Bums, Banditry and How to Lose Votes.
This post could as equally be called a beginners guide to responsibility and blog comments but given the situation that has prompted it I think the headline far more, well not apt as such, appropriately witty maybe?
I am off course hoping to weigh in on the latest storm in a tea-cup that is the Cllr John Worrow vs James Maskell. Anyone further left of the political spectrum than the boundary of "undeniably right" might have missed this one completely. So here is a really brief recap:
That's the back story but could you spot who has made a miss step? (It might surprise you).
Keep reading to see not only a number of councillors miss the mark, the point and the opportunity to win votes and just as interesting how Worrow himself is costing himself support with what should have been a free PR boost.
What Worrow did wrong
The process of taking, say, a newspaper to court over something untrue and harmful is a three step process. First you must contact them and give them the full story and see if they are willing to print a retraction. If they are not willing you should find out who wrote the item and then who authorised it so you have the facts for step two which is to go talk to your solicitor for a few rounds of letter writing. Only after that is the case ready for step three visiting the court.
Were Worrow threatening a newspaper he would have to show that he suffered loss as a result of the words printed, that they were not satire or criticism and were presented as fact when this was not the case.
Now blogs make the issue more complicated. First of all the commenter in question had the right of access to add the content him or her self. Further it could be said that the blog is (by way of technology) only quoting the commenter. Which is how newspapers can report on things other people have said about people with deep enough pockets to get solicitors involved.
If I read a post on say, Will Scobie's blog that says that he was in fact Worrow's lover I could post
Will says that he is dating Worrow.. Should this in fact be a falsehood what I have written is still correct. The only new information would have been that Will was covering up the fact that he was a heterosexual.
The fact is we are dealing with an anonymous comment on a free blogging platform which hardly grants it any degree of credibility.
Further weakening Worrow's case is that Scobie himself has submitted a comment that counters the first post with an alternative (and more credible) story.
Finally demolishing his case would be the argument that the progress of the conversation establishes the falsehood of the statement and therefore it's removal is not warranted as it is simply a historical artefact. Worrow could, of course, subpoena for the comment makers IP address and then using this ans the comment time stamp subpoena the IP owner for the IP user's name and address and then go on to sue that person.
(You didn't think anonymous comments were actually anonymous did you?)
However this would not stop a solicitor from taking Worrow's money to write James letters that are nasty sounding. Should James ignore said letters nothing more could be done as the case against him is really weak. However this would give James (had he any interest in doing so and the funds to match) a possibility of arguing that as Worrow had no intention of carrying out said threats made by this fictional solicitor that he was harassing James. Worrow would then be on the receiving end of the same due process.
I myself have ignored a number of such letters which I consider trophies of being right.
How Worrow (and the conservatives) may be handing the next election to the competition
Local photographer Peter posted a comment saying of Worrow that
he's getting on my wick nowand I can see the signs that actually a number of people have had enough of what appears to me to be overacting. Whatever legitimate claim to sympathy Worrow might have had his credibility is slipping by pushing the point here.
The most important thing in politics, blogging and all things in between is to pick your battles carefully. I myself have back down once or twice when the person and subject in question where off too little importance to warrant the time. For example I could have taken Virgin Media to court over the matter of £17 that they had six and a half months to collect by direct debit but failed to do so preferring to send two separate debt collectors after me for money they were legally entitled to collect from my bank account via direct debit any time they wanted. I had a good case to ague that the fault was theirs and that I was perhaps entitled to compensation for harassment. But it was £17 they were supposed to have had anyway and I could do without the stress.
It is not just Worrow that are risking loss of face over this issue. It makes the conservatives look bad. Certainly James suggests that the more national aprts of the party are wondering what on earth the Thanet branch are playing at.
Chris Wells tries to come in with a jibe at Will which was about as funny as a wet Sunday and even Simon Moores chips in on a couple of the threads. Rather foolishly Moores tries to put the scare on Worrow by saying how expensive the process of getting a solicitor to write letters is. In this he is correct.
This does not change the fact that the public can see a lot of grown men fighting over a throw away line the likes of which you can hear in most pubs on most nights sooner or later.
The public, in my experience, tire quickly of seemingly baseless histeria. To play the "persecution card" for full effect Worrow needs to name and shame the haters and provide something a bit more substantial than some bum said a vaguely bad thing about me.
