Knowing bogosity

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Last week, at the same time that the U.S. Supreme Court was deciding the syntactic and semantic scope of knowingly in 18 U.S.C. sec. 1028A(a)(1), the English High Court decided, in effect, to insert wide-scope knowingly into a newspaper Op-Ed piece.

The story starts on April 19, 2008, when The Guardian's "Comment is free" section published Simon Singh's  anti-chiropractic article "Beware the spinal trap". Singh's article included this passage:

The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.

The British Chiropractic Association sued for libel. As a first step in English libel litigation, as I understand it, the court needs to decide whether the allegedly defamatory material is a comment or a statement of fact. This decision determines whether the defendant must prove that the comment was "fair" or must justify the statement of fact. (In American libel law, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff.) The court must also decide what the comment or statement means, again in order to define what the defendant must prove.

According to a report by Jack of Kent, the presiding judge in the English High Court, Sir David Eady, decided last Thursday that Singh's passage was a statement of fact.  But more surprisingly, the judge decided that

The word "bogus" meant deliberate and targeted dishonesty. So it did not mean that chiropractic for the six named children's ailments (including asthma) was simply wrong, or that it was contrary to established medical practice or research, or even that it completely lacked evidence.

"Bogus" meant a lot more. The judge held that by the mere use of the word "bogus" Simon Singh was stating that, as a matter of fact, the BCA were being consciously dishonest in promoting chiropractic for those children's ailments.

This (to me puzzling) decision may be based on a cultural and perhaps generational difference. Then again, perhaps it's simply bogus.

The OED's entry tracks bogus back to its origin in 1827 as "An apparatus for counterfeit coining":

1827 Painesville Tel. (Ohio) 6 July, That he never procured the casting of a Bogus at one of our furnaces. Ibid. 2 Nov. The eight or ten boguses which have been for some time in operation.

and give this interesting etymological note:

Dr. S. Willard, of Chicago, in a letter to the editor of this Dictionary, quotes from the Painesville (Ohio) Telegraph of July 6 and Nov. 2, 1827, the word bogus as a n. applied to an apparatus for coining false money. Mr. Eber D. Howe, who was then editor of that paper, describes in his Autobiography (1878) the discovery of such a piece of mechanism in the hands of a gang of coiners at Painesville, in May 1827; it was a mysterious-looking object, and some one in the crowd styled it a ‘bogus’, a designation adopted in the succeeding numbers of the paper. Dr. Willard considers this to have been short for tantrabogus, a word familiar to him from his childhood, and which in his father's time was commonly applied in Vermont to any ill-looking object; he points out that tantarabobs is given in Halliwell as a Devonshire word for the devil. BOGUS seems thus to be related to BOGY, etc.

The coining-machine meaning is of course obsolete — the OED's gloss for a more current meaning is "Counterfeit, spurious, fictitious, sham"; Webster's Collegiate gives "not genuine: counterfeit, sham"; AHD gives "Counterfeit or fake; not genuine"; Encarta gives "1. fake or deceitful: false, dishonest, or fraudulently imitating something; 2. bad or useless: not good, pleasant, or acceptable ( slang )".

But more relevant to contemporary usage — and perhaps also to Singh's court case —  is the Jargon File's entry:

bogus: adj.

1. Non-functional. “Your patches are bogus.

2. Useless. “OPCON is a bogus program.

3. False. “Your arguments are bogus.

4. Incorrect. “That algorithm is bogus.

5. Unbelievable. “You claim to have solved the halting problem for Turing Machines? That's totally bogus.

6. Silly. “Stop writing those bogus sagas.

Astrology is bogus. So is a bolt that is obviously about to break. So is someone who makes blatantly false claims to have solved a scientific problem. (This word seems to have some, but not all, of the connotations of random — mostly the negative ones.)

It is claimed that bogus was originally used in the hackish sense at Princeton in the late 1960s. It was spread to CMU and Yale by Michael Shamos, a migratory Princeton alumnus. A glossary of bogus words was compiled at Yale when the word was first popularized there about 1975-76. These coinages spread into hackerdom from CMU and MIT. Most of them remained wordplay objects rather than actual vocabulary items or live metaphors. Examples: amboguous (having multiple bogus interpretations); bogotissimo (in a gloriously bogus manner); bogotophile (one who is pathologically fascinated by the bogus); paleobogology (the study of primeval bogosity).

