Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Lets go fly...

A brief additional word on l'affair strange de Melissa Kite. Affronted by (I think) the online response to her online response to Iain Dale's online response to her original article (phew!), Melissa wrote another piece for the Sunday Telegraph decrying her rough handling and the rather personal remarks that flowed on Guido's site.
This is a group of internet chatrooms where a certain kind of Conservative supporter, almost always male, hangs out in cyberspace under an amusing alias and holds forth on the issues of the day, unbound by libel or slander laws or indeed any of the conventions of everyday courtesy...
All I want to say is that a week ago I speculated about the shadow cabinet. Tory blogger-boys responded by speculating about whether they would like to sleep with me.
There are two points here, one of them important and one of them not. The first is that, as any fule kno, bloggers (and commenters) are not protected from libel laws. There is American case law to suggest that it will be the person who places the comment and not the site on which it is placed that will be liable. The reason there is an illusion of safety is the same reason that people rarely sue each other for slanderous words spoken at the pub - the straw man principle. Oh, and they're obviously immune from the slander laws, since they only apply to the spoken word. Duh.
The second point is that bloggers and commenters are not synonymous, any more than leader writers are the same as letter writers. The posts written by Iain Dale and Tim Montgomerie were innocuous - critical of the article certainly, but on a professional basis. The levels to which comment threads can degenerate is notorious - simply read any Comment is Free thread on Israel - but that's a different thing to blogging. Decrying blogging (and by inference Iain, Guido and Tim) because their commenters are rude or misogynistic is like decrying the Telegraph because it's letter writers want the return of the public stocks for litterers. Although, now I come to think of it...

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