Maybe that’s what grown-ups do


6:46 pm - November 16th 2009

by Conor Foley    


      Share on Tumblr

There is a good piece at the Bleeding Heart Show on the recent attack on Laurie Penny at Harry’s Place. I completely agree with the following section:

As it happens, I think it’s quite possible (providing you don’t venture into the comment threads) to read Harry’s Place and not find much which is quarrelsome or controversial. It’s not often that a day passes without HP posting something I generally agree with . . . .

But it’s posts like this which give HP the reputation for bullying and sectarianism which Laurie was decrying. The habit of singling individuals out and ‘exposing’ them as morally or intellectually deficient doesn’t speak well of the site, particularly when the writers claim to be interested in some of the big international debates of our time. This leads on to my main frustration with the site: for all the intention to stand up for democracy and human rights around the world, and all the time spent standing against ideologues, racists & militants wherever they may be found, the actual foreign policy content on Harry’s Place is incredibly superficial.

I will now wait to be assailed by the wit and wisdom of Habibi and Morgoth.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
Conor Foley is a regular contributor and humanitarian aid worker who has worked for a variety of organisations including Liberty, Amnesty International and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. He currently lives and works in Brazil and is a research fellow at the Human Rights Law Centre at the University of Nottingham. His books include Combating Torture: a manual for judges and prosecutors and A Guide to Property Law in Afghanistan. Also at: Guardian CIF
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


Guys, I am really and truly very touched by how many of you have come to my defence. I’ve written my own retort here:http://pennyred.blogspot.com/2009/11/shut-up-little-girl-dont-you-know-grown.html

It’s of little surprise that HP have sunk to such a low level when they have been called out on their atrocious behaviour, stand tall and firm Laurie!

Yup, that piece by Neil is spot on.

Habibi can come here and comment if needed, but morgoth is banned for his persistently racist trolling elsewhere.

Nice response Laurie. Mine was here:
http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/6558

Oh dear.

Once upon a time Harry’s Place did actually have some valid points to make about the state of the left, but it all disintegrated long ago into a deeply sectarian pissing contest that’s only of interest to a small gaggle of bloggers and internet trolls.

Personally I lost interest in watching endless re-runs of Harry vs Lenny sometime around 2006. Looks like the talking shouting points don’t seem to have changed much in the meantime.

Isn’t it relatively simple –

If you want to be taken seriously, slap down the ad hominem & sweary nonsense. (“Butterflies & Wheels” is an excellent example of this in action, I reckons…)

If you want to appear to be a bunch of loud blokes in a pub after their 3rd pint, then, er…don’t.

?

Ho hum.

It is a truth universally acknowledged by anyone who has spent time moderating blog comments that as well as being a brilliant place to share ideas and force the pace of social change, the blogosphere has a tendency to lure idiots, bigots and bullies from their hiding places.

Laurie seemed, in the original article to be denigrating Harry’s Place for not operating the same ruthless censorship she applies to her own blog. In other words, they are accused of not deleting comments she disagrees with.

This raises the obvious question, why should they?

And then

A still, small voice of reason in the virtual mud-slinging match of the past decade has been Sunny Hundal. Hundal established Liberal Conspiracy and Pickled Politics, the sites he now edits, as a direct antidote to the sectarian ideology of websites like Harry’s Place

Now this begins to look a little like “bash the opposition”.

I’ve no real problem with an internet turf war and the personal nature of the response from some was unfortunate. But, having thrown the first punch, it is a little unseemly to go crying to the referee because the other guy has fought back.

7. Mike Killingworth

One other point that doesn’t seem to have been mentioned. The internet is bloody anti-social. People license themselves to say things that I’m fairly sure they wouldn’t say face-to-dace or even down a phone line.

The blogosphere: meet loads and loads of interesting people and abuse them.

