Bloggers are responsible for the comments they attract

I feel a deep debt of gratitude to Harry’s Place for reasons I set out in my last, and in more depth here, but basically I agree with Marko – Harry’s Place’s commenters are Harry’s Place’s problem. I’ve raised this – too mildly – in the past here and in messages.

I missed most of the examples Marko points readers to, but the Laurie Penny stuff particularly disheartened me – as well as being personal, it was aimless. I meant to say something, couldn’t quite grasp the nub of it, and I’m glad that Marko did. Following his experiences by reading the comments trails he links to is pretty dispiriting, too.

What is going on beneath the Harry’s Place posts – particularly those on Islamists – worries me, because British Jews need Harry’s Place, which is so vigilant about antisemitism, to be serious about anti-racism in its own back yard. Anti-Islamists need Harry’s Place to be serious about anti-racism. Anti-racists need Harry’s Place to be a serious opponent of the BNP, but I know at least one person who favours both.

Commenter Zkharya is broadly right I think:

“I like HP. I like the freedom. I like, by and large, the company. There is a problem with Islamophobia.

But if you like Israel, there aren’t too many internet forums to hang out that are vaguely as sociable or linked up to other issues.”

I’d qualify that. I think the gender mix on Harry’s Place is poor, and the linking to other issues has large gaps (environmentalism, a critically important movement which continues to harbour misanthropic and anti-industrial tendencies, needs Harry’s Place’s attention, for example).

Judy:

“One point I’d say she [Laurie Penny] does have is her focus on bullying on HP. Under the banner of free speech, HP is happy to have and sometimes encourage a degree of entirely personality-based vilification and abuse of individuals on the basis of their opinions (as opposed to any political actions) which has nothing to do with politics with either a small or a large p.

There’s no problem in my view with ridiculing and satirising of political positions, including inconsistencies and shifts therein. But it does seem to me that HP is complacent about personalised bullying on the basis of assertions about opponents’ insanity, encouraging others to bully, advocate violence towards and/or ostracise opponents on account of that or of opposition to a declared favourite or personal arbitrary preference of one collective member or another.”

I wish that Harry’s Place bloggers would look to their own back yard. Below the posts it’s like a frat party (yes I’ve been to a few during a year in the US – rarely felt so lonely).

The thing is, there’s a difference between attracting aggressive, obscene and bigoted commenters who pile in because you have interfered with their world view and they feel the need to disagree with you, and attracting the same who basically support your blog and feel at home there. The first is inevitable – when you are courageous and stick your neck out like Harry’s Place bloggers, your wages will include opprobrious comments. But if the people approving of you, defending you, or just hanging out, are aggressive bigots, and you don’t put an end to it, then, yes, it’s yours. You host it. You can’t disown it. You will be known for it. And it’s not feasible, as one HP author tried to do, to suggest a division of labour where you, the author, ask your moderate readers to take responsibility for the comments. You can’t rely on volunteers who haven’t volunteered – it’s your blog, it’s on your head.

Here is what Laurie Penny said:

‘you condone bigotry by allowing hateful, misogynist, racist, Islamophobic comments to be published on your site, and allowing bigoted, ignorant trolls to control the debate. I don’t apologise for that assessment: it’s you that needs to step up and look at what your site has become.’

I will limit my agreement with her to that.

Marko, defending this and told by Harry’s Place author Brownie to withdraw his “slurs” or “fuck off”:

“Here at HP, Brownie, you’ve provided a site in which pretty much anyone can make any slurs they want against anybody else. Slurs that should not see the light of day receive wide publicity, thanks to HP. When you provide a forum in which this sort of filth appears in print, and when you make a point about refusing to delete it, then you are condoning that filth as something legitimate; with a right to be heard. You are harrassing and victimising innocent people by allowing anonymous psychos to defame and abuse them in the name of ‘freedom of speech’.

So I’m sorry, but you have no right to complain about being slurred, when you have provided a forum that enables the slurring of so many other people.

For the record, I don’t think that you, Marcus, David T, Brett or any of the other regular posters here are racists. I do, however, think that your comments moderation policy is an utter, utter disgrace, and that you should be ashamed of yourselves. And I say this as someone who likes you as people and who mostly agrees with your politics.

