Sunday, May 02, 2010

Death rattle and roll

I yield to no one in my admiraton of Dr Death Evan Harris. No, seriously, he's a lovely chap with immaculate manners and there's something so adorable about the way he says, "evidence-based", y'know with real passion, as though this empiricism lark hasn't been around for centuries but is his own personal big idea. Supercute!

But I'm worried about him. Some of his online utterances have been passing strange of late. Indeed the fact that's he's taken the time to make online utterances is itself passing strange. Yes, I know there's a Lib Dem surge on and Nick Clegg is poised to get his hands on some red ministerial boxes but oughtn't Harris be out on the stump thrilling floating voters with radical talk about localism and drainpipes?

What the devil is he doing leaving rambling comments on Cristina Odone and George Pitcher's Torygraph blogs?

Take this moist-eyed moaning, for instance:

"I have met Christina on several occasions and she has always – at least to my face been polite and civil. How sad that she resorts to snide personal comments which she has publicly condemned in others. Why not just stick to the issues?"

I mean, please.

Then it's onto abortion 'n' euthanasia and this curious comment:

"I support -a s does 80% of the population and the Church of England – the right of women not to be forced to go through pregnancy and give birth against their will."

Never mind his 80% of the public assertion, which, I think, comes from this or that pro-choice group's push poll, or indeed the tendentious way he frames the issue - we Pro Lifers don't roam the streets armed with semen-filled turkey-basters looking for any woman of fertile age to impregnate - it's the way he claims the Church of England for his own position which should raise eyebrows.

This is the Church of England which in 2005 said that "the abortion law needs to be applied more strictly and the number of abortion carried out strictly reduced" and is currently led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, one Rowan Williams. That is Rowan Williams, a longstanding member of that well-known radical-feminist organisation, SPUC.

"I have never said 'God is bad, his followers mad'", he wailed plaintively, adding "You made that up again Christina!". For some reason it doesn't occur to him that Odone didn't claim that he'd said that either, nor that there's the teeniest touch of humbug in his complaint given his extraordinary suggestion that the Church of England takes the same position on abortion that he does.

Then it's all the usual B-side stuff about respecting religion but objecting to religious "privilege", as he insists on calling believers' democratic rights, before concluding with yet another moan about Odone's "shallow, personalised approach" and a bitchy "not very Christian of her I would say."

There was much the same on Pitcher's comments box where he defended his, his party and his leader's policies. I found two of his remarks rather troubling, first this one:

"Why is ... seeking to end the unjustified discrimination against Catholics in our constitution to be viewed as 'a passing bandwagon' rather than say the consistent views of a conviction politician who believes in personal autonomy and seeking to end sectarian discrimination?"

Aside from the obvious self-aggrandisment in his description of himself - is Evan Harris getting just a little bit carried away by the antics of his fan club? - his supposedly consistent opposition to anti-Catholic discrimation is at variance with his position as honorary associate of the most anti-Catholic organisation in the British Isles, that purveyor of bigotry, the National Secular Society (NSS). Recall who another honorary associate of the NSS is: Mary Honeyball MEP. Recall her wondering "should devout Catholics such as Kelly, Browne and Murphy be allowed on the government front bench in the light of their predilection to favour the Pope's word above the government's?" Recall who sprang to her defence and what he went on to say about David Kerr's membership of an entirely legal group.

Keeping that sort of company doesn't suggest that Harris is a conviction politician who opposes sectarian discrimination. Much more in character, I feel, is his parthian shot:

"By the way Mr Pitcher, was it deliberate irony of yours to note that the junior civil servant responsible 'has been moved to other duties' given the failure of the Catholic Church hierarchy in some cases to do anything about certain paedophile priests? If so, one cheer for you."

Despite the careful qualifying phrase, "in some cases" his implication is clear; it's a bitchy sectarian jibe. I think it also fails to meet the most scrupulous "evidence-based" standards, as it happens.

Dear, oh dear. I expected better of Evan Harris.

Right now I expect him to get the hell off Twitter and out campaigning as though there's a General Election a few days away. Like NOW, Evan!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's quite true that you can only access a service as complicated as Twitter from one of the few parallel computing centers in the country.

Plus the burden of composing 140 character updates is such that it's almost impossible for someone to compose more than one or two in a day unless they stay perfectly still.

