Forever fringe


Now that we’ve paid off our share of our legal debt, I’m getting all these questions about why we didn’t press on for Richard Carrier to pay our legal costs, or for damages, or for punishment. Let me give you the reasons all in one place.

  • Just shutting down his SLAPP suit cost us a quarter million dollars and three years. Going after more would probably take another quarter million that we wouldn’t get back until the suit was over, and then only if we succeeded. The legal system is a gamble.
  • Even if we did win, we’d already been through discovery, and we knew what Richard Carrier was worth: diddly-squat. He’s an itinerant classics scholar who’d been living off his wife’s income (now divorced because he’d cheated on her multiple times, so that’s gone), who had latched on to the Jesus mythicism grift to sell books and get atheist speaking gigs and to pump up his Patreon account with misogynist resentment money. He’s poor. He makes a bit more than he would if he were working for minimum wage. We’d be squeezing blood from a stone.

  • What about teaching him a lesson? You know he wouldn’t. He has nothing to lose, so slapping him hard with a financial punishment wouldn’t cost him much. He doesn’t have an academic reputation, so we wouldn’t be affecting that. He does have a favorable reputation with the right-wing grievance squad, and he’s been milking that for a while now — punitive damages would make him even more of a hero to them.

  • What about just shutting him up? No, that would put us on his level. Remember, the whole point of his SLAPP suit — Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation — was entirely to silence us. If he’d succeeded, a $2.1 million judgement would have shut down Freethoughtblogs, the Orbit, and Skepticon, and would have reduced the named individuals in his suit to penury (we aren’t rich, either). We’d rather deal with bad speech with more good speech, which is why an important part of the final settlement was his total capitulation and the absence of any gag order. We can talk about what an asshole Richard Carrier is all we want!

    Ironically, Carrier was supported in his suit by a lot of Free Speech Warriors.

  • We just wanted it over so we could get back to our ordinary lives. Wasting a couple more years on the courts would be a distraction and deprive us of valuable time that could be better spent…chasing spiders, for instance.

  • It’s enough that his own legal shenanigans have now cemented his reputation as a sex pest, rather than as a serious scholar. No legitimate academic institution is going to touch him — one quick google will label him as radioactive — and he’s going to be forever on the fringe.

Comments

  1. says

    The idea that this one man can cause $250,000 in legal fees with a completely baseless claim is ludicrous. It’s like shit posting, but it costs someone else money. That case should have been shut down before it even started.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    I assume he is a libertarian, so he would have no ideological objections to us selling his organs to pay his debt. Remember, if you are poor, that is solely because your own laziness and moral shortcomings, right?

  3. garnetstar says

    I agree especially about getting back to your lives. Once one has become involved in a court case, one realizes that (to paraphrase William Sherman), litigation is hell, and the only mercy in it is to bring it to a swift conclusion. The only emotion one ends up with is the overriding wish for it to be over.

  4. leovigild says

    The idea that this one man can cause $250,000 in legal fees with a completely baseless claim is ludicrous. It’s like shit posting, but it costs someone else money. That case should have been shut down before it even started.

    It pretty much was, in Ohio — it was dismissed with prejudice for lack of jurisdiction. But there was limited discovery and both sides had to argue their case in front of a judge, which cost money. Carrier then sued his various targets in their states of residence. Those suits are the ones that were settled, before they got far in the system.

  5. Reginald Selkirk says

    … who had latched on to the Jesus mythicism grift to sell books and get atheist speaking gigs and to pump up his Patreon account with misogynist resentment money.

    I won’t defend Carrier, but I think the Jesus mythicism position has as much going for it as the historical Jesus position. I think most people who have not delved into the question would be astonished to find how little evidence there is for a historical Jesus. It may be tough to make a positive case for mythicism, but the exact same is true for historicism, and it only has an edge because of biases.

  6. consciousness razor says

    leovigild:

    It pretty much was, in Ohio — it was dismissed with prejudice for lack of jurisdiction.

    Well, the timeline says the legal bill was already over $100k by then, and that portion of it took about two years (with about one more year and another $150k to go).

    So, that’s not “shut down before it even started” in terms of the burden placed on the defendants. Legally, it was a dismissal (which still didn’t actually put an end to it, obviously), and I guess you could think of that as “before it even started” … just in a very different sense that doesn’t do much good for anybody.

  7. says

    Yeah, my memory of the progress in the case was short sharp demands for this or that information, then we’re told a court review is scheduled for four months down the road, during which time our lawyer is working billable hours, and then there’s a brief flurry of actual courtroom work dealing with some fragment of the case, and then repeat. Over and over. It’s a draining, expensive process, and I never want to go through it again.

  8. consciousness razor says

    On another note, if I need to have “Forever Young” stuck in my head today, then so does everybody else. I think that’s only fair.

  9. raven says

    As PZ implies, Carrier did vaporize his own credibility and reputation by being very dumb.

