{} The Culture Industry: reviewing, books, ideologies, media disputes


In this column

'Love' and language, 'great'  and not so great language: A M Heath, Literary Agency
On reviewing: criticism and fair-mindedness

Nasty, brutish and short: some Harry's Place disputes
Another dispute at Harry's Place
Harry's Place: faults and failings
Losing interest in Harry's Place
Harry's Place: pseudonyms and heteronyms
Harry's Place and deleting
Conservative woman and its disputes
A L Kennedy: reviews and other material
Oxford University Press: Framework Science
Dover Publications Inc: Scores of Mozart's Da Ponte trilogy
What I didn't learn from Luke Wright, poet
The BBC and its designs on us
The BBC: manipulating opinion
Bold print and faint print

Some Mediocrity Celebrity Worshippers
Richard Booth, Private Eye and Edgeways Books


The title of this page is the same as the collection of essays on mass culture by Theodor Adorno (published by Routledge, with an introduction by J M Bernstein.) This page is about mass culture to an extent but I also discuss 'culture' directed at minorities rather than masses, including the 'culture directed at minorities' which uses the language of mass culture to an extent, in particular, debased or mediocre language. I examine linkages between mass culture and minority culture. The page includes close examination of one important aspect of mass culture and minority culture, the comments sections of Websites, or more exactly, the comments sections of one site in particular. Other comments sections are examined in my page  Anti-anti-woke sites.

My view of Adorno's 'The Culture Industry' involves strong disagreement as well as warm agreement, as I explain. Brian O' Connor provides a very good summary of 'The Culture Industry' in his introduction to 'Culture Industry Reconsidered. He writes,

'Adorno notes that the term 'culture industry' is to be preferred to 'mass culture' in that the latter suggests a type of culture spontaneously chosen by the masses as suiting their needs. However, that is to miss the point that the culture industry has, Adorno argues, nothing to do with the views or needs of the masses. Rather the culture industry produces commodities which generate false needs. And the metaphor of industry is apt, he argues, as entertainment is produced through patterns of standardization and, with advertising and marketing, distributed like any other manufactured goods. The culture industry sustains itself through the illusion that it offers novelty, but ultimately what is new is merely another instance of what is commercially proven. The techniques of the culture industry - its skilful production of film, music, or television - are in no way equivalent to the techniques if art ... Culture, Adorno claims, was once the area of protest in which great art provoked consciousness of the difficulties of existence. Now, however, the culture industry achieves conformity ... Adorno's critique of popular culture is trenchant and it has faced superficial charges of elitism and snobbery. It is clear that his account of the culture industry identifies undeniable strategies of manipulation. The more ambitious claim is that this manipulation produces social conformism. The strength of this position can only be appreciated when read alongside Adorno's thoughts on society and idealogy.'

My loathing for the dross of the present time is as great as Theodor Adorno's evident dislike, amounting to loathing, for the dross of his time, but my criticism is modified and differs from his in significant ways. I take as my example of dross here a commercial radio station pumping out drivel from morning to night, throughout the night, an endless stream of monotous and formulaic rhythms and trite non-melodies interspersed with advertisements and self-indulgent comments delivered in the typical  tone of voice, relentless, frenzied, without contrast.

(1) I recognize that people who listen to this dross whenever they can, who find it difficult to do things without listening to this dross or similar forms of dross, can have remarkable qualities, that they may be understanding, loving, hard-working parents, that they may have reserves of remarkable courage. This is to stress the importance of factors and factorization. What people listen to is a factor, but if it can be shown that what people listen to is dross, this is a criticism in terms of one factor,  not all the factors which should be taken into account. These factors include much more than what people listen to, look at or read.

George Orwell, who writes about some ordinary people in his essay 'Hop Picking,' singles them out for praise. Adorno would have given a completely dismissive account of their cultural level, although it's not likely that he would have thought them worth commenting on, or noticing. This is George Orwell:

'There was one couple, a coster and his wife, who were like a father and mother to us. They were the kind of people who are generally drunk on Saturday nights and who tack a 'fucking'  on to every noun, yet I have never seen anything that exceeded their kindness and delicacy. They gave us food over and over again. A child would come to the hut with a saucepan: 'Eric, mother was going to throw this stew away, but she said it was a pity to waste it. Would you like it?' Of course they were not really going to have thrown it away, but said this to avoid the suggestion of charity.'

(2) I see the importance of cross-linkages. I'm an atheist, but there can be cross-linkages between my views and the views of a Christan. Someone who has a linkage with me in terms of atheism may not have a linkage with me in terms of pacifism and radical feminism, both of which I oppose. Someone who shares my interest in serious music  may be my opponent in other respects, and the person who listens to drivel, inconveniently, an ally.

(3) Theodor Adorno's view takes too little account of the history of mass entertainment, I think. The moronic and mindless dross of commercial radio stations is far, far better than the 'entertainment' of watching public executions or the gladiators and other public cruelties of Ancient Rome.

(4) Theodor Adorno's account never considered ways of actively opposing the power and effects of the Culture Industry. He concentrated his entire attention on analysis.

In opposing the Culture industry, I think it's essential to distinguish two things:

(i) The most effective techniques to oppose the Culture industry. This will often demand short, vivid messages and simple slogans.

(ii) The reasoning which underlies the action. This should not be simple. It should be comprehensive (covering all relevant aspects of the subject rather than a few), fair-minded (taking every care to avoid distortions of reality, taking note of possible objections), sophisticated in moral argument and, also, factually correct.

I would stress the power of ideas. The ideas which seem vastly more forceful, developed, persuasive than the opposing ideas are amongst the most important contributions to activism. They're a precondition for activism, or should be. One of the most striking demonstrations comes from the history of penal reform, on which the Italian thinker Beccaria has had an incalculable influence. To read more about his achievement, click here. Beccaria's achievement is amongst other things a massive practical achievement - concrete reforms can be traced back to his work - but these were due purely to his ideas. He had none of the attributes of an activist. The introduction to his work 'On Crimes and Punishments' in the Hackett edition describes the work as 'greater than its self-effacing author, a man of almost crippling shyness.'

Theodor Adorno's ideas have great importance, but they aren't expressed in a form which will bring them to the attention of more than a handful of people who gain from the Culture industry, such as employees of the trivial media, or the people who are in thrall to the trivial media.

I think there's scope for the use of 'simplification words,' simplification phrases,' 'simplification messages,' 'simplification techniques' and 'simplfication images.'  I think that simplification words, phrases, messages, techniques and images are completely justifiable if they are supported by comprehensive argument and analysis, which need not be supplied at the time.

It's for this reason that I give some simplification phrases, messages and images below. And, also, a 'simplification technique,' 'bold print and faint print.' If most purveyors of dross will be immune, a few may reconsider. An aphorism of mine, from the page Aphorisms: 'In the criticism of trashy material, a critic can be guided by the principles of punishment: deterrence, retribution, reformation.'

The six sections where I criticize - and praise - the blog 'Harry's Place are the most detailed sections of the page.

Many or most readers may well find  the sections on Harry's Place  over-developed. I'm not apologetic. The comments sections of Websites and blogs are an important aspect of contemporary cultural life (using the word 'cultural' very, very loosely) and this is the only place where I examine it in detail. A much more comprehensive examination could easily be justified. It's completely justifiable, as I see it, to comment on comments sections, and to review reviews and I see no  reason to apologize for thoroughness.

There's a section on 'Conservative Woman' and its comments section, but my main discussion is on another page


in the section of the page


The page includes critical comment on comments sections of other anti-woke sites. 'Harry's Place' isn't an anti-woke site.

The content of my page on Richard Alleyne and the Daily Telegraph belongs here, but including it would unbalance the page. Like the sections here on Harry's Place, it includes criticism of some commenters, but these commenters are much less well informed than the commenters at Harry's Place, or a great many of the commenters.

The page is concerned with dross and the criticism of dross, dross which coexists with strengths and admirable people and organizations whose strengths outweigh their faults.

In  'The Culture Industry,' Theodore Adorno's sophistication tended to be single-minded, simple-minded. I stress contradictions, contrast, complications - as in the case of my review of Harry's Place.

Dross is often justified by the power of numbers, such as sales figures. There are many, many people who are very impressed when a show sells huge numbers of tickets, when a recording sells by the million, when a book sells by the million, the people who are impressed by 'smash hits,' the people who scoff at minority interests. They should remember that the sales figures for  white sliced industrial bread, mass-selling mass-produced processed cheese or cheap lager in cans dwarf the sales figures for artisanal bread, cheese and beer,  In the case of these products of fermentation, the realization is widespread that the 'smash hits' of the bread, cheese and beer world are likely to be the poorest in quality, the minority products of the niche market far more likely to be outstanding.

The clear and concise formulation in terms of {theme}, specifically the {theme} linkage, expresses the insight that in such cases as these,  there's no linkage between high sales figures and quality:

[high sales figures] >< [high quality]

Here, >< is read as 'not linked with.'

Similarly, any mechanical use of high sales figures to show that a film, a book, a piece of music must be a 'must-see, a must-read' or a 'must-hear' is ridiculous. Ridiculous too is the use of low sales figures in an attempt to show that a poetry volume which has sold only a few copies must be worth reading.

Harry's Place is site which amongst other things supports Israel and opposes Islamism, even if contributors differ in the degree of their support and opposition. I'm in sympathy with its position. Surely the world of the site is very different from the world of mass marketing and mass consumption? It is, but it's a prominent provider of material which can be compared with the material goods provided by prominent suppliers. Harry's Place provides dross which coexists with strengths, the strengths, I think, vastly outweighing the dross.

'Love' and language, 'great'  and not so great language: A M Heath, Literary Agency

A M Heath describe themselves as   'literary agents.' The claim  can even be found on this page


where one of the 'literary agents,' Bill Hamilton lets slip this love of his life:

'I love great storytelling, great writing, great history, and almost any mixture of these in both fiction and non-fiction.'

In contemporary English, 'great,' like 'love' is just about devoid of meaning, or devoid of the meaning the words used to have. There's a place in language for general words with very wide meanings for routine use, but if much more important uses become unavailable, there's a loss - I can call it a great loss even though I'm opposing overuse of the word, by lazy writers  such as Bill Hamilton. Tolstoy's 'War and Peace' is a 'great novel,' Beethoven's Choral Symphony is a 'great' piece of music and a takeaway pizza can be a 'great' pizza.

Bill Hamilton's linguistic skills seem very undeveloped for someone occupying such a role in such a prestigious company. It must be a  prestigious company, since its address is 6 Warwick Court, Holborn, London WC1. I think there's the danger of confusion in this view, 'almost any mixture of these ['great storytelling, great writing, great history] in both fiction and non-fiction.' Promoting a work of history which has 'great storytelling' could well be promoting a work which falsifies history. But this is a big issue, and I won't elaborate. For the time being, 'big' is a word which hasn't lost a lot of its meaning.

I found these words of Bill Hamilton during a search for material on one of his book-publishing clients. I don't give his (or her) name here. The author is prolific. I have one of his (or her) books on my bookshelves. It's a book which has been widely criticized. I think the criticisms are valid, they draw attention to obvious faults, but the book's strengths vastly outweigh the faults. It seems to me a successful book with some faults, not a failed book.

In these inflationary times, linguistically inflationary, 'love' is used over and over and over again. A man can have deep love for a woman and a woman can have deep love for a man, and someone can buy a conifer tree and love the conifer.

Now, love is everywhere, in casual form, either using the word 'love' or the symbol

The word 'love' hasn't yet been ruined, but nearly so. Second-hand items, such as a dog-eared copy of a mediocre minor celebrity's ghost-written paperback autobiography (or biography) have become 'pre-loved' items.

 From the Horticultural Trades Association's Website:

The Horticultural Trades Association’s British Conifer Group (BCG) latest campaign ‘Love Me, Love My Conifer’ will help garden centres create unique and engaging displays for this year’s National Conifer Week which takes place from 1-9 October 2011. 

‘'Love Me, Love My Conifer’ highlights how there is a conifer to suit every person as well as every garden situation. Conifers comes in a wide range of different shapes and sizes, just like us, and each one has its own unique personality and uses, providing the garden with structure, background, texture and contrast.'

'Personality' is on the way to ruin too, with more to do with the manipulations of marketing than the striking differences and nuances of human personality. 'Unique' too: the uniqueness of conifer personalities and the need to love these endearing conifer personalities, or so it's claimed. And so to the most important part, money:

'Gary Carvosso, Managing director of Coolings, is enthusiastic about the campaign, “Conifers contribute to the plantarea’s [sic] profitability and equal almost a fifth of our shrubs sales by turnover. With an average sale per plant of £14, and a significant increase in sales this year, with more imaginative retailing and colour blocking in volume, we expect to continue to build on these figures ... '

Already, so much has been lost. One of the supreme words of English has lost so much of its content. The word has been adulterated. When a word becomes almost unusable for conveying so much more intensity than the new use conveys, a substitute doesn't appear, to make up for the loss. 'Love' is a word which in the past has often been used insincerely, casually, but never on the scale we have now.

Descriptive linguistics has to be supplemented with prescriptive linguistics. A changed use of a word  may amount to abuse and a linguistics completely without evaluation is complicit in the debasement of language.

Sometimes, a word which is abused has replacements - the language has redundancy to this extent - but not always. This is so in the case of 'love.'

On reviewing: criticism and  fair-mindedness

Ecologists are conscious of the need to avoid bias in sampling when they carry out an ecological ((survey )). If they have to state the number of creeping buttercup plants in a field, it's not practicable to count all the creeping buttercup plants in the field. They have to sample, by counting, for example, the number of plants in 0.01% of the field and multiplying the number they find in the sample by 10 000. Their sample has to be random. They don't take samples from the area nearest the road, for convenience, or take samples only from the unrepresentative area which contains almost all the creeping buttercups.

Again and again, critics use distorted sampling and their ((surveys )) are flawed. As in the case of ecology, it's impractical to deal with the whole, even if the whole is far from extensive. Even in the case of a poem of moderate length, it may be impossible to discuss all of it adequately. Critics usually have to sample, but they may choose the 'best part' of a poem to quote and discuss in support of their case, or the 'worst part' to support an adverse judgment.

On the page which discusses The Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney, I quote Denis Donoghue on an exchange of views between F R Leavis and F W Bateson on the subject of close reading. In general, I'm sympathetic to F R Leavis's views on close reading, but of course close reading is usually not close reading of a whole but of a sample. Close reading itself does nothing to eliminate the problem of sampling. On the same page, I criticize Dennis O' Driscoll:

Dennis O' Driscoll, in 'Heaney in Public,' one of the essays in The Cambridge Companion, claims that 'Every idea is examined afresh, as every word is coined anew.' Every idea is examined afresh! Every word is coined anew! Are all these five words in 'Gifts of Rain,' 'could monitor the usual / confabulations' coined anew? Bernard O' Donoghue ought to have had a few words with Dennis O' Driscoll, and made it clear that this claim couldn't possibly be justified and shouldn't appear in any self-respecting book, and certainly not one published by the Cambridge University Press. The Press had its reputation to consider, and so did he, as editor, and as an academic at Oxford University. But he obviously didn't even notice that Dennis O' Driscoll was practising a form of 'automatic writing.' He was practising 'automatic editing.' '

This is just one sample of Dennis O' Driscoll the critic. Just one sample may seem conclusive, with no further need to collect further samples. This would be the case with a piece of sub-literate criticism of Shakespeare's Hamlet which began 'Hamlett is a krap play, everyone nows it whose seen itt.' There would be no need to read further. The one sentence of Dennis O' Driscoll would seem so poor that there's no need to collect further samples. Persisting even so, and reading the whole of his essay, 'Heaney in Public' in 'The Cambridge Companion' gives more extensive sampling, which qualifies the judgment formed from the earlier small sample: the essay as a whole is far better, but lacklustre in large part.

To provide more one than one sample of a critic's writing i{amplification}, that is, ('instantiates' {amplification} or 'is an instance of' {amplification}. To provide more than one brief comment, 'far better, but lacklustre in large part' and to provide abundant evidence for the comment also i{amplification}, in accordance with the thoroughness and comprehensiveness which I see as very desirable in criticism. But to provide sufficient {amplification} is often impracticable or even impossible and sometimes unnecessary. Here, my main objective isn't to arrive at as fair an estimate as I can of the criticism of Dennis O' Driscoll but to discuss sampling in criticism and to discuss [sampling in criticism] < > [sampling in other fields, eg ecology].

Even so, I extend sampling of Dennis O' Driscoll to discuss briefly a review by him, 'The Letters of Robert Lowell,' edited by Saskia Hamilton, in the U.S. Issue of the poetry magazine 'Agenda.' (Vol. 41 Nos. 3 - 4). It has a bearing on his own estimate of Seamus Heaney.

He writes, of Robert Lowell, at the beginning of his review, 'He was better than good, less than great' and refers to his 'Pungent phrase-making, forceful rhythms, crackerjack technique and a credible public rhetoric ... ' Based upon this small sample from the review, his own criticism here is better than poor, less than good. Again, {amplification} would be necessary to make the discussion adequate. Extending the sample to the next sentence gives {modification} of the original estimate. This is poor: 'Few reputations live on poetry alone; and Lowell's prominence owed as much to his deeds as to his words; he was jailed as a conscientious objector during the Second World War ... ' This is no way to estimate the reputation of a poet, and the 'deeds' are equivocal. Depending on the critic's view of pacifism, Robert Lowell was heroic here or deeply misguided. I think he was completely misguided. His pacifism lowers his reputation for me, but not his reputation as a poet. (In the same way, the reputation of the composer Benjamin Britten isn't modified for me by the fact that he was a pacifist too during the Second World War.)

When Dennis O' Driscoll returns to Robert Lowell as poet, he has severely critical things to say about him: 'Lowell was a willed poet more than an inspired one; so, a production line of habitual sonnets became an attempt to create an inspiration machine. The dogged, episodic, solipsistic poems he processed were dappled intermittently with brilliance, but monotonous and inert, crying out for divine afflatus rather than monkey wrench revision.'

This further sample of Dennis O' Driscoll again modifies my view of his work. Without providing {amplification} for what I regard as the critical strengths and weaknesses of this sample, on its own it would be enough to modify a critical opinion based on the sample I gave first of all, concerning the words and ideas of Seamus Heaney.

His view of the poetry, not the life, of Robert Lowell, is markedly different from Seamus Heaney's own. Seamus Heaney deals with the life and actions as well as the poetry. His account of the life and actions seems to me very acute - again, without giving {amplification}, but his account of the poetry seems to me to be based upon distorted sampling.

Quoting should be regarded as a form of sampling. It would be impractical, usually, to quote the whole of a poem or other literary work (and would often infringe copyright). Anyone new to the poetry of Robert Lowell would have a distorted view of his work from Seamus Heaney's quote-sampling. He quotes lines from 'The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket:'

When the whale's viscera go and the roll
Of its corruption overruns this world
Beyond tree-swept Nantucket and Wood's Hole
and Martha's Vineyard, Sailor, will your sword
Whistle and fall and sink into the fat?
In the great ash-pit of Johoshaphat
The bones cry for the blood of the white whale,
The fat flukes arch and whack about its ears,
The death-lance churns into the sanctuary, tears
The gun-blue swingle, heaving like a flail,
and hacks the coiling life out ...

Are these lines representative in their literary quality? Seamus Heaney could have done far more to address this issue, I think. In my own pages on Seamus Heaney's own poetry ... I try to ensure that my sampling is as fair and comprehensive as I can make it, given the {restriction} of space. This {restriction}, of course, is generally severe in its effects. It may allow only the most limited sampling and the most limited {amplification}, or none at all. But my view of criticism is that, subject to {restriction} of space, the critic should attempt to reduce unfairness so far as possible by, amongst other things, sampling as well as possible.

I don't address here one other matter which emerges from my discussion - the need to address contradictions. Contradictions play almost as important a part in literary criticism as the contradictions, of a very different kind, studied in logic. Seamus Heaney's view of Robert Lowell's poetry is so different from Dennis O' Driscoll's as to amount to criticism-contradiction.

On the page where I discuss 'The Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney' I include this comment on Fran Brearton, 'I don't have an extensive acquaintance with work by Fran Brearton other than her essay in The Cambridge Companion, but enough to know that she can write very well, as in this review of Paul Muldoon (a much less important poet than Seamus Heaney, I think.)'


Strenuousness is very widely recognized and very highly regarded in the field of physical exercise and physical skills. Many, many people run a half-marathon or a full marathon instead of taking a relaxing stroll as their only form of exercise. People practise tennis or golf or some other sport so as to become much better players.

The importance of strenuousness is more often denied in matters to do with the mind than matters to do with the body. Here, all too often, being lazy is nothing to be regretted. Aiming higher is unimportant.

Some examples of strenuousness, not in the field of physical exercise and physical skills.

From the Foreword to 'Common Families of Flowering Plants' by Michael Hickey and Clive King, quite a technical work:

'The decision to make radical changes in the book, and in particular to restrict its coverage to 25 common Angiosperm families, is one which cannot have been taken easily.


'However that may be, we can all unreservedly welcome the new 30-page section on basic botany. It is a fact that there is a large and growing demand from older students, many of them really enthusiastic gardeners and field botanists, who would like to move their hobby from a casual to a more committed interest, and have the enthusiasm and ability to do this. For them this new book caters supremely well.'

A second example, from serious music, including 'classical music.' There are many, many really enthusiastic listeners  who could take their listening to a more committed level by sometimes following the music score whilst they listen. The knowledge of music needed to do that isn't very great. I already have the knowledge to do that, as a player - or ex-player of violin and viola - but I don't in the least have the musical knowledge needed to obtain anything like the fullest benefit from using a score, above all in knowledge of harmony. I gave up music at an early stage at secondary school and don't have the aptitude to study this particular branch of music theory. I've far more knowledge of matters such as form and instrumentation.

Nasty, brutish and short: some Harry's place comments

Harry's Place is a political and cultural blog. I support many or most of its policies. For example, it  opposes Islamism and antisemitism. (My page Israel, Islamism and Palestinian ideology gives a detailed account of my reasons for supporting Israel and my criticisms of radical Islamist ideology and Palestinian ideology.) It opposes religious and political censorship. Harry's Place has pointed out, according to Nick Cohen, that 'a section of the left is allied with religious fanaticism and, for the first time since the Hitler-Stalin pact, […] has gone soft on fascism.' I think Harry's Place is a very flawed blog and in this section, I concentrate on the failings rather than the strengths.  

Address of 'Harry's Place:' www.hurryupharry.org

First, some comments aimed in my general direction by Commenter/Commissar Vildechaye:

'You need to remove whatever is jamming up your pompous arsehole and piss off.'

'up your bum.'

A slighter longer, more carefully considered comment on me:

'Just saw this. You're right, i'm not one of the moderators, dickhead. Now be a good little narcissist and fuck off.'

His first comment after finding that I intended to add this piece to the site, with mentions of him:

'You can add this comment to your piece: GO FUCK YOURSELF.'

Followed in next to no time by another comment ending with

' ... go fuck yourself.'

Vildechaye was born in Francophone Montreal, so there's a good chance that he understands this - but I give a translation, all the same:

'Cet animal est très méchant:
Quand on l’attaque, il se défend.'

'This animal is very wicked.
When you attack him, he defends himself.'

Vildechaye's  comments directed at other people. A small selection, which obviously satisfied the moderator (moderating 'Harry's Place' must be one of the easiest jobs in the world):

'fuck off.'

'you can fuck off too.'

'you really enjoy talking out your arse, don't you?'

'actually you're just a bigoted asshole with a thin veneer of intellectual pomposity who cherrypicks sources -- on Youtube! -- and thinks he's being clever. uh uh.'

'yes we're all listening to the likes of you now, you lying sack of shit. Care to tell everyone where I wasn't brought up again.'

Vildechaye is tireless as a Disqus commenter. He's not so tireless as a blogger. He writes under the name 'Henry' and he's the creator of a blog, 'Henry's Place.' Not really its name. The official title is 'Henry's cheap eats and treats in Vancouver.' In his blog profile, he describes himself as 'writer/editor.'

The address of the blog:


The introduction to the blog:

'I never liked paying a lot of money for food, and now, with 3 kids and a mortgage, I like it even less, especially since even the fanciest, priciest foods can't compete with the foods I really like. I continue to discover lots of cheap eats and treats in Vancouver, and the purpose of this blog is to share them with you. You'll save money, eat well and feel good. Bon appetit!'

The blog's informative material amounts to the solitary comment, 'No posts.'

A thorough commentary on the blog:

It's been in existence for many, many years. And in all that time, how many posts has he written? 0, none, zero. The hungry hard-up people of Vancouver must be getting restless. Hurry up, Henry! Time to make an effort. An introduction to a blog won't feed the masses!

Vildechaye to me:

'You've chosen just the right kind of job for a person of your intelligence and ability -- reviewing empty blogs, I wish you luck in your latest endeavour. It definitely suits you.'

Then there's mettaculture, another scathing critic of me. He's quoted extensively below. It was one of his comments, with the phrase 'fucking cunting fuck-cunts,' and my response to the phrase, that marked the beginning of a wide-ranging dispute. After I responded to his criticism, coincidentally perhaps, he contributed practically nothing to the site.

Marko Attila Hoare mentions mettaculture on his blog 'Greater Surbiton:'


'Greater Surbiton' really is a proper blog, with many, many entries, including one called 'The trouble with Harry's Place.' I agree  with his general criticisms of tendencies at 'Harry's Place.' I'm not in a position to endorse his particular criticisms of mettaculture. I've no evidence to guide me. Below, I give mettaculture's allegations against Marko Attila Hoare, in the piece which mentions that he's a barrister and clearly warns me about some possible consequences for me - in his opinion. I don't endorse mettaculture's allegations against Marko Attila Hoare either, of course. Again, I've no evidence.

Marko Attila Hoare writes in 'The trouble with Harry's Place,'

'As someone who has written posts in defence of HP on more than one occasion, and who stood up for you when you were driven off the internet by a libel threat, I don’t think I can be accused of political or personal hostility to you. But the more familiar I become with this blog, the more distasteful I find the atmosphere here and the more questionable I find your ethics.

'For me, the turning point was having threats repeatedly posted against me by Mettaculture: he threatened me physically; threatened me with a libel suit; threatened to contact my employers. He also attacked me for the colour of my skin,  and tried to intimidate me with graphic descriptions of anal sex, having previously tried to bully me into silence with references to my class background and foreign name. Not to mention all the vicious personal abuse (‘whore’, ‘douchebag’, etc.).

'I'm not intimidated by this; Mettaculture’s kind is a dime a dozen, and I’ve had my share of such creatures attempting to intimidate me. But it does constitute harassment; it has nothing to do with ‘freedom of speech’. Not only does HP not condemn such behaviour, it encourages it, providing a forum in which every little anonymous internet psycho or stalker can engage in such activities. When I tried to defend myself by outing Mettaculture, I found that I was the one whom HP censored.'

Lamia to me (written before I'd included the examples of comments Marko Attila Hoare alleges were written by mettaculture):

'Utterly extraordinary. If you are going to repeat such incredible accusations then I think you ought to say eho [sic] they are by - otherwise people might conclude that you have just made up a load of defamatory rubbish about mettaculture. I don't believe he has done any of that.

Marko Attila Hoare's gives examples of comments he alleges were written by mettaculture. All I've done is copy and paste these comments. I don't have any evidence to confirm their authenticity and veracity:

‘We are all racist’s [sic] according to the pasty white boy. He know’s [sic] you see, being a spolit middle class narcissistic solipsistic pasty white brat.’

‘No I am really fucked off and am out of here. I am out of here for my Turkish lesson where I hope to learn the correct conjugations of fuck, fuck my ass, suck it etc. Then I go to dinner with a new beau, he’s Anatolian and very dark and speaks a funny language only if you are a moron or are scandelighted by saying it. When he is sliding his very dark dick into my ass at my recently learned Turkish encouragement, i shall think of your pasty smug face and your prim white ass and what it is evidently missing. Now clutch your pearls in horror why don’t you.’

In a reply to me, mettaculture told me that the word 'scandelighted' is a neologism coined by him and the same word is used here but I don't claim  this as evidence that he did write those comments.

