22 Mar 2011

Obscure Blogger Vilifies Johnny Ball? No, Actually

I thought I might get back into blogging some time but didn't know it would happen like this.
I wrote this small scale blog for a few years before taking a long break. In that time I deleted most of my sidebar, especially links to other blogs I am no longer regularly reading, leaving static links like a 3 year old blog awards badge and the link to sense about science's libel campaign. A working email address was still displayed on my Blogger profile, but I rarely checked it. All new comments go to my main email so I see those right away. Oh and I haven't checked my stats for at least a year- why bother?!

Recently I checked that little used email address and had a message alerting me to a Science Blogs post on Deltoid, a blog by Tim Lambert. This was the first notice I had that Johnny Ball was going around telling credulous journalists that a nasty blogger was mounting a campaign against him. In an interview with the TES he complains that:

his bookings have dropped by 90 per cent over the past year and the 72-year-old has blamed this on harassment by extreme environmentalists who object to his dismissal of climate change as “alarmist nonsense”.

He continued to complain about some blogger saying he “should not be allowed near children”. He then claimed:

This was clearly a criminal act aimed directly to damage me and my career business,” he said. “Since notifying the police of these acts aimed at damaging my name and reputation, the offensive web links have quite amazingly disappeared.

So who is this mysterious blogger who removed one of the "offensive" links after he complained to the police- it's all revealed on his own (horrible looking, badly formatted) blog. He writes [scroll down to the terrifying sounding headline: "VERY IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT. Wednesday 9/2/2011"] My thoughts are in red:

It is with horror and disgust that I find that I am the victim of some kind of Internet Smear Campaign.Oh really? Tell us more.

I have had to complain to the police and my problem is now logged as a harrassment (sic) case and is being investigated. Wow, sounds serious. Someone better look out or the fuzz'll be onto their bad self.

This morning, an early phone call asked if the voice mail saying I could not attend a Teacher Training event on 1st March was true. Luckily the recipient knew that I make all my own telephone calls. We have the recording which we will hand to the police. The event was posted on my News and Apperances (sic) listing. How awful, Johnny is loosing bookings over all this! Just who could have so much power in the life of the famous man?

Anyone Googling “JOHNNYBALL” (without the gap) may have found a sponsored direct link to “Johnny Ball/Paul Raymond” which when clicked on immediately opens up on a collection of explicit nude pictures of females. I had obviously opened this link and contacted the Paul Raymond organisation. Before they could act, the link had been removed, - 9/2/11 - so it is clear that I am being monitored. Someone please explain the internet to Johnny- meta tags, other people in the world sharing his name- there are many non-conspiracy reasons why this could have happened.

Also on a Northern Ireland Blog, The Family Voyage, you tell 'em Johnny...wait a minute, that's me! WTF? which prides itself on winning some Blog Award (yay! big up my blog award...oh, he's being snarky, I'm hurt now) flagged JohnnyBall and featured the statement, “Johnny Ball should not be allowed near children.” This is a lie- neither the blog post nor the comments contained that statement. Being near to children has been my career for over 50 years. As yet I cannot contact them, as their site is only open to known members?? (Their flagged Johnny Ball link has now miraculously disappeared) It's easy to contact me. Also, the post has not and never had disappeared- no idea why he claims this.

Their beef is that I dared suggest in 2009 on NI Radio that Sammy Wilson as Energy Minister was right when he refused to air “Carbon Trust” TV commercials, one of which showed a very young child being told a story of a drowning world through climate change. Following complaints to the Advertising Authorities, these ads were found “guilty of exaggeration and alarmism over climate change” and were ordered to be dropped. So that would indicate that I was totally justified in condemning them?

Anyone who knows me and my career, must know that I have never done anything that in any way would harm a single child. Who has claimed that he would?

I defy anyone to find anything that I have done in my career that, were it publicly known, would harm my reputation.

[Here follows some of his funny wee notions on climate science.]

