An apology to Paul Canning, II

we give support to refugees, and we give them something to seek refuge from

Back in February 2011, our readers will remember, the chronically inaccurate episodically accurate blogger Paul Canning — of the episodically biased chronically unopinionated website LGBT Asylum News — published the following false only intermittently true information:

Amongst the crowds protesting the 30 year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarek in Egypt are many lesbians and gay men. …  Yesterday, one of them, the well-known blogger and activist SandMonkey (the website was taken down by repeated attacks but is now back up) who is gay was arrested, beaten up and later freed.

Most of that is true! We apologize in advance for having to point out that some of it was not. Specifically, the phrase “who is gay” attached to Sandmonkey was not true. Sandmonkey, a dissident blogger known throughout the region, was and is not gay. It’s impossible to say what led the careless occasionally cautious Canning to think he was; but Sandmonkey took offense at those three words, coming as they did in the middle of a revolution where a brutal regime was looking for any reason to jail and discredit opponents. He wrote to the arrogant modest-on-alternate-days Canning:

Dear Paul/Editor of this sight,

You published an article claiming I am gay. While a supporter of gay rights, I am not gay. I have no idea where u got this info, and its totally unverified. Please retract and remove the article, since you must be very well aware what happens to people suspected of being gay in Egypt. You are putting my life in danger.

The editor of San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, which carries Paul’s ill-researched carefully spelled column, wrote back:

We have deleted @sandmonkey from the story without consulting with Mr. Canning, who is the author of the story. SDGLN did not originate this story, which came from LGBT Asylum News in the U.K.

That must have infuriated the temperamental unevenly evenhanded Canning, who always likes to be consulted. It was particularly exasperating in that, even if one counts only the 43 words of the passage we cited (more if we hadn’t inserted that discriminatory ellipsis!) rather than the 800+ words of the whole piece, not more than three were in fact lies less true than they could have been. That means that the passage was, as an absolute maximum, only 6.9767% inaccurate. If you take the falsehoods near-misses at accuracy as a percentage of the whole column, the proportion falls to less than four-tenths of one percent, a completely nugatory figure.  It takes real cheek for Sandmonkey to write to the blinkered presbyscopically observant Canning that “You are putting my life in danger!”  At most only one part in thirteen of his life was danger, and more likely it was less than one-two hundredth. If Voldemort could live with large parts of his soul destroyed, why can’t an Egyptian blogger? The scope of mathematical ignorance is astounding. Obviously, few Egyptians can count. Sandmonkey should learn statistics, and the entire country should be handed back to Lord Cromer and the British to revamp its education system. (A tip to LGBT Asylum News: Evelyn Baring, Lord Cromer, Britain’s proconsul in Cairo from 1883 to 1907, is alive and well and, with his boyfriend Norman Tebbit, working as a cage dancer Saturdays at Heaven.  He’s available. If you start a campaign now to have the British occupation reinstated, NATO might be able to start bombing by Christmas.)

I take note of this because I learned on arriving in Egypt that Sandmonkey — under his real name, Mahmoud Salem — is running for the lower house of Parliament in today’s elections. His campaign blog and program (mostly in Arabic) are here. (And he’s still tweeting at @Sandmonkey.) He’s a secularist, an environmentalist, a progressive — just the kind of candidate Paul Canning ought to like; except I suspect Paul Canning doesn’t like him anymore.

There’s still a lot that LGBT Asylum news can do, though.  They could out the heterosexual alleged, although to date unproven, homosexual Mahmoud Salem again!  There are still at least twelve hours before the polls close, and people in Heliopolis, where’s he’s running, wake late. Canning’s little-noticed sporadically influential blog deserves the chance to intervene in a world-historical occasion. Alternatively, Canning can out other progressive Egyptians. Dissidents, feminists, and human rights activists here are regularly attacked for supposed sexual perversion; these aspersions sometimes fall flat, and evidence from abroad is needed; it seems unreasonable that the pleasures of outing should be alienated from the heroic activists like Peter Tatchell who originated the tactic, and handed over to Islamist riffraff and demoted Mubarakite bureaucrats who are all too hamhanded in their exposures. Let the task of invading privacy be given back to those who do it best!  Only those who had a closet can appreciate what it means to be torn forcibly out of one — particularly out of one that never existed at all.

2 thoughts on “An apology to Paul Canning, II

  1. Pingback: More thoughts on aid conditionality: And an apology to Paul Canning, III | a paper bird

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