25.8.09

Noam Chomsky parrots Hugo Chavez

Spanish daily El Pais reports that Noam Chomsky was in Caracas to see how "Chavez is making another world possible." That's right. Hugo Chavez, in case the world had failed to notice, is building a different, better world, according to Chomsky, who said: "...what's harder is to create a better world not to talk about it, and what's so exciting about, at last, visiting Venezuela, I can see how a better world is being created and can speak to the person who's inspired it."

Where have we heard before this argument about better world possible? The Colombian narco terrorist group FARC thinks that the hour of that other world is about to come.

But what's different about this other world? Well, it is a world where freedom of expression must be limited, where freedom of conscience and religion is violated by the state, where political opponents are harassed, tortured and forbidden to run for office when not exiled or killed, where minorities have no rights, where the people can't freely elect their representatives, where private property is summarily expropriated, where a clique of criminals govern, in sum, and disagreeing here with Chomsky, that world already exists and can be experienced, not only in Venezuela, but in any other where one unaccountable individual gets to decide the fate of the nation, as in Cuba, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Russia, Ecuatorial Guinea, etc.

Chavez's attempt is worthy of Noam Chomsky's admiration. Thanks for the excellent lesson Professor Chomsky. From now on, you're not only a peddler of baseless allegations, but your detractors will be able to point at your sycophantic apologising for a militaristic, utterly capitalist and imperialist caudillo, to blanket dismiss your political views. It could go like this: "Chomsky on Obama's foreign policy... Isn't that the guy who went to embrace that dictator from Venezuela and said, without providing a shred of evidence, that the Obama administration ousted the president of Honduras?"

Oh, and BTW, who paid and arranged for Chomsky's visit? Have his handlers registered already with the US Foreign Agent Registration Unit? The picture provides clues...

5.8.09

Does The Guardian know about Calvin Tucker?

Got to face it, the struggle to have The Guardian admit that is has printed false information about me, and Angie Bray, has been unfruitful. However, I want to leave a public record of all communications held between me and the Press Complaints Commission, so that people can make their own minds, as to whether the views published by Calvin Tucker, in his 21stcenturysocialism.com website, are a true reflection of what actually happened.

But before that, a bit of context. In 2004, Calvin Tucker started posting in the comment section of the blog Caracas Chronicles. For whatever reason, Tucker felt knowledgeable enough to debate Venezuelan political issues, with a crowd composed mainly of educated Venezuelans, living either in Venezuela or abroad. I must admit that at the time, I was already extremely wary of foreigners with a sudden need of singing the praises of Hugo Chavez. In one occasion, Tucker mentioned a legal case, in which he had been involved, that had reached England's highest court. Since I was reading law at the time, I checked in Westlaw whether there was any true to Tucker's allegations, and did not find anything. As soon as I wrote in the comment section of the blog that I had not found any corroboration of it, Tucker dared me to meet in a bar somewhere in London, where he would beat the crap out of me. The following are Tucker's own words:
Hey Mr "Anonymous" internet tough guy. You want to insult me face to face? Please email me and we can arrange to meet. Otherwise, fuck off and get a life. Twat.
Not interested in having a fight over nothing I declined Tucker's challenge, however this is how Tucker referred to the debate:
My personal serial stalker doesn't even have the cojones to meet me in a London pub and back up his allegations about me having invented a court case I won. (Tucker would later denied having ever threatened me, stating: "Alex, I’ve never threatened you, you’re a complete loon and a fantasist!" Tucker posting as Zin 4 March 2009, 3:36 pm)
All the while, I stressed that I have not been able to find any indication in the legal database about the case referred to by Tucker. But the vitriol, and the physical threats, were not only aimed at me. One could understand that Tucker might have felt insulted, incensed and upset by claims about his encounter with the justice system, made by a Venezuelan critical of the regime he so feverishly defends. However his vitriol, improper language and physical threats were not reserved to me only. To other participants of the debate, and in the comment section of the same blog, Tucker has written:
Example 1: Listen, Mr Internet Tough Guy, I'm not interested in your threats. If you want to fight me, let's meet. Otherwise, fuck off.

Example 2: Now j.scott bernard wants to fight me! This is getting distinctly surreal. But whenever you're ready, scott. Whenever you're ready. And yes, I would kick your ass. I grew up in a LONDON barrio, mate, so I know how to look after myself. The last guy who tried it on with me, left for hospital in an ambulance and required reconstructive surgery to his face. And no, I'm not kidding.

