It’s a black day for blogging, folks.
It’s a black day when one blogger can accuse another of bullying and yet use the tactics of the bully to try and silence them.
It’s a black day when everyman’s right to free dialogue and to express their own opinion is gagged.
It’s a black day when, here in England, freedom of speech is denied.
It’s a black day for blogger’s everywhere when one blogger seeks to dictate what another blogger can write about on their own blog and threatens both Police and legal action should they ignore this dictat.
Where to begin?
I don’t intend to rake over the entire debacle here – and believe me it is a debacle. It all started on Wednesday when Heather posted a witty and cutting post about some horrid Shhblogger site that was seeking to stir up trouble. I didn’t read this blog myself as I couldn’t be bothered and now it has been judiciously removed.
Heather’s post stirred up a lot of commenters and one of these caught my eye with the amount of punishment they were dishing out, rightly or wrongly (who knows?) to other bloggers. You can follow the link and read it all. I am not going to paraphrase other people’s words for fear of casting my own bias upon them. In the interests of free speech and individual opinion it’s important you make your own mind up if you have a care to dig deeper.
Anyway, this commenter went by the name of 20somethingmum (I’m not going to link to her as I don’t think she’d thank me and I see little point in not naming her; follow the link and you’ll soon identify her for yourself) and in one of her comments proudly proclaimed she was a chav from the chav motherland. Ill advisedly – I admit – this tickled me and I responded with something along the lines of (yes I’m quite happy and legally entitled to paraphrase myself): interesting name but you do realize all them beer and fags will make you look like a 50something mum?
Yes, I admit it was childish. Ill thought out and, in retrospect, better left unsaid. But you know, sometimes you are fed a line and the innate stand-up comedian in you has to come back with something. Unlike 20somethingmum I’m happy to be open and honest about all this and take whatever brickbats or laurels you, my blogging peers, care to thrown at me.
More words were said. I was accused of being a bully. An accusation I thought a little unfair. A pisstaker yes – but a bully? Am I really? I then made the point to ‘20sm’ that her own comments on this post were full of far more invective towards other people than my comment had been to her. I thought that might be the end of it. A little mid-week diversion. One of those curious little spats that sometimes erupt in the blogging world.
I got on with my day.
Later in the evening I was warned that 20sm was having a go at me on Twitter and demanding my email address! Presumably so she could write to me and give me a damned good telling off! Now, I don’t know about you, but giving my email address out to all and sundry is a big no-no. Private and personal data and all that. If someone wants to have a go at me there is my blog sitting quite happily on-line for people to avail themselves of (and believe me they do). I was dismayed at the sheer number of Tweets this person was generating towards me. I – again, ill advisedly – decided to reply; to stick up for myself rather than leaving it to my friends to do so. So I sent some Tweets back along the lines of ‘aren’t we making this bigger than it ought to be’ and ‘isn’t it about time we all moved on, I was sorry they were upset it was just meant to be a mild pisstake’. I’m sure my Tweets are still online for those of you that want to read them. Again, I’m happy to make this whole process transparent and take your censure on the chin.
I thought that this then, finally, would be the end of it.
Not so. 20sm has published a post about the whole thing on her blog today. As she has a perfect right to do. I wouldn’t dare challenge her right to put her own view across to her readers. It is her blog, this is a free country and she may say what the hell she likes. I might not agree with it but she has the right to her views and the right to express them.
Again, I’m sorry, but I daren’t link to the post as I fear legal action might be taken against me – instead you’ll have to do your own digging to find the post should you want to read it. It’s not difficult to find if you know what you’re doing. Again, although my name has not been mentioned, I’ve been accused of bullying and various – quite nasty – slanders have been made against Heather and her blog. It also transpires that 20sm blocked my Tweets and reported me to Twitter for bullying!
I am aghast! It’s perfectly acceptable for someone to generate countless Tweets slagging me off and demanding that my email address be made public but when I try and enter into a discourse with this person I am both silenced and reported to the authorities for being the author of it all!
20sm went on to accuse her tormentors (me, I suppose) of acting out of jealousy towards her because her blog is so successful and is furthering her aspirations to become a published writer. She ended her post on the moral high note that it was a shame that so many people have taken to behaving like children this week.
I left a comment on the blog. Come on, now, you didn’t expect me not to, surely? Here it is below for your judgment:
I don't suppose you will publish this as (unbeknownst to me) you blocked my replies to your accusations on Twitter - I didn't harass you I was replying to the astounding number of Tweets you were generating with my name on them. Before this point I had never sent you a single message. Seems freedom of speech is only a right afforded to the chosen few. I'm glad you have linked to the blog where all this began as it will give others a chance to make their mind up about the whole thing rather than having their mind made up by others. You were not bullied. I made a single - if ill advised - joke centred around the non de plume you use. As insults go it was so mild I doubt a vicar would have felt his eyebrow ruffled. Your comments to other people on the other hand were nasty and childish. Ironic given the pay off of this post. Most of my comments to you on Twitter were along the lines of "let's not make a big thing of something that is tiny and let's all move on". I had. Shame you haven't. And, lastly, as for being motivated by jealousy, I have never heard of you or your blog before Wednesday and knew nothing of your literary aims or successes until directed to read your blog today by a friend. Jealousy did not come into it. A simple exercise in humour and a play on words did. I have saved a copy of this comment and will publish it on my own blog as an "open letter" if you haven't got the decency to publish it on yours. You have made a molehill into a mountain. Still, if it creates a buzz for your blog - and mine I suppose - then both our literary aspirations have been well met, haven't they? I wish you luck with your writing career. I doubt very much our paths will cross again. Perhaps a good thing, eh?
It didn’t get published. In fact another paragraph was added to the original post along the lines of none of my comments or the comments of any of my supporters will get published on her blog. Fair enough. It’s her blog and she may moderate as she sees fit. We bloggers, every one of us, all have that right. Fair enough, good for her. However, she then added that were I or any of my friends to publish our own posts relating to these events and in any way identifying her (though she herself has quite happily linked to Heather's original post where she is quite easily identified) then she would seek legal and police action against us as is her right!
Nobody, but nobody, has the right to tell me what I can and can’t write about on my blog! And to have this injunction put in place by someone who professes to be a fellow writer thoroughly astounds me. This is not Central America. This is not China. This is England. Free speech, Goddamnit!
So not only am I not allowed a fair and open dialogue with this person but I cannot even write about it on my own blog for fear the police and cyber bailiffs come round to close me down! Well, if my blog disappears sometime soon you will know what has happened. The thought police have done their job and I am languishing in a cell somewhere, being waterboarded with Milton Fluid and formula baby milk.
How can all this have got so out of hand? I am appalled. I am amazed. I am (certainly) ashamed of my part in it. But mostly I am furious that one single blogger feels they have this much power over the rest of us. The same blogger who also used the argument that I was a guy and she a girl and therefore what I did was totally out of order because as you know, you poor little women are weak and woolly and cannot possibly hope to defend yourselves against big butch comments from big butch males like me.
Excuse me? Most of the blogs I read are by women and there isn’t a single one of them who strikes me as weak or helpless. My God, if I ever got into a fight, I’d want you all alongside me.
Oh, yes. Quite right. I have got into a fight.
So what to do? Well, no point pretending to ruminate, I’ve done it. This is MY blog. I’ll write what I like. And anyone – yes anyone – may comment. I’ll not gag or silence anyone. Neither will I seek to get them thrown off Twitter or Blogger or dragged through the courts by the family solicitor. Because (a) this whole tawdry affair isn’t worth the time, effort or money and (b) as a writer and an Englishman I believe passionately in freedom of speech.
And if I’m to be hanged for it I’ll go down talking as loudly as I can.