Zak Smith is suing his accusers

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Bardic Dave

Explorer
In both cases, there WERE a few.

Every satanist I've known (about a dozen) played D&D in high school and/or college. Not all of them did so during the height of the "satanic panic"... because they weren't old enough... but there were Satan-worshippers playing D&D in the period.

And many communist agents were convicted ... including the Rosenbergs.¹

You chose your exemplars poorly.

¹: https://fas.org/sgp/library/spies.pdf
Dude, there are "satan worshippers" (real people who are a member of a "church" of skeptical atheists that don't actually believe in the devil) and there are "satan worshippers" (fictional boogeymen that congregate to drink the blood of virgins at midnight). Real life members of the satanic church have nothing to do with secret blood orgies or human sacrifice—kinda like how real life people with socialist leanings are not secret agents of the Soviet Union. You're drawing a false equivalence here.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
I think this thread was doomed from the start, because of who it is. The war between Zak and the unnamed other site (and many posters there who also post here) goes back to at least 2001 that I know of. Probably earlier. for the past 20 years, people either hate him with a passion, or they defend him tooth and nail. so I think there is a lot of confirmation bias here. Those that hate him, upon hearing accusations, will automatically convict him with malice. It feels good to hear that someone you hate might do down in flames. And the more flames, the better. As someone who had a bit of a rift with him a decade or so ago, I feel those same feelings. But we have to recognize confirmation bias when we see it.
 

Raunalyn

Adventurer
We are, as a society, too quick to believe accusations/allegations without reviewing all of the evidence. Today, too many people are able to point the finger at someone, accuse them of doing something atrocious with little or no evidence, and have that person's livelihood damaged permanently by that allegation. We need to be more careful and cognizant of this before we jump to judgement. There is a reason why most courts are built upon the presumption of innocence.

That being said; I am not saying that Zak is innocent. It is a well known tactic of people who are likely guilty of said atrocious behavior to sue the accuser(s) of slander/libel in an attempt to silence them. I don't know the whole story, though.
 

hawkeyefan

Explorer
I think this thread was doomed from the start, because of who it is. The war between Zak and the unnamed other site (and many posters there who also post here) goes back to at least 2001 that I know of. Probably earlier. for the past 20 years, people either hate him with a passion, or they defend him tooth and nail. so I think there is a lot of confirmation bias here. Those that hate him, upon hearing accusations, will automatically convict him with malice. It feels good to hear that someone you hate might do down in flames. And the more flames, the better. As someone who had a bit of a rift with him a decade or so ago, I feel those same feelings. But we have to recognize confirmation bias when we see it.
I was blissfully ignorant of all of this until maybe a year ago or so. I only became aware of Zak Smith a couple years ago, when I came across the Maze of the Blue Medusa. I thought it was a great product....innovative, evocative, simple to use....and I started following his work. Vornheim and Red and Pleasant Land were also works of his that impressed me.

Without knowing of the larger issues, I noticed that when I would mention his work in online conversations, sometimes people would react in a way I thought was odd. I chalked it up to online interactions lacking nuance and being easily misconstrued.

Obviously, there was more to it. When I found out about this, I looked into it a bit. It doesn't take a lot of digging to find enough information to take a stance on the guy. So that's what I did....I won't buy any more of his work, and I'm not going to use the materials of his that I have.

I mean.....it's easy to ignore all the evidence and call for impartiality when there's no risk to us personally. But what if Zak showed up at your house on Christmas because he's dating your sister?

Who in their right mind would remain impartial in that case? I don't think anyone would. We'd all act on what we know.....we'd warn our sister in some way, even if we did so with the caveat "I don't know for sure this is 100% true, but....."

Simple as that.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
So, a few observations.

It is my understanding that this lawsuit was filed in Canada, not the United States. Typical defamation forum shopping. I do not know enough about Canadian law to opine on the issue much, other than to say that Canadian law is much more plaintiff-friendly in defamation cases; from what I generally understand, Canada is considered one of the least speech-protective jurisdictions of the major commonlaw countries. The only reason you don't normally see this type of forum shopping by Americans is because you can't generally collect on a Canadian defamation judgement in America without re-proving it (SPEECH Act).

.......

So, with that said, why worry about defamation lawsuits in America?

Well, the US follows the American rule- that means that, absent a contract or statutory provision, each side pays their own attorney's fees. So if there is a power or wealth imbalance between parties, one party can simply hammer the other side - even if they lose, it might be worth it to them to inflict pain. After all, if both sides have to pay, say, 100k in attorney's fees, and one side has a billion dollars, and the other side makes 50k a year ....

So the gist of it is that powerful people can still use defamation law to harass less powerful people. They go in knowing that even if they lose, they win.
That's interesting, in that there's a distinct dis-incentive for filing suit in Canada: if you lose you pay the other side's fees up to a point.

