Old Media

Alex Wickham (‘top tabloid journo’) vs. John Cleese, Hacked Off and the facts

2

Yesterday I attended a rally for Hacked Off. While there, I observed Alex Wickham enter the room and take a front-row seat in the press box before thumbing away at his handheld device.

Wickham and his cohorts like to downplay typical everyday victims of tabloid excess, and instead press a narrative about a small gang of celebrities trying to restrict free speech so they can keep their dirty little secrets. Knowing Wickham to be a deeply tribal and unapologetic tabloid ‘journalist’ who had previously taken every opportunity to demonise Hacked Off and their supporters, I was curious to see how he was reporting this event.

I accessed the Twitter feeds of the two main accounts he uses, and observed him in action.

First, he took this photo of Hugh Grant and (using the same device) live-tweeted it to the @MediaGuido account (12:56pm):

Then, he manually retweeted himself using the @WikiGuido account (12:57pm)

I was not at all surprised to see Wickham pressing the celebrity angle, or to see him using mutliple Twitter accounts in this way. I was even less surprised when he escalated to more overt attempts to reject one argument and instead press his own false prospectus (1:06pm):

(Note : the above was also RTed to his @WikiGuido account a moment later.)

I did not think it was fair on the audience, and this tweet helped me make up my mind to report the matter to the Chair (1:08pm):

The above was a gross and deeply offensive mischaracterisation of what was being said to the audience, and how they were reacting to it. Brian Cathcart compared a range of media owners/editors to the man behind the green curtain in The Wizard of Oz (his exact words: “the squeaky little figure, or the squeaky little line-up of figures…”, and later “tear away the curtain and we see the squeaky little figure of Paul Dacre; let’s keep it that way, let’s keep them out in the open”).

The “rapturous applause” Wickham describes in response to some crass personal assault on Paul Dacre is pure invention (if not a gross distortion of the end-of-speech applause that everybody has received at the end of every speech at every political rally since the dawn of democracy). The Orwellian reference to the “obedient audience” is entirely over the top, and typically so.

Further, Wickham was totally engrossed in this task and typing his distortions while John Cleese was speaking about a long list of everyday victims of tabloid abuse and intrusion. The only report of any of this from Wickham was Cleese’s opening mention of the role played by celebrities in this debate (1:10pm), followed by the moment that Mr Cleese became momentarily overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the inhumanity he was reading aloud, with the clear suggestion being that his was an entirely emotional and therefore flawed argument (1:11pm).

You are invited to listen to the actual event rather than a cherry-picked moment of it written by a man so crassly preoccupied with his task of distortion that he didn’t even look up and acknowledge that any of this was being read out at the time:

Note that the above two tweets neatly bracket a long list of victims that Wickham is determined to gloss over, and that the second tweet throws two words together and attributes them as a description of the press in general. Here’s the text of what Cleese actually said after reading a long list of examples of specific and undeniably monstrous, sociopathic acts:

“So what do we say about this monstrous behaviour? And what is (so) monstrous about it for me is the almost complete lack of contrition on behalf of people who do these dreadful, sociopathic things.” – John Cleese

If responsibility for this behaviour was laid at anyone’s feet, it was at Rupert Murdoch’s, but given how closely Wickham is associated with The Sun on Sunday, it is unlikely that this is a point/debate that he would wish to address on anything but his own twisted terms.

Getting back to those terms, later in the piece, Cleese compared the field of journalism to other fields that would like to regulate themselves (builders, accountants) and to those that used to regulate themselves, but no longer do (lawyers, doctors). To illustrate his point he made a joke that murderers would probably like to regulate themselves too. That murder is not an acknowledged profession or field (in this country) should be clue enough to most people that a joke was in progress, but Wickham was quick to seize on it and present it as a standalone comparison (1:13pm):

Wickham then retweeted himself using his other account (1:14pm)…

… before repeating his assertion once more at @MediaGuido for good measure (1:15pm)

Now have a listen and decide for yourself what was actually said. Also note that John Cleese wraps up this point with talk of the people who lie about Hacked Off seeking to muzzle the press (trust me: we’ll get to this soon enough):

Here’s a transcript of the relevant section of the audio for those of you in the cheap seats:

“Of course they want to regulate themselves. We’d all like to regulate ourselves, wouldn’t we? But it would mean without appropriate oversight, builders, accountants, murderers; they’d all like to regulate themselves. And murderers would make a good case! They’d say ‘We’ve murdered a lot of people, we know people who’ve murdered people. We are best qualified to regulate (murder)’…”

“Yes, they want to go on [laughs] regulating themselves. Oh dear. The press editors simply want the freedom of the press – to be free to do what they damn well like, without independent oversight. Of course, things used to be different. Remember the lawyers, they used to have the Law Society to regulate themselves? Doctors used to have the General Medical Council. That’s all done. The only group that now regulates itself without independent oversight is [laughs] is the press. And why? because the politicians are more frightened of them than they are of anyone else, right? [sounds of agreement, then applause] But, you see, a lot of us don’t trust the press to regulate themselves without oversight any more than we don’t trust the murderers.” – John Cleese

Some other people spoke, Wickham’s distortions continued, and then the Chair (Evan Harris) spoke to the audience about one of the tweets by Wickham that I had brought to his attention:

Wickham is audibly mumbling when first challenged, but he clearly says it was “a direct quote” twice before not only being invited to speak but being urged to speak up by the Chair, when he finally says something the whole room can (almost) hear:

“I don’t understand the problem. It’s a direct quote. It was exactly what he said.” – Alex Wickham

This earned an immediate and vociferous response from one audience member concluding that he was a “cretin”, but this was putting it rather generously as it assumes that Wickham misquoted John Cleese out of ignorance alone before falsely stating when challenged that he had quoted him verbatim.

But it is clear from the audio that not only did Wickham misrepresent what John Cleese had said, he also made a false claim about having quoted him word-for-word when he had done no such thing. Wickham even challenged the Chair when his actions were described as presenting words out of context. Once again, he got to have his say, and this is what he said:

“How can it be out of context? It’s a direct quote.” Alex Wickham

So that’s twice that Wickham has been permitted to speak his mind, and twice he has refused to vary from an entirely false assertion that he had quoted John Cleese verbatim.

Listening to the audio, you will also hear a very strident Australian (*cough*) pointing out exactly how he had presented words out of context, even if one were to accept his argument that he had quoted John Cleese verbatim (which he had not done). At the very end you will hear the Chair once again invite him to identify himself, and you can also hear that by now the crowd are keen for him to do this, too. The specific calls for him to stand are for him to stand and identify himself. When he refuses to do this, at the very end of the audio, you will hear this moment, which also appears int he 15-second snippet of video that Wickham is now using to ‘prove’ that he was denied the right to free speech:

But Wickham was not refused his say; far from it. Neither was he robbed of his right to free speech. Wickham was not gagged or manhandled out of the room for daring to speak his mind; he was merely challenged, identified, then politely invited to leave, or sit and listen from that point on (i.e. after squandering multiple opportunities to explain himself). Wickham chose to sulk and portray himself as a victim on Twitter, starting with this (1:53pm)

The audio I have published here covers the entire exchange, as opposed to the 15 seconds of it that Wickham and the Guido Fawkes team seek to legitimise by citing the Press Association as the source of the clip (‘never mind the quality… feel the width!’). At no stage does Evan Harris shout at him. At no stage does John Cleese shout at him. This did not happen, before, during or after the event. But Wickham is banking so much on his assertion that it did happen that he has pinned this tweet on his profile.

(‘Look at me, everyone! John Cleese shouted at ME!’… and obviously I’m paraphrasing for effect here, so no letters, please.)

This didn’t happen either (1:57pm):

The audio makes it clear that Alex Wickham was repeatedly invited to stand to identify himself, something that he repeatedly refused to do. This is quite apart from the fact that he took any further opportunity to speak to again repeat the false assertion that he had quoted John Cleese “directly”, when he had not.

Wickham then when on to falsely assert that John Cleese had called him a liar:

John Cleese would not have been wrong or unfair to describe Wickham as a liar – because this tabloid tea-boy is a shameless and unapologetic liar – but what Cleese did was jokingly invite him to tell lies about him (“You’re absolutely free to tell any lies you want about me.”). So, Wickham lied about John Cleese calling him a liar!

Wickham then went back to his oh-so-crucial narrative about Hacked Off being an enemy of free speech, again giving a wholly misleading account of the event and what was actually happening when he was asked to stand and identify himself (2:00pm):

And it was at this point that Alex Wickham appeared to tweet about himself in third person using the @MediaGuido account (2:00pm), describing himself as a ‘top tabloid journalist’ and likening the audience to a gang of children descending into savagery:

It was after this flurry of tweeting that he skulked out of the room of his own volition.

