Tuesday, 26 April 2022

Northern Independence Party leader Philip Proudfoot posted the following tweet today:

Proudfoot had been pursuing Oberman for quite some time and was able to take legal action because he had crowdfunded legal costs over social media. Without public support, I'm not sure his victory would have been possible. He was represented by Rahman Lowe Solicitors who I understand, have secured legal victories for other left-wing figures such as Ash Sarkar.

Some background to this:

Tracy Ann Oberman is a Z-list celebrity who was constantly getting into Twitter fights with left wing activists during the Corbyn years. She, along with another Z-lister, Rachel Riley, began suing many online leftists for libel and their lawyer even issued a legal threat to a 16 year old girl (although that threat was withdrawn once they'd received confirmation of her age).

Some people settled out of court because they felt intimidated by litigation proceedings or because their pockets were not deep enough. However, some did defend themselves, including my friend Jane Heybroek, who successfully defeated Oberman and Riley, securing a substantial pay out in the process.

While this victory was great and came as a huge relief, it also came at huge cost. Battles like this are hugely stressful and expensive and the consequences of losing are unthinkable - costs can run to hundreds of thousands of pounds. It gets worse, if you can't afford to continue defending yourself, you can lose by default and then lose everything you own, including your home. Even if you have a strong case, all it takes is one unsympathetic judge and you can be in trouble.

The reason I'm highlighting this is because it helps explain why Philip Proudfoot was so determined to pursue Tracy Ann Oberman and why he was so brave for doing so. I remember him insisting on Twitter that it's time for the left to fight back and not allow ourselves to be pushed around. Therefore, when he was libelled, he decided to crowdfund and take legal action - a hugely risky move. 

Here is the now deleted tweet:

"So a man called @PhilipProudfoot of @FreeNorthNow has a Jew blocklist. I've been out of the twitter politics loop for a few months but is this Party continuation Corbyn? Seems like it. And will it end up the same way? Seems like it. Good luck all."

We had thought the constant online attacks and vilification of the left were slowing down after Jeremy Corbyn resigned as Labour leader, however, new leftist movements quickly became targeted. And one of the figures targeted was the founder of the Northern Independence Party, who is a researcher in Political Anthropology, Development and Humanitarianism, and one of the nicest and most genuine people you could wish to encounter.

I remember Philip telling me how stressful he was finding the relentless online attacks against him. I'd experienced similar myself so I knew how stressful they could be. A lawyer once trawled through my tweets and told me to "enjoy the coming court case" saying "it couldn't happen to a nicer person", but thankfully, they had nothing actionable so it led nowhere. Still, they knew what they were doing, they were intimidating me. (To be clear, that threat was nothing to do with Oberman, I'm simply highlighting how I've been the victim of similar behaviour.)

When Proudfoot was receiving a barrage of attacks and false accusations, I told him about a mass-blocking tool I used which would auto-block the followers of any troll account. There was one particularly vicious troll account that had targeted Proudfoot and it had a substantial following, so he blocked all of its followers.

This account was known for accusing people of antisemitism and had accused Proudfoot of such because of some critiques he'd made of the Israeli government. The accusations were baseless and many Jewish figures leapt to Proudfoot's defence. However, when he blocked the followers of this account, he received an unexpected backlash.

Many of the followers of this account were Jewish and the ones who were targeting Proudfoot were discovering they were all blocked now. This led to their next line of attack: that Proudfoot must have a "Jewish block list" and must be blocking people simply for being Jews. (They'd previously attacked another friend of mine, James Foster, in the same way.)

Obviously, both of these men were innocent victims and Proudfoot, to his credit, decided he'd had enough. He therefore took the bold step of starting a fund raiser and fighting back against the people who were targeting him.

Tracy Ann Oberman made the mistake of joining in with the "Jewish block list" smear, and as she is a person who has targeted many people on the left with libel action, she absolutely became fair game. But as I pointed out previously, this was a hugely risky move on Proudfoot's part. 

What if he was unable to raise the necessary funds? Oberman is someone who has previously boasted of how lawyers are willing to represent her pro bono. Philip had no such luxury, but he did have a strong case. And he pursued Oberman until she humiliatingly backed down and agreed to pay damages. Some would call this karma. I would call it justice.

Personally, I find the libel laws in this country to be archaic and a huge threat to free speech. I therefore do not believe in pursuing individuals for libel in almost all cases. However, this was one such case where litigation was absolutely fair and necessary, and I congratulate Proudfoot, not only on his personal victory, but for courageously standing up for the online left.

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