Truth is still a defense, there's no really logical reason to file suit in Canada either if all of the parties are in the USA. The only reason is might happen is if a party involved initially had the reports made via a Canadian news agency. The CBC has been sued, and won, on the basis that they made a good faith effort to validate facts before publishing.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
I was blissfully ignorant of all of this until maybe a year ago or so. I only became aware of Zak Smith a couple years ago, when I came across the Maze of the Blue Medusa. I thought it was a great product....innovative, evocative, simple to use....and I started following his work. Vornheim and Red and Pleasant Land were also works of his that impressed me.

Without knowing of the larger issues, I noticed that when I would mention his work in online conversations, sometimes people would react in a way I thought was odd. I chalked it up to online interactions lacking nuance and being easily misconstrued.

Obviously, there was more to it. When I found out about this, I looked into it a bit. It doesn't take a lot of digging to find enough information to take a stance on the guy. So that's what I did....I won't buy any more of his work, and I'm not going to use the materials of his that I have.

I mean.....it's easy to ignore all the evidence and call for impartiality when there's no risk to us personally. But what if Zak showed up at your house on Christmas because he's dating your sister?

Who in their right mind would remain impartial in that case? I don't think anyone would. We'd all act on what we know.....we'd warn our sister in some way, even if we did so with the caveat "I don't know for sure this is 100% true, but....."

Simple as that.
I don't disagree. And like I said, I had a bit of a riff about a decade or so ago. Enough for me to make my own opinions. I'll just say this. I find it entirely believable that these allegations might be true (many of the red flags are there: his attitude, Mandy being in a vulnerable and dependent state due to her condition (abusers often look for people like that), etc). But I think he still should be afforded the opportunity to take proper legal recourse, because it's not unheard of that people were sure someone did something, only to find out they didn't. And even if a person is overall horrible, that doesn't mean they are guilty of every crime. None of us were there. None of us truly know.
 

Bohandas

Explorer
Dude, there are "satan worshippers" (real people who are a member of a "church" of skeptical atheists that don't actually believe in the devil) and there are "satan worshippers" (fictional boogeymen that congregate to drink the blood of virgins at midnight). Real life members of the satanic church have nothing to do with secret blood orgies or human sacrifice
What about David Berkowitz
 

Bardic Dave

Explorer
What about David Berkowitz
Did David Berkowitz play D&D?

Edit: But ok. There are deranged and depraved people out there who will commit heinous crimes, ostensibly in the name of satan. I don't think that really changes my point: just because a few "satanists" may have played D&D, that doesn't lend any credence to the satanic panic. David Berkowitz doesn't really have anything to do with it.
 
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hawkeyefan

Explorer
I don't disagree. And like I said, I had a bit of a riff about a decade or so ago. Enough for me to make my own opinions. I'll just say this. I find it entirely believable that these allegations might be true (many of the red flags are there: his attitude, Mandy being in a vulnerable and dependent state due to her condition (abusers often look for people like that), etc). But I think he still should be afforded the opportunity to take proper legal recourse, because it's not unheard of that people were sure someone did something, only to find out they didn't. And even if a person is overall horrible, that doesn't mean they are guilty of every crime. None of us were there. None of us truly know.
I'm not saying he shouldn't be afforded whatever legal right is available to him. The system seems a bit stacked in his favor in this regard, but that's a criticism of the system rather than him.

What I find odd is how many people are calling for impartiality. Why? I've decided I don't like the guy for a number of reasons despite previously liking his work. Why shouldn't I choose to not be a customer of his? Why do I need to give him the benefit of the doubt? It's been said by many here....but why?

And how many of us wouldn't take all this into consideration if it actually came up for us personally? My example of Zak dating my sister is a bit silly, but I think it makes the point. Who here would think to themselves "Hmmm...I should probably warn my sister about his reputation of abuse.....but on the other hand, that wouldn't be fair to him since he's never been found guilty of abuse"?

No one. We all make these kinds of judgments about people all the time. And we should, even though we may be wrong from time to time.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
That's interesting, in that there's a distinct dis-incentive for filing suit in Canada: if you lose you pay the other side's fees up to a point.

Truth is still a defense, there's no really logical reason to file suit in Canada either if all of the parties are in the USA. The only reason is might happen is if a party involved initially had the reports made via a Canadian news agency. The CBC has been sued, and won, on the basis that they made a good faith effort to validate facts before publishing.
So, I did a little looking (couldn't help myself) and this is what I think is the case. Take all of this with a grain of salt, given that Canada is not ... my wheelhouse.

1. Defamation claims tend to involve a lot of forum shopping. For a libel claim in the modern age, you can often pick and choose various jurisdictions (states) within the US to bring a claim, trying to find the one most favorable to you. However, given that the Defendant resides in Canada, I believe that I was incorrect in calling this forum shopping per se. It is always reasonable to bring a lawsuit in the jurisdiction where the Defendant resides and/or the material was written (if not "published" - internet!).

