Sunday, December 14, 2008

Thoroughly Modern McCarthyites


I will tell you what this is all about. David T of the Harry's Place blog is attempting to get someone fired for reviewing a book I wrote, positively, in The New Statesman. Now, this could be because the reviewer namechecked the Harry's Place blog in passing. It could be because, so far, Mr T has not found a way to get me fired from anything. It cannot, however, be the result of any personal animus. I know this because David T would like nothing more than to be friends. Every now and again, he will send a missive to invite me to his birthday party, or to try and get a rise out of me in some way. He will coyly approach if he spots that I am available on Google chat, and try out a new opening line. This despite the fact that I had made it perfectly clear online that I regard him as something of an unstable creep. Even after I 'outed' him, when he launched a witch hunt against selected academics for thought crimes, he still didn't turn off the charm. Only the other day, he wrote to say that he had dreamed about me the previous night - me and him doing lawyer talk, apparently.

True, I didn't agree to go to his party, and it is only because of my weakness for taunting imbeciles that I didn't block his e-mail address, but you would be a fool and a communist to make anything of it. There is no personal element to David T's latest inquisition. He just doesn't like the fact that I have written a book, that it has been reviewed positively, and that as a result of the review and subsequent coverage (some of it, ironically, on Harry's Place), the book's UK Amazon sales rank soared, leaving said supplier with only one book left to sell. Unfortunately, David T is arguably even less equipped to properly review my book than the strict orthographer, Oliver Kamm. However, since he has developed a taste for vindictive attacks on individuals whom the Harry's Place mob have any reason to dislike at all, he decided to attack the author of the first review to appear in a major publication. Describing the reviewer, Owen Hatherley, as the "Dilpazier Aslam" of the New Statesman (recalling a case in which a trainee journalist was fired from The Guardian, having written an article that included praise for Hizb Ut-Tahrir while he was a member of said organisation), the post on Harry's Place claims that Owen Hatherley is a member of the Socialist Workers' Party. He is not, and never has been. But it is on the basis of this single fabrication that the author of the post launches a lengthy diatribe effectively demanding that the New Statesman publish a correction and fire the reviewer. It is a small irony that, while in effect demanding a purge on the basis of an invention, David T fantasises that it is SWP members who are 'totalitarian'.

On the one hand, all of this is immensely encouraging. If the deranged political cult of liberal bombers didn't find the book in some sense threatening, they would not waste so much energy on vain attempts to undermine it. On the other hand, this petty, spiteful attack comprises a maniacal McCarthyite troika. It not only seeks to have a positive review of my book retracted and a 'correction' published. It also attempts to hound someone who did absolutely nothing wrong out of a livelihood, and to establish an ominous precedent of surveillance for actual and supposed members of the Socialist Workers' Party on the basis of ignorant claims about it made by David T and his cohort. A while ago, you will remember, Harry's Place launched a frantic campaign of vilification against one Jenna Delich. It resulted in a complaint to the site's service provider, which decided that the libellous nature of the posts meant that the terms of its agreement with the blog's authors had been breached. The site was taken down, and the Harry's Place posse complained of oppression, declaring that their 'free speech' was under attack. Some websites foolishly extended their 'solidarity' to these corrupt and unscrupulous opponents of free speech. I hope that after this episode it will be obvious even to them that Harry's Place deserves no comradeship, especially from those who might themselves be the targets of such an attack if the occasion arose.