Thursday, 29 March 2012

Lisa Harding AKA Spiderplant Land is a coward

Well, that was a surprise.

Just before going to bed last night I checked Lisa Harding's blogpost, I'm just a Christian, to see if she had allowed my latest comment through moderation.

Instead of getting to her blog, however, I was greeted with this:

"This blog bans users who have posted offensive content."

A quick bit of experimentation allowed me to work out that my IP adress had been banned from viewing her blog. But the system her blog uses wasn't very sophisticated so I found away round it and confirmed that her blog was still up and it was definitely just me banned from viewing it. Or, to be more accurate, everyone using Hutchinson 3G Mobile Broadband as we all use the same IP address.

Viewing her blog by this alternative means also let me see that, while my comment hadn't been allowed through moderation, another comment after mine had been. And, since my earlier comments were still up on her blog, clearly none of them were the "offensive" one which had been deemed severe enough not to allow through moderation and severe enough to warrant my banning to boot.

So, for the sake of posterity, I thought I'd record both my comment, and the comment which I was replying to, here. And you can judge for yourselves if what I said was "offensive content".

Here is Lisa's comment:
I’ll keep telling you this until you get it into your head. I appreciate that you might not have the capacity to abosrd such information but I will try for the sake of fairness. 
1. I am not in the minority.
2. I am neither ridiculous or extreme.
3. Prayer is a fundamental part of Christianity and all christians believe in its power.
4. Advertising regulations do not apply to matters of faith (in this case particularly as no ‘medical’ service is being offerred. I remind you again, no one was offerring a medical service. It is a prayer offering and therefore the claim by you and others that the ASA is right is factually incorrect before you even start. Faith and prayer are not governed by the same rules as medical practitioners. To do so is the sanctioning of religious freedoms and illiberal.
5. Christians don’t want special treatment. We do however want to be able to practice and spread the message of our faith freely without censorship
6. God has the power to heal and save all people.
7. No one ever claimed that Muamba was directly saved by the power of prayer and its disingenuous of you to suggest they did.
8. Have you ever considered that those diseases you mention are here for a purpose. Perhaps our challenge is to use the intelligence that God gave us to find a cure. Perhaps that is His plan for us instead of saving everyone single handedly. God gives us the tools for the job, we dont expect him to do all the work for us you know!
9. I’m not stealing any liberal language but your agressive tone and stance has been clear from the start. I however, remain calm and strong in my faith. Who is angry here me or you? I know it is not me despite what impression you may have formed of me from others on the LD grapevine.
10. I am happy and confident that my faith will see me through in living my life in a good and honest way. I have the tools I need to do this from my faith. Attacking me and branding me a lunatic will do nothing to change that and only furthers my resolve that I am right and strong in my faith. I am sorry for you that you feel that you need to attack the faith in this way.