2. My understanding is that Canada has a modified version of "loser pays." In essence, at the end of litigation, the court makes a determination as to which party should pay, and how much, based upon various factors (and this can even include the winner paying in some circumstances, depending, again, on factors). I don't know how this works in Canada in practice, but these types of jurisdictions have been known to favor the wealthier party in some cases due to the in terrorem effect; in essence, even if you know you have a very strong case, the idea that you might have to pay the other side's fees can force you to settle. Again, perhaps someone with more familiarity would know this.

3. Despite (1) and (2), and although truth can be a defense in Canada, Canada is widely considered the most plaintiff-friendly of all the common-law countries to bring a defamation lawsuit, for such reasons as not having to prove damages for libel (all libel is libel per se) to shifting the burden to the defendant (which, to be honest, I was somewhat surprised by).
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
So, I did a little looking (couldn't help myself) and this is what I think is the case. Take all of this with a grain of salt, given that Canada is not ... my wheelhouse.

1. Defamation claims tend to involve a lot of forum shopping. For a libel claim in the modern age, you can often pick and choose various jurisdictions (states) within the US to bring a claim, trying to find the one most favorable to you. However, given that the Defendant resides in Canada, I believe that I was incorrect in calling this forum shopping per se. It is always reasonable to bring a lawsuit in the jurisdiction where the Defendant resides and/or the material was written (if not "published" - internet!).
Big problem is Defamation is a provincial jurisdiction. So it depends heavily on the province.

2. My understanding is that Canada has a modified version of "loser pays." In essence, at the end of litigation, the court makes a determination as to which party should pay, and how much, based upon various factors (and this can even include the winner paying in some circumstances, depending, again, on factors). I don't know how this works in Canada in practice, but these types of jurisdictions have been known to favor the wealthier party in some cases due to the in terrorem effect; in essence, even if you know you have a very strong case, the idea that you might have to pay the other side's fees can force you to settle. Again, perhaps someone with more familiarity would know this.
Correct. From McMillan (a big law firm in Toronto): "n other words, the prevailing party at trial or on appeal can expect the opposing party to be ordered to pay anywhere from fifty to ninety percent of the prevailing party's actual legal costs. Attorneys' fees can also be awarded to the prevailing party on a motion."

So, if you lose you can be in for a world of financial pain.

3. Despite (1) and (2), and although truth can be a defense in Canada, Canada is widely considered the most plaintiff-friendly of all the common-law countries to bring a defamation lawsuit, for such reasons as not having to prove damages for libel (all libel is libel per se) to shifting the burden to the defendant (which, to be honest, I was somewhat surprised by).
It has a few interesting effects. A reverse scorched Earth tactic can come up. Say Lowkey13 sues me because I insist he loves gnome paladins dual wielding rapiers, he told me last week doncha know. But along the way in the court case I dump all of the actual true, horrible things about him and its all on a public record he's going to have a hard time suppressing. It tends to work better for big media entities that can and do collect all kinds of interesting facts. Note though it can backfire spectacularly if they lose.

Anyway, once a case commences the only defenses are (list courtesy of CJFE):

1. You can claim that the statement was true; a true statement cannot be defamatory.
2. You can claim “absolute privilege,” which means that the communication was made in a venue where people ought to have absolute privilege to speak freely; this includes Parliament or giving evidence in a trial.
3. You can claim “qualified privilege,” which means that the communication was given in a non-malicious and well-intentioned context and therefore ought to be excused: for example, giving an honest but negative reference for a former employee.
4. You can claim “fair comment,” which means that your statement was a non-malicious opinion about a matter of public interest: for example, an editorial in a newspaper about a politician.
5. You can claim “responsible communication on matters of public importance,” which allows journalists to report false allegations if the news is urgent and of public importance, and if the journalist made an effort to verify the information. Even if the statement is false, the public has an interest in this type of discussion being legally permissible
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Thank you for the link. Donation submitted. IMO, the best way to handle this isn't to try to prevent or deny or attack an accused from taking legal recourse, but to support the side you find has more credibility. Also, let Zak take this to court, because then the truth will come out for all to see either way. And if he's a liar, then Mandy can counter sue
The link was in the OP...
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Indeed, that is where I copied and pasted it from. I just thought it would be useful, given the ridiculous turns the conversation was taking, to remind everyone what's actually at stake here.
Oh I'm fine with you reposting it, but the replied hinted that they had missed it initially, which was a tad disappointing.

My goal in starting the thread was showing said link so people could offer real support. If that meant feeding a few trolls along the way... I'm not sure what else we can do?
 

Gradine

Polymorphed Self
Oh I'm fine with you reposting it, but the replied hinted that they had missed it initially, which was a tad disappointing.

My goal in starting the thread was showing said link so people could offer real support. If that meant feeding a few trolls along the way... I'm not sure what else we can do?
Just keep keeping on.

In any case, thanks for bringing this to our attention in the first place!
 
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