Shot by Both Sides has died of its wounds

by Chris Bertram on September 13, 2005

The blogosphere ecosystem just lost a bit of its biodiversity with John Band’s decision to shut down Shot by Both Sides . I’ve alternately enjoyed and been infuriated by John’s blog and he’s certainly been a major irritant to the decent smug and self-satisfied former left and the samizdatistas. Both Daniel and I were regular commenters on John’s site and I’ll miss the mix of friendly repartee and ill-tempered invective there. Still, there’s an upside: John says he’ll be writing more at the excellent Sharpener . Go to read him there.

{ 36 comments }

1

Thomas Nephew 09.13.05 at 11:44 am

Sadly, Arthur Silber (“The Light of Reason”) is also laying down his keyboard.

2

Tom 09.13.05 at 1:38 pm

If it’s “smug” to be shocked by calls for the Board of Deputies to be gassed – as John Band did recently then I suspect a lot more of us are happy to accept the term than you can imagine.

3

Matt Daws 09.13.05 at 2:57 pm

I’d prefer “humourless”, Tom, but there we go. Think about the words “perspective” and “sense of”, and try to form a sentence. It was a weblog, for goodness sake!!

4

Eric 09.13.05 at 3:57 pm

As part of the “smug and self satisfied left”, I’d just like to say how I’ve been missing John B’s site for months.

I missed the post that made him give up, since I’d already given up on him. I’m glad I didn’t read given comment number 2.

5

Michael 09.13.05 at 4:17 pm

If it’s “smug” to be shocked by calls for the Board of Deputies to be gassed – as John Band did recently

It’s certainly smug to lift that quote entirely out of its original context and present it as though it was the be-all and end-all of John’s post – and then use this out-of-context quotation as a defence of your position.

As for Eric, if I remember rightly, his last post on SBBS was to take considerable umbrage at John’s piss-take of the Daily Mail’s likely reaction to the 7/7 bombings and their effect on house prices. A fortnight later, the Express ran the front-page headline ‘BOMBERS WERE ALL SPONGEING ASYLUM SEEKERS’, thus not only vindicating John’s satire but suggesting that he didn’t go anything like far enough.

6

Tom 09.13.05 at 4:29 pm

Gassing Jews has a context?

7

Chris Bertram 09.13.05 at 4:42 pm

Personally, I’m not a fan of “Chris Morris”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Morris_%28satirist%29 . Some of his sketches about paedophilia or rape were too much for me. John’s remark was barbed and sick humour in the same kind of way. I didn’t like it, it made me flinch a bit. Of course you could say, re Chris Morris

bq. “Rape has a context?”

And you’d be making a point that ought to be given the same weight as Tom’s.

(See also Morris’s collaborator “Charlie Brooker”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Brooker , notorious for his John Wilkes Booth joke re GWB.)

Anyone who suggests that John’s joke was antisemitic is a fool (if they believe it) or malicious and insincere (if they don’t).

8

Backword Dave 09.13.05 at 4:48 pm

It’s Google cached (I’m not at all certain that link will work), so you can make up your own mind Tom. Good knock-about fun.

9

Eric 09.13.05 at 4:56 pm

I think he’s a decent bloke who became increasingly unhinged – after realising being a shock-jock blogger creates traffic and noise. He most certainly isn’t anti-semitic.

Everyone thinks of things that are funny, in the Chris Morris sense, then draws back. On SBBS latterly it felt like he had lost control of a monster.

Good luck to him on The Sharpener.

10

dsquared 09.13.05 at 5:01 pm

I think he’s a decent bloke who became increasingly unhinged

I think that a suitable epitaph for SBBS would be Lichtenberg’s remark:

This book is a mirror. When a monkey looks in, no genius looks out.

11

Eric 09.13.05 at 5:13 pm

Superb, it fits the fact you and Bertram spent a lot of time there.

12

Matt Daws 09.13.05 at 5:21 pm

Eric, Do you just want to abuse people here, or what? Please, I’m very annoyed that John has been forced off the internet because some people can’t take a joke. You’re a fine one to suggest that “I think he’s a decent bloke who became increasingly unhinged”: try looking in a mirror yourself.

Yes, the Chris Morris comparison is apt. People couldn’t see the funny side of him either. Of course, Morris was on TV, so you had to, hmm, change the channel if you didn’t like it. Goodness knows it must be hard to keep being forced to enter John’s URL into your browser. If you don’t like it, don’t read it!

13

dsquared 09.13.05 at 5:43 pm

I know you are, but what am I?

