In honour of all the mean-spirited twattery that’s been going on this week, here’s something that’s the opposite:
What’s the point of injunctions in cases of breach of civil law?
If someone breaks the criminal law, they should be punished. That’s why we have criminal courts.
But if someone’s planning to do something which might, if they do it, be against civil law, what on earth is the justification for turning *that* into a criminal, enforceable offence?
Concretely: if I call Robert Maxwell a fat, thieving, lying crook, then it’s fair enough that he should be allowed his day in court where I have to prove that he is a fat, thieving, lying crook [*].
But how in hell is it fair, just or rational that if Robert Maxwell hears that I’m planning on calling him a fat, thieving, lying crook, that he’s allowed to find a judge who’ll ban me from doing so on pain of criminal penalties?
[*] yes, again with the libel law reform. No, I don’t think that I *actually* ought to have to prove that, I think he should either prove the opposite in court or persuade interested parties that I’m not worth listening to: but I’m willing to concede all kinds of vile concessions against free speech for the purpose of debate.
It’s clear from this week’s events, and indeed to everyone with access to either eyes or a braille reader, that English libel law is a disgrace that needs reformed.
As far as I can make out, the only objection to libel law reform is that in countries like the US with a sensible (i.e. unenforceable unless you’re a previously unheard-of member of the public or the libel is obviously malicious) libel system, mad buggers can get away with describing anyone vaguely heard-of as a demented antisemite/Islamophobe/etc.
I’ve yet, however, to hear any reason why this matters.
If you’re a serious commentator, some mad bugger describing you as an antisemite doesn’t make any odds at all. Similarly, if you’re a serious commentator, describing random selections of people as Islamophobes is likely to get you relegated to the “not serious commentator” pile in short order.
(and as someone who’s been maliciously libelled, whilst almost certainly counting as a public figure for US purposes, I can honestly say that the concept of using English libel law against the nutter in question was about the least appealing option in either my or my solicitor’s arsenal, despite the fact that we were both very clear I had a case and would have won).
But let’s assume, against all actual evidence, that libel laws provide some protection to the truth or to Brave Individuals Being Victimised By A Cruel System: in that case, let’s 1) provide legal aid to libel victims and aggressors [*], 2) cap all costs awards to a legal aid payscale. I can’t think of any way, even in the bizarre parallel world where serious people believe that Private Eye is a threat and James Goldsmith is a victim, that this would cause Terrible Injustice, and it means that the occasional poor (in both senses) sod smeared by the tabloids actually has a chance of redress. What’s not to like?
[*] the beauty of this system is that it’s entirely down to the reader to determine who’s whom, and hence doesn’t matter. Obviously I’m Arkell vs Pressdram on this.
- Inbound plane has finally landed. So if nothing else goes wrong we'll only be 5 hours late #
- Something else went wrong, so we were 5h45m late despite some heroic high-speed flying. Better get some bloody compo #
- Poor red pandas, destined forever to disappoint people who click headlines about them #
- like lionel blair, kate bush, keith bin laden, etc #
- Ah, London. I love going to India, it makes our infrastructure seem amazing. Suspect Austria trip tomorrow will have opposite effect #
- Slightly misleading of BBC to say 'no individual was prosecuted': the driver who caused it was killed! http://bit.ly/cALI0 #
- …and it's the end of my 39-hour day. Feel strangely energised. #
- And it's another trip to LHR, this time to lecture Austrians on interior furniture. #
- The wireless is free in Vienna Airport, and the beers are only €4.75 a half-litre. Congratulations, Austrians, on your lack of thievery. #
- unequivocally, @PennyRed is wasted on blogging. Someone give her a columnist gig, please: http://bit.ly/1XXJSv #
- Can access all media via mobile, except work email. If I had less to do, this'd be a Good Thing. #
- just passed the Number 1 Fetish Shop. I suppose that's less horrific than the Number 2 Fetish Shop… #teutonicstereotypes #
- Also passed the Hotel Goldenes Einhorn. wonder if they're affiliated? #
- I hope she gets masses of compo: http://bit.ly/BOZy9 – although sadly the court can't order tabloid editors birched #
- Evening now involves rather more working than previously planned. #tretcherusbasterds #
- "This is a memorial to the soldiers of the Soviet Army who died in 1945 to free Austria" #unconventionalhistory #
- What's wrong with drinking champagne, FFS? Does recession really mean we all need to become hair-shirted Methodists…? #
- Wahey, it's *another* tedious puritanism scandal! http://bit.ly/itW04? #
- Why on earth did Powers That Be decide to run LHR trains to suburban nowhere, rather than central London? #
- And yes, Mr IK Brunel also scores a Massive Fail for that one. #
- Cab driver listening to TalkSport. Consensus among callers is that England should be given World Cup because Premiership is quite good #
- Not entirely sure whether they mean hosting, or just awarded-by-default. I suspect both. #
- I hate Camden. And cabs. And general travelling whilst my friends have fun at my house. #curmudgeon #
- I particularly hate cab drivers who're polite to other traffic. You're doing this on my time, so I shld get to choose who you let thru. #
- …which is nobody, unless they've a blue light on the roof. #
- Fafblog, making all other political commentary obsolete since 2003: http://bit.ly/18cFyL #
- Amused by, but unable to comment on for professional reasons, one of the current most-Twittered stories by UKmeeja types #
- "Oxford slips in international university ranking as Asian rivals 'snap at heels" http://bit.ly/w8Efd …except that # Asians in Top 20 = 0 #
- Bleg time: pls to send me a Wave invite #googlewave #
- Ways to deter fighting for digital rights: RT @Openrightsgroup Fight for digital rights and get free Cory Doctorow novel http://is.gd/46NDg #
- RT @quincytweetz I would have sold my brown cow for a beanstalk, too. #
- Richly deserved RT @benlocker Delighted to see old people on train were so busy slagging off teenagers that they missed their stop. #
- Listening to Neil Hannon's delightful Casanova. I miss political sex scandals. One of the few plusses of the next lot is we might have some #
- I love the way halloumi squeaks when you eat it. I've never tried a live mouse kebab, but I'd give it a go… #
- Hahahaha: RT @libcon Article:: TaxPayers' Alliance's director doesn't pay UK tax http://bit.ly/EchjW #
- I like this: RT @alaindebotton The secret life of airline meals: http://bit.ly/LFZAI #
- Shorter Hugo Rifkind: "Harold Shipman lives next door, so it doesn't really matter if I bump off the occasional granny" http://bit.ly/qbMaq #
- Wow. Piccalilli and pastrami on toast makes a surprisingly excellent breakfast. Almost ready to face the pub… #
- It's amazing how 28-days-later even Z2 London can look at 8am on a Sunday… #
- "and out with the kegs of eau de vie" #
- Peep Show excellent; 4OD abysmal. Not convinced overall re merits of merging C4 w/BBC, but if it got Peep Show on iPlayer I'd be all for it. #
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- Much left-web sillyness re Polanski. If you think 'rejected prosecution accusation' = 'fact it's reasonable to assert', go read the Mail… #
- Joy in heaven over 1 sinner who repents? RT @antonvowl Sun Hillsborough disgrace was before it backed Labour. They should've complained then #
- It's amusing, for some values thereof, to know that most lib-bloggers would happily have committed Oscar Wilde to jail… #
- (it being unequivocally established that Mr W was a fan of teenage boys. Yes, they *might* have all been 16+) #
- Enough of that. I'm sure the next moral panic'll be some Daily Wail nonsense we can all agree on. #
- meanwhile, "a commission has determined Georgia started last year's war". I await their findings on bears, Popes. #
- Why is "estate agents in Dungeness focus on nature park not power station" a headline story on BBC World Service news? #bears #Pope #
- "committed suicide" = "bad person"; "took own life" = good-ish person #tritedocumentaryconventions #
- Quite up for a beer with @mrpower next time he's Darn Sarf. Wanna hear his I Hated Them Then Too take on more 70s icons, in over 140 chars #
- Is it the NME Awards tonight? – RT @realnickgriffin sitting down to watch the MOWOs #
- Didn't my tweet last PM "He's a filthy old man who had sex with a young girl, shouldn't have, and should be punished for it" make it clear? #
- Time to make "Asian Babes Hotline" ad! RT @kingblues: BNP freephone number 0800 0086191, every call will cost them (via @Ladymcscamp) #
- A quiet night in Hyderabad. Like every night in Hyderabad, in fact. #
- Celebrating Gandhi's birthday with a beer and some meat. #culturalinsensitivity #
- Right. Work done, B3TA read, bedtime it is. Terrifying trendy Mumbaikaar clubbing tomorrow, apparently. #
- Met some interesting vendors of posh-looking custom solar panels. Ideal for the Cameroonite in your life… #
- Don't let the door hit you on your way out, dear: http://bit.ly/6KqWP #
- Against my better judgement, being roped into Facebook-based farm games. #thingstodoonarainyIndianSunday #
- Dear God, this is awful even by their standards: http://bit.ly/ei2ZX (via, like, everyone) #
- Ooh yeah: http://bit.ly/1tkgJl – #newsportsfor2010 #
- I save them for women's beach volleyball, myself: RT @sarabedford Watching X Factor to find out the finalists. Got the tissues ready! #
- Actually quite glad to be in a developing-world airport and not in front of telly tonight #xfactor #
- …especially as said airport has become appreciably more developed in the last 6 months. 30 mins entrance-to-lounge good by any standard #
- No upgrade tho. Again. Next regular-long-haul-flights job, J-class goes in the contract… #
- Mumbai Sapphire and tonic truly is drink of gods. didn't have anything like enough gin this summer #
- "I Drove All Night": sweet love song when by Cindi Lauper, creepy rapist song by Roy Orbison, crime against humanity by Celine Dion. #
- And people suggest the BBC is *left*-biased? http://bit.ly/4ej88x – repetition as fact of Cameron's lies #
- Things that I am in: uncomfortable cramped chair surrounded by strangers. Things that I'm not in: aeroplane. #
- Places that aeroplane is not in: here. Places that aeroplane is in: the air, having previously landed in the wrong bloody city #
- Things that I am not: pleased. #
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- This is true, but not how he suggests RT @tygerland You think you can write, then you read AA Gill and you consider alternative careers #
- I like this: http://bit.ly/4ydwzI – good to be reminded that GB is popular abroad, despite ignorant witch-hunting domestically #
- "You should update Adobe Flash Player right now" – no, I'll update it whenever I so choose. It should be illegal for software to hector you #
- Almost impressed by VC of Buckingham University: it's a rare skill to actually live in 2009 academia whilst believing you're in Lucky Jim #
- Last chaise longue "nervous": http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8273396.stm #
- Fantastic lunch burrito. Why aren't http://www.chilango.co.uk an enormous Londonwide chain already? #
- Wine and pork: the best hangover cure in the world, ever. #
- Feel ignorant. Have just discovered "Like Someone In Love" is jazz classic, not Bjork original #
- What's Bjork up to these days, anyway? Quirky songs need recorded and photographers hit. #
- Yes, indeed – RT @Nosemonkey The Swiss are dicks: http://bit.ly/78I28 #
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Yes, I know – it’s a poor show when the blog consists entirely of Twitter updates, and they consist entirely of Saturday night-Sunday morning tweets. And it’s not even primarily riotous-living-based.
Is it total disillusionment with political bunfighting? Is it working really hard? Is it writer’s block? Yes to all three, combined with the fact that the thoughts I have had are all expressible in sub-140 characters…
Anyway. If you want to see a very old New Orleans Creole lady put Jamie Oliver firmly in his place, go to 04:40 here. It’s 4OD so you’ll have to wait a minute or so for the annoying adverts up front, but it’s worth it.