I think the article actually gives Harry’s Place too much credit. As I have said before, whatever it once might have been it has long since given up on basic notions such as fairness, justice and rational argument. The comment threads there are just sewers. To be honest, I would prefer it if the site stopped cropping up in other blogs. It really gives HP too much credit and an inflated importance it does not deserve. Just ignore it.

10. Luis Enrique

Hang on a minute – amid all the over-sensitivity and lamenting about how HP bullies or singles people out etc. there doesn’t seem to be much acknowledgment that Laurie wrote this:

Harry’s Place has pursued what has been seen as a ‘witch-hunt’ against any Muslim or Muslim-ally who does not fit the site editors’ strict definitions of ‘moderation’; to whit, near non-involvement in politics.

and that that is a big fat insult. You might agree with it, you might think the description is apt and the insult deserved, but you shouldn’t pretend that’s not a real serious accusation that goes right to the heart of what the HP bloggers think they are doing – you’re accusing them of being racists who are deluded in thinking they are opposing to Islamism (or whatever you want to call it) whereas in fact they just think the only good Muslim is a quiet Muslim, and such like. You’re calling them stupid, insincere, dishonest etc.

I’d have a bit more sympathy for Laurie if she recognized that she threw the first stone here, and that it was a big one. I’d rather be called a silly cow (or the male equivalent) than have written about me what she wrote about HP.

I’m not sure when writing critical and nasty things about people on blogs becomes “bullying” – does LC “bully” its targets? I have read thousands of vitriolic and spiteful words about HP from many of the commentators who are weighing in against HP again in this spat. What makes you say you’re not “bullying” HP bloggers with your constant derision?

N.B. HP is not a foreign policy forum, ffs. It is (frequently) about criticizing individuals on the left.

People license themselves to say things that I’m fairly sure they wouldn’t say face-to-dace or even down a phone line.

Good point, Mike.

You tosser. 🙂

12. Luis Enrique

oops – can somebody sort the blockquote after quote from Laurie, above? I don’t seem to be able to edit my own comments any more

13. douglas clark

frolix22,

Maybe.

The problem with Harry’s Place is the intellect of it’s commentators. They are, usually, on the wrong side of an arguement, but it is difficult to discredit David T, for instance. He is obviously wrong, most of the time, see the Euston Manifesto for an example, but it takes ability to be that wrong….

Lawyers, most of them.

Just saying…..

14. douglas clark

Mike Killingworth,

I’d, perhaps mistakenly, assume that you are posting under your own name. So do I.

I do it because I want to be accountable for what I say, for otherwise what is the point? I expect you do too.

Anonymity, it seems to me, leads to very aggressive behaviour.

Hi Luis – fixed 🙂

Luis: it is not about over sensitivity, it is about grown up behaviour.

I don’t agree with all the points in Laurie’s original piece, but HP does provoke that sort of reaction (or am I supposed to find jokes about me getting attacked in Afghanistan the night before I went there funny?).

HP is run by a bunch of middle aged, middle class blokes (some upper middle class if memory serves) and yet they publish such ridiculously infantile drivel.

17. Mike Killingworth

[14] Yup, it’s my real name. When I wrote my original comment on this thread I was thinking of e-mail as much as I was of comments facilities like this one.

Anonymity, it seems to me, leads to very aggressive behaviour…

No it doesn’t…

…you bunch of shitting fascists.

You’re not being impersonated are you BenSix, swearing isn’t like you?

And pagar, your defence of the indefensible behaviour at HP is a little odd, freedom of speech comes with a responsibility and not many people at HP seem to take responsibility for their words.

20. Luis Enrique

Conor,

Your objections to HP may not be about oversensitivity, but we’re talking cross-purposes; when I wrote “amid all the oversensitivity”, I referred to the oversensitivity evident in the spat between HP and Laurie.

I don’t know what to make of HP “provokes” such and such reaction arguments – it’s an argument I’d be vary wary of in other contexts, and I think some of the reactions HP “provokes” are unhinged and as wrong as, say, the reactions of a right wing idiot being “provoked” by tree hugging lefties, or whatever.

