8th January, 2012

Pickled Politics is coming to an end

by Sunny at 11:35 am    

I think I’m merely stating what has become obvious now.

For the last few months, I’ve been working on my new project – Rippla – and my blogging energy went into writing for Liberal Conspiracy or editing it (which takes up a lot of time too). Rumbold has a new job that makes it difficult for him to find the time too. Only Jai has had the time to blog properly.

We wanted to host a new conversation on race, religion and identity politics in general. We gave voices to people who felt a certain way, annoyed people, entertained them and pushed an agenda that slowly made its way into the national conversation. I made lots of mistakes, lots of friends and learnt about politics faster than any other way possible.

If you don’t have regrets then you didn’t make much impact. But more than the badly titled posts or the flame-wars or the arguments – I had lots of fun blogging and creating mischief.

But everything has to come to an end. We started September 2005 – racking up over 14,000 posts over six and a half years. We thank the bazillions of wonderful visitors and commentators (including the mad ones) for making this place interesting and occasionally informative.

You can catch me on Twitter or on Liberal Conspiracy. I’ll sign off with the photo I think best encapsulated Pickled Politics.

ALSO: I apologise to all the people who’s emails I didn’t reply to. There were too many :(

Rumbold adds: I would like to say thank you as well to everyone who made this such an enjoyable place. I made a lot of friends here, and had so many interesting debates.

It also exposed me to issues I would never have given much thought to. Things like far-right groups and ‘honour’-based violence aren’t going to stop just because we have (sadly), but I hope we at least raised awareness and understanding of the latter and maybe contributed to some positive changes, whilst giving the former a (metaphorical) black eye.

We won’t completely vanish however. Elton John is going to update ‘Candle in the Wind’ for us (“Goodbye Hounslow’s Rose”) and Sunny will be appearing in the next series of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’.

Jai adds: I would like to add my heartfelt thanks to PP’s readers, the editorial team, and everyone who has made a positive contribution to the comments threads. We’ve jointly managed to do a lot of good work here, and your kind support, involvement and feedback has always been invaluable.

Many commenters and writers have passed through this website’s doors since 2005, and some long-term regulars are still with us. It’s fascinating how the articles and discussions have evolved over the years, especially in response to major real-world events. For my part, I’ve learnt a great deal as a result of my participation on Pickled Politics. It’s been quite a ride; we’ve had days of high drama, times of fierce debate, and moments of tremendous warmth and humour.

To those of you who don’t want the story to end: The logical decision would be to collectively relocate to Liberal Conspiracy.

Good luck for the future, everyone. It’s been an honour.

Filed under: Blog
16th December, 2011

Christopher Hitchens death is no reason to avoid criticism of him

by Kulvinder at 11:03 pm    

The death of any prominent individual – let alone one who held controversial views – always results in a certain amount of aggravation as the skeins of supporters flock to various forms of media to have one final fight about the irreplaceable stature or utter irrelevance of the recently deceased.

Continue Reading...
Filed under: Blog,Culture,Media
18th September, 2011

I’m working on a new project

by Sunny at 4:21 pm    

It wouldn’t have escaped your notice that I’ve been blogging a lot less here lately. This isn’t just because running Liberal Conspiracy is a full time job – it is because I’ve been working on another big project.

Eons ago, long before I got into blogging, writing or anything to do with the media, I worked at a technology start-up. I joined straight after university and the ‘dotcom boom’ was in full swing. I’d always been interested in the tech industry and had tried to start two companies during those days (while I was working full time).

Unfortunately, the market soured by 2001 and despite our well-thoughout business plans (a rarity in those days), no one wanted to invest. I wouldn’t say the tech boom is back but I’ve caught the bug again.

For the past 5 months I’ve been working on a project more ambitious than anything I’ve done before. It has been painstakingly slow to develop because I had little time and because a brotha has to eat and sleep occasionally too. But I’ve had some help, which has made it easier.

Hence – blogging has been light. I’ll be launching within a few weeks. I’m not allowed to say what it’s about until then. But I thought I owed you guys an explanation at least for the pitiful lack of content.

