Thursday, 13 November 2008

Stephen Green makes a late bid for Bad Faith Award

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Do come on over (and change your bookmarks accordingly): rationalist.org.uk

Just as it looked like Sarah Palin was going to walk away with the Bad Faith Awards, Christian 'lone' Voice Stephen Green makes a late bid for the prize, by forcing the Waterstones in Cardiff to cancel a book signing. Patrick Jones was due to sign copies of his new poetry collection Darkness is Where the Stars Are but Waterstones cancelled at the last moment citing concerns about disruption. Apparently our friend Stephen had mobilised a few believers, aggrieved at what they consider Jones' blasphemy, who sent emails and called the store. What's the deal! Are we allowed to pressure bookstores to cancel events featuring people we don't like... if so there's a few I'd like to start with.

I phoned the manager of the Cardiff Store, who wouldn't comment but referred me to John Howells in their central press office. He said the event was cancelled because of concerns about safety in the light of a high volume of complaints received yesterday (he wouldn't say how many or what proportion were emails or phone calls). I asked him if they were threatening or intimidating and he said they weren't but expressed outrage and offence. Clearly there was ayt least an implicit threat of disruption.

He then raised the issue that Stephen Green does in this radio exchange with Patrick Jones - apparently Jones had distributed a press release before the event, to a list including Green- that contained some of the allegedly offensive lines about sex and religion. Howells said that Waterstones tried to contact Jones and his publishers about this yesterday but were unable to so had no choice but to cancel. But even if Jones did send a provocative press release, so what? He is trying to promote his book and if he feels he would also like to challenge Green's anachronistic notions of blasphemy, why shouldn't he? Surely it is a matter of principle that you should not be able to precipitate the cancellation of any event just by claiming it offends you or implying that you will attempt to disrupt it? Surely it is the author and publisher who Waterstones should be supporting here? Or is that too much to ask from a company whose entire profits are built on the hard work of writers? The book remains on sale at the store (print run of 100 apparently) - after all, Howells says - we do not censor.

Green is a self-promoting loon with a good email distribution list but with no real constituency, who gets far too much attention in the media. But even if he was a legitimate leader speaking on behalf of thousands Waterstones answer should have been the same: If you don't like the book don't read it and don't come to the books signing. End of. If bookstores start caving in to this kind of (albeit cowardly and pathetic click-of-a-mouse intimidation) then we really are in the shit.

What you can do:
  • Email Waterstones' cheif exec to let him know what you think: gerry.johnson@waterstones.com
  • Vote for Stephen Green in our Bad Faith Awards (if you've already voted and you feel strongly enough you can change your vote. I have)
  • Listen to Ariane Sherine of the Atheist Bus Campaign nominate Green for the priceless statement that "people don't like to be preached at."
[Thanks to Greg Pycroft for the link]

17 comments:

Jon Britton said...

I can't believe this. I would have thought Waterstones would have more of a backbone than that. Anyway, go Patrick for sticking around and not letting them win completely!

Clare said...

What was the book and what were their complaints about the author or the book? Sorry, I must have missed the details of this one.

Anonymous said...

I have emailed Waterstones in utter disgust as their caving in to fascist Christians. The radio interview between Jones and Green is actually quite funny if it wasn't so sad.

Psychodiva said...

e-mail sent- and copied to all my contacts so that they also may send e-mails- I am disgusted at this and feel a boycott coming on.

Anonymous said...

Caspar,
Have you been had, because when I emailed that address you supplied it bounces back. And there isn't an alternative one on the Waterstones website.
If anyone has been successful with an email, please let me know what address works?
Thanks

Caspar Melville said...

Thanks, anon. I think I put a spelling error in the emial address, sorry. I've changed it now, please try it again.

Caspar

Anonymous said...

"I put a spelling error in the emial address"

he he

Neil said...

I've written an email of complaint. For those of you who wish to protest the attempt at censorship by buying the book, here are links to Waterstones and WH Smith (in case you want to protest Waterstones' reaction).

Darkness is where the stars are at Waterstones

Darkness is where the stars are at WH Smith

Anonymous said...

Aha! Comments rather than commentss works so much better. And now the CEO too. Bonus! Thank you Caspar - email sent and pressure applied to friends to do the same.

B

Anonymous said...

I've had a response too...


Many thanks for your email and please rest assured that we understand your concerns. You will find a statement below that we hope explains our position:

Waterstone's does occasionally receive requests that we remove books from sale. Our answer is always that we do not act as a censor, and we cannot and should not decide what the public may or may not read, and we will only remove a title from sale on the advice of the publisher. That remains the case for Mr Jones' book, and it remains available from Waterstone's. Any questions or comments regarding the content of the book should be directed towards the Welsh Books Council.