So there's no chance that Dr Harris could be out and about tweeting from his mobile.

5/03/2010 2:06 AM  
Blogger Jennie said...

It's perfectly possible to tweet and campaign at the same time, you know. Delivering leaflets is exceedingly boring without an internet enabled mobile phone...

5/03/2010 2:11 AM  
Anonymous Villagepig said...

Ha ha ha how quant.

Has it occurred to you that in this modern, electronic age, he *is* canvassing? It amazes me that so many politicians have missed the trick. The unknown quantity of voters exist within the young, switched on generation of Facebook and Twitter users and failing to engage with them is a rooky mistake.

I applaud the good doctor, not only for representing my views (and that of thousands of equally disillusioned ex-christians) but also for daring to be different and speak out against the religious fanatical, homophobic, racist snobs which make up the largest part of the tory scum.

5/03/2010 2:16 AM  
Anonymous Kenny MacLeod said...

"as though this empiricism lark hasn't been around for centuries..."
I mean, please... Doesn't matter whose idea it was - do you think it's a good or bad idea? Maybe we could put prayer to the test - the secular version is wishful thinking. No harm in it if you don't just leave it at that.

I don't understand why Dr Harris can't reply to Odone's & Pitcher's articles - is that not what the comments section is for? And indeed, as he said, why not test the arguments and discuss the issues? Getting too empirical maybe...

"semen-filled turkey-basters" - what are they, pray tell? And what language for a man-of-god to be using. I think this is a poultry attempt to confuse artificial insemination with abortion. Ban Turkey-Basters, I say!

"God is bad, his followers mad" - well, if he didn't say it what did he do to merit the comment? Where was the argument?

Class privilege, religious privilege - the point is we should all be equal under the law & in the constitution whatever our beliefs or lack of them. There's no such thing as "believers' democratic rights" just "democratic rights".

"anti-Catholic...National Secular Society". Well no. How can it be a "bigoted" view to propose the idea that all should have the same democratic & constitutional rights whatever their religion or non-religion? That is to say you have to base these rights at a common human level and let people believe & conduct their lives they way they want within that constitution.

And what did the Catholic Church hierarchy actually do about their errant priests? In most cases hid them. "Sectarian: Pertaining to a sect, or to sects; peculiar to a sect; bigotedly attached to the tenets and interests of a denomination; as, sectarian principles or prejudices.".
Nothing sectarian about Dr. Harris' remarks in this case - just a pointed statement of fact.

I'm a Labour voter & don't agree with all that Dr. Harris espouses but I'd rather see a proper discussion than the kind of insidious ramblings of the like of Odone & Pitcher.

Apologies for all the questions!

P.S. You should get yourself a Twitter account. You'll be surprised. The political discussion, "heads-up" notices & general information available is truly enlightening. Even The Conservatives are on it.

5/03/2010 4:01 AM  
Blogger Mike Hypercube said...

As a member of the National Secular Society I have to take exception to your characterisation of the NSS as a "purveyor of bigotry". The NSS is not anti-religion as many claim, in fact it is essentially pro religion by being against the domination of public life by any one religion. The alternative would be the primacy of one "right" religion, which many bloggers variously assume to be their own. As Mr Justice Laws noted recently, that leads inevitably to theocracy.

If Christians feel threatened by the rising tide of secularism, it is not their freedom to believe that is under threat but their presumption to a special place in society.

The not so meek, it seems, are not going to give up the Earth without a struggle.

5/03/2010 4:39 AM  
Blogger Patriccus said...

Heh heh, regardless of the arguments concerning the modern electronic age, I suspect that Harris and his hordes will be wishing that they had spent more hours on the campaign trail and less time writing hurt diatribes at perceived injustices.

176? Now THAT'S a figure to keep you awake at night.

5/07/2010 5:24 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Yep. The mighty Lib Dem machine in Oxford West & Abingdon just went kaput. (How are they going to explain why dear Evan - majority in 2005: 7,683 - lost his seat when Lib Dems with smaller majorities didn’t lose theirs? Answers must, of course, be evidence-based and scientific.)
Bye, bye, Evan. Oh, wait a minute. It’s not quite bye, bye, yet. What do you know. The BBC choose him to enlighten us about the Lib Dem tactics in talking to the other parties. You just can’t keep a good man down.

5/08/2010 1:08 PM  

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