Filed under: Blog
22nd June, 2011

Crowing over Brian Haw’s death

by Sunny at 10:30 am    

You may have heard that peace campaigner Brian Haw died last week. Haw wasn’t a perfect man by any stretch of the imagination. But he had good ideals, he was campaigning for peace and he stuck by his mission. I deeply respect him for that. LBC radio regularly called me for a comment on why Haw should have the right to occupy that space and I resolutely defended his right every time.

Far from showing any sympathy however, Harry’s Place regular contributor “Libby T” is crowing over his death, calling him “insane to the end”, a “nut”, “lunatic”, “mad” and a “political quack”. I’m sure the fact that Haw opposed a war in Iraq that bloggers at Harry’s Place keep defending (like a bunch of inbred disease-ridden rats) has nothing to do with it.

Gimpy, who blogged about Brian Haw’s condition is right when he says:

Mr Haw’s cancer was almost certainly incurable, but rather than spending his final days being cared for by medical professionals in the UK, he was sent to Germany by conspiracy theorists, offered the false prospect of a cure, and was subjected to unnecessary and ineffective treatments.

There is certain to be a resurgence of debate about Mr Haw’s principles, politics and behaviour as a result of his death, but probably little on the circumstances surrounding it. Regardless of what you may think of Mr Haw, perhaps the greatest injustice he has undergone in the last decade is not the disruption, court actions and parliamentary discussion surrounding his protest, all of which have been debated and ruled on by a transparent democratic and legal system, but the falsities told to him by supporters of alternative medicine in denial of the facts.

Homoeopathy is dangerous when it gives people false hope. Maybe Haw believed that it could help him where conventional medicine couldn’t. Desperate people do desperate things.

But all this is irrelevant to bloggers at Harry’s Place. What matters there is the willingness to use the death of a person to advance the convoluted argument that people who opposed the war were “mad”.

Fellow blogger Neil D defends the blog-post in the comments below by asking: “Are we to remain silent while Penny and Benn wax lyrical about him?“. No, clearly you’re meant to react by dancing on his grave. Just wow.

12th April, 2011

The difficulties in moderating large websites and blogs

by Sunny at 6:24 pm    

Women’s Views on News has an article criticising the comments that many feminist articles on CIF get.

Instead of dealing with these misogynistic and deeply offensive comments, CiF allowed them to dominate the thread.

The editorial team must be aware of the power of their online platform, and their trusted name, and how damaging it is when set to promote an agenda which is discriminatory and founded upon misleading facts and lies. So, why is it doing it?

As a writer for CIF (but I criticise the Guardian enough so I’m not doing this merely because they occasionally pay me for articles) – I’ve also had similar comments being chucked my way. So I sympathise.

But ultimately I sympathise with the CIF crew, partly because I face similar complaints at Liberal Conspiracy.

I think there are a few ways to approach this.

A conflict of rights
Big blogs have to weight up the right to free speech and a mix of views (which we believe in) within the boundaries of the rules. The rules are that misogyny, racism, homophobia, ad hominem abuse etc is deleted. But the line is not always clear-cut and I constantly get abused for being a ‘censorship nazi’ (which I relish). Most of my co-moderators are more afraid of deleting comments in case they get it wrong and are criticised over it heavily.

So it becomes a tricky balancing act to ensure that people are allowed to say things that others find uncomfortable or distasteful but are still within the boundaries of civil debate and not bigoted. I’m not saying this line is always navigated perfectly. But there will always be some comments that people find racist, homophobic or misogynist because the intention is inferred rather than written outright. In those cases we have to judge the intention of the commenter, and this is not always straightforward.

The numbers are large
CIF gets tons more comments than Libcon does, which makes it harder to police and harder to quickly judge whether a comment is out of order or not. I’m not always around to moderate comments – and even then its post-moderated. This means people don’t have to wait for comments to be approved before carrying on a debate.

This works on LC because most people are well-behaved (and I’ve rooted out trouble-makers) and on CIF it would be difficult otherwise as they have so much debate going on. But its near impossible to police debates so tightly that all debates go in the right direction. It frustrates me as it frustrates Natalie Hanman of CIF when debates get hijacked. But its difficult to justify deleting a comment that does not strictly adhere to the direction the editors want it to go into.

But it is neither about just feminist topics (any topic can get hijacked, and lots of debates turn into arguments), nor is it that we encourage such people. It is the nature of popular sites that they attract a range of readers.

