Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Down's syndrome, teenage pregnancy, Paul Flynn and the courtesies netiquette requires

Over on Read My Day, Paul Flynn offers his visitors 'solid blogging'. As MPs' blogs go it's not that bad (still quite stodgy though). Mixed in with the usual garden fêtes, community centre openings and astonishingly upbeat assessments of the Government's performance he does offer some off-message political opinions, and he's always ready to trade blows with his visitors through the comments.

Yesterday evening a Ms Rebecca Burt left a comment on the previous days post 'Obama's Palin Bonus' which struck such a chord with Paul that he quoted it in full in his subsequent post 'Some good news' (Rather than link here, I'll do so later, for reasons that should become apparent). Here, recovered from my internet cache, is what Paul actually posted:

Madam President Palin

This comment came into my blog this evening from Rebecca Burt. It’s, perfect, I would not want to change a word.

'Let's see...an ex-beauty pageant winner...with an undergraduate degree in Journalism...who does not believe in global warming...who does believe a woman should have no control over her own body and for 9 months should be viewed as nothing more than a baby container...who's main attributes seem to be stubbornness and vicious competiveness... who has had next to no experience in government...who has a currently very messy family situation given that she had recently given birth to a downs syndrome baby, has a 17 year old daughter who is unwed and pregnant

and is facing investigation for using her political office to smear her ex-brother-in-law and get him fired (he is in a custody battle with her sister)...who seems to be in bed with big oil...who is running for VP...whose running mate is 72 and is a cancer survivor...who has no foreign policy background and in fact has only been out of the country twice...who may become President of the country I love at a time when it faces the most complex foreign policy issues, economic issues and domestic issues it has in decades...Why does this sound like a totally unbelievably bad novel???? I for one am terrified and cannot understand what Mr. McCain was thinking!!!!'

Posted on September 01, 2008 at 08:34 PM Permalink
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Note that "It's, perfect, I would not want to change a word"; I think we can take that as a pretty ringing endorsement of everything Ms Burt's had to say for herself. I was somewhat surprised since she chucks in a lot of comments that have nothing whatever to do with Ms Palin's fitness for office; the reference to her older daughter is at best juvenile, that to her baby with Down's syndrome frankly offensive. Ms Burt clearly likes to think herself a feminist, but at the same time resents Ms Palin having a career outside the home let alone allowing a 17 year old daughter to get pregnant (you'd have thought she'd have approved of that) . It's certainly not the sort of view I'd expect to find a Labour MP agreeing with (or an MP from any party come to that). So I left the following comment:

I think that there are one or two issues Rebecca Burt raised that you should have wanted to change, Paul. Maybe you could elaborate on why you think that having a young child with Down's syndrome, or for that matter a 17 year old daughter who is 'unwed' and pregnant (shock, horror!) should in any way disqualify Ms Palin from running as the US Vice President? Why should the fact that she is an 'ex-beauty pageant winner' be of any account?

Ms Palin's political background & beliefs and her lack of experience are a different manner, but I am surprised to find you endorsing Ms Burt's astonishingly offensive critique of her 'very messy family situation'. Unless of course the two of you really think that a mother's place is in the home.

Presumably Paul agreed with me, and hopefully felt suitably ashamed, since he carefully went through and erased all references to Ms Palin's baby with Down's syndrome; from Ms Burt's original posting, from his repost, and (rather clumsily) from my own comment. However, he then posted a follow-up comment which pointedly avoided all reference to his having made these edits, instead responding to my own as if his edited version were what I had written.

Pleased as I was that Paul had taken on board my criticism, I was somewhat annoyed by his failure to acknowledge the means by which he had done so since it left my edited comment strangely blunted set against his subsequent response. "Perfect, I would not want to change a word" is still there, even though it's now patently untrue. I've left a follow up suggesting he may wish to edit that too but although he's seen it he's chosen not to so far.

I would have thought it a matter of the most basic politeness to at least acknowledge when you have chosen to alter a comment left on your blog, particularly since you may well have changed the intended meaning or emphasis. I certainly would, and I'm disappointed Paul didn't.

Here's the link to Paul's amended post. Sadly, Rebecca Burt left no link back of her own.

Update: I've now had an exchange of emails with Paul about this. He claims that he sent me an email at the time, although it certainly never arrived. However, this is what he now says:

The health of politicians' children is not a proper subject for political controversy and I have deleted all reference to it from the contributions I had. In your case the only point you made was about the disease, so it had to be deleted. All other postings had deletions.