There’s lots I don’t like about HP, and I think the editors are at fault, mainly for not realizing what the cumulative effect of the types of post the publish and the comments they host, is. Of course there are posts I find highly objectionable, not to mention the endless infantile bickering. There are posts here I find highly objectionable and ridiculously infantile. I don’t think HP is a model of mature inquiry – it is what it is.

No, you’re not supposed to find jokes about me getting attacked in Afghanistan the night before I went, funny. And I could write “I understand how you feel about that” but I’d be lying if I did because truth told, I don’t. If you take 100 random blog commentators, a high proportion of them are going to be morons, and the web is full of stupid spiteful opinions. When somebody writes something dumb, they’re just displaying their own stupidity for all to see. You do brave things like work in Afghanistan; I don’t understand why the effluent of blog commentators gets to you like it does. Fuck’em. I fully acknowledge this may just reflect my lack of empathy or, more likely, the fact that I have not put myself in harm’s way only to read webtards* hoping I get blown up.

You can make another argument about how the HP editors deal with their resident cretins and how they dealt with your complaints about them; I don’t really know what went on there.

* oh come on, I know it’s a bad word, but it’s a good word.

“You’re not being impersonated are you BenSix, swearing isn’t like you?”

Ach – I was only kidding. Hugs to all who didn’t realise.

So was I BenSix, EPIC IAIN DALE on my part.

@douglas clark

I don’t really have anything to say on the supposed intellect of David T. The fact that, as you say, he is “is obviously wrong, most of the time”, is enough for me. However, I would say that many of the prominent figures at HP come across as deeply, deeply unpleasant people.

‘A still, small voice of reason in the virtual mud-slinging match of the past decade has been Sunny Hundal. ‘

And HP accuse her of having no sense of irony.

@ DHG

freedom of speech comes with a responsibility and not many people at HP seem to take responsibility for their words.

No.

Freedom of speech is an absolute human right. I might detest what you say but I would die to defend your right to say it.

You are correct that everyone should take responsibility for their own words, (as they should for their actions) and where someone is harmed by words, there are remedies defined in law.

Of course, the apparent cloak of anonymity granted by internet communication can make the possibilty of remedy seem more distant and that is why, as Mike comments above, some people say irresponsible things on blogs they would not say in other situations.

Nevrtheless commenters are held responsible for the words they use whether they wish to accept responsibility or not. They invite assessment by their readers of the intelligence and degree of consideration they have used to express their views (and that is why deletion of anything said by anyone is never appropriate).

So, my assessment of you, and my value of your opinions, is based on everything that I have read that you have written. As is your assessment of me. Therefore those who use the modus operandi of childishly insulting people with different opinions only ever, in reality, demean themselves.

Have you got it, you tosser?

Couldn’t resist 🙂

pagar:

I am not a fan of an absolute freedom to speech, for example no one has the freedom to smear you as a sex offender, or to racially abuse someone or to verbally attack someone.

I think freedom of speech comes with a clear responsibility by the user, which they can ignore of course and I think esp. online communication should be kept in check because anonymity makes asses of most people.

More importantly, HP famously moderates and deletes comments it finds offensive to its tastes, as it has the right to but it makes out it doesn’t, which is where much annoyance stems from.

“Freedom of speech is an absolute human right”

Where? Or failing that, when?

28. organic cheeseboard

Harry’s Place has pursued what has been seen as a ‘witch-hunt’ against any Muslim or Muslim-ally who does not fit the site editors’ strict definitions of ‘moderation’; to whit, near non-involvement in politics.

See I don’t agree with Penny on everything but this is almost completely right – the last part of the sentence isn’t quite there, but it’s certainly true that if you dissent from any one of the myriad odd party lines on HP you are non-serious and susceptible to a witch-hunt, often to the extent of losing your job.