14

Eve Garrard 09.13.05 at 5:47 pm

Strange, that – I’m finding it quite hard myself to see the funny side of calls for a bunch of Jews to be gassed. Mind you, I’d also find it quite hard to see the funny side of calls to nuke Japan, or to lop off the hands and feet of tiresome little African children. As Matt says, some people just can’t take a joke.

15

Tom 09.13.05 at 5:48 pm

Not anti-semitic, just really pathetic attention-seeking.

By the way I wouldn’t characterise women as humourless because they don’t laugh at jokes about rape.

16

dsquared 09.13.05 at 5:54 pm

I’m finding it quite hard myself to see the funny side of calls for a bunch of Jews to be gassed

fucking bad luck for Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, Jonathan Miller, Jackie Mason and Rodney Dangerfield, to name only the ones in my record collection.

17

Michael 09.13.05 at 5:58 pm

By the way I wouldn’t characterise women as humourless because they don’t laugh at jokes about rape.

I’m assuming you didn’t watch tonight’s Nighty Night – which contained more jokes about rape in the space of half an hour than I think I’ve ever encountered on television before.

(Mind you, I suspect rather fewer of them would have got through the BBC taste-and-decency filter if the script hadn’t been written by a woman, but that’s another issue entirely)

18

dsquared 09.13.05 at 6:00 pm

(and while we’re on the subject I was only last Saturday sitting in a room full of women laughing at jokes about rape. I am almost on the point of demanding from participants in this thread two separate jokes, with citations, that they have laughed at. perhaps with a recording of the laugh so that we can tell what we’re dealing with.)

19

Fergal 09.14.05 at 12:00 am

“…calls for a bunch of Jews to be gassed”

fucking bad luck for Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, Jonathan Miller, Jackie Mason and Rodney Dangerfield, to name only the ones in my record collection.

Did you -once again- pull that out of your ass? Citations, svp.

20

Tom Doyle 09.14.05 at 12:54 am

On the subject of this thread, I associate myself with the views expressed by Chris Bertram and Daniel Davies.

21

Eric 09.14.05 at 2:58 am

Eric, Do you just want to abuse people here, or what?

Not really, but dsquared started it with his quote.

Perhaps I should have called for John to be gassed.

That would be funny.

22

Chris Bertram 09.14.05 at 3:05 am

See also “Where there were no doors”:http://no-doors.blogspot.com/2005/09/surprising-revelation.html (and the comments).

23

Eric 09.14.05 at 3:06 am

Anyway in dsqaured desire to call me a monkey and Chris Bertram’s childish attempt to have a go at the pro-war left an important issue seems to be being missed.

On Shot by by both Sides it currently says:

For those of you who lied, twisted, cheated and bullied until the least worst choice available to me was to close the site, congratulations.

And on Backward Dave’s site it says:

Perhaps there’s no higher acclaim that being blackmailed by envious anonymous cunts.

While I had my disagreements with John B, I still think he was a decent enough bloke and do take exception to people who may have used blackmail and anonymous threats to force him to stop blogging (not even to merely apologise for the post). Certainly his site had become formulaic and merely offensive most of the time, but it was not a site that should have been effectively “banned”.

So what is going on here?

24

Michael 09.14.05 at 5:20 am

It turned out my hunch was spot-on – not only did someone (or some people) complain to John’s employers, but they also threatened to contact the firm’s clients and the national press. Clearly, this wouldn’t have done wonders for his career prospects – hence the site closure (which John said was the “least worst option”).

So let’s just put this in perspective: while some may have been offended by what John wrote, others actually took it upon themselves to try to destroy his career.

To say that these people are scum is something of an understatement – and I for one hope they’re outed before they pull off another stunt like this.

25

Nosemonkey 09.14.05 at 8:31 am

A subtle distinction, but an important one. He called for the Board of Deputies of British Jews to be gassed, but – ignoring the obvious fact that it wasn’t meant at all seriously – that they were Jewish was incidental. Viz. “Send the Board to the gas chambers, that’s what I say (no, not for their ethnicity; for their fatuous whining. And obviously, the people who complain about Bob Geldof saying ‘fuck’ on the telly should be ahead of them in the queue….)”

Logically extrapolating from the attempted justifications in the comments here (and by some of the more self-righteous idiots in the comments section of Harry’s Place), it would seem that wanting to gas people who complained about Geldof swearing is fine. As long as they aren’t Jewish. Which, in my humble opinion, is significanly more patronisingly racist than anything I’ve ever read of John B’s.

