Friday, March 19, 2010

Is David T a Troll?

I've come rather late to the "George Galloway's solicitors issue a writ against David T[oube] of Harry's Place" story. Connection to Harry's Place seems to be a lottery, but here is David T's post the matter (and this, I think is a copy on the Counter Jihad Alliance blog).

Galloway's solicitors sent David T a letter: 717Kb PDF document. Page four reproduces David T's offending comment. But for those of you who don't like PDFs, you can find it here: it's comment 29 on the Socialist Unity post 'Tower Hamlets Labour Councillor Defects to Tories'. The timestamp (which I have no reason to doubt) is 24 February, 2010 @3:26 pm.

Galloway's lawyers state in a letter dated 16 March 2010 (which I make 20 days or just under three weeks later): "Please note that the Comment is false and that our client is shocked and disturbed that you would refer to Viva Palestine and by association himself in this way."

NB The reason for the title of this post is Socialist Unity's comments policy:

We will delete racist, homophobic, sexist, and derogatory comments about people with physical disabilities or mental distress. Comments will also be deleted that are offensive and insulting about individuals. We will also delete comments by “trolls”, i.e those people whose purpose is to impede debate and who post comments with no regard to the subject matter of debate but whose sole purpose and intention is the baiting of other people

We expect comrades to behave in a comradely and fraternal way and to treat each other with respect. We will moderate comments in a way that a Chair moderates a meeting.

Bad behaviour stifles debate. It infringes upon others right to freedom of speech.


Since the subject matter of the original Social Unity post was slagging of Tower Hamlets' Labour Party, and David T's comments (there are several) are mostly about Hamas T-shirt slogans, it does not seem unfair to me to accuse him of "post[ing] comments with no regard to the subject matter of debate but whose sole purpose and intention is the baiting of other people". So, if David T is a troll, why did Social Unity not delete his comments? Not surely because Mr Galloway could see a way to turning them to £50k to his benefit and that Andy Newman's the post's author is, according to Socialist Unity's 'Who we are' page "is a member of Respect Renewal".

If David T's comments were so hurtful to George Galloway, I can think of a much easier, if less potentially remunerative, solution. But then, I am neither a lawyer nor a member of the Respect party.

Quick afterthought 6:00 pm: Since David Toube posted quasi-anonymously (assuming that there is such a thing) as 'David T', what if he's picked an alias at random and couldn't be identified for a suit? Who would be responsible then? It seems to me (I am still not a lawyer) that newspapers delete comments at least partly because they could be held liable. So, if distress was caused to Mr Galloway, shouldn't 'Socialist Unity' take some of the blame?

67 Comments:

Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

It does seem very odd that the letter asks Toube to take the offending post down.

3/19/2010 06:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Not surely because Mr Galloway could see a way to turning them to £50k to his benefit

That's unworthy of you. I'm a regular commenter & occasional contributor at Socialist Unity, and I'm pretty sure I know what Andy had in mind with that reference to trolls - and it wasn't people from HP. The key phrase is "baiting of other people": trolling is about disrupting a comment thread by baiting other commenters - usually by misquoting them, quoting them out of context, demanding they answer arbitrary questions, etc.

As for whether the hurt and offence to Mr Galloway could have been avoided more quickly and easily, it's a fair point. But this libel action is more about punishing the defendant than soothing the plaintiff (aren't they all?)

3/19/2010 06:09:00 PM  
Anonymous sHx said...

But this libel action is more about punishing the defendant than soothing the plaintiff (aren't they all?)

I am no lawyer but I did study Torts once upon a time.

Defamation actions, which fall under the body of laws known as 'Torts', is meant to compensate the plaintiff for the alleged wrongdoing (or, in your words, "to sooth the plaintiff"), not to punish the defendant. Should the plaintiff establish the wrongdoing in court, he/she/it will only receive normal damages to make up for the plaintiff's loss of reputation, etc.

Punitive damages are additional to normal damages and are only ordered against the defendant in exceptional circumstances. What could be an exceptional circumstance? The defendant not showing remorse after wrongdoing has been established is one. The defendant continuing to make the same libellious allegations in public or in court is another. And, yes, punitive damages is meant to punish the defendant.

What I find curious, as has been mentioned in the 'quick afterthought' of the post, is why the Socialist Unity web site not named as a wrongdoer in Galloway's lawyer's letter. The SU website administrators are clearly partners in the alleged wrongdoing against Galloway and, by not deleting the comment, they continue to hurt whatever little reputation he has. Assuming that Galloway wins a court action against David T alone, then David T may have a cause of action to sue SU web administrators for a share of the damages that he is supposed to pay Galloway. Methinks, this lawsuit is a very stupid move on the part of Galloway and the SU web administrators (who continue to keep the comment on the page). I think they'll come out of this second and third best.

Legal details aside, what I'd like to know is just how the left-wing blogosphere will respond to this lawsuit. I'd find it astonishing if they threw their support behind Galloway.

3/19/2010 11:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Defamation actions, which fall under the body of laws known as 'Torts', is meant to compensate the plaintiff for the alleged wrongdoing (or, in your words, "to sooth the plaintiff"), not to punish the defendant.

In law you're absolutely right, of course. I'm not sure that's how libel actions work in practice.

As for SU, if Toube doesn't settle in some way and if Galloway's side insists on the damages, then Toube would certainly have grounds for some kind of action against SU. I really doubt it will get that far, though.

3/20/2010 12:04:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Have we established that this is all genuine and not some HP baiter's odd practical joke yet?

If it's real, the whole thing's mad and cracked, and while my first instinct is to hope for a really nasty 0-0 draw with lots of red cards, injuries and crowd trouble, I think slapping anyone with a 50k law suit for a blog comment is the lowest of the low.