Within 20 minutes, the main @GuidoFawkes account was used to post a picture of Alex Wickham the “hero” being gagged (2:22pm):

Within another 20 minutes, Harry Cole (also of the Guido Fawkes website) was characterising the Chair’s intervention as a “meltdown” (2:39pm):

And before an hour had passed, the main Guido Fawkes Twitter account and website had been deployed to describe the lobbying event as a “show trial for journalists” (2:58pm):

Wickham has since asserted that both Dr Evan Harris and John Cleese have accepted his version of events as accurate, but this assertion is based on further distortion and invention.

Alex Wickham was allowed to attend, but it was a trust he abused. He was allowed to report, but he gave a wholly distorted account of events. This was not “a direct quote” as Wickham repeatedly stated. At no time did John Cleese utter these words in this order:

Further, after the kind of behaviour that would earn one immediate ejection at most events, Wickham was challenged and invited to explain himself, but chose to give a false account of what he had done, and then give a false account about being denied the opportunity to speak.

(Surely, Alex, you remember speaking. You must have sensed your lips flapping, the sound waves leaving your body and the bullshit dripping off your chin.)

I will add to this that if you dare voice any dissent in the comments at the ‘Guido Fawkes’ website, you are shouted down by a series of anonymous comments before being invited to go and complain on your own blog. It turns out that Alex Wickham can’t even hack being asked nicely to leave and do the same. So he’s a hypocrite as well as a liar.

Alex Wickham, Harry Cole and site proprietor Paul Staines owe John Cleese a full retraction and an apology for giving a distorted account of what he said and how he responded when this came to light. They also owe Evan Harris, the speakers and the entire audience a retraction and an apology not only for the initial distortions, but for later giving a distorted account of what Wickham did, what he said, and how those gathered reacted to his audacity.

However, I am guessing that the only response we will see to this article is the usual round of tabloid obfuscation and intimidation designed to shut me/others up and discourage the one thing these people fear most: attention to detail, and timely and irrefutable deconstruction of their hastily-woven fictions.

[drops mic]

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UPDATE (27 Feb) – At one stage, someone tried to explain that the ‘stand up, sit down’ event did not happen as Wickham described (and it didn’t). Of course, what Alex Wickham seized upon was any suggestion that ‘stand up, sit down’ did not happen at all (when he did actually stand up and sit down), so on this basis – brace yourselves – Alex Wickham is claiming that the audio I have published here proves his version of events, and further asserts that this is the “end of the matter”. No, I am not kidding. Here’s a direct quote, complete with context, and you can click through for more if you have any doubts:

Some might also note that Wickham doesn’t actually link to the audio that ‘proves his version of events’, or even hint where it might be found. This demonstrates his attitude towards accuracy… and his audience.

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Dennis Rice and his conduct as ‘@TabloidTroll’

Over two years ago, in April 2012 to be precise, I became aware of a Twitter account by an anonymous tabloid journalist: @tabloidtroll.

While maintaining pretensions of whistle-blowing, @tabloidtroll actually sought to attack those outside the industry who highlighted or criticised wrongdoing within it. This included campaigners for press reform, critics of tabloid excess, and even police officers who dared to arrest journalists alleged to have engaged in such excesses to a criminal degree.

Psychological projection was evident from the outset. In a series of circular arguments, the author engaged in trolling, abusive and circumstantial ad hominem attacks on a range of targets and justified these attacks with allegations that his targets had engaged in trolling, abusive and circumstantial ad hominem attacks on himself and/or others. Those who dared to object to such treatment were accused of seeking to bully the author into silence.

Relevant distortions became increasingly bold and pronounced over time. For example: an objection to the treatment of Milly Dowler’s family would be characterised as ‘trolling journalists with a dead girl’.

There was also a clear pattern of targeting critics first with the allegation of bias, then of abusive behaviour, and ultimately some form of financial impropriety, which was usually used as a premise for contacting their employer(s), client(s), donor(s), etc. – all based on nothing but piss and wind.

Very early in the piece, I obtained IP evidence that demonstrated that a tabloid journalist by the name of Dennis Rice was the main account holder. I then confronted that journalist about my findings.

Dennis Rice responded by saying: “My lawyers will deal with anything anyone would be foolish enough to print – alleging or otherwise – that I am (@tabloidtroll)”

But I never did hear from those lawyers, even after publishing my findings. Instead, Dennis Rice made a complaint to Thames Valley Police alleging that I had stalked and harassed him and mishandled private data. The @tabloidtroll account was then used to announce that I was under police investigation. When this investigation closed without action Rice simply made another complaint and repeated the process. Thames Valley Police are very clear that I was “never a suspect” but they declined to investigate any potential waste of police time on the grounds that Rice had not wasted enough time for it to be worth their time.

(Note – Rice uses the word ‘stalker’ according to his needs. As @tabloidtroll he accused me of electronically stalking him because he received an alert that I had viewed his ‘Dennis Rice’ LinkedIn profile. Meanwhile, he has demonstrably sought to intimidate other Twitter users through detail he claims to have obtained from LinkedIn, the Land Registry, and even the Electoral Register. Further, these messages assuring others of my guilt – based on his highly inventive reports of a police investigation in progress – appeared alongside allegations that critics of certain other tabloid journalists had forgotten about the fundamental right of the presumption of innocence.)

Also, while publicly challenging me to publish the relevant IP data and thereby ‘prove’ my case, Dennis Rice was first researching and then contacting the employers of (a) parties who had offered to verify my findings, and (b) parties who merely spoke about the quality of the evidence in principle. Rice wrongly alleged that they had mishandled his private data and ‘enabled a stalker’, and to some parties he pretended police involvement to the extent of threatening a potential visit by police to their workplace (i.e. if the employer did not provide an ‘alternative method of contact’ for the accused party). Let me clear on this point: Rice was using a clumsy form of social engineering in order to mine/blag personal data that was none of his business and using an allegation of improper handling of data to do it.

Rice also began to pretend that @tabloidtroll was the work of many journalists, but he repeatedly allowed this fiction to slip through carelessness and the effort was further undermined by a linguistics report comparing the output of @dennisricemedia and @tabloidtroll that showed “multiple significant points of consistency between the output of Dennis Rice and ‘@tabloidtroll’”.

Rice sought to undermine these findings with a series of inventive but wholly flawed arguments, but in the end he settled on the first of a long series of threats (made as @tabloidtroll) to visit me at my home and sort it out ‘in person’. I made it very clear to Mr Rice that any such visit would be inappropriate and unwelcome. He responded by accusing me of cowardice and actually using this to justify his actions; he was not seeking to intimidate a critic, he was facing up to a coward who had sought to intimidate a critic.

Some equally inventive distortions were used to play on my dispute with the Conservative MP Nadine Dorries. Thinly-veiled death threats were being published about me and justified with the false allegation that I had stalked that MP. Rice portrayed my complaint about this as a death threat against Dorries, and several further threats to visit my home followed.

Another party who saw an opportunity to use Rice against me tweeted a public message suggesting that I might be a child rapist. I used a polite private message to ask why they might do such a thing, but the author portrayed my behaviour as ‘abusive’, telegraphing the report to Rice, who of course followed up with a series of threats to turn up and my house and ‘confront the coward’.

By this stage, it was not any mention of his name that set him off, but my mere presence on Twitter. I had stopped blogging and stopped engaging on twitter for weeks and then months at a time. The moment I dared show up online, the threats would commence based on some allegation or another. At times, even the mere fact of my absence would be used against me, as in this example:

TABLOIDTROLL: “Hide all you like, you despicable woman stalking prick, but know I’m coming for you, and its going to get bloody :-)”

Rice had also used the entirely false allegation that my in-laws had bought the house next door for cash as justification for publishing a list of names of people in my extended family. The claim was that I was somehow living a life of privilege while maintaining pretensions of being a working class hero or some such nonsense.

I asked Rice to cease and desist from the outset, pointing out that what he was publishing was as intrusive as it was inaccurate. Rice responded as @tabloidtroll in the following manner:

TABLOIDTROLL: “Message to TT’s stalker about his latest gutless plea: Make Me.”

Seeking a path for legal correspondence that would not lead to similar outbursts, I emailed the lawyer Mark Lewis*, who I knew had acted for Rice at one stage. I asked Lewis if Rice was still a client. Rather than answer this question, Lewis simply forwarded my email on to Rice with a chummy ‘Hope you’re OK’. I know this because Rice then began forwarding the email to multiple recipients and presenting it as evidence that I was harassing him.

