Friday, February 19, 2010

Cyber bullies push with lawyers

An acquaintance of mine is being threatened by a bully over the Internet, and I'm glad to see there are a lot of people coming to his defense.

Recently, college student Michael Hawkins had his Wordpress blog shut down. It took him a few days, but he found out it was because he had written that naturopath Christopher Maloney is not a real doctor.

He got an email from alternative medicine huckster Andreas Moritz boasting that he shut down the website, and will sue if Hawkins or any of his friends write any more blog entries about Maloney or himself. His reasoning is that although Hawkins said Maloney isn't a doctor, Maine does indeed define a naturopath as a doctor. Therefor, it's libel.

Whoa there, Andy. Let's slow down for a minute.

Tomatoes are legally defined as a vegetable, but every trivia buff over the age of 11 knows that tomatoes are scientifically classified as a fruit. If I was at dinner party and some squinty-eyed bore told me that, no, a tomato is a vegetable, because the 1893 Supreme Court ruling of Nix. v. Hedden said so, my stiff upper lip would be replaced with a condescending smirk.

Just like it doesn't matter that Illinois legislators passed a resolution classifying Pluto as a planet, the state of Maine's legal definition of what is a doctor has no relevance in a scientific discussion about whether a New England witch doctor is the same thing as an M.D.

Fortunatly for Hawkins, Moritz's bullying is attracting a lot of publicity to the incident. Popular science bloggers PZ Myers and Orac have joined in on the debacle, and Hawkins said he's gotten emails from some pretty big scientific figures, including Richard Dawkins.

If Hawkins plays this right, he can get himself a lot of positive attention while simultaneously telling the public that Moritiz and Maloney are ignorant oafs that shouldn't be trusted. He'll be able to reach a much bigger audience than if Moritiz had never opened this can of worms.

In light of all of this, I want to take the time to say that Andreas Moritz is more than just a bully. He is a danger to the desperate people he comes into contact with. Maybe he really believes in what he does, or maybe he's just another con man. I really don't know. What I do know is that he takes money from people and only gives them false hope in return. These poor people are put in further danger because his involvement can cause them to delay seeking real treatment. He is, without a doubt, a quack.


  1. Is it really that easy to have someone's blog shut down for a single comment?

    Would it not have been easier for the administrator of the blog site to merely ask Mr. Hawkins to replace 'not a real doctor' with 'not a medical doctor?'

    That woulda been too easy, I guess.

  2. I think it's fair to say that the letter writer didn't want to have the text changed - he wanted it hidden from view. There are a few cases where people are getting Youtube videos shut down by falsely claiming copyright ownership. Perhaps the administrators can't justify the time to check the validity of cases and just shut them down instead.