Hillsborough: A Riposte To A Whittle Implication – And A Challenge
August 28, 2014
by Martin Odoni
FOREWORD: I did state a few months ago that this blog would maintain a strict silence on all matters Hillsborough-related until the current rebooted Inquests are completed. However, I have decided it is okay to proceed with this blogpost, as it is not about the Disaster directly, and I doubt it can have any bearing whatever on the proceedings at Birchwood Park. Should anybody involved in the legal proceedings feel otherwise, please leave a comment below explaining why, and I will consider un-publishing it until after the end of the Inquests.
The name ‘Christopher Whittle’ keeps popping up on this blog, to such an extent that a reader might feel that I have a morbid obsession with him. This is not the case, just for the record; in reality, the man is such an obviously irrational rage-merchant – albeit for understandable reasons – that I scarcely take him seriously at all, and the growing impression I get from outside discussions is that very few other Hillsborough campaigners do either. However, as past exchanges with Whittle have shown, he seems awfully keen to discredit me any time he sees or hears my name, and there is a mild danger that some people he bad-mouths me in front of will just swallow everything he says.
My reason for mentioning him this time refers to an essay I wrote back in November 2013 about the crush barrier that collapsed in the central pens of the Leppings Lane terrace during the Hillsborough Disaster. The good ladies and gents at the Hillsborough Justice Campaign seem to have rather liked the essay and put a link to it up on their Facebook page, to encourage other supporters to read it. It would seem one of the supporters on that page is Whittle himself, and among a number of comments the essay received, he ventured the following, somewhat off-colour opinion; –
“Well Mr. Odoni has certainly changed his tune.”
I wasn’t aware of Whittle posting this comment for some time, as he long ago blocked me over Facebook to prevent me from arguing with him. (I can assure you that there are other Hillsborough campaigners out there who have received similar treatment from him, as they have shared anecdotes with me that sound depressingly similar to ones I have lived out when getting into quarrels with him.) So for a long time I was effectively blinded to the remark he had posted.
I only became aware of Whittle’s comment earlier today when I happened to be browsing the HJC Facebook page on a computer that I was not logged in on; the block he placed on me does not apply when I am operating as an anonymous user. (Incidentally, if he feels he has the right to comment on my work after he has chosen to block me, Whittle could at least have the courage and courtesy to let me know what he says, allowing me some kind of right-of-reply. As things stand, he seems to be trying to give himself a ‘built-in’ final word on any subject.)
The reason I have decided to write this response is that Whittle seems, not for the first time, to be publicly insinuating that I have a history of South Yorkshire Police apologia i.e. that I have a supposed track record of blaming Liverpool supporters for causing the Hillsborough Disaster, and that I must only have very recently changed my mind.
I want to make it categorically clear right now that this is absolutely not the case at all; –
I have never in my entire life suggested that Liverpool supporters were responsible for the Disaster, and the position I took when writing the essay he was responding to was completely consistent with my position on the Disaster and its causes over the last quarter-of-a-century i.e. that the South Yorkshire Police mishandled the crowd on the day, and that this had lethal effects due to Sheffield Wednesday Football Club allowing their stadium to become unsafe over previous years.
If anyone wishes to test me on this, I refer them to the Hillsborough Disaster Index at the top of this very page. You are entirely free to select and read any and all essays I have written on the subject over the last three or four years. Take any random sampling of them that you wish, then check the dates on all of them, and see what I had to say then. See if you can find any difference in my leanings between what I was writing, say, in 2011 and what I write now.
As my previous accounts of arguments with him have demonstrated, Whittle has a damning history of being an unreliable witness. For instance, when he took such bitter offence last year at my review of his unimpressive and un-sourced book, With Hope In Your Heart, he tried to portray the review as the act of a man with a grudge. He made out that a previous argument between us, in which he banned me from using another Facebook page as the penalty for disagreeing with him, had been my motive to criticise his work. But he never put forward any detail explaining what it was I had done wrong during that first argument, limiting his accusations to an extremely vague assertion that I had displayed a “disgusting attitude”. No description of what that “disgusting attitude” might embody, and no examples of “disgusting” behaviour on my part were ever offered.
Similar here with his response to my essay about the crush barrier. Whittle has asserted that I have changed my position on Hillsborough at some point in the months since the argument over the book review, but that is all he says. He offers no examples or citations of evidence to demonstrate that I ever used to take a different position from the one I take at present. In other words, he is trying to use weasel-words to discredit me by niggling implication, and he clearly feels no shame about using fabrications in order to do it. That is certainly not the first time I have highlighted him doing that, and it is something that should be anathema to him: As a self-proclaimed committed Christian, you would think The Ten Commandments should play some kind of positive role in his behaviour. The Ninth such Commandment forbids the bearing of false witness i.e. it forbids the telling of lies. (Although I am ethnically Jewish, I am not religious myself, but I would say that telling lies of the defamatory type that Whittle frequently resorts to is obviously immoral, no matter which code of ethics you might adhere to.) Surely every time he tells a lie, he expects to take a step closer to everlasting damnation?
So, Christopher Whittle, I am now formally and publicly challenging you.
If you truly have any integrity, you will come forward and offer up some firm evidence to support your accusation against me. You clearly want people to believe that I used to be an apologist for the South Yorkshire Police. I challenge you to prove that I ever was. I challenge you to find any written work, or even passing comment, by myself that shows me speaking up for the conduct of the police during, and holding the Liverpool supporters to blame for, the Hillsborough Disaster. Furthermore, I challenge you to demonstrate exactly why my behaviour was “disgusting” enough for you to ban me from that Facebook page a couple of years back*, and I challenge you to show that any such behaviour on my part was unwarranted, and in no way provoked by your own conduct.
If you cannot do so, I challenge you to withdraw the implication publicly.
Come on, Whittle, for once in your life, show some honesty, one way or the other. If you will not, it can only mean that you are not the devoted man of faith that you claim to be.
*And no, Whittle, me comparing your administration of that Facebook page to the conduct of the South Yorkshire Police does not count. I have freely admitted, and publicly apologised, elsewhere on this blog that I made the remark, and I accept it was too close-to-the-bone. But either way, I made the remark after you had already banned me, so there is no way you can make out that it was the reason you made that decision. Nor can you pretend that I had made the remark in the face of anything other than considerable provocation – not only had you banned me for no good reason, you had also been profoundly patronising and outright abusive towards me at various times before that. I still maintain with great confidence that the only reason you banned me was because I disagreed with you, and still do, on the matter of whether Margaret Thatcher was involved in the Hillsborough cover-up. You insist she was, but can never offer any verifiable evidence to this effect. I have concluded that she wasn’t, precisely because no one has ever been able to offer any such evidence. If you had any honesty or maturity, you would simply have accepted that my position is a perfectly reasonable one as things stand, and moved on, but instead you felt a desperation to silence me and to reinforce your own prejudices. The reason you banned me, in short, was just arrogant, high-handed censorship, which is, let’s be honest, entirely in keeping with how the South Yorkshire Police behaved after the Disaster.
You have become what you hate the most, Christopher Whittle.