Right, now I’ll fuck off.”

Harry’s Place has a problem. Unlike HP blogger Neil, I don’t think Comment is F***** – plenty of blogs manage to attract conversations which are respectful of the person, even while trenchant in opposition of their views. See for example Bob From Brockley, a blog with interests that overlap with Harry’s Place.

I think a more purposeful approach is in order on the part of the authors to putting themselves on the opposite side of the Islamophobes and bullies. I think it’s generally true of campaigns and things like campaigns that to define your support you have to frame what you’re against in terms of what you’re for. If this could be embedded into every post I think that would probably be all that was required.

In the absence of that, a moderation policy backed up with time taken to moderate.
Otherwise, it may be time to turn off comments. But that would be an act of defeat.

Harry’s Place is going nowhere

As in

We will not be intimidated”

(Michael Cushman at the 2008 UCU Conference, in support of a motion of dubious legality under anti-racist law.)

Back from Siberia, read the irrepressible David T.

“Let’s be clear – the issue here is not Delich. Rather, it is the blending of the perspectives of the neo Nazis, the Islamists, and the far Left. Even if we accept Delich made a ‘mistake’, it would be one which simply could not have happened, were is not for the poisonous rhetoric, and vicious racism that has characterised the debate over Israel/Palestine. It would have been impossible without the coalescence, over the past decade, of the coalitions which have constituted both RESPECT and the STWC. What, after all, is the fundamental difference between linking to neo Nazis and carrying a placard bearing the slogan ‘We Are All Hezbollah Now”?”

One more thing, Joe Quinn – the fanatic Jenna Delich linked to on David Duke’s site – reckons Mossad did the Madrid bombings and are behind Al Quaeda. I’m telling you, the conspiracy theories are out to get me.

Harry’s Place locked out after UCU intervention; forced to camp at Blogger and WordPress

This post is about Harry’s Place having its plug pulled, why I think Harry’s Place was right to publish from the University and College Union Activist List, and what other people are saying. I write this because it could be me and my blog – you and your blog – next. Watch this space – I’m excerpting support posts below (most recently on 27th Aug, 17:09). Harry’s Place is slumming it on Blogger for now

Update Aug 27th: Jenna Delich has been suspended from the UCU Activist List. This is welcome, although I doubt that anybody has taken pains to explain why and what she can do to get reinstated. It took the union a week to communicate this course of action. The union accepts no responsibility, even though it has cleared Delich of two complaints against her and taken no action to address the phenomenon in which she feels comfortable posting Duke and others feel comfortable with her mistake.

Update Aug 27th – Harry’s Place is back up, with a domain name from a more spirited ISP – London-based –  called Positive Internet. At 5.15pm we see Positive Internet testing in the comments of the original offending post:

“Test post after editing /etc/resolv.conf to another DNS server. Will it get through…? Yep, I think it will.

Seems to be back. Now let’s await the NXDOMAIN cacheing to time-out and all shall be back. Then let Ms Delich come and try it on with us and see how far she gets ;-)”

Cute. No, heroic.

After Harry’s Place exposed Sheffield UCU member Jenna Delich who referred other members to the work of a conspiracy theorist hosted on ultra racist David Duke’s site, its webhost, daily.co.uk, received correspondence which induced it to pull the plug on HP.

Another activist, Mike “we will not be intimidated” Cushman of the LSE, member of the identity politics group Independent Jewish Voices and a great enthusiast for boycotting Israel, encouraged the David Duke linker to contact Harry’s Place’s internet service provider making noises about libel (but Jenna said what Harry’s Place directly quoted her as saying, no?). Somebody did this. ISPs are notoriously risk-averse when it comes to – by all accounts atrocious – UK libel law – they are trying to sell a service not sacrifice money and time on a court case they are not confident about winning. Update Aug 27th: I think that David Hirsh and Bob From Brockley are right to emphasise experienced socialist Mike Cushman’s more important role in this act of suppression and point out the glaring contrast between his outrage that anti-boycotters would decide to avail themselves of anti-racist law to be rid of a presistent boycott campaign, and his willingness to advise making libel noises to notoriously squeamish ISPs. Anti-racist law is pro-union law but he wants to exempt his boycott and boycott campaign from it.

