Sad news that Bob Piper, the antediluvian Labour’ (his phrase) councilor is taking a break from blogging after the furore caused by his reproducing Unity’s satire, from Ministry of Truth, on David Cameron.
I don’t in the slightest blame Prague Tory for taking Bob up on it or The Daily Mail for doing its usual thing; the subsequent fuss seemed to me, however, to a case of storms, molehills and so on, and the point of the satire — which badly misfired, obviously — was clearly to ridicule both the style and the intent of Cameron’s attempts to connect with non-traditional Tory voters. Cameron’s efforts, Unity seemed to be saying, come over as embarrassingly ill-judged as would his attempting to appeal to the black youth vote by blacking up like something out of the Black and White Minstrel Show and then, to cap it, trying further to ingratiate himself by showing he’s heard of gangsta rap and misusing what he takes to be black street slang to catastrophic effect. The joke rather misfired, however, and, as a comment by dsquared on Unity’s blog suggests, a lot of trouble could have been avoided by consulting this useful flowchart.
Nevertheless, politics is a rough old trade, and if a Tory councilor had done something similar, I can’t imagine Labour being slow to pillory him for it, no matter how unfairly. Cllr Piper, it should be remembered, is quite capable of misreading things in a way others might think a tad unfairly, as his reaction to Blairwatch’s advice to people to Vote Anyone But Labour in the council elections demonstrated.
However, I hope we haven’t heard the last from Bob Piper, for, as Tom Paine suggests, whatever one makes of Cllr Piper’s, New Labour can’t be at all disappointed to have him shut up for a while (metaphorically, of course, though they probably wouldn’t cavil at a literal interpretation). I see from The Tin Drummer that Prague Tory is has also been considering giving up blogging; I share The Drummer’s hope that he won’t, and, fortunately, it seems he’s thought better of it and keeping the good work with a post on one of Britain’s invisible minorities.
Ah, having just written this, I see that Mr Eugenides has also written something. I could have saved myself the trouble and just said ‘I agree with that Greek chap’.
However, I fear I have to comment on Unity’s — to my mind — extraordinary statement that
I’m asserting copyright and withdrawing permission for the use and reproduction of the image, at the very least until I can recontextualise it into a form that clear indicates where the debate should be going
It would be disingenuous of me, to say the least, to claim I know about the law of intellectual property as it applies to the Internet, but I’m pretty certain that, having put it into the public domain on his website, Unity has little legal redress if others reproduce it in the course of commenting on the controversy. If they tried to exploit the image for commercial purposes, or to pass it off as their own work, then I could see that he has a point both moral and legal, but otherwise I think it’s a bit of a non-starter.
There are two reasons I’m not reproducing it here; the first is that, since I’m saying this about his copyright claims, it would be effectively sticking up two fingers at him, and that’s not my style. The second is that anyone who wants to wants to have a look at it can click on the links above to The Birmingham Post or The BBC, I think makes requests not to reproduce it in articles a bit quixotic, but he’s asked people not to, so I won’t.
Besides, I’m sure if Unity thought through the implications, he’d have second thoughts about trying to use the law of intellectual property to stop people quoting from him. C’mon; if Unity were somehow to come into possession of a private memo sent by David Cameron to one of his colleagues that said something Mr Cameron would rather not have published, how would he react to being told — as would certainly be the case — that the contents were Cameron’s copyright and had certainly never been intended for publication, and that, consequently, he shouldn’t reproduce them?
Or, in a closer analogy, if Inigo Wilson had objected that his definition of ‘Islamophobic’ on Conservative Home was being quoted against him out of context (which, to my mind, it was) and, consequently, he was ‘asserting copyright’ and withdrawing permission for people to reproduce his words in contexts he felt damagingly misrepresented their meaning and intent, while leaving them up on Conservative Home? Legalities aside, it would come over as a bit odd, would it not?
UPDATE: Obsolete has an insightful analysis of the row, which I’ve only just seen. I don’t wholly agree with it, but heartily concur with his final paragraph:
Blogging was meant to escape all that. If politicians themselves cannot engage in what those of us without party membership or any affiliation enjoy doing and reading [i.e. blogging], thanks to the politically motivated actions of others, then we will deserve the leaders and representatives that we get.