Okayokayokay… Defend David T

March 21, 2010 at 10:50 am (blogging, blogosphere, Free Speech, Galloway, Harry's Place, voltairespriest)

Thought I’d add my two-penneth following on from Rosie’s excellent post. Long-term readers of this blog will know that I’m not politically a fan of Harry’s Place. I find much of the coverage boorish and anti-left, and frankly I find many of their posters’ and commenters’ obsession with organised Islamist groups in the UK to be disturbing. That having been said, they do sometimes carry material that is of interest, and do have some posters whose material can be both valuable and informative. However, in general I am a long, long way from that site’s political wavelength.

My opinions of that site cease to matter, though, when it comes to the legal demand that HP supremo David T has received from George Galloway and Kevin Ovenden. Although I obviously have not had sight of it, apparently it demands financial settlement to the tune of £50,000. Presumably if that demand is not me then a libel action will follow. This furore has arisen because of a comment made by David T… on Respect member Andy Newman’s blog, Socialist Unity.

This raises a number of issues for me.

Firstly, if Galloway and Ovenden feel so slighted, then why not simply have Newman delete the comment?

Secondly, given that it is Newman’s site, and last I heard the comment was still up, why are they not threatening Newman with similar action if he does not remove the comment?

Thirdly, what’s the real motive here? It’s risible to think that David T’s comment would have caused material damage to either Galloway’s or Ovenden’s reputation. Not only do relatively few people read hard-left blogs such as Socialist Unity (or this one), the percentage of those who do, that would look at a comment like David T’s and have their views swung by it, is surely microscopic.

It has been said by people from many different political backgrounds in recent months that the growing culture of libel litigation in this country is a danger to people’s right to express a controversial opinion – unless, of course, they have a large bank balance. It is also pathetic in the extreme for people on the “left” to make use of laws like the UK’s current libel legislation, which enshrine nothing more or less than the right of the privileged and the obsessed to shut up those who speak out against them.

So yes, defend David T, whether you like him and his site or not.

And sign up for the Libel Reform Campaign here.

52 Comments

  1. Rosie said,

    Actually you can read the solicitor’s letter to David T linked from the HP site here:-

    http://www.hurryupharry.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/SDOC2136.pdf

    There is a bit about Galloway being “shocked” that an organisation which he is associated with should be subject to such accusations. How much does Galloway read about himself, for Chrissake? He should be passed the “shocked” stage by now.

  2. maxdunbar said,

    I don’t understand Galloway motivations at all.

    What Harry’s Place has been saying about Galloway is well founded and well documented. If this goes to court, Galloway will look ridiculous considering the obscurity of the publication. And I don’t think he could win even under UK libel laws. David T is a sophisticated character who knows the law. He will argue fair comment, Mishcon and Reya will probably act for him. Galloway will lose.

    David T is comparing any Toube v Galloway trial with Irving v Lipstadt. ‘Nobody forced David Irving to bring his ill judged libel action. However, his decision to do so resulted in his final discrediting and utter disgrace.’ I think he’s exaggerating, but only a little.

  3. voltairespriest said,

    Rosie – at a cursory glance the letter appears only to mention Galloway. The HP site is playing funny buggers when I try and go to it; is there a similar letter from Ovenden?

  4. Andrew Coates said,

    On Libel Laws there’s an article in the Sunday papers that ‘descendents’ of Mohammed are suing Danish cartoonists in the English courts on the grounds that they were ‘defamed’.

  5. Sarah B said,

    @voltairespriest – I think this is the relevant link.
    http://hurryupharry.org/2010/03/16/a-libel-threat-from-kevin-ovenden/

  6. Rosie said,

    It does seem totally absurd, as you say, that a jab on a blog should be returned with lawyers’ letters. Can we sue those people who are bringing this site into disrepute by saying that it is being financed by Zionists? I’m sure Nathan Rothschild could recommend a good lawyer. . .

