Pressylta Redux
Arkiv: december 2005

Lördag 31 december 2005 - : - Final day, final thoughts

That a trial - perhaps the law itself - is essentially a stage set for competing narratives
is probably not that original a thing to say in these post-modern times. In fact, it's
pretty damn obvious, when you think about it. But I'll say it anyway, simply because
it's been driven home to me quite forcefully of late, and in more than one context.
In the Niema/Loreena trial, though, it became clearer than I'd ever seen it, because
here was a narrative combat staged on a multitude of levels.

First of all, there was the fundamental question: who writes Loreena McKennitt's story?
Loreena is clearly - how shall I put this? ummm - extremely keen to claim that
prerogative for herself, and for herself only. We know this through her actions in the
past, and she made it very clear in court too. Even if Niema's book had been gushingly
admiring and wholly uncritical, my guess is that Loreena would still have taken some
sort of action to stop publication. (And it should be said straight away, and I've said it
before too: Niema's book is very far from a hatchet job on Loreena - in fact, in many
places it is gushingly admiring. Anyone who's read the whole book, and not just the dirty
bits marked out by solicitors, can see that it was written far more in sadness than in

Second, and consequent on that fundamnetal question, there was a whole subset of
other, and smaller, competing narratives, most clearly set out in the 34 items Loreena's
lawyers wanted excised from the book (and out of which Judge Eady agreed to no more
than seven). Call them episodes. In the vast majority of these episodes it became a
question of whose subsequent interpretation of it should be, in the eyes of the law, the
dominant one. If you recall, on Wednesday I described how Narrative (a) lost out to
Narrative (b), and how this had absolutely nothing whatever to do with the fact that
Narrative (a) happens to be the truth, i.e. the "authentic" narrative. You and I might
want to call Narrative (b) a lie, but we would be wrong, because it was not the court's
job to establish truth or falsehood in any of these episodes. It was to asses the strength
of each episode in turn, much like a boxing referee does, round by round.

So what have we learned from all this? Well, one thing is that it helps if you have the
supreme narrative tool available to you right from the start, i.e. money. Without legal
representation, and with no more than four days to prepare this mammoth case,
Niema might as well have conducted her defense in Polish, to be honest. Not only
did Niema not have case law and precendents to hand, but most debilitating of all:
she spoke her narrative in the language you and I speak, with all its common sense
inflections, its hesitations, its asides, its occasional lack of certainty, its forthrightness,
its humanness. Obviously, Loreena's side spoke the local tongue fluently, Lawish, a
language which is both extremely rule-bound and extremely poor. So, of course, Mr
Justice Eady understood what they were saying very well. He had far more problems
with Niema, unfortunately.

And with that, let us bid this shit-hole of a year farewell, and welcome the new one with
fortitude and hope in our hearts!

Fredag 30 december 2005 - : - Andra kopplingar

Det är klart, paralleller finns ju mellan Persbrandt/Expressen och McKennitt v. Ash,
inte minst att Europadomstolens utlåtande i Carolinefallet åberopas i JK:s artikel
i DN idag. Nu rörde ju Carolinefallet Artikel 8 och privalivet helgd, som är ett mycket
mer luddigt område än rent förtal, som Persbrandts fall. Men vi har ju ingen direkt
sedvanerätt i Sverige heller, även praxis spelar en viss roll, så vad jag fattat får
Europadomstolens domar sina konsekvenser i form av ny lagstiftning. Men det kanske
andra kan upplysa mig om.

(For our English-speaking friends: Although the above mentions McKennitt v. Ash, it
only does so in relation to a similar case going on in Sweden just now. I will probably
write only one more thing on the Loreena business on this particular forum, in the
next few days, something along the lines of, "So if it's not about the truth, what
is it about?". I now believe it's almost entirely about who is allowed to deliver the
dominant narrative, who is allowed to tell the tale).

Torsdag 29 december 2005  - : - Overturning Denning, and other fun pursuits

Thus far, there have been no commentaries
from legal experts on Mr Justice Eady's
judgement in the McKennitt v. Ash case, at least as far as I've seen, so I'm fumbling
a bit in the dark here. But what seems clear is that the judgement will become case
law and so set a precedent for future cases concerning breach of confidentiality and
invasion of privacy. Some background here: At least as far as tabloid journalism is
concerned, they have until now operated under Lord Denning's "If-you-can't-stand-
the-heat" ruling from the 1970's, i.e. if someone deliberately seeks positive publicity
about themselves they will also have to accept negative publicity when facts and
circumstances allow. This is part of the legal backdrop to Britain's often rather brutal
tabloid culture. However, since Denning's ruling Britain has adopted the European
Convention on Human Rights, whose Article 8 talks about the right to privacy. The
debate since then has been about how to reconcile, in domestic courts, those provisions
with Article 10, which talks about freedom of expression, and a judgement has for
some time been awaited which would "overturn Denning" with the aid of the Human
Rights Convention. With Eady's judgement in the McKennitt v. Ash case, this is what
now seems to have happened.