Example 3: BUT... if you think you can intimidate ME with threats, you're picking on the wrong guy. If you're up for a ruck, Mr Big Mouth, let's have one. But I warn you, I don't fuck about.
These threats were were made in the midst of internet discussions about Venezuela, which needs be stressed: a) is a country completely alien to Tucker and b) whose political situation does not have the slightest impact on the well being of a person who, purportedly, earned a living out of "investment banking executive search". But Tucker no doubt already had a soft spot for totalitarian regimes and communism, hence his passionate defense of putschist Hugo Chavez's every action. In fact, Tucker's "freelance writing on Latin America and the Caribbean", includes declaring full support of the coup led by Chavez against the democratically elected administration of former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez, loss of life notwithstanding:
Example 1: My point is that the Caracazo and the political disenfranchisement of most Venezuelans was sufficient moral justification for the insurrection of 1992. With the benefit of hindsight, i.e. from the standpoint of Chavez's election win in 1998, I think we can also say it was also a tactical success, even if at the time it appeared to be a defeat. Without 1992, as with Fidel's Moncada debacle, ultimate victory would have eluded the revolutionaries."

Example 2: By contrast, I proclaim my support for the attempt to overthrow by force in 1992 the corrupt government of Carlos Andres Perez, which had lost all claims to democratic legitimacy when it massacred up to 3,000 civilians and secretly buried many of the bodies in mass graves. (see comment by Zin -one of the nicknamed used by Tucker- at 1 April 2009, 11:34 am)
Eventually, I did find information about the legal case Tucker had mentioned. It turns that Tucker was arrested for participating in the riots of Wapping. According to court documents of case Tucker v The Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, he was arrested in the early hours of Sunday, 15 June 1986, and charged with arson. Tucker would later sue the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, claiming damages for false imprisonment, assault and malicious prosecution. Ultimately, he won the appeal and was granted damages.

On 26 July 1994, the Press Association published an article entitled "LYING POLICE PUT ME THROUGH HELL, SAYS PICKET". In it Tucker is described as a "peaceful picket who took part in the bitter Wapping dispute eight years ago". Tucker, a printer at the time, claimed that "One officer even kicked him in the head as he lay helpless on the ground..." although he clarified that the kick "didn't cause me any particular injury". Tucker also explained "how lying police officers put him through the worst six months of his life" and how that "ordeal affected him deeply and for years afterwards he would "panic" if he saw a policeman walking towards him."

Fast forward ten years
, and read how well has this "peaceful picket" gotten, so well in fact that he seems to get a kick out of making repeated threats to people about non-issues, perhaps in need to prove his manhood, while 'recruiting investment bankers'. I will return to Tucker's miraculous recovery later.

On 1 September 2007, The Guardian's Comment is Free published an article by Tucker entitled "
Friends in Low Places". But two days before that, on 30 August, he did boast about his intentions, again in the comment section of the blog Caracas Chronicles:
Al Boyd If you don't like the Guardian now, you're gonna really hate it when they publish my next piece. I'm gonna make you famous, Alek. Or should I say infamous? Stay tuned.
When I replied saying that he had no power to make me either famous or infamous this is what Tucker had to say:
As you've no reputation to lose, I guess that's true in your case. Your Tory mates on the GLA have though. Stay tuned.
By September 2007 my rate of blogging and commenting about Venezuela had decreased considerably. Tucker on the other hand appeared to have gained the sympathy of Venezuelan officials, while carrying on with his purported "extensive research and organisational mapping of the financial markets". But more of Tucker's professional occupation later.

Right after The Guardian published Tucker's article, I initiated communications with Georgina Henry, who acts as the editor in charge of Comment is Free, in order to request a right to reply. Henry not only refused to grant me a statutory right, but decidedly ignored my arguments with regards to false statements that had been written by Tucker. Henry's best offer was to invite me to address the "issues" raised by Tucker in the comment section of the article in Comment is Free. I refused to do so.

Nearly two years have passed since. My concern is that an internet search about my name returns that article among results, and that's not good at the time of looking for work. So I got in touch with the Press Complaint Commission (PCC), in the hope that it would take my arguments into consideration. What follows is the full exchange between me and officers from the PCC.

Simon Yip wrote:
date: Mon, May 11, 2009 at 2:26 PM
subject: reference 092120

Dear Mr Boyd

Thank you for your email

Before we can assess your complaint fully, it would be helpful if you could specify precisely all of the alleged inaccuracies in the article about which you have concerns. We would be very grateful to receive this information within the next ten days.

I note that the article comes from 2007, but remains on the Guardian website. This is what we say on the issue of articles published originally more than two months ago:

The Commission has regarded downloading an article as republication. Therefore, material that is freely available on a newspaper’s website can generally be complained about, even if the piece was not originally published within the last two months.

However, the Commission will have regard for the length of time that has elapsed between the original publication of the article and the complaint. It considers that complaints are most appropriately investigated while circumstances remain fresh in the minds of those involved. Indeed supporting evidence – such as reporters’ notes – is less likely to be available when it relates to a matter that took place a long time before a complaint has been lodged.

A long delay will therefore have an impact on the extent to which the Commission can reach a finding on the merits of the case. It will also affect the possible action necessary from a publication to resolve the complaint appropriately. The Commission will take into consideration the circumstances accounting for the delay being lodged (including whether a complaint was possible at the time of original publication).

