The Tankard and the Curse of the Gnome

Morals campaigner and Christian (wouldn’t dare call her a Baptist) cum feminist, Melinda Tankard Reist (‘The Tankard’) has threatened to sue the uber blogger, Jennifer Wilson, writing on her No Place for Sheep site. In her years as advisor and researcher to the wiley old fox and personal mentor, Senator Brian Harradine, you would have thought that The Tankard would have learnt a thing or two about political strategy. Clearly not.

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In the recent past, she has slagged off others far more than she was slagged by Ms Wilson. In fact, the Sex Party and the Eros Association have often thought of suing her for defamation for the most unbelievable allegations she has levelled at us in the past. In 2009 and 2010 she alleged in a blog on her website that the Australian Sex Party had links to ‘pseudo child pornography’.  Amongst other things she alleged that a former Eros Committee member was importing adult sex magazines that glorify sex with young girls, rape and incest – all because the models had pigtails. She had absolutely no evidence that the company had imported these particular publications. She later went on to attest that these magazines were ‘ essentially child porn”. Later on still, she alleged that, “pseudo child pornography eroticizes incest, rape and sexual assault”. Of course none of this was true and there was not a shred of evidence anywhere that implicated these tawdry, trailer-park, blue-collar magazines to the Eros member and certainly no evidence that they led to anything except masturbation.

In the comments section of her blog, the writer of the first comment stated that the Sex Party is “a party that puts children in danger.” The second comment said, “They (The Sex Party) really need to be held accountable for distributing child pornography”. The third said, “Thank you, Melinda Tankard Reist, for exposing the hypocrisy of the Australian Sex Party”. The fourth said, “Fiona Patten, Eros and their Sex Party have this crazy idea that they have the monopoly on sex. You could say they do, if you mean that sex is about the invitation to get off to sex with pretend children and teenagers, sex without emotional connection or commitment, sex with symbolized gestures of violence and coercion.” The fifth alleged that the Sex Party had links to child porn and that, “Surely they (the Sex Party) are violating some rite for the protection of our children from sexual predators”.

Defamation actions largely rise or fall on the ‘imputations’ of what is being said rather than what is actually said. Blogs that host comments underneath them are a fabulous and simple way for lawyers to show how an imputation can arise from something someone has said. In this case, the undeniable  imputations that arise from The Tankard’s statements are there for all to see. People of differing backgrounds, ethnicity and religions have written them but all come to the same two or three conclusions (imputations) after having read The Tankard’s blog.  Of course nothing could be further from the truth and the idea of defending such unintelligent and hysterical pronouncements is vaguely akin to defending the theory of evolution against Creation Theory or the science of cell division against the Virgin Birth. You just think…”Nah….why would I even bother”?

What also makes it difficult for the Sex Party and the Eros Association now is that The Tankard has even stolen our defamation lawyer! Yes folks…that’s right we hired her current lawyer, Ric Lucas, in a defamation action against the Canberra Times for calling Canberra X rated video traders filthy pornographers. We settled out of court over a fine Italian pasta and a couple of bottles of Frascati and both of us got what we wanted. Lucas managed to get Judge John Gallop in the Supreme Court to agree to three of the six imputations that had arisen from the paper’s article on the porn industry. This quietly rocked the papers editors. Lucas is a defo lawyer who knows his stuff, so The Tankard should feel rightly pleased about her little coup here. But we still reserve the right to approach Lucas to represent us again against The Tankard although there may be just a slight conflict of interest – ours!

Defamation actions are funny things. They can go badly wrong for litigants who are wanting revenge or who are too thin-skinned for their own liking. My belief is that The Tankard is of the latter persuasion. She can dish it out better than most but when it comes to copping it, she’s got a glass jaw. She’s in the business of politics as much as any politician, she has got to expect a little rough and tumble. I find it extraordinary that she is ducking and weaving over her religious affiliations. If there’s any hint of this in the imputations that Lucas says can be inferred from the No Place for Sheep blog, she needs to revisit every Sunday school picnic and every evangelical rally she’s ever addressed or attended because her religion, like sexuality, is not something easily erased.

And why would she want to do that anyway? Surely if her religion and her religious beliefs are important to her political work – get ‘em out there honey! People aren’t scared of religion anymore. They’re just scared when it dominates political thinking.

In a previous life, the Sex Party’s public officer, Robbie Swan, was the editor of the ‘80s political humour and satire magazine, Matilda. It was broadly based on the British magazine Private Eye. Matilda defended nearly 15 defamation writs in its short lifetime. These came from such luminaries as the Prime Minister, The Queensland Premier, the Queensland Governor, a Supreme Court judge, a doctor and many more. In every case Matilda published the pompous letters that defo lawyers had sent them together with a critique of how they should run their case and any supporting evidence they had to help. Only two cases ended up going to court and both litigants wished they’d never started it. The judge ended up being the first Supreme Court judge to be sacked by the Qld parliament for perjuring himself in the trial and the doctor who sued ended up going to jail and not getting a cent for his efforts.

In the UK, Private Eye magazine called this curious syndrome ‘The Curse of the Gnome’ and indeed many litigants in that country suffered the same fate as the Matilda sue-ers (no pun intended!). No Place for Sheep may not be Matilda or Private Eye but I reckon the principle still stands and The Tankard can expect no relief when the defense lawyers expose her religious beliefs to the blowtorch of modern political life.

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