I don't have a major problem with the principle of libel suits in relation to deliberate and entirely fraudulent hate/smear campaigns - in fact, I think our national discourse would be vastly improved if a lot of high-profile bullshitters were publicly blasted into space dust with great fireballs of terrifying litigation. I strongly believe that people should have the right to defend themselves against dishonest and intentionally destructive smearing.

That said, this case is too damn weird for words. Type "Galloway" into the search box at HP and you'll find several hundred posts making very serious allegations about the man - click through comments and you'll find a ridiculous number of people accusing GG of everything from lying to incitement to genocide and probably overfamiliarity with farmyard animals. Why chase up a comment at somebody else's website?*

This sets a terrible precedent, and while I'm certain that there are probably hundreds of people who could blast David T. to smithereens with justified legal warheads and sleep with a clear conscience, this should be laughed out of court as vexatious intimidation, if that's the appropriate term.

I've always regarded Galloway as being a shameless, self-promoting buffoon, but I enjoyed watching him stick one up the Telegraph and Norm Coleman, for the reasons laid out above. This, OTOH, is poisonous bullshit of the first water.

*This doesn't reflect very well on SU either, but TBH I find the site so boring that I don't know whether this kind of thing is out of character. No offence meant, Phil.

3/20/2010 12:29:00 AM  
Blogger faceless said...

I'm not one to support Harry's Place in the slightest, but your point about the troll rule is interesting.

My perception of Toube is that he is nothing but an anti-Islamic troll and he should simply have been banned.

However, considering the dependence HP has on Galloway for much of its fodder for its foamers, I think it's been a while coming and can only hope that Toube gets at least a degree or two wiped off his smug corporate lawyer face of his.

3/20/2010 12:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Ben said...

Does being a corporate lawyer necessarily require a sense of smugness? Is it part of the essence of what it is to be a corporate lawyer? Harsh, man. In any case, DT is a financial regulatory lawyer rather than a corporate lawyer. You should feel sorry for any chap who has to spend parts of his days talking to the FSA. Trust me.

This must be the first time for a while that I am broadly in agreement with the (grudging, moaning, ill-graced, but, nonetheless, in the final analysis, correct) view of an AW post.

This should result in a common sense front against Galloway's rapacious flogging of an outdated set of legal procedures and rules, if this goes any further. Which must surely be unlikely.

Nonetheless, I look forward to your appeals for the David T defence fund should the necessity arise...

3/20/2010 01:26:00 AM  
Blogger angrysoba said...

I'd find it astonishing if they threw their support behind Galloway.


It would be stupid if they did but I wouldn't be astonished.

3/20/2010 08:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Toube is a troll in real life too.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xbuio9_islamophobic-rant-by-cleary-gottlie_news

Thre are people who deserve sympathy, David Toube - an anti-muslim bigot, who fantasises about spitting in the face of elderly women - is not one among them.

agp

3/20/2010 09:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

I've always regarded Galloway as being a shameless, self-promoting buffoon

M3 T00, by and large - and this libel action is essentially a case of BAeven biggerCAI. But VP itself has made me view Galloway a bit differently. He's put himself through a lot to get aid to Gaza and publicise the Palestinian cause, which I see as entirely appropriate and admirable. To hear the tired old "how many guns did that buy?" slander trotted out, by someone whose idea of bearing witness is this, is pretty hard to take.

3/20/2010 10:07:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

I think slapping anyone with a 50k law suit for a blog comment is the lowest of the low.

Is it really though?

I'm not of British libel law but doesn't it depend on what was said and how big an audience it was reaching. If someone made a serious false allegation against you at a website with a very large readership (probably not HP or SU)- that say you had lied under oath or were a paedophile or had even been a supporter if terrorism then I must admit to having little sympathy for the person being sued.

Doesn't change my view of GG being a cad of the first order mind.

3/20/2010 10:38:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Just seen that DT video. What a strange thing to do. I can only imagine he thought he was 'doing a Tatchell' Everybody over at wingnut towers (Kerching!) appears to think DT was striking a blow against Isalmofacism - or something like that.

Word of warning David. Don't try repeating the stunt at any EDL meetings

3/20/2010 10:46:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

As someone who has been banned from Socialist Unity and even been the subject of an offensive post there, I really don't think that what "Andy had in mind" with his comments policy bears any resemblance to the reality, which is to allow Respect supporters as much leeway as possible in baiting of other people and dragging threads off-topic, while punishing those not in agreement with the host.
And having been lied about by Kevin Ovenden and having found Mr.T civilised in internet discussion, I do have to remind myself that the latter's attempts to destroy Palestinian soldarity work are the bigger enemy here, though this action would seem to a non-lawyer to be misconceived and have little chance of success.
Perhaps the reason for it is not to get it to court, but to try and partially shut HP up in the run-up to the general election.

3/20/2010 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Punitive damages are additional to normal damages and are only ordered against the defendant in exceptional circumstances. What could be an exceptional circumstance? The defendant not showing remorse after wrongdoing has been established is one. The defendant continuing to make the same libellious allegations in public or in court is another

yes, and you have to say looking at Harry's Place, that if the site had been taken over by one of Toube's enemies who wanted to make trouble for him, they couldn't have done a better job of establishing a case for punitive damages.

3/20/2010 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

Every time the subject of Galloway, the press, and libel comes up I always have to remind myself that, whatever else I think of the man, he has been the subject of deliberate, well fabricated smears that carried with them more than a whiff of state complicity. And then I also remember that, at the very beginning of Seamus Milne's 'The Enemy Within', Galloway is quoted predicting that the Maxwell-led smear campaign against Scargill and the NUM, carried out with the complicity of the state, would turn out to be a fabrication. So I struggle to blame him for seeing the smears against him as something to be turned, like a judo throw, into a profitable riposte against his opponents, which in the past certainly have been powerful conspiracies assembled to destroy his public reputation.

Whatever kind of prick he is irrelevant.