It’s not a muslim ‘near-non-involvement in politics’ they ‘support’ – it’s a Muslim toeing of every single one of their party lines, which for them constitute the grounds for ‘serious debate’.

What i find funniest, and also saddest about HP Sauce, is that the real reason they enter into witch-hunts is at absolute playground level – you criticise something on there and rather than countering in a rational manner, they unleash the rabid right-wing wingnut attack dogs and spend post after post doing very little other than swearing in an un-amusing manner.

See Mehdi Hasan who pointed out Brett Lock’s utter stupidity and was rewarded with constant, entirely false, accusations of Islamism; see Laurie above, who pointed out how quick they are to sling mud and was rewarded with, oh yes, a whole load of mudslinging and trolling; see Sunny, too; see their baffling simultaneous support of, and hatred of, Peter Tatchell.

And for a bunch of self-styled uneucated proles they don’t half have a lot of degrees and well-paid jobs. sadly as this playground nonsense shows they’re not quite as intellectual as they think.

“See I don’t agree with Penny on everything but this is almost completely right – the last part of the sentence isn’t quite there, but it’s certainly true that if you dissent from any one of the myriad odd party lines on HP you are non-serious and susceptible to a witch-hunt, often to the extent of losing your job.”

Rubbish – HP is interested in showing up vile Islamists and their idiot “Liberal/Left” excusers and a good thing too. What’s wrong with that ? And IMHO Mehdi Hassan deserved what he got.

HP is now closely associated with The Spittoon blog, Sid/Faisal’s new effort which is also very good on Islamists and their idiot excusers, are you going to have a go at that in the same way ? If not, why not ?

http://www.spittoon.org/

PS in case people don’t know The Spittoon was set up after Sid left Pickled Politics cos he was fed up with Sunny and one of the reasons was his silly “blogwars” with HP. Others on PP are fed up with this garbage as well as can be seen here :

http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/6558

“This leads on to my main frustration with the site: for all the intention to stand up for democracy and human rights around the world, and all the time spent standing against ideologues, racists & militants wherever they may be found, the actual foreign policy content on Harry’s Place is incredibly superficial.”

This I do agree with to some extent. I’ve written some stuff on foreign affairs there but often people aren’t interested (probably its too superficial :)). Its the same all over the blogosphere though look at the obsessions with Israel and Palestine, write something on that and you’ll get 100’s of comments.

Rubbish – HP is interested in showing up vile Islamists and their idiot “Liberal/Left” excusers and a good thing too. What’s wrong with that ?

If your definition of ‘vile Islamist’ is so all-encompassing that it encompasses Medhi Hassan as one for believing in Islam and wanting other people to do so, that’s rather the thing “that’s wrong with that”.

It’d be like saying ‘vile Christian supremacist’, and then applying the term to everyone with Roman Catholic beliefs – ie bloody stupid, and something that it’d be right for anyone in their right mind to oppose.

HP is interested in showing up vile Islamists and their idiot “Liberal/Left” excusers and a good thing too.

Or, if they’re not available, whatever unlucky duffus transgresses one of their fucknut rules and finds him or herself in their crosshairs. See also, Owen Hatherley, that 17-year-old SWP activist, the traitor Johann Hari and countless other journalists, pundits, activists, politicians and bloggers.

If HP restricted itself to harshing on Islamists and various unsavoury lefty types, they wouldn’t have a reputation as an internet snake pit filled with fork-tongued bullshit merchants and right wing headbangers. Sadly, they don’t, and so that is their richly-merited rep. Like the true amateur McCarthyites they are, they can sniff out treachery anywhere, and unsurprisingly they tend to find it everywhere.

I don’t buy Penny’s entire bill of goods, but she’s right on the money with that.

John B has flagged up the problem with your vitriolic and hateful analysis, I also doubt that if the Spittoon was, let’s say, “also very good on Zionists and their idiot excusers” you’d be having kittens.

