Paul Carr and The LNR – Redux

Prologue

Some of you may remember this post from a while ago – Easter 2006, in fact. It explains what happened at the old London News Review, and why we are not enthusiasts for Paul Carr.

His response to the post was a lot of bluster, accompanied by corporate threats to sue me for defamation. A favourite moment from the exchange:

I promise you, once we start incurring legal costs, the rules of the game change dramatically so if you choose not to remove the material immediately, I’d strongly advise you to find a very, very good libel lawyer.

I imagine judges love being told the law belongs to those with most money.

(Aside: You’d honestly think that a start-up publishing company would have better things to do with its time, legal time, energy, capital and goodwill than getting a Mergers & Acquisition Lawyer to threaten me; but you get drawn into that kind of lunacy when Carr’s around. I don’t blame the company: they seem like a decent small house with enthusiasm, commitment and a healthy list, and I don’t see any reason to bear them ill-will or draw them into this; I further suspect they’ve had to work extra hard to recover from the mess that Carr will have left behind. Sympathies.)

My legal friends thought he’d have to be mental actually to try to sue me; when I explained he was, in fact, mental, they suggested it was likely too much trouble to keep the post up. I like twitting an ass as much as the next man, but you’d have to be an idiot to run wilfully into a libel action; I took it down, but offered no apology or retraction because it is, of course, all true.

I was pointed at this site the other day, and specifically this post. She’s on the money with sociopathy, I’d say (despite some reservations about institutional pathologising of what is essentially being a dreadful lying shit).

As the great me once said, “God forbid he’s getting away with this stuff somewhere else”.

So, it’s going back up.

The Old Post

This may not be interesting to most readers. It’s about events almost two years ago at the London News Review. Some people know there’s a beef between a few of us and Paul Carr; I get asked about it every now and again.

I think it’s probably the right time to explain what happened back in the day. It means I have to send fewer long emails and the public record is a little fuller. Good news for everyone!

Background: the Carr/LNR split

Round March and April 2004, things had got bad at the LNR. We were out of money and no-one wanted to work with Carr: he was no good at the job he’d been pretending to do.

It was a lot of things: The incompetence; the smoke and mirrors; lateness; the bluster over figures; the blame-shifting; the computer screen turned away so that no-one could see what he was doing (until one morning an exasperated Circulation Manager got in early and simply turned his desk round).

God forbid he’s getting away with this stuff somewhere else.

Virtually the LNR motto for that spring: “I just can’t work with Paul any more”. This wasn’t something any one of us was thinking. It is what we were all thinking.

So, Charlie dissolved the Hangingday partnership.

Carr did not leave the London News Review because we had a difference of opinion over its direction; really he did not “leave” at all – he was told to go; it was not because we were bought out by venture capitalists and he prized his independence; he was simply an incompetent editor and bad at people. We were, however, happy enough to maintain that we just wanted to work on our own projects.

An amicable split seemed best.

The Beef, or why the Computer Crime Unit got involved

A couple of months down the line. I was getting to grips with the server, and over the course of my investigations I found out that someone using the computer Carr had in his bedroom – he was obviously no longer welcome in the office and our lives – had spent the month following the LNR split breaking into Charlie’s email.

He also broke into Alan’s account, and had a go at the Circulation Manager’s and my own.

Whoever did this also stole the flatplan of a new project we were working on which we hoped might be attractive to investors (it was a remodelling of the LNR that would take good writers from around the web – the blogs in particular – and put them into print.)

We went to the Computer Crime Unit of the Metropolitan police. They were very keen to help, and believed that we had a serious criminal case against the intruder; things got underway quickly, and we were liaising with them a lot.

The evidence is sort of boring, but I should present it. Skip the next two paragraphs if the word ‘Unix’ makes you feel nervous or confused.

Short technical version : the logs and history files offer a coherent account of someone remotely logging in, su-ing to root, su-ing to ‘charlie’, then running pine on Charlie’s mail repeatedly to go through various of his folders.

(Much fuller info here, including log extracts, email headers, pine debugs, and lots of other fun things that show us a clot’s delusion: he believes that using telnet to snoop round an email account is cunning and skilful, without realising he’s actually leaving a fabulously accurate to-the-second papertrail. That full evidence also features us being nearly as incompetent, and destroying bits of evidence as we demonstrate what happened to Charlie.)

And criticise us if you like for not changing the locks on the server: it’s just that we didn’t expect someone at Carr’s bedroom computer to break in and read Charlie’s personal and business mail using the password which the person at Carr’s computer must have somehow known.

Trusting people. That’ll learn us.

Charlie and Al confronted Carr about it. First came outright denial – that what we were claiming was impossible – then explanations that became increasingly convoluted and contradictory as we presented him with more of what we knew. In the end, if I remember their reports correctly, he was claiming that if he was breaking into Charlie’s account, going through his mailboxes and taking flatplans, then it was all in the cause of server and mail maintenance.

The Computer Crime Unit had a lot of paperwork to do; by the time they’d gone through the necessaries, Carr’s ISP no longer had the records that would allow the Unit to press charges. They suggested there may be another way to consolidate the case, so we’re not sure that it’s entirely over, but this far down the line we’re a little pessimistic.

A few final words

We didn’t mention this for a while because of the police involvement: we wouldn’t have liked to prejudice or derail anything by shouting in public about these events.

Since the investigation stalled, I’ve deferred to the others. They, Charlie in particular, were the injured parties; and it’s never seemed the right time to mention the whole sorry business.

Now, however, it does.