Marko Attila Hoare is an academic with a very good publication record and very interesting personal experiences: he witnessed the Kosovo War of 1999, covered the fall of Milosevic in 2000, worked as a Research Officer for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in 2001, and participated in the drafting of the indictment of Slobodan Milosevic.

In general, my political views are opposed to his. In general, unlike Marko Attila Hoare, I'd endorse the views and writing of Douglas Murray, for example - but not all of them. I'm a subscriber to 'The Spectator,' where Douglas Murray often publishes.

This is mettaculture's comment on my use of the quotation from the blog 'Greater Surbiton:'

'In fact be very careful if you do not know the context you are being foolish. I did indeed state that I was not be prepared to be defamed as a racist. You should be aware of reproducing such libellous comments too.

'I do take action against baseless false accusations of racism. I kindly asked Socialist Unity to stop from reproducing defamatory accusations of racism and they did.

'If you think it is clever to falsely accuse people of racism then you are not being wise not at all wise.

'This person this prior would be defamer, for what it is worth, had personal issues with me and he was chastised for revealing my identity on HP. He did not seem to understand that some of us really are at personal risk from Islamists and their supporters.

'I think he never got over being told off. I would rather say that he was the bully thinking that an anonymous poster was a nameless loser who he could traduce with false accusations of racism.

'I am not a racist and I will not tolerate you or anyone else reproducing comments that state that I am without giving me the right to defend myself.

'Now is this perfectly clear to you?

'If it helps you to know that I am a barrister, then perhaps you might understand the waters you are wading in.

[dmra accused me of 'telling people who have long been valued contributors how they should conduct themselves' in a 'pompous manner' but do I detect a trace of pomposity in mettaculture's warning here? I did detect a trace of pomposity in an earlier comment of his, 'Oh of course you completely missed my cultural references!' He's referring to his 'fucking cunting fuck-cunts' and he's completely correct in one way. I completely missed the cultural references in 'fucking cunting fuck-cunts.' Back to mettaculture's warning to me.]

'I have no idea who you are, nor do I wish to. I have no inclination to engage with you or cause you harm.

I cannot understand your actions other than as someone who has come into a conversation, sided with the unconscionable (Jihadis who call for the death of homosexuals), and taken objection to the use of English profanities (which are incapable of being libellous, they are merely vulgar insult).

'Whether you picked a fight or are overly sensitive or are simply trolling for attention and traffic to your own website is of no real importance.

'It strikes me, however, that it is reasonably clear to an impartial observer who sees the whole picture, that rather than being some kind of defender of free speech and Internet free speech at that, that you are for whatever reasons, interested in persons and vindictive smearing of persons rather than in the actual substance of ideas and discussions.

'I will not allow you to defame me by further reproducing statements that are clearly libellous.

'Do you understand?

'I have taken screen shots of the full context so that no-one may be in any future doubt as to what transpired.

'It is you that now appear here with a thinly veiled threat to begin to dredge up and re-produce an old smear attempt, that you would do well to inform yourself of, that you are aware I consider (and it is a legally well informed opinion) defamatory.

'I sincerely hope that you reflect carefully upon this and do not drag yourself into further foolishness.

'The commenter who you seek to resurrect did not ultimately do well out of such pettiness posing as analysis. This had nothing to do with me rather more with the way that such actions were perceived by neutral observers.'

After reading all this, I could have asked, 'What do I do now? Beg for mercy?'

Martin Seymour-Smith, 'Guide to Modern World Literature:'

With the advent of the Second World War Edith Sitwell adopted a new, earnest, apocalyptic manner, which culminated in her (surely too triumphal) entry into the Roman Catholic Church in 1954 ... Edith Sitwell attempted to fuse the richness of Yeats, a grand high style, and the seventeenth-century complexity of such poets as Crashaw and Vaughan. The result is pretentious, vacuous, rhetorical, as at the beginning of 'Dirge for the New Sunrise' ... Rhapsodies of praise flowed from certain knighted cultural entrepreneurs but not from critics. These later effusions of Edith Sitwell - Dr Leavis, having been read one of them in a suitably lugubrious manner by an enthusiastic pupil, is supposed to have asked 'What do I do now? Ejaculate?' - are now for the most part unread. But the vigour of her early poetry, for all its emotional emptiness, should never be forgotten.'

This document of mettaculture's  doesn't worry me in the least. Does the barrister's brain of mettaculture register that I wrote, 'I'm not in a position to endorse his [Marko's] particular criticisms of mettaculture?' If mettaculture has failed to take legal action for libel against Marko Attila Hoare of Greater Surbiton then he certainly won't be taking legal action against me.

I'm not in the least bit worried about anything else mettaculture can do. (After his brief display of outrage, I've heard nothing further.)

Mettaculture posted seven comments on 'Harry's Place'  within a short time of this article first appearing here, including the one quoted above. This was ludicrous. He was posting these comments, including the one which conveys his barrister's expertise, in a section which has now disappeared from 'Harry's Place!' Although they've sprung up here.

He's welcome to publish his comments, including his outspoken criticisms of me, in the comments section of this page. But he has his own blog.


This is a very poor blog. It provides a few comments posted at 'Harry's Place' in January and June 2013. (Some of my comments at 'Harry's Place' and other sites are given in the section What's new, or was new: sections list of the page 'About this site.')

 His blog could be used for other purposes. For instance, why doesn't mettaculture respond to the allegations made at 'Greater Surbiton' on his blog? It seems an obvious thing to do. What's stopping him? He can't comment - or issue more warnings - in that thread at 'Harry's Place.' Comments are now closed at the thread.

Lamia rushed in to support metaculture (I don't claim that this is an instance of 'fools rush in where angels fear to tread.')

Lamia to me:

''Utterly extraordinary. If you are going to repeat such incredible accusations then I think you ought to say eho [try using the edit facility provided by Disqus] they are by - otherwise people might conclude that you have just made up a load of defamatory rubbish about mettaculture. I don't believe he has done any of that.'

Lamia was writing before I published the extraordinary comments which Marko alleges were written by mettaculture. There was an abrupt change at this point. A very strong reaction could have been expected from Lamia but in no time at all, Lamia went from shocked to weary.

Lamia to me:

' ... Paul, this argument is of only fading interest to myself and, I suspect, mettaculture ... '

To judge from mettaculture's response to this piece - seven emails in quick succession and clumsy attempts to intimidate by alluding to his power as a barrister - I don't think for one moment that mettaculture will have regarded the further publication here of the comments Marko alleges were written by mettaculture as 'of only fading interest.' Perhaps one person in a clique was trying to protect another person in the clique.

I haven't made up 'a load of defamatory rubbish' then. I've simply quoted from Marko's site. 

One very surprising fact. Sarah AB is one of the moderators at 'Harry's Place' (a very ineffective moderator) and a frequent contributor, of articles as well as comments at the site. She has a blog, 'Ariachne's Broken Woof: The Weblog of Sarah Annes Brown www.adjb.net/sab/  Sarah Brown is the Professor of English at Anglia Ruskin University. The blog gives a 'blogroll' of favourite or recommended sites. It's no surprise to find 'Harry's Place' listed. It certainly is a surprise to find the blog of Marko Attila Hoare listed.

Although mettaculture can dish it out, can he take it? This was his reaction when I informed him that I'd be writing this  piece. It's followed, after some comments of mine, by one of the seven posts he directed at me in a short time after the piece was published. A sign of panic, perhaps? He gives me a severe warning, 'If it helps you to know that I am a barrister, then perhaps you might understand the waters you are wading in.'

His reaction before seeing this piece:

'Oh yes please go ahead and quote me entirely out of context, it will not be the first time that has been done.

'I am sure that you can harvest a few profanities that all were in relation to the abuse of the concept of freedom of speech by Jihadists, Islamists and their apologists.

'If you cannot see that a person who is targeted for death (me, a gay man) by a pernicious ideology, for the sole reason that I exist, is, at the very least, entitled to express his contempt for their incitement for my murder (an actual abuse of free speech) by swearing at such malevolence, then there is something very, very, wrong with you.

'That you respond to my (simply vulgar) use of free speech by expressing a desire to 'shut me down' or 'expose me' via your little blog and say nothing about the actual incitement to murder that is routinely propagated by Jihadis and their apologists, puts you with in the ranks of Jihadi apologists and firmly with the enemies of both free speech, free association and the basic right to life that all people should expect to be, well basic rights.

'Rest assured however that those of us whose existence is threatened by Jihadist apologists abusing the concept and actuality of free speech will not allow ourselves to be cowed.

'Now please quote this. After all you are not a narrow social sectarian pushing your preferred ideology, you do support freedom of speech right?'

Another of the seven posts aimed in my general direction by mettaculture included this:

'If you wish to create a post that (because of its selective quoting) misrepresents HP then go ahead but it is your own reputation you are tarnishing.

'You have been treated to a great deal of reasoanbly polite interaction on this threas.' [Spelling as in the original.]

Well, by these relaxed standards, mettaculture might even describe a knee in the groin and a thump on the jaw as 'reasonably polite interaction.'

I do the best I can. I'm under no obligation to enhance the reputation of mettaculture but I do what I can to avoid distortion. If he imagines that I carry the entire burden of presenting the issues and quoting from the participants, then he's very much mistaken. I received this communication from him not long after stopping work on this section for the day. I'd already written a large proportion of what's here, after many hours of work. I'd done preparatory research well before dawn.

If  the outcome of my work isn't to his liking, then  mettaculture should collate the sources, do the writing and publish his account - in the comments section of this site, on 'Harry's Place' or on his own blog. If he doesn't care for the thesis, then he could make the effort and write his own anti-thesis.

I'm sure that mettaculture, a barrister, isn't in favour of a legal system where the defence team does all the work and has the responsibility of conducting the prosecution case as well, or the prosecution team does all the work and has the responsibility of conducting the defence.

I'm not in the least danger of ignoring the  strengths of 'Harry's Place.'  I'm not in the least danger of overlooking the fact that the poor comments of the people I criticize in this section are outweighed by others, far superior ones. After an exchange with Lamia on the subject of torture and the death penalty - I consider Lamia's views abhorrent - 'Kolya,' who no longer posts comments, defended Lamia and wrote about the quality of many of her comments. I agreed with him.

The profession of barrister has come a long way. In 1960, in the case R. v. Penguin Books Ltd, Mervyn Griffith-Jones was the prosecutor. Penguin Books was on trial for publishing D. H. Lawrence's 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' and the use of 'four letter words' in the book was part of the prosecution case. Prosecuting council came out with this gem: 'Would you approve of your young sons, young daughters - because girls can read as well as boys - reading this book? Is it a book you would have lying around your own house? Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?'

Now, in these very different times, another barrister comes out with 'fucking cunting fuck-cunts.' Will there be further loosening of the norms? Probably nothing to compare with the changes we've witnessed. I doubt if defence counsel will ever address prosecuting counsel using the words 'Fuck off, you cunt.' (At least, not in court.) Obviously, mettaculture wouldn't defend this language in this setting. I criticize the use of this kind of language in the setting of 'Harry's Place.' This is in accordance with my view of the site, as a prominent site for presentation of the pro-Israel case and for presentation of other distinctive views - and, I'd hope, a site which can promote responsible activism as well. Some commenters may have very different ideas.

We have the clash of two very different interpretations. If mettaculture's interpretation outweighs mine, then I'm hopelessly misguided, for my original objection to 'fucking cunting fuck-cunts' and for quoting (but not endorsing) the criticisms of Marko given next. He should remember that I criticized 'fucking cunting fuck-cunts' on various grounds, including its blurring of essential distinctions (as I see it) between Amnesty International and an Islamist person and organization. I know that dmra supports mettaculture's original statement and opposes my original objections. She may or may not support his later statements on the Marko criticisms.

I'm not a beginner as a polemicist. The image at the top of the Home Page gives 'Polemics' as one of the themes of the site. I've seen off far more formidable people than him.

As mettaculture is a barrister, there's perhaps a greater chance than usual that he understands Latin. If I could choose a motto for myself, it might be 'Nemo me impune lacessit.' 'Nobody harms me with impunity,' or 'Nobody harms me and gets away with it.'

Although my attitude is more complex than that. This is from my polemical page Crap and credulity:

' ... I'm a polemicist to a certain extent, no more. I'm not a born complainer. I've practically never complained about anything - inedible food, shoddy workmanship, or anything else. On the few occasions when I have, I've almost always regretted it, even if it could easily be justified. The critic's role comes much more easily to me than the role of complainer but I often have qualms. My criticism isn't relentless. For example, I contacted one person who had given the whole of 'The Daily Telegraph' online report on his Website, pointing out the errors in the report. I made a few critical comments on the person's Website on this page. Within a short time, I removed all reference to this person and his Website, simply because I had respect for his achievement, not any achievement in his Website, but the achievement of his business, which I thought was a courageous one, undertaken in very difficult circumstances. Later, one of his friends or colleagues contacted me to say that the material on me had been removed from his Website. I hadn't asked for it to be removed. I've never asked that anyone should remove - or alter - any material critical of me. He said that the Website would be closed down, owing to pressure of work.

I don't have vindictive feelings towards mettaculture or any of the other people criticized here in the least. I find mettaculture quite a sympathetic person - by which I don't mean, of course, sympathetic towards me. He seems much more amiable than Vildechaye. Other people's experience of him may be very different from mine. I considered removing all the material on him here. I think it's best if it stays, for the time being at least. I'm not going to do anything offensive with it.  I think his response was very reckless and that he could do himself real damage if he tries anything at all similar in the future. The material here may possibly deter him from trying it on in the future with people more ruthless than me. This isn't intended to be condescending, and this is obviously based on hypothetical suppositions, but it seems to me that it's in his own interest that he doesn't attempt anything similar in the future.

When I found, from my infrequent looks at 'Harry's Place,' that he hadn't contributed a comment for quite a time, I actually began to get very worried about him. I thought it likely that the material here had had an effect on him, and sent this email to Sarah AB, moderator at 'Harry's Place:'

'A short time ago, I read that you’d emailed mettaculture. I’m very glad that you did. Obviously, you were concerned about his well-being.

'I share your concern, very much so, and it may surprise you to find that I’m the Paul Hurt who’s written an extensive section which is very critical ef him on the page ‘The Culture Industry.’ It seems that  mettaculture didn’t reply to your email, but you took that as a sign that  he was well. I hope that’s so.

'This was simply intuition on my part, with no evidence to guide me, except for the fact that he hasn’t posted comments at ‘Harry’s Place’ for quite a long time, but I’ve felt that my criticisms have had an effect on him – it may
be a serious or even devastating effect. I hope not. Or it may be that he’s shrugged it off and has no concerns. In the ‘Culture Industry’ section, I explain that any polemics I engage in aren’t unrestricted. I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of hostile action, or determined

'I you are able to contact mettaculture, I’d be grateful if you could assure him of my concern and good wishes. I’d be glad to hear from him, if he ever wants to contact me (he may well not want to, of course.) Obviously, if he did, this would be under conditions of strict confidence, and if he decided to phone me or write to me, he could conceal his own phone number or address. These are my contact details: [I gave my home address, phone number and email address.]

'Obviously, I’d prefer that these issues are kept confidential and aren’t mentioned at ‘Harry’s Place.’

'No reply is needed to this email, but you may perhaps want to email me with any further news and information about mettaculture which comes your way.

'I'dd be completely willing to remove some or all of the material on mettaculture from my site if I find that the situation is at all serious. (I hope it isn’t.)'

After that, I removed mention of his real name. An argument for retaining mention of it is that his blog gives his real name:

'My blogging name is mettaculture my actual name is [name withheld here]  I post almost exclusively at Harry's Place mostly I snipe from the comments boxes but do occaisonal guest posts.' [Spelling and punctuation as in the original.]

Not long after I'd removed his real name, he posted this at 'Harry's Place:'

'I have just spent the last three weeks in Turkey (hence my non appearance)' and 'I had a great time. I attended both a gay event (several in fact) and the Istanbul film festival.'

He refers to visiting Turkey and there are Turkish associations in the piece which Mark Attila Hoare alleges was written by mettaculture and which was directed at him, but obviously I don't claim that this is proof that mettaculture did write the piece:

mettaculture regards me as a Jihadi apologist, an enemy of free speech and someone indifferent to the plight of homosexuals.  I'd previously given this information in a reply to him  (If he never read it, it's not my fault):

'I'm not gay but I've opposed Islamist views of gay people in very forthright tones in public at various times. I attended a debate organized by the Palestine Society at one of the city's universities not so long ago and spoke. One of the things I mentioned was the plight of gay people in Gaza (as you probably know, homosexuality isn't illegal in the West Bank.) In the days before the debate, I contacted members of the LGBT society committee at the university urging them to attend the debate too if at all possible, giving reasons.

'You write about 'the festering climate of anti-semitic and homophobic hate that is growing unchecked' thanks to people like me. Your allegation parts company with reality.'

Well before he wrote that, I'd posted a comment on 'Harry's Place' which included a quote, a plea by 'Mitchell' for freedom of speech and for the rights of homosexuals in opposition to the views of Haitham al-Haddad:

'The liberal principles cultivated in the West will not be sent to the moral mass grave of Islamic ‘values.’ We will not capitulate to unreasonableness, and we pride ourselves on the enlightenment values of Mill, Voltaire and Shelley. Alan Turing, Steven Fry, Douglas Murray ... these men are of solid moral fibre and to condemn how they love [Mitchell is wrong in supposing that all of these are or were homosexual - the first three weren't] is to make a mockery of anything a decent religion would stand for. Churchill spoke of the retrograde nature of Islamism. Second class citizenship for homosexuals will not cut it. Your right to your opinion is there, but if you wish to flex your theocratic muscles, please do it to the tune of masturbating Ayotollahs and 
fawning Sheikhs, for you will not mobilise your totalitarian forces on the shores of rational, liberal democracy. I urge you to embrace the principles that built the World Trade Centre rather than the world-view that toppled it.'

I include the whole comment, including this quotation, on the page 'About this site' which gives a selection of my comments at 'Harry's Place.' It has the title Banning extremist speakers (1).

Polemics are only one facet of this site. Technical discussion with a degree of rigour is very, very important to me. I'd claim that my page Metaphor and {theme} is an example. If people like Eleanor Turney and 'Lorelei' write condescending crap about me, ' 'Oh dearie me, someone needs metaphor explaining' then they can expect some sort of polemical response. They duly received a response, in the section The first casualties of the page 'Crap and credulity,' and by other means, as did 'Macheath,' who wrote, 'The concept of metaphor, or of extended imagery, seems to have passed him by ... ' (In the case of Macheath at least, there was appreciation as well as criticism.) Putting my name and metaphor into Google would have given them evidence in no time at all that I wasn't completely ignorant of metaphor.

dmra added a comment to the comments page linked to this page to complain that 'I'd described her as 'irritating' but that I'd failed to give any evidence.  I replied. I could have added that when people use a mild word like 'irritating' or a less mild word like 'dickhead,' they don't always provide evidence, exhaustive or otherwise. She'll find that Vildechaye didn't produce the evidence for the claim that a commenter at 'Harry's Place' is a 'lying sack of shit.'

Vildechaye and mettaculture seem to me by far the most far-gone of the people criticized in this section, whilst dmra is 'sensible' and 'moderate,' even if she doesn't seem to object to Vildechaye's not overwhelmingly sensible and moderate comments or quite a number of other comments aimed at me during the dispute. She does concede (in one of her replies to me) that 'some of the comments may have crossed the line slightly.' She doesn't give any examples, but perhaps she'd concede that  ''You need to remove whatever is jamming up your pompous arsehole and piss off' is a comment that 'may have crossed the line slightly.' In general, dmra is quite an impressive commenter, but not during this dispute, I think.

Far-gone people are often strong, but I don't think that Vildechaye and mettaculture are strong, not in this dispute. There's a pathos in pathetic or partly pathetic people like Vildechaye and mettaculture (not in the least pathetic in many ways). I think of this (it was used by Tolstoy in 'War and Peace,' Chapter XXVIII):

'Tout comprendre, c'est tout pardonner.'

'To understand all is to forgive all' [but not always.]

Sarah AB suggested during the dispute that Vildechaye's 'fucking cunting cunt-fucks would have been a nicely chiastic alternative' to the formulation in the original comment of mettaculture, 'fucking cunting fuck-cunts.'

Sarah AB is Sarah Annes Brown,  Professor of English at Anglia Ruskin University. Her real name was given at 'Harry's Place'' years before I mentioned it. (KBPlayer's article above the line, December 20, 2013.)

She has a blog, but there's a vast gulf between the blog's promise and fulfilment. The list of topics on the archive page is promising


but clicking on any of them leads to this error message, time after time:

500 - Internal server error.
There is a problem with the resource you are looking for, and it cannot be displayed.

There may be a simple explanation for these errors, but for the time being, the blog is almost unusable. Some of the  content isn't relevant to people in my circumstances. This, for example:

It’s nearly holiday time so this is simply a (disinterested) plug for a UK hotel group, ’Luxury Family Hotels’, which is good (but quite expensive) if you have children.

'We discovered Luxury Family Hotels when our son (now 9) was a toddler. Further details of all their current properti ' (the blog gives no further information, but it can be stated, with a high degree of confidence, that  'properti' is short for  'properties.')

There's also this, on another aspect of Fine Living:

I went to Paris last week with Alex to continue our investigation of France’s grandes tables. Our last such outing was to the memorable Guy Savoy. This time we decided to try Alain Passard’s controversial L’Arpège.'

A normblog profile - a set of answers to questions - gives this as the answer to the question, 'What would your ideal holiday be?' 'A leisurely tour of French Relais et Chateaux hotels and/or Michelin-starred restaurants.' This answer, with other answers:


I do, though, have a strong interest in cooking, including French cooking, although only in the cooking which is vegetarian or can be adapted to a vegetarian diet. My collection includes a few books on French cooking: part of Michel Guérard's 'Cuisine Gourmande' (the systematic section 'The Principal Methods of Cooking' - I threw away the rest of the book to save space), Anne Willan's 'French Regional Cooking' and the two very thorough treatises, Volume I and II of 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' by Simone Beck and Julia Child, which are often not just thorough but excessively thorough. Examples. On beating eggs during the making of the omelette: '30 to 40 vigorous strokes should be sufficient.' Practising the technique needed to make 'L' omelette Roulée by practising outdoors with half a cupful of dried beans. But when I do make an omelette, I follow consciously the general method of the book's directions for making 'L' Omelette Brouillée.'

The only posts given in full date from June - August, 2012. The blog seems to have been abandoned after that time. Clicking on the list at the bottom of the page to view  earlier pages leads to the error message.

I've come to some conclusions about Sarah AB but they're tentative and provisional, based on what I've been able to read of her blog, which isn't very much. Her life is a very pleasant one. I wouldn't say that it's lived under cloudless skies, but only because it seems to be an indoors life, in which agreeable academic conferences figure prominently.  (The Normblog profile gives in answer to the question 'What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time?' this: 'Country walks.') The academic conferences are nothing like the tedious, time-wasting exercises in futility which anti-academic generalizers mistakenly claim are the norm. In the main, they seem full of interest, for anyone with an interest in the field. Her comments are generally interesting too, but don't often go deep. Ovid, one of her cultural heroes, isn't an unexpected choice. This is a poet whose work I don't know well, although I translated sections of the 'Metamorphoses.' (The site includes one translation of a poem in Latin, not by Ovid but Horace - the translation of 'Carmina' 1, 34, after my discussion of Seamus Heaney's version, on the page Seamus Heaney: translations and versions.)

Chris Wurster on the superficiality he finds in Ovid's poetry:


 From Teresa Ramsby's review of her book 'The Metamorphosis of Ovid: From Chaucer to Ted Hughes.' (Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2000.03.30):

' ... her treatment of the material is sophisticated and well informed by past and current scholarship. Brown displays a masterful understanding of the Ovidian canon and the importance of Ovid's influence on some of the West's most cherished literature. In addition, Brown's work makes the important contribution of effacing that boundary between the disciplines of Classics and English and Comparative Literature, so that we can hope for more works in the future that trace the influences and communications between the works of antiquity and those of modern times. I highly recommend The Metamorphosis of Ovid.'

In my page on Rilke and Kafka, I refer to the 'surface profundity' of Rilke. I think that Sarah AB's blog calls for another complex, such as 'intelligent semi-superficiality.' Her writings at 'Harry's Place' are available in greater quantity and share much the same qualities, I think. It's possible that I'd need to revise my view in some ways if I read the books she's written or edited, such as her book on Ovid and the one 'Tragedy in transition.'

She declares herself a feminist. One view not in need of possible need of {modification} is the view that her feminism is one of the familiar forms of academic feminism, not one which has made the effort to understand and appreciate the skills and the hard physical work of such people as miners, quarrymen, bricklayers, roofers. My page on feminism stresses among other things the material conditions of life.

The Disqus archive of mettaculture's  comments, which gives them all, leaves no room for doubt about one matter, I think - he's an intelligent man. I can't reconcile his better writing with the very poor comments he sometimes writes. The contradictions of mettaculture, like the contradictions of vildechaye and the others I criticize in this section, are very striking, instances of one of the central concerns of the site, referred to in the  Home Page, 'Linkage and contrast provide a powerful way of viewing human personality in its frequent mixture of strength and weakness and the often grotesque contradictions to be found in societies ... ' From my page Aphorisms: 'As for human nature, human strengths and weaknesses, be surprised by nothing.'

Just as I defend Amnesty International, to an extent, despite its severe faults (quotations given below) and the Labour Party (even though I vote Conservative) despite its severe faults, I defend mettaculture and vildechaye despite their severe faults, and the others, whose faults are less serious, as I see it. I defend 'Harry's Place,' despite its faults. I oppose the reflex response, confusion of the part with the whole, rejection of the whole on account of the faultiness of a part (but sometimes, the faults in a part are good reason to reject the whole.) This tendency is common enough in 'Harry's Place' and very common in other places. This isn't to claim that people and organizations with serious faults emerge with reputation not affected in the least. Serious damage can't usually be concealed.

In all these instances, the question has to be asked, 'Do the faults outweigh the strengths or do the strengths outweigh the faults?' I discuss my use of outweighing in the page 'Ethics: theory and practice' (the middle column.) Outweighing has more general application, though.

The BBC is criticized on this page but the BBC is yet another organization not to be dismissed on account of its faults, such as its grossly biased coverage of Israel's 'Operation Protective Edge' against Gaza, and Israeli issues in general. The BBC is  deeply impressive as well as deeply flawed. To give just a few examples of its deeply impressive broadcasting: the programmes broadcast on Holocaust Memorial Day 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

There's not much about 'Harry's Place' which can be called deeply impressive, but the strengths just about outweigh  the glaring faults.

The comment of mettaculture that led to the conflict I discuss here, 'fucking cunting fuck-cunts' (applied to Amnesty International and other organizations, extremist or badly misguided) can be objected to for  various reasons. One is that it's the product of lazy-minded thinking. Coming out with a statement like that takes next to no thought.

At least I exert myself. I loathe bullfighting but instead of simply writing 'Fuck bullfighting' I've written close to 100,000 words on Bullfighting: arguments against and action against.  I loathe the bullfighter Alexander Fiske-Harrison but instead of writing 'Fuck Fiske-Harrison' and leaving it at that, I've given a detailed demolition of his views and actions. I loathe the writing of  A L Kennedy on bullfighting, whilst admiring some of her writing on other subjects. I've devoted an extensive page to appreciation of her as well as criticism.

I oppose feminism, particularly radical feminism, but instead of just saying 'Fuck feminism,' again, I've written close to 100,000 words on Feminist ideology. When I'm sarcastic, it's not as a substitute for analysis and I use sarcasm in a way which involves some inventiveness at least. I'd claim this for the material on Triona Kennedy at the top of the anti-feminist page.

When I'm ridiculed in 'Harry's Place,' I don't say, 'Fuck you, Harry's Place,' I write this critical piece, which doesn't include nearly enough appreciation for 'Harry's Place' but which includes some. I don't in the least claim that a long discussion is always necessary. Again and again, I've been impressed by short, sometimes very short, comments in 'Harry's Place,' including comments by people I criticize in this section. I wasn't in the least impressed by 'fucking cunting fucking-cunts.' This was a comment that needed to be longer, much longer, to do justice to the issues. A dismissal of Amnesty International should have been argued for, with evidence.

mettaculture mentions 'traffic' to this site as a possible motive for my comments on 'Harry's Place.' Google has been good to me, very good. The site has very high rankings for a large number of search terms. But people who write simply to achieve high rankings don't achieve them. I write about matters which interest me and of which I have knowledge. Rankings can take care of themselves.

