Friday, 13 July 2012

A do-it-yourself guide to online harassment: Part 2

Maire Stafford is currently posing as the selfless defender of a woman who has allegedly been harassed by me on this blog. This dupe has been persuaded by Maire Stafford that I am, as she puts it, in the habit of, ’making very unpleasant accusations’ about people’s children. This at least was what she told me in an email. Maire Stafford has told her that she herself has been upset by what I have had to say about her on this blog. She is being less than candid; Maire Stafford actually began a vindictive campaign of harassment against me before I even started this blog. Come with me now, as the years roll back and we revisit 2009.


Up until the end of July 2009, I had been a member of several HE lists for years. I had encountered Maire Stafford, but not really taken any notice of her. On July 30th, a piece of mine was published in the Independent. That same day, Maire Stafford tweeted this:

http://twitter.com/Maire52/status/2927163148



Simon Webb is Judas! Strong stuff indeed from somebody I did not know and had barely exchanged a dozen words with on an internet list. From then on, Maire Stafford saw it as her personal mission to attack me. How did she do this? One way was to get people to post comments on the online versions of my article and also to encourage the spreading of untruthful rumours about me. Some fool posted this on the HE-UK list on July 30th;

There is a Simon Webb mentioned here as an Area Education Officer.... under
Badman! Listed is the
CFHE Directorate Structure Chart which is readily available on the
internet.... .


http://docs. google.com/ gview?a=v

m/request/7844/ response/ 21038/attach/ 2/cfe-structure- chart1106. pdf+Simon+ Web
b+badman&hl= en>
&q=cache:W9Udfm7eA8 AJ:www.whatdothe yknow.com/ request/7844/ response/ 21038/att
ach/2/cfe-structure -chart1106. pdf+Simon+ Webb+badman& hl=en




This was an attempt to prove that I was a former colleague of Graham Badman. Maire’s response was to post;



Brilliant research R.


Maire

She then touted this idea around and tried to get others to take it up and use it. Mike Fortune-Wood was quick to join in and posted a comment on the Independent site, claiming that I had lied to gain access to the HE-UK list and that I was a colleague of Graham Badman’s. Of course, he didn’t want to use his own name, these people are too cowardly for that, and so posted as Maesk123.

Meanwhile, Maire Stafford was doing her best to get people on various lists to criticise me on newspaper sites. Still on July 30th, she posted:


Couple of less supportive comments on there now, even a nothing to fear
nothing to hide one! Anyone got the energy to slam em.




‘Slam em’; this hardly ties in with her description of herself on her twitter account as shy and sweet! Her aim was to present me in as bad as light as possible. That same day, she posted again on the HE-UK site, saying of me:

Perhaps he has one of those illnesses, you know like people who confess to
murders they haven't done in order to get attention.




The next day, July 31st, somebody posted something unpleasant about me on the HE-UK list and Maire Stafford said:



This would look very good in the comments section under the article.


Maire




Here she is again on both HE-UK and EO, a day later:



What about lots of comments that support Jeremy but ignore Simon.


And don't forget to vote in the poll.


Maire




Now I do want to emphasise that this was all at a time before this blog even existed. I am not going to put all the things down here; there are simply too many. She was posting comments all over the place, telling lies such as that I was a local authority officer, that I was not really a home educating parent and, most ludicrous at all, that I was actually a home education inspector. She was tweeting these falsehoods, emailing them to people, commenting on newspaper sites, lists and forums. This was not limited to passing on rumours from others; she would make up her own.

This might not sound too bad, except that these lies soon spread round the world. In September 2010, for instance, a year after Maire Stafford had invented these stories, Kelly Green in Canada said of me on her blog, Kelly Green and Gold:


'He was an advisor to Graham Badman and the Department of Children, Schools and Families over the course of the Badman Review,'


A year later and the story cooked up my Maire Stafford is surfacing on the other side of the earth! Are readers beginning to see why I might have been a bit annoyed about this?

