January 16, 2013
by Martin Odoni
Further to references I made to Christopher Whittle in the essay at https://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2012/10/28/hillsborough-more-on-thatcherthat-quote-that-never-goes-away/, the following is as much material as I could salvage from the argument I had with him on the Facebook group, “Bet I Can Find 1 Million Who Want Justice For The 96”, which can be accessed here; https://www.facebook.com/1MillionPeopleWhoWantJusticeForThe96. Much of the argument has ‘mysteriously’ disappeared from the page, which is why I cannot provide the complete text, but I was able to copy & paste parts of it to my hard drive beforehand. Where there are gaps in the text, it is not because I have edited anything out – as best as physically possible I have put in every word I was able to save – but simply because the text is no longer accessible for me to copy.
Due to Whittle banning me from speaking any further on the page, I had to enlist help from another member called Jo Child to post my responses on my behalf, for which I would like to publicly thank her. The other moderator of the page is Maxine James, who speaks through the same page-account as Whittle. Please note her complete inability to remain impartial or honest throughout.
I now put this article up to provide evidence that, should he ever deny it, Christopher Whittle did tell a lie in order to support a claim he makes against Margaret Thatcher. As for whether he was justified in banning me from the group, I maintain that he was not, and here I explain why.
This first excerpt was a message sent by myself to Jo Child, explaining the background; –
‘Just to clarify what happened, I’d linked to the essay I wrote at the weekend explaining why it looks unlikely that Thatcher was involved in the cover-up. Chris retorted that she was definitely involved, but gave little reason in the way of supporting evidence. He largely depended on a quote that is often cited to her that she was determined that “no officer will be convicted for Hillsborough.” I pointed out the quote has never been ratified as genuine, to which he responded that I should try learning something about Hillsborough, that he had survived Hillsborough and had written a book about it. (So I have to just assume he’s right about everything?) My response to him was as follows; –
“I protest your patronising tone.
“Learn some facts about Hillsborough”? I have in fact studied Hillsborough since I was in my late-teens – over twenty years ago. I may not have been there, but I would suggest *you* are the one lecturing the wrong person if you think I’m a complete novice. You think I should learn more about it? Sure, but you seem a bit short on suggestions for where I should look.
“You wrote a book about Hillsborough? That’s nice.
“She really said it, did she? You keep saying that, but you offer no supporting evidence except your own say-so. Why should I believe it on that basis? Do you actually have a citation please? I have heard the rumour stated over and over again for many years, and indeed for a time I genuinely believed it. But I have never seen any indication as to exactly when she said it, where she said it, whom she said it to, or in what context. (In my experience, the context of any quote is usually critical.) So how do I know for sure that she said it? For instance, I haven’t seen any reference to it in the HIP Report. Have I missed it?
“And I ask again, because you have mysteriously failed to answer; did you actually read the essay before commenting? Have you even bothered to read it now?”
His response was just ‘twat’. Nothing else. I answered that that was not a very articulate or reasoned response, and re-iterated that as far as I am concerned, his claim is dismissed. That was when he banned me.
As far as I can see, he just objects to people expressing an honest opinion that doesn’t conform to his, and that has to be an abuse of privilege.’
I need to make clear that at this point, Jo kindly posted to the page on my behalf, appealing against the ban. Within less than half an hour, her post had also disappeared – again ‘mysteriously’.
Jo therefore put up another post, which went as follows; –
‘Is there a reason why my post was removed? I don’t think I said anything offensive but do now wonder why Martin was banned. Many people support this cause, for good reason and we can’t all get along, all the time. However, I’ve never known Martin to do anything to warrant a banning and [he] does feel strongly about this issue. Could you please reconsider and reinstate his membership here? We’re all in this together.
This second post was not removed (yet), and the other moderator of the page, Maxine James, offered the following response; –
‘He seems to be arguing the diff with one of our admins every chance he gets to be perfectly honest Jo!! I made the admins on here and will not tolerate it! Yes we arnt (sic) expecting to be right all of the time, but our admins as well as I do state facts!! I’m not going against my admins on this one sorry! Which post are you on about? JFT96 (Maxine)’
Notice that Ms James offers no specific examples of me ‘arguing the diff’, or even any clear indication that she had ever seen the contents of the argument. She just judged entirely on the basis of whose ‘side’ she was on. Equally noticeable is that she rather contradicts herself in one sentence by stating that the moderators on the page do not expect to be right all the time, but that they only ever state facts, effectively declaring that they are right all of the time. (And if what Whittle was saying was definitely a fact, it should have been easy for him to demonstrate why it is a fact. So why did he never offer any sustainable evidence for it, despite my repeated requests?)
Ms James further shows far too little curiosity, and fails to add two and two, regarding the ‘coincidence’ of me being banned, and then someone else posting an objection on my behalf, only for her post to disappear without any explanation. It is perfectly blatant that Jo’s post was cynically deleted by Whittle in hopes of avoiding an embarrassing row in view of all the other page-users. If the ban were truly justified, why should Whittle feel the need to conceal the fact that he had done it, or to try and terminate all discussion of it? As soon as Jo revealed that her post had been deleted without a word of explanation, Ms James should immediately have taken Whittle to task, instead of offering this transparent “I-appointed-him-so-I’ll-stand-by-him”, we-take-care-of-our-chaps schpiel. At the very least, she should have had the courtesy to consult me before making her decision, just to make sure she had enough information to make the right call. I cannot see a single convincing reason why she was unable to do that.
And then there is another telling aspect of her use of the phrase, “Arguing the diff.” In applying the term to me, Ms James overlooked the reality that, at the outset, I had simply posted a link to an essay on their page, so people could read it and mull it over if they so wished. I did not choose to try and refute anything Whittle had posted. Instead, Whittle chose to make an unsolicited and embittered comment against what I had posted, apparently without even reading it. Nobody forced him to comment. Nobody even asked him to comment. And once he had commented, nobody responded by demanding he be silent. If he could not put together a coherent, sustainable argument against the essay, he could have just kept his counsel. He chose not to, and then failed to produce any firm evidence to support his allegations, instead becoming aggressive, patronising, and abusive. By any reasonable definition, surely Whittle was the one who was ‘arguing the diff’?
