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Friday 20 February 2015

A Bully And A Hypocrite

The myth of Paul Staines, perpetually thirsty founder of the Guido Fawkes blog, is built on his being a libertarian and free speech advocate who eschews resort to libel laws which he considers oppressive. As the Independent put it recently, “His normal reaction to real or imagined attacks is not to make legal threats but to use his blog or Twitter for counterattack”. His testimony to the Leveson Inquiry amplified this.
Behold the face of cowardice and hypocrisy

Humour plays some part in our success …  We campaign on issues we feel strongly about, mainly political hypocrisy, lying and dishonesty …  Editors, pundits and journalists are surprisingly thin skinned and there is much sport to be had in teasing and taunting prominent media figures”. As to legal action, “We have repeatedly ignored injunctions and orders issued in the UK courts”. This is sanctimonious claptrap.

I can say this with confidence because, following the Zelo Street blogpost “Owen Jones - Twitter Dirty Tricks”, my inbox was in receipt of what is known as a Nastygram late last Sunday. In order to save readers the longeurs of this letter, I quote merely extracts from it. Staines did not get off to a good start, calling the blog “Xelo Street”.

Then came “This letter is marked as being ‘Strictly Private & Confidential’ and ‘Not For Publication’. The content of this letter cannot be published, directly or indirectly, by you or at your behest to any third party, other than a lawyer retained by you for the purposes of obtaining legal advice in connection with this letter or the Court, and any publication of this letter (or any part of it) other than as expressly permitted above shall amount to actionable infringement of our copyright, together with constituting further aggravation of the damage suffered as a consequence of your ill­ advised acts”.

Thus the second time recently that the Fawkes rabble have resorted to copyright threats - this is the blog that lifted Peter Oborne’s resignation statement from the Open Democracy website without, er, acknowledging copyright, despite a request to do so.

Staines goes on “I usually ignore your frequent articles referring to me as your imaginative speculation often brings light relief”. Doesn’t make sense. Well, it was late on Sunday evening. Yes, the great libertarian apparently either has a lawyer on call at that time, or has a pro-forma Nastygram ready to go. Can you smell hypocrisy?
What was that about his reputation?

And then came Staines’ clinching argument: “aside from my role at Guido Fawkes, I am an investor in and developer of a number of internet oriented businesses. The baseless accusation that I engaged or engage in wrongdoing of the nature alleged and/or implied by you … goes to the very heart of damaging my business reputation. Metrics, particularly online reach, being a key part of any internet business. To that end, I cannot this time allow you to act unchallenged without any regard for my reputation”.

Reputation. That’s what it’s all about. The slob who got himself kicked out of the IoD recently for being drunk is worried about his reputation. And there were demands: “You are on notice and should immediately remove entirely the article … You should apologise, publicly, in writing … You should undertake unequivocally and in writing not to repeat … This should be done by midday tomorrow (Monday 16 February, 2015)”.

I declined his requests.

On Tuesday morning, Staines was back on the attack: “If you refuse to withdraw this false allegation and make clear that you have no evidence that I had any role in this affair, you leave me little choice. My preference is to settle this with a written correction rather than via Court.  As someone who has been involved in many defamation disputes over the years I have no desire to initiate another with all the associated costs and hours wasted”.

What happened to that deadline? Who knows. And, indeed, who cares? But Staines was not getting his correction. And, to let him know that he was not the only one taking this matter seriously, Tamsin Allen of Bindmans (she features in Nick Davies’ excellent new book Hack Attack, and if you want to know the detail, GO AND BUY A COPY) wrote to him to put him straight. Here is what she wrote.

We are instructed by Tim Fenton to respond to your letter of 15 February 2015 which you claim to be a letter conforming to the Pre Action Protocol for Defamation. The letter states that words in the article are an ‘actionable defamation’ and you demand that our client, within one day, remove the words, apologise publicly and undertake not to repeat them. You then go on to indicate that you will issue libel proceedings if these steps are not taken and that you will seek to recover legal costs (and, inevitably, damages) from our client.

We are very surprised at your decision to threaten libel proceedings against our client. You clearly do not consider your own writing to be bound by UK libel laws, (see for example your blog post about press regulation ‘None of the forthcoming regulations will make a blind bit of difference to me. I realised early on that the British libel laws were too oppressive and based the Guido Fawkes Blog site offshore from the outset. Lord Black’s draft proposal on behalf of media proprietors for a contractually based regulator is not even designed to govern offshore sites like mine. In truth it would be in my commercial interest and distinct competitive advantage to see the British media heavily regulated, draconian privacy laws enacted and politically correct “media standards” enforced. All of which I would cheerfully ignore.’). You are, at least publicly, an advocate of free-speech and a vocal opponent of libel laws.
A large part of your letter is taken up by anxious attempts to prevent our client from publicising your letter. This section is no doubt an attempt to avoid the embarrassment you would face were your hypocrisy to be exposed. You are of course well-known for publishing confidential legal correspondence on your own blog.
Our client’s blog describes a practice whereby fake Twitter followers are bought. He explains that some politicians had used this practice and been exposed, and that some journalists had been subjected to a related practice where fake Twitter followers were bought by a third party and the journalist then falsely exposed. He speculated as to who was responsible for this in relation to Owen Jones’ account, described some coincidences involving you and your associates and said that his Occam’s razor concluded that Guido Fawkes was behind this. The words complained of are obviously comment. Occam’s razor is a fourteenth century philosophical principle which explains the probability or likelihood of a given explanation being correct. The use of the principle in this context indicates that the words following it are theories, opinions or hypotheses, not statements of facts. That applies to both versions of the statement.
Accordingly, our client does not consider it appropriate to remove the statement, or to apologise. He has already amended the word ‘conclude’ to ‘wonder if’ and he will now publish the following on his website [wording added to post].
We trust that this will be an end of the matter”.
There you have it: Paul Staines, ostensibly libertarian and free speech advocate, supposed outsider, but in reality an establishment sellout, a libel bully, a hypocrite, and an unprincipled charlatan. Another fine mess, once again.
[My sincere thanks to all at Bindmans, and others who have rallied to my cause this week. You know who you all are]


rob said...

"regard for my reputation”

Time for another Bonfire of the Vanities with unowho placed on top?

Jimmy said...

Does anyone know why Mark Bateman is suing him for libel?

Anonymous said...

I am looking forward to Paul Staines suing you penniless. As a lawyer, I can safely say you WILL lose.

Bashir said...

Let me amend that for you for journalistic integrity:

"As a liar, I can safely lie you WILL lose."

You're most welcome.

Bahahaha! :)

Bashir said...

Can we call him Semen Staines?

Him being all about parody and everything..

Rangjan said...

Remember that during the 1980s Staines was a local representative of the American right wing front funded by the apartheid regime. He therefore took the apartheid government shilling and promoted their agenda. David Cameron apologised for going on an apartheid government sponsored trip. Isn't it about time Paul Staines apologised for being taking their money and being one of their key propagandists?

rob said...

@ Rnagjan

He seems to have "suffered" in siimlar fashion to La Mensch back in the 80s if this remark on his wiki entry is correct.

"Staines says his credibility was damaged by his enthusiasm for drugs and raves."

Says much for The Sun that they have to resort to such dregs for content.

Bognor Regis Herald said...

Guido is well and truly fawked. Couldn't have happened to a more deserving case. First time at your blog, LOVE your solicitor. Occam indeed. Most impressive as Darth Vader said. I know his brother, Daft Bugger.