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Saturday 11 March 2017

Brendan O’Neill WRONG On Hopkins

The libertarian right, especially that part of it which started life all those years ago claiming to be the Revolutionary Communist Party, is so wedded to its own perverse notion of free speech that it fails totally to understand that there are limits to just how loudly one can expect to shout “fire” in a crowded theatre - or joke about blowing up airports, or smear others are child molesters. There is no such thing as absolute free speech.
This lack of understanding is personified by the wilful and predictable ramblings of Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked, so called because most of its content certainly should have been. Bren has taken up the case of pro-am motormouth Katie Hopkins and her defeat in the courts yesterday after defaming writer and campaigner Jack Monroe.

Sadly, he goes wrong at the start: “£24,000 for a Tweet? What a dark day for free speechreads the title, revealing that what O’Neill did not read was the judgment handed down just after 1400 hours yesterday. Had he done so, he would know that the award of damages by Mr Justice Warby related to two Tweets: “my  award  is  £24,000.  That  is  divided  into  
£16,000  for  the  First  Tweet  and  £8,000  for  the  Second  Tweet”.

This may not invalidate O’Neill’s line of attack, but does show the lackadaisical autopilot response, as does “If we take the first offending tweet, about war memorials, which was 20 words long, this works out at around £1,200 per word”. Moreover, as Bren knows all too well, it is the damage done by the publication of these words - just as it would be if they were published in print, or in any other online-only forum.

He also elevates Ms Hopkins’ status beyond reality, calling her “Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins”. She is not a Daily Mail columnist, but appears only at Mail Online. The print title has declined to publish her writings. Again, O’Neill’s lazy lack of basic fact checking is all too apparent, as is his recourse to demeaning and diminishing Jack Monroe, calling them a “Guardianista kale fan”. This observation is sneering - and irrelevant.

Bren is again prone to dismiss Hopkins’ actions by sneering at Mx Monroe as he asserts “It’s understandable Hopkins confused Monroe and Penny: both are drab writers obsessed with their own identities and given to blathering”. Lack of self-awareness, much?

There is also justification by claiming it was all a mistake: “Hopkins realised her mistake and deleted the tweet … making a mistake in a tweet … so what? She deleted her wrongness”. The lie, as O’Neill knows all too well, had already gone halfway around the world. He also knows Ms Hopkins was given the chance to apologise, to show she really had made a mistake, as is claimed. She did not.

O’Neill also harms his defence of Hatey Katie by sneering at Mr Justice Warby: “The single judge who ruled on this case - so much for our ‘liberalised’ libel laws”. Once again, if he had bothered to read the judgment, he would see that that judge had consulted, as the law demands, relevant precedent with commendable diligence.

And claiming “Monroe joins Saudi plutocrats, Russian oligarchs and other unpleasant characters in using England’s libel laws” is just abusive. There are limits to free speech. Publishing on Twitter does not mean “you can get away with it because it’s only Twitter”.

O’Neill also knows that, as with so much of English case law, precedent has been established in this area - he did, after all, write about the McAlpine case, where Sally Bercow, wife of the Commons Speaker, found herself in legal hot water over her “innocent face” Twitter excursion. She, too, found herself severely out of pocket.

What Bren can’t get his head around is that Katie Hopkins has already lost a Sun column over her abusive and righteous behaviour. She has landed Mail Online with a huge costs and damages bill after defaming a Muslim family last year. She knows the risks. She did not make a mistake when she declined to apologise to Jack Monroe.

Publishing brings the risk of being damned. Katie Hopkins invited that on herself. She had the opportunity to admit making a mistake; she failed to take it.

If Brendan O’Neill can’t get his head around the realities of this case, that is his problem. It is only a pity that he keeps trying to make it someone else’s.


A.Robot (Mrs) said...

How can anyone take seriously someone who goes from Trotskyism to the libertarian right without breaking step? The ease with which the second position is adopted simply reveals how superficial the former position was likely to have been. It's the flakiness of the convert and is usually embraced with the same unquestioning ardour. It ends with the lack of any real questioning of the new love and forces people like O'Neill into having to defend, in a characteristically slipshod and inaccurate fashion, the actions of professional overgrown brats like Hopkins.
Don't waste your time and attention, Tim.

Alan Clifford said...

In fact this is true: “Monroe joins Saudi plutocrats, Russian oligarchs and other unpleasant characters in using England’s libel laws.”

But note what is missing. Which is "US and European oligarchs." Then again, O'Neill, like British mainstream media, seems anxious to avoid the term. Now why would that be?

He might also note that people like Hopkins are indeed entitled to voice their opinions. Just as long as they remember they can be held responsible for the veracity of content.

Then he might further note said oligarchs are usually the only ones able to afford legal action......"Legal" in the sense that the British establishment (which by coincidence contains an inordinate number of said oligarchs) has rigged law so it stays thus.

We now hope Hopkins disappears up her own poisonous arse. Or becomes a tory or New Labour MP. Which amounts to the same thing.

Go on, Hopkins. You can do it.

Concerned of Weybridge said...

Yeah, Alan, but why so cagey about where you live?
Give us a clue. Is it outside the M25? Am I getting warm?

Anonymous said...

Not really worth pointing out the fallacies in what contrarians for money and attention like Brendon O'Liddle-Parsons say is it? They already know and don't care.