Tag Archives: resistance

Resisting lawfare: my speech to the Festival of Resistance

You may be aware that This Writer spent last weekend (October 16-17) at the Festival of Resistance in Nottingham, where I had been asked to speak on a subject I know a little about: ‘Resisting Lawfare’.

Lawfare, as defined on the festival programme, is the misuse of our legal systems and principles, to damage reputations and delegitimise influential figures – for political purposes.

In the UK, for example, it is being used to attack left-wing and centre-left voices like This Writer’s, especially those that question the claims of anti-Semitism that have arisen against major political figures over the last five or six years.

Those who are targeted have to waste years, and spend fortunes, defending themselves.

The workshop, which I helped run on both days of the festival to great acclaim, aimed to explain the background to this David and Goliath struggle, and how to mount a counter-attack.

I left the background to my co-presenter, Ammar Kazmi, and will not presume to paraphrase him here. My mission was to explain how ordinary people like myself can fight lawfare and – hopefully – win.

I never gave my speech as I had written it. Time restrictions and a desire to adapt to the questions of attendees changed the structure of what I said (although not the meaning).

This is therefore the first time it has seen daylight as I initially intended it. I feel I should apologise to those of you who could not attend the workshops, as what follows is a pale imitation of what happened there.

Things to do when faced with lawfare:

First of all: NOTHING.

The most important thing to do when a solicitor’s letter lands on the mat is to NOT REACT IMMEDIATELY. The hasty stroke often goes awry. Before responding in any way, it is best to consider the situation in the round.

Does the other side have a case or are these people trying to bully you because they think they can, or in order to score a point in a political argument, or for some other reason?

(We’ll assume they DON’T have a case, for the purposes of this talk. We underdogs are always going to be on the side of right. Right?)

This is the more important question: Are you able to fight them in the courts, if it comes to that?

To answer this question affirmatively, you need to have access to three qualities. It isn’t necessary for you to possess any of them yourself, and I’ll explain the reasons for that in a moment.

I have defined these qualities as three S’s: Strength, Skill and Stamina.

(I did consider calling them Strength, Endurance and Expertise but the acronym for that would have been SEX. That would have led to some awkward lines, like: “Ask yourself: do you have SEX?”)

STRENGTH is obvious: do you have the will to go into a legal battle with your opponent – the strength OF CHARACTER to see it through?

It turns out that many people think they don’t. I have seen people with huge public profiles, who you might think were pillars of – yes – strength, wilt like flowers in the autumn when faced with a sternly-worded (and therefore probably misleading) letter from a lawyer.

I think these people underestimate themselves. Did they think they were right to do whatever the other side is complaining about? Do they still think so? Then they probably were!

Part of the problem here might be that they have been ‘softened up’ on the social media: I attracted attention because I wrote an article about… a certain television personality. The immediate response to it was that I was dogpiled by people who were either her Twitter followers or who claimed to support her and what she was doing.

Dogpiling – according to the Urban Dictionary – happens when a person says something that others consider to be wrong or offensive, and a large number of people comment in response to tell the person how wrong and/or horrible they are, and continue to disparage the original commenter beyond any reasonable time limit.

The aim is to join in with an angry group to yell at an easy target, or to get popularity points for being seen to agree with the group. They see that everyone else is doing something, and they copy it. The original commenter typically does not respond at all, because they are completely overwhelmed or scared off. Once a dogpile has been established, an apology from the original commenter is less likely to be effective.

Dogpiling doesn’t really work on me because I don’t often accept the assertion that I’m wrong. I also tend to take the time to answer every single dogpiling message – and the dogpilers tend to disappear when they’re faced with reason.

But this leads me to another consequence of dogpiling – the possibility of saying things that may be used against you – for example, in court. Is it intentional? To lure you into providing evidence that can be used in litigation? Whether it is or not, the result can be the same. And any material the other side picks up this way can be used to intimidate a potential defendant.