3/20/2010 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I largely agree with that, but at the same time it's damned odd that if these comments are quite so damaging to George that Socialist Unity should leave them up.

I should say that I have no liking for Socialist Unity, which I'm sure I've previously equated (on here) with Harry's Place, the level of debate and the ethical standards of the siteowners being pretty similar. These days I try not to access either unless it's absolutely necessary.

The expression "they deserve each other" is overused, but in the case of Toube and Newman I'd use it happily: they both strike me as obsessive individuals with little sense of what is and what is not their business. Actually perhaps the only difference from my point of view is that Toube's never lied to me personally, while Newman has.

Two grubby little men.

3/20/2010 01:11:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

To start with, my own answer to my rhetorical question is 'Yes, of course.' I also agree with the stated intentions of Socialist Unity's comments policy. I believe that ad hominem attacks should be deleted and persistent trolls banned. And I'm in no doubt that, using Socialist Unity's own metaphor of a chaired public debate, David T's comments were time-wasting and irrelevant to the discussion at the time. Were that thread a meeting, and were I chairing it, I'd have thrown him out if he didn't shut up. I can't see how discussing slogans on t-shirts which may or may not exist and are in any case sold in another country, and said slogans are in a language (Farsi or Arabic, presumably) which no one present is qualified to translate, and which may say something about Jews hiding behind trees, is in any way material to a conversation about party politics in Tower Hamlets, a district of London not known for its silviculture.

Further, I have no sympathy for David T. I've seen the video of his 'rant'. I can't say whether it was anti-Islamic or not, as I couldn't make out much of what he was saying apart from "Don't you dare touch me," "Don't you dare call me a racist," "Don't you date call me a fascist" (to which the audience chorused, rather charmingly, "Fasc-ist! Fasc-ist!"). All of which did nothing other than confirm my impression of Mr Toube as a living troll (to paraphrase popular British rock'n'roller Mr Cliff Richard, friend of the Right Honourable Tony Blair).

On the other hand, I don't see why, given the above, his comments weren't taken down. When I think people have crossed the line here, I've said something. I do think Socialist Unity are in some way responsible for comments made on their site: I also think Harry's Place are. Both, IMO, moderate in bad faith, and allow threads to become nothing more than exchanges of personal insults.

Nor am I taken with Galloway's lawyer's claims. David T can't take down a comment he made on someone else's site; it's very silly to ask him to do so. If Galloway and others wanted to go after David T, they should have found something on Harry's Place. David T can take down comments there, even when he didn't make them. And he can put up an apology there. I also find the connection between what he said and putative harm done to George Galloway's good name somewhat hard to credit. Had Galloway sued on behalf on Viva Palestina, I'd be more sympathetic. Finally, the 50,000 figure for a blog comment is just silly. It's not justified in any way in the letter. But then nor is there any proof that the person who commented under the name 'David T' was in fact David Toube. Just because they used a link to Harry's Place doesn't confirm their identity. I could do that. (I know David T has admitted it, but that, in my view, only confirms his lack of savvy, of nous, of any wisdom whatever.)

I understand why some people are sympathetic to Galloway and hope he wins, but I think that 'being controversial' is part of his schtick. David T actually helps him.

Phil in the second comment: but David T did bait other commenters and he did bring up an arbitrary question, didn't he? Whatever, he succeeded in "disrupting [the] comment thread."

3/20/2010 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Given what I've said, I expect that this suit will backfire. The only way I see it hurting David T is that if the timestamp on the comment is correct for GMT (and it's not three-thirty on the Pacific West Coast of the US), then surely he was wasting his employers' time. But, again, I think there would have been a more effective way to show that. A blog post of the times and dates of all his comments and Harry's Place postings would be quite effective.

3/20/2010 01:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

David T did bait other commenters and he did bring up an arbitrary question, didn't he?

I think there are two questions here. In the online world I'm used to, persistently and deliberately trolling comments threads is just about the worst thing you can do; once you've been identified as a troll[er] you can get banned from a forum for good. For Andy N. to label David T[oube] a troll would be a big escalation in hostilities, & not really one that he's deserved. Certainly he was trolling that thread, and certainly he does it a lot, but it's not quite the only thing he does online.

You might say that to sue somebody for a ridiculous amount of money is invoking a more serious sanction than banning from a Website. Personally I'd be amazed if a court awarded the damages Galloway's asking for, and if that did come to pass I would chip in to the AW(iWoD) "When We Said A Plague On Both Their Houses We Weren't Actually Thinking In Terms Of Bankruptcy" Grudgingly Raised Defence Fund. If the money is bracketed out, we're left with an authoritative judgment that David T. should be a bit more careful about calling people genocidal anti-semites on sites read by several thousand people a day, which doesn't strike me as a bad result.

3/20/2010 03:04:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

It seems a bit weird. Galloway tends to win his law suits, which tend to be well judged. If you really wanted to punish Toube, there's plenty on his site to choose from, where I think you'd probably win. Whereas this just seems doomed to fail.

3/20/2010 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

@Phil two things. For Andy N. to label David T[oube] a troll would be a big escalation in hostilities ... and that video isn't?

David T. should be a bit more careful about calling people genocidal anti-semites on sites read by several thousand people a day I agree with this, but do you mean SocialistUnity, Harry's Place, or both? I don't know how to check the traffic of either, but that seems high to me. Whatever, I certainly think he should be more careful of his internet use when he's supposed to be working (which is the only way I see this hurting him at the moment).

@Cian. The more I think about this, the more I think that asking for one impossible thing in the suit (for David T to remove the comment) suggests that it will fail. And they had plenty of time to draft the letter, so there's no excuse.

3/20/2010 05:59:00 PM  
Anonymous KB Player said...

