libel tourism and other isms


As someone who has a post category called “Skeptic,” I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Simon Singh and his recent victory over the British Chiropractic Association. Hoorah! The entire fiasco is explained elsewhere in many places, so I won’t dwell on his case.

One thing that really interests me in this story is the concept of “libel tourism.” I’d never heard of this before.  It’s mostly used in reference to the UK, because the UK has some of the worst libel laws in the world.

If you publish a book in the U.S., and if that book sells even one copy in England, you’d better hope no one takes umbrage to anything you say. You can be sued for libel in English courts, and the law there assumes that a negative statement about someone is false. You have to prove otherwise, and it’s very expensive to do so. Successfully fighting a libel case will cost a minimum of $155,000. That’s why the litigious-minded flock to the UK.

Thankfully, some states in the U.S. (such as New York) have passed laws saying that they will not enforce English libel cases unless they meet U.S. standards of libel. There is also talk of a nationwide shield law at the federal level. It’s all very embarrassing for England. Publishers around the world are having to fearfully examine British law before they let new material out the door.

This got me thinking thinking of other types of tourism. You’ve got eco-tourism already. I think my fortune may be in mullet-tourism. I could be like a river guide or tour bus operator, taking people to exotic locations where the hairstyle is still seen, pointing out different varieties and providing opportunities to snap photos in the wild.

Raver tourism. Ravers are still found in small ecological niches.

There is no end to the stereotypes you could pursue, but they have to be relatively rare to make tourist enterprise out of it. I could be a typical guy sitting in a corporate job, for example, but there are too many of me. If there is a subset that wears bow-ties, you’re onto something.


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