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Sunday, 31 July 2011

The Five Principles of Legal Blogging

There is a debate taking place amongst some legal bloggers as to the nature of legal blogging. The issue is becoming complicated, with multiplying categories and sub-categories; and it also becoming perhaps fraught, with accusations and denials.

So it seems a good moment to put forward some rather simple propositions, almost statements of common sense, on which all of those engaged in blogging about legal matters can perhaps agree.

These are not prescribed rules; but they are broad articulations, based on experience and reason, as to what legal blogging should be about.


One: Get the law right

In a way, this may be the only principle.

It means that one should not purport to state the law - either in terms of substantive law or procedure - unless one is confident that it is being stated correctly and as fully as necessary.

If one gets the law wrong, then it should be corrected as soon as possible. If the law is significantly changed or developed, and your blogpost still has traffic, then an addendum may be required.


Two: Use links and sources wherever possible

A good thing about blogging - and internet writing generally - is that one can link to sources. It is like pampheteering, but with electronic footnotes.

Law blogging in particular lends itself to linking to sources (as does science blogging), whether it be to statutes, case law, official guidance, procedural rules, or news stories.

Linking is good in itself, but it also provides the wider benefit of de-mystifying the law. There will always be a need for lawyers, one supposes, but it would be a good thing if citizens felt ever more comfortable looking up the law for themselves.


Three: Do not argue from authority

One does not provide legal advice by general internet writing. Although one may well have formal qualifications and be in practice, this does not matter for law blogging. Indeed, some of the best law bloggers have never practiced.

The purpose of law blogging is to explain, not to advise or prescribe. Accordingly, anyone can be attempt to be a law blogger. If the relevant law is set out correctly, and is properly sourced, then it matters not if the author is a QC or a lay enthusiast. Your explanation of the law should just stand for itself.


Four: Blog responsibly about live cases

Some law blogging involves writing about cases which are current. In criminal cases, this may mean pre-arrest or before any charge; in civil cases, it may be before a letter of action; and in both criminal and civil cases, it may be during a trial or appeal. Whilst no-one expects a lay blogger to know the detail of the laws of contempt of court or perversion of the course of justice, common sense will often guide what you should or should not be writing. The same goes for writing about injunctions (and supposed superinjunctions).

There are plenty of people who will happily disregard any constraints on what they can write on the internet. However, in this one regard - if no other - law bloggers should provide an example to follow.


Five: Be transparent

Conflicts of interest can affect anyone in legal blogging, not just practitioners promoting their practices. If on has a direct interest in the outcome of a case - or anything else - then either do not write about it or declare what your interest is.


So there you are, five principles, and nothing too controversial...

...thoughts welcome.


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Saturday, 30 July 2011

On capital punishment

A prominent political blogger has launched a campaign for restoration of capital punishment.

Some doubt that blogger's sincerity in doing so. If he is insincere, then it would be a rather crass form of opportunism for a blogger to promote his site by urging more people to be killed than otherwise would be.

But his sincerity ultimately does not matter.

This is a debate which needs to be aired every so often, and the argument against capital punishment is one which needs to prevail - and be seen to prevail - each time the debate takes place. People's minds can be changed.


First of all, there are some easy practical points to make against capital punishment. For example, capital punishment is not actually cheaper, as the costs of the inevitable appeals and re-appeals mean that it is rather an expensive process. It also places witnesses further at risk, as the murderer now has every interest in avoiding detection and capture.

Of course, the most significant practical argument against capital punishment is that it is irreversible.

Any mistake cannot be rectified. It relies entirely on the efficacy of a criminal justice system which, at best, can lead to determinations of guilt "beyond reasonable doubt" (and that is often got wrong). The criminal justice system does not provide the means of making decisions based on absolute certainty. Indeed, each component part of the criminal justice system - police investigations, media clamour, prosecution decisions, conduct of trials, soundness of appeals - can go wrong. There is nothing to suggest that the judicial taking of human life would be based on any infallible process.