Meanwhile, Rice’s attempts to portray me as a privileged outsider extended into associating me with the banking scandal. Rice was so intent on this that he first began referring to my “banker father in law”, but when he subsequently found out that the relevant party had died recently, he immediately switched to referring to my “banker’s widow mother in law”.

You are invited to imagine the emotional impact this had on grieving family members.

Behind the scenes, I had placed my faith in Surrey Police… who proved to be utterly useless and totally ignorant about the relevant technology. Judging by his own account, when attending an interview, Rice showed Surrey Police some tweets that were made on the @tabloidtroll account while he was volunteering in some capacity in a prison (i.e. and therefore without access to a laptop or mobile). The investigating officer simply could not fathom that a tweet might be scheduled for future publication, or that someone might be roped in to tweet on the author’s behalf. Worse, Surrey Police did not regard it to be ‘proportionate’ to investigate the account or its authorship through Twitter, and they even struggled to appreciate the significance of Dennis Rice writing to my employer three days prior to his police interview threatening them with a grand exposé based on a series of absurd allegations.

After that interview turned out rather better than he had been expecting, Rice withdrew the threat, but the exposé turned up anyway… on the website of @tabloidtroll, obviously. In this hatchet job, Rice accused me of ‘betraying’ my employer and promoting my articles by using their facilities to magic them to the top of search results (i.e. as if they did not do so on their own merit, and as if my employers engaged in black-hat SEO). He also accused me of stalking my own clients. One example: Like hundreds of others, I boycotted Tesco products once to protest their position on ‘Workfare’; Rice described this as ‘stalking’ and wrongly claimed that I engaged in this ‘stalking’ while retaining them as a client.

None of this was true, but by now Rice had extended his threats to confront me face to face at either home or work, or even en-route. At one stage he openly offered to share my travel itinerary to any ‘victims of abuse’ who contacted him.

In was in the face of this ongoing escalation and continuing inaction by Surrey Police that I sought to detach myself from my employer before Rice began targeting my workmates as he had my extended family. Rice used visible signs of my departure to support an allegation that his report of my ‘stalking clients’ had led to some discovery or ruling by my employer that supported his argument.

(Nadine Dorries was kind enough to pretend the same thing at the time, and made a big show of contacting the CEO about the allegations, but refrained from publishing their response for reasons that are easy to guess at. Harry Cole and Paul Staines also saw fit to promote the allegations, and again their reasons for endorsing an anonymous hatchet job are no big mystery.)

Rice then used this in a new narrative designed to further undermine the original IP data linking him to the account (e.g. “Your friend Tim initially claimed to have incontrovertible IP address evidence then subsequently refused to show it. And as I understand it later left the employ of an IT firm after it was revealed he was tweeting abuse to the company’s clients, including one Rupert Murdoch**”).

But of course, none of this put the genie back in the bottle, even after Rice wrote to Google seeking the removal of certain search results based on his false allegations of stalking. I had not only determined that Rice was the main account holder using IP data, I had also published further expert evidence demonstrating that he was the primary if not sole author. Often, when Rice tangled with anyone of any substance as @tabloidtroll, they would greet him with a cheery ‘Hello, Dennis!’ and he would feel compelled to yet again go over the allegations against me that he felt undermined the evidence I had published… but his attempts to deny the obvious only made the obvious even more obvious.

Over the past two years, as @tabloidtroll, Rice has progressed from attempts to intimidate and undermine witnesses at the Leveson Inquiry to attempts to intimidate and undermine a reporter who saw fit to live-tweet the recent hacking trial: Peter Jukes.

Peter has repeatedly been treated/threatened with the same attention that I have enjoyed over the past years, and so far the pattern has remained exactly the same; through @tabloidtroll and associated hangers-on, Peter stands accused of bias, abuse, and financial impropriety. It is my understanding that Dennis Rice has grown increasingly anxious about this conduct being documented in Peter’s upcoming book Beyond Contempt.

The blogger Richard Bartholomew has also been singled out for such treatment, up to and including intimidating calls to his mother. It was recent threats to visit the home of Richard’s mother that prompted me to suppress my fear of this individual and reiterate what I could demonstrate about Dennis Rice being the author of @tabloidtroll (example).

Rice responded by using his @dennisricemedia account and his @tabloidtroll account to not only announce that I was under investigation for stalking Nadine Dorries, but even name a specific officer… something he really should have checked with said officer before publishing any such claim. Rice followed this up with a threat to visit the premises of my partner’s new business venture (to ‘look at the dodgy financials’), then assured me that if I did not ‘crawl back under my rock’, he would subject me to further attention.

By this time, myself and others had begun to ask questions about the extent to which the former NOTW editor Neil Wallis*** and one of his drinking buddies had involved themselves in this anonymous bullying.

Shortly after these two developments, for reasons that remain unclear, ‘@tabloidtroll’ announced that he was taking ‘a longish break’ to write a book about his experiences. Rice then rendered the account private and soon after deactivated it, thereby abandoning any pretence that it was maintained by multiple authors.

But Dennis Rice isn’t done. Not by any means.

I am aware of further correspondence from Rice (under his own name) where he seeks to intimidate his critics into silence with vague threats of legal action over unspecified libel(s). Said critics have been assured that their faith in my evidence is misplaced on the grounds that I am mentally unstable and under police investigation for stalking.

However, the more Dennis Rice behaves like this, the more he confirms what has already been said about his behaviour both under his own name and under the guise of @tabloidtroll.

It would be tragic to think that Rice actually believed anything he said about the effort being in defence of journalism; where he has not simply lied about or invented damaging evidence, he has wilfully distorted it or single-sourced it from discredited parties with an obvious agenda. One of the forgeries targeting Richard Bartholomew is so amateurish it’s embarrassing, but Rice is long past caring about such details.

Dennis Rice may well have something to be proud of in the 20+ years he claims to have been conducting journalism, but at present he is no more than a thug, and in the past two years he has amply demonstrated how tabloid journalists can and will behave if they are not subjected to some form of oversight.

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(* “Dennis is a really great bloke. Old fashioned journalist. I know him well.” – Mark Lewis)

(** Rupert Murdoch has never been a client of mine, and he never will be.)

(*** I welcome any challenge/discussion about what I allege about Neil Wallis in this article, but I wish to stay well clear of anything potentially prejudicial given recent charges, so please understand the need to avoid that subject or any issue/topic likely to be associated with it.)

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UPDATE (August 2014) – Dennis Rice was in such a hurry to delete the evidence that he left his old username abandoned… so 30 days later I was able to register a new account with that same username! It strikes me as somewhat hypocritical that Rice is bragging that he has screen-captured tweets of his targets when he has deleted all of the tweets made using the ‘tabloidtroll’ account (and rendered the account under his own name private), so I suspect that sometime very soon I will put the time in and upload all of his old tweets as a searchable database, and use this same account to announce/distribute the relevant file. Cheers all.

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Jimmy Savile and the benefit of hindsight

Towards the end of his life, a woman with a striking resemblance to Jimmy Savile appeared at his doorstep claiming she was his child. He refused all contact with her, and even after he died she was initially refused access to materials that would allow her to conduct a DNA test.

She began a legal challenge that eventually led to DNA tests commissioned “by executors of Sir Jimmy’s estate” that were “inconclusive” (based on smoked cigars left in his home, apparently, but this detail may be tabloid garnish). She has since dropped the whole matter in line with her mother’s long-standing advice that she “leave it alone”, which shouldn’t surprise anyone given all of the recent revelations and allegations about the man who has become known as one of the most prolific sexual predators of our time.

You are invited to gaze in wonder at this item, where The Sun publish the response from Savile’s “former personal assistant” during the dispute. Full text appears below the scanned article for those of you in the cheap seats.

scan of Sun 19 Dec 2001

Sir Jimmy Savile’s pal says love child tale is ‘lie’
By RHODRI PHILLIPS
SIR Jimmy Savile’s former personal assistant yesterday rubbished a blonde’s claims that she is his secret daughter.
Janet Cope, 70, said the telly star would never have risked an affair.
And she dismissed Georgina Ray’s claims that the Top Of The Pops legend had a fling with her waitress mum in 1970 as “grotesque.”
She added: “I made all Jim’s arrangements, knew his every movement and who he was friends with.
“I’ve never heard of Georgina Ray or her mum. Jim cared too much about his image. He wouldn’t have risked it for a cheap fling.”
The Sun told last week how Georgina, 40, is calling for DNA tests to prove she is the daughter of Sir Jimmy, who died six weeks ago. The mum of three, from Cannock, Staffs, denies being a gold-digger.