I gave another example of this yesterday. In the autumn of 2009, a rumour was circulating that I had told Graham Badman to ignore Paula Rothermel’s research. I was also alleged to have warned him that many home educating mothers were suffering from Munchausen’s Syndrome. This was so completely barmy that I could make no sense at all of it and wondered where it had started. Eventually, I tracked down the story to it’s earliest appearance. Not surprisingly, this was on the HE-UK list, which had served as a clearing house for these lies. On November 4th, Maire Stafford posted there, saying of me:


And considering it was probably him who told Badman that Paula Rothermel's
work was not sound I think he has an immense amount to answer for. Wouldn't
be surprised if this wasn't the source of the Munchausens fiasco too


I might have guessed; it originated, like so much of the other poison, with Maire Stafford.

Now I will freely admit that I began to get a little ticked off with the woman after all this. I barely knew her and here she as inventing stuff about me and doing her damnedest to make life difficult for me. I had said nothing at all about her at this time and was puzzled as to why she seemed so determined to try and harm my reputation. I certainly made a few sharp comments about her once the blog was running, but this was in an attempt to stop her carrying on in this way. Anybody who wishes to check up on all this can of course still see the messages on the HE-UK site on the dates I have given. That a woman like this, who has behaved in such a way, should now offer to help people who have supposedly been the victims of online harassment is little short of incredible.

I hope that readers will understand if I hold back a good deal of material in reserve, in the event that Maire Stafford really does try to stand up in court and portray herself as an innocent victim of my malice. I have in the past been in contact with people who have been bullied by her and two new people have now come forward to offer me emails and statements. Boy, am I looking forward to a court case! I have already drawn up a provisional list of witness summonses and I think that I can safely assure readers that Maire Stafford will not, by the end of it, be in a very strong position to represent herself as my victim; quite the opposite in fact.



30 comments:

  1. What did you and your daughter say to crazy old Badman when you meet him?

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  2. I have followed this blog for a while and really anonymous, how are you still allowed out in society?

    It is nutcases like you and others mentioned on some of these posts that give home education a bad name.

    Bea

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  3. http://irdial.com/blogdial/?p=2031

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  4. The Indie article:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/schools/simon-webb-we-must-get-tough-on-home-schooling-1764348.html

    included, inter alia, the statement:

    "The most popular educational method used by those who withdraw their children from school in this country is known as autonomous education and involves nobody teaching children anything at all!"

    which so vastly misrepresents the facts of the matter for every single autonomously educating family I know and have ever heard of, (and that's quite a few by the way), that one only wishes that the Indie had seen fit to issue a full apology and correction.

    The principles of autonomous education absolutely do not include any prohibitions on the offer of theories. Instead they hold that is indeed the duty of the parent to offer good theories and they counsel against educational neglect. AE merely prohits the coercive application of theories, in other words, forcing someone to enact a theory that is not active in the mind.

    It would be reassuring to hear that Simon had come to understand this in subsequent years, but the fact that he hadn't at the time serves as a perfect example of one of the reasons why AEors so fiercely defend their freedoms. If someone inside HE who has been repeatedly exposed to explanations of how AE works still fails to understand the principles or believe the evidence, what hope have we with LA officers, new to the job, probably directly out of school type environments?

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    Replies
    1. Simon thinks what he thinks. I think he's arrogant and enjoys provoking people. I don't imagine he'd disagree with that. Simon, is this a fair assessment of you?

      But he's just a bloke who writes stuff. I don't think he's got the ear of the powerful any more than I have so does it really matter what he says? Back in 2009 it felt different because we were facing new legislation but I don't suppose he was ever much of a threat really.

      When it comes to understanding autonomous ed, I think that's a complicated picture. One of the LA officers I met years ago went on to work in a self-managed learning environment and clearly did grasp the value of autonomous learning - perhaps partly influenced by the home edders she'd met. I think lots of people do understand and accept some of the ideas involved. Some of those people work in the education system. Equally, there are plenty of home educators who think it's all dangerous nonsense and are leading their children through a curriculum from day one. I have come to believe that I can't expect more acceptance or understanding about anything in my life just because someone is a fellow home educator.

      Delete
  5. ' I think he's arrogant and enjoys provoking people.'

    Allie, are you sure you have never met me? You really are spookily accurate in your estimation of my character!

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  6. ‘"The most popular educational method used by those who withdraw their children from school in this country is known as autonomous education and involves nobody teaching children anything at all!"

    which so vastly misrepresents the facts of the matter for every single autonomously educating family I know and have ever heard of, (and that's quite a few by the way), that one only wishes that the Indie had seen fit to issue a full apology and correction.’