Then there are the points to be made about the intellectual confusion of many who support capital punishment. There are the "libertarians" who do not accept that the State has the legitimacy or competence to administer taxes or provide the police with powers but then contend that the State can rightly and safely take lives. There are those religious fundamentalists who blithely disregard the imperatives of their own holy texts.

And then there are those who favour the deterrence argument, who contend that the deliberate taking of life by the State somehow sends a signal that the deliberate taking of life is wrong. Even on its own terms, taking a life as a "deterrent" is manifestly unjust: it means that the punishment is not on the basis of the facts of its own case, but on the basis of speculation about incidents which may never exist.


However, none of the above points are conclusive, even if they are compelling to any sensible person. One could accept all the points so far made and still, in one's gut, believe that capital punishment is not wrong and so should be made available to the courts, perhaps only in exceptional circumstances.

This is the view which I am seeking to challenge.


Such a sentiment is often premised on murder being a uniquely bad crime and that it is not capable of being punished by mere imprisonment.

That murder is a uniquely bad crime is generally correct (though there are other serious offences against the person which also render the victim with a life which is effectively over).

The deliberate taking of life is a revolting act which requires severe punishment.

However, it does not follow that for the State to then deliberately take the murderer's life that there has been some morally right outcome.

The deliberate taking of life is still absolutely wrong, even when it is orchestrated by police, lawyers, and executioners. All one has achieved is another moral wrong.

Capital punishment is wrong because it formally requires other people to be complicit in the deliberate taking of human life.

One may have the enthusiast who would "pull the lever themselves" but one often gets people who want to kill others for the "right reason".

But capital punishment demands more than a willing executioner and cheering spectators; it needs for the whole of the State apparatus to be augmented so that the end of a given formal process is the deliberate killing of a human being. The absolute wrongness of the original act is then repeated by the State on our behalf.

This is why capital punishment can be fairly said to be barbaric. It takes something which is wrong, and then projects it on the political and legal institutions of the State: it makes repeating that wrong a purpose of public policy.

And this is not to be a "bleeding heart liberal" about murderers. One can readily support "life meaning life" with no possibility of parole.

But killing people, like torturing people, is wrong; and is still wrong when it is arranged and done by officials on our behalf.

Two wrongs make two wrongs.


(As a footnote, I supported capital punishment as a teenager. I was brought up in a Tory environment, and I held many illiberal views about "law-and-order". But with the patience and kindness of decent sensible people my opinions were challenged and exposed as incorrect and inhumane; because of this I arrived at all the positions I set out above. That is why I regard engaging in debates as important. The devil may well have the best tunes; but the liberals will usually turn out to have the better arguments.)

Addendum

Also see this excellent post by Charon QC, doyen of legal bloggers, setting the background to the current debate.


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Friday, 29 July 2011

Who sent that email to Louise Mensch MP?

The brilliant response by Louise Mensch MP to an "investigative journalist" has rightly gone viral.

I wrote last week at the New Statesman about the concerns that she was facing an intimidation campaign.


In view of this, it is perhaps interesting that the email which was sent to Louise was not from a formal newspaper email address but from "davidjones1232@gmail.com".

It is also interesting (and I have seen the original email) that it was copied to both Patrick McLoughlin MP (the Tory Chief Whip) and the chair of the Conservative Party.

How very bizarre.


Was it really an investigatory journalist? (There is no doubt that Louise thought it was and that is why she responded the way she did, and waited until Friday afternoon to do so as this can "spoil" a weekend exclusive.)

If so, which title was he working for?


Was it instead a "friend" or former colleague?

If so, why would they want to damage her by copying in senior Tories?


Who could it be? Who exactly is this "David Jones"?

And what did they want to achieve by sending the email?


ADDENDUM (30/7/11 at 17.30)

Helen Lewis-Hasteley, assistant editor at New Statesman emailed "David Jones" about the email:

Dear David,

My name's Helen and I work for the New Statesman. I read Louise Mensch's post about your email to her asking for her reply to allegations of drug-taking and other misdemeanours. I was hoping to write a blog post on her unorthodox - but widely praised - response. I wondered if I could ask you a couple of questions, for publication:

- Are you a freelancer or attached to a particular publication?
- Were you writing the story for a particular publication?
- In light of Louise Mensch's response, do you still intend to publish the original story you asked for a comment on?



