So sue me, Mr Cushman

Modernity informs me that there is talk of Harry’s Place being sued by the University College Union.

The problem is based around UCU’s activist list, which features a continual debate on the boycotting of Israeli academics. Recently a Sheffield activist named Jenna Delich posted a link to the website of David Duke, a far right activist and former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

Yesterday David T at Harry’s Place did a post highlighting this. Comments included one from ‘UCU activist list member’ claiming that David’s statement was libellous and urging UCU to contact the service provider. (I did originally post this comment, but have taken it down because it was fucking up my sidebar. You can see it here.)

Unlike the Hamas versus Harry’s Place libel threat, there is no formal legal action here – so I think some reticence is called for. But I have to stress that Britain’s libel laws are not the answer. They are heavily biased in favour of the plaintiff and badly in need of reform. Recently we have seen cases of libel tourism in which wealthy non-British citizens have used English courts to pull off acts of censorship that they would never get away with in America or Europe. There is a growing climate of censorship affecting writers, academics and bloggers.

It may turn out that David T was wrong – but surely the answer in that case is argument and debate, not legal action.

So as a gesture of solidarity, I am reproducing David’s original post.

UCU and the David Duke Fan

David T

August 22nd 2008, 5:58pm

The University and College Union maintains an email list for its activists, which is administered and monitored by the union. As Harry’s Place readers know, the email list traffic is dominated by political extremists and almost entirely given over to their obsessive and nasty campaign to boycott Israeli academics.

The extremists are countered by a small number of Jews and anti-racists, many of them supporters of Engage. They are routinely defamed as racists, imperialists, Apartheid supporters, liars and conspirators. Quite a few of the Jews and anti-racists have been chucked off the list by the UCU administrators, arbitrarily, and usually for making public their complaints about the racism on the list.

There have been complaints to UCU about racism on its activist list. UCU has dismissed them all as baseless.

One of the formal complaints was made in relation to a series of particularly poisonous and nasty emails written by a Sheffield-based UCU activist called Jenna Delich. That complaint was also dismissed.

Yesterday Jenna Delich wrote the following message on the activist list in order to support a boycott of Israeli academics:

John,

In support to your link this may be a long but also an interesting reading:

http://www.davidduke.com/general/humanitarian-disaster_595.html

No comment necessary. The facts are speaking for themselves.

Jenna

JENNA DELICH

The website which she links to is the website of David Duke, who is the former Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan, and perhaps the most notorious racist and anti-semite in the world. The article itself was originally posted on an extremist conspiracy nut website, but appears only on David Duke’s website. It is therefore reasonable to infer that Jenna Delich reads and takes her information on world events from neo Nazis.

So, in a nutshell, the position is this. The UCU refuses to take action against viciousness against Jews and anti-racists on its own activist list, and endorses their exclusion from that email list when they defend themselves. Meanwhile, the UCU is circulating links to David Duke’s website on behalf of Delich.

What a wonderful institution UCU is.

Update: A couple of good comments from the Engage mailout.

Jon Pike: ‘The UCU has a problem with its ‘canteen culture’ – expressed in its electronic canteen – just like the Metropolitan police in the 1980s.’

Commenter ‘Saul’ posted to this article:

Gosh,
Is this what it has come to?
You can’t even link to a neo-nazi website these days without being labelled an ‘antisemite’.
It’s political correctness gone mad!

Further Update: Harry’s Place may be disappearing as a complaint has been made to its server.

It’s being assumed that this is related to the Jenna Delich affair.

From their post:

We would like to assure readers of Harry’s Place that we are doing everything we can to prevent a disruption, but that – of course – we will not concede any ground. We have posted nothing defamatory, and we stand by the information we have supplied.

ISPs often run scared of UK libel law and malicious complaints are thus common. Sadly, it is a well known – and usually successful – way of censoring websites which publish truths that they’d rather not be generally known.

We ask our readers and supporters in the meantime to publish this information as widely as possible. The disgraceful tactic of dishonest and malicious complaining should not be allowed to succeed.

Those on the UCU list, please also make this know there.

Please spread the word.

If we go down, email us at harryblog at gee mail dot com for updates.

For those who can still see us – we’ve put up an archive of the Delich-related material here, which we will use to post updates on this saga:

http://jennadelich.blogspot.com/

Update: We Will Not Be Intimidated/Delich Roundup

Well, Harry’s Place has been silenced.

Although I’ve still seen no confirmation, this is almost certainly the result of the Cushman threat.