None of this addresses why it was that Paul chose to repost Ms Burt's reference to Down's syndrome in the first place given that it was so self-evidently offensive. Nor why he presumably still regards the pregnancy of Ms Palin's daughter as a proper subject for political controversy. Or for that matter why his post is still (at this point in time) making that "perfect, I would not want to change a word" claim.

Further update: Another exchange of emails. This is what Paul now has to say:

When someone tried to make a political issue of that one factor, it was then I decided that this was not a fit subject for a political wrangle. It would have with hindsight been better to remove the reference to the original letter. The same policy apples to the families of other politicians. As ALL references had been removed, there was no point is stirring up controversy by publishing your contribution. You have mis-informed the readers of your blog. You were informed on the address you provided.

So what he seems to be saying if I read him right is that it was ok for him to mention the baby with Down's syndrome until someone called him to account over it. Which means it was all my fault. That's alright then, all as plain as day.

Not quite sure what Paul understands 'misinformed' to mean. I certainly didn't leave him the wrong email; here it is from a screenshot taken just after I left my last comment on Paul's blog (it enters automatically since I ticked the 'remember personal info' box on an earlier occasion).

Looks like the same email address that you'll find if you use the 'Email me' link in the sidebar to me.

Shameless. That's the word I'd use.

[this issue is also being discussed over on Fora; if the comment posted there has indeed been left by Paul Flynn, then shameless is a considerable unerstatement.

I'll summarise what I've said there. This is not a political row. It is a row over whether Paul Flynn displayed poor judgement in endorsing wholesale as he did the views of a very immature young girl, and whether he then attempted to conceal that poor judgement by editing not only his post but several comments. He is not even well informed about Down's syndrome, it is not a disease. Such, I fear, is ignorance.]


Fidothedog said...

Paul Flynn is well known for his spin, editing of post afterwards and going back on what he has said before.

Also his removal of comments that he doesn't like.

Oh if you want to ever have your posts deleted, ask him about his libel case that he lost!

You can find out about that from his Wikipedia page, but in short he fibbed about a company called Endowment Justice and had to stump up some cash!!!!!

Stephen said...

Maybe Paul will leave a comment here by way of explanation.

Political Umpire said...

It's extremely unlikely he will leave any acknowledgement, much less admission, on this blog, as the whole sorry saga reveals him to be highly intellectually dishonest. Needless to say, if Mr Flynn lacks honesty in this sense, I'm inclined to the view that he lacks it in other respects, in common with many other members of his profession. Time for another post on netiquette too.

Stephen said...

It's quite ironic really that he's also a little older than John McCain. Time to be drawing that Parliamentary pension methinks.

Stephen said...

Thanks for the very kind link back, PU

Paul Flynn said...

Thanks for your kind comments Stephen.Your less than kind ones are noted. With between 1,000 and 2,000 hits on my sites a day, it's a hard battle to keep the crazies out. That is why I have to restrict debate occasionally.

References to the site are always welcome and the discriminating people who use your site are very welcome on mine. Some have dropped in already.

I am very proud on the work I did on endowments miss-selling. My alleged 'libel' case involve claims I made about advice companies slicing off between 25% and 50% from compensation won for those who had been miss-sold.

I was advised that I had a 90% chance of winning the case, but if I lost, the legal fees could be more than a £million. As I was running out of insurance money I had no choice but to give up the case.

There is a principle here in that fear of being sued by a large companies with near infinite resources could inhibit MPs from exposing excessive commission charges by ambulance chasers. I have taken steps to ensure that MPs have more protection to campaign without this threat of being ruined in future.

Thanks for your interest and I look forward to more of your readers visiting my blog and contributing to the discussions.

best wishes,

Paul Flynn


Stephen said...

Thanks for coming over to comment, Paul. As far as your difficulties with our libel laws go, I more than sympathise. The difficulties a couple of bloggers have run into (covered in earlier posts here) have simply underlined the age old problem that they make it very very difficult to criticise the wealthy (Robert Maxwell being the obvious example). Our Government could usefully devote time to reviewing those laws, particularly in the light of the criticism they received in the recent UN report.

Given your constituent Fido's comment, I checked out your Wikipedia entry, and took no negative inference from that whatever; I doubt if any reasonable person would.

The selling of endowment mortgages was certainly scandalous, pretty much on a par with the selling of private pensions, just two of the predictable consequences of the Thatcher era.

Political Umpire said...

I tried to add my tuppence on his blog; he won't let me. Well at least he can't interfere with this blog (can he?) ...

Stephen said...

I've responded substantially elsewhere, not least at the end of my post.

Political Umpire said...

One sideline of all this is that perhaps some public good would come of Mrs Palin's election, in that it would give Down's Syndrome more publicity, which Flynn and the silly woman he endorsed show is sadly needed.