Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Neil Clark Story

UPDATE: Score change.

KAMM 1 / CLARK 1

Game is tied - with so much left to play for!

PLEASE SEE ADDITIONAL DISCUSSION AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST

They say being magnanimous is one of the 'measures of a man.'

I'm not sure I entirely believe that - but I will say one thing. I'm big enough to come clean when I've been wrong about something.

And when it comes to scrappy journalist Neil Clark, I won't admit being wrong about my opinion of him - but a recent discovery has put my opinion of the Guardian contributor into a new perspective and I think it bears repeating here.

I first discovered Neil Clark through the blog of Jenn of the Jungle, who runs rightwing website Screw Liberals Dot Com and manages to combine the outspoken opinions and total babe-like hotness of Ann Coulter with that oh-so-rare quality called sanity. And she loves dogs.

Neil next popped up on my radar during the 2007 Weblog Awards, where I wrote a long piece explaining in excruciating detail why his blog was totally unworthy of winning the prize as best UK blog.

Further proof why democracy is overrated was given when Neil went on to win the award with an overwhelming majority.

Since then, I have continued to wage a guerrilla war against the forces of 'Neildom' by highlighting his most idiotic posts (or why people who wear hats are more civilised) and grudgingly agreeing with some of his more Eurocentric posts. At the end of the day, as much as I dislike his politics, we are both self-publicists with an occasional cute turn of phrase.

In tackling Neil's ridiculous politics, I've occasionally resorted to mentioning a rather nasty incident between him and Times contributor Oliver Kamm. Neil has the dubious distinction of being the first man to attempt to sue a 'blogger' for slander and defamation of character on the Internet.

The court case itself was thrown out and a good job too - free speech must be protected when courts often accomplish what legislators can't. But the fact that Neil handled the matter with spectacular incompetence doesn't detract from the reality that he has a legitimate reason to consider himself a victim.

So since new evidence has come to my attention - and I've grudgingly shifted my position in Neil's favor - I think it's worth doing what I can't do anywhere else and set the record straight.

Clark Vs. Kamm

I should warn you that this is a post-modernist tale and there's no clearly defined 'good guy' or 'bad guy.' In fact, both our leads act like unrepentant dicks during various stages of this story, but that's the stuff the best French cinema is made of.

Back in 2005, Oliver Kamm published a book called "Anti -Totalitarianism: The Left-wing Case for a Neoconservative Foreign Policy."

By all accounts, it's an excellently written book - even better when you see through Oliver Kamm's facade of being 'left wing' and realise he's a moderate/conservative like the rest of us. No true self respecting British 'left winger' would have left the socialist Labour Party in disgust, as Kamm did in 1988, only to rejoin it when Tony Blair arrived with his suitcase full of hijacked Tory policies in 1997. You're a shameless Tory, Kamm. Own up to it!

Oliver Kamm's book was reviewed by Neil Clark in the Telegraph in December of 2005.

Apparently.

Both Oliver Kamm and Neil Clark link to this review despite that fact that UNLIKE ANY OTHER BOOK REVIEW IN RECORDED HISTORY it fails to actually mention any of the books it's meant to be reviewing.

Hey, I warned you this story wasn't pretty. It involves self publicists with political delusions wallowing in their own self impotence [I think you mean 'importance' - Editorial Bear].

Now Neil Clark managed to achieve wonders. Not only did he 'review' a book without mentioning it's title or contents in any way - he also managed to piss Oliver Kamm off in the process. Not by calling him unconvincing or dishonest - which he did in his article - but by apparently not reading his book.

That's what Oliver Kamm alleged in his blog. After reading Neil's article in the Telegraph, Oliver suggested that the reason Neil hadn't mentioned many specific details of his book (like, ummm, the title) was because he'd never got further than reading the blurb on the back before scribbling his article.

Which is a LIE and SLANDER. Because The Telegraph would never publish such a dishonest and fraudulent contributor (for example, they don't publish my articles.) We hope.

