24 January 2010

We are all Seismic Shock or Rev. Sizer and Big Brother

This time the term Seismic Shock doesn't have anything to do with the tragedy of Haiti. It is about less shocking (but still amazing) story of a blogger being muzzled by a strange synergy between a religious cleric and the gendarmes of the state where both the blogger and the cleric reside.

You may not believe (or want to believe) it, but the state in question is not China, Burma, Cuba or any other of the long list of places where blogging is a risky business. It is United Kingdom - the motherland of modern democracy and freedom of speech. The blogger in question goes under a moniker Seismic Shock and the cleric with the awesome powers to deploy the British police at will is Stephen Sizer, "the vicar or pastor of Christ Church, the international community church of Virginia Water". We'll delve later into more details related to the Reverend, let's discuss the case.

Seismic Shock has done a research into some questionable activities of the Reverend. Apparently, the activities include (but not limited to) dissemination of emails from Holocaust deniers, sharing platform with Holocaust deniers, and shamelessly flaunting his anti-Zionist theology before Iran’s apocalyptic Holocaust-denying regime. You can read more about the "Christian" deeds of our good pastor (or vicar, whatever the heck it means) in this post (thanks to Engage).

While United Kingdom is known as a welcoming place for outrageous litigations (frequently successful) against bloggers, this time pastor Sizer has chosen a novel way to intimidate and silence the blogger: he unleashed on him the local constabulary. Again, it may sound unbelievable for the time and the place, but here it is:

At 10am on Sunday 29th November 2009, I received a visit from two policemen regarding my activities in running the Seismic Shock blog. (Does exposing a vicar’s associations with extremists make me a criminal?, I wondered initially). A sergeant from the Horsforth Police related to me that he had received complaints via Surrey Police from Rev Sizer and from Dr Anthony McRoy – a lecturer at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology – who both objected to being associated with terrorists and Holocaust deniers.
The sergeant made clear that this was merely an informal chat...
WTF? An "informal chat"? Is it how the Big Brother designates its (hardly lawful) activities these days? Is it an acceptable practice in UK (granted, formally an Anglican kingdom, but we are so used to this designation being a somewhat funny lip service to a sacred British penchant for tradition) to deploy police force on a mere whim of an Anglican cleric? Is it just another facet of freedom of speech we, unwashed non-British heathens don't grok?

Meanwhile, the good pastor is quite happy with the result of his shameful police action. So happy that he even considers to expand his synergy with the gendarmes to other countries of the Commonwealth:
A Christian blogger – “Vee” of LivingJourney, who is based in Australia – linked to my blog as a resource for Christians to learn about anti-Semitism in the Church, including “lots of info on Stephen Sizer and Sabeel”.

Rev Sizer left her this comment:

Dear Vee,

You must take a little more care who you brand as anti-semitic otherwise you too will be receiving a caution from the police as the young former student of Leeds did recently. One more reference to me and you will be reported.


Hard to believe, isn't it? But true, nevertheless.

Now a few words about the pastor. He appears to be a person with strong opinions, including quite an attitude toward Israel. He is also a blogger, and his blogs Stephen Sizer and Stephen Sizer (and his other Internet tentacles) reflect his preoccupation with Israel: for example, the second Stephen Sizer blog contains roughly 40% of Israel-related posts. Well, you may call it obsession or something else, but let's leave it to psychiatrists. He is also an extremely pious and kind man, meeting any criticism of his views or actions with verbiage so full of saccharine that it makes one want to barf: just read his opus on what he calls "calumnious blogging". But he is not too clever in defending the indefensible: see his comment to the Melanie Phillips' (oh well...) article:
I have never knowingly, to use her words, "given interviews to, endorsed or forwarded material from American white supremists and Holocaust deniers".
I have rarely seen a more pitiful retort from a person of (supposedly) such an intellectual caliber. This "knowingly" crapola doesn't work in a court of law or in a court of common sense for any normal person. Should it work for a pastor?

Well, our good pastor boasts a few hobbies besides his direct church-related duties: "In his spare time, he enjoys photography, painting, golf and karate, although not very well." As you can see, he is exceedingly humble. And forgetful, omitting "intimidation of critics" as another significant item on this list.

So, dear bloggers, let's make pastor Sizer's life more interesting. Let's make him deploy his friends on the Commonwealth police force all over the world. What say?

We are all Seismic Shock!

Update: Two other blogs on the same subject.


Dick Stanley said...