Everyone who knows me, will know just how sad I am that I have had to write this blog.

Hopefully it will be the last. I so enjoy working to kids and making them laugh, before I add material that should hopefully give them confidence in their own abailities (sic) and their future as adults. Whatever is wrong with our society I see nothing wrong with the vast majority of the kids I aim to inspire.

Johnny Ball - Wednesday 9/2/2011 - updated 14/2/11

Note the lack of links in this piece- perhaps he doesn't know how to hyperlink?

So far, so daft. But this sparked off a furor among mainstream journalists and climate change "skeptics" all outraged at the evil "climate change zealot" who defamed their Johnny.

The Telegraph: Johnny Ball 'abused by environmentalists' over climate change denial by Graeme Paton

In an interview, he told how websites had been set up in his name featuring pornographic images and a blogger wrote that he should “not be allowed near children”.
The Daily Mail: Climate zealots made my life hell for being a sceptic says Johnny Ball, who was victim of porn and blog smears by Kate Loveys

Yesterday he revealed he has become the victim of a vicious hate campaign by environmentalist ‘zealots’.Mr Ball – father of Radio Two DJ Zoe Ball – popularised maths and science for millions of youngsters in the 1970s and 1980s with his eccentric TV shows. More recently he has carved out a career giving talks in schools and at science festivals and teachers’ conferences.

This will make the right-on brigade hot and bothered But he says zealots are trying to sabotage his career because he has described climate change as ‘alarmist nonsense’.
He claims the internet has been used to try to discredit his opinions. Bloggers have run campaigns stating Mr Ball ‘should not be allowed near children’.
Notice that my one lowly blog has metamorphosised into a whole host of campaigning zealot bloggers out to get poor Johnny. Wow.

Via the Deltoid post, I hear of a bloke writing in something called the Herald Sun who got really hot and bothered about all this: “Pedophile!”, the warmists argued
"It’s that totalitarian mindset outing itself again. The savagery and intolerance are unmistakable giveaways."
Writing on the Guardian Environment Blog, Leo Hickman wrote: Let's join Johnny Ball in condemning extremists in the climate debate
Ball says he was forced to call the police last week after a website featuring a pornographic image was posted online bearing his name. In a separate incident, he says a blogger stated that "he should not be allowed near children". He says that both sites have since been taken down and South Thames police says it is investigating his complaints.
No links to the blog in question on any of these so readers can assess the claims for themselves. Nor does it look like any of these esteemed journalists spent the 2 minutes or so it would have taken them to find the post Ball referred to and realise he was spouting bollox! I am only grateful that my name was not mentioned on any of articles as the climate change deniers are a scary bunch and I wouldn't want to have to deal with their attacks.

You might think given all the references to the police taking action against the perpetrators of these dastardly crimes, they might have been in touch, but no. The PSNI have not bashed my door down in a quest for justice. My blog has sat there utterly unchanged, uncontested and mostly unread for ages.

If you want to read the post in question, it's this: Johnny Ball, what happened to you?

In the comments, one person wrote:
I just went on Johnny Ball's site to send him an email asking him not to damage himself in this way. I then read his blog and it's all come clear. He's a religious nut. Should of been clear before. That's why he tied scientists to eugenics. Something religious people do. Suggesting that science caused the holocaust. Heard it before, again and again from these people. Johnny is not a man who should go anywhere near children with his ideas. He is not a man of reason and evidence but a ranting old lunatic. Guess the reason he disappeared from our screens is a mystery no more. Sad.
Note the quote in red. It is very different from what Ball claims I wrote.

At least Leo Hickman posted an update when commentors on his initial article on the matter posted a bit more information; things that he should have investigated himself.

