Thursday, 29 March 2012

Lisa Harding's response

Lisa Harding has replied to my blogpost "Lisa Harding AKA Spiderplant Land is a coward".

Because I don't believe in running away from a debate, I'm going to crosspost her reply here and add a few very brief comments of my own just to put it in context. Other than that I really don't want to waste any more time on this.
Over the last 4 days I have been subjected to some vitriolic and nasty comments regarding my post I’m just a Christian. 
I defend the right to free speech but I also defend my own right to block people from commenting on this forum who’s views I find offensive to me. I do the same on Twitter and my blog is no different. An entire blog post has been written about my be one such person who decided that I had blocked him because I had lost the argument. That is not the case. I blocked him for a number of comments that I found to be offensive. Whether anyone else finds them offensive or not is for them to decide. The fact is, I found them offensive to me and my faith and I decide who’s views are published on this site. 
Comments from that individual regarding my faith such as:
Everything that has been tested and found to work is what we like to call “medicine”. Everything which doesn’t work is called “bullshit”. 
I’m just belittling the small group of illiterates who think they should be exempt from the rules that apply to everyone else simply because their particular sacred text tells them that they should. 
and this
That’s the argument you’re making. It’s the argument of the level that a child would make 
Most Christians, however, don’t think they should receive special treatment. And it is people like you who tarnish their name by association. 
I find these comments toward me and my faith offensive so I chose to block the author from this blog. Then there were the tweets. 


Now, if you believe in something and your life is governed by it, you too would find comments like these offensive. 
Having blocked these people with no drama and no argument, I now find that I am being accused of any many of things including being a coward (for which there is an entire blog post) and a parody account has been set up in my name with the sole intention of harassing me and causing me harm and embarassment. 
The sad thing in ALL of this is that those who have been the most offensive have ALL been liberal democrats. Yes members of my own party. If i say something here I am damned for brining the party into disrepute, if I say nothing they are allowed to run rampant and besmirch my name and character unchecked. 
What kind of utter hypocrisy is that when all I have done is defend my faith in a polite and reasonable manner and yet chosen not to publish views I find offensive to me and my faith. If you can answer that you are a better person than I because right now, I am very upset and disappointed in all that has happened over the last 4 days.
Just to try and briefly cover the points Lisa has made:

1) Lisa's perfectly correct in that she has the right to block people whom she finds offensive. And that's not in any way incompatible with defending freedom of speech. However, when you block people like Nicola Prigg, simply because you asked them for proof that prayer doesn't heal people and they link you to a study proving it doesn't, and then insist that they can't come up with any proof, and yet style yourself a defender of free speech then you are nothing more than a hypocrite.

2) Those comments of mine she's quoted (the ones which aren't screenshots) are taken out of context and, because Lisa's deleted all the comments from the blogpost that started all this (including those by people who never said anything offensive at all) I can't provide the context. However, if you read the quotes you'll note that at no point did I attack Christianity. I criticised Lisa not her faith. I have no objection to her because she's a Christian - my objection to her comes from the fact that she's a coward who runs away from debates, constantly moves the goalposts, is scientifically illiterate and is a class A hypocrite. Not that I said that anywhere near as impolitely on her actual blog.

3) If she wants to deem those specific comments offensive then fine. That's her prerogative. But she moderates all comments on her blog and didn't block any of those comments which, I'll admit, were less polite than my usual ones (though they were not abusive). Instead she chose to block the specific comment which I've reproduced in full here. By any stretch of the imagination, that was not an abusive comment. It was a polite, well reasoned reply to one of her comments and yet that is the one that she blocked while leaving my earlier comments where they were. Not to mention her blocking on twitter of Nicola Prigg who did nothing more than link to a scientific study.

4) That tweet of mine she quotes actually wasn't referring to her at all. It was referring to a bunch of other people I'd been debating with on twitter.

5) Somebody parodying her is beyond the pale - and I tweeted that to the parody account.

6) No one is accusing her of bringing the party into disrepute. She has, however, accused me of bringing the party into disrepute by publicly disagreeing with her on my own blog - and has filed a complaint with the party to that effect. Well I'm afraid that she and I are very small fish in a very large pond and no one outside our little corner of the blogosphere could care less about our disagreements.

