This entry was posted on
Monday, January 15th, 2007 at
9:50 am and is filed
under The Political Weblog Movement.
[Important Postscript (19 Jan) – Guido and his followers have been moaning since the publication of this post that it is too long-winded and ‘boring’. A repeated suggestion was made that I try to be ‘funny’ and more succinct. I have taken this advice and created the following purpose-built weblog.]
[Note – When first posted, this article was already about a week old, but it was very important that I had a comments/trackback glitch corrected before publishing. I’m sure you’ll understand why when you read it. Oh, and be warned, folks… this is such a big post that it goes up to ’11’….]
If you’ve ever been trolled, you’ll know of the moment when you realise that someone is playing you for a fool, and you should know what I mean when I say this;
This year, there are going to be quite a few changes at Bloggerheads; not necessarily in terms of direction, but in terms of focus and determination. There will be a lot of building, a lot of fixing, and a lot of doing. And, hopefully, quite a bit of fun along the way.
Today, I am going to ask you to help me kick things off by doing something positive for the political blogging community:
– If you currently link to Guido on your blog; I am going to ask you to consider removing him from your blogroll.
– If you’re one of those who are addicted to the gossip and rumours he spreads, then I’m going to ask you to attempt to quit the habit.
– If you’re one of his sources, please read on; there’s a little surprise for you at the end… and you’re not going to like it.
Below I’m going to outline the primary reasons why I think Guido Fawkes (aka Paul Staines) should be sent to Coventry, and why I’ve arrived at the opinion that he is lower than your typical journalist, less trustworthy than your typical politician, and a disgrace and a danger to bloggers everywhere.
Throughout, you’re going to see what a bloody great hypocrite this ‘blogger’ is on almost every front:
1. Guido Fawkes is a dishonest blogger
Weblogs, because of their networking and conversation capability, can empower anybody with an interwebs connection. But there’s a price to pay; any blogger worth their salt knows that everything you publish should be open to challenge, question or context via comments and trackback. However, Guido has made a mockery of the honour system that is designed to keep us honest and set us apart from mainstream publishers:
First, the outright deletion of comments…
Make any comment not in keeping with Guido’s views (or likely to compromise his version of events) and you’re sure to get deleted… pretty much immediately. The only exceptions are moments when anonymous contributors rubbish your input (see below) and/or when Guido feels he can shut you down with a snappy retort.
After all, if he deleted all of the negative comments, people might think that something was up…
No, better to give the impression that there’s a zero-tolerance policy against people who wish to be ‘boring’ and/or have anonymous users (see below) repeatedly telling us that most negative comments are the work of conspiracy nutters or those in the employ of the government. (Psst! Can you spot the paradox here?)
That’s Cheat No. 1… but we’re only getting started:
Guido has stated time and again that if you wish to challenge and/or provide context to an individual item that he publishes (or rather, in his words, be ‘boring’), then you should do it on your own weblog. This is a handy little deception that he uses to justify many comment deletions but, unfortunately, it puts him in the same ‘blogging’ class as David Miliband (who Guido himself likes to mock as a pretend blogger).
Guido uses Blogger.com, and even the old version of this has a rudimentary trackback feature; all you have to do is switch it on. But Guido will not switch his on, presumably because he does not want his readers to be exposed to challenges/context published on other weblogs.
Blogger.com also has a variety of timestamp options, including many options that can tell you not only at which time a comment was made, but on which date. Again, all you have to do is switch it on. Guido refuses to switch it on, most likely because doing so would stop him from playing some of his favourite games with comments.
Guido makes anonymous comments on his own website, and I’ve caught him at it:
Blogger.com does not allow you to edit published comments; you can only delete them. What Guido likes to do is swiftly delete the offending comment and replace it with an edited version. So far, no harm, no foul… but when he reposts the comment it’s under the original name or pseudonym, and there is no indication that the comment has been edited. Every blogger knows that this is a step over the line, and I suspect that it’s only a glimpse of what Guido’s been up to.
Guido has his Blogger comments set at the most unregulated setting, which allows anyone to comment anonymously and (a big problem that Blogger needs to work on) even allows you to pose as another Blogger user. Guido could fix this, too… all he needs to do is set the Blogger.com setting to ‘Only Registered Users’. This would still allow for anonymous comments (any fool can create an ’empty’ Blogger.com account) and it would bring a halt to the majority of the abuse, but Guido is unlikely to do this because…
Typically, when you challenge Guido via a comment (on the rare occasions when that comment is not deleted), you are first shouted down by anonymous users and/or false-face users. A few comments later, Guido will pop in with his own breezy/snappy dismissal. (He has no need to abuse you, as this has already been covered by anonymongrels.)