My page on Israel, Islamism and Palestinian ideology, topics discussed at  'Harry's Place' also, but not the only topics, will never be able to compete with 'Harry's Place' for comprehensiveness, or in most other ways. In my page I've devoted a very great deal of space to profiles of academic and non-academic anti-Israel-pro-Palestinian people. This was to support my campaigning against these people. I've emailed almost all of them - but not  the Palestinian supporters murdered by Islamists.  I wanted to do what I could to deter future academic and non-academic action against Israel, such as boycotts. I knew that there would be next to no benefit for the site's rankings in Google. I expected only a few people to want to read my profile of Dick Pitt, emeritus, formerly of Sheffield Hallam University or the Sheffield Quaker Gordon Ferguson, for example, or any of the other profiles for that matter. Activism is that important to me. If I were going all out for higher rankings, I wouldn't have spent all that time doing the necessary research and writing the profiles. There are other sections on the page which are likely to benefit rankings for the site only slightly, ones concerned with local issues - the section on the Showroom cinema, Sheffield, and on the Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Nobody sets out with the ambition of achieving success in Google rankings by writing about line length in poetry. I certainly didn't. The very high rankings in Google for search terms to do with line length in poetry have been completely unexpected.

Instead of patiently adding content to his blog, mettaculture has chosen the easier way - posting comments on the high-profile site 'Harry's Place,' where his comments will be read by many, many people. I've chosen to patiently add content to my Website. When I wrote comments for 'Harry's Place,' far, far fewer than mettaculture's, it was for tactical reasons, such as arguing for changes to 'Harry's Place,' so that 'Harry's Place' became less of a talking shop (even if the pleasurable chatting is quite often high quality chatting),  less self-indulgent in the war of words.

I'm sure that mettaculture overlooks one very important fact. I didn't set out to achieve temporary prominence in 'Harry's Place.' I made a  point about a phrase but one thing led to another. Very quickly, there were more and more criticisms and accusations. I defended myself vigorously and called upon any evidence I thought would be useful at the time, which led to such unlikely exchanges as ones on sarcastic and humorous poetry.

Faced by comments like this one of 'Colin,' ' ... the depressing reality that PH is a dwarf of culture and intelligence' I stood up for myself, using evidence from different sources. Before all this, I'd commented at 'Harry's Place' only on a few occasions (I intend to comment in the future much more rarely - never, or practically never.) I commented many, many times during this dispute, but not for any reason to do with 'traffic to the site.'

If I'd conceded defeat at an early stage, none of this would have happened but I was determined to oppose the accusations and criticisms. Some of them were completely bizarre. To laugh them off or treat them lightly would have been wrong. If some people want to escape boredom or want to escape the difficulties of their lives for a short time by posting a childish comment on me I see no reason to humour them. If they want to have fun - or forget the realities of their lives - there are many other ways of going about it. I don't see any reason why it should be at my expense.

Some statistics. At the time of writing, Vildechaye has contributed 14,091 Disqus comments, mettaculture 5,581 and Lamia has contributed 7,728. All or almost all of these were posted at 'Harry's Place.'  I've contributed 120. It would have been far, far fewer if it hadn't been for this dispute.

Time to quote some more comments made during the dispute, from a wider range of commenters.

I'm tired of the laziness of some commenters at 'Harry's Place.' That's why I objected to this comment. Anton Deque to Guest, in a comment beginning with a quotation:

' "Anyway I am waffling."

No comment.'

PH to Anton Deque:

'You're obviously taking the easy way out. Are you that lazy? If you object to the statement 'Anyway I am waffling' in the comment of this guest, then at least take the trouble to explain why you find the statement (or the entire comment) not to your liking. Don't just write, 'No comment.' There are worse examples than this, but too many commentators on the Web seem to take the instant and effortless route to superiority (supposed superiority, that is): a few quick words are all that's needed.'

Colin to Jacob Arnon:

'Naughty, naughty word association. Obama says stop it.'

Jacob Arnon to Colin:

'Who is Obama?'

Which barely counts as facile.

amie to PH:

'Are you a FOE* by any chance? Your pearl clutching (as another commenter was wont to call it) prompts the question *(friend of another person who can't abide profanity.)'

PH to amie:

'A weird and pointless comment, to me anyway. What weird and pointless and time-wasting little games a few 'Harry's Place' regulars seem to enjoy so much. If you're trying to make a clumsy suggestion that I can't abide what you call 'profanity,' (an old-fashioned word) then you're badly mistaken. This poem of mine was published in 'Krax,' the magazine of humorous poetry ... ' [Followed by the poem and  discussion of the poem. It's published on this site too, in the section 'Humour and sarcasm' of the page Poems.]

Another weird and pointless comment.

Ludwig the Terrible to me:

'Silence, you mewling quim!

Hey, I enjoyed that :)'

Andrea Collins to me:

'Quim' obscure?'

Ludwig the Terrible to Andrea:

'He hasn't seen 'The Avengers,' obviously.'

I replied.  I was probably mistaken. Better not to have wasted my time.

PH to Andrea Collins:

'Sorry. Not a word we use here in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. Never heard of it before now.'

Edward Tring to me:

'Look in the mirror. You're one.

PH to Edward Tring:

'Your comment is facile and instantly forgettable, to me at least. Why do you bother?'

I didn't look up 'Quim' at the time. The 'Urban Dictionary' gives this:

'The noun quim was a Victorian-era word that was used specifically to refer to the fluids produced by the vagina, specifically during orgasm. In modern usage it is primarily heard in British slang and is a derogatory or vulgar term for the vagina itself.'

This is a comment on 'mewling quim' from the blog 'Britishisms:'

'It deals with a moment in the new film “The Avengers”–written by the Americans Joss Whedon and Zak Penn–when Loki addresses Black Widow with the two-word epithet that’s the title of this post. Loki hails from outer space (John informs me) but, perhaps significantly,  is played by a British actor. John writes:

'this is possibly the most offensive line in the film, beyond even Wolverine’s in X-Men: First Class. It is just that some people aren’t too familiar with the derivation. In more modern English, this would be “whining cunt”. In American English, “cunt” is generally used as a misogynistic insult, mostly used against women, insulting their very nature of being female. British English doesn’t use the female-specific aspect of this in an insult, which loses much of the mysogynistic tone. Indeed, it’s more likely to be used against a man, an exaggerated form of “wanker”. But “quim”, though rarely used, is done so in a misogynist fashion.'

A response from on 'Britishisms' by Mark Leavitt on 'mewling:'

Mewling comes down to us from Shakespeare’s monologue, “All the World’s a stage, ” in which appears the line: “Mewling and puking in his nurse’s arms.” It refers to the restless sounds a hungry or uncomfortable baby makes.'

This monologue of Jaques in 'As you like it' (Act II Scene VII) is familiar to me.

The response of JRock:

'“quim” is not as common as “cunt” in the US. It is as foreign as Mandarin to most. The only reason it passed censorship scrutiny is that no one knows what the hell it means stateside.'

The response of Rob:

'Quim seems such an archaic word to me. I honestly don’t think a lot of Brits would even know what it means. I’ve never heard anyone using it in any part of the UK ... '

Back to 'Harry's Place.' A futile interchange between two commenters. Colin to mettaculture:

'I have a suspicion that PH is figment of your imagination - invented by you to make you appear a towering giant of culture and intelligence.'

mettaculture to Colin:

'Now there was me thinking that PH is one of your sock puppets.'

mettaculture, now at his most high-minded, to colin. This is a moment to be treasured:

'I can truthfully swear that I have never created a sock puppet either as a foil or a promoter of myself.

'I have never created avatars for such a purpose.

'It is quite difficult enough dealing with the disconnected weirdness of so many e-avatars. I see no point in making them.

'No I have very old fashioned Socratic ideas of the importance of the unexamined life.

'I blog in order to meet those in the Agora who wish to discuss ideas.

'Thats it.'

The gulf between the ideal - 'The unexamined life is not worth living' - and the reality, at least in this part of the site - moronic and semi-moronic time-wasting - is immense.

Yet another weird and pointless comment.

Lamia to amie:

'Hahaha. It took me a little while, but I have just got it.

'Do you have a shrine to Laurie Penny in your bedroom, Paul?'

PH to Lamia:

'Ah, this is Lamia the humourist in action, rather than Lamia the scourge or Lamia the thinker!

'All I know about Laurie Penny is that she's a feminist. For my views on feminism (against) see my page on the subject 
www.linkagenet.com/themes/femi... '

I was wrong about one thing. This wasn't Lamia as humourist but Lamia as pathetic.

I looked up Laurie Penny later. She's the mind behind the blog 'Penny Red: every human heart is a revolutionary cell'


where she describes herself as 'feminist, socialist, utopian ... ' (not a description I find in the least bit endearing or attractive. I'm not just anti-feminist but anti-socialist and anti-utopian as well.')

Now she has a new, unimproved site


One of the articles on offer is 'Fifty shades of socialist feminism.'

I'm anti-socialist, but it depends what you mean by socialism. I detest smug socialism,  but not the socialism which worked so hard for fair treatment of workers during the very long period when working conditions were atrocious, intolerable, the socialism which took full account of many other realities. My anti-feminist page has a great deal on the men and women, boys and girls in the mines of this country. (I point out that after 1842, it was only men and boys who toiled underground - an inconvenient fact for feminists.)

David Thompson has a very good page on Ms Penny.


He writes:

Writing for Red Pepper, Ms Penny tells us that, “capitalism is built on the docile bodies of women” and that women are reduced to “reproductive labourers whose physical and sexual autonomy is relentlessly policed.” The same article rails against “US state governments [that] compete to think up ever more cruel and unusual ways to punish women for sexual self-determination.” 

'It is, I think, fair to say that Laurie Penny enjoys railing against things, generally things that aren’t entirely obvious but which are framed as both terrible and somehow self-evident. A typical Laurie Penny article is long on assertion, short on facts and coherent argument, and invariably written in the highest possible gear. She rails against the Conservative Party (“hordes of drooling poshos”) and its “brutally intolerant moral agenda.” The details of this brutally intolerant agenda are, alas, somewhat vague. She rails against “the bruised superstructure of patriarchal capitalist control,” the particulars of which also remain unspecified and mysterious. She rails against a “heteronormative patriarchy that oppresses all of us.” (What, you didn’t know?) She rails against “brutal repression” by an impending police state that no-one else can see, and she rails against protestors “not being heard,” as if being heard must entail being agreed with and obeyed. Ours, she says, is a world “on fire.”

'When not railing against a heteronormative police state that’s brutal, intolerant and also on fire, Ms Penny likes to share with us an extensive menu of personal miseries, along with other aspects of her fascinating self:

'It’s getting harder to stay in touch with why I write and campaign in the first place. It’s getting harder to stay angry… That terrifies me more than anything... The centre-right have taken back my country… Across the pond, the American right are winning the fight for ideological control of the world's only superpower.' 

'Ah, an elected British government that’s insufficiently leftwing. The End Times are upon us.

'That’s what clinical depression does, you see. It takes away your anger, piece by piece... When terrible things happen - like a coalition government closing down your country piece by piece, slamming the door on the young, the poor, the sick, immigrants, women - you cease to really believe that anything can be done.'


'For Ms Penny, politics must always be declared in the most inflated and operatic terms. Proportion is a hindrance and realism is irrelevant, as are minor details like facts and causality. Among which, the relationship between a higher education bubble and egalitarian beliefs remarkably like her own. Thus, Laurie regards belated cuts in public spending – cuts that merely reduce the overall increase in spending  – as “the greatest assault on social democracy in living memory.” While 13 years of overspending and unsustainable state expansion under New Labour, a consequent structural debt measured in trillions and the buying of votes with other people’s money doesn’t count as an “assault” on anything. What matters – pretty much all that matters – is the drama, the role-play, the rhetorical rush. And in Laurie’s world everything is political, no matter how small, self-indulgent or contrived.

'Needless to say, the news is always grim:

'The planet is boiling; the rivers are drying up; the human race may very well be about to tear itself apart.'

One of Ms Penny’s readers asks,

'Why do you feel it important to be angry all the time?'

'While we wait for an answer, perhaps we should try reversing that sequence of ideas. After all, pretending to be angry makes some people feel important all the time.'

Back to my issues. One of the moderators of the site intervened, obviously not because she recognized that things were getting out of hand and to stop the site becoming a complete madhouse but to inject a little more madness. Her comment left me more mystified than ever.

Sarah AB to me:

'To explain, it is suspected (probably not seriously) that you are Michael Ezra, who is famous for hating swearing, voting for Ken, and liking Laurie Penny ... '

Famous? I'd never heard of him. If 'Ken' here is Ken Livingstone, then I'd never vote for him and I'm not in a position to vote for him, any more than for George Galloway. I haven't the patience to find out more about Michael Ezra. Finding out more about Laurie Penny was more than enough. This glimpse into a private world of fixations on Laurie Penny and other delusions was more than enough.

Sarah AB is generally a very 'sensible' writer, one of the many moderate writers at 'Harry's Place' (unfortunately, moderate and sensible writers often have very little insight into people very different from themselves.) Some people would accuse her of taking moderation to extremes. This is Sarah AB writing effectively (with mentions of mettaculture and vildechaye, as it happens - the piece has the title 'A response (or perhaps a metaresponse - to mettaculture):


The striking thing in Sarah AB's comment is 'probably not seriously.' If anybody takes the claim that I'm Michael Ezra seriously, this is almost as mad as the average conspiracy theory. Secularists - you too can be barking mad. What's that I hear coming from 'Harry's Place?'

A libertarian comments policy doesn't entail a complete lack of effective moderation. Moderation is about far more than censoring and deleting. Moderators can intervene and calm things down when they've got out of hand, moderators can address obnoxious behaviour without needing to act like nightclub bouncers and throw people out regularly.

Occasionally, moderators may need to get rid of people, just as a site may need to get rid of useless moderators.

Sarah AB should have got a grip before time-wasting and space-wasting digressions got out of hand - for instance the ones involving Laurie Penny, Michael Ezra, the mewling quin and PH as a dwarf of culture and intellect. All I did was respond and point out the ridiculousness of the points. A good moderator would have intervened to end the dispute. From time to time the Speaker of the House of Commons calls out 'Order! Order." Sarah AB is a poor moderator of the site and an often lacklustre contributor of articles above-the-line. There's a case for saying that Sarah AB should be sacked/fired/deprived of this outlet, except as a generally lacklustre commenter below-the-line/deprived of her sinecure/given every opportunity to spend more time with Ovid - obviously with thanks for her 'contributions to the site over the years.'

Sarah AB did intervene, eventually, but not in the least effectively.

Sarah AB to me:

' 'Any chance of a comment from one of the mods of this site on mettaculture's 'fucking cunting fuck-cunts?' ' It was a bit repetitive I guess.'

Sarah AB to KBPlayer:

'fucking cunting cunt-fucks would have been a nicely chiastic alternative.'

A comment on the rhetorical form chiasmus doesn't do justice to the objections to the original comment.

To give some background information on Lamia, another prolific commenter at 'Harry's Place' and for a time quite a prolific commenter on me. I'd previously had some exchanges with Lamia. I give some information on the page 'About this site,' in the section Torturing and executing. As I mention there, I only found out later that Lamia is female, not male. Nobody put me right at the time. This is another disadvantage of anonymity - for more on this, there's Website and blog comments: the veil of anonymity on this page.

Before disputing with me and whilst disputing with me, Lamia found the time to dispute with someone else. One comment, not directed at me:

'Go and get mental treatment ...'


'Fuck off you insane troll.'

Someone thought Lamia was telling me to fuck off. She explained that she was telling a 'guest' on the site to fuck off. Later, Lamia explained that she never used the phrase at all:

'Fuck off, you insane troll' was posted by my eleven year old niece using my handle while I was out of the room.'

Anyone who has read a great many comments on 'Harry's Place' will have come upon 'Fuck off' or 'fucking' many times. It doesn't have the least shock value to come upon it again. This is language which has largely lost its vigorous or vital or visceral qualities. It doesn't take the least imagination or inventiveness to come up with it.

These are people  who have a genuine concern for Israel and a genuine opposition to Islamism, but, rightly or wrongly, I think that some of them are people who are self-indulgent. Spending time in the talking shop which is 'Harry's Place.' (it's also far more than a talking shop) posting comments of the childish kind is congenial to them.

I have a strenuous attitude to campaigning. Anyone who takes part in  counter-demonstrations, as I do (ones I've arranged myself) would get nowhere if they simply said to the opposition 'Fuck off!' Granted, people tend to have very different identities, but I regard using 'fuck off' or 'fucking' on a site like 'Harry's Place' as counter-productive. It can alienate visitors to the site who aren't prim and proper in the least but don't like the language or who see no need for the language on the site, who think that the language adds nothing and has no advantage.

When I saw this comment on 'Harry's Place' and posted a reply, it was the start of a process of recriminations directed at me which has fundamentally altered my attitude to the site. The comment was posted by mettaculture in reply to this comment of Barad:

'Apologies for pointless profanity but feck Begg, Cage, Amnesty and the Quakers. If there turns out to be a hell, I hope they all burn in it for a long, long time.'

mettaculture to Barad:

'Why apologize? profanity is not pointless in relation to these fucking cunting fuck-cunts.'

Barad's comment and mettaculture's comment are hopeless, classing  Amnesty International with the apologists for Islamist extremism Begg and Cage, all of them supposed to be 'fucking cunting fuck-cunts' or to burn in hell 'for a long, long time.'

An interchange in a later thread, 'Class conflict in IS?' after mention of the first Western woman to be killed fighting IS.

Barad to mirax:

'Contrast with the three "British" whores for ISIS who Sky, BBC et al are so convinced we all want back since they went "missing".'

Edward Tring to Barad: 

'Not sure 'whores' is the right word to use, as we have no proof that they are willingly having sex with murderers/perverts/scum for cash. What's the word for Muslim low life who shag other Muslim low life for free? Can we get Oxford University to adjudicate for its next dictionary? Is Islamosluts a neologism? '

Jurek Molnar to Barad:

 'I strongly recommend not to engage in such a language.

Jurek Molnar to Barad:

'  ... I can see no reason to call them "whores".
A derogatory term does not change the reality of their departure and their lunatic frame of mind.
To despise them does not mean to engage in language that is simply dehumanizing them. That is something we should avoid, in my humble opinion.'

As usual, it was left to commenters to do moderator's work. I've no sympathy for the three girls but Barad was wrong, very wrong, to describe them in the way he did.

Back to this thread. I replied to mettaculture:

'Any chance of a comment from one of the moderators of this site on mettaculture's 'fucking cunting fuck-cunts?' Does the site still have moderators? If they do exist, I only hope Vildechaye isn't one of them.'

The interchange that followed:

mettaculture to me:

'Oh of course you completely missed my cultural references! The phraseology that you are so scandelighted by is from 'Jerry Springer the Opera' ('with a reflexive nod to Trainspotting').

Such a shame that the level of contemporary cultural awareness is deteriorating due to the contaminating influence of Gilbert and Sullivan and those long running musicals at Cambridge Circus, absolutely dreadful middlebrow dreck.'

Not quite a defence of high culture rather than middlebrow culture, of course.

PH to mettaculture:

'Are you saying that my level of cultural awareness is poor, just because I don't know anything about 'Jerry Springer the Opera? A person's cultural awareness can't possibly be all-inclusive. My own cultural interests are in literature rather tha music (although I've never read Irvine Welsh's 'Trainspotting.') Even so, my musical interests are wide, including opera (particularly the operas of Mozart), chamber music and orchestral music. I've played in various string quartets and orchestras. None of the works I've played have been 'dreadful middlebrow dreck.'

mettaculture to me:

'Ah you want the profanity Police censors do you? I am sure that avoiding nasty words will make you feel very safe.

'As a gay man I no longer feel safe from Jihadi and their fucking apologists. My profanity is reserved for Jihadis and their apologists.

'But you prefer to condemn my use of words found in the Harraps dictionary of slang rather than the festering climate of anti-semitic and homophobic hate that is growing unchecked thanks to people like you.

'Congratulations for acting so prissily maiden auntish in hte [sic] face of hatred and incitement.

'Well done. God knows what goes on in your rotting brain but someone has 'to tell um that you aint got no cerebelum.'

PH to mettaculture:

'Obviously, just because words can be found in a dictionary doesn't mean that their use is a good idea in some circumstances. Calling someone 'a festering turd' or 'fucking scumbag isn't always a good idea, for instance ... '

And a further reply, PH to mettaculture:

''Don't be ridiculous. I'm not offended by what you call 'nasty words.' I've no interest in censoring at all. I just think language like that is counter-productive on this site. My view is pragmatic.'

'As for not having 'no cerebelum,' this should be 'no cerebrum,' the site of consciousness, and whilst I'm at it, 'cerebelum' has the spelling 'cerebellum.'

Vildechaye to Emma Elder on spelling:

'learn to spell, then learn to think.'

PH to mettaculture:

'Barad's equating Amnesty International and the Quakers with Begg and Cage is beneath contempt. I know all about Amnesty International's and the Quaker's bias against Israel and detest their bias but Barad (and obviously Met) don't seem able to grasp the point that organizations, like people, can be badly wrong about one thing or many things but still have strengths. Amnesty International's work is impressive in so many ways. Its bias against Israel is on the debit side but failures and weaknesses don't necessarily cancel strengths, leaving the person or organization with nothing to their credit at all.'

This is information about Amnesty International's Urgent Action Network, action for people in immediate danger.

This is just one Urgent Action case from the Amnesty International files:


'Arzhang Davoodi (m)

'Iranian prisoner of conscience Arzhang Davoodi, already in prison for nearly 11 years, has now been sentenced to death on a new charge of “enmity against God”, in relation to his peaceful political activism and writings.

'Iranian writer and poet Arzhang Davoodi learned from his lawyer on 20 July 2014 that he had been sentenced to death for his alleged membership and support of banned group People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). The sentence was imposed despite an apparent lack of evidence and after grossly unfair proceedings. He had been given less than an hour on 3 June to present his defence before a Revolutionary Court in the southern city of Bandar Abbas, which relayed it to a Revolutionary Court in Karaj, responsible for issuing the death sentence. Neither Arzhang Davoodi nor his lawyer were allowed to appear before the court which issued the verdict. 

'Arzhang Davoodi was arrested in 2003 and held in solitary confinement for prolonged periods during which he has said he was tortured and otherwise ill-treated and denied access to a lawyer and his family. He was sentenced, in March 2005, to 25 years’ imprisonment, reduced to 10 years on appeal, on charges of “spreading propaganda against the system” and “establishing and directing an organization opposed to the government” for his peaceful activities, including directing a cultural education centre. In May 2014, he was sentenced to an additional two years’ imprisonment, on the charge of “insulting the Supreme Leader” which is under consideration in an appeal court.

'Arzhang Davoodi is a prisoner of conscience, jailed, and now sentenced to death, for his political opinions and peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression. He has no links with the PMOI or any armed groups. He is believed to have been accused of having ties with the PMOI merely because in prison he insisted on calling PMOI by its official name, Mojahedin, rather than by the term used by the Iranian authorities, Monafeghin (hypocrites).

'Please write immediately in Persian, Arabic, English or your own language:

*Calling on the Iranian authorities to overturn Arzhang Davoodi’s death sentence;

* Calling on them to release Arzhang Davoodi immediately and unconditionally, as he is a prisoner of conscience, held solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression;

* Reminding them that under international law, the death penalty can be imposed only for “the most serious crimes”, interpreted as “intentional killing” and after proceedings that comply with the most rigorous internationally recognized standards for fair trial.

The page Urgent Actions Q&A,


gives good, sensible, realistic advice on specifics, far removed from the self-indulgent time-wasting of some 'Harry's Place' commenters. Reading the complete page is highly recommended. It includes interesting material on the disadvantages of emails for some Amnesty International work. The advantages of hand-written letters are mentioned. Harry's Place and other sites with similar objectives (not at all similar in some other ways, I'm glad to say): Amnesty International gives a superb model to imitate and use - Amnesty International's generally thorough, meticulous provision of background information as well as useful practical information for contacting people and organizations in positions of power, whether the power is enormous or comparatively small. (I make completely clear my opposition in general to one aspect of Amnesty's work, its work on Israel and Palestinian issues.)

I acknowledge some difficulties. When I was a member of Amnesty International, I produced a document on campaigning techniques and spoke in favour of a motion I'd formulated at an Amnesty International AGM, on campaigning techniques. I made the point that Amnesty International needed to scrutinize the campaigning techniques it used. Some were demonstrably ineffective. I pointed out that if Amnesty International had existed in the 1930's, it would have organized letter-writing to Dr Goebbels and other Nazis, along the lines, 'Dear Dr Goebbels, we are concerned about the imprisonment without charge of ... We regard him/her as a prisoner of conscience and call for his/her unconditional release.' But these Nazis were completely beyond persuasion. Amnesty International's distinctive methods are often very successful, but are sometimes unrealistic. What works in some circumstances may not work in others: hence the massive importance of military strength for this country and other democracies.

At the same AGM (held in Edinburgh) I spoke on human rights abuses in China and the need for Amnesty International to give greater priority to opposing these abuses. At a previous AGM, a motion I'd formulated on anti-personnel mines was presented, although I didn't speak on the motion (at the time, Amnesty International didn't have a policy on anti-personnel mines.) All these motions were passed overwhelmingly but I can't claim that they were implemented conscientiously.

How easily personal setbacks and difficulties which were important at the time can recede and become insignificant. I remember now that I almost didn't make it to the Edinburgh Amnesty International AGM. The vehicle I have now, a Citroen Berlingo white van, is the only one I've owned up to modern standards of reliability. I couldn't afford anything but cheap cars. The car I was driving to Edinburgh wasn't the least reliable - my first car was much, much worse - but it kept stopping and the fact that it kept stopping in the picturesque Yorkshire dales. was no consolation. I realized what was the cause - a blocked fuel filter - but I didn't have a replacement fuel filter with me. I ought to have called out the breakdown service but I didn't. (Until I bought the van, I tried to be as self-sufficient as possible in mechanical matters, including major mechanical work on the engine. Lacking a garage, I've had engine parts on the pavement in front of the house.) In the end, I made it to Edinburgh. When I broke down on the return journey back to Sheffield, I conceded defeat and got help. Now, I don't even change the engine oil and oil filter, not personally. I can't work on the carburettor, because there isn't one. Fuel injection systems, electronic engine management systems, are beyond my scope. Although struggling with corroded fixings, underneath the vehicle at the side of the road isn't beyond my scope, it's not something I do any longer. There are brute realities in other spheres of experience, as well as brutal realities.

Back to mettaculture - mettaculture to me:

'God that was banal drivel. I'd rather you don't refer to me at all but do as you wish. I can't imagine anyone does more than skims your reader's digest, digests. [sic]

'Of course my vulgarity got your attention and a fairly close reading and accurate quotation. Such is the way among those with easily scandelighted content free, poorly assembled, neural tissue.'

PH to mettaculture:

' ... skims your reader's digest, disgests' and 'Such is the way among those with easily scandelighted content free, poorly assembled, neural tissue.' But the first sentence of your second paragraph is just as bad. A reminder that Disqus allows comments to be edited - and improved - after they've been posted.

'It's easy to see that you're no perfectionist.'

After this piece was published, a comment of mettaculture's, one of the seven directed at me in quick succession, was genuinely genial - I'm thankful for that. It gave this information:

'Scandelighted ™ I'll have you know, is one of my very best personal neologisms ever.'

Another neologism, 'mettacultural.' I've got my own idea about the complex of characteristics which makes 'mettacultural' so distinctive, a blend of _, _ , _ and _ .

As for 'scandelighted,' it seems to mean the same as 'scandalized.' It doesn't add to the resources of English. The Emperor Joseph II said of Mozart's 'Marriage of Figaro' (he was misguided, I'm sure) 'too many notes.' To me, 'scandelighted' has too many syllables.