‘I made a post, previous to this one by about an hour and it was removed with no response. Could you please get in contact with Martin Odoni? I do wonder if there was a misunderstanding.’
However, I was very displeased by Ms James’ comments, which I saw as a cop-out (and I still do). So I wrote up a response of my own, which Jo subsequently posted on my behalf; –
“He seems to be arguing the diff with one of our admins every chance he gets to be perfectly honest Jo!!” – Quite incorrect. I asked your admin to provide clear evidence for assertions (s)he made against an essay I had linked to. Half my questions, (s)he did not even answer, and very quickly (s)he started getting patronising. The implication of what was being said was that I was not allowed to disagree.
“I made the admins on here and will not tolerate it!” – But you will tolerate high-handed behaviour by the people you appointed? You will support high-hand (sic) bans passed down without even hearing both sides of the story?
“Yes we arnt (sic) expecting to be right all of the time, but our admins as well as I do state facts!!” – As I say, whatever admin you appointed, they did not state facts, they stated assumptions, and when I refused to just take their word for it, they turned abusive.
“I’m not going against my admins on this one sorry!” – You aren’t even assessing the whole story, and you make a decision like that? Isn’t that a little ironic, given the subject matter of the page?
“Which post are you on about? JFT96 (Maxine)” – Jo Ann made a post on the page at my request, as I have been deprived of any direct channel of communication with the page, with which to protest against the ban. After about thirty minutes, it had been ‘mysteriously’ deleted. By any standards, that means you should look very closely at the behaviour of your admins. They are behaving just like the South Yorkshire Police.
In hindsight, I do rather regret making that last comparison, as it was bound to be very close to the bone. But to be honest, subsequent behaviour from both moderators of the page has only served to reinforce that impression.
Ms James’ response was again a cop-out. She cherry-picked one sentence to react against with as much outrage as she could, and then used that as an excuse just to ignore the rest. All she said was; –
BEHAVING LIKE THE SYP!!
The following day, Whittle returned and posted the following – again weighed down in cherry-picked outrage; –
HOW THE FUCK DARE YOU COMPARE ME TO SYP, WHEN I NEARLY FUCKING DIED AT THEIR HANDS. THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL YOU WILL BE ALLOWED BACK IN HERE. I DELETED YOU DUE TO YOUR HIGH HANDED, ARROGANT ‘I KNOW EVERYTHING’ ATTITUDE. JUST BECAUSE I DID NOT AGREE WITH YOU, AND POINTED OUT THINGS ABOUT HILLSBOROUGH, WHERE I WAS A SURVIVOR, WHERE I HAVE KNOWN MANY YEARS ABOUT THE DISASTER, WHERE I HAVE WROTE A BOOK, WHERE I WAS AROUND IN ’89 WHEN THATCHER MADE THAT STATEMENT. I apologize sincerely to you Maxine and to the group in general, but to compare me to SYP is sick, hurtful and downright so wide of the mark. (Chris, Hillsborough Survivor) JFT96 YNWA. (Bold emphasis mine.)
Firstly, this display of ‘e-bellowing’ outrage is a very feeble attempt to intimidate. Littering his sentences with needless capitals, and liberally flooding them with swearwords, betrays his desperation to silence the person he is arguing with. I do accept that I went too far with the comparison, but even so, Whittle offers no reason why it is actually inaccurate, only outrage at the suggestion. Would he prefer, maybe, that I compare him to the KGB? The mixture of bullying, high-handedness and censorship means it is an equally valid comparison. And neither comparison would be any worse than the unprovoked and patronising abuse he had aimed at me in the first place.
Secondly, it is right here that Whittle makes the claim that I call, with absolute conviction, a flat-out lie. He claims, in the text I have highlighted in bold, that he was around when Thatcher made ‘that’ statement. As I have shown subsequently on https://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2012/10/28/hillsborough-more-on-thatcherthat-quote-that-never-goes-away/, there is just no way he was there, for the simple reason that if he were, he would have said so in his book. He did not, even on the page where he explicitly mentions the quotation.
(The only possible way Whittle can get around this is to claim that he was not literally saying he was there when Thatcher made the statement; there is a way of interpreting the sentence as just meaning, “I was alive back then”. But… why would he say something as grossly, pointlessly obvious – indeed as irrelevant – as that? Seeing he had already stated over and over that he was a survivor of the Disaster, in that context the remark would be comically redundant. Further, I ‘was around’ back in 1989 as well, and as the implication of the sentence when taken in this sense is that being alive at the time of Hillsborough is enough to know everything about it, it makes his position no stronger than mine. No, the only reasonable interpretation I can make of these words, especially in light of the rest of the sentence, is that he was claiming to be a witness to Thatcher’s statement.)
All-in-all, Whittle’s comment is a wildly-aggressive, petulant, hypocritical, arrogant, and deceitful appeal-to-false-authority. Yes, he has written a book about Hillsborough – I have read it and it is not particularly good, for reasons I have explained at https://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/hillsborough-a-brief-review-of-with-hope-in-your-heart-by-christopher-whittle/ – and yes, he was caught up in the Disaster. Neither of these points make him an authority on all aspects related to it, especially not on Margaret Thatcher’s deeds and words behind-the-scenes.
Ms James decided to interject again.
You don’t have to be sorry to me Chris love or anyone else in that matter…Its just RELENTLESS DICKHEADS like that carry on the doubt!! So glad your here Chris!! Please don’t let IDIOT NOMARKS like this get you down!! JFT96 YNWA
I object to this cowardly – and again abusive – comment as much as any, because by saying that I am “carrying on the doubt”, she appears to be implying that I am a South-Yorkshire-Police apologist i.e. someone who keeps trying to shift the blame for Hillsborough away from the Police and onto the Liverpool supporters. After I have spent many years supporting the campaigns for justice, I find Ms James’ insinuations rather insidious. Furthermore, only a couple of days earlier, she had actually given me a thank you for all the material I had posted to the page (a considerable amount) in support of its position. This included links to essays I myself have written on this very blog, firmly explaining why we know that the Liverpool supporters were not to blame for the Disaster – see https://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/hillsborough-ticketlessness-was-not-a-factor-and-this-is-how-we-know/ and https://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/hillsborough-the-myths/ for examples. For Ms James to do a one-eighty so quickly and accuse me of something like this was not only palpably unfair of her, it was contemptibly dishonest.
