14 October, 2010

The End

Three times unlucky.  That is what they said in the trenches during World War I.  If you were a soldier taking cover in a trench and lit one cigarette at night, the sniper might miss.  By the time you lit the second one, he had you spotted.  If that shot did not get you, the third one was bound to splatter your head.  Hence, third time unlucky. 
I have now received my third “letter before action”.  A subject of several posts on my blog has sent me a letter threatening a law suit if I do not apologise to him for what he claims are defamatory articles I have posted of him going back to 2007.  I have sought legal advice, and am awaiting word from my attorney on how I should respond. 
It may be worth remembering the recent history of this blog.  It started in December 2006.  By 2006, the lone Anguillian radio call-in programme, Talk Your Mind, had degenerated into social chatter about carnival and culture.  There were no other radio stations engaging the public in any kind of serious discourse.  By 2010 that has all changed.  Each of the several radio stations in Anguilla now hosts one or more radio call-in programmes per week.  At each of them the citizen is invited to express his opinion and to criticise government action and inaction.  Even Talk Your Mind now once again occasionally deals with controversial issues. 
When the blog started, our two local newspapers The Anguillian and The Light published only press releases and society stuff.  No more.  Since the blog started, they have begun to print critical and analytical stuff about the goings on in government.  Last week’s Anguillian alone boasted over 6 pages of serious social and political commentary.
Back in December 2006 gang violence had never been as pervasive as it was in that year.  There were more murders in Anguilla in that year than in a normal decade.  The Royal Anguilla Police Force was secretive and defensive about its actions.  Its members were held in very low public esteem.  They complained that the public was not cooperating with their investigations.  They had not yet started holding their weekly press conferences.  They do so now.  They now keep us up to date with what is going on in the criminal court, and on the criminal front.  This welcome public relations effort began immediately after I met with the Commissioner of Police and his senior officials and pointed out how useful and necessary such an activity would be.  Police relations with the public of Anguilla has since gone through a ground sea swell.
Back in 2006, the then Chief Minister Osborne Fleming had long stopped the tradition of weekly press conferences that Hubert Hughes had engaged in when he was in office.  This blog complained frequently about the negative impact that this secrecy and lack of information had on the society.  You will recall that many of us were then suspicious of government.  There was a sullen acceptance that things were going on that none of us was being told about.  The blog posted several pieces pointing out the need for more openness in government, particularly for press conferences after the weekly Executive Council meeting, so that we could be informed what government was doing for us.  Shortly after the blog began to make these complaints, the Chief Minister started his weekly press conferences.  It is true that they were not informative, about government, but mainly political propaganda, about the Chief Minister’s take on his enemies and their motives.  There is still to this day no weekly press conference on the activities and decisions of ExCo, and that is a shame.  Hubert Hughes has continued the tradition of political press conferences.  Never mind, at least it is something.  For what little it is worth, this blog can claim some credit. 
There are plenty of other forums out there performing the function for which this blog was started.  There is axareality.com.  That forum does occasionally tend to be juvenile and bad tempered, but it posts interesting documents.  There is some political discussion on Anguilla Talk though lately it has mainly died down, reportedly in response to threats of legal action.
I no longer feel like a lone voice crying in the wilderness for some openness, transparency and accountability.  Closing this blog down will not be a serious loss.  Several others have taken up the mantle and are carrying on demanding the high standards of public life that we all expect.
The bottom line is that whether the gentleman who is threatening action against me is right or wrong, I am not prepared to expose Maggie Mitchell’s retirement fund to more risk of depletion.  Since I evidently lack the necessary skills of dissimulation, it would seem that the only way to ensure this objective is to cease publishing.  This will therefore probably be my last post on this blog. 
A pity, really, as the site was nearly at the 250,000 visitor mark.


  1. I appreciate your decision which ever way it goes.
    Your blog has been fantastic and will be sorely missed should you decide to cease publishing.
    Very well done Don you enlightened me on so many occasions and subjects, it truly was a joy to be educated.

  2. Don:

    You have understated--with characteristic modesty--the salutory accomplishments of "Corruption Free Anguilla." You have done so much for so many.