It is also my view that left-wingers prefer ‘safe spaces’ more than right-wingers: and so they end up dominating on Twitter (which is why I add Twitter trackbacks to articles on LC to reflect that), while right-wingers spend more time commenting across blogs. Our posts on the economy for example turn up right-wingers who work in finance. We can’t ban them nor stop them from spouting right-wing economics. The job of lefties should be to argue back (in a civil manner of course).

There will never be a happy medium
Those hoping the situation can be resolved if enough pressure is put on the Guardian are wrong, I think. It won’t happen. However there are technical solutions I would say they should take up (a popular one is where comments flagged up as ‘offensive’ by enough fellow readers) automatically gets a negative ranking and is then ‘hidden’. It can be viewed by people who want to view ‘all comments’ but won’t appear by default. Slashdot.org had this version of commenting.

Gawker and others also implemented a version of this last year I believe, which gave long-time loyal commenters some extra power in being able to ‘hide’ offensive comments. There are several variations of this.

In the end I would say this. Neither CIF nor Liberal Conspiracy are, by the nature of their popularity, ‘safe spaces’ where one side can just talk amongst themselves with given assumptions (though LC rarely hosts articles by right-wingers as CIF does). I also think engaging with right-wingers sometimes makes them more sympathetic to leftie positions than if they were banished to right-wing websites.

Filed under: Blog,Media
31st December, 2010

How sectarianism works

by Sunny at 11:18 am    

So I write a blogpost about how people from the SWP always try and denounce others, and I get a whole bunch of SWP fans on Twitter saying ‘OMG its not true, we never do that!’, including Richard Seymour from Lenin’s Tomb. The next day he writes a blogpost taking personal potshots at Aaron Peters, an activist and student, going by the exact script I outlined in my post.

Let’s check the score-sheet: (1) personal attacks – check. (2) Criticising him for being on the centre-left – check. (3) Accusing anyone of supporting mutuals as being very little to different to Osbornomics (sectarianism) – check. Bonus: believing crap in the Daily Mail to feed his narrative. Don’t you get ousted from the SWP these days for taking the Mail at face value?

I like mutuals. I like the Co-operative. I like John Lewis. I’m happy to support this effort by UKuncut, which prompted Richard to write a post dredging up all the personal past stuff (‘omg he actually said on Facebook he was employed by Demos, but he just interned! Wot a liar!‘)…. literally a day after he accuses me of being McCarthyite.

The substantive point is this: I don’t care if some people believe supporting Mutualism is akin to working at Goldman Sachs. Take your simplistic view of the world and shove it. I believe there is a massive distinction.

The whole point about not being sectarian is that you don’t go around telling other people, what events to run and what to support – just because it doesn’t match with your level of radicalism. Organise your own damn event if you want. Just because some people within UKuncut support mutuals, that must mean they support the privatisation of Royal Mail> This is the level of debate we’re supposed to engage with? Screw that.

Overall, I think Richard Seymour is a good bloke. He means well. But like other SWP people he sings the praises of unity while constantly engaging in the SWP tactics I mentioned earlier. Unless these folks shed their old habits they will always be regarded with suspicion by large parts of the left.

Update: Aaron Peters has written a reply to Richard.

Filed under: Blog
1st December, 2010

Out of town

by Sunny at 9:05 am    

Hi all – sorry for the lack of blogging but I’m out of town all this week. Back on the weekend, will resume then. Istanbul is very, very nice, thanks for asking :)

Filed under: Blog
23rd September, 2010

Interviewed by Kate Hudson from CND

by Sunny at 9:42 am    

I was interviewed by Kate Hudson of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament this week. Talked about why I decided to join the Labour party and how we should fight the cuts.
The interview is done by Reality Radio – who focus on politics related interviews.

(I apologise in advance for you having to see my face on the thing above. Not by my design, honest)

Filed under: Blog
17th September, 2010

Still around…

by Sunny at 4:43 am    

Sorry I’ve not blogged for a little while – been very busy with work and writing. I was also in Macedonia this week for a conference which was quite entertaining, and relaxing. The views were amazing.
I’ll be back soon, promise!

