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Blogger Humiliates Town Councillors Into Resigning 227

Dr_Barnowl writes "In an occurrence first postulated in sci-fi and later lampooned by stick figures, it seems that a blogger has actually been responsible for the mass resignation of elected officials — a British town council — largely by calling them 'jack***es' and Nazis. What's next? The deposition of a president with 'your mom' smacktalk?"
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Blogger Humiliates Town Councillors Into Resigning

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  • Bloggers are taking over the world!

    Let's just hope xkcd will be the new president.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Hal_Porter ( 817932 )

      I'm going to kill Cory Doctorow right now. I know his chances of making it as Polemarch (or Archon or whatever, I can't be assed reading Ender's Game because I know the plot twist) are minimal but I can't take that chance.

  • by LatencyKills ( 1213908 ) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @06:39AM (#29940603)
    TFA is atrociously thin on what I'm certain is a long-ongoing feud between many townspeople and not the inflammatory comments of a single blogger. I think all rational people realize that when someone whips out the Nazi comparison that they're just behaving irrationally and will most likely be ignored, so the argument we're supposed to believe is that 12 counselors resigned over being called jackasses? Seems unlikely. For those of you hoping to start a grass roots revolution so easily, I'd be willing to bet that at least some level of phone calls to their homes at all hours and perhaps a few loud townhall meetings were involved (both of which, incidentally, you can't do at either the US House or Senate).
    • Phone calls at all hours would result in the attention of PC Plod. It's illegal in this country. And townhall meetings are a US phenomenon with no UK equivalent.
    • by gowen ( 141411 ) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Sunday November 01, 2009 @06:57AM (#29940651) Homepage Journal

      To be fair, looking at his blog (see here [blogspot.com]) he's not exactly clear about his allegations. Having read his droolings, I firmly believe that people would quit working for a council to avoid having to deal with that paranoid mental case.

      • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @07:09AM (#29940677)

        paranoid mental case.

        His concerns seem valid. There looks to be manipulation of the planning system for personal profit by a councillor who is also a property developer.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Doesn't that happen on every council?

        • by NickFortune ( 613926 ) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @08:29AM (#29940931) Homepage Journal

          I agree entirely. There's this meme going around that holds that if newspapers die, investigative journalism will vanish from the face of the earth. I think this case could well serve as a counter example.

          Incidentally, is it me or is there a a strong subtext of "don't try this at home, kids!" to many of the posts on this topic? You'd almost think some people were worried in case this sort of grass roots political activism should catch on....

      • Oh seriously, that's what they should expect when they are in government! Something tells me that they made the right move in resigning if they were all so thin-skinned...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by murdocj ( 543661 )

          Having watched small town politics for a while, I think many people get elected filled with idealism and then quickly get disillusioned by how petty and nasty the politics can get. Imagine being put under a microscope where saying hello to a couple fellow board members at the only grocery store in town can become an illegal non-public session?

          I'm not saying that local government is pure as driven snow. There's certainly plenty of sweetheart deals and backroom stuff. But from what I've seen, being in loca

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 01, 2009 @07:06AM (#29940669)

      The associated blog itself only hints at the underlying cause - it *appears* that a direct enquiry as to why the said council was not responding to requests under the Freedom of Information Act let to a mass "spontaneous" resignation. It all appeared to be quite an orchestrated circus, the mass walk-out that is, and so was probably foreseen by the said council members. Funny how they all had letters of resignation ready to submit.
      Methinks they doth protest too much, and one anticipates exposure of earlier ill-deeds by some of the outgoing council, perhaps even legal actions.
      Overall, kudos to the blogger for speaking truth to power - more evidence that the current "blogger's revolution" referenced recently here on slashdot will see our modern media overturned in short shrift.
      And from the comments to the blog, it looks like it's riled up the peasants somewhat, and we'll see more citizen action in the near future. It's so heartening to see grass-roots action affecting real change.

      • Funny how they all had letters of resignation ready to submit.

        Yes, because it takes *weeks* to draft a resignation letter...

        That said, if you are a public figure, making decisions on behalf of the public, you should expect criticism.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Dun Malg ( 230075 )

          Yes, because it takes *weeks* to draft a resignation letter...

          It does take several minutes, at least, and requires a word processor and a printer. Again, it is funny how they all showed up to the meeting with resignation letters in their pockets.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by tkw954 ( 709413 )

            [Writing a resignation letter] does take several minutes, at least, and requires a word processor and a printer.

            Yeah, before the C64, it was impossible for anyone to quit their job!

    • You are correct, they resigned because of sustained pressure not just from this blogger but from local press and constituents (voters). They are just blaming the blogger to elect sympathy (no pun intended).

