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Guardian 11 Nov 1999 (page not known to me)

Bertrand Russell aide wins libel damages

Paul Baldwin

Bertrand Russell's former secretary yesterday accepted substantial undisclosed libel damages after a book alleged he was “like an evil dwarf” and that he had been planted by the CIA to discredit the Nobel prize-winning philosopher and peace campaigner.
      The high court heard lecturer and author Ralph Schoenman, a friend of Russell who worked with him between 1961 and 1968, had been accused of being “an appalingly sinister figure” in a philosophy primer, Confessions of a Philosopher, written by Bryan Magee.
      Schoenman sued the author, Orion Publishing Group and Orion Books over passages in the book and accepted damages believed to amount to £100,000, an apology, and an undertaking that existing copies of the book would be pulped.
      The court was told the book had claimed that many people believed Schoenman had been “planted on Bertrand Russell by the CIA with the mission of discrediting him internationally and that is what occurred as a direct result of his handling of Bertrand Russell”.
      Mr Justice Morland also heard that Magee described Schoenman, who now lives in San Francisco, as “An appallingly sinsister figure, like an evil dwarf out of Wagner's Ring, and his motivations were unquestionably calculated and manipulative.”
      But yesterday Roy Furness, representing Magee and the Orion companies, who are also to foot Schoenman's legal costs, said it was accepted that the allegations were not true and that they regretted and apologised for the fact they were ever published.
      Schoenman's solicitor, Liz Hartley, said the allegations “could not have been more damaging”. She added: “This wholly unmerited and malicious description of the claimant, which should never have been published, is unreservedly withdrawn.”

Times 11 Nov 1999 p.15

Book is pulped over CIA claim

A PERSONAL assistant who worked for Bertrand Russell has won £100,000 in damages over a claim that he was “planted” on the philosopher by the CIA as part of a clandestine operation to discredit the peace movement.
      Ralph Schoenman, secretary to Russell during the Sixties, was awarded “substantial damages” from the publishers in the High Court yesterday over allegations made in a biography of the Nobel Prize-winning philosopher.
      As part of the agreement, every copy of Bryan Magee's book Confessions of a Philosopher will be pulped and libraries requested to remove it from their shelves. Magee's book claimed Mr Schoenman had been “planted on Bertrand Russell by the CIA with the mission of discrediting him internationally and that is what occurred as a direct result of his handling of Bertrand Russell”. Mr Schoenman was executive director of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation from 1963 to 1965, at the height of his campaigns against nuclear weapons and the Vietnam War.
      Mr Schoenman, 64, said the award should end “a smear campaign” aimed against him and Bertrand Russell. “I am very happy about the award. These attempts to destroy Bertrand and myself have gone on too long,” he said.

Notes: The above are verbatim (including misspellings) except that word-breaking hyphens are removed.
      The Times law reports give details of cases many weeks after they are reported. I'll watch for details (if any) of the case and put them on this website—for example, what actual evidence, if any, was produced about the CIA, since it's hard to see what proof could be adduced by either side. I'll also watch for details of the settlement (and legal costs), since there seems doubt over the actual amount. Ralph Schoenman first worked with Russell against British nuclear weapons, so there may be some information on that issue—RW 99-11-12.

Publisher's Weekly 24 April 2000

Russell Aide Wins Suit Against Orion, Sues RH

Piece attributed to Roxane Farmanfarmaian. Says that Ralph Schoenman, having won 'substantial damages and a full apology for defamatory statements in a book by Bryan Magee published by Orion Publishers in London', is now suing Random House and Magee, in California, for 'disseminating' the original version in the U.S. despite its knowledge of the outcome of the British suit. 'He is suing for $3 million in damages plus court costs.' A Random House 'spokesperson' was quoted as saying in effect that as soon as they heard of the 'action', they stopped distribution and made the changes demanded.
    [I've reworded this to avoid copyright infringement—not that I imagine they'd mind].

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That was the situation until recently. Nothing appeared in the Times, as far as I know. However, Ralph Schoenman (I checked) near the end of April 2000 emailed me and others with the following statement from the court:—




