Thursday Speaker: Old Holborn

Old Holborn is the name given to a brand of tobacco, a substance I cannot talk about in case that is seen as advertising, which would be illegal on health grounds. Instead, let’s talk about Old Holborn the man. Appropriately, they (that is, Twitter) have tried to ban him too. More times than I am able to count.

Old Holborn, the man, has been around for as long as I can remember. He seems to be part of the furniture, known unofficially as Twitter’s 76th worst inhabitant and like furniture he often moves about but stays basically the same. He offers a constant feed of edgy, dark humour that the Daily Mail describes as “vile”. More posts than, I find, can be reasonably read never mind produced in a day. The man is prolific.

The thing that makes him worthwhile of inclusion [in the league table of worst Twitter users…], rather than just some deranged ranter, is that through calling out the odd bit of police brutality and so on, thousands of the people appear to have mistaken him for some sort of great social commenter and warrior against injustice

I guess you can’t please everyone.

He is a consistent liberal of the anarcho-capitalist survivalist school who has called for libertarians to stop feeding the beast – to opt out of civilisation in a kind of general Randian strike in which tax payers disappear off grid. Behind his mask is a recruitment consultant for the renewable energy sector, presumably an example of his interests driving his work or vice versa.

The survivalist point of view is not his most controversial position. Old Holborn is committed to testing and pushing the limits of free-speech, causing the Telegraph to call him the “vilest troll” in a crowded field. Some of his activities are certainly difficult for a libertarian to accept, for example, leaving a Councillor to feel (and report to the press) that he felt persecuted over his sexuality. It is also difficult to understand why Old Holborn would target the families of dead children. I guess you had to be there.

Old Holborn is not a simple keyboard basher. In his quest to say what he wants on Twitter he has learned to work the platform’s moderation systems to keep himself from being banned over and over again. This was something that obviously required a real commitment of energy. It does not stop in cyberspace either. Old Holborn is most well known as the organiser (and a regular participant) in street protest. He organised several November 5th marches on Parliament by groups all dressed as V from V for Vendetta, claiming some share in that symbol for the cause of capitalism and sending the message that Parliament should fear the people.

He was , he says, the first anonymous electoral candidate, standing as Old Holborn for MP at the 2010 General Election.

His costumed appearance at Rally Against Debt was recently re-used by the Telegraph (despite his superlative vileness). The simple task of producing an oversized banner (and doing so more than once) must surely put him well inside the top 1% of most active libertarians, standing makes him truly exceptional.

But is it all worth it? It is an interesting question. Perhaps previous speakers such as JP Floru or Syed Kamall have spent more time on the cause of liberty, or perhaps they have been dragged into the process of politics and occupied by the task of treading water. Perhaps Old Holborn’s haemorrhaging twitter following – which falls after every ban – means Old Holborn is also loosing ground. Perhaps there is something to his claim to have expanded the scope of free-speech. Maybe all this hate directed at Old Holborn is bad for the libertarian movement. It is hard to say, but never have I come across a character that more completely committed to the cause.

The Essex Chronicle explains that in 2013, after Old Holborn succeeded in offending Liverpool’s entire population of Twitter users:

[they] unmasked Old Holborn as Mr [Recruitment Consultant], tweeting his work address and phone number, back in April.

Within hours Essex Police launched an investigation into Old Holborn’s tweets after receiving a complaint from a Southport resident. Police only received one other complaint.

After leaving his job at Alchemy Recruitment following death and arson threats, and voluntarily attending a police interview, the [middle aged male] later sold his home.

When I was a lad being indoctrinated by a state comprehensive in Wales, we were told things about stress. One of those things was that the most stressful thing you can ever do is sell your home. Leaving your job has to be up there too, for a permie, and to do so as a father and under threat of murder must be one of the most painful set of intersecting circumstances you could possibl concoct.

I don’t know what the the joke was that got this guy in hot water – something about Jamie Bulger – or exactly why he chose to fight on that battlefield, but it is clear this is someone who has lived his beliefs in a way very very few people in any movement have ever done. You may or may not find him funny, but he has earned the right to be taken seriously if only for one evening.



Old Holborn will be speaking tonight, Thursday 5th of November – the day V and Guy Fawkes elected to blow up Parliament – in a pub in Westminster, surrounded by the kind of opulent buildings that crop up around centres of power with – no doubt  – dozens of civil servants drinking downstairs. If you see yourself as part of that image, then it’s too late. We’re already full. Next time, make sure you are registered.

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