In any event, Oliver Kamm also alleged that Neil's review features a misrepresented quote in it. Specifically that Bosnian leader Alija Izetbegovic used to recruit for the SS during World War II - long before he battled against genocidal Serbs in war torn Yugoslavia.

[Note to Oliver Kamm. You call that misrepresentation? Have you actually read any of the articles in newspapers? Militant Ginger gave an exclusive interview to The Sun once and they still managed to get his name and age wrong on the front cover. - Editorial Bear.]

The claim that Izetbegovic was an SS recruiter is clearly fictional - as Kamm points out, the late Bosnian president was only a teenager when World War II ended. However, whether the claim is true or not is irrelevant to the journalistic bickering that occurred regarding it.

Neil Clark quoted his sources for the Izetbegovic allegations as being the "Institute of Strategic Studies Organisation." Oliver Kamm, in researching Neil's sources (geeze, doesn't this guy have a life?) discovered that this organisation didn't exist.

If you google it, through, you come up with the International Institute of Strategic Studies - a world renowned strategic studies group with a reputation for honesty in what is basically seen as a ridiculously dishonest business (please see Thank You For Smoking to explain what Strategic Studies are - basically official studies designed to reach a predetermined conclusion.)

Kamm's further research (for God's sake, this guy needs a hobby) revealed the truth. Neil Clark's source for the Izetbegovic allegations came from a similarly named International Strategic Studies Association. Their impartiality on the whole Yugoslavia situation can be called into question by a 2003 report which suggested that the Bosnians had made up the whole Srebrenica massacre thing.

Yes, this situation IS as retarded as it sounds. Neil wrote this. Oliver wrote that. Basically it ended up as a pissing contest [Ohmygod that sounds disgusting - Editorial Bear] between two self important journalists who thought somebody out there actually gave a toss.

By that point, the higher moral ground was somewhere lower than the Mariana Trench, but somehow Oliver Kamm actually managed to sink even further.

Soon after this incident flared up, the editors who commissioned Neil Clark's articles started to get emails from a mysterious fellow called George Courtenay. They were sent (with minor variations) to the Guardian, Australian, First Post, Morning Star, New Statesman, Spectator and Daily Express - all the papers Neil contributes to.

To: The Editor
Subject: Neil Clark sources

Dear Sir,

I see you have published an opinion article by Neil Clark today. That's all good to print a range of views but you may be interested that Oliver Kamm of the London Times has been investigating Mr. Clark's use of sources.

http://oliverkamm.typepad.com/blog/2006/02/more_on_balkan_.html
http://oliverkamm.typepad.com/blog/2006/02/balkan_claims_r.html

Mr.Clark doesn't say the same thing in his new article but as he's lied to other editors I'm bringing it to your attention.

G. Courtenay

Research into a couple of other disputes involving Oliver Kamm revealed a rather worrying trend - George Courtenay was a name that cropped up again and again! Much like The Saint's pseudonym Sebastian Tombs or Adventure Eddy's adopted alter-ego of Nedwood Dewbolt, the self-publicist in Kamm clearly extended to his AKA as well!

NB: Please see discussion below, where the allegation that Oliver Kamm wrote the 'George Courtney' emails is disscussed in further detail.

Oliver Kamm was pissed off with Neil Clark and apparently out on a single minded and mean spirited crusade to cause his rival journalist as much professional mayhem as possible.

Things don't get pretty [They were pretty before? - Editorial Bear]

There was no way to respond to these supposedly 'anonymous' emails, but Neil Clark decided to respond to Oliver Kamm's blog allegations.

There were various options. 'Turning the other cheek' as Jesus did. Writing a brutal response to show up and humiliate his rival - or turn to the age-old American classic and 'sue his ass.'

Which is just what Neil Clark did.

In April 2006, he filed legal proceedings with his local county court, claiming the maximum damages of £5,000 for slander and defamation. He made Internet history as the first person to sue a blogger for libel.

Unsurprisingly, his case was laughed (not thrown, laughed) out of the court by the judge - but not because his allegations were invalid. More because only somebody of supreme legal ignorance would think of filing a libel case with a small claims court.