Contrary to what the two moderators seem to be implying, I am in fact – and have been for many, many years – completely in accord with them on the issue of who is to blame for the Hillsborough Disaster, and on the fact of there being a subsequent cover-up by the British Legal Establishment of its real causes. The only apparent point I do not agree with them on is whether or not the then-Prime Minister actively supported the cover-up. They are absolutely certain that she did. I used to agree with that too, in fact, but in recent times I have come to doubt it. (See https://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2012/10/21/hillsborough-is-thatcher-guilty-and-if-so-what-of/ to read my reasons for deciding I had been wrong.)
As far as I can see, the ban was placed on me purely because my agreement with them on the subject of Hillsborough is not quite one hundred per cent, and for some reason they seem to find the notion that they might – just might – be wrong about something Hillsborough-related to be completely intolerable. Best therefore to silence anyone who might conceivably convince them, or worse still convince others, of their fallibilities.
I could see I was never going to get a fair hearing, and so I decided at this point, “What the hell, it’s only a bloody Facebook page,” but there were some things I simply had to answer before dropping matters completely. My response, posted again by Jo; –
First things first, Chris, littering your posts with exclamation marks and needless capitals is just an attempt to intimidate. It doesn’t work. All it does is make you look like you’re throwing a tantrum.
Second, how am I being high-handed, when YOU’RE the one throwing the bans around? You’re the one who said, “I’ve wrote (sic) a book about Hillsborough.” My point is, so freaking what? The clear implication was that I have to accept everything you say about Hillsborough is true, entirely because you ‘wrote a book’. No, Chris, I don’t have to accept anything just on YOUR hardly-objective say-so. YOU are the one with the arrogant, I-know-everything attitude.
I have never said you have to agree with me, I was asking you for evidence for your assertions, and you have still given none. On the contrary, YOU banned ME for not agreeing with you. You’re trying to pretend it was for my ‘attitude’, but you’re lying. I did not say or do anything untoward, aggressive or abusive. YOU were abusive when, under no provocation whatever, you called me a twat.
You were around when Thatcher made the statement were you, Chris? Really, Chris? Didn’t realise you were in Government at the time, Chris. C’mon, give me the details, Chris, because right now my chin is REALLY itching, Chris. Just gonna give my chin a quick scratch, Chris… (Bold emphasis added.)
Yes, you ARE acting like the SYP, because you are barring people from saying things that you don’t want them to say. How is that any different from the way they amended statements and forced their officers to stay ‘on-message’? If you find the comparison ‘sick’, stop acting like them. What’s sick is that YOU are behaving in that way. You disgrace yourself and the cause you’re fighting for when you descend to the same revolting level.
As for you, Maxine, I have lost all respect for you. Chris was abusive to me, and then banned me, just because I was insisting he support his allegations with some evidence. You should be investigating. You should try and get a clear idea of the conversation’s contents and then make a call. You should make him answer for ANY ban he dishes out, to make sure he is not abusing the privileges you gave him. But instead you just assume he’s definitely right, and say to him, “There-there… don’t let the big nasty man upset you.” What is he, seven years old?
If you can’t be objective in assessing these arguments, you should not be moderating a page.
I will re-iterate, I have never seen any evidence that Thatcher was complicit in the cover-up. If you feel that it is unacceptable behaviour on my part to say it, then you are against people stating their objective views, and that means you are behaving like the SYP, and you should be disgusted with YOURSELVES, rather than lashing out at the people who point out the resemblance.
And from my perspective, that was it. I do not know whether either of them responded, because by now I had decided that life is just too short, and I had no wish to get angered into responding again, so I did not return for some while. When I finally did return, lo and behold, the thread was yet another one to do the metaphorical vanishing act.
On that subject, there are a lot of deleted comments and threads from that page, as we have seen. Whom does that behaviour resemble?
Whittle lied to try and incriminate someone in a crime there is no evidence she ever committed. Whom does that behaviour resemble?
Whittle and Ms James keep trying to draw attention away from their own misdeeds by massively playing up the supposed misdeeds of others. Whom does that behaviour resemble?
I regret saying it before, and I really do not wish to say it again, but their behaviour truly is an exact copy of the South Yorkshire Police’s shenanigans in 1989-1991. And it is a sad reflection on a small minority of Hillsborough campaigners that, in their struggle to fight against lies, they are willing to tell very damaging lies themselves, lies that could easily come back to haunt them when the new Inquiries into the tragedy get under way.
This is certainly not the sort of thing that I expected to see while I spent so long supporting the campaigns.
Jo Child took screenshots of the argument, and has very kindly sent me copies of them as supporting evidence, in the (highly likely) event that Whittle chooses to misrepresent what really happened during the dispute. See below.
by Martin Odoni
(Re-post and re-edit of a review posted to Amazon.co.uk. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hope-Your-Heart-Christopher-Whittle/dp/0755214781/ )
Official book description:-
THE HILLSBOROUGH DISASTER – Saturday, the 15th of April 1989 – when 96 innocent men, women and children lost their lives, in Britain’s worst ever sporting disaster. WITH HOPE IN YOUR HEART: A HILLSBOROUGH SURVIVOR’S STORY, THE DENIAL OF JUSTICE & A PERSONAL BATTLE OF PTSD – is the REAL, SHOCKING STORY OF HILLSBOROUGH. It is unique as it is written through the eyes of a survivor. It is told by someone who witnessed at first hand all the death and carnage from Pen 4 – one of the two central pens in which the majority of the 96 died. It shockingly tells of the glaring police failures, the lies, the cover ups, the fabrications, the suppression of evidence and the blatant denial of justice over almost a quarter of a century in the biggest single miscarriage of justice in the history of the British legal system. It tells of the bravery of the survivors and the bereaved families in their quest for truth and justice, and tells the shocking reality of what lengths that government, the police, the judiciary, writers and the media will go to, in order to hide the truth.