There are some odd things about this case as people have said, and I wonder if it’s an error of judgement on part of the Dictator Dick-sucker's like his appearance on Celebrity Big Brother was an error of judgement. Hubris, in fact.

Harry’s Place spends a lot of time abusing the Hamas groupie and their last coup, a video of the Gorgeous One addressing a meeting denouncing the police for brutality and then calling the police to eject Iranian hecklers, made him look like a total arse. My guess is that he just wants to get at Harry’s Place by any way he can and isn’t too considered in his methods. The solicitors he has employed seem a pretty inefficient lot and he may be grasping at any means he can.

Now I’d celebrate like mad if the employee of the Iranian propaganda machine made an arse of himself and was out of pocket. Some of you here have no love for H Place and might like to see someone, even the Dubious Dundonian, give it a bloody nose. But it’s a totally crap precedent that we can’t put abusive, jokey, off-topic and trollish comments on blogs without writs through the door.

(Note – I have mentioned no names here.)

3/20/2010 07:10:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Thanks KB, well we'll just have to scratch our heads and wonder who the 'Dubious Dundonian' and the 'Dictator Dick-sucker' are, if they're not the same person of course. Your discretion is safe with us.

I really don't altogether agree that "abusive, jokey, off-topic and trollish comments on blogs" should be consequence-free - if that's what you're saying. David T seems to believe that what I consider silly things said by young (and OK not so young) "Islamists" (quotes because I don't like the term, but it's useful here) should result in them being banned from public events, but anything goes in comments threads. I think hate speech should be censured. I think the Mail should have apologised for *that* Jan Moir column, and I don't distinguish between online newspaper journalism (that is, anything that appears on a newspaper website) and blogging. David T is probably better qualified and, for that matter, more intelligent that Jan Moir. How abusive will you tolerate? Could "nazis" post death threats on a comments thread?

More or less, and I realise that this is evasive, I think we shouldn't take many issues or people seriously at all. But we have to take some things seriously. David T took that meeting he tried to break up seriously. I wouldn't have. I don't however consider his remarks on that comment thread anywhere close to actionable. And to that extent I'm with that thing that Voltaire didn't say, but everyone thinks he did.

3/20/2010 08:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

and that video isn't?

Mu. All I'm saying is that I can understand why Andy would want to ban (say) an anonymous SWPer called "jj" whose entire contribution to Socialist Unity consists of disingenuous windups, and not to ban David T.

As for 'several thousand', the most recent figures I could find gave Socialist Unity around 7000 page views per day.

3/20/2010 08:54:00 PM  
Anonymous KB Player said...

There’s this blog world where everyone shouts “racist”, “anti-semite”, “islamophobe” etc at each other and you know what it’s worth. You learn to rate particular blogs in the blogosphere. So you know that it’s nothing to be called “Islamophobe” by Islamophobia Watch or MPACUK and it shouldn’t upset any rational being – it’s part of the game.

On the other hand, if someone wrote a blog post about you, using your real name and saying that you were nicking tenners from your employer and small children weren’t safe in your company, I think you would be entitled to sue.

So it is with commenters. There are pish-talkers who talk pish and you discount them.

No, I wouldn’t allow Nazis offering death threats to write on my blog, or others I write on – I’d delete them. So I do have limits to “abusive”. I have asked for particularly vile remarks to be deleted or for someone who was “outing” other commenters to be blocked. However, I can’t see how David T’s comment was particularly offensive by blog standards, and, as other people have said, far less defamatory of a controversial maverick politician’s reputation than others round blogworld.

3/20/2010 09:11:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

KB- boringly, we're on the same page here. No flame war for you!

3/20/2010 09:16:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Thing is, Toube thinks of himself as something more than a random blog-commentary idiot, doesn't he? Or put another way, is that going to be his defence?

3/20/2010 10:29:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Teabag said...

I can’t see how David T’s comment was particularly offensive by blog standards

I think - I guess - the point is that he wasn't just slagging off GG, he was alleging that Viva Palestine was formed to raise funds for Hamas.

(I've already said that I very much hope DT wins this by the way, a thought which is only slightly reduced by imagining what he'll be like when he does.)

3/20/2010 11:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Larry - yes, it's a three-pronged attack:

a) Hamas are genocidal anti-semitic psychos (because of their Charter)
b) Viva Palestina is indirectly funding genocidal psychos (because they're taking supplies to Hamas-controlled Gaza)
and in addition
c) Galloway is personally and directly funding genocidal psychos (because he's given money to the functioning but internationally-unrecognised Hamas-led government of Gaza)

It's not about Galloway's good name so much as it's about whether external agencies can have any dealings with a Hamas-led government. It seems to me that, if there are people living under a Hamas-led government who are in dire need through no fault of their own, delivering humanitarian aid to that government is a pretty good idea. David T.'s take on the matter is a bit different. (See also Tigray, etc.)

So I hope the claim for damages gets laughed out of court - libel writs are generally bad news, and this could have quite a wide-ranging chilling effect. But I would really like to see David T. lose the case, at least to the extent of issuing an apology. He's a wildly irresponsible flamebaiter and self-appointed witchfinder, and in this case he's fairly clearly in the wrong.

3/21/2010 12:10:00 AM  
Blogger angrysoba said...

Hey! Has anyone noticed the fact that George Galloway wasn't even mentioned in the comment that Galloway's solicitors want David T to delete (even though he can't because David T doesn't run the site)?

Apparently Galloway is mentioned in the letter because he was a trustee and he strongly associated with them. Well then, surely it goes both ways and whatever actions Galloway did end up strongly associating Viva Palestina with Hamas. Who knows what money went where but if Galloway is trying to say that Hamas were not the recipients of Viva Palestina cash then why did Galloway explicitly make it clear that Hamas were recipients of big wads of cash stuffed into coats?

And then pose for pictures like this?