Even worse, Neil had marked his letters to Kamm's solicitors 'Without Prejudice' which sounds all good 'n legal, but actually means that a party's legal rights have, in fact, been determined and lost. Had the case gone to trial, Neil would have lost on the grounds that he'd dismissed his own case in his allegation letters.

Trial and Error

But the point is not Neil Clark's spectacular legal incompetence! In fact, if anything, his astounding courtroom cock-ups are a message of hope to greedy lawyers everywhere.

And despite going to court and railing against free speech, Internet autonomy and the basis of everything he (as a journalist) stands for, Neil Clark still manages to come out of this as the 'good guy.' [There's a good guy? Editorial Bear]

Because Oliver Kamm is a shit.

Disagreeing with Neil Clark is one thing - in fact, it's mandatory. Reading his 'review' of Kamm's book, I think it's perfectly valid to wonder if he'd even actually OPENED the book before he opinionated about the contents.

Giving Neil a hard time about his opinions or articles is also to be expected (yet he still manages to get things published, so give Clark his due.)

However, writing under an assumed name to all his editors in order to kill his journalistic career is both cowardly and despicable.

So for the record LET ME STATE THE CASE CLEARLY.

Oliver Kamm and 'George Courtney's' allegations are false. Fake. Fabricated.

Neil Clark did not misrepresent his 'source material' in his articles or blog. He didn't claim his quote about Alija Izetbegovic's alleged SS connection came from the International Institute of Strategic Studies when they actually came from the International Strategic Studies Association.

As it happened, he was apparently incapable of identifying his own sources and claimed they were the Institute of Strategic Studies Organisation - which doesn't exist. But being such an poor researcher is A LONG way from fraudulently presenting one source as another.

And even if it wasn't - writing anonymous emails to try and wreck somebody's career is just really shitty behavior. Whatever the allegations thrown at Neil Clark, they tend to pale in comparison to that.

So, what now?

For the sake of Internet prosperity, I've set the record straight.

Both Neil and Kamm have written their sides of the story - but only in a neatly controlled format. Oliver Kamm is too cowardly to allow any comments on his blog while Neil Clark rigorously edits or censors any which mention the scandal.

Personally, I think Neil's doing himself a disservice here. Instead of buggering about with the legal system (and ending up looking like a knob) he should have ranted and raved to his heart's content and shot down every criticism with the one weapon he has and Oliver Kamm doesn't - The Higher Ground.

In any event, I hope any interested parties will finally be able to look through the censored versions on their sites and find something approaching the truth here - from an unbiased source unswayed by bribery [Neil, Oliver - the bribery window is still open - Editorial Bear]

In Conclusion

So Neil Clark's clearly in the right here. But I don't have to like it - and I still stand by everything I've written about him.

In the last few months, I've gained a grudging respect for Neil. In general, he's been patient and gentlemanly with my robust interference with his blog. I might disagree with the opinions in his writing, but the guy can spin a yarn pretty well and we both agree the smoking ban was a bit fascist.

But just because I've gained a respect for him as a person doesn't mean I have to soften my opinion about his blog. I still say it's ugly. I still say he writes pompously and throws in ridiculous socialist propaganda - coining phrases like 'turbo-globalism™.' *

I think he's cruel for betraying the Iraqi translators. I think he's a fool for defending Milosevic for his genocidal imperialism. I think his socialist ideology is hopelessly outdated (although it's pretty cute and old fashioned.)

But I kind of like the guy now I've got to know him - and I think it's about time somebody stood up and said 'straight up' that he's 'in the right' in the Neil Clark/Oliver Kamm debacle

* Turbo-globalism is copyright Neil Clark 2006. Used without Permission

FURTHER DISCUSSION

In response to this post, commentor William McB raised some issues that I feel need addressing.