There were times when objections were made which had a lot to recommend them, such as this objection of Lamia, who can be a very effective writer. She begins by quoting some words I'd used:

'Barad's equating Amnesty International and the Quakers with Begg and Cage is beneath contempt.'

'Amnesty and Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust chose, despite plenty of warnings, and plenty of available information, to link themselves with and fund an organisation [Cage] that they knew was only in favour of the 'human rights' of Islamists in prison, including convicted terrorists in British prisons who were not remotely suffering any deprivations, while at the same time being utterly opposed to human rights for anyone else. Amnesty threw principled people like Gita Saghal to the wolves ... '

PH to Lamia:

'No, he isn't logical and justified in his estimation. This is to blur the differences between an organization which is completely beyond hope, 'Cage,' an an organization which isn't completely beyond hope, not at all, despite its serious faults. Do you think that nobody should vote Labour in this country because far too many Labour MP's have revolting views on terrorism and Islamism? Does this negate the work of all the Labour MP's who don't share their views? Do the Labour Party's defective policies regarding Israel mean that all the Labour Party's policies are defective? (I vote Conservative, by the way.)'

Sarah AB to me:

'I agree that Amnesty is tainted, but still do good work. And I agree about the Labour Party.'

PH to Lamia:

'You say that you won't vote for the Labour Party 'until it has sorted itself out.' The Labour Party, like Amnesty International, has a history of achievement which can be respected, in fact admired, in many ways. Both the Labour Party and Amnesty International are badly in need of being 'sorted out' but this will take effort, action, commitment on the part of many people. The Labour Party and Amnesty International aren't unreformable basket-cases. This is a general comment, not directed at you, but involvement in the virtual world of Websites and blogs may often make people less likely to make an effort, less likely to take action outside the virtual world. Taking action may involve turning out on a cold, rainy evening to attend a meeting which is certain to be much less enjoyable than using the computer.'

PH to Lamia:

'I didn't say it [Harry's Place] was doing nothing. I said it could do much more - and it could. In the sphere of practical recommendations for action, practical guidance for action, practical information for action, this site is nowhere near as energetic as many anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian sites, I think.'

mettaculture to me:

'Well I am glad to hear that you have positive comments to make about this site. I am also genuinely glad to here of your personal involvement in campaigning.

'You do however seem to have a controlling need to wish to influence it according to your own preferences ... '

All I did was argue for some changes, not to the liking of some cliques at 'Harry's Place' whose members are happier just exchanging views with people similar to themselves, rather than reaching out to opponents, including people in positions of power, such as MP's, and others. Anti-Israel-pro-Palestinian people are often much more energetic, I think. But the changes I argue for and my point about cliques are separate matters.

If mettaculture prefers to keep 'Harry's Place' the way it is and is warning me to keep quiet, then this can be viewed as attempted control.

Jurek Molnar to Sarah AB:

'It is interesting, that Amnesty is often denounced as a far left organisation and at the same time considered as a Western imperialist Human Rights propaganda tool by others.

'Depends on who you ask, in the meantime they do good works in most of the areas they are operating.'

FormerCorr to PH:

'I might have said the same thing as you a few years ago, but sadly Amnesty isn't what it used to be.'

PH to FormerCorr:

'You're quite right that Amnesty isn't what it used to be - which is why I left after being an active member for twenty years - but it hasn't lost all its strengths. For Barad to suggest that Amnesty International deserves to burn in hell for a long, long time is deranged.

5_30 to PH:

'IMO, once they effectively joined as non-combatant wings of the war against Israel, both Amnesty International and *especially* the Quakers have lost their strength and betrayed their mission.'

PH to 5_30:

'Amnesty International betrayed their mission in one very important way, by their shameless bias against Israel. They haven't betrayed their mission in most other ways. Amnesty members around the world still send letters and emails in vast numbers to a very wide range of people - members of governments and many more - not just in well-known cases like the blogger Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia but on behalf of unknown people in obscure countries.

'I only hope that many of the commenters on Harry's Place make a comparable effort and aren't content to just talk to the converted ... '

Amnesty International has now published a report on Palestinian conduct during Operation Protective Edge,


An extract:

'Palestinian armed groups, including the armed wing of Hamas, repeatedly launched unlawful attacks during the conflict killing and injuring civilians. In launching these attacks, they displayed a flagrant disregard for international humanitarian law and for the consequences of their violations on civilians in both Israel and the Gaza Strip,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

'All the rockets used by Palestinian armed groups are unguided projectiles which cannot be accurately aimed at specific targets and are inherently indiscriminate; using such weapons is prohibited under international law and their use constitutes a war crime. Mortars are also imprecise munitions and should never be used to attack military targets located in or near civilian areas.

' "Palestinian armed groups must end all direct attacks on civilians and indiscriminate attacks. They must also take all feasible precautions to protect civilians in the Gaza Strip from the effects of such attacks. This includes taking all possible measures to avoid locating fighters and arms within or near densely populated areas,” said Philip Luther,  Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.


' ... 13 Palestinian civilians – 11 of them children – were killed when a projectile exploded next to a supermarket in the crowded al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza on 28 July 2014, the first day of Eid al-Fitr.


'Although Palestinians have claimed that the Israeli military was responsible for the attack, an independent munitions expert who examined the available evidence on behalf of Amnesty International concluded that the projectile used in the attack was a Palestinian rocket.


There are no bomb shelters or warning systems in place to protect civilians in Gaza.

'The report also details other violations of international humanitarian law by Palestinian armed groups during the conflict, such as storing rockets and other munitions in civilian buildings, including UN schools, and cases where Palestinian armed groups launched attacks or stored munitions very near locations where hundreds of displaced civilians were taking shelter.'

Back to the little local dispute. There was one person who was completely undeterred by the ridiculous sniping.

Guest to Lamia:

'It seems to me that Paul is being ganged up on and is being treated harshly. I can see that there are a few differences of opinion but they seem to be relatively minor things. You and Mettaculture normally have very good points to make but it seems today you both are being quite aggressive. Anyway I guess all these comments will vanish in 7 days time.'

Guest is wrong about only one thing. Many of the comments haven't vanished in 7 days. They're here.

Guest to me:

'I dislike playground bullies. I found this site a few weeks ago and I am getting to learn about it. Different people with different experiences with different self-interests with different emotions, comment on it.

'I am drawn to it because of its subject matter and overall point of view. Sometimes I am repelled by it - of individual comments of commenters ... '

Guest to me:

' ... You were right about Anton Deque and I was wrong. I give people the benefit of the doubt until I have sufficient reason to think otherwise. The comments is a bit like Hobbesian sociopathic barbarism. Many of the aggressive commentators appear to be internet veterans fighting their own wars - seeing people as enemies to be destroyed or allies or nobodies. It's exhausting with no 'winners' - just a polarisation of opinion. What an unbelievable palaver you were put through. Best wishes.'

Another dispute at 'Harry's Place'

Address of 'Harry's Place:' www.hurryupharry.org

More of the same, but not a re-run - a second dispute at 'Harry's Place,' this time in the thread 'Gender bias in STEM subjects and science fiction.' The article was written by one of the moderators, SarahAB. This time, she joined in the attack on me in the Comments section.  The commenter Vildechaye appears once more - he describes me as a 'fucking nutter' and a 'babbling psycho' - but not mettaculture. Another regular commenter,  KBPlayer, was prominent in this dispute but not the one before. She described me as 'barmy as a box of frogs' (SarahAB abandoned any pretence at moderators' detachment and upvoted the comment). She obviously liked the phrase so much that she used it, or something very like it,  three times in three comments, although without being specific or providing evidence. The commenter Kolya made multiple accusations against me, implicit or explicit -  accusations of harrassment, of 'purely destructive behaviour - a bit like revenge porn - without any mitigation,' and said that he would have banned me from the site. In the first dispute, I suggested that the phrase ''fucking cunting fuck-cunts' was unwise and unfair because it was applied to Amnesty International as well as Islamist extremists and blurred the all-important differences between them - not just because the language could alienate some people - and a torrent of abuse was released. I suggested that 'Harry's Place' was too much a talking shop. It could be playing a much more effective role in combating some abuses. In this second dispute, I made a contribution to the debate on gender issues and came under attack almost at once, because I was the person who had made some comments not to the liking of the cliques. At the top of the Home Page there's the proud and impressive slogan

Liberty, if it means anything, is the right to tell people what they don't want to hear.

Time for 'Harry's Place' to shed some of its pretence, time for 'Harry's Place' to remove this embarrassing little platitude.  So many 'Harry's Place' regulars want nothing but to carry on chatting and to me at least they seem to be claiming,  Aren't we interesting? Aren't we wonderful people? They don't want to hear anyone who takes the liberty of expressing contrary views. When they're allowed to exchange pleasantries amongst themselves, they seem very pleasant people. When they hear things they don't want to hear, they don't appreciate the exercise of liberty, they suddenly turn unpleasant, sometimes very unpleasant.

'Liberty, if it means anything ... ' is what I'd call a 'non-reflexive' slogan -  applicable to other people and organizations, but definitely not to 'Harry's Place' itself.

The dispute started with a comment of mine on gender issues.  I refer to it here. PH to SarahAB:

'I posted a comment. It could have been discussed, criticized - criticized severely - and that would have been it. If the etiquette of fair-minded debate had been followed, more or less, there would probably have been no wide-ranging dispute. But you, a moderator, couldn't resist making these disparaging and condescending remarks, almost certainly encouraging other people to join the attack. As I've made clear, if I'm attacked, I defend myself.

Yet again, the standard of moderation has been abysmal during this dispute. Moderation sometimes calls for intelligent, enlightened intervention. 'Do nothing' seems to be the guiding principle, if you can call it a principle, although you failed to follow the principle when you upvoted the comment on me, 'Barmy as a box of frogs.' In that case, doing nothing would definitely have been the wiser course of action. For someone who seems determined to give the impression of moderation and reasonableness, you can be surprisingly reckless on occasion.'

PH to Kolya:

 You wrote,

'Outing people's real-world identity merely because you disagree with their views is tantamount to harassment. Anybody choosing to play that game deserves to be banned.'

'I think outing people is truly vile. It can cause considerable distress and even wreck lives. It should result in automatic banning.'

'It's purely destructive behaviour – a bit like revenge porn – without any mitigation.'

'A sadistic power trip for the person doing the revealing.'

According to the Website of 'Public Interest Investigations,' a commenter with the pseudonym 'Morgoth' posted this comment at 'Harry's Place:'

'Is it me or is Foley turning into another Robert Fisk? Should we arrange for some Pashtuns to beat the shit out of him?'

If an individual gave the real name of 'Morgoth' would this be tantamount to harrassment, capable of causing Morgoth considerable distress and capable even of wrecking his life? Would this be a 'sadistic power trip for the person who revealed Morgoth's real name?

On this thread, Vildechaye has referred to me as a 'fucking nutter.' Some Vildechayan comments directed at other people:

'fuck off.'

'you can fuck off too.'

'you really enjoy talking out your arse, don't you?'

'actually you're just a bigoted asshole with a thin veneer of intellectual pomposity who cherrypicks sources -- on Youtube! -- and thinks he's being 
clever. uh uh.'

'yes we're all listening to the likes of you now, you lying sack of shit. Care to tell everyone where I wasn't brought up again.'

If I found out Vildechaye's real name and published it, would this be tantamount to harrassment, capable of causing Vildechaye considerable distress and capable even of wrecking his life?'

PH to Kolya:

'You completely neglect a very important topic - the distress caused by anonymous commenters at 'Harry's Place.' Their anonymity sometimes allows them to cause damage which would be far less likely if they wrote under their own names.'

PH to Kolya:

'KBPlayer wrote this about me,

'Oh that one. Barmy as a box of frogs.'

'The comment was upvoted by you, SarahAB and Suada. You and Suada have chosen to keep your comments on Disqus private. You value your privacy and whatever accusations you make, your privacy won't be disturbed. I write under my real name. I don't see any reason why people who make accusations shouldn't have their comfortable privacy interrupted. I sent an email to SarahAB which 
contained this,

'I wouldn’t claim that moderation during the recent dispute marked a new low in moderation at Harry’s Place because the standard was very low already, but your endorsement of the comment ‘ mad as a box of frogs’ was a bad mistake. Moderators can be partisan, when they comment themselves, they’re entitled to give a view and to defend a view, but upvoting that facile comment is very different. 
Greater detachment can be expected of a moderator. (I regard upvoting in general as futile and not useful. Gene has pointed out how easily the figures can be manipulated.) If a Professor of English gets up to these childish antics, I don’t see why I should be reticent.'

[I've cited some recent Google rankings for the site as a quick and convenient way of providing evidence that some people might like to take into account when they've been outspoken in their criticisms of my alleged limitations. Without any shame, I do that yet again. There's a list of recent Google rankings at


'Of course, I've yet to receive from anyone who has made outspoken criticisms anything so commonplace  as an actual defence of their instant dismissals. These people seem to regard their own immense superiority to such poor misguided plodders as me as beyond dispute.]

'Do you have any comment to make on this? Do you seriously maintain that giving SarahAB's real name is a bit like revenge porn, without any mitigation? If so, then I regard your view as very disturbing.'

KBPlayer gave SarahAB's real name, Sarah Brown, years before, in an article. I knew that this wasn't the Sarah Brown who was the wife of the Labour politician Gordon Brown.

In my email to SarahAB I also wrote this,

'I’m not conducting a vendetta against Harry’s Place. Material about ‘Harry’s Place’ occupies a completely peripheral and a very minor role in the site.'

If you look up the home page of my site,


you'll find abundant evidence that this is so. There's a list of topics, very, very varied - which 
include gardening - and if you look at a selection of pages and find abundant evidence that I'm 'barmy as a box of frogs' then feel free to email me, with the evidence. If you value your  self-respect, and I'm sure you do, and obviously I could 
mention other people too, then the time has come to put some effort into defending your remarks.

KBPlayer wrote, 'A serious academic who I do respect but who had had run ins with HP was tweeting Culture Industry as proof of our badness.'

That same academic has written, in connection with Morgoth's comment, 'Morgoth calls for Conor Foley to be beaten up, and Conor’s wife is reduced to tears reading his comment. HP actually has the cheek to complain that Conor is unreasonable for being upset about this. Of course, your anger is never directed at any one of your revolting, anonymous little groupies, but only at the people who have the temerity to complain about their behaviour.' 'Revolting, anonymous little groupies' isn't my description. I give my own views on the 'Culture Industry' page.

This marks the end of my comment, published at 'Harry's Place' a short time before the disappearance of all the comments from public view. Some additional remarks:

Kolya advocated my banning from 'Harry's Place' and dmra upvoted his promotion of banning. A question: who has the power to ban people from 'Harry's Place?' Would one of them be the moderator SarahAB. She's a Latinist, so she'd understand the significance of a quotation not seen nearly as often now as it used to be: 'Quis costodiet ipsos custodes.' (Juvenal, Satires, Satire VI, lines 347–8.)

I don't mind if people criticize me or my views severely, provided there's the attempt to provide evidence. In that case, I'd see no need at all to divulge their real name, if I know it. If they want to engage in smearing and insult, then they shouldn't be surprised if I show much less goodwill.

Dispute No. 1, documented at much greater length in the section above, 'Nasty, brutish and short ... ' gave plenty of evidence that I can defend myself very vigorously. If some people decided to try it on this time, then they shouldn't be surprised at the result. I contributed a comment on gender bias to the thread, and very quickly, SarahAB came out with this:

'Oh god, that one - I'd forgotten that was him.

[I realize, I've quite accidentally echoed KB there - hadn't seen her comment at first!]'

Anyone who doesn't know anything about SarahAB and KBPlayer apart from what they've read at 'Harry's Place,' then they might come to the conclusion that SarahAB and KBPlayer just happen to agree about me. If they know that Sarah AB has a blog and Rosie Bell (aka 'KBPlayer') also has a blog and Sarah AB obviously likes the blog of KBPlayer - she gives a link to it on her own blog - and KBPlayer obviously likes the blog of Sarah AB - she gives a link to it on her blog - then this could be described as interesting background knowledge - I don't claim that it explains why Sarah AB upvoted KBPlayer's description of me as 'Barmy as a box of frogs.'

I've not the least compunction about giving the information that Sarah AB is Sarah Annes Brown, Professor of English at Anglia Ruskin University and KBPlayer's real name is 'Rosie Bell,' and that Professor Brown's blog is 'Ariachne's Broken Woof' and that Rosie Bell has a blog which is simply entitled 'Rosie Bell' (and a very good blog it is too - it's one I appreciate very much.)

I see every reason to give their real names. My good will isn't inexhaustible. But there are other reasons. Harry's Place gave the real name of KBPlayer years ago. In the article 'Syrian Bookshop Window,' (November 20, 2010) http://hurryupharry.org/2010/11/20/syrian-bookshop-window/ Gene wrote, 'Rosie Bell (who comments here as KB Player) recently  visited Syria, where she took this photo of a bookshop window in Aleppo.' (Followed by the photo.)

KBPlayer to Vildechaye on the prospect of having her real name given by me and other matters:

'My disguise is fairly thin so I'm not too bothered.


Barmy. Box. Frogs.'

PH to KBPlayer:

'What on earth are you talking about, 'My disguise is fairly thin so I'm not too bothered?' You write as if my giving of your real name, the identity of KBPlayer, is a completely new development. Not in the least. From the page-which-you-won't-be-looking-at,

'Harry's Place gave the real name of KBPlayer years ago. In the article 'Syrian Bookshop Window,'
(November 20, 2010)


Gene wrote, 'Rosie Bell (who comments here as KB Player) recently visited Syria, where she took this photo of a bookshop window in Aleppo.' (Followed by the photo.)'

You also write,

Barmy. Box. Frogs.
Barmy. Box. Frogs.
Barmy. Box. Frogs.

You seem to like the sound of the phrase. You've given it in three different comments/replies. I propose a new meaning for 'groovy:'

'Groovy (pejorative): like these comments of KBPlayer, with the repetitiveness of a record stuck in a groove.'

If you feel the need to post comments directed at me again, be sure you don't forget the comical/risible

Barmy. Box. Frogs.
Barmy. Box. Frogs.
Barmy. Box. Frogs.'

PH to KBPlayer:

You share your thoughts with Vildechaye. Sorry to introduce a discordant note in this communing of minds. An extract from the page-you'd-rather-not-read:

'On this thread, Vildechaye has referred to me as a 'fucking nutter.' Some thoughtful Vildechayan comments directed at other people:

'fuck off.'

'you can fuck off too.'

'you really enjoy talking out your arse, don't you?'

'actually you're just a bigoted asshole with a thin veneer of
intellectual pomposity who cherrypicks sources -- on Youtube! -- and thinks he's being clever. uh uh.'

'yes we're all listening to the likes of you now, you lying sack of shit. Care to tell everyone where I wasn't brought up again.'

In an email to Sarah AB, I wrote, in connection with the giving of her real name,

'This information is in the public domain. If it can be obtained with the greatest of ease – putting Sarah AB into google gives ready access to your blog, which contains all this information – then I regard its publication as completely legitimate. I’ve only removed the information about mettaculture because there seem to be special circumstances in his case.' I explained in detail the nature of these 'special circumstances' in the same email.

The information about mettaculture's real name which remained on the site for a time. It was completely legitimate to provide this information too. In a reply to Vildechaye, I wrote, 'mettaculture has a blog which gives his real name. He writes, 'My blogging name is mettaculture my actual name is [I withhold the information here] I post almost exclusively at Harry's Place.' He seems to find no problem in divulging his real name.'

Kolya responded to the information that I'd posted in the comment above:

 'I stand by what I said. To help you with the drafting of your Bill of Attainder against me, let me recap:

'Outing a person's real-world identity, purely because you disagree with them, is like posting revenge porn. Both forms of offensive behaviour involve the disclosure of private information for the sole purpose of injuring or coercing the victim.

'The egregiousness of this kind of conduct varies with the circumstances, but in the absence of an objectively legitimate public interest justification, it is always morally abhorrent. People who indulge in such exploitative behaviour deserve to be shunned.

—Kolya Wolf, 24 April 2015

'You have my permission to quote the above statement, under my real name.'

I do quote it - but I would have been entitled to quote it  without his permission.

I made it completely clear that I haven't given the information purely because I disagree with these people in the least. As for the recommendation to shun me, this is surely relevant:

Ethical matters are central to this site. The current Google ranking for the site is 1 / 79,500,000 for the search term ethical depth. For decades, I've spent enormous amounts of time on issues to do with animal or human suffering - as Kolya Wolf will find if he takes the trouble to look at the pages of the site which deal with ethical matters. I've worked hard on issues as varied as factory farming, the fur trade, bullfighting, the welfare of circus animals, including the elderly elephant with arthritis, Annie (at one demonstration, a circus worker said that he'd break every bone in my body), the death penalty and many other human rights issues - but I don't endorse all uses of the term 'human rights' - anti-personnel mines, and other issues, including defending Israel against its detractors. I've written outspokenly on many other issues to do with animal or human suffering, including slavery. (The alphabetical list of topics on the right hand side of the Home Page gives ready access to all the pages which deal with these topics.) I don't have contempt for all Kolya Wolf's views, far from it, but I've complete contempt for some of them - or I think that some of them are completely unworthy of him.

Vildechaye replied to me as well. He wrote,

'I refer you too [sic] your local nuthouse.'

Harry's Place: faults and failings

'We perceived that we were not splendid inhabitants of a splendid world ... ' (George Orwell, writing in 'Down and Out in Paris and London,' Chapter Seventee.)

George Orwell was writing about a realization that came to him well past midnight after a Saturday night of drunken carousing in a Paris bistro. Some of the carousing commenters at 'Harry's Place' (obviously - or presumably - not drunk at all, elated by the outpouring of their opinions, not the outpouring of drink) seem not to have come to this realization:  the realization that their opinions may not be gloriously significant. The splendid world of 'Harry's Place' seems not so splendid on closer examination.

In the sections, Nasty, brutish and short: some 'Harry's Place' comments and Another dispute at 'Harry's Place' I've concentrate attention on the malicious and deeply unpleasant (or shallowly unpleasant) tendencies of some 'Harry's Place' regulars - only a minority of the regular contributors and all contributors - and the feeble (or non-existent) moderation of one of the moderators, SarahAB. But there's much more to criticize at 'Harry's Place.'

The vigour and vitality of so many of the commenters are sometimes impressive but sometimes amount to very little. The dialogue of soap operas has just as much vigour and vitality - the appearance but not the substance. 'Harry's Place' is incomparably stronger in its presentation of some issues, such as Israel and Islamism, much, much weaker in its presentation of other issues. The list is long, but includes feminism, gender issues and the death penalty. Although many articles on the site are impressive, many are anything but, and even in the case of the impressive articles, there are many, many articles on Websites and blogs, in printed magazines, journals and books which are far more impressive. 'Harry's Place' is a very prominent site but its prominence is partly earned, partly unearned.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a good article on relativism, which begins

'Relativism is not a single doctrine but a family of views whose common theme is that some central aspect of experience, thought, evaluation, or even reality is somehow relative to something else. For example standards of justification, moral principles or truth are sometimes said to be relative to language, culture, or biological makeup.'


Many applications of the concept are deeply misguided, but not this one: even when 'Harry's Place' is poor, it may well be far, far better than many other sources of information and comment. In the value-sphere, there are many, many levels, from highest to lowest.

These are the main weaknesses of Harry's Place, I think, including characteristics which aren't so much weaknesses as consequences of having one identity rather than another, with the inevitable consequences. It's impossible to do many things equally well, to be many things. In no particular order - except that I view the first objection as the most important. For the time being, the discussion isn't in the least detailed, except for the first objection.

Harry's Place is too much of a talking shop. It could do  more to encourage activism.

To confine attention to pro-Israel-anti-Islamist issues, which are obviously important to 'Harry's Place' (as they are to me), I don't expect every pro-Israel-anti-Islamist site to include much on practical campaigning - or anything on practical campaigning. Sites which are scholarly or semi-scholarly, for example, may want to devote their complete attention to meticulous examination of the evidence and fair-minded drawing of conclusions from the evidence. But 'Harry's Place' is the kind of place where I'd expect far more emphasis on practical campaigning, without neglecting its role as a place for exchange of opinions, which will always be central and most important.

Some comments I've written in previous threads about the subject. I don't include one which gave detailed practical information about contacting MP's, other politicians and other people and organizations, in answer to a request by Colin.

1. Marc's article, 'Where's the partner for peace?' and this follow-up article have resulted in a huge volume of vigorous, very impressive comment. His view and opposing views haven't gone their separate ways. They've come together and clashed. I'm in no doubt that Marc has comprehensively lost the argument. The gaps and the deficiencies in his argument have been revealed.

In the wider world, more often than not, this isn't what happens at all. So, the members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign are left to carry on slogan-shouting, to repeat their 'one word arguments' - 'apartheid,' 'genocide,' 'occupation,' 'blockade' - and arguments which aren't much more highly developed. The vigorous debate in 'Harry's Place' doesn't reach most of them. They don't read it and they never hear about it. When 'Fathom Journal' publishes a meticulous article by David Stone


making clear the benefits to Palestinian health of Israeli policies, it doesn't cause acute embarrassment to anti-Israel-pro-Palestinian people. How will we respond? What counter-arguments do we have? They simply ignore the arguments and evidence, if they hear about them at all.

'Harry's Place' could contact anti-Israel-pro-Palestinian organizations and people and offer them a guest post. (It would be useful if the comments sections for these two articles were retained and not allowed to disappear, as a sample of the kind of comment which can be expected.) A public record could be kept of the organizations and people contacted and their response, if any. If there were many, many refusals, then this would justify a direct challenge. What are you afraid of? Marc has never been afraid to put his views forward and to defend his views (but not at all effectively.) At least his fearlessness reflects great credit on him. Somehow, I don't think that Palestine Solidarity Campaign supporters and similar people would show anything like the same courage for the most part. If so, use their timidity and evasion against them and do everything possible to publicize their timidity and evasion. If their case is so strong, why refuse the chance to promote it in a guest post and defend it in the comments section?

2. To Epidermoid:

You write, 'the correct remedy for a sick society is to cut it off from self-indulgence. Write letters telling it how stupid it is and how it only has itself to blame ...'

I agree completely, and I've just emailed Rabiha Diab, the Palestinian Minister of Women's Affairs, telling her to stop making feeble excuses. According to a report published by the Palestinian Ministry of Women's Affairs, the rate of honour killings increased by 100% in 2013. Rabiha Diab tried to claim that Israel was largely to blame: the 'Israeli occupation' is 'the main thing keeping us from advancing' she said.

3. Tokyo Nambu's comment 'If the Labour Party weren't anti-Semitic scum ... ' is a grossly misguided generalization. Its ignorance is extreme. It ignores the Labour MP's who openly support Israel, many, but not all, members of the group 'Labour Friends of Israel.' It may have far less members than 'Conservative Friends of Israel' (it's a heartening fact that 80% of Conservative MP's belong to this group) but these MP's don't in the least deserve to be included in Tokyo Nambu's lazy-minded dismissal.

I think it's likely that supporters of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign are far more active in lobbying MP's than British supporters of Israel. I see it as essential to write to MP's, the ones who denounce Israel and the ones who support Israel - to write to a wide range of people and organizations - to express support for the supporters of Israel and to challenge the views of Israel's opponents.

I recently wrote to a Sheffield Labour MP who used to be the vice-chair of Labour Friends of Israel, thanking her for her support for Israel, and to Dick Pitt, an academic who's a member of Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign (he has an abysmal blog on the Campaign's Website.)

Dick Pitt regularly writes to this MP. He gives her stern advice, such as this: 'If you want to know about oppression - don't ask the opressor [sic].' The 'opressor' is, of course, as always, Israel. The persistence and stamina of these opponents of Israel are remarkable. They never seem to tire of accusing Israel and denouncing Israel, they never tire of using the same distortions, falsifications and evasions. The catalogue of Israel's alleged crimes is longer, much, much longer, than Leporello's list of Don Giovanni's women. Surely MP's (or many of them) deserve to be paid far more, given that they have to put up with people like this.


