4th November 2018
Kevin Hague writes online articles which look deeply into the economics of an independent Scotland. He does so from a position of opposing the break up of the UK and Scottish independence, and his conclusions seem to be that Scotland would struggle to succeed if independent. What writing of his I've read goes way over my head, and so I've made little attempt to understand it. My viewpoint is much simpler: having spent time in Ireland, Denmark and Norway, I'm more than confident that the people of Scotland are capable of replicating their success if given the opportunity.
The independence debate is horribly entrenched on both sides. For many folk on social media this means they only follow and communicate with like-minded accounts, ignoring those opposed to their views. I've tried not to do that - I probably follow and chat with as many on the unionist side as the nationalist one. I have friendly relationships with a dozen or so unionist folk, occasional chats with another score and fleeting conversations with lots of others each month. I like to think that some of these are genuine two-way friendships.
So when I see someone having a problem, I like to help them out if I can, regardless of their political standpoint. In June 2015 Kevin's blog was being blacklisted by Twitter. I work online all day, and occasionally this gives me snippets of information which can help people, so I DM'd Kevin with an email address for Twitter he could try, and he said he'd get in touch. It took me no time at all, and even though Kevin and I are on opposite sides of the debate, it's nice to help out if you can. If I remember correctly, it turned out the problem was with the whole of Blogspot, not Kevin's blog alone.
Yesterday I saw someone else with a problem - an account ( @moneymonopolist ) which I'd never interacted with before but had seen a few tweets from over the previous couple of days had tweeted a link to a PDF file. Unfortunately the link was to his desktop, so something like file:///C:/Users/My/Desktop/file.pdf. I tweeted to explain that the link wouldn't work, and over a short conversation offered to host the file online for him so he could link to it correctly.
So I uploaded it. I didn't read it apart from glancing at it when checking that it would download correctly.
Some folk have asked me why I would upload a file to my webspace without checking it, and I can understand why that would look strange, but here's the thing: On that server I host hundreds of thousands of files for people, and I check, literally, none of them. I host the minutes of community council meetings, this week's sermons for churches, lists of cigarette cards or spreadsheets of record collections. I do this for paying clients, and for individuals, clubs and organisations who are looking for a free website. I don't give the content of the files a minute's thought - web hosting is a big part of my job and what folk are uploading to their sites is their business, not mine.
In hindsight it would have been much better if I'd hosted it on an anonymous domain rather than my own, as that led to the following confusion.
Unknown to me (because he'd blocked me 18 months ago over something unrelated) Kevin had spotted my domain in the URL, and without checking with me had tweeted the accusation that I was the author of the document and was operating the @moneymonopolist account as a sock-puppet. Lots of his followers read this, believed it and commented on it over the next hour or two, but I remained oblivious.
Eventually I found out when someone tweeted something like "I see you're tweeting from your real account now...". Kevin eventually unblocked me to send me a stream of angry (and sometimes sweary) tweets and DMs. He seems to be really upset about the document, and claims it's full of lies about him. I've scanned it, but like Kevin's work it's way over my head. It makes various assertions about Kevin's economic views - I'm in no position to decide whether these are correct or not, or whether they are lies or academic differences.
Finally this morning Kevin asked me to take the document down. I've explained to him that it'll no doubt just get hosted somewhere else by someone else, but I don't want my favour to one person to cause upset to another, so I'm happy to do so.
To be completely clear, this is in no way an apology to Kevin. I'm happy that I've done nothing wrong. Kevin's view is that I am the publisher of the document because I hosted it on my server. My position is that I'm more like a librarian who happens to have a book about Kevin on one of my shelves. It's the author of the article Kevin should be taking his issues up with.
Kevin's own website is hosted for him by Blogspot. If Kevin writes something on his website which misrepresents or offends someone, then clearly that person should take that up with Kevin, not with Blogspot.
Nor have I removed the file due to Kevin's threats of libel proceedings - as an employee of a web hosting company of 20 years I've been threatened with this many times and have the legal advice to reassure me on that account. I've done so because it's clearly not worth the hassle, and I've no wish to be responsible for Kevin's upset feelings.
Finally, to be totally clear, I'm not author of the piece, I have never operated the @moneymonopolist account, I have no opinion on whether the document is correct either in economic terms or in what it says about Kevin's viewpoints.☝