What a difference a year makes, eh?

Changes

Hi everyone. I am sorry about the extended absences before and after Christmas.

I’d like to begin today with a belated review of this very important book by Bob & Sue Firth:

I Made My Excuses and Stayed (buy here) – In rural Dorset Bob and Sue Firth were running a successful Bed and Breakfast establishment with a twist. It was a naturist establishment. The couple were also professional masseurs offering therapeutic massage to non-residents as well as guests. All was going smoothly until they accepted a booking from a man calling himself ‘Neville’. Naively, the couple were taken in by this character who, using subterfuge, bribed them into making love in his presence. Unfortunately, ‘Neville’ turned out to be an undercover reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, for the News of the World! Believing he was about to uncover a juicy story, but finding that no such story existed, he set about fabricating a two page spread from his own imagination for the Sunday tabloid. But what ‘Neville’ didn’t realise was that the couple, suspicious of his intentions, had captured his escapades on a hidden video camera. The extraordinary story documents Bob and Sue’s rollercoaster of emotions and their adventures against overwhelming odds to set the record straight.

If I have a criticism of the book, it is that frequently we are asked to depart from the core narrative so we might get to know more about Bob & Sue. This is to be expected; they have just been through a brutally dehumanising process that few of us would be able to cope with at all, and I get the sense that this is one of their coping mechanisms (i.e. in that they would like the reader to recognise that they are not the monsters they have made out to be, even though this should be immediately obvious to any reasonable person).

That said, the book contains so much of value to anyone with any interest in the current debate about media standards that I say without hesitation it is required reading (for Leveson junkies especially so).

First, the book lays bare the lie that one can simply take civil action to correct matters if they are monstered by a certain tabloid newspaper or any other publisher of a similar size/standard. When they seek to resist the introduction of anything approaching accountability, unscrupulous publishers will claim that celebrities, politicians and even the great unwashed can simply sue if the newspaper ‘gets things wrong’, but this is so far from the truth it is laughable. Bob & Sue Firth had Neville Thurlbeck bang to rights, and yet still his newspaper sided with him and managed to successfully avoid any repercussions themselves.

Further, the book repeatedly documents/reveals the mechanics of a core technique used by tabloid ‘journalists’ that has since been adopted and evolved by an increasing number of imitators.

Here’s the passage that I found most enlightening, especially given my own experiences. It relates the moment when the Firths get in contact with another victim of tabloid fabrication, so I got to enjoy my revelation while reading about Sue and Bob experiencing a similar revelation for themselves:

“Well, what did she say?

“Well, it’s amazing… the similarities to the way we were set up… the ‘inaudible’ tapes supplied to the police. Thurlbeck pushing for a police investigation. The grain of truth to the story and the fabrication of the bulk of the story…”

I am here to tell you that, typically, police will play along with this game even to the extent that they will refuse to investigate evidence that has been falsified specifically for their benefit (i.e. where you or I might expect to see some concern about a potential conspiracy to pervert the course of justice). They either remain happily in bed with specific titles/publishers/individuals or are so concerned about a perceived ability to interfere with operational capacity that they will allow false/falsified statements made on behalf of police to stand uncorrected/unaddressed, as they see it as the lesser of two evils.

(I was even informed by one senior police officer – I won’t say which force – who said that they would not be pursuing certain parties for wasting police time, because those parties had not wasted enough police time for it to be worth their time to pursue it. Nice.)

It is this technique of lying on behalf of police that causes me the most concern, not least because I have been attacked with this exact same technique on multiple occasions since 2006, and in an uninterrupted/overlapping sequence since 2009, pretty much from the moment when they convinced a man to smear me as a convicted child rapist (over 100 times), then watched him get away with it.

I am repeatedly assured by police that it is not a criminal/prosecutable act, but no police force that I have asked (so far) will go on the record about that.

Perhaps they are concerned about what might happen if too many people knew that they could tell an outright lie of behalf of a police officer, a police department or a police force without fear of legal consequence… but we are already at a point where this is causing considerable and growing harm to the public and corruption of their authority.

Allow me to show you how/why…

Witness in this example how NOTW used the arrest of a disturbed woman to pretend that it verified a crucial claim they made about an event that never took place (background: this was during their disgraceful handling of the Milly Dowler kidnap and murder). Deceits like this become commonplace once a publisher/editor learns that they can lie on behalf of police without fear of consequence (i.e. in much the same way as when learn they can lie to the PCC without fear of consequence).

Worse, tabloids have for years sought to manipulate police into investigating, arresting or prosecuting ideological opponents, and most have discovered over time that they can say pretty much anything they like about their target once they are prosecuted; this trigger nearly always brings the PCC onside, and the target is more often than not occupied with the matter of prosecution and in no position to take on the weight of an added civil action against a newspaper, even if they have the means.

Others in the world of tabloid standards have discovered that you don’t even need to have anyone prosecuted; you can simply lie outright about police investigations and actions that never took place, and (depending on who you are, I suspect) police won’t say or do a damn thing about it.

Here’s a classic technique: the ‘journalist’ calls the police and alleges their target is guilty of a crime. An investigation will usually begin – even though the target is not yet a suspect and probably never will be – but from this point on, all the ‘journalist’ has to do to elongate the period of time which they can safely claim their target is under investigation by police is dodge a few phone calls and/or pretend to be away.

The latter half of this technique appears to have become less common over time as participating parties have discovered that you can also lie about the outcome of an investigation with little fear of consequence.

In my experience it is this technique that has been observed and adopted most frequently by outsiders who seek the favour/influence of these tabloids and other fringe elements (including has-beens and wannabes). Most often it is fronted by an anonymous account, but some people have invested so deeply in it as to do it in their own name (not that this stops them from engaging in further/worse acts anonymously).

There’s a kind of logic to this that’s apparent once you consider the type of person who is doing it; an accusation on behalf of police carries its own authority and credibility, and the people who rely on them to attack their political enemies invariably lack both.

Of course, one of the reasons these lies carry so much authority and credibility is that most people assume that you can’t make claims like this on behalf of police without consequence… but you can.

I have determined that an attempt to investigate and correct this state of affairs is the best use of my time in terms of political campaigning; it has been used to undermine anything of consequence I may have attempted before (I have as a result been accused of everything from hacking computers to stalking women to raping children).

All other content on Bloggerheads will be the fun/educational material that has been held over while I wasted time placing faith in the criminal justice system as it stands.

The way I see it, the worst that can happen is that even if police/others resist change, the public will be informed of the problem to the extent that accusations like this will carry less weight, leading to an improved situation for all present/future victims of this behaviour.

Something has to change; some of the most corrupt people in our society are appropriating and undermining the authority of police in an attempt to damage political/ideological targets, and many of them go to such an extent that they seek to use such lies to stir up mobs and trigger vigilante behaviour. Lies of this type have even been used to influence the Prime Minister.

On the basis of claims made specially on behalf of three police forces, I have been subjected to multiple threats of violence, and many, many recent threats to visit my home or workplace (and if police ever said anything to any of these people about that, antagonists quickly adapted by offering to share my itinerary with “victims” who asked for it).

Speaking for myself, I am concerned enough about recent claims that I run a child sex ring from my home to do something about this, even in the face of extraordinary harassment.

Not all of us have the resources/connections of Lord McAlpine, but I see the most constructive path to be a campaign for awareness, then (potentially) a change in the law. If I fail at the latter, I will at least have achieved the former to some extent.

Jeremy Ayre: music & lyrics

A missing student (15) has reportedly run away abroad with maths teacher Jeremy Forrest (30), who also writes, produces and performs music under the stage name ‘Jeremy Ayre‘.

This morning, some of Jeremy Forrest/Ayre’s web presences have been disabled, but many of his musical offerings remain. You are invited to explore how this man expressed himself in song before putting himself in this extraordinary position (and I further challenge you to do so without repeating any of the more witless comment behaviour, currently ranging from calling him a ‘paedo’* to advising to him to “keep heading south & over the Pyrenees,” because the “legal age of consent is 13 in Spain”).

Jeremy performs mainly as an acoustic guitarist and singer/songwriter, he describes his music as being “punk, pop and folk all together”, and you can sample his music on YouTube, MySpace and SoundCloud.

