An open letter to Ian Hislop of Private Eye magazine

This entry was posted on
Monday, May 11th, 2009
at
9:22 pm and is filed
under Old Media, The Political Weblog Movement.

This one’s quite a whopper, folks. Watch out for the previously unblogged material, most notably the details about a letter from The Sun to the PCC.

This is not a letter that I write lightly, and I regret having to write it as an open letter to a man I regard to be both sensible and honourable.

If you’re a long-time reader and would like to help me get my point/case across, you could write a MUCH SHORTER email/letter to Private Eye, pointing out that I haven’t actually boiled any bunnies… that you’re aware of.

Dear Ian,

First, please excuse my writing this as an open letter; I have always regarded you to be an upstanding individual who won’t stand for bullshit or injustice, but I have been let down by quite a few people lately, and don’t feel much like taking chances today.

My name is Tim Ireland; I have been a blogger for over seven years, and a reader and supporter of your magazine for over a decade. While I disagree with your standoffish approach to Teh Internets in general, I – like you – have grave misgivings about the antics and tactics of self-proclaimed masters of new media such as Paul Staines and Iain Dale.

So much for introductions and niceties… here’s the meat of the sandwich:

I feel that I am being unfairly victimised to some degree by one of your writers, due in part to his friendship/association with Iain Dale, but also due to (or triggered by) a story that I uncovered and your magazine took the credit for.

I honestly believe that, when you are fully aware of the situation, you will be moved to take immediate and appropriate action to protect my reputation, and that of your magazine.

I realise that you’re a busy man, but I really would appreciate it if you would make the effort to at least read the following timeline, that should make clear what’s going on in a very complicated situation (and where you and your writers fit in). I have evidence to back every claim that I make in this timeline, and it’s yours for the asking if you want to look into any of this in detail before taking action:

Jan 8 – The Sun runs a story claiming that ‘top Jews’ have been targeted by Muslim extremists inhabiting forums hosted at Ummah.com. The source of the story is self-described ‘terror expert’ Glen Jenvey. Ummah.com responds with a complaint to the PCC, a claim that a single contributor (‘abuislam’) is responsible for the offending content, and a further claim that the ‘abuislam’ profile was created using the same computer as that used by a self-described freelance journalist using the name ‘Richard Tims’. Within a couple of hours, I have uncovered/established a firm link between ‘Richard Tims’ and Glen Jenvey, and by 9pm my findings are published on my main website at bloggerheads.com

Jan 9 – After a long night of writing and later alerting the offices/agents of certain ‘targeted’ celebrities to the reality of the situation, I send a link to my story to your office via email (on Fri Jan 9, 2009 at 2:18 AM).

Jan 12 – I enjoy the first of 16 visits to my website from a customer of Star Internet Ltd (your service provider).

Jan 14 – I am contacted via email by a freelance writer from your office by the name of Elinor. In a phone conversation I do my best to help her understand (and/or better establish) the link between Glen Jenvey and the alias ‘Richard Tims’, as this is key to any allegation/implication that you wish commit to print.

Jan 20 – Issue 1228 of Private Eye is released. On page 4 under the heading “How Extremism Works” I find that my scoop/discovery has been used without due credit.

Jan 21 – I email Elinor about this, and politely express my disappointment. Nothing happens for a very long time, but in the meantime…

Jan 28 – The Guardian reports that the PCC has (finally) announced that it is investigating the story. Glen Jenvey responds via a friendly writer and a series of Wikipedia/Blogger.com sock-puppets with absurd claims that the PCC and the Guardian are in league with extremists/terrorists and anti-Jewish “Nazi’s” (sic) guilty of hate crimes.

Feb 6 – I send a polite reminder email to Elinor about credit for the story.

Feb 9 – Susan Roccelli kindly informs me that the matter will be brought to your attention. On that same day, I am shown a letter from The Sun to the PCC that contains (a) a far stronger denial from Jenvey that he is ‘Richard Tims’ than anything that has been seen in public, and (b) a false allegation that I have falsely accused Glen Jenvey of being a paedophile. The basis of Jenvey’s allegation is a sentence that has been taken out of context, and not written about Jenvey by me, but about Osama bin Laden by… Glen Jenvey writing under yet another pseudonym (‘saddam01′). . This same letter seeks to assure the PCC of Jenvey’s credibility with a glowing endorsement from Conservative MP Patrick Mercer. Please read on to see just what the hell any of this nonsense has to do with you.