And here is my response (the one that she refused to allow through moderation and which got me banned from her blog):
1. Out of the population of the country as a whole you are probably in a minority on this particular issue of the letter and the ASA ruling. 
2. Insisting that, for example, the power of prayer to heal blindness, cannot be scientifically proven *is* a pretty ridiculous and extreme stance. 
3. Yes, prayer is a fundamental part of Christianity. And my faith as well for that matter. But belief in the power of prayer has nothing to do with the case in hand. 
4. Advertising regulations apply to adverts. The case in hand was an advert. The advert said, and I quote, "Need Healing? God can heal today! Do you suffer from Back Pain, Arthritis, MS, Addiction ... Ulcers, Depression, Allergies, Fibromyalgia, Asthma, Paralysis, Crippling Disease, Phobias, Sleeping disorders or any other sickness? We'd love to pray for your healing right now!" They are clearly offering a treatment for illnesses. The treatment, in this case, happens to be prayer. And, because claiming that X can heal Y (which is what this advert does) is a medical claim then it clearly falls under the ASA. Medical claims in adverts are all governed by the same rules no matter who makes the claims. 
This is a case of truth in advertising being regulated, not the faith and prayer themselves. The group in Bath are still able to have faith in prayer healing and carry out attempts to heal through prayer - no one is trying to stop them. 
5. No one is trying to stop Christians practising their faith or spreading it - that's why every Christmas you see adverts on the telly by Christian organisations. But those adverts don't contain medical claims and asking to be exempt from the advertising regulations covering medical claims is most definitely asking for special treatment. 
Now, I can hardly claim to be an expert but I'm pretty sure that there's a little bit more to Christ's message than offering medical services to people (and, before you start, offering to heal people is a medical service - no matter what method you use to heal them). 
6. If you choose to believe that then fine. But unless you can prove, specifically, that God and prayer perform better than the placebo affect, then you should not be allowed to make that specific medical claim in an advert. You can make it anywhere else, you can tell it to anyone you like, but not through an advert. Because medical claims in adverts are regulated for a reason - to protect people from phony claims. And that means there has to be a basic standard of proof that something works. Claims that God and prayer can heal have yet to meet that standard - but all power to your elbow if you can. 
7. The letter specifically said "It is interesting to note that since the traumatic collapse of the footballer Fabrice Muamba the whole nation appears to be praying for a physical healing for him. I enclose some media extracts. Are they wrong also and will you seek to intervene?" I'm not saying that that's an outright claim that God healed Muamba - all I did was give a hypothetical example and ask why someone like Muamba would be healed while other people wouldn't. 
8. If all these illnesses are a challenge then it raises two questions. The first is why, if this is a test, you should seek a shortcut around them through prayer? Doesn't that defeat the whole object of the test? The second question is what kind of being would inflict suffering upon billions of innocent people throughout human history? If God feels that it is only right and proper to "test" us by inflicting us with situations like a starving two year old girl, screaming in agony as eggs a wasp laid inside her eye eat their way out, then is he really deserving of worship? 
9. Claiming that it is illiberal or persecution or denying the right to freedom of speech for medical claims to be subject to the same regulations, no matter who makes the claims, is definitely stealing liberal language. You are also mistaking as anger my frustration at people who constantly move the goalposts and miss the point (as you did, when you asked for proof that prayer can't heal people and then, upon receiving it, declared that it didn't count before eventually admitting that there's no proof that you would ever accept). 
10. Great! Good for you! I mean that sincerely. If your faith makes you happy and gives you confidence then that's an example of one of the best aspects of Christianity. 
But I am not attacking you, I am trying to reason with you (at least I am in most of what I've said - I can't claim to be perfect after all). And what you seem to have missed is that your faith is not under attack here - what is being criticised is people who demand special treatment for no good reason. 
Could I finish by asking you a few questions please. 
a) Do you accept that the specific claim (which I've quoted above) made in the specific advert ruled upon by the ASA was a medical claim? If you don't, then how would you define a medical claim? 
b) Regardless of your answer to a), do you agree that allowing unproven medical claims to be advertised could cause harm to people? And do you think that it is right for the onus to be on the person, or group, making the claim to prove it, rather than on the ASA to disprove it? 
c) Putting aside your opinions of the specific case, if something *were* a medical claim, would you define it as "asking for specific treatment" if a particular group wanted exemption from the rules for a particular claim?
Now, I think that that's actually quite a polite response. I'll freely admit that some of my earlier comments weren't quite so polite but - given that she let them through, she can't have deemed them abusive or offensive.

 Which leads me to only one conclusion. My comment wasn't blocked because it was offensive - I was blocked because Lisa disagreed with my arguments but preferred to simply delete my comment rather than engage with them.

And I'm pretty certain that the reason she deleted my comment was that she couldn't think of a response to my argument. And, because she couldn't win the debate, she simply erased my comment. I'd like to point out the irony of that coming from someone who was using, throughout the debate, the argument about "freedom of speech" and the evils of censorship.

Now look, it's her blog. She can do what she likes with it. But to block someone from your blog simply because they posted difficult arguments is nothing less than petty and cowardly.

If you've lost the argument, or simply can't be bothered with it anymore, there are three ways of dealing with it.

1. Simply say nothing and let the entire comment thread die down.
2. Simply say "I can't be bothered to argue with you any more - you're obviously determined to miss the point". Or words to that effect.
3. Delete the comment and leave a comment of your own acknowledging that you've done so and your reasons for doing so.

To follow the approach Lisa has is really quite laughably childish.

In many ways, it reminds of a similar incident that happened a while back on Ancient Briton's blog. He's another extreme Christian who seems to spend an inordinate amount of time ranting about women priests and women bishops. On one occasion we had a brief, polite debate in the comments on his blog where I raised the point that surely Jesus wouldn't care who was delivering his message as long as it was being delivered. At this point Ancient Briton simply deleted the entire comment thread.

As a comic poster once said: If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence you failed.

And that'd the tactic that Lisa's chosen to adopt.

So I'm afraid I am now left without any respect for Lisa Harding. I've agreed with her in the past, felt sympathy for her at other times, even expressed said sympathy in comments on her blog but that is now a thing of the past.

There are lots of people who I fundamentally disagree with, people who I actively dislike - but I at least respect them for having the courage to stick to their guns and make the case for their point of view. I show a certain degree of respect to them because, though we disagree, we can disagree openly and freely and without one side running away or sticking their fingers in their ears.

Lisa, I'm afraid, will get no such deference. In my opinion she has revealed herself to be childish and a coward.

I'm not going to do anything to her or harass her online or anything like that. All I'm doing is writing this blogpost and letting those reading it make their own judgements. That and thanking her for showing by her actions that she's lost the argument.

(Normal, non inter-blogger spats, blogging will now resume)

UPDATE: Lisa Harding has informed me on twitter that she has made an official party complaint about this blogpost. How what two ordinary citizens think or say of each other is aything to do with the party is beyond me but, just to reiterate, my opinions on here are my own and do not represent the Liberal Democrats and the logo for my blog is one inspired by the Lib Dem logo rather than being the Lib Dem logo itself.