Our aim is to resolve all complaints that raise a possible breach of the Code amicably and quickly. It might be useful if I therefore set out a number of points about our procedures.

- As part of a full and fair investigation we must ensure that each party to a complaint is able to see and comment upon what the other has to say.

- The Commission has a commitment to deal with all complaints as speedily as possible. It expects both complainants and newspapers – and their representatives, legal or otherwise – to cooperate with that commitment. Any unreasonable delay on either side may be taken into account by the Commission.

- We will usually send a copy of each letter of complaint to the editor even if the complaint does not raise a breach of the Code. It is important that editors are aware of criticisms of their publications. Similarly, any substantive decision made by the Commission under the terms of the Code will be sent to the editor.

- The Commission is not able to deal with all complaints. Some of the circumstances in which we may not be able to pursue a complaint are set out on our website.

- It is possible that the Commission may find that your complaint does not amount to a breach of the Code. If this is the case we will explain to you why the Commission took this decision.

- If, at the end of the process, you are dissatisfied with the manner in which your complaint has been handled, you should write within one month to the independent Charter Commissioner who will investigate the matter and report any findings and recommendations to the Commission. Further details are included on our website.

Further information about the complaints process can be accessed using this web link: http://www.pcc.org.uk/complaints/process.html

A copy of the Code of Practice which all newspapers and magazines who subscribe adhere to, can be accessed using this web link: http://www.pcc.org.uk/cop/practice.html

Information about our service commitments to complainants can be accessed using this web link: http://www.pcc.org.uk/complaint/charter.html.

Further information about the PCC can be found on our website www.pcc.org.uk .

Do not hesitate to contact us if you need further advice. When you write to us, please quote our reference number on this email.

Yours sincerely

Simon Yip
simon.yip@pcc.org.uk

Press Complaints Commission
Halton House
20/23 Holborn
London EC1N 2JD
Tel: 020 7831 0022
Website: www.pcc.org.uk

The PCC is an independent self-regulatory body which deals with complaints about the editorial content of newspapers and magazines (and their websites). We keep industry standards high by training journalists and editors, and work pro-actively behind the scenes to prevent harassment and media intrusion. We can also provide pre-publication advice to journalists and the public.

Alek Boyd wrote:
date: Mon, May 11, 2009 at 4:11 PM
subject: Re: reference 092120

Dear Mr Yip,

many thanks for such a quick reply. My disagreements over the contents of the article were explicitly explained to Georgina Henry immediately after publication. In any case, I welcome the Commission's approach in keeping all parties informed of what's being said.

As per inaccuracies. If you do access the "Friends in Low Places" article online, you will note that all the links that point to my website (http://vcrisis.com) lead to error pages.

The author of the piece, Calvin Tucker, quotes me out of context in every occasion in order to advance his views. However it is Mr. Tucker's conspiracy theories, that lack any form of reliable evidence, which are totally inaccurate:
  1. I am not the "the de facto London-based representative of the Venezuelan opposition in Britain."
  2. I have never met with Angie Bray, not has she, to the best of my knowledge, "arranged to meet with a group including" me.

  3. As part of a group, I did meet with Greater London Authority officials, with Mr. Bob Neill to be more precise. Among those attending the meeting were a Venezuelan couple that had been granted political asylum in this country, and a dual Venezuelan-British lady who was shot at and wounded by President Chavez supporters on 16 August 2004.

  4. Neither Mr Tucker nor The Guardian have any evidence that I travel regularly between "London and Caracas to drum up support for his extremist views."

  5. I have never been "consistently promoting terrorism against the democratically elected government of Venezuela and its supporters."
  6. The Conservative group at the GLA did not "invite" us to brief them. It was me, in representation of the group, who asked to meet with Mr. Neill.
  7. As per the repeated argument about my violence advocacy, Mr. Tucker refers mainly to an article I once wrote about a nightmare I had had.
  8. Unlike Mr. Tucker, I have never had any problems with the authorities of any of the countries I have lived in, including mine (Venezuela). To suggest that I am somewhat a danger to public safety is complete nonsense.
I should be grateful if you could look further into this matter and I appreciate your comments with regards to the time that has elapsed since publication of the article. Unfortunately Ms Henry never replied in satisfactory manner, nor was I ever given the chance to exercise my right to reply. The usage of the falsehoods contained therein, as if those arguments were rooted in evidence, continue damaging my personal and professional reputation. It is for that reason that I expect that The Guardian, in accordance to the Code, removes such inaccuracies and observes guidelines, or allows me to set the record straight.

Cordially,
Aleksander Boyd

After this email I received a letter from the PCC on 13 May informing that Rebecca Hales would be dealing with my case. On 28 May I received further communication from Ms Hales, which can be seen here. It is worth noting that The Guardian continues ignoring my claims of ever having met with Angie Bray.