Feb 12 – At roughly 7pm, I get an email from an Adam Macqueen, who cleverly offers me a ‘freelance payment*’ while not admitting to nicking the story in any way, not even by accident. Instead, he attempts to pass off my contribution as some missing garnish and claims that he was “tipped off to look into this story by a contact of mine”… who we must assume either found the same ‘Tims’/Jenvey link within a few hours independent of my website or read about the ‘Tims’/Jenvey link on my website. Given that posts on my website are visible in Google within an hour and were an immediate top search result for ‘glen jenvey’ and ‘richard tims’ at the time, it’s most likely the latter, because anyone researching the story by that time will have found that it had already been written (if they had not instead found an earlier post that picked apart the tactics used by ‘abuislam’ and included an increasing number of signposts to the ‘Tims’/Jenvey connection under comments).

[Note – During the above exchange Macqueen also made an odd complaint that “Glen Jenvey is now trying to take us to the Press Complaints Commission.” Given that your magazine does not consider itself answerable to the PCC, I took this to be a rather pathetic attempt to assure me that you were taking as much ‘heat’ over this story as I was… perhaps so I would be just a little more grateful for the lousy £50 that was eventually sent to me almost two months later.]

Mar 13 – Adam Macqueen makes a false claim on his personal weblog that I (and/or my associates) have ‘stolen’ his stories on the weblog ‘The Sun: Tabloid Lies’ in much the same way that students steal your funny material for their newsletters/newspapers. That post is immediately brought to my attention by a gleeful Paul Staines who says “He thinks you are a cunt too.” In comments under his post, it is explained to Adam Macqueen that ‘The Sun: Tabloid Lies’ includes mostly original stories, but it also has a ‘media watch’ editor who reports on those all-too-rare instances when another media outlet calls Rebekah Wade on her bullshit. In each and every instance, we can’t help but credit the source of the story, because the whole fucking point of the feature is to report who is reporting any given story. Macqueen responds by ignoring this central point and instead expands on his earlier belittling efforts, even though it is also pointed out to him that “scanning and crediting a story spotted in another magazine as part of a ‘media watch’ feature is not the same as ripping off other people’s work and passing it off as your own”… as he himself had done in the pages of your magazine.

1ST INTERMISSION

It is here that I should point out that Paul Staines does not like me and hasn’t liked me since I dared to criticise his conduct as a blogger. He is fond of writing/publishing false and malicious claims about me that he cannot back with evidence, because he has no other response to my many criticisms of him that I can back with evidence. Well, he does have one other response; quite often he will explain away the expanding documentation of the many fascinating tactics he uses to cheat his readers and refuse accountability (when he himself gains power by demanding accountability of others in power) by claiming or implying that I am “obsessed” and a deranged stalker, guilty of harassment.

Exactly the same can be said of Iain Dale (who, I will remind you, is a friend of Adam Macqueen’s and even listed as such on his weblog).

This briefing against me goes back many years and is quite deliberate; I have no doubt that you’re familiar with the tactic. Again, I must ask you to read on in order to be fully aware of what all of this has to do with you.

Mar 16 – Through a combination of sheer luck, hard slog and a tiny dash of ingenuity, I finally authenticate an audio recording of Glen Jenvey admitting to using the alias ‘Richard Tims’ (when he had previously denied ever using it or even knowing anyone by that name). The connection between Jenvey and ‘Tims’ that Private Eye was so uncertain about is now rock-solid. I confront Jenvey with this revelation, and he responds with threats and (wait for it, wait for it)… claims I am a deranged stalker, and guilty of harassment. In that same audio, which is also firmly established as being recorded over a year earlier, Jenvey spells out an ongoing conspiracy to bypass the appropriate authorities and ensure that his terror ‘investigations’ get results by hook or crook:

“I was… I basically… I basically uncovered all the films. With…. a university professor whose cousin, Sherard, is the British Ambassador to Afghanistan, but at that stage was the British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. If I don’t think the cops are taking me seriously… or not acting on information given over to them or MI5… we bypass them and I will use one of my number of diplomatic contacts… or it will go to Sherard. And if that fails, I then go to the press.” – Glen Jenvey

Mar 17 – I’ve already named a few names and rattled a few cages by now, but today I’m able to spell it all out; Glen Jenvey’s primary accomplice that he himself identifies in the audio recording is Michael Starkey, who is a university lecturer, cousin of Sherard Cowper-Coles (former ambassador to Afghanistan) and brother to Sir John Philip Starkey, who sits on the executive committee of Tory MP Patrick Mercer (source of the aforementioned glowing endorsement and many, many quotes reinforcing and/or reacting to Jenvey’s dubious claims/stories).

