Comment from Reverend Sizer
I’m grateful to Reverend Stephen Sizer for getting back to me (having initially chosen not to comment) with a detailed clarification of his position in the recent “Seismic Shock” controversy, which I am reproducing below. Again I have no position on the original argument but having given space to one side of the dispute, I felt it was important that Stephen Sizer have the opportunity to give his side of the story. He says:
I approached the police because I felt my life was put in danger by his defamatory statements. In the last year we have had a rather violent break in to our home, had computers and cameras stolen, then my car has been vandalised and more recently broken into and possessions stolen. I receive anonymous phone calls and very nasty emails on a regular basis. Other academics, journalists and clergy targetted on the SS blog have also been in correspondance with the police.
In the last 18 months SS (I think he chose the name as a play on my name so it was very personal) has associated me with holocaust deniers, white supremists, antisemites, islamists, terrorists, suicide bombers, and the 7.7 bombers, on a weekly if not daily basis. He used anonimity to do so. I repudiate racism and anti-semitism as well as his allegations unequivocally. I believe my occasional blog articles as well as published writings give evidence of this. I feel no need to clarify or justify my theological views further which are entirely consistent with mainstream conservative evangelicalism.
Politically, I uphold the rule of international law, I want to see the Arab-Israeli conflict resolved peacefully and diplomatically with a secure Israel and viable independent Palestine – the postion of the UK government, EU, USA and UN – so hardly controversial, except in Zionist circles. I have written a couple of books on Chritian Zionism and US fundamentalism, which I regard as a threat to the security of Israel as well as future of Palestine, so I understand why SS and his friends do not like me.
The police initially consulted me for advice (not the other way round) on extremist groups on the edge of the Christian community. On their advice I approached the local police to investigate whether the articles posted on the SS blog constituted harrassment and incitement to religious hatred.
Their investigations led to the identification of the individual. Apparently he agreed to remove certain material and apologised. I was asked to inform them if it happened again. The police have given me and my family a measure of additional protection. I do not know his name but believe he is a Christian living in Leeds. It makes me sad that a Christian would use anonimity to harrass other Christians in this way.
I don’t plan to respond to him personally. He has many friends who have already expressed their opinions quite plainly and explicitly this week. The invitation I made to him a year ago to meet and talk through our differences personally remains open. I am happy now to leave the matter in the hands of the police.
Comment: In “Don’t Get Fooled Again” I lambast the tendency of the UK media to assume that “balanced” reporting entails giving equal weight to two opposing views, while remaining stubbornly neutral about the actual merits of those views. In my view commentators should not only present information, but also be up-front about what they believe that information points to.
On the basis of what I’ve seen so far, I do not believe that Reverend Sizer is a racist or an anti-semite, and can well understand why he would take exception to any such claim. But neither do I believe that Joseph Weissman (aka Seismic Shock) would be guilty of “harrassment” – a criminal offence – if he had made such a defamatory claim on his blog, however many times it happened. Clearly if Reverend Sizer has had his home and car attacked and received threatening phone calls, then this is a serious problem for which Police involvement is quite justified. But I have not seen any evidence that Weissman or his blog are in any way responsible for those crimes.
There does, however, seem to be evidence that “harrassment” has been dangerously vaguely defined under the current version of the law, and that as a result the police are getting involved in disputes that should, at most, be problems for the civil courts to deal with.