Anyone masochistic enough to regularly trudge through CJ Werleman’s nauseating Twitter feed will doubtless be familiar with an objectionable hypocrite who calls himself Johnny Spooner. Mr Spooner is an ostensibly Swedish Twitter user who buzzes around Werleman’s timeline like a fly on shit. His Twitter handle is @LIFG_4_HRC (formerly @theflowerthrowe) and he divides his time relatively equally between attacking what he calls “new atheists” and effectively acting as Werleman’s fluffer.
Unfortunately for him, both of these pastimes require his adoption of grossly hypocritical positions and his assertion of cynical, irresponsible and patently dishonest statements which frequently manifest as textbook examples of logical and rhetorical fallacies.
He readily propagates the idea that by criticising Islam, atheist authors – and their supporters – inspire hate crimes against Muslims. When questioned on whether the same would be true of anti-atheist authors having any culpability for hate crimes against atheists he becomes suspiciously mute.
He claims that certain texts can inspire atheists to commit atrocities and holds high profile atheists personally responsible for inspiring murderers. Predictably enough, he seems far less willing to acknowledge that certain texts containing the apparent words of the author of the universe may influence Muslim behaviour in questionable ways.
He criticises what he calls the “hatred” inherent in “new atheist” rhetoric and does so in a manner infinitely more rhetorically hateful than those he disparages.
When Rochdale Imam Jalal Uddin was viciously beaten to death earlier this year, Spooner tactlessly announced his certainty that the killer was an “EDL supporter and/or a new atheist”. After some prompting, he found it in himself to issue a sarcastic and insincere apology when his vacuous speculations were proved wrong and a Muslim youth was charged with the murder.
Capitalising on the murder of Muslims to further his political agenda has become something of a trademark Spooner-ism. The actual motives of killers are irrelevant if he can find some way to shoehorn “new atheism” into the equation. “Our preliminary investigation indicates that the crime was motivated by an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking” Chapel Hill Police said in a statement on the murder of 3 Muslims in North Carolina by Craig Stephen Hicks. “New Atheist Islamophobia” says Spooner.
When news broke of a sword attack on a Trollhättan school last year, it took Spooner an entire nanosecond to downplay the officially racist motive of killer Anton Lundin Petterson in favour of holding outspoken atheism responsible.
For someone who uses “new atheism” as euphemism for “racism”, it goes without saying that he has a predilection for issuing false accusations of bigotry which often necessitate a desperate clutching at non-existent straws. When I noticed a Twitter user humorously rejecting an invite to read Werleman’s laughable and incompetent book on the imminently grave threat posed to the world by liberal neuroscientists and evolutionary biologists, I voiced my amusement by “liking” the tweet. Spooner quickly pounced on the opportunity to imply bigotry by association.
I can’t help noticing that Spooner felt no compulsion to start accusing himself of bigotry when I liked one of his tweets but then consistency of any kind is an alien concept to Johnny, unless of course you include being consistently inconsistent.
All of which brings me to Spooner’s latest venture into duplicitous twattery – namely his accusing author and neuroscientist Sam Harris of a breach of journalistic integrity. Upon noticing that a copy of Harris’s blog article on profiling was slightly modified when compared to the version Harris had previously published in the Huffington Post in 2011, he apparently leapt to the conclusion that Harris was surreptitiously attempting to conceal an inherently racist position.
In proposing the idea that moderate Muslims must take a proactive and cooperative attitude towards identifying the extremists that dwell among them, Harris used the phrase “ethnic profiling” in his professionally published article. The version of the same article published on Harris’s own blog however, omitted the word “ethnic”.
It’s worth bearing the following points in mind:
- The amendment was made to the text on Harris’s blog. The original article published in the Huffington Post remains unaltered.
- The amendment does not, in any way, alter the substance of either the sentence it was used in or the wider argument in general.
- The amendment was made to remove a potentially confusing word. Harris has not altered his views on profiling at all and has in fact reiterated them repeatedly and at length.
Harris noticed the online chatter around this supposed controversy and published an explanation, an excerpt of which I reproduce here. I suggest reading the full thing.
“Upon reviewing this early essay… I worried that readers might misunderstand my use of the term “ethnic” in the phrase “ethnic profiling,” and so I deleted it. I had discovered in the intervening years that many people erroneously believe that “race” and “ethnicity” are synonymous. Whether or not I explain my edits (I occasionally do), I hope readers understand that my goal is never to conceal my views. It is, rather, to successfully communicate them.”
