I was stunned a few days ago when suzyg commented on here, saying;
“ You don't strike me as a campaigning type of man Simon, so it's quite likely you haven't. Though you must have gone round with your eyes shut in the 60s and 70s."
It only goes to show how difficult it is to make an accurate estimate of a person's character on the Internet without actually meeting them. In fact I was involved in many campaigns in the sixties and seventies. Anti-War demonstrations in Grosvener Square in 1968, CND in the early seventies before it became a fashionable cause during the Thatcher years, the Springbok Tour of 1970 in the days when Peter Hain was a young Liberal and not a government minister, joining Friends of the Earth in 1971, the year it started in this country; you name it and I was there. While you were dreaming your life away in the groves of Academe suzyg, gassing away to Max Coltheart about cognitive psychology, some of us were on the streets, fighting to change the world. Going through the sixties and seventies with my eyes shut indeed!
The point which I was trying to make when I said that I had never encountered a campaign like this, was not that people had not in the past fought fiercely for things in which they believed. Of course they have done that. The difference which I have noticed about this particular campaign is that it seems to be conducted in a less open truthful manner than the ones which I remember participating in myself. I have seen quite a few lies being passed round and many attempts to distort the truth and mislead people. Now I remember in the days that we were fighting against the war in Vietnam and protesting about Rhodesia and South Africa , we faced some world class liars; governments and intelligence agencies who would not think twice about smearing anybody in their way and telling any sort of lie to achieve their ends. I can remember discussions as to whether it might be justified to use the same tactics when fighting these people. The decision was always that it would be disastrous to descend to their level and that it would besmirch our own cause if we were to adopt the same methods as the American government or BOSS, the South African intelligence service.
What I have noticed is that many of those fighting for home education seem to have no such scruples. They seem to believe that because the DCSF, NSPCC and local authorities are using questionable methods and dodgy statistics, then it is alright for those opposing them to resort to similar tactics. Hence the efforts to smear Graham Badman and his family, the dissemination of untruthful accounts of the Children, Schools and Families Bill to newspapers and so on. The lies come as readily from many of these people as the truth. After I had a couple of pieces published in the papers last Summer, several people wrote to the papers in question claiming that I had lied in order to gain access to HE lists and used a false identity. This was not true of course; I had joined under my own name and made no secret of the fact that I wrote occasionally for the papers. Writing to the editors was done by people who knew that they were lying, but justified it to themselves because they felt their cause was right. The same logic has been used to justify smears against members of Graham Badman’s family and also a number of other sleazy activities.
Baroness Deech, who was silly enough to wonder whether it was possible to teach chemistry and physics at home, has become the latest hate figure for this campaign. Instead of writing to her, as I did, and pointing out the mistakes in her opinions, she is being demonised and insulted. On a number of lists now, it is being said that she will, "have blood on her hands". This is a fairly typical example of how far some home educating parents are prepared to go to attack anybody who expresses scepticism about their pet cause.
I dare say that this is how political campaigns are routinely fought these days. It is after all many years since I was involved in this sort of thing and times change. But drawing attention to the changes which I have noticed definitely does not mean that I have never been a campaigning sort of man, let alone that I went through the sixties and seventies with my eyes shut! It just means that the campaigns which I supported and fought for used rather different methods.