Paul Dacre, Abuse and Defamation

As some of you might already be aware if you follow me on Twitter I received a rather dire warning from my webhosts today informing me that I had breached their terms and conditions. I immediately logged into my account to discover whether I had accidentally hosted any hardcore pornography or broken any superinjunctions. But no. It turns out some big and powerful lawyers working for Associated Newspapers had threatened my webhost and myself with legal action over an article I posted on my old blog way back in November 2009. You see, as much I try to write considered, thoughtful and sometimes philosophical posts occasionally I reveal the side of me that best represents the anger and frustration of constantly wading through the fetid mire of tabloid journalism, and the post that so upset the Daily Mail – part of Associated Newspapers – was one of these occasions.

You see I’m one of those lilly-livered liberal-lefties who kind of gets a bit annoyed when newspapers make stuff up about people with different colour skin just to appeal to the basest, most ignorant desires of their readership and this particular Mail article really pissed me off. So, naturally I wrote some unpleasant things about Paul Dacre because I assumed he’s the kind of tough-talking, thick-skinned adult that probably expects – editing the torrent of hatred that is the Daily Mail – to get a lot of stick. Indeed, this is the man who – according to Nick Davies in Flat Earth News - calls so many of his colleagues ‘cunts’ that his morning daily editorial meetings were given the name ‘The Vagina Monologues’.

But sadly, currently using Google to search for ‘Paul Dacre’ reveals my lowly little blog post as the second result:

Paul Dacre must die

And the lawyers for Associated Newspapers decided that the above blog post was ‘material which is seriously abusive and defamatory of Mr Dacre’. Hence they felt the need to rush off an email to my webhost giving them 3 working days to remove the offending article or face being taken to court – an event they kindly illustrate with a case ‘which ultimately resulted in a six-figure settlement’. I un-published the post immediately to placate my Webhost and Tweeted about it. Thanks to a lot of advice both on and off the record I slowly began to realise – along with a little bit of reading up on what constitutes defamation – that their threat was utterly hollow and that abuse in itself is not libellous (hence the continued ‘writing’ career of Richard Littlejohn who abuses the living and libels only the dead). It was the idle threat of a bully that knows it is too rich and too powerful to be challenged by an individual like myself who will choose to remove the article rather than invite them to sue and see where we all end up.

In the end, thanks to choosing a UK webhost, the decision is not really mine to take, the webhost has nothing to gain by defending me and everything to lose, they will simply point to their Terms and Conditions which cover no defamation / libel and will suspend your account if needs be. I understand their position, they are effectively hamstrung by a legal system that favours the powerful.

Anyway, putting that aside, let’s just take a few seconds to consider what I actually wrote. Firstly, you can read the post here because it has been cached by Google and logged by others on Twitter (thanks to therealsim_o for this). Secondly, you can read this post by Unity over at Ministry of Truth who goes through the post bit-by-bit and concludes that:

In short, there seems to be next to fuck all in Kevin’s article to warrant a claim of defamation – abuse, of itself, is not defamatory – if it were, then Dacre would, based on his reputation, spend half his life defending actions for slander from his own employees.

Having put what I wrote into context, I can now give you some clues on what is and isn’t defamation by looking at some of the stuff that the Daily Mail prints and can provide you with some simple tips to avoid receiving such scary emails in future:

  1. Be a well-paid columnist for the Daily Mail. Take Richard Littlejohn for example. He can call Gordon Brown a ‘sociopath’ and provide a list of ‘evidence’ including that he displays ‘Glibness and superficial charm; manipulative and cunning… Grandiose sense of self and entitlement… Pathological lying; absence of remorse, shame or guilt; callousness and lack of empathy… Authoritarian; secretive; paranoid; narcissism; grandiosity; an over-inflated belief in their own powers and abilities… Prone to rage and abuse; outraged by insignificant matters.’ and so on. If you are well-paid columnist this is not abuse or defamation; it is ‘opinion’. Indeed it is the kind of stuff we should all cherish as a wonderful example of a free press.
  2. Don’t mention individuals stupid! If you want to do a good ol’ bit of defaming pick a big group of people that you can just slag off in its entirety. Say like gypsies or immigrants, then it’s fair game. Go on, check with the Press Complaints Commission, they’ll tell you that yes: being hateful towards one named immigrant and you’ll get a slapped wrist (sort of, the PCC doesn’t really have enough power to do even that) but just slag off every single immigrant in one go and the PCC will give you a big thumbs up and possibly a badge.
  3. Don’t pick on on the kind of hypocrite that – for example – runs a national newspaper bemoaning the sexualisation of society whilst at the same time arguing against privacy laws that prevent him from reporting on ‘acts of unimaginable sexual depravity’ (which is, by the way,  bit of an oxymoron. How can they be ‘unimaginable’ if you are certain they actually took place?). Or who fights for the right for the press to be free of fines (i.e. stick with the powerless PCC exactly as it is now) and scrap no-win, no-fee libel cases because they don’t like being sued for honest mistakes or what in most cases is simply being caught making stuff up. Don’t pick on him because it seems to me that this sort of person would have no hesitation using the libel laws he finds so restrictive when they are aimed at his newspaper.

I think the main lesson is: don’t criticise the critics because they only like to dish it out. Dacre’s argument for invading the privacy of Max Mosley was that he was kind of in the public eye and had been up to no good, therefore invading his privacy to break the story was justifiable. Well, surely Mr Dacre is just as much in the public eye as Mr Mosley and certainly Mr Dacre holds substantially more influence and power. So why does he not expect – when he edits a newspaper recently described by John Bercow as a ‘sexist, racist, bigoted, comic cartoon strip’ (I wonder if Mr Bercow received a nice letter from the Associated News lawyers?) – to receive public scrutiny for what he does and the kind of insults that I aimed at him way back in 2009?

Whatever insults I could write here now aimed at Paul Dacre would always pale into utter insignificance when compared to the carefully constructed and energetically maintained media narratives about immigrants, single mothers, the public sector, asylum seekers, gypsies, gays and the disenfranchised in general that the Daily Mail has printed under his stewardship. My feeble words – which were only really a demonstration of how little recourse we have against institutions like the Daily Mail, so all we are left with is to wish those in charge of this offensive mess an early death – result in a threatening letter. Whilst Mr Dacre continues to exist as a highly-paid editor.

I think what bothers me most about Paul Dacre – and this applies to a lot of the Mail writers as well – is just what a coward he is. It’s that expectation that the Daily Mail can print the most horrific, made-up shit just to sell a few copies and stoke the fires of Middle-England rage and if anyone doesn’t like it they’ll just send out threatening letters. It’s Paul Dacre’s insistence that the PCC really works and that any criticism comes from people who are too stupid to understand how it works. Paul Dacre, chairman of the PCC’s Editors’ Code of Practice Committee, edits the newspaper that consistantly breaches the code more than any other newspaper, yet he still insists that the PCC works.

If freedom of the press exists then it should extend to all writers. As the Daily Mail – and most of the mainstream press – have demonstrated over-and-over again the informal code of ethics followed by most bloggers is incomparably superior to the moral vacuum in which most journalists exist, yet somehow the official label of being a ‘journalist’ somehow gives you the freedom without any of the responsibility.

Anyway, that was a disorganised ramble, so let’s try and wrap things up. I guess what I’m trying to say is that a lot of people think Paul Dacre is a piece of shit, not everyone wishes him an early death and a few people probably think I was stupid or going too far by even writing it. However, let’s not pretend it was libellious. It was just a frustrated insult aimed at someone who I see as being at the heart of a very evil newspaper, but someone whom the general populace is powerless to challenge because he will not engage with us.

38 thoughts on “Paul Dacre, Abuse and Defamation

  1. Agreed. This is silly and a fuss over nothing. The Daily Mail’s heavies would be far better focusing on real news stories and trying to overturn injunctions rather than on chasing up bloggers.