Worrow seems to me to be acting like a bandit jumping out on the same passers by to see if they have any fresh change that he might have somehow missed.
I am sure Chris Wells and Simon Moores have said far more spiteful things to Will Scobie this year and been ten times as hostile every single meeting of the council. That seems to be things are run at present in our council. I have no doubt that the more outspoken members of the Conservative party would have had rude things to say about the length of my hair, my BMI and my party of choice had I been elected instead of Will.
There is no PR mileage left in the fact that a large slice of our Right wing party can be rude and aggressive. The more surprising news might be how many members of the conservatives are honest-to-goodness nice people. Some conservatives even have some sound political ideas sometimes.
A missed opportunity
The horse has, for Worrow, left the stable. There might have been a time when he could have played the silent martyr with a few well timed press releases and won himself endless respect from the gay community who might have been motivated to support him, from the more more liberal quarters of the right who would have sympathised and from the public who would (given a willing editor) have admired his courage and dedication.
Sadly he comes across (to me) as something of a winging mini on this topic. Yes you find men attractive and some of the dinosaurs you had in your party could not cope. Fine, so out the has-been(s) and lets get some work done.
With a little genial spin this could have been Worow's meal ticket as a local champion standing up for the right to be different. This could easily have gathered a solid base of support and left him a force to be reckoned with.
Worrow could have turned this into a super star moment as the man to reconcile the LGBT community with the Conservative party. At least locally. This opportunity is sadly lost but even after he left Worrow could have saved his departure as a rallying call come election time for all the disenfranchised political right.
Sadly the credibility needed has been mared by what reads like a which hunt seeing spooks where there are none to be found.
Worrow further fails to help himself by making his blog look like something I would expect to find from the less classy sort of crackpot preaching the end of the world, UFOs and the existence of haunted shoes. Worrow's blog is a typographical nightmare - the love child of a blind monk and an epileptic mouse. Honestly it really is that bad. Tell me you don't share my opinion if you can.
Worrow's blog posts change colour and size at random making them very hard to read and reducing the credibility, in my opinion, of what is being said.
This is bad not because extremely amateurish blogging is bad but because Worrow's brand, PR and online reputation are represented by it. When a read sees a post that has masses of blank lines at the end of it, font changes and colour changes without rhyme or reason they are exposed to an unintended message. That style of blogging says to me that the author (or whom I have no knowledge at all beyond his blog) might possibly be equally unpredictable and hard to follow.
Correct me if I am wrong but should not all party members be reliable people. Even Chris Wells, who I do not much like, is reliably aggressive, bad at humour and liable to call me a liar every time I publish inside information. I can depend on his venomous outbursts as proof that I have hit the nail upon the head. He might have the personality of a vat of sulphuric acid but this is a reliable trait and can be depended upon.
Likewise I know of no voter who wants a candidate that is as changeable as the wind. No one wants to vote for some guy who this week favours free parking in Margate and next week wants to build houses where car parks now stand.
Why then suggest this with your on-line presence?
Obviously not a something I can recommend.
Worrow could still salvage something from this Honby Hobby scale train wreck. The chances of that happening seem remote however.
I am with James Maskell that he is right to refuse the request to delete the comment. Worrow could gain a little ground by asking for some of his own comments to be removed and plead embarrassment and stress as mitigating factors. However I suspect that he is far too entrenched in his position to cross that line now but then again...
Worrow should, in my opinion, write off the whole thing with an open and honest post which is frank and unguarded. He should tell readers why he felt upset, admit that there are other potential points of view and acknowledge that they might be or seem valid; and focus on the homophobes in the party. Better yet he could admit that our council is an aggressive place to work and send the whole issue tot he best left forgotten pile as swiftly as possible.
Of course as bloggers a good scrap is great for our ego as we get more readers, more comments and more traffic. We also get more links, more posts about us and a better shot at a headline or two which I am sure John Worrow is actually after. The problem here is credibility which is, as I have pointed out, getting a bit strained. On one hand Worrow is saying
please miss, these other kids are being mean to me but on the other hand he shows us no evidence.
What's your take - do John Worrow's complaints sound like they have body or is he barking up the wrong tree in the wrong forest on this one?