L-R Galloway, Israel,Palestine, Haniyeh

My own understanding of David T's comments was that it satirically pointed to Viva Palestina's apparent support of Hamas.

And that's partly what Galloway's solicitors are saying:

Our client understands this to mean:

The charity of which was a trustee [sic], and to which he strongly associated, raises funds for Hamas.

The charity is misleading the public as to the use of the funds.

The charity is selling t-shirts carrying the inflammatory and racist slogan above.


Well, number 3 is hilarious as David T was quoting from the Hamas charter implying that Hamas have inflammatory and racist aims and David T also makes it clear that he didn't seriously believe he said that.

Number 2 is funny also given that it was Galloway himself who handed over wads of cash and joked about how people thought the VP people were fat but actually had piles of cash under their coats and that they're going to hand it over to Hamas with no apparent oversight and no apparent interest in how the money is being spent. Now, I would guess that a lot of people who did give money to a charity aiding Palestinians would be a little concerned that it was just dumped on Hamas like that but whatever...

And number one? Again, no one has done more to associate Viva Palestina with Hamas in the public's mind than George Galloway, surely.

If anything I think someone running Viva Palestina should therefore sue George Galloway for misleading the public into thinking Viva Palestina was raising money to be given to an organization which has a charter that Farooq Bajwa & Co Solicitors consider to be inflammatory and racist.

3/21/2010 06:14:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

He's a wildly irresponsible flamebaiter and self-appointed witchfinder

Self-appointed is the point, I think: the self-appointed usually consider themselves to be above the rules.

3/21/2010 07:14:00 AM  
Blogger angrysoba said...

Self-appointed is the point, I think: the self-appointed usually consider themselves to be above the rules.

No, I think it is a very good thing that people can appoint themselves critics. Heaven forbid the time we'll need an authority to bestow that honour upon us unless you can point to me what the rules actually are.

3/21/2010 08:11:00 AM  
Blogger angrysoba said...

Could "nazis" post death threats on a comments thread?


Didn't this make anyone's Decent-o-meter go "ding"?

3/21/2010 08:26:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

@angrysoba Hey! Has anyone noticed the fact that George Galloway wasn't even mentioned in the comment that Galloway's solicitors want David T to delete (even though he can't because David T doesn't run the site)?

Yes: oc in the 1st comment and me later on. I think (though IANAL and this is not legal advice) that because the suit asks for one impossible thing, it could be dismissed as frivolous. So, according to me, part of the suit should have been addressed to Socialist Unity, possibly following a polite request to take the comment down. It's still up. But yes, we have thought of it. It does help if you read the thread.

As for the "nazis" comment, it was supposed to. Many commenters seem to believe that anything goes in blog comments. I don't, and chose an extreme example to illustrate that. I was going to write 'BNP members' but all this talk of libel and lawsuits made me careful.

3/21/2010 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

No, I think it is a very good thing that people can appoint themselves critics

So it is. But that wasn't what I said, was it?

3/21/2010 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

As far as libel is concerned - I'm not really into the current anti-libel laws drive, though I'm not without strong sympathy for some of the complaints that are being made. But my views are shaped by my experiences in the Eighties when it was a daily affair to see leftists lied about, often quite outrageously, in the newspapers, and to be unable to do anything about it because in those days there was no legal aid for libel. One of the things I like about Gorgeous - there are things to like about him, just as there are a fair few things to dislike - is that he took on the papers when they lied about him, and he won. (I also enjoyed Elton John's victory over the Sun, without this making me an admirer of everything Elton does.)

To me, it's quite important that people should not be able to say whatever they like about somebody else, and that if they say something that is false, and do so carelessly of whether or not it's true, they should be liable to face consequences for doing so. So the point is not, so much, whether Toube's remarks were made in comments on a website, but whether or not they were true, and, if they were not, whether this was an honest mistake. If not, then, really, the target of the remarks, whoever they may be, must surely have some right to act.

(Note: this applies to everybody. A few threads back, I said that I was working on a quite-likely-never-to-be-published biography of a minor contemporary figure. If this even comes to pass, my co-author and I will need to be able to back up any claims and accusations we care to make. This is entirely proper, and this is so regardless of that fact that some rich men employ the libel laws in order to prevent other people speaking the truth.)

It does seem to me that Toube has a history of being careless with his accusations and that this is something that the concept of libel is designed to counter.

3/21/2010 09:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Tangentially, what a gift this story would have been for Nick, if only it had broken a few days earlier! Today we get evil Charlie Whelan, evil Brownites, incompetent trade union leaders (never heard them called that before) and good old Martin Bright.

3/21/2010 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger angrysoba said...

Yes: oc in the 1st comment and me later on. I think (though IANAL and this is not legal advice) that because the suit asks for one impossible thing, it could be dismissed as frivolous.

No, I'll remove the bit in parentheses and add some bold type for clarity, the question was this:

Has anyone noticed the fact that George Galloway wasn't even mentioned in the comment that Galloway's solicitors want David T to delete?

Well, I'm sure you probably have, but the question is: Why does George Galloway get to sue for damages? He is not named in the comment only his lawyers are making the associations - while at the same time complaining that the comment makes associations between Viva Palestina and Hamas.

Is this because an organization cannot be libelled (or sue for libel)?

So, according to me, part of the suit should have been addressed to Socialist Unity, possibly following a polite request to take the comment down. It's still up.

Yes, but that wasn't the point I was making.

But yes, we have thought of it. It does help if you read the thread.


I did actually read the thread, and I didn't find any discussion of how Galloway gets to sue. I even read the letter from the solicitors and am still none the wiser. Good thing I'm not in law, I suppose.

3/21/2010 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

OK, my problem. Yes, that's been noticed too. Again, I think that's a problem, but Phil (see above) doesn't. I don't quite understand his arguments - I still think that if the comment was in any way libellous, the onus should have been on Socialist Unity to remove it. Hence my original comment about GG being 50k to the good. I can't understand why the offending comment is still up.

