Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Riddle of Peter Jacobsen.

By Sophia Siedlberg

Imagine for a moment a situation where an attorney is instructed by their client to find legal reasons to sue people for objecting to what the client writes or says in the public domain. An example would be something like the client saying: "Tell that fat, ugly freak who should be locked up for life, that their objecting to my calling them that is libel against me!"

Well, that is not a satirical comment but an example of how in most cases any respectable law firm would advise the client that in court this would seem ridiculous. But not Peter M Jacobsen. How has it all come to this?

Let's clarify one thing first. The "Client" in this case is Dr Kenneth Zucker who seems to be very unsettled by some of his ex-patients making comments about their treatment under his care at the Clarke Institute of Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), as well as the opinions of others who are critics of the treatment protocols used at the CAMH. . While a lot has been written about Dr Zucker and his associates, not all that much has been said about the legalistic tactics employed by their legal representatives. At present it appears that a number of the people who were targeted by Peter Jacobsen acting on behalf of Kenneth Zucker are beginning to speak out openly after Professor Lynn Conway (A recipient of such legal threats herself) decided to confront this legalistic bullying in the public domain.

The mystery seems to be the way Jacobsen appears to have no problem, or sense of conflict, when it is patently obvious to most observers that he is saying to people, "Do not walk on the grass!", while Jacobsen and those he is representing are standing on the grass. To most observers this appears absurd at best.

Lynn Conway observed that this behavior on the part of Jacobsen and those he is representing formed a distinct pattern of what is clearly intimidation. We don't really have to look very long and hard to see why Lynn Conway came to this conclusion. The way the "Clarke-Northwestern" (A combination of "Clarke" in Toronto and the "Northwestern university" in Chicago, where most of Dr Zucker's associates are located) have conducted themselves to date have been to state that they believe in a theoretical framework to describe mainly transsexual patients, and then to vigorously suppress any dissent or alternative opinion.

They employ a range of methods including threatening emails, barring people from debate in numerous public fora and the use of agitators to confuse or disrupt debate that may go against the "Clarke Northwestern".

The point is that while most of these tactics can be seen as the product of angry debate, Jacobsen's involvement takes this into a new arena. I am of the opinion that Peter Jacobsen should be plainly aware of the fact that his legal arguments have little or no weight. If anything, I feel they undermine his own reputation considerably. So why then does he persist in issuing ridiculous legal threats when the charges tend to characterize the actions of those he is representing rather than those he is issuing the legal threats to?

Jacobsen is most likely fully aware of the fact that none of his claims would probably hold ground in court, and would most likely result in counter claims against the CAMH. Look at this from a rational perspective. The Clarke Northwestern cannot on a collective level complain about the stifling of "Academic Free Speech" when they have so evidently sought to suppress opinions that differ from their own. The very fact that Jacobsen is issuing these legal threats testifies to the fact that the Clarke Northwestern are trying to suppress the free speech of others. While in a number of Jacobsen's letters we read that he considers some of the commentary about Kenneth Zucker in particular goes beyond "Free speech", it is clear that Jacobsen's notions of free speech differ considerably from a more generally accepted definition of free speech. Also, when you consider some of the statements made by those he represents, which are blatant libel, the contradiction becomes even more evident. Meanwhile Jacobsen persists in presenting invidious legal arguments that only serve to highlight the contradictions while at the same time trying to present his clients as the victims of slander and libel.

The only way Jacobsen can make any of his arguments work would be by the use of legal technicalities. Logically his arguments are nonsensical. It is the very fact that Jacobsen appears to believe that such "Legal gymnastics" would convince anyone that his arguments and actions have any validity which leaves me wondering whether or not he is simply engaging in damage limitation on behalf of Dr Kenneth Zucker and the CAMH.

This of course brings up the questions about what the CAMH and Dr Kenneth Zucker have really been doing to damage their own reputations and what good Peter Jacobsen seems to think that repeating the mistake of damaging one's own reputation will serve. The actual activities of the CAMH and Dr Kenneth Zucker do not fall into the scope of this commentary and are probably the subject of jurisprudence at this point in time.

The issue here is the strange approach that has been taken by Peter Jacobsen. If you look at the case in any detail you will find a series of legal threats that are illogical, relying if anything on technicality rather than fact. The question is a simple one. On what basis does Jacobsen do this? Well, that is the riddle.