This is an incredibly important ruling…
Blogger Cameron Slater, Food and Grocery Council head Katherine Rich and PR specialist Carrick Graham have failed in a bid to get a defamation claim thrown out of court.
The case was brought by public health professionals Dr Doug Sellman, Dr Boyd Swinburn and Shane Bradbrook, who alleged they had been defamed in a series of blog posts on Slater’s Whale Oil blog, and comments Graham allegedly left on the posts.
They also alleged Graham had organised the posts’ publication and authored one of them himself, and Rich – a former National MP – and the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council had paid Graham for his services.
…let’s just remind ourselves what this is all about.
The allegations made in Dirty Politics is that Slater was secretly taking money from spin doctors connected to big sugar and the food industry to denigrate and attack public health scientists who were advocating for needed sugar taxes and fast food advertising restrictions.
The attacks were vicious, personal and amounted to hate speech as opposed to a difference of opinion.
What this ruling says is that Slater, the spin drs and the industry that paid them do have a case to answer in terms of defamation, but the issue is far more important and larger than the personal character assassination of public health academics.
Do we want secretly funded fake news campaigns to be able to derail serious public health issues in favour of commercial interests? Is that the kind of public policy debate we want?
What Slater, the spin drs and the processed food industry attempted here was nothing short of reprehensible tactics of sleaze and viciousness to undermine basic public health science.
Shouldn’t those attempting to warp the debate so big sugar can continue to make billions in profit be punished not just for the damage they do to the individuals they smear, but to the wider community as well?
I hope the public health scientists taking this case manage to get the Court to consider the damage to society these people have also hurt.