On 29 May I sent an email to Ms. Hales:

Alek Boyd wrote:
date: Fri, May 29, 2009 at 6:54 PM
subject: Re: ref 092120

Dear Ms Hales,

Many thanks for your letter dated 28 May, whose content I shall address.
The reason I contacted the PCC is to try and set the record straight, an opportunity The Guardian never afforded me. I did try to exercise my statutory right to reply, which The Guardian, in the person of Georgina Henry, repeatedly denied, in clear violation of the Code, which I will not cite, for both you and the journalists and editors of The Guardian ought to know by heart.
You argue in your letter that The Guardian has addressed each of my points. Begging your pardon here, but that is hardly the case. The Guardian refuses to acknowledge that it printed false statements about me, a nonexistent encounter between me and Angie Bray and Ms Bray herself. That is a breach of article 1 of the Code.
By refusing to grant me a right to reply, when I reasonably and within sensible time frame requested it, The Guardian violated article 2 of the Code.
Even though article 12 of the Code does not explicitly state politics as a reason for discrimination, this is clearly the case with respect to this issue.
So I will reiterate yet again: 1) that I have never met with Angie Bray; 2) that neither The Guardian nor Mr. Tucker have any evidence whatsoever that I travel regularly to my country to allegedly drum up support for my purportedly extremists views; 3) that I have not been consistently promoting terrorism against the government of Venezuela; 4) that the Conservative group at the GLA did not invite us, but rather accepted to meet with us, which is a completely different thing; and 5) that I refuse to accept Mr. Tucker's assumptions and innuendo regarding whatever political position I may adopt vis-a-vis the government of my country (Venezuela).
As you may gather I have very little regard for The Guardian’s stance on this particular, considering that instead of addressing the issue it is taking the side of Mr. Tucker, a man that actually has been arrested for involvement in violent protests in this country, a man who is on the record supporting Hugo Chavez’s coup d’état in 1992 against a democratically elected administration in Venezuela, stating that it was “morally justified” and a “tactical success” (loss of life notwithstanding). Since The Guardian has recourse to comments in blogs to support its untenable position, I should also mention that Mr. Tucker has publicly boasted in blogs about having beaten and disfigured someone so badly that it needed reconstructive surgery to its face, and has threatened people, me included, with physical violence in various occasions. This is what The Guardian is lending support to, alas it does so at the cost of its reputation, credibility and integrity as a serious news organization.
The resolution of this issue is really quite simple: The Guardian should just follow the letter of the Code and observe that duty to maintain the highest professional standards. One can only hope that The Guardian and especially the PCC understand that I am entitled to my opinion and my rights as much as the next person
Cordially,
Aleksander Boyd
To this, Ms Hales replied:
date:Wed, Jun 24, 2009 at 11:47 AM
subject: FW: ref 092120

Dear Mr Boyd

I write further to your email of 29 May.

The Commission has now received a further response to your complaint
from the Independent newspaper, please see below.

As you can see, the newspaper maintains that the majority of the article
was accurate and was in no way discriminatory. That said, the editor
has offered to publish a correction to set the record straight regarding
your attendance at a meeting with Ms Bray. Do let me know your thoughts
on this.

It may be worth noting that the primary aim of the Commission is the
resolution of complaints wherever possible and an added benefit of
resolving the matter is that a summary of your complaint - with your
consent and a wording agreed by you - will be published on our website
and in our bi-annual report. This will act, importantly, as a furthe
public record of your concerns and the subsequent remedial action taken
by the newspaper.

In any case, before a decision can be made as to how this matter might
be taken forward, I should be grateful to receive any further comments
you may wish to make. In particular - given that the Commission's
primary aim is the resolution of all substantive complaints wherever
possible - do please let me know any suggestions you have which would
help to resolve this matter to your satisfaction.

I should be pleased to receive your response within seven days, or
sooner, if convenient. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be
of any assistance to you.

Yours sincerely
Rebecca Hales

-----Original Message-----
From: Elisabeth Ribbans
Sent: 22 June 2009 18:47
To: Becky Hales
Subject: ref 092120

Dear Ms Hales

Thank you for your latest correspondence of June 1 regarding the
complaint brought by Aleksander Boyd (ref 092120).

As you know, we are always happy to set the record straight where an
error has occurred but - except in the matter of whether Mr Boyd met
Angie Bray, a point on which I requested clarification but received none
- we see no inaccuracy in the piece. Neither do we accept that the piece
was discriminatory, as Mr Boyd claims. Commentators must be allowed to
criticise the public actions and utterances of others, without that
charge being laid.

As I said before, we will issue a correction to say Mr Boyd never met Ms
Bray, if this is indeed the case. But at present I am unclear: it seems
Ms Bray was at the GLA meeting organised by Bob Neill in May 2006, which
Mr Boyd has confirmed that he attended. We believe this because it is
what Ms Bray appeared to say in an article she wrote for the Guardian:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/aug/23/anoilstainonlondon

Mr Boyd perhaps objects to Mr Tucker writing: "Angie Bray had arranged
to meet with a group including Boyd", when Mr Neill was in fact the
organiser.