    The threat of litigation cannot be ignored; however, succombing to them--without being cavalier about the attendant burdens, financial and emotional--undermines all of the good that you have accomplished. Plus it tells the bullies that bullying will stifle the clarion call of voices such as your own.

    Short plea: please, please, please do not abandon the nation (and this engaged reader) by ceasing publication. If a "defense fund" would help, just say the word, and we will solicit donations.

    Also, of course, you can continue to post but be more judicious in your observations (without compromising your honesty).

    Whatever you choose, a grateful nation thanks you.

  3. Please dont stop, your honesty is such a change from the usual garbage us mushrooms are fed. I for one will donate to Mrs M's retirement nest egg!

  4. "It ain't over, 'til it's over" - Yogi Berra

    Hang in there Don! - Scotty

  5. It's a shame that Anguilla has practically touristic libel laws.

    Free speech should be better enshrined in its next constitution. Particularly a prohibition of the kinds of prior restraint of free speech about public figures that has caused this blog to cease functioning.

    Lots of nice things to say about countries in the British Anglosphere, Singapore, for instance, but libel laws aren't one of them.

  6. Your blog has been wonderful for Anguilla and all who love her. It will be an excruciating loss should you cease speaking out so all can hear your always cogent insight and analyses. If that should happen, I would point all your loyal readers and fans to John Donne's famous truism:

    Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls,
    It tolls for thee.

    Thanks for a great ride!! Hope to see you soon around the island.....

  7. Don,

    At a time when Hubert appears to be back up to his old jingoistic tricks and trying to ensure that he stirs up hatred and distrust of the British again in order to go independant just like he went on last time he was in power, it is imperative that voices of common sense are heard and yours is one of the loudest.

    Please keep reporting the truth or I fear that taking you off-air will be the thin end of the wedge and soon threats of legal action will take all the voices of dissent off air - just leaving us to the tender cocoon of Huberts endless tirades.

  8. Anonymous above: Amen Brother.

    Do we allow them to silence the only voice of reason? They're trying. I say not a chance. - Scotty

  9. Don, your decision to retire the blog is completely understandable. You have championed the cause of free speech — for the most part unaided — for a long time. Both Anguilla and the notion of freedom ought to be deeply indebted to you.

    The use of litigation to bully those who exercise their right of free speech is despicable. We can speculate as to the identity of those bullies and hopefully right-thinking citizens will react appropriately.

    A profound thank you, sir, for being the exemplar by championing just causes. We can only hope that you will reconsider so that the voice of wisdom, reason and enlightenment can be sustained in Anguilla.

  10. A defense fund is a marvelous idea. It is not Don Mitchell who benefits from this blog, but all of Anguilla and all of us who could never say what Don says nearly as thoughtfully, as intellectually, as cogently, as masterfully, as well-informed or as reasonably as Don. It is our loss if this voice is silenced and the win goes to the those who wish to silence it.

  11. Don, you are a gentleman and a scholar. Thank you for all the posts and enlightenment over the years. You will be missed.
    Sic simper tyrannis

  12. Don, as someone who has poked fun at you at times (DonWatcher) due to your tendency to leap before you look (beyond what is thrust under your nose), I did that only to encourage increased responsibility and in the name of better, more credible journalism.

    BUT... I can't say how much I admire your passion and knowledge and bravery (WE all sign off as "anonymous"). EVERYONE knows your courageous posts come from a good place. You are an invaluable asset to this little country, which will be much littler without you.

    How much would the defense fund require? Let us know. If you just don't have the appetite for this anymore, that's one thing. We have to respect that.

    But if you are being run out of Dodge, that's another.

    You have friends. And we're ready to put our money where YOUR mouth is. :-)


  13. “Age is getting to know all the ways the world turns, so that if you cannot turn the world the way you want, you can at least, get out of the way so you won't get run over”

    Miriam Makeba quotes (South African singer, b.1932)

  14. To a certain amateur attorney who called the Mayor Show today: when the law is with you, pound on the law; when the facts are with you, pound on the facts; when neither the law nor the facts are with you, pound the table.