    If he had just quit Freethoughtblogs, no one would have noticed or cared. The 15 minutes of fame would have been over with and the internet has a short attention span. Everyone would have moved on because who cares about Richard Carrier?

    I’ve read his older articles and his book on mythicism. At one time, he did seem capable of good scholarship.
    After the SLAPP suit, I never read another word of his and won’t bother to ever again. Not credible and not worth wasting my time.

  10. voidhawk says

    “The idea that this one man can cause $250,000 in legal fees with a completely baseless claim is ludicrous. It’s like shit posting, but it costs someone else money. That case should have been shut down before it even started.”

    Agreed, there needs to be protections put in place to discourage this kind of malicious litigation.

  11. says

    R.Selkirk: As far as I’m concerned the question of whether Jesus existed is of no interest and essentially meaningless. There might or might not have been an itinerant preacher going by that name in Palestine around 30 CE. If there was, he didn’t walk on water, turn water into wine, raise the dead, heal the sick, or rise from death himself or (like Yogi Berra) say any of the stuff he’s supposed to have said because nobody wrote anything about him until he had been dead for at least 50 years. So was said hypothesized person “the historic Jesus”? What does that even mean? And who gives a shit?

  12. OverlappingMagisteria says

    #5 Reginald: An important question is “How much evidence for Jesus should we expect?” The answer depends on what type of Jesus you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a miracle working god-man superstar, then we would expect a good amount of evidence and yes, it is certainly lacking. But if you’re looking for a small time preacher who was crucified and the sect that he started eventually became Christianity, then we shouldn’t expect to much evidence for that guy. Evidence for individuals at that time period in general is pretty scant, even if they had a decent impact.

  13. PaulBC says

    Just shutting down his SLAPP suit cost us a quarter million dollars and three years.

    I wonder if there’s an affordable form of liability insurance for cases like this. Or if not, maybe a way to set up a combined legal fund. Though Carrier lost, he landed a punch in terms of cost. That really sucks, and somebody else could try it again.

  14. unclefrogy says

    So was said hypothesized person “the historic Jesus”? What does that even mean? And who gives a shit?

    a whole lot of christians

    in reading I was reminded of.

  15. whheydt says

    What I wonder about is…did (and how?) Carrier pay his lawyers?

    As for what it cost FTB…at least in California, winning an anti-SLAPP motion automatically gets you costs. Of course, collecting that can be a completely different problem. (I know a lawyer who was hit with a SLAPP suit because she actually dared to represent a client. She won, but she had to hire a lawyer to represent her. Despite persistent court orders, the guy that brought the SLAPP suit hasn’t paid what he owes.)

  16. says

    That case should have been shut down before it even started.

    In a just world it would have been. That’s why it’s called the “legal system”, not the “justice system”.

    It seems to me that in the USA you literally get the best justice you can pay for.

  17. says

    Right. I felt like suing Richard Carrier would be like suing Donald Trump. Doesn’t matter if you win, he’s not going to pay.

  18. says

    PaulBC@14

    At a guess, “affordable” and “liability insurance” are a contradiction in terms in this case.

  19. garnetstar says

    @14 and 20, well, it’s not too bad. It’s added to your car insurance, called an umbrella policy.

    It also covers whatever liability comes out of your car or house, too. And if you get both of those from the same company, they give you some price break.

    Let’s see, it was, in addition to getting the liability on the car insurance boosted up to the minimum allowed for umbrella, (which was $300,000 in the case I’m talking about) $277 per year for two million dollars in liability, which covers litigation and damages and all that, for civil lawsuits as well as for things arising from your house and car. It was less than that for one million in liability.

    They mostly do it for older people who are not so good at driving anymore, and may have retirement money or a house, so if they cause an accident they won’t lose everything. But, not many people have situations where they use it, so that’s why it’s not too expensive. And also why they expanded it to getting sued for any reason, not just house and car things.

  20. Erp says

    I quite agree with not suing Carrier.

    On Jesus mythicisim, the key question is not whether an itinerant teacher called Jesus existed, but, what is the early history of Christianity. The mythicists have never produced something that is a better or even as good an explanation than the existence and execution of a charismatic teacher whose followers believed he was resurrected and their missionizing attracted new followers including one called Paul.
    Carrier’s hypothesis and evidence do stand separate from his character flaws; one can be the sweetest kindest person in the world and be a terrible scientist or historian or be very nasty person and still produce good science or history (though they shouldn’t be put in charge of mentoring the next generation of scientists or historians).

  21. monad says

    Do we count the Donald Trump that Q consider their savior as a mythical or historical figure? He’s based on a real person but he’s also not even remotely based on a real person.

  22. birgerjohansson says

    Being a narcissist, while the physical body of Donald Trump exists the mythological character is fictional. Even Donald Trump’s own beliefs about Donald Trump are fictional.
    .
    Also, can we bring back debtor’s prison for extreme grifters like him? The cut-off point should be “people who ruin a measurable portion of the gross national product”.

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