SLAPPs Watch: Bolloré

Great show of support from civil society for the French human rights litigation org Sherpa and others. The self-explanatory paragraph:

Since 2009, more than 20 defamation suits have been brought in France by the Bolloré group or Socfin in response to articles [about protests by rural residents and farmers who live near plantations run by these two companies in West Africa]. The targets of these actions have included France InterFrance CultureFrance InfoFrance 2BastamagLibérationMediapartRue 89, Greenpeace, ReAct and Sherpa. More than 40 reporters, photographers, media lawyers, NGO representatives and media CEOs have been targeted. . . . By bringing defamation suits with such unprecedented frequency – even when they are abandoned mid-course – the Bolloré group is now retaliating in an almost automatic manner to any public reference by outsiders to its African activities.

The scandal is that French courts, like those in every other country, are happily open-for-business for these suits. Modern judicial systems have developed no meaningful defenses to this utterly outrageous, unapologetic abuse of process. (The only meaningful attempt — i.e., anti-SLAPP procedures — has repeatedly shown to provide only the most minimal protection or fail outright.)

We need better thinking on this, and we need it badly.

In the meantime, great to see civil society organizations showing up for each other and for democratic and free-expression principles.

I have read that Americans are now buying Kalishnikovs in numbers sufficient to help subsidize Russian rearmament, to help their manufacturers achieve economies of scale. In the old days these famous weapons were made with the thought that they would be used in a land war between great powers, that is, that they would kill Americans. Now, since they are being brought into this country, the odds are great that they will indeed kill Americans.

Marilynne Robinson, Fear, @NYBooks

In the details

When I travel, and I guess in my life generally, I try very hard to embody and project the values of my practice, most fundamentally, equality, in all things, top to bottom, no questions asked.

Thus, yesterday, as I was second in the wait-list line for the flight from Lago to Quito, where I had very important reasons to be, I let it play out, and in fact when we were told there was only one seat left, I made sure the nice woman in front of me knew it was hers, she shouldn’t feel bad, rules are rules.  (As it happened, we both got screwed and nobody got on the flight, even several people in front of us who were told by agents they were getting on.)

That required me to spend a night in Lago as opposed to Quito, miss a meeting, but so it goes.

Then there was today.  If I didn’t get on that flight, I would miss my flight back to the US, miss seeing my little boys on Sunday morning, miss crawling into bed with my wife tonight.  Not gonna miss that flight.  Nope.

They sent a much smaller plane to Lago than they were supposed to.  About 15 Ecuadorians crowded around the ticket desk when I got there, all confirmed but trying to get on the plane, which was flat out full.  And so it goes: I pulled every elitist tactic in the book.  Many of the points I made were simply true – I did have an $800 plane ticket, the status of which was unclear if I had to reschedule.  They were putting other people on 5-hour taxis to Quito, which might be inconvenient but hardly devastating for somebody who lives there, or was getting a connecting bus or something.  It was more important that I get on that flight.

But still.  I ruffled the same feathers, raised the same back hairs that I have seen Chevron’s lawyers and so many others effect over the years.  How dare you?, it says.  Don’t you know who I am?  I made sure they understood how outrageous it would be to keep a gringo in Lago another day, as opposed the many petroleros crowded around me.  To a significant extent, I didn’t even speak but simply maintained eye contact  with the desk agents, and let my lighter skin speak for itself.  Basically I pulled every piece of rank I could find.

And rank it was.  But I got on the flight.  There are lessons there, which include simply the fact that I love the hell out of my family and can’t wait to get back to see them in a few hours.  But there are others too, worth chewing on, with time, and hopefully some generosity of spirit.