Posts Tagged ‘bloggers’

Hitchens on bloggers

25/09/2013

The above clip is features comments from the late Christopher Hitchens in 2006 on bloggers in general and the anti-Hitchens blog, Hitchens Watch, in particular.  Hitch makes clear his disdain for bloggers and damns them as failed writers who have not found a publisher to disseminate their dross, but have found a method of getting their dross in the public domain through the blog.

I have to say that I agree entirely with Hitchens to the extent that I put myself firmly in this category.  I don’t think I have published anything on this blog that is worthy being put on paper and into a book.  I have restricted myself to discussing and by and large repeating the words of the New Atheists: Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett, in addition to a few other popular science and philosophy writers such as Bart Ehrman, Michael Shermer and Victor Stenger.

I have been attacked for my continual reliance on the New Atheists, which has been branded a form of “hero worship”.  My responses variously are that “there is nothing new under the sun”, or to quote Isaac Newton that “I stand on the shoulder of giants”, or Ibn Warraq in Why I Am Not A Muslim that if you see my work as an extended bibliography of the works of others, I will not take offence.

I admit that I am relying on the works of popular writers whose books have sold by the million and whose lectures and debates are freely available on YouTube.  There are plenty of bloggers who trawl the obscure reaches of the Internet and their public libraries and write convincingly about topics that do not feature on ABC’s Nightline Face-Off.  However, their work is still based on the writings of others rather than their own original research.  Am I being any less original in my attacks on religion every time I cite a bestseller like god Is Not Great than when I rely on a lesser known work such as The Bible Unearthed?

Paradoxically, I have a great deal of respect for scientists and philosophers I have never even heard of; perhaps more so than bestselling authors.  As Eric Rothschild, chief counsel for the plaintiffs at the 2005 Kitzmiller –v- Dover PA “Intelligent Design Trial”, observed of Michael Behe’s claim in Darwin’s Black Box, which he repeated on the witness stand, that the immune system is irreducibly complex:

Thankfully, there are scientists who do search for answers to the question of the origin of the immune system… Their efforts help us combat and cure serious medical conditions.  By contrast, Professor Behe and the entire “intelligent design” movement are doing nothing to advance scientific or medical knowledge and are telling future generations of scientists, don’t bother.

Nevertheless, following a sabbatical from blogging of over two years, I am making a conscious effort to move away from the New Atheists and read and write about other topics, such as happiness, relationships, humour and cinema.

I once read of blogs that more people want to write them than want to read them; another statement with which I concur whole-heartedly and include myself.  For me, blogging is an outlet for my thoughts; it has given me meaning and purpose in my godless life.  Currently, this blog gets between 40 and 60 views a day.  It is reward enough when I publish a new post if this tally spikes slightly, I get a “like”, an encouraging comment or a notification from WordPress that someone else is following my blog.

I also accept that I have a penchant for hyperbole and make viciously angry attacks on my opponents such as William Lane Craig – who I have repeated branded a liar – that would surely be the first thing that any decent editor of a reputable publishing house would remove.

Yes, I think if I ever moved into “serious” writing and courted a publisher to disseminate my writings on good, old fashioned paper, the first thing on my “2-Do” list would be to delete this blog.

Campaign to reform UK libel law may well be symbolic only

12/02/2010

manicstreetpreacher thinks that the law is an ass!

In recent months, I have been following The Libel Reform Campaign.  I signed the online petition to Parliament to have the scope of the public interest defence widened in order to make it harder for “libel tourists” to bring actions against writers and journalists in London where they feel relatively more assured of success, since the legal costs of defending such actions can bring about financial ruin for a defendant.  The campaign has also received a fair amount of coverage on RichardDawkins.net and there is a page on Sense About Science.

The campaign was initiated following science journalist and author Simon Singh being sued by the British Chiropractic Association for publishing a highly critical piece about chiropractic on The Guardian Comment Is Free on 19 April 2008.  Singh compared spine manipulation to a drug that had “such serious adverse effects and so little demonstrable benefit, it would almost certainly have been taken off the market”.

After losing the preliminary ruling, Singh won his right to appeal in October 2009.  However, his case has highlighted the strangling effect that the UK’s libel laws have on critical writing.  As Singh wrote following his successful application to appeal:

One of the main fears… [is] the sheer cost of a libel case.  Although the damages at stake might be just £10,000, going to trial can mean risking more than £1m.  This means that a blogger has to ask whether he or she can afford the possibility of bankruptcy.  Even if a blogger is 90% confident of victory, there is still a 10% chance of failure, which is why bloggers often back down, withdraw and apologise for material they believe is true, fair and important to the public.

I received permission [from the Court of Appeal] to appeal against an earlier ruling on the meaning of my article.  The original article was published 18 months ago, the case has cost me £100,000 and there is still a long way to go.  My reason for not backing down is that I believe my article is accurate, important and a matter of public interest, as it relates to the use of chiropractic in treating various childhood conditions, such as asthma and ear infections.

Although my article was published in The Guardian, I am being sued personally. Fortunately, thanks to the success of my books, Fermat’s Last Theorem and The Code Book, I have the resources to fund my own defence. The case might seriously damage me but it will not bankrupt me.  For bloggers, such a case could lead to financial ruin.

As a lover of free thought, free speech and free inquiry, I signed the online petition and forwarded a message to my local MP.  I received a letter from the MP’s office saying that while he supported the campaign in principle, he did not put his name to Early Day Motion 423 because they are a waste of Parliamentary time and taxpayers’ money.  Apparently “they are seldom debated, rarely brought to a vote and require neither recognition nor response from the government”.  They are known in Westminster as “parliamentary graffiti” and can cost in excess of £627,000.

Talk about Catch-22.  Attempting to reform a bad law and being scuppered by the bad law-making process.  Oh, the irony!  So much for democracy in action, power to the people etc.  Time for strategic re-think, perhaps?