Well john b I’m against anyone who bases their politics on fundamentalist interpretations of the Koran/Bible/any other old text, be it Islamists, Orthodox Jews or Christian evangelicals.

If religious people think homosexuals are evil sinners who should be jailed that’s up to them personally but if they try to bring that into the political domain as a prescription for society I have a real problem with them. Don’t you ?

DHG – HP also criticises extreme Israelis – see here :

http://www.hurryupharry.org/2009/11/16/british-fascists-praise-israeli-fascist/

http://www.hurryupharry.org/2009/11/12/violent-words-lead-to-violence/

That’s just from the last week.

If you mean by a “Zionist” anyone who defends Israel at all ever, well it is Zionist, and so am I.

It’s all got a bit out of hand hasn’t it.

HP does pick some valid targets but it is far too scattergun in its approach and often picks on pretty obscure targets and/or those who are more silly than wicked, or even totaly blameless, and it does so in a way which can be quite unpleasant, especially once the worst of the headbangers in the comments get started. It can also be extremely prissy and puritanical in the way it seeks to take offence at fairly innocuous stuff.
So Laurie did have a point, although it might have been worded better, and I wouldn’t read her remark as some of the contrubutors there have done, as accusing them of racism.
But Luis also has a point – if you’re going to make that kind of accusation, even if it is well founded, you have to expect to get a reaction. Of course it was wrong for them to make stupid remarks based on assumptions about her background and it was offensive and patronising to call her a “silly little girl” and a “silly cow”, but I can’t help thinking that maybe she’s overreacted just a tad. I mean was it really “a violently misogynist dehumanising insult”?

MMM:

Ignore the comment at 36 timed at 1748, that isn’t me but an obsessive who keeps getting deleted and it abusing the flaws in the Lib Con commenting system.

Regarding your comment at 35, I don’t buy that I’m afraid, the whole way it frames its work and the failure to see that many elements of Zionism have close parallels with Islamism is HP’s achilles heel, which is fine if that is acknowledged by its contributors and readers but what we have is the problem of HP wanting it’s cake and eat it.

I meant to say:

For fuck’s sake, fake DHG.

Andrew – good comment, I generally agree with you.

That would make a good last word on this “blogwar”.

40. organic cheeseboard

if you believe that mehdi hasan deserved what he got, then you are very definitely part of the problem. All he did was call up the stupidity of one of brett lock’s myriad “facepalm” posts (i still can’t take a site that would publish lock seriously), and he got the full hp sauce mc carthy treatment, smeared as an islamist. As i said up there, hp sauce unleashes the mc carthy dogs not on who “deserves” it most, but on those who validly criticise the site. Look at penny. Hp could easily have countered her claims. Instead they threw a load of sexist muck and personal abuse at her and when they realised how bad it looked, did it some more. Plus ca change.

HP is interested in showing up vile Islamists and their idiot “Liberal/Left” excusers and a good thing too.

No, they seem to think most of the left is in bed with Islamists. The stupid hatchet job aimed at Mehdi Hasan was a prime example.

Luis:
You can make another argument about how the HP editors deal with their resident cretins and how they dealt with your complaints about them; I don’t really know what went on there.

But to me this is part of the problem, there is a tendency to ignore the thinly veiled racism aimed at Muslims… and yet they spend a lot of time criticising the comments section at CIF and other sites for alleged examples of why they’re rife with anti-semitism.

Well john b I’m against anyone who bases their politics on fundamentalist interpretations of the Koran/Bible/any other old text, be it Islamists, Orthodox Jews or Christian evangelicals.

…and Medhi Hasan doesn’t. So you either need to come up with a new rationalisation for why you hate him but not Martin Luther King (or any other political figure with strongly-held religious views informing his politics), or retract your criticisms of him.

