Should John Howard sue for defamation over an anonymous website devoted to calling him a liar? Web publisher Graham
Young thinks so. See how the debate unfolded in the Crikey subscriber only emails here:

Does John Howard lie?

The internet is jam packed full of all sorts of crazy website, take
Crikey for example, but one amusing website which has popped up
recently is www.johnhowardlies.com a site devoted to the apparent exposure of Howard’s lies on various policies.

But what should Howard do about the proliferation of such sites? Sue
for defamation says Graham Young, the editor and the publisher of the
web forum On Line Opinion.

His thoughts on the topic on his website – John Howard should sue for all of us – is certainly worth a look.

JohnHowardlies.com v Graham Young

The team at www.johnhowardlies.com writes:

It’s not surprising, given his Liberal Party credentials, that Graham
Young would seek to defend (this morning’s sealed) the Prime Minister
and excuse his lies as being “human” and “in public office”.

What a shocking concession. Graham misses the point entirely.

First, the entire reason for cataloguing the mistruths, lies and
misrepresentation is that is not, and should not be, acceptable
behaviour and even less acceptable for those in public office to lie.
We are more than sick of the decline in the political discourse where
misrepresentations, distortions and straight out lying is now all too
familiar. Honesty has given way to “spin” which now appears to have
made way for actual untruths and lies. The current Government have
offended so much that it now is being passed off as almost expected and
acceptable behaviour. Well we don’t think it is.

Second, Graham is a more than a little hypocritical to use Crikey, a
site that regularly uses anonymous sources and has built its strong
news breaking reputation through its anonymous (for how long? – Ed)
National Political Editor, Hillary Bray, to condemn our anonymous
status simply as a means of promoting his own site and views.

We want the focus of the public debate to be on honesty and trust in
public life. That is the issue. Who we are is not relevant. After all,
the site simply catalogues in one place the statements of the Prime
Minister and his Ministers.

The traditions of Westminster and Ministerial responsibility have all
but disappeared. That we are standing up and saying enough is enough is
important and the issue. Who we are is not.

ends

The site was down for a while this afternoon but is up again tonight.
Unfortunately, it seems the owner of this scandalous website is not
wanting to be found given this who is response:

Domain Name: JOHNHOWARDLIES.COM
Reseller…………..: bottle domains
Created on…………: Jun 17, 2004 12:00:00 AM
Expires on…………: Jun 16, 2005 12:00:00 AM
Record last updated on: Jun 17, 2004 12:00:00 AM
Status…………….: ACTIVE
Owner, Administrative Contact, Technical Contact, Billing Contact:
ABC DEF (ID00124517)
123 Fourfive St Surfers Paradise, TAS 7003 AU
Phone: +61.123456789
Email: [email protected]
Domain servers in listed order:
PRIMARY.ALLNETPLUS.COM
SECONDARY.ALLNETPLUS.COM

Graham Young hits back at anonymous webbies

Dear Crikey,

We may not know the identity of the “team” at John Howard lies, but
based on their response to my article we are beginning to know some
things about them.

They are selectively honest. In my article I never once “defend”
or “excuse” John Howard for any lies he may have made as they claim.

They are also hypocritical. Apparently it is significant to the
worth of what I say that I have “Liberal Party credentials” but their
own credentials have no bearing on the worth of what they say and can
therefore be hidden.

Self-righteousness is another characteristic that comes to mind.
According to them “the entire reason for cataloguing the mistruths,
lies and misrepresentation is that is not, and should not be,
acceptable behaviour and even less acceptable for those in public
office to lie.” So, should we assume that this is just the first
site, to be followed soon by www.marklathamlies.com,
www.andrewbartlettlies.com and www.bobbrownlies.com? Or is such outrage
selective?

They are the ones who miss the mark in their criticism of my “use” of
Crikey to “promot[e]” my “own site and views”. Of course I
send press releases out, just as others do. I assume the person
who had me on a bulk email list and spammed me with the John Howard
Lies URL did so as part of the “team’s” efforts to promote their own
site – I don’t criticise them for that.

I have no control over what media outlets carry references to my site,
but even if I did, I would have no problems allowing Crikey to publish
just because Hillary Bray is anonymous. We know that Stephen
Mayne stands behind whatever is published on his site and that he is
prepared to lay his body and wallet on the line to defend it.
Either that or retract and apologise. Crikey! is not anonymous!

What we don’t know is who stands behind www.johnhowardlies.com.
If the “team” is serious about their dedication to “honesty and trust
in public life”, then they will give us that detail. Otherwise we
will be justified in viewing their efforts as being little more than
the production of a hate site. If they had themselves been up
front and honest there wouldn’t have been a story.

Graham Young

Chief Editor On Line Opinion
Executive Director

Peter Fray

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