Wednesday, November 2, 2011


November 2, 2011

The State of Georgia thinks we’re all Victorian children who mustn’t talk at table: complain about your food and you’ll be punished. That’s exactly it. Think we have First Amendment rights? Think again..
It’s illegal for anyone to criticize a food product. If you get sick after that tasty-but-tainted taco or realize the fried chicken they’re selling you is nothing more than breaded bones just eat up and shut up.
Dare to warn your fellow Georgians and you stand to lose big time: you’ll pay restitution, punitive damages and everyone’s costs. A less than palatable outcome.
This is one of the most dishonest laws ever to be passed. It shields the food industry against censure, even when justified. It’s a perfect example of how the politicians we elect work against us and cozy up instead to the big corporations.
What is this, some kind of cockeyed capitalist communism? With his warped bill, Comrade Henry Reaves, Democrat from Quitman, Georgia decided it’s in our best interests to be gagged. That was in 1993, and since then not a single state politician has sought to reverse Henry’s subversive law.
Freedom of speech? Pah! Such an old-fashioned idea. Good for those guys in the wigs and the knee breeches but we sure don’t need it today – at least we the regular working American people aren’t deemed worthy of it. The only time we’re allowed to open our mouths is to insert their stuff they’re calling “food”. Once a disgruntled eater speaks out they’ll make him eat his words for dessert; better to quietly swallow your pride along with the junk you bought, then keep your pie-hole firmly shut.
And by junk I mean all the chemicals and other harmful or unhealthy substances they inject into what they’re selling us as sustenance. Puke city.
I’m confounded: how can our legislators pass a bill in the full knowledge that it so clearly contravenes the Constitution and takes away our most basic freedom, the most precious inalienable right? That of free speech.
I don’t know how but I suspect I might know why. Anything to do with golf vacations and backhanders and sumptuous dinners and political back-scratching perchance?
My wife got salmonella poisoning from fast food chicken bought locally. Now that I’ve written that sentence will I be dragged into court? If I name the outlet will I lose everything?
Dear Chicken Cabin,
Yours was the tastiest salmonella my wife ever nearly died from. For the sake of our 14 children please don’t sue me.
Up yours sincerely,
Georgia’s Veggie Libel Law, officially 2-16-3 Disparagement Of Perishable Food Products Or Commodities is phrased in such a way as to stifle any denunciation, especially in the media. Who needs a free press anyway? The Commies never had one so why should we?
It talks about “willful or malicious dissemination to the public of false information” but it spells out the “false” as any that isn’t backed by scientific data. And a company can decide that any accusation about its product is willful or malicious, whether or not that’s really the case.
Now you’re in court. You’re no scientist. All you know is 14 family members suffered food poisoning after eating the same vittles you bought at the same supermarket on the same day and so you wrote that, perhaps in a published jeremiad. Goodbye life’s savings, maybe goodbye house and home. For daring to warn others the Food Nazis will gitcha!
Legally, you can’t say beans about bad food. However - and here’s why this law is so vile - the main purpose is not to see it litigated. A lawsuit would draw attention to the very problem Mr Ordinary Georgia Citizen might be describing, something the food people do not want widely known. It’s the threat of prosecution that silences those with legitimate complaints and that’s why Commissar Reaves and the Georgia corporate politburo passed that law and why they maintain it. The sword need not even be raised - just mentioned.
So now we’re afraid to speak up. How is this different from dictator states like Cuba with the population cowed into silence. I’ve seen that way of life first hand behind the Iron Curtain; why now here?
There’s an actual legal term to describe this abomination; it’s called “chilling effect” and it makes me shudder. Lawyers intimidate folks all the time. But now the food manufacturers have bought themselves a bunch of enforcers in the Georgia Legislature.
Among others, I blame the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the state’s most powerful newspaper that should be fighting for citizens’ rights. Why hasn’t this rag taken up the cudgels on our behalf? What is a newspaper’s purpose if not to serve the interests of the people?
It’s time to end this curse on our freedom. We need the media to be our watchdogs. Take off this muzzle.
I may be Brash Brit, as the Walton Tribune once dubbed me, but in reality I’m just a small voice against Big Food and its anti-American way of doing business.
Persecuted for telling it straight? The cast iron defense in any libel suit is that what you wrote was true. Truth trumps all. But not in Georgia.


© 2011 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.