Some bogowords, however, obtained sufficient live currency to be listed elsewhere in this lexicon; see bogometer, bogon, bogotify, and quantum bogodynamics and the related but unlisted Dr. Fred Mbogo.

By the early 1980s ‘bogus’ was also current in something like hacker usage sense in West Coast teen slang, and it had gone mainstream by 1985. A correspondent from Cambridge reports, by contrast, that these uses of bogus grate on British nerves; in Britain the word means, rather specifically, ‘counterfeit’, as in “a bogus 10-pound note”. According to Merriam-Webster, the word dates back to 1825 and originally referred to a counterfeiting machine.

I believe that the term bogus was current in the early 1960s in my prep school, in almost exactly the sense described in this entry. I'm sure that we used it that way in college and grad school, and I was quite surprised when I  learned that some people took it to mean "counterfeit".  According to the way I've always used the word, it's certainly rude to call someone's statements bogus, because you're accusing them of saying something that is blatantly false, or at least deeply confused; but they might merely be careless, credulous, or stupid, rather than dishonest. In this respect, bogosity is epistemologically even further from lying than bullshit is, since  bullshitters don't  care whether or not their statements are true, whereas someone who promotes bogus ideas may be passionately convinced of their validity.

I wonder whether British and European technical and scientific circles had adopted the Jargon File's sense of bogus by the time that Simon Singh studied at Cambridge and CERN in the 1980s, since his usage in the cited passage seems to accord exactly with the application to Astrology and to "someone who makes blatantly false claims to have solved a scientific problem".

But even if bogus is taken in the older sense of counterfeit, Ben Murphy's comment seems a propos:

… false scientific claims are the equivalent of counterfeit coins. Their circulation threatens to devalue real currency. Of course, once a bogus coin is in circulation, it can be passed on by people who have no intent to deceive – not everyone is capable of spotting a counterfeit indeed, the ability to tell real science from pseudo-science falls within Simon Singh's area of expertise.

In any case, in support of Simon Singh, I hereby suggest that the international standard unit of bogosity should be temporarily renamed the BCA (for "British Chiropractic Association"). Of course, by the usual argument, the largest unit practical for everyday use would be the μ-BCA ("micro-BCA").

[For a discussion of the tangled history of this joke, see "Bogosity", 8/29/2006.]

[And if you're actually interested in the rights and wrongs of the case, check out Ben Goldacre's "Characteristically amateurish and socially inappropriate approach to pitching an article" at badscience.net.

See also "Simon Singh loses first round in chiropractic fight", The Great Beyond (Nature); ; "Truth under siege in the U.K.", PalMD; "Simon Singh's libel suit", skepticblog; "Sinh case update: A real pain in the neck!", God Knows What.]

[In a comment at Pharyngula, Mike Williamson points out that Justice Eady was responsible for a 2006 decision in which a journalist who referred to someone"s PhD as "bogus", was found to have committed libel,  "even though it was established that the PhD was from a fake university [which was shut down by the FBI for fraud]. The issue was that the individual didn't intend to obtain a fake PhD and thought it was real, and [the justice] said the word 'bogus' implied [the fakery] was intentional".  Than which. ]

[Update: it's easy to find evidence from recent journalism that bogus is often used to mean "false" without any implication of conscious fraud. One example among many: Ellen Goldberg, "Cops Debunk Bogus Crime Alert Email",  NBC News, 5/12/2009:

Arlington police have been inundated with calls ever since an e-mail alleging a crime spree cover-up started circulating.

But the majority of the e-mailed crime alert about a man who was robbed after visiting an ATM is untrue, police say.

"The people who are forwarding it are thinking they are helping, but in this case they are heightening a situation," police spokeswoman Tiara Ellis Richard said.