If religious people think homosexuals are evil sinners who should be jailed that’s up to them personally but if they try to bring that into the political domain as a prescription for society I have a real problem with them. Don’t you ?

Yes, and Medhi Hasan doesn’t. So see above. And see also: reasons why we might just about think HP might just about be inspired by views other than pure and sincere dedication to secular-leftism…

Luis: thanks for that second comment.

Habibi is an above the line commenter at HP, though, not some random nutter who crops up below the line. His ‘joke’ about my getting attacked in Afghanistan came in a post with my name in the headline.

My objections to HP have always been about their above the line commenters misrepresenting my views (Neil Dean) and then failing to moderate incredibly nasty personalised attacks on me. David Toube has also sought to misrepresent this in the past so I thought I should make it clear.

I don’t so much object to the ‘superficial’ nature of HP’s coverage of international issues, but its trivialization. Virtually, the only time it has covered Uganda or Sri Lanka, for example, it has been to use them for silly sectarian point-scoring. Likewise, one of its attacks on me – where I was accused of being part of the ‘do nothing axis’ on Burma – was not only woefully ill-informed, but showed zero concern for the actual real-life dilemma facing aid workers trying to get life-saving relief into the country.

Virtually, the only time it has covered Uganda or Sri Lanka, for example, it has been to use them for silly sectarian point-scoring.

Usually it’s to complain that left wing blogs don’t write about Uganda or Sri Lanka but are instead obsessed with Israel.

@Conor

That’s a pretty fair objection.

Do they still call this sort of thing “fisking”? A term which, as far as I can gather, means, “some blogger living a comfy suburban life making sneering remarks about the guy who’s actually out there in the blood, bullets and shit”? If so, I can see why they named it after denunciations of Robert Fisk.

What’s the problem? Blogging is a public activity. If people debate issues in public, they can expect criticism, some founded, some unfounded. If they don’t like it, they shouldn’t blog.

I don’t object to robust criticism of my views, and IMO anyone who does is a whining shit.

Philip: well Laurie simply pointed out that because so much of HP’s commentary (above and below the line) is indeed ill-informed, personalised and nasty it has attracted a reputation for being that type of a blog. Some of its above the line contributors seem to have spent much of the last few days reacting with astounded indignation that they should ever be accused of such things, but Laurie’s central point was about the reputation that HP has got.

A blog makes a conscious decision who it wants to give a platform to, above and below the line, and its above the line contributors set a tone that its below the line contributors are likely to follow. So it is not surprising that HP attracts so many right-wing, racist, sexist, psycopathic nut-cases when it has bullying, cowardly scumbags like Habibi writing for it above the line, is it?

48. Mike Killingworth

[47] Whilst I agree, it’s also worth noting that what goes on “below the line” can also shape the editorial line of a blog. Mike Smithson’s “Political Betting” set out to be politically neutral but has been pulled sharply to the right by the fact that the overwhelming majority of people who bet on political events are well to the right of centre themselves.

Mike, I think that’s true – unless you are Norman Geras the comments boxes on a good blog should be an integral part of it, and most political blogs do in general, I think, get the commenters they deserve.
I think that some of the authors do genuinely deplore the kind of nutters they get commenting and do challenge them, but they don’t really appreciate the extent to which the the nutters drown out the reasonable commenters (and they sometimes have trouble distinguishing one from the other) and, most importantly, they really don’t get why they attract the crowd they do. Left-leaning blogs will always attract right wingers who come along to snipe, or even disagree politely, but they get so many who are actually supportive of their stance on most issues.

Andrew Adams has it spot on and it is a blog’s responsibility to maintain a positive atmosphere in the comments section, something that in spite of all the trolls it gets, Lib Con manages well.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    :: Maybe that’s what grown-ups do http://bit.ly/3JalqF

  2. blogs of the world

    It's not often that a day passes without HP posting something I generally agree with . . . . But it's post… http://reduce.li/1huf6l #that





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.