Christopher Whittle is not a professional writer*, and he wrote this account, not for literary or commercial reasons, but to give himself a catharsis from his past trauma. Sadly it does rather show, for this is an awkward, at times inarticulate work, which shows unfortunate symptoms of being published without the help of an outsider editor. There are spelling mistakes, questionable word-selections, a tendency to jump from subject-to-subject, and an overriding tone of aggressive-defensiveness, which, although understandable given everything Whittle has been through, is to the book’s detriment. Also mildly brow-furrowing is Whittle’s needless habit of ‘highlighting’, for the benefit of the reader, any moments of comic-relief by punctuating the relevant sentences with triple-exclamation-marks. Frequent and unnecessary capitalisation of words for the sake of emphasis, a habit of writing that really should be left behind in the schoolroom, also detracts from the text’s readability. Less sympathetic readers may come to regard his writing style as petulant, whiny, or even, in a strange way, somewhat bullying, in tone. It is entirely unintended, I am sure, but even so, there is an unmistakeable air of a writer who does not wish to be argued with.
While the book is still a valid addition to the wide body of written work available on the subject of the Hillsborough Disaster, and does have a few useful personal insights to offer on the background to what happened, the actual description of the events on the day of the Disaster is far too brief and feels rushed. Whittle may still be too traumatised by the memories to be willing to dwell on them, which again is entirely understandable, but ultimately his account offers only a cursory summary of what happened on the day, one that imparts very little useful information that cannot be found from countless other sources.
Whittle not only offers his memories on Hillsborough, but also offers his thoughts on the Heysel Disaster of 1985 (at which he was not present). Now his views on it are sustainable, but are perhaps a little one-eyed. He claims, as though it is a matter of categorical certainty, that the tragedy in Brussels was provoked by the Juventus fans and not the Liverpool fans. To be clear, this version of events is entirely possible; there are famous assertions from various independent eyewitnesses that a young Liverpool fan, stood in the wrong section of the terrace where the riot broke out, was being attacked by Italian supporters, and other Liverpool supporters only started fighting when they moved to intervene. However, it is only a possible explanation of what happened, one that has never been established as definitive **, and Whittle is perhaps guilty of being defensive of his club colours by making it sound as though it has.
Later sections of the book discuss Whittle’s post-Hillsborough struggles with Post Traumatic Stress, not to mention the cruel brutality of battling against the vicious smear campaign in the police and media against the victims. These parts are actually better-written and, perhaps ironically, more moving than his description of the Disaster itself. Maybe this is just because the struggle with PTSD is the aspect of the story that is most unique to himself, but whatever the reason, these chapters add a much-needed air of earnestness that earlier chapters lack, and it is really at this point that the reader will start to feel a deep sympathy for what Whittle has gone through.
Towards the end, Whittle offers a list of people he holds responsible for the Disaster. Some of his assertions, especially one he makes against Margaret Thatcher, really need reliable sources. Unfortunately, what endnotes the book has are so broadly-framed that it is extremely difficult to verify any specific claim Whittle makes.
Would I recommend the book? Well, it depends on what you are looking for. Strangely, as a source or authority on Hillsborough, or even on stadium disasters more widely, ‘With Hope In Your Heart’ is of very limited value or use, at best. It is equally meagre fare when judged purely as a work of literature. However, if we remove it from the context of the ‘Hillsborough library’ so to speak, and instead view it as an insight into the long-term struggles of coping with trauma, and of battling against unfair public stigmatisation, it becomes worthwhile. And to anyone who is new to studying the Hillsborough Disaster, it would provide an adequate ‘starter’ that covers the basics, albeit not a terribly well written one.
All-in-all, it is just about worth a look, but it adds little to public knowledge, and is a very uneven read.
* Whittle in fact states that he is working on writing some fiction titles for the future under the pseudonym ‘Christopher Corcoran’, so perhaps he is planning to turn pro. Mind you, what point there is in using a pseudonym when he just goes and announces it on the Internet in his real name, I really cannot say…
** To give my own position on the causes of the Heysel Disaster; my suspicion is that this version of events is probably correct, for two reasons. One, there are different witnesses who claimed to have seen it, and they appear to have arrived at the same conclusion completely independently of one another. Two, it is the only version of what happened at Heysel that I have ever heard that gives a clear ‘trigger’ moment for the start of the fighting. Most other versions tend just to be fans from one side or the other pointing at their rivals and crying out, “Well, they started iiiit! They were throwing stones at us! They charged at us!” etc. To be fair, these versions are also likely to be true as far as they go, but the people saying them are probably unaware of what the stones that struck them were being thrown in response to. The story of the Liverpool boy being attacked by Juve fans would certainly account for the earliest missile-throwing, and the Juve fans attacking him would be the result of typical football-fan territorialism.
Even so, the story is not definitive because evidence is so vague, and the fact that nobody has ever been able to establish what happened to the boy whom the Ultras were supposedly attacking – no dead body (he clearly was not one of the thirty-nine people who died running away from the fighting), no trace on hospital reports, and he has never come forward in the twenty-eight years since to set the record straight – means it has to be treated with rather more caution than Whittle’s writing allows for.
Christopher Whittle has responded to this review as posted on the Amazon website. Now with his history of censoring people who disagree with him, I thought it best I copy-&-paste the developing ‘discussion’ onto this page, just in case he finds a way of convincing Amazon to remove my review. Please be aware, the following text is complete and unedited; –
Christopher Whittle: “Are you a writer? The work is far from child like. Verification? Read the Taylor Report, read the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report, read other publications. The work is all fact. If you look at what is written you can clearly see it ties in with all of the recent evidence submitted by the Hillsborough Independent Panel. I feel that the reviewer has some bias against the writer. Check out the other reviews, and the fact that the book has sold very well, not just purchased by Liverpool fans but the general public and non-football fans.”
