How 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 down of a leftist website.

With that case in mind, I’d like to present a cut-out-and-keep guide of useful arguments to be deployed if you would like to suppress information you’d rather people not know. I’ve also included some potential responses you may need to deal with.

All the following arguments can be found on political blogs and/or in comment threads.

1) The UCU list is confidential. It was wrong for Harry’s Place to leak Delich’s post.

Firstly, an email list with 700 people on it is not exactly watertight. As Andy Newman says:

There is no such thing as a closed discussion list on the internet, and there is no such thing as confidentiality on the internet. This is the new landscape with regards to confidentiality, and you just have to live with it.

Also, there’s David Hirsh’s analogy with the Metropolitan Police in the 1980s. If, say, Lenin’s Tomb got hold of and published contributions to a closed Police Federation list that sourced racist material and the police then tried to shut Seymour’s site down, I think we’d all know whose side we’d be on. Some things are just public interest.

2) The academic in question didn’t know who David Duke was. We are not all political obsessives like the Harry’s Place writers. You can’t expect everyone to know about an obscure neo-nazi like David Duke.

In fact, Duke is one of the most famous white supremacists in the entire world. He has been politically active since the 1970s. He revitalised the Ku Klux Klan and in his periodic runs for office he gained a significant percentage of the American vote. He pioneered the far right tactic of using issues like immigration and political correctness to push racist ideas. He has spoken at numerous high-profile events including Tehran’s holocaust denial conference. The Anti-Defamation League describes him as the ‘[h]ighest profile white supremacist of the last two decades.’ Of far right figures only David Irving has more worldwide name recognition.

A sample of Duke’s views:

Our clear goal must be the advancement of the white race and separation of the white and black races. This goal must include freeing of the American media and government from subservient Jewish interests.

– ‘Klan Code of Conduct,’ Duke Speaks Out, a column in the Crusader (newspaper of the KKKK, then led by David Duke), November 1978

I can accept claims that Delich had never heard of David Duke. I don’t think that she is really a fascist or a racist and I sort of feel sorry for her now. She has made a mistake, compounded it and apologised. But how good a political activist can you be if you can’t recognise fascism when you see it?

To quote Hirsh again: ‘[I]f you agree with what is written on a fascist website then you should stop and wonder why that might be.’

(Incidentally, Modernity has written a useful web guide instructing activists on how to avoid reposting material from far right websites – for example, look for obvious Nazi insignia or Celtic symbols.)

3) Although the article in question appeared on David Duke’s website, the article was not by David Duke. It is a straightforward discussion of the Israel lobby and is not antisemitic.

Following the link Delich gave should set alarm bells ringing. The sidebar lists articles including ‘Black Population Welfare Bomb Ticks,’ ‘The Hypocrisy of Jewish Supremacism,’ and the whimsically titled ‘Whatever Happened to Eugenics?’ A teenager could see there’s something wrong here.

The author of the article was Joe Quinn, aptly described by Harry’s Place as a ‘far right conspiracy nut’. His website has this to say about 9/11:

We think there is considerable evidence pointing to the complicity of certain factions within Israel and the US in the planning and implementation of these attacks. This is where the line has been drawn. Do you see it or do you keep your head in the sand?

The antisemitic elements in his article have been pointed out by David T but they are worth repeating here:

Yet the Israeli government does a very good job of convincing the whole world that it is the victim in the conflict. How can this be? Israeli control of the press? Could that ubiquitous ‘conspiracy theory’ actually be closer to a conspiracy fact?’

To the Israeli oligarchs, the death of Palestinian civilians is ‘superb’, and they feel nothing when they kill women and children. What more can I say – either someone does something about these sick pyschopaths, or they, and their kind in Washington and around the world, will destroy us all.

This is clear antisemitic conspiracy theory – the Jews control the media and world politics. That so many don’t recognise this is an indication of the way in which far left criticism of Israel slides into far right conspiracy theories about Jews.

And no, it doesn’t help just to substitute ‘Zionist’ for ‘Jew’.

4) Regardless of the material she reposted, Harry’s Place should not have put Jenna Delich’s name and image on their site. This is similar to the tactics used by the fascist website Redwatch and is unacceptable. Now Delich is receiving hate mail. Are you happy?

This is Lenin’s line, but in my view it’s unsustainable. If you haven’t heard of Redwatch, this is what it does:

The Redwatch site was launched in 2001 and now displays over a thousand photographs. From Darlington to London, Yorkshire to Oldham, anti-racist campaigners are being targeted. In most cases the pictures are unidentified but linked to some are names and addresses, car registrations, phone numbers and even workplaces.

The real agenda behind Redwatch is graphically illustrated on its secret Yahoo discussion group available to only a handful of people. Searchlight and supporters across the country have penetrated this group for the first time.

Nicknamed ‘Mole Intelligence’, this site is where those behind Redwatch swap information and details on their targets. Where information is lacking, support is requested. Where research has been completed, plans of violence are hatched.

‘Redwatch has accumulated many names and addresses along with pictures of the targets, many of whom have had nothing done to them. Now’s the time to start a proper campaign of violence and intimidation towards those who seek to see us silenced or imprisoned for our beliefs.’

A friend of my sister’s was put on Redwatch after being photographed at a demo against a public debate featuring David Irving. Within hours neo-nazis had added details about her faith and the pubs she went to at the weekend.

In all the commentary I have read about the UCU case I haven’t seen anything comparable. Harry’s Place put up Delich’s name, the city she works in and a blurry photo that has now been taken down. I haven’t seen any personal details on the blogs I’ve read regarding the case or any incitements to violence or intimidation.

Needless to say, any such incitements or actual violence and intimidation should be utterly and unequivocally condemned.

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