But like a bit of a hydra-headed monster Harry’s Place rides again in two Places – Blogger and WordPress (address any comments to the Blogger one – Modernity says that he created the WordPress one as a mirror). I wonder whether they wiill be forced to catch swans for dinner out there in the blog marsh. It’s good to see that jolly red banner again anyway.

This is why I think Harry’s Place’s decision to publish from the Activist List was for the best. 

UCU hasn’t done anything relevant to address the antisemitism within it. It has washed its hands of the formal complaints about antisemitism. It keeps assuring itself that criticism of Israel isn’t antisemitic” and telling itself that raising the alarm about antisemitism is just a tactic (“Our experience shows that, unfortunately, defenders of the Israeli government’s actions have used a charge of anti-Semitism as a tactic in order to smother democratic debate”). Activists like Jenna Delich, who insist and insist and insist that they are personally incapable of antisemitism but then reveal an astoundingly abject level of ignorance about what antisemitism today actually is, have a glass ear when it comes to antisemitism. The UCU inner circle has a glass ear, a glass eye, glass nose, everything – tok tok – completely impervious. And at the same time so unfeasibly self-regarding. What else is to be done other than go beyond them?

What is public enough to be communicated via the Internet to however many hundreds of UCU members, in an online discussion system which suffers from frequent leaks, should be considered potentially public.

At the same time anybody can see that the interest Harry’s Place and other leakers like Boycotted British Academic have in the Activists List is specific and bounded. They are not interested in ruining confidentiality of people who want to talk about their employers – they are interested in preventing otherwise unfettered antisemitism. This publishing of antisemitic incidents is not a slippery slope or thin end of the wedge to publishing all sensitive UCU business.

Holding individuals accountable for what they say behind closed doors might work. Engage is an organisation which for some time has been posting the contributions of anti-boycotters to the Activist list and replacing names with XXXXXX. However, this wider airing of depersonalised opinions has not brought about any improvement in UCU moderation or the opinions some activists who are trying to make a pariah state of Israel see fit to air.

A lot of awful stuff – untruths, inaccuracies, polemic, exaggeration, and vilification – is written by UCU activists on that list to persuade members to boycott Israel out of existence. It’s pretty abusive. Dragging it out into daylight takes some of the burden off the harassed anti-racists (Jews, mostly) who feel obliged to remain involved in the front line fight.

Jenna Delich didn’t really take responsibility for what she had done – she seemed to think that if she hadn’t read the site and just linked to the piece she had found with her search, that would be alright. I shudder to think what keywords she used. The author of the piece she linked to, Joe Quinn, is a conspiracy theorist who quotes the Holocaust denier David Irving approvingly and ends the piece she linked to by saying, of the “Israeli oligarchs” (?) “either someone does something about these sick pyschopaths, or they, and their kind in Washington and around the world, will destroy us all”. I don’t buy the Jade Goody act – this woman is a lecturer or something not far off. If the people who push racist texts from racist sites and then hold up their hands and refuse to take responsibility for the sources they use, are in charge of assessing students and pastoral care, then the question should maybe be why should their identities or their sordid contributions be withheld?

What other people have said (update Aug 27th – particular hat-tip to Bob From Brockley for hunting out the views of the bloggers whose support for Harry’s Place under threat is qualified by their dislike of Harry’s Place politics):

Modernity:

“Harry’s Place blog has been attacked, for publishing a true story about the shenanigans on the UCU activist list.

HP posted a fairly simple, factually accurate post on Jenna Delich and her incredibly stupid mistake of reading David Duke’s web site and posting a link to it.

As any competent antifascist would know David Duke is an ex-grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, had a love of dressing up like a Nazi and disseminates racist filth from his web site.

Strangely, rather than admit this mistake, apologise profusely and move on, Jenna Delich and her supporters chose to attack HP.”