Mar 18 – From about midnight on this day (or possibly earlier, late on the evening of the 17th) Glen Jenvey and/or a close associate, initially on Thai Web forums/blogs, and then later in blogs in the UK and the USA, falsely accuses me of being a convicted sex criminal with “a record as long as your arm for child sex offences”. The report also falsely accuses me of being arrested for sex with a young girl abroad and says that I was rumoured to have had sex with children as young as nine in Thailand. I am further accused of hosting child porn on my website, and the messages also include what I interpret as a threat to my person and/or an effort to prompt vigilante action (if you would like to just let Tim know what you think of sex crimes in Thailand info coming soon”). Given that this action by Jenvey is almost universally condemned, even by people who hate my guts, I feel pretty safe in enlisting the help of Iain Dale in getting a message directly to Patrick Mercer (as the two have a past association, and for some inexplicable reason Mercer’s staff are not cooperating or even passing messages on).

Mar 19 – The police are called, and the long process of filing a harassment complaint begins. I am surprised that I have to chase Iain about this matter, but he later assures me that he understands the situation and that contact has been made. He then leaves me in no doubt that Mercer is now personally aware of the situation. I am left mystified that still no action is taken by his office to restrain or disown Jenvey, and a long sleepless night follows.

Mar 20 – I source a copy of Mercer’s mobile number through my own contacts and then call him directly. He answers, listens, claims it’s the first he’s heard of any of it, and immediately issues a statement disowning Jenvey.

Mar 26 – Emails are sent to James Harding (editor of The Times), Lloyd Embley (editor of The People), Dawn Neesom (editor of the Daily Star), Rebekah Wade (editor of The Sun), Paul Dacre (editor of the Daily Mail), Peter Hill (editor of the Daily Express) and Martin Townsend (editor of the Sunday Express). All of them appear to have carried Jenvey-sourced stories in the past, but none of them respond.

Mar 27 – I confront Iain Dale about his apparent inaction regarding his promised direct call to Mercer. He ignores/avoids the matter when I raise it in comments on his site, and it takes 5 emails over the space of 6 hours just to get him to respond. He implies that he was unaware of the need to contact Mercer directly and informs me that he contacted the same staff that I had already informed him were not cooperating or even passing messages on. He also informs me that “this will be the only email from me you get on this” as if it’s the end of the matter, and insists that his excuse remain a secret.

Mar 29 – Iain Dale refuses to discuss the matter on his website and continues to insist that his excuse for not contacting Mercer remain confidential. He accuses me of harassment, gives his readers the impression that he’s on the verge of making a police complaint, and ‘bans’ me from leaving comments on his weblog. (Blogger.com does not let you ban individuals, so this amounts to Iain deleting comments of mine as soon as they appear. This little game continues for some time.)

2ND INTERMISSION

It was at about this stage that ‘smeargate’ exploded and Iain Dale went on to make a number of claims (that he could not back with evidence) that it was all about him and that there was a document proving a Downing Street conspiracy against him specifically. We have yet to see this document, despite a months-old promise from Paul Staines on live television to produce it that very afternoon. Iain reportedly earned around £5,000 in media appearances peddling lies and playing the victim, and by now I was royally pissed that he would be such a brass-necked bastard about it after standing by and allowing me to be smeared with a claim that was far worse than anything he was busy feigning outrage about. During this period, Iain ignored my repeated requests that he (a) explain his inaction over the Mercer call, (b) cooperate with my soon-to-be-finalised police statement, (c) remove/address any false claims hosted on his website that I am or ever was associated with Derek Draper and/or currently in the pay of the Labour Party, Downing Street, Cabinet ministers, etc. (for some reason, these claims enjoyed a resurgence following ‘smeargate’ and my criticism of the way certain bloggers had conducted themselves over that affair).

So for well over a week Iain Dale is on TV and on the radio and in newspapers saying how awful it is that Downing Street planned to smear him personally when he has no proof to back this up, *and* while he is refusing to cooperate with my police statement about a genuine smear.