7) Has Lisa asked herself why so many Lib Dems have disagreed with her and criticised her? Because there are lots of people who've been on the same side of the argument as she is. People like Stephen Tall, for example. Now he's written two posts about this - one on Lib Dem Voice and one on his own blog. And what you will notice if you read those posts is that, despite him coming from the same position as Lisa, the comments underneath are a polite, civil debate in which people disagree with each other but without any drama. I myself disagree with Stephen quite strongly, and have expressed this disagreement, but it has all been completely civil and I continue to respect Stephen, despite our difference of opinion.

So the question is, why have quite a few, usually perfectly polite, reasonable and civil Lib Dems become critical of and frustrated with Lisa Harding  specifically? I'd suggest it's because of the hypocrisy of claiming freedom of speech while silencing the arguments of people of nothing wrong. I'd suggest it's because she constantly moves the goalposts - asking for evidence and then claiming, when evidence is presented to her, that no evidence could ever be sufficient. I'd suggest it's because of her shrill language and the arrogance of her claims of persecution of Christianity as a whole when people disagree with her personally. I'd suggest it's because of the insulting way she labels people illiberal and bigots and abusive simply for having different opinions.

I'd also suggest it's because Liberal Democrats tend to dislike it when one select group of people demand special treatment and exemption from the laws that apply to everyone else.

A minor piece of wisdom is that, if perfectly normal, reasonable people seem to be disagreeing with you and getting irritated with you en masse, then it might just be the case that it is you who is at fault.

8) Lisa has not defended her faith in a polite and reasonable manner. This is a) because her faith was never under attack - merely the suggestion that one group should demand exemption from the same rules that apply to everyone else - and b) because there is nothing reasonable about yelling "abuse!" at anyone and everyone who disagrees with you, or making complaints to the party because they disagree with you, or blocking people like Nicola Prigg who, by any stretch of the imagination, never did anything to her.

9) I've already mentioned the point about how ludicrous it is to claim to be protecting freedom of speech while deleting comments by people (I'm excluding myself here) who committed the "crime" of disagreeing with you. So all I'm going to say that, when it comes to Lisa calling people hypocrites, it is at best a case of the pot calling the kettle black.


  1. The thing about blind faith, George, is that it is just that.

    "I believe in god because...erm, I believe in him."

    Fine that's grand. I tend to think that people are being used a bit. The church over the years has made a mighty fine killing over all this. The Vatican is one of the richest countries in the world; and Lambeth palace ain't shoddy either. But if you're happy to be used by god, fine.

    When you ask Christians to explain so many things, they end up coming back to "god works in mysterious ways... it's not our place to question him."

    Fine again. If that's what people want of their lives, they have the right to it. But they don't have the right to have the law made different for them because they are Christian... No, that's not true... In some matters, they do.

    If you are a woman and you want to be a bishop (or even a priest in the Catholic church) ... then you are plain out of luck despite equality laws in this country for all other employments and employers. The excuse. God is the employer and he's higher up the greasy pole than even David Cameron or the Queen. So you can't tell him who he can and cannot employ. Rubbish. The bishops are the employers... otherwise we wouldn't dare demand employers National Insurance.

    And if you are gay and want to be a bishop, best lie through your teeth about who you fancy, because that's another big no no, despite it being illegal to discriminate in any other job.

    Now if people believe that praying helps them get better then that's OK too, but they damned well shouldn't be allowed to sell it like it's some patent medicine.

    That's not just bad... it's wicked, if the person puts THEIR faith in it and they go on getting worse and then die.

    NO. Enough. No more.

    If you believe, you believe. It's personal; it's faith. People aren't and nor should they be dragooned into religion now like they used to be.

  2. There is a broader problem here. Communicating in this way over the internet is bad for the soul. If things are hotting up the best way to respond is understatement.
    The problem is that it is far easier to say things over the internet that you wouldn't normally say to someone's face. Do you really want to seriously offend someone? Maybe in the heat of the moment you do, but then what?
    I reckon a local party will be successful where the people who disagree with each other nonetheless get on with each other. When that happens, the local operation in putting out leaflets, knocking on doors, winning campaigns and winning elections runs smoothly.
    If a local party is in a fight on the other hand, then that just puts people off. Better not to go there, it only benefits the other parties.

  3. Regardless of the content of discussion, I don't think the way either of you have handled this has done anyone any favours. This isn't really about religion any more, it's about how we handle people with contrary opinion. Since many political problems reduce to this, it's probably a good opportunity to find a strategy to deal with it.