  2. Probably one of the best blog articles I’ve ever read.

    Not much of a ramble at all. I though it was well put together and thoughtful.

    What a shame that real, proper freedom of speech is so severely under attack these days.

    From all angles, left, right, authoritarian, you name it.

    The rules on this subject are strict in this country, but I believe reasonably clear and probably fairly entrenched in the mind of your average intelligent blogger.

    It is really very simple: would an average, reasonably minded person consider the comment under question to be damaging or denigrating to the subjec’s character. In a nut shell, that is what the law will ask.

    If you’re satisfied that your average Joe would not think less of someone’s character due to a comment, and if you can defend the comment as ‘fair comment’, you’re safe.

    But, as a poker player, I relate to your discussion of power.

    Imagine you have a very strong hand, but your opponent puts you all in for a hundred grand.

    You are favourite and you’ll almost certainly take the pot, but are you willing to put your life on the line when the last card might give him a Royal Flush?

    It’s about the stakes. The rich and powerful are able to raise the stakes so high, that no matter how strong your hand, most sane and responsible people will come to the same decision.

    Fold.

    You folded. But don’t feel ashamed of it. I understand your rationale.

  3. I’m surprised the wider media hasn’t picked this up yet. This is a wonderful example not only of Dacre and the Mail’s utter hypocrisy, but also their unbelievably thin skin: the man who gives out bollockings to his underlings resorting to the law because a blogger called him a cunt. What a pathetic, cowardly little worm he really is.

  4. Excellent post, and you’re not alone in folding, UK libel laws and the sheer cost of defending a claim are preposterous.

    For instance, a national daily newspaper printed a curious story on its front page and inside about Mike Hollingsworth (he used to be married to Anne Diamond).

    http://tabloid-watch.blogspot.com/2010/05/groundbreaking-news-from-mail.html

    After a legal threat, they too took the article down from their website, rather than risk a libel suit:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1279511/Anne-Diamonds-ex-Mike-Hollingsworths-bride-runs-woman.html

    It’s just one rule for the Daily Mail and, erm, one rule for the, erm, Daily Mail.

    Or in the words of one of their columnists: “You Couldn’t Make It Up!”

  5. The frigging hypocrisy of the situation is INFURIATING! Littlejohn calling for murdered women to be labelled prostitutes, innocent Chris Jefferies verbally abused and defamed for looking strange, countless minorites and out of work people treated like second class citizens EVERY DAY and all of this in a natioanal newspaper and they have the cheek to target you for some swear words in a blog!?!? Fucking knobs.

  6. this post is now on the first page of results for ‘paul dacre.’

    if only you’d put ‘paul dacre’ in the title it might get back up there to the #2 spot! :D

    excellent response btw. enjoyed reading this.

  7. Also worth a look at yesterday’s extended Mail rant at Ed Richards of Ofcom. Its an essay of uninterrupted irrationality which ultimately criticises Labour for having a new Labour placeman at the head of Ofcom and criticises Cameron for not putting his own Tory placeman in charge of the media regulator. You know, the kind of person who could be relied upon not to criticise the hypocrisy of the Mail’s coverage of the X Factor/Rihanna mullarkey. Every day they dish it out to immigrants, asylum seekers, greedy and useless and interfering public servants, union leaders, health and safety nazis, immoral footballers, women who aren’t stick thin, women who are stick thin, quango bosses, the bbc, the feckless poor among many many others and the moment anyone dares to criticise them……

  8. The Daily Mail is a one-armed butler. They can dish it out, but they can’t take it.

  9. They don’t really understand the web do they? How many hits did your original page have before their complaint, and how many will this one get after…all rather silly really :)

  10. Dacre couldn’t sue you–he wouldn’t have a case.

    If Tim Vine were to sue Nick_O_Larse, on the other hand . . . (BTW you’ve got he joke the wrong way round.)

