Richard Wilson's blog

richardcameronwilson AT yahoo dot co dot UK

The banana cake of liberty…

with 13 comments

liberty cakeSometimes we all have to make sacrifices…

From The Guardian

Just 42 minutes after the Guardian story was published, the internet had revealed what the paper could not.

Bloggers and the so-called Twitterati tonight claimed a historic victory for the power of the internet over what they saw as attempts by vested interests to shut down freedom of speech.

One of the quickest to reveal the full story was a 34-year old human rights activist, Richard Wilson. He was baking a banana cake in his kitchen in London when he first found out about the gag on the Guardian from a message posted on Twitter.

A few minutes of frantic internet searching later he published the fact that the gag related to Farrelly’s questions about Trafigura. He also published the text of the questions itself and became so absorbed in cracking the puzzle, his cake burned to a crisp. He said it was a small price to pay.

“I knew Trafigura were incredibly litigious and I knew Carter Ruck were defending them,” he explained. “I had a hunch, so I went to the website of the parliamentary order papers where they publish all the questions, searched for Trafigura and a question from Farrelly popped up and I tweeted it straight away. It took several tweets and then I pasted in the link.”

At 9.13pm he signed on to his Twitter account, printed the link to the Guardian report about the gag and wrote: “Any guesses what this is about? My money is on, ahem, #TRAFIGURA!”

By 9.30pm he had published all of Farrelly’s questions. He was not alone in trying to crack the puzzle. Paul Staines, the political blogger who uses the name Guido Fawkes, posted a blog making the link between the gag and Paul Farrelly’s questions just before 10pm.

From that point a torrent of references to the questions, the gag on the Guardian and Trafigura flooded out. According to Twitter at noon today, the three most popular search terms on the site were “outrageous gagging order trafigura dumping scandal”, “ruck” and “guardian”.

As exactly the publicity Trafigura was surely trying to avoid grew and grew, the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, weighed in on Twitter at 10.01am stating: “Very interested concerned about this #trafigura / Guardian story the LibDems are planning to take action on this.”

Mainstream media, including the Spectator website also picked up the story with the thought: “It’s hard to recall, even in the long history of appalling gagging orders, a more disgraceful injunction than this.”

Satirists, such as Ian Martin, a writer on The Thick Of It, seized the opportunity to amplify the coverage that Trafigura was getting by repeating the company’s name again and again to ensure it became a “high trending” topic on Twitter.

During the morning, Private Eye was published and ran Farrelly’s questions in full as the first item on its politics page, although the bald presentation with no reference to the gagging order had long been superseded by the reports flowing across the internet.

All the while, efforts were continuing to persuade Trafigura to alter the terms of the order to allow the Guardian to report the parliamentary business, and at 12.19pm Carter Ruck emailed the Guardian agreeing to do so. In the end, the Twitterati claimed victory, led by one of its most popular users, the comedian Stephen Fry. “Can it be true?” he wrote. “Carter-Ruck caves in! Hurrah! Trafigura will deny it had anything to do with Twitter, but we know don’t we?”

NB – One crucial clarification – I’m ashamed to say that I had actually just been put in charge of minding the cake (and taking it out of the oven before it incinerated) after my wife went to bed. She has been very understanding…

UPDATE – By popular demand, here is the recipe for “Liberty Cake”: 9 bananas, 450g flour, 150g butter, 220g sugar, 2 eggs,1 lemon, tad lime juice, 4 tsp bicarb of soda. Mix. Bake to a crisp.

Written by Richard Wilson

October 14, 2009 at 6:16 am

13 Responses

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  1. Amazing the power of the Internet and bananas for freedom of speech and good health!


    October 14, 2009 at 11:02 am

  2. Wonderful!


    October 14, 2009 at 11:34 am

  3. Hi – I’m a producer from BBC World Service/American Public Radio – would like to interview you on our international show for the US re: this story. Please call 0207 557 2424 or 075909 96983. Many thanks! Paul

    Paul Barber

    October 14, 2009 at 11:44 am

  4. One day, you’ll be conflated with Alfred and those cakes.

    Richard Lyle

    October 14, 2009 at 12:50 pm

  5. I’ll have to make that banana cake now you’ve tweeted the recipe! May I use the picture for a post on my own blog (about this and Simon Singh’s successful appeal, to be written this evening), please?

    Hey, and good on you with the interview too!


    October 14, 2009 at 4:38 pm

  6. […] Our learned panel of judges will reveal the winners of this fiercely-contested prize in early November, via this blog. Entry is free, and the overall winner will receive a mouth-watering selection of banana-themed baked goods. […]

  7. Oh dear, this is very disappointing.

    I really don’t like banana cake. I can’t join in the liberty cake fun.


    October 21, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    • Balderdash! You’d have liked THIS banana cake. Everybody loves the banana cake of liberty. Alternatively, you can follow the same recipe but use apples instead…

      Richard Wilson

      October 21, 2009 at 5:00 pm

  8. […] (’Bananen-kuchen von bleibende freiheit’) and features a newly-baked replica of the cake which was tragically destroyed during the recent struggle to defend press freedom in the UK. […]

  9. I like banana cake, but I really want to drown the liberty cake in thick custard!


    November 6, 2009 at 8:49 am

  10. […] main focus in the discussion was the notorious Trafigura super-injunction which I helped to unravel back in 2009, by posting a “banned” Parliamentary Question on […]

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