William McB: You have adduced no evidence to support the proposition that Kamm was directly responsible for the e-mails to Clark's commissioning editors. Neither, to my knowledge, has Clark adduced any such evidence. Yet you both write articles which leave the reader inevitbly to infer that that was the case. It is not remotely unbelievable to suggest that it was supporters of Kamm's who, unknown to Kamm, e-mailed editors of their own accord. I have contacted editors when I feel they have employed innapropriate journalists for certain tasks and have received thoughtful replies.

I think this is a very valid point. I merely repeated the allegation that Neil Clark had made suggesting the George Courtney was none other than Oliver Kamm himself.

The evidence supporting these allegations was an internet link on Neil's page - a link which has since become defunct. It claimed that in several other Internet arguements, the name of George Courtney has cropped up with disturbing regularity to support Oliver Kamm's position.

However, coincidence is very far from certainty. I think your suggestion that it was one of Kamm's supporters who actually wrote those emails is perfectly valid.

In either event, the emails themselves cast a grave shadow on Oliver Kamm's journalistic credibility. He was entirely justified in being unhappy with Neil Clark's terribly written 'review' of his book. However, there is a marked difference between writing a letter of complaint to the editor of The Telegraph and launching a systematic campaign trying to wreck somebody's journalistic career.

Whoever set out to contact each and every one of Neil Clark's commissioning editors was acting very maliciously. It's fair to suspect it was Kamm itself. It's just as or more likely that it was one of his 'supporters.' In either event, it's very unprofessional conduct and Oliver should be deeply ashamed to have links to his blog in an email set out to destroy a fellow journalist's career.

Clark was directly questioned by his editor on the Telegraph about the factual basis for some of his assertions in his review. He led the editor to believe, whether inadvertently or not, that the basis for the allegations was firstly an international body of some repute or, failing that, some international organisation. It was neither. The source for this scurrulous lie is the work of racist, fraudulent cranks.

As far as I can see - encompasing both Neil and Oliver's recollection of events - the quote in question Neil claims came from the Institute of Strategic Studies Organisation.

In actual fact, the quote was sourced to the International Strategic Studies Association - which is not a company of 'racist fraudulent cranks.' It's a company of thoroughly ruthless, manipulative and amoral fraudulent businessmen, producing cynical 'studies' reaching predetirmined conclusions despite overwhelming factual evidence to the contrary.

For example, 'reporting' that Bosnians lied about and invented the genocide they suffered at the hands of Milosevic's ruthless Serbs.

I'm not sure what boggles the mind more. That Neil didn't even have the journalistic competence to accuratly copy the name of his source - or that he bothered including the ridiculous allegation that Alija Izetbegovic was an World War II SS/Nazi recruiter in his review at all. The kid was only 19 when the war ended!

The utterly ridiculous claims are not the issue. What is regards Oliver Kamm's very specific allegation that Neil misrepresented his source as being the International Institute of Strategic Studies.

Kamm has no track record of obfuscating his identity on the internet. On the other hand, Clark has a recorded history of doing so under a number of different names. Kamm has always published under his own name, has made no attempt to hide his views, and in his writings properly attributes sources. In these and many other respects he is the moral opposite of Clark.

Now this is an interesting topic.


It is a clear and documented fact that Neil Clark has been busy on the Internet behind invented personas such as City Lights Girl and Green Goddess. Stephen Pollard caught him bang to rights in an article here.

However, Neil alleges that Oliver Kamm has specifically set out to manipulate Wikipedia and comment on blogs under the assumed identities of Elena Zamm and Slim Virgin.

I will admit, I can't prove Neil's allegations. However, it is very interesting that these two identities seem to crop up ONLY in relation to Neil Clark or Oliver Kamm. Visit Oliver Kamm's Wikipedia Page and you'll see them both making positive changes.

Visit Neil's Wikipedia page and you'll see Slim Virgin and Elena Zamm in action attacking him as well.

And, just for a giggle, you'll see Neil editing his own page under the name of City Lights Girl!

Now I have no proof of this, but I peronally think it's fairly clear. The circumstantial evidence points to Oliver Kamm doing exactly what Neil does and hiding behind (of obfuscating - good word that) a fake Internet identity.