Here comes the third and final act, which explains the role played by Private Eye in this ongoing soap opera playground drama. Brace yourself…

Apr 15 – I submit a comment to the website of Paul Staines (aka ‘Guido Fawkes’) and ask him to produce evidence to support his repeated claim of a Downing Street conspiracy against him and Iain Dale specifically. Staines ignores the question, but goes on to publish many anonymous comments claiming that am currently in the pay of the Labour Party, Downing Street, Cabinet ministers, etc. and deletes my reply denying all of that. I then put pressure on Jag Singh, CIO of MessageSpace, on the basis that weblogs in his network should conduct themselves professionally, at least with regards to outright libel.

Apr 16 – Sadly, on the same day that Paul Staines is compelled to remove every false claim about my being a paid Labour/Brown/Watson stooge (which is quite a victory), Iain Dale reacts to my constant pressure that he explain his (in)actions over what are now multiple smears (on and off his website) by misrepresenting my multiple calls and emails and (*deep sigh*)… making me out to be a deranged stalker and guilty of harassment. He presents a single private email out of context, makes false allegations declaring me to be guilty of criminal intent/activity, and then significantly changes the settings on his website that (a) allows for totally anonymous comments, (b) makes it much easier for everyone (including himself) to pretend to be more than one person, and (c) only publishes comments that he has pre-approved. It is in these circumstances that he publishes (under his false claims and implications) a total of 115 comments, the majority of which make further false claims of criminal intent/activity and pass judgement on my mental state. I am again in contact with Jag Singh who reluctantly agrees to intervene and convince yet another blogger on his network that they should conduct themselves professionally, at least with regards to outright libel.

Apr 17 – Jag Singh is yet to get back to me with any progress. He is informed that I have proof that at least one person has been directly inspired by Iain’s post to repeat Glen Jenvey’s false claims of paedophilia. There is no reply.

Apr 28 – Four emails have been sent over the space of a week, but Jag has ignored all of them. He finally responds to the fifth by laughing off his attempt to ignore the problem in the hope that it would go away (“Ha! That works with some people, but you’re the most persistent mo-fo I’ve seen in a while”). Jag relays a claim from Iain that he has already “involved the authorities”. He later attempts to draw our conversation away to a private, nondescript email address on the basis that he fears he is being bugged, and again goes quiet when I persist with using an official MessageSpace address.

May 4 – After Harry Cole (aka ‘Tory Bear'; yet another MessageSpace blogger with a close association with Paul Staines) falsely implies that I am a “shady” character somehow in league with Derek Draper, I issue Jag Singh with an ultimatum by email and attempt to reach him by phone. He fails to answer his direct line or his mobile, and when I call the switchboard for MessageSpace (in the middle of a weekday) my calls are diverted to an answering machine. I mask my number and call again. The person who (finally) answers the phone is clearly evasive and goes on to ask me what I am wearing. This query expands into a bizarre faux-homosexual come-on that I just happen to record in full. When I finally reach Jag Singh later that afternoon, he reacts with relative good humour until he finds out that I can prove what I claim. He then greatly overstates the number of times I have tried to contact him and (*even deeper sigh*)… refuses to correspond any further on the basis that I am a deranged stalker and guilty of harassment. He follows this up with a letter to my home address, even though his business has no legitimate reason to have this ex-directory address to hand. The letter implies that I was subjected to sexual harassment because the person harassing me felt harassed. Clear? Good. We’re almost there.

[Note – Harry Cole and Paul Staines and MessageSpace all share the same fax address; 070 9201 2337]

May 6 – Iain Dale inadvertently reveals that, despite his many claims and implications to the contrary, he has not actually submitted a harassment complaint to the police.

May 8 – Adam Macqueen submits the following comment to a post that (a) repeats Iain Dale’s false allegations/implications of harassment, (b) further implies that I am some way associated with Derek Draper, and (c) carries some comments by me refuting these allegations. Adam Macqueen’s comment clearly accepts all of this without contradiction, and instead refers to my input and dismisses it in the following manner:

Adam Macqueen said…

Oh my god! You made eye contact with the nutter on the bus! You should never, ever do this. I found this out the hard way a few months back…

Still, “imagine what might have happened”, eh?

hope all’s well
x
08 May 2009 23:43

May 9 – Having contributed/subscribed to the thread earlier, I am alerted to this latest contribution automatically and I email Adam at his Private Eye address, because we have only ever corresponded twice, and both times on matters to do with your magazine, as spelled out in the timeline above (i.e. when he has “made eye contact with the nutter on the bus” according to his account, which some regard to be misleading).

