Simon Singh and the Appeal Decision

My Oxford studies might still be kicking my ass and making me break all my blogging promises but I simply cannot let last weeks development in the Simon Singh case past without comment.

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Simon Singh finally won his appeal!

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Detailed analysis of the victory and what it means, as always, is available from Jack-of-Kent who has provided four excellent articles on the decision (one, two, three and four). Jack’s dependable analysis has also been joined on this occasion by a raft of coverage in the mainstream media, with articles and news segments appearing on practically every notable UK news source (a partial roundup is available here).

The impact of the coverage has particularly struck me, in that I have had friends and family who previously knew nothing about the case (and thus suffered at the hands of my diatribes), contacting me to ask if I saw the decision on the news.  The coverage has also typically included discussion of the wider campaign for reform of the libel laws and has therefore increased the publicity for this excellent cause too!

The dramatic increase in mainstream media interest in the case over the space of a year is something which has been, at least from my perspective, quite startling and hard to ignore. During the recent birthday celebrations of a certain notable lawyerly skeptic, I was reminded that back when I began blogging about Simon case, in March 2009, it would have been entirely possible to count all of the mainstream articles discussing the case on the fingers of one hand. Similarly, at the disastrous first hearing in May, there were roughly ten supporters of Simon present and the subsequent mainstream press coverage of the event was less than overwhelming. In contrast, at Simon’s most recent appeal hearing extra seats had to be brought into the courtroom to accommodate all of the observers and the news interviews after the recent appeal decision was announced reveal a throng of photographers and reporters filling the pavement outside the Royal Courts.

The extra coverage is certainly a welcome development and I think it also serves as an indication of the growing influence and impact that good quality blogging and the grassroots skeptical and scientific community can potentially have. The value of the consistent high quality blogging on the case by people like Jack of Kent, Zeno, Gimpy,  Martin Jobbins and a whole host of others would be difficult to calculate and even with the new mainstream attention their detailed coverage should remain the first port of call for anyone wanting to really get their head around the ins and outs of the case. However, a large part of the credit for increasing the visibility of the case also should go to organisations like Sense About Science and Index on Censorship who have been instrumental in promoting the case to a wider audience.

All in all the result and the increased coverage is good news for supporters of Simon and those who recognise the value of open scientific discussion and criticism of medical claims. It is also a little bit of a blow against the stifling effect of the current English libel laws as the publicity the case has attracted will likely make people hoping to make a minor critic disappear quietly at least a little hesistant. And while this by no means signals an overall victory for Simon it certainly gives some call for optimism!

It is to my lasting regret that I haven’t been able to keep up with my own coverage of the case since moving up to Oxford but it is heartening to realise that while it was possible for me to keep track of all the articles discussing the case just over a year ago, to do so now would require a herculean feat! Now let’s hope that the growing momentum the case has helped to build can roll over into a victory in Simon’s case and then carry on into Westminster and get some much needed reform passed into law!

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