UPDATE 2: Lisa now appears to have blocked her blog to everyone completely. Which is something of a shame as she occasionally made some good points. Not that I'll lose any sleep over it I'm afraid. And now it's unblocked again but all the comments on her blogpost have been deleted. Including those by people agreeing with her.


  1. George, I don't know whether you saw but I had a twitter discussion on this topic with her, Douglas McLellan and I think you were in some of the earlier tweets.

    I raised exactly the same arguments that you did. Asking about whether we should be allowed to advertise placebos considering that placebos work on faith and believe that they work even if the treatment is nothing but vitamin C?
    I've heard of surgeries being found to be placebos and made redundant.

    I don't see why any claim of healing should be subjected to religious exemptions.

    Anyway Lisa ended up blocking me but she still carried on the conversation.

    Her last 3 tweets to me were:

    @nicola_prigg you havent put forward convincing evidence of any kind thats why

    @nicola_prigg Im actually the one being liberal as i accept a place for all views even if they differ from mine

    @nicola_prigg you want to enforce your atheism on me simply because you dont agree - THATS illiberal

    This was after Doug had posted links to various evidence showing it doesn't work. The second hilarious because she blocked me for disagreeing with her. I wasn't trying to force athiesm on anyone just that anyone making a claim of healing by whatever means should need to be able to prove it works to protect people from false claims.
    She was I think trying to force her christianity on me and others by wanting special treatment for her religion.

  2. There are lots of reasons for wanting arguments to stop, not sure publicly attacking her character is the most mature response. Rise above it!

  3. i commented on her blog and she has now blocked me from viewing her site as well. I wasn't offensive either. She just blocks people because she doesn't agree with her or people who don't come round to her way of thinking.

  4. but surely attacking her personally isn't the best way to go, it doesn't encourage debate in the future

  5. @Jenny and Robbo

    Those are fair points.

    I know that this is a provocative way of dealing with things and I know it's not going to encourage debate in the future.

    But, when deciding to write this post, I balance that against the fact that a) by blocking me she'd already discouraged any possibility of debate in the future and b) I refuse to let people get away with the hypocrisy of pretending to be speaking up in favour of freedom of speech while silencing any arguments by people who disagree with them.

    I also note that both of you have google profiles which were only started this month. I'm going to assume it's a coincidence that both of you made similar points with profiles created at the same time but if a lot more newly minted profiles start popping up then I might get a little suspicious ;)

  6. George,

    No, not a coward. Foolish, probably, but not a coward. Would you make that accusation to her face?

    Playing the man, and not the ball, my friend, and it doesn't befit you...

    1. Yes I would say this to her face actually.

      I'd love to play the ball but unfortunately Lisa's decided to stop anyone who disagrees with her from playing the ball (witness Nicola's comment above).

      I know this isn't going to win me any popularity points but I'm afraid that this *is* my opinion and I don't really see what would be any better about thinking this in scret but pretending it's all hunky dory in public. For me, that kind of two-facedness would be something that was really unbefitting.

      So I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with you on this.

      That said, I do appreciate where you're coming from and thanks for your comment.

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  8. She is certainly a liar. On her blog she has accused me of writing on comments that she is a 'nut job' and an alcoholic and of reporting her to the party.
    All of these are untrue I have not made these comments.

    I commented on the article but she has naturally not let it go through.
    Simon Mcgrath

  9. George, on the question of truthfulness you may wish to correct your assertion regarding the AncientBriton blog that "On one occasion we had a brief, polite debate in the comments on his blog where I raised the point that surely Jesus wouldn't care who was delivering his message as long as it was being delivered. At this point Ancient Briton simply deleted the entire comment thread." If you or your readers care to go to
    what was commented on is plain for all to see and clearly the comments were not deleted as you allege.
    After our 'polite debate' I now see that you went on to refer to me as "another extreme Christian who seems to spend an inordinate amount of time ranting about women priests and women bishops." I am a Christian. You no doubt regard me as extreme because you do not agree with my views. The ordination of women to the priesthood is a matter of deep theological concern to the vast majority of Christians. We cannot all be exreme.


I'm indebted to Birkdale Focus for the following choice of words:

I am happy to address most contributions, even the drunken ones if they are coherent, but I am not going to engage with negative sniping from those who do not have the guts to add their names or a consistent on-line identity to their comments. Such postings will not be published.

Anonymous comments with a constructive contribution to make to the discussion, even if it is critical will continue to be posted. Libellous comments or remarks I think may be libellous will not be published.

I will also not tolerate personation so please do not add comments in the name of real people unless you are that person. If you do not like these rules then start your own blog.

Oh, and if you persist in repeating yourself despite the fact I have addressed your point I may get bored and reject your comment.

The views expressed in comments are those of the poster, not me.