How often do you think Guido makes anonymous/false-face comments that allow him to step out of his persona to defend himself, let loose with personal abuse, feed the flames or scream ‘conspiracy theorist’ and/or ‘government intervention’? Or perhaps just kick things off or set himself up for a really ‘witty’ joke when things go quiet?
Only Guido knows for sure, but if you’ve watched any live threads recently (I’ve been probing, I have), you will have noticed many odd occurrences and deletions. Nothing too obvious, obviously. If you play these sorts of games when people are constantly refreshing the page, you run the risk of giving yourself away… but dead threads are another matter entirely:
If you wait as little as 24-48 hours, all eyes are on a different thread. If timestamps are set to show time and not date (as Guido’s are) and you’re careful about the time of day you do it, you can submit a comment that appears to have been made during the original debate, but is allowed to pass unchallenged by everyone but the blog owner. And if you’re the blog owner, you could even go so far as to re-play the end of a thread (or even an entire thread) by deleting offending comments and replacing them with your own version of events.
How often do you think Guido does this?
The temptation must be great for this hero of the people, because when it comes to comments he’s a bigger control-freak than Blair – and he has the capacity to close this truck-sized loophole within a minute, but he has refused to do it. (And yes, I’ve challenged him directly on this.)
Of course, apart from the sneaky-fix I caught him at, Guido can deny all of this… but he won’t be able to do it with any credibility until he introduces comment registration, timestamps and trackback. Your move, Guido.
2. Guido Fawkes is a danger to political blogging
Guido likes to big-note himself as the leading political blogger in the country. I plan on expanding on this later, but for the moment let’s just accept that this is the general impression and it is widely accepted.
The result? People are given the impression that bloggers are not credible sources of information, and that political blogs are not about engagement and debate, but rather about an ongoing series of anonymous attacks and snipes.
Take Dennis Paul for example. Guido is such a hero to him that he has published this shining endorsement (and please note how Guido’s blog is falsely classified as a place of ‘discussion and debate’ in this endorsement). Dennis Paul uses strict full-time moderation (which Guido only turns on when he’s feeling cornered), but has his blog set almost identically to Guido’s standards; no trackback, deliberately-deficient timestamps, and a bloody big comments loophole that allows the blog owner to pose as ordinary members of the public that support him 100%.
Also, thanks to the example people like Guido have set, figures of authority can now get away with dismissing all political discourse in weblogs as ‘recycled Westminster gossip’. To put it as simply as possible, Guido’s all-arson approach makes honest politicians afraid to engage via weblogs, and the way in which he erodes our credibility allows dishonest politicians to dismiss any valid challenge to them that emerges via weblogs… and there’s worse to come:
Given that a law that restricts all our freedoms was recently slipped through Parliament on the basis that it would shut one guy up, I don’t think it’s at all alarmist to predict that – one day soon – something will be tabled in Parliament that appears designed to address The Guido Problem but is really designed to cripple us all.
You could argue that his is a worthy fight for freedom blah blah blah… but I’m afraid it’s not. At least, not if we take Guido at his word. (Guido has often claimed that his only mission is to cause trouble for his own amusement.)
3. They call him ‘Mr. Scoop’
I’m sure you’ve all seen this before; it’s happened a number of times.
Guido will stamp his little feet and even ‘jokingly’ insist on payment when information that was leaked to him first (or, more often than not, was leaked everywhere and published by him first) appears in the mainstream media without crediting him as the source.
[Quick tip for Guido; maybe they don’t credit you because they’re afraid that the story will lack credibility as a result. Or maybe – just maybe – they have their own sources.]
But Guido constantly lifts ‘scoops’ from the mainstream media without assigning credit.
Here’s a recent example of this that also includes Guido’s favourite explanation; that it was emailed in (implying that it was the naughty person who emailed it that failed to name the source… funnily enough, this is the same explanation given by baby-boy wank-mags when they steal content without credit/payment).
4. Guido is a turd-magnet and an opportunist
Guido popped up at just the ‘right’ time and did what anyone with a few contacts and fewer scruples could have done; a lot of what gets published (that isn’t lifted from ‘old media’) is the result of leaks by disgruntled grunts in Westminster.
