AFK

[PLEASE NOTE – All email to my manic[AT]bloggerheads.com address will be rejected until further notice. Emails to this or any other bloggerheads.com-based address will NOT be received. If you wish to get in touch, please use the Gmail address (which appears below).]

For those who are not aware, the recent police investigation is ongoing, and everything from drawing lines to blogging details is problematic, mainly because of a still-unknown number of people who sought to take advantage of this situation.

(See this post for a timely timeline of recent events. Special thanks go to Iain Dale for a being a right royal tw*t about it.)

I’m now away from my keyboard for a bit. I hope to tell you all about it when I get back online in a few weeks.

When I do get back, I expect there to be a long line of volunteers wanting to help on a new site; Express Watch.

(If we have enough volunteers left over, we may even crack on with Coulson’s old stomping ground – and home of quality journalism – News of The World.)

As with The Sun: Tabloid Lies and Daily Mail Watch the main job will be to report clear attempts to deceive the reader, but we need people who can do other things, too:

IT/admin, coder/designer, producer and/or established blogger/writer? We need you.

Really not up for much beyond Twitter or the odd comment? Yes, we need you, too.

This is a long-overdue measure with the Express; we are going to report the worst of their excesses and shine a ruddy great spotlight on their lack of regard for the PCC… and the public. While we’re about it, we’ll help that nice Mr Desmond with some of the difficulties he appears to be having with cross-promotion. (For some strange reason, many readers of his mainstream newspapers and magazines are unaware of his fine range of quality pornography.)

To join the line of volunteers, simply get in touch via email – using [media-watch] in the subject header – and let me know which project you would prefer to work on and in what capacity you expect to be able to help.

( bloggerheads DOT com AT gmail DOT com )

If you would prefer to work on a publication/site that this growing media watch project does not yet cover, please do speak up.

In fact, if you’re working on a current project and feel like a change of pace (or would like to request some extras), now’s the time to say something.

Back soon. Then we kick some heads. Figuratively speaking.

Cheers all.








Posted in Old Media, The Political Weblog Movement, Updates | 1 Comment

Andy Coulson and a lifetime supply of chocolate

I don’t want to name names, but back in my youth we had a problem with one of my fellow Scouts stealing/sneaking food. Of course, there was no way to prove that the Snickers wrapper under his bedroll used to be wrapped around somebody’s else’s property and there was no evidence that he had actually ingested the contents, but – despite his earnest denials – he took a mild rebuke without complaint and Scouts & leaders alike considered that to be the end of the matter… until somebody heard rustling in the night and we found another dozen empty wrappers at the bottom of his sleeping bag. He was sent home the next morning.

The ‘rustling sleeping bag’ moment is, more or less, the juncture that Andy Coulson finds himself at this week, though his supporters and apologists would have you believe that this is a leftist plot and a recycled fuss over a single spent wrapper (that, to this day, little Andy swears he knows nothing about).

However, late on Friday afternoon Rebekah Brooks (nee Wade) of News International confirmed the out-of-court settlement with Gordon Taylor that effectively sealed as-yet-unseen evidence relating to the illegal interception of his phone/messages and kept it out of the public eye. The Guardian contends that a similar settlement was reached with another employee at the Professional Footballers Association, Jo Armstrong.

This unseen evidence is quite distinct from that relating to the conviction of NOTW royal editor, Clive Goodman and the resignation of then-editor, Andy Coulson.

It is here I will remind you that evidence revealed by a single case during ICO’s Operation Motorman revealed widespread blagging (of a legal, borderline and criminal nature) involving dozens of newspapers and magazines; is it any wonder that News International aren’t the only media group keen to draw a line under this (again)? No-one really knows what will fall out of this sleeping bag and/or who the trail of discarded wrappers will lead to… though I expect the guilty have their suspicions.

Sure, there are people who are out to ‘get’ Coulson (and even Murdoch), but this is not the entirety of the matter… and the single Snickers wrapper Coulson’s supporters are waving about is far from the end of it.

Watch out for anyone who claims otherwise; they’re having you on, and they’ve probably got their eyes on your chocolate stash if they haven’t eaten it already.

Psst! #1 – Iain Dale in 2006 describing the Goodman case as; “just the tip of a very sleazy iceberg”. Not so much now, obviously – but then the the task was to praise Ashcroft, when now, the task is to protect Coulson/Conservatives. Iain also seemed far less bothered about privacy when he was secretly BCCing his mate Phil Hendren on our private email conversations (something he initially denied)… and when Hendren blagged my ex-directory number just so he could publish it as a way of intimidating me. This ‘leading’ blogger has yet to outline his current stance on blagging and/or if it swings from ‘for’ to ‘against’ and back again depending on personal/political self-interest.