This is his reply:

Dear Helen

Thank-you for your message.

The people who passed me this information about Mrs Louise Mensch were concerned that:

1. Louise Mensch supports the criminalisation of the drugs trade. They feel that Mrs Mensch may have further questions to answer with regard to the type of drugs she took. Their feeling is that the blogger jd-baker (http://jd
-baker.com/2011/07/louise-mensch-on-parliamentary-drug-use/), summed up the situation better than any other report from yesterday or today. *"**The only
gripe I have with Louise Mensch is that she still supports criminalisation of the drugs trade. As such she is saying that young people such as her former self should have their lives ruined by a criminal conviction, and possible custodial sentence. Would her life have panned out in the same way with such a tarnish on her record? If not then how can she condone this happening to other people? In supporting criminalisation she sadly defends a policy that has failed to effectively tackle addiction rates, or associated criminal behaviour."*

2. Louise Mensch is part of a committee looking into law-breaking. The taking of drugs is also serious illegal activity, one that kills and destroys millions of lives each year.

It is encouraging we live in a country with a free press, where illegal activity can be published.

With thanks



Louise Mensch MP has sent me this comment on the "David Jones" reply.

This is wholly disingenuous. My comments on drug use were posted yesterday, after this expose; as a search of Hansard will confirm, I have never spoken about drugs prior to this story.

Secondly, what possible relevance does "Mr. Jones" points 2 or 3 in his email to me have to this excuse?

Thirdly, in using the name "David Jones" he is using the name of a well-known investigative journalist at the Daily Mail. He additionally copied my Chief Whip, knowing who that person was and his email address, and the Chairman of my party. Those are actions of a journalist, who would understand such things.

His defence of a "free press" is nonsense. Let him state which paper or magazine was proposing to publish this story and let him give his real name and a phone number to the rest of the press.




COMMENTS MODERATION

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Without Prejudice with Joshua Rozenberg

The latest "Without Prejudice" podcast has me and "Charon QC" discussing the Leveson inquiry, the Star Wars copyright dispute, and the relationship between legal blogging and legal journalism.

And we get to discuss these issues with...Joshua Rozenberg!


Have a listen here. I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

An open letter to Chris Blackhurst

Dear Chris Blackhurst,

You will have seen the Open Letter to Andreas Whittam Smith published today by my fellow New Statesman blogger Guy Walters.

This is just a follow-on from that, written from a slightly different perspective, by someone who shares the concerns about your employee's journalism but does not want to see your employee either humiliated or unfairly treated by the present (and past) management of the Independent. It is in the nature of managers - and those with power generally - to protect their own positions; and so my worry is that there is face-saving operation being conducted under the cloak of an "investigation".

Whoever is "David Rose" (and there is conclusive evidence as to who it was on at least one occassion, should your investigation really care to find it) there is no doubt that an Independent IP address was used to amend Wikipedia entries of those opposed to your employee in various public debates. The Wikipedia user has now been barred for violation of Wikipedia policies. As (at least some of) the editing was from an Independent IP address, there perhaps should be an apology by the Independent to those who were smeared and defamed by this "David Rose". The use of the IP address is surely enough to trigger this apology; there is no need to also unmask the person in question before that apology is given.

In respect of your employee's previous journalism, the issue is not that he be "punished". Unlike other journalists and reporters, there is no suggestion of any crime.

Instead, your readers need to be alerted to the possibility of information not being soundly based in his previous articles. The standard of your employee's writing is very high, and his pieces are informative and often moving; there is no need for them to be taken down from your website or deleted, as it were, from your back catalogue. All that is required is a simple "health warning" to be posted on each article, saying - as neutrally as possible - that there may be quotes and and factual assertions which have not been properly sourced and that the reader should take that into account.