    In the meantime, Don, a raincoat might be necessary for your next appearance. And some disinfectant wipes.

  15. It seems alas and alack that your blog is closed for comments, but I certainly wanted to express my thanks and appreciations for your perspicacity, honesty, and insightfulness over the years that you have been illuminating the political vagaries of our beloved country.

    I respect your decision to avoid the risk of libel actions, but it is a sad state of affairs where freedom of speech is so clearly being violated! As Latin sayings go, my favourite has always been “Non illegitimos carburundum”, but in this case, perhaps the day will soon come when your comments are vindicated by fact, and this country can start to make real progress towards real and responsible self government.

  16. Anguilla does too: http://is.gd/g5Nck

  17. Your Blog has much more credibility than the alternatives. Therefore, for the Anguilla's sake you need to continue with the Blog. You obviously need to find the appropriate balance between sensationalism and facts. However, without your Blog all of our politicians will revel in the fact that they can freely make a mockery of the ignorance of the people. You need to continue hold the feet of all out politicians to the fire of openness, transparency, accountability and good governance.

    An independent and objective media is what we need to ensure that we can safeguard what ever autonomy we have in the current constitution. In fact in the current climate the worst mistake we can make is to open constitutional discussions. It is obvious that Anguilla will receive a similar constitution to what has been proposed for TCI and Montserrat. That is, unless Anguilla, TCI and Montserrat can show that they have people who are willing to fight the political victimization, intimidation, and bullying, the UK has no choice but to reserve additional safeguard to the UK appointed Governor. Yes, a mature, grownup and responsible relationship with the constitution, laws of Anguilla, international conventions, parliamentary procedures and the UK Government is the only way we can demonstrate that we deserve more autonomy.

    Under a new constitution with more local autonomy, how easy would it be for the local government to radically change a committee, a commission or a board in order to victimize a civil servant, an employee of a statutory board, etc.?

    After the Mayor's show on Saturday 16, you obviously need to do some blogs on the who is the Crown, the Mineral rights issue, roles and responsibilities of the Speaker, the process of passing legislation in a UK overseas Territory etc.

    Thanks for the Blog, You have a lot more work to do. So get on with your Blog.

  18. "The Anguillian" newspaper has played a major role leading Anguilla to the state it is in today because of its pathetic standards of investigative journalism. On behalf of those few in Anguilla who still read anything, I hope you will find some way to continue making your extremely valuable contribution.

  19. OK Don,

    now it is time to take advice that has been given you on this forum in the past. Report only certified facts and preface any suspicions with the appropriate adverbs and adjectives so as to clearly state you are speculating and voicing an opinion. Edit your contributors posts to avoid any direct unfounded accusations from being seemingly endorsed by you. I did notice you had already started that practice.
    Surely if you have dotted your p's and q's you should be able to personally defend your freedom of speech issue successfully and economically in the courts. Think of how fun that might prove to be. Avoid sitting and writing on your blog in times of emotional intellectual fathomings and maybe have a fried preread your postings to get an unbiased perspective. You will be fine.

  20. Don

    We will truly miss your wonderful blog. You have done Anguilla such a good service with your analyses, your observations, your revelations. You have confirmed what all of your friends have known for a long time - that you are one of the island's most valuable assets.

    Tom & Erna

  21. While I often do not agree with you, and sometimes I believe you are truly dead wrong, Anguilla still needs this blog, at least until there is a Freedom of Information Act passed and a local press that is both truly independent and practices investigative journalism.

    More critical analysis by publications such as The Anguillian and online discussion sites like axareality.com may represent progress, but the former can be subjected to pressure such as you have experienced and it can be difficult to separate fact from outright lies on axareality.com.

    While the link above (on October 17) provided an interesting insight into the apparent lack of freedom of speech in many European countries, my understanding is that the Constitution of Anguilla provides Anguillians with freedom of expression. This should not mean just the ability to speak those "truths" the government or political leaders endorse.