Shot by Both Sides was a satirical site – not always satire of genius, but satirical nonetheless. John’s whole persona on that site was, from everthing I can tell, merely that – a persona, an exaggeration of some of the worst excesses of the internet. To take that into the real world is less than pathetic. It’d be akin to trying to get Swift booted out of the Church for writing “A Modest proposal” – after all, if he wrote that the children of poor Irish people should be used as food, he simply MUST have meant it…

26

kenzdawg 09.14.05 at 9:43 am

Far from being a “major irritant” I seem to recall that the only people who followed John B to his blog were a few cranks from BBBC. To qualify as an irritant surely his drivellings would have had to have been of substance and genuinely meant. T’was all in fun, remember?

27

Natalie Solent 09.14.05 at 10:58 am

Talk of the devil and (s)he will appear. I enjoyed sparring with John B and will miss his site.

I don’t think that nosemonkey’s defence of the gassing Jews remark is particularly convincing. The Bob Geldof part of that remark doesn’t make the Jews part OK. Surely I don’t really have to explain why.

But tracking John B down and threatening to destroy his career? Making him take down his archives? That is vindictive.

It is also scary.

28

Tim Worstall 09.14.05 at 11:31 am

Sufficiently vindictive that I would love to be similarly so to those who did it to him.

Alas, if only we knew who that actually was.

29

kenzdawg 09.14.05 at 11:32 am

I meant, and should have said, BBBC commentariat. For what my opinion is worth I don’t think you’re a crank at all, Nathalie.

30

Anon 09.14.05 at 1:15 pm

Perhaps you might want to take the matter up with your resident B-BBC crank, JohninLondon aka John Anderson, Natalie.

Scary perhaps, but you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out that this all kicked off about the time regular sparring matches took place at Harry’s Place, here, SBBS and B-BBC, and why JohnB asked him to email him privately at about the same time JohnB’s blog went silent.

As for tracking JohnB down, it wasn’t that difficult – his site made reference to where he worked.

The more worrying thing from your perspective, Natalie is having this kind of vindictive little man regularly keeping company on your blog’s comment board.

31

abb1 09.14.05 at 2:21 pm

I think the contemporary PC rules stipulate that one is fully entitled to make ethnic/racial/religious jokes about one’s own race/ethnicity/religion, no matter how tasteless; otherwise it may be considered extremely offensive. I think there was even a Seinfeld episode built on this phenomenon.

Thus Swift’s Modest Proposal is well within the boundaries.

This John Band guy should’ve declared himself Jewish (at least temporarily) and make all the gassing jokes he wants; otherwise it’s way over the line. Must follow the rules.

32

john b 09.14.05 at 3:22 pm

I considered trading off my father’s and my girlfriend’s ethnicity for this very purpose, but then decided it’d be lame of me.

(hmm, just noticed I’ve typed the sbbs url in as my website. ever so slightly saddening.)

Cheers all for broadly kind comments.

33

Eric 09.14.05 at 4:05 pm

Well, keep blogging at the Sharpener mate.

Good luck.

34

Squander Two 09.15.05 at 5:12 am

I loved arguing with you, John. Annoyed that my employers blocked the site.

Here’s a suggestion. Why not get someone who either is unemployed or whose employers are easy-going to republish your archives for you under a different name? We’d all know whose it really was, but you wouldn’t be legally responsible for any of it.

A sad day for bloggers, I have to say. We should find out who did this and do something nasty in return.

35

ed thomas 09.15.05 at 5:44 am

I sympathise with J.B., of course- though, as a BBBC poster sometimes it can be hard to find oneself indirectly or directly insulted.

But one thing I would add is that the problem I found with SBBS is the incredible unevenness of the so-called satire. Sometimes J.B. would be reasoned and reasonable, sometimes not. Sometimes he would affect a persona, sometimes not. One felt, as a reader, somewhat manipulated- and that wasn’t a question of literary intention, but something baser. I can cope with that, of course, but allied to the self-description of one who takes a middle course (shot by both sides), and reaps the benfits of surfing through the ‘mainstream’, it had a somewhat incendiary quality.

I feel, to put it bluntly, that SBBS exploited the very qualities of evenhandedness and reasonable good-blokishness that it affected to respect. It drew people in and then slammed doors in their faces- ha ha. Moreover it seemed to regard this quality at an evidence of intelligence and worthiness.

Well, just quibbling. I don’t agree with anyone who might have damaged John B. with his employer. I believe that we’re probably damaged by such tactics too. On the other hand I won’t pretend that I thought SBBS was anything other than intelligent and stupid- mixed in an unfortunate and destructive ratio. I have preferred JB’s more considered pieces at the Sharpener anyway.

36

Rob Read 09.16.05 at 5:05 am

couldn’t stand him, but his shit kept the Internet flies away from the better sites.

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