And as for your employee, who must be under considerable stress and worry, please consider sensible options such as sending him on a journalism course and assigning him to an experienced sub-editor. There is no need for him to carry all the burden of what, as is implied by Guy Walters, seem like far wider managerial and editorial failures. You have a moral, as well as legalistic, duty of care to him. All that his fans of his polemical writing (of which, in general, I am one) want is the confidence that they can rely on any factual assertions in his future writing. That will not be difficult to put right.

Best wishes

David


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Sunday, 24 July 2011

Hari and the Independent

As one of the bloggers and journalists who recently posed questions for Johann Hari to answer about his writing, it may seem either very appropriate - or not appropriate at all - that I am rather concerned about how all this must be affecting him. In particular, I do hope his employers are properly looking after their employee.

If it turns out that there were faults, then - as he was (and is) a young journalist - it is clear that those responsible for editing his work also have difficult questions to answer.

Whatever happens, I do trust that those at the Independent who allowed such allegedly bad journalistic practices to continue do not try to blame it all on Hari.

I actually admire Hari's polemical works, and so I want him to come out of this affair a better and more rounded journalist.

I am certainly not taking any pleasure in any of this (unlike, it must be said, some others).



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How did Piers Morgan react?

Piers Morgan was editor of the Mirror in 2002 when Dominic Mohan made a comment thanking "Vodafone's lack of security" for the Mirror's showbusiness exclusives.

Given the robust reaction of Piers Morgan to Louise Mensch MP's recent mistake at the select committee hearing, I wonder what response he had then to Mohan's comment?



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Tuesday, 19 July 2011

When Privileges Collide

The British Constitution is a polite conversation.

There are tensions, but they are rarely articulated.

The parties know full well that confrontations are possible, but good sense and good manners will usually ensure that nothing becomes too embarrassing for anyone involved.

And so it is with the various "privileges" and analogous rights known to English law.

A privilege confers a right - often an absolute right or discretion - on those who wish to invoke its protection.

There are a number of such privileges in English law.

For example, there is "parliamentary privilege" which ensures that anything said in respect of parliamentary proceedings is free from any civil action or criminal law sanction.

There is also the universal jurisdiction of the High Court. There is no "order" which the High Court cannot make, even if it is futile and not capable of practical execution.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Trafigura litigation was the possibility that a High Court injunction could be held to restrain parliamentary privilege: an unmoveable object and an irresistible force.

In the end, the apparent conflict was resolved, as it often is in domestic matters before the crisis comes to a head.


Today's evidence by James Murdoch at the select committee is suggestive of another such conflict.

He was relentless in blaming the external lawyers: the more he called them "distinguished external counsel" the more he dumped on them.

His lawyers cannot say anything back: News International have "legal professional privilege" which prevents disclosure of their legal advice. There will be confidentiality obligations too.


But.

But what if the House of Commons were to summon the external lawyers and ask them to give evidence?

It may be that the lawyers could not be compelled to provide evidence on pain of "contempt of Parliament".

However, if they chose to give evidence that would surely be free of any threat of civil suit.

Parliamentary privilege would trump legal professional privilege and confidentiality. (Though there may be professional code aspects not rebutted by Parliamentary privilege.)

It would be a fascinating prospect, not least for constitutional law geeks.


A staple of story telling since early human history is to pit two absolute powers against each other. The tradition continues in superhero comics and fantasy films.

There is always drama in the clashes of titans.

The skill of the storyteller is not just to posit such a match, but to engross the listener or reader in how the contradiction is resolved.

Could "parliamentary privilege" be used to defeat "legal professional privilege"?

Or would the latter prevail?


One does not know what would happen when such privileges collide.

Friday, 15 July 2011

The Murdoch Crisis as Pulp Fiction

Les Hinton, the fixer and seeming architect of the "one rogue reporter" narrative is reported to have resigned from the Murdoch empire.

Hinton was very much the "Mr Wolf" to Rupert Murdoch's "Marcellus Wallace".

He solved problems.


So he helped when the hapless duo Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks - "Vincent Vega" and "Jules Wingfield" - messed up.

To protect Wallace, Vega and Winfield, a dead body called "phone hacking" was dealt with by Mr Wolf.

