Hillsborough: Whittle’s Claim
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.