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        to elect sympathy (no pun intended).

        If you'd said 'elicit' there would've been no pun anyway...

      • Oh, but if only the Australian New South Wales State government would do the same thing and resign as one in protest! Currently we have to wait for just under 2 years before they will be voted out.

    • by thewiz ( 24994 ) *

      An answer to your title: Of course we can't; they're too hooked on the money they get from lobbyists and "special" interests. The money and congressional aids make it easier to ignore the citizens of the USA.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by twostix ( 1277166 )

      Civil servants in the mother country have developed a disturbing sense of over entitlement to their positions and status. So no it wouldn't surprise me in the least to hear that a single blogger has been enough of pain for a couple of them enough to throw a hissy fit. In "nu england" where 1 in 4 workers are employed by the government a new class of individual has arisen: the over entitled, all powerful, low level, vindictive, civil servant.

      The movie Brazil would have been better named "UK" because as the

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        +1 Troll - classic mix of truth and rampant hyperbole.

        Local councils have been given way more power than they need allowing them to spend money on total nonsense - but;

        • I've heard of no councils that have reduced bin collection to every 2 weeks - only certain 'luxury pickups' like garden waste (leaves, hedge trimmings etc.) and certain recycling pickups; so definite citation needed here
        • The cameras in people's homes are a UK Gov plan that the councils have no choice but to follow - blame the cabinet for that
        • I've heard of no councils that have reduced bin collection to every 2 weeks - only certain 'luxury pickups' like garden waste (leaves, hedge trimmings etc.) and certain recycling pickups; so definite citation needed here

          Our bins (somewhere up north) alternate black one week, garden/bottles/cardboard the next. This is the standard for most of the City.

        • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @01:54PM (#29942698)

          I've heard of no councils that have reduced bin collection to every 2 weeks - only certain 'luxury pickups' like garden waste (leaves, hedge trimmings etc.) and certain recycling pickups; so definite citation needed here

          Credibility fail. Literally five seconds with Google would show you that this practice has become commonplace across the UK in recent years, usually against public opinion. The details of which recycling is collected vary by local council, but reducing general rubbish collections to biweekly is almost always involved.

          This does make things somewhat unpleasant in terms of smells and pests at certain times of year. IME, the worse problem is that it means if a council miss your collection one week, you wind up with an entire month of rubbish to go in the (typically small) bin, which just doesn't fit. Then the council may refuse to collect excess waste (or you get fined via the legal system), and often there is no useful process of appeal: if the bin men say your bin wasn't out, that's it, even if it clearly was and they've made the same mistake several times already. I'm writing from personal experience, but I'm hardly the only one who's mentioned this problem on local forums around where I live.

          The man wasn't arrested for leaving his bin open - he was fined, for over-filling his bin. It was a bit specific to the letter of the law, but its not outrageous to draw the line where they did

          That rather depends on whether the council are doing a decent job otherwise, doesn't it? As I noted above, they frequently don't, but now instead of it being their problem, it has legally become yours.

          There are numerous other minor abuses going on, e.g., if you get home from work on collection day and find one of your recycling bins/boxes hasn't come back, you can get another one free, but some places charge a lot of money to replace the general waste bin under the same circumstances. Once again, containers not being put back outside your home after collection is a common problem—we've had four or five instances in the past couple of years—and to a household on a low income, the cost of replacement just so they can use the bin service they're already paying through the nose for via Council Tax, is a lot of money.

          Defenders of such policies usually seem to mumble something about not having hypothecated taxation, so just because we have a dedicated Council Tax that goes to our local authorities and just because those local authorities are legally responsible for providing waste collection services, that doesn't mean you're entitled to actually get a working service or any minimum standards just because you pay them thousands of pounds a year in tax. Seriously, I've been told this many times, and it seems to be the best they've got. What happened to no taxation without representation? Why aren't our representatives up in arms over this sort of failure to provide essential basic services?

      • In America, a lot of that crap would get you shot, I don't care if you're from the "government" or not. Even federal agents need probable cause (or some other silly legal term for "a pretty darn good reason to look through your stuff," ridiculousness about border controls post 9/11 notwithstanding). Why do people still live in countries where something like that is allowed to go on?
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by abigsmurf ( 919188 )
        Sent men in black vans to rummage through individuals bins to make sure that they are sorting their rubbish properly (before sending to mass landfill anyway).

        Binmen inspect what you put in the recycling bin. One bin full of badly sorted waste can contaminate an entire truck of recyclable material. If you don't sort properly, your recycled bin gets put in the landfill.

