Monday, April 06, 2009

My open letter to Mr. Goldstein, representative of the David Lynch Foundation

As John says in his post preceeding this post, "If you read TMFB regularly, you are probably well aware that the general counsel for the David Lynch Foundation warned me about potential legal action against me and others -- 10:30 pm the night before my planned Web Event to protest Lynch's push to teach Transcendental Meditation in public schools." Mr. Goldstein is the attorney. What follows is my personal response to Mr. Goldstein.

Dear Mr. Goldstein.

I have read the letter you sent to Mr. Knapp. I am deeply disturbed by the tone of the letter, which clearly was written to stifle criticism of TM, specifically TM in the schools. You state: "you and your presenters will be held responsible for injury to any individuals or organizations, or their reputations, that may result from any unlawful behavior under US, UK and/or foreign law." I am sure you do not practice law in the UK and other countries. It is highly inappropriate to threaten legal action based on another country's laws. Exactly what laws of what jurisdiction (in which you are licensed to practice) do you claim could have been violated by the Webinar? Who exactly do you represent? It sounds like you may represent other entities besides the DLF.

You also state: "we intend to review the global web presentation of the event carefully for any false, defamatory, tortious, breachful, malicious or otherwise unlawful statements or materials made or published by you or the presenters. I would caution you and your presenters, therefore, to be most prudent concerning the truthfulness and propriety of any statements made by any of them at your web event or thereafter." This statement is also threatening, designed to stifle criticism. For example, what would be "breachful?" No one who is criticizing has a contract with the DLF. There is nothing to breach. Propriety? When did propriety become a legal concept?

You state: "Your website is a fount [sic] of false, misleading, biased and entirely negative information on the TM program and the organizations and individuals which teach or have conducted research on that program." Certainly there are many people who have criticism of TM. But TM is not an entity, it is a technique. Does the DLF own that technique? What gives it the right to claim criticisms of TM defame the DLF? Do you claim that someone or some entity "owns" TM the technique?

There is nothing wrong with negative information. It is not unlawful or defamatory to present negative information. It also is not unlawful or defamatory to be biased. Certainly you know that, given the biased statements of various TM promotors on the wonders of the TM technique. Your letter indicates to me that TM promoters have a hard time differentiating fact from opinion. The website presents opinions of TM promoters as fact. For example, it states as "fact" that the technique is simple and effortless. Well, that may be true for many, but not necessarily for all. I trust you have heard of relaxation induced anxiety? Another example is the claim that "the Transcendental Meditation technique does not involve belief. In fact, you can be thoroughly skeptical and the technique will still be fully effective." What evidence do the TM promoters have that the technique is fully effective for skeptics? This is an opinion statement, not fact. I could write pages of opinion statements of the TM promoters which are presented as if they are facts, but instead are puffery or opinions.

You point to nothing false or misleading. Instead, you point to differing opinions on the TM technique. Differing opinions on the state of the research. Differing opinions on the quality of the research and potential negative effects. This is not defamation.

Furthermore, I find that your comments on "independent universities" misleading, as those independent universities often had TM promoters or practicioners participating in the research. The TM organizations have touted their involvement in the research. For example the website states that John Hagelin has been connected one way or another with essentially all the studies. I quote:

"The introduction of Dr. Hagelin will not be complete without mentioning that Dr. Hagelin has been, in one way or another, connected with 600 scientific research studies on Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation and its Advanced Techniques, including Yogic Flying, conducted over the last 35 years at over 250 independent universities and research institutions in 33 countries and recorded in seven volumes of scientific research of over 5,000 pages. This research has demonstrated profound benefits in all fields of society—health, education, defence, business and industry, criminal rehabilitation and crime reduction, in the direction of world peace."

You letter essentially is a threat of a SLAP suit. Wikipedia describes it well: "Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation ("SLAPP") is a lawsuit that is intended to intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Winning the lawsuit is not necessarily the intent of the person filing the SLAPP. The plaintiff's goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. A SLAPP may also intimidate others from participating in the debate."

The DLF is well funded. Individual critics of TM are not. You seek to slap them down with veiled threats of legal action. You were successful. The web event was canceled. If the foundation was so certain of the positive effects of TM it would not be bothered by criticism. TM promoters maintain the technique is scientific. The nature of science is free and open exchange of ideas. Not veiled threats.

Ruth Simplicity
anomynous contributer to TM Free

No comments:

Post a Comment