Max Dunbar

“Unlike the Hamas versus Harry’s Place libel threat, there is no formal legal action here – so I think some reticence is called for. But I have to stress that Britain’s libel laws are not the answer. They are heavily biased in favour of the plaintiff and badly in need of reform. Recently we have seen cases of libel tourism in which wealthy non-British citizens have used English courts to pull off acts of censorship that they would never get away with in America or Europe. There is a growing climate of censorship affecting writers, academics and bloggers.

It may turn out that David T was wrong – but surely the answer in that case is argument and debate, not legal action.”

Bob from Brockley:

It is worth noting that the article to which Jenna Delich linked is not by David Duke. It is by one Joe Quinn and originally appeared on a 9/11 Truth Cult site called sott.net. It would not have reflected well on Jenna D if she had found the article there, but she didn’t; she found it on a Ku Klux Klan site, which reflects on her rather worse.

A Very Public Sociologist:

“Personally, I have very little time for the politics peddled on HP. Warmed over social democracy plus humanitarian imperialism plus trenchant Zionism do not suit my radical palate. But they have as much right to push their rubbish politics as any other blogger, regardless of how distasteful they can be at times. So down with the complaints, the writs and the threats of court action, and away with those of censorious intent. If you’re stupid enough to make the kind of mistake Jenna Delich did, then you should take the blowback on the chin, not scrabble around for a lawyer’s letter.”

Boycotted British Academic:

“For it would seem that people at UCU are not content merely to silence the majority of the most effective and trenchant of the anti-boycotters who have been forced to respond to the vile bile which passes for solidarity in this union, silenced for nothing other than trying to do something about the virulent antisemitism which has been allowed to become rife in UCU. No, now it would apear that UCU, or at the very least people most active within it, have set the net far wider still and are presently engaging in their usual threats and intimidation only this time it’s out there in public, in full view, for all to see, and not merely behind closed academic doors, as has happened to date, in the deepest and most frightening secrecy imaginable, courtesy of UCU HQ, apparently adamant to protect none but the racists.”

David Hirsh:

“I would add this: if you agree with what is written on a fascist website then you should stop and wonder why that might be.”

10 Percent:

“As far as I can see Ms. Delich used/passed on a link to David Duke’s site, his name was in the url! I am not a fan of the Israel right or wrong position but if your opposition to the policies of the state of Israel encompass neo-Nazi scumbag retards then you need to ask yourself some very hard questions about personal anti-Semitism. Even as a simple mistake it really doesn’t pass muster, to even bother reading those sites suggests a lack of awareness of the white supremacist movement and that really is dreadful ignorance at best, at worst, well that kind of opposition is worthless as it is based in prejudice. Principled opposition to Israel’s policies involve in part opposition to racism and that anti-racism applies just as equally to racists who hate Jews but clothe it in objections to Israel. Every person who is critical of Israel has to be keenly aware that others might base that criticism in bigotry and so a due diligence is necessary to make sure those racists have absolutely no part in your politics. You can’t fight one kind of racism with another.”

Duke of Chaos:

“When this boob was pointed out, her responses have included that she didn’t know who he was (will she now link to one Kenny Smith [5] on immigration issues, or is it only Israel she takes the BNP line on?) or, my favourite, that because it was on Google, it was alright!

Had Nuremberg been an academic senate, Goring would have said of von Rippentrop, he deserved to be dismissed if only for his stupidity.

No, here’s a tip Doctor Delich… sorry… Ms. Delich… I habitually call academics, Doctor… try Googling your name. In the top ten, you will find *six* references to your disseminating Nazi literature! Got to be true!

Ah, but fortunately the anti Daddy Warbucks of the UCU list, LSE-based research fellow Mike Cushman, came like St. George to her rescue and fought the Zionist worm, and accepted her apology on behalf of the whole list. Mr. Cushman, with study in correct web-usage, was able to assure the lesser mortals that web-searching can be fraught with difficulties and it there is just a cigarette-paper of difference between appropriate resources and promoting, with government and staff funded services, hate material. Ah, bless. Maybe he should point her in the direction of the correct web-usage guides every first year student has to pass”

Ignoblus:

