Archive for the ‘The Political Weblog Movement’ Category

Posted by Tim Ireland at September 14, 2009

Category: Old Media, The Political Weblog Movement, Tories! Tories! Tories!

Dominic Wightman*, Glen Jenvey and Michael Starkey used to be the core members of a team of amateur ‘terror experts’ operating under the name Vigil and working hand-in-hand with Conservative MP – and then Shadow Minister for Homeland Security – Patrick Mercer. (example)

(*aka Dominic Whiteman, aka Richard Walker, etc. etc. etc.)

The group had a falling out in 2007, resulting in Dominic Wightman being disgraced and discredited in the eyes of Patrick Mercer. At the centre of this falling out was a series of accusations and counter-accusations involving an email from Dominic Wightman’s account proposing the fabrication of evidence to suggest that Muslims were planning to plant a bomb in an elderly woman’s wheeled shopping-basket and explode it in a supermarket. (more)

Wightman claims to have then ‘moved on’, but it’s evident that he invested a great deal of time and effort in discrediting his former partners. The best example of these efforts was his recruiting an unknown associate to pose as a reporter and conduct an audio-recorded interview with Glen Jenvey at his home in Wiltshire in February 2008.

While Jenvey willingly took hold of the rope fed to him by Wightman’s fake reporter, there was nothing conclusively damning in the resulting audio (yet) and these and other efforts did little to disrupt the ongoing relationship between Glen Jenvey and Patrick Mercer (though by this stage, Starkey had retreated even further into the background and stayed there).

By late 2008, the relationship between Glen Jenvey and Patrick Mercer had settled into the routine of Jenvey presenting Mercer’s office with what he claimed to be evidence of extremism, planned terrorist atrocities and what have you, whereupon that MP’s staffers Heather Millican and/or Edward Barker would help peddle the stories to tabloid newspapers with promises of quotes from Patrick Mercer (often condemning the Labour government for their inaction over this and other alleged evidence).

Sadly, by this time, Jenvey’s use of false identities and sock-puppet accounts in Muslim forums was generating more ‘evidence’ of extremism than he uncovered. (examples)

It was only a matter of time before Jenvey crossed the line from entrapment to fabrication, the very same thing he had accused his former partner Dominic Wightman of plotting.

Wightman was about to get his chance to settle an old score, and the audio of Jenvey casually admitting to the use of the alias ‘Richard Tims’ was about to become the ‘killer blow’ he had waited so long for. It did little to undermine Starkey, but there were ways around that.

End of Part One. Go and have a sandwich or something if you’re in for the long haul. (Actually, perhaps you’d best not; the next bit gets a bit stomach-churning in places.)

In early 2009 I caught Glen Jenvey posting fake evidence of extremism to a website (using the name ‘abu islam’) and then selling that story to The Sun, a tabloid newspaper with a widely-recognised anti-Muslim agenda. (more)

Via a letter from The Sun to the Press Complaints Commission, Jenvey issued a firm denial of any involvement with the ‘Richard Tims’, the name used on the account that linked him to the fraudulent postings under the name ‘abu islam’. Public denials were rarer and far less firm, but eventually Jenvey issued a very similar denial via an interview with a Christian activist/writer by the name of Jeremy Reynalds. (Though he used a series of sock-puppet accounts to deliver range of absurd counter-accusations, Reynalds’ writing was the only channel through which Jenvey issued any public statements under his own name until well after this story had moved on to other matters.)

Relevant posts on Bloggerheads eventually drew the attention of Dominic Wightman, who at first suggested clandestine delivery of audio in his possession, and then instead initiated a meeting in a nearby pub, where that same audio was transferred from a USB stick in his possession to my laptop.

(Currently, Dominic Wightman portrays me as a vain and greedy man taking credit for his work, but at the time he insisted that he remain anonymous and that every effort be made to avoid revealing him as the source.)

