This article originally appeared on Oliver Hotham’s own blog here. Reproduced with permission.
A few weeks ago, when thinking of interesting things I could write for this blog, I remembered a weird organisation that gathered some attention on the internet a month or two ago.
The organisation is called Straight Pride UK. It’s a strange group which believes that the tide of Gay rights has gone too far, and that now heterosexuals have become the oppressed minority. Essentially their philosophy is spun from the same reactionary cloth as “Men’s Rights activists” - the notion that, having essentially run Western society for most its existence, progressive demands that Christian white straight males share some of their total grasp on power is somehow a removal of their rights.
Anyway, I wrote to Straight Pride asking that they answer some questions. Stipulating that I was “a freelance journalist”, I sent them some questions, about what they do and what they believe.
About a week later they responded with an attached document with the title “press release”. I went through the questions, corrected the horrendous grammar, and organised it so it coherently answered the questions I’d posed. I also noted that two rather pointed questions I’d asked, regarding the problem of the bullying of LGBTI youth and the nature of other “pride” movements, had not been answered. I sent them an email about this, saying that I’d give them the opportunity to respond but, if they didn’t, I’d “make it clear in the article” that they avoided the questions. They didn’t get back to me for 2 days, which I thought ample time to write two sentences.
Fully satisfied that my journalism had made them look like the arses they are, I hit the publish button, and sat back, feeling all together really pleased with myself. I called the article “It’s great to be straight… yeah”, too, which I thought acutely summed up their philosophy and referenced a mid-90s dance album I rather like.
The article gained a lot of traction, too. A friend and I put it on Reddit, and I got thousands of hits. In my short career of attempting to become a respectable journalist, it was one of the most successful things I’d done.
Then came the email from Straight Pride UK’s press officer, Nick Steiner:
“It has been brought to my attention that you have published the email that I sent you to, you did not state this in your email request, nor you did have consent to do this.
I therefore request that you take down the article that you have placed on your blog.
You have 7 days in which to do this, failing this I shall submit a DMCA to WordPress to have it removed.”
I laughed this off, and responded to the email arguing their case was absurd:
1) There was no indication on the “press release” they sent me that it was copyrighted material. Nor did they make any mention of the fact that anything they gave me was copyrighted.
2) I wrote “I’m a journalist and I’d like to ask you some questions” in my first email. If you’re a press officer and you don’t know what this means, then you really aren’t qualified to have your job.
3) In my email about the questions they didn’t answer, I made reference to “the article”. If that isn’t an indication that I’m going to publish something then I really don’t what is.
I thought this was a good enough defence, and I assumed this would all be swept under the carpet, and that their rather sad attempts to remove my article because it made them look stupid were all for naught.
I was wrong – within a few days WordPress caved to them without question, removing my article and telling me if I tried to publish it again I’d be suspended, but that I could challenge the takedown of my article. I responded that yes, I very much would like to, and was emailed a form I’d have to fill in. One of the requirements was that I “consent to local federal court jurisdiction, or if overseas, to an appropriate judicial body”.
I’m a student. I don’t have the money, time, or patience to go through with potentially having to go to court over this. All in all, I just could not be bothered to challenge the decision.
So I accepted the takedown, feeling thoroughly shit about myself.
Then I get another email from Straight Pride UK, which pissed me off even more. They demanded I take down the material (which I had) but also that I:
“…remove all references to Straight Pride UK, The Straight Forward Project, along with images, and links, from your Blog.”
So not content with forcing me to eat a shit sandwich on dubious grounds by making me take down my work, they now demand that I never write anything about them again. Are these people kidding? Who the hell do they think they are that they can simply demand that I not write about them again, in an email with the pointedly sinister name of their solicitors at the bottom?
This, for me, was the final straw, and why I decided to write this article.
Because I find it absurd that this silly little group can simply demand that remove all my references to them because it makes them look bad. What are they afraid of? Their views make them look stupid enough, why the need to so aggressively bully and harass me? Why do they care so much?
And are they so cowardly that an article criticising them is enough to attempt to pursue a tenuous legal case against the author?
It really boggles the mind.
Update: Having published this article this morning, Straight Pride responded with their usual response to criticism, tweeting:
Could you please take that down @OliverHotham we have contacted @wordpressdotcom Thanks, Nick
— Straight Pride (@StraightPrideUK) August 12, 2013
and hilariously describing me as “not a official journalist” (whatever that means):
Your not a official journalist @OliverHotham – If you could remove it please or I can ask @wordpressdotcom to. Thanks, Nick
— Straight Pride (@StraightPrideUK) August 12, 2013
But it was too late for Straight Pride UK. My article prompted an incredible storm on Twitter, with some even tracking down my original article in web archives and publishing it. My article got hundreds of retweets and reblogs, and any attempts by Straight Pride UK to take it down now will accomplish nothing.
The internet really can be amazing, and I want to thank everybody for their support and good will.
Keep up the good fight everyone!
Contact Oliver on twitter at @OliverHotham