  7. Red Maria said,

    Several points, first Galloway and Ovenden object to the suggestion that they are involved in an anti-Semitic organisation and are by extension, either anti-Semitic themselves or sufficiently lacking in principle as to associate with anti-Semites ie they are objecting to what they will say is the implied meaning of the comment.

    Second, Max may be of the view that what what has been published on Harry’s Place is well-founded BUT any suggestion that either Galloway or Ovenden are anti-Semitic, or deliberately associate with anti-Semites is very much open to question – personally, I do not accept that they are. As Ovenden and Galloway will point out any suggestions of anti-Semitism are defamatory and damaging. Remember too, that British libel law is strongly weighted in favour of the plaintiff. Hence if this libel action goes all the way to the courts and if the courts accept Galloway and Ovenden’s argument about the implied meaning of the comment, David T will have to prove that Galloway and Ovenden are anti-Semitic, they won’t have to show that they aren’t.

    Third, Max thinks any libel action against David T is foolish because Socialist Unity is “an obscure publication”. I beg to differ. Both Harry’s Place and Socialist Unity do have an awful lot of regular readers – I’d have thougth in the thousands every single day, which compares very well with many print publications. The courts would also consider how many people could have read the comment.

    Fourth, Max thinks that the fact that David T is a sophisticated character who knows the law means that he would win a putative libel action against Galloway. Not so fast! Say what you like about Galloway but he isn’t a stupid man. He’s also got a track record of success in the courts.

    I think it would be regretable if Galloway and Ovenden issued a libel action against David T but such is the bad-feeling between the two camps that it would be bound to happen sooner or later.

  8. Rosie said,

    I don’t think that David T’s side would have to prove that Galloway & Ovenden are anti-Semitic, just pro-Hamas. I wouldn’t have thought that would be difficult to prove, in the case of Galloway, anyway.

    As for the ill-feeling between the two camps, it should be expressed by denunciations and arguments in whatever publication you’ve got access to, not via the law courts.

  9. Dave Black said,

    Toube will have to prove that that Galloway’s charity is fundraising for Hamas. Can he?

  10. Dave Black said,

    Forget the last sentence from my previous post. Might now be unanswerable out of court.

  11. Rosie said,

    Of course the whole thing might just be dismissed as a piece of vexatious legislation around a throwaway joke. However, I get the feeling that when David T puts up posts at Harry’s Place he is careful of the facts and that they are not actionable, however wildly some of the commenters interpret the posts.

    You might not like the style that X said this, and Y is associated with X, therefore Y is as bad as X, but I’d be pretty sure that X did say what he is quoted as saying, and Y has been associated with X.

  12. Lobby Ludd said,

    Rosie said:

    “You might not like the style that X said this, and Y is associated with X, therefore Y is as bad as X, but I’d be pretty sure that X did say what he is quoted as saying, and Y has been associated with X.”

    No, I do not like that daisy chain type logic, and of course with shits like David Toube it is standard. It is just six degrees of separation stuff.

    It is not a question of ‘style’ it is a question of what constitutes sound reasoning and fair comment.

    I think GG and friends are mistaken in threatening Toube with legal action, but see no reason why leftist should come to Toube’s defence. After all, you can’t expect to regularly malign people or their associates regardless of the facts.

    I really do not understand why ostensible leftists are happy to slag off GG for unspecified reasons, and and at the same time defend pigs like David Toube on the grounds of his right to free speech regardless, it seems, of the truth.

  13. Jim Denham said,

    Lobby: “I really do not understand why ostensible leftists are happy to slag off GG for unspecified reasons”. I think you’ll find, Loby that we’ve made our reasons *very* plain.

    Galloway is the worst sort of populist, bullshitting anti “Zionist” shyster and is also personally corrupt. He’s a stain on the reputation of the decent “left” and we should disavow him and have nothing to do with filth of his kind. Is that plain enough for you?
    Btw: the above is said by me, Jim Denham, in a personal capacity.

    • Lobby Ludd said,

      Plainly you don’t like GG, what about Toube and his ugly army?

