28 August 2008
Why Harry's Place had to be supported
Following on from last night's posting, Harry's Place is now back on-line and no doubt feeling even more sanctimonious and self righteous than usual. The fact that many bloggers who normally could be expected to rally to this clear cut freedom of speech issue either ignored the events of the past 24 hours, or actually supported the attempt to knock HP off-line is something that should give HP pause for thought. Both Neil Clark and Lenin's Tomb were amongst those who just ignored the matter for most of the day, although the Tomb then posted on the matter late yesterday evening. That said, earlier in the day the Tomb's author did comment briefly on a forum, but only to let people know that HP was on its own. Other sites took the opportunity to stick the boot in by reminding people of just how one-sided the HP commitment to freedom of speech is. All in all, support for Harry's Place was nowhere near as total and solid as it should have been, given the attack that it had suffered.
Why so many people dislike HP is not hard to fathom, as the site is often little more than a smear machine disguised as a blog. When the machine decides to go after someone it uses all the talents that people thought had died with the late Dr. Josef Goebbels to try and discredit them. The aim, quite simply, is to stifle debate around certain issues by trying to discredit their proponents.
Jenna Delich had to misfortune to become a victim of the smear machine, so let's look at what happened to her in more detail. As we pointed out yesterday, she sent out a link to an article by a Joe Quinn that had been reposted on David Duke's site, to a University and College Union discussion board.
David T. of Harry's Place then felt able to headline his posting on the subject with the words "UCU and the David Duke fan". Nowhere in the text which followed is the allegation that Jenna Delich is a David Duke fan actually defended, but that doesn't matter because the smear is in. Just to make sure that the more bovine readers get the message, the lie is told that the Joe Quinn article only appeared on the Duke site, thus "It is therefore reasonable to infer that Jenna Delich reads and takes her information on world events from neo Nazis." Actually, the Quinn article was first posted on his own site, and then reposted by Duke as well as a few others, but to admit to that would make the neo-Nazi smear meaningless - even the readers of Harry's Place would be able to work that out - so it was better to offer up a small porkie in the hope that nobody would check.
Next, the machine posted a photo of Jenna, with the sub-heading "Sheffield-based academic, Jenna Delich - links to far right websites associated with the Ku Klux Klan". The fact that la Delich had linked to an article via one website had suddenly become "links" to "websites," but that is par for the smear machine's course.
Finally, the smear machine gave out just enough information about Jenna Delich so that its stooges who had bought into the smear that she was a "David Duke fan" who only "takes her information... from neo-Nazis," and who "links to far-right websites," could take over. It is now being reported that Jenna Delich has received hate mail and death threats. Of course that is not the fault of Harry's Place. They did not tell people to do that. Harry's Place doesn't do that - all it does is set the stage.
The Harry's Place smear machine has past form at all these noxious activities. Neil Clark can testify that the readers of Harry's Place were encouraged with a nod and a wink to write to the Guardian with a view to getting him sacked. Johann Hari knows that Harry's Place accused him of "making things up". That latter comment was deleted following a threat of legal action, but it was up long enough to serve its purpose. The stooges then took over and spread the smear far and wide.
So, on the basis of freedom of speech, your friendly old Exile has been forced to defend a blog that makes shit up about people with cavalier abandon and then sits back whilst its brain-dead readership tries to either intimidate them, get them to lose their jobs, or both at the same time.
Harry's Place do not deserve anyone's sympathy, but we do have to stand by that gleaming principle that debate should be free and open to anyone who can work a keyboard. For that reason alone Harry's Place had to be supported, even though by their smears they were trying to deny that freedom to others.
That simple truth sticks in this writer's throat as well as making his piles itch, but it doesn't alter the fact that the principle had to be defended.