But! Any fears generated this way are likely to arise from a feeling of ignorance about the process that the other side is threatening to thrust them into – and that leads me to the next quality you need.

You need SKILL. In other words, you need to get lawyered-up. When I was threatened with litigation, I had never spoken to a solicitor in my life. I had no ideas about who to employ or how to find them.

Fortunately, I live in a time when we are blessed with the Internet. I looked one up! Libel litigation is a highly specialised field, so if you open up your favourite search engine and try to find libel lawyers in your area, you might have to widen the radius of that area quite a way before you find one.

You need to be able to reassure yourself that they can do the job, so check their online resumes for evidence of previous successes that may be similar to your case, or of the skills (there’s that word again) that you need.

If lawfare is becoming a major issue, then it might be worth someone compiling a database of solicitors with the necessary abilities…

I found a solicitor based in the Midlands – a fair few miles from my home in Mid Wales, but of course distance is meaningless when you have email and video meetings.

Finally, you’ll need STAMINA – a lot of it. I don’t just mean the ability within yourself to endure a long slog, either (which is a different quality from strength, I promise you!) – this also refers to the financial wherewithal to see you through.

I am as poor as a church mouse!

I gave up my career as a local daily newspaper reporter to become a carer for my disabled girlfriend – you may know her as Mrs Mike – because it offered me more financial security at the time (and that’s a bitter indictment against employment practices in modern Britain, isn’t it?).

I started Vox Political on the urging of a friend who thought I would be a good blogger. It seems his instincts were right because it has achieved quite a lot. I made it a commercial enterprise in 2014 and since then it has brought in a fair bit of pocket money. But I only made enough to sign off Carers Allowance in one year – and that was the year before Covid-19 hit, and brought all our incomes crashing down.

I knew I couldn’t win a lawsuit on my own meagre funds, so – after an initial discussion with my new solicitor, to make sure that I did indeed have a defensible case – I set about arranging some CROWDFUNDING.

I know that Chris Williamson has launched the Left Legal Fighting Fund, which doesn’t get nearly enough publicity, but this was not available to me in early 2019 because it hadn’t happened yet.

So I went to CrowdJustice. It’s not a perfect situation because the site takes a percentage of everything I raise, but it is staffed by lawyers who are entirely capable of defending you – and their site – against threats from opposing litigants.

I had tried fundraising with another site previously, but this was stopped when a (let’s call them a) malefactor threatened the site operators. The same thing has been attempted with CrowdJustice, but the nasties were sent away under no uncertain terms!

But starting a crowdfunding operation is not the same as having cash rolling in, so the next part is vital: PUBLICITY.

If nobody knows what’s happening to you, they aren’t going to help. That much is obvious, right?

What may not be obvious to victims of malicious litigation such as lawfare is that there are good people out in the world who are entirely able and willing to support a good cause – if they only know about it!

I was fortunate with my crowdfund, in that I had Vox Political – and all the social media networks through which I publicise that site’s posts – available to me to seek support for my crowdfund. I have thought very carefully about whether I would have fared as well without that infrastructure.

My conclusion was that it is entirely possible to raise a significant amount of cash, using the power of the Internet and other forms of networking. Almost all of us have a Facebook account, or Twitter, or one of the other forms of social media. We can – and do – use those to talk about our lives’ events, every day. This is no different from that.

You can publicise your struggle with the local (or even national) press, just by emailing them. Reporters are always keen on a good human interest story, and if it’s about a “David and Goliath” struggle it could be pure gold to them.

It is not a short-term prospect.

As I say, I started my CrowdJustice campaign around two and a half years ago. In order to keep it in the public eye, I’ve had to publish more than 100 updates during that time.

It is vital to keep the public informed.

It can also be extremely tiring.

There will be developments in the case, and you will need to inform your funders of those as a matter of duty – good or bad; they are paying for your defence so you must tell them what is happening.

