Thursday, 28 January 2010

James Delingpole's apology

Following the atrocious debacle of the weekend, in which a member of the public was harassed after having his name and address published at the Telegraph Blogs website, climate change denialist* James Delingpole has offered something of an apology.

Predictably, he can't help but use the opportunity chiefly to sneer at The Guardian's eco-friendly commentator George Monbiot, who called attention to this bizarre behaviour.

Here's the actual apology:
And why did I pull [the article]? Because I made a stupid mistake, that’s why. When I posted up the letter quoted above, I neglected to remove the sender’s name and address. This was careless but not, I promise, vindictive. And I deeply regret any distress or hassle which may have been caused to the person I named. When I read some of the comments below my blog and realised what I’d unwittingly unleashed, I removed the person’s name from the blog; then later, all the comments pertaining to the person; then later, I pulled the blog altogether – embarrassed, ashamed and rather wishing it would all go away. Thanks to Monbiot it hasn’t. But what I would really like to say to the person I named is: I’m sincerely, totally and unreservedly sorry. (And if it’s any consolation, you should see some of the hatemail I’ve been getting from Monbiot’s Guardianista chums).
Fair enough.

I am still unconvinced by Delingpole's explanation of his outrage, however. The charge is that similar (but not exactly the same, I believe) letters were sent by different individuals to 200 different Conservative MPs and parliamentary candidates, which Delingpole thinks is evidence that a global warming lobby is behind the letters. Highly likely, but I am not convinced that is the problem Delingpole wants us to think it is. And it is a huge problem for him. Significant enough that he suggested it was "nauseating," a case of "stalking" by "eco-bullies," and the work of a "disgusting eco-fascist organisation." He even proposes "f--- off" would be the best response from Edwin Northover, the Tory PPC who received the email.

I don't buy his defense of his hysterical overreaction. To explain, here's how I replied to his blog on the Telegraph thread:
James, I have great difficulty believing you would get so hysterical (and you appear not to know how blatantly hysterical and unhinged your rants sound) were it an anti-AGW who had sent a letter as part of a campaign by an anti-AGW group.

The letter itself was so innocuous, the charge of bullying and stalking is just ridiculous. Unless MPs and PPCs are really so thin-skinned, in which case they’re in the wrong business.

I can’t help but see a parallel with last week’s ruling in the US that corporations should be free to provide unlimited finance to political parties. The argument I heard from the political right was that a corporation was protected by the First Amendment (free speech) just as surely as an individual. Every group is made up of individuals. An individual pressing a PPC or MP for answers is valid, but several individuals making a coordinated effort to press for answers is bullying? It was very clear in this weekend’s debacle who was bullying who.

Granted, Monbiot has a political axe to grind with all this, but even if he’s a broken clock… you know the saying.

*Denialists, feel free to educate me on the appropriate inoffensive term for someone who denies anthropocentric global warming.

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