At present, most attention focuses on a song titled My Little Emo but personally I’m more intrigued by song with a title inspired by a blood sucker: Let The Wrong One In. On his site, Jeremy describes the latter as “a song about a relationship going wrong, people meeting on different levels and having very different ideas and expectations” but just between you and me, I’m hearing some stereotypical middle-age issues in that first verse, too.

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Let The Wrong One In
by ‘Jeremy Ayre’ (Jeremy Forrest)

http://soundcloud.com/jeremy-ayre-music/let-the-wrong-one-in

Recently I can feel
Tiredness creeping in my bones
I’m growing old
I used to be a little more
Innocent about the things I’ve done
I’ve come undone

‘Cause every time I can I miss the hate
Next I make a promise not to make
The same mistakes I always make

I want you to realise,
I don’t like you like the way you think
I’m not that deep
You’re living in a fantasy
‘Cos all I really wanna do is screw
So give me a break

‘Cos every time we kiss you say it’s me
Full of self conviction
Are you full of self esteem?
(You’re) not fooling me
You’re not fooling me
You’re not fooling me
You’re not fooling me

Your friends say I’m out of luck
Tell ‘em I don’t give a fucking stuff
Thinking for your-self

Don’t believe that things can change
You’re back with me
When we haven’t even spoke
It’s just a joke

You’re making it impossible to meet
When just one conversation
Will put this all this shit to sleep
This isn’t it
This isn’t it
This isn’t it
This isn’t it

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My Little Emo
by ‘Jeremy Ayre’ (Jeremy Forrest)

http://youtu.be/4u6A1SYeqeY

In hindsight, I miss you
It’s too late for a chase
The seasons will change me
I won’t go to waste

So lay me down, lay me down
The weight of this day will bring me ’round
So lay me down, lay me down
The weight of this day will bring me ’round

I’m so cold, I’m nervous
A train wreck, or worse
She’s talking, the movements
I can’t read, or worse

So lay me down, lay me down
The weight of this day will bring me ’round
So lay me down, lay me down
The weight of this day will bring me ’round

So lay me down, lay me down
The weight of this day will bring me down
So lay me down, lay me down
The weight of this day will bring me ’round
So lay me down, lay me down
The weight of this day will bring me ’round

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PS – Tonight’s movie: Election. Just because.

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UPDATE – Previously-thought-unintelligible lyric in ‘My Little Emo’ ably identified by Louis Barfe. Cheers, fella.

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UPDATE (5pm) – The Mirror offer their take/view on the song Better Company, but personally I find this to be the most intriguing song from the MySpace selection: Eighteen

Eighteen
by ‘Jeremy Ayre’ (Jeremy Forrest)

http://www.myspace.com/music/player?sid=32425019

Say
Sigh if you need a lift
I always like running after you
And I don’t want to let you down

Now
My head’s been round and round
You made me feel so ridiculous
And I don’t want to let you know

I don’t mind
If you wanna go with someone else
I don’t mind
If you wanna be a-lone

Girl
I hang onto words you say
Remember the looks you gave me
And I thought that I’d let you know

I
Go crazy inside your eyes
And dizzy if I survive you
Touching my hand when you talk to me

I don’t mind
If you wanna go with someone else
I don’t mind
If you wanna be a-lone

Hey
Can we talk a little mour-n of your voice

Girl
Then every word you say
‘Cause when I’m down and out
It makes me feel much better somehow, and yet…

Girl
You hang me upside down
And my stomach’s turned inside-out for you
I’m losing my self con-trol

Yeah
Well I used to be so relaxed
But now I can hardly sleep at night
But I wouldn’t change a thing

I don’t mind
If you wanna go with someone else
I don’t mind
If you wanna be a-lone

Conversations will not replace
The things I want to do
Reservations keep me far away
From being close to you

Hey
Can we talk a little mour-n of your voice

Girl
Then every word you say
‘Cause when I’m down and out
It makes me feel much better somehow, and yet…

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UPDATE – Post and some comments have been edited to remove a name.

Kelvin MacKenzie and the 1988 ‘Brighton: Town of Shame’ editorial

There is a major discussion pending about collusion between police/authorities and the tabloid element that brazenly exploits and corrupts them. I speak not just of Hillsborough but a variety of instances in recent times (example). However, today you will have to settle for some mere fact-checking from this little black duck.

Last night, hundreds of people were on Twitter discussing the merits (or otherwise) of Kelvin MacKenzie, and this graphic turned up of an editorial allegedly penned by MacKenzie in his capacity as editor of The Sun in 1988*:

scan of alleged Kelvin MacKenzie editorial

I used TinEye to locate this instance of the same graphic/editorial, and it cites a local source (Peter Crisp) who would be entirely likely to keep and distribute material like this.

One might simply ask Kelvin MacKenzie and/or someone at The Sun but I expect they’re all very busy hiding under the bed at the moment, so please drop me a line (email), tweet at me (@bloggerheads) or comment (below/reddit) if you think you can help me to determine the authenticity of this editorial.

(Also, drop me a line if you’ve any word on the alleged second coming of Jesus of Nazareth, especially if you know the venue, as I want to book early for a good seat. If I’m going to heckle, I want to do it from the front row.)

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[*In October 1984 the IRA bombed the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the Tory conference with the intention of assassinating then-PM Margaret Thatcher and/or members of her cabinet. The Tory conference returned to Brighton in 1988.]

[Psst! If you’re not in a position to help today, you can still do something nifty on Twitter. Drop @kelvinmackenzie a friendly word; the poor chap’s been widely mistaken for a former editor of a certain barrel-scraping tabloid.]

New evidence: Dennis Rice the sole author of @tabloidtroll

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IMPORTANT UPDATE: 2014 post detailing how Dennis Rice reacted to the evidence that he was the author of ‘@tabloidtroll’

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A few months ago, I asked Dennis Rice if he was the person behind @tabloidtroll, a twitter account used to smear a range of witnesses to the Leveson Inquiry.

His response was to deny the allegation, but leave room for some kind of technical/distant association with the account. Just in case.

However… before I asked Dennis Rice about this allegation via email, a DM was sent to the account @tabloidtroll; the recipient of that message (i.e. the account holder) then followed a unique link in that message, and even replied to the DM indicating he had done so. An IP address was recorded during that procedure.

Minutes later, when Dennis Rice replied to my question about allegations, he revealed the IP address he was using to access the internets at that same time

The account holder of @tabloidtroll had precisely the same IP address as that used by Dennis Rice to reply to my email.

I am not inclined to reference/reveal any potentially sensitive data/details, but I can assure you that the odds of these IP addresses being identical by chance are very, very, very, very long.

Dennis Rice responded to this by making false/misleading claims to and on behalf of Thames Valley Police in an attempt to portray my actions/questions as criminal (while simultaneously denying the significance of the evidence and sometimes even demanding that I publish the same evidence that he elsewhere accused me of sharing inappropriately).

Thames Valley Police responded by dragging their heels and “collating papers” for many weeks before finally confirming that I was never a suspect, while neatly avoiding any comment on Dennis Rice demonstrably implying/claiming otherwise on their behalf.

Dennis Rice responded to this by making a further complaint almost immediately, and again making false/misleading claims to and on behalf of Thames Valley Police in a further attempt to portray my actions as criminal that followed exactly the same pattern as before.

Yet again, Thames Valley Police responded by dragging their heels and “collating papers” for many weeks before finally confirming that I was never a suspect, while neatly avoiding any comment on Dennis Rice demonstrably implying/claiming otherwise on their behalf.

Twice now Thames Valley Police have allowed this tabloid hack to carry on like this without challenge; they even refused to accept or discuss evidence of Rice misleading them and/or making misleading claims on their behalf so he might better intimidate myself and other critics (and I may yet publish some of this evidence if Rice denies/downplays the bullying he engaged in while claiming to be a victim of bullies.)

Further, Thames Valley Police offer no comment on some people’s reactions to the false allegations made against me in their name. One man who allowed himself to be convinced by Rice’s lies offered to come around to confront me personally about my ‘cowardice’, to see if I was a “man or a mouse”. Not as any kind of threat, you understand, just so he could know whether to bring cheese. Ha. ha. Ha.

It was during this kind offer of a personal confrontation that I briefly walked away from the matter and blogging/tweeting generally last month, despite having new and conclusive evidence to hand; I was just about to go on holiday, and did not want some weak-minded dimwit turning up at my house while I was relaxing at home with my family (or, worse, away somewhere).

Today, I returned from holidays, announced I was back on deck, then mentioned that further @tabloidtroll evidence was pending.