But if Ms Bray attended the meeting, it seems a semantic point. I would
be grateful if you could ask Mr Boyd to clarify whether he was at the
meeting attended by Neill and Bray.

Kind regards

Elisabeth Ribbans
Managing editor
The Guardian

My reply, Alek Boyd wrote:
date: Wed, Jun 24, 2009 at 1:44 PM
subject: Re: FW: ref 092120

Dear Ms Hales,

Many thanks for your reply.

To be frank, Ms Hales, it seems to me that this is a dialogue of deaf,
where all parties keep repeating the same points time and again and no
one is actually acknowledging what the other parties are saying. In fact
this is the third occasion in which I categorically affirm to the Press
Complaints Commission, in very clear and understandable terms, that I
have never met with Angie Bray, yet The Guardian continuously refuses to
take my word for it. As stated in previous communications, The Guardian
has clearly taken the side of Mr. Tucker, taking his words at face value
without further factual corroboration. The Guardian is, as a matter of
fact, entitled to do that.

What The Guardian is not entitled to do, as far as I am aware, and is
actually a breach of the Code, is to publish false statements about a
party and then refuse to grant the aggravated party its statutory right
to reply. I should be most grateful if you could enlighten me if the
contrary were the case. Therefore Ms Ribbans' argument that The Guardian
is "As you know... always happy to set the record straight where an
error has occurred..." is disingenuous, and this communication of mine
to you, as a representative of the Press Complaint Commission, proves
the point, for had The Guardian acted responsibly and according to the
Code in the repeated instances where I respectfully requested directly
to The Guardian for my right to reply to be granted, we wouldn't be
having these exchange, would we?

The Guardian maintains that the majority of the article is accurate and
was in no way discriminatory, but I have maintained since publication of
article, as object of much of the criticism written by Mr Tucker, the
contrary: read that The Guardian, by siding with Mr. Tucker and ignoring
my plights to set the record straight, is brushing as invalid the point
of view of he who is the object of criticism. What do you think of this
Ms Hales, as representative of the Press Complaints Commission? Is it
not a generally accepted premise that there are always more than one
side to every story? Why has The Guardian, in the know of my
discontentment since days after publication, discriminated my views in
such patent way? Further, why is The Guardian so adamant in accepting my
side of the story? What's in it for them?

The Guardian does not accept my opinion, but I am meant to accept
theirs, and by extension that of Mr. Tucker. Does that seem fair to you?

On 15 May 2006, a group of Venezuelan victims of political persecution
and State-sponsored terrorism was to meet with Bob Neill at 9am at City
Hall. Among the group, there were the first Venezuelan couple ever to be
granted political asylum in the UK and a British-Venezuelan citizen who
was shot by supporters of Hugo Chavez on 16 August 2004. Former Mayor
Ken Livingstone banned the group from entering City Hall on security
grounds. As a result, Bob Neill proposed to reconvene the meeting at an
adjacent building later on in the day. That morning I arrived late to
the initial meeting at 9am, as I had been asked to comment on Hugo
Chavez's visit to London and I was moving from one BBC studio to
another. To the second, reconvened meeting, I also got in late and had
to leave before it ended, for I had to go to the BBC Daily Politics show
and, in the afternoon, I was scheduled to leave for a conference
organized by Sao Paulo's (Brazil) Chamber of Commerce, where I was to
talk about Venezuelan politics. So answering Ms Ribbans' question for
the umpteenth time, I did not meet that day, or at any subsequent one,
with Angie Bray. Needless to say that this is all in the public record,
and it would have been rather easy to establish the true nature of
events, had The Guardian done its homework. Instead, The Guardian has
decidedly chosen to blind itself to views that expose Mr. Tucker's
article as a summary of spurious allegations that have no basis in reality.

As per the resolution of this issue, I just want to set the record
straight, and by that I don't mean only a footnote or an edit of Mr
Tucker's article. Rather, I want my right to reply and equal treatment,
no more no less. People that disagree with my views about my country and
its current president have been using Mr. Tucker's article in The
Guardian as some sort of factual account, an established truth. As I can
demonstrate neither Mr. Tucker is an authoritative source on my
activities, nor are his arguments rooted in fact. Moreover, Mr. Tucker
himself is on the record making public threats to people that disagree
politically with him, and has a rather interesting record of involvement
in violent protests against perfectly legitimate business decisions. Mr.
Tucker is also on the record praising violent attempts to overthrow
democratically elected governments of my country, therefore his voice is
hardly a beacon of morality and rectitude.

Fortunately The Guardian in general seems to have changed the way in
which news about Venezuela and its president are presented, in light of
the wealth of evidence proving the totalitarian nature of that regime.
Alas in my particular case, I continue to be discriminated against for
no apparent reason, other than political or personal animosity.