  11. Great post, it’s depressing to see the utter, cynical hypocrisy with which the Mail operates.

    That paper, and the others who share its mindset, represent a cancer on British society. They stand against everything that is good and enlightened about this place. I sometimes find it difficult to get through a day knowing that they have so much power over government policy.

    What’s even worse is that I actually work in the benefits office, and loads of my colleagues read the Mail, forming their opinions about some of our customers from that rubbish.

    Hopefully Private Eye will write about this case, although these days they are running out of space for publishing articles about what a cunt Paul Dacre is.

  12. You are wrong in suggesting that the PPC doesn’t work. Your problem is that you think it exists to protect the readers of newspapers and those written about. If you take this silly belief seriously then obviously it will look like the PPC doesn’t work. The purpose of the PPC is to provide tabloid editors with a method of delaying and deflecting criticism whilst disguised as an independent body and as such the PPC works perfectly.

  13. I’ve registered “definingdacre.com”. Can you link me to good information on defamation/abuse law so I can figure out how to best make use of the domain without getting sued?

  14. Not sure if it’s been mentioned already, but I’d just like to say that I think Paul Dacre is a cunt.

  15. I have to say I totally disagree with the idea that people should have to queue up to shit on the grave of Paul Dacre. I would hope that a system is implemented which allows people to shit on his grave with zero waiting time. Even then Paul Dacre’s thankfully dead body will only experience a tiny fraction of the endless torrent of shit released by the Daily Mail every single day.

  16. You really can’t call Paul Dacre a “Cunt”.
    A “cunt” is useful and gives pleasure.
    Is Paul Dacre useful?
    And dose he give pleasure?

  17. Brilliant. Sheer bloody brilliance. The Fail shows itself up as a loser yet again. The real question is why does middle England continue to support it? If nobody bought the bloody awful rag then it wouldn’t have a leg to stand on, Dacre wouldn’t have a job, and the rest of the papers might start to think twice about their content. It’s time we asked the British public to stop purchasing gutter press that uses sensationalism to sell them paper, as there is no longer any news to put in there once it’s been on the TV and the net.

  18. It’d be great if we could #pauldacreisacunt trending on Twitter or something, see if he threatens to sue everyone Ryan Giggs/Imogen Thomas style.

    I’m amazed that this whole affair isn’t being picked up in the national press. At least Private Eye should be taking an interest…

  19. I wonder what he’s more upset about;
    *You calling him a cunt
    *You wishing death on him
    *You saying people will queue up to shit on his grave

    It’s astonishingly hypocritical of him.

    I wonder if he’ll come after me for saying Paul Dacre is a cunt, and I’ll be the first to shit on his grave … the cunt.

  20. “Thanks to a lot of advice both on and off the record I slowly began to realise – along with a little bit of reading up on what constitutes defamation – that their threat was utterly hollow and that abuse in itself is not libellous (hence the continued ‘writing’ career of Richard Littlejohn who abuses the living and libels only the dead).”

    Oh, were that this were true! The only sure thing about libel law in England and Wales that can be said is that the outcome of a defamation case in all its miserable detail is never, ever certain.

    To bring a successful writ for the tort of libel In England and Wales, all that the plaintiff’s barrister needs to do is persuade a dim-witted English judge or an even more dim-witted English jury that the defendant has made one or more imputations about the plaintiff that, on the balance of probability, are defamatory. Then if the defendant is unable to persuade the dim-witted judge or even more dim-witted jury that none of his or her statutory or common law defences to the tort of defamation apply, then the dim-witted judge or badly directed dim-witted jury will find that the defendant has indeed defamed the plaintiff.

    This decision may well come as a great surprise to the plaintiff, to his legal team and to all the many and erudite experts on defamation law that he or she and his legal team have previously consulted.

    After the dim-witted judge’s or badly directed and dim-witted jury’s finding that the defendant made one or more imputations were made that were defamatory, it then becomes a matter of establishing the quantum of the damages, and apportioning to both parties to the dispute all the legal costs of both parties and all of the court costs.