While there is no question regarding the authenticity of this audio, it is now clear that Dominic sought to shape the information that was released on my website, with Starkey being a key target regardless of any involvement in Jenvey’s present use of false identities to plant false evidence of extremism on Ummah.com and other Muslim community websites.

Jenvey was refusing to answer questions directly and, at the same time, giving Starkey only very limited information about what was unfolding, despite his associate’s name emerging on my website.

Similarly, it was proving impossible to get any meaningful response from the office of Patrick Mercer, even after Jenvey responded by posing as a Daily Mail reporter and repeatedly posting false accusations about me being a convicted paedophile to dozens of websites.

Jenvey now claims that Dominic Wightman not only provided him with my (ex-directory) home address prior to this, but also briefed him by phone with claims that I was a mentally unstable paedophile who needed ‘sorting out’.

I will readily note that the key elements of this claim are impossible to prove and that Jenvey has lied in the past, but he has made these claims in light of a full confession to police, with no apparent attempt to minimise what he has done, and it is now clear that Dominic was at the time also privately over-stating to me what Jenvey might be capable of when pushed to the edge (though he was kind enough to point out that Jenvey would probably pull up short of burning my house down).

However, my real issue is with with what Dominic did next, and I can prove every scrap of what follows the following introduction and speculation (the latter mostly made necessary by Wightman’s vague and nonsensical claim to have ‘brought me down’ as a public service, accidentally-on-purpose).

The disagreement with Iain Dale that followed will be detailed in coming days, but to summarise, Dale responded to my repeated attempts to discuss his failure to call Mercer and his refusal to contribute to a police statement (despite his involvement) by publicly accusing me of harassment. This resulted in a seres of anonymous attacks against me, and Adam Macqueen (a writer for Private Eye and friend of Iain Dale) likening me to a “nutter on a bus”.

(speculation)

I suspect that by the stage I had written an open letter to Ian Hislop on May 11, asking him to address this “nutter on a bus” smear (which stands as the only public response from anyone at his magazine about their taking credit for my Jenvey scoop), Dominic Wightman was concerned that I had ‘lost focus’, and that I showed far too much caution in use of the information he was repeatedly feeding me about Starkey.

(/speculation)

On May 19, Dominic Wightman emailed me with a claim that he had chanced upon a document hosted at scribd.com that purported to be a genuine interview with Glen Jenvey, conducted and published by Jeremy Reynalds. He even asked me if I had written it, before listing a series of likely suspects (culminating, inevitably, with Starkey).

Reynalds immediately denied any involvement, but even after it was clearly established as a fake, this ‘interview’ presented me and/or up to half a dozen people with a potential problem that could not be addressed with simple exposure.

I will explain this position in detail in a moment, but first I need to make clear that is has only recently been established beyond a shadow of a doubt that Dominic Wightman published it by submitting personally it to both scribd.com and articles-heaven.com

Wightman denies actually writing the fake interview, as if that makes any difference. He claims to have ‘found’ it elsewhere before uploading it in document form to scribd.com and as text to articles-heaven.com (though this claim is somewhat undermined by document properties that show 71 minutes of editing time, which is a long time to spend on a simple ‘copy and paste’ by anyone’s standards).

Regardless of authorship, Wightman clearly published both versions, and brought the first version to my attention.

I was as determined then as I am today to keep the full contents of that document out of the public domain, because even though the document contains very little in the way of truth, it still had and has the potential to cause great damage or embarrasment to a long list of people (including the man we can now safely describe as his primary target; Michael Starkey).

For this reason, I am only going to include passages that refer to little old me:

Obviously all of this is presented as if it’s from Glen Jenvey’s point of view, but you also need to keep in mind that Dominic Wightman still regards this content to be among the most harmless in the forged interview:

GJ: Basically they are friends with other extremists from the political left including a stupid blogger Tim Ireland and they together have tried to smear me. But they have failed miserably to smear me because the press in Britain has continually ignored them and their story about me while continuing to accept the validity of my stories.