Doesn’t it rankle you that anonymous wonks with no credibility, no accountability and an unclear agenda demand transparency, credibility, accountability and a clearly stated agenda from others? It bugs the hell out of me.
Finally, what Guido and his unknown number of supporters ride upon is a wave of dissatisfaction and distrust that can be summed up in one word; Iraq… but Guido lacks a pedigree going back to March 2003 or before, as do most of his supporters. They’ve simply descended on Blair like a pack of hyenas. I’m also willing to bet that the majority of Guido’s informants – while being unhappy about the status-quo – managed to keep their heads down at this vital time, too.
I think the Iraq/WMD bullshit would have been much harder to slip through Parliament if more people were willing to put their reputation on the line at the time, but do correct me if I’m wrong.
Still, I can understand the motivation of many of his informants and/or comment contributors (I used to be one of the latter) who do have some credibility and to them I can only say this; you are being used.
5. Guido’s blog rides lower than a red-top
As much as your typical tabloid owner/editor would like to keep their identity a secret, we have the right to know who these people are (and, to an extent, what they’re political allegiances are) so we may determine for ourselves how much we should trust the information that they print… and not just if we should question the meat of what they print, but the purpose of its release at any given time.
Guido maintains his anonymity as best he can, but will – at the drop of a hat – ridicule you for revealing the ‘open secret’ of his ‘alleged alter-ego’.
But the real killer?
Guido himself has stated quite clearly on his weblog that he offers no right of reply (and, as the first very lonnnng part of this post reveals, he does his best to disable any ‘right of reply’ facilities that are inherent to the blogging format).
He is also largely shielded from many avenues of legal recourse because of the way his blog is hosted. He is often heard to say; “What are you going to do? Call the blog police?” (For an answer to this question, see section #2. They’ll be here soon enough… and Guido will have opened the door for them.)
Finally on this point, Guido manages to distance himself from consequences by allowing the continued drip-drip-drip of carefully-worded/placed rumours on his weblog via anonymous comments (that may or may not come from him) and he often likes to dangle hints and items in front of his readership in the hope that they’ll take the risk for him.
I’ve fallen for this myself… and because the echo-chamber is a primary weapon neo-cons, I really should have known better.
Still, perhaps this admission will mean that I carry a little extra weight when I repeat this warning to his informants and/or comment contributors; you are being used.
And onward we go…
6. Beware the proto-Drudge
One of Guido’s few clearly stated ambitions is to become the British version of Matt Drudge.
Here’s a short, sharp warning for you; Drudge was anti-establishment for as long as it took him to help undermine one administration and become an undercover operative for the new administration. Currently, his role is to dish dirt in a manner that benefits those in power and undermines those who oppose them.
And this is what Guido aspires to? A startling admission. Take heed.
7. Look at my stats! You love me! You really, really love me!
Have a look at one of the rare occasions when Guido recognises the difference between ‘page loads’ and ‘unique visitors’. Here’s another. But Guido will mostly bang on about hits or page loads, because the numbers are bigger. And it’s very important that he keeps stroking his ego and pushing MessageSpace revenue.
Here’s an excellent example of this (that is also is an excellent example of Guido acting just like the politicians he despises whenever he’s put on the spot).
Guido is also fond of using Alexa data to ‘prove’ his case, but for sites that deal with information/opinion/politics, having a higher rank on Alexa than your competitor isn’t necessarily something to brag about. For starters, Alexa data is easily manipulated. Also, because Alexa collects information from users who have installed an Alexa Toolbar and only morons use the Alexa Toolbar, all you’re proving is that you attract more morons than the other guy.
Guido will no doubt say that I’m only pointing this out because I’m jealous, but he’s terribly fond of misrepresenting any opponent’s position as part of his response… just like a politician. As usual, the devil is in the detail (perhaps this is why Guido is so fond of dismissing detailed posts and comments as ‘boring’).
For starters, here are two things to keep in mind whenever Guido gets his stats-wang out:
a. Two of the biggest-selling newspapers in the country are The Sun and News of the World… I would not regard either to be particularly credible or worthy.
b. Imagine yourself standing next to an arsonist who is watching his latest work burn away merrily. He brags about how big the fire is, because he knows his next customer is in the crowd. He also knows that I’m in the crowd, and that I helped to build what he’s burning.