      • Lobby Ludd said,

        Come come, Jim:

        “He’s a stain on the reputation of the decent “left” and we should disavow him and have nothing to do with filth of his kind. ”

        Yep, that’s the best way to advance the left, slag off George Galloway. The AWL will,of course, replace GG in popular consciousness by denouncing GG as ‘filth’. This is an approach which has proven its success, and will continue to do so.

  14. voltairespriest said,

    Lobby: if it was the case that the protections offered by libel law didn’t essentially depend on you being either rich and willing to chuck cash at a target, or really really weird and obsessed, then I might agree with you. As it stands, libel law is a bully’s charter, which means that any win against it works for me.

    • Lobby Ludd said,

      VP, I’m not quite sure what you are saying. Are you saying that GG is right in principle, but unsupportable because he is using laws which privilege the rich?

  15. voltairespriest said,

    No, I’m saying that using the libel laws to prove a point is always wrong. A body of law like that can never serve as an arbiter of right and wrong.

    • Lobby Ludd said,

      “No, I’m saying that using the libel laws to prove a point is always wrong.”

      Are you sure of that? Always wrong? – surely not..

  16. Rosie said,

    Well, I’d say that GG is wrong in principle to sue someone who made a joke on a blog. I think the absurdity and ridiculousness of this is glaring. I’d think the same if it was a BNP guy who was being sued. Far worse things are said on blogs. I imagine all of us here have had things said about us which were technically actionable but instead of running to lawyers (which I doubt any of us could afford anyway) we’ve taken the piss or thrown back the insult with a lot of swear words. That is a much healthier state of affairs then reverting to the law.

    I can’t stand GG but if he was suing The Sun for saying, untruthfully, that he had plagiarised a book he had supposedly written, or was really a Mossad agent, I’d say it was fair enough that he should sue.

    • Lobby Ludd said,

      Rosie:

      “I can’t stand GG but if he was suing The Sun for saying, untruthfully, that he had plagiarised a book he had supposedly written, or was really a Mossad agent, I’d say it was fair enough that he should sue.”

      So what about suing somebody for saying that Viva Palestine is helping to arm Hamas? Is that OK?

  17. Dave Black said,

    “Well, I’d say that GG is wrong in principle to sue someone who made a joke on a blog.”
    Sure, but the truthiness of the joke depends on the bit about about the charity funding Hamas being true.

  18. Rosie said,

    I think if that was made as a flip comment on a blog it wouldn’t be okay to sue. That seems to me like suing someone who made that kind of comment in a pub. If I sat in a pub and said, “What a Nazi Margaret Thatcher was. I bet her favourite book was Mein Kampf” she’d look ridiculous suing me.

    If it was a long article in a newspaper unsupported by evidence it might be ok to sue.

  19. Waterloo Sunset said,

    Rosie-

    However, I get the feeling that when David T puts up posts at Harry’s Place he is careful of the facts and that they are not actionable, however wildly some of the commenters interpret the posts.

    Um, what about the time he, completely incorrectly, accused a New Statesmen reviewer of being a member of the SWP? Don’t get carried away here. The fact that libel actions against people for blog comments are something to be opposed doesn’t change the fact that David Toube will put up any old shit without checking the facts, as long as it’s a chance to bash the left.

    Lobby Ludd-

    I really do not understand why ostensible leftists are happy to slag off GG for unspecified reasons, and and at the same time defend pigs like David Toube on the grounds of his right to free speech regardless, it seems, of the truth.

    It’s not about defending David Toube. (I’d laugh if he got punched in the face, frankly). It’s about defending the blogosphere in general against this kind of thing. Because, actually, as a well off corporate lawyer, David Toube is better placed to fight this kind of action than most bloggers are. It’s perfectly possible to despise David T and GG, yet, still think that this action needs to be opposed.

    • Rosie said,

      Nice to see you again, Waterloo, and your comments that are always sane and to the point. Okay, I’ll concede that DT does have his moments of hysteria and over-reaction. However, I bet his lawyer’s eyes narrow when he puts anything up about the litigious GG.