JR: So Tim Ireland is someone who smears those who expose the wrongdoings of Islamic extremists?

GJ: Yes. Basically he is just a small-time carping Australian blogger and self-confessed alcoholic who lives in a council house in the South of England who likes to hassle people who go about their daily business so he can make a name for himself. He is someone who will get into bed with anyone for any small story even people who carried out 7/7. He has upset a lot of people and has lots of enemies after him including the cops and some members of the press.

JR: Is it true that you posted material on the Internet suggesting Tim Ireland was a paedophile?

GJ: No there is no proof of that. Tim Ireland has a history of being unstable and he probably posted that sort of material himself. He even calls himself Manic. Manic by name – manic by nature. The man is a loser. If he didn’t post the material himself it was [snip] who is well known to the police and has a history of criminal activity as well as a dysfunctional family.

Again, I will stress that Wightman himself regards this to be the lighter material.

I should also point out that Dominic Wightman is even today still trying to justify his use of the description “self confessed alcoholic” in this context, despite my being teetotal.

I had just recently declared my complete incompatibility with alcohol in support of a friend with a far worse problem than mine (who later lost his battle with drink and depression and subsequently took his own life); to have this used against me in this way was a real kick in the guts, but if Wightman was expecting the flurry of rage followed by an ‘outing’ of the document, he was to be sorely disappointed. Instead, what he got was more caution.

And that’s where the recent radio silence came from, folks.

The forged interview was carved using information already in the public domain. It could’ve been the work of just about anyone. But there were too many potential targets (each with their own list of enemies) and too many possible sources, with thanks in no small part to at least two people in the publishing industry who should know better than to exploit their position in the way they did (and there’ll be more about that later this week, assuming this post fails to bring either or both of them around).

What Glen Jenvey did with those paedo-smears was quite extraordinary, but so was the subsequent reaction of Iain Dale and Adam Macqueen. Even if I were able to bank on being a primary or even secondary target of this forged interview, it could have been the work of any one of the tens of thousands of people who read Iain Dale’s weblog, most of whom would have had at the time what they then considered to be good cause to teach me a lesson; there were certainly multiple instances of people lashing out at me following Dale’s grossly misleading claims of harassment, at least one of whom decided that, yes, I deserved to be smeared as a paedophile. And while I considered it highly unlikely that any professional journalist would have attempted something like this, the possibility of a fan of Private Eye crafting this in their ‘defence’ was also there and could not be ignored, especially in light of the timing; there are plenty of people who read and enjoy that magazine who fail to appreciate the importance of walking the walk on matters of integrity.

Again, I’ve only used myself as an example here (it’s all about me, dahling), but I hope you can appreciate from this example alone the potential problem this forged interview presented to half a dozen people, not least because there was some unknown person out there who was willing to smear anyone and everyone in the worst manner possible, just to get what they wanted.

I regarded that person to be dangerous. (I still do to a certain extent, knowing that they are not only capable of this, but more besides. It is clear that Wightman is involved to some degree in a recent anonymous threat to reveal my home address to “everyone (I’ve) ever pissed off”.

However, none of the conditions that made his stunt so effective can be easily replicated (otherwise I’d be a fool to flag the danger to me or anyone else).

In fact, here’s an example of something that would be impossible to replicate (even if you can’t appreciate the rarity of so many intersecting people acting like selfish, unthinking bastards at the same time):

The second version on articles-heaven.com was, it now appears, uploaded on May 13 (like the scribd.com version) but because of a backlog on that site, did not appear until the weekend after Glen Jenvey was interviewed and confessed all to the police. At the time it appeared as if someone was trying to kick things off all over again regardless of a need then – and now – not to savage Jenvey (or even mention him in any way beyond the truths that have since been established well beyond doubt).

