Liberty if it means anything…

is the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear. Or so ran the strapline at veteran British political blog Harry’s Place until yesterday, when their DNS host locked them out in response to a complaint on behalf of Sheffield academic and UCU activist, Jenna Delich.

Delich had been the target of a thorough lampooning on the blog after she had sent round an email supporting the union’s Israel boycott to the UCU activists’ email list:

In support to your link this may be a long but also an interesting reading:
No comment necessary. The facts are speaking for themselves.

I’ve removed the link, as I think the site hosting the article doesn’t really deserve even one more droplet of Googlejuice. It belongs to one of the world’s most prominent anti-semites, the US far-right wingnut David Duke. During a colourful career, Duke has been a former Grand Wizard of the Klan, founded the fascist forum Stormfront and served time for fraud.

Delich has not denied that she did make this rather embarrassing little boo boo, and that as such the posts at HP were accurate. She has also been booted from the UCU email list for the mistake. However HP’s ISP has still jumped at an unspecified threat and turned off the blog.

This is something we’re getting used to seeing, and major blogs in the UK can be easily derailed by the fact their ISPs aren’t versed in the subtleties of libel law (look at the Bloggerheads and Craig Murray Usmanov case for example, or the threats from new Christian bookshop owners the Brewers against Dave Walker’s blog). It’s not really the ISP’s job to decide if their client or the complainant has a case – they thought they were just in charge of a few black boxes with flashing lights – so they understandably buckle straight away rather than risk their business.

Besides making for a boring blogosphere in contrast to the States, this has the potential to stymie any campaigning organisation in the UK. LabourStart were temporarily wobbled by naughty employers the Fremantle Trust, after they launched an email campaign aimed at chief exec Carol Sawyers’ treatment of care staff transfered to her employ.

Harry’s Place has been temporarily transferred, whilst this mess clears, and in the style of Obi Wan Kenobi can be found here, here, and all over the shop. The outpouring of solidarity from blogs (a number of whom seem to have suspended mortal Harry’s Place feuds for the duration) is impressive, but I’m concerned regular campaigns aren’t really a sustainable option for all the other blogs out there that will be hit by this tactic in the future.

Pls to share (thanks!):

5 thoughts on “Liberty if it means anything…

  1. Has Jenna Delich, the Sheffield-based FE lecturer who links approvingly to the personal sites of KKK and pro-Nazi antisemites and all-round racists, been suspended from the UCU-list?

  2. Hi Alec. According to Engage she has – can’t verify beyond that though sorry:

    Actually… Just been thinking about some of the other posts on this a bit more, and I’m not sure if some of the justifiably miffed reaction to the gagging has tipped over too far to be useful. When dealing with a situation where we probably want to calm down the ISP over a feared libel issue, as it’s not likely to actually go to court, it could be too easy to accidentally confuse an allegation. So for example, maybe “who link[ed] approvingly to [a] personal site…”, rather than suggesting she makes a habit of linking approvingly to them more regularly 🙂

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