It's amusing since the word 'Virgin' is often linked to Oliver Kamm via The Exile's slightly obsessive quest to spread his baseless accusation that Oliver Kamm was a virgin all through university.

I think The Exile's obsession with Oliver's virginity says a lot more about The Exile than in does against Kamm!

In any event, I strongly suspect that Oliver Kamm does exist under several anonymous Internet identities, but I can't prove it. I will say this, however. The harder you defend him and deny such accusations, the more egg you'll have on your face if (or when) he gets caught with his hand in the virtual cookie jar (like Neil did with Green Goddess.)

Remember - I could well believe that Oliver Kamm is the moral opposite of Neil Clark. However, morality is a circle and the fast they fly away from each other in one direction, the sooner they come together on the opposite side.

This is a serious accusation and one I would not throw about lightly. Kamm has a number of supporters willing to come to his defense.

Now, I could be wrong, but I reckon I detect a certain threatening undertone in that message. I'm not very impressed by that at all. Remember what I said about 'friends like these...' I'm sure Oliver Kamm wouldn't like to think people are trying to intimidate others in his name.

However, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that's not what you meant.

To appear to take Clark's side in any dispute between him and Kamm speaks volumes about your character.

No, but the very fact we're having a dicussion about it does illustrate that I'm open minded, interested in other opinions have haven't decided my loyalty based on gut feeling.

Kamm has never posed as anyone else online.

As we have discussed above, I suspect that he might have done exactly that. I can't prove it, but there is a growing pile of circumstantial evidence and that swings my opinion.

Kamm has never lied about sources to hide a historical untruth.

That's true, to the best of my knowledge. In fact, Oliver Kamm is a terrific writer and I enjoy many of his articles - especially the one about Huckabee (which agrees largely with what I say, except with more long words in it.)

When I first 'met' the writing of Clark and Kamm, I instantly jumped into the Kamm camp because I agree more with his politics and I think he's clearly a better writer.

However, in this specific skirmish in the long-standing internet feud between Clark and Kamm, I was willing to be open minded based on the evidence.

Kamm has never had his personal friends appear in order to defend him on websites without revealing their true identity.

You're contradicting yourself here. You said yourself the emails to Neil's commissioning editors could have been written by a 'supporter' of Kamm's.

And assuming that Oliver Kamm isn't a rockstar with coke-fueled groupies stalking people because 'my poster of Oliver Kamm told me to,' whichever 'supporter' of Oliver Kamm wrote those emails to Neil Clark's commissioning editors (assuming it wasn't Kamm himself) was at least an aquiantence of his.

Listen, I'll be open minded. I'll mention the possibility that he was entirely gleefully innocent, but the weight of circumstansial evidence (and those links to his blog in the email itself) are pretty damning indications that he's involved somehow.

Throw in the likes of Slim Virgin, who apparently only visit the internet to damn Clark and praise Kamm, and you've got a pretty strong case for thinking something's screwy.

And, most importantly of all, Kamm has never made excuses for a would-be genocidal, anti-democratic racist.

I agree with you 100% here. As you've see from my various posts about him, I'm very far from a supporter of Neil's politics. At best, he lives in a delirious fantasy world in which socialism was a viable system and didn't make everybody poor and miserable. At worst, he's advocating the betrayl of our Iraqi allies and trying to dismiss the allegations of genocide and corruption aimed at Milosevic as 'pro-western propoganda.'

Funny how it's always 'pro-western propoganda' when it's attacking his cause, but he's more than happy to link to it when it's supporting him.

However, disliking Neil's politics doesn't detract from the fact that Oliver Kamm made allegations against him that are worthy of slightly deeper examination.

Your article above constitutes a smear against Kamm and one I suggest you reconsider.

Again, I'll assume that's not a threat! But I am open to reconsidering things.

You make one very valid point that I think it's worth including in this article. I don't have any proof that Oliver Kamm wrote the letters to Neil's commissioning editors. I have changed my post to reflect that (and sent them down here to read further discussion on the matter.)