At that time, and at every stage since ‘finding’ the document, Dominic Wightman was in regular contact with me, well aware of the anxiety I was feeling, and well aware of his contribution to it (though he still quite inexplicably claims to have been oblivious to being the primary cause of it, while simultaneously having no regrets because he could not have planned it better).

And yet he said and did nothing to alleviate that anxiety… and continued to say and do nothing until the information I provided led police right to his door.

He then insisted that we meet immediately (not likely), then tried to deny and minimise what he had done to varying degrees, then tried to convince me that I was guilty of the same or worse, and then tried to smear me again, this time in such a way that might make people think I was deserving of such treatment.

I’m not. No-one is.

If I thought otherwise, then I would have ‘outed’ the forged interview and brought it into the public domain (as he no doubt expected me to) long before I established the source of the piece and their likely agenda.

Dominic Wightman is now effectively neutralised. He has no credibility to speak of, and his response to being caught using false identities to smear and intimidate his political enemies has been a pathetic attempt to replicate the effort.

Sadly for him, he appears to have no understanding of the many forces that amplified his earlier efforts while hiding him from view, and does not recognise the damage he is doing to his own reputation while seeking to destroy mine.

(And now, if no-one minds, I am going to “borrow” a YouTube video I have “no permission to use” and use it as a final punctuation point on this post.)

– | –

UPDATE (15 Sep) – Dominic Wightman waited until we were all tucked up in bed last night before shoving this through our letterbox (or having some helpful chap do it for him):

Wightman's letter

a) You may recognise the tactic used recently by Jag Singh and Paul Staines of MessageSpace; using a pointless legal-sounding letter to play the victim while conveying that all-important message; ‘I know where you live’

b) I can’t say that I recognise all of the initials on that CC list. Perhaps the picture will become clearer if the promised email ever arrives.

c) He must have long arms if he delivered this by hand all the way from Venezuela (where he claimed to be based in his recent attack piece; one of the dozens of outright lies and fabrications in that article).

d) This is the second time he’s implied that I might interfere with his family life somehow. Given that his [blood relative] lives less than a few miles from me, perhaps he’s worried that I’ll tell on him.








Posted by Tim Ireland at September 14, 2009

Category: Old Media, The Political Weblog Movement, Tories! Tories! Tories!

Let’s skip right past the producers of the Donal MacIntyre programme on Radio 5 Live (more) asking me very nicely not to publish anything that might spoil or date their story, and the rich reward that followed (a single word of credit, followed by their later declaration that it was in fact Tom Mangold’s discovery, when I’d been in possession of Jenvey’s confession for weeks) so we can get to the guts of it:

1. Richard Bartholomew also deserves a lot of credit; he’s done just as much work on this as I have, if not more. He also picked up a lot of the slack during the recent periods of radio silence. More on the latter in a mo.

2. It was just as I said all those months ago; Glen Jenvey posed as ‘abu islam’, creating/inventing the ‘Alan Sugar terror target’ story so readily hyped by The Sun. Case closed.

3. When confronted by police recently, Glen Jenvey also confessed to making repeated postings to local and foreign websites, posing as a Daily Mail reporter and making false accusations that I was a convicted paedophile. He has since apologised profusely and, taking certain circumstances into account, I am prepared to accept that apology.

4. I am also personally satisfied that Glen Jenvey’s associate Michael Starkey was NOT aware of either of these deceptions, and is sincere when he assures me that had he known about the latter especially, he would have done everything in his power to combat these lies.

5. Glen Jenvey now goes by the name of Omar Hamza Jenvey and has declared that his “spying days” are behind him. I’m concerned about some of the company he’s been keeping since his recent religious journey, but for now let’s just recognise that this journey and other recent developments have led to the complete breakdown of the amateur ‘terror tracker’ network that was so closely involved with the office of the Conservative MP Patrick Mercer (the former Shadow Minister for Homeland Security, and present Chairman of the House of Commons Sub-Committee on Counter-Terrorism).