[MINI-UPDATE (14 Jun) – Iain Dale finally blogs about blagging but – typically – says nothing about his mate Phil Hendren doing it. Meanwhile, Hendren denies blagging but refuses to be drawn on whether the source of my private data knew how he was going to use it (which is the guts of it). He also, absurdly, maintains that his publishing the number in two parts (in the same thread) equates to his not publishing the number in full.]

Psst! #2 – Paul Staines earns most of his money/reputation/audience slagging off the establishment and ‘old media’ as a whole, but he seems awfully quiet of late. He did, however, find time this weekend to link to the NOTW rebuttal and this Wikileaks article saying they didn’t go far enough in invading the privacy of the “social and political elite”. If Paul Staines sincerely believes in the merits of blagging, perhaps he’ll also have the courage/conviction to put his case to his readers.

[MINI-UPDATE – Paul ‘C-man’ Staines in a fresh post seems (ahem) very relaxed about blagging, but short of implying that those concerned about it have some kind of mental problem, hasn’t really defended the practice. So does he think it is a good thing or a bad thing when people go poking around private data without so much as a public interest defence?]

UPDATE – Related articles/ bloggage:
Guardian – The biggest media story in years – so why the silence?
Sarah Ditum – Stephen Glover on NOTW phone hacking: lay off, we’re dying








Posted in Old Media, Rupert 'The Evil One' Murdoch, The Political Weblog Movement | 2 Comments

Where do leading bloggers stand on blagging?

The ICO reports that re-emerged this week – What Price Privacy? and What Price Privacy Now? (source) – make for fascinating reading; they outline the widespread use of blagging and/or blaggers by many newspapers and magazines.

Influential, independent online media channels (and alliances of same) have started to form recently, so I think the question is worth asking of leading bloggers; where do we each stand on the matter of blagging?

To blag is to obtain something by trick or deception; in the ICO reports (and in this post) it is mainly used to describe the practice of obtaining personal data (current address, details of car ownership, an ex-directory telephone number, records of calls made, bank account details, etc.) by deceiving the source(s) of that data about your identity and/or your intentions for that data.

There are circumstances in which it is possible to blag some data within the law (just), but this does not mean that all blagging is legal (and/or just a little bit of cheeky PI work). We have as yet seen no ‘public interest’ defence for any examples of blaggers breaking the law, and even their bending it for personal gain (rather than for anything that might be in the public interest) raises major questions about ethics, especially for the following newspapers/magazines, presented here in order of their indicated fondness for blagging services (according to the ICO’s findings during Operation Motorman):

Daily Mail [952, 58] – Sunday People [802, 50]] – Daily Mirror [681, 45] – Mail on Sunday [266, 33] – News of the World [228, 23] – Sunday Mirror [143, 25] – Best Magazine [134, 20] – Evening Standard [130, 1] – The Observer [103, 4] – Daily Sport [62, 4] – The People [37, 19] – Daily Express [36, 7] – Weekend Magazine (Daily Mail) [30, 4] – Sunday Express [29, 8] – The Sun [24, 4] – Closer Magazine [22, 5] – Sunday Sport [15, 1] – Night and Day (Mail on Sunday) [9, 2] – Sunday Business News [8, 1] – Daily Record [7, 2] – Saturday (Express) [7, 1] – Sunday Mirror Magazine [6, 1] – Real Magazine [4, 1] – Woman’s Own [4, 2] – The Sunday Times [4, 1] – Daily Mirror Magazine [3, 2] – Mail in Ireland [3, 1] – Daily Star [2, 4] – The Times [2, 1] – Marie Claire [2, 1] – Personal Magazine [1, 1] – Sunday World [1, 1]

[Publication name is followed by the number of blagging transactions positively identified during Operation Motorman, and the number of journalists/clients from that publication using those blagging services. I must stress that this chart is based on limited evidence, and if the full picture came to light, it could change some if not all rankings considerably. To be as fair as possible to all concerned, it is probably best to consider this a list rather than a chart, which is why I’ve presented it in this way. Yes, this list includes the Observer, a sister title to the Guardian, as News International were keen to point out.]

This list – resulting from some tip-of-the-iceberg evidence – is your first hint why the McBride/Draper scheme was all over the papers but this News of The World matter involving widespread blagging is/was not.