    These last costs may well exceed any awarded damages tenfold. Nevertheless, this is only the beginning. Now, it’s back on to the merry-go round until it stops at the next English court for the first appeal …

    It is possible for an imputation to be defamatory even if the dim-witted judge or dim-witted jury determine that a reasonable member of the public – once upon a time the eponymous man on the Clapham omnibus – would not find the imputation defamatory provided that for example, a person engaged in the same profession as the plaintiff would be on the balance of probability likely to find the imputation defamation. So if you call a catwalk model fat or ugly, a court may decide that you have defamed her (or him) even if the man on the Clapham omnibus were likely to agree with you.

    If you really want even to scratch the current surface of the law of defamation in England and Wales, then a good place to start is the McLibel Case. See http://www.mcspotlight.org/case/

    The case is quite old now but still very relevant to anyone concerned about being sued for defamation in England and Wales.

    Bear in mind, however, that no matter how up to date you think you are that the law of defamation in England and Wales is a moving feast. Decisions by superior courts in other common law jurisdictions such as in the individual states and territories of Australia, New Zealand, Canada or India may be found to be persuasive, even though of course not binding on the decision of any English judge, or on the directions he or she gives a jury in a jury trial.

    Defamation cases also have a habit of dragging on for years because of lengthy appeals. Read Dickens’ descriptions of the dismal shenanigans of the Court of Chancery in Bleak House for a taste of what lies ahead for both plaintiff and defendant.

    In court, the plaintiff will invariably try to demonstrate malice on behalf of the defendant in order to remove some very important defences for the defendant; thus, the defendant must be in a strong position to combat the arguments of the plaintiff that the plaintiff was motivated by malice. The definition of malice is itself also a moving feast. For example, it took me over forty hours of legal research just to dig into most, not all, of the important cases in English law that have defined malice in defamation cases since the beginning of the last century. Note that malice in civil law is not the same as malice in criminal law.

    As an indignant erstwhile plaintiff (after my wife had been horribly attacked, victimised and bullied at work by her immediate supervisor and boss) and as a potential current defendant in a defamation case, awaiting the next letter, here’s a strategy guide based upon my personal experience:

    1. If you hope to obtain significant damages, then only sue the rich. If you merely want to destroy someone utterly, whatever the cost to them and to you and your loved ones, and you yourself no longer want to continue in the land of the living but are content to eke out the rest of your existence in the world of wraiths, then both rich and poor are fair game for defamation suits.

    2. Never make any comments at all to anyone about anyone else unless:

    a) you are extremely rich;

    b) you have a very comprehensive legal insurance policy that states explicitly that you will be covered without any financial ceiling or time limits for the tort of defamation;

    c) you are a pauper.

    3. If you do have any assets, any at all, and you are not extremely rich, sign all your assets over to someone else before the start of the defamation proceedings. This applies whether you are the defendant or the plaintiff.

    Finally, if and when you receive a letter of demand or email from a powerful plaintiff’s solicitors, like the aforesaid Paul Dacre, against whom you cannot possibly expect to wage a fair fight, a good strategy is to reproduce the letter or email in full on a web-page, ensuring that you include the full name and address of the firm of solicitors plus the name of the signatory.

    Expose the stinking cunts, all of them, to the stinging and acerbic fresh air of publicity.

  21. Oops. Meant to write “…the defendant must be in a strong position to combat the arguments of the plaintiff that the defendant was motivated by malice.”

  22. I’ve just applied to have the Claimant’s case struck out as I have been taken to court for libel. It’s a strange old world I guess…

    The problem is that it can take up a lot of your personal time; I’m trying to build a successful teaching career and this is simply getting in the way. I can’t afford the lawyers and it appears that the Claimant can’t either.

    They can afford the costs of appealing etc meaning this could drag on for years.

    It’s all very exciting though.

  23. The Daily Mail. A rag that Goebbels would be proud of.
    I would take great pleasure in Dacre or any of his close family members dying in agony.

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