Another example, where bogus means "contentless" or "empty", again without any implication of fraud: Matt Zimmerman, "AGs' Bogus Threats Hit Their Mark: Craigslist Gives In", EFF:

Disappointing news today out of San Francisco that craigslist has given in to pressure from law enforcement officials and agreed to remove the "erotic services" section from its site, establishing a rather dangerous incentive for law enforcement officials to bully website operators with baseless threats. As we noted last week, craigslist was at no legal risk -- none -- because federal law immunizes them from state criminal liability based on material posted by their users. However, the ongoing pressure, especially in light of craigslist's previous willingness to try to accommodate the concerns of law enforcement, finally proved too much.

David Eady's Wikipedia page says that before becoming a judge, he was a plaintiff's attorney for the likes of Lee Kwan Yew, and that as a judge, he

... presided over the "libel tourism" case brought by Khalid bin Mahfouz against American scholar Rachel Ehrenfeld for documenting his alleged financial support of terrorism in Funding Evil. On 1 May 2008, in reaction to this case, the New York State Legislature passed a law that "offers New Yorkers greater protection against libel judgments in countries whose laws are inconsistent with the freedom of speech granted by the United States Constitution."

So I may have acted too hastily in suggesting that the International Unit of Bogosity should be re-named in honor of the British Chiropractic Association --  perhaps the micro-Eady would be a more appropriate measure. ]

[Update 6/10/2009: I note with satisfaction that at least one writer has started footnoting this post when describing ineffective treatments as "bogus".]



49 Comments

  1. Rick said,

    May 11, 2009 @ 10:26 pm

    I've known and (probably) used bogus in contexts like 'a bogus argument' as far back as I can remember, so I probably learned it in high school or college, late 60s or early 70s in California. The hacker usage, with variants like 'bogosity,' I only learned when I stumbled onto the Jargon File.

    My recollection is that counterfeit money qualified as bogus in the sense that I understood the word, but only because it is fake – that is, to be bogus was to be invalid and worthless, but with no specific connotation of fraud.

  2. Thomas Westgard said,

    May 11, 2009 @ 10:33 pm

    This context (a trial court) recognizes the speaker's intent, the reader's understanding, and court precedent, before it recognizes dictionary definitions. So, to judge this situation well, you would need to go through the transcripts of depositions, lawyers' submissions, and all the other material related to the case, including precedent, to know whether the judge is being unreasonable. He could be, but the blog posts on the subject are insufficient basis.

  3. Geraint Jennings said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 2:35 am

    One of the most prominent uses of the word "bogus" in British public life must surely be the regular journalistic reference to "bogus asylum seekers" – the implication clearly intended is that applications are not mistaken, but fraudulent. The UK Refugee Council sees fit to link the word "bogus" with the word "illegal" in arguing against use of such terminology:
    "There is no such thing as an ‘illegal’ or ‘bogus’ asylum seeker. Under international law, anyone has the right to apply for asylum in the UK and to remain here until the authorities have assessed their claim." (http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/practice/basics/facts.htm)

    Usages such as "bogus passport", "bogus visa", "bogus documents", "bogus identity" would generally be understood as at least implying intent to deceive.

    But the leading case must surely be Beachcomber's classic fictional "Case of the Twelve Red-Bearded Dwarfs":

    Cocklecarrot: Are these genuine names?
    A Dwarf: No, m'worship.
    Cocklecarrot: Then what's your name?
    Dwarf: Bogus, m'ludship.
    Cocklecarrot: No, your real name.
    Dwarf: My real name is Bogus, your excellency.

  4. CIngram said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 3:48 am

    To me- Southern Englishman, early forties, no knowledge whatsoever of popular culture or street usage- 'bogus' suggests you either know that what is presented is false, or are, at the very least, culpablly ignorant. I venture to suggest that this is what Simon Singh meant; that in claiming something as a treatment for serious illness it is your responsibility to make sure that what you say is well founded.

    Has anyone actually asked him what he meant?

  5. mollymooly said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 4:40 am

    Most of the 50 examples viewable from the British National Corpus are in the "counterfeit" / "fake" sense, but not all. And the data is from the early 90s.

  6. Paul O'Brien said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 6:27 am

    I'm British, and "bogus" has connotations of fraud to me.

