[BPSDB]Good news and bad news: Ben Goldacre has won an internet against AIDS-denier and vitamin-pill mercenary Matthias Rath, while Sabina Guzzanti apparently faces up to 5 years in an Italian prison for insulting the pretentious old idiot who runs a big house in Rome where lots of men live together.
The former is an example of how quacks can only defend themselves with legal threats for money, because for there's no actually evidence-based rebuttal to their exposure as quacks and for some of them they may well be in it purely for the money (while maintaining that it's big pharma which is the one cynically making money out of sick people) while the others, who really believe their own nonsense, are only delusional rather than dishonest (if not necessarily less dangerous). In the case of Rath, his HIV/AIDS-based quackery really was seriously dangerous on a level which transcends the “worried well” middle classes pestering their GPs to be referred to a homeopath.
The latter manifests a different kind of legally-protected irrationality - while Silvio Berlusconi has spent much of his time in power changing the law to keep himself out of prison on (mainly) corruption charges (e.g. shortening the statute of limitations, creating the delaying tactic whereby a defendant can have a process moved to a different court if he thinks the judges
aren't going to let him off might be biased, giving himself immunity from prosecution as a serving prime minister, having all processes except really serious ones suspend for a year) it seems the head of state of the Vatican has the same status of the President of Italy thanks to the 1929 Lateran Treaty and it is therefore a criminal offence to say, for example, that “Pope Benedict XVI would go to Hell and be tormented by homosexual demons”. (It would also be an offence to say that sort of thing about the president, I assume, but I don't think that the president would actually provoke that sort of insult and I doubt that there would be much this much fuss about it.)
Pope Benedict XVI will not go to hell because it does not exist. It's something made up entirely by the Judeo-Christian religion. But it's ridiculous (and hypocritical) to have laws against insulting religion or its figureheads; it's basically an admission that your all-powerful God just doesn't really care. How about, instead of trying to get the law to do your dirty work, any Catholics who feel that the Pope has been insulted (and I'm sure, or at least I hope, that it's basically none of them plus a few politicians who cynically want to exploit this to punish one of the most vocal critics of the Italian centre-right and its control of the media) can just pray for something bad to happen to Guzzanti - nothing at all will happen, which is as it should be.
Other links on the subject of Goldacre versus Rath: