“The corruption of man is followed by the corruption of language.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature (1836)
(image by jackace)
For those of you not from Ireland, our Taoiseach (that’s our Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern is refusing to answer questions about the alleged 400 grand (â‚¬800k) which the Mahon Tribunal has been hearing about this last few weeks. In a nutshell, his argument seems to be that he is only answerable to the tribunal and not the Dail (the parliment) to which he was elected. This increasingly Haughey-like behaviour has led to a vitriolic street-level backlash, provoking the Taoiseach’s government coalition partners to call on him to clarify his position. And on the web? Well, on the web…
From David Cochrane on Politics.ie:
‘On Thursday night a new user to the website posted a thread making allegations about a Tribunal witness and a firm of solictors, those comments were inaccurate, untrue and were malicious – I unreservedly apologise for those comments being posted.
At all times, I try to ensure that we maintain the idea of free speech, my moderation policy is very light, Don’t Get Dave Sued, as in don’t say anything that would get me into legal difficulty. Any time such comments are posted, they are always removed when pointed out to us, either by users of the site, or by solicitors acting on behalf of a client.
The letter sent to me is included below, it was not sent as confidential, so I am sharing it on the record.
Under no circumstances can I be in a position to disclose the identity of any user on this website, and I will not be doing so.
Until further notice, the Tribunal section of the forum is out-of-bounds, and no Tribunal discussion is allowed. Furthermore there can be no discussion with respect to the Tribunals or anything concerning Bertie Ahern* .
I am asking all users to obey this request.’
[*emphasis added – Blather]
Not only do the actions of the Taoiseach’s solicitors display a quite hilarious misunderstanding of how the web works (do they really think that politics.ie has the names and addresses of its posters?) they would seem to display a singular contempt for the freedom of speech which the foundation of our country was born on – or perhaps the solicitors have mistaken a discussion forum for a publication platform. Which the discussion forum area of politics.ie most certainly is not.
Much in the same way that Hillary Clinton has quite spectacularly misjudged the power of YouTube, it appears that our Taoiseach’s legal representatives have woefully misunderestimated the power of the web to shape people’s opinions about the government they represent. Or perhaps they don’t care what people think of the government.
Whilst it’s probable that the Taoiseach’s solicitors are acting in their own interests (and not the Taoiseach’s), perhaps they should start to consider the disatrous effect of what they are doing online – in shaping how people percieve the politician whom they represent.
What’s downright puzzling is how politics.ie seem to have been compelled to ban all discussion of anything relating to the Taoiseach. Perhaps someone from the Taoiseach’s solicitors, the Taoiseach’s offices or even the Taoiseach himself can explain why it was felt neccesary to chastise a discussion forum dedicated to open, honest debate about Irish politics (something which I am sure our Taoiseach would approve of) into a position whereby the owner now informs us that merely speaking about our elected leader could provoke a legal action.
The Taoiseach’s solicitors demands’ that a discussion forum hand over the names and addresses of it’s posters is quite amazing – making themselves (and the government parties they represent) come across like Robert Mugabe with a laptop.
There’s a remarkably simple solution to all of this of course – the Taoiseach could simply put the country, his government partners and legal representatives at ease by behaving like the democratically-minded ‘socialist’ he claims to be and addressing the country’s concerns – explaining where the monies came from, where they went to and if any services were rendered for them. Not that we here at blather.net expect that to happen. It’s not exactly the Fianna Fail way, now is it?
Oh and, in what I’m sure is an entirely unrelated matter, the Irish Independent reported last week that the same site, Politics.ie was hacked by an outside source who then set about posting malicious comments to the forums, with young Fine Gael members being targeted. Just thought I’d mention it.
Taoiseach’s 310k pay won’t even cover legal bills this year (Sunday Tribune)
Ahern’s solicitors try to silence online debate (skin flicks blog)
The Politics.ie conspiracy theory (skin flicks blog)
Politics.ie wonâ€™t be shut down, moving to America as Bertieâ€™s lawyers attack (Damien Mulley’s blog)
Bertieâ€™s lawyers go after politics.ie (Jazz biscuit blog)