No, My Screenshot Of Your Stupid Tweet Is Not Libel

I wrote a piece, titled ‘Springtime for Demagogues‘, for the online magazine Quillette.

In it I included the following section, referring to a tweet made by Frances Coppola, whose writing I read and enjoy.

Springtime Coppola Section

This was to demonstrate that, in cases such as this, smart people can say and do silly things.

Coppola’s response was to make a threat of ‘libel charges’.

Coppola Libel Threat

Threats of libel might be difficult to bear for some.

Mind Being Sued For Libel

However, on realising that the complaint was unfounded and the threat ludicrous I was happy to let it unfold as a small Twitter affair. My article was shared heavily and in the subsequent few hours I picked up nearly 100 new followers. Standard Streisand Effect.

Perhaps it is still worth a reminder that a false allegation of libel is libelous. I know this because I read it from a distinguished online commentator.

False Allegation

Her complaints against me are varied.

I had somehow breached copyright.

Coppola Copyright Complaint

I had failed to see that her comment was satire.

Coppola Satire

This is because I had taken it out of context.

Coppola Context Complaint

I had acted with malicious intent.

Coppola Malicious Intent Complaint

I had declared her insane.

Coppola Insane Complaint

I hadn’t offered a right of reply.

Coppola Right of Reply

In short, I am a disgrace.

Coppola Disgrace

She blocked me after that final tweet but has carried on in my ‘mentions’ for the last 2 days. There are scores more of such tweets and I don’t much care.

Her complaint about contacting her and a right to reply is an odd one. When arguing with Richard Murphy she asked the following.

Richard Complaint

Yesterday evening Coppola demonstrated her lack of a right to reply by replying in the comment section of the piece.

Twitter storms blow over, of course, but as her accusation that I’ve misrepresented her – and done so knowingly – can be read whenever people read the article, I think it’s worth addressing.

Here is her comment:

As you have chosen not to correct your misuse of my tweet, I am setting the record straight here. If you delete this comment, or fail to act upon it, I shall know that you are not interested in fair dealing or speaking the truth.


The tweet you quote was part of a long conversation in which I repeatedly said that there needed to be proper investigation of the events. There was at the time no evidence to support widespread accusations that the attacks were carried out entirely by refugees (indeed there is STILL no evidence of this). What was going in amounted to a witch hunt against Syrian refugees. I pointed out that in the absence of evidence, targeting particular groups was not right, and added that other groups could equally be accused, such as ISIS itself, or those opposed to immigration.


The tweet in which I suggested anti-immigrants could have orchestrated it was screen scraped from my timeline without my permission and maliciously circulated, mainly by the American far right, with the explicit intent of discrediting me. There was also a campaign by those who (mistakenly) thought I was employed by Forbes to have me dismissed.


On Twitter, I repeatedly explained the point of the tweet. These explanatory tweets remain in the public domain and you are welcome to search for them: they were made over the course of several days from 7 January onwards. The whole point was the need to establish who the perpetrators really were and bring them to justice. In other words, it was about the rule of law and the need for due process. I questioned the behaviour of the German police, who seem to have tried to cover up the attacks. And although I refused to buy into “it was refugees wot did it” in the absence of evidence, I did not rule out the involvement of refugees.


You made no attempt to contact me to find out why I said what I did. You chose to use this tweet, which you knew was out of context, to imply that I had suffered some kind of mental breakdown (you use the term “insanity”). I assure you that I have suffered no breakdown, and I must ask you now to withdraw this allegation and correct your post to reflect accurately the purpose for which I have stated the tweet was intended.


I explained to Coppola that I read the conversation, in context, at the time. She still claims this was satire, a deliberate strawman. To support it she further claims that the person she wrote it to was aware of this at the time.

The problem with her explanation is that she said lots of other things similar in nature and to several different people.

Here is a link to the archived version of the conversation.

Here is some of that ‘context’.


Context 1


Context 2


Context 3


Context 4


Context 5

6.  Context 6

7.Context 7

8.Context 8

9.Context 9

I won’t offer too much analysis of the context. I think it speaks for itself.

If this silly little affair runs on then perhaps I will have to write longer explanations, and there are plenty of other small points to argue.

Regarding ‘insanity’ she said the following.

[You]…imply that I had suffered some kind of mental breakdown (you use the term “insanity”). I assure you that I have suffered no breakdown…

Here is a definition:

Insanity Definition

I meant the second one. I was saying Coppola’s tweets about this were irrational. The use of ‘insanity’, which I suggested was a temporary bout, was figurative.

There is a long history of using ‘insanity’ or ‘insane’ in such a way. Writers with far more influence, experience, and profile than I have used it in this manner. For example:

Coppola Insanity Montage


Some people even title entire pieces in such a way.

A search for ‘stupid’ and ‘stupidity’ will reveal countless other examples.

My original piece suggested that a temporary bout of insantity can occur under certain circumstances. It appears, from Coppola’s response to it, that pointing this out can induce much more sustained varieties.

16 thoughts on “No, My Screenshot Of Your Stupid Tweet Is Not Libel

  1. It’s OK – you haven’t libelled her and she isn’t going to hire a lawyer to hound you. Very expensive business after all. But unpleasant for you – rest easy, you have done nothing more than show how twisted people got when balancing the need to uphold feminism vs the need to shelter immigrants.


    1. You just got caught and then when you tried to bullshit your way out (threats of libel aside) you got busted for it over and over for every diversionary, blameshifting move you made…

      Then when it’s apparent you’re really starting to cause trouble for yourself and create another yet even bigger round of public embarassment for yourself (that may or may not be career or reputatin affecting) you offer a chickenshit qualified apology…with more words excusing your behavior and pulling your interlocutor into your shitpile…than just apologizing.

      Paxton he didnt do anything but point out your BS…and instead of any introspection you doubled-down and lost every round…leave him and everyone out of your sanctimonious conspiricy trips. Instead of qualified apology here just say somthing like:

      I’m sorry, i was was wong, i screwed up. I wasn’t helpful. What was i thinking, that was insane…


  2. You are very gracious accepting her apology Mr Paxton. Well done on a response par excellence.

    Her behaviour has been quite appalling and the ridiculous blog post she subsequently wrote basically linking you with her alleged online bullying is scandalous.
    Once again it is all about her and she has made sure everyone is talking about “poor Frances” when your selccted tweets above show Frances Coppola is a classic attention-seeking internet troll.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you are perhaps a touch harsh here.
      I had no idea of the trolling until after this little episode. I got a pic of that tweet in the early hours of the 7th. And saw the conversation in realtime over that night.
      However, now I understand the amount of abuse that has gone on the reaction to what I wrote is somewhat more explicable.
      Apologies and admissions of error are rare. I’m not the sort to sniff at the ones that a given when they are given.
      Yes, the idea the above post is angry or nasty and the idea that I’m part of the idiocy that has been hurling abuse at France’s Coppola is a bit unwelcome. But in the scheme of things, meh. It’s all done and dusted. No biggy.


  3. I’m glad you have accepted Frances’ apology. As she says, there are more important fights out there and she has suffered terribly.


  4. As others have noted, you are very gracious in accepting the apology, David. Out of respect to you I won’t say more on this here apart from that I think your generosity is completely unmerited.

    Liked by 1 person

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