'Harry's place' is a very absorbing and important site. [I now think it's less absorbing and less important.] It offers a wealth of interesting articles and comments (not including Tokyo Nambu's comment, of course.) These are part of 'internal' pro-Israeli activity. I hope that your contributors who haven't so far engaged in much 'external' pro-Israeli activity, which includes, in Britain, writing to MP's, will consider the advantages of doing so. It could hardly be easier, in one way. A list of email addresses is easy to compile and to use, but I think it's essential not to send emails in a routine way. I'd stress the importance of background knowledge.

Whenever I engage in this 'external' activity, I tend to stress one set of arguments, in my experience more likely to have an effect than any other. The arguments are more likely to undermine the irrational belief that Palestinian society is intrinsically virtuous or vastly superior to Israeli society. I make use of these findings:

4. To Epidermoid:

If we are to have a war of words we must use our ammunition and by and large we don't' Excellent! Very well expressed.

If people so often don't use their ammunition, sometimes they do but waste it. Perhaps there's an analogy with those excitable people in some parts of the Middle East who fire shots into the air when they're happy about something or other. Battle should be about engagement with an opposition. [Sharing comments on 'Harry's Place' is enjoyable - but not always - and useful - but not always - but can never replace engagement with an opposition.]  Having good arguments isn't enough. It's also necessary to give thought to the most effective use of these arguments.

The language used at 'Harry's Place' is sometimes counter-productive

This objection is discussed in detail above. There are also objections which don't relate to its counter-productive tendency, to do with the health of language in general.

Intolerance at Harry's Place

People who seem friendly and relaxed can change abruptly when they come upon dissent, even very mild dissent, when they are communicating not with like-minded people but with people they see as 'The Other.' Some of the commenters at 'Harry's Place' are like that.

The comments section at 'Harry's Place' is often bloated

Too often, there are too many perfunctory comments, which add to the excessive bulk of the comments sections in many threads. Reading, or even skimming, these sections takes too long. There are many people who don't regret that in the least. They seem to like nothing better. But it's likely to discourage many others.

Harry's place deserves its prominence but its prominence is probably at the expense of other very deserving sites.

I don't include my own site in the list of 'very deserving sites.' I've made it clear that for the topics discussed on my page 'Israel, Islamist terrorism and Palestinian ideology,' the page can't possibly compete with 'Harry's Place' and other specialist sites. My page is far less comprehensive.

My list of links on the page 'Israel ... ' is far from comprehensive and omits many very good sites, but it

Harry's Place is a tabloid

This is less a defect of 'Harry's Place,' more a plea for supplementing it, and similar sites, with sources of information and discussions which are more detailed, including scholarly and semi-scholarly accounts. Quite often, articles or commenters do recommend discussions which are more detailed than most of the material on the site, although some commenters do excel in writing more detailed analyses. The tendency is, though, to give  short, sometimes very short, treatments an the expense of thoroughness. This can be viewed as a perfectly legitimate consequence of its identity.

Outgrowing 'Harry's Place,' or recognizing the advantages of different, more thorough sites and sources of information, including books, is an objective which I think has advantages.

Sometimes, a tabloid source may be better informed than a more thorough source. 'The Daily Mail' is often very well informed, better informed for some issues than 'The Guardian,' better informed for some issues than academic treatments with footnotes and bibliographies. There's no mechanical way of assessing these issues.

Coverage of the central themes, such as Israel, Islamism and Palestinian issues, is generally good. Coverage of other issues may be poor.

Harry's Place covers a wide range of other issues, but the treatment is often poor, or markedly lower. To give only a few examples, the death penalty and the arts. The death penalty and the arts aren't amongst the central themes of 'Harry's Place.' There's often an unrealistic expectation that an organization which does some things very well does everything very well, whenever it discusses them.

Harry's Place includes too many clear-cut mistakes of thinking.

These include mistaking the part for the whole, or condemning the whole on account of faults in a part. Some instances are documented in this section, such as criticism of Amnesty International and the Labour Party. A further example: 'Harry's Place' occasionally gives credit to 'The Guardian' but only for certain matters, such as unexpectedly pro-Israel statements published in 'The Guardian.' I see 'The Guardian as a very strong newspaper for a wide range of issues - but not, in general, its coverage of Israel or a range of other political issues. But its coverage of many  political issues is often excellent.

Losing interest in 'Harry's Place'

I haven't looked at Harry's Place for a long time. Perhaps I'd gain by looking at some of the articles and comments published there, but to find them requires wading through masses of dross. It's better to give my time to sources which are less adulterated, more consistently rewarding, as well as giving some time to sources which are nothing but dross. Ignoring or evading ridiculous, malign, completely superficial, grossly distorted material would be a bad mistake.

 I began to write the section Another dispute at 'Harry's Place' and then turned to other matters. One of them was the disruption by anti-Israel protesters of the Jerusalem Quartet's concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, which began during the Quartet's performance of the second movement of Mozart's Quartet K. 387. I found out about the disruption from the Boulezian blog, one I admire very much, for his comments on music, not, in general, his occasional comments on politics. The political views of Vildechaye, Sarah AB, KBPlayer and Kolya are much closer to mine than Boulezian's at least where issues to do with Israel and the Palestinians are concerned.

I posted this comment on Boulezian's blog:

'After I began learning the cello, a long time ago, one of the first quartets I played in was this Mozart Quartet K. 387 My playing was poor and stumbling, like my playing in the Linz Symphony, one of the first orchestral pieces I attempted, but rewarded by an experience of beauty, profundity, elation, vigour which seemed to put the experience of a work in time outside time.

'I regard the disruption of the Jerusalem Quartet's performance as contemptible. Protestors who tried to make a political point by daubing anti-Israel slogans on a beautiful building would be engaging in a similar act of desecration, and one just as futile.

'After the disruption of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's Proms concert in 2011, I opposed the action in very varied ways, contacting many people in the boycotting business. I learned a lot about them. This is one of the disrupters, Deborah Fink, member of the group 'Beethovians [sic] for Boycotting Israel.' She claims to be a soprano and teacher of singing but it seems she's also able to teach screaming, screeching and shrieking, on the evidence of these recordings. Here is Deborah Fink singing 'Happy birthday to you, I'm ashamed I'm a jew:'


'This is Deborah Fink after being ejected from the Sadler's Wells theatre for disrupting a performance:


'It would be impossible to explain in the space available here why I regard the demonization of Israel as wrong. I've written extensively on the subject. I'll simply give a link to a couple of other Youtube videos which I think are revealing:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ay3ztL9wFq8 '

I didn't give a link to my extensive writing in opposition to boycotts and disruption, but the section  'Heckling the boycotters,' on disruption of the Proms concert and attempts to boycott Israel, is at


My playing, such as it is, hasn't followed a straightforward course. I eventually changed from the cello to the violin and viola and I used to practise very conscientiously, often for three or more hours a day, but I don't play any longer. I couldn't possibly justify three or more hours a day practice time, given the time needed for this site, to mention only one use for my time. And playing an instrument isn't one of the things I can do best, or very well. At least I'm still a listener, even if I can't spend very long listening.

Obviously, 'Harry's Place' has nothing to contribute to the discussion of string quartet playing or string quartet composition. The site can't be blamed. It can't do everything (but there seems to be a delusion that it's scope is far greater than it is.) Bit I also think that 'Harry's Place' has nothing much to contribute to a matter which is very important to me - how to deter and prevent future disruptions. I tried to put the case for greater activism, greater practical involvement, and got practically nowhere.

Another issue that preoccupied me so much at the same time: the plight of the Bali nine. Since that time, eight of them have been executed, of course. My page on the death penalty gives my reasons for opposing the death penalty. 'Harry's Place' has hardly ever taken account of the death penalty. The fact that Israel has practically never executed in the history of the modern state impresses me, but the readership of the site, so far as I can judge, is absolutely indifferent. One regular contributor, Lamia, has advocated executions and torturing some people to death.

'Harry's Place' doesn't alienate me for one reason in particular - and certainly not for the attacks on me - but for a number of reasons, and this is one of many.

At this same time, there was an atrocious example of large-scale suffering, the aftermath of the earthquake in Nepal. 'The Times of India' amongst other sources has drawn attention to the scope of the disaster in the piece 'Cut off from all sides, villagers at quake epicentre face slow death,'


'GURKHA/BARPAK: Villagers are dying a slow death in many parts of Barpak and Gurkha regions — the quake's epicenter — which are completely cut off. Quake-induced landslides have wiped out long stretches of roads and most villages have no space to land choppers.

In these villages, there is no rescue, only relief effort. Indian Air Force choppers hover over the villages, dropping food, tents and blankets as rescue work is impossible without helipads or roads.

On Wednesday an IAF chopper made sorties over a village in Barpak— its 100-odd houses completely flattened by the quake. Several attempts were made to land as villagers looked up in desperate expectation, but the chopper simply could not land. It finally just dropped supplies and flew off.


"We don't even know how many are dead in the village or how many are severely injured. Some may still be trapped under the rubble but, perhaps, alive. But we are in no position to save them. They'll die waiting for help. It's one of the saddest feelings when a rescue worker can't go through," Nepal Army Captain Naresh Khadka, who is guiding the IAF rescue operation in Barpak, said.'

But in general, helicopters have been able to operate, as have the other methods of relief, including heavy lifting equipment and lorries carrying aid, if not on anything like the scale needed.

The second dispute at 'Harry's Place' was in the comments section which followed SarahAB's article on gender differences. I drew attention to my own page on feminism and gender differences and I would have left it at that, if there hadn't followed almost instant sniping, including the part-time moderator and occasional sniper SarahAB.

The page includes this and has included this for a long time. It wasn't added at the time of the Nepal earthquake. It appears in a central section of the page, 'The material conditions of life.'

'Earthquakes show that control over nature is sometimes impossible. Patriarchy has developed a method of delaying the crushing effects of a building collapsing so that the occupants have enough time to escape to safety - the technological / humanitarian innovation of metal ties connecting together walls and roof. When victims are trapped under rubble, then of course technological techniques are the only effective ones - the use of heavy lifting equipment, made up of a very large number of separate components, ultimately derived from metal ores, crude oil and other raw materials, which demand techniques of very great complexity, even the screw-threads of the fixings. The precise engineering essential for manufacturing these components wasn't inevitable or easily gained. It was due to the achievements of such particular men - again, representatives of 'patriarchy' - such as Joseph Whitworth, who by 1856 'was regularly using in his workshops a machine capable of measuring to one-millionth part of an inch.' ('A Short History of Technology.') Without the work of Joseph Whitworth and many other innovators, earthquake victims would have to be rescued by bare hands and the simplest of tools. Precision engineering and scientific and technological advances in general, again, almost unimaginably complex, are needed, of course, to transport food and other relief supplies to earthquake zones by air, road or sea. In the absence of these, human labour and pack animals will give aid to only a tiny fraction of those in need.'

Harry's Place: pseudonyms and heteronyms

Some of the comments of some of the regular commenters at 'Harry's Place' are inconsistent: grossly inconsistent, grotesquely inconsistent, even. The commenters include Vildechaye and mettaculture as well as Kolya and KBPlayer (to a much lesser extent.) I've  mentioned the strengths of these people as well as attending to their weaknesses in previous sections on this page, Nasty, brutish and short: some 'Harry's Place' comments and Another dispute at 'Harry's Place. This section contains more on their strengths. These people, like some others at 'Harry's Place,' seem to have multiple identities. They have pseudonyms but heteronyms seem a far better idea to me. Heteronyms are to do with multiple identities.

The poet Anna Evans explains heteronyms briefly in a piece which does praise me - Vildechaye, mettaculture, KBPlayer, Kolya and other critics needn't bother about that, of course. The piece is quoted  in the section Advertisements for myself on the page 'About this site.'

Anna Evans writes,  

'Fernando Pessoa was a Portuguese poet and man of letters famous not only for his poetry but also for his heteronyms. He wrote a vast body of material (fiction, essays, poetry, plays) under a number of pseudonyms, but was unique in claiming to feel the presence of each of these personalities as strongly (some would say stronger) than he did his own. Each heteronym had his own style: Alberto Caeiro was a natural poet of minimal formal education; Ricardo Reis was a classically educated modern pagan etc. etc.'

A commenter who often blasted other commenters but made many mistakes could adopt the heteronym 'Blunderbuss' for this persona. A commenter with a tendency to foul language when attacking someone but reacting like a chicken when put on the spot and asked to give evidence - otherwise to apologize - could use the heteronym 'Fowl-mouthed' for this persona and a different heteronym for carefully considered contributions, such as 'SocratestheSecond.' 'DramaQueen' would be suitable for someon with a tendency to exaggeration and hysteria, with 'Penitent' for those times when the commenter shows more self-control and regrets those outbursts.  People with absolutely no illusions about themselves could choose a plain and simple heteronym for their weaker side such as 'Scumbag,' 'Pillock,' 'Poser,' 'Loser,' 'Time-waster.' Or something less plain and simple such as 'Scatologist.'

Instead of using the one pseudonym 'Vildechaye' for his comments, Vildechaye could use a heteronym for the crude mud-slinger, author of such comments as these, quoted in the section above,

'up your bum.'

'You can add this comment to your piece: GO FUCK YOURSELF.'

'fuck off.'

'you can fuck off too.'

'you really enjoy talking out your arse, don't you?'

'actually you're just a bigoted asshole with a thin veneer of intellectual pomposity who cherrypicks sources -- on Youtube! -- and thinks he's being clever. uh uh.'

'yes we're all listening to the likes of you now, you lying sack of shit. Care to tell everyone where I wasn't brought up again.'

And another heteronym for such very different comments as these (the Disqus profile of Vildechaye gives many other examples):

'I've never been one to call Israeli critics "anti-semitic" unless they go way over the top with double standards, selective outrage, etc. The same goes for Jewish critics of Israel: I'm loathe to call them Jewish anti-semites or jew-hating Jews (I hate the term "self-hating" jew because whoever fits that category certainly don't hate themselves.)

But I digress. The point of the above is that I really think Kenneth Roth is Israel-obsessed to the point of anti-semitism. How else to explain that when Roth hears about the Nepalese earthquake, and then hears an item about how Israel is sending aid, the only thing that he can comment on is Israel-Gaza? This isn't normal behaviour. This isn't even how South Africa was treated. By making his fatuous statement, Roth is putting himself in the company of people like the anti-semite David Carter, who's very first and last thoughts of the day revolve around Israel and the Jews and how evil they are. I'm sure Roth doesn't consider himself in that category, and would be horrified to think of himself as an anti-semite, but I don't see what other conclusion you can come to, given his instant reactions to hearing news about Israel doing good.'

'What you call "picking nits" is what I call "getting the facts straight." '

'Again, dear Aloe, I must take issue with you on this topic. While it may be true that the Jewish religion/Judaism does not endorse/promote or lend itself to liberalism (not being theologically inclined, I'm not really qualified to deal with that, though I suspect that, given the number of opinions by Jewish scholars over the ages in the Talmud and other Jewish writings, that even there you might be wrong), I would say Jewish experience/history introduced "tolerance" into Jewish social/cultural life well before Christians discovered liberalism. That tolerance is probably why Jews were able to embrace European liberalism so conclusively. Not all Jews, of course, but then again, not all Christians, or all Christianities for that matter, went the liberal route.'

The commenter mettaculture often writes perceptive, intelligent comments, sometimes, far less often, offensive and deluded ones.' Again, heteronyms would be better than one pseudonym. I'll only give examples of his perceptive, intelligent comments here,

'Excellent. Tremendously important stuff. On its own it should be enough to show why Turkey's support of ISIS (as a means to extend its influence, promote its own brand of Nationalist Islamism, to weaken Assad and to destroy Kurdish National aspirations) is dangerous and doomed to failure.

IS will retain an Arab Nationalist character implacably opposed to Turkish and Iranian Imperial expansion no matter how Islamized they become.

But there is also a deeper lesson that is endlessly historically demonstrated. Pan-Islamism in the modern era, since its inception under Sultan Abdul Hamid in the late Ottoman era (using and promoting the anti-Imperialist modernist Islamism of Jamāl ad-Dīn al-Afghānī) , is never and can never be separated from Nationalism.

Pan-Islamism is an Islamic Nationalist ideology that seeks a worldwide unity of Muslims by denying the reality of cultural and ethnic distinctions. This is its fatal flaw in relation to a modernity that is created around the recognition of ethno-linguistic and ethnocultural state formation.

Whenever a contemporary nation state Islamises , it also necessarily and unavoidably nationalises Islam. This is what happened in Iraq under Saddam Hussein when he chose to Islamize the nation (and the Ba'ath party) he also nationalised Islam.

This is also what has happened in Iran, which has created a Persian Imperial national Shia Islam not a true pan-islamism.

... '

'Dear Aloeveera,

I think one of the better diagnostic tools is to see how strong the tendency to dismiss the enlightenment is. What we might call the Will Self tendency is absolutely hostile to modernity in a classic bohemian romantic anti rational anti-enlightenment way, more Nietzschean than Marxist.

France, though it has of course produced a wave of post-modernists philosophers they are curiously understudied in France and particularly on the French left. Michelle Foucault was always considered something of a conservative and romantic reactionary in France for example.'

KBPlayer could have one heteronym for infantile comments, such as 'Barmy. Box. Frogs' and another heteronym for the comments where she doesn't write garbage, the vast majority (even if many are routine - the standard of her blog, using her real name, is generally much higher.) I quoted one of her comments appreciatively in a reply to Kolya during the second dispute

'An example of a comment I like very much, by KBPlayer, who writes scathingly about me in this thread:

'With Hitchens the country is always going to the dogs. He would have said the same about the cocktail-drinking, jazz-listening, scoffing irreverent young things of the 20s & 30s - the ones who put on their uniforms when they had to.' '

A comment for 'dmra' on the site 'Harry's Place,' www.hurryupharry.org

A reply was given by dmra and I found that a previous comment of mine on 'Harry's Place' criticizing 'Lamia' was mistaken in one way - Lamia is female, not male! In this reply, I stated that I didn't know whether dmra was male or female. Later, I felt sure that dmra was female not male. In a comment, dmra had mentioned attending a girl's school. Much later, I found that dmra was male, not female. He mentioned that he was one of the few boys to attend a particular girl's school.

I argue here that anonymous comments tend to diminish the richness and complexity of human interaction but I give other arguments as well. Strictly, 'anonymous' should be 'pseudonymous.' I mention the  alternative male/female but this is far too simple for some people. I suppose the proper question to ask is, 'Are you male or female, neither or both?'

I think that the arguments for banning the full veil in this country outweigh the arguments for allowing it. It's been argued that when a woman wears the veil, anyone speaking with her is denied so many visual cues, so much supplementary infomation. The conversation is likely to be restricted by that. A conversation with someone whose face we can see is very different. (An obvious counter-argument: what about the experience of blind people? Perhaps the aural cues are enough, perhaps not.)

I'm not equating wearing the veil and the anonymity of commenters. All I'm doing is pointing out some obvious disadvantages of anonymity. Exchanging views on this page with you, dmra, involves lack of some useful information for me. I don't know if you're male or female, for example! I don't know if vildechaye and mettaculture are male or female. I don't assume that because vildechaye and mettaculture seem to have a very aggressive side they must be male. [I now know that they're male.]

I strongly believe in the importance of openness. Whatever I write, I do it under my own name. I don't have an ex-directory telephone number, either. I'm listed in the phone book. If people want to criticize me on the internet, they can go ahead and do it and the results will show up in Google, whether it's on Page 1 or Page 20,000. Conversely, if I criticize someone who isn't anonymous, the criticism will appear in searches for the real name somewhere in Google, in the case of Richard Alleyne journalist (now ex-journalist, I'm glad to say) very prominently, on Page 1 for the search terms "Richard Alleyne" journalist.

Using 'dmra' for your writing is choosing the safer option. It offers protection from critical comment published on the Web, for one thing. Whatever critical comments may appear for 'dmra,' the life you live under your real name remains separate and isn't affected. There may be very good reasons for anonymity on the Web . People may have a job which makes it very difficult to write freely under their own name. (All the same, when, eventually, I found conventional employment, I carried out some high profile campaigning which caused me difficulties with my employer but thought nothing of it.)

I'd suggest to anonymous commenters on this site: consider whether you really do have to be anonymous I hope dmra, mettaculture, Vildechaye and others will consider 'coming out.' I realize there may well be perfectly valid reasons why this isn't a realistic option.

I'm glad that so many people whose views are similar to the general viewpoint of 'Harry's Place' do use their actual names. They include people who would be safer writing anonymously but don't. 'The Times Literary Supplement' used to have anonymous reviewers. This had severe disadvantages. A hostile review of a book left the author and readers wondering about the background of the reviewer and possible sources of bias. Now that reviewers are identified, there are so many sources of information about the background of the reviewer. It may be that the reviewer has been criticized by the author of the book, or that the reviewer isn't the best person to review the book because the reviewer has no background in the field. Or it may be that the background information leaves every reason to think that the reviewer is knowledgeable and fair-minded. However, in the case of anonymous commenters, Disqus does give all the Disqus comments, unless the commentator chooses to make their activity private.

Some pages which include criticism of anonymity for comments, even if the focus is on sites of a different kind. The New Yorker article also gives arguments for anonymity.



Harry's Place and deleting comments

A moderator is sometimes entitled to exclude comments for pragmatic reasons, by using robust common sense, not the high and noble principles of free expression (and not by thinking about consequentalist or deontological or neo-Thomist or neo-Aristotelian arguments for publishing or not publishing.)

Argumentum ad hominem, criticising not the arguments but the person who gives the arguments is, in fact, a realistic and valid way of approaching the arguments of some people: to give not much thought at all to the arguments but to summarily decide that the person has a negligible contribution to make. If a grown adult sends a description which is completely sentimental and includes an image of a teddy bear and promises to send further contributions, then, unless the site is a sentimentalist site and isn't deterred by unnecessary images of teddy bears, then the moderator will probably decide that the character of the person makes intelligent contributions very unlikely. A woefully underpowered car won't be allowed in a high-powered race. There's no need to measure the speed of the car. A look at the car is enough.

If a humanist Website or blog is besieged with comments from born-again Christians 'proving' that X is evil and giving abundant scriptural 'evidence' then the moderator may decide that enough is enough. If a Website or blog has the central aim of publishing material on modernist architecture or abstract art and is besieged by people commenting that modernist architecture or abstract art is 'a load of rubbish,' or words to that effect, then excluding these comments isn't the exercise of censorship. To uphold free speech isn't to uphold the right for someone to comment at any Website or blog.

The comment below, posted at 'Harry's Place,' refers to a very prolific commenter who happened to be a Moslem. After I added the comment, he asked for all his comments to be deleted and referred to my contribution as the reason.

'El Cid has swamped this Comments section with his Islamist views. Enough is enough. Even the most patient of people (even Sarah AB) may have found their patience close to exhaustion in the face of El Cid's prolific and predictable 'proofs.' If ten or twenty other people with similar views decided to join the 'discussion,' then the scale of the problem would be even more clear, the need for effective and realistic moderation even more obvious. Harry's Place may have its detractors but it also has a deserved reputation for interesting and informative comment to accompany the articles. If the problem continues (it may not, of course) and nothing is done, then I for one would regret it very much.

'Websites and blogs concerned with evolutionary biology or secularism or enlightenment values or the defence of Israel should give objectors the opportunity to disagree and should uphold freedom of expression but are under no obligation to present Comments sections overwhelmed by people hostile to evolutionary biology or secularism or enlightenment values or the defence of Israel. These Websites and blogs are entitled to have an identity, they are entitled to present their viewpoint, but never to the exclusion of contrary views.

'It's reasonable for the discussion sections of 'Harry's Place' to be a place where people can disagree about many, many things but are in general agreement that disagreements aren't solved or resolved by appeal to the Qur'an or the Bible or the works of Marx, for that matter.

'If El Cid knows of Islamist Websites and blogs where anti-Islamist comments are not just allowed but published in large numbers, then do please let us know.

'A suggestion: 'Harry's Place' could consider creating a new Comments section, called 'The Other Place,' perhaps, where El Cid and others would be free to present their doctrines and their 'proofs' and to answer any objections. I'd hope that Islamist Websites and blogs would make similar provision for the expression of dissenting views, though. If not, why not?'

After the comment was posted, I found one Islamist Website which freely publishes comments written by anti-Islamists, the Website of the extremist Haitham Al-Haddad, www [dot] islam21 [dot] com I gave him credit for his policy in a comment of mine at 'Harry's Place,' Comment (HP): banning extremist speakers (1)

Conservative Woman and its comments sections

 the comments I've written for 'Conservative Woman.' On the page The Church of England and other Churches: Remembrance and Redemption there's a profile of someone who has often added comments to the comments sections of 'Conservative Woman,' 'Reformed Gentleman,' in the section 'Reformed Christian Gentleman and Bufo buffoon, a venomous toad.'

 I'm in no danger of overlooking the strengths of the site but for me, the faults outweigh the strengths by a wide margin and my comments make it completely clear why this is so.

I wrote an article for 'Conservative Woman' which was well received, published on January 7, 2020: https://conservativewoman.co.uk/a-would-be-labour-leader-and-the-shambolic-friends-of-palestine/  (The address of the page gives the title of the article.) I'm grateful to 'Conservative Woman' for publishing the article and grateful for the encouragement I received after the article was published - an invitation to publish further articles (in my reply, I made it clear that the usual provisions would apply - any articles I submitted could be accepted or not. 'Conservative Woman' would have exactly the same understanding. I haven't submitted any more articles for 'Conservative Woman' to consider. Already, I was very uneasy about some of the attitudes and policies which informed so many of the articles and readers' comments but my opinion wasn't based on wide acquaintance with the site - I'd only looked at the site now and again. I became a regular reader, and the site's weaknesses became impossible to ignore.  The article 'My Catholic faith, the rock on which my conservatism is built'  published on April 8 is just one example. Before that, there was an article which called on readers to defy the Coronavirus lockdown, 'Behold I stand at the door ... ' April 2. This really was an abysmal, disastrous article. I'd recommend a reading of the article and a selective reading of the comments,


This is it's concluding paragraph:

'It seems odd to be asking for an act of popular revolt through The Conservative Woman website but may I urge all Christians of whatever denomination to turn up at their church on Easter Sunday morning at 10.00 BST? Christ’s victory over death should be celebrated and affirmed. It is the most important historical event of all time. Write and tell your pastor what you intend. Many will be delighted to accede to your wishes. What do you do if the building is closed and bolted? Thump upon the wood and quote Our Lord: ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock.’ 

A L Kennedy: reviews and other material

In this section, reviews of A L Kennedy's 'Paradise' and 'What Becomes' as well as material on her book 'Day' and a range of topics.

Paradise,' review

This is a short, appreciative review.

A L Kennedy's work can be far superior to the repugnant author.  'Paradise' is a about Hannah Luckraft, a woman who qualifies as an alcoholic by any definition, even though her experiences aren't extreme.

Some of the novel is peculiar. Of parents: 'While we dream in our cots, they prowl round close at hand: partly out of love, or relief that we are quiet, but also because we may simply stop breathing at some preordained, but unknowable, point.' So far so good, except for 'preordained.' I think this is evidence for A L Kennedy's carelessness rather than any belief in determinism, of the kind which plays a prominent part in Tolstoy's 'War and Peace.'

Immediately after this, adding italics: 'Their fears for us weaken the air above our faces and do, in fact, make it tiring to inhale.' The peculiarity of 'Day,' so much in evidence there, infects this novel too, but to a far lesser extent. It's a fault, surely, the kind of individuality which a novelist can do without.

On the same page, 'So, like a good, eldest child, I worried in their place and kept watch on Simon as if he were kittens, or spun sugar.' The unexpectedness of 'spun sugar' is, again, the kind of individuality which a novelist can do without. There's no evidence that this is a significant aspect of the protagonist's disordered thinking rather than a stylistic quirk of A L Kennedy.

Novelists, like poets, can be great in spite of carelessness, wrong-headedness, stupidity. Endre Ady, the Hungarian poet, and syphilitic, sporadic alcoholic and manic-depressive, was a Calvinist but a belief in predestination was submerged in his wildness, frenzy, terrors, screams of pain.

'Their fears for us weaken the air above our faces and do, in fact, make it tiring to inhale' is very careful as well as evidence of carelessness, has strength as well as weakness. The 'do, in fact...' is pedantic phrasing, but the sentence fits very well into the novel, which is careful, carefully considered, in its expression, in the desperation of Hannah Luckraft, the protagonist. This striking linkage of desperation and carefulness can be viewed as implausible, but not to me.