To conclude, disregarding valid and timely requests for a right to
reply, when false allegations have been made, is a breach of the Code.
Discrimination is also a breach of the Code. Ergo, here's hope that the
Press Complaint Commission convinces The Guardian of the importance of
acknowledging my points of view, on a non-discriminatory basis, and
affords me my rights. Equally, I welcome your suggestion and opportunity
to have this issue published in the PCC's website and bi-annual report.

Cordially,
Aleksander Boyd

Rebecca Hales replies:
date: Fri, Jul 3, 2009 at 2:53 PM
subject: FW: ref 092120

Dear Mr Boyd,

Please see below for the newspaper's final response.

Your case will now go to the Commission for its consideration. If you have anything further to add, please contact me before Wednesday 8 July.

Your sincerely,
Rebecca Hales

From: Elisabeth Ribbans [mailto:elisabeth.ribbans@guardian.co.uk]
Sent: 01 July 2009 21:10
To: Becky Hales
Cc: Elisabeth Ribbans
Subject: ref 092120

Dear Ms Hales

Thank you for your email of June 26, which included Aleksander Boyd's response to our letter of June 22 regarding his complaint (ref 092120) over an article headlined "Friends in low places", which was published on guardian.co.uk on September 1, 2007.

I am grateful to Mr Boyd for providing details about his attendance of the meeting hosted by the GLA's Conservative members back in 2006. I can now appreciate that if Mr Boyd arrived late and left early, he might not personally have met Angie Bray. But I would contend that the average reader would not be misled by what was written. In his article, Calvin Tucker says: "Angie Bray, had arranged to meet with a group including Boyd . . ." So Ms Bray did meet a group that included, albeit briefly, Mr Boyd. This does not seem to consitute a matter for correction.

I note that the PCC has restated the other claims of inaccuracy that Mr Boyd maintains are present in the article. We genuinely do not wish to be unhelpful but on these points we have nothing further to add to our refutations of May 22.

Mr Boyd has suggested to the PCC that he is entitled under the Code to a reply. In fact, as you know, we are bound to give a reply where this is inaccuracy. We do not believe this is the case here. Mr Boyd is a prominent campaigner on Venezuelan affairs and as such should expect to see his actions and opinions critiqued. We believe Mr Tucker has quoted accurately from Mr Boyd's writings in doing so and is entitled to give his view of the person who wrote them. Finally, given his apparent strength of feeling about a reply, we are surprised that Mr Boyd waited more than 18 months after the piece was published to press for such a remedy through the PCC. He was aware of the article at the time.

Guidance from the commission would be welcome.

Kind regards

Elisabeth Ribbans
Managing editor

Another reply from Alek Boyd:
date: Fri, Jul 3, 2009 at 4:34 PM
subject: Re: FW: ref 092120

Dear Ms Hales,

Many thanks again for your message.

Ms Ribbans' email to you demonstrates a couple of things:
  1. It seems that it is impossible for staff of The Guardian to recognize that they have published false statements, in spite of my repeated explanations and evidence to the contrary. As stated in previous communications, I have never sent any communications to Angie Bray regarding a meeting, nor was Angie Bray involved in any way in making arrangements to meet with us.So it does constitute a matter for correction for there is inaccuracy in the article.
  2. Ms Ribbans states that The Guardian does not wish to be unhelpful. Yet when I first contacted The Guardian, to exercise my right to reply on 4 September 2007 -that is three days after original publication- and in subsequent exchanges, with Georgina Henry, Guardian's executive comment editor, it flatly refused to grant me equal treatment and failed to recognize my statutory rights. This I can demonstrate, if necessary, with copies of emails between Ms Henry and myself, between 4 and 12 of September 2007. Ms Ribbans is aware of the fact that I did request my right to reply to The Guardian in timely fashion, when she alleges "He was aware of the article at the time." Yet she questions my timing to bring up this issue with the PCC, without considering that had The Guardian addressed this, as it should have done according to the Code, I would have never had to raise the issue with the PCC. The PCC is, in my view, the last recourse left in light of The Guardian's utter disregard for their duties under the Code, and for evidence proving that it has, in fact, published false information.
To conclude, I very much welcome any objective input into the matter by the commission.

Cordially,
Aleksander Boyd

Before the Commission actually considered the case on 8 July, I sent one final email to Rebecca Hales:
date: Mon, Jul 6, 2009 at 5:38 PM
subject: Re: FW: ref 092120

Dear Ms Hales,

One last comment before the commission starts its considerations.

Over the weekend I managed to speak with members of the group of Venezuelans that met with Bob Neill. These are the people who were present during the entire meeting with Mr Neill. They have assured me that Angie Bray did not take part in that meeting, therefore the notion that she could have been present, before I arrived or after I left, is false. Furthermore, none of them has ever had any contacts or communications with Angie Bray.