    But as others have said, the legal approach is not about a purely literal reading of the words, so much as what the typical reader would understand them to mean in that particular context. The typical reader understands irony, sarcasm and so forth. To my mind, the phrase "happily promotes bogus treatments", combined with the previous sentence which asserted that they promote these treatments despite a lack of supporting evidence, can certainly be read as carrying a very strong implication of conscious fraud or at least total recklessness about the truth.

  7. Mark Liberman said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 6:31 am

    Paul O'Brien: To my mind, the phrase "happily promotes bogus treatments", combined with the previous sentence which asserted that they promote these treatments despite a lack of supporting evidence, can certainly be read as carrying a very strong implication of conscious fraud or at least total recklessness about the truth.

    "Conscious fraud" and "total recklessness about the truth" are two very different things. And the court's ruling, apparently, is that Singh must prove the former.

  8. MM said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 6:44 am

    I'm British and I don't think 'bogus' implies awareness. However, 'it happily promotes bogus treatments' sounds a bit like 'knowingly' to me.

  9. Mark Liberman said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 6:50 am

    MM: …'it happily promotes bogus treatments' sounds a bit like 'knowingly' to me.

    But does it "mean" that? The contradiction test suggests not. "The fact that X genuinely believes Y is effective does not excuse him from responsibility for promoting a bogus treatment, which fails to give patients the promised relief, and sometimes may actually harm them."

  10. Paul O'Brien said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 6:51 am

    Not in English legal terminology. The classic definition of fraud is a ruling of Lord Herschell in Derry v Peek in 1889: "First, in order to sustain an action of deceit, there must be proof of fraud, and nothing short of that will suffice. Secondly, fraud is proved when it is shown that a false representation has been made (i) knowingly, (ii) without belief in its truth, or (iii) recklessly, careless whether it be true or false. Although I have treated the second and third as distinct cases, I think the third is but an instance of the second, for one who makes a statment under such circumstances can have no real belief in the truth of what he states. To prevent a false statement from being fraudulent, there must, I think, always be an honest belief in its truth."

    Whether this is the plain English meaning of fraud is debatable to put it mildly, but a judge referring to "fraud" or "dishonesty" is likely to envisage those concepts as embracing a reckless disregard for the truth.

  11. Mark Liberman said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 7:06 am

    Paul O'Brien: fraud is proved when it is shown that a false representation has been made (i) knowingly, (ii) without belief in its truth, or (iii) recklessly, careless whether it be true or false.

    Very interesting. This interpretation certainly makes Singh's job easier, at least if the relevant standard of care as to "whether it be true or false" is the scientific one.

    But this interpretation of "fraud" raises a large question about woo in general. If someone genuinely believes in young-earth creationism — and many do — do they nevertheless commit fraud in arguing for it? Or to take a case where money often changes hands, astrology? What about a mass for the deceased?

  12. Paul O'Brien said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 7:16 am

    If you honestly believe in what you're saying, it can't be fraud. (It might be negligence, but that's a whole other area of law.)

  13. Mark Liberman said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 7:30 am

    Paul O'Brien: If you honestly believe in what you're saying, it can't be fraud. (It might be negligence, but that's a whole other area of law.)

    So you can be "negligent" without being "careless"? That is, if you're "careless whether [something] be true or false", then you've committed fraud; but if you're merely negligent in trying to determine whether something is true or false, you haven't?

  14. Fred said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 9:00 am

    Mark Liberman: 'So you can be "negligent" without being "careless"?'
    Yes, in the sense of "careless" as used above: uncaring, reckless. No, in the sense in which I would more commonly use "careless": without due care.
    See OED (online) senses 2 and 3 respectively.

  15. Andrew said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 9:29 am

    In support of MM: I think 'happily' is significant here. If it happily does X, this suggests that it is happy that it is doing X, which implies that it knows that it is doing X. So, while one may promote a bogus treatment without knowing it, it's not so clear that one can happily promote a bogus treatment without knowing it.

  16. Karen said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 10:40 am

    I would say "careless whether" means "don't care whether", not "haven't tried". Judging how hard you've tried would be tricky.