So it is possible for me to be alarmed about the actual size of the fire while questioning the claimed size of the fire… and not be at all jealous.
For the record; If it comes down to a pissing competition, I’m not quite sure how high up the wall I’d go, as my new stats count visits, but not unique visitors… but, if you count Bloggerheads traffic alone, I currently run at somewhere between 60-150K visits per month (a lot depends if I’m away/active) with between 100-340K page loads.
Anyway, now we’ve covered this, there are some other numbers that just don’t add up…
8. Where does the money come from?
As Guido himself has said: An honest democracy can’t have political parties funded by shadowy hidden manipulators. Voters are entitled to know who is financing the party they are considering voting for, they can then judge for themselves their motives and their influence on the party.
I think the same could be said of publishers, don’t you?
Here, my name’s on the door and what I do for a living is pretty bloody obvious. In Guido’s case, he is very keen to hide his name (Paul Staines) and/or mask its importance – and he also uses two primary deceptions to shut down any questions about money:
a. “Blogger is free. Duh.”
b. “There are ads on the blog. Duh.”
I’m sorry, but even if we take Guido’s current claimed stats at face value, the numbers don’t add up. No way is it paying a mortgage, unless he has a record-breaking click-through rate.
And while Blogger may be free, they generally stop short of doing your ‘research’, writing and comment-control-freakery for you.
Time is money, after all… so the question stands (and expands):
Where does the money come from? Who pulls the strings?
Actually, let me rephrase that (in a terribly sexist fashion) that grants Guido the assumption that he is allowed to do as he likes… within limits:
Where does the money come from? Who wears the trousers?
9. Burn them! Burn them all!
If we’re to believe Guido’s stated mission, it’s to fuck about with all politicians (because he hates them all) and burn the current system to the ground. To what purpose? Does he have a plan for what comes next?
Even if you trust Guido 100% on his stated intentions, the bet that can be said of him is that he’s a committed political arsonist. In fact, he sounds like he went ‘Ralph Wiggum’ on us a long time ago and only does what his little leprechaun tells him to do.
10. Those filthy, filthy homosexuals
Read this and it becomes pretty clear that Guido hears the word ‘homosexual’ and thinks the word ‘paedo’.
What a nice guy. No wonder his site is full of anonymous comments (that may or may not be from Guido) repeatedly suggesting that one politician or another is a dirty bummer.
And perhaps this goes some way to explaining why Guido loves to stick the knife into all sorts of MPs, councillors and their activists, but has decided to completely ignore this little affair.
Or maybe… just perhaps… one of his informants works closely with Anne Milton.
Mock that last suggestion all you like, because it brings us to the grand whopper…
11. Guido: compromised in the extreme
Press Gazette – Fawkes plots to blow up ‘cosy’ political reporting: “The news is no longer defined by big media.” So claimed political blogger “Guido Fawkes” last week, triumphing in the role bloggers had played in turning up the heat on Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. “The ‘news’ is no longer what Paxman says it is,” continued Guido, under which name Paul Staines writes order-order.com, the blog of plots, rumours and conspiracies. “Failing to hold our political class to account is the failing of big media in Britain.” By naming an MP alleged to have had an affair with Prescott on his blog, Staines claims to have not only “lit the fuse” in Westminster, but also to have shot across the bows of the elite club of lobby correspondents that he believes has become too cosy with the politicians to be effective. “If you have lunch with someone on a regular basis, you would feel inhibited going for the jugular,” says Staines, who claims he has no ambition to be a journalist and that his only agenda is that he “hates” all politicians. “A journalist once said to me: ‘It’s very easy for you, because you don’t have to get access to them next week. That’s the way that politicians work, they cut you out.'”
So Guido’s raison d’être (apart from arson, obviously) is to bravely provide an alternative channel for information that would otherwise be compromised by these cosy relationships; to cut through the bull and fearlessly hold our political class to account.
Sorry, but he’s a total hypocrite.
Do you remember the David Taylor affair? While the majority of the media was screaming ‘Brown coup attempt!’ and faithfully parroting Downing Street’s calls for unity, the final figures and connections clearly established that before there was an alleged plot by Brownites to depose Blair, there was an actual plot by Blairites to undermine the Chancellor and push Alan Johnson as the next PM.
Right up Guido’s street, right? Cuts through all the bullshit and lets you know what’s really going on in Westminster. Hell, even one of his regulars was chasing the same story.
But no mention from Guido. Not even a ‘by the way’ link.