The bad news for Mr Cushman is that if he’s going to try to take down every blog and website that publicises Delich’s sourcing of far right material then he’s going to be very, very busy.

Read the story so far at the Harry’s Place backup and the backup of the backup. And this piece in the Jerusalem Post. Eric Lee has reproduced the Delich photo: he comments ‘There, I’ve published it too. Sue me.’

Francis Sedgemore has made a formal complaint to the TUC – you can do so too. Here are their details: remember to be polite and reasonable.

Brendan Barber, General Secretary, Trades Union Congress: bbarber@tuc.org.uk

Dr Sally Hunt, General Secretary, Universities and Colleges Union: shunt@ucu.org.uk

Modernity has loads of updates. There’s commentary from Norm, Bob, Flesh is Grass, the Boycotted British Academic, the Duke of Chaos, Ignoblus, El Nuevo Pantano, Renegade Eye, Mushkush, Ten Percent, Socialist Unity, Sarah Franco, Rosie Bell, Ben Cohen, Darren Redstar and Unitalian. I’m sure there will be many more – feel free to let me know in the comments box.

Some initial thoughts. Z-Word has a post saying ‘Solidarity with Harry’s Place: No to Censorship’. I agree – but I also feel that censorship is too grand a term for what is happening here. This is just bullying, pure and simple.

Now, maybe Harry’s Place isn’t your kind of thing. Maybe you don’t like what they say about Iraq or Tony Blair. I don’t always. Fine. But it’s important to show solidarity with them, even if you don’t agree with them, because this isn’t about Harry’s Place or the boycott or the UCU – it is about the freedom to write and publish. Remember that next time it could be you.

Finally, David Hirsh has an anecdote about Cushman:

When arguing for the boycott motion at this year’s UCU Congress, Cushman had bizarrely declared: ‘We will not be intimidated!’ to rapturous applause. It seems that what he meant was that the boycott campaign would continue to fight for an exclusion of Israelis from British universities in spite of the fact that many Jews were worried about the antisemitic fall-out from this campaign. 

I am sick and tired of self-proclaimed ‘leftists’ advocating censorship in the name of dissidence.

Update: Comment from George Szirtes and Marko Attila Hoare.

Yet Another Update: Index confirms it.

UK political blog Harry’s Place may be removed by webhost Daily.co.uk after a complaint from an academic whom it claimed had posted links to neo-Nazi articles in an online debate.

The blog published a comment made by Sheffield-based UCU activist Jenna Delich in an online discussion of a potential boycott of Israel by the union, in which she linked to, and appeared to endorse, an article posted on the website of American far-right politician David Duke.

Webhosts Daily.co.uk subsequently received a complaint that the post was ’slanderous’, and informed Harry’s Place that it would not continue to host the blog’s domain name, saying the bloggers had breached terms of use.

Harry’s Place blogger David T told Index: ‘We have done nothing wrong. We did not breach Daily’s terms and conditions. They have put us out of business, without warning and without an opportunity to make alternative provision.’

Currently in the UK Internet service providers are liable for material posted on websites they host. ‘There should be statutory and blanket immunity for ISPs, as exists in the US,’ said David T.

It appears that Jenna Delich has been suspended from the UCU activists’ list.

According to Engage, the member of staff responsible for the list has sent this round robin email:

Time for one of my universally popular interventions

I have received complaints from list members about the linking by another member to a website which contains highly offensive, racist material.

I acted to suspend the posting rights of the list member as soon as the union became aware of the link, and having reviewed this and previous conduct; I have now suspended their list membership indefinitely.

List members should note that my view as moderator is that you are responsible for what you post, including links.

Check what you are sharing before you share it. Think about what you are saying before you press send.

David Hirsh adds:

Nevertheless today’s move against Delich is significant. It is the first time that UCU has come near to recognizing that there is any problem of antisemitism in the union. It constitutes the final crumbling of the ‘criticism of Israel or Israeli policy are not, as such, antisemitic’ brick wall.

Plus more comment from another trade unionist.

Update: How Low Can They Go?

More stuff from Harry Barnes, Damian Counsell, Labour Outlook, Duncan Money, the Ministry of Truth, Derek Wall, an Insomniac and the Black Sun Review.

Apparently Harry’s Place is back – at http://www.hurryupharry.org/ – but I can’t get to it.