6. But there’s still some cleaning up to do, and that’s what this week is all about for me. I’ll be dealing with the following, step-by-step, hopefully more or less in the order that they appear below. But first, a refresher course and the latest data for those in need of a catch-up. Get yourself a hot cuppa or a cool drink (and maybe a packed lunch) and please read this first:

SpinWatch – The British amateur terror trackers: A case study in dubious politics

Investigations by Spinwatch reveal that a group of freelance terror trackers who promote stories about the threat from violent Islamists have been involved in exaggerating and even fabricating such stories, which they then comment on in the national press and on network television and radio. The group – which has now fallen apart – was centred on freelance spy Glen Jenvey and Conservative Party member Dominic Wightman, who uses the pseudonym ‘Whiteman’. (more)

That article contains a lot of fresh detail about a man named Dominic Wightman. He heads the list below mainly for reasons of context. Once his role is seen in the proper light, everything else will make a lot more sense to you (as it now does to me).

Dominic Wightman

In recent emails, Wightman has insisted that the above article will result in the mother of all legal actions when making one argument, then dismissed it as a piffling trifle when making another. He has also declared that it includes libel without being able to identify any specific instance of it. I therefore feel quite comfortable in linking to it, despite his recent promise to sue me if given the chance.

It was Wightman who was the source of the audio with Jenvey admitting to be Richard Tims (an alias linked to the ‘abu islam’ account that he had repeatedly denied using) and what later emerged to be quite selective and sometimes misleading background information relating to his association with Glen Jenvey, Michael Starkey, and Patrick Mercer. Despite what Wightman claims now, he insisted on remaining anonymous at the time.

Late Sunday evening Wightman used a sock-puppet account (and/or that of a close ally) to publish/promote a quite extraordinary attack on me that’s an epic work of confusion, conflation, misrepresentation and outright invention, but the most striking thing about it for me is the scope of the tell-all article that he imagines I planned to respond with; amazingly, he himself specifies many possible/worthwhile avenues of investigation (mostly to do with money and deceit) that I personally had dismissed as completely surplus to requirements; what I can prove about how he conducted himself during this most recent event is enough to finish the most robust of reputations on its own:

It was Wightman who released an ‘interview’ with Jenvey that was obviously a forgery, but could not be easily dismissed, as it smeared so many targets at such a tumultuous time that there was no telling who the likely target was, never mind who the perpetrator might be or even what their agenda/allegiance might be. I will be revealing the details of this action and its wider implications in full, later today (Monday).

(MINI-UPDATE – Meanwhile, feel free to whet your appetite with this illuminating post from Richard Bartholomew.)

Patrick Mercer MP

Both Heather Millican and Edward Barker, acting as staff for this Conservative MP, failed to pass on any of my concerns about Glen Jenvey at any stage, well past the point where Jenvey was out of control. Their impenetrable firewall made it necessary for me to seek a way to get directly in touch with Mercer after Jenvey published false claims of paedophilia (see: Iain Dale).

The rude and awkward introduction that followed when I was finally able to get in direct contact, combined with Mercer’s refusal to use the web or email, plus later accusations levelled against me (see: Iain Dale) were, I am sure, major contributing factors to my not hearing any warnings about Dominic Wightman bar a single vague reference to him going “off the rails” (weeks after it would have been of any use).

I also have serious issues with the evasive and unprofessional manner in which he and his staff treated a related information request, and more.

Details to follow on Tuesday.

(Last week, a request was sent to Patrick Mercer’s office, and then Patrick Mercer himself, requesting a statement outlining his past and present relationship with Dominic Wightman. At the time of writing it has not yet emerged.)

Iain Dale

Iain Dale was literally the last person on my list when I was looking for people I knew who might be able to make a call directly to Patrick Mercer. The first two were unable to help, so I was forced to call Iain.

I explained the situation to Iain carefully and repeatedly; I needed him to call Mercer because nothing was getting through his office, or past his staff. Glen Jenvey was smearing me as a paedophile repeatedly at that stage, but according to all visible accounts was still aligned with that MP (and, according to a quote attributed to Mercer himself, a man who “ought to be listened to”)

Iain Dale promised to call Patrick Mercer, but didn’t. He later gave me the impression that he had made Patrick Mercer aware of Jenvey’s smears, despite knowing that he had merely (and quite inexplicably) called the same office that he knew was not passing on any messages involving Jenvey.

Iain has since refused to discuss this matter beyond a single email claiming that in calling the office he had in fact called Mercer. I’m still not sure if he was playing political games or just being extremely slack about it, but he then more or less immediately went on to bust a gut over some other smears involving Derek Draper, and smeared Tom Watson when doing so. Repeated attempts to have him explain his actions resulted only in his declaring to his readers that I was harassing him for personal/political reasons. He then went on to (finally) call Mercer direct, but only to relay this same accusation!

It was difficult having a sensible and constructive conversation with Mercer before this; it was near-to-impossible afterwards. Further, Dale’s extraordinarily dishonest attack on me (example: he spoke of a “barrage of emails” without revealing that the bulk of them resulted from his repeated refusal to acknowledge receipt of a single email) created a hostile crowd so large that several Dominic Wightmans could have hidden themselves inside it, and I plan to reveal more about what Iain knew but didn’t give a damn about on Wednesday.

(Iain Dale currently has comment moderation on, which means he reviews comments before publishing them. He still will not accept comments from me, but last night published the URL of Wightman’s disgraceful pre-emptive strike without complaint. It was still live, hours later, at the time of writing. Nice. No doubt he’s happy that it repeats many of the empty allegations he so readily hosts on his website on the basis it is ‘honestly-held opinion’.)

Adam Macqueen

Jenvey = ‘abu islam’ was my scoop. Private Eye stole it and took the credit for it. End of. Adam Macqueen (a writer for Private Eye and friend of Iain Dale’s) tells people he didn’t even write the relevant story, which is a misleading claim at best; privately he admitted that it was he who struck out my contribution, which is the crux of the matter. Later – in the wake of Iain’s misleading allegations of harassment – Macqueen publicly likened our private communication about this matter to meeting a “nutter on a bus”… and then went on to claim that my objecting to that description proved his point!

An open letter complaining about the smear was sent to his editor, Ian Hislop, who emailed but refused to acknowledge the significance of any of this. I tried to reply, but found that someone at Private Eye had put a spamblock in place, bouncing any email from me.

The forged interview (later found to be the work of Dominic Wightman) quite specifically smeared me as being mentally “unstable” and was written the day after I published the relevant open letter to Hislop. That forged interview was a real piece of work, and not something you could accuse anybody of without proof, even if I could somehow contact the offices of Private Eye without having someone use that as further ‘evidence’ of nuttiness, but what’s a guy to think in a situation like that? Me, I had it filed under Find. The. Author. (which is what I did, at great cost to myself, while hangers-on of Iain Dale gleefully repeated Macqueen’s response to my open letter and his ‘nutter’ diagnosis as if it were the last word on the subject). Thursday.

Graham Dudman

Acting as Managing Editor of The Sun, in January 2009 Dudman wrote a letter to the PCC that sought to discredit me while bigging up their ‘expert’ (Jenvey). Dudman owes me more than one apology, but I expect the biggest one will involve his false accusation that I had falsely accused Glen Jenvey of being… a paedophile.

Yes, you read that right; roughly six weeks before Glen Jenvey actually did this to me, I was falsely accused of doing it to him. This was one of many deceits and inventions in this letter, which I plan to publish (in part if not in full) along with my response to it on Friday.

It’s going to be a fun-filled week, folks.

Please stand by.

[MINI-UPDATE (17 Nov) – Some of this promised content was delayed by ongoing attacks/threats, mostly from Wightman’s corner. The Dudman letter was eventually published here. Private Eye are, surprisingly, still being dicks about it. Iain Dale is also still being a dick about it, but that surprises me less.]