From: Tim Ireland
To: adam.macqueen@private-eye.co.uk
Date: Sat, May 9, 2009 at 12:29 AM
Subject: Your comment

Adam, where do you get off calling me a nutter?

http://cheeseford.blogspot.com/2009/04/when-i-was-member-of-my-universitys.html?showComment=1241822580000#c8244331877504084278

I may be the life of the party right now, but most of this shit started after a story that I took the risk on and you took the credit for, if you recall.

(Thanks for the £50, by the way. If you mean[t] ‘token payment’ you should have said ‘token payment’.)

And you moan to me that Jenvey’s taking you to the PCC. Diddums. Your magazine doesn’t even sign up to the PCC code, so I fail to see how this could bother you.

Meanwhile Jenvey’s retaliating by accusing me of paedophilia and Iain Dale – a blogger you list as a friend – tries to screw me over when I ask for his help to prevent that.

And when he refuses to even talk to me about that, or the repeated false claims he has published about me on his website, I’m not allowed to press him or chase him?

http://www.bloggerheads.com/archives/2009/04/here_are_the_ma.asp

(Sorry for all the pesky detail. It just seems to be beyond you is all.)

Tim

May 11 – I receive my reply and immediately make a decision to approach you about this matter as soon as I am able:

From: Adam Macqueen [adam.macqueen@private-eye.co.uk]
To: Tim Ireland
Date: Mon, May 11, 2009 at 10:33 AM
Subject: RE: Your comment

Because you obsessively trawl the internet responding to every single comment you dislike. As you’ve just proved.

Now go away.

Pardon my French, but I don’t think I’m le cunt here.

(I’m not sure if this should be masculine or feminine… I hope it doesn’t fuck my joke.)

But the way Adam Macqueen would have it, if I complain about him nicking my story and later falsely accusing me of taking credit for his work, then I’m a nutter.

Further, my disagreeing with that assertion proves the assertion, and if I seek to discuss this absurdity any further with Adam Macqueen, he will no doubt feel justified in claiming that I am (yes, you guessed it) a deranged stalker and guilty of harassment because he told me to go away and I refused to do so.

Additionally, I can probably enjoy a good going-over courtesy of this writer at the earliest opportunity, either on his blog or in the pages of your magazine.

Adam Macqueen admits elsewhere, for example, that he’s responsible for the single sentence of praise that opened your recent article on Paul Staines (“Well, the whole piece wasn’t my work, but that opening was, and it was entirely sincere”). I feel it is quite reasonable for me to now expect that it is only a matter of time before I am persistent enough to pursue something that warrants a mention in your magazine and he uses that opportunity to slip in the ‘obsessive’ and/or ‘stalker’ tag.

I write to you today mainly to ensure that you are aware of the situation and therefore unlikely to allow that to happen, but I think I’m also well within my rights to expect some form of disciplinary action against Adam Macqueen, who is clearly compromising his professional integrity by involving himself in a personal vendetta and playing along with this lovely smear that comes complete with its own Catch-22.

Oh and I’d also like to offer you that £50 back on the sole condition that it be stuffed up Adam Macqueen’s arse.

If you regard this account and these expectations to be reasonable, then please do give me at least a day’s notice to pop down to the bank and have that fifty changed into 2,500 two pence pieces.

Otherwise, please do get in touch and request any details that you might require to better gauge the accuracy of my claims and/or any counter-accusations that are almost sure to follow… like my having girl’s germs or smelling of wee (with an added “Jinx!” for good measure).

Cheers

Tim Ireland
www.bloggerheads.com

Phew! Well, I have no time to hang around and see what that shakes loose, but I will mostly likely be with you again at this same time tomorrow.

Please do take the time to write in to Private Eye if you’ve been following the blog (and/or this saga) for a while.

Cheers all.

PS – Never, ever, EVER take this kind of shit lying down, or every bugger with a beef will jump on top of you… and the next person that dares to take your place.








About Tim Ireland

Tim is the sole author of Bloggerheads.
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