“…it is imperative that minority voices not be silenced or ignored. If you want to avoid antisemitism (and for some people that seems to be a big if), it is absolutely necessary to pay attention when Jews tell you something is antisemitic. That doesn’t mean agreeing uncritically, but it does mean listening carefully and ensuring that representative (an important point – Tony Greenstein doesn’t count) Jewish voices are part of the conversation. Even if you disagree with the views Jews are expressing – especially if, and everyone knows this is true in the present case, it’s plainly the view of the majority of Jews – it’s still important not to exclude them from political debate…”

El Nuevo Pantano:

“Isn’t it kind of funny that the likes of Delich, always ready to wank on about the power of the Jews and the Zionists to stifle criticsm and about the influence of Jews in the formation of public opinion , turn out to be able to to close down a web site that published an entirely justified critcism of Delich for citing a neo-nazi website?”

Mushkush:

Cunts.

Authoritarian, ass backwards, dumb fucking cunts.

Renegade Eye:

I have off and on, for a few years visited a blog called Harry’s Place. It is one of the most popular political blogs from the UK. Its politics can be termed B-52 left. They argue that the US/UK military interventions are progressive, and should be supported by the left. I have been involved in good debates there. They are under serious attack, and now is the time to put aside differences “por ahora.”

Eric Lee (he knows – he’s been shut down by the Fremantle Trust for defending workers’ rights):

“Apparently, another cowardly British ISP has shut down a political website for fear that it might be sued for libel. Harry’s Place – formerly here — made the mistake of writing about a Sheffield based academic who in the course of discussing the academic boycott of Israel on a trade union mailing list linked to the website of American KKK leader, neo-Nazi and Holocaust-denier David Duke. Harry’s Place ran the person’s name and photo, and apparently their ISP was threatened.

The name of the academic is Jenna Delich. The “offensive” photo appears to the left.

There, I’ve published it too. Sue me.”

More David Hirsh:

“How could it have happened? Mike Cushman works at the London School of Economics, is an experienced socialist, an antiracist and a Jew – a Jew, moreover, who never tires of speaking “as a Jew”. How did it happen that he turned his anger on those who opposed and exposed antisemitism and he tried to protect the person who spread it? When Delich posted the antisemitic article it was accompanied by the simple words:

“No comment necessary. The facts are speaking for themselves.”

“It is difficult to escape the impression that Cushman, a leader of the boycott campaign, seemed to be taking sides with the conspiracy theorists against the antiracists and the opponents of antisemitism.”

Socialist Unity’s Phil BC:

“Personally, I have very little time for the politics peddled on HP. Warmed over social democracy plus humanitarian imperialism plus trenchant Zionism do not suit my radical palate. But they have as much right to push their rubbish politics as any other blogger, regardless of how distasteful they can be at times. So down with the complaints, the writs and the threats of court action, and away with those of censorious intent. If you’re stupid enough to make the kind of mistake Jenna Delich did, then you should take the blowback on the chin, not scrabble around for a lawyer’s letter.”

Jonny Paul in the Jerusalem Post:

“Dr. Jon Pike, a member of the UCU national executive but speaking in a personal capacity, said: “I’m not surprised that anti-Semitic material has again dropped into my inbox from the union activists’ list. What is shocking is the failure of the union’s internal procedures to do anything about this. UCU prides itself on being an anti-racist union. In fact, it is probably the most complacent public institution in Britain in relation to increasing anti-Semitism and the leadership turns a blind eye, or worse, to the racism in the union. Behind all this is the campaign of discrimination against Israeli academics which is fostered by some in the union and encouraged by the leadership.”

Eve Garrard, senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Keele University in Staffordshire, said: “This is precisely the kind of thing which drove me recently to resign from the UCU. It has become a union which is complacent about anti-Semitism: It regards prejudicial hostility toward Jews, from within the union itself, as something too unimportant for it to bother with. I didn’t feel able to remain in an institution which treats anti-Semitism indulgently, as a special exception to a generally anti-racist stance.”

Shiraz Socialist:

“Note to self and others:- if you do inadvertently link to a neo-Nazi site or any other dodgy site for information and this is pointed out to you, apologise and say that you are totally mortified.  In fact, it would be excellent if you felt totally mortified.  Then the whole business will go away.  But don’t sound huffy and annoyed like Jenna Delich – how were you supposed to know what a neo-Nazi site looks like?  (Same thing applies if you produce leaflets talking about the Holocaust and omit to mention its main and best known victims.  See comments to post here).