I point out in the review of 'On Bullfighting' that 'too much of it is routine or worse. There's cliché...and weak phrasing that any writer with any pride should have eliminated.' So in this novel, we have, adding italics, 'Mercifully, there is no one to hand for more conversation.' But the language of this book is generally far, far stronger.

Its insights are very often superb. Non-drinkers and very light drinkers often refuse to allow heavy drinkers and alcoholics any complexity, supposing them to be inferior in all respects to themselves. They often think that heavy drinkers and alcoholics lack all discipline and are denied all pleasure. A L Kennedy is subtle and knows otherwise.

Hannah Luckraft, 'As it happens, when I lost my job, one of the points in my favour was my spotless driving.'

The pleasure she finds in bars is unexpected, to the ferocious non-drinker, who may expect bars to be hellish for the drinker as well as the complete abstainer. 'There are few things finer, I think, than being refreshed and ready and strolling into your favourite bar, your local...

'It welcomes you into the place that will never change: the booths and stools and the pictures of dead golfers - and, inexplicably, a horse - and the easy, happy curve of the bar that courteously lifts your eye to the mirror and the optics. I know people build miniature gantries in their houses, but this shouldn't be allowed: it's a terrible insult to everyone concerned. The tall gleam of charged glass, the winking ranks of spirits, the delicious confusion of lights and shades and labels, they're only perfected in a pub, a bar, on licensed premises.'

I admire this, without sharing in the least the sentiment. In general, I dislike bars, whilst thoroughly appreciating - and practising - drinking. In a similar tone of appreciation, early in the novel, there's this:

'Bushmill's, County Antrim, 700 millilitres, 40 per cent. I mean, what else do you need to know? Not that, as an additional courtesy, you don't turn it in your hands and love the rounded corners and the dapper weight and the elegant cut of the label: the black with the white and the gold, all shaped around each other to mark out an arch: a long slim doorway to somewhere else.'

Some of this is echoed in the last paragraph: 'I reach into my holdall and find the full bottle of Bushmill's undisturbed: that marvellous label: the long, slim door that leads to somewhere else.' This would have been a wonderful end to a wonderful novel. I think that the actual ending of the novel is just as wonderful: 'When Robert has finished, when he steps through, pink with scrubbing, wrapped snug in a towel, then we'll lie on a bed together and we'll talk, we'll tell each other everything. I'll ask him to bring through the glasses and then we'll begin.'

The ending '...that leads to somewhere else.' and the actual ending '...and then we'll begin.' both have {direction}, they are endings pointing beyond, endings that are intriguing, not final, endings suggesting new beginnings.

'Day,' and the fate of the bomber 'Mi Amigo.'

A L Kennedy's novel 'Day'  is about Alfred Day, a tail-gunner in a Lancaster bomber, although I give some background information and make a few comments of my own. I mention the novel only for some linkages with 'On Bullfighting.' On the back cover, a paragraph is quoted from the Guardian review by Ursula K Le Guin, 'A woman born in 1965 who writes a novel about an RAF bomber in the second world war needs a gift for bringing history alive, as well as guts and true bravado. Her picture of what war does to people burns with saeva indignatio...her narrative gift is great.' The final sentence of the review paragraph is omitted, 'Yet the book never quite worked for me.' The Guardian review is titled, 'At war with you: A L Kennedy's brave attempt at a tricksy narrative in Day fails to convince Ursula K Le Guin.'

Some extracts from this impressive review of an unimpressive book: 'The problem may be that it is all told from one point of view, and young Alfred F Day's world is both limited and incoherent...Alfie is a person deprived and damaged to the point of pathology. A pathology, told from within, may be dramatically effective, but more than 250 pages is too spacious a stage for it. Madness is presented to us as, essentially, a performance, and the author does a tremendous job of acting...' The reviewer says, in connection with the prose style, 'This constant shifting between three narrative modes, one of them highly artificial, ensures that the author's stylistic self-consciousness dominates the book.'

'At the crisis point of the novel, whether it is a matter of overcontrol or lack of control, the combination of dialect, italics, the second person, and the nonstop sentence creates an effect of mere hysteria, ending, alas, in bathos. As Day's pilot steers the half-destroyed plane towards its doom, "Yo can tell he's weary with holdin her and wants to go home and yo'd like to goo wum with him and he has such blue eyes the skipper like he's got all the morning sky inside his head."'

I think that 'Day' is written in a style which is often tangled (and uninteresting to untangle), often fake-colloquial, often with fake emotion, often almost unreadable, except with determination which is unrewarded by the end of the book. As a study of a consciousness, the novel is wearying. The better passages are written in the style with least individuality and describe action, such as this:

'The turn for home lets Alfred watch the naked city: small, straight glimmers from canals, shine of the lake, the white scatter of incendiaries as they bite, redden; thick folds of smoke like panels of night, of nothingness, and a cookie folding open, hooping itself round with shock and shock, bright and then settling into fire, more smoke. He shouldn't look, but this is Magic Night and so he does.'

Even so, this is nothing special. Read for the first time, it may well impress, but re-reading it is likely to disappoint. 'of nothingness' adds nothing, the repetition of 'with shock and shock' adds nothing. But 'the white scatter of incendiaries as they bite, redden; thick folds of smoke...' is really good, I think.

Writing the novel should have given her searing insights, which should have made untenable the pathological romanticism of 'On Bullfighting.' 'Day' was written after 'On Bullfighting' but she seems to have learned nothing in the meantime. In a Guardian article, 'Deaths in the Afternoon,' published after 'Day' and ten years after the publication of 'On Bullfighting,' she still has the mind of the typical bullfight apologist. In connection with an 11 year old killing six bulls, 'Dreams of such complexity and dark glamour...' Of Ponce and El Juli, described above, 'In 1999 Enrique Ponce was a multimillionaire, a superstar with jet-set friends. He still is. El Juli has joined him - it isn't hard to find incentives for a would-be matador to start early.' And 'the appeal of imagination's extremities, our killing dreams.'

In 'On Bullfighting,' A L Kennedy describes the matador putting on the clothes of the corrida: '...this is the moment when the matador can no longer avoid consideration of the coming afternoon's trial.' Clothing is important 'in this stylishly dangerous world...Like military men, matadors are meant to die in good order.'

The chances of a matador dying, not just in the coming afternoon's trial but in a whole career, are very small. I've written at some length on this page and my page Bullfighting: arguments against and action against about the vastly greater risk of dying in military action, almost always. Just as importantly, the vastly more common tendency of people facing these extreme risks to face them modestly, without the romanticism of bullfighters and bullfight apologists such as A L Kennedy.

I focus attention now on just one instance, the fate of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress 'Mi Amigo.' There are countless other instances. The name 'Mi amigo,' meaning 'my friend,' was suggested by the bombardier, Lt Melchor Hernandez, who was of Spanish origin. Mi Amigo took part in a raid on a heavily defended Luftwaffe airfield in northern Denmark. The plane sustained very serious damage and it crashed in a park not far from where I write, with the loss of all ten crew members, on February 22, 1944. A memorial stone marks the crash site, and there are ten oak trees, one for each crew member. They are not forgotten here. A service is held at the crash site each year on the Sunday closest to February 22.

Crews who completed twenty-five missions would return back to the United States. Some died on the first mission, some survived the twenty-five missions, but in the year before Mi Amigo was lost, the average was only fifteen missions survived. On just one raid in that year, the raid on the ball-bearing factory at Schweinfurt (a great deal of the German armaments work, including tanks and planes, depended upon ball-bearings) sixty American bombers were lost, and their six hundred crew members. Of the 15 aircraft in the 305th group, to which Mi Amigo belonged, only two returned. In the year that Mi Amigo was lost, the chances of survival were better, but still desperate. On the same day that this Flying Fortress was lost, 43 aircraft and 430 aircrew were lost also.

David Harvey's book on the subject, 'Mi Amigo: The Story of Sheffield's Flying Fortress' can be warmly recommend. From the book:

'The Focke Wulf 190s continued their attack on the formation of B-17s and Mi Amigo was singled out for attack...Mi Amigo was seen by other B-17s to take heavy damage, in particular to the engines...Mi Amigo approached the city of Sheffield and, as she flew low over the city, many people heard and saw the aircraft in a distressed state. Engines misfiring, firing...Suddenly, one of the engines died and Mi Amigo plunged into the hillside of Endcliffe Park. The B-17 tore into the trees. The large tail section was ripped from the main fuselage, the wings folded and collapsed.'

'In an instant, fire broke out and ignited the remaining aviation fuel on board.' Attempts were made to rescue the trapped crew but it was impossible. And David Harvey writes, '...on a cold February afternoon in 1944, ten young American airmen, thousands of miles away from their homes, died whilst fighting a cause they believed to be right.'

The pilot of the plane, Lt. John G Kriegshauser, had worked in the warehouse at the Continental Shoe Factory. He liked playing softball with his brother and friends. He had a great interest in his 1936 Ford Sedan. He was a very ordinary man, but, like his other crew members, an extraordinary man as well. He left a letter to be sent to his parents if he should fail to return, in which he mentions laying down his life for a cause he believed was just and right.' I quote it in its entirety, for its dignity and its quiet and unassuming courage, recognizing the extreme dangers he faced but completely devoid of posturing, histrionics or romanticism:

'This is a letter I hope is never mailed. This letter isn't meant to be the final word from me, nor is it meant to build up false hope that I am still alive.

'I am writing to let you know the various things that may take place. Should my ship be shot down, you would receive a telegram from the War Department, probably stating 'Your son has been reported missing in action'. This isn't the final word, but it does mean I've failed to return from a raid and as yet, no definite word can be given to you as to whether I've been killed or whether I've managed to get out of the ship.

'If you should receive such a telegram, don't give me up as lost as it is very possible I am a prisoner of war, or that I've escaped capture and am escaping through France or possibly my ship was in such condition I was able to fly it over to some neutral country and am now interned in the country until the end of the war.

'Should the final word come through 'killed in action', then there isn't much sense in having any false hopes because the telegram is the final word. If I am killed in action I want you, my folks, to know I couldn't have had better parents - parents who have constantly, throughout my span of life, done everything to make my life as full as humanly possible. I'm deeply grateful for every effort on your part and I'm sorry I didn't have the chance to repay you both in some small manner.

'May God watch over you and protect you, and some day repay you for all the sacrifices you have made for me. As for Peg, I don't intend to write a letter of farewell but I do wish you would notify her of any telegrams you receive. Peg was the only girl I ever really loved and someday, as soon as possible, I had hopes of making her my wife.

'My final word is that I'm glad to have been able to lay down my life for a cause which I believed was just and right.'

Fighting to end Nazism was surely a cause which was just and right. From the General Glossary of this site, where, in connection with my concept of limitation I give this brief comment on war: 'War is one of the most terrible of evils. Pacifists refuse to practise limitation but limitation is surely essential: to do everything possible to avoid war but to go to war when (and only when) it's the lesser of two evils. The most compelling case is, surely, the Second World War. The work of the extermination camps couldn't be halted by reason and argument but only by force of arms. An absolutist opposition to the arms trade would have been a fatal error. Bertrand Russell was a pacifist during the First World War but applied limitation, in effect, and supported the allied cause during the Second World War.'

The names of the crew are recorded on the memorial stone. David Harvey gives interesting information about each of them and their roles, and the dangers and discomforts they faced. For example, 'The gunner inside the ball turret had an extremely vulnerable position. It was not for the claustrophobic.' Randall Jarrell's wrote a well-known poem about the death of a bull turret gunner. Of the tail gunner, 'German fighters would attack the B-17s from the rear trying to take out the tail gunner before shooting at the engines.'

Lt John Kriegshauser (Missouri) - pilot
2nd Lt Lyle Curtis (Idaho) - co-pilot
2nd Lt John Humphrey (Illinois) - navigator
2nd Lt Melchor Hernandez (California) - bombardier
S/Sgt Harry Estabrooks (Kansas) - engineer and top-turret gunner
Sgt Charles Tuttle (Kentucky) - ball-turret gunner
S/Sgt Robert Mayfield (Illinois) - radio operator
Sgt Vito Ambrosio (New York) - right waist gunner
M/Sgt G. Malcolm Williams (Oklahoma) - left waist gunner
Sgt Maurice Robbins (Texas) - tail gunner

'What Becomes'

My first readings of the pieces which make up 'What Becomes' were overwhelmingly favourable, the second readings less so. In the first readings, fresh and inventive wording attracted attention, in the second readings the instances of flat and routine wording began to attract attention. Some of the instances of fresh and inventive wording began to seem less impressive, but what still seemed fresh and inventive seemed page-bound in some instances: the characters, the scene and the rest didn't emerge sufficiently from the page, to take on an independent life. A L Kennedy is sometimes stronger in effect than in affect. The emotional life of these stories is sometimes quite thin. But overall, these are very, very impressive pieces.

The bleakness which has been found in the stories doesn't go very deep. Many, many veterans of the bombing campaign of the Second World War have written far bleaker, far more disturbing accounts of the campaign than are to be found in A L Kennedy's 'Day.' Although Hannah, in A L Kennedy's 'Paradise,' is a heavy drinker, she's nowhere near rock bottom. The comparison with the much bleaker world of 'The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant,' in Fassbinder's film, is instructive. None of the stories in 'What Becomes' is searing in its bleakness. The playfulness, the high spirits, the joie de vivre, the cheerfulness, even, which are to be found in the stories have sometimes been overlooked. A L Kennedy is a very versatile writer, but not a guide to voids, chasms, gulfs, crushing disappointments and tragedies.

From Andrea Gillies' 'World Beer Guide,' the Chapter 'How to Taste Beer:'

'Some beers, especially canned ones, taste exactly the same all the way through. The flavour you get when the beer first hits your tongue is the same as the one you get 'in the middle' of the sip, and in the 'finish'. In the case of many cheaply made beers it's likely that the flavour, such as it is, will die away completely by the time the finish should have arrived, and that the 'aftertaste' will be slightly unpleasant ... Structure is vital to a successful beer ... Complexity is vital to the satisfaction rating of a fine beer ... Typically, a complex beer will have not just various strands of flavour chiming in all at once, like a musical chord, but flavours that are introduced at one point of the tasting process and then recede ... Some beers come up with surprising new flavours that were not predicted in anything that's come before, and just occasionally produce something really wild and wacky ...The most important question to ask of a beer is 'Do I like this, and do I want some more?' There's precious little point ploughing on with a beer you just don't like, no matter how great its international status. But it's also important to attempt a little objectivity, and separate out the question 'Do I like this?' from the quite independent question, 'Does this beer achieve what it sets out to do - is it good at being what it wants to be?'

The contrasts with the appreciation and criticism of prose fiction writing such as 'What Becomes' are important, but so too are the linkages.

The first response to prose writing comes with the first reading, which shouldn't be the only reading. In the case of very difficult writing, such as some poetry and technical writing, further readings may be needed just to understand what's read. In the case of most prose fiction (but not works such as 'Finnegans Wake') this is unnecessary. Further readings are needed to correct initial misconceptions, to bring to consciousness hidden complexities, for a variety of other reasons. Some works are very quickly exhausted, and it's clear by the second reading that further readings aren't likely to be very profitable. But strong feelings shouldn't, in general, be granted exemption. There are many reasons why a reader doesn't appreciate a particular piece of writing, including stupidity, severe limitations of one kind or another, the unprecedented complexity and originality of the writing, very different from the writing the reader is used to. But favourable as well as unfavourable impressions, at the first reading or after many readings, have to be examined carefully and sceptically.

A L Kennedy in person

'An evening with A L Kennedy,' an event at a literary festival I attended, was an incomplete delight. She's self-deprecating, almost self-effacing, but has very great presence, impressive in her professionalism but with the enthusiasm of an amateur, a degree of seriousness conveyed with a light touch. For once, the person can give an enhanced appreciation of the writing - it's easier to appreciate the individuality, amounting almost to uniqueness, of the writing, after hearing her in person. I regretted more than ever her disastrous excursion into the world of the bullfight. The evening gave one facet of her personality, the book on bullfighting a very different one, vastly less attractive, chilling and hideous.


A L Kennedy isn't childish, but her Web site, www.a-l-kennedy.co.uk used to have a childish - and not harmlessly childish - section in which readers are invited to ponder what the 'A L' in 'A L Kennedy' stands for, and even to vote, if they've nothing better to do with their time and if they've no objection to the 'infantilization' of culture. From the Web site:

A L stands for:
Almond Ladybits
Aural Lollypop
Always Loopy
Angry Lithuanians'

(It's safe to assume that 'A L' doesn't stand for 'Animal Lover.')

The results were:

A L stands for:
Almond Ladybits
75 34.6%
Angry Lithuanians
61 28.1%
Aural Lollypop
50 23%
Always Loopy
26 12%

So far, then, more than a third of voters have gone for 'Almond Ladybits.' It's very surprising that most of the readers didn't vote for 'Always Loopy,' asked to participate in such a fatuous exercise. The use of sarcastic names is sometimes demeaning and unjust, sometimes healthy - they help to deter stupidity and worse. A L Kennedy deserves some ridicule. She's been very helpful and has provided the names herself for that purpose, but I've resisted the tendency to use the names sarcastically.

A L Kennedy and the British army

In her Guardian article 'Deaths in the Afternoons,' A L Kennedy writes that she lives in a culture different from the Spanish culture of bullfighting. She goes on to make strong criticisms of her Scottish - or British - culture. She says that she lives in a culture 'that finds young boxers admirable, one where boys watch soldiers parade, watch gang members posture.' This is surely so confused as to amount to idiocy. This culture has incomparably less interest in boxing than Spanish 'culture' has in bullfighting. Boxers, like, bullfighters, freely choose to go into the ring, but if the boxing ring is degrading at all, it's vastly less degrading than the bullfight ring. Only in the bull-ring are there living creatures, the horses and bulls, who are forced to be there, and the suffering inflicted is incomparably worse, to the horses as well as the bulls, but in almost every case leading to the death of the bulls.

The equation of the soldiers of a democracy and gang members is disturbing. A democracy needs a police force to deal with internal threats, such as violent gang members armed with knives and guns. Sometimes, forceful action has to be used against the gang members, occasionally ending in the death of the gang member.

A democratic country of any size can no more dispense with armed forces than with a police force. It needs armed forces to deal with actual threats or potential threats from outside the country. A predecessor of A L Kennedy writing in the early 1930's who made this facile comparison between soldiers and gang members would have had to recognize within less than a decade, if they had had a particle of good sense (I'm not sure that A L Kennedy has this modest endowment, at least in considerations of national defence) that good-will had failed, appeasement had failed, now that the Germans had invaded Czechoslovakia, Poland, Holland, Belgium and France, that soldiers, sailors and airmen had to defend the country by force of arms, or see this country invaded too, with the loss of freedom, the imposition of Nazism and the extermination of British Jews.

When British soldiers march after completing their dangerous tours of duty in Afghanistan, fighting the unspeakable Taliban, when they march at the funerals of those who have been killed in Afghanistan, is A L Kennedy suggesting that they should be equated with gang members?

See also my discussion of Fran Brearton's comment about the 'emasculation' of British soldiers.

Baudelaire's poem The Albatross is about the plight of the poet, who soars in poetry and is clumsy in the everyday life of the world.

Hardly have they put them on the planks
than these kings of the blue sky, clumsy, ashamed,
let their great white wings pathetically
drag besides themselves like oars.

This winged voyager, how clumsy and weak!
The one so beautiful before, how hilarious, hideous!
One man teases his beak with a pipe,
another mimes, limping, the cripple who flew!

The poet is like the prince of the clouds
who haunts the storm and laughs at archers;
exiled on earth amidst jeers,
his giant's wings prevent him from walking.

A L Kennedy blunders in these comments about soldiers but soars when she touches upon soldiers in her art. 'As God Made Us,' in the collection of short stories 'What Becomes,' is remarkable. A group of Scots men is preparing to have a good time: 'For this Gathering they'll do the usual: swimming in the morning and then a big lunch and then getting pissed and then going back to Gobbler's place, because this was his turn, and eating all his scran and some carry-out and then watching DVDs of their films and getting more pissed and maybe some porn and maybe not.'

They go to the baths, with a constant stream of banter and invective, and suddenly, the astonishing 'Gobbler ... removes his foot before swimming.' All these men are amputees. They are disabled ex-soldiers. A teacher with a school party objects to them: ' ... it isn't your fault, but you must see that you're disturbing.' And, 'There must be places you can go to where you'd be more comfortable.' 'And the lads don't speak.' These ex-squaddies have the sensitivity of so many coarse people, the teacher has the insensitivity of so many of the genteel.

Oxford University Press: Framework Science

Introduction to the world of the authors
Wrong information, or misleading information
Activities that don't work
Over-complexity of language
A mania for definitions
Over-emphasis upon the history of science
Summing up
The achievement of Oxford University Press

Introduction to the world of the authors

The Framework Science Teachers' Guides may well be the worst books ever published by Oxford University Press. They're littered with factual mistakes, full of futile and deadening activities, so deeply flawed that no amount of revision could realistically resuscitate them. They're completely beyond hope. But see the section 'The achievement of Oxford University Press.'

There are teaching materials for years 7, 8 and 9. Teachers are provided with two massive, heavy volumes for each year, one of the two being the Teacher's Guide. Who are the authors?

Framework Science 7 Teachers' Guide No authors listed on the cover or anywhere else, although the Introduction reassures us that 'The lesson plan authors are all teachers and consultants for the Key Stage 3 Science Strategy. They have used their in-depth knowledge to create a teachers' guide that will enable a department to meet the outcomes of the Science Strategies CPD training related to teaching and learning.'
Framework Science 8 Teachers' Guide by Sarah Jagger and Damien Rowe (I salute the courage of Oxford University Press in daring to print the names of the authors, and the courage of the authors in daring to be named.)
Framework Science 9 Teachers' Guide by Sarah Jagger, Damien Rowe and Samantha Vickers (whose courage I also salute.)

By the way, each of these books is described as a 'Teachers' Guide' on the volume itself, but Oxford University Press is vague about the the placing of the apostrophe. On the Web site of 'Oxford Education,' on the page http://www.oup.com/oxed/secondary/science/fws
the description is 'Teacher's Guide' and 'Teacher's Book.' In the review which appeared in the Times Educational Supplement (30 May 2003), the title is given as 'Teacher Guide.'

First of all, to introduce the world of the authors, and their complete indifference to the important concept of differentiation in education, a couple of questions (and perhaps you could commit yourself to an answer.)

(1) Define the term 'evaluation.'

(2) Define the term 'laterally inverted.' [in the context of light.]

Perhaps you've been able to define these terms straight away, without any problem at all. If so, do try and enter into the mind of a 7th year pupil (age: 12 or so) who is expected by Framework Science to be able to define 'evaluation,' (together with 'input variable,' by the way.) And try and enter into the world of the 8th year pupil (age 13 or so) who is expected to give a definition of 'laterally inverted.' These are homework questions in Framework Science, and for the full ability range - for pupils whose reading age may be years below their chronological age, for pupils who find abstract words difficult, all but the simplest words difficult. The first question comes from the sheet 7I.h.6A (A is for 'all,' for the full ability range) and the second from the sheet 8K.c.3A (again, the A is for 'all.') By the way, the authors don't believe in supplying inverted commas, generally - the inverted commas for 'evaluation' are mine - but now and again, as in sheet 8K.c.3A, they do give them.

The idea of 'differentiation' in education, which involves the notion that questions shouldn't be flung at pupils completely unready or unable to make any sense of them, never seems to enter the heads of the authors, after they've paid obligatory lip service to the theme in their introduction (an inert and deadening piece of prose whose main virtue is that it avoids the forced and completely unconvincing jollity of so much in the main teaching scheme.) It should be obvious to anybody that they have no idea how to enter into the world of a pupil for whom science is a desperately difficult area.

Now an activity. This gem is from Framework Science 8E.e.

Pupils are asked 'to write a poem about either atoms, elements, compounds, mixtures or molecules.' Wait a moment, this isn't a very good use of 'either...or,' is it?

'The first line should have one word and name the scientific idea concerned.
The second line should have two words and describe what the first line means.
The third line should have three words and say what the first line does.
The fourth line should have four words and say how the writer feels about the first line.
The fifth line should rename the first line in a single word.'

If this mystifies you, or the average 12 year old, or an exceptionally gifted 12 year old, then an example of such a 'poem' is helpfully provided. (You see, Oxford University Press abandoned poetry publishing but it still publishes poems - it's just that they're part of other books now! So no need to worry.) As for the poem - wait for it:

Chemical change
Makes new substances
Fizz for frothy foam

If 'Fizz for frothy foam' is how this particular writer 'feels about the first line,' 'Reaction,' then the writer's feelings may perhaps need to be examined very carefully, preferably by someone with professional qualifications.

There are more of these futile exercises scattered around the pages of Framework Science. To give just one more example, pupils have to write a poem about either photosynthesis or biomass. A poem about biomass! And literary people think that didactic poems (like Vergil's poem about bee-keeping) are an obsolete form! A 'poem' of the authors is helpfully provided once more:

Downward force
Acting on me
Is measured in newtons

So 'Changes' is renaming 'Weight.' Even with imaginative licence...no.`

The scientific factual errors in these volumes are shameful enough, but the authors' general knowledge seems just as limited. Framework Science asks pupils to explain why limestone is 'unsuitable' as a building material. This would have been a surprise to the builders of the Cotswold villages, of so many buildings in Bath - and in Oxford itself, where these misbegotten volumes originated. The builders of King's College Cambridge thought it worthwhile to bring limestone from as far away as Yorkshire in the first phase of building and later, limestone from other quarries was used. This 'unsuitable' building material has been used for so many wonderful examples of both vernacular architecture and architecture which is more ambitious, including some of the greatest buildings in the country.

Inaccurate or misleading information

I've already mentioned the authors' claim that limestone is an 'unsuitable' building material. There are so many other mistakes in the books that I'm reminded of 'The Hackenthorpe Book of Lies,' publicized in 'The Brand New Monty Python Bok' and 'a thorough and exhaustive source of misleading and untruthful information.' It contains these 'totally inaccurate facts:'

  • Did you know that the reason why windows steam up in cold weather is because of all the fish in the atmosphere?

  • Did you know that Milton was a woman?

  • Did you know that the highest point in the world is only 8 foot?

Some inaccurate and misleading  information from Framework Science:

(1) In the Framework Science 9th year textbook by Paddy Gannon, the potato is described as the 'root' of the plant. (Page 45.) The potato tuber is a fleshy, underground stem, a modified stem, not a root.

(2) 8K.f.1. Activity on 'Newton and light.'

"Why did Newton think that light consisted of moving particles and not waves, as was traditionally thought?
How was he later proved to be wrong?"

I won't discuss the use of 'proved' here. This isn't the place for a discussion of Popper, the philosopher of science, and falsification (but I'd commend to the authors a close study of Popper's 'The Logic of Scientific Discovery.') How can they have written such rubbish? Some experiments on light can only be explained with a wave model of light, e.g., experiments on diffraction. Other experiments on light can only be explained with a particle model of light, e.g. the photo-electric effect. A single model can't explain observations made in different experiments. This is the Complementarity Principle first put forward by Niels Bohr in 1927.

(3) Overhead transparency 9L.c.1 on 'A hydraulic system' contains more blunders. How can the authors not know that the unit of pressure called the pascal is the newton per square metre, not the newton per square cm? The unit is written as 'Pascals' in 'Framework Science' but all scientific units in the standard SI system should be written with the first letter in lower-case, even if the unit is named after a person (in this case 'Blaise Pascal.') The authors always write 'newton,' not 'Newton.' In this case, they actually get it right. Any teacher using Framework Science is vulnerable, is liable to be made to look a fool. There may be pupils in the class who can detect these blunders and others, and the teacher may well be blamed for having such poor teaching materials.

The authors seem to have a problem with units. 9B.g.2 'What does caffeine do?' is about reaction time. A standard experiment: a ruler is allowed to fall and is caught. The number of centimetres it fell before it was caught is recorded. But then comes the mysterious instruction (No. 4 in the method section): 'Repeat the procedure three times and then calculate your 'mean' reaction time.' What has been measured is a distance. How is the pupil supposed to calculate a time? The sheet offers no help at all. In fact, the pupil has to use an equation of motion which relates s, distance fallen, a, the acceleration due to gravity, and t, the time taken.