Martin Odoni: “Are you a READER, Mr Whittle? I didn’t say the work as a whole was child-like, I was referring to your habit of CAPITALISING FOR EMPHASIS.
Whoever told you I haven’t read the Taylor Report or the Report of The Hillsborough Independent Panel clearly does not know me. My point about verification is that when you make an assertion, you are supposed to be provide a specific citation. Saying, “Look at the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report” doesn’t cover that, as the Report is hundreds of pages long. You need to provide not just the report’s name, but also a page and a section number. You do that with precisely nothing that you assert in the book. Hence, you claim that Thatcher said she wanted to make sure no policeman was convicted for Hillsborough. Where is your evidence for this? It sure doesn’t mention it in the Taylor Report.
Your response to my review seems deeply defensive. If, as you claim on your profile, you are planning to write more books, you are going to have to get used to receiving occasional negative reviews. It just goes with the territory; not everybody is going to like everything you write.
I have read the other reviews, thank you. I respect their opinion, but I do not altogether agree with them. I am under no obligation to do so.
The book may have sold well, but that does not necessarily make it an accurate or top-quality book. It’s a fair bet that most of the people buying it won’t actually have read it until after they have a copy of it.
Perhaps you could try taking things a little less personally, and just take some feedback on board?
Incidentally, if I was holding a grudge against you, as you, in your paranoia, are complaining, why would I give your book three stars instead of only one? Why would I describe it as ‘worthwhile’, at least in some circumstances, instead of advising people not to buy it?”
Christopher Whittle: “If you are trying to come across as all intelligent you have failed, miserably. This was the first piece of writing that I have had published, at my first attempt. The publishers deemed it as acceptable and good enough to be published, and I do not see how you can mask behind a very debatable ‘professional reviewer’ persona, trying to use big words and points that go beyond the realms of fantasy. It is all FACT what is written in the book. I know this through my own experiences and wealth of knowledge of Hillsborough. Of course it is accurate. As I have previously stated, the evidence in the book ties in with the Independent Panel’s findings, which were released a few months after my book was published. And it is also a known FACT that Thatcher did say those things about protecting the police. What part of the TRUTH do you not understand?”
Martin Odoni: “If you are trying to come across as all intelligent you have failed, miserably” – It never takes you long to retreat into ad hominem, does it?
“This was the first piece of writing that I have had published, at my first attempt. The publishers deemed it as acceptable and good enough to be published” – Acceptable, yes. That sort of tallies with my use of the word ‘worthwhile’. That doesn’t mean it’s actually ‘very good’.
“and I do not see how you can mask behind a very debatable ‘professional reviewer’ persona, trying to use big words and points that go beyond the realms of fantasy.” – I have never claimed to be a professional reviewer. For you to try and force such a pretence on me is just plain dishonest of you.
“It is all FACT what is written in the book.” – Says the person who wrote it. Ever heard of the term, ‘circular reasoning’?
“I know this through my own experiences and wealth of knowledge of Hillsborough. Of course it is accurate.” – I’m not disputing anything you state *within the confines of your own experiences*.
“As I have previously stated, the evidence in the book ties in with the Independent Panel’s findings, which were released a few months after my book was published.” – Are you paying attention, Christopher? I wasn’t necessarily saying that what is in the book is inaccurate. I said, it does not include citations. When you make assertions outside your realm of first-person experience, you need to *cite your sources*. Your book does not do that, except in extremely broad terms. Telling people, “Go look at the Taylor Report” etc is not a citation. You need to make clear which part of your sources you are referring to.
” And it is also a known FACT that Thatcher did say those things about protecting the police.” – No, it is not. It is a possibility, no more than a very common rumour, and once upon a time I believed it myself. Nowadays I am unconvinced, because every time I try to find a source for it, I come up blank. Every time I ask the people who keep announcing it – people like you – they keep dodging the question – again just like you have even on this discussion thread.
“What part of the TRUTH do you not understand?” – I understand the truth very well. Do you understand it? Do you understand, for instance, that claiming something is a fact when you have never been able to cite any evidence supporting it is lying? [And] it is a frequent mistake to think that if you put words like ‘fact’ or ‘truth’ in capitals, that somehow makes them more definitive. Instead, it just makes you look like you’re trying to bully people into agreeing with you; see the point I made in the review.
By the way, I paid for a copy of your book out of my own money. That means I am your customer. If you are going to take this attitude with paying customers when they give you feedback, you will lose a lot of readers.”
Christopher Whittle: “What sickens me about this over elaborate, mythical review, is that the reviewer not only has no clue about Hillsborough, he also quite clearly does not have any idea about writing and indeed, forwarding a proper review. He describes my work as cathartic, yet does not back up this statement. He also needs to read other publications, most notably the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report, which, as I have previously stated, ties in perfectly with my book. He describes my writing as ‘child like’ in what sense? That is so very wide of the mark. He claims that my description of the actual day of the disaster as ‘not very moving.’ Well, Mr. High and mighty Odoni, I have had comments from bereaved families and survivors who actually praise my description of the day as totally factual and beautifully written. He describes the book as having no value in relation to other books written about Hillsborough. What utter rubbish. It is the first book written about the disaster through the eyes of a survivor. I have had nothing but positive comments from everyone who has bought the book. I would really like to know what literary experience Mr. Odoni has? Or maybe he just likes to play with words. Maybe, just maybe, he holds a vengeful grudge against me because I removed him from a Facebook page a few months back due to his behaviour, his arrogance, and his disgraceful attitude. And yes, the evidence is all there about Hillsborough and what and who caused it. And yes, I will point out AGAIN that Thatcher stated, ‘I do not want any policeman prosecuted over Hillsborough.’ There are some secret papers which were not revealed to the Hillsborough Independent Panel, regarding government meetings. We are still pressing for those to be released. Next time you want to challenge someone, Mr. Odoni, please make sure it is not someone who was not only at Hillsborough, but who also has a breadth of knowledge of the disaster, the aftermath, the lies, the cover ups, the smear campaigns, and who has been involved in the campaign for justice for many years.”