It's not too much of a stretch of the imagination to think Kamm is guilty of writing those emails, but since I can't prove it and the circumstantial evidence certainly isn't conclusive, I'm willing to notch one up to the Kammster.

In many respects, he and Neil are each as bad as each other, constantly bickering and referencing each other in their blogs like an old married couple.

But despite incessently mentioning it, niether of them have really opened up the floor to 'set the record straight.' Oliver Kamm refuses to allow any comments on his blog, while Neil Clark has an agressive Stalinist policy of censoring and editing any mention of the scandal.

There are interested parties out there, so I'm hoping to use this as a forum to consolidate all the evidence in one place and let people make up their own minds.

Your opinion about the 'Courtney' letters is very valid. Therefore, I think it's time to change to scoreboard and admit that Kamm's got one firmly between the goalposts.

SCORE
Kamm 1 / Clark 1

The game is tyed, with everything to play for.

3 comments:

William McB said...

I feel your analysis is misguided in a number of fundamental ways, both in terms of fact and perspective.

You have adduced no evidence to support the proposition that Kamm was directly responsible for the e-mails to Clark's commissioning editors. Neither, to my knowledge, has Clark adduced any such evidence. Yet you both write articles which leave the reader inevitbly to infer that that was the case. It is not remotely unbelievable to suggest that it was supporters of Kamm's who, unknown to Kamm, e-mailed editors of their own accord. I have contacted editors when I feel they have employed innapropriate journalists for certain tasks and have received thoughtful replies.

Clark was directly questioned by his editor on the Telegraph about the factual basis for some of his assertions in his review. He led the editor to believe, whether inadvertently or not, that the basis for the allegations was firstly an international body of some repute or, failing that, some international organisation. It was neither. The source for this scurrulous lie is the work of racist, fraudulent cranks.

Kamm has no track record of obfuscating his identity on the internet. On the other hand, Clark has a recorded history of doing so under a number of different names. Kamm has always published under his own name, has made no attempt to hide his views, and in his writings properly attributes sources. In these and many other respects he is the moral opposite of Clark.

If you are unable to demonstrate some factual basis for your belief that Kamm is in some way behind the attempts to disparage Neil's reputation in the eyes of his commisioning editors then by all means please show it. If not, then you are accusing a man of being a fraud and an invidious grudge-holder and of being behind wicked poisonous letters. This is a serious accusation and one I would not throw about lightly. Kamm has a number of supporters willing to come to his defense; I count myself among them. One of these people could easily have made the misguided decision to write under the assumed name George Courtenay (I assume you know its derivation?) in order to defend him. Clark needs to defense. You'll note that the Times and Telegraph haven't published him since affair. His regular work these days appears to come from the Morning Star, an organ about which I shan't even comment, and the website section of the Guardian, whose editors Clark has a history of sycophantically crawling up to.

To appear to take Clark's side in any dispute between him and Kamm speaks volumes about your character. Kamm has never posed as anyone else online, Kamm has never lied about sources to hide a historical untruth, Kamm has never had his personal friends appear in order to defend him on websites without revealing their true identity and, most importantly of all, Kamm has never made excuses for a would-be genocidal, anti-democratic racist.

I understand your distaste towards those that would smaer another in order to deny them employment. But in a number of respects, your article above constitutes a smear against Kamm and one I suggest you reconsider.

Roland Hulme said...

Hi William McB,

I think you have made a valid point about the identity of George Courtney. I have added an amendment to my article above.

William McB said...

STOP TRYING TO BE FAIR AND BALANCED! This is an internet disagreement. These things are meant to be immature and combative.

And for the record, I don't know Kamm at all, have never met him, and have never seen him speak. But I would consider myself a Kamm supporter and HAVE written letters in support of him. So this person is not necessarily an acquaintance of Kamm's.

And I don't think Clark was insinuating that SlimVirgin is Kamm. Simply that she was a far from balanced or neutral observer to the debagte. search for 'slimvirgin' online for more ...

WmcB