section 230 of the CDA. Santilli is not only suing Pepijn, but his hosting provider, Hosting2Go.
Also on the list of defendants is the name “Frank Israel,” for reasons only known to Ruggero Santilli. Pepijn’s response to the original C&D, purporting to be from Santilli’s lawyer but most likely composed and printed on legal letterhead by Santilli himself, questions why this unrelated party has been named in the lawsuit.
To start with: your client is complaining about two articles on my personal website. My website is not related to Stichting Skepsis. So why you have also addressed the chairman of Stichting Skepsis, Professor Frank Israel, in this matter with a similar letter, I do not understand. The secretary of Stichting Skepsis, dr. Jan Willem Nienhuys, has sent you an elaborate letter (on paper) explaining most of the following matters in more detail. I’m grateful for his support in this case and I do urge you to read his letter with care.
The response letter is a very fun read, especially the part where the blogger informs the lawyer that according to his own law firm’s site [archived version as the entire site is now dead], his client cannot possibly expect this lawsuit to survive, no matter how full of merit it might be.
All together I don’t think this article can be seen as libelous towards Magnegas [Santilli’s company]. Besides, this article is more than three years old and because of that I learn from your own blog that bringing this to court under Florida law seems pointless: http://fortis.law/2016/01/13/is-it-defamation-slander-and-libel-in-florida/ [mirror].
The relevant portion of that blog post [emphasis added]:
Statute of Limitations
You must bring the issue to the courts within two years of its occurrence for the case to be considered. In cases of internet defamation, this statute applies to the date the post was made, not when it was most recently accessed.
Unsurprisingly, Pepijn has yet to obtain a response from the law firm. If an actual law firm was attached to this suit, you’d think it would have withdrawn the suit. The lawsuit, however, is still live, suggesting Santilli is the “asshole” signing “stupid letters” in Joseph E. Parrish, Esq.’s name.
No matter how stupid the lawsuit and how miserable its chances of surviving a motion to dismiss are, it still costs money to defend against “scientists” who fight criticism with legal threats and filed motions. Hence the Popehat signal, which will hopefully prevent Santilli from damaging anyone but himself with his litigiousness.