    Very Odd. I say that autonomous education involves nobody teaching children and Carlotta then tells me that this vastly misrepresents the matter. It is perhaps worth looking at the draft guidelines for elective home education which Alison Sauer and helped to produce. As we now know, she was aided in this project to varying degrees by any number of high profile home educators, including Mike Fortune-Wood and Tania Berlow. What is said of autonomous education there? On page 63, we find this:

    ’learning takes place without teaching’


    This is not all that different from my saying that autonomous education, ‘involves nobody teaching children anything at all’. The only difference is that when you are writing a document seventy or eighty pages long, you can qualify and expand upon the statement; a luxury denied one in an eight hundred word newspaper article.

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  7. Same here - Simon loves to provoke comment and sometimes goes over the top; I don't doubt that he is passionate about many things - sometimes he makes perfect sense and sometimes I disagree with him. At the end of the day this is a blog that people are free to take or leave - over the last few years I have come to realise that it is the infighting which goes on (not just between Simon and co but on all sorts of subjects) which does more damage to the reputation of HE than anything else

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    Replies
    1. Agreeing with Julie and Allie.

      Each to his/her own thoughts, opinions and blog.

      Delete
  8. Of course, I'm not the only one who Maire Stafford has harassed...

    http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/21994/response/55614/attach/2/Document.pdf

    Reders might note a strange simlarity to the huge number of communications that anotehr person in this current affair has been making to Lincolnshire County Council. Like calls to like and it is no surprise to me that these two are now best friends!

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  9. "’learning takes place without teaching’


    This is not all that different from my saying that autonomous education, ‘involves nobody teaching children anything at all’."

    No, they are very different. It's obvious that learning takes place without teaching. This happens in schools as well as at home. I'm sure it happens in your home too, Simon. But I don't know a single AE home in which nobody teaches children anything at all. AE can include informal learning, a purchased curriculum, evening classes, a child working through a text book by themselves, being taught from a text book by a parent, and even school.

    I must say that I agree with Julie and Allie re. the current situation with Simon, and I also dislike the infighting. But having been involved in various other groups (sports, for instance), it's not the worst I've seen!

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  10. What did you and your daughter say to crazy old Badman when you meet him?

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  11. J has nailed it Simon. Did you actually hear what she/he said and can you respond to that, rather than producing straw men, kettle logic, fallacies of association, help me here, which one(s) was this one?

    >"learning takes place without teaching."
    >
    >This is not all that different from my saying that autonomous education, ‘involves nobody teaching children anything at all’.<

    As J points out, the 2 quoted sentences convey entirely different meanings and if you want to refute the autonomous method in a genuine way, you must do so on the basis of what AE actually consists of...ie: autonomously educating parents widely understand that they must not neglect their children and are duty bound, as long as they are not being coercive, which given the trust in such families, they aren't, to offer their best theories to their children.

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  12. 'J has nailed it Simon. Did you actually hear what she/he said and can you respond to that, rather than producing straw men, kettle logic, fallacies of association, help me here, which one(s) was this one?'

    Taken out of context and standing alone, the statement, ‘Learning takes place without teaching’ is of course quite true. Reading the guidelines produced by Alison Sauer and Mike Fortune-Wood makes it clear though that this was not meant as an abstract idea, but as a description of autonomous education being contrasted with structure home education. They say of this type of education,

    ‘Parents do not separate education from other aspects of life and learning takes place without teaching. Whilst many home educators value such learning, most want to supplement it with more formal work. In contrast, autonomous home educators believe that their children can do all their learning in this informal, self-directed way if provided with a supportive environment.’

    The idea is that learning without teaching is being compared with and learning by teaching. This was pretty much what I said in the Independent. The difference is that nobody was editing Alison and Mike’s writing on the topic. Some crucial words were axed by the person who edited the article.

    In any case, I do not really want to go over all this again for the hundredth time, particularly with one of the people who was involved in the campiagn of harassment against me! The subject of the post is of course online harassment, as when you claimed in your blog that I was going to have blood on my hands, see:

    http://daretoknowblog.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/to-all-supporters-of-schedule-1.html

    The problem is Carlotta, that you cannot really say such offensive things and then expect me to discuss home education with you amiably without your at least offering an apology. I have an idea that people felt that this sort of thing was fine and that I had forgotten it. It was not fine, nor have I forgotten it.

