America is a land of acronyms, and, useful as they are, acronyms can quickly curdle into jargon. SLAPP stands for “strategic lawsuit against public participation” — i.e., using legal action to cow an opponent into silence, and withdrawal from the public square. It was coined in the Eighties by Penelope Canan and George W. Pring at the University of Denver, and in the Nineties they turned it into a book: SLAPPs: Getting Sued for Speaking Out. And it proved so influential that by the Oughts various jurisdictions were passing “anti-SLAPP laws,” to the point where they’re now on the books of 28 states, one territory, and the District of Columbia. The purpose of an anti-SLAPP law is to get such suits quickly dismissed. So, when you find yourself the target of one and tootle along to see your lawyer, your first conversations are all anti-SLAPP this and anti-SLAPP that.
That’s what happened to me and this magazine. In a post at National Review’s website, I mocked Dr. Michael Mann, the celebrated global warm-monger, and his “hockey stick,” the most famous of all the late-Nineties global-warming climate models to which dull, uncooperative 21st-century reality has failed to live up. So he sued. We then filed an anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss. Our first court date was January 20th last year. That’s to say, we are now entering the second year of the anti-SLAPP phase of our case. So a law specifically designed to expedite a resolution of the matter has become just another bit of protracted, interminable, lethargic procedural ping-pong in an already sclerotic legal system.