  17. J. W. Brewer said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 10:53 am

    There are circumstances in American law where recklessness as to the truth of a statement (as distinguished from actual knowledge of its falsity) is sufficient to establish liability for fraud. It varies (as does the exent to which recklessness means more or less gross negligence or instead means something akin to willful blindness), and there are also some statutes (e.g. in the consumer protection area) where "fraud" is a defined term where the state-of-mind element has been defined down considerably from what one might otherwise expect. (I would say, by the way, that "happily" is not inconsistent with some versions of recklessness — the kind where you don't ask too many questions because you expect you might not like the answers and are thus "happier" not actually being told them.)

    Maybe the more interesting question is what Singh should have said in hindsight. If one assumes he were comfortable that he could, if challenged prove some degree of carelessness as to efficacy on the part of the chiropractors but not actual knowledge of non-efficacy, what alternate phrasing could or should his editors in consultation with competent barristers and/or solicitors have recommended that would have made his current position more defensible under English libel law?

  18. Spell Me Jeff said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 10:56 am

    If there is ambiguity in the sentence when it is considered in isolation, surely the context serves to restrict the number of possible readings? The previous sentence refers to a series of claims for which "there is not a jot of evidence." I'm reading "bogus" as a convenient paraphrase of this meaning.

    Then there is the question of how the modifier is being applied. I am reminded of the recent discussion of the word "first." Shall we read the verb phrase as meaning (a) "happily promotes treatments that it knows/believes are bogus" or (b) "happily promotes treatments that I know/believe are bogus"? There is something so unscientific about "not a jot" that (b) seems more likely.

    What we are reading is an impassioned comment, not a statement to be understood as fact (whatever "fact" means).

  19. Neil Lukatch said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 1:26 pm

    We also used the word in high school in the late 60s, and my first association with "bogus" would be "phony" with a definite connotation of deception aforethought. But we thought everyone in the world was trying to pull a fast one on us.

  20. Sili said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 2:33 pm

    I protest! The BCA is the British Crystallographical Association. (And quite a few other things too – I think the British Cement Asomethingorother used to be the first ghit.)

  21. Jon said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 3:06 pm

    I don't have the advantage of a transcript, but I am sceptical of the case report. It would be unusual for a judge to rule in a preliminary hearing that the words complained of have a particular meaning — that is almost always a matter for the jury to determine at trial. It seems far more likely to me that Mr Justice Eady was asked for a ruling on whether the words are capable of bearing the meaning pleaded by the claimant. That puts quite a different slant on the matter: would anyone here say that the words were not so capable?

    Re: Thomas Westgard's comment: I don't know how it works in the US, but that's certainly not how it works in this jurisdiction (England and Wales). The defendant's intent is not considered at all at this stage of the enquiry. It only becomes relevant if the defendant seeks to raise those of the defences to defamation that can be defeated by proof of malice. The (perhaps deceptively) simple test of meaning is: what meaning would a reasonable person ascribe to the statement complained of? In light of that, resort to a dictionary seems entirely appropriate.

  22. Rusty said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 5:47 pm

    Does the BCA engage in barratry?

  23. Squander Two said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 6:05 pm

    I believe the implication of fraud lies arguably partly in the word "bogus" but more obviously here:

    This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.

    "respectable" … "and yet" … Does that not imply that what follows implies non-respectability, even its opposite?

  24. bianca steele said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 6:49 pm

    Somewhere between (public) high school, an Ivy League degree in computer science, and my first few years working in software engineering (say between 1980 and 1990), "bogus" switched, for me, from a word that sounded wrong to one that I might use. I'm not surprised it might have been a prep school thing, because I kind of remember it being other people's slang word.

    Surely, though, the more recent meaning is in common enough use that it should have some weight in the legal system. I'd be surprised if this meaning isn't what Singh had in mind, though this of course might be different from what a reader might think he meant.

  25. #@! said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 9:51 pm

    I don't have strong intuitions or opinions about whether bogus connotes deliberate dishonesty. But I do suspect it might have expressive content (of the sort that Potts talks about in his article on words like bastard), and I wonder if the judge was reacting to this expressive content rather than purely to the descriptive content of the word, perhaps without realizing it. The use of the word bogus strikes me as being a particularly tart choice, after all; it's not totally innocent. Expressives, by their nature, can inflame passions and cloud judgment.

