Who hasn't had this experience? A brother or a fellow student hits you, so you hit back. Then the instigator tells on you to a parent or a teacher and you get in trouble for hitting first. "That's not fair," you protest. "He hit me first. He started it."
You're right, of course, and it isn't fair, but the parent or the teacher seems indifferent to who hit whom first or who started it. The authority figure usually sides with the person who is first to place the blame. By being the lead complainer, the instigator has somehow captured the high ground and reversed the roles of victim and assailant, casting your act of self-defense as an unprovoked attack on him.
It's sleazy but can be effective, and it seems like every brat or bully knows how to do it.
Whether he practiced such a perfidious technique as a child or not, attorney Stephen Tillery has certainly mastered an adult version, in which he routinely positions himself and his clients as victims of the corporate defendants being targeted by the big bucks lawsuits.
Tillery's tactics in his long-running suit against Syngenta, makers of weedkiller atrazine, are reminiscent of the bully who blames the victim for fighting back and are clearly designed to intimidate the opponent. In this case, however, it's not a parent or teacher but a judge who blithely permits such tactics.
Feigning outrage over a PR campaign Syngenta launched in response to his lawsuit, Tillery persuaded Madison County Circuit Judge Bill Mudge to order the company to turn over documents relating to that campaign. Of course, Tillery doesn't restrict his battles to a court of law but also argues his side in the court of public opinion as well, often leaving his opponents no choice but to respond in kind.
Recently, Tillery's public relations person, 20-year Post-Dispatch veteran Charlie Bosworth, issued a press release criticizing Syngenta for resorting to PR. That's pretty rich, coming from the guy who started it.