Dennis Rice reacted by deliberately trying to trigger the same ‘face to face confrontation’ response from the same damn dimwit; Rice also made a range of the usual claims designed to portray me as a fraud and/or otherwise undermine the IP address evidence that confirmed him as the main account holder for @tabloidtroll

It is here that we turn to the new evidence, and balance it against what has already been published:

The evidence I gathered initially (link) indicated Dennis Rice as the main account holder for @tabloidtroll.

Putting aside what Rice’s further public/private reaction(s) have indicated/revealed about authorship, this always left room for the possibility of multiple authors and/or Rice being the account holder and not the main author(s) for some reason; Rice certainly claimed/implied several times that @tabloidtroll was the work of more than one person.

(Here I grant Roy Greenslade a slow handclap for immediately falling for one of these charades and endorsing a day-old site from an unknown author… over an article on the subject of media standards, no less. Roy didn’t correct his idiocy, by the way; he ran away from thread, leaving me/others to deal with the fallout, and repeatedly allowing Rice to pretend that he had been legitimised by the Guardian’s “endorsement”. Thanks, Roy. You started out with a single act of mere idiocy, but then you were so afraid of looking foolish you acted like a complete bastard. I doubt I shall be trusting you again now I know how reluctant you are to admit error and/or correct diary items even when you know you are in the wrong.)

Judging by his outbursts earlier today, Dennis is expecting me to release this same IP data today and/or make reference to further IP data today.

Sorry, but no. Any further IP data would leave us in much the same place as the above.

What I publish today is not IP data or anything to do with it.

What I publish today is professional linguistic analysis of the Twitter output of @tabloidtroll compared to the Twitter output of @dennisricemedia (Dennis Rice’s ‘main’/name account):

Report of Dr Nicci MacLeod: Comparison of tweets from tabloidtroll to tweets from dennisricemedia for evidence of linguistic consistency

My sincere thanks go to Dr Nicci MacLeod (Research Associate) and Dr Tim Grant (Director) at the Centre for Forensic Linguistics at Aston University for their time, effort and expertise.

The main findings of the analysis are as follows:

There are multiple significant points of consistency between the output of Dennis Rice and ‘@tabloidtroll’. There are NO significant points of inconsistency.

The evidence I publish today (link) indicates (a) that Dennis Rice authored the majority of content for @tabloidtroll*, and (b) it is very unlikely that there was ever more than one author.

In much the same way that he hilariously declared that ‘lots of people have IP addresses’, I expected Dennis Rice would respond to this evidence by claiming that ‘lots of people say LOL’, but Dr MacLeod addressed this very same issue in her covering letter…

Nicci MacLeod: ‘it’s quite important that we make clear that it’s not the features themselves that are individuating, but the combinations thereof that indicate possibility of shared authorship – I reiterate this a couple of times in the report but I would say it’s pretty crucial that the message gets through, or we risk the inevitable “millions of people use lol and :)”, etc.’

… and shortly after we agreed on a suitable analogy to put that into context:

Tim Ireland: ‘Would this be an accurate analogy? “It wasn’t the 7 or the 12 or the 25 or 29 or the 36 or the 42 that won me the lottery. Lots of people had those. But I had all six.”…’

Nicci: ‘The lottery analogy is absolutely perfect! There were a few author-internal inconsistencies (no more than would be expected)…’

What this means is that Dennis Rice is demonstrably the main account holder of @tabloidtroll AND the original/primary author. I have forensic evidence to support both control of the account, and authorship of the bulk of the content.

It is also worth stressing that not only has Dennis Rice lied about his authorship of @tabloidtroll, but he’s banked so much on this deceit that his extraordinary distortions form part of two consecutive attempts to have me prosecuted (and others fired or otherwise disciplined) for daring to say so.

The upshot of this is even if you believe Rice/@tabloidtroll has a moral/legal right to smear and bully people anonymously, you can’t trust a damn thing he claims to have witnessed, because it can be demonstrated quite clearly that he is capable of the most extraordinary distortions. Anecdotal evidence from someone like this has no value, even if you do turn a blind eye to undisclosed figure(s) paid to this demonstrable liar by Rupert Murdoch’s News International.

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(*For material up to and including the initial outing and a short period afterwards. It would not surprise me in the least if Rice has convinced others to chip in to a limited extent since then. I can think of at least one person stupid enough to do this.)

Psst! It was while I was sitting around waiting for Thames Valley Police to do their damn job that I decided to investigate their own web conduct. Unsurprisingly, a lackadaisical attitude to online bullying is evident in this series of anonymous Wikipedia edits and their response to my complaint about it.

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UPDATE (7pm) – Dennis Rice has, through his @tabloidtroll site, made several ‘straw man’ arguments in an attempt to undermine the report by claiming the source data is flawed. For example, he claims the researcher’s data is undermined by their saying there are 600 tweets in their data set while there are less than 400 tweets currently listed/apparent in the live account. But no tweets were ‘invented’ for the data set, despite what Dennis Rice might imply; the difference in two numbers is perhaps likely due to RTs not being counted, or perhaps some vast conspiracy. Maybe (just maybe) someone has been deleting some old entries. I’d check it out if I thought this was anything other than the flailings of a desperate liar. The question Dennis Rice really wants to ask is how I got my hands on this data during the period when he had rendered the @dennisricemedia tweets inaccessible to the public or any publicly-accessible cache/archive. Right now he’s too busy trying to goad me into publishing sensitive/IP data. Again.

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———

IMPORTANT UPDATE: 2014 post detailing how Dennis Rice reacted to the evidence that he was the author of ‘@tabloidtroll’

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Dennis Rice and the @TabloidTroll Twitter account

From the outset, I would like to make clear that I have both a legitimate personal and public interest argument for outing the author of the Twitter account @TabloidTroll (aka ‘tabloidman’) in that the account has been used (a) to libel me, and (b) to engage in abusive and circumstantial ad hominem attacks on a series of witnesses/contributors to the Leveson Inquiry, including Richard Peppiatt, Tom Watson, Hugh Grant, and those attached to the Guardian, the Media Standards Trust, and the ‘Hacked Off’ campaign.

The author of the @TabloidTroll account portrays himself as an ‘industry mole’ and this kind of behaviour as ‘whistle blowing’, even to the extent of claiming that outing him would be a criminal offence under something he calls the ‘Whistleblower Act’. This is a risk I am willing to take, not least because the Whistleblower Protection Act only applies in the United States, and though here in the UK we do have something called the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, it has no bearing on my position, or what I am about to disclose.

Last Sunday, a Direct Message was sent to the registered account holder for @TabloidTroll. It contained a unique URL leading to a page on my website. The recipient visited that URL, and my site, and replied to the DM confirming that he had done this.

Very soon after this, I emailed Dennis Rice of Dennis Rice Media Limited (Twitter: @DennisRiceMedia, Site: moneyforyourstory.com, Company No: 06646525) and asked him for his response to the already-public allegations that he was the author of @TabloidTroll.

The IP address of the person who received the Direct Message for @TabloidTroll (and subsequently visited my site) was exactly the same as that used by Dennis Rice to read and respond to my email.

Here we turn to key extracts* from the relevant correspondence, and I will remind you that at this stage, Dennis Rice is only responding to the already-public allegations that he is the author of Tabloid Troll:

(*There were further questions put to Dennis Rice that I choose not to publish at this time, mainly to keep this article focused on the core evidence, and not what I may or may not suspect about motive, or his involvement in further anonymous accounts.)

Tim Ireland:
Dennis… Do you have any comment to make about your alleged involvement with the Twitter account ‘@TabloidTroll’? On what basis would you claim/imply that the anonymity of someone behind an account like @TabloidTroll is protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act?

Dennis Rice:
Dear Tim – I am of course aware of Tabloidman, as I follow his/her tweets. I certainly am not, nor have ever been, him/her. Any suggestion that I am would be both untrue and damaging to my freelance employment in the national press and to my personal reputation. As regards the Whistleblower Act I have to confess I am unaware of such an Act – though I am prepared to take you on your word that such an Act exists. I have not the faintest idea how one could apply it to Twitter… Hope this clears this up for you. Best Regards, Dennis.

Tim Ireland:
Thank you, Dennis, for your reply. I would like to be very clear on your denial, if you don’t mind… Would you consider it correct and accurate to say that aside from following the account on Twitter using @dennisricemedia, you have NO connection to the @TabloidTroll account at all? That it’s not run by you, or anyone close/known to you? That’s it’s not an account you have any access to in any way?

Dennis Rice:
Dear Tim – I am not Tabloidman, or whatever he/she is called. I repeat that stating I am would be profoundly damaging. That is all I am going to say on the matter. My lawyers will deal with anything anyone would be foolish enough to print – alleging or otherwise – that I am. Thanks for your time.