Also, if you have been found out, don’t resort to defamation laws or apply pressure through service providers.  Many bloggers might dislike the site you are attacking, but there is some solidarity among bloggers – first of all they came for Harry’s Place, next they came for me – and they will flash this story around the blogosphere.  From there it may be taken up by the mainstream media and you will look very bad trying to shut up critics, and especially bad if you are a union for academics.”

Cafe Turco:

“I don’t like it when I am prevented to access a blog, or to read a book, or to watch a film just because someone didn’t like that his/her actions were uncovered. Why should my freedom to read what I want be diminished by such people?”

Francis Sedgemore:

“This is gross violation of free speech, and a most disgraceful thing that the UCU activists concerned have done. It reflects very badly on the union as a whole, whether or not the action has official sanction. As a trades unionist I have made a formal complaint to the Trades Union Congress and UCU, and urge you to do likewise.

Brendan Barber
General Secretary
Trades Union Congress
telephone: 020 7636 4030
email: bbarber@tuc.org.uk

Dr Sally Hunt
General Secretary
Universities and Colleges Union
telephone: 020 7670 9729
email: shunt@ucu.org.uk

If an activist in a union that espouses anti-racism takes her information on world affairs from a known white supremacist, then it is in the public interest that this be made public knowledge.”

Harry’s Place Satellite:

“If those in British Unions who flirt with the far-right can weasel out
of this, then they can weasel out of anything. A line must be drawn
here. A line must be drawn now.

If this is acceptable and accepted – indeed, if this is even mere
tolerated – then a line is crossed. What could possibly still remain
unacceptable? What taboos remain? Violence against Jewish students
‘explained’ by left-wing academics? Desecration of Jewish graveyards
celebrated on Indymedia? Would that still shock? And if so, for how
long?

What can we imagine that is worse than someone on the anti-Israel Left
using neo-Nazi hate polemic as propaganda?

If they can ‘teflon’ it away, then there is nothing they can’t and
won’t do. Apologists for antisemitism are ludicrously inventive, but
if they can get away with using neo-Nazi material, there is no limit,
no boundaries, nothing beyond taste and decency.”

Richard “Lenin” Seymour:

“I am not standing in “solidarity with Harry’s Place”, no. I believe they can fight their own battles. I am not masochistic enough to suck up to these fools when they get in a bit of trouble. Particularly since they don’t give a damn about free speech (unless it’s their own ‘right to tell people what they don’t want to hear, and then inform on them to their bosses’). No, you can save this particular ’cause celebre’ for someone who has no self-respect. It will not be me.” [I’d be surprised if he could find an instance of HP trying to suppress anybody’s free speech with anything other than robust argument (and in Richard Seymour’s particular case, ridicule) – FiG]

Complex System of Pipes:

“Harry’s Place is a cesspool of rightwing nastiness. It’s wrong for it to be closed down, but that doesn’t mean we should join its witchhunt.

“The thing is, you have to be really careful, really strict with anti-Zionism, to avoid being co-opted by the very nasty and insidious traditions of anti-semitism. In particular, it is undeniably true – and highly pertinent – to say that there is a lobby of wealthy Zionists, many of whom are Jewish (but, it’s worth underlining, some of the most aggressive of whom are Christian fundamentalists with more than a touch of anti-semitism about themselves), which exercises enormous influence over the policy towards Israel of the US and UK. It is also undeniably true – and highly pertinent – that there are plenty of racists scumbags out there who would love to tell you that “the” Jews rule the world.” [I am warey of this writer – s/he apportions blame for the collective failure to respond to antisemitism to people who raise the alarm about antisemitism saying that they are doing it wrong or in bad faith – FiG]

The Exile:

“There are a series of interlinked issues that are at stake in all of this. The first is that Jenna Denich (sic) has every right to be outraged at the Harry’s Place treatment of her. She should have demanded a right of reply, and pointed out the nature of the smear. Had she done that we would all have cheered her to the rafters, and then fought each other for the right to be the father of her babies.