The poetry reading was organised and planned in good faith between our store and the publisher. However, it would appear that shortly before the event took place, the author deliberately took provocative action to create a furore around the publication of his book. These actions were taken without prior discussion with the store or their consent and altered the nature of the pre-agreed event. For this reason and because of the risk of disruption to the store, our staff and customers we felt it appropriate to cancel the event.

Best wishes,
Gerry Johnson

Dave The Drummer said...

I found Gerry Johnson's statement to be unsatisfactory and so sent the email below :

Dear Sir,

I am rather alarmed to become aware that Waterstones, long a champion of free speech and impartiality, has seemingly become a craven puppet of the religious right.
I refer of course to the unwarranted cancellation of the book signing even for Patrick Jones' Darkness Is Where The Stars Are.
That a minority group can make a few clicks of a mouse and a couple of phonecalls and have the largest book seller in Britain dancing to their tune is a very sorry circumstance indeed.
Or is this some form of new policy where customers or members of the public can call in and have an event that offends them cancelled ?
If so I will review the list of forthcoming attractions and determine which of them I would like removed on my whim.
I look forward to your reassurance that you and your excellent and invaluable book stores remain on the side of free speech and rationality.

Best regards

*name removed here for my privacy*

Anonymous said...

“I am rather alarmed to become aware that Waterstones, long a champion of free speech and impartiality, has seemingly become a craven puppet of the religious right.”

The general consensus in this case is that Waterstones exercised their right of freedom to judge for themselves what action served their best interests as an impartial business. They disassociated themselves from the confrontation which was between Stephen Green and Patrick Jones – invited by the actions of Patrick Jones. They did not stop the signing; Mr Jones could sign his books anywhere of his choice without abusing the hospitality of any organization that accommodated him. He made one big error of judgement!

On what basis do you claim authority to deny Waterstones the freedom to exercise their right to remain neutral and impartial?

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Would you feel comfortable with the idea that someone with Nazi views, say holocaust denial or anti-semitism would be allowed free reign in these circumstances? Or, given the propensity for Muslims to threaten death, what if it had been someone with anti-Islamic views?

I am not sure your post makes it clear what you stand for? Are you favouring absolutely no censorship? In that case you would be a party to hate crimes. I just ask because, as a Christian, I am quite happy for this man to say what he likes as long as he does not incite hatred and violence. Are you sure you can guarantee that is the case? Have you read the work of this author, or are you merely stirring up unspecified and general hate against Christians? Please. I want to know.

Anonymous said...

“Would you feel comfortable with the idea that someone with Nazi views, say holocaust denial or anti-semitism would be allowed free reign in these circumstances? Or, given the propensity for Muslims to threaten death, what if it had been someone with anti-Islamic views?”

Patrick Jones does have anti-Islamic views. I believe he sent his poems to Muslim groups. In today’s climate in the UK, the Muslim community are more subdued, but the reactions will be played out in the Mosques and we may reap the results while the instigators of such actions will not be exposed. This is the kind of baiting that Muslim extremists try on with Christians in Muslim countries. I’m not sure if you read extracts from his poems, but if you did I would be interested to know if you would allow this man anywhere near your child’s classroom or what parent would use his material as a child’s bedtime story.

“I am not sure your post makes it clear what you stand for? Are you favouring absolutely no censorship? In that case you would be a party to hate crimes. I just ask because, as a Christian, I am quite happy for this man to say what he likes as long as he does not incite hatred and violence. Are you sure you can guarantee that is the case?”

As a Christian you will know that it was hate and mob rule that sent Jesus, an innocent man, to his death in favour of showing mercy to a criminal. Not even ‘the sly fox’ could appease their hate filled lust. He also warned you that the world would hate you, but they hated him first. That is an undeniable fact played out in the UK today under the leadership of it’s own ‘Ceaser’. Richard Dawkins campaigned long and hard for disrespect and he has got it on his doorstep. Raising a mob is one thing but controlling a mob is another. Jones’ language is no different to what has been exposed on his own website for the world to see.

“Have you read the work of this author, or are you merely stirring up unspecified and general hate against Christians? Please. I want to know.”

I was defending Waterstones’ right to deny Patrick Jones the right to play out his deceptive plans on their premises and drawing them into his vile conflict and then claiming their undivided support underneath their nose.

Bookshops have accommodated professional debates on books but not at the amateur level of Patrick Jones.

I hope this goes some way to explain my position.

Anonymous said...

I'll be looking down on you all from Heaven, while you're burning in Hell.

Anonymous said...

I wish to make it clear that the language of this last poster is not representative of the kind of language I would use.

I am the author of the previous post.

annonymous (b)

Valion said...

Quite unfortunately I can believe this.

What I want to know is whether or not this only works if your part of a major faith group.

If not then I'm going to start campaigning to get them to stop allowing religious bigots to sign various anti pagan and new age books such as the 'book of lies' and 'paganism Satanism'.
(This may be more of an America thing)
Although a lot of new age books are badly written, at least they don't tell the readers to go out and 'purify the lost souls'.