I have received an e-mail from a firm of solicitors alleging “extremely serious defamatory allegations and innuendoes posted on your web site” by a commenter; they add: “The impact of these scurrilous allegations on our clients has been compounded by your endorsement of the allegations in the final paragraph of the posting” (i.e., in my next comment, which basically said “Thanks for the information”). They go on:
We demand that you immediately remove these outrageous defamatory allegations from your web site forthwith and agree to publish a full retraction and apology in terms to be first agreed with us. We also require your proposals for compensating our clients for the serious damage caused to their reputation.
We await hearing from you within the next seven days, failing which we have instructions to institute legal proceedings against you without further notice.
Needless to say, I hate to remove a blog post just because somebody with access to lawyers was offended by it, but I also have no desire to be forced to defend myself against a lawsuit: even if it’s thrown out in the end, I can’t afford the costs. So: anyone know what a safe and appropriate response would be? (Obviously, I am not asking for technical legal advice, but I’m hoping some of you will have experience with this sort of thing and have some useful suggestions. “Tell them to go to hell,” while appreciated as an expression of solidarity, is alas not useful advice without a convincing reason why that would not wind up costing me money.) If you want further details, e-mail me at languagehat at gmail dot com. Thanks!