Note that the second denial pulls up short of denying a connection to the @TabloidTroll account that might include a claim that an unnamed ‘friend’ runs the account (i.e. in much the same way that Andrew Gilligan claimed that an unnamed “partner” was behind a sock puppet using the name ‘kennite’ to praise his work and attack his enemies).

Note also that at this stage, Dennis Rice has no clue that the IP data he has just provided indicates that he is the main account holder for @TabloidTroll when it is balanced against the Direct Message to that account and the subsequent visit to a unique URL on my site.

So on Monday I emailed Dennis Rice, as per my obligations as a publisher, in an attempt to disclose and discuss not the mere allegation of his connection to the @TabloidTroll account, but the evidence tying him to it:

Tim Ireland:
My apologies for bothering you with a further question, but my website statistics show a visit from your IP/device yesterday. Would you mind awfully confirming which page(s) you visited, when you visited them, and how you came to be aware of the URL you visited first last night?

The email was read, but Dennis Rice offered no reply.

However, soon after this, the @TabloidTroll account was used to make contact with the Twitter account that sent the Direct Message containing the URL/visit that Dennis Rice had just been asked about; this message from @TabloidTroll requested the phone number of the sender of the Direct Message (!) and when this was refused with a counter offer of email correspondence, contact ceased.

So on Wednesday I contacted Dennis Rice again by email:

Tim Ireland:
Dear Dennis – Let us both acknowledge the reason why you have no ready answer for your visit to my site on Sunday and simultaneously cut to the chase: I intend to publish an article naming you as the person behind @tabloidtroll on Twitter and would be grateful if you could answer the following questions… [snip questions]… I require a response by 5pm on Thursday 27th April 2012.

The email was read (this time from three vastly different locations in the UK), but there was no reply.

By this time, Richard Peppiatt and Tom Watson had been advised of my findings, and my intention to publish them.

On Friday, the @TabloidTroll account was used to have yet another anonymous pop at Tom Watson, and Tom responded with a probing question based on his knowledge of an undisclosed settlement paid to Dennis Rice by News International. Key tweets from the relevant exchange appear below.

(If you are a regular here at Bloggerheads, you are about to experience a glorious pay-off. Pun intended.)

tom_watson ‏ – @tabloidtroll when did you last receive a payment from news international?

tabloidtroll – @tom_watson saying I am in the pay of News Int is also actionable. Whatever happened to the days when our MPs had brains? Deep sigh.

tom_watson – @tabloidtroll Did you not get your settlement for appearing in Glenn’s notebooks? No need to answer.

tabloidtroll – @tom_watson @dennisricemedia Ha, not you too? Ricey told me about the loon stalking him. Be careful of the company you keep.

tabloidtroll – @tom_watson Think Thames Valley Police will want to talk to you. They are currently investigating your (clearly unchecked) source.

1. ‘Ricey’. Because they’re mates. Not the same person, but mates. (rolls eyes) On that note, here’s one of my very favourite tweets; ‘Ricey’ bigging it up for his old mate @TabloidTroll (in reponse to a series of tweets about ‘Hacked Off’ including ugly insinuations about the Guardian and the Scott Trust, the Financial Times and Pearson, the Media Standards Trust, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs):

dennisricemedia – I think @tabloidtroll is raising some interesting questions tonight. We shouldn’t have a body asking for more accountability yet not itself

2. I immediately checked with Thames Valley Police and I can confirm what most regulars will already suspect, given the reliable patterns of behaviour exhibited by those who seek to gain personally or politically from the use of multiple/false identities:

a) Yes, after initially denying it, when confronted with hard evidence linking him to a web account used to bully people anonymously, Dennis Rice went to police and accused me of criminal behaviour. The exact nature of the allegation is unknown at this stage, but it would appear to centre on harassment, and not the phantom Whistleblower Act.

b) Yes, Dennis Rice also declared there to be a police investigation in progress (implying some level of guilt on my part) when all that had happened at that stage was he had contacted police, and his complaint had been logged by police.

Should an officer be assigned to the matter on the basis that a potential crime is suspected, I look forward to discussing the matter with them and inviting them to investigate the matter so fully as to determine the likely authorship of the @tabloidtroll account for themselves… assuming that Lord Justice Leveson doesn’t take an interest before then.

Well, I’ve kept you long enough already. Those who are uncertain about the full ramifications of Dennis Rice being intimately involved with the @TabloidTroll account (if not the sole author of same) are invited to search for ‘tabloidtroll’ using Snapbird (which will give you access to some 2000+ tweets much faster than Twitter will) and comparing the output to that of ‘dennisricemedia’.

You may also choose to balance this against the kind of material Dennis Rice produces and the publications he sells this material to.

On a final note, touching for but a moment on my own chosen profession, you are also invited to witness the first tweets by Dennis Rice and gaze in wonder at the emergence of an SEO and online marketing genius (link):

Dennis Rice tweets

Cheers all.

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UPDATE – The twitter account previously at @DennisRiceMedia has been renamed and rendered private, robbing the public of the capacity to balance that output against that of @TabloidTroll. Aw.

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UPDATE (24 May) – Near to a month has been wasted while I have patiently waited for Thames Valley Police to respond to a complaint from Dennis Rice, but I rather suspect that this was the point of the exercise. Through @tabloidtroll, Dennis even declared there to be an investigation in progress when there was no investigation (i.e. as if his call to police triggered an immediate response that somehow established my guilt). Here’s a sample of relevant tweets:

Tabloid Troll making untrue claims on behalf of police

Technically, an investigation did take place very recently (and very briefly), but in the words of Thames Valley Police I was “not a suspect” and they had “no intention of interviewing me or anything like that”. So, now that Thames Valley Police have established what any experienced reporter should have known all along, I present to you the complete and unedited contents of the email from me that Dennis Rice portrayed as a ‘nuisance message’ before pretending that police suspected my acts to be criminal in nature:

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To: Dennis Rice
From: Tim Ireland
Date: Wed, Apr 25, 2012 at 1:14 PM

Dear Dennis,

Let us both acknowledge the reason why you have no ready answer for your visit to my site on Sunday and simultaneously cut to the chase:

I intend to publish an article naming you as the person behind @tabloidtroll on Twitter and would be grateful if you could answer the following questions:

1. Have you received payments from any subsidiary or associated companies of News Corporation in each/either of the last two years?

2. You were named as a target for Glenn Mulcaire. Have you received any out of court settlements from News Corporation or subsidiary or associated companies? If yes, did you sign a confidentiality agreement?

3. Have you been commissioned to write articles, provide commentary or produce content for social media regarding the hacking scandal and the people involved with the investigation?

4. Have you been contracted to work for any PR companies who are contracted to News Corporation or any of its subsidiary or associated companies?

5. Is there anything else you would like to say regarding your decision to establish a pseudonymous twitter account?

6. To what extent were you inspired by Glen Jenvey in your ‘sell your story’ initiative, which you must recognise is very similar to his?
(Note: Jenvey began sellyourstory.org in July 2008, I reported that initiative on my site in January 2009, and moneyforyourstory.com was registered in February 2009)

And, finally:

7. Would you care to clarify or retract your remarks – published through the @tabloidtroll account – about my “sinister” conduct as a blogger, the “little dodgy stunts” you claim to have seen evidence of in multiple copies of Private Eye, and my behaviour toward Patrick Mercer in relation to what you describe as the “manipulation” of an unnamed “far right activist”?

I require a response by 5pm on Thursday 27th April 2012.

Regards,

Tim Ireland

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For the record, the only answer Dennis Rice has offered to any of these questions is; “Help! Police!”

Well, police don’t think it’s any of their business, despite what Mr Rice claimed through the ‘Tabloid Troll’ account, so he is invited once again to answer any or all of them.

(Sorry it’s in public this time, Dennis old bean, but you brought this on yourself. If you want the luxury of private questions or advance notice of anything I intend to publish about you in future, the onus is on you to either clarify your position regarding your willingness to accept correspondence, or provide me with contact details for a lawyer or equally appropriate third party. You know how to reach me.)

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Dominic Mohan, Page 3 and the Leveson Inquiry

On Tuesday 7 February, there was a moment in the Leveson Inquiry when Sun editor Dominic Mohan sought to distance himself and even the previous editor from a deeply personal and abusive attack on Clare Short, the MP who had dared to question the appropriateness of using soft pornography to shift mainstream newspapers.

