Here’s a round-up of some blogosphere commentary on the Whaleoil (Cameron Slater) story.
[If you need to backfill on this, a qick review of this NZ Herald story will get you up to speed.]
Whaleoil has a true friend in Cactus Kate. Not only is she prepared to stick up for him, even wondering if there is either a) some kind of set-up involved with Slater being in court on the same day as a “kiddy fiddler” (her words), or b) if the police are reluctantly pursuing the blogger because of an agenda being run from higher up.
I am wondering whether the Police actually want to charge Whaleoil with this crime? There are several factors that Whaleoil will use in his defence that make me think that their heart is not really in it and other external forces are at play.
This is interesting if a little ingenious. Rightwing bloggers were forever accusing the Labor government of politicising legal proceedings; but really coincidence or conspiracy? It seems an easy choice. But one thing about Ms Cactus, she’s also prepared to dish some tough love:
As I advise anyone who comes to Whaleoil’s attention, the best course of action is to be polite and either ignore what he has written or write to him in a manner which puts your side of the story and he will more often than not be reasonable enough to publish that. He has a short span of attention thanks to his depression and soon moves to a new target.
The worst course of action is to give Whaleoil opposition. He is mental. I mean this in a loving caring way to his friends, but to his foe he shows as much hatred as he does love for his friends. Whaleoil loves opposition, he loves conflict and more importantly will never back down.
This could be coded warning for people not to get in Whaleoil’s face about this, we’ll see. However, some are pointedly ignoring this advice and are getting stuck into Whaleoil. He has supporters and detractors in equal measure it would seem.
A bit of balance is provided by Andrew Geddis at Pundit, who headlines his post “Cameron Slater’s slightly wonky jihad” and is clearly not aware of CK’s advice to go easy on the big fella.
As Geddis points out, he is no friend of Whaleoil, but like many of us (including most bloggers), he has a serious interest in this case:
I’ve never met this fellow, who seems determined to brand his entire personality by the nom-de-web “Whaleoil” in a manner somewhat reminiscent of this clown. And given how Mr Slater chooses to present himself to the world, I really don’t think I’d gain any pleasure from such a meeting. Nevertheless, his current quest for martyrdom on a charge of breaching name suppression orders* raises complex, important and quite urgent questions.
Indeed, the issues are quite complex and quite urgent too. First there is the principle of open justice (which seems ill-defined and ill-administered at the best of times) which demands public scrutiny of the legal system and those who are slowly ground between its wheels.
Then there’s the freedom of expression argument, which Slater has used in his defence – for example citing the American “First Amendement” as a reason why there are no suppression laws in the USA [in this interview with Michael Laws and here on the TV3 website]. Today (6 Jan) Slater has actually moved this argument up with a new post at Gotcha.
Now consider the case of Michael Jackson. If he had lived in New Zealand and committed the crimes he was charged with in the USA then nobody would have been able to legally find out who he was. He could have theoretically continued on in his chosen career with so much as a hindrance because he would have obtained name suppression much like the “Entertainer” that I have allegedly named and now been charged for allegedly naming. [Name Suppression comparison @ Gotcha...]
However, I’m not sure that this is a convincing argument and comparing the Michael Jackson case to that of the well-known NZ entertainer who we can’t name is a long stretch. Of course, in the MJ case there was some suppression of the names/identities of his child-accusers and their families.
Another very timely issue is the lag between regulation and legislation being in place and the time at which a new technology can do things previously unthinkable. The suppression of evidence laws have been around for a long time and worked (up to a point, Lord Copper) reasonably well when all we had was the MSM: the morning newspaper, the radio bulletin and the six-0-clock news. But clearly in the age of global publication, YouTube and social media, this needs some attention. The techno-legal time gap exists in a variety of areas, including information privacy (and we can argue that suppression is a subset of this broader principle); and it is slowly being closed. The Law Commission report on evidence suppression certainly draws attention to this issue, as does the Slater/Whaleoil case.
What is complex, important and quite urgent is the balancing required in any situation of name suppression between a wide variety of important principles. Yes, freedom of expression is one such principle. That freedom helps to advance the important institutional value of open justice seen to be fair and impartially applied. But it also comes up against interests in privacy (for both the accused, who may not be guilty of anything, and the victim). As well as concerns about the ability of providing fair and impartial trials by jury in an atmosphere of media frenzy. These are tough issues, and anyone who thinks there is an easy answer to them is (by definition) simple minded. [Andrew Geddis @ Pundit...]
At the Dim-Post there’s a short piece, but the (hard to follow) comment thread is more interesting. [Sort of @ Dim-Post...]
Big News has a fairly straight piece, but the last par is well worth a visit. Nicely done, Dave. [...blogger back @ Big News...]
Unsurprisingly, Mr Slater has a second in his corner over at Not PC. [fight the good @ Not PC...] But with friends like these…
What he did on his blog, for which he’s being prosecuted, was to hint about the names of two low-lifes who were then before the courts; two low-lifes who were yet to be proven guilty, it’s true, but who were given name suppression solely on the basis of their “celebrity”—and whose names are still suppressed even now their guilt has been decided.
Thats the problem with Bloggers, they are their own worst enemy, they allow their egos to get super inflated, and I imagine that very soon, all those Bloggers that say David Bain is guilty will have a visit form the Police as well.
Let Cameron Slater take his punishment like a man and scare a bit of decency into the other bloggers…. this site wont be making any changes, we do not need to.
If Slater gets jail time, I won’t shed any tears for him.
It sometimes gets ugly in here and we need to get away. That’s why EM had a holiday for several weeks. Clears the air in the office, allows the keyboard to cool down and puts a healthy glow back in the cheeks. I think some others might well benefit from a break too.
There’s a more sensible and balanced approach from the BustedBlonde over at RoarPrawn. BB rhetorically asks if Whaleoil is a hero or a dork and then proceeds to answer in the affirmative:
We have spent a bit of time with him here and there over the last year or so and he openly admits to suffering depression.
He also claims to be mad and seriously after a few hours in his company its not hard to believe that a psychiatrist would certify him as bloody barmy at best and completely certifiable at worst.
But just because he suffers from depression doesn’t mean he is stupid. He is highly intelligent actually quite likeable and above all fearless.
For that we have a great deal of respect and admiration. [Hero or Dork @ RoarPrawn...]
I’m also wondering how much longer we can continue to comment on this case. Surely now Mr Slater’s had his first day in court this matter is actually sub judice and any commentary on innocence or guilt, on prior convictions, or about evidence to be presented may well be in contempt. That in itself would be another delicious irony.
I mentioned in yesterday’s post on this matter that there’s more to inequality and injustice in the law than the unequal application of suppression orders that are perceived to favour celebrities. But I think a more serious issue is raised by this post from The Standard, it’s from November last year, but in light of this, it is well worth re-reading.
We have an interesting trifecta of issues converging here: suppression, surveillance and searches [for evidence of misdoing]. I’d like to see Whaleoil and his supporters campaigning on these civil liberty issues too; that might give more credence to freedom of speech arguments.
Finally, I am not sure that this wild prediction from the wildly unpredictable (according to his friends) Whaleoil is yet prophecy or fallacy:
“Actually I doubt that the Police fully understand the Social media shit-storm that is about to be unleashed on them. If they wanted to set and example but keep it relatively quiet then they picked the wrong person.”
Whaleoil’s recent boastful prediction on his blog strikes me as perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of this story and it will play out over the next few months as the court case and the Law Commission report on suppression remain in the media spotlight.