        Started placing cameras *in* families homes - 20000 of them over the next few years.

        Bullshit typical of the Daily Mail

        Reduced bin
      • Looks like it's time to send in one honest copper to clean house!
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Hope Thelps ( 322083 )

        The movie Brazil would have been better named "UK" because as they say, nobody does bureaucracy like the English

        Huh? The name "Brazil" represents the fantasy land Sam Lowry escapes to in his dreams, not the society he lives in. It's no secret that the society is based on the UK. I think a UK address is clearly given at one point.

      • The movie Brazil would have been better named "UK" because as they say, nobody does bureaucracy like the English - and they used to say that *before* the Nu Labour "revolution".

        You don't know you are born unless you've experienced the bureaucracy in France. In fact in general, compared with other countries, Britons have relatively little to complain about. The only reason most of them THINK they have it so bad is because of their little Britain ignorance of other countries politics.

        (Disclaimer: I'm British,

    • I think all rational people realize that when someone whips out the Nazi comparison that they're just behaving irrationally and will most likely be ignored

      And I think that people who without exceptions ignore any Nazi comparison, even when it fits (I'm not saying this is the case here), are just as irrational, as those who use irrational comparisons, and with them in the same mindset of one-dimensional black/white thinking as... well... you know who. ^^

    • ...and perhaps a few loud townhall meetings were involved (both of which, incidentally, you can't do at either the US House or Senate).

      Ahem..., kept up on recent events in the House much? Let's just say that for certain factions, those feeling a little "challenged", decorum ain't what it used to be.

      As for TFA, it is indeed startlingly short on detail and context that might have made the story more meaningful. If the elected officials actually suffered from harassment, as opposed to civil discourse that legitimately challenged their actions, it is a shame that they quit. If that's what happens it means the system is more broken than if

    • I think all rational people realize that when someone whips out the Nazi comparison that they're just behaving irrationally

      Normally you'd be right, but you know, when the council voted to invade Poland, someone had to dare to speak the truth!

  • by CaptainOfSpray ( 1229754 ) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @06:41AM (#29940605)
    And what prevented those councillors from telling their side of the story?

    Clearly they had no real response to this blogger, and so just folded.

    Leaves me wondering whether they were guilty or merely incompetent.
    • And what prevented those councillors from telling their side of the story?.

      Probably the fact that they're not intersted in blogging or using the internet. That doesn't make them web-illiterate, just as not having in interest in racing cars means you're a bad driver: just that they have neither the eloquence, nor ability, time or maybe even the low standards needed to engage in a war of words with someone who obviously has his own personal issues with these guys.

      After all, they're only volunteers, standing for a town council, why should that require blogging or P.R. skills?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        They are politicians - part of the required skill set is media-savvy. Also, the Internet is not the only medium.

        And they do get paid - this is a town council, not a parish council. Quote from a Mail Online story (yes I know) [dailymail.co.uk] "Local councillors pocketed pay rises of double the level of inflation last year, a study has revealed. Nearly 20,000 picked up an average of £9,300 in 'allowances', the basic pay they get from town halls. In some local authorities, the sum was more than £20,000 a year."
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by MatB ( 845512 )
          Nope--Town Councils are equivalent to Parish Councils, it's just a different name. They're unpaid. The town is not a Primary Local Authority, it's in one of the Somerset unitaries, I forget which. (I've lived in the towns of Brixham and Totnes, and now live near Hebden Bridge and Todmorden, all have Town Councils, none of the Cllrs are paid).

          Having said that, I agree with your overall point--they should've been able to respond to what was said, it's not like you can't issue a press release.
      • I won't go over CaptainofSpray's ground again except to commend his post. But they have plenty of opportunity to make their case. The local weekly magazine (Fosseway) is now very right wing Conservative and would give them plenty of space to publish rebuttals. The blogger is, basically, alleging that they have made planning decisions which benefit the council leader and not the public. If this is true, how are they going to respond? If not, why hasn't their response been published at length in a magazine wh
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          how are they going to respond?

          Can I suggest sacrificing some virgins to the local dragon? It has often worked in the past!

          After all, our beloved government has just demonstrated their opposition to the concept of science, so logical responses are clearly politically unacceptable.

    • There side of the story is already in the public domain through the minutes of public meetings and various stuff available under FOIA requests.

      Councillors simply can't respond to random militant bloggers on a level playing field. For one they can't use the language bloggers use (if they like being employed that is). Even if the councillor does use civil language, getting in a public debate with someone that hostile not only will look bad (regardless of if they win it or not) , it will add legitimacy to th

    • Clearly they should have trolled his comments.
    • An organized walk-out in order to sabotage the council.