Martin Odoni: “”What sickens me about this over elaborate, mythical review, is that the reviewer not only has no clue about Hillsborough” – – – How would you know whether I have a clue about Hillsborough? You have never made any attempt to assess my knowledge. All you are doing is being patronising.
Not the first time I’ve caught you doing that, is it, Whittle?
What’s so ironic about all your ad hominem aggression and dishonesty, is that if you ever paused to find out what my actual opinions on Hillsborough are, you’d find I in fact agree with you on about 99% of it. The only bit I don’t agree with you on is the subject of whether Margaret Thatcher actively colluded in the cover-up.
“he also quite clearly does not have any idea about writing and indeed, forwarding a proper review.” – – – By ‘proper review’, you mean, ‘a review that tells the author how wonderful he is’, or ‘a review that blindly agrees with everything the author says’.
Whittle, a proper review is where the reviewer says what he/she really thinks of it, and backs it up with an explanation why. I would say I have done so. Your objection isn’t about how ‘proper’ my review is, it’s because you just don’t like criticism.
“He describes my work as cathartic, yet does not back up this statement.” – – – You know, it seems very strange that you find that word objectionable. Do you even know what cathartic means?
[NOTE not from the argument itself: Just to point out, catharsis does appear to be the gist of what is said in this interview Whittle gave to a local newspaper in early-2014, which describes the book as “a bid to overcome his demons.”]
“He also needs to read other publications, most notably the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report” – – – You clearly should not be an author, as being an author requires literacy, and it is increasingly obvious from your remarks that you cannot read. I have already stated very clearly that I *have* read the HIP Report.
“which, as I have previously stated, ties in perfectly with my book.” – – – Well actually it doesn’t quite – for instance, you state in the book that Thatcher definitely aided the cover-up and that the documentation the Panel were studying would say so, whereas the HIP have explicitly stated that there is no evidence of that at all.
But anyway you keep deliberately ignoring my point. I never actually said that your assertions are wrong as such, What I said was…
YOU DON’T PROVIDE CITATIONS IN YOUR BOOK.
Whether your assertions are accurate or not is beside the point. You don’t provide a clear reference point for any specific assertions you make. The only references in the Bibliography at the end of the book just name publications, but you never state where any particular assertion you make can be verified.
“He describes my writing as ‘child like’ in what sense?” – – – No, I didn’t use that term. You did. I said – and again I’ve already corrected you on this in an earlier comment – your habit of CAPITALISING FOR EMPHASIS is a schoolchild habit. I did not say your writing as a whole was like that, just your needless capitalisation of words.
“He claims that my description of the actual day of the disaster as ‘not very moving.'” – – – No I didn’t. You’re just lying now. You claim to be a devoted Catholic, and here you are, breaching the Ninth Commandment left right and centre. I said your description of the day was too brief and feels rushed.
“Well, Mr. High and mighty Odoni, I have had comments from bereaved families and survivors who actually praise my description of the day as totally factual and beautifully written.” – – – I’m glad they enjoyed it. Sadly, I do not altogether agree with them, and I repeat that I am under no obligation to do so. Nor am I under any obligation to remain silent about it.
Could you please stop resorting to bandwagon fallacies? They prove nothing.
“He describes the book as having no value in relation to other books written about Hillsborough.” – – – No I didn’t. I said it is of *limited* value, not of no value at all.
If you’re so sure that you’re in the right and I’m in the wrong, why do you feel the need to keep misquoting me?
“It is the first book written about the disaster through the eyes of a survivor.” – – – And that is the limited value it offers. But that’s all. More importantly, it really doesn’t tell us anything that can’t be found in loads of other sources. This may be the first *book* from a survivor, but it is a very, very long way from being the first account to reach the public domain. Consider Rogan Taylor’s book, “The Day Of The Hillsborough Disaster“, just for one. It contains many survivor accounts.
“I have had nothing but positive comments from everyone who has bought the book.” – – – And now you have had a couple of negative ones. (Well, half-negative. Seeing I described your book as ‘worthwhile’, it clearly hasn’t been castigated.) Live with it. Take them on board. Stop being so bloody egotistical that you feel that you have a divine right to go uncriticised.
“I would really like to know what literary experience Mr. Odoni has?” – – – Ah, interesting double-standard here. Have you challenged the people who have given you positive feedback for their credentials? Or did you accept their praise wholeheartedly and without pausing to ask? Is it only when someone says they have negative feedback as well that you start asking for quaifications?
If you go to a restaurant and don’t enjoy the meal, would you expect the chef to take your complaint on board? Or would you expect him to point to the kitchen and cry out, “Well let’s see you do any better!!!”
No, I am not a published writer, (although I do write on a non-professional basis, and have had fictional scripts turned into radio plays) but it’s beside the point.
The point is, I *paid* for a copy of your book. That’s money in your pocket from mine, which means I am your customer, therefore I am entitled to give feedback.
You just can’t take criticism, or people disagreeing with you, can you?
Grow up, Whittle.
“Maybe, just maybe, he holds a vengeful grudge against me because I removed him from a Facebook page a few months back due to his behaviour, his arrogance, and his disgraceful attitude.” – – – Yes, well if you’re going to drag that up, I will now link to a blogpage I wrote itemising what *really* happened on that FB page. Your liberal over-use of foul language, dishonesty, intimidation and high-handedness will be there for all to see. Including your decision to delete people’s comments – not just mine – when they were not convenient to you.
Note that another user who witnessed the dispute has commented, confirming that my description of the argument is accurate.
“And yes, the evidence is all there about Hillsborough and what and who caused it. And yes, I will point out AGAIN that Thatcher stated, ‘I do not want any policeman prosecuted over Hillsborough.'” – – – Yeah yeah, we know that you said that. What I’m asking for is a citation of evidence that she said it. It doesn’t become true just because you say so, no matter how many times, or how stubbornly, you keep repeating it.
