As promised, let’s start with the ‘Fern Hill’ bit: though, I am warning you, I might get a bit philosophical…
In her opening statement, Connie Fournier said her testimony would demonstrate a multi-year cyber-bullying campaign of herself by Dr. Baglow and that this lawsuit is just another means through which he is victimizing her. It was alleged that, among other things, Dr. Baglow attempted to isolate Connie by bullying and targeting people who supported her and even attempted to sabotage a fundraiser for their legal costs. In order to have Dr. Baglow’s side of the story (as Connie’s testimony is still in the future), Mr. Burnet had to ask Dr. Baglow a lot of questions about this and thus bring his side of the story forward.
So, this is what is happening here. I’ll explain this the best that I can – though, again, I cannot stress strongly enough that it is extremely difficult to follow what is happening in court because everyone has exhibits and is reading all kinds of materials which are being discussed, but the spectators have no access to these materials and only hear the references to them, what their importance is or is not according to all the different people. So, I’ve tried to piece this together as best as I could…
Fern Hill is a blogger – and a decidedly progressive one. Unlike Connie Fournier, Fern Hill is 100% pro choice and, from what I’ve gathered, she is very proudly far left of centre. She has several co-bloggers, including a female blogger named DammitJanet. And, as a fellow ideological leftist, she and Dr. Baglow were on very friendly terms.
Yet, when Dr. Baglow filed this particular lawsuit against the Fourniers, in my never-humble-opinion, Fern Hill saw the existential danger to the whole blogosphere that this lawsuit poses: should Dr. Baglow be victorious, it will not be a ruling against the Fourniers and Roger Smith: it will be a ruling against the blogosphere, as it exists today. If one can be fined tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs and penalties for a honestly believed-in comment that 5 or 6 people saw (before the Streissand effect applied), then one could not possibly post one’s own honestly believed-in opinions on any kind of an open forum.
Fern Hill was a friend of Dr. Baglow – but hoped the defendants (whom she disagreed with, but whose silencing she saw as being potentially capable of silencing herself) would prevail in this particular case. This put her in a very uncomfortable position: side with her friend and loose her rights, or side with her rights and anger her friend!
Fern Hill arrived at what she thought was a win-win solution: she would work hard to raise funds for BOTH sides!
This way, she would support her friend, Dr.Baglow, in his fight and thus show her loyalty. At the same time, she would raise the same amount of money for the defendants, as they were also fighting for her own right to speak freely.
Both sides get some help – all benefit, her conscience is clear.
And it was during this portion of the testimony that Dr. Baglow was not his polished, professional self but let some of his raw emotion show. He was truly and honestly hurt by Fern Hill’s suggestion that she support both her friend and her rights (as she saw it)! In my never-humble-opinion, Dr. Baglow truly and honestly did not get Fern Hill’s dilemma, nor her reasoning for the proposed solution. To him, this was a black-and-white issue: either you support your ideogical allies, or you are a traitor to the cause worthy of the worst possible abuse.
This brings in the philosophy bit….
In my never-humble-opinion, this is a key, fundamental, un-negotiable divide between collectivists and individualists…and why the two cannot begin to see eye to eye.
Individualists realize just how important to humankind the approval of their peers is, how necessary it is for one to have the acceptance/approval of the social group one exists in in order to thrive, physically and mentally. It is precisely because they understand this basic human need ‘to be accepted’ that individuals who stand up to the group and/or specific elements of the group (which may be influential and/or powerful) and stand up for what they believe is right and wrong.
In other words, risking social rejection in order to stand on principle is, to the individualist, the highest form of morality, worthy of the greatest praise and admiration.
Conversely, compromising one’s ideals in order to conform to the group is, among individualists, considered to be the height of hypocrisy and the most contemptible, hypocritical behaviour ever.
Now, let us consider the collectivist point of view:
To the collectivist, the group IS the embodiment of the ‘self’.
Thus, setting personal principles aside and supporting ‘the group goal’ (even if parts of it, or the means of achieving it proposed, are against one’s personal principles of ‘right and wrong’) is seen as the most admirable, praise-worthy quality of self-lessness and altruistic dedication to ‘the cause’.
Standing up against ‘the group’ (or, by default, the loudest and thus most influential elements within the group) in order to preserve one’s principles of right and wrong is seen as the cardinal sin of ‘arrogance’ and ‘self-gratification’ by the collectivists.
With such a different conception of what constitutes morality – standing on principle against the group vs. giving up principles to the will of the group – is it any surprise that a collectivist would not only fail to see how standing on one’s principles would not be praiseworthy, but how he could perceive a person trying to protect themselves from the actions of ‘a member of the group’ would be seen as ‘betrayal’.
And this is what I think Fern Hill’s problem was.
Dr. Baglow testified that he felt betayed by his friend and ideological ally, he saw her action as aiding and abetting of Nazi enablers (because, even though the Fourniers are not themselves Nazis, by fighting for freedom of speech for everyone, even the distasteful elements in society, he sees their actions as enabling Nazis to spread hate speech). I hope I have understood this accurately – if I have made errors, please, let me know.
Because Dr. Baglow felt so betrayed by Fern Hill’s support for both sides, he posted and Tweeted some nasty things, designed to express the depth of hurt and anger that he felt. And, as a true collectivist who presumes guilt by association, he smeared anyone who stood up for Fern Hill (I believe it was in this context that some misogynistic abuse was hurled at DammiJanet, Fern Hill’s co-blogger and a fellow progressive). He demanded that Fern Hill pick sides – and clearly indicated which side he thought she ought to pick.
In my never-humble-opinion, this admission proves the charge that he interfered with Connie’s fundraising efforts as well as her accusations that he tried to bully people who stood up for her cause, isolating her from supporters. But, my understanding is necessarily imperfect as I have no legal training, and it is difficult to predict what kind of impression this made on the judge.
