Earlier this month, skeptic video logger Stephanie Guttormson shared that she had been sued by faith healer Adam Miller. Stephanie posted some videos on her YouTube channel criticizing Adam’s claims of being able to cure people of illnesses using faith healing. Long story short, Adam is now suing Stephanie for supposed copyright infringement. I’m not a lawyer, but Stephanie’s use of clips to respond to Adam’s claims probably falls under fair use. The lawsuit seems like SLAPP, which is a tactic some people use to quiet critics.
A fundraiser has been set up through GoFundMe to help pay for Stephanie’s legal fees. She’s currently raised over $24,000. This has quickly gotten a lot of attention. It’s been written about in Stephanie’s favor on popular sites like Salon, Raw Story, and twice on Patheos. This lawsuit has been a hot topic of discussion on social media. Penn Jillette made a donation and tweeted about this, giving it even more publicity. Many people who never heard of Adam Miller know a lot about him because of his lawsuit. If he had never done this, fewer people would know who he is or would have seen Stephanie’s criticism on him.
Because of all this, many people are calling this a Streisand effect. But I think this is even worse than that. The Streisand effect is used to describe a situation in which trying to suppress information results in it getting more attention than it did in the first place. This does apply to Adam Miller’s lawsuit, but his situation is worse than that of Barbara Streisand. Her lawsuit was to suppress a photograph of her house, which hadn’t been viewed much. Because of the attention the lawsuit brought, far more people viewed the photograph than before. While this certainly did not work in her favor, her career goes on. None of this reflects badly on her voice or her songs. She still sells countless records and has influenced numerous other artists. This hasn’t changed because of her lawsuit. People just know what her house looks like now, which might suck from her point of view, but it’s not a career ruiner. However, in Adam’s case, this is specifically about his supposed talents and abilities. Right now, the top Google searches for “Adam Miller faith healer” are pieces that are skeptical of him. If a potential client does an online search on him, they will see this. Not everyone may click on the links, and those who do may not all be convinced to stick with evidence-based medicine. But it could prevent some of them from doing so. At the very least, they know that criticism is out there.
This negative attention may hurt his business and prevent people from being harmed. In Streisand’s case, if an unknowing fan finds out about this, he may not think highly of that particular situation, but it’s unlikely to make him stop being a fan. It isn’t wrong to call Adam Miller’s lawsuit a “Streisand effect” but I’d like to call it something worse. If such a term doesn’t exist, maybe we can call it the Adam Miller effect.
Stephanie has been strong throughout this and hasn’t backed down or removed her videos. She continues to make skeptical posts of him on social media. I applaud that. It isn’t easy and I wouldn’t blame her if she just put it behind her, but she’s not intimidated and it’s working in her favor so far. This isn’t just an attack on Stephanie, this is harmful to the marketplace of ideas. Any of us who are skeptics could be in Stephanie’s shoes. If other charlatans consider a SLAPP, they may see how it worked out for Stephanie and how badly it made Adam look, and they may reconsider.
Update: Adam Miller has dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice. Maybe he realized how it was backfiring on him. A big thanks goes out to Stephanie for standing up to this guy.