Thursday, 12 April 2012

A Tory storm in an eggcup

It is a well-known fact that if journalists and columnists do their job properly and with integrity, they will ruffle a few feathers.  I may not be a ‘professional’ columnist but I approach the job as if I am.  I am not afraid of ruffling feathers if what I write sparks a debate, highlights an injustice or is just getting the truth out in the open.
It is true that I sometimes use colourful language as a means of driving a point home but with my columns on Your Thurrock, I have always refrained from using expletives and have always checked my facts if I used any.  My column is, however, the expression of my opinion.  It was surprising, therefore, to find out that another blogger found it necessary to smear my good name for the most spurious of reasons – my use of the word “masturbating”.
Below is the text of the attacking piece in full (with the title removed so that I am not giving undue publicity to the blog of which it is a part and with all the errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling):
“Sounds like an odd posting doesn't it? But if your little kiddie wink wants to go on the Your Thurrock website to check Mr Casey's reporting of their school fetes, sports days or school proms make sure you know what they may find.
Mr Casey has long indulged the dark philosophy of extreme Left blogger and supporter of the hard Left 38 Degrees movement, Myles on his website. Recently the blogger was given wider publicity by Your Thurrock, who reproduced his pieces in full, slagging of the Government as a 'ConDem' disgrace which he compared to being slavemasters. In a poorly articulated rant he strangely anologises the acts of the Government with slavery, to the point he accused the Tories of 'masturbating' over the cuts that they were making.
Wholesome family publicity from Your Thurrock. But as ever, a totally family-orientated posting from our favourite blog pretending to be a newspaper. Just remember that when little Steven wants to see the pictures of sports day at Bonnygate and stumbles across Myles or any other blogger talking about sex acts.”
I left the following comment on the piece:
“Factual inaccuracy 1:  I’m not left wing.  I hold all politicians in contempt as self-serving.
Factual inaccuracy 2:  I don’t rant and if I did, it is always articulate.
Factual inaccuracy 3:  You wouldn’t be able to just stumble on my blogs.  Each entry has an introductory paragraph for it.
Fact check 1: ConDem is the acceptable shortening of CONservative/liberal DEMocrat.
Fact check 2:  YOU should check your facts before you criticise others.
BTW – you probably won’t like this month’s blog either.”
In an ape-like attempt to mimic my reply, I got this reply:
“Thanks Myle’s, we appreciate your contribution. However,
Factual inaccuracy 1: If you’re not leftwing, we wonder why you are involved/praise such a leftwing movement like 38 Degrees.  The term ConDem is also a perjorative term used by.. .leftwingers!
Factual inaccuracy 2:  You don’t rant and are always articulate?  That’s rather a subjective view.
Factual inaccuracy 3:  No stumbling onto your blog.  True but if you are a child and visit Your Thurrock and read posts out of curiosity, it isn’t very pleasant to read about ‘masturbation’.  Your Thurrock uses your material and you’d expect a so-called ‘newspaper’ to be more decent than repeat such material.
Fact check 1:  Agreed.  No one suggested any different.
Fact check 2:  Check our facts?  We think we have.  However, you may wish to encourage your sponsor blog Your Thurrock on that point.”
To which I replied:
“1. I don’t praise 38 Degrees.  I do, however, believe in some of their causes.  2. I’m certainly more articulate than you.  3. Kids wouldn’t be reading a blog about politics.
Fact:  Just because left-wingers use “ConDem” and support 38 Degrees causes doesn’t mean everyone’s a left-winger.
Fact:  My blog expresses my OPINION.
Fact:  This month’s blog is full of FACTS, supported by documentation.
Opinion: One Tree Hill must be a safe haven compared with the real world of Grays.  A Tory safe haven, presumably?”
Unable to really attack my arguments, the reply I got changed tactics:
“Myles, we think you’re missing sight of our posting.  Our concern is that Your Thurrock pretends to be a newspaper, a newspaper to all, and yet does not vet its material before publishing it.
By all means write what you will on your blog.  Carry on as usual, but Your Thurrock should at least redact words like masturbation from what it publishes.
Your Thurrock is NOT a political blog.  It has hundreds of articles containing reporting on matters relevant and of interest to children, Myles from school fetes, T-Fest and school awards.  No one wants their child reading articles with the word ‘masturbation’ in it, especially when the site claims to be a newspaper.”
