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Delich and Harry’s Place Follow Up

Mark Elf at Jews sans Frontieres has an interesting follow-up piece on the Jenna Delich vs Harry’s Place story. Delich, as I blogged here, is a lecturer who, as a member of a University and College Union activist forum in the UK, posted a link to an article hosted on David Duke’s website concerning Israel. This was brought to the attention of “liberal hawk” blog Harry’s Place, which ran posts denouncing her as an anti-Semite (including a photograph). The article she linked to was not by David Duke, and while it avoids obviously anti-Jewish rhetoric, its author does suggest that “conspiracy theories” about control of the media may be correct. Delich explained that she had not known who David Duke was, and admitted to making a mistake. She also complained to Harry’s Place‘s ISP, and the blog was taken down for a while. This in turn led to various blogs offering “solidarity” with Harry’s Place on free speech grounds, including blogs usually at odds with the site politically.

Mark believes the calls for “solidarity” were misguided:

Jenna Delich is the victim of a witch hunt intended to intimidate academics from speaking out in support of Palestinian human rights and liberation.

We condemn the misguided “solidarity” of confused leftists with the perpetrators of this witch hunt on the bogus justification of protecting “free speech”. We condemn Harry’s Place and its sock puppets for the campaign of deliberate omissions and misrepresentations intended to defame Delich.

We support Delich because she deserves our support and yours. Delich made mistakes, but nothing she said or did remotely justifies what is being done to her.

My view was that Delich would have been wiser to ignore it all and accept the unhappy consequences of giving her opponents such a gift, but that she may indeed have had a case over certain statements on the HP site. However, I find the idea of choosing to go after a webhost rather than an author to be inherently undesirable on free speech grounds, and to me it suggests that the threat of following through a libel action is probably hollow. And as a blogger, I’m also against it for reasons of self-preservation. It was a poor strategy in any case, as HP managed to find a new webhost that was more willing to make a stand.

However, Mark points out that HP has since made some revisions:

[HP author David] Toube claims that the post was not defamatory. Then what happened to the headline UCU and the David Duke fan? Why was that headline removed from HP only to appear on sock puppet blogs around the web. It now appears on HP as the “David Duke link”. Jenna Delich’s photo has been removed from the original post, together with the accompanying text “links to far-right websites associated with the Ku Klux Klan.”

These rather important revisions, by which HP surely admits that it has not been “whiter than white”, have not been brought to the attention of readers.

3 Responses

  1. I’m quite sympathetic to Lenin’s point of view on this:

    http://leninology.blogspot.com/2008/08/not-free-speech-martyrs.html

    Harry’s Place may well be angry at the fact that Delich went directly to the ISP instead of speaking directly to the post author.
    But given that they didn’t go to her (or acknowledge the fact she had made an apology) before publicly labelling her an anti-semite I don’t think they have a leg to stand on.

    I agree it’s wrong to go directly to an ISP to have a post edited or taken down, but if you use cases like this to make that point (instead of cases like the Usmanov affair, in which he’d already publicly denied any impropriety and Craig Murray countered him) it only helps to give the impression that you’re defending blogger’s right to libel people without consequence.

  2. That’s assuming that it is libel to point out that a supposedly left-wing person has linked to a racist and anti-semitic website. That’s not libel – that’s what actually happened. And Harry’s Place and other bloggers have subsequently unearthed other statements and links by her on the UCU list that show the same dubious willingness to accept the anti-semitic views of the extreme right.

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