Noel Doran On The Pensive Quill and Anthony McIntyre

Noel Doran is the editor of the Irish News in Belfast.

A US blog on international judicial assistance may not often be asked to consider the curious story of an Irish writer who does not exist, but regular readers of Letters Blogatory are unlikely to be surprised by the latest twists in the case of Anthony McIntyre.

Anthony, lead researcher on Boston College’s much discussed Belfast Project, offered a perspective on his bizarre decision to publish personal attacks on an Irish News journalist under an invented by-line, and I am grateful to Ted Folkman for the opportunity to respond.

It seems to me that the basic credibility of Anthony and his blog, The Pensive Quill (TPQ), is on the line, and I feel that the areas where he has contradicted himself, and failed to observe the basic standards which he and his websites have set out in the past, can be readily identified.

I should acknowledge from the start that I have attempted to directly engage with Anthony on these matters, only to find him find him immediately referring me to his lawyer (see his August 22 email).

We can obviously both rely on solicitors, if that is his wish, but my preference has always been to reach a voluntary agreement on the removal of offensive material from TPQ.

This is standard practice for responsible bloggers, and is exactly what Anthony did on the last occasion when I pointed out that he had published a defamatory article about The Irish News 16 months ago.

Anthony has indicated that he intends to take a different approach this time, and says he regards himself as a victim of censorship, although I believe it would be much more accurate to say that presenting misleading and indeed false allegations, without any discernible form of research, has very little to do with freedom of speech.

I do not think that at this stage it would be legally appropriate to go over the defamatory claims which have appeared on his website, and, unlike Anthony, I am certainly not going to refer to perceptions about anyone’s private life.

Instead, I will concentrate on the strange circumstances surrounding the appearance of one Paul Campbell as the author of another extremely hostile piece about The Irish News which surfaced on TPQ.

Paul was introduced simply as a ‘guest writer,’ as regularly happens on TPQ, and Anthony subsequently went out of his way to insist that his new contributor was an important figure.

Anthony used his website to lambaste the work of the Irish News journalist Allison Morris and said in a comment to his post: ‘not one f#$! do we give. It is the Battle of the Blogside and we are up for it. And with writers like Paul standing at the ready we will be there to the end.’

It was only after a series of online challenges that he finally admitted the truth—Paul Campbell, the writer with whom he was standing shoulder to shoulder in what was portrayed as a great struggle, is not a real person.

Anthony still continued to defend his use of the pseudonym and maintained resolutely that he and Paul Campbell were two separate individuals. Responding to a query, Anthony said (in a later comment to his post), ‘If you think the author was part of the TPQ team (as) either me or my other half (Carrie Twomey)—that would be a gross mistake. I always write under my own name; she under hers or Rusty Nail. The author was a guest writer wholly external to TPQ but obviously writing for publication in TPQ and on those grounds would be within their remit to talk to whoever they like as TPQ.’

This unusual form of words could only be taken to mean that Paul Campbell, whoever that person may really be, had carried out the research and interviews for the article which eventually appeared on TPQ.

However, a simple check with Hugh Jordan, the Sunday World journalist quoted extensively in the Paul Campbell piece, immediately confirmed that the only person who had contacted him was not ‘a guest writer wholly external to TPQ’ but Anthony himself, specifically requesting that a comment should be forwarded to his own email address.

This was an enormous u-turn from the firm position taken on the use of deceptive by-lines when Anthony and Carrie Twomey edited another website, The Blanket.

In a 2003 piece headlined ‘Nameless, Faceless, an apology to our readers: have the courage to stand over what you say,’ Carrie made her feelings on the practice clear.

She wrote:

It has come to our attention that a recent contributor to the Blanket, “Adam O’Toole,” is in fact a pseudonym. The Blanket has a long standing policy of not publishing anonymous articles, and of discouraging the use of pseudonyms, especially in polemical articles that attack named persons, unless there is a legitimate reason for needing a pseudonym.

Carrie concluded: ‘In knowingly deceiving us he also deceived our readers and because we took him at face value ultimately we are at fault for publishing his deceit. Whatever else may be said about the Blanket, a “Coward’s Corner” is something we have endeavoured since day one that we would never become.’

It is plain that the Paul Campbell piece, which used a pseudonym to attack a named person, is precisely the kind of article which Carrie found so repugnant when she and Anthony edited The Blanket.

There is little point in approaching Anthony through TPQ, which has established a reputation for confrontation and vulgarity, and—even though he previously wrote that he would not allow personal abuse—still features articles and comments in which those who do not agree with his views are labelled as ‘liars,’ ‘low-lives,’ a ‘viper,’ or earlier this month, ‘a bunch of c@#$%.’

Anthony’s recent posts have included suggestions that The Irish News is involved in an attempt to shut down his website and that I, as editor of the paper, somehow dictated the contents of a letter to him from the National Union of Journalists. A single call, which was never made, would have established that both allegations are entirely false.

The way forward for Anthony should be to look at the initial descriptions he applied to Paul Campbell, compare them to the principles he once attached to his websites and decide if he intends to stand over his publication of the piece of August 7. A positive reply to my request for the removal of the article carried under a fabricated by-line would be a welcome step.

26 thoughts on “Noel Doran On The Pensive Quill and Anthony McIntyre

  1. Noel, thanks for this. It will be interesting to see how the discussion develops.

    I do not think Anthony McIntyre has admitted that “Paul Campbell” is a pseudonym. I do think, however, that it is fair to infer that it is a pseudonym.

    I think you probably overstate things when you suggest that a blogger’s responsibility is not to publish things that cause offense. Obviously a blogger should not publish things that are not true. But the value, appropriateness, and tastefulness of the blogger’s articles is really a matter for his or her editorial judgment. Some do better at this than others. But I don’t think that a reader or the subject of an article should be able to claim offense and thus have a veto over a blog’s content. All that being said, it’s clear that Anthony McIntyre has published comments on his blog that I would not publish here, including the apparently pseudonymous attack on Allison Morris that you focus on here.

  2. Also, I wanted to ask you about the new NUJ complaint against McIntyre that he reprinted today. The complaint states: “one of those named in the article has confirmed to two separate people within the Irish News that he only spoke to Mr. McIntyre about this matter and has never heard of ‘Paul Campbell.'” The suggestion is that Campbell is McIntyre. You make the same argument in your piece, and I take it that you yourself spoke with Hugh Jordan. Are you one of the “two people within the Irish News” referenced in the NUJ complaint, and if so, did you pass the information on to the NUJ? I am trying to determine the extent, if any, to which your efforts, reflected in your article, are coordinated with the NUJ’s efforts.

  3. As the Editor of the Blanket, our policy, as quoted above, is clear, as was the issue of Adam O’Toole, aka Niall Meehan of Griffith College’s Journalism Department in Dublin.

    Niall Meehan had submitted work to the Blanket under false pretenses; at the time it was believed the”Adam O’Toole” emailing us was a real person named “Adam O’Toole”, and his work was published. More the fool us, for accepting emails at face value back then! As it transpired (the details are in the link Noel provided), Niall Meehan was using a number of web-based emailers, all with fake names, and it turned out we had published all his aliases’ submissions under their own fake name.

    Lesson learned! If we are going to stand over anyone’s work, which we do every time we publish, then we have to know whose work it is we are standing over. We didn’t encourage pseudonyms and did not publish anonymous articles. What we learned from Niall Meehan is that we had to demand contact details and verify identity before publishing. This was never a bar to publication, as Noel Doran helpfully quoted, if there was a legitimate need for the use of a pseudonym, we could come to an arrangement with a writer — as long as we knew who they were, and what the reason was, and that the writer used a consistent name, so as not to mislead readers as Niall Meehan had done with his imaginary gang. After the Meehan experience, if anyone refused to allow us to verify who they were, they were not published.

    The Pensive Quill knows Paul Campbell. Noel Doran does not. That is not our problem.

    I think it’s been made abundantly clear that The Pensive Quill stands over Paul Campbell’s article, and everything it has published in regards to the Irish News and its reporter, Allison Morris. I am amazed, frankly, that this is what concerns Noel Doran. You’d think he would have more pressing things to worry about.

    As you can see from the link to the correspondence between him and Anthony, he was repeatedly invited to put his views across on the Quill. It was also noted that he could not provide specifics as to what he was objecting to, or support for his objections that had any substance to them. I see he is continuing that here, which is odd enough in itself. Why refuse right-of-reply on the Quill where the problem is occurring and take it up on Letters Blogatory? It’s his choice, of course, but it does seem silly.

    At every turn Noel Doran fails to challenge the central issues – the actions of his reporter. The criticism stands.

    If you’ll bear with me for a little fisking:

    We can obviously both rely on solicitors, if that is his wish, but my preference has always been to reach a voluntary agreement on the removal of offensive material from TPQ.

    Amazing the swift arrival of the solicitor’s letter after the inane correspondence from Noel Doran, who only wants a voluntary agreement to remove material – and if you don’t agree to remove it, will get the lawyers. Having been down this road before with Noel over a previous article, we knew his emails were only a pretext. Shit or get off the pot, Mr Doran. This whole thing has been a tedious waste of time. Without providing any substantial basis for removing the article, which he was repeatedly asked for, it was never going to be removed. “I don’t like what you’ve said” is not enough. And even here, all he can muster is that he doesn’t know who Paul Campbell is. Tough. The article stands.

    This is standard practice for responsible bloggers, and is exactly what Anthony did on the last occasion when I pointed out that he had published a defamatory article about The Irish News 16 months ago.

    It is not exactly what Anthony did.

    Anthony has indicated that he intends to take a different approach this time, and says he regards himself as a victim of censorship

    Anthony is taking the exact same approach he outlined to Noel Doran the first time this one-two feint was tried:

    Noel,
    We have been abroad from the day you first contacted us, and we are still abroad. Your email from Friday was not opened until Sunday. We have made efforts to contact our host server to find out the legal situation, given that our website is hosted in the U.S. and any publication on our website is protected by the First Amendment. It is our understanding that, if litigation were to be pursued, an action would have to be brought in the United States, or under its laws. However as you may be aware it is a U.S. holiday (Memorial Day) which has added to the delay in confirming the legal position with our server. In the meantime, events have overtaken us.
    As you know, we have serious concerns about the matters raised in Mark’s article which pertain to the events that led to the issuing of the Boston College subpoenas. These reservations still stand.
    Given his financial situation, Mark is in no position to engage in a protacted legal battle. He has removed the piece from his website due to the threat of legal action from your representatives, and he has requested that we also remove his article. As such, we have obliged Mark by removing his article from the blog, and we trust that should resolve your concerns.
    However, we do so in reliance upon your undertaking not to wax triumphal by publishing the removal of the article from our site in the pages of the Irish News, or causing that fact to be published anywhere else. If that happens, we will be compelled to defend robustly our original publication, which would only serve to defeat the object of your threat of legal proceedings.
    We remain deeply disappointed in those actions of the Irish News and Allison Morris which led to our current legal battle in the United States.
    Anthony

    Anthony subsequently went out of his way to insist that his new contributor was an important figure. – Where was this done? I don’t think Anthony has suggested anything about Paul Campbell, other than the fact that Paul Campbell is neither Anthony nor myself. “And with writers like Paul standing at the ready we will be there to the end” referred to the strength of Paul’s writing, the substance of which has yet to be challenged by anyone at the Irish News.

    A simple check with Hugh Jordan would have also confirmed that he was satisfied Anthony was not the author of the piece, and that he was satisfied with the article as well. The Irish News has yet to condemn or distance itself from the threats made against Hugh Jordan that Allison Morris’s partner, Fernando Murphy, joined in on. Why not? Why is the issue Paul Campbell? The only answer I can come up with … speaks for itself.

    If Noel Doran wants material removed, being able to demonstrate what is false and why or how it is so would be the first step. A nonsense shadowbox article that never once addresses issues of substance will achieve nothing.

        1. Okay. I guess my question is: why does a safety or employment concern exist in this case? Ordinarily, in a whistleblower case for example, a newspaper might describe the author as a “government official” or an “employee of Enron” or whatever. That is, the newspaper might give enough information for the reader to judge, first, that the whistleblower is in a position to know what he or she is talking about, and second, that there is an apparent reason why the whistleblower would have reason to be concerned if his or her name were used. But I can’t see any justification for it here. That was really my question.

          1. Hi Ted,

            You are the one making the assumption; whether you can see any justification or not for what you are assuming is neither here nor there. We stand over our publication of Paul’s piece.

            If you look at the behavior of Allison Morris’s partner, Fernando Murphy, and his involvement in a campaign of intimidation against other journalists – which, after all, was a focus of the article – you should be able to understand why someone might choose a pen name.

            Given the menace surrounding the reaction to Paul’s article, I am not willing to be drawn any further on this. Our position is clear enough.

            All the best

            1. Thanks, Carrie. I think we’ve probably exhausted this, but I do think the burden is on you and that you’ve failed to carry it. Is “Paul Campbell” an Irish News journalist who fears for his job? Is he just sensitive about being called names? That’s the kind of information I would want to have in order to judge whether you were justified in using a pseudonym. But I guess we will have to agree to disagree about this.

              1. Hi Ted,

                I don’t think you or anyone else is in any position to make any judgement about whether we are justified or not in a scenario you are making assumptions about.

                The bottom line is that you don’t know, and given the threat that exists, any kind of information you seek to give you a sense of anything is not going to be forthcoming.

                Suffice to say, just because Noel doesn’t know Paul doesn’t mean anything. We know Paul and we are quite happy to carry his work. It bears repeating, if the only thing being challenged about his article is his by-line, we are confident we are carrying the burden of publication just fine.

                We can at least agree that at this point, we’ve exhausted this!

                Take care

            2. What rubbish Carrie writes. She used a cover name when writing for Slugger O’Toole and again for the Long Kesh site. Paul Campbell could easily be another cover for either of the blog owners. There’s no reason for anyone to fear the newspaper.

              1. Well, it’s only fair to point out that you’re commenting anonymously! If you are going to criticize, will you let us know who you are? Also, I think McIntyre and Twomey have made it clear that neither of them is Paul Campbell. If you have evidence to the contrary, please provide it.

                1. Fair enough. I don’t want to be involved, it’s an internal spat within the NUJ, I merely commented as it is in the public domain. As for evidence, it’s generally lacking all round.

                  I was merely pointing out that Carrie has used other names for writing besides her own.

  4. Allison Morris simply went for a story. If she hadn’t gone for it another journalist would. When a republican bound under secret code phones a journalist to talk to them, presumably to spill the beans about the past, I doubt many would have turned down the opportunity.

    She wasn’t putting herself up against a journalist like Ed Moloney, she simply did what any journalist would do and follow the lead and get the scoop.

    Will either Ed or Anthony say why Dolours had to be re interviewed and why Dolours was mentally fit to give Ed his interview and unfit to give Alison hers!

    Unless Paul Campbell can stand over what he has written, it simply is unbelievable that there is such a person, in fact on TPQ other commentators took issue with the name and said it was the blog owner writing under cover. It’s not enough for Carrie or Anthony to say as long as they know who Campbell is that that is enough! The Irish news journalist has a right to know who is throwing the stones at her, so that she can defend herself from the spurious allegations contained in the article.

    Noel Doran obviously would prefer an accommodation between the parties rather than the legal route from what has been put on line by Anthony Mcintyre, removing personal attacks about a person is not censorship. They could have criticised her without the vitriol.

  5. Ted,

    Thanks for carrying this piece though it is an unusual and perplexing place for Mr Doran to finally avail of a RoR which Mr McIntyre has clearly left open to him as evidenced from their published correspondence.

    I like Mr Doran am curious over the identity of Paul Campbell. However, I would be more interested to hear Mr Doran address the content of the blog submitted with that byline than read a frankly pointless exercise in attempting to call the published material in to question over authorship rather than content analysis.

    My reading of Mr Doran’s contribution leaves me feeling it is more a muddying the waters exercise than any effort to substansiate claims made against the blog post he feels so strongly about.

    I can think of little that would preclude Mr Doran from actually addressing what he claims is defamatory. His failure to do so instead opting for merely questioning authorship could lead to a conclusion that while Mr Doran clearly feels strongly on this topic as yet he has not felt strongly enough to challenge what he claims is defamatory. I would be much more interested to read that over a many worded piece that’s essentially a Who’s Wally/Waldo/Paul

    1. Thanks, Kev Higgins, for the comment. Noel can speak for himself, of course, but my sense is that he thought that Anthony McIntyre’s laissez-faire approach to moderating what he considers to be abusive comments made TPQ an inappropriate forum for his column. It’s fair to say that, right or wrong, I moderate comments here much more vigorously than does Anthony. You can find my commenting policy here.

      1. Ted,

        In my opinion the choice of posting venue due to comment moderation policy doesn’t fully hold water.

        Mr McIntyre will inevitably blog or link to Mr Doran’s contribution here as it is more relevant to his blog and the bulk of his readers than yours.

        Mr Doran wouldn’t be niave enough to expect that having his response published here would prevent critical comment elsewhere of a standard you may not approve.

        As such his decision to respond on a platform that most interested in this saga would be unaware of seems unusual.

        The exact same responses that would have appeared on TPQ will appear when Mr McIntyre inevitably links or reproduces the content here.

        Also, I doubt Noel Doran a newspaper editor of many years is so sensitive that he must post on a website more likely to protect him from stinging or rude comment.

        This is in no way a criticism of you, you’ve done service in carrying this piece. I continue to find it odd that this was where Mr Doran submitted it.

        1. Kevin I would not comment on the TPQ, Ted Folkman has been covering this issue excellently but above all, civilly. Others have responded to Anthony Mcintyre here, most notably Danny Morrison.

          Why would A Mcintyre insist upon the editor of the Irish news travelling to Drogheda, or responding on his blog? I totally agree with Noël Doran the TPQ has a reputation for vulgarity, Ted’s blog is a Godsend in that regard. It’s very decent of him to allow this.

          1. Anon

            the TPQ has a reputation for vulgarity are you including Fido & Daniel McArdels posts too?

            @Gray

            Can you find out the answer to one simple question (I can’t)..What was the real reason Allison didn’t attend the appeals hearing? Was it simply due to expense’s or because it clashed with a footy match?

  6. I’ve now read the ‘Campbell’ piece twice and understand fully why Noel Doran is calling Anthony McIntyre out over it. He used or allowed another to use a fake name to launch a personal attack on his staff. He praised calabre of the author but has yet to explain why he was incapable of making his own calls to Hugh Jordan who has confirmed he only ever spoke to Anthony and emailed him directly. Also the content makes no accusations of any validity against Alison Morris apart from trying to attack her by association, why would the editor of a paper have to respond to allegations about persons who do not work for him and have nothing to do with him. I would take the fact he has spoken to Hugh Jordan as evidence there is no animosity felt in that direction. If we were to start tearing people asunder because of who they know we could throw up worse I’m sure than the allegations made by the fictional Paul Campbell. McIntyre I’d guess knows some pretty dubious characters I doubt he would suggest we judge him by their actions or for that matter ask him to explain or apologize on their behalf.

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