An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Saturday, April 01, 2006


Just so this doesn't get completely out of hand I'm going to be taking a point or two of what's bugging me a day.

There's an amusing amazing characteristic of the British press, I almost said gutter press but it is not, if ever it were, confined to the gutter, that I refer to in shorthand as "The 1/72A-5/6R". I'll explain:

One the front page of their paper(1) they make an outlandish accusation(A) in 72pt type(72) - almost invariably against a high-profile individual. This is the 1/72A part of the formula.

The accused either sues or, threatens to sue, or the article is referred to the press complaints commission. Unable to substantiate the accusation the paper prints a retraction and apology or sometimes, the PCC judgement against them. Unlike the original accusation the retraction and apology (R) are printed on page 5 (5) - and usually at the foot of a column - in 6 point type.

Clever huh? Well it is a trick that has started to turn up online too - and with an interesting twist.

Something similar happened to me this week on one of the internet "community" sites that I frequent. In a public forum we were having a very interesting and informative discussion about the differences in racist symbolism in different cultures. After a while one of the guys decided he wasn't winning the argument - we wouldn't simply bow to his cultural hegemony - and distressingly, he took to figuratively waving the terms and conditions of the site about. Given that he was clearly losing it we withdrew. Not long afterwards however, a couple of us were having another discussion when he referred to both of us, in open forum, as racists. There is your 1/72/A.

I left immediately but Liam, my very close friend, stayed. What happened next I do not know because at that point my telephone line went down and so my internet connection disappeared - for 27 hours as it transpired. When I eventually returned to "internet connected" status I found "an apology" in my private messages from the accuser and a couple of e-mails from Liam explaining that he had withdrawn all of his posts from the community and left! What a very sad outcome.

And this my friends is what the apology said - this is the R:

"I was way out fo line calling you a racist yesterday, and I am sorry for that. It isn't a term to be tossed about lightly and I should have known better.My emotions got the better of me and I behaved poorly. I really am sorry".

Note that this is a private message and not a public one (5/6). So there you have the 5/6(R) term.

You'll have spotted by now that whilst this IS an apology it is NOT a retraction - not a hint of it. And there you have the internet twist on the old 1/72A-5/6R trick.

I'll miss Liam and so will the rest of the community. I can understand why he's left and I respect his decision. He is older even than I am and feels he has no time left to waste on wasters - I feel I can afford to be a little more lax.


  1. I completely understand your sense of having been wronged. It was an unfortunate situation that got out of hand. I do also appreciate why you are calling for a public apology. I myself was described as an ignorant revisionist later on in the same discussion - something for which I don't even expect to get a private apology. However, I wish both you and Liam could separate this out from the community. The 'flue did not do this to you.

  2. What is a community if it is not the people who comprise it?

    Not only did the originator of the calumny fail to apologise publicly, but none of the other members of that community publicly criticised him for his outrageous behaviour.

    To suggest that the issue should be separated 'out of the community' is to miss the point: the individual may be criticised for an act of commission, the community for an act of omission.