A statement

Sorry, I’ve been offline for most of the weekend, and I’ve missed a lot of the fun. I’m glad I had comment moderation on, as the holding pen is now full of anti-homeopathy enthusiasts trying to bring me down, and agreeing with the notion that a man who gave his daughter homeopathic treatment which did not save her life a “cunt”, which is a new low for this lobby. I should have known I’d been targeted again, as anyone who strays from the Bad Science status quo must be. What a lot of energy they spend on attacking. I mean, really, what’s the point of attacking me? I’d said my heart sank when I read the latest Goldacre piece, which it did, but I was careful not to get into an argument with him/them again, as I remember only too well how it played out last time. Stalemate is a nice way of putting it. I only wrote the pied wagtail entry to express the way the sight of a bird lifted my spirits during a bit of seasonal affective disorder, and how even the idea of another anti-homeopathy piece in a national newspaper sank it again. I choose birds.

Unfortunately, I’ve now read the lengthy thread about me on the Bad Science web forum (started by someone who actually posts sensibly on here about other subjects, with a handy link to come and get me – talk about backstabbing). It’s so full of bile and sarcasm (one person calls me a cunt, and says I only have my writing career through good fortune and not talent, which is pretty much what I say in my book), I’m quite exhausted by it all. If these people are so sure they are right, what threat am I?

Anyway, I’ve had to take the previous thread down and re-post it without the dialogue, as it had descended into name-calling and scoundrels misleadingly posting under other people’s names to stir things up, and in a moment of late-night madness I even decided to ban one person after his comments on the parent mentioned above (whatever you think of an issue, calling a man whose daughter had died a “cunt” smacks, if nothing else, of a complete lack of compassion – a quality I believe lies at the heart of all the political ideas I hold dear – also, and I know I’ve used it in the past, but the word does still offend some people). The act of removing the comments from the thread, which meant well, but led down a dark path, will look to the Bad Science regulars as if I have “taken my ball home” or something, or as if they have won. Well, in a very tiny way, they have won, yet again. They are tenacious. They take no prisoners. But I have won too, because by writing about anything but the h-word in the future, hopefully they will find someone else to belittle and patronise and attack. I hereby remove myself from the public debate on this matter.

I had one comment over the weekend from “bengoldacre” but I don’t believe it is from him. As ever, my personal email address appears for all to see on this website, and always has done, so even if I never blogged again, it would remain open to anyone who wished to challenge me or, frankly, call me a cunt, if that gives them a thrill. That’s the nature of these things. Oddly, it seems that the game is calling me a cunt in public, not in private, and no fun otherwise. I don’t mind being a cunt if a cunt is someone who enjoys the natural world and sometimes writes about it, and exhibits inconsistencies and changes his mind, and wonders aloud. I don’t even mind being one if a cunt is someone whose heartfelt views don’t stand up to rigorous scientific scrutiny. The message coming through from Bad Science is that if I dare to even allude to my views on homeopathy, they will be forced to shut me down. Such a sense of righteous purpose! One person on the BS forum was crowing about “marking” my previous God Delusion review a “D-minus” – what a glorious victory for science that was. If I am to write anything, I have to provide evidence and citations, as if writing in the Lancet, and yet, it was just on a blog. As I’ve said on many occasions, as a writer, I enjoy writing on here because it’s not for publication and doesn’t go through the usual filter of editors and sub-editors and fact-checkers, or, in TV, script editors and producers. That’s the fun of doing it. To write what I think, at any length, whenever I fancy it. Nobody is going to commission me to write about a science book or a religion book, so this is my only outlet to stray and experiment and go out of my depth.

Anyway I’m bored with the whole thing, and don’t have the strength for a fight. I wish I’d never mentioned the h-word (I think the BS believers call it “woo”, which I guess is a reference to it being “magic”), even in passing, on here. Please don’t bother visiting the Bad Science forum to counter house policy. It’s really not worth posting unless you’re one of the gang. Maybe there’s a gang here, too. A much nicer one.

Here’s a revolutionary idea: I have actually fixed it so that you can’t leave comments after this particular entry, which I’ll leave with you for a while. It is, as stated, a statement.

A Pied Wagtail

pied wagtail

It’s Friday morning. I don’t mind admitting that I’m feeling a bit fed up at the moment: struggling with work, I can feel the year slipping away from me with no concrete writing jobs pencilled in for 2008, I’ve had hassles with my office, the clamour of another materialistic Christmas is already making me feel that the human race is doomed and heading for oblivion, the BBC’s falling apart, my underbelly has been way too sensitive of late (complete assassination of my R4 documentary, including personal slur, on the R4 message board), I’ve slipped back into eating wheat, which is dragging me down, and there’s other stuff, but this is not the point of this blog entry. Working lates this week on 6 Music has been enjoyable while it was happening, and I thank you for your contributions, but I’m dog tired as a result, eye off the ball, easily irritated, and with no time to slack off during the daylight hours. (Nobody but myself to blame: I took the job on.) Upshot: I’ve been spending a lot of time gazing glassy-eyed out of the windows of trains to and from Central London rather than reading my excellent book Fiasco – I just can’t concentrate on it – and getting unecessarily annoyed by people on the train with loud voices, jabbering away into phones, and, hey, fuck it, it happens to us all, not least at this time of year. This is not a sympathy safari. The point is this:

I saw a beautiful pied wagtail alight upon the station platform at Clapham Common, and it lifted my heart. In that instance, all my relatively minor troubles evaporated. Filled with love for the natural world and its mysterious ways, I was able to watch him hop about and peck the ground for a minute or two before the train pulled off. I had found a focus. It reminded me of the wagtails I used to stand and watch, every day, on Redhill station when I lived out in the suburbs – again, a blessing on a sometimes tiresome commute, and a ray of hope. This morning, I walked under a tree down my street and saw two plump blue tits. Again, my heart soared, especially with the news that the tit population suffered terribly this year with the floods – just seeing a blue tit strikes me as good news now.

So, on the one hand there’s the simple sight of a common British bird, going about its bird-like business, and its ability to cast a beatific spell over me like no other. And on the other, there are things that have the power to annoy me. I know where my heart lies.

(I borrowed the above photo from the RSPB, of which I am a proud member, and it was taken by a photographer called Mike Read – I hope they don’t go all Prince on me and take it down.)