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  13. "Reading the guidelines produced by Alison Sauer and Mike Fortune-Wood makes it clear though that this was not meant as an abstract idea, but as a description of autonomous education being contrasted with structure home education."

    If they suggest in the document that AE never or cannot involve teaching or structured learning then they are wrong (I can't check as you haven't provided links). I read a great description of AE by Jan F-W but unfortunately can't find it now, but it specifically included structured teaching as a possible approach within AE. It stands to reason really. Autonomous education means a self-directed education and coercion is to be avoided. If a child chooses a structured approach and asks to be taught about a particular subject(and they often do in my experience), it would be coercive and certainly not self-directed if the parent refused.

    It could be a description of informal learning, I suppose, but AE is not confined to informal learning. AE can and usually does include informal learning, just as your daughter's HE included informal learning. But neither of our methods, our family's AE approach or your more parent-led/mixed approach, used just informal learning.

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  14. Simon,

    J is accurate in the points he/she makes.

    The distinguishing feature of autonomous education is not the absence of teaching, but the absence of coercion. AE may and indeed does often involve what looks like perfectly conventional teaching - indeed I know an autonomously educating schooling family very well indeed, and would indeed say that the education is autonomous as the children are not coerced by and indeed relish their schooling.

    Do you not therefore see how your article was wrong, and do you not therefore see that a retraction and apology should have been issued?

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  15. 'Do you not therefore see how your article was wrong, and do you not therefore see that a retraction and apology should have been issued?'

    As I said, you told all the world and his dog on a public site that I would be personally responsible for killing children. If you seriously think that after that I am prepared to have a lengthy debate with you on the topic of education; you are mistaken.

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  16. I've not read the article you mention, but it's a sad fact of life that public spending decisions are likely to have an effect on death rates at the hands of abusive parents. Or why else spend so much time trying to work out how best to spend available resources? If resources are wasted, less money will be available for effective safeguards, so more children are likely to be harmed. It's similar to deciding which medical treatments will be paid for by the NHS. Some people will die sooner directly because of NHS spending decisions. This cannot be avoided with finite resources. The trick is to work out how to spend the money so that more people are helped.

    Some people think that routine visits to thousands of innocent home educating families would be a waste of money that could be better spent on, for instance, following up reports of abuse more promptly and effectively. These people obviously feared that wasting this money would result in harm to children and child deaths. It seems logical enough to me.

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    1. Ahh, I see the article relates to the bullying angle. Well, if schedule 1 had resulted in fewer bullied children being withdrawn from school (or being returned to school), then it would probably have resulted in harm to children and potentially deaths. The research mentioned elsewhere on this blog points to a dose-related link between bullying and mental health issues including depression and suicide ideation.

      Presumably you disagree that this would have been the result, but if someone genuinely believed that enaction of schedule 1 would result in more bullied children having to attend school, then it's logical (and supported by research) that this would result in more harm to children and quite probably deaths. It would be strange indeed if anyone holding this belief didn't become quite upset by the actions of those in favour of such changes.

      Delete
  17. 'Ahh, I see the article relates to the bullying angle. Well, if schedule 1 had resulted in fewer bullied children being withdrawn from school (or being returned to school), then it would probably have resulted in harm to children and potentially deaths.'

    This is of course absurd. Children are bullied mercilessly at home as well as at school and the people most likely to kill or otherwise harm a child are the parents. In any case, it is possible to debate a change in the law without resorting to emotive statements such as that this person or that will be killing children. The subject of this post was online bullying and harassment and it was the irony of somebody guilty of this sort of behaviour, then trying to engage me in a conversation about home edcuation that I was intrigued by. The time for a rational debate would be before the attempt had been made to harass me in this way.

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  18. "This is of course absurd. Children are bullied mercilessly at home as well as at school and the people most likely to kill or otherwise harm a child are the parents."

    True, but we were not talking about these children. We were talking about children who were being bullied at school.

    "In any case, it is possible to debate a change in the law without resorting to emotive statements such as that this person or that will be killing children."

