The Iain Dale Fan Club started at midday on April 16, 2009, after Iain Dale stood by and allowed me to be smeared as a paedophile*, refused to discuss that, banned me from the comments on his website for daring to press the matter, and then refused to remove further false claims about me published on his website.
[*MINI-UPDATE (22 Apr) – Here’s a handy summary of all of that for you.]
Iain failed to understand at the time that the only thing making his ban effective was my refusal to ‘sock-puppet’ on his Blogger.com-hosted website like so many of his supporters.
So… The Iain Dale Fan Club begins with nine honorary members and nine rules:
The Iain Dale Fan Club Rules
The first rule of the Iain Dale Fan Club is you do not talk about the Iain Dale Fan Club.
The second rule of the Iain Dale Fan Club is you do not talk about the Iain Dale Fan Club.
The third rule of the Iain Dale Fan Club is that membership is by invitation only.
The fourth rule of the Iain Dale Fan Club is that you must earn your invitation by getting Iain Dale to lose his temper and/or delete your comments over a fair challenge to any of his false/misleading/incorrect claims a total of five times (i.e. to earn your five ‘points’ to start).
The fifth rule of the Iain Dale Fan Club is that you can earn a bonus two points toward your starting five – once – if Iain misses the point and/or loses his temper to the point where he specifically accuses you of trolling and/or of correcting/challenging his false/misleading/incorrect claims only because you want to be a member of the Iain Dale Fan Club.
The sixth rule of the Iain Dale Fan Club is that – if you are invited – you must, when instructed, create an alternative identity (i.e. a sock-puppet) or series of same and only make comments of the following variety on the main website of that notorious blog-cheat and thin-skinned Tory propagandist…
Directed at Iain, his writing, or items that he has endorsed:
– gushing praise
– naive, unquestioning agreement
Directed at Iain’s enemies and those who dare question his wisdom under comments:
– childish, puerile and/or witless put-downs
– vicious attacks
The seventh rule of the Iain Dale Fan Club is that you must not ‘sock puppet’ on any other site ever, ever, ever. No excuses.
The eighth rule of the Iain Dale Fan Club is that the ninth rule will not be revealed to you until an invitation has been issued and initiation is complete.
The ninth rule of the Iain Dale Fan Club is [classified].
Here we go, folks. Hang loose for a few hours or days depending on your schedule. No sense us all turning up at once and being too conspicuous, like.
UPDATE – A quick update for non-members from a comment made elsewhere, which is probably worth a mention here given the naked vicar’s narrative:
Iain once admitted to me that he often lets comments go live and conversations go on without really reading/checking them (not mine, obviously). Even with moderation on, he will often let through maybe 20 at a time without checking them first (not today, obviously). This is not a very clever, safe or considerate thing to do. I’ve been on the wrong end of it far too often, and I am now going to make sure that Iain won’t be doing it again for a long, long time.
I we don’t have to break a sweat or any laws or any Blogger.com rules to do it, and it won’t matter if Iain has moderation switched on or off. The people ‘auditioning’ will look like regular (if sceptical) newcomers, and identifying Fan Club members will be problematic to say the least. If he makes good on his subtle threat to go back to unregistered comments, that just makes life easier.
Iain also once admitted that, despite his many claims of ‘NuLieBore’ sock-puppetry on his site, he considers himself completely incapable of tracking who is really saying what at any given time, and he couldn’t reliably identify a sock-puppet if he tried. In other words, he just yells ‘sock puppet’ at people he doesn’t like and lets his mates get on with being however many people they please.
If you think that sounds like a lousy way to run a site, you’re right… but the good news is that this shitty tactic is about to get a lot more complicated for Iain, too.
UPDATE (15 Sep 2010) – A private discussion (that, sadly, went nowhere constructive led to me revealing the grand and glorious secret rule to Iain Dale as a sign of good faith, and a summarised version follows:
CLASSIFIED: The ninth rule of the Iain Dale Fan Club is that the instruction to create an alternative identity (i.e. a sock-puppet) or series of same and only make comments of the following variety etc. etc. on the main website of that notorious blog-cheat and thin-skinned Tory propagandist will never be issued, because sock-puppeting is wrong, and only tossers like Iain Dale and his supporters do it, or rely on others to do it for them.
So, now the secret’s out, the Iain Dale Fan Club is no more.
To explain it to the passers-by, newcomers and laymen out there; my main concern about what Iain Dale portrayed as comment ‘maintenance’ at the time (and long before this) was that he was allowing anonymous comments from supporters, but would sneer at anonymous comments from critics, or not publish them, and even accuse/half-accuse other critics of being behind them without any evidence, often blurring the line between abuse and criticism in the process. Often we would do this to the extent of allowing his site to be used as a platform for serious smears, accusations and implications submitted by people he could never hope to identify… but only if the accusations were against his critics and/or (dramatic sting) The Left.
Taking Dale at his word that it was not him personally behind these anonymous comments, it was my intention to complicate and thereby discourage his reliance on them; to inject doubt about who or where suspicious/OTT anonymous comments seemingly in his favour might be coming from. This is what he described as a ‘DOS’ attack at the time.
The Iain Dale Fan Club also served as a way to encourage interested parties (recruited as members) to stay away from Iain Dale’s site at this time; members were forbidden from leaving comments on his site until a certain instruction was issued… and they knew that instruction would never be issued. I did not want them needlessly embroiled in a flame war, anonymously attacked, or tempted to comment anonymously themselves (to avoid being called a ‘stooge’ or my ‘bitch’, for example). Granted, it did contain material encouraging potential ‘recruits’ to challenge Dale repeatedly (if openly and fairly), but I did not expect this to lead anywhere, didn’t hear from any potential recruits, and any one of us could have shut it down at any stage by revealing Rule #9.
My only regret is never knowing how many suspicious/OTT comments Dale deleted as a result (that he would not have deleted prior to this); but I do know he did not dare to disengage moderation for months after this, which greatly hampered his little game of allowing unacceptable content ‘unintentionally’ (see: How Iain Dale libelled Tom Watson (and me))
[*NOTE – The ninth rule has been ever-so-slightly updated in the interim, but only to give Iain Dale the benefit of the doubt when he claims not to have made any anonymous comments on his own site. Some harsh language has also been removed or moderated for reasons of propriety.]