I wanted to leave this topic well alone, but unfortunately Peter Hitchens is now claiming on his own blog that:
Intrepid Web voyagers may also be able to find an encounter with me and one of my more virulent critics, in which I have caught him red-handed distorting my words, and he and his supporters insist that this is perfectly all right.
My crime was to copy and paste something I had written in an earlier blog post, here is what I wrote in the comments:
I admitted – twice in the post – that I had pointlessly ranted, but how else can you engage with a writer who actually claimed in the column that I was writing about that: ‘most of our elected leaders are “unrepentant illegal drug-takers”‘
People interested in the complete post can read it here (because Peter seems to have an aversion to linking to sources).
Now, what I put into inverted commas was what I had written previously, only the words in speech marks belonged to Peter Hitchens – his original words:
So many of our leaders now are unrepentant illegal drug-takers themselves that they shouldn’t be trusted near the making of laws*.
I pointed out to Peter that I was quoting my own words and his – as shown by inverted commas and speech marks – but I apologised for the clumsy introduction which was misleading. Rather than accept this and move on he accused me of blatant distortion, dishonesty and concluded that the credibility of this blog was now in ruins – ending with his final comment:
Final, final, final word. It is clear from all above that in this little world, objecting to dishonesty and distortion is ‘pedantry’, and twisting the words of others is excusable. No absolutes here, then. Truth here is a relative concept. That’s the choice of the host of this site and of his friends. Very well. The rest of us can now with confidence refer to this place in future as ‘The site that makes up quotes’.
Hence my lovely new tagline. One little detail and everything I have ever written can be dismissed as far as Hitchens’ is concerned. Nicely done.
Anyway, throughout the ‘debate’ – most of the time it really doesn’t deserve the term – with Hitchens I was open and honest as usual – even in the comment that led him to accuse me of distorting his words I linked to my original post that would have set any reader straight about my clumsy quotation immediately (they would see I was copying and pasting what I had written earlier, not purposefully putting words into his mouth) – hardly the actions of someone being purposefully deceptive or dishonest. I moderated no comments, the thread stands in its mind-numbing entirety for any neutral observer to make their own mind up about the terrible nature of my crime, and the superb intellectual victory scored by Mr Hitchens.
Except, although he keeps referring to this blog and his victory over anyone who argues with him, he won’t link to it. He doesn’t trust his own readers to make their own mind up; instead he just fills them in with his version of events. He may argue that the level of ‘critics’ he encountered was too low to warrant a link, but it seems apparent to me that he simply could not defend his position on passive smoking so he therefore decided to derail the argument in order to ‘win’ on his own terms.
Peter Hitchens can accuse me of whatever he likes, I stand by my arguments about why he is wrong about passive smoking (more about this later) and I stand by the comments section of that post to demonstrate that I am a reasonable, open and honest person (not to mention naive for thinking I could get anywhere or achieve anything with the argument). If he really thought the comments section of that post suggested otherwise perhaps he should link to it and let his readers make up their own minds.
*Furthermore, Hitchens’ argued that the meaning of ‘most’ is massively different from ‘many’ and therefore I was massively and dishonestly distorting what he originally said. However, given that laws require a majority to get through the House of Commons it follows that Peter’s worry would only be real if a significant majority of politicians were ‘unrepentant illegal drug-takers’ to push such votes through. This suggests that ‘most’ is an appropriate word to use – and remember, he doesn’t just say ‘many’ but ‘so many’.
And let’s face it, here is a man who is happy to stand by his ludicrous (no evidence provided) statement that: ‘So many of our leaders now are unrepentant illegal drug-takers themselves that they shouldn’t be trusted near the making of laws.’ But change ‘many’ to ‘most’, and he feels the need to defend himself in case he is being made to look silly.