A Tory distortion by selective quotation

Bloggers who entrust their political views and comments to the blogosphere must expect to be misrepresented, misquoted, misunderstood by-mistake-on-purpose, quoted out of context and otherwise have their case distorted by other bloggers of a different political persuasion. So there’s no point in complaining when it happens. But there’s currently an interesting example of distortion by omission and misquotation, in a blog by an obscure Conservative Councillor who is also ‘commercial director’ at the Conservative Party’s campaign HQ. You can read his blog post here.

You will see that the Councillor purports to reproduce, and attributes to me by name, my own blog post in Labour List of yesterday (also available on my own blog) in which I joined the growing chorus of criticism of the Labour leadership’s “Tory cuts, Labour invests” line as being fundamentally misleading and defying belief, thus damaging the government and the party — but in which I also set out a suggested four-point alternative Labour line that would highlight the government’s effective actions and policies for dealing with the recession while exposing the dangers and follies of the Conservative party’s corresponding economic and fiscal policies.  Predictably, the Tory Councillor’s version of this on his own blog reproduces in full my criticisms of the current Labour leadership line but completely omits my positive and constructive suggestions for an alternative pro-Labour line, including my condemnation of Tory policy for dealing with the recession.  Thus the basic thrust of my own post is effectively reversed by the Tory blogger.  You’d need to have eagle eyes to spot the three faint dots which alone indicate the very substantial omission, and a rare political insight to guess what it contained.  Not only is the central core of what I wrote slyly omitted:  our Tory Councillor has also unobtrusively re-named it ‘A Labour Member for 50 Years Writes About Labour’s “Simple Minded Dishonesty” Lies…’, although the words ‘lie’ and ‘lies’ don’t appear anywhere in my post (except as part of the words ‘families‘  and ‘earlier’).  That’s misquotation with a vengeance, especially as the mangled version of the text purports to be by me — so it would be natural to assume that the title is by me as well.

There are several interesting things about our Tory Councillor and his blog, including its title (“CllrSSD’s Blog“) and the fact that nowhere in it does the Councillor’s name appear — even in the section headed “About Me and My Blog“.
There are various clues here and there, including the initials SSD; even a contact e-mail address (scott@northwoodconservatives.org), but no name.  Rather odd, you might think, for an elected Councillor.  In fact our man is one Scott Seaman-Digby, who engagingly if slightly mysteriously describes himself (and reveals his name) in his potted autobiography on his Twitter page as “Local Councillor, CCHQ staffer, generally nice guy, having fun online and keeping in touch with family, friends and resident [sic]”.  CCHQ evidently stands for Conservative Campaign Headquarters.  Elsewhere we learn that “Scott was elected Chairman of the London Borough of Hillingdon Conservative group in 1999 and in the same year he joined the Parliamentary Candidates list as an approved national candidate.”  He’ll surely make a grand MP.

I have submitted the following comment on Mr Seaman-Digby’s blog post — the one that’s represented as being by me:

Selective extracts from my blog post, designed to expose the dangerous folly of Conservative policy for dealing with the recession, have been reproduced here without my prior agreement. I note that the section of what I wrote setting out the merits of the Labour party’s actions and policies, compared with the glaring defects in Tory policy, has been completely omitted. This kind of distortion by omission is very poor practice, but comes as no surprise.
Brian Barder

This comment is presumably still awaiting the Councillor’s approval;  at any rate, it hasn’t yet appeared below his, or my, post on his blog.  But since by his own account he’s a “generally nice guy”, I expect he’ll approve my comment in due course and put it on his blog.  And if you find that later today (Tuesday 7 July) it still isn’t there, you can always send him an e-mail asking what’s happened to it:  scott@northwoodconservatives.org should find him.  He quotes that e-mail address himself on his blog, and since he has no qualms about selectively reproducing my blog post (with the heart of it cut out), he can hardly object to my reproducing just an e-mail address from his. [Update: My comment has now appeared on Cllr. Seaman-Digby’s blog, together with his own conciliatory reply and (soon, anyway) my further response:  please see https://barder.com/ephems/1846#comment-87163 immediately below.]

The indefatigable Guido Fawkes had earlier spotted my Labour List post and commented on it in reasonably balanced if pungent terms, including brief quotations from it to illustrate both the criticisms and the constructive suggestions.  Perhaps that’s where Mr Seaman-Digby came across it in the first place, unless he’s a loyal reader of Labour List and saw the original there.

But then, as I said before, bloggers have to expect what they write to be distorted by selective (mis)quotation, quotation out of context, and other tricks of the trade of the practitioners of the dark political arts.  So I’m not complaining — just recording an amusing and instructive example.  No doubt there’ll be many more before the mainstream media and the Tory bloggers get bored with (or ‘of’?) the subject.

PS:  For an example of another impeccably fair and balanced comment on my post in Labour List, written by (of all things) a Daily Telegraph blogger, James Kirkup, look at this (including “particularly telling is his (accurate) observations on how some fancy footwork by the Tories turned Andrew Lansley’s original “10 per cent” mis-step into a tactical victory.”)


1 Response

  1. Brian Barder says:

    Councillor Seaman-Digby and I have now had the following exchange both on his blog and by e-mail, and I think honour is now satisfied:

    cllrssd // July 7, 2009 at 12:13
    Mr Barder
    I put into the post the parts that discussed the issue of the Labour Party pushing the cuts against the Conservatives. I understood the form for reporting in the blog was that as long as one hat tips then it is OK – with hindsight I should have made sure it was clearer that it was selective, my apologies if I have offended you.
    No real issue of my name I actually didnt realise it was not there – the old website you refer to about me being Group Chairman was a school project my Cousin did – I am afriad it is rather behind the times now. Got your email and thank you for highlighting the points – needless to say I do actually read Labourlist although perhaps not ‘avidly’!
    Best regards and take care
    PS I will amend the parts you mention and make it clearer.
    Brian Barder // July 7, 2009 at 12:58
    Scott, thanks for that ready response. I hope that it’s now clear to your readers that although I am shown as the author, this is not in fact the same as the post that I wrote and which appears on Labour List, as it leaves out what I regard as the central core of the piece. It’s also important to note that you have changed its title: the title of the original doesn’t refer to “lies” and indeed that word is nowhere in my original post. I was not “offended” by this treatment of my piece: more amused, and concerned that your readers should not be misled. More comments are at