Because David Taylor is (or perhaps was) one of Guido’s informants. Guido could not so much as mention the story without upsetting him.
So those who rely on Guido for their ‘unfiltered’ scuttlebutt only got the Brown-bashing half of the story because of the kind of cosy relationship he spits on.
And there’s more:
Guido couldn’t mention the story… but that didn’t stop him from dishing a little dirt and/or providing a few leads.
Guido was careful to conduct most of this affair by telephone, but he did leave the following email trail that I publish now in full for the benefit of David and any of Guido’s other trusting informants:
—– Original Message —–
From: “Guy Fawkes”
To: “Tim Ireland” firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: Monday, September 11, 2006 4:31 PM
Subject: Re: boom
> Have you done fourth term net?
> Are you going to point the finger at Benji Wegg Prosser No. 10’s
> Director of Strategic Communications?
> Not vis-a-vis Taylor – he is McM’s gofer. – and paid to dig dirt on
> LibDems. But McM is plausibly deniable by BWP.
> BWP is very keen on the Online War. He is frustrated with what he
> sees as right-wing ascendancy online.
> Check the Google cache for the hastily pulled Gordon is a Moron blog.
> On 9/11/06, Tim Ireland
>> Of course, you’ll have to report this when it goes mainstream
>> —– Original Message —–
>> From: “Guy Fawkes”
>> To: “Tim Ireland”
>> Sent: Monday, September 11, 2006 5:14 PM
>> Subject: Re: boom
>> > All yours, am laughing.
>> > As I said before, he is a source. That buys him some protection.
>> > Doesn’t mean I don’t wish you well…. ;)
>> > On 9/11/06, Tim Ireland
>> >> http://www.bloggerheads.com/archives/2006/09/david_taylor_rumbled.asp
Bottom line: Guido betrayed his readers and one of his informants, and did so without hesitation.
Here comes the round-up… and the pitch!
Because this is long, it is ‘boring’, so here’s the executive summary:
1. Guido, through a number of deceits, renders any meaningful interaction with his weblog inert… above all, he’s a comment cheat and a disgrace to blogging.
2. Guido is practically inviting politicians to avoid blogging or work to restrict the activity. It is honest bloggers who will pay the price.
3. Most of Guido’s ‘scoops’ are nothing of the sort
4. Guido is a shameless opportunist and he’s using your own frustration(s) against you.
5. Guido is lower than tabloid scum… and that’s saying something.
6. Watch out for the switch, when Guido secretly starts (or continues) batting for those in power that he favours.
7. Guido is a stat-whore.. and a figure-fiddling one at that.
8. Guido insists on knowing where the funds come from for politicians/interest-groups, but he’s awfully secretive about what funds his activities.
9. Guido is nothing but a smart-arse arsonist… and that’s only if we take his word for it.
10. Guido may not realise it, but he’s a bit of a homophobe… and (surprise, surprise) like attracts like.
11. Guido betrays his readers and his informants.
This is not what blogging is supposed to be about. It’s not even within shouting distance.
Even Iain Dale knows this… or pretends to. In his laughable guide to political blogging in the UK, he pushes Guido forward as his poster-child and states that; “The power of blogging flows from directly connecting with the readers, key to that direct connection is honesty.”
[Psst! Iain! When exactly will you disown Guido? Or are you all mouth and no trousers?]
Guido is an arsonist… at best.
If you have any interest at all in maintaining the integrity of the British political blogosphere, I ask you to join me as I piss on his fire:
– If you currently link to Guido on your blog; remove him from your blogroll.
– If you are addicted to the gossip and rumours he spreads, try to quit.
– If you’re one of his sources, refuse to be used (or at least be ready to count your fingers).
Thanks for your time. If you have anything to add (apart from meaningless abuse and mudslinging), the floor is open.
[UPDATE: Guido’s finely-honed paranoia serves him well. I’ve been running teasers for this week-old post for… erm… about a week now. Last night Guido laid in with an adorable pre-emptive kidney-punch that opens the way for his supporters (real and otherwise) to lay in with ‘tit for tat’ accusations… and allows him to deny all knowledge – (Just a bit of a clean-up folks. Nothing personal. ) – but if you take a close look at the comments that start at 3:36pm, you’ll see a couple of Guido’s useful idiots making the personal nature of this message clear – by saying what Guido could not say without compromising his Fonz-like demeanour. Cute, huh?]