  26. Dan T. said,

    May 13, 2009 @ 12:21 am

    I tend to the geeky usages myself… I'm likely to complain about somebody's invalid HTML markup (like using XHTML-style tags with an HTML doctype) as "bogus", even though no intentional fraud was committed.

  27. Links for Skeptics « TKRIblog said,

    May 13, 2009 @ 12:26 am

    [...] over Singh's use of the word "bogus" and one of the weirder aspects of the case: the ppoint of contention doesn't appear to be over whether the BCA is making false claims, but over whether [...]

  28. Noetica said,

    May 13, 2009 @ 1:48 am

    With respect, Andrew – it is dangerously easy to miss something important here. You write:

    … If it happily does X, this suggests that it is happy that it is doing X, which implies that it knows that it is doing X. …

    (It may not matter, but I assume that by implies you mean "suggests" once again, rather than "entails".) Now, one can happily do X without knowing that X is an act of a certain sort, like the woman mentioned by Havelock Ellis:

    [A] married lady who is a leader in social purity movements and an enthusiast for sexual chastity, discovered, through reading some pamphlet against solitary vice, that she had herself been practicing masturbation for years without knowing it.

    So this woman happily did X (and "was happy" to do X), without knowing that X was masturbation, or "solitary vice", and that it was one of the very vices she had been campaigning against so zealously.

    Once again (see Grammatical justice is served, linked above), our luckless crusader had been happy to engage in her "solitary vice" de re, but not de dicto. I think we can all learn something from her example …

    Andrew, you continue:

    So, while one may promote a bogus treatment without knowing it, it's not so clear that one can happily promote a bogus treatment without knowing it.

    Well, I hope it becomes clear now. Our puritan manquée demonstrates this, no? In fact, one can happily promote a "bogus" treatment with or without knowing (or believing) that it is "bogus". Or that one is promoting it, even: one can engage in some activity Y, without knowing that Y amounts to promotion of anything at all; and one can be happy (de re) that one is engaging in Y, without knowing that Y amounts to promotion of anything. (I cheekily leave as an exercise the construction of an example to show this.)

  29. odondon said,

    May 13, 2009 @ 6:59 am

    None of the comments appear to have taken notice of the fact that Singh's original article (available in excerpts at Jack-of-Kent's site) modified the 'bogus' adjective in the paragraph immediately following the one that caused the libel case in the first place. If the judge had read this, he could never, in good conscience, have ruled as he did, and much of the discussion above would have been superfluous.

    "I can confidently label these treatments as bogus because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world's first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst. He learned chiropractic techniques himself and used them as a doctor. This is when he began to see the need for some critical evaluation. Among other projects, he examined the evidence from 70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions."

    http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/2009/05/bca-v-singh-astonishingly-illiberal.html

  30. Noetica said,

    May 13, 2009 @ 7:14 am

    In my post above, somehow the link for Havelock Ellis got mixed up. It should be this.

  31. JimG said,

    May 13, 2009 @ 9:38 am

    Paul O'Brien had written: If you honestly believe in what you're saying, it can't be fraud. (It might be negligence, but that's a whole other area of law.)
    Mark Liberman followed up: So you can be "negligent" without being "careless"? That is, if you're "careless whether [something] be true or false", then you've committed fraud; but if you're merely negligent in trying to determine whether something is true or false, you haven't?

    Fred (May 12, 2009 @ 9:00 am) tried to restate and clarify Paul O'Brien's accurate and appropriate idea for Mark, but I DO wish Fred hadn't conflated careless, uncaring and reckless, nor thrown in 'due care.' Careless and uncaring, descriptive of the actor, connote not even thinking about the issues. Reckless, from reck and reckoning, means not just failing to think but rather disregarding some judgment (e.g., truthfulness, scientific basis.) I'll beg the question of social or legal values that mature or responsible actors should think about potential results/consequences or duly consider — it's human to immediately, automatically compare, contrast, classify and judge.
    Americans might find early use of 'bogus' in police slang for counterfeit money, as noun and adjective.