There is a good post on their satellite site:

If those in British Unions who flirt with the far-right can weasel out of this, then they can weasel out of anything. A line must be drawn here. A line must be drawn now.

If this is acceptable and accepted – indeed, if this is even mere tolerated – then a line is crossed. What could possibly still remain unacceptable? What taboos remain? Violence against Jewish students ‘explained’ by left-wing academics? Desecration of Jewish graveyards celebrated on Indymedia? Would that still shock? And if so, for how long?

Final Update: Harry’s Place back online

With a new ISP:

As you can see, attempts to censor us have failed. We refuse to be cowed by this sort of bullying. We owe thanks to the many many people who have rallied round to support us.

Let’s be clear – the issue here is not Delich. Rather, it is the blending of the perspectives of the neo Nazis, the Islamists, and the far Left. Even if we accept Delich made a ‘mistake’, it would be one which simply could not have happened, were is not for the poisonous rhetoric, and vicious racism thathas characterised the debate over Israel/Palestine. It would have been impossible without the coalescence, over the past decade, of the coalitions which have constituted both RESPECT and the STWC. What, after all, is the fundamental difference between linking to neo Nazis and carrying a placard bearing the slogan ‘We Are All Hezbollah Now’?

Definitely Final Update: Following HP’s precedent, I’ve removed the photo.

15 Responses to “So sue me, Mr Cushman”

  1. modernityblog Says:

    thanks Max.

  2. lpcn Says:

    Bloggox.

  3. Jon d Says:

    It appears someone has successfully managed to coerce HP’s DNS registrar into removing the DNS record for harrys place, there is speculation that this may not be entirely unrelated to the threats from UCU supporters.

  4. maxdunbar Says:

    I’ve just seen the HP post. To be honest I thought Modernity and I were jumping the gun a bit by reposting this – apparently not.

    I will update.

  5. Alec Macpherson Says:

    I recommend HP gets itself hosted by Tante Ami’s son.

  6. maxdunbar Says:

    Who’s Tante Ami? I’m not the most technically aware blogger, and don’t even know if you’re joking or not…

  7. Alec Macpherson Says:

    Ami, one of the regulars at HP (tante is Yiddish for aunt). Her son runs a DNS hosting company, which immediately offered its services to a webpage similarly threatened.

  8. maxdunbar Says:

    Ah – I get it. My Yiddish is not what it could be. But at this rate it looks like quite a few of us will be needing Ami Jr’s service!

  9. ami Says:

    Alec Macpherson: Been on the case since this morning when the blackout was imminent. Fingers crossed, mum’s the word. (Or maybe tante.)

  10. maxdunbar Says:

    HP is gone. Does this mean that five and a half years of commentary and debate have disappeared into the memory hole forever? Or does content get automatically cached somewhere?

  11. M o r g o t h Says:

    No, basically the website is still there, with all the content, its just now no one can access it. DNS is analogous to a phone book for the internet.

    From Wiki:

    “The Domain Name System (DNS) associates various information with domain names; most importantly, it serves as the “phone book” for the Internet by translating human-readable computer hostnames, e.g. http://www.example.com, into IP addresses, e.g. 208.77.188.166, which networking equipment needs to deliver information. A DNS also stores other information such as the list of mail servers that accept email for a given domain. By providing a worldwide keyword-based redirection service, the Domain Name System is an essential component of contemporary Internet use.”

    Once Harry’s Place gets another company to reinsert its DNS record into the Internet’s “phone book”, then browsers will be able to find it again.

  12. maxdunbar Says:

    That’s good to know. Thanks. This whole thing is really showing up my technological ignorance!

  13. Koppers Says:

    It is a matter of urgency that Europe adopts a US style first amendment policy – thereby guaranteeing the right of freedom of speech for all Europeans. If that means denying the holocaust, labelling Christ as a homosexual or portraying Mohammed as a paedophilic war-lord then so be it.

    Tough shit if it offends your sensibilities.

  14. How to justify censorship « Max Dunbar Says:

    […] to justify censorship One of the curious things about the UCU mess is the valiant rearguard action being taken on blogs and comments boxes to justify the shutting […]

  15. Marko Attila Hoare: Extremists Are Poisoning My Trade Union - BDS News, Letters from our Readers - SPME Scholars for Peace in the Middle East Says:

    […] more on the attack on Harry’s Place, see Modernity, Engage, Bob from Brockley, Max Dunbar, Cafe Turco, Flesh is Grass and Ignoblus. See also Harry’s Place’s […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: