Who is the anonymous Andrew Gilligan commenter?

October 1, 2007

My Andrew Gil­ligan post attrac­ted a couple of anonym­ous com­ments, appar­ently by the same author.

Who could the anonym­ous author be? Well online, noth­ing is really anonym­ous — now is it? Take a look at this screen­shot for a moment while we play Inter­net detective…

[APOLOGIESTHE SCREENSHOT THAT WAS HERE HAS DISAPPEARED — 22.11.08]

So it’s someone who is:

  1. using an Asso­ci­ated News­pa­pers IP (pub­lish­ers of the Even­ing Stand­ard, Daily Mail etc.);
  2. online in the middle of the night — pos­sibly entirely noc­turnal;
  3. link­ing from a tech­nor­ati search set up to track all blog post­ings on the name Andrew Gil­ligan.

Can any­one solve this conundrum?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Kraft October 1, 2007 at 06:30

Hate to say it, but you could be accused of “stitching up” a source yourself here. (Not that you promised them anonymity, except through the kind of implicit nature of leaving an anonymous comment on your site.)

To me, the biggest problem with the Gilligan case is that there were people in the British Government intent upon publically revealing and attacking the source, even though they were essentially correct.

Under such circumstances — and with so much pressure brought to bear on multiple fronts — Gilligan might not have been able to protect his source, period. Could he have done better? Certainly. But it was the government’s intent to “shoot the messenger”, so to speak.

This is obviously a very sensitive matter for Gilligan, for his friends and collegues, and, of course, for anyone who knew Dr. Kelly. I think it’s kind of inappropriate under the circumstances to treat it like some academic exercise.

If you don’t respect Gilligan as a journalist, that’s one thing… but I think he deserves a bit more respect as a human being who was in a very difficult situation. Mistakes were made, sure… but I’d personally like to think that Andrew Gilligan had a bit more room for redemption and a bit less personal blame heaped upon him than the people who actually started the war, and who went out of their way to ruin Dr. Kelly’s life.

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Adrian Monck October 1, 2007 at 07:34

@Mark – fair play Mark, the comments allow the opportunity for anonymity but caveat commenter. I’d argue that no one on this blog is a source – they’re participants in a discussion.

Gilligan reopened this on the Guardian website. If it’s very sensitive for him, I suggest he keeps quiet about it. I chose to respond here.

I teach journalism, so everything I do is an academic exercise. But I do reserve the right to contest attempts at rewriting history – and I don’t think that’s a pointless pursuit. You’re welcome not to agree on both points.

As for respecting Gilligan as a journalist? I don’t respect what he did over Hutton professionally, and I haven’t heard anything from him since that has made me change my mind. That’s all.

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Mark Kraft October 1, 2007 at 07:51

As a person who isn’t a “professional journalist”, but who loves getting at the truth and believes that the foremost good that the media can accomplish is to give the public the facts they need to make informed decisions, I think that these posts highlight part of a larger problem.

When you have a team of prosecutors in an American courtroom, and when one of the prosecutors questions a witness in such a way that is essentially true but that potentially undermines their line of questioning, allowing the witness to apparently tell a lie to the jury and get away with it, you don’t suddenly get all the other prosecutors dragging that prosecutor aside, openly criticizing them, and then kicking them off the team.

Instead, the other prosecutors talk to the judge, and the witness is reclassified as a hostile witness, and the lawyers go back on the attack as a team, because their higher duty is to revealing the truth, to the public, and to bringing the guilty to task.

When the media “eats their own”, the people who are lying to you have a good laugh at your — and the public’s — collective expense. And, the sad thing is, the media always seems to make mistakes somewhere if you look hard enough.

Dan Rather, for example, was obviously a very seasoned professional, and was widely thought of as the best in the business… but now that he’s going to considerable personal expense to purchase have his day in court — a “day in court” that the media never really gave him — the media are mercilessly criticizing him for not accepting the judgement of history.

I’m sorry, but history is often wrong, and I believe Dan Rather was essentially correct… and that the media has dropped the ball, bigtime.

Examine, for instance, this document that came out in late 2005, quite a few months after Bush’s military records were already written off by the media as forgeries.

The document specifically mentions that Mary Mapes and Mike Smith — formerly of CBS News — provided a documents expert with high-quality, unfaxed copies of the memos that everyone analyzed as poor quality, pixelated, repeatedly faxed documents, and that the documents expert specifically concluded that Bush’s military records were definitely typed, and not forged using MS Word as critics had alleged.

Recently, Dan Rather told Larry King something that many people thought was an almost delusional statement, to the effect that the documents were never shown to be forgeries, and he still thinks that they may be authentic.

So, where is the media on this big story? Are any of them reexamining the high-quality documents? No… they’re attacking one of their own, while defending orthodoxy and the judgement of history, trying to keep their collective story straight.

In the past few weeks, I’ve heard Rather described as senile, a has-been, arrogant, egotistical, a showman, overly dramatic, overly emotional… not being content for being responsible for the fire that burnt down the house that Murrow built, he’s out to destroy the ruins and salt the ground, etc, etc. And not only from conservatives… but from a LOT of the so-called “liberal media”.

My only thought is ‘where are the facts?” Isn’t this horribly unprofessional behavior that only serves to bias juries and that helps to vaccinate the public from any truths that might be discovered if Rather wins? Indeed, if he does win, will the media change their verdict? Unlikely.

More and more, it appears that the media functions as a kind of watered-down “truth by consensus”, which, all too often bears little resemblance to actual reality. And yet, all too often they seem to cling to that “truth” as if their earth stood at the center of existence, and everything else rotated around it.

No wonder blogs, for all their faults, are an increasingly popular news source. At least they know where their loyalty lies.

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Mark Kraft October 1, 2007 at 08:47

“If it’s very sensitive for him, I suggest he keeps quiet about it.”

Of course it’s a very sensitive issue for him, Adrian. On one sense, he’s being blamed by some for a man’s death. On the other, he presumably believes in his story and that he’s been unfairly judged. That, presumably, is why he can’t keep silent.

Just because he made mistakes, that doesn’t mean he no longer has the right to speak to a larger truth that so many in the media ignored. That’s the sense I get from what he wrote, frankly. It’s entirely possible that he made regrettable mistakes while still being factually correct.

Back when Gilligan was researching the “dodgy dossiers”, it was abundantly clear to many in the press that government claims were significantly at odds with reality. If Gilligan is judged in a less harsh light by the public than by some of his collegues, then I would argue it is because at least he had the chutzpah to say that the emperor had no clothes.

“I teach journalism, so everything I do is an academic exercise.”

Of course. Who here isn’t interested in the academic side of journalism? But that said, I would argue that there is a place for trying to build uncritical, reasoned channels of communication, even in the world of academia. Establishing the facts should always come before judgement.

Adrian, if I had — or thought I had — Andrew Gilligan commenting on my blog (albeit anonymously), my initial reaction would be to try to draw him into the discussion in a more official sense, so that maybe I could hear his side of the story and maybe learn a bit more. You seemed more intent in counting coup than in creating a meaningful dialogue.

“But I do reserve the right to contest attempts at rewriting history – and I don’t think that’s a pointless pursuit.”

I don’t think that the article rewrote history, as much as it showed another side of the history. History is not a one-sided entity.

“I don’t respect what he did over Hutton professionally, and I haven’t heard anything from him since that has made me change my mind.”

I don’t have a lot of appreciation for what I heard Gilligan did, as depicted by what I consider to be a somewhat biased source — the government’s report. Likewise, I, too, haven’t heard anything from Gilligan since that would make me change my mind… but I would argue that perhaps he hasn’t been given much of an unobstructed chance to speak his mind. Academics have the benefit of time and reflection to make sure they get the story right… or at least “more right” than the media, which establishes truth within a rather limited timeframe.

Before I judged Andrew Gilligan too harshly, I would prefer hearing him speak for himself. As an academic, I would take full advantage of the somewhat rare opportunity to have the time to reflect upon such serious stories.

Unfortunately, I think you may have may have missed that opportunity.

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Adrian Monck October 1, 2007 at 13:12

@Mark – Gilligan has plenty of platforms from which to put his views and no shortage of supporters.

To be honest, the reason I posted this is because – if it is AG – anonymously commenting on your own behalf sucks (as does talking about yourself in the third person).

And the Hutton Inquiry website has most of the evidence you need to form your own opinion, whether you agree with Lord H or not.

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