This was the view from my hotel room! (looking towards Albania)

Filed under: Blog
19th August, 2010

Another smear attempt fails

by Sunny at 8:02 am    

This should be turned into a series titled ‘Harry’s Place smear attempts’. This one started with Nick Cohen, who is briefed by Tory Bear and promptly churns out a shoddy smear-attempt at a guy called Seph Brown (I don’t know him, but I’ve been following the way TB has tried to hound him for a while).

The blog post gets picked up and run by Michael Ezra at HP… who is then forced to do continual updates until the whole thing is rendered meaningless. What an embarassment again. Hilarious that some people are even too lazy to use Google (or their own blog search) these days. But if your aim is to smear someone as an anti-semite, who cares about facts? Someone should create a journalism label for that blog – ‘Warning: This is an attempt to smear someone as an anti-semite’ – since it’s become such a regular occurrence.

Update: Seph Brown responds – illustrating how dishonest Nick Cohen is.

Filed under: Blog,Race politics
17th August, 2010

More evidence that I tweet too much…

by Sunny at 3:00 pm    

According to Tweetminster, who have compiled a report of how the Coalition has been doing on Twitter – I’m in the top 20 of media ‘influencers’ on Twitter. The full graphic is here. Seems all that time wasted on Twitter hasn’t entirely gone to waste. Kind of.

Filed under: Blog
6th August, 2010

Harry’s Place continues to implode

by Sunny at 4:17 pm    

Regular readers may remember a commenter called ‘Terry Fitz’ who used to post abusive comments here, directed at me, because I didn’t agree with his thinly veiled racism.

After being banned from PP he started hanging around at Harry’s Place – who happily allowed him to publish guest articles, and make constant comments having a go at me over anything and everything.

A few weeks ago I pointed out that Terry Fitz was charged for racially aggravated harassment. Nevertheless, HP and their poorer sidekick kept publishing his comments etc. Oh look, now it turns out, shock horror, that he really is a racist goon.

Continue Reading...
Filed under: Blog
1st August, 2010

Edit your own comments

by Sunny at 5:17 am    

Due to popular demand (and lots of threats), I’ve found a plugin to edit your own comments. It seems the previous one stopped being developed. Anyway, once you post a comment you’ll see a link titled ‘edit this’ on the same line as your name. Allows you to change it within 30 min. It’s a slightly different system, and not dynamic as before. Give it a whirl etc

Filed under: Blog
8th July, 2010

…and we’re back

by Sunny at 4:15 am    

So you lot can stop emailing me with complaints about the theme now, thanks. I had a stroke of UNIX genius and managed to recover old files. Voila.

Filed under: Blog
1st July, 2010

New theme….

by Sunny at 2:24 am    

Well, the old PP look has definitely gone. I can’t seem to retrieve it from any of the back-ups. And the ‘retro’ theme was a bit too complicated to modify as I wanted. So how about this one? Or do you not care? I’m still in experimental mode…

On blogging generally, I’m still recovering from the Libcon conference – which took a hell of a lot of time and, while being very successful, left me with a big backlog of work. So I’ll be a bit sporadic for the next few days at least.

Filed under: Blog
28th June, 2010

Let’s try this again…

by Sunny at 5:29 am    

For some reason the server has been using up a lot of memory – affecting PP heavily all last week. Hence the constant outages. I don’t know if this is sorted yet, but I’m still working on it. Unfortunately, I also deleted the blog theme that I created and can’t find a back-up. So, for the time being, we have the old one.

Either I’ll try and find the theme or create a new one. Maybe PP does need a fresh look. Are you still having problems accessing?

Filed under: Blog
25th June, 2010

Back to life…?

by Sunny at 7:28 am    

I’m still trying to figure out why the blog keeps being inaccessible. I have a feeling it has something to do with upgrading to WordPress 3.0 but I’m not yet sure. I may try and revert back to try and test this over the weekend.

In the meantime, if it starts working fine for you, please let me know. cheers!

Filed under: Blog
24th June, 2010

Terry Fitzpatrick

by Sunny at 4:02 am    

According to this blog, Terry Fitzpatrick, an east London based activist has been charged for racially aggravated harassment. Fitzpatrick was a frequent commenter on PP before he was banned for being abusive. He now spends a lot of time slagging us off on other blogs and writing long incoherent rants.

