There has been a lot in the news recently about internet bullying, following the tragic suicide of Hannah Smith who was sent abusive messages on social networking sites.
There is an impression that internet bullying is restricted to teenagers. But unfortunately it is far more widespread than that. Across all walks of life, decent people are being tormented by small groups of aggressive individuals.
Jeremy Duns is a prime example.
There is a long tradition of bullying at Britain's public schools, as anyone who has read Tom Brown's Schooldays will know. David Cameron is a good example - the Eton-educated PM will constantly pick on people less privileged than himself. The public school, right-wing Duns does the same, exploiting the web to attack people as perhaps he did at his expensive boarding school.
I will give two examples.
Last year, Duns dragged an author called Steve Roach into the limelight. First Duns alleged that Roach did not exist and was simply an false identity used by another writer called Stephen Leather. Duns posted this allegations on Twitter as fact. As I am sure most people will accept, this was upsetting for Steve Roach and.he contacted Duns to set the record straight.
Most normal people would be ashamed of themselves by this point.
But Duns only reluctantly conceded Roach existed. He then insisted that Roach had been 'bullied' by Leather. Again, Roach insisted this was not the case, as he told Duns over a telephone conversation, which Duns recorded without informing Roach.
Duns has constantly made false accusations against Roach.
Roach has publicly made this clear, in a comment on Duns's blog (here).
'You were publicly Tweeting that I was Stephen Leather – patently untrue
but that didn't stop you disseminating this false information into the
public domain," writes Roach.
Indeed, Duns eventually accepted that he had done something morally wrong. 'As for accusing you of being Stephen Leather, I apologized to you on the
phone and on Twitter for this. I apologize again: it's becoming clear
that it's a horrible thing to be accused of,' he wrote on Aug 25th, 2012.
But he carried on accusing Roach of being bullied by Leather, even when Roach told him this was not true.
So we should be clear about this. Duns has bullied Roach in a way that he accepts himself was wrong.
The second case is Nate Thayer.
Thayer is a widely respected American reporter.
Earlier this year, Duns started accusing Thayer of plagiarism over an article he wrote. This is a career threatening accusation to be made against a reporter. You can read about the accusation in NY magazine here.
The accusations were investigated by the Columbia Journalism Review, and found to be untrue -
'That doesn’t make him a plagiarist, and Duns was wrong to accuse him without giving him time to explain himself', it concluded ( the link is here). Mark Ziegler, the writer who Duns said Thayer had stolen from, said himself he did not think it was true (source here).
So just as Duns insists that Roach has been bullied when he says he hasn't been, he insists that Ziegler has been plagiarised when Ziegler says he has not.
It has done a lot of damage, I believe, to Thayer's career. According to his blog, he is now reduced to writing corporate newsletters for Chinese companies that do not pay him - link here.
My argument is that this is classic public school bullying of a type perfected by the English upper-classes. Duns picks on a victim, and then hurls a series of accusations against the person, with no interest in whether they are true or not.
Duns is being allowed to get away with terrible bullying on Twitter. Even worse, he is taking the culture of the public school and making it normal on sites such as Twitter. It is time he was stopped.