    My understanding is that libel is an untrue statement that will do harm to someone else that is presented as fact and is not clearly identified as an opinion. If you are not sure where the dividing line is, maybe you could just post all future "controversial" blogs as questions.

    in any case, I hope to see your blog continue as it serves to encourage real thought and debate among Anguillians on issues of importance, even when I think your individual views are off base.

    I always encourage lawyers to try to find a legal solution, not to simply tell me why something can't be done. I hope your personal attorney adopts this approach and that you do not give in to threats!

  22. 1. David Ardia, "Reputation in a Networked World: Revisiting the Social Foundations of Defamation Law " http://bit.ly/bH1e4d

    2. There goes Libertarian Paradise.

  23. And if all else fails, just invent a screen name and start your own headings on axareality

  24. Oddly enough, one's word choices are holographic. Also, "did you write this?" asked under oath is a pretty strong deterrent to known "troublemakers" with assets at risk.

  25. Come on Don, a man of your experience ought to be able to phrase your postings carefully enough to avoid any real threat of a defamation action. Anguilla needs you!

  26. Don, your blog is vitally important to Anguilla and is widely read beyond its shores. Everyone - even those who may occasionally disagree with you - respect your courage, dedication, knowledge and penmanship. If there is at all a way that you could continue, we would all appreciate it very, very much!

  27. Truth? What media outlet ever promised us the truth? Well,
    I suppose they've all made that claim at one time or another,
    but who in Anguilla has ever started a radio station or a
    newspaper to bring people the truth? We get carefully
    selected portions of truth, plus idle speculation clothed as
    "People are saying that..." or "It has been speculated that..."
    Look at The Anguillian. Nat's version of the truth tells us
    that everyone who goes away to college graduates with honors,
    every cent given to Slick Carty and other charities is used
    honestly, every civil servant is overworked, underpaid yet
    continues the heroic struggle to serve the people, every man
    and woman who comes here to make money is "contributing to
    our development for the good of our country" and no one has
    ever died at the hospital because of someone's stupid

    In Anguilla, we call this "fair and balanced news." The
    balance is between the extremist babblings and suffocating
    pomposity of both The Anguillian and The Light.

  28. As a lover of Freedom of Speech and a detestor of Censorship, it saddens me that this has happened to you.
    You were the only voice of reason that people could turn to without any rose-colored glasses and sugar coating. Now the people of Anguilla no longer have an honest person in their corner.
    I will be sorry to see you go.
    I wish you well.

  29. So, all agree this blog is needed, who will step up and continue it ?

  30. UK (thus Anguilla...) is 19th in press freedom worldwide. US is 20th.


  31. Don Mitchell is sued to shut him up because someone in power doesn't like what he is saying. John Benjamin's radio program, Talk Your Mind, is shut down by the government because those in power don't like people voicing negative things about said government. People who say critical things about the government or those in power are threatened. It seems to me that we ALL stand to lose if this further attempt to stifle free speech is successful. Defending this spurious suit is for US and ALL of society. Let us set up a "class action" defense fund and fight this to the finish so that precedence is set now and forever more.

    If you're in government and you can't take criticism then, by god, you've chosen the wrong career path.

  32. Don, We are very saddened that you feel forced to end this blog. You have been a voice of reason and have provided a forum for discussion on so many topics. We do not feel that the Anguillian, Anguillatalk or Axareality can ever really take your place.
    Now, more than ever, we need this blog.

  33. Don if we lose your blog it could be very detrimental to Anguilla.
    Just imagine if we lose axareality.com as well then the peoples voices will not be heard at all.
    Some of our replies are the only opposition the government of the day will see by reading your blog. We can not allow this or any future government to operate in secret again we must try to keep a check on them and the most effective way i have seen is by the various blogs. Your blog has been a god send to Anguilla just like a breath of fresh air blowing through a sewer. Pity we can't keep the fresh air you produce flowing.

  34. It's very disappointing to see the end of this blog. As much as I love Anguilla, this blog is one of the few things that I actually admire & respect in Anguilla (beyond the obvious natural beauty of the beaches, nature, etc).

    Please find a way to continue.

  35. So, just like that, it's over and done? - Scotty


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.