Johnny Ball denies 'climate zealots are ruining my career' claims
For example, one of Ball's central claims was that a blogger had stated that he "should not be allowed near children". The word "paedophile" was not used, but the implication was clear. But soon the original blog posting was isolated and it turned out that the full statement used – by a reader on a blog run by a woman with an autistic son – was that Ball, as a climate sceptic, "should [not] go anywhere near children with his ideas". A very different message. Speculation mounted in the comments beneath my article – and elsewhere – that Ball was wrongly maligning and blaming environmentalists with this pointedly edited sentence.
Well quite!

But in this article Hickman quotes a conversation he had with Ball, asking for clarification. Ball just isn't ready to let go of his rancour with me:
The other [link which was removed] appeared on a Northern Ireland blog that prided itself in winning a blog award. Sheesh Johnny, enough praise for my blog award already! It was years ago! Googled items usually have two lines of introductory text. This one said, 'Johnny Ball should not be allowed near children.' This appeared on the listing and was very alarming. More lies.

Their issue was in my support on BBC Radio Northern Ireland of Sammy Wilson as Energy Minister who had said he would not allow a Carbon Trust commercial which showed a child of around 5 being read a bedtime story in which the world was drowning. On that show, I lost my temper as two other NI MPs were banging on about who had the largest carbon footprint over the mileage they each did in a week.

After many complaints, the Advertising Standards Authority declared the ads alarmist, or whatever - the point is they did feel they might be damaging and worrying for children and they were withdrawn – so, whatever the beef was, my stance was in line with the authorities and so I was justified. But for whatever reason, for that blog to make such derogatory statements about me, was totally out of order. The two blogs disappeared a few days later. The most derogatory statement I made about him was to call him a silly old duffer- a comment I stand by. Also, once again- the post never has disappeared! Wow- boggles!

So there you go, my reintroduction to blogging- not with a charming anecdote about my beautiful son, but in order to defend myself against ridiculous and frankly defamatory statements about me which were (though thankfully without including my name) propagated by the mainstream media. These articles gave rise to over 1000 comments, many of which were directed against the evil blogger attacking dear sweet Johnny.
Frankly I'm amazed. And rather pissed off.


Socrates said...


sli said...

Wow, that's wild. He must have a Google alert on his name read by someone who doesn't quite understand blogs.

Deano said...

At least Leo Hickman published a retraction of a kind, although I note that he still didn't take the trouble to contact you.

On the other hand The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The TES and the Herald Sun (a Murdoch paper incidentally)are all more than happy to leave the story uncorrected on their archives. The myth is well established, and expect the zombie to be resurrected on a regular basis for years to come.

Sharon McDaid said...

@Socrates, eh?

@sli, It's more likely that he did a vanity google search as the post he complains about was written just short of 2 years before he went crying to the gullible press.
He certainly doesn't understand blogs- doesn't know how to write one either.

@Deano, that's a very good point. You just know that this myth will be propagated- "Oh those climate change zealots, you know they went so far as to call Johnny Ball a paedophile!"
I wrote for years about the media's misrepresentation and mistakes in autism reporting, but I'm still shocked at this.

Andrew Judge said...

It says more about the current state of journalism than anything else. I wholeheartedly agree with Ben Goldacre's assertion, in the Guardian Bad Science column, that journalists should be obliged to link to prime sources at the end of each story. Not a big ask in the internet age.

Jon said...

Quick suggestions about newspaper pieces: 1) Call/email journalists involved and explain. Ask them to correct online articles and/or include some comment from you. 2) Ask them what else can be done - aim for a printed correction. Failing that, ask about getting a letter printed. The original journalist may not be able to help too much here - you may want to speak to the assistant editor or similar about advice on this. All of this will make you feel better and put something in print that reduces chances of the same claims being repeated again.

Sharon McDaid said...

@Andrew, I agree, online journalism would benefit from links. Print articles could list their main sources too. It's so obvious to bloggers- you make a link. Why can't journalists do this, with disclaimers if necessary?

@Jon. Thanks for your suggestions. I will look into those. I think it would be good to kill off this daft claim.

Anonymous said...

My last hope for Children's TV presenters of my childhood now rests with Brian Cant.