“There are some secret papers which were not revealed to the Hillsborough Independent Panel, regarding government meetings. We are still pressing for those to be released.” – – – So in all that self-righteous ranting, you now admit that you don’t have a source for the quote. Are you by any chance just *guessing* that it’s in the papers that weren’t released?
I will also point out that in the past you have claimed that you were there when she said it. And yet you don’t mention that detail in the book, nor on this thread. So obviously that was another lie on your part.
Interesting that you keep pontificating in the name of the truth, and yet you feel it was okay to lie about that.
“Next time you want to challenge someone, Mr. Odoni, please make sure it is not someone who was not only at Hillsborough, but who also has a breadth of knowledge of the disaster, the aftermath, the lies, the cover ups, the smear campaigns, and who has been involved in the campaign for justice for many years.” – – – And, apart from the bit about physically being at Hillsborough, which I openly state I was not, what makes you think those descriptions don’t apply to me? Do you really imagine I haven’t studied anything about Hillsborough?
I have studied Hillsborough, and I have supported the justice campaigns, for over twenty years. Keep in mind that that means I have supported *you* in that time.
Am I the only one who, when reading Whittle’s responses, is reminded of the Shakespearean phrase, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”? Most of his arguments are appeals to false authority and bandwagon fallacies e.g. the book sold well, therefore it must be a reliable source; the publishers approved it, therefore it must be a good book; Whittle was at Hillsborough, therefore everything he says on any subject connected to Hillsborough must be accurate; large numbers of people believe such-and-such an idea, therefore the idea must be true etc. (Given his own struggles against the urban myths of Hillsborough over the last quarter of a century, Whittle of all people should be keenly aware of the dreadful untruths that can prosper when this sort of ad populum fallacy is given credence.) His paranoid complaints of bias are laughable, given that some of the accusations he makes in his book are unsupported, and yet he maintains they are fact – sorry, I mean, he maintains they are FACT – for no better reason than his own towering certainty. In other words, he has prejudged them, and he cannot bear being made to rethink. What greater bias is there than that?
The sad truth in all these nasty exchanges between myself and Whittle is that there is very little reason for them. He simply has to do one of two things to settle the dispute. One, he can admit that he has no source for his claim, and that therefore the Thatcher quotation is nowhere near as definite as he has been making out. Two, if he really does have a source, he could stop stalling and finally tell me what it is; I have asked him again and again and again for a dependable source for the quotation, and he has only ever answered once, and that was with a flagrant untruth; he claimed he had been present when Thatcher said it, a claim that is implausible, and that does not even tally with the contents of his own book (which makes no mention of him ever being in her presence at all). (See https://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2012/10/28/hillsborough-more-on-thatcherthat-quote-that-never-goes-away/ and https://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/hillsborough-whittles-claim/.) I am quite confident he has no real source though, because quite simply, if he had, he would have cited it by now, and he would not have resorted to lying.
Ultimately, Whittle’s objections to my review betray his own insecurity. It has become very clear to me in recent exchanges with him that he cannot endure being criticised or argued with. He cannot tolerate honest, constructive feedback that tells him that the quality of his writing was, at best, indifferent. Nor can he tolerate the suggestion that he might be wrong on any Hillsborough-related issue. To this end, he shows that he is perfectly prepared to attack his own readers when they say they are unimpressed. Effectively at his bidding, I bought his precious book – the book he has pompously invoked as what makes him an unbeatable authority on Hillsborough – making me his customer, so to speak. Surely as a paying customer, I have a right to say what I genuinely think about what he wrote? No, Whittle has taken angry exception, and once again he tries to compel me to agree with him, and to say what a fine piece of literature it is. If I say anything different, he gets angry, accuses me of pretending to be what I am not, and pours scorn on my intelligence.
Whether he is right about my intelligence or not – and I have made no claim one way or the other about that – the reality is that his accusations are wrong. I did my very best to write a considered and objective review of his work. This included stressing that his traumatic past and circumstances, as well as his inexperience, are extenuating factors when considering the modest quality of the writing, and above all, not allowing personal animosities to intrude on my thoughts. (I did not mention in the review, for instance, that I have clear evidence that he is perfectly prepared to tell very public lies in order to incriminate someone he has long harboured suspicions towards, nor did I mention that he has a history of rude, bullying and high-handed behaviour towards people he disagrees with.)
Conversely, it is quite blatant from his own paranoid, boastful and fallacious responses that he has made no such effort when considering my feedback; he even uses those same personal animosities as an excuse to dismiss and misrepresent what is in my review. He does not even make the small effort required to treat his own customer with due courtesy or respect.
It seems Whittle’s view of the author/reader relationship is quite different from mine. He feels that when I bought my copy of his book, I was unknowingly paying for the privilege of being compelled to agree with him, and to tell him what a fantastic writer he is. He apparently feels I violated the terms of the deal by telling him what I actually think.
I am reminded of the command issued by Franz Liebkind in The Producers; “Shut up! You are the audience! I am the writer! I outrank you!”
Not that I was exactly scathing about With Hope In Your Heart anyway, I simply pointed out that it has failings, especially some inexcusably bad spelling and punctuation* , which is very distracting, and that most of the assertions made, whether they are contentious or not, are not cited. When any writer makes an incriminating assertion about a fellow human being, surely the very minimum standards of decency would demand that the assertion be backed up with evidence? This never really happens in With Hope In Your Heart, and that is just one of the reasons that it is a mediocre book, to which I gave a mediocre rating. If I were truly trying to pan Whittle, as he is trying to make out, I would have rated the book far lower, mentioned none of its redeeming qualities at all, and made no attempt to mitigate his amateurishness as an author. (For that matter, if I was really as hung up on ‘vengeance’ as Whittle asserts, I would hardly have waited three months to give his book a public trashing. And for that matter, if I had underhand reasons for writing the review, I probably wouldn’t even have written it in my real name, because it gives him a pretext to respond in precisely this petulant way.)
If Whittle cannot deal with criticism as mild as this, he really should get out of the authoring business in a big hurry. Otherwise, given the unrestrained harshness of real professional critics, he could be in for a horrible shock when he reads reviews of the future titles he is promising.