  20. maxdunbar said,

    Lobby

    Have you read the post Voltaire linked to?

    This is what Galloway said when he gave a bag of money to Hamas leaders:

    ‘But I, now, here, on behalf of myself, my sister Yvonne Ridley, and the two Respect councillors – Muhammad Ishtiaq and Naim Khan – are giving three cars and 25,000 pounds in cash to Prime Minister Ismail Haniya. Here is the money. This is not charity. This is politics. The government of Palestine is the best people where this money is needed. We are giving this money now to the government of Palestine. If I could, I would give them 10 times, 100 times more. We are against this siege. We are opposing this siege. We are breaking this siege. We are breaking this siege.’

    Six degrees of separation? Really?

    • Lobby Ludd said,

      Yes, Harry’s place does frequently, too frequently, engage in shit smearing by association , and yes I have read VP’s link. Don’t drag a reasonable person into your unreasonable arguments, Maxi baby.

      • maxdunbar said,

        But you can see Galloway on video giving a bunch to money to Hamas and saying ‘this is not charity, this is politics’.

        I mean, how much more do you need?

  21. Voltaire's Priest said,

    Mr Sunset:

    Long time no see! I agree with both of your points.

  22. martin ohr said,

    Well if there was a fistfight between Toube and Galloway I’d certainly hold David’s coat for him.

    Although I disagree with him on most things, DavidT does have the benefit of being a relatively sane, honest, normal person who it is actually possible to argue with without risking being shut-up by manouvrings, litigation or threat of violence.

    I’ll leave it at that.

    • Waterloo Sunset said,

      @ Martin

      Is he a charming and delightful drinking companion?

  23. I'm doing what Andy Newman should have done said,

    That is, deleting what I think is a stupid and gross comment.

    See Andy – it’s easy!!

  24. Rosie said,

    I find Andy Newman’s role in this very strange. Perhaps he is just attempting to redistribute property i.e. David T’s, to Galloway and Ovenden. Trouble is, most of it will land in the pocket of another lawyer.

  25. Will said,

    “martin ohr said,

    March 22, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Well if there was a fistfight between Toube and Galloway I’d certainly hold David’s coat for him.

    Although I disagree with him on most things, DavidT does have the benefit of being a relatively sane, honest, normal person who it is actually possible to argue with without risking being shut-up by manouvrings, litigation or threat of violence.

    I’ll leave it at that.”

    no he isn’t

  26. Wot Evah said,

    Martin, if by “a relatively sane, honest, normal person who it is actually possible to argue with” you meant “a headbanging, crotch sniffing third hand guilt by association wingnut faciliator of racists and fascists” then I’d agree with you. Personally, I wouldn’t feel an ayota of sympathy for the legal advisor to the millionaires Toube if he was bankrupted by the liable and had to spend the rest of his life in makeshift cardboard houses. However, for wider free speech issues I hope this liable doesn’t go ahead.

  27. Waterloo Sunset said,

    Although Martin does raise a point that is vital to the left. Who would win in the Ultimate Blogosphere showdown?

    This is very important and I request Shiraz dedicate a post to it ASAP.

    Some predictions for the first round.

    Will will take out David T, without much effort.

    Andy Newman will be utterly outclassed in technique by Stroppybird.

    Mark Elf will not be able to stand up to the powerhouse that is Bob from Brockley.

    While something of a struggle, David Osler will come out on tops versus Southpawpunch, although Southpaw will promise to “be back with some guns later. As long as I can find someone selling them in Wetherspoons”.

    In a shock twist, bookies favourite and noted pugilist Jim Denham will lose on points to everybody’s favourite anarcho grandad, Ian Bone.

    • Lobby Ludd said,

      On his release from hospital after a night’s observation for concussion, Modernityblog will deny that his opponent even got into the ring. He demands that his opponent meet his challenge and expresses disappointment at his cowardice.

      • Lobby Ludd said,

        The opponent is unwilling to beat up a confused old man. Moralityblog declares himself the winner.