    As you're probably aware, you could of contacted Lisa and sorted this out privately; instead you've chosen to do it all in public, and now anonymous people you've never met are checking out your dirty underwear and giving you advice!

  4. To Anonymous, I would agree with you normally but Lisa is fairly thin-skinned.

    If you attack the argument she is using by calling it illogical or childish she takes it as an insult on her rather than the argument.

    Lisa, doesn't seem to be able to detach a criticism of an argument from herself.

    George calling her a coward was a criticism of her actions so it was a criticism of her.

    She makes wild assumptions about people that aren't true and have even been spelled out to her as not true.

    In the comments to the I'm just a Christian that she has now deleted, she kept calling George an athiest who wanted to ram athiesm down her throat even though he had said quite clearly in his comments on the post and on here, that he is a man of faith as well.

    I made a comment yesterday on twitter that she blocked me because I disagreed with her. An assumption but the only assumption, i can rationally take from the conversation.
    She tweeted back saying she blocked me because I carried on the debate with her after she had asked me to leave her out of the conversation. and ended the tweet with "Don't lie"

    Now, Lisa sent no such tweet to me. I can't prove it now because she deleted her account. The first I knew she was going to block me was when she sent a tweet *blocked* to Douglas Mclellan & I. Her tweet after that made no comment about wanting to be left out but did say "Don't slam the door on your way out" She slammed the door in my face rather than I slamming the door in her face.

    Even in a tweet about why she blocked me, she said I was "offensive and rude" hence why I was blocked but I had not been. I'd been having a debate and making arguments based on logic which she didn't want to listen to.

    She also called me illiberal because I didn't agree with her that because the leaflet was a religious one it should be exempt from the same regulations that everyone else has to follow when making medical claims.

    How do you reason and sort this out with someone like that, who simply won't listen because she believes something to be true?

  5. What Nicola said.

    At the end of the day it's impossible to debate or reason with someone who won't listen to reason. And that's the kind of person who Lisa is.

    But I'm afraid that I'm not prepared to put up with that kind of bullshit without calling people out for it. And that's what I've done here.

  6. With regards Lisa; all of this has happened before - SSDD. If it's impossible to debate or reason with her, failure to engage shouldn't be a big surprise or outrage. Folk get defensive when their irrational beliefs are attacked, and many have irrational beliefs.

    Posts of the type "X is a Coward" are tasteless and reflect poorly on your interpersonal strategy, and therefore your politics. I think we often regret such posts at a later point in time.

    If I were you I'd delete these threads on your site, delete her off my Twitter feed and then STFU about it. Go and see her at conference and talk to her about it in person. Tolerance is a key trait of Liberals, and the onus is on us to find strategies to be able to reason and maintain dialogue with people of opposing viewpoints - even if we think they're roger rental. Her "bullshit" is a common viewpoint in this country; we can't ignore it, you've failed to find a strategy to engage and move her position.

  7. In my case this is the first time I'd come across this kind of behaviour from Lisa.

    It's one thing to get defensive when your beliefs are attacked but quite another to get defensive and abusive just because people try and debate with you from an opposing viewpoint.

    I wonder if you'd still be saying that this kind of post is tasteless if I'd been saying it about George Osborne, or Tony Blair, or various other public figures are politicians? I simply call them as I see them.

    I apply the same standard of behaviour equally to everyone. I really couldn't give a toss about offending someone like Lisa as she's already shown that she refuses to listen to anything that even slightly disagrees with her.

    I also think that what you're advocating is cowardice. If I've made tweets and blogposts which are as bad as you claim then the cowardly thing for me to do would be to delete them and pretend they never happened. No, I've said what I've said and I'll leave my blogposts up so, that for good or for ill, people can judge me for them.

    Tolerance is a key trait of liberals but tolerance does not extend to meekly saying nothing every time someone behaves like a prat. If someone was trying to prevent Lisa Harding from expressing her opinions then I'd be amongst the first to defend her - despite my opinion of her personally. But I have just as much right to express my opinion that she is spouting codswallop.

    I'm happy to maintain dialogue with anyone who's prepared to do so politely and with civility. But Lisa's already blocked anyone who doesn't agree with her from being able to maintain dialogue with her so there's nothing at all I can do on that front.

    Furthermore, I did try to engage and move her position - her response was to block me. She also did the same to other people, many of whom are far politer than I, who attempted the same.