Claimant's Solicitor: My Lord, in this action I appear for the Claimant, Ralph Schoenman, my friend Roy Furness appears for the Defendants, The Orion Publishing Group Limited, Mr. Bryan Magee and Orion Books Limited.
      The Claimant in this action for libel is a well-known lecturer and author.
      He has been active in political life for many years. He was privileged to be a close friend and colleague of Bertrand Russell between 1960 and 1968.
      Between 1961 and 1968 he held the honorary title of Secretary to Bertrand Russell. He was Executive Director of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation in which capacity he helped to secure the release of political prisoners in many countries and initiated the International Tribunal on US War-Crimes in Indo-China, of which he was Secretary General.
      The Claimant initiated the Committee of One Hundred which organised civil disobedience against nuclear weapons and US bases in Great Britain. He was founder and director of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign and Director of the Who Killed Kennedy Committee.
      He has been a leader of the Committee for Artistic and Intellectual Freedom in Iran, Co-Director of the Committee in Defense of the Palestinian and Lebanese Peoples, and Executive Director of the Palestine Campaign, as well as American Workers and Artists for Solidarity. He is a member of the steering committee of The Permanent Committee Against War and Exploitation, and has written a number of works and contributes to a variety of magazines and lectures at universities.
      The Second Defendant is the author of an introduction to philosophy called Confessions of a Philosopher. The First Defendant and the Third Defendant are the publishers of the book in hardback and paperback in the United Kingdom. In the book, the Second Defendant claimed that many people had suspected that the Claimant had been planted on Bertrand Russell by the CIA with the mission of discrediting him internationally and that this is what occurred as a direct result of the Claimant's handling of Bertrand Russell. The First [sic] Defendant said that if he had to bet, he would opt for this conclusion.
      The Claimant has opposed the National Security State and the role of the intelligence agencies within it for the past 45 years. The Defendants accept that this allegation was entirely without foundation, is absolutely untrue and should never have been published, since neither the author nor the publishers ever had any evidence, nor are they aware of any evidence, that supports such a serious allegation. The allegation could not have been more damaging to the Claimant's reputation and standing with colleagues and has caused the Claimant considerable distress.
      The Second Defendant also wrote and the First and Third Defendants published what they now accept is an unfounded allegation that the Claimant intercepted the Second Defendant's telephone calls and letters to Bertrand Russell. Although it is correct that the Claimant was a friend and colleague of Bertrand Russell for a ten-year period, this allegation is entirely untrue and deeply wounding to the Claimant. The Claimant has always travelled regularly, and it would have been impossible for him to intercept communications to Bertrand Russell, even if he had been inclined to control Bertrand Russell, which he was not.
      Bertrand Russell saw every one of his letters whenever the claimant was with Bertrand Russell and nothing was written without Bertrand Russell's express approval. The Second Defendant accepts that he misinterpreted his own experiences at the time and he and the First and Third Defendants withdraw this allegation unreservedly.
      The Second Defendant described the Claimant as "an appallingly sinister figure, like an evil dwarf out of Wagner's Ring, and his motivations were unquestionably calculated and manipulative". This wholly unmerited and malicious description of the Claimant which should never have been published is unreservedly withdrawn.
      The Defendants accept their serious error in publishing these libels and recognise the considerable damage they have done to the Claimant. The Defendants are here today by their Solicitor to withdraw all of these allegations and to apologise publicly to the Claimant. The Defendants have recalled for destruction unsold copies of both the hardback and paperback editions of the book and have given their undertaking not to distribute or otherwise publish or cause to be published any future editions containing the passages objected to by the Claimant. They have also agreed to pay to the Claimant a very substantial sum by way of damages and to pay his legal costs.

Defendants' Solicitor: My Lord, I wish to associate myself on behalf of the Defendants with all that has been said by Counsel for the Claimant and to repeat the Defendants' regrets and apologies for the fact that these statements were ever published. They undertake to the Court not to repeat any of these allegations.
Claimant's Solicitor: My Lord, I ask for leave to withdraw the record.

Signed ... Messrs Reynolds Porter Chamberlain ... for the Claimant
Signed ... Messrs Mylles & Co Solicitors ... for the Defendants

It occurred to me (RW) to wonder whether any court transcript had been posted, including perhaps the judgement, giving reasons for the decision. In fact, the judgment was made without any evidence being produced, as an e-mail from Mr Schoenman's made clear:

... This admission was made as a formal statement of retraction and apology with assurances never to repeat these calumnies in any form.
      There was no trial. No decision was required nor was one made by the presiding Judge.
      The procedure was as follows: The plaintiff filed a complaint with the court. The defendant was served and notified of the filing of a law suit. The defendant and counsel sought a settlement and conceded the position of the plaintiff.
      This settlement was memorialized in a Statement by the defendant and counsel and approved by the plaintiff and counsel.
      The High Court is notified. The settlement statement is read out in the High Court in the presence of both counsels. ...

From the evidential point of view, therefore, this is something of a disappointment: I still have no idea whether it's legally possible to prove whether someone was or wasn't an agent for a powerful secret organisation. Magee's publisher, and Magee, according to the above statement, simply conceded they had no evidence whatever.
      Magee, so far as I know, is still best known for Towards 2000, published 1965, the basis of a TV series of unimpeachable mediocrity. In the de-libelled version of his new book Confessions of a Philosopher [sic], according to Ken Blackwell of the Russell-l Usenet group, he has replaced two pages of writing, after calling Russell a silly-billy, with two new pages which Blackwell says are on a 'much higher level'.
      Poor Magee, presumably a supporter of war crimes against women and children, and therefore something like a neo-Nazi, could hardly admit that his opinion of Russell and Schoenman was something he took from the papers and saw hinted on TV—it wouldn't sit well with his self-opinion as a critical philosopher. However, from my point of view, it's disappointing that the only legal outcome is yet another presumably third-rate book, some transfer of money, and no inside information as to the CIA and other agencies.

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