The full transcript of the relevant exchange between Robert Jay Q.C. (Counsel to Inquiry) and Dominic Mohan is available here (more) if you would care to see the full exchange and the surrounding context. I have used an edited extract below in order to highlight key points:

Dominic Mohan: I think that it’s worth looking at Page 3 in a wider context, and in the Sun’s context of women’s issues that we cover. A lot of the Page 3 girls, they’re much more than models. They’ve become ambassadors for the paper… They’re good role models*.

Robert Jay Q.C.: Can I deal with a number of points which are around Page 3. One of them is before your time. Under tab 17 — this is before your time as editor — I don’t have the date, but this is a piece which is rudely critical of Clare Short, isn’t it?

Dominic Mohan: It is.

Robert Jay Q.C.: Is this appropriate language, do you think, to use, Mr Mohan?

Dominic Mohan: It’s not probably something I would run now, no.

Robert Jay Q.C.: To be fair, I’m sure this isn’t you, and we don’t have a date for it, but we have an earlier piece for which we do have a date, tab 18. This is January 2004, when you’re working for the paper but you’re not editor. I think you’d left Bizarre by then. Where were you in January 2004 within the Sun?

Dominic Mohan: I think I would have — after I left Bizarre, I became a columnist. I had a weekly opinion column in the paper.

Robert Jay Q.C.: Did you have any involvement in this piece we’re looking at?

Dominic Mohan: No. I don’t believe I did.

Robert Jay Q.C.: Is it the sort of piece which the Sun would run now, do you think?

Dominic Mohan: Possibly not in that way, no. I mean, I think there is an article in — actually, I’m not sure it’s in this piece. It was in one of the submissions from one of the women’s groups, but I ran a similar piece — sorry, I ran a piece in the run-up to the last election where — which was about Harriet Harman and Lynne Featherstone because they were claiming they wanted to ban page 3, but I didn’t use that kind of language that was used in the previous article. It wasn’t as — we weren’t on the offensive in that way.

Robert Jay Q.C.: Not as offensive, frankly.

Dominic Mohan: Possibly.

Robert Jay Q.C.: Possibly or probably when one looks at it, Mr Mohan. What do you think?

Dominic Mohan: As I say, I don’t think I would run it in that way now, although I do think — I mean, clearly “fat and jealous” is in quotes. It is a quotation from somebody.

A “quotation from somebody”, says Mohan, heavily implying that the words are not responsibility/work of The Sun and leaving it that.

Being a cynical, curious and somewhat resourceful type, I went to the trouble of looking up the 2004 item/edition that Mohan part-defends here, and it is entirely clear to me, as it should have been to him, that the “quotation from somebody” came from certain “ambassadors for the paper” whose role Mohan defends on the basis that they are “good role models”. Of course, here we assume that this is one of those rare instances where statements printed by The Sun in the name of Page 3 models are actual statements from Page 3 models, and not an invention of the editor (then Rebekah Wade/Brooks, who would have OKed the picture rendering Clare Short topless and the image comparing her to the back of a bus).

The Sun, 14 Jan 2004 - 1 of 3

Further, the editor clearly endorsed the ‘fat and ugly’ quote in that day’s editorial…

The Sun, 14 Jan 2004 - 2 of 3

… and even saw fit to run a Page 3 on the subject, just to stress the point for those one-handed readers with shorter attention spans:

The Sun, 14 Jan 2004 - 3 of 3

It’s getting to the point where Lord Justice Leveson might want to seriously consider calling past and present Page 3 girls to the inquiry, not just to answer this point, but also some serious questions about other editorials in their name.

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[*The original transcript contains an obvious error, where Mohan is quoted as saying Page 3 girls are 'role moulds'. I have corrected that here for clarity... and to avoid getting needlessly personal.]

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News of the World: 110% certainty, the remainder fact

“Sometimes, Robin, being certain is merely being wrong at the top of your voice.” – Batman

It was almost 6 months ago that I first wrote about my concerns about the behaviour of News of the World in the weeks after the disappearance of Milly Dowler. At the time, I also expressed some concern about the subsequent response to News of the World by Surrey Police. Since then, more information has come to light. It is not comforting on either front.

With the publication of this letter especially, it is now clear that police were misrepresented to a great degree in the 14 April 2002 article analysed in this post, not least because the News of the World all-too-readily gave the appearance of speaking on behalf of police, both in print and during their pursuit of tabloid fodder (even to the extent of claiming to be working in conjunction with the police when interrogating members of the public).

This does not put Surrey Police in the clear. Far from it.

1.

As far back as 13 April 2002, Surrey Police were aware that News of the World had accessed Milly Dowler’s voice messages. Police report in this letter that they were told quite bluntly by one of the reporters involved that “NOTW had got Milly’s phone number and PIN from school children”. To this date there is no indication that any kind of investigation took place. Surrey Police, in their 17 Jan 2012 letter, skip from mentioning the extensive investigation into Milly Dowler’s disappearance to saying; “Surrey Police did not arrest or charge anyone in relation to accessing Milly Dowler’s voicemail”

I will return to this point toward the end of this post.

(Oh, and you will probably want to keep this same point in mind for a later post that I dare not even hint at right now. If you’re a long-time reader, you will totally plotz.)

2.

This recently-released letter details correspondence where the police suspected the involvement of a hoaxer in a recruitment company’s phone call to Milly Dowler’s mobile phone more than a week after she had gone missing. By all indications, police couched their phrases accordingly. For example, in a core statement, Surrey Police said there was “the possibility that a hoaxer might have been involved.”

Now watch that suspicion portrayed as rock-solid belief in the resulting article (14 April 2002):

Extract from News of the World, 14 April 2002

3.

Within a week, Surrey Police had determined that the hoaxer plaguing their investigation was not involved in any approach to the relevant recruitment agency as described by News of the World. Neither was the mysterious phone message anything to do with Milly Dowler herself, or anyone who knew her; it was just an unfortunate coincidence. But News of the World would not listen. By this stage (20 April), they were “110% certain” that 13-year-old Milly Dowler had run away from home and was out looking for work on the other side of the country:

Extracts from police letter published 17 January 2012

A day later (21 April 2002), News of the World published extracts from the personal diary of a 13-year-old friend of Milly Dowler (who should NOT be assumed to be the source of any phone details, and should NOT carry any guilt/blame for trusting these tabloid scumbags in any instance). Note how News of the World give the impression that they are revealing this intimate detail at the behest of police detectives. The opening paragraphs even risk giving the impression that access to this diary was offered/granted to News of the World by those same unnamed police detectives.

Also note that they spare a final inch to have an oh-so-subtle shot at Surrey Police. Keep in mind here that News of the World were at this stage “110% certain” that the police were looking in the wrong place for Milly Dowler, who they believed to be looking for work up north… when she had by this stage been dead for near to a month:

Extract from News of the World, 21 April 2002

Let’s add to this that the line of questioning they aimed at a 13-year-old girl is bloody obvious. This vulnerable child is saying her friend would not run away because some sod from a tabloid has been asking if she’s really, really sure about that. The scope and cost of the arrogance of News of the World is breathtaking.

On that note, here’s the editorial from that issue (21 April 2002). The editor makes a point of mentioning the possibility that Milly Dowler simply ran away. Based on what?

Editorial from News of the World, 21 April 2002

It is also worth mentioning that News of the World suffer here from that peculiar tabloid ailment of being quite unable to admit error or fault. There is no mention on 21 April 2002 of their being entirely wrong about the recruitment agency story a week earlier.

4.

In fact, a week later (28 April 2002), they use the arrest of the hoaxer to give the impression that they were right about the recruitment agency/call article all along. The mention of phone calls in this passage adds to this illusion. I can assure you that in my experience this is quite common, and usually quite deliberate. I even know tabloid-style bloggers who behave in this way. I don’t like them very much:

Extract from News of the World, 28 April 2002

Also note that once again the oh-so-superior News of the World have taken the time to have a shot at Surrey Police, portraying them as slow to respond if not incompetent. In their view, detectives were wasting their time on kidnap/homicide-oriented nonsense. News of the World were “110% certain” that 13-year-old Milly Dowler was alive and well and seeking work.

5.

Where Surrey Police do deserve criticism is in their inexplicable willingness to be repeatedly treated as Rebekah Wade’s bitch.

And finally…

6.

I would very much like to hear a response from Sussex Police. I’d like to know more about the “routine review” of the Milly Dowler investigation described here and what it entailed. I would particularly like to know why Sussex Police failed to call Surrey Police to account for failing to call News of the World to account. I’m only a layman, but I rather got the impression that such reviews were meant to be some form of quality control beyond the influence of locals and any associated bias.

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