How do you solve a problem like Maria?

May
21
2015
by
Lynne McTaggart
/
1274
Comments

Thank you all for those lovely statements of support after I wrote that our Intention Experiment website – a website devoted to healing the world’s ills through group prayer – got hacked into and threats on me, my family, my business, even my car were put in its place.

I was fascinated to see that among those offering support that the perpetrators get caught was Maria MacLachlan. Maria and her husband Alan Henness are effectively the Nightingale Collaboration, a tiny organization that was given seed money by Sense About Science in order to spend a prodigious amount of time reporting advertisers and practitioners of alternative medicine to the UK’s The Advertising Standards Authority.

Thank you all for those lovely statements of support after I wrote that our Intention Experiment website – a website devoted to healing the world’s ills through group prayer – got hacked into and threats on me, my family, my business, even my car were put in its place.

I was fascinated to see that among those offering support that the perpetrators get caught was Maria MacLachlan. Maria and her husband Alan Henness are effectively the Nightingale Collaboration, a tiny organization that was given seed money by Sense About Science in order to spend a prodigious amount of time reporting advertisers and practitioners of alternative medicine to the UK’s The Advertising Standards Authority. And many of the ads they've tried to stop are the ones that appear in the pages of our magazine What Doctors Don't Tell You.

As Henness writes, ‘the Nightingale Collaboration was set up to enable my wife, Maria MacLachlan, and I to share our knowledge and experience in challenging misleading claims in healthcare advertising and to encourage anyone who is concerned at protecting the public from misinformation in healthcare promotion to join us in challenging it.”

What knowledge this is is not immediately apparent as the couple appear to have no background in evaluating or studying medicine or alternative medicine (Henness reports his former employment as R&D manager for Honeywell Security and Customer Electronics).

The fact that Maria spoke up interests me a great deal, as Maria happens to be the Community Services Officer of the British Humanist Society, which campaigns ‘for an open society and a secular state with no religious privilege or discrimination based on religion or belief,’ according to its website. (Alan was former Convenor for the Humanist Society.)

On the website Think Humanism (http://www.thinkhumanism.com/humanism2.html), Maria wrote a short précis of what it means to be a humanist: ‘Humanists embrace the moral principle known as the Golden Rule. This means we believe that people should aim to treat each other as they would like to be treated themselves – with tolerance, consideration and compassion.’

That is a fine definition and one I would agree with. In fact, it’s the basis of my book The Bond. But the problem with prettily turned phrases like those is that they have meaning only when applied to real life.

From now on, I'm going to call this kind of 'do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do' activity 'the Maria Problem.'

 Simon Singh has also got a Maria Problem.  He has styled himself as the champion of free speech in science, but has been busy for nearly three years encouraging 'book burning' in the form of pressurizing and campaigning for stores and distributors to stop stocking  What Doctors Don't Tell You.

Our experience with the Nightingale Collaboration, and indeed any of the skeptical individuals or organizations writing about us, is that there is nothing about their work that creates a climate of tolerance. All of the actions taken by every skeptical organization have fomented a climate of hatred, which in turn creates an atmosphere that condones actions against the target that easily escalate over time.

This has nothing to do with free speech. They are free not to like my magazine and to publicly say so. But that is a far cry from encouraging people to interfere with our free trade or sending cyber attack dogs to abuse me online. That kind of activity is a threat to freedom and to a free, multi-cultural society.

There have been, first staged campaigns to hide our magazines from the shelves. Note this screen capture:

twitterpic1

There have been instructions to followers about how to minimize our Google search engine optimization:

screenshotpic2

There have been ‘Master Lists’ kept by husband and wife combo Michael and Laura Thomason, writing as blogger ‘Josephine Jones’ (he a database developer, she a coffee shop supervisor) and passed around from skeptic to skeptic as though we are engaged in behavior that must be monitored, blow by blow.

There have been ‘calls to action’ to engage in phony letter writing campaigns targeting specific stores like Tesco, pretending to be customers of store chains offended by the magazine; articles in the Times entirely quoting skeptics (all from Sense About Science) claiming that ‘doctors’ were demanding that our magazine be removed from the shelves; and after we chose to monitor the abusive comments on our Facebook, Twitter and blog pages, a ‘drone’ set up that automatically sends constant replies to all our blogs.

And through it all, there have been the hundreds of abusive comments, largely directed at me, many of them sexist and some of them threatening.

University of Maryland law professor Danielle Citron, author of Hate Threats on the Internet, has a novel way of dealing with these kinds of cyber crimes against women. She argues that online abuse of this nature constitutes “discrimination in women’s employment opportunities” as covered by title VII of the US Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This groundbreaking American law outlawed discrimination based on race, religion, or gender, and it was used to out white-hooded Ku Klux Klan members, who’d harassed and intimidated African Americans from voting and getting work. Citron argues that anonymous online threats and harassment similarly discourage women from “writing and earning a living online”.

“It interferes with their professional lives,” she writes. “It raises their vulnerability to offline sexual violence. It brands them as incompetent workers and inferior sexual objects. The harassment causes considerable emotional distress.”

Encouraging the kinds of targeted bullying that have been directed against me and WDDTY is exactly how things do escalate and finally get out of hand. It's how ordinary, law-abiding Germans were finally incited  to go on a rampage, smashing windows and looting the property of Jewish shopkeepers during Kristallnacht. 

The only way to stop a lynch mob is to stop creating targets of hate.  Which goes back to the Golden Rule, being tolerant of people whose beliefs are different from yours.

And that is how you solve this cyber-bullying problem, Maria.

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Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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