The problem is that she didn’t, with the result that we have a freedom of speech issue, and on that basis alone we have to support Harry’s Place and its rancid crew.”

Ben Cohen:

“I see that one boycotter has been excusing Jenna Delich and pontificating thus: “I have taught sessions on web searching, web use and how to establish the provence and authenticity of information. This has made me crucially aware of how difficult it is to set out rules, or even guidelines, for avoiding errors.” Indeed. Because it’s a major challenge to work out that a site which carries links entitled “Facts About Black Crime in America” and “Innate Intellectual and Psychological Differences” is racist.”

Jim Jepps:

“Jenna states here that she “support[s] the idea that we should all stand united against all forms of racism against all people and religions (with no double-standards or selectiveness). All people are born equal, and deserve an euqal right to live, and an equal right to respect.” If that’s the case then she should really take stock about this whole affair. David Duke is not your ally.

It’s one thing to link to abhorrent material (after all I’ve even done so in this post, it can be impossible to avoid if you’re to allow the reader to judge for themselves) but it’s quite another to kick up a fuss when someone highlights the fact that you did so. It’s alright to make a mistake, it really is, who’s perfect after all? But if you react to that mistake by refusing to correct what you’ve done and instead closing down the opposition – well, don’t expect to feel the love.”

Ministry of Truth:

“The facts certainly do speak for themselves here. Delich’s ‘interesting reading’ was sourced from the website of David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and is, itself, merely a repost of an article which orginally appeared at ‘Signs of the Times‘, which is your classic ‘alternative news’ website, i.e. run by bunch of conspiraloons and chock full of laughable articles.

Quite obviously, the provenance of Delich’s recommended reading is a little dubious, although given her sources we should, perhaps, be grateful that she hasn’t hit upon another of SOTT’s ’special reports’ which claims that Israeli researchers are developing ‘ethnic specific bioweapons‘ that would harm Arabs but not Jews – even though this was roundly debunked almost ten years ago.”

Index on Censorship:

“Webhosts Daily.co.uk subsequently received a complaint that the post was ’slanderous’, and informed Harry’s Place that it would not continue to host the blog’s domain name, saying the bloggers had breached terms of use.

Harry’s Place blogger David T told Index: ‘We have done nothing wrong. We did not breach Daily’s terms and conditions. They have put us out of business, without warning and without an opportunity to make alternative provision.’

Currently in the UK Internet service providers are liable for material posted on websites they host. ‘There should be statutory and blanket immunity for ISPs, as exists in the US,’ said David T.

Daily.co.uk declined to speak to Index, claiming that discussing the issue would breach data protection laws.”

I’m going to stop now. There’s Gypsies, conspiracy theorists and vegans to be thinking about.

The Left should support Harry’s Place

I’ve been brewing this post for some time but was spurred to complete it by Gene on Harry’s Place.

On Harry’s Place read:

  1. British Muslim Initiative: We Resent the Evil Jew in Britain
  2. Legal Threats From Hamas/British Muslim Initiative
  3. We’re Being Sued by Hamas UK
  4. Martin Bright withdraws from Islam Expo
  5. Douglas Murray withdraws from Islam Expo
  6. Stephen Timms MP pulls out of Islam Expo
  7. Malik pulls out of Islam Expo
  8. Thanks for most of the support

Harry’s Place is a conscientious site. In the rare circumstances that its editors misreport a fact, they make this transparent. If a Harry’s Place editor insists, with evidence, that the phrase “evil Jew” or “Jewish evil” appeared, then we can be confident it appeared. Harry’s Place took a screenshot, so we know that the word for “evil” was right there next to the word for “Jew” in an Al Jazeera report of a speech by British Muslim Initiative (BMI) director Mohamed Sawalha. If a mistake on the part of the author of the Al Jazeera report, it was an extremely damaging mistake which required some serious damage limitation from Al Jazeera and the BMI. There was nothing like this – only charges of defamation which were themselves defamatory.

