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The time Colin Craig threatened to sue me, and why I’m not thrilled by his defeat

Josh Drummond should be delighting at the former Conservative Party leader being hoist by his own legal petard, he writes. But instead he just feels disgust

Colin Craig! The one-time leader of the Conservative party is in the news again, this time after a court found that he had defamed Jordan Williams, to the tune of 1.27 million in damages.

Colin Craig being in the news for being successfully sued makes a nice change from the more usual reason of Colin Craig threatening to sue someone. So I thought it might be a good time to tell the story of the time Colin Craig threatened to sue me.

This doesn’t make me a special snowflake. The list of Colin Craig’s defamation threats is quite long. It includes Steve Braunias (for this amazing column featuring gay men coming down the chimney) and, most famously, The Civilian. My turn soon came around. I had a semi-regular column in the Waikato Times and one week I used it to write a thing about Colin Craig. I’d done this before, mainly because in my honest personal opinion Colin Craig is a hypocritical, posturing, litigious, greasy-eyed twatcock who represents the absolute worst of a particular strain of conservative Christianity. All these alleged qualities, which are my own opinion, made him very easy – perhaps too easy – to write satirical things about.

Colin Craig announces legal action, which prompted Jordan Williams to launch legal action. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty

Colin Craig announces legal action, which prompted Jordan Williams to launch legal action. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty

Not long after the piece went to print I got a phone call from a person at the Waikato Times. Colin Craig’s solicitors had sent a legal letter alleging defamation in the piece. The argument was, broadly, that I had said that Colin opposed homosexual marriage for religious reasons. He said that he did not. Rather, he opposed it for scientific reasons.

The person on the phone said that despite Colin Craig (in their honest opinion) being a quasi-sentient compacted mass of human turd (I’m very loosely paraphrasing here), he did have an argument – we couldn’t find anywhere that Colin Craig had actually said that he opposed homosexual marriage for religious reasons. He also had an enormous amount of money, and the Waikato Times‘ limited legal fund probably shouldn’t be used to fight allegations against an independent contractor. The Waikato Times person suggested, entirely reasonably, that the best thing to do was comply with Colin’s demands, which were printing a retraction and correction in the paper and online, and running an opinion column by Colin himself on his science-based opposition to gay marriage.

This was fine. I didn’t want the paper to get into a pointless and expensive scrap with a very rich man over my semi-satirical column. The paper did as asked and Colin had his opinion column published, with a link to my original piece, which I thought was quite nice of them.

When Colin’s column was published, I ran some of the phrases he used through Google and it turns out he was at times quoting more or less verbatim from an unpublished-but-available-online book called The Born Gay Hoax, by a US-based conservative activist called Ryan Sorba. The book starts like this:

A little over one‐hundred and fifty years ago, the first concept of an inborn “homosexual” condition began to circulate in Germany. Prior to this time there is no known record of any human being ever claiming to have been born with same‐sex attractions.

The Born Gay Hoax goes on to imply a causal link between homosexuality and pedophilia in its opening paragraph and quickly gets worse from there. It’s still easily found online, if you haven’t vomited today and feel like you should. It’s a straight-up hate pamphlet, like the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, but for homosexuality.

I would have liked to have outed Colin Craig’s choice of reading material in another column, but I held off writing about him for a while. I didn’t want to get sued.

I tried to laugh the whole thing off and get on with life, but I couldn’t get Colin Craig out of my head. Having very rich people make even vaguely credible threats to sue you is horrible. It makes you very aware of your lack of power when you’re faced with a hugely expensive process that gives the wealthy an inherent advantage.

So it was strange for me to see Colin Craig on the receiving end of a defamation lawsuit from Jordan Williams, former rightwing bedfellow (figuratively speaking, of course). It’s taken a few weeks, as the court case dragged on, for me to unpack my feelings on this one. For those of us who have been legally threatened by Colin, I suppose it’s a kind of revenge by proxy. I should be thrilled! I should be full of beans and schadenfreude! But I’m not.

Well, to be honest, there’s definitely an element of schadenfreude. Colin Craig getting hoisted by his legal petard of choice is prima facie hilarious, even if it wasn’t hard to see something like this coming. Conservative Christian leaders so frequently get embroiled in sex-related scandals that it’s become a cliche. As Colin Craig’s alleged poetry-based misdeeds are nowhere near the level of the actions of someone like Graham Capill, my primary reaction, rather than anger or horror, is a kind of dull disgust.

Part of the disgust is with myself. Over the course of reading about the trial and writing this piece I’ve realised just how much I abhor Colin Craig. I’m not happy about this. It seems my rage and frustration at feeling silenced by his heavy chequebook has curdled into bitterness. I don’t like this about myself. Maybe some forgiveness is in order. It would be pretty horrible to be Colin Craig right now.

But it must be considerably more horrible for Rachel MacGregor, who was (allegedly) the subject of Colin’s (alleged) unwanted affections. That sounds funny, I suppose. Colin’s gormless, laughable demeanor (in my opinion) made the less loveable aspects of his character, even his extreme litigiousness (in my opinion) seem like a joke. So we were all laffing it up about his dreadful unerotic poetry (in my opinion) and creepy mash notes (in my opinion) being read out in court, but it’s honestly not that funny when you give it some thought.

It would be bad enough getting that sort of attention from any boss, but imagine quitting, going to mediation, and settling a confidentiality agreement, only to have your boss (allegedly) go on to blab about the fiasco in a pamphlet personally mailed to over a million New Zealanders.

At the time of writing, it had just been announced that MacGregor was to recieve $128,000 thanks to a Human Rights Review Tribunal ruling that found Craig had breached a confidentiality agreement repeatedly, most notably in the sauna interview with David Farrier that led to him losing the Conservative leadership. That’s something, I suppose, but even this record-high settlement from the HRRT must hardly compensate for the horrors of the last few weeks. It’s too bad all the money that heel Jordan Williams is getting (pending appeal, naturally) isn’t going to her. Imagine, after the pamphlet, thinking it’s all over, only to have the whole thing dragged out in court in front of an avid audience. And Craig’s lawyers are promising an appeal. It’s not over

When we’re talking about Colin Craig’s downfall, perhaps we should remember that it’s about (alleged) sexual harassment far more than it is about hilarious poetic justice. So it goes that most of my disgust is still reserved for Colin Craig. I feel like I shouldn’t hate him, and I definitely shouldn’t glory in his downfall, but I think we can – if our own personal opinions should motivate us to do so – all confidently say:

“Man, what a fucking dickhead that Colin Craig is.”

Allegedly.

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