  32. Ginger Yellow said,

    May 13, 2009 @ 9:49 am

    "Conscious fraud" and "total recklessness about the truth" are two very different things"

    Maybe, both are defamatory to a professional "medical" organisation.

  33. Another British 2pworth said,

    May 13, 2009 @ 11:46 am

    I'm British, same vintage and geographical areas as Singh, and don't read "bogus" as necessarily implying deceit. E.g. "that proof is bogus" just means it contains a mistake. I think it would usually be an unsubtle mistake, i.e. perhaps "bogus" carries a connotation of falsehood that someone *ought* to have spotted; this seems to fit Singh's usage.

  34. Squander Two said,

    May 13, 2009 @ 8:37 pm

    Odondon,

    > None of the comments appear to have taken notice of the fact that Singh's original article (available in excerpts at Jack-of-Kent's site) modified the 'bogus' adjective in the paragraph immediately following the one that caused the libel case in the first place.

    Certainly that's the claim of Singh's legal team. I personally find it bizarre. That paragraph doesn't modify the word "bogus" at all. If the word does mean what the judge says it means, there's nothing in that following paragraph that is therefore contradictory.

    > If the judge had read this, he could never, in good conscience, have ruled as he did

    I suspect he read it and discarded it as irrelevant.

  35. Craig Pennington said,

    May 14, 2009 @ 7:40 am

    It would be possible (likely, in my opinion,) that the BCA honestly believes that chiropractic is effective in the treatment of asthma &c. even in the absence of published evidence of such efficacy. That's how I read Mr. Singh's piece. I think that requiring a stronger meaning is unjustified.

    And Eady's ruling that a comment piece on the comment page wasn't comment was unforgivable.

  36. Ginger Yellow said,

    May 14, 2009 @ 5:06 pm

    "And Eady's ruling that a comment piece on the comment page wasn't comment was unforgivable."

    No it wasn't. I strongly disagree with the ruling in toto, but it doesn't really matter that the allegedly defamatory statement was in a comment piece on the comment page. What matters is whether or not the allegedly defamatory statement itself was "fair comment". The criteria for this, according to my notes from noted libel lawyers Michcon de Reya (which have prevented me from being sued in my career so far), are that the statement:

    a) is a comment published on a matter of public interest based on true facts

    b) is an expression of opinion not a statement of fact

    c) need not be a reasonable opinion but must be honestly held

    d) must not be malicious

    Now there's clearly room for disagreement, but you can't say that the ruling on that point was "unforgivable". You can make very plausible arguments that the statement failed the test on multiple grounds.

  37. Olle Kjellin said,

    May 15, 2009 @ 5:33 pm

    "Paul O'Brien said, May 12, 2009 @ 7:16 am
    If you honestly believe in what you're saying, it can't be fraud. (It might be negligence, but that's a whole other area of law.)"

    So, would it help Singh to claim negligence as to the legal meaning of 'bogus'?

  38. Olle Kjellin said,

    May 15, 2009 @ 5:35 pm

    Astrology mongers may honestly believe in astrology, but medically licenced personell is not allowed to 'believe'. We must keep track of what is known about the treatments we employ. So, either the BCA members are guilty of negligence or carelessness in promoting bogus treatment, or they do it knowingly.
    Unless, of course, they can show that their treatment isn't bogus…

  39. Simon Singh Case Response Roundup « God knows what… said,

    May 16, 2009 @ 6:36 am

    [...] Language Log blog addresses the case from a new angle examining the semantics of the word 'bogus' and exploring just how unique Justice [...]

  40. Truly Much Bogosity « Dr Aust’s Spleen said,

    May 18, 2009 @ 4:00 pm

    [...] excellent – actually, in context that should be "truly most excellent!" – Language Lab has got there before me, so you can go and read theirs. Suffice it to say that the High Court [...]

  41. John Cowan said,

    May 20, 2009 @ 3:17 am

    Jon: What you describe was the law in most if not all U.S. jurisdictions until the 70s, but the Supremes then decided that the Constitution required the plaintiff in defamation cases to prove at least negligence (if they can prove intent, of course, so much the better).