The British Government has rightly pursued a strategy of engaging Muslims after 9/11 but, writes Dave Rich, used the Muslim Council of Britain as the single point of contact. The MCB is like the Jewish Board of Deputies or the Anglican Synod – ie little if anything to do with most people who need to be engaged with – disaffected young people approached and groomed by Islamist extremists who preach violence. As a strategy it cuts out practically all mothers and many community groups. Now the British Government is reconsidering, particularly noting analyses of people like Martin Bright, Nick Cohen, and newcomer the Quilliam Foundation.

Outside the Muslim world Hamas operates behind front organisations – they look very nice but poking around – looking at IslamExpo Ltd’s Companies House entry for example – reveals far right affiliations of the people at the top of organisations like the British Muslim Initiative and Respect. Personally I’d rather go to Living Islam, the event organised by the Islamic Society of Britain. That Hamas peddle a warped perversion of Islam and only get into power through disaffection and filling gaps around education, health and social care, we know. The BMI doesn’t stand for most British Muslims whom I assume like most people have merely been getting on with their lives and occasionally observing with pleasure, relief or maybe pride that an organisation claiming to act as ‘British Muslim’ and with ‘Initiative’ has managed to gain so much influence in British public life. If you don’t look too hard, these organisations seem fine. I’m sure that the majority of the more politically sentient are embarrassed, disgusted and hoping Hamas UK will go away.

I predict that people who for brevity I will pigeon-hole as New Stalinists and Islamist extremists, if and when they react, will try to make us believe that the BMI-Harry’s Place dispute is about whether British Muslims have a right to participate in public life. It isn’t – it’s about whether on not British society accepts a potentially disastrous Muslim Brotherhood bid for political influence in Britain. It would be very wrong and very prejudiced to assume that ordinary Muslims were part of this phenomenon of extremism. Ordinary Muslims are not the problem. The problem is when the self-appointed leaders of organisations like the Muslim Brotherhood, Jamaat-e-Islami and Hisb-ut-Tahrir hijack Muslim political participation.

Anybody wishing to stand against this influence is obliged to tread a very fine line and Harry’s Place does so with impressive delicacy in the face of very little support. Post the 9/11 and 7/7 acts of terror committed in the name of Islam but totally unrepresentative of anything but a lunatic fringe of Islam, it has fallen to a few left-wing commentators and groups with strong democratic grounding, Harry’s Place being one, Nick Cohen, Maajid Nawaz, Ed Husain, Oona King, Norman Geras and Martin Bright, others, to hold their nerve, resist appeasement and attempt to banish the most reactionary and right-wing elements of Muslim society, which until recently have been, or still are, one of a few points of contact with the Muslim community in the UK Government’s counter-terrorism strategy, to the margins where they belong.

This effort is part of Harry’s Place’s original motivation (listen to Little Atoms interview Harry from back in 2005 for background), which was to ballast a bolting Left in danger of flipping over to the Far Right. You cannot do this without raising the alarm (and we should be alarmed) that the main political force behind Muslim Council of Britain and its spin-offs is the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Harry’s Place is not Islamophobic, it is responding to the real threat of terror in the name of Islam without ever placing responsibility for this threat at the door of ordinary Muslims. It notes that many Muslim immigrants to this country moved here in flight from the ‘pure’ ultra-conservative (i.e. based on 12th century interpretation) varieties of Islam for which organisations like the British Muslim Initiative are conduits. Harry’s place is against discrimination on grounds of religion, sex, sexual orientation, and ethnicity. It never denies the rise and real threat of Islamophobia and maintains a focus (where it considers Islam) on Islamist extremists and a clear distinction between Muslims and the Muslim Council of Britain. When Harry’s Place attracts the Islamophobes, which seems to happen quite frequently to people who expose the Islamist extremists, it disowns the racists.

If you, having looked carefully through those Harry’s Place posts which deal with this subject, could constructively suggest a better way to communicate the hugely important and difficult message that Harry’s Place does, I’d be surprised – I also have no doubt that you’d get an attentive audience if you contacted them via their site. Before you do, ask yourself whether you would feel differently if David T was Daoud T, Brett was Burayd and Gene was Ghassan.

As far as I’m concerned, in the spheres of left politics which deal with internationalism, these people and those who share their values are the Left now.