This post follows up on my first one about the Steven Galloway defamation case.
Given the facts underpinning Galloway’s suit, that are fully detailed here, this article’s description of the case is, to say the least, remarkable (Toronto Star, 4/8/21). So are the claims made by the people it quotes.
For the illusion of balance, the article gives a brief nod to Galloway’s position before the B.C. court. But that’s about it for him. The article runs to about 1,500 words, roughly 135 of which are devoted to Galloway and his legal position. Almost all the rest are about the defendants and their claims to the court.
That dramatic imbalance in reporting by writer Douglass Quan allows him to avoid some facts that the defendants – and presumably Quan - doubtless find uncomfortable. So, for example, as readers will recall from my previous post on this case, a former creative writing student at the University of British Columbia, Chelsea Rooney, publicly proclaimed that, in addition to Galloway’s former paramour, she could name an astonishing 19 women with complaints about sexual impropriety by the star novelist and creative writing professor. In fact, she produced no such complainants. No, only she and seven of her friends eventually came forward to accuse Galloway, but not one of them of sexual misconduct. Into the bargain, when former British Columbia Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Ellen Boyd investigated the case against Galloway, she not only found no wrongdoing by him, but went out of her way to point out that Rooney was not a believable witness and her friends’ claims had neither merit in themselves nor any value as support for the original debunked claim against Galloway.
Quan ignored all that. Quite the omission.
Meanwhile, the one and only person in the whole sorry business to have ever claimed that Galloway sexually abused her left a two-year trail of emails essentially proving that no abuse took place. And her subsequent conduct toward Galloway corroborates the fact. But if you thought Quan included that bit of information, think again. Not a peep did he utter.
Indeed, readers of this blog are encouraged to consult the Quillette piece by Brad Cran that’s linked to above and compare it with Quan’s whitewash of the facts of the case. Doing so makes all too clear Quan’s intent to soft peddle the sleazy and malicious actions of the defendants.
By contrast, about the defendants’ claims, he’s quite enthusiastic. Here he quotes one of the lawyers for the defense:
“For the past 30 years, decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada, acts of Parliament and laws and policies of various provinces have encouraged survivors of sexual violence to report. Very recently, universities and colleges, specifically, have been required by law to have stand-alone sexual violence policies to encourage reporting,” she told the Star.
“At stake in this lawsuit is whether survivors will have legal protection from retaliatory lawsuits when they access these very legal remedies that they are encouraged to access. If the plaintiff’s lawsuit is dismissed, the ruling will be an important step toward making it safer for women to report.”
To that, the skeptics among us are moved to ask how the 11 defendants became “survivors.” There are 24 defendants in all, a grand total of one of whom even claims to have been abused by, or had any form of sexual contact with, Galloway. Her allegations were investigated by Boyd and found to be unsubstantiated. The rest have not even a theoretical claim to be “survivors of sexual violence.” And yet their lawyer is claiming that - perhaps by osmosis, perhaps via some arcane alchemical process – the mere fact of being a codefendant with a woman who claims (probably wrongly) to be such a “survivor,” they too become such. It makes no sense.
But Quan isn’t finished, not by a long chalk.
He continues to channel the defendants who make the remarkable claim that, to allow Galloway to sue those who’ve defamed him and either destroyed or seriously damaged his career, would create a “chilling effect” on some putative other women who would like to speak out about sexual violence.
Sigh. Where to begin?
In the first place, women who’ve actually been victimized should say so and those who haven’t shouldn’t. That’s called telling the truth and it’s what the law of libel/slander/defamation is all about. Society wants to encourage truth-telling and discourage lying. It’s not a difficult concept, but one that appears to have escaped the defendants, their lawyers and Quan. If liars’ lies chill those who would tell the truth, perhaps they should stop lying.
Now, it may be that a woman sincerely believes that she was sexually abused even though others disagree. And certainly, anyone may be sexually abused and simply not be able to prove the matter in court. So what’s a woman in either of those situations to do?
If she wants to speak out about the matter, she should do so in language that’s not defamatory to the other person. She should express herself in terms that comply with the law, that make clear that this is her point of view and that the other person may see the matter differently. Again, it’s not a difficult concept and one that reputable journalists understand and use every day.
But of course the real chilling effect isn’t Galloway’s efforts to seek justice against those who’ve so plainly wronged him, but, ironically enough, the defendants’ who now seek to deny him that justice. If they prevail, the next person who decides to libel/slander/defame another will be encouraged to do so. After all, there’d be no downside except the person’s own sense of morality that, if Chelsea Rooney, et al are any indication, we must consider a “frail reed.” That’s particularly true in one who publicly lies for the purpose of destroying another’s reputation and livelihood. On the other hand though, the person who’s the target of that libel/slander/defamation will indeed be chilled in his/her quest for justice. For one thing, they’ll know it’s not available to them and the slightest ambiguity in the matter will encourage them to not waste the extensive time and money required to pursue a lawsuit.
As we so often see, the defendants’ claims of a “chilling effect” looks a lot more like psychological projection on their part than the reality of what might happen if the court sides with Galloway, as it should.
We’ll see what happens, but whatever the result of the hearing, we can expect the Toronto Star’s narrative to be less than honest and slanted toward the defendants.