Friday, September 23, 2011

Thugs to bloggers: "Watch what you say online!"

In Mexico last week, two bloggers who spoke out online against drug cartel activity were found hanging from a pedestrian bridge over a highway after having been tortured and beaten to death. (The cause of death of the female blogger may have been her disembowelment.) You can read the details - and see the chilling image as it was seen by drivers - here.

In Pennsylvania, for now, the thugs are content with suing people who speak out online into bankruptcy.

The suit, filed by Texas-based Chief Gathering LLC, is "seeking close to $20 million in damages from three families the company claims interfered in the project without grounds and damaged the company’s reputation in the community."

Now, I don't know about you, but to me, few things will damage a company's reputation in a community more than the knowledge that if members of the community say the wrong thing, they will find themselves sued for a preposterously enormous sum.

From the linked article:
Suit cites Facebook

Chief bases that assertion on posts the defendants made on the Facebook page of the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition, a group of local citizens opposed to natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale as it is currently occurring.

“I understand that Darling Farms signed a lease with Chief recently and that other residents of Hildebrandt Road are now being approached by Chief,” one post allegedly made by Dickson in July reads. “Please, if anyone has heard anything, let us know so we can plan to fight and also try and figure out their revised plans!”
What Chief Gathering LLC is doing is called a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, or SLAPP.  It's an old technique, much-beloved by corporate thugs. In it, a corporation decides to make an example of some person or group that has been a thorn in their side. So, using the massive financial assets at their disposal, they bring a suit for an outrageous sum (say, twenty million dollars) against the person or group. Generally this is a sum that far exceeds any actual damage, but, more importantly, far exceeds the assets available to the defendants. The defendants are faced with two options: surrender, or fight. If they choose to surrender - and if the corporation chooses to accept the surrender - then they have been defeated; but if they choose to fight, even in a case where the suit against them is so outrageous that the prosecution has no reasonable chance of winning, the defendants immediately begin incurring legal costs that will quickly mount to levels that again exceed the assets available to the defendants.

Sometimes corporations will pursue SLAPPs just to the point that they have bankrupted the defendants; sometimes they will follow through all the way. Sometimes the case will go to court and the corporation will lose, and will be ordered to pay all legal costs incurred by the defense. And the corporation will agree, and drag it heels interminably, using legal argument after legal argument to justify the delay in rendering payment. And sometimes they will appeal the decision, possibly incurring further costs for the defendant but in any case leaving the defendant in a penurious state until such time as a final decision is made and payment is rendered - if any is forthcoming at all.

This won't end here. Chief Gathering LLC isn't the only gas-drilling-related company to draw the ire, criticism, and opposition of members of the community. If these companies intend to sue everyone who has criticised them until the criticisms stop, they're in for a long, hard road. But make no mistake: these companies are not here with any intention of being good neighbors and good corporate citizens. Just like the drug cartels in Mexico, they're here to make money, and will destroy you if you stand in your way. They won't torture you, gut you, and leave you hanging from a bridge - not yet. But companies like Chief Gathering LLC will sue you into bankruptcy if you dare to speak out against them.

See also:


Anonymous said...

Thank you, and ver a very incitefull blog!

Jane said...

I know these 3 families personally. They are all good people..and what is happening to them is just plain wrong!~WEll...I was talking to one of the family members today ..not sure what they are doing about this yet..interesting enough...the law suite was actually started because these 3 families sued thier neighbor first for leasing property for the pipelines in a private zoning developement..25 feet from their homes...but Chief was always at these hearings..though..these hearings did not involve Chief...but they did hold up their pipeline route..and that is making them ... well...not be such good neighbors!@ This company is showing no consideration to any laws...they are ALOUD to be Above the Law...ALOUD!... another group in our town has been fighting this industry for setting up camp 1200 feet from a school campus housing over 3,000+ students and falculty...they tapped into a 56 year old pipeline..and never notified anyone..the vented the the open air..without notifying anyone..not the twp. .. not the district...those down right good neighbors..never even told this neighbor, who live 800 feet away!...truly..if they want to look like 'good guys/good neighbors'..a simple courtesy to let the school know.. give parents the chance to pick up their child before you hot tap a 56 year old pipeline...!!! before you vent a pipe for 20 minutes ..during school hours...with hunting season approaching, and apparently this is a routine thing...what is wrong with our school board?...oh..I forgot about the 'gentlemen's agreement'..with them and Chief..umm..what about the twp.? they keep saying they are afraid of being sued...oh..except for the few of them who have already leased..they just sit and smile...what is wrong with this picture?? .what is wrong with this industry? can you NOT care about over 3,000+ lives..any of them?? ..what is wrong with our justice system?..what is wrong with our government? I have become so disheartened by our government...just so bewildered and disheartened...I am feeling like there are just no more agencies to the corporations are just taking over the world..