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Tuesday 10th March 2009

Oooops. Warming Up has gotten me into trouble again. Me and my big fingers. I know they're freakishly small, but I mean it in the sense of me and my big mouth, but for once my mouth had nothing to do with it.
I got an email today from lawyers representing the Royal Bank of Scotland about my entry from 25th February in which I satirically vented my anger about a letter I had had from my bank (not the RBS, but one of the banks it owns) which told me that there had been an interest cut that would not be being passed down to me. I said some things about the man that the letter was from that might be considered libelous if you took them literally, though I think it's pretty clear to a I was employing metaphorical allusions in a ridiculous and over the top way - for example you would have to believe that I think Fat Cats are actually cats.
I do admit though that if you were the man in question and had come across the article that it would probably have come as quite a shock. I was of course picking on him entirely because I knew nothing about him and it seemed satirically amusing to blame the messenger, when all good sense dictates that he had nothing to do with the decision. Again subtle comedic points hiding amongst some very unsubtle and potentially offensive comments. And then I made the mistake of telling you all to contact him, which can only have drawn his attention to the piece.
The email told me, "I urge you to take immediate steps to remove the article from your website, failing which the Bank will be forced to take legal action against you. The Bank reserves the right to pursue you for damages and the costs of any necessary legal action."
As my webmaster was also being threatened with having the website suspended by hosting company, so I decided it was best to remove the name of the person in question and the bank. This might be enough to assuage the RBS, we're just waiting to hear, but the whole entry might have to come down, which would be a shame, as from the reactions I got at the time I would say it accurately reflects customer frustration with all banks' attitude to these interest cuts. I totally appreciate that it was childish and a bit unfair to pick on specific person and to ask people to contact him and would like to apologise to him personally at this time, though I better not do so by name.
I don't want to get into any more trouble or risk losing another entry from Warming Up and part of me feels that if one entry is taken down then that somehow tarnishes the unbroken record of entries - I was once before threatened with legal action over something that was a very silly joke, but just put up a disclaimer explaining the gag. So I hope the RBS will not use its legal muscle to force me to remove this blog.
There's a part of me that fancied taking the issue further. After all the RBS has more pressing things to concern itself with than a silly blog read by a couple of thousand people at most and whilst I understand it needs to raise fees to pay for the bonuses and pensions of its excellent executives (I am doing my best to pay them money each month from my mortgage, something helped by their decision to not reduce interest rates too much). But how would they look if they pushed on with this? I don't think that there is much doubt that they would win the case, but surely it would look like a sledgehammer being used to crush a nut (in both senses of the word). It's hard to know which way public sympathy would go. Because taken out of context (and even in context) the stream of unpleasant sexual images that I use are disgusting and disgraceful and if you choose to take them literally and believe I meant it then are incredibly unfair on a blameless individual. But then again nearly everyone is just as angry as I was that day about the banks not passing on interest rate cuts. Would the Daily Mail see me as a foul fingered comedian who should be sacked (if only I had a job) or would they see me as a champion standing up against "the man" and the greedy bankers who seemingly have got our country into such a mess?
I think I am in the wrong enough to make it a battle not worth fighting, though all these people can do to me is take away all my money and my house. Which I have survived without in the past and can do so again in the future. Though admittedly it's quite nice to have them. Ultimately I would imagine that whatever amount I would have to pay in the courts would be less than what the RBS are going to get out of me from my interest payments in the next twenty years. And given I probably wouldn't bank with them any more if I got sued, they might want to take that into account.
I know some of you will be cross about this. And I am to an extent. But if you remember the name of the man I talked about or can find it cached somewhere else on the internet, please do not take this out on him. Partly because it will only make retribution and complete removal of web entries more likely, but mainly because with hindsight I realise it was wrong of me to pick him out in that way and say those things. I was using him to personify the bank and the unfairness of it all was part of the joke, but I would hate to think that I had caused him any actual personal offence. I was hoping to mildly inconvenience him and his bank as an act of protest against the bank's decision, but it's horrible to think that he might have been personally hurt by the remarks, or taken them in any way literally.
So there you go. I don't know if this entry makes things better or worse, but I feel the need to explain why a blog has changed and to discuss the issues brought up by it.
It also reminds me that these mad ramblings go out into the wider world and increasingly stuff I am writing is getting picked up by journalists and getting back to the people I am mocking. I hope that by blogging about this and twittering too that I will not cause the issue to ignite out of control. But clearly if RBS had just treated me like the child I am and ignored it then the blog in question would soon have been forgotten, whilst by asking to censor it they are giving the pathetic comments I made a new life.
And if legal action is threatened over what are clearly jokes then how many other people will be coming out of the woodwork to try and block things I've written? Avril Lavigne might have something to say for starters. Or the check out girl from Sainsburys. Or Andrew Collings could have a field day.

They tried to silence Galileo but he was right. They tried to silence Martin Luther King, but he was right. They tried to silence that Dutch bloke who made that racist, anti-Islam film and he was wrong. So there is absolutely no firm conclusion we can draw from the fact that they are trying to silence me. You can't get selective. Sorry Mr X and apologies to the Friendly Bank.
But if you do sue me and win then can you please make sure that all my money goes to Fred Goodwin, because I am concerned that his pension might not be enough to get him through the cold winters.

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