There are also some bloggers who are paid for their contributions to one or more of these publications and, regardless of any political alignment to Andy Coulson, they just may not want to chomp down too hard on the hands that feed them.

But bloggers need to take a clear stand against blagging, or one day there’ll be a list just like this one made up of weblogs.

Especially in absence of a public interest defence, if you have no right to private data, you’ve got no business poking around for it by deceiving those who hold it.

We can all agree on that, yes?

Or, for all that talk, are we no better than the worst of ‘dead tree’ press?

(I’d be particularly interested in the current position of Phil Hendren, who once blagged my ex-directory number before publishing it on his site, and/or any blogger currently aligned with MessageSpace, who were today asked how they obtained my personal data and responded with a firm “no comment”)








Posted in Old Media, Rupert 'The Evil One' Murdoch, The Political Weblog Movement | Comments Off

Andy Coulson: certain people

As a prelude to ‘smeargate’, Paul Staines went on live television and claimed that there was a Downing Street briefing document titled ‘how to get [Iain] Dale’. He even promised to publish it that very afternoon.

He didn’t.

But from that moment on Paul Staines and Iain Dale repeatedly spoke as if it existed.

Iain Dale was certain that there was a Downing St conspiracy to ‘get’ him specifically. Later, still hanging on this yet-to-be-seen document, this appeared to evolve into a claim of a Downing Street conspiracy against both of them (specifically if less exclusively).

Iain Dale was also certain that Tom Watson was involved, and said so repeatedly in a number of ways… to the extent of smearing Tom Watson, it turns out.

(Psst! Nadine Dorries was certain Gordon Brown was involved, and said so on live television. Notice how none of these ‘bloggers’ risked these claims on their own damn weblogs.)

Iain Dale’s position was (and presumably still is) that Tom Watson must have known about emails being exchanged on another person’s computer, because he was in the same office.

It would appear that Iain Dale and I have differing views on privacy, but I’ll get to that in a moment. First, you need to compare Iain Dale’s position on Tom Watson to his position on Andy Coulson:

On SKY News last night, Iain Dale insisted quite strongly that one must acknowledge the possibility that Andy Coulson while acting as editor of NOTW was unaware of the activities of one of the journalists in his office.

Iain certainly wasn’t certain that Andy Coulson must have known about this or should have known about that; he even went so far as to imply that Coulson could not even be expected to be aware of relevant payments for questionable/illegal activity because he himself did not sign the cheques.

Iain Dale said this while knowing that it was now rather a matter of Andy Coulson claiming to be unaware of the activities of not just one but as many as 20 or 30 journalists in his office, and blind to the kind of money that is certain to come to the attention of most if not all editors regardless of who actually signs the cheques.

Iain Dale said this while knowing that it is an editor’s duty to maintain the integrity, legality and profitability of any given publication.

Iain Dale said this while speaking as the editor publisher* of Total Politics magazine.

It is not just the specific acts of ‘tapping’ that are a concern, either, but the entire practice of ‘blagging’ on stories with little-to-no merit (see: ICO PDFs). Here is where Iain and I differ on privacy, and this is the reason why I think he will have very little to say about the practice of ‘blagging':

Phil Hendren, a close ally of Iain Dale’s, once blagged my private details and published my ex-directory home phone number on his website to intimidate me into silence. Not as part of a story or toward any noble end, just to shut me up.

The way he puts it, Phil just called someone on the off chance they would have it and – gosh, what a stroke of luck – they did. So, to keep Hendren happy, let’s call it ‘casual blagging’ as opposed to creepy or downright illegal blagging. But blagging all the same. And he clearly used the data maliciously, without any hope of a ‘public interest’ defence even if he did want to play ‘Citizen Journalist’.

But Iain Dale did not publicly condemn the blagging and malicious publication; he was too busy denying being the source of the data at the time.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there are few things we can be certain of, but I certainly won’t be trusting Iain Dale on this issue, even after it swallows Coulson or passes him by; when Iain’s not siding with the Tories, he’ll be siding with the tabloids. Each to their own.

[Incidentally, the reason why Phil Hendren published my number is worth a look; I pointed out that there was one person who couldn’t possibly be behind certain comments on Phil Hendren’s website, and Phil didn’t like that because… he was certain that Tom Watson was behind them (screengrab). Is it still paranoia if you think they’re out to get someone else?]