3/21/2010 10:16:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

they probably wouldn't let nick run with this, he's too partisan i'd have thought and it'd involve too much copy and pasting from hp sauce. he'll do a lot on it in private eye instead.

the column today is woeful - everyone should like unions but they don't because... er... charlie whelan was mean to my friend.

particularly odd is nick's claim that people should be aware of the BA cabin crew's complaints - I'd have thought that if anyone was interested, the info isn't exactly hard to come by. But then nick doesn't even bother outlining these. as a commenter on there says, it reads like a GCSE essay.

3/21/2010 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Teabag said...

Why does George Galloway get to sue for damages? He is not named in the comment...

That defence might have had some merit until DT reposted the whole thing on the front page of HP, repeatedly naming GG.

3/21/2010 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger angrysoba said...

That defence might have had some merit until DT reposted the whole thing on the front page of HP, repeatedly naming GG.

It's not a defence. I'm just curious how this is supposed to work.

Besides, surely the reason why it was posted on HP with GG's name all over it is because it was from Galloway's lawyers titled: George Galloway v Mr David Toube with references to their client as an MP and a published Writer [sic].

3/21/2010 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger angrysoba said...

As for the "nazis" comment, it was supposed to. Many commenters seem to believe that anything goes in blog comments. I don't, and chose an extreme example to illustrate that. I was going to write 'BNP members' but all this talk of libel and lawsuits made me careful.

Fine, and I often trot out the "If the BNP/Nazis did X" would you find it acceptable too. But the important thing about this is that X has to stand for the same thing in both cases otherwise it isn't a fair analogy.

If the Nazis/the BNP or David Toube posted death threats to George Galloway saying they were going to kill him, then it should be a matter for the police rather than the libel lawyers.

3/21/2010 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I am pretty sure that you don't have to be mentioned by name in order to be libelled - my rapidly aging memory recalls that most of the running on this was made by the Police Federation, which regularly used to turn over newspapers in the name of officers who had stories written about them of the form "the officers who arrested the subject duffed him up", identifying them by description but not by name.

3/21/2010 12:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed. As the Liberty website tells us "a claimant who has not been referred to by name must prove that the words complained of were understood by some readers as referring to him or her.

The claimant can rely on the fact that he or she was referred to by a nickname or initials or that he or she was a member of a class or group of people included in the defamatory statement."

3/21/2010 01:11:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

1. One impossible request wouldn't spoil the whole claim. It is in any case not impossible for Toube to arrange for the comment to be removed, e.g. by request to the SU website, explaining that it is defamatory. I don't know about Galloway's connection to that site, which is perhaps an issue if he hasn't independently contacted them asking them to remove the post.

1b. Even if the post (or even all the posts) were now removed, that wouldn't end the matter as the stuff has already been published.

2. Claims can be amended and I'm sure this one would be - to include the further comments - if Toube was moronic enough to stand his ground. (Actually just realised there hasn't been a claim yet, has there - just a letter. So ditto a fortiori: I doubt the CPRs would require a second letter before action before all of Toube's further remarks could be added to the cause of action.)

3. Galloway 'gets to sue' because he can fill in a statement of claim. Toube gets to have the suit summarily dismissed if he can show it's without merit.

4. What is so wrong about Galloway that everyone has to agree that he is a terrible cad etc? Surely his faults are basically those of any politician, but with quite a lot of positives to counterbalance them. What, exactly? Or is this just one of those things I don't get that everyone has to agree with in some vague way, for fear of not being seen as 'serious'?

5. I doubt Galloway is after money. An apology and retraction would end the matter, no doubt. And it wouldn't require a defence fund for poor little Toube. As others have pointed out, GG is not an idiot nor given to being beaten in court.

6. Fuck Toube and all his nasty little weirdo friends. Fuck them.

3/21/2010 04:58:00 PM  
Anonymous sHx said...

It would be stupid if they did but I wouldn't be astonished.

Good thing we are not alike. How's the Hitchhunt going? Caught any lawsuit yet?

3/21/2010 07:31:00 PM  
Anonymous magistra said...

According to this factsheet charities can sue for libel as well as individuals. Possibly the reason that Galloway is sueing rather than Viva Palestina is that if the charity did sue, that could easily be seen as a waste of their funds.

I find it very hard generally to get enthusiastic about reforming libel laws when a substantial proportion of those hit with libel accusations seem to be either woefully careless (like Simon Singh, who didn't seem to know what 'bogus' meant) or just routinely dedicated to lying (like many newspapers).

3/21/2010 08:41:00 PM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

Well, yes, and I very much agree with what Justin said above. A campaign to loosen up the libel laws isn't helped when it's championed by HP Sauce, whose whole raison d'etre is to defame those they don't agree with. Or indeed Nick, whose increasing disdain for factuality makes him a substantial libel award waiting to happen.

Speaking of which, I see "Ratbiter" is droning on about this again in the current Private Eye. What caught my eye was the description of Sense About Science (the group currently holding Simon Singh's coat) as a free speech organisation. Well, I suppose so, in the sense that it's full of RCPers.

I've said this before, but I increasingly believe Nick's real spiritual home is Spiked. These days, the main difference between him and Brendan O'Neill is that Brendan's writing more closely resembles journalism.

3/21/2010 09:37:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

particularly odd is nick's claim that people should be aware of the BA cabin crew's complaints - I'd have thought that if anyone was interested, the info isn't exactly hard to come by.

Well, I was in the UK for three days last week, saw several news broadcasts and didn't hear the detail or the nature of their complaints mentioned once, so maybe, maybe not.

