Attacking from the Rear
[Written by Terry Rongberg]
“This article was prepared as a service to the Chiropractic community. Neither the World Chiropractic Alliance nor Dr. Terry Rondberg, or any of their employees, agents or staff, make any warranty, expressed or implied, or assume any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, service, product, person or process disclosed, or represent that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial products, person, process, or service by trade name, trademark manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the World Chiropractic Alliance. The examples and quotes provided are not intended to be considered to be representations of fact, but rather illustrations and/or expressions of opinion. The statements made herein are intended to be opinions of the author made for the purpose of illustrating and/or expressing issues that are of concern to the Chiropractic community.”
Terry Rongberg’s most recent online epistle, “JC Smith raises white flag and surrenders first battle,” is once again fraught with his usual mischaracterizations of the truth laden with his customary demagoguism and sanctimonious self-aggrandizement bellowing that he was unjustly libeled by Dr. Stephen Perle and me for writing commentaries questioning the ethics of the RCS scheme. Apparently TR is livid that we had the audacity to ridicule this patient solicitation scam hidden beneath a veil of supposed research, similar to his defunct VSRI scheme.
Not only has TR accused and convicted us in his court of public opinion, never allowing us any feedback to his allegations (customary for TR’s yellow journalism), but surprisingly he has included the above disclaimer that apparently gives him the right to his journalistic excess, to say the least. Indeed, for TR to accuse anyone else of libel is dubious; it appears the pot is calling the kettle black!
Let’s dissect TR’s disclaimer to understand its legal implications. It reads in part as follows (emphasis added): “This article was prepared as a service to the Chiropractic community. Neither the World Chiropractic Alliance nor Dr. Terry Rondberg, or any of their employees, agents or staff, make any warranty, expressed or implied, or assume any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information… The examples and quotes provided are not intended to be considered to be representations of fact, but rather illustrations and/or expressions of opinion. The statements made herein are intended to be opinions of the author made for the purpose of illustrating and/or expressing issues that are of concern to the Chiropractic community.”
If this doesn’t give him the right to spin the truth, what does? In his own disclaimer, as a public figure he forewarns of the probable fallaciousness of his “expressions of opinions” in regard to “issues of concern to the chiropractic community” in that they “are not intended to be considered to be representations of fact,” and he cannot be held legally responsible for “the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any information.” Truer words were never written by TR—little of what he has ever written has been accurate, complete or useful.
The irony is that TR is technically correct—he has the right to his skewed opinions and they don’t have to be accurate according to the Supreme Court! In fact, opinions are just that—opinions—and everyone is entitled to their own, even if an opinion is mistaken or disagrees with mine! That’s guaranteed by the First Amendment, ya folla?
The US Supreme Court has recognized in landmark decisions that in issues of public importance that occasional erroneous opinions are inevitable but, lacking bad faith or malice, are not libelous.
- New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) The Court decided the First Amendment protected all statements about public officials unless the speaker lied with the intent to defame.
- Garrison v. Louisiana (1964) A Louisiana law that punished true statements made with “actual malice” was overturned. The Court ruled that unless a newspaper shows “reckless disregard for the truth,” it is protected under the First Amendment.
- Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts and AP v. Walker (1967)
A “public figure” who is not a public official may recover damages for a defamatory falsehood what harms his or her reputation, if the newspaper’s actions were an “extreme departure” of the standards of reporting.
- Hustler v. Falwell (1988) The First Amendment prohibits public figures from recovering damages for intentional infliction of emotional harm unless the publication contained a false statement made with actual malice.
- Mathis v. Cannon (2002: Georgia state law) The Supreme Court of Georgia also decided a public figure must prove that the defendant had knowledge that any statement was false or was made with reckless disregard of whether it was true or false.
In light of the recent ballyhoo by TR concerning the alleged libel by Stephen Perle and me, I find his disclaimer paradoxical inasmuch as our opinions of his antics are also protected by law, just as he claims for himself when in his disclaimer he clearly exempts himself from any “responsibility for accuracy,” which has been his trademark for 20+ years.
Indeed, no one should ever assume anything printed in The Chiropractic Journal is valid—his radical ideological spin on all issues is well-known by anyone politically astute in our profession (excluding his WCA sycophants, of course) and certainly TR’s many editorials railing against mainstream chiropractic efforts are more sanctimonious, self-serving, and misleading than credible. Jon Stewart on The Daily Show doesn’t hold a candle compared to TR’s fake news, ya folla?
Methinks every reader should be made aware beforehand of TR’s omission from telling the truth in his reporting before reading his journal or online rants. His disclaimer in small print at the end of his online diatribes should be carried in bold print at the front of any article or communication issued by TR so readers will be aware that he gives himself leeway to misrepresent the facts as he wishes without any legal liability for accuracy—his modus operandi for years!
To reiterate, the Supreme Court acknowledges that public figures speaking about public issues are allowed to express their opinions regardless of accuracy which is legally guaranteed by the First Amendment as long as there is no malice. Yet TR’s rivals are apparently not given the same freedom of speech if his recent legal threats to Stephen Perle and me are to be believed. Apparently what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander in Terry’s world.
Don Petersen’s attorney’s response to Negrete summarized the situation:
“We have carefully reviewed the allegations in your letter relating to your clients and find them to be baseless. Your demand for a retraction and an apology are rejected. The primary reason for this is that you have not been able to identify anything within the article that is false or libelous. Your characterizations about what was said in the article…are creative but false.”