In other words, the rules of the game have changed. Through this judgement, there is now
in English law increased legal protection for anyone, famous or not, who is the subject of
a published text, whether it's a tabloid article or a memoir. The question is, to what extent
has this decreased the scope of a writer's freedom of expression? Unfortunately, of course,
I can't in any useful way give a direct example of this from Niema's book, because all
the relevant instances have been placed under injunction... All I can (probably) do by way
of example is point to paragraph 1 of Article 8, which says: "Everyone has the right to
respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence." [My italics] With
this judgement it has now become disrespectful, and so subject to legal sanction under
Article 8, to describe to the general public the inside of someone's home (from seemingly
trivial stuff like how clean it is, what the layout is like, all the way up to what happens in
that particular home) without the homeowner's express permission. To do that, says Eady,
"is almost as objectionable as spying into the home with a long distance lens and publishing
the resulting photographs." This seems in my layman's eyes entirely new, and seems such
a portmanteau type of ruling, into which a claimant could cram far too much. But not only
that. To be on the safe side (a publisher's lawyers will now presumably say) a diarist like
James Lees-Milne, for example, will have to seek pre-publication permission from the owner
of every drawing room in which he happens to have had a cup of tea, if he wants to write
about the experience and include a description of the surroundings. Not only a hell of a chore,
one would have thought, but, in the process, what happens to the notion of authorship? That
is, what happens to the notion of an originator of a published text, if the subject of the text
has the right to pre-publication legal sanctions about even trivial stuff like the state of
cleanliness of his or her home? I don't know. You tell me.

Onsdag 28 december 2005 - : - A word on the Loreena business (+)

"Loreena McKennitt wins London privacy case against former friend" is certainly
one way of putting it, as YahooNews Canada did (Michael Posner's piece in the
Globe & Mail today is more detailed). But it is in many ways a curious sort of victory,
with seven out of 34 items ordered to be, not taken out as I understand it, but
simply rewritten, and a notably modest sum (£5000) awarded in damages to Loreena,
not apparently for any hurt caused by the book, but by the "ordeal" of being
subjected to two-and-a-half days of cross examination by Niema (who conducted
her own defence, her lawyers having unceremoniously scarpered when Niema's
money ran out a few days before the trial began). If there is a message from Mr
Justice Eady in all this, as there often seems to be in verdicts of this kind, it might
well be something like, "Haven't you people got anything better to do...?" Which,
for those of you with babel machines and memories stretching back to August, is
basically what I said from the start. Or at least that might be the first part of his
message, the second being the award of three-quarters of Loreena's costs to the
defendant, an estimated equivalent of half a million quid, thus bankrupting Niema.

The trial was held in camera, but friends of Niema were allowed to attend. I managed
three and a half days out of the seven (we were moving house at the same time) and
I have to confess it was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life, and one I still
- a month later - find it oddly difficult to write about. I think that's mainly because,
although I had heard this said before, I had not actually seen it with my own eyes:
namely the complete and utter irrelevance of the truth in an English court of law.
Take one example, the details of which are too complicated to go into, but it concerns
a sum of money given by Loreena to Niema and Tim some years ago, and whether
that money was at first (a) a very generous, no-strings-attached gift, which subsequently
turned into a loan, or (b) a property investment, with all that that entails in terms of
financial obligations, etc etc. We - that is, all of Niema's and Tim's and Loreena's friends -
have always known that the truth is (a). Why? Because we were there at the time, in
the sense that we were told about it when it happened. Mr Justice Eady has now decided
that the truth is (b). So what are we to do with "our" truth? Revise it? Let it live alongside
the other "truth"? No, not necessary, because "the other truth" isn't the truth, and was
never meant to be. So what is it? You tell me.

The 40-page verdict is a public document, but has not yet been made available on the
internet. How long that will take is anyone's guess. I'll come back in the next few days
about some of the legal implications for writers and journalists.