What's wrong with Gorgeous? Well, the best way too find out is to bypass the pro-war mob and ask people who remember him from the old WoW days, but charges would include:

(a) a certain tendency to, shall we say, overbearing behaviour

(b) a certain tendency to, shall we say, making financial arangements that not everybody else would consider correct

(c) a certain tendency to, shall we say, say more things in praise of undemocratic regimes than is strictly speaking necessary

(d) a certain tendency to, shall we say, what some people might consider demagoguery.

But I'm not joking above when I say that there's things to be said for him, too, and of course much that is and has been written about him is false and knowingly so. And he may be the only MP I've ever sent an email of encouragement.

(Also see)

3/22/2010 09:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

EJH's list of George Galloway's weaknesses is correct, and he is also correct to say that there are things to be said for him and that many things said about him are false. As I pointed out in a previous comment, a lot of people repeat unquestioningly things that they've heard about George and have in fact got it wrong. It should also be noted that character traits (a) and (d) are common among politicians.

Guano

3/22/2010 10:20:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Phil, you said All I'm saying is that I can understand why Andy would want to ban (say) an anonymous SWPer called "jj" whose entire contribution to Socialist Unity consists of disingenuous windups
Actually as I recall it, jj may have been repetitive and perhaps unimaginative, but at least he made points based on the facts, while the house trolls, like "external bulletin" often engaged in abuse entirely unconnected with reality. It is maybe a little disingenuous of you to present possible justifications for Newman's moderating style when the most corsory examination would show it's based on what he thinks will benfit him, not any sort of fair rule.

You also say:
So I hope the claim for damages gets laughed out of court - libel writs are generally bad news, and this could have quite a wide-ranging chilling effect. But I would really like to see David T. lose the case, at least to the extent of issuing an apology. He's a wildly irresponsible flamebaiter and self-appointed witchfinder, and in this case he's fairly clearly in the wrong.
If libel suits like this have a chilling effect, then getting an apology out of David T as a result of one wouldn't appear to be a success.Except for those who like chilling (and not in a good way).

3/22/2010 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I have to say that the idea that there might be a "chilling effect" on the ability of people like David T to make evidence-free accusations of anti-Semitism and/or criminality does not leave me entirely horrified. I can't think of many ways in which an apology from David might deter people from making legitimate criticisms of Galloway - Justin just did, for example.

3/22/2010 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

ejh: Well, I was in the UK for three days last week, saw several news broadcasts and didn't hear the detail or the nature of [BA cabin crews'] complaints mentioned once, so maybe, maybe not.

Quite. Going mainly on what I'v eheard from R4 and probably the odd edition of C4 news, Newsnight:

As with the rail and postal workers, the main focus is the terrible effects of the strike, with the strikers (at least tacitly) cast as solely responsible, and the 'management' generally getting the last word, consisting of vague allusions to militancy and modernisation in those familiar (and infuriating) measured tones of establishment spokespersons.

The union S.P.s do appear to bear some responsibility, for being a bit inarticulate, and possibly too close to the action to realise the need for some pretty basic explanations - but that appearance may very well be more to do with the interviewers and editors than the unions' ability to put their case.

Re: GG. Yes, all that - and I occasionally don't like the way he deals with some callers on his Talk Radio show for example - but you don't get to swim quite so successfully against the tide without being pretty 'shall we say' robust.

The report-burning link isn't great either, but 1. it was a silly idea rather than genuionely sinister, 2. Galloway's 'accusation' sounds pretty muted and subtle - the kind of thing you might come out with in the hope of getting an incriminating response, or if you're hoping to warn off (if necessary) someone whom you don't really know is an infiltrator/impostor. Or he could have meant something else.

But he could have been right, couldn't he - I mean from his epistemic situation. And again, robustness in action - given what he's up against, not exactly Stalin is it.

Also given what he's up against, if there were really anything actually serious to be said against him, I'm pretty sure it would have been discovered, hyped to buggery and plastered over all the front pages by now.

Re: letters of encouragement - with some misgivings, I sent one to David Davis + donated a tenner for his campaign!

3/22/2010 03:59:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

I can't think of many ways in which an apology from David might deter people from making legitimate criticisms of Galloway
I don't think an apology would, but I would have thought that the threat of libel action, when success in the courts is never guaranteed for the righteous party, may well have exactly that effect.

3/22/2010 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Well, we don't need to speculate - we can ask Justin. Justin, were you chilled or deterred from criticising George Galloway then, by the fact that David Toube was threatened with a libel suit?

3/22/2010 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

He seems pretty chilled to me, if that helps.

3/22/2010 05:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

I think if David Toube got landed with a bill for 50K for being an arse in somebody else's comments section, that would definitely have a chilling effect on other bloggers. David Toube agreeing to apologise to make it all go away, not so much. (What makes this case particularly interesting is that I get the feeling David T. would actually prefer outcome 1 - martyrdom before capitulation.)

It is maybe a little disingenuous of you to present possible justifications for Newman's moderating style

You say 'disingenuous', I say 'sympathetic'. And my perception was that, purely in terms of how he/she wrote, 'jj'/'ll' was a troller of the highest order. But I was coming at it with little or no sympathy for what 'jj' wrote, which I agree may have affected my judgment.

3/22/2010 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Ah - well, you'll have noticed that my criticisms were put in a somewhat opaque manner, though partly this is because if the subject matter of the day is "somebody threatening libel actions" then it would seem to me to be at very least bad manners to be too forthright in retailing stories about that same individual on somebody else's website.

But you also need a degree of detail, if you're going to tell these stories anyway, that, as it happens, I don't possess. This doesn't have much to do with the Toube business, though obviously if somebody's got a reputation for being litigious then a certain amount of caution is simple common sense. Even if they haven't, though, you don't just come out with stuff you can't back up.

For what it's worth, I think that this

if there were really anything actually serious to be said against him, I'm pretty sure it would have been discovered, hyped to buggery and plastered over all the front pages by now

is probably true - really, from the way some people in some quarters were talking about him not too long ago, you'd have thought he were some kind of protected individual.

But chilled? I'm never chilled. I've never been chilled in my life.

3/22/2010 05:34:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Re: Newman, as far as I'm concerned he can run his website pretty much as he chooses and ban who he likes for whatever reason he likes.

What I don't like is his habit of going through other people's private documents and correspondence, his prying interest in other people's past and private lives, his use of these in order to pursue personal grudges - and the fact that he's lied to me. Which is something I can back up. As far as I'm concerned he's Benjy the Binman to the idiot left.

3/22/2010 05:38:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Following Malky Muscular's lead on Twitter, here are Google searches: galloway david t [web]; galloway david t [news]. (MM used 'Galloway Toube' which got 0 news results.) That does throw up 'satire' site Anorak, which seem fair enough to me (except 50 is ONE third of 150, not two thirds).

3/22/2010 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Sorry, lame pun, 'chilled' being ambiguous. Is there a term for a word which is not only ambiguous, but whose two possible meanings are more or less diametrically opposed? Antivocal or something?

3/22/2010 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Not 'antivocal', since that would be a hybrid like 'television', which of course will never do.

On GG's faults, Guano points out that (a) overbearingness and (d) demagoguery (insofar as that signifies something that is a fault) are indeed common amongst politicians.

The other two were:

(b) a certain tendency to, shall we say, making financial arangements that not everybody else would consider correct

(c) a certain tendency to, shall we say, say more things in praise of undemocratic regimes than is strictly speaking necessary


(b): I don't have any knowledge of such a thing in Galloway's case (and the 'would have been hyped to buggery' point applies ehere I think), but I certainly do when it comes to quite a lot of mainstream politicians

(c): Yes, mainstream politicians tend to focus more on actual support than on public praise. Now if there were a problem with Galloway meeting Saddam, that I could understand. But given he's going to meet him, I find it incomprehensible that his offering flowery tributes should be the basis of a separate charge. What is he supposed to do? Arrange a meeting then turn up and tell S he's massive wanker?

I've always thought this was pretty silly stuff, just like the crap about the guy who 'only' wanted a moratorium on stoning. Anyone would think these people don't actually want any rapprochement or improvement, as if they were doing quite nicely out of the current climate.

3/23/2010 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Probably a bit late for more legal speculation, but on the question of SU's responsibility, I glossed over the main point - that you can pick your defendant. You don't have to sue anyone, and you don't have to be even-handed in choosing who you sue (though being very selective might in some circs be used as part of a case for dismissal as abuse of process).

So much for positive law - normatively speaking, the business of selecting a libel defendant can be done in ways that are highly dodgy e.g.

1. Aiming too low: ISTR that in one of the recent causes celebres someone sued (or threatened to sue) an individual reporter rather than his employer (the Graun) - presumably because the individual is less likely to defend, or to defend well. You might think a paper would back its employee, by trying to join in the suit or at least paying for representation, but you might not. I didn't follow the story up so I don't know what if anything has happened since.

2. Aiming too high: this includes the practice of getting websites shut down by threatening ISPs. ISPs have no stake in the content's being available, and shutting down a site only costs a refund to one customer (+ foregone future profit from same), which is probably cheaper than an initial consultation with a solicitor to discuss the merits, let alone getting one to do factual and legal research, write letters etc. I think the same issue affects paper media, too: printers with no editorial control (beyond print/don't print) can also be sued as 'publishers', IIRC.

FWIW I'd say that leaving a comment undeleted on your site is more like the printer or ISP case than the employee/Graun case. SU - one might argue - has no editorial control (beyond delete/don't) and doesn't endorse comments in the way a newspaper endorses what its reporters write. But it's not very clear cut, nor is this a terribly sophisticated analysis. It's even less clear cut if Galloway is mates/in cahoots with the SU lot - I don't know if failing to exert influence and get the comment deleted might count as failing to mitigate damage, meaning the potentially-mitigated part would be unrecoverable, but I doubt it, and its moot anyway given subsequent comments.

3/23/2010 03:21:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I don't have any knowledge of such a thing in Galloway's case (and the 'would have been hyped to buggery' point applies ehere I think),

I am not familiar with the War on Want case, but the Mariam Appeal was a case study in how not to manage something of the sort - it wasn't registered as a charity, the financial records disappeared into Jordan, it made unauthorised payments to its trustees (which were found to be payments for work that was done, but really you have to do the paperwork on these things), plus GG really didn't ask anything like enough questions about the source of Fawaz Zureikat's money. He was not found to have a criminal case to answer, but that doesn't mean that either of the investigations totally vindicated him and I wish he'd stop claiming they did.

3/23/2010 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

The 'source of funding' stuff has always sounded a bit strained to me - is this the donor who was thought (by someone or other) to have been making dodgy oil deals?

I'm not sure myself to what extent people should have to check out the source of the fortunes of those who fund them really. And that is what we're talking about, isn't it? I mean, the money did not go directly from some dodgy source into a Mariam account, but was from the guy's own funds wasn't it.

So is the issue just that the donor was too dodgy to associate with/his fortune too tainted to accept any of, or something akin to a conflict of interest (i.e. GG is held to be tainted by dependency on a donor who is dodgy in a specific way), or was the funder thought to be more like an intermediary/GG to be complicit in the alleged dodgy activities in some direct way?

3/25/2010 03:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it okay if I don't care who's in the right or the wrong and I don't care what the chilling effect of any ruling will be? Is it okay if I don't care about how tanned or "gorgeous" Galloway is, or whether or not he's personal friends with any members of the democratically elected government of Palestine? Is it okay if I just want that David T douchebag to suffer? Since my hand can't reach all the way across the pond to smack him in the face, I hope that Socialist Unity can smack him in the wallet with this suit.

3/27/2010 12:25:00 AM  

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