    In a case where the plaintiff is a public figure, mere negligence is not enough: the plaintiff must establish that if the defamation was not intentional, it was at least reckless disregard of the truth (so-called "Times malice" by rough analogy with the traditional concept of malice, but not the same).

  42. Chiropractor Dr Carl Irwin is wrong to call himself ‘Dr’ and makes untruthful claims say ASA « gimpy’s blog said,

    May 20, 2009 @ 6:29 am

    [...] and willingness to analyse the evidence submitted as well as their criticism of claims that some may describe as bogus but sadly their remit only extends to advertising not websites or professional claims.  Not a [...]

  43. Late May Links: Stimulus and American Recovery and Relief Act (ARRA) Madness, Free Money Wannabes, Economic Recovery, Grants.gov and the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and More said,

    May 20, 2009 @ 7:34 pm

    [...] I used the delightful word "bogosity" in a recent post, and now Language Log has a whole lot more on that [...]

  44. Chiropractic: a bogus* treatment for bedwetting? « A canna’ change the laws of physics said,

    May 21, 2009 @ 4:28 pm

    [...] * Deliberate deception not implied.  I use the word in its contemporary sense of something that is false in itself, but may be taken in good faith as true by the unwary or uninformed. (See "Knowing bogosity" at the Language Log) [...]

  45. More Bedwetting Bogosity* « A canna’ change the laws of physics said,

    May 31, 2009 @ 1:07 pm

    [...] * Deliberate deception not implied.  I use the word in its contemporary sense of something that is false in itself, but may be taken in good faith as true by the unwary or uninformed. (See "Knowing bogosity" at the Language Log) [...]

  46. Apathy Sketchpad » Blog Archive » Under British libel law you’re guilty until proven innocent, and the newspapers seem to be okay with that said,

    June 8, 2009 @ 3:18 am

    [...] elected not to mention what that wider issue is or that the interpretation put on Singh's words was totally unreasonable, although they did mention that they bankrolled his legal defence (as they did for Ben Goldacre [...]

  47. Simon Singh battles England’s amboguous libel laws « lightbucket said,

    June 10, 2009 @ 10:37 am

    [...] the Language Log blog [13] has a nice discussion of the word's meanings in modern [...]

  48. Thomas D said,

    June 14, 2009 @ 5:48 pm

    Yes, I am surprised Mark didn't pick up on the importance of 'happily' and other parts of the offending sentence in the post itself.

    Despite various masturbation-based arguments, the addition of 'happily' didn't mean just that the chiropractors were cheerfully ignorant in their promotion of treatments that are – in Singh's opinion – worthless.

    Compare:
    "The waiter served me a rotten salad." (might be true or false – but doesn't imply he knew it was rotten)
    "The waiter obsequiously served me a rotten salad." ('obsequiously' only modifies the action of serving)
    "I was sitting in the most expensive restaurant in town and yet the waiter happily served me a rotten salad."

    Here the clear implication – coming from the opposition of 'expensive' / 'happily' / 'rotten' – is that, although the restaurant or the waiter ought not to have been happy to serve such a salad, they were; and that they utterly and knowingly neglected their duty to ensure its non-rottenness. In Singh's case, the sentence implies that the chiropractors knowingly neglected to ensure the efficacy of their treatments.

    Justice Eady, focusing just on the word 'bogus' and ignoring the rest of the sentence, didn't write a very good opinion – but that doesnt' mean we should ignore the rest of the sentence as well. I think his reasoning was wrong but his ruling was quite reasonable. Many readers would find that sentence to mean that the chiropractors knowingly promoted worthless treatments.

    Nor does what Singh says in the next paragraph help. If I say in one paragraph that the President deceived Congress, and in the next that he merely made incorrect statements, I am still calling him a liar.

  49. Polling terminology | Stats Chat said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 3:08 pm

    [...] the results as coming from "an unscientific poll", but a better term would be "a bogus poll".  In the interests of openness, democracy, and giving you something to do over summer, [...]

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