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Monsanto, Ferrero etc...

Ganz nette Buchbesprechung, oder warum Ferrero in .de klagte ? ;-)


>London: Free Association Books, 2000.  176 pp.  Paper. 16.95 POUNDS.  ISBN: 1-
>Reviewed by Penelope Canan, Department of Sociology. The University of
>Denver. Email: pcanan@du.edu
>        About 15 years ago as socio-legal scholars at the University of
>George W. Pring and I uncovered the use of civil litigation to silence
>political speech in the United States.  The National Science Foundation
>sponsored our qualitative and quantitative studies of hundreds of cases
>throughout the country.  Over the years we reported how this practice struck
>at the very core of democracy.  It resulted in politically chilling thousands
>of civically involved citizens, and it wreaked personal and financial havoc
>on most targets as well as having troublesome "ripple effects" on other
>citizens' willingness to participate in civic discourse.  We named the
>practice Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (or SLAPPs).  We
>produced a series of empirically based academic journal articles and a book
>(Pring and Canan 1996), and we stimulated a re-appreciation of the Right to
>Petition the Government for Redress of Grievances found in the First
>Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.  Today SLAPP targets are more likely to
>sue back for loss of political rights and win both compensatory and punitive
>damage awards against filers.  About 20 American states have passed anti-
>SLAPP laws that aim to turn the tide against would-be SLAPP filers.  Yet, the
>practice continues.
>        Fiona Donson's book, LEGAL INTIMIDATION, examines SLAPPs and their
>variants by focusing on high profile cases where free speech faced legal
>shenanigans as corporations collided with their critics.  In the U. S.,
>Donson looks at the "Alar scare" that was a clear example of privileging
>economic interests over civic concerns.  The lawsuit that followed a
>television program (the Oprah Winfrey show) dealing with "dangerous foods."
>Although we found that it is not corporations that always file SLAPPs, the
>business use of the tactic to silence critics certainly dominates the picture
>and points to the "modern social conflict" (Dahrendorf 1988) in capitalist
>democracies.  That the courts can be so easily manipulated by repeat players
>(Galanter 1974) makes vigilance regarding civil rights especially important.
>        Donson's major contribution is the scrutiny of Canadian and British
>examples of "SLAPP-style litigation."  She extends this face of power to
>include the business use of the courts to silence critics who speak out in
>arenas not purely political.  Here, for example, she covers the lawsuit filed
>by a Japanese multinational paper manufacturing company, Daishowa, against
>Friends of the Lubicon (Cree Nation).  The dispute was over Friends of
>Lubicon's boycotting activities to stop logging on lands in Alberta they
>claimed as theirs under aboriginal land rights.  This was a SLAPP, having the
>elements that qualified under the Canan and Pring definition: a civil lawsuit
>filed against
>Page 106 begins here
>private individuals or groups involved in speech and expressive activities
>designed to influence governmental action, including the behavior of the
>electorate.  Along the way, Daishowa made sure to get the courts to gag a
>British Columbia academic, Chris Tollesfson, so that he could not contribute
>to the record.  They did this by strategically NOT naming him as a party in
>the lawsuit.  The whole case puts a bad taste in any democratic mouth.  Yet,
>hope springs from the longer view where we appreciate that struggles are
>never isolated events, and a good outcome can result from perseverance.
>Donson reports that boycotts and picketing have been strengthened, as
>protected political activities in Canada and the Lubicon were successful at
>curbing logging on their lands.  In addition, she notes that experts at the
>University of Victoria regard SLAPP actions as a "fast growing phenomenon in
>Canada, with many people facing such a lawsuit and literally hundreds facing
>the threat of one."  Also, although the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does
>not directly protect civic activism, Donson believes that the Charter may
>"nevertheless be having a positive effect in challenging the traditional
>assumption that the law is politically neutral" (p. 66).
>        Next Donson spends two chapters covering the extremely aggressive
>business practices of McDonald's, the multinational hamburger chain that
>dominates the world's fast food industry.  She entitles one chapter
>"McDonald's Love Affair with Libel Law" and the other "McLibel: McDonald's
>Goes to Court."  Throughout she details a history of frequent corporate use
>of legal intimidation to silence public criticism, fierce pursuit of market
>domination, and the company's sense of itself as a righteous bully.  These
>chapters are extremely well written and are perfect for a film about David v.
>Goliath.  In the end, everyone loses and everyone wins something.  It's just
>that Goliath had representatives who were paid to participate in the battle
>while David's stake was principled and personally bloody.
>        When Donson turns to Monsanto and its numerous efforts to conduct
>business without "interference" from the public, she confirms several
>empirical findings from our study of the United States.  For example, as
>"repeat players," big businesses turn to the use of SLAPPs when they are play
>for "rules of the game" and not to win specific skirmishes.  Also, disputes
>have careers and claims get broader or narrower over their lifespan.
>Governmental failure to respond to initial grievances can lead to an
>escalation of a dispute that leaves the citizens doing government's job but
>without its resources.  And, SLAPP filers are arrogant bullies who have
>disdain for citizen critics, consider them "illegitimate" actors in the
>dispute, and do not realize that corporate activities are conducted at the
>pleasure of the civic community.  Finally, it is noteworthy that SLAPPs
>appear to follow trends in political disputing.  Whereas quality of life
>versus rapid real estate development was a ripe arena for SLAPPs in the
>1980's, environmental issues became "popular" SLAPPs beginning in the 1990s.
>Biotechnology, genetically engineered foods, and corporate "greenwashing" are
>most recent versions of the same story of silencing free speech for economic
>        The conclusion of this book is especially noteworthy for its
>of the changing landscape of political activism.  The civil society and
>interest group politics have replaced party politics and individual voter
>engagement.  Today's political battles are more likely about consumer and
>environmental groups who find they must be vigilant to hold corporations
>accountable in
>Page 107 begins here
>the face of globalization.  Government institutions have yet to catch up with
>business practices that are impervious to political boundaries.  Yet, the use
>of legal institutions to silence critics is a perversion of democracy that
>the courts must resist and other democratic institutions better pay attention
>to.  Increasing cynicism about the government institutions, of course, means
>a crisis of legitimacy, a further worrisome result of legal intimidation.
>OF LIBERTY. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
>Galanter, Marc. 1974. "Why the 'Haves' Come Out Ahead: Speculations on the
>Limits of Legal Change," LAW & SOCIETY REVIEW 9: 95-160.
>Pring, George W. and Penelope Canan. 1996. SLAPPS: GETTING SUED FOR SPEAKING
>OUT. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.