      • Waterloo Sunset said,

        That’s just the kind of comment I’d expect from a middle class crank like you! You haven’t even mentioned that a fight is “”purposeful violent conflict intended to establish dominance over the opposition”.

        Is that clear enough for you?

        If you want to know more you can look at the latest post on my blog called “Please, somebody read me”.

        Fuck you and anybody else who disagrees with me proving that they are smug and sneery and middle class.

        🙂

      • Sarah B said,

        No Lobby – the real problem with Modernity’s bout will be caused by his insistence on filming the whole thing on his mobile phone.

  28. Lobby Ludd said,

    Max, it seems there is a limit to nested comments, hence a new point.

    My point about ‘six degrees of freedom’ is a general point about how ‘arguments’ are frequently conducted on HP. Surely you know that guilt by association is a weak form of argument? Quite what do you object to in what GG said when handing over the donations?

    • maxdunbar said,

      Well, if you see nothing wrong with funding Hamas, there’s no point even trying to explain it to you

  29. Lobby Ludd said,

    Go on then, Max, explain to me why aid to Gaza, governed by Hamas and under siege by the state of Israel, is a bad thing.

    (Can I claim to have bored you in a two-line comment, please? Or is that three lines?)

    I am willing to learn. (Oh shit, is that four lines?)

  30. maxdunbar said,

    I’ve no problem with aid to Gaza. Most of the people on the convoy joined it for the best of reasons. Galloway, as he said, was giving money direct to Hamas. How much of that will Palestinians see?

    • skidmarx said,

      Probably quite a lot.

      1. It’s probably quite hard, given the Israeli blockade, for the aid to be converted into money and spirited off to a Swiss bank account.

      2. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t Hamas Palestinian themselves?

  31. maxdunbar said,

    Okay I should have been more clearer.

    How much money given to the Hamas ruling elite will actually reach the Palestinian on the street?

    • Lobby Ludd said,

      Beats me, what do you reckon, Max?

    • skidmarx said,

      No, you should have been more clear.
      Or made a sensible point, your decision.

  32. Rosie said,

    From the letter I linked to in comment 1:-

    “Our client [GG] is a former Trustee of the Charity Viva Palestina and remains heavily involved in activities relating to the same. He is well recognised by the public as the “face” of Viva Palestina. . .

    By referring to Viva Palestina you have made reference to our client.”

    So the comment that David T has made implies that:-

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

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

    [The wording of this letter is poor, btw. No-one has read it for sense.]

    So it’s a libel to say that Viva Palestina to raise funds for Hamas. I understand it’s also illegal to raise funds for Hamas. However, if that’s so, it seems unwise of Viva Palestina to have as their “face” someone who supports Hamas.

    In the apology that the solicitors have drafted, David T is supposed to “acknowledge that . . neither Mr Ovenden nor Viva Palestina is connected to Hamas in any way.” Not GG, of course. There’s too much video footage of him embracing or walking hand in hand with Hamas officials to swing that.

  33. skidmarx said,

    So it’s a libel to say that Viva Palestina to raise funds for Hamas.
    The wording of this sentence is poor by the way. It suggests that saying that “Viva Palestina” to raise funds for Hamas is a libel.
    I understand that it is GG’s contention elsewhere that VP is not a charity. And I suspect the apology is intended to cover him as well.
    But while I would tend to support Galloway’s right to raise funds for Palestinians, I think this action is badly misconceived, the facts don’t support the contentions, and to be using a law designed to give more to those that hath is not good, and we don’t want to end up like South Park in the time of Sexual Harassment Panda.

  34. maxdunbar said,

    Perhaps Viva Palestina could do with a misfit mascot.

    The ‘Give Money to Racist Genocidal Theocrats Lemur’

  35. Rosie said,

    The wording of this sentence is poor by the way. It suggests that saying that “Viva Palestina” to raise funds for Hamas is a libel.

    Bang to rights Skidmarx. Muphry’s Lwa in operation. In my feeble defence, I am not paid about £200 or so per hour to draft letters.

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