Monday, September 17, 2007

Felicitous? -- A True Fable

Once upon the blogosphere there were two Englishwomen. One was a youngish wannabe member of the chattering class and the other was a somewhat older reclusive sort with an active imagination and sense of pique.

Let's call them Rachel Whatzername (I'm told she sues people who use her actual name but go here for hints) and Felicity Jane Lowde (who actually goes by her own name).

They had what Brits call a "row"(pronounce "ow" as in "owl"). Anywhere else it would have been a catfight. Meow!

Rachel has parlayed her claim to deep psychological scars from the London bombings of July 7, 2005, into a quasi-celebrity newspaper status in Britain, along with a column in The Times of London and a book whose launch party she has apparently postponed for reasons unknown.

Never heard of her? Neither had I. Someone could pull out the drain-plug that keeps England from sinking into the ocean and I, at least, wouldn't notice.

Not the Brits, of course. Someone else over there, namely Felicity, seems to have taken exception to Rachel's parlaying tragedy (actually a smallish, copycat 9/11-ish event, but with only 52 dead and all on surface transportation) into a PR bonanza full of emotionalism for fun and profit.

Here's Rachel's version and here's Felicity's. More or less.

It seems that Felicity thought that the physically unharmed Rachel, who was apparently somewhere about a block or so from one of the explosions, was a poseur. Claiming to be a researcher with "Special Branch" (a quasi-espionage unit of the London police), Felicity began to protest that Rachel protested too much.

Rachel began to portray herself as cyberstalked and roused a campaign of fellow Brits who raised the alarm. The salts! The salts! Mommy, mommy -- they would say "Mummy" but it sounds too silly -- someone is blogging nasty things about my blogging persona.

Brits used to be a lot more dignified. Before the bathos over the death of Princess Diana -- a talentless bad imitation Isadora Duncan if there ever was one! -- the much ballyhooed stiff upper lip did at least spare us the sight of people with sallow skin crying and despoiling the environment with millions of wrapped flowers.

(Note to emoters everywhere: take the paper and cellophane off the flowers you leave in public pseudo-shrines; the flowers will bio-degrade promptly and cleanly.)

Back to the cybertiff ... it doesn't end there.

The Rachelists managed to denounce what they perceived as malodorous blogging and, using some British law that muzzles opinions (I knew there was a good reason for the American Revolution), got the police of Oxford to go after Felicity and arrest her after she was tried and convicted in absentia. She was imprisoned on June 5 and released Sept. 6.

Sounds like out of the Middle Ages, complete with witch-hunt.

Frankly, I have no idea whatsoever who is telling the truth and it really doesn't matter. Rachel might well be trembling in a corner at the thought of Felicity blogging somewhere about her and several of her male fellow bloggers. Felicity may also well be as crazy as a loon -- although in this case, why not compassion and treatment rather than jail?

A pox on both their houses insofar as their original feud.

But jailing someone for blogging seems to contravene Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, of which last I checked, the United Kingdom is a signatory member. It reads
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
There's actually some sort of court muzzle in the U.K. on both Rachel and Felicity in this matter, as Felicity is appealing her conviction.

I'm writing about it freely under the theory that Britain will not extradite me from the United States for making well-deserved fun of the antics of her citizens and police. In the United States, opinion is protected speech. I am writing within the medium in which both Rachel and Felicity have sought to lead more or less public lives about writings that are extant in this medium.

My opinion, in sum, is that the whole thing is a complete waste of time, police resources and technology. If these two women would find their way to kiss and make up and the police to apologize and somehow compensate Felicity ... I'm expecting too much.

As an uncle of mine used to say, men and women are the worst people in the world. There is no exception in the blogosphere. Unfortunately.
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