UPDATE – *Quick fix there. My bad. Iain is, of course, the publisher of Total Politics, not the editor. Which, if anything, makes it worse IMO.








Posted in Old Media, Rupert 'The Evil One' Murdoch, The Political Weblog Movement | Comments Off

Boycott the Total Politics poll of weblogs

Iain Dale has been running a self-serving ‘poll’ of weblogs since 2006. When faced with any charge that his polls are heavily biased on a personal or political basis, Dale will typically claim that the poll is ‘just a bit of fun’ (with a major sponsor) and/or expect you to be pathetically grateful that it’s slightly less rigged each year.

Last year, the poll carried the ‘Total Politics’ name, suggesting that the poll was as balanced as TP’s political coverage claims to be, when the truth is voting was primarily conducted at/via a website where 70% of readers vote Tory. It even had to be pointed out to Iain at one stage last year that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to accept votes via anonymous comments (that he now admits he had no way of tracking).

After failing to honour or even acknowledge boycotts of his poll last year, this year Iain Dale offers a chance for blogs to ‘opt out’ while not admitting for one second that (a) this might amount to a boycott and/or (b) he might have been wrong not to honour/acknowledge boycotts previous to this:

If you are a blogger and do not wish your blog to be included in the polling, please email katy DOT scholes AT totalpolitics DOT com by the end of next week. All blogs will, however, be included in the directory at the back of the book. – Iain ‘liar’ Dale

(Note: Last year, Dale claimed to have acknowledged all boycotts of his poll online and in print, which was not true. This post makes no mention of any commitment to do better this year.)

Now, I realise that publicity is an issue for many bloggers, but it’s my position that this is publicity you can do without.

In fact, this year I am going to ask you to join me in boycotting this poll.

Why should you do this?

Well, let me put it this way:

1. Iain Dale is a lying, self-publicising blog-cheat who knowingly uses smears against his political enemies. Why should you reward him with the status this poll affords him?

2. The poll is (and always has been) sponsored by APCO Worldwide, a pro-tobacco PR company with a history of astro-turfing. Why should you lend credibility to a sponsor that engages in activities most bloggers regard to be abhorrent?

To boycott Iain Dale’s latest rigged poll of weblogs, please email katy DOT scholes AT totalpolitics DOT com by July 17, and make sure you request that your boycott be acknowledged (i.e. you do not wish to be included in the poll, but you do want to be listed/marked as a blogger who chose not to take part in the poll).

If Iain Dale has any integrity to speak of, he will honour your boycott and inform the readers of his magazine why certain weblogs may not appear in the charts.

Cheers all.

(Psst! In order to dodge questions from me about the likely bias of last year’s poll, Iain Dale launched a dishonest attack on my professional reputation that he later dismissed as ‘banter’. If you are going to be public about your boycott and explain your reasons why, you might want to be prepared for some backlash, most likely in the form of anonymous/personal attacks.)








Posted in The Political Weblog Movement | 4 Comments

Will Martin Townsend sack Derek Lambie?

Earlier this year, the Scottish edition of the Sunday Express newspaper published a front page article, “Anniversary Shame of Dunblane Survivors” (detail). It was penned by Paul Murray working under Scottish title editor, Derek Lambie. Lambie himself works under Sunday Express editor Martin Townsend (detail).

At one stage Townsend asked me to get in touch if I was in any way dissatisfied with Lambie’s attempts to resolve the matter. I have cause to doubt Martin Townsend’s sincerity, as I did just as he suggested after Lambie initially resisted widespread demands for an apology before publishing this self-serving tosh… and Townsend ignored my email!

Now, the PCC has ruled on this matter and stated quite plainly that; “the breach of the Code was so serious that no apology could remedy it” (source).

Express owner Richard Desmond (also in the news today) already has a reputation as a rogue publisher with scant regard for the PCC, so will Martin Townsend be shrugging this off as well… or will he be sacking Derek Lambie with immediate effect?








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Paul Staines and the Guido Fawkes ‘logo’

News reaches me via this comment in this thread that copyright for the ‘logo’ that Paul Staines has been using for well over 4 years on the ‘Guido Fawkes’ site most likely rests with IPC Magazines, and not Paul Staines (or any of the names/entities that he or his many relatives trade under).

guido fawkes mask

I recall clearly the day I accused Staines of helping himself to other peoples’ copyright-protected material and hosting it on MessageSpace servers and he drunkenly threw Donal Blaney in my face, so I’ll choose my words carefully this time (not least because I also hear that some people in this country are sensitive to a mix of expletives and pejorative terms… e.g. like ‘two-bit thieving twunt’):

So, Paul, have you always had a formal arrangement with IPC magazines for ongoing commercial use of this image that we’re/they’re somehow unaware of?