There will also be times when nothing happens for weeks on end. You will still need to publish regular updates or your funders will think your case has petered out and drift away. It can be challenging to come up with something to write at such times.

But it is possible. All you have to do is be aware of what’s going on around you. For example, other events in the news might be relevant to your case – or you could comment on them as a way of drawing attention to your crowdfund.

There’s another aspect of having a crowdfund, and of publicising your case on the social media, that may be overlooked: The support you’ll get from the public.

This cannot be overstated or underestimated.

I was in a pretty low place when I launched my CrowdJustice fund. I knew I was a fairly low-profile political commentator and feared that nobody would bother too much if I sank into a mire of legal debts, even if I did not deserve to be saddled with them.

And I hit my initial funding target within a single day. How wrong can a person be?

The comments I received were a joy to read – and still are. These were people who had become aware of the lawfare being waged against people like myself and were absolutely opposed to it, so they saw their contribution to be doing what they could to fight injustice.

They have buoyed me up during the hard times, and given me the resolve to keep going, even when all seemed lost.

And there have been a few such moments – because the other side, in cases like mine, is likely to use all the legal trickery available to its lawyers’ imaginations and experience.

My own belief is that my case has been artificially lengthened to an exorbitant degree with repeated, costly, applications to the court by the other side. The aim – it seems to me – has been to drain off any funds I have gained and put me in a position where I cannot afford to pay my own legal team. I am still in danger of that today.

There have been arguments over the meaning of the words my opponent was complaining about.

There was a “shifting sands” application in which it was claimed that I had changed the meaning of my article because the author of two pieces it referenced had taken them down. I’m still not sure why I was to blame. I simply asked him to put them back up and that was the end of that.

There was an application to strike out my defences, that nearly finished me off. It seems to me that neither set of lawyers, nor the High Court itself, had a clear idea of the rules for such an application. In the end, it seemed that the judge wanted to see every scrap of evidence and hold a mini-trial – in contradiction of logic – and then struck out my defences – all of them – because I had not put it all before her.

Fortunately my funders leapt to my aid and I was able to raise enough to take the case to the Court of Appeal and have the decision reversed – for one of my defences.

There may be other such battles still to be fought.

The reason for these sideshows seems clear to me: the last thing my opponent wants is for the case to go to trial. I am in a bizarre situation where, after having a lawsuit thrust upon me, I am dragging my opponent into court.

My impression is that the other side is terrified of having the details of the case discussed in great detail – in full view of the public – because it is likely to make them look, well, very bad indeed.

I think they expected me to be like some of the others I mentioned earlier – to wither like a flower in the autumn – allowing them to take my money, publicise their victory in the most prejudicial terms, and put me out of business. That has not happened – and some might say that that is a very good reason for me – or anybody – to fight.

In summary:

1. Don’t react without thinking. Think carefully about what has happened. What are they really claiming? How can you defend against it?

2. Ask yourself whether you have the strength and stamina to fight the claim.

3. Seek legal advice.

4. Crowdfund.

5. Be prepared to have to deal with multiple ‘sideshow’ court applications by the other side.

6. Report everything to your crowdfunders because it will bring in more donations.

7. KEEP GOING.

My case is still under way. If you don’t know about it, you can find many details here. The CrowdJustice site provides a chronicle of the way the case has developed, and shows how it has changed in response to decisions from the High Court and the Court of Appeal in London.

If, after reading all this, you are encouraged to contribute – in the spirit of fighting against the manipulation of our legal system for political purposes, please follow the following instructions:

Consider making a donation yourself, via the CrowdJustice page.

Email your friends, asking them to pledge to the CrowdJustice site.

Post a link to Facebook, asking readers to pledge.

On Twitter, tweet in support, quoting the address of the appeal.

Lawfare is a clear and present threat to free speech in the UK and elsewhere – principally because it relies on the ability of the privileged and powerful to secure legal decisions in their favour because they have money; the details of their cases are often unsupportable.