Since I know of no other public intellectual whose words and ideas are so eagerly misconstrued and maliciously misrepresented, I had suspected that Harris had simply removed a word that could easily cause confusion. Harris’s statement on the issue confirmed this to be the case. Since Johnny Spooner had put himself forward as the primary flag-waver of Harris’s wrongdoing I decided to forward the explanation to him in the hope, not necessarily the expectation, that the truth might shut him up a bit. I was, of course, mistaken.
Acting in his capacity as an industrial logic repellent, Spooner immediately began complaining that a breach of journalistic ethics had taken place and that Harris, on his own blog, should not have the right to alter/edit/modify his own intellectual output without a disclaimer. He then bizarrely suggested that Harris’s blog is obligated to conform to the standards outlined in the Best Practices of the Canadian Association of Journalists. Any disagreement on this point was, according Spooner, to disagree with the “core principles of journalistic ethics”.
I’m reasonably certain I understand why he did this. Spooner has roughly as much interest in journalistic ethics as Mohamed Atta had in the intricacies of landing an airliner. He simply has a pathological dislike of Harris and is using this non-incident as a way to attack Harris as nefarious.
However, let’s for arguments sake give him the benefit of the doubt and see if we can ascertain how deep his concern for ethical journalism runs.
As I mentioned previously, Spooner is a minion of the notorious fraud and liar CJ Werleman. Werleman is infamous for having been discovered to be a serial plagiarist who responded to this devastating exposure by setting up a sock puppet account which he used to falsely accuse others of plagiarism. This is among the most unethical and unprofessional behaviour one could imagine from a journalist and author. Behold Spooner’s withering criticism of Werleman’s conduct:
In an article published in Middle East Eye in 2015, Werleman falsely reported on a news story in which a man had stabbed two strangers at a bus stop. Although the perpetrator was Muslim and had attacked his victims on the basis that they were not Muslim, Werleman reported the incident as an anti-Muslim hate crime. He was repeatedly called out on this falsehood for over a month by all and sundry. Did Werleman issue an apology and a correction to his professionally published article? Of course not. Unsurprisingly the misinformation was simply deleted without comment. Unlike Harris, Werleman was involved in an incident of genuine misrepresentation and a subsequent cover up of it. Yet unlike Harris, Werleman miraculously managed to avoid being on the receiving end of Johnny’s phoney distain for unscrupulous journalism.
These are by no means isolated incidents. Stephen Knight has compiled a pretty comprehensive repository of Werleman’s unscrupulous shenanigans on his Godless Spellchecker blog. Have a guess at how many of these grossly irresponsible, hypocritical and unprincipled acts of misconduct Spooner has adopted as his personal hobbyhorse. According to my research, the answer is a round number less than one.
As far as I can tell, Spooner’s adoration for the most unethical, fraudulent journalist in recent memory is unwavering. I’d suggest that this is more than a little indicative of how much he actually cares about the subject and how utterly farcical it is of him to offer a concern for journalistic ethics as his motive for attacking Harris. This is not someone who has any interest whatsoever in ethical journalism, consistency, honesty or, I would argue, ethics of any kind. Take the following statement for example:
Perhaps I’m misreading something here but I genuinely am unsure how this statement can be taken any other way than as an admission of complete moral indifference towards the barbarism of religiously mandated flogging, stoning and amputation.
To object to a completely innocuous and unimportant edit of a single superfluous word in a personal blog post by someone you don’t like, and to bend over backwards to ignore the myriad crimes against journalistic decency committed by someone you do, is hypocrisy of the most transparent kind.
Harris, unlike Werleman, has an actual career and a reputation of some significant worth. And since Harris, unlike Werleman, is uninclined to write for spunkrags (to borrow a phrase) like Middle East Eye – who are happy to turn a blind eye to journalistic misdemeanours – accusations of the kind Spooner is making are nothing more than a crass attempt to harm Harris’s status and livelihood. In other words, he’s using grossly unethical behaviour to illustrate a supposed concern for ethics.
Perhaps Johnny Spooner should consider being slightly more charitable towards Sam Harris. After all, if it wasn’t for Harris’s persuasive arguments on the absence of free will, I might otherwise have to entertain the notion that Spooner is actually personally responsible for how obnoxious, hypocritical, dishonest and generally unethical he allows himself to be.
*UPDATE* Spooner wrote a response to this article in which he ignored my every criticism of him and simply repeated his accusations towards Harris. You can read it here.