    If you believe that a change in the law would result in child harm or deaths, why on earth would you avoid mentioning it in case it upsets someone? Wouldn't that be illogical, sloppy, woolly minded thinking?

    If your wife were refused a medical treatment that would reduce pain or delay death, would you avoid mentioning it in case it upset the people who have to make these decisions for the NHS? If you did mention this unwillingness to provide medication to your wife in blog article, would you consider that you were harassing the people making the decision or those that argue in favour of the decision, especially if you believed their reasoning were faulty?

    Wouldn't avoiding mentioning possible dangers that could result from changes to the law, for fear of 'upsetting people', be the exact opposite of rational debate?

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  19. 'We were talking about children who were being bullied at school.'

    You may have been, but the subject of this post was actually online harassment.

    'If you believe that a change in the law would result in child harm or deaths, why on earth would you avoid mentioning it in case it upsets someone? Wouldn't that be illogical, sloppy, woolly minded thinking?'

    You are entitled to your own opinion, but both the Department of Education and the Information Commissioner's Office recognised that the gag about 'blood on your hands' was harassment. I take the same line. It will be remembered that when people started saying this about Graham Badman, it had the effect of preventing Freedom of Information requests being granted. The grounds? Harassment and distress being caused.

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  20. And of course we know that government departments are always right. Haven't they also said that the best place for children to gain an education is school? I'm surprised you took no notice of them on that occasion.

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  21. 'And of course we know that government departments are always right. Haven't they also said that the best place for children to gain an education is school? I'm surprised you took no notice of them on that occasion'

    I wouldn't say that they are always right; no human institution is that. Nor do I suppose that the opposite is true, that they are always wrong. Every human institution, from the Catholic Church to the Deaprtment of Education, will be right sometimes and wrong on other occasions. The tirck of it is to work out when they are right and when wrong.

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  22. "The tirck of it is to work out when they are right and when wrong."

    Exactly. I'd be interested in hearing your counter-arguments that lead you to believe that mentioning the possible deaths of children as a result of changes in the law should be classed as 'online harassment' rather than 'reasoned argument' in this example, especially since the 'reasoned argument' option is supported by peer reviewed research.

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  23. 'Exactly. I'd be interested in hearing your counter-arguments that lead you to believe that mentioning the possible deaths of children as a result of changes in the law should be classed as 'online harassment' rather than 'reasoned argument' in this example, especially since the 'reasoned argument' option is supported by peer reviewed research.'



    'Reasoned argument'? Assuming that this is meant seriously, I shall limit myself to just one point. Carlotta said;

    ' Deech, Soley, Badman, Ed Balls, Simon Webb, whoever you may be. Be very aware that by forcing children, either because of some administrative error on the part of parents, or because an ignorant LA officer says so and without any chance to offer a defence in court, back into school, you will almost certainly have blood on your hands.'

    The suggestion that I might have blood on my hands is predicated on the assumption that I am in a position to force children to attend school. As a private individual I have no such power, nor have I ever had the power to do this. Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Education at the time, might be considered ultimately to have this power; as an ordinary parent, I cannot be placed in the same category. Rather than a 'reasoned argument', the thing is a complete nonsense.

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  24. So you don't think that someone who argues in favour of a government policy bears any responsibility for the consequences of that policy if it's adopted? If I answer a government consultation I try to consider the consequences of what I ask for. Obviously it's difficult to think of every possible consequence, so if someone pointed out a potential pitfall I would be grateful to them. I would not accuse them of harassment for suggesting that I had made an error of judgement, especially if that error could have serious consequences.

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  25. I read it as a collective responsibility. Clearly some members of the group have far more power than others, so would bear more responsibility for any consequences. I don't think the blame can be placed entirely on, say, the individual LA employee who carries out the new law.

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  26. ' I would not accuse them of harassment for suggesting that I had made an error of judgement, especially if that error could have serious consequences'

    I have probably gone about as far as I am prepared with this. I would have had no objection whatever to anybody telling me that I was in error. Stating publicly that I was likely to have children's blood on my hands and lumping me together with various peers and government ministers, as though I had the remotest influence on the matter, was malicious.

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  27. Why bother giving evidence to committees, responding to consultations, writing newspaper articles and meeting with Badman if you didn't believe you had any influence?

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