I hope to be able to demonstrate this when my case comes to trial, hopefully next year.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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Vox Political writer to speak on resisting ‘lawfare’ at Festival of Resistance

Happy days: Vox Political’s Mike Sivier with the correction he secured from the last organisation to publish falsehoods about him. Hopefully, one day soon, you’ll see an image of Mike with an apology by Rachel Riley.

I have been asked to talk about my experience of this case at a workshop on so-called ‘lawfare’ – using the courts to damage or de-legitimise other people, wasting their time and/or money, to gain a public relations victory.

The event will be at a Festival of Resistance taking place in Nottingham on October 16 and 17. Details are here: https://resistfest.co.uk/

It seems that – as one of the few people who have chosen to defend themselves against so-called ‘SLAPP’ lawsuits (it stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) – cases intended to censor, intimidate and silence people who make perfectly reasonable and relevant contributions to political debate by burdening them with the cost of a legal defence until they have to abandon their statement…

… and I think Rachel Riley’s case against me may be defined as an example of a SLAPP case, or lawfare, or both…

… I am in an excellent position to talk about how it is possible to fight these attempts to use the law as a bullying tool.

I will not refer to details of the Riley case. It is an ongoing lawsuit and as such I may not say anything that may prejudice the result.

But I will talk about how it feels to be attacked in this way, why it is important to resist such actions, and what anybody who is put in the same position can do about it.

The bullies would like us to think that we can do nothing apart from give up – that the cost of taking part in a court case is so huge that we cannot ever possibly afford it, because we are so small, so poor and so insignificant.

But my case proves that this is not true.

I am not part of a larger organisation that has been able to fund me. I am not a celebrity in my own right, able to fund my defence from my own resources. I am a carer living on the poverty line, who happens to be a qualified journalist and who therefore writes about politics in such spare time as is available.

And I have managed to bring the case against me to a trial that my opponent almost certainly did not intend to happen, because I asked for help and thousands of people – who have no direct connection with me apart from being readers of my work or being concerned about the issues surrounding my case – answered.

I still need help to bring the case to trial, of course – these cases are phenomenally expensive. So please help by doing one or more of the following:

Consider making a donation yourself, via the CrowdJustice page.

Email your friends, asking them to pledge to the CrowdJustice site.

Post a link to Facebook, asking readers to pledge.

On Twitter, tweet in support, quoting the address of the appeal.

And please come to the Festival of Resistance – if you are able.

I would very much like to meet at least some of the people who have helped me get this far.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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Yes, 2020 may be tough under the Tories – so the rest of us will have to be CLEVER

Jeremy Corbyn (here helping the homeless at Christmas): he wants Labour’s 10 million supporters to form a “resistance” against Boris Johnson. But British people are notoriously apathetic in the face of right-wing oppression. Can you be bothered?

Jeremy Corbyn is right to warn that the New Year will be difficult for struggling families who are being abandoned by the Tories now they’ve got the election win they wanted.

But it need not be as hard as Boris Johnson wants it to be; we just have to use our brains, co-operate, and turn their plans against them.

And I’m sorry to say that we also need to be aware of Tory fifth-columnists who’ll be trying to undermine the left-wing resistance from within.

Putting to one side the rhetoric about “tough times” and “resistance” against Boris Johnson, we should consider the hard issues that we all face.

Mr Corbyn mentions the climate crisis. Boris Johnson will do nothing about this as the deal he wants with the USA depends upon him refusing to accept that it exists.

So people here will have to find their own answers.

These will involve rejecting fossil fuel-powered solutions that are presented to us and turning to greener answers – that we may have to find, and fund, ourselves. This will be “tough”, as Mr Corbyn says.

But not impossible, if we all work together. We may be able to enlist international help, too.

We cannot expect the systems of government to work for us in the immediate future, so we have to use other means, within the Tory system, to get what we want.

Instead of accepting a role as victims, we need to behave like victors – seize opportunities to get what we want and reject unwanted demands that the Tories foist upon us.