Filed under: Blog
3rd June, 2010

Mwahahaha!

by Sunny at 12:56 pm    

According to Wikio, Liberal Conspiracy is now the second most talked about blog in the UK:

The Wikio ranking is measured by incoming editorial links (i.e., not blogrolls) from blogs registered with Wikio which appear in RSS feeds. To be clear (again), this is no measure of traffic. Links are weighted by time, prominence of the linking blog, and prominence of the link in the linking article.

Mmmmm…. nice.

Filed under: Blog
29th May, 2010

Pickled Politics meetup on the 12th June

by Rumbold at 8:47 pm    

We are having a Pickled Politics meetup on the 12th June. It will be in Central London, in the late afternoon. E-mail pickledrumbold[at]gmail.com for more details if you would like to attend.

Filed under: Blog
8th April, 2010

Virus problems

by Sunny at 2:57 pm    

Hi all,
Several of you pointed out a virus problem on here. Having done some investigation into this, I’ve found that the ‘Trojan.Script.Iframer’ virus had infected the blog. It’s a trojan that set up an iframe (now removed) and leads people’s computers to other places.

It looks like my computer is affected (it secretly uploads to the server using my settings and then changes a file to insert some code). I’ve removed the malicious code – do let me know here if you see it again. I’m now off to nuke my own computer :(

It shouldn’t affect your computer – but as a precaution you should run a virus scan anyway. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Filed under: Blog
7th April, 2010

David T and Socialist Unity libel action: unacceptable behaviour

by Sunny at 1:09 am    

Rumbold recently wrote of an attempt by George Galloway to sue David T of Harry’s Place over some comments he made. At the time, I said I supported David T, having also been the subject of several libel letters. Libel law is unfairly stacked against people being sued and I sympathised with his predicament.

But I find this unacceptable and frankly rather grotesque. Andy Newman is right: the precedent set could be horrendous for other bloggers:

Continue Reading...
Filed under: Blog,Civil liberties
2nd April, 2010

Happy Easter!

by Sunny at 11:44 pm    

Tomorrow I think I’m going to write a bit about my trip, just because it needs to come out somewhere… I have nice pics too? What are you lot doing this long weekend? Anything interesting?

Filed under: Blog
25th March, 2010

It’s hot here in northern Thailand

by Sunny at 7:34 am    

Jeebus! I don’t want to make you lot jealous or anything but I’m getting a nice tan out here (believe me, I need one). I’m currently in northern Thailand – a small town called Pai just north of Chiang Mai. We thought it would be a quiet little place, but it’s pretty much back-packer central (though the town is about 5 streets big).

It took a mission to get here – straight from the capital of Laos (Vientiane), via Thailand’s excellent but a bit manic bus system. Unfortunately their train system isn’t quite up to scratch. About a week more of taking in the sun, doing a bit of sitting around reading, and I should be back by the end of the month. I haven’t written anything substantial for a few weeks now and the fingers are getting itchy.

On the other hand, it’s good to see that I’ve missed absolutely nothing so far while away. Apart from Obama passing healthcare, nothing interesting seems to have happened in the western political hemisphere. Just the way I like it.

Filed under: Blog
19th March, 2010

Defend David T

by Rumbold at 1:17 pm    

David T of Harry’s Place is being sued by George Galloway and one of Mr. Galloway’s collegues, Kevin Ovenden. They are demanding £50,000 for a comment left on another blog. The comment he made wasn’t nice or correct, but as Richard Bartholomew put it:

The legal threat seems to me to be badly conceived. I’m sure that Galloway and Overden are against the anti-Jewish hadith in Hamas Covenant, but while it’s there anyone who meets a Hamas governmental official risks being tarnished by association. Blame Hamas for that. And of course it’s annoying when a political opponent extrapolates a supposedly logical chain from one’s activities or position to the conclusion that in some deeper “objective” sense one is in fact supporting something else, but that’s life and to be allowed to do it is essential to public debate.

A lot of people have a lot of criticisms to make of David T and Harry’s Place. Fine. However, it is irrelevant in this context. The comment was clearly a joke, and should in no way be the cause of a libel action. Bloggers are only able to operate because of a modicum of freedom of speech, and for every frivolous libel action we fail to stand against, our future as bloggers becomes that bit grimmer.

Filed under: Blog,Civil liberties
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