Nicholas Hellen is the new Serenata Flowers.

My place, posh frock, or else the Mother gets it.

And so, just three days after Girl With A One Track Mind first published it on her blog, and following a steady ground-swell of linkage from duly appalled fellow bloggers, an odious piece of e-blackmail from the Sunday Times finds itself at Number One on Google for a search on its author’s name. Coming hot on the heels of last month’s similarly successful blog-link campaign against a spam-commenting online florist, this is further proof of the power of the collective link.

Of course, some might maintain that Abby “One Track” Lee was “naive” for thinking that she could hang on to her anonymity, and that Hellen was only hastening the inevitable, and that the rest of us are being “naive” for throwing up our hands in maiden-auntish horror. Happens all the time, journalism’s a rough old game, only doing his job, yadda yadda.

To which I say: isn’t that the moral equivalent of justifying the theft of an unattended handbag on the grounds that someone was probably going to steal it anyway, and so you might as well get in there first?

Actually, no. It’s worse than that. Handbags and their contents can be replaced; personal privacy can’t be.

If Abby Lee and her supporters are to be branded as “naive”, then that’s only because, like most reasonable people, they operate from the assumption that most of us are still minded to treat each other with fairness, decency and respect. In which case, I’m glad that, in these hard-nosed, cynical times, Nicholas Hellen’s e-mail still has the power to shock.

In any case, the balance of shaky assumptions lies firmly on Hellen’s side. Assumptions that Abby Lee would comply with his demands through fear, or that her vanity and/or desire for “success” at any price (to use a somewhat dubious definition of the concept of “success”) would send her rushing into the arms of her captors, posh frock in hand, ready for her Glamorous Makeover. Not to mention the assumption that the unmasking of the author of a newly published and still relatively unknown book constituted a legitimate, public-interest news story, fit for Page 3 of a “quality” Sunday broadsheet.

But perhaps Hellen’s most “naive” assumption of all was in thinking that he could f**k with an extended community of nice, friendly, supportive people with Google Page Ranks of 5 and 6, and an aggregated readership of thousands, and get away with it. Hopefully, this little campaign will send out a signal to Old Media’s most reptilian foot-soldiers, in possibly the only language they respect or understand, that we are NOT to be f**ked with in the future.

Update: Nicholas Hellen defends his actions to (on page 2 of the article).

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