Jun 21

Coal

This is not really mostly about Coal but to set the mood let’s listen to Florence Reece.

Come all you good workers. Good news to you I’ll tell.
Of how the good old union has come in here to dwell.

Which side are you on boys? Which side are you on?

My daddy was a miner. He’s now in the air and sun.
He’ll be with you fellow workers until the battle’s won.

Which side are you on boys? Which side are you on?

They say in Harlan County, there are no neutrals there.
You’ll either be a union man or a thug for J.H. Claire.

Which side are you on boys? Which side are you on?

Workers can you stand it? Oh, tell me how you can.
Will you be a lousy scab or will you be a man?

Which side are you on boys? Which side are you on?

Don’t scab for the bosses. Don’t listen to their lies.
Poor folks ain’t got a chance unless they organize.

Which side are you on boys? Which side are you on?

That’s History. The contemporary part that’s about Coal is this one-

But that’s not what I’m here to tell you about. I’m here to talk about the draft SLAPP.

A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Such lawsuits have been made illegal in many jurisdictions on the grounds that they impede freedom of speech.

The typical SLAPP plaintiff does not normally expect to win the lawsuit. The plaintiff’s goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. In some cases, repeated frivolous litigation against a defendant may raise the cost of directors and officers liability insurance for that party, interfering with an organization’s ability to operate. A SLAPP may also intimidate others from participating in the debate. A SLAPP is often preceded by a legal threat.

I’ll let Mike Masnick take it from here.

Coal CEO Threatens John Oliver With A SLAPP Suit
by Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt
Tue, Jun 20th 2017

This past weekend on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, he took on the issue of “coal” and some politicians’ obsession with coal jobs as the only true “American” jobs. The whole segment is interesting, but obviously not the kind of thing we’d normally write up. What we do frequently write about, however, is censorious threats, often from wealthy execs, designed to try to silence people from commenting on issues regarding those doing the threatening. And, it appears that’s exactly what happened with coal exec Bob Murray, the CEO of Murray Energy, when he found out that John Oliver was doing a segment that included some bits about Murray.

Oliver notes that this is the first cease & desist his show has received (which he agrees is incredible). Oliver also points out that Murray has, in fact, been known to follow through on these threats — suing the NY Times, a contributor to the Huffington Post and more. Many of these lawsuits appear to be fairly classic SLAPP suits, in which the lawsuits against reporters and journalism outfits are designed to try to silence them. Thankfully, Oliver and HBO have good lawyers who clearly know Oliver’s rights to talk about, criticize and satirize Murray — and Oliver then spends the next ten or so minutes doing so (hilariously), even to the point of involving a talking squirrel (you need to watch it yourself to understand why it makes sense).

Kudos to Oliver for taking a principled stand here for free speech on an important issue. Of course, Oliver has HBO and its lawyers to back him up, but it sure would be a hell of a lot easier if we had strong anti-SLAPP laws to protect him. So, once again, this is why we need a strong federal anti-SLAPP law, not to mention better state-level anti-SLAPP laws. Bob Murray appears to be based in Ohio, which (lucky him) appears to have no anti-SLAPP law, while I believe John Oliver is in NY, which has an incredibly weak anti-SLAPP law.

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