In conclusion, given his attitude towards his readership, I would discourage anyone from purchasing any titles written in the names of Christopher Whittle or Christopher Corcoran.
* As an example, the word “it’s” is a contraction of “it is”. But Whittle keeps using “it’s” throughout the book as a possessive pronoun, which means the apostrophe should be dropped – “its”. (This is the impersonal equivalent of “my”, “your”, “his”, “her”, “our” and “their”, none of which uses an apostrophe.) Whittle is also frequently guilty of apostrophising plurals, which would be a grotesque error even by High School standards.
These apostrophe errors are endemic in With Hope In Your Heart. They happen over and over again, page after page, which is the main reason why I doubt that the book was ever subjected to a proper external editing process before publication. And if it was, shame on the publishers for being so casual.
Whittle also does not appear to know the correct spelling of “analogy”, which he seems almost to confuse with a negative reaction of the immune system; “anallergy”. He further talks about the Liverpool team doing well under Bob Paisley’s “managership”. Not technically wrong – and it is at least correctly-spelt – but it is a questionable choice of words, as “managership” means merely the position of a manager, not so much the application of the role, or their tour-of-duty. “Management” or “stewardship” would both have been more suitable.
On page 55, he says that the Home Secretary of the time, Douglas Hurd, was “compelled to tow the party line”. But the correct term is “toe the party line” i.e. the expression has nothing to do with tugging on ropes. Instead, it is an athletics allusion to runners, prior to the start of a footrace, not letting any part of their body bar their toes be poised on or beyond their marks. If any part of the foot is positioned beyond the line, they are considered to have ventured outside the rules. Thus, ‘to toe the line’ simply means not stepping outside the exact wording of a rule. Whereas ‘to tow the line’ means… well, probably nothing at all.
Sentence structure is often clumsy as well, to the point that some passages are quite difficult to follow. One sentence on page 53 reads, “As regards Hillsborough, those responsible were never convicted in a court of law for something which many held them accountable, and the fact that there is hard evidence to convict them.” The final sub-clause of the sentence appears to be incomplete, the word ‘accountable’ should be replaced with ‘responsible’ (seeing the whole issue around the Hillsborough cover-up is that no one ever did hold the South Yorkshire Police to account), and the word ‘for’ should probably be added in immediately after ‘responsible’.
Page 63, Whittle dramatically announces, “The inquest into the biggest sporting disaster in British history were about to take place.” Surely, when talking in the third person, the word ‘were’ should only be used if the subject noun is plural? Now that is a schoolchild error.
On page 66, Whittle writes, “The way the inquests were run was another indisputable fact that they were not wholly impartial, or without bias and prejudice.” I agree with what he is trying to say, but this is scarcely a sentence at all. Surely he needs to replace his favourite pet-word ‘fact’ with ‘indicator’?
On page 72, Whittle states, “two video tapes, which filmed the horrific events unfold, went missing from the police control room at Hillsborough during a ‘break in’.” The word ‘unfold’ destroys the grammar of the sub-clause – Whittle probably means “which filmed the horrific events as they unfolded” – but the assertion is also very misleading. By putting the words ‘break in’ (which should be hyphenated, by the way) in speech marks, he is implying that this is a quote of an official explanation. But no one, be they at the football club or in the police, has ever officially declared that the disappearance of the two CCTV tapes was the result of a break-in. They have simply been declared ‘missing without explanation’. (It is scandalous that no one among the authorities has ever bothered to find an explanation of course, but let’s get the facts right.) Furthermore, to the best knowledge of Roger Houldsworth, the CCTV technician at the club, the tapes did not contain footage of the Disaster unfolding, as he understood that the camera feeding them was from the Kop End of the ground. Oh and, even if it had been true, it’s also silly wording on Whittle’s part to suggest that the tapes, not the CCTV cameras, were what filmed the Disaster.
On page 119, Whittle defiantly announces that, “my love for Liverpool never died, nor never waned.” A double-negative means a positive, so “nor never waned” means Whittle’s love for Liverpool did wane, which is clearly the polar opposite of what he intended to say.
Page 129, when recalling the experience of revisiting the Medico-Legal Centre in Sheffield in June 2011, Whittle describes “a red-bricked building” that “looked cold, grey, inhospitable, callous…” A red building looks grey? I imagine he means ‘grey’ in an emotional sense i.e. a feel to the place or an atmosphere, but his use of the word ‘looked’ means it comes across as just another physical description, contradicting the previous one.
On the same page, he says that this visit to Hillsborough was 23 years since he had last been there. But his last visit had been about seven months after the Disaster, for a league match between Sheffield Wednesday and Liverpool in November 1989 i.e. 21-and-a-half years or thereabouts. He then goes and contradicts himself on the very next page by saying the gap between visits was 22 years. Then on page 132, he says it was 23 years again.
Again on page 130, Whittle states that Gate C is still in the Leppings Lane concourse. It isn’t. There is a turnstile bank close to the spot where Gate C stood, and rather insensitively it is in fact called Turnstile C, but the nearest exit gate to that notorious position is called Exit Door 5. These changes to the lay-out were made back in the mid-1990’s.
And finally (for now) Whittle writes on page 149, as he comes to the end of his book, “This has been very much a personal account, and something which has been very difficult to write. Some might call it a remarkable achievement, but I will let you, the readers, be the judge of that.” No grammatical or spelling mistakes in there. It’s just, as we see from the argument above, it is simply untrue. Whittle does not allow readers to be the judge of whether the book is a good job or not. He will only allow them to applaud it.
You might argue that I am largely quibbling, when comparing punctuation errors, spelling mistakes, scrappy grammar, half-remembered names, and dodgy definitions with the enormity of the tragedy that the book discusses. But as we have seen above, Whittle does repeatedly ask me to justify my assertion that his writing is schoolchild-like. It is not quite what I said anyway, but one way or the other, I would argue that these are just a few very pertinent examples. And there are plenty more where they came from.
More Whittle shenanigans here.