An obvious example is the plan to push chlorine-washed, diseased American meat on us as part of a trade deal with the USA.

Boris Johnson can put it in front of us but we don’t have to eat it; we can simply say, “Where was this sourced? Was it chlorine-washed? No thanks. I’d like healthy food.”

Do it long enough, and in solidarity with enough other people, and they’ll have to give up. It will be an economic necessity.

And that’s how it will have to work for the next few years.

You can be a part of that movement, or you can roll over and be Johnson’s plaything for the rest of forever – which won’t be very long if the climate change predictions are accurate – or you can make a difference.

It’s 2020 – time for a sharper vision. What will yours be?

Source: Jeremy Corbyn admits 2020 ‘will be tough’ in New Year’s message after Labour’s election defeat | inews

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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This Job Centre graffiti shows how much we loathe the Tories’ flagship ‘benefit’

While we should not condone vandalism, I would suggest that the perpetrators of the graffiti outside Bootle Job Centre should be congratulated.

They have reminded us, amidst the fuss over lying Boris Johnson and his attempts to bypass democracy in the name of a “no deal” Brexit that won’t help anyone, that the Tories are also responsible for creating serious social problems – and that they have not gone away.

And their message of defiance is a vital reminder that, no matter how much they try to subdue us, oppressors like Mr Johnson will never beat down the British spirit – our thirst for justice and “fair play”.

Boris Johnson doesn’t play fair.

And it seems his new Work and Pensions Secretary has similar values.

But if they think they can browbeat the rest of us with Universal Credit’s financial blackmail, this example suggests they should think again.

‘We will not submit’.

‘Scrap UC.’

These words have been emblazoned in graffiti across a Merseyside job centre in what is a powerful message to the new Secretary of State for Work and pensions.

Tory MP Therese Coffey was installed as the new cabinet member for the DWP this week after the dramatic resignation of Amber Rudd.

But as this desperate message sprayed over Bootle Job Centre shows, people in her native region won’t care about her footballing allegiances, but will want to know what she intends to do about the government’s controversial Universal Credit benefit system that has already spread so much misery around Merseyside.

Since the roll out of the new benefit system began – which aims to combine six existing payments into one – it has been riddled with problems of delays and computer system errors – and has frequently been accused of pushing already struggling people further into poverty.

Source: ‘We will not submit’ – Merseyside’s powerful message to new DWP boss over Universal Credit – Liverpool Echo

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


Vox Political needs your help!
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Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

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And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!

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DWP allowed to appeal against ruling that ‘fitness for work’ test is illegal

All rise: The British court system is supposedly the best in the world - but can we trust it to make the right decision when it is the government that is appealing against a ruling?

All rise: The British court system is supposedly the best in the world – but can we trust it to make the right decision when it is the government that is appealing against a ruling?

It may have taken almost a month and a half, but judges have agreed to let the Department for Work and Pensions appeal against the judgement that the work capability assessment discriminates against people with mental health problems.

According to the Mental Health Resistance Network the DWP was denied permission to appeal on the first attempt.

Iain Duncan Smith’s lackeys then resorted to a second route – applying directly to the Court of Appeal – and it was this court that granted permission.

A spokesperson for the Mental Health Resistance Network said: “This is not the news we wanted, but the Tories were never going to give up without a fight as they are desparate to destroy our welfare state.

“Needless to say we will be fighting back.”

Vox Political was one of many who reported, back in May, that a judicial review had ruled that the work capability assessment actively discriminates against the mentally ill.

The tribunal found that, no matter how ill or even delusional a person may be, the system places on them the responsibility for gathering their own medical evidence and sending it in – otherwise the material will not be considered.

For the DWP to win at appeal, it will have to prove that this is possible for anyone, no matter how severe their mental illness may be.

