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Op-Ed: Why Lord McAlpine will not sue David Icke for libel

By Alexander Baron     Nov 24, 2012 in Internet
Ryde - Lord McAlpine has sued and received large libel payouts from both the BBC and ITV; he is suing other people too, but he won't sue David Icke, not though for the reasons the latter may think.
The ongoing Jimmy Savile affair has thrown up a lot of big names, including that of Lord McAlpine who was a government adviser during the Thatcher era. Most of these people have kept their counsel, but most of them weren't on the list exhibited on daytime television by Phillip Schofield. The thought of libel writs flying around like confetti has injected the lurid speculation surrounding an issue of very real public concern with a large dose of realism, but one person who hasn't shut up, or just cannot shut up, is David Icke. On Wednesday he published an overtly provocative article, which had it appeared in the Times would have resulted in a writ, or an injunction already. Of course, such an article would never have appeared in the Times, not because the Illuminati controls the paper, as many of Mr Icke's followers undoubtedly believe, but because on planet Earth, unlike cyberspace (or whatever space Mr Icke inhabits) different rules apply.
Lord McAlpine could sue David Icke, so could many other people, but they don't and almost certainly never will. Why?
Because defamation is that which lowers one's reputation in the eyes of right thinking men and women. Thus, a Times or BBC report that brands a man a paedophile, a murderer, or even a mere thief, may well damage his reputation, because - their political detractors aside - these media outlets have their own reputations. If you read something in the Times or hear it broadcast by the BBC, you can be assured with a high degree of confidence that the news you have digested is true. Can the same thing be said in all honesty about David Icke?
In his book The Biggest Secret, which was published many years ago, Mr Icke has pointed the finger at all manner of the rich and famous, the high and mighty. To take just three examples, he refers to a certain Mr Bush as a child rapist and murderer. Because they are now both dead they cannot be libelled, so it is safe to repeat the claim that both Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan raped and tortured a young girl while they were serving as President of the United States. The first question any rational person will ask when presented with these sort of extreme allegations is who says so? And Mr Icke's ludicrous claims fall at the very first hurdle. The source he uses for these allegations - the one source - is a woman named Cathy O’Brien. You can find this woman's ravings all over YouTube, ravings being the operative word. If you can stand this sort of drivel, there is a long video of O'Brien speaking here prefixed by her mentor, the unfortunately named Mark Phillips.
Because she is probably delusional instead of (or perhaps in addition to) being a grotesque liar, she has taken in some very influential, well funded, and extremely gullible people. It is important to understand that the gullible come from all backgrounds, including PhDs, men and women of enormous erudition and learning, who will believe absolutely anything of the government - British, American or other - absolutely anything of the rich, powerful or simply famous, yet are totally incapable of grasping the simple and demonstrable fact that the world is full of weirdos, charlatans, fantasists and just plain liars, and that these people can be and often do sound extremely convincing.
Cathy O'Brien is far from the only person peddling this sort of nonsense, nor is this anything new. Way back in 1989, a young woman appeared on an Oprah Winfrey talk show to recount the abuse she had suffered at the hands of her kin, including witnessing the murders of babies. In the UK there have been many such cases, the most persistent appears to be that of Hollie Greig and her mother, a folie à deux that has been swallowed by a number of people, including David Icke. This is without mentioning alien abductions, which some claim are more to do with mind control by mysterious government agencies. Students of history may see a parallel with witchcraft hysteria, but fortunately there is a significant difference between then and now; at that time, witches were sought out by agents of the state, including in at least one instance by the king himself. We are fortunate indeed that in this day and age, that for the most part, people in high places don't give this sort of thing any consideration, because there is absolutely no reasoning with the true believers, if no evidence is found in a particular case it is only because the conspirators are so powerful and all-pervasive that they have managed to destroy it, and the conspiracy grows even wider. Having said that, there have been a number of terrible cases such as the McMartin preschool affair and the Little Rascals case that led to years of state persecution of totally innocent people.
Returning to Mr Icke though, let us imagine that he were served with a libel writ by someone whom he has libelled grossly. Would he be able to defend it? An action for defamation - libel or slander - begins usually with a pre-action letter. After that comes the actual writ. Then, for Mr Icke, comes the tricky part, the defence, which must be particularised. This would include, of necessity, the name(s) of victim(s), and the place(s) the abuse or murder(s) took place.
Having sufficiently particularised his defence, he would have to at some point find witnesses to fact. Where would he find a credible witness to testify to an act of rape or worse by a serving President of the United States, or an adviser to the Thatcher Government?
Rumours and nonsense didn't start with the advent of the Internet; for centuries there have been all manner of popular conspiracy theories and nonsense floating around society. Where these name individuals, they would but seldom find their way into the mainstream media; the big exception to this is the misnamed 9/11 Truth Movement, which is of course very much a child of the Internet age.
Max Mosley has called this sort of nonsense the cyber equivalent of pub banter. While much of it is either harmless or conspiracy driven, some of it is just pure malice, and that malice can be directed at anyone, including ordinary people - alive or dead - some lowlife Internet troll decides to attach himself to.
In this case though, the trolls have directed their malice against the wrong person, and have paid the price. Mr Icke can continue to rant and rave, and probably will, but no one who matters is listening, including Lord McAlpine.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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