    Finally, given that, as you said:

    "anonymous people you've never met are checking out your dirty underwear and giving you advice"

    I don't really see why I should listen to the advice of an anonymous person who doesn't even have the courtesy to use a pseudonym or nickname.


    For the record: I don't have any dirty underwear - so I really don't mind people trying to find it.

  8. As an outsider in all of this you will have to forgive me when I say you appear to be relishing your role as the playground bully in this matter and have gone over the top somewhat.

    Four things strike me that perhaps you would care to give consideration to:

    1. It would appear as though Lisa tried to close down the debate, not because she was ‘losing the argument’ with you as you put it, but because she felt uncomfortable with the way that it was progressing. To therefore make the claims that she is censoring debate suggests that your pursuit of her in this matter is personal based either on the evidence of others or some other motive, neither of which is clear but is obvious nonetheless. 

    2. As you confess to having never met Lisa, it is strange that you can form such an adamant negative opinion on her on the basis of one disagreement. I have to find myself in agreement with the poster above who suggested that you should have tried to deal with this in a more private manner rather than resorting to what appears to be a character assassination online, something you claimed you would not do in a previous post yet appear to be relishing now.

    3. My understanding is that Lisa is a well known and respected activist in her local party and is also standing as a candidate in the forthcoming local elections. Given that you are in the constituency next door to hers, would it not be more prudent and a better use of your time, to support her candidacy rather than appearing to want to publicly discredit it? 

    4. To follow on from above, there is also the matter of you yourself, fellow party member trying to discredit a party candidate which your blog entries are clearly trying to do. Perhaps with that in mind it would be wiser for you to remove the blogposts, not only to restrict the damage it could do to her local party, but also to your own local party?

    These of course are just some thoughts from another party member who, while wishing to remain anonymous, feels strongly enough on this matter to comment with, what are hopefully seen as words of genuine advice.

  9. This is a comment by Jennie Rigg which she apparently has been unable to post due to blogspot being weird:

    With regards Lisa; all of this has happened before - SSDD. If it's impossible to debate or reason with her, failure to engage shouldn't be a big surprise or outrage." [this is a quote from a previous, anonymous, comment to mine]

    But, if George deletes his posts, how are people supposed to know? George didn't know because nobody ever says this stuff publicly; they whisper it in private messages and behind Lisa's back.

    This /does/ keep happening with Lisa, and I'm amazed I haven't been a cause of it myself yet, but I think the reason for that is that I try to know when to stop, if only for the reason that I don't want to hurt anyone, and whenever this happens, Lisa is incredibly hurt by it.

    Lisa herself may not see it as a favour to her to leave these posts up, but I think I do, if it means people know to tread more carefully around her and not cause her the enormous amount of pain that this will have done.

    (Jennie Rigg here, having trouble commenting with my account - are you sure you haven't blocked me, George? ;))

  10. Hi Jennie,

    >if George deletes his posts, how are people supposed to know?

    Are people supposed to know? You're advocating third parties trusting subjective reviews of bloggers - that when I say "Jennie Rigg is an X", people should take me seriously. George has furnished us with proof in this thread that this logic doesn't work :

    This blog is now full of vitriolic bitching, and hers is white as snow. If someone looked "a posteriori" they're not going to see George as the reasonable liberal chap here are they? On the contrary, from what's left George looks like a bit of a nut, obsessed with malice and cowardice, and she appears quite reasonable - you'd only know any different had you of followed this drama unwinding.

    If leaving evidence worked, then surely George would have read one of the many posts about Lisa prior to his posting and this would of never happened? Clearly a self-stultifying argument. Also, would you really temper your attitude to someone because someone else documents a disagreement they had? I think that George's actions are evidence that this is not the case; he comes out of this covered in bitchplasm and she looks pretty reasonable; rarely do we do in-depth research on someone prior to casual engagement.

    I wouldn't vote for or work with someone that's known for repeatedly shouting words like "hypocrite" and "coward" at other party members - I see it as playground bullying and George clearly doesn't. That's all that's left of this scenario to me. I think he won the battle, lost the war; it changed my perspective of him, so I thought I'd give him the opportunity to reconsider before too many people realise he's just spent a lot of the past week on this level of discourse.

    Incidentally, fan of your blog - nearly always agree on your DW commentary!

  11. Such a awesome post and useful for every one Laser Ireland


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.