The problem was 'closed down'.


Unfortunately, this Mr Wolf was not very good at burying this story.

It was not closed down.


And, perhaps unfortunately, it would now also seem that this time round that the police-uniformed Zed may actually get his way with Marcellus Wallace...

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Porn Thing

When I first posted my last blogpost on Jack of Kent, it included a link to and some text about pornography.

The pornography happened to be fictional written gay incest pornography involving a minor.

My inclusion of the link and the text prompted little initial controversy (you can see by the many comments on that blogpost, where hardly anyone mentions it).


However, it was picked up and emphasised by some right-wing bloggers.

Their use in turn prompted some people with decent and sensible views to say I was "disgusting" and a "homophobe".

It was also, rightly, pointed out that my description of the content on the site I linked to was irrelevant to the substantive point I wanted to make: the point being that it could be shown that the email address central to my story was in use. In response to this observation about relevance, I decided to edit my post so as to remove the link and accompanying text.


However, I would like to now provide my account as to why it was in the initial post to begin with.

First, there was the point about it showing use of the email address. And as the "David Rose" openly admits to the email address being associated with porn in another passage I was to quote in my post, I did not think of it being controversial and so I included it so as to show the completeness of the research exercise. I was just showing where the evidence took me on an evidence-based approach.

Second, as I was going to have to set out the relevant email address in full, it was perfectly likely it was going to be found by those who were going to research into the use of that email address. On reflection, perhaps I should have not published the email address, knowing that would lead to people discovering the pornography in question.


But the the third reason is the most telling of all.

There is a distinction between criminal acts and their fictional representation. A murder novel is not an endorsement of murder in real life. It is entirely right that sexual acts with minors are criminalized and harshly punished. But that does not mean, say, the novel Lolita should also be criminalized.

So my response to the content was to simply note that it was an extraordinary and unexpected stage in the story I was telling, and move on.

I do not have a worldview which condemns fictional representations of criminal or otherwise unlawful behaviour. I instead believe that the behaviour itself should be criminalized. I am happy to have this worldview, but it did lead me to use the link (and the content at the link) in the way I did.


But.

It was a mistake. I did not foresee how right-wing bloggers were going to use it.

For what it is worth, I particularly condemn the use to which it was put by Damian Thompson and Cristina Odone, and I would ask them that if they value the work of this blog and its commenters, to please stop using it in the nasty way they have done.


I was wrongly expecting people to treat in the civilized and liberal way I and the commenters on my blog treated it: as a bizarre piece of information which was part of an interesting story; but certainly nothing to moralise or really think-twice about.

If I was writing my post again, I would treat it differently. I certainly would not make it so easy for right-wing bloggers to piggy-back off the my post to launch misconceived and illiberal attacks.


That said, given that the moment one started pulling together information on "David Rose" that email address and the references to porn by him elsewhere would have easily led others to find that site, I now think it may even have been a mistake to write my last blogpost in the first place.


I have not enjoyed what that link has since been used for, and I apologise to anyone hurt or offended by my inclusion of it. I apologise to one person in particular. The battle against bigotry and homophobia is hard enough without careless slips like that.

One day it would be good to have a society where fiction is not used as if it was fact in moral and political debates.

But I made a mistake, and I am sorry.



COMMENTS MODERATION

ANY COMMENTS ON THIS POST AS TO THE IDENTITY OF "DAVID ROSE" WILL NOT BE PUBLISHED.

No purely anonymous comments will be published; always use a name for ease of reference by other commenters.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Who is David Rose?


Addendum:

In September 2011, the columnist Johann Hari admitted to being "David Rose", an internet alias he had used in an systemic exercise over many years to dishonestly promote his own reputation and to maliciously smear those with whom he disagreed. I write about this admission, and the role of the post below, here and here.

I have now been asked by some people with the name "David Rose" to make it clear to anyone coming across this blogpost (by Google or otherwise) that the post below does not relate to anyone actually named David Rose. In particular, I am happy to point out that "David Rose" is not the David Rose who is Assistant News Editor of The Times, or the David Rose, formerly of the Guardian, Observer and BBC, and who currently writes for the Mail on Sunday and Vanity Fair, or the David Rose currently studying at Cambridge University. Nor is it any of the many other David Roses identified below.

