This entry was posted on
Tuesday, January 19th, 2010 at
10:49 am and is filed
under Old Media.
First of all, I want to make it clear that I’m making no judgements here about what Rod Liddle said as ‘monkeymfc’, and would even point out that some (but not all) ‘monkeymfc’ comments have been taken out of context (especially in those neighbourhoods – *cough*DailyMail*cough* – where people do not link to evidence and have a track record of using material out of context, especially when it comes to identifying proof that they themselves are not the real racists/liars/etc).
Second, I think it needs to be said that there is no evidence that Rod Liddle was sock-puppeting as ‘monkeymfc’.
(For examples of sock-puppeting see Steve “leave my family out of it” Grover, Phil “I only did it that one time I got caught” Hendren, Andrew “my ‘partner’ did it” Gilligan, and Grant “someone guessed my password” Shapps.)
I’ve looked at the posts made by ‘monkeymfc’ on the relevant forum, and it is clear that Liddle’s identity is no big secret within that community… but, while counting in his favour on one front, this presents Liddle with his main problem on another…
Liddle has been making vague/one-off comments about his account being compromised. These accusations began as a claim that his account was ‘hacked’. I’ve checked with the site administrators and there’s no evidence of this, but to be fair we can put this down to the poor wording of a layman; later, Liddle made it clear that what he was claiming was that his account was accessed without his permission when someone guessed his password; this is not ‘hacking*’ but ‘password cracking’.
Sadly for Liddle, the administrators do not appear to recall any complaint/discussion about this, which casts doubt on his earlier claim that a site admin told him his account was accessed by “a different computer to his”.
In short, Liddle has been left looking like a liar on a crucial specific, and it looks no better when you step back for an overview:
Liddle claims that an unknown party with an agenda used his account to pose as him and make untoward comments in an effort to make him look bad.
We are expected to believe that a community broadly aware of Liddle’s identity did nothing to alert him about comments designed to compromise his credibility; comments that, by their very design, one would expect to be out of character.
We are expected to believe that Liddle didn’t notice these himself in the months that followed, and that he did nothing to delete/moderate them, even though he still had complete control over his account (regardless of any unauthorised access that may or may not have taken place).
We are expected to believe that Liddle complained to site administrators about this (even though they cannot recall any such conversation taking place) and that comments falsely made in his name were still left untouched after this.
All of these circumstances raise serious questions, but I want to show you where Liddle lost the benefit of the doubt from me.
Regular readers of Bloggerheads will find this comment depressingly familiar; here’s Liddle responding to much of the above under Roy Greenslade’s Guardian piece, and (tellingly, I think) refusing to use the opportunity to prove what he claims/implies is ‘provably so’ in a very dishonest fashion:
I’m glad you accept I’m not racist or any of those other things, Mr Greenslade. I did publicly refute one of the posts quoted in the Mail on Sunday, and which was certainly not me and provably so. But if you think I am going to waste my life tracking down every single thing you claim I’ve said, try to remember if I;ve said them, ask admin to check urls etc etc, just so you can pursue this odd little vendetta, you have to be kidding, mate. And why should I insist the site take down everything in my name, just to make you happy? Who do you think you are? And who the hell am I, for that matter? (link)
‘Vendetta’ is textbook, as are the false thresholds; no-one is asking Liddle to account for (or delete) everything he’s said. This looks like the last refuge of a lying scoundrel to me.
And it’s on that basis that I judge Rod Liddle and find him wanting; I expect more of anyone who edits any publication/programme that’s specifically designed to hold others to account.
*UPDATE (05 Sep 2010) – I will happily update this post with a note about my passing mention of hacking/cracking; as far as public perception goes, the majority of people will hear the word ‘hacking’ when used clearly in relation to a specific electronic account and will understand its intended meaning and I could have let this go, but in this instance Liddle was making very vague claims (for reasons that are easy to guess at). Specifics were required in this case because Rod Liddle’s vague accusations could be read as the site’s general security being compromised, not just his own account, and this was unfair on the webmasters. However, in this case a pointless semantic deceit is being used to muddy the waters in defence of Andy Coulson.