If not, then exactly how many t-shirts (and other tat/objects) have you sold with this face on it? How often have you printed or otherwise broadcast/distributed this image for publicity, gain or profit? Because I think that might be a bit of an issue if that image doesn’t belong to you.

(PS – Overheads must be a doddle if you’re as likely to just take stuff as pay for it. Is this part of the reason why you find profit-generation so effortless?)








Posted in The Political Weblog Movement | 6 Comments

Iain Dale is knowingly complicating my harassment case

There are many things that I would love to blog about right now. I would love to tell you all about [censored] and their threat to [censored] but there are significant legal and moral obstacles.

Iain Dale knows of these obstacles. He also knows that I am effectively (and quite unjustly) silenced on this matter while suffering the continued fallout from a multi-faceted smear campaign involving an increasing number of players. (I can’t even address the Private Eye writer casually smearing me as a “nutter on a bus” in the current precarious conditions.)

However, for reasons he is keeping to himself, Iain Dale is knowingly continuing to publish and broadcast claims about me that he knows not to be true.

He does this knowing that the person smearing me is building their smears/fantasies on these false claims, and that his claims have also sparked several ‘copycat’ attacks that are no less damaging/alarming.

On top of this, the man claiming to act as Dale’s lawyer refused the offer of the relevant contact details and case number that would allow him to quickly establish why I had at least one good reason to persist in my attempts to contact Iain Dale on the weekend he was smearing Tom Watson. Instead, the man claiming to act as Dale’s lawyer has ignored my every email, for weeks now.

Further, Iain Dale has taken it upon himself to independently call people directly/tangentially involved in my case and accuse me of harassment (just as the man harassing me has been doing).

I went to call Iain Dale about this man and his recent publication(s) this morning… Iain answered the phone apparently under the impression that he was speaking not about that man, but to that man. He even greeted me by that man’s first name.

1. If Iain Dale has been in touch with the man who is harassing me, then perhaps he could admit it. Or deny it.

2. Either way, he also needs to explain why he appears to have ‘accidentally’ done so much to help that person over the past three months

3. And perhaps he could ****ing bring an end to it; I’m sure he’s quite enjoying my silence but the treatment I’ve been subjected to is entirely undeserved.

When other bloggers (from the left and right) recognised this attack on me as beyond the pale and went out of their way to help, Iain Dale took multiple steps to complicate rather than alleviate the situation. For a while there I thought that perhaps he was merely initially careless about the smears aimed at me and feared losing momentum and/or moral authority during ‘smeargate’, but his recent actions raise many doubts.

(NOTE – Iain was aware of a similar event in Guildford, but decided not to speak out about the actions of fellow Tories, and instead went on to smear me as a stalker… just as he is doing now, as it happens.)

UPDATE – No names in comments, please. It should be obvious what to avoid. Cheers all.

UPDATE – Iain Dale denies using that man’s first name in greeting on this morning’s call. He aso denies speaking to him or emailing him, but that is all Iain is prepared to say (or do) about this. He didn’t say a word about the increasingly problematic claims about me on his website that he knows to be false/untrue, be he did take a few seconds to accuse me of lying.








Posted in The Political Weblog Movement, Updates | 2 Comments

Another boring week at Bloggerheads

There will be very little in the way of blogging this week but you can follow me on Twitter if you like.

Comments are closed at this time.

Cheers all.

Richard O’Brien: Over At The Frankenstein Place (Acoustic Version)








Posted in Updates | Comments Off

Goodbye, Poons

The funeral for Dave Halligan is this Friday (19 June).

If you would like to send a message of condolence and/or share your memories of Poons with his family and friends, please send them to my Gmail address no later than 12:00 midday on Thursday (18 June):

( bloggerheads DOT com AT gmail DOT com )

-.– In your email, please use the following as your subject header (including brackets): [poons]

-.– Please also make sure that you sign your message with the name or nickname that you regard to be most suitable for this purpose (keeping in mind that these messages will not be posted on the web, and only seen by myself, then Dave’s family and closest friends).

I will be collating these messages into a single document and passing this on in time for it to be printed and suitably presented at the funeral reception, where it will be made available to guests.

Thank you.








Posted in The Political Weblog Movement | Comments Off