After Wikipedia took the decision to categorise the Daily Mail as an unreliable source for citations - note, it wasn’t “banned” or “censored” - it was inevitable, with the certainty of night following day, that there would be a hatchet job on the site. This duly appeared, as covered recently by Zelo Street, under the equally predictable by-line of Guy Adams, which means the hit was ordered personally by the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre.
What the f***'s wrong with doorstepping someone's relatives out of spite, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay
Under the headline “The making of a Wiki-Lie: Chilling story of one twisted oddball and a handful of anonymous activists who appointed themselves as censors to promote their own warped agenda on a website that's a byword for inaccuracy”, Adams made a number of variously creative claims about a Wikipedia editor called Michael Cockram, who is more usually known as Hillbillyholiday. But, as so often, the real story is missing.
We know this as information has arrived on Zelo Street which sheds light on the really chilling, twisted and warped behaviour at work behind this story. It will not surprise anyone to find that the real excesses have come from the Mail’s obsessive pursuit of Cockram, and the “disturbing questions”, to use the Mail’s vernacular, are the ones that the paper has to answer about whether their pursuit of the Wikipedia editor was even legal.
So let’s start at the beginning, as it’s a very good place to start.
The Mail claims Cockram is “ginger haired”. He isn’t. But they couldn’t find a colour photo of him, and their hacks couldn’t track him down - so they made it up.
Adams claims Cockram is “a fan … of folk music”. Wrong. He’s into punk.
The article asserts Cockram has worked as “an education management professional”. That would be news to him.
And it is suggested that he has an affinity for the Guardian. He doesn’t.
Of course, none of these would be sufficient to warrant even the wealthiest and most litigious starting libel proceedings - and that is sort of the point. The Mail calculates just how far it can go without crossing the defamation line. It also calculates the ability of its targets to extract corrections and apologies. And then it smears accordingly.
The obedient hackery of the Vagina Monologue clearly decided that Cockram was not in a position to take them to the cleaners, and so smeared him as “bigoted” and “racist”, despite the Facebook page that Adams alludes to in his article having several swipes at groups like the EDL (and yes, the Mail’s form on bigotry and racism is well known).
Michael Cockram - eluded the Mail's pursuit
But what is most disturbing about the Mail’s pursuit of Michael Cockram is what happened when the Dacre doggies realised they could not locate him. Adams’ article says he’s “from Bournemouth” and later states he “claims to live in Angoisse, a village in the Dordogne in south-western France”. The reality is that the Mail failed to track him down.
So instead, they located Cockram’s mother. How they traced her, with no more information than the name of her son, is what is truly chilling and disturbing. Was this exercise legal? How was the address obtained? Did money change hands?
We won’t be getting that information out of the inmates of the Northcliffe House bunker any time soon. But what we do know is that a Mail reporter fetched up at the house of Michael Cockram’s mother and set about making a nuisance of themselves.
But then, as one former Mail insider told Nick Davies during his research for Flat Earth News, “If the Mail go for you, they get every phone number you have dialled, every schoolmate, everything on your credit card, every call from your phone and from your mobile. Everything”, to which Davies added “even if it is against the law”.
And all this comes on top of Adams’ hatchet job being greeted with scorn and derision by the Mail website’s own readers. One has to ask if it is worth it for the Vagina Monologue to keep ordering hit pieces on those who incur his displeasure, given the clear damage to Dacre’s own reputation, and that of his paper, as a result.
But good to see that the vindictive streak in the old bully boy remains undimmed. Pity that this time it ended in failure, though - and the suspicion of less than totally legal behaviour.