However, I have kept the references to these David Roses below, as they are part of the fascinating story which unfolds in the post and then in the comments; for this post and the comments comprise the extraordinary story of the unmasking of "David Rose".




My friend Nick Cohen wrote an intriguing diary at this week's Spectator. It is now online and worth reading in full.

It features a curious figure called 'David r from Meth Productions’ - who is introduced as follows:

I learned that Johann Hari was a journalist who was better at attention-seeking than truth-telling when a small American journal asked me to reply to his review of What’s Left, a book of mine on the dark forces in liberal-left politics. I looked at it and was astonished. It was not that he disliked my ideas — he was entitled to disagree — but that he had attacked a book I had not written. He pretended that I believed the West had been right to support Saddam Hussein while he was gassing the Kurds when I had said the opposite. He made up stories about my parents, good people he had never met, to show me in a bad light. Every second paragraph contained a howler. Well, I thought, get a book wrong and the text will confound you. I typed out the passages that proved that he was at best an incompetent reviewer and filed my reply. ‘Get out of that,’ I muttered as I hit the send button.

I thought no more about it until I looked at my entry on Wikipedia. As well as learning that I was a probable alcoholic, a hypocrite and a supporter of Sarah Palin, I noticed that all reviews of my work were missing except Hari’s effort. Far from saying that he had made wild allegations and I had responded by quoting from the book, a writer working under the pseudonym ‘David r from Meth Productions’ suggested that I had made wild allegations while Hari ‘had offered quotes from Cohen which he argued backed up his claims’.



Cohen adds that Cristina Odone was also subjected to this "David r":

She was a ‘homophobe’ and an ‘anti-Semite’, the site alleged, and such a disastrous journalist that the Catholic Herald had fired her. Her husband, Edward Lucas, went online to defend her reputation, but ‘David r from Meth Productions’ tried to stop him. Mr ‘r’ gave the same treatment to Francis Wheen, Andrew Roberts and Niall Ferguson after they had spats with Hari. It didn’t stop there. Lucas noticed that anonymous editors had inserted Hari’s views on a wide range of people and issues into the relevant Wikipedia pages, while Hari himself had a glowing Wikipedia profile — until the scandal broke, that is — much of it written by ‘David r’.

Cohen then concludes:

Because Wikipedia lets contributors write anonymously, it cannot tell its readers if ‘David r’ is Johann Hari, or a fan of Hari’s with detailed knowledge of his life, or someone with an interest in promoting his career. But just as the effect of Hari’s phoney interviews was to make it seem that he elicited quotes no other journalist could match, so the effect of Wikipedia is to make him seem one of the essential writers of our times. In truth he disgraced himself because he was an ambitious man who might have been a good journalist, but yearned to be a great one, and so tried to summon a talent he could never possess by bragging and scheming.


So who could this "David r" be?

Well here Sourcewatch helps us, for there is a "Talk Page" about some of the edits, which makes very interesting reading.

David tells us:

I proposed the edits, and no, I am not Johann Hari. I know him a bit, we were at university together, and I have done some work on his website. You can e-mail me at methuselahproductions@hotmail.com


He assures us about a libel threat:

I mentioned litigation only to shock you into realsing that your words have consequences; I also made it clear that Johann is a free speech nut and would never sue anyone.


It is all very unfair:

Johann writes almost entirely on left-wing issues from a left-wing perspective. Check out his website. Your impugning of his integrity will be used, I suspect, mainly by Zionist groups and anti-environmentalists in their mailing lists to undermine his writing about Palestine and climate change. (The Private Eye attack began after Johann attacked their homophobia). It's frustrating to see a decent guy who works hard for left-wing causes being pulled down by his own side (using right-wing allegations!) because they disagreed with him on one issue.


The comparison with Jayson Blair is dismissed:

About Jayson Blair. You cannot compare a reporter who fabricated stories, pretended to be places he wasn't etc, to a reporter who repeated a very widely circulated and reported story (the Iraq Pastor thing) which then turned out to be wrong and was corrected when he knew about it. They are not the same thing, and it's bizarre to claim they are.

Anywaya, you have shown you are honourable people and keep up the good work on (bad) journalists



Then on 25 January 2005, one of the Wikipedia editors notices something odd about the IP address of David:

DavidR, you have a curious IP address:

IP: 217.118.112.0/20
descr: Interoute Telecommunications (UK) Ltd
origin: AS8928
notify: hostmaster@interoute.net
mnt-by: INTEROUTE-MNTNR
changed: george@interoute.net 20040211
source: RIPE
person: Franc Tundidor
address: Independent News & Media
address: Independent House
address: 191 Marsh Wall
address: London
address: E14 9RS
address: UK

Now, you wouldnt happen to be working at the Independent, would you? So you too should be "keep up the good work on (bad) journalists" (as you stated above).



But David responds:

Yes, I do shifts as a sub at the Indie sometimes (Johann got me this shiftwork, I told you up front he is a friend of mine) - you can all me on the switchboard, call the subs' desk on 02070052000 and ask for David Rose. And, yes, I do watch out for bad journos.


That would explain the IP address.

We also have his surname. His name is David Rose.

There is then a lengthy passage which includes the following:

You disagree with Johann on Iraq. I disagree with him too, as anybody who knows us or works in this office will tell you.

The difference is you accuse him of being a liar with no evidence.



So this David Rose is a Cambridge friend of Hari, and at that time he works at the Independent as a sub on shifts. He is also well-known in the office for his disagreements with Hari.

David Rose is also something to do with Methuselah Productions. It is used as his hotmail address and (in abbreviated form) his Wikipedia address. Unfortunately whatever productions Methuselah Productions produced were not successful, as it has no easily identifiable trace on internet.


Intrigued, I asked another friend of mine - Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads what he could find. He is very good on internet searches and this sort of thing.

[EDIT 20/9/2011 text and edits removed - explanation and background here.]

The email address also pops up for this comment:

I have also worked at the Spectator, Reuters and CNN's website doing subbing. What does that reveal? It's extraordinary that confronted with actual facts, you guys scramble like hyenas for some scrap of personal information to use against me, even going to the point of retreiving sick porn from the web. Whatever makes you feel better...


So the author of this comment is at least that he is aware of some porn connection to the email address. It, of course, does not prove that he wrote it or was in any way aware of it in any detail.

More importantly for our purposes, David Rose tells us more of his subbing career. Not only has he done shifts for the Independent, he also has worked for Spectator, Reuters, and CNN.


Back at Wikipedia, David Rose now has his own user page.

One theme of the page is David's defence of Hari against his critics. For example:

I'll tell you something else that's generally frowned on in wikipedia: inserting lies into entries, blatantly trying to impose your POV on entries of people you hate, imposing your own political bias, insulting real people as sockpuppets...


The last entry of David on that user page is 12 March 2007. It is just after he announces he has emailed something to Hari.


So far, this has been a bit one-sided. It is all about David Rose and the connections he claims with Hari. Nothing so far even shows that Hari is even aware of his devoted champion. David Rose could be some Walter Mitty pretending to know a famous journalist.

But then there is this post by Johann Hari, hosted on his own website.

Referring to the confrontational comments threads which I have quoted above, Hari states:

A friend has just e-mailed me a link to the comments section of the 'Daily Ablution', a blog by right-wing writer Scott Burgess. It's quite amusing. Check it out - it's the first comments box on the page.

Burgess is very fond of writing to left-wing newspapers and demanding corrections in print. Daily journalism written to tight deadlines inevitably involves errors - I make them myself, like everyone else - and all sorts of gadflies can be helpful in pointing them out, even when they have a pretty ugly agendas like Burgess. That's why I'm grateful to him for pointing out an error I made in citing Louis Emmanuel, the hurricane expert, a few weeks ago, for example. As soon as I found out about it I posted a correction, and thanks to him I won't make that mistake again.