Are you familiar with the expression: “Looking down one’s nose at something/someone”?
I am not a very good observer of facial expressions or body language, so I don’t really recall ever having quite understood what people mean by this phrase. Until Dr. Baglow’s cross examination, that is.
At times, he would remove his glasses, tilt his head back and glare contemptuously at Barbara Kulaszka (who was the first to start the cross examination) and the rest of the defendants and, in the most derisive, patronizing tone, he’d utter phrases like “extreme free speech types”… I found this very uncomfortable, because this did not seem like the very charming, courteous man whom I’ve had the pleasure to chat with.
Plus – compared to me, the Fourniers are very much ‘centrists’ when it comes to ‘free speech’ ideas. Myself, I am an anti-slavery fundamentalist, and, thus, through logical evaluation, I must take the position of a free speech absolutist. If I own my self, then I am 100% responsible for my actions, regardless of who does and says what. This also means that if you own your self, then I am not responsible for your actions or how you react to my words. Thus, falsely yelling FIRE in a crowded theatre must not be prohibited because if I were to be responsible for how other people react to my words, then such a responsibility implies at least part ownership. After all, how can I be responsible for you if I have no coercive power over you? And if I have coercive power over you, then you do not truly own your self….or so the reasoning goes. Others have said all this much more eloquently many, many times before.
Anyhow, the cross examination was very exciting.
Barbara Kulaszka, the lawyer for Mark Fournier, had gotten Dr. Baglow to agree to some of the basic facts about the Khadr case – in particular, that Omar Khadr had been picked up in a raid on the Taliban. In other words, we were again covering the whole Al Qaeda vs Taliban thing.
Then we got into the ‘Taliban Jack’ nickname for Jack Layton because of his perceived support of the Taliban and why that was not defamatory.
The next bit covered had, I suspect, something to do with ‘context’.
Throughout is testimony, Dr. Baglow had testified that he did not remove words even more insulting and offensive that he was called, on his own blog and under his control, because of the context…either they were clearly miss-use of the words or they were a simple vulgarity or if was so obvious from the context that they were just silly that it was not worth his time to bother with them. This, however, was different, because there was insufficient context around the comment to make it clear it was not literally true.
Barbara Kulaszka skillfully walked Dr. Baglow through many instances on his blog where he relies on ‘general information’ for context and does not supply it – nor does he repair broken links that provide context on older posts, thus committing the same error of publishing strong statements of views without the necessary context. I think she demonstrated this clearly, as it was at this point in the cross examination that Dr. Baglow began fidgeting in his seat.
There was a lot of back and forth, asking about the blogosphere, other fora and blogs and bloggers – and commenters. One name kept popping up quite a lot: ‘MarkyMark’. Dr. Baglow testified that they had met through the blogosphere and became friends and that MarkyMark even stayed in his house!
When asked about blogs on the political right, he named many. When asked about blogs on the political left, he hmmmd and eventually came up with a few rather unknown ones while not naming any of the ‘biggies’ (that even I know about – and I know very little about the ‘progressive’ bit of the blogosphere, for obvious reasons). I was quite surprised at this and wondered about it.
He testified, with a straight face, that when he told people that if they were looking for Nazis (people who said they had guns and were looking to kill Nazis, no less), they should go see Connie Fournier, he did not intend for them to take their guns and threaten Connie but that he honestly believed ‘she could facilitate contact’ with them. It continued much in this way for quite some time, suggesting Connie should be imitated with a staged Gestapo accent, and so on. This is obviously just teasing and not abusive in the least, as per Dr. Baglow.
About his online implying that Connie had maliciously sent him an email with an electronic virus, Dr. Baglow forced out a chuckle and said that right after he had read his email, his computer crashed, so he joked about it.
Dr. Baglow mocked the Fourniers from the stand for winning the George Orwell Free Speech Award, sneering that was not an honourable award to win.
For those who do not know, a SLAPP suit is a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation and a favourite tool of the totalitarians to suppress free speech by suing people into oblivion. If you did not know what this term was, you are not alone – the judge did not know either and commented on what an interesting concept this was.
It was at this point that I got a bad toothache and I did not take as good notes afterwards. My apologies – I’ll have to be a little bit brief.
The most important thing that came out during next little bit of talking about BCF and his blog was something Dr. Baglow had written. It seems that something negative was said about BCF on another, most likely Dr. Dawg’s, and BCF copy/pasted it when rebutting it or somehow responding to it, so that the offensive term appeared again, this time as part of BCF’s comment.
Dr. Dawg had then written something to the effect that by showing the text and responding to it, BCF had, in fact, re-published it.
This is important because the words that are the subject of this lawsuit were similarly copied and re-published by the plaintiff. So, getting him on record that repeating and responding constitutes republishing may become an important part of the case.
There was also quite a bit of stuff about Dr. Baglow saying rather unpleasant things about a lot of people, some in anger, some in frustration – it is what it is – as well as about the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, who also happens to be intervening in this court case as a friend of the court.
Oh yes – and Mr. Burnet, Dr. Balow’s lawyer, had, at one point, jumped to his feet and outed himself as PeterOne or Peter1 or some name that sounds like this and admitted taking part in some of these online verbal skirmishes.
At one point, Dr. Baglow testified that ‘there is a lot of political motivation behind it’ – and by ‘it’ I understood he meant this lawsuit (I tried to insert other things, but this was the only one that made sense in this context), which would have proven what Roger smith had said in his opening statement: this is a political disagreement and does not belong in a court of law because it is inappropriate for the courts to be deciding which political opinions are legal to hold and which are not.
And this ends my account of day 4 – report on day 5 coming soon!