And still more: 7H.b.1 and 7H.b.2 seem designed to increase the confusion in so many pupils as to the difference between 'mass' and 'weight.' On the left hand page, 'Rock salt challenge' we have the loose, not-to-be-imitated use of 'weight:' 'Take your weighed sample of rock salt...' and 'weigh an evaporating basin' and 'Re-weigh the evaporating basin.' On the right hand page, 'Class record sheet' we have the correct 'Mass of crucible,' 'Mass of crucible + salt' and 'Mass of salt.' The authors who wrote this scheme don't seem to have talked to each other as often as they should.


What are we to make of the suggestion in 7H.b that students should perhaps 'email the report [about separating salt from rock] to you as an attachment?' This has all the hallmarks of a self-consciously 'creative' idea. But teachers should never give out an email address to students. Teaching unions make that quite clear.

(4) Activity 7A.a.1. The nucleus in a diagram of a cell is correctly labelled (the authors do get some things right) but the nucleus is described as the 'brain' of the cell. Later, the unfortunates who study Framework Science will be sitting SATS exams and GCSE exams, and they'll find that if they describe the nucleus as the 'brain' of the cell they won't get a mark. 'The nucleus controls the activities of the cell' does get a mark, and it's almost as easy to remember.

(5) 7B.a.2, a sheet on animal reproduction. "Squirrels belong to the mammal family" This should make any Biologist wince. The groups used in the classification of living things - the 'ranks' - are: species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, kingdom, and, most recently added, domain. The mammals aren't a 'family' of the phylum 'chordata' but a 'class.' The phrase 'Squirrels belong to the class mammals' or 'Squirrels belong to the group mammals' would have been just as easy to understand and would have been accurate.

(6) 7F.c.4M Homework sheet on reacting acids with carbonates: 'The fact that marble, chalk and limestone all contain calcium carbonate is a problem. Explain why and give examples.' A question that would mystify the average 12 year old (or the average adult.) There are countless other examples in Framework Science. Of course, it's not true that marble, chalk and limestone contain calcium carbonate - they're all forms of calcium carbonate.

(7) 7I.g.2A, a homework sheet: 'Why are we very unlikely to ever use geothermal energy in this country?' As a matter of fact, geothermal energy has been used in this country for a considerable time, even if not on a large scale.

(8) The confusion between 'number of...' and 'rate' or 'frequency.' 9B.i.1. This is a so-called 'Teacher statement.' The teacher is expected to announce (point No. 8) that 'The number of people suffering from heart disease has greatly increased since the 1920's.' Wait one moment - hasn't the population increased since then? Even if there hadn't been any increase at all in the rate of heart disease per 100 000 people, the number of people suffering from heart disease would have increased.

Similarly, the nutritional information on sheet 8A.d.2, which tells us that apples contain '200kJ of energy, 0.5g of protein' and the rest, is meaningless unless the vital information is also given (and it isn't given in the scheme): these are per 100g. Apples contain protein but to claim that they contain energy is misleading.

(9) 7G.d.1 'In a solid the particles...are tightly packed in a regular way.' Not true of amorphous solids. 'In a gas the particles are a lot further apart [than in a liquid] and move quickly in any direction. There are no forces of attraction between them.' This statement is also untrue. There are forces of attraction between the particles but their high kinetic energy overcomes these forces.

(10) The teacher should be able to rely upon the accuracy of the answers in the Assessment Packs to the test questions. Don't rely on it. The Level 5 Question in the 'Acids and Alkalis' test asks, 'A solution turns Universal Indicator purple. What is the probable pH of the solution? The answer given is D, pH 4. The correct answer is C, pH9.

(11) And mistakes which aren't scientifically momentous, but which show the carelessness of the authors (and their editors) for example, 9E.e.1, 'Nitric acid has the formulae...' instead of 'Nitric acid has the formula...' Time after time, teachers will find that pupils give the spelling 'dependant' instead of 'dependent,' as in 'dependent variables.'

'Framework Science' likewise! 9I,d.1, 'Planning webs 1,' makes the same mistake, a mistake repeated in 'Planning webs 2.' Both are in large text sizes, in very prominent positions.

(12) Yet more carelessness in the Introduction Section 'Ideas and evidence' 8th year and 9th year books (Page xiii): 'The National Curriculum for science at Key Stage 3 states that pupils should be taught about the interplay between imperial evidence and scientific experimentation, using historical and contemporary examples.' For 'imperial' presumably read 'empirical.'

(13) 8.bF.a.2 would have us believe that methane is a 'smelly gas used by Bunsen burners.' In fact, methane is an odourless gas. The natural gas used by Bunsen burners is 90% methane. The smell is provided by a different compound.

(14) Sheet 8D.a.5 on the work of Linnaeus is hopeless. Within the space of a few lines, we're told that 'He called the smallest group a genus' and that 'Species are the smallest unit in Carl Linnaeus' system.'

(15) When the authors do give the pupils information about the history of science, the information is as unreliable as anything else in this scheme. So, in 9J.e.2, 'Copernicus's model.' We're informed that 'Copernicus believed that the Sun is at the centre of the solar system. Other scientists didn't believe him. His work was banned and he was arrested.'

The authors tend to use 'believe,' as if important new scientific theories are a matter of 'belief' at all. (Another example is 8E.c.2 'Other scientists began to believe Mendeleev's work when the element germanium was discovered.') Like their misuse of the word 'prove,' this is evidence that their view of science is radically misguided.

Copernicus's work proposing the heliocentric (sun-centred) solar system was published in 1543. Copernicus died in the same year - before he could be arrested at all.  I doubt if the authors are confusing Copernicus with one of his followers, the Carmelite father Paolo Antonio Foscarini, who was  arrested. I presume that the authors are confusing Copernicus with Galileo.

In 1633, Galileo was ordered to stand trial for heresy. He was found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment. The sentence was commuted to house arrest, which lasted for the remainder of his life.

Activities that don't work

(1) The teacher is asked to show Overhead Transparency '8B.b.1' to the class and to use it 'to explain how respiration takes place in cells.' 'Also explain that respiration with oxygen is called aerobic respiration.' And what do we find on sheet 8B.b.1? Something just a little bit unexpected. The words 'Menstrual cycle' in massive bold print, arranged in a circle! Underneath it, a cartoon of a parachutist, with the word 'Gravity,' also in massive bold print. That's it! Of all the unlikely linkages, the linkage between 'aerobic respiration' on the one hand and the 'Menstrual Cycle' and 'Gravity' on the other must be amongst the most unlikely. The authors and their editors, then, saw the conjunction of the 'Menstrual Cycle' and 'Gravity' on one and the same sheet, in a section on 'Respiration' - and didn't find anything amiss.

And more: this sheet is described at the lower right hand side as '8B.b.2,' although it's described at top left as '8B.b.1.' '8B.b.2' is correct, since the previous sheet, which shows transfer of substances into and out of a cell, is described as '8B.b.1,' (and at both the top and bottom of the sheet.)

(2) 7B.a 'Give students a piece of paper and ask them to write down 20 'cheeky words' ... These are the words they know for parts of the anatomy. Collect in the words and read out a few carefully chosen ones. Explain that these are not the scientific words and that from now on they are not to use them in class; they should use the scientific words that you are going to teach them.' This activity is allotted 20 minutes of precious teaching time.

The teacher may have a class of well brought up young things who would find it difficult to summon up the courage to write down 'bum,' let alone more risky words. If so, parents may well be on the phone to complain about the lesson the next day. Alternatively, the teacher may have pupils who are amazed that they've actually been given the chance to use in class the words they hear and use so often - and who'll keep repeating the words in future lessons, making the teacher's life hell. In short, to use a cliché: this activity is a recipe for disaster.

(3) 7A.d.2. Filling in a results table to described specialized cells: five columns to be filled in, with five rows. Each of the 25 spaces measures just 4.5cm x 2.7cm - much too small for the average pupil's handwriting, which is often large and ungainly. Two of the columns ask for identical information: the second column, 'Structure (what does it look like?)' and the fifth, 'What does it look like?' The authors and their editors don't seem to have realized this.

(4) 9C.e.4. 'What is in plant products?' 'For each of the plant products ...decide which food substances it contains.' The columns are headed 'contains cellulose, contains fats, contains proteins, contains starches, contains sugars.' The plant products are 'cotton, rice, potatoes, splints, perfume, corn oil, textured vegetable protein, paper.' That word 'decide.' It's fundamental that scientific problems aren't decided by thinking about them, but by carrying out observations or experiments. Nearly all pupils (and perhaps nearly all teachers - but I hope not) are likely to 'decide' that potatoes contain starch but not protein and it seems very, very likely that this is what the authors believe too. If so, they're making a mistake. W. G. Burton's academic book 'The Potato' (Third Edition, Page 371-375) gives full information about the protein content of potatoes. "The daily requirement [for protein] of a 70kg adult would be met, on average, by the consumption of some 2kg potatoes." The pupil is in no position to fill in the table at all, and filling in the table is a non-scientific, an anti-scientific activity.

(5) 7E.d.1, 'True or false?' is a similar activity. 'Ask students to identify whether they think the statements are true or false by putting their thumbs up for true and down for false. They should put their thumbs up/down straight away, not wait to see what others do. After each question ask one student to explain their reasoning before confirming the correct answer.' Straight away? That means with no time for thought? Not that thought is the way to decide the answer. When the teacher reads out No. 4. 'Bleach is alkaline' then, given the fact that pupils haven't been given the chance to test the pH of bleach and that bleach hasn't been mentioned in the teaching scheme until now, then any pupils who called out 'How should we be expected to know?' should be rewarded for their insight into scientific method. Statement 17, 'Lemon juice contains citric acid' is another case where the proper answer is 'How should we be expected to know?' 7E.a mentions in passing that oranges contain citric acid but to remember this information, to make the inference that if oranges contain citric acid lemons do too (and we don't decide scientific questions by making these inferences) and then to put the thumb up or down - to do all this more or less instantly is asking quite a lot. What about statement 18? 'A common acid is sodium hydroxide. It has the formula NaOH.' This is partly true and partly false. The formula is correct but sodium hydroxide isn't an acid. This is going to cause no end of confusion. This is the polite way of putting it. There are far less polite ways of reacting to such a basic, elementary error. The pupils are even expected to know a lot about the history of brewing as well as the history of the pH scale. Statement 15 is 'The pH scale was designed to control beer manufacture.' Not the slightest information about such things anywhere in the scheme.

(6) Activity 9B.i.4, 9B.i.5, 'Diamond rank cards.' 'Pupils have to rank the cards from the most important to the least important and explain the reasons for their decisions. The cards include Lister (development of antiseptics), Pasteur (multiple contributions to science), Jenner (vaccination), Fleming (antibiotics). Not so much a difficult as an impossible task, or at least an unrealistic task. Explaining the reasons...this constant, impossible demand that pupils should have a very sophisticated grasp of language. A scientist could make a major discovery and yet find it very difficult to explain how this discovery compares with other discoveries. Great scientists may be supremely gifted in their own field, amazingly inarticulate, surprisingly limited outside it, such as the field of verbal explanations.

(7) A snappy starter makes the mistake of testing the knowledge of pupils in the first lesson of a topic, before they've been taught anything about the topic at all! (A mistake which is often repeated.) The pupils are given cards with terms and cards with definitions and they have to match them up. They have to define, amongst other things, 'porous,' 'non-porous,' 'interlocking,' 'sedimentation.'

(8) The authors often prefer paper-based activities to experiments. In the whole of section 8E, 'Atoms and elements,' a section which lends itself to a wealth of interesting experiments, there's only one class experiment, 8E.e.3, 'Investigating iron and sulphur,' apart from a dull experiment on heating copper, which takes only a few minutes. Truly, pupils in the fifties (or forties, or thirties...) of the last century were given a more interesting time than pupils who have to study this section of 'Framework Science.' The teacher can make the topic come alive, but with no thanks to 'Framework Science,' and it will need a lot of extra work.

Over-complexity of language

8D.b.2 This sheet on 'Classifying plants' informs the youngster that conifers, ferns and flowering plants 'have a vascular system,' something which isn't explained.

7B.g.3A and 7B.g.3B are overhead projector transparencies, which show curves that would tax the understanding of a good 11th year pupil, and have headings which include the words 'stature-for-age and weight-for-age percentiles.'

7E.b.7A. This homework sheet is yet more bad news for the poor downtrodden 7th year who's not a star in the academic firmament. Yet again, it's designed (although 'designed' may not be the best word to use) for all pupils, not just the most able: 'In 1995, a survey revealed that 42% of UK trees were healthy, 45% were slightly defoliated...' 'Slightly defoliated!' Why not 'had lost some of their leaves?' The bemused or bored or alienated pupil is also told that 'Freshwater acidification is a serious problem in susceptible parts of the UK.'

8H.a.4. Teacher's statement sheet. Let's be realistic. Not every class is perfectly behaved. Not every class is perfectly quiet. Now, try to imagine the teacher reading out each of these statements, in such circumstances (a selection from the ten statements in the scheme) and asking whether the statement is true or false. The pupils are given 'a few seconds thinking time.' (My emphasis.) Not quite long enough, I'd say:

'1. There are ten types of weathering. (If pupils call out, after 'a few seconds thinking time,' that they can only think of nine, then the teacher doesn't have the more demanding kind of class mentioned above.)
5. Fossil fuels are never found in sedimentary rocks.
7. Sedimentary rocks are impervious.
8. Each layer of sedimentary rock can be made up of a different combination of minerals.
9. Compaction is the movement of sediment by water.'

Commit yourself to an answer for each of these: true or false? Only a few seconds thinking time allowed! Well, true or false? The answers: 1 is false, 5 is false, 7 is false, 8 is true, 9 is false. Oh, I forgot to stress the fact that this exercise comes in the first lesson of the topic 'The Rock Cycle,' before the teacher has had the chance to give very much in the way of explanation.

Throughout the 8th and 9th year scheme, there are sections called 'Pupil-speak.' For some reason, these sections for the younger 7th year pupils are called 'Student-speak.' Each of these is supposed to be 'a pupil-friendly statement that clearly outlines the teacher's expectations.' So how do pupils (or students) speak, according to the authors? 7K.b has explaining 'the effect of matter on the weight of an object.' 7K.c has explaining 'the effect of force on elastic materials.' Pupil-speak 9F.g has the task 'to identify how you measure reactivity quantitatively [!] and which variables need to be controlled.' Pupil-speak for 9H.b demands the ability 'to explain how the relative positions of metals in the reactivity series affect the amount of energy produced when they react.'

The authors seem to have strange ideas about how pupils speak and what they speak about. The 'Expectations' section of 9K.b has the expectation that 'some pupils will be able to use the definition of speed in calculations and conversation.' (My emphasis.)

Even the making of a simple poster is fraught with difficulties for the mystified/puzzled/understandably worried/even understandably hostile pupil. In activity 9D.g, 'Reviewing work' [on 'Plants for food'] pupils have to produce posters and then the posters are judged using no less than six. 'class-agreed success criteria.' Posters have to be given a mark out of ten against each 'success criterion.' This being Foundation Science, the marks are also accompanied by 'Reasons for Judgments.' Pity the poor underachieving boy or girl who is struggling in Foundation Science, who completely fails to understand the impenetrable language of Foundation Science, but who makes a real attempt to produce a nice poster, who puts a lot of work into the colouring, who does give useful information in the poster - and then the poster gets low marks for the 'success criteria.' This activity is liable to lead to such a crushing of confidence, or hostility to the pupils who drew up the success criteria, that it can't be criticized too severely.

Perhaps it's not appropriate to include here the many sheets of 'Jumbled words' and 'Anagrams,' but I will. Most of the jumbled words have a strange look, as if written in some ancient version of Finnish. So, sheet 7B.f.1, in the section on growth charts, has 'vanooluit, trainstemuno, tearsiniolitf, pillanofa bute, canpatel, tinicami liduf.' Can you decipher these? Do you think you could have done when you were twelve years old?

A mania for definitions

Asking for definitions is the subject of countless homework questions. For example:

7J.b.6M Question 1: Write definitions for the following words:

filament bulb

After asking for a definition once, the authors may go on to ask for it all over again. Take 9I.b.5A, Question 4, 'Define voltage.' The authors seem anxious that there should be no doubt at all that the pupil knows how to define 'voltage.' A short time later, in the homework question sheet 9I.d.3A we have (Question 1), 'Define the following:

a energy transfers
b voltage [yet again]
c voltmeter
d current'

8C.a.5A, Question 1. Define the following terms:

  • Bacteria
  • fungi
  • Viruses

7H.a.3A. For each of the following words write a definition:

separation techniques

This is the homework for all pupils of all abilities for the first lesson of this topic! For pupils who may have a reading age of 7 or 8! In this first lesson, these kids will have been gathered around the front and presented 'with a selection of liquids, e.g. distilled water or deionized water, seawater, a suspension of chalk in water, ethanol...copper sulphate solution...' and then set a challenge. Yes, the word 'challenge' is apt enough. They're asked 'to devise techniques, e.g. filtration, evaporation to dryness, etc., to find out whether one of the samples is a mixture or not.'

And another example of this mechanical exercise (8L.g.2A). Question 1. Define the following words:

  • Amplitude

  • Sound intensity

  • Pitch

  • Noise pollution

This is followed almost immediately by the deeply mysterious Question 3 (wording exactly as in the original, question mark as in the original): 'Explain in as much detail as possible why battle scenes in space on films are often scientifically incorrect?'

And more: 7I.a.3A Define the word fuel. And still more: 7K.h.4A Define the word speed. (Lack of inverted commas as in the original.) What do the authors want for 'speed?' 'A scalar measure of the rate of movement of a body expressed either as the distance travelled divide by the time taken (average speed) or the rate of change of position with respect to time at a particular point (instantaneous speed)?' With thanks to Collins English Dictionary.

The mania extends to classroom activities, too. Again and again, the use of cards with 'key words and definitions,' as in 9C.a.1 and the 'game' called 'Pelmanism,' which involves finding out 'if the cards are a match (key word and definition.)' 'As you can see, the key to this activity is remembering where the revealed and replaced cards are placed.' This involves a needless layer of complexity. Attention has to be given to remembering where the cards are placed, not just to the content. If any of the cards are lost or mislaid, the 'game' becomes difficult. All these activities don't lead to any work in the pupil's exercise book.

And nor does the tedious game of 'Splat,' which occurs often throughout the Scheme: it's played by pupils at the board, and again (yet again!) involves giving definitions. 'Ask two volunteers to stand facing each other next to the words. Now invite another pupil to define one of the key words on the board (without using it. The first volunteer to splat the correct word with their hand continues into the next round.' Again, the emphasis upon a sophisticated command of language. As with so much else in the Scheme, the sense of the authors' ingenuity and creativity is palpable - but that's how they see it. The rest of us are likely to see only an idea which may have seemed promising enough at the time but which should have been quietly shelved.

Definitions aren't central to science. In general, pupils should be able to demonstrate that they can use concepts, in the context of scientific method. To define concepts calls upon sophisticated verbal skills and is far less important at this level. Popper, almost certainly the twentieth century's most influential philosopher of science, gives a 'table of ideas,' in 'Unended Quest' (Page 19 of the Routledge Edition) and places 'definitions' on the left-hand side, the 'philosophically unimportant' side. The place of definitions in science is peripheral rather than central.

Over-emphasis upon the history of science

Realism isn't a strong point of the authors. Given the present emphasis upon test and exam results, it's unlikely, very unlikely, overwhelmingly unlikely that most teachers will give a great deal of time to the historical interludes of the authors. The teacher is aware that this historical material isn't asked about in the end of topic tests.

Thirty minutes (!) are allotted by the authors to a discussion of the obsolete phlogiston theory. We're told (worksheet 9H.g.1) that 'until 1772, scientists believed that all materials contained phlogiston,' that Priestley called oxygen 'dephlogisticated air' and that 'Priestley didn't expect to see any change because he thought the phlogiston had already escaped from the calx.' Pupils are asked to 'sequence' the cards with this and other information - but it's naive to suppose that very many teachers will ever have their classes do such a thing. I've a strong interest in the history of science, but I recognize harsh realities when I see them. The authors of the scheme, though, are irrepressible. In Homework sheet 8B.c.5M, they set the open-ended question 'Briefly explain how developments have led us to our current understanding of the circulatory system.' (This is just one question out of six on the sheet.) This question alone is a substantial undertaking - the authors provide comprehensive information about Claudius Galen (although the date of death, 216 AD, doesn't correspond to current estimates), Andreas Vesalius and William Harvey.

Summing up

I've shown, I would hope, that any school that values the well-being of its staff and students should avoid this scheme. If they've been unwise enough to spend good money on it (did the department actually read the thing for longer than half an hour before they made this momentous and - I think - bitterly regretted decision?) then they should take it to a charity shop (although it may well refuse the gift) or compost it. Even taking it to a landfill site, where it will release methane for some time to come, is preferable to inflicting it upon young people. Spend money which should have been spent properly the first time round on one of the less pretentious but far superior schemes available for this age group.

This is an extract from the judgment of the Court of Appeal, in the case of Andrew Malcolm, whose book 'Making Names' was rejected by the Oxford University Press: "...all new titles published from Oxford have to obtain the approval of the Delegates. They are particularly concerned to maintain the high academic reputation of the scholarly and pedagogical books published in the name of the University." As for 'Framework Science,' these particular 'pedagogical' books don't exactly meet these exalted standards. Instead, the editors and Delegates of Oxford University Press have allowed the publication of books that would disgrace a vanity press.

The Delegates are senior academics of Oxford University. In their Annual Report for 2003/2004 there's the claim that Framework Science 'was critically acclaimed by science consultants and helped us gain market share.' Who are these 'consultants?'

The achievement of Oxford University Press

Of course, the strengths of the Oxford University Press vastly outweigh the weaknesses.My own gratitude for what the Press achieves is immeasurable. On this site, I give my appreciation for just a few of the books published by the Press, the superb books of Richard J Evans and VAC Gatrell. And the superb 'Oxford Book of Aphorisms' edited by John Gross. I give an extract from his introduction on the page Aphorisms. On the page parerga I quote Ian Chilvers on Francis Bacon, from his very fine 'Oxford Dictionary of 20th-Century Art, which is also the source of the other quotations in the section, apart from the one by Razia Iqbal. I'm buying more books published by the Press than ever - recently, 'The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mathematics and Science' edited by Stewart Shapiro and 'The Philosophy of Mathematics,' edited by W. D. Hart, both of them wonderfully accomplished and interesting. Most recently, the newest edition of 'Physical Chemistry' by Peter Atkins and Julio de Paula to replace my old edition.

I'm not and have never been an academic, but I regard scholarship and scholars as vastly undervalued. The giving of satisfying, interesting, significant detail, complexity and richness, a scrupulous regard for fact and evidence, are pitted against the inertia, laziness, superficiality and grossness of so much of life - in the past, as in the present. (There was never a golden age.) The Press's services to scholarship are also services to intensely important values and are cause for gratitude. As a general publisher too, the Oxford University Press is beyond praise.

Dover Publications, Inc: scores of Mozart's Da Ponte Trilogy

The Mozart Da Ponte operas are 'The Marriage of Figaro,' 1786, 'Don Giovanni' (1787) and 'Cosi fan Tutte,' (1790.) 

From the preface to the Dover Books edition of Mozart's opera, 'The Marriage of Figaro:'

' ... the time-honoured machinery of opera buffa - disguised, mistaken identity and intrigue - were freed of all routine elements and subordinated to a swiftly moving, lively interplay of passions and errors. Mozart imbued the persons and scenes with the nobility of his musical personality ... The opera buffa has become a reflection of human foibles and characters seen through the magical glow of Mozart's all-transfiguring melody.'

From the preface to the Dover Books edition of Mozart's opera, 'Cosi fan tutte:'

'Mozart fleshed out the story with the full melodic and dramatic power of his years of mastery. The large number of ensembles gave him rich opportunity to heighten or resolve the dramatic conflicts, to deepen and ennoble the characters. Gravity and fun, truth and appearance, lies and deception are illumined by a magical glow that transfigures them all. A subtle veil of light musical irony is spread over the entire proceedings.'

Here, we have the contrast, not of high art and low art but the contrast of high art and barbarism. Each of the prefaces includes this: 'George Schünemann Berlin 1941.

 From March 1933, Schünemann was  a member of the Nazi NSDAP  civil servants' association. He presented a 'de-jewed' new translation of  Le Nozze di Figaro. In 1940, he became deputy chairman of the Reichsstelle für Musikbearbeitungen, a subdivision of the Reich Ministry of Publica Enlightenment and Propaganda. In effect, Dover Books has been supplying a Nazi version - more accurately, a Nazi's version - of some of the greatest of all operas. The editions include the Italian libretto and German translations.

I've bought  scores of many works - String Quartets by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, Symphonies by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, Mozart Operas - the score of Die Zauberflöte as well as scores of the Da Ponte operas, and scores of isolated works by other composers. What I haven't done is to buy 'scores of scores,' to buy many scores. I don't have enough of them. 

 Some of the scores are miniature scores but I prefer larger versions. Dover Books has published whole series of these, and I'm glad to have them - with the exception of the Dover scores of the Da Ponte operas, 'The Marriage of Figaro,' 'Don Giovanni' and 'Cosi fan tutte.' Dover Books should not have published these editions and I wish I hadn't bought them, although I knew nothing of their assocations when I bought them.

What I didn't learn from Luke Wright, poet

Above, allied tanker sinking, after being torpedoed during the Battle of the Atlantic, 1942. In the Second World War, 32,000 merchant seafarers and over 50,000 members of the Royal Navy lost their lives.

Above, Lancastria, in the distance, sinking off the French port of St. Nazaire on 17 June 1940, after evacuating British nationals, from France, two weeks after the evacuations from Dunkirk.

The ship had been bombed by German aircraft. The exact death toll is unknown: probably in excess of 3,500. Thousands of people were killed, by the bombs, by drowning, by choking on fuel oil, by burning  (some of the fuel oil which leaked into the sea, more than 1,400 tonnes of it, caught fire) or were machine-gunned by German aircraft. The BBC site 'WW2 People's War' has an outstanding page on the sinking, very harrowing but with some happier incidents, such as this: 'And then there was the poignant scene of a mother, and her tiny baby being thrown into the water when a lifeboat capsized crying out to others drifting nearby, “My baby! My baby! Please find my baby!” Back came the answer, “It’s all right, Ma, we’ve got her,” as they held her baby well above the water.' There were many acts of heroism, such as the heroism of the man 'covered completely in black oil who dove time after time into the sea from the safety of the rescuing ship to bring floundering people to its side where they could be hauled aboard.'

Luke Wright is best known as the author and performer of 'What I learned from Johnny Bevan,' which does have emotional substance in some places, with real pathos. Take those flickering flames and burning log effects which some electric fires have - quite realistic and even impressive.  - and compare them with the authentic flames above a real log fire. At times, the poetic flame in his poetry seems real, more often an imitation, 'mimesis.' He caters to a market, he's industrious and for the time being quite a significant figure in the Culture Industry. He's generally an attractive and likeable poet,  sometimes witty and inventive, but not likely to have any lasting significance in the history of poetry.  The verse is ludicrously bad on occasion, as I soon show.

Luke Wright is the  author of a  poem which mentions ISIS and which contains the line

twisting victims till victims stink

A poem which mentions the atrocities of ISIS and the victims of ISIS, then? A poem about beheading, burning alive, or, more likely, crucifixion? No, not in the least. It's a poem which attacks IDS (the Conservative politician Iain Duncan Smith). The victims here are the victims of Iain Duncan Smith, according to Luke Wright, not the victims of ISIS.

Its poetic badness is bad enough but its ethical badness is far worse. The poem is hideous. Its poetic badness and its ethical badness obviously weren't noticed by Jenny, writing on the site 'Phrased and Confused.'


Jenny ought to have insisted that the 'poetry' should be set out as poetry and not prose. In case she's not too familiar with the conventions, these two lines of 'poetry' can be set out on the page either like this

Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi!
Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi!

or like this, with '/' to show the line break:

Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! / Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi!

but shouldn't be set out like this:

Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi!