Indeed, as a public figure, publisher, and political hack, is TR not open to criticism? Okay, stop laughing since we’re not talking about Sister Teresa, although TR was recently likened to “Archangel, Michael” by one of his sycophants (okay, stop drinking that purple Kool-Aid!). More startling is the fact that TR had the gall to print such nonsense about himself, somewhat reminiscent of Big $id’s inflated ego of himself printing testimonials from his $idiots, ya folla? Indeed, our blessed demagogues—where would our profession be without them?
As a political figure, TR has interjected himself and his ridiculous WCA in a negative fashion into almost every effort by the chiropractic profession to improve its educational base, to improve the quality of chiropractic practitioners, to promote clinical guidelines, to promote professional unity, to improve the inter-professional relations with other members of the healthcare profession, to credibly and ethically engage in scientific research, to deal constructively with state and federal legislative and administrative bodies, and, quite frankly, deceptive positions held by him places the entire profession into the unenviable position of object of ridicule.
For example, his non-elected dictatorship of the WCA posing as an equivalent organization to the ACA or WFC is patently deceptive to those in the media, public and legislatures who are unaware of his clandestine motives and conflicts of interest. Also, his position that DCs do not need diagnostic skills beyond “detect and correct subluxation” or are incapable of clinical care beyond spinal manipulation alone is bizarre and an insult to the many DCs who have acquire these skills for the benefit of every patient who enters their offices. Certainly his constant demonization of the ACA and WFC has confused many and exacerbated the obstacles for professional unity and political progress.
TR believes rattling cages and hopping up and down in the media is a substitute for fact and/or debate. If you will read the statements that he disclaims in his rant against Dr. Perle or me, you will find no indication of what in our debate he claims to be false or anything that would fall outside his own disclaimer. In fact, he and his attorney have not identified anything within the articles that is false or libelous—they just don’t like our negative opinion of TR and schemes like RCS—and it appears much of what he claims now is mostly grandstanding for his WCA audience to shout down his rivals and obfuscate the real issues involved as he promotes himself as the savior of chiropracTIC.
It would also appear that his repeated refusal to debate the subject matter before the chiropractic community is a rank admission that he does not have credibility or the facts on his side. More than once I have publicly challenged TR, Matt McCoy, and Chris Kent to a debate at SoCal UHS, RAC or COCSA, but they’re apparently afraid to be confronted in an open debate in front of their peers in this profession. In fact, these WCA leaders have ducked every occasion to meet with the real intelligentsia and political leaders in this profession. If they feel threatened to debate at these locales, perhaps an open forum at Life University might make them feel more secure to present their WCA ruse in front of their ideological peers.
His latest diatribe claiming I have raised a white flag and surrendered sounds surprisingly like the Hezbollah claiming victory in its war with Israel as its leaders sit in rubble smoking their water pipes. Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of falsely claiming victory “in a stunning concession of defeat” as he put it, it would be more useful to the entire profession if TR had the backbone to debate with a third party asking questions as the president of SoCal UHS once volunteered to do? Instead, he hides behind his bully pulpit with a poisoned pen writing his monologues and diatribes, now lashing out with his legal threats to any opinion contrary to his that might endanger his business interests or bruise his thin-skinned ego.
As the self-appointed champion of “subluxation-based” chiropractors (which I know many ethical sub-based DCs would object to adamantly), I wonder if TR even understands the historical and political utilization of the term “subluxation”? To remind all, in the 1972 Medicare Act, it was the political work of the hostile AMA to paint chiropractors into a corner with this term and the profession has been locked there ever since, with the subsequent diminishing compensation, as an evil outgrowth of the AMA’s well-established plan to “contain and eliminate” the entire profession of chiropractic.
Not only has TR misrepresented political issues to his readers, mischaracterized his rivals, and obfuscated issues common to us all, some believe he is badly mistaken about his philosophical leanings, as David Seaman, MS, DC, instructor at Palmer-Bikini, wrote in his article, “Subluxation Issues: The ‘Curse of Chiropractic’ According to R.W. Stephenson”
“Clearly, many of the so-called subluxation-based chiropractors of today are unknowingly in opposition to the views of the Palmers and Stephensons, not to mention the research in recent years. This anti-chiropractic activity must be stopped for the benefit and future of our profession.”
It now appears getting out of that political corner against the wishes of TR feeds into the strategy of our medical nemesis as we evidenced with his WCA appointee, Leona Fischer, on the VA chiropractic committee who argued ad nausea for DCs to be limited to “subluxation-correction” only (along with Kent’s Sub Station, of course). Indeed, being “subluxation-based” has political consequences far beyond the fundamentalist, chirovangelist ideology espoused by our fringe demagogues—being limited to only sub-based care may be the death knell of this profession, handcuffed by our own ideological myopia. I daresay Joe Janse’s hope to legislate as broadly as possible and practice as narrow as you wish is a far better idea. Certainly BJ must be rolling over in his grave to have ideologues like TR speaking in his behalf.
Is it possible that TR needs to go back to school to learn the history of the profession so he doesn’t become vacuumed into the anti-chiro group in the country that wants to see this profession destroyed? As of now, he’s gleefully playing right into their hand, allthewhile lashing out at anyone who questions the ethics of his scheming.
So, TR, if you saw a white flag you must have been attacking from the rear, a less than heroic tactic compared to a war of words in front of our peers.
Conclusion: You be the Judge
I would urge anyone interested in this issue of freedom of speech to criticize public figures in this profession to read his lawyer’s 20-page diatribe [logon to Demand for Retraction.] to discover what is false. If someone can list anything that I’ve said is false, I will correct the record. But remember one important fact: I am entitled to my opinion just as TR is entitled to his and, as a controversial public figure, TR is game for whatever criticism comes his way according to the Supreme Court.
Until then, I stand on what I said with my First Amendment right of freedom of speech to criticize a political figure, and certainly without malice, ya folla?