What this means Ms Hales, is that Mr Tucker's arguments have no basis in reality and that The Guardian, by siding with Mr Tucker, has actually breached the Code, by printing demonstrably false statements and by repeatedly refusing to requests to set the record straight.

With best wishes,
Aleksander Boyd

Then on 24 July I received the final letter from the Commission, where it says that "the Code does not require newspapers to offer a right to reply: it asks that a fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies must be given when reasonably called for. On this occasion no inaccuracies had been determined..."

So I contacted them again:
date: Tue, Jul 28, 2009 at 1:32 PM
subject: Ref: 092120 further clarifications required

Dear Ms Hales,

many thanks for sending the Commission's decision, which I got through the post yesterday.

Saying that I am dissatisfied with the Commission's decision would be an understatement. Further to the point in your letter regarding ways to complain about the way in which my complaint has been handled, I would like you to explain, in greater detail if you could, the following:
  1. Why has the term "oppositionist" been used by the Commission to describe my website?
  2. Why has the Commission ignored my arguments -as the person responsible for setting up the meeting with GLA representatives- that contrary to what The Guardian published, Angie Bray did not make any arrangements to meet any of the members of a group of Venezuelan dissidents?
  3. None of the members of the group of dissidents, including me, have any recollection of having met, or indeed having had communications of any sort with Angie Bray. Why then has the Commission made the assumption that Angie Bray did meet with said dissidents?
  4. In light of the previous point, how can the Commission state that the statement that Angie Bray did meet with the dissidents, when in fact she did not, is not inaccurate and therefore not a breach of the Code?
I sincerely hope that you will be able to reply to these questions in very specific and satisfactory manner.

Cordially,
Aleksander Boyd

Rebecca Hales replied:
date: Tue, Aug 4, 2009 at 11:59 AM
subject: Complaint 092120

Dear Mr Boyd,

I write in response to your email of 28 July.

I am sorry you are disappointed with the Commission's decision. The Commission is always happy to reconsider its decision in cases where it has misunderstood the nature of a complaint. However, on this occasion this would not appear to be the case.

In answer to your questions:

The Commission used the term "oppositionist" to describe your website as it is written by one individual who opposes another individual or group (in the case of Vcrisis, the politicians of Venezuela).

The Commission did indeed consider your argument that you had never met with Angie Bray, nor had she, to the best of your knowledge, “arranged to meet with a group including” yourself. As the Commission's decision sets out, the article did not claim that you had met Ms Bray, merely that you both attended a meeting with GLA representatives and it decided that the reporting of this was not a breach of the Code.

I hope that this email is useful. I am sorry that the Commission cannot help you further on this occasion.

Yours sincerely
Rebecca Hales

Another reply from me:
date: Tue, Aug 4, 2009 at 1:05 PM
subject: Re: Complaint 092120

Dear Ms Hales,

thanks for your reply but this email is not as useful as you have hoped.

Your explanation of the Commission's use of "oppositionist" is appalling to be frank. Unlike me, you are all at the Commission native English speakers I presume. Yet you couldn't find a more appropriate term, such as "critical" or "disapproving", but borrowed straight from the derogatory jargon used by Hugo Chavez and his apologists to describe a perfectly legitimate position against a totalitarian regime whose links to terrorism pile up by the minute. May I invite you to point to other instances where the Commission has described websites/individuals critical of a given individual or group as "oppositionist"?* This reeks of discrimination.

The article clearly states: "Angie Bray, had arranged to meet with a group including Boyd..." Mind you read it yourself if you doubt my words, here's the link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/sep/01/friendsinlowplaces

So why, oh why, do you continue repeating the same allegation that there's no breach when, as a matter of fact, what was published is false?

The article contains no claim, as you argue, that "both [of us] attended a meeting with GLA representatives..."

To conclude, I am not expecting you/The Commission to be sorry, but rather to guarantee that my statutory rights are upheld and respected. The Guardian has printed lies about me and Angie Bray. No amount of double speak is going to change that.

Cordially,
Aleksander Boyd

So the thing ended there, until this morning, not so much to my surprise, I got a Google alert in my inbox about an article penned by, guess whom, Calvin Tucker, taking again everything out of context and being his usual thuggish self. So I got on the phone and called, for the first time, Rebecca Hales, just to ask whether the PCC had shared communications and information between myself, them and The Guardian with Tucker. Ms. Hales said the PPC does not share such information. In fact, after our telephone conversation she sent me an email.

Rebecca Hales wrote:
date: Wed, Aug 5, 2009 at 3:47 PM
subject: Complaint 092120

Dear Mr Boyd,

I write further to our telephone conversation this morning.

Many thanks for drawing our attention to Mr Tucker's blog.

The PCC has been in touch with the Guardian and advised it that while
our decisions can of course be made public, we generally regard the
correspondence leading up to those decisions to be private between the
parties. This enables people such as yourself to complain to us in good
faith.