Kamrater, mötesdeltagare: jag har haft några helvetiska veckor, och det kommer
att fortsätta ett litet tag framöver, men håll ut, Pressylta återvänder så fort vi kan,
bland annat med ett avslöjande reportage om polska korvar.

Söndag 18 december 2005 - : - Legal news

Unconfirmed rumours have it that a judgement can be expected in the McKennitt
v. Ash case on Wednesday next week. If so, your correspondent will be there to
hear it and report back as soon as circumstances allow. To say we should hope for
the best is frankly a bit redundant, though. Hope has no place in law. But then,
neither does the truth.

Torsdag 15 december 2005 - : - Diverse

Lessen grabbar, men stress- och strulnivån är fortfarande alldeles för hög för att
Pressylta ska kunna återvända till någorlunda normal produktion, så det blir nog
rätt sporadiskt fram till jul sådär. Om jag har en nyårsönskan inför 2006 så är det
att till varje pris kunna undvika sakförare av alla de slag: sådana med peruk och
kappa eller sådana utan peruk och kappa, det spelar ingen roll, just get out of my

Och så är det ju den tid på året när det ska väljas bästa böcker, och det slår mig
att jag inte läser nyutkomna böcker längre. Sen när egentligen? Vet ej. Vad har
jag läst för böcker i år, överhuvudtaget? Hmmm... Jag läste om 'Dombey & Son' i
våras... Mer? Hmmm... Jo, Brecht-dikter också, eftersom Rudi skickade den fina
pocket-'Samlade'. Och så läste jag en Photoshop-manual. Och Niemas bok, så klart.
Men det är nog allt. Resten var, ähm, tidningar. Sad, or what?

Tisdag 13 december 2005 - : - Spillror från en flytt...

• Louis de Geers Singletonböcker... Jag tror jag sparat dom helt enkelt för att dom
är så vedervärdiga, och för att jag en gång funderade på att göra en radioserie
baserad på dem. En postmodernistiskt ironisk radioserie, dessutom...

• Gasräkningar från 1995 och framåt.

• 'Den onödiga samtiden' av Jan Myrdal och Lars Gustafsson. Som jag slängde,
eftersom jag ju inte behövde den.

• Ett par loafers! Inte visste jag att jag ägde ett par loafers... Hemskt.

• Vad gör man med LP-skivor? Sparar man dom, i väntan på att nån retrovåg ska
göra dom åtråvärda igen? Gäller det i så fall även Sven-Bertil Taube?

• Ett engelsk-litauisk-engelskt ficklexikon. Kan alltid vara bra att ha.

Måndag 12 december 2005 - : - You-know-what, samt framt

Stephen Glover i Independent har nu två veckor i rad gjort gällande att Guardians
berlinersatsning egentligen inte varit så framgångsrik som man hoppats på, dvs.
upplagemässigt. Novembersiffrorna visar att man håller sig precis ovanför 400,000
men det inkluderar 'bulks' (gratisex på flygplan osv) och tre lördagar i rad med
gratis-dvd för att locka impulsköpare. Hade Guardian haft aktieägare, menar Glover,
i stället för en vänligt inställd stiftelse, så hade VD nog vid det här laget fått svara
på en hel del detaljerade frågor. Att lägga ut sådana jättesummor på pressar som
kan trycka färg på alla sidor och 30,000 nya köpare, som lätt kan bli 25,000 och
nedåt över tid, kan vara svårt att rättfärdiga. Men men - redaktionellt håller den
fortfarande stilen, tycker jag.

Vad mer i december på Pressylta? Det kommer, som i fjol, 'Årets bästa/sämsta' vad
det lider, följt (också som i fjol) av 'Profetior för 2006'. För det är ju rätt märkligt att
nästan varenda en av spådomarna för 2005 har gått i uppfyllelse. Det är bara en
talang jag råkar ha.

Söndag 11 december 2005 - : - Back in the saddle again

Att återvända, med livet i behåll, till Pressylta har tagit längre än jag trodde. Och
bredband har fortfarande inte blivit installerat (fredag är senaste budet) så det är
en massa modemtjafs och en G3 som håller på att dö av hårddiskbråck och annat
tjosan. Men jag ska försöka få upp gasen, vad gäller inlägg, under den kommande
veckan. Det finns en hel del att skriva om på press- och media- och charkfronten
från Hackneyperspektiv (korvar från Anatolien, bara det...). Så håll korpgluggarna
öppna. Pressylta Re-Redux.

PS: Jag trodde först det var regnmoln som ilade förbi åt sydost. Det är röken från
explosionerna i Hertfordshire. Spooky.