Luke Wright's 'poem,' like this 'poem' is  univocal. It uses only the vowel 'i.' Later in the section, I include a poem I wrote, 'The Rising and Falling of Luke Wright,' which is univocal as well, using only the vowel 'i.'

This is Luke Wright, in single-minded,   unsuccessful, pursuit of  exuberance, in single-minded use throughout of a single vowel, in single-minded pursuit of  Iain Duncan Smith, with complete disregard for human and humane values. A short extract from the poem after the line 'twisting victims till victims stink,' short, because I observe copyright restrictions, here and throughout the site:
I wish him limp dicks.
I wish him midnight shifts.
I wish him ISIS.
I wish him sinking ships.

The complete poem is given on a page of Luke Wright's Website. I'd strongly recommend reading the complete poem and I'd strongly recommend listening to the recording of the poem, but only for the insights into his mind, or one aspect of it.


The worst lines in the  poem on IDS - not the poetically worst lines, because all the lines are bad poetry, without much variation, but the worst lines for anyone with any concern for ethics - are these:

I wish him ISIS.
I wish him sinking ships


twisting victims till victims stink

Did he stop to think before he wrote them? When he revised the poem, assuming he did revise it, did it occur to him that poets may need to give thought to ethics as well as to choice of words?

Does Iain Duncan Smith deserve to be put in a cage and burned to death, or pushed off a high building, or beheaded, or tortured and killed by any of the methods used by ISIS? I lived in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles. (My page Ireland and Northern Ireland: distortions and illusions has a section on the Troubles.) Not long before I left Northern Ireland, I heard a massive car bomb, planted by the IRA, which killed six civilians. My gratitude to the members of the police force and the army who did so much to protect us, at such risk to themselves, is immense. Iain Duncan Smith served in the army in Northern Ireland during the Troubles at a time of high risk for the security services. He doesn't deserve in the least to be a target of Luke Wright's facile and disturbing verse.

'The line which mentions 'sinking ships' is despicable too. I don't suppose for one moment that Luke Wright has an exhaustive knowledge of military history.  This country stood almost alone in opposing the Nazis, who had crushed free and independent life in such countries as France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Czechoslovakia. Poland had been crushed but never surrendered. Over 250,000 Polish troops escaped to Britain to continue the struggle against Nazism.

At that time, and afterwards, convoys brought across the Atlantic the food and materials needed to continue the fight for freedom and the liberation of these countries. The Arctic Convoys took supplies to Russia. When ships were torpedoed or bombed, those who survived the blast might be coated with oil or burned alive in oil.  The ones in lifeboats might float for weeks until rescued, or might never be rescued. Is Luke Wright  completely sure that any of these horrific fates is a fate he wishes upon Iain Duncan Smith? But probably, his imagination failed him. 'Sinking' may be a word with insufficient meaning for him, divested of such horrors.

I think that to a significant extent he's politically naive and politically clueless, naive and clueless too in some aspects of ethics. Whatever political and ethical insights he does or doesn't have, he's naive and clueless if he imagines that he can go on the attack on his Website with no possibility of being criticized in turn. Giving some publicity to his mistakes on this site will at least be a healthy corrective to such unrealistic ideas.

A contribution of his to twitter, 2 December 2015. A picture of David Cameron next to Jeremy Corbyn. Jeremy Corbyn has his hand raised and his index finger outstretched in the direction of David Cameron. Above the picture, the caption - not his - MPs debate airstrikes against Isis ahead of crunch vote. Below the picture, Luke Wright's comment, 'Go on Jeremy, poke him in the eye. And stop the war too.' What's the best way of stopping ISIS, does he think? Does he imagine that persuasion will be enough, or 'peace talks with ISIS?' Or is he indifferent to the problem of ISIS, or does he fail to see any problem with ISIS at all? There are many people like him.

Another post (23 February 2016) gives a film clip showing Iain Duncan Smith. It must have originally shown him simply raising his right arm at a meeting, probably to make a point. The film has been repeated again and again to make it appear that IDS is making a Nazi salute again and again. Luke Wright is an infantile obsessive, in part.

Some other examples of the dross to be found on the same page of his Website as the verse on IDS. This is the closing stanza of 'Ron's Knockoff Shop:'

Ron LOLs
rolls sloth’s dosh.
“London morons.”
Locks shop for long month off.
Roll on tomorrow.

This time, of course, it's the vowel 'o' which is honoured with his time and attention. He appears to think that the achievement of writing a univocal poem is achievement enough: when the poet uses such an exacting form, any rubbish will do to confirm a reputation as a virtuouso poet.  Emotional substance is completely unnecessary.

This, from 'Poem for a benefit gig in aid of the refugee crisis,' is evidence that even when there are no exacting technical demands - the full set of vowels available, the lines simply linked as rhyming couplets - he sees no need for any advance on poetic sensationalism and cardboard caricature, or can't provide any advance. Emotional substance is unattainable.

Another crime to chalk up to The Mail.
A sneer for those stood clutching Starbuck’s lattes
the ones who turn up late to pity parties.

The American poet and critic Randall Jarrell, writing in 'Some lines from Walt Whitman' (the essay appears in 'Poetry and the Age'):

'The interesting thing about Whitman's worst language (for, just as few poets have ever written better, few poets have ever written worse) is how unusually absurd, how really ingeniously bad, such language is. I will quote none of the most famous examples; but even a line like O culpable! I acknowledge. I expose! is not anything that you or I could do - only a man with the most extraordinary feel for language, or none whatsoever, could have cooked up Whitman's worst messes.'

The badness of Luke Wright's worst writing is nothing like this. It's not ingeniously bad, for instance.

Luke Wright is lacking in so many things, despite his talents and gifts. One of them is basic fair-mindedness as regards certain issues at least: Conservatives have absolutely no compassion, Conservatives are scum, newspapers and Websites which generally or often support Conservative policies are valueless. He may or may not have heard  that the Conservative Party in this country is currently giving 12 billion pounds a year in overseas aid. (I question whether a significant proportion of this sum is well-spent.)

Luke Wright's response to the migrant crisis is revealing. Ethical dilemmas don't seem to exist for Luke Wright. He seems incapable of grasping the notion that one duty might be in conflict with another duty, or that the exercise of compassion may sometimes have unintended consequences - including disastrous consequences - or that a solution can't easily be found for every problem. If Luke Wright is a humanitarian, he's a very selective humanitarian or an ignorant humanitarian. There are many like him. He ignores material factors, which, like humanitarian factors,  I emphasize again and again in this site. The wish to help is ineffectual if material factors are ignored. Helping the victims of an earthquake requires attention to heavy lifting equipment and helicopters Helping the victims of an earthquake or, in general, other victims, requires attention to the economy and to technology.

This is a poem of mine on Luke Wright the flawed and vulnerable poet as well as Luke Wright the hideous poet, not Luke Wright, the poet at his best or his not-good-enough-best. After writing it, I'm sure that 'univocalism,' using only one vowel, involves too much restriction - {restriction}:- (feeling ...)  For all that, I think I've been able to make my attitude to Luke Wright's poem on IDS very clear.

This rising Lit-Hit,
this nit-picking Lit-Big,
this Mill-Wright
grinding his lit-bits,
grinning, grinning, grinning,
is insipid in print
[IDS 'ripping ribs in glitz grills']

his  filmic fighting
filling in,
his illicit flings
filling in
[IDS: 'I wish him limp dicks']

idling, tiring, slipping, sliding,
whittling his whims,
signing his sighs.
'If I ... '
'I might ... '
(might is plight)
This Lit-Grit
is grim, grim, grim in print

['ISIS, ISIS ...'
'Sinking, sinking ...'
IDS 'twisting victims till victims stink ...']

Luke Wright's poem on IDS is the poet in  free-fall. I criticize lacklustre, insipid content in his poem (and lacklustre, insipid content in other poems of his on the same page of his Website). Poet-performers may be very good performers of very poor poetry. The poorness of the poetry is disguised by the vigour of the performance but it's readily apparent when it's read. Then, I criticize the weakness and desperation which underlies his attacks on IDS. After that, I criticize grim, obnoxious, hideous, lines in the poem. Quotations from Luke Wright's poem are given in inverted commas in square brackets.

The meaning of 'idling' here is the one familiar to mechanical engineers and others, 'to turn without doing useful work,' with associations of unproductive low-level activity. 'Filling in' has associations of the routine. Fling: Luke Wright throwing words around to make his worst poem (I hope there are none worse - that would surely be impossible) and the associations of 'an occasion of unrestrained, impulsive or extravagant behaviour.' (Collins English Dictionary.) The poem captures, I think, the hesitations and doubts that Luke Wright surely has, despite his success. The words 'If I ... ' and 'I might ... ' are attributed to him and not quotes from any of his poetry. 'Rising and falling' denotes a more complex process than 'rise and fall,' in this case the surges and disappointments, the fluctuations and flux in the inner life of Luke Wright. He claims in his blog that he has a strong work ethic. Even if in general he works every day and most of the day, no poet can have the satisfaction of constant achievement every day and most of the day. The words 'slipping, sliding' are a near-quotation. The reference is to 'slip, slide' in this well-known passage from T S Eliot's 'Burnt Norton,' one of the 'Four Quartets:'

' ... Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Will not stay still.'

The line of my poem, 'Might is plight,' has an obvious sound-linkage with 'Might is right.' Unlike 'Might is right,' 'Might is plight' has  ambiguity, the ambiguity of richness, complexity and contradiction - 'might' refers to power, political power or military power or other forms of power, as well as the vastly different tentative 'might,' the 'might' of hesitation: 'I might do that, but on the other hand ... ' Lit-Grit is sarcastic, in part: 'grit,' 'indomitable courage, toughness or resolution' (Collins English Dictionary) but with other associations which are very different: an irritant.

The poet Rilke is superb, as well as very limited, in his treatment of rising and falling in the inner life. From my page Kafka and Rilke:

This, on falling, is beautiful, but perhaps its beauty begins to seem less impressive with critical intelligence, not the uncritical reverence for Rilke the Seer in an age when a seer is an anomaly. They are the concluding lines of the last of the Duino Elegies, the Tenth:

Und wir, die an steigendes Glück
denken, empfänden die Rührung,
die uns beinah bestürzt,
wenn ein Glückliches fällt.

And we, who have thought of happiness
as rising, would feel the emotion
that almost alarms us,
when a happy thing falls.

Here, it would be very mistaken to view the 'alarm' as anything to do with the pains of embodied life as most people experience it.

The book 'Metaphors we Live By' (George Lakoff and Mark Johnson) is relevant to the rising and falling here, and in particular Chapter 4, 'Orientational Metaphors.' 'These spatial orientations - 'up-down' is the first example they give - 'arise from the fact that we have bodies of the sort we have and that they function as they do in our physical environment.' This isn't in the least a Rilkean viewpoint.

In their section 'Conclusions,' the authors claim 'There is an internal systematicity to each spatialization metaphor. For example, HAPPY IS UP defines a coherent system rather than a number of isolated and random cases. (An example of an incoherent system woul be one where, say, "I'm feeling up " meant I'm feeling happy," but "My spirits rose" meant "I became sadder."

See also my technical discussion in the page Metaphor.

Rilke's 'a happy thing falls' seems like a thought-experiment to do with cognitive dissonance disguised as something far more profound.

 A wider view of his treatment of falling, a wider view of his poetic world, reveal his bias. Lines from his poem 'Herbst' can also be quoted (Das Buch der Bilder, Book 1, Part 2):

The first line is

Die Blätter fallen, fallen wie von weit,

The leaves fall, fall as if from far

in which the ordinariness of 'the leaves fall' is made suddenly mysterious, and exciting, by {distance}.

Later, 'Wir alle fallen,' 'We are all falling'

Und doch ist Einer welcher dieses Fallen
unendlich sanft in seinen Händen hält.

And yet there's One who  this fall
endlessly gently in his hands holds.

The concluding lines should not be found in the least impressive - again, despite appearances - let alone consoling. The lines are a form of poetic piety.

Kafka was drawn to the incorporeal too, but unlike Rilke, without consequences fatal to his art.

The contrasts between Luke Wright and Rilke are immense, but they have an unexpected linkage. Luke Wright's vivid and concrete world (sometimes a view of a world which sometimes makes dismal use of the building material concrete) is like Rilke's world in its avoidance of some categories of harm in the material world, such as the sinking of ships. The fall of a roofer from a roof followed by hitting the ground, the injuries to the roofer or worse, are shattering events in the material world, just as the sinking of a ship and the drowning of the crew are shattering events in the material world. The verse of Luke Wright is vivid - although not always vivid, sometimes insipid - but he can't convey such shattering events as these, or not with any convincing force.

To illustrate his worthless poem, he uses an image of Iain Duncan Smith which comes from the site 'Left Foot Forward.' The image is copyrighted. Did he ask permission from 'Left Foot Forward' before using the image? I doubt it.

Copyright is important. It's difficult enough for a poet to earn money from poetry. Earning money from poetry isn't the point of poetry, of course, but poets deserve to be paid, whenever payment is possible. Before copyright law, anyone who wanted to and had the means could copy their work and publish it without paying them. Now, of course, vast numbers of people have the means to copy copyright material and the willingness to ignore copyright restrictions - which not only protect the financial reward of writers, whether it amounts to a pittance or much more, but which reflect the effort made by the writer: writing is often arduous. A mechanic who works on a vehicle is entitled to be paid and if a writer can be paid for a piece of writing, then the writer is entitled to be paid. For similar reasons, the copyright of photographers is important. The photographer may have well have needed to spend money before taking a picture, sometimes a great deal of money. The photographer is entitled to be reimbursed for this, and more. Unless he did ask permission and he was given permission to use the image of Iain Duncan Smith, he's at fault.

The BBC and its designs on us

See also the page Concrete poetry,
'anti-emoticons'   Strenuousness



The American garden designer Duncan Brine: 'A successful design doesn’t call attention to itself. It tells a story about the landscape, not the designer.' (From the Website thinkingardens.co.uk)

The two emoticons above are meant sarcastically, of course. (My page on Concrete poetry gives a much fuller discussion.) BBC1 News has been using graphic design in more and more obtrusive, more and more ludicrous ways, in accordance with its guiding policy of progressive (or regressive) infantilization. How much longer before news of a better than expected inflation rate or a success in English football is accompanied by the display of a happy, smiling emoticon and news of a  natural disaster or  news from a war zone is accompanied by the showing of a sad emoticon?

The team of 'graphic designers' at the BBC already has a repertoire of emoticons, primitive products of advanced computer technology which spell out, in the most hackneyed way, what viewers are expected to feel. BBC1 News, as well as showing the desperate and grotesque state of the world shows too the desperate and grotesque state of some sections of the  media, such as the BBC itself.

Bad news from a bank, bad news from the City of London - this calls for dark and gloomy storm clouds above some typical  high-rise financial buildings.

To show that someone is very newsworthy but under pressure, that the news about the person is very important,   the film of the person walking  is slowed down, so that the person doesn't just walk but walks with very, very significant steps. Again and again, crowds of people in cities are presented in a different way, this time speeded up: contemptible childishness.

To show that the  team producing these computer tricks is very important and very creative, despite not being before the cameras, images are made very difficult to ignore. They're obviously determined to be recognized even if they are out of sight. They make their effects so obvious that  attention is drawn to their technical wizardry. On one occasion, before a businessman could say a few straightforward words, he was shown as moving with jerky movements from place to place in the room where he was filmed. If the news is about the 50p tax rate, then a 50p coin is shown slowly rotating on its axis and if it distracts attention from the comment or discussion - and it does - then too bad. This is design as an  irritating hyperactive adolescent might understand it.

There are Web designers who have a concern to avoid gimmickry and to make technique unobtrusive and juvenile designers  who think it's quite something to have a heading on a block in some bright colour which slowly rotates. There are Web typographers who avoid any tendency to shout out whenever possible with their choice of type, and others who believe in the manic approach. This BBC  graphics team goes for grossness and cliched obviousness every time. If it has been decided that a statistic such as 'the percentage of waste recycled has fallen below 50%' should be presented in written form, anything like a straightforward presentation is out of the question - the process of putting the text on the screen is as involved and as ornate as the convolutions some Englishmen or Englishwomen feel necessary when they make the simplest of  requests, such as 'Could you pass the salt, please?' But the tone is very different- flashy excess compared with excessive gentility.

The BBC: manipulating opinion

The BBC uses the opinions of shoppers, passers-by and others to manipulate opinion. The selection of these people and their opinions is often very biased, and very revealing - about the opinions of the  BBC staff who put together the news bulletins. The impression is given that this is what the  public - not always the British public - is thinking and that this is good sense.  The impression is given that in  matters of massive complexity, in matters where the public hasn't been given all the relevant information, someone on their way to buy some fish and chips has what it takes to give an instant opinion.

In Egypt, when there was mass action to overthrow Mubarak, the impression was given that the Egyptian opposition to Mubarak was homogeneous and entirely enlightened. The members of the Egyptian public selected talked about freedom - freedom as it would generally be understood in this country. This wasn't in the least a representative sample. It contained few Muslim radicals, who wanted the chance to impose a rigorous Islamic state with Sharia law.

After the national BBC1 news, regional news is shown on every day of the week but Saturday. When it was announced that six members of the Yorkshire Regiment had been killed in an explosion in Afghanistan, the regional news for this area, Yorkshire, gave the whole of its time to this harrowing event. The coverage was exemplary, I think, except for the fact that a handful of passers-by gave their opinions on Britain's involvement in Afghanistan and all of them said that the country shouldn't be involved, with one partial exception.

The BBC ought to examine with the utmost seriousness the policies of Wikipedia, the attempts made to minimize bias and selectivity. It's impossible to claim complete objectivity and complete lack of bias in matters such as this, and many more, but there's a great gulf between the BBC's practice, so often, with not the least attempt at balance and fair-mindedness, and the practice of Wikipedia.

A short news broadcast can't find the time for discussion nearly as complete as this, Stephen Biddle's piece,  'Is It Worth It? The Difficult Case for War in Afghanistan Simplification, drastic simplification, is often necessary, but the BBC's simplifications are sometimes extreme.

Bold print is well established, but I see the need to use faint print or very faint print for some purposes - for writing about the world of 'celebrities,' game show presenters and so many other presenters, TV dross in general, supermodels - just call them 'models.' These and others are given so much publicity that the least I can do is give them none at all, and if on the rarest of rare occasions I do mention them, as here, to use faint print or very faint print, reserving normal print for people who deserve it and for real achievement. I use faint print too for people who have no connection with celebrities, the excesses of the media, but for mediocrities - the word is used here in a restricted way. I use faint print sparingly on this page, not consistently. I use it for the first occurrence of a name, or for a few, just enough to show some of its uses.

Some mediocrity celebrity worshippers

Razia Iqbal

The BBC has some very good correspondents, but Razia Iqbal, the BBC's 'arts correspondent' [now ex-arts correspondent] wasn't amongst them. Her reports were gems - the sort you find in tacky rings costing 20p or so.

Against all the odds - the trashy cult of celebrity, of 'big names,' 'top stories,' bureaucracy, mental stagnation, indifference, stupidity - there are still writers, artists, publishers, booksellers, editors, critics, gallery owners and even  arts administrators with a concern for excellence. Their finances are often precarious, their future prospects are precarious, they may well receive next to no recognition in the wider world. Not that these people are always virtuous. Luke Wright is working hard to further poetry and to make a precarious living from poetry. Luke Wright is also naive and stupid, as I show in the section The rising and falling of Luke Wright.

Razia Iqbal has taken the easy way, which has advantages and disadvantages.


A good income, much, much higher than the income of most of the people with genuine artistic commitment.
Labour-saving. No need to think. Just use pre-existing phrases such as 'A-list celebrities.'


Not having the satisfaction, surely, of real achievement, or any achievement at all, the feeling, surely, of hollowness, the feeling that all contributions are instantly forgettable, negligible, without any individuality (due to dependence on labour-saving phrases.)

* Some of Razia Iqbal's characteristic comments:

Drooling over 'A-list celebrities' at the premiere of the film 'The Golden Compass.'

'Despite celebrity endorsement from the likes of Noel Kidman...' (on the fashion designer Karl Lagersfeld.)

A report on Annie Leibovitz (described by Razia Iqbal as a 'celebrity photographer') was embarrassingly bad even by her standards, with multiple mentions of the celebrity word.

When she reported on the promotion of the arts in Folkestone, Kent, the report was almost completely concerned not with the arts in question, with any artistic qualities but with economic regeneration. The same arguments have been made for 'super-casinos,' their supposed benefits for the economic regeneration of an area. Developers are generally no more interested in the arts than in super-casinos, but for the time being at least, the arts have more prestige.

Comments on the painter Francis Bacon by Razia Iqbal and others:

Ian Chilvers 'Characteristically his paintings show single figures in isolation or despair, set in a bleak, sometimes cage-like space, and at times accompanied by hunks of raw meat: 'we are all meat, we are potential carcasses,' he said in 1966.'

Peter Fuller 'Bacon is an artist of persuasive power and undeniable ability; but he has used his expressive skills to denigrate and degrade. He presents one aspect of the human condition as necessary and universal truth.'

David Sylvester 'The paintings are a huge affirmation that human vulnerability is countered by human vitality. They are a shout of defiance in the face of death.'

From the Times Obituary 'the sense he gave of the ultimate seriousness of art.'

Compare these comments with,

Razia Iqbal: 'Many of his paintings are owned by celebrities.' (I'm relying on memory here. The 'many' may have been 'some.')

A comment of mine on Razia Iqbal: 'The sense she gives of the ultimate frivolity and unimportance of art, regarded as an agent of economic regeneration, as a source of gossip and as a status symbol for 'celebrities.' She has a consuming interest in A-list celebrities. She was surely an F-list arts correspondent.'

On Razia Iqbal's obsession with money as well as celebrities, from the Web site 'Open Democracy.'


'But however much Razia Iqbal started in any of these directions, there was one direction that kept pulling her back: Rowling's [my faint print] huge wealth. First we had to be told that having sold millions of books, she was very wealthy; then, a few minutes later, that "Rowling never needs to write again" [for a living], and then, a few minutes later, Rowling was asked whether she was motivated by guilt, "since she has so much"...'

But I'm not suggesting that in other respects she's off-putting. She does seem to be a pleasant enough person.

This fixation on 'celebrities' has the most severe consequences for many, many gifted, interesting, outstanding people. It leads to far fewer opportunities for unknowns to make their mark - and make a living - in literature, the theatre and other arts. The fixation denies to published writers the recognition they deserve, and  the chance of making even a barely adequate income.

Michael Savage, writing about Beethoven's 5th Symphony in 'The Independent,' under the heading 'Da-da-da-dum! Beethoven sales soar.' '200 years on, the work is enjoying a revival after an unlikely pair of celebrity conductors directed Ludwig van Beethoven's masterpiece during the BBC's reality television series, Maestro.' I've no idea who this 'unlikely pair of celebrity conductors' are who conducted Beethoven's 5th and I'm only mildly curious. The pair called Ant and Dec?

Masterpiece! Why do these people have to be so predictable? I wouldn't have expected a mention of some other masterly works of Beethoven, such as the Eroica Symphony or the 7th Symphony or the Choral Symphony, let alone any of the late piano sonatas or any of the late quartets - just some slight attempt to deflect the notion that here's someone who doesn't know what he's talking about. In the case of Mozart, it's likely that Savage would be writing about 'Mozart's Masterpiece, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,' in the case of Bach, 'Bach's Masterpiece the Air on a G string, as used in the Hamlet adverts.' 'Dvorak's Masterpiece' would be 'the movement from the New World Symphony, as used in the Hovis advertisement.' We have in his piece too that absolutely decisive criterion of importance, soaring sales. Beethoven himself thought that his Quartet in C sharp minor was his best work, not his 5th Symphony. As it has never enjoyed soaring sales and never will, it won't be of any interest at all to Michael Savage.

What is a mediocrity?

I don't use the word in its usual sense. Strictly, I should use the word 'mediocrity (2)' to show that I'm using what I call a second meaning. Mediocrity (2) is used in an attempt to be scrupulously fair, to take note of complexities, complications, paradoxes, to express the fact that very often, our information is incomplete, to give 'the benefit of the doubt.' In the technical terms of Linkage Theory, {resolution}:- /mediocrity/.

I think that Razia Iqbal was a mediocre arts critic on the basis of the evidence I have, that she's a mediocrity (2), a mediocrity only in a restricted sense, although, since her job was that of an arts critic, the restricted sense is very important. I don't claim that she's a mediocrity (1), a mediocrity in the usual sense. My knowledge is too limited to claim that.

I don't claim that people addicted to the  diseased world of TV dross  are necessarily mediocrities, The British troops who served in  Afghanistan were more likely to be interested in this dross than in the world of high culture.  The armed forces of a democracy carrying out their task with such courage and professionalism are entitled not to grudging respect but wholehearted respect and support. In the Second World War, their counterparts  showed such courage in depth-charged submarines, in burning aircraft and burning tanks, amongst minefields, in the bombed cities, in all the theatres of war that to describe them as mediocrities would be very, very wrong.


Richard Booth, Private Eye and Edgeways Books

Ian Hislop, the editor of 'Private Eye,' is a good man, but obviously not a perfect man. The comments here relate to the magazine rather than the editor.

A letter cancelling my subscription to the magazine (revised in a few places):

'I've subscribed to Private Eye for many years. I've cancelled my subscription now. Bookworm's attack on Richard Booth of Hay-on-Wye was vindictive. This was low-level gossip, smirking, smug and unscrupulous. Richard Booth wasn't and isn't a mediocrity. What he's achieved is remarkable, outstanding - the creation, against all the odds, including bankruptcy, of the first of the Book Towns, but much more besides. In a degraded culture based on celebrity-worship and the distortions of the media (including your own distortions) he has caused no harm and done a great deal of good. To call him 'Bokassa' is ridiculous, demeaning and insulting. The Kingdom of Hay, the Hay passport, the 'Hay-on-Wye navy' (a single boat on the River Wye) are no evidence of megalomania but a combination of tongue-in-cheek cheekiness and deadly serious protest against deadening uniformity. He's exceptionally interesting and a sworn enemy of bureaucrats and commercialisation. Is his  protest against the commercialisation of the Hay-on-Wye Festival something to be held up to ridicule?

'The unspeakable Bookworm refers to so-called 'grand gestures' and claims that Richard Booth 'lacks the energy to follow them up nowadays.' Richard Booth had a life-threatening brain tumour. He's worked very hard for a very long time. He's earned the right to take things easier many times over.

Yours, with revulsion,

Paul Hurt.'

Well before Bookworm's attack, I'd become more and more disillusioned and disappointed. The inventiveness of 'Private Eye' was still very impressive but the vigour it still showed was directed far more often against minor bureaucrats and politicians than in any attacks on the state of literature and the media. Here, it had become soft-centred.

The Web site of Edgeways Books has superb comment on the decline of Private Eye. I'd recommend it wholeheartedly.

From http://www.edgewaysbooks.com/


'A magazine that doesn't see the simple foulness of Celebrity Big Brother has just joined the misery it exists to satirise. There are other things to read in the world.'


'What Bookworm has taken to doing in default is weak: merely doing what he rest of the paper does, picking on those weaker than himself, the easy targets...' [I would qualify this. Not all Bookworm's targets are weaker than Bookworm. Richard Booth is in no way a weaker person than Bookworm.]

See also the pages on 'Private Eye' at


and the pages of incisive comment at






Above, three of eight bookcases in this room

Above, a photomontage by John Heartfield, 'Hurrah, die Butter ist Alle! ('Hurray, There's No Butter Left!' ), published on the front page of the AIZ in 1935. It shows a German family at a dinner table. The adults are eating a bicycle, the baby is trying to eat an axe. There is a picture of Hitler and the wallpaper is decorated with swastikas. It includes some words of Hermann Göring. 'Iron ore has made a Reich strong. Butter and dripping have, at most, made the people fat.'

In the original: 'Hurrah, die Butter ist alle! Goering in seiner Hamburger Rede: 'Erz hat stets ein Reich stark gemacht, Butter und Schmalz haben hochstens ein Volk fett gemacht.'