Of course, the newspaper is not responsible for this outside content,
and the PCC has no jurisdiction either over the blog, but we thought it
best to make the newspaper aware of the issue.

I have since been advised that the newspaper has contacted Mr Tucker who
has agreed to remove the blog post later this evening.**

I do hope this is useful.

Yours sincerely,
Rebecca Hales

Now what are the chances of Calvin Tucker retracting from this? I'll tell you what: zero. As a matter of fact, Tucker's latest charade has already been posted on another beacon of objective commentary and journalism (Vheadline.com), and in the following days it will most probably be reposted in Borev.net, Venezuelanalysis.com, Axisoflogic.com, and basically in all the online propaganda rags that are still in denial about what Hugo Chavez is. But that's OK. I don't mind for the stuff to be published in such places, as I didn't mind the hundred and something self-appointed 'experts' who demanded explanations from Human Rights Watch for, among other things, linking to my website (HRW defined them as peddlers of "baseless allegations"). I cared then because Noam Chomsky, who believe or not is meant to be one of the world's leading intellectuals, had lent his name for such reprehensible purposes, and I care now because, believe or not, some people still think that The Guardian is a reputable, fair and objetive media outlet.

Back to Tucker's miraculous recovery and activities then. Despite having suffered years of trauma, panic attacks, sleepless nights and so on, according to his own words due to a kick that did not cause any damage, he has been able to summon enough courage to board a plane, go to Honduras, join a Galloway-type of pro-insurgents caravan with the wife of ousted President Manuel Zelaya, and actually dare army men and "hooded gunmen" to shoot. According to Tucker, these balaclava-wearing, gun-toting, coup-supporting, opposition-killing fellas let him, and his caravan-friends, pass just like that. Remember, this is the same 'peaceful picket' who would panic and cross the street at the sight of a Bobby in the beat. His 'cojones' must have regrown.

But then, is it not true that Tucker is meant to be "in investment banking executive search, and has managed critical assignments on behalf of many of the world’s leading financial institutions?" If Tucker's own BS is to be believed, how come in 2004 he is referred to as having been "appointed in May 2003 and is now Director of Portman Aptus. Calvin has over 10 years’ experience in investment banking executive search, having previously worked for Dagama Consulting and James Reed Associates", when in an article of the Press Association of 29 April 1996, entitled "WAPPING PROTESTER FIGHTS ON FOR ARREST DAMAGES", he is described as "The former print worker who worked for the TUC at the time of arrest is now studying for law"? Mind, a law student in 1996, became an expert with over 10 years experience in investment banking executive recruitment in 2003?

But what could Tucker possibly be doing in Honduras, and more importantly, who paid for his trip? How did he get to join the wife of President Zelaya in a snipper-braving caravan?

Records from Companies House show that Calvin Tucker resigned from his 'current' position of director of Dagama Executive Search in August 2008, he is not even a partner In Dagama anymore, therefore he was not in Honduras on a 'business' trip. Most likely he has been recruited by the Venezuelan regime to go agitate in favor of a Chavez associate.

Calvin Tucker is on record defending communism, from Czechoslovakia to Cuba; Tucker cheers for terrorists groups from Colombia to Palestina, whom he calls insurgents; Tucker has no qualms in declaring publicly his supports for violent overthrows of democratically elected governments -as long as coups are led by radical leftists like himself; Tucker takes pride in having beaten someone so badly that it needed reconstructive surgery to his face (Tucker posting as Zin); Tucker is infatuated with Castro and Chavez and, in a rather incredible turn of events, he is now asking Obama, read the President of the much hated American Empire, to interfere in the sovereign affairs of Honduras.

As I said on The Guardian's comment section, where the news about my dealings with the PCC were posted almost at the same time Tucker published it on his website:
Tucker, who paid for your trip to Honduras, the Venezuela Information Centre?
How come you dare lecture anyone about democracy when you have written things like this:
By contrast, I proclaim my support for the attempt to overthrow by force in 1992 the corrupt government of Carlos Andres Perez, which had lost all claims to democratic legitimacy...
You have the audacity to oppose the Cuban embargo and support the violent coup of Hugo Chavez, yet you call on Obama to impose what would amount to be an embargo in Honduras while crying bloody murder against the constitutional removal of Zelaya? You have some chutzpah, I give you that.
The positive thing about all this is that this is the kind of people The Guardian sides with, for Calvin Tucker is as democratic and peaceful as the dictators ruling Venezuela and Cuba, Tucker's professional credentials are as trustworthy as those of Eva Golinger, and he is as progressive and liberal as the BNP people. Now The Guardian, and the general public, knows about Tucker. I guess I can rest my case now.

* The site of the PCC does not contain one single reference about the term "oppositionist". I wonder where the jargon came from...
** Needless to say that Tucker did not remove anything from his website. However The Guardian's disingenuous and hypocritical stance is made all the more evident by the fact that it allowed a comment containing a link to Tucker's article in their own website.