An interesting 24 hours.
Between banging out articles, I got involved in a slanging match with the bunch of sycophantic mole rats who follow a certain James Delingpole, who writes a blog for the Telegraph's website.
I don't recommend visiting it - in fact, I recommend against. As has been pointed out to me, the number of visitors to a site is a reflection of how 'big' it is in the Internet playground. As even I hadn't visited this for a few years - I'd completely forgotten about it - it doesn't register as 'successful'. So don't encourage the powers-that-be at the Telegraph to think that this particular columnist is worth what they're paying him by ratcheting up the click-count.
Delingpole has been described as being "Like...a pickled deformed foetus...both repulsive and fascinating"; someone who seems to have "...virtually no interest in science, despite putting himself forward as some kind of 'expert' on global warming and climate change..."; and, in short, a rabble-rouser. His blogs are bombastic, pugnacious and aggressive. There was an unpleasant episode earlier this year, in which he published the name and address of someone who had the temerity to ask a Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate (ppc) a list of questions suggested by some 'green' organisation or another. Outcome: some of his 'boot boys' (as they have been described) disseminated the information and engaged in a campaign of intimidation. He then had the sense to pull the piece and apologise for the upsetting experience the questioner had been subjected to. Well, he apologised after a fashion and prompted one observer to question "...which is worse: Delingpole's lies, hypocrisy, horrible bullying or rabid invasion of an innocent person's privacy?"
(How he, his Tory ppc pal, the person who 'leaked' the original e-mail to him, and the mole rat boot-boys escaped prosecution under the Data Protection Act remains a mystery to me.)
The discussion threads are dominated by a small group of fanboys, who appear to have an obsession with bodily functions - bed-wetting in particular, it seems. The number is certainly less than 10 and seems to be about 6 or 7 - but what a mess a determined handful can achieve! They don't have a monopoly in destructive behaviour - it's a technique favoured by people from the Nazis through the trade unions of the 1970s to football hooligans - and now the Delingpole mole rats.
What they do is completely prevent reasoned debate with a stream of invective and insults, launched in an apparently co-ordinated way (but maybe just unplanned co-operation) against anyone who shows the slightest disagreement with the position of their beloved leader. Or maybe slightly fails to wholeheartedly endorse him.
Once all reasoned debate has been smothered, the column reduces to a cross between an Internet dating chatroom and a boring CB conversation from the 1970s/80s.
Delingpole makes no attempt to encourage open debate or to restrain his fawning pack - rather the opposite. Maybe he likes the adoration, even from such a poor sample of humanity as his mole rats.
Anyway, I occupied some of my time calling them out. In particular, I made it clear that I was more than willing to meet them in person to carry the discussion further. I have provided one of them with my proper name and full address (indeed, I insisted on it) and invited him down. Over a cup of tea (and maybe some biscuits, if I can restrain myself from stuffing the lot in my own face!) we could maybe bridge our differences and resolve our disagreements. Yes, honestly we could!
Is he coming down? Well, it would appear not. Why? No reason given. I'd be more than happy to pay his bus fare, if that's the problem. Alternatively, I could save him the inconvenience of a long trip and go to see him. Will he reciprocate and provide me - in confidence, he has my e-mail address - with his home address? No. Not so far. If he changes his mind, I will let it be known.
But cut back to the obsession with bed-wetting. I've been careful with my choice of words, in order to avoid accusations of intimidation. But still, he accuses me of "...physical threats...". Hope he didn't engage in his obsession so much as to make his clothes unrecoverable!
There is an expression that goes back to the early days of the Internet and e-mail: 'flameboy'. It was attached to people who engaged in big talk from the keyboard but who never backed anything up. The sort of people who would adopt a big, muscular avatar for online gaming - or maybe a feminine persona - in order to compensate for their personal inadequacies or to give expression to their deep-seated, secret fears and fantasies. Whenever I've met a flameboy in person, they've always been rather pathetic.
What the experience of the last 24 hours or so shows is the continuing truth of the 'flameboy' reputation. Big on line but can't hack it in the real world. It shows also, I think, that certain members of today's society simply don't have moral fibre, the personal integrity to stand up, in public, for themselves. What a pathetic bunch of self-abusers. The trouble with the Internet is, it puts these sad cases in touch with each other and leads them to think they're normal
Still, I mustn't complain - the visitor numbers here continue to rise and rise. Carry on like this and I'll be more popular than Delingpole - so long as the unwary take my advice and don't visit the mouthy prat's site.
Update, June 1/2: For the information of any who may be interested, I have taken my own most excellent advice and no longer visit James Delingpole's blog, either as myself or as anyone else, and haven't done since May 28. Any subsequent posts purporting to be from me are shameless impersonations - or, more likely, the deranged after-drippings of an unhinged imagination.