But what's so funny is that when Burgess' own factual errors - real whoppers, like citing scientists who say exactly the opposite of what he claims, part of his total illiteracy on the question of global warming - were exposed by Alex Higgins on this website, Burgess posted no corrections. Nothing. Recently David Rose has been writing in his comments box, asking how to contact Burgess' readers' editor to request a correction.

And Burgess has been... totally silent. It has been left to barely-literate posters in his comments box to respond, accusing people like David with real scientific knowledge (a starred first from a degree speicalising in environmental science at Cambridge, and extensive work in Antarctica observing the effects of global warming) of being "stupid" and "twerps."

David is quite right when he says, "If Scott doesn't respond to [Alex Higgins'] fair and accurate critique, then I'm afraid his ability to fact-check and critique others is simply shot to pieces."

Next time you read him trying to fact-check a liberal, remember that he has been proven to have no respect for facts - none - himself.



So David is not just a Cambridge friend and colleague of Hari who has worked at a number of great newspapers as a sub-editor on shifts, he also has a "starred first" from Cambridge and has worked extensively in Antarctica observing the effects of global warming.

It may well be that the "Wikipedia" David Rose is not the same as the "global warming commenter" David Rose. We only have circumstantial evidence. But it is clear that Hari knows at least the latter and that he knows Hari.

In view of the comments of Nick Cohen in the Spectator this week, it would be fascinating to know what this David Rose is up to now. As Hari may still be in touch with him, I have tweeted him to see if he can also put me in touch with his friend David Rose.

At the time of writing, Hari has not got back to me.





(Many thanks to Nick Cohen, Tim Ireland, Guy Walters, and Jeremy Duns in respect of this post. However, this post is entirely my responsibility.)



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Monday, 4 July 2011

The hacking of Milly Dowler's voicemails

Nick Davies and Amelia Hill of the Guardian have just revealed that the News of the World hacked into the telephone of the then missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

Significantly, the newspaper is alleged to have deleted messages so to ensure the voice mailbox was not filled up.

This was then an on-going investigation into a disappearance. The deleted voicemails could have been evidence in respect of the crime, as well being information which could have assisted the police.

If these allegations are correct, then the current police investigation is now no longer just into breaches of the legislation relating to phone hacking.

This would now appear to be an inquiry into a perversion of the course of justice. The police and the courts do not take such offences lightly.

Not only has the “Hackgate” gone onto a more sickeningly bad level; the seeming criminality is now also far more serious.


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Another "journalist" associated with the Orwell Prize

In the controversy surrounding whether Johann Hari should be stripped of the Orwell Prize, the pundits are overlooking another left-wing 'journalist' closely associated with the same award.

This author - who never went to journalism school or even to university - is routinely invoked out as an example of progessive writing.

But a close look at his work indicates he may have just made things up.

For an example, "Shooting an Elephant" details how the author killed an elephant whilst in Burma. The power of its ant-imperialist message is reliant on the detail of the incident. But there was probably no such killing. It was not documented, and nor is there any independent evidence that it occured.

Similarly, the anti-capital punishment piece "A Hanging" depends on its telling detail - the defendant even sidesteps a puddle on the way to the gallows - but it seems the author told someone it was just "a story". Needless to say, no documentary evidence or independent accounts exit.

Most devastatingly, a 'critique' of private education - "Such, such were the joys" - which unlike the above two pieces actually purports to containe verifiiable detail - is dismissed by many children who were there.

As Professor Wikipedia tells us:

"Robert Pearce, researching the papers of another former pupil, made a comprehensive study from the perspective of the school, investigating school records and other pupils' accounts. While some features were universal features of Prep school life, he concluded that [this] depiction bore little relation to reality and that [the author's] defamatory allegations were unsupportable."



This is simply damning.

The author in question has been closely involved with the Orwell Prize since its very inception.

This cannot continue.

His followers know exactly who he is, and so there is no need for me to name him here.

But one thing is certain.

George Orwell must be rolling in his grave.



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