Posted by Tim Ireland at August 17, 2009

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

The unexpected death of Frank Branston has prompted a dual statement from Alistair Burt and Nadine Dorries, who today describe Branston as a “formidable politician” who “was always motivated by a desire for the best in Bedford.”

Perhaps Nadine Dorries would care to put out an individual statement where she personally sets the record straight on a few things, because earlier this year she had this to say:

“The left wing Mayor of Bedford frequently refers to me as ‘Mad Nad’. Something which I am not and is incorrect. Now if I were to describe him as overweight, sweaty, unpleasant, shrill and politically opportune, I would be entirely correct; however, I choose not to operate at his level and simply always refer to him as ‘Mayor’.” – Nadine Dorries (source)

Ho-ho. Did you see what she did there, children? She went on to ‘restrain’ herself thusly:

“I don’t want to get involved but that’s just him, isn’t it. He frequently calls me ‘Mad Nad’ and refers to a female councillor in the same way. I think he has a problem with women.” – Nadine Dorries (source)

As with so many of Nadine’s accusations and implications, the devil is in the carefully-edited detail; Branston did not originate the nickname ‘Mad Nad’ and did not apply nicknames to females exclusively as Cllrs Brian (Mr Whippy) Dillingham, Tom (Haystacks) Wootton, Richard (Tricky Dicky) Stay, and Charles Royden (aka the Ranting Rev) can readily testify.

Further, this was not an isolated or unique smear from Dorries; I clearly recall an earlier occasion where Dorries dishonestly portrayed Branston as a stalker, and over time she has repeatedly published anonymous comments questioning his integrity and mental state on her ‘blog’.

One might argue that Nadine was only fighting fire with fire and that this was a fair and measured response to Branston’s repeated use of the nickname ‘Mad Nad’ (example) and/or “rent a gob” (which is arguably inaccurate as she is not always paid to flap her lips).

However, there two facts standing in the way of this argument:

1. Of the two parties, only Dorries has a clear track record of delusion (the extent of which is only under doubt because there are some occasions when Dorries may not have been delusional, but instead merely lying). There is certainly NO suggestion beyond what Nadine has said/published that Branston was a mentally-challenged hater/botherer of women.

2. Even if there were evidence beyond Dorries’ ugly publications (there isn’t) and two wrongs did make a right (they don’t), what Dorries claimed/implied was far darker than anything that could be attributed to or garnered from Branston’s comments and/or use of nicknames.

I wholly respect Nadine Dorries’ right to ‘tell it like it is’ regardless of convention, but perhaps for the sake of the family and friends that Frank Branston leaves behind Dorries will go beyond the vacuous niceties of today’s dual statement and do something far more meaningful and upstanding… by publicly recognising that some of her past comments about Branston went well beyond banter, leading to some wholly unjustified accusations/implications that had no bearing on reality.

Alternatively, Dorries can continue to publish her dark implications without correction or reflection and allow her smears to stand, safe in the knowledge that one cannot libel the dead.

Your call, Nadine.

PS – I’m not really here… I’m just visiting. Back soon.








AFK

Posted by Tim Ireland at July 31, 2009

Category: Old Media, The Political Weblog Movement, Updates

[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 by Tim Ireland at July 13, 2009

Category: Old Media, Rupert 'The Evil One' Murdoch, The Political Weblog Movement

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 by Tim Ireland at July 11, 2009

Category: Old Media, Rupert 'The Evil One' Murdoch, The Political Weblog Movement

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 by Tim Ireland at July 10, 2009

Category: Old Media, Rupert 'The Evil One' Murdoch, The Political Weblog Movement

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 by Tim Ireland at July 6, 2009

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

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 by Tim Ireland at July 2, 2009

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

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 by Tim Ireland at June 29, 2009

Category: The Political Weblog Movement, Updates

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.








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