      They can't or won't fix the things they are responsible for - so they stage a walkout and blame it all on the opposition coming from a vocal minority.
      Being called "clowns" and "nazis" is hardly a cause for "Businessman Mr Canvin, 61" to storm out cause he is "not going to tolerate it when [he's] working for the town."

  • CounCILLors! (Score:5, Informative)

    by earthloop ( 449575 ) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @06:41AM (#29940607) Homepage

    They're councillors. As in, people on a council.

    Counsellors are a different breed of people altogether, like Troi.

    • I dunno, standing up in front of everyone and stating the bleeding obvious like it's some sort of startling revelation sounds like a councillor too.

  • by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @06:43AM (#29940609)
    Disclaimer: I live in the Somerton and Frome constituency. The East side (where I live) is part of the 21st century, The politics is mainly Lib Dem (the only mainstream UK progressive party- and no, I am not a member.) The south-west side is deeply conservative and rural, and the local grandees have a huge sense of entitlement. They think that they have a right to run things and nobody should be allowed to criticise them. (They are also the area's Nimbys - they try to block industry or anything that will modernise the area and provide well-paid jobs for non-landowners.)

    Now someone thinks they have the right to comment on Council decisions - and the toys get thrown out of the pram.

    This is not about bloggers. It's about rural Conservatives finding their views called into question. It would be exactly the same if it was a campaigning newspaper, or if the people in subsidised housing started a resident's group and sent someone to see what happened in Council meetings.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 01, 2009 @08:06AM (#29940843)

      First of all, I live in Somerton, and its not a backwards place like Kupfernigk is trying to make out.
      We are just a normal town, and from the sounds of things Kupfernigk has probably hardly ever been to Somerton and thinks the have the right to criticise what they no NOTHING about!!

      This isnt about blogging. A lot of people here think that some members of the council were out to make money, and there are strong rumours that local people were trying to get them kicked off the council, so they ran instead.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That sounds right to me. How anyone (BBC included) can reduce the interests and actions of 100+ locals down to the words of one blogger is an odd bit of misinterpretation. At best M&B is a lightning rod, an articulation of sentiment that is apparently shared by a significant number of others. So any assignment of responsibility is about like blaming the messenger.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by twostix ( 1277166 )

      Really...because from what I read (rather than what you postulate) of the story it appears that the council members were trying to push through various commercial and industrial ventures that would benefit themselves privately (wow very "21st century"!) and the blogger was calling them out on it.

      So it would be the blogger who was the "rural conservative" (apparently just about the worst person in the world in some areas of the Internet it would seem) and the council members who where in the "21st" century

    • by khallow ( 566160 )
      Heh, -1 not condescending enough for Slashdot. And you're still living in the 21st century? Come on. That was so 8 years ago.
  • by CdBee ( 742846 ) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @06:46AM (#29940629)
    In the UK its fairly easy to get sued for making written statements about people unless you are scrupulously accurate, and having looked at the blog in question he's taken a fair few risks..

    Probably the traditional British tolerance for ecentricity is the only thing preventing the targets of his jibes from crucifying him in a civil court...
  • I love how "ass" is bleeped out and Nazi is an OK word.

    Also, both bleeps and asterisks just emphasize that there is something to "hide", making it's effect stronger as it forces the brain out of normal cruise into attention.

  • Nah, there was other reasons, no real politician would resign just because he was called names. Name calling is part of the business.

  • The article was scant on details, unfortunately, but it seems the blogger was pointing out extreme irregularities going on in the council. In the U.S., such reports led to the FBI investigating the council of Dallas, Texas. One important difference in Dallas was that the players were too arrogant to realize that there was potential for felony conviction and jail time for their activities and refused to resign or otherwise remove themselves.

    I have to wonder if the situation in Somerton was anything like th

  • "...largely by calling them 'jack***es' and Nazis. What's next? The deposition of a president with 'your mom' smacktalk?"

    Bloggers, news reporters, CNN, Wall Street Journal...Funny thing about when the Truth comes out. Really doesn't matter who reports it. If it's valid and bad enough, people will be affected by it. Chances are they resigned not because the accusations were false and therefore they could have fought it with a valid counterargument.

    I know it's pretty sad to realize that we're going to be

  • ..my name and shame blog will have the same effect - follow the link in my signature line...
  • This guy won his argument invoking Godwin's Law? I thought calling someone a Nazi or Hitler was a sign that the name-caller has lost.
  • On behalf of the people of Ottawa,CA, I would like you to come here and continue your fine work. I"m sure we can make it worth your while, possibly with incentives for each resignation.

Air is water with holes in it.