I was using my mobile ‘phone to connect to the site and it only allows me about 500 characters to reply before it cuts me off so I had to send my response in two parts.  I was greeted, however, by a dialog box saying that my comment would be visible after moderation.  A sign, perhaps, that the author felt out-gunned by my good self?
I cannot quite remember the exact wording of that reply but the points covered are the same:
You called me an “extreme Left blogger” with a “dark philosophy”.  This is a libellous statement.
Mr Casey does not “indulge” me.  He respects my right to free speech and my writing talent.
None of my blogs have been cut so to say that the piece you referred to as being “reproduced” “in full” is inaccurate.
I’m not the only person to consider ‘workfare’ as modern-day slavery.  Many national shop chains agreed and pulled out of the scheme.
You also said in your reply that my assertion that my blogs are always articulate that “That’s a rather subjective view”.  Quite true, but so was your remark that my piece was a “poorly articulated rant”.
National newspapers also contain columns from people with their opinions using far more colourful language in them – even Tory papers.  Are they not newspapers?  Some national papers have pictures of topless women in them.  Should they be banned?  Children have free access to them every day.
I will, however, add a few final thoughts before I cut off the oxygen supply of publicity that my detractor is getting.
·         Your Thurrock is a newspaper, not a blog.  It utilises video and text articles of a newsworthy nature.  Surely the very definition of a newspaper.  Newspapers often publish columns with people’s opinions; Your Thurrock is no different.
·         My detractor says that I slagged off the current Government as “a 'ConDem' disgrace”.  To this I say:
1.    It would be pointless slagging off Labour because they are not in power.  I did, however, voice my dissatisfaction with the Labour administration when they were in power.
2.    I refer you to my answer on the acceptability of the contraction ‘ConDem’.
3.    The current Government is a disgrace, in my opinion.  And, as this month’s Your Thurrock blog shows, the Conservatives have acted illegally in pushing ahead with parts of their NHS reforms before the Bill became law.  All with the help or, at least, lack of resistance of their Liberal Democrat quislings.
·         The campaign to save the NHS from the ConDem plans to dismantle it is one that anyone with a conscience should support, not just supporters of 38 Degrees.
·         Children would not be poking around on the blog page of Your Thurrock when it is easy to navigate to the pieces they want to read on their school, etc.
·         In my detractor’s first reply (referencing my comment on the contraction of ‘ConDem’), the following statement was made “Fact check 1:  Agreed.  No one suggested any different.  Actually, they did by saying that it was a “perjorative term used by.. .leftwingers”. This also means that “Fact check 2:  Check our facts?  We think we have” is also inaccurate.
·         My detractor suggests that the blog on their site was about the word ‘masturbating’ being used.  Why then did the author of the piece see fit to launch a personal attack on me personally?  Hardly a professional approach, is it?  Especially when, unlike me, the person’s profile lacks any personal information.  I am open about how to contact me if you wish to comment on my columns and people have access to my personal website and personal blog.
·         My detractor suggests that mention of “sex acts” is wrong.  Rape is a sex act – should the news not report on that?  Also, as Jimmy Carr puts it, masturbation isn’t something to be ashamed of but it’s not something to be proud of either!  At least, if a child did read the blog in question that I wrote, it might lead that child to ask their parents about it and it could be discussed in a proper manner as part of the larger discussion on sex and sexuality.
·         My detractor also shows that, having launched a personal attack, is unwilling to allow uncensored comments to be posted from the person they attacked in their blog.  I refer, of course, to my comments that were not shown until they were cleared by the individual running the blog.  I have not, in any way, personally attacked my detractor or used expletives in my comments so there is no earthly reason for not showing my comments.  My personal blog is open to all comments, regardless of content, as I believe in freedom of speech.  Can my detractor make the same claim with a straight face?  No.
·         Finally, I’d like to thank my detractor for 1) increasing my readership and 2) showing how scared the Tories are when confronted by someone who will not believe their propaganda and lies – your true colours shown in glorious Technicolor!

Until next time...

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