The current system, for which the DWP lost the judicial review, means that paperwork sent in by anyone else on behalf of a patient with mental illness may be ignored and their ability to work judged using evidence from a 15-minute interview with a stranger who is unlikely to have had any mental health training, and who has no idea what expert opinion has to say.

Vox Political said at the time that we all knew Iain Duncan Smith would not accept this. That prediction has been borne out by current developments.

Paul Jenkins, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness, said after the tribunal decision that it meant the government should halt the mass reassessment of people receiving incapacity benefits immediately, until the system is fixed.

Does anybody think this has happened?

If not, then the government has been acting illegally for almost a month and a half. It is to be hoped that the appeal tribunal takes this into account when considering its decision. If assessments have continued, then the DWP has shown flagrant disregard for the legal process.

Such behaviour would also add emphasis to the Black Triangle Campaign’s comment in May, that the assessment system was “completely at odds with the government’s repeated insistence that mental health is a top priority”.

The campaign’s spokesperson said it was “sad that it took a court case to force the DWP to take action”.

It’s even more sad that the only action so far has been an appeal against the decision.

Some commentators speculated that Iain Duncan Smith might introduce retroactive legislation to re-legalise the work capability assessment – as he did with workfare after Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson won their cases against the department.

Unfortunately for him, the current controversy involves a breach of the Equalities Act, which has far-reaching effects.

If he tries to repeal it, we’ll know two things for sure:

1. Iain Duncan Smith is a dangerous fool.

2. The Coalition government has no respect for the rule of law.

To be honest, we knew both of those already.

Wow! Petition renews the struggle against vicious welfare cuts

A community of the concerned – including people who are sick and disabled, carers, friends, families, and those who are perfectly healthyhas come together to launch a new resistance to the draconian Coalition welfare cuts that are killing, on average, 73 people every week.

The launch of the WOW (it stands for resistance to the ‘War On Welfare’) Petition comes only days after the Conservative Party started a ‘voodoo’ poll on its own website, intending to fool respondents into saying that the reforms already introduced by the Department for Work and Pensions – and soon to be reinforced with even more drastic measures – are fair.

The document on the government’s e-petitions website has been launched by actor and comedian Francesca Martinez. On the Ekklesia website she said we are living in a dark time for disabled people: “Already a third of disabled adults live in poverty. That’s disgraceful and with the new cuts, that figure can only rise.

“It breaks my heart that some of the most vulnerable people in society are being demonised and used as scapegoats. It’s something everybody needs to fight against.”

The petition calls for:

“A Cumulative Impact Assessment of all cuts and changes affecting sick & disabled people, their families and carers, and a free vote on repeal of the Welfare Reform Act.

“An immediate end to the Work Capability Assessment, as voted for by the British Medical Association.

“Consultation between the Departments of Health and Education to improve support into work for sick and disabled people, and an end to forced work under threat of sanctions for people on disability benefits.

“An Independent, Committee-Based Inquiry into Welfare Reform, covering but not limited to: (1) Care home admission rises, daycare centres, access to education for people with learning difficulties, universal mental health treatments, Remploy closures; (2) DWP media links, the ATOS contract, IT implementation of Universal Credit; (3) Human rights abuses against disabled people, excess claimant deaths & the disregard of medical evidence in decision making by ATOS, DWP & the Tribunal Service.”

That may seem a big demand, but the alternative is potentially fatal for hundreds of thousands of people. Esther McVey, the Minister for Disabled People, has announced that, when Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is replaced by Personal Independence Payments (PiPs), more than 300,000 people will have their benefits cut or removed altogether. That is not an achievement.

In addition, anybody who can walk more than 20 metres will not receive the mobility element of the new benefit.

The petition has already won a huge online response, and I strongly encourage you to help build on that. Go to the site and sign the petition. Visit wowpetition.com (the petition’s base website) and join the discussion on the forum. Above all, ask your friends, relatives, work colleagues, or anyone else you think might be interested, to sign the petition.

It’s time to turn the tide against the persecution of the vulnerable.