I sympathize with the UK blogger, of course, but isn't UK libel law rather more stringent than in most places? Defaming someone in text without proof equals libel. Even with proof it can be expensive to defend a libel suit.

Of course I would have thought it was a civil crime, as it is here in the U.S., not a criminal one for which the police would feel obliged to stop by for "a chat." I can't imagine that happening in the U.S. A call from a lawyer would be more likely. Having been threatened with libel suits in my previous occupation, I try to limit my blog print criticism to certified public figures. Not sure where the rev would fit in there. I never heard of him before now.

snoopythegoon said...

Yes, British law is known to be so exuberant in its libel/slander part that you can sue a person for as much as looking at you in a wrong way (or what you consider to be the wromg way). And if the pastor was really feeling libeled, he could have easily resorted to the court.

However, he decided to turn to sympathetic British bobbies who were so diligent that they not only located the (anonymous) blogger but also visited him to apply some "informal" pressure - under the guise of a friendly advice. What they (the police) have done would be highly illegal in a normal country, however the blogger, being young and obviously intimidated by a police presence, didn't pursue this line of thought.

I was also ignorant re the pastor existence before being alerted to the case.

Michael Rubin said...

I never understood how people could be so blatantly certain when they deny the Holocaust..... until I saw the things that happened during the last presidential election. In the United States, there were people who both accuse Obama of being a Muslim, and complain about the Chrisitan Church he went to for 20 years. To me, I saw similar ties to the <span>... <span>See More</span></span><span>Holocaust denial. The two things that both Holocaust deniers and people who thought Obama was a Muslim had in common were 1) a hatred for the person in question (Obama or Jews) 2) A lack of careful consideration for the facts. Let's face it, it's hard to imagine a guy would be Muslim and go to a Christian Church for 20 years (secretly planning to be President). But there are people out there who believe this. I just lump it in with Holocaust deniers, as ignorant, and I treat anyone who questions Obama's faith as the person was a Holocaust denier. </span>

snoopythegoon said...

I am not sure that deniers of both kinds you mention, Muchael, do it only out of ignorance. Some of them have other motives, you can easily guess which in each individual case.

As for <span> treating anyone who questions Obama's faith as the person was a Holocaust denier: I would say it's quite a bit over the top. Chiefly it's cheapening the meaning of Holocaust. </span>

Dr Howard Fredrics said...

I'm not surprised to hear about the deploying of police to enforce gagging of legitimate criticism in Britain.  It has now apparently become a crime to embarrass anyone who is otherwise viewed as being beyond reproach i.e. members of the aristocratic/theocratic classis. 

I refer specifically to what happened in my case, whereby I was convicted in absentia of harassment of a British knight, for having allegedly posted a website that contained material that exposed wrongdoing by the public institution where this knight worked.

For further details see:-

snoopythegoon said...

Dear Mr Fredrics,

Thanks for posting the links, the story is indeed fascinating. No First Amendment in UK, that's for sure.

Dick Stanley said...

Shocking. I thought knights were supposed to be virtuous. Well, other than Lancelot, of course.

snoopythegoon said...

Apparently even a knight cannot stay out of a bit of hanky-panky ;)

Reb Mordechai said...

The whole story brings back unpleasent memories of living in England. That's one of the reasons I made aliya. To get away from C of E creeps like Sizer. They virtually ran my school in England. The headmaster and most of the heads of dept were all members of the same church. Maybe someone could invite him to Gaza and buy him a ticket to Ben Gurien airport. Then the Israeli police could have a little informal chat with him... :)


snoopythegoon said...

Ben Gurion Airport? Why, let him land in Cairo and use camels for a trip to Gaza.

Joy Wolfe said...

I have had a couple of doses of the venom of the disreputable Reverend
There is no doubt whatsoever that everything that is said about him stands up to close examination
How inappropriate for a man of the cloth to behave the way he does and act like a threatening bully
Someone should be seeking an explanation from the local chief constable re the police intervention.
I have horrific memories of his speech in Liverpool Cathedral, and also have a speech of the late sorely missed Henry Guterman when he faced up to him in Chester Cathedral   Just one look at the Sabeel website will tell us a lot about the mindset and bigoted bias of this sorry individual     If I wasn't a 72 year old grandmother I would be far less polite and the air would be a bit blue!!!!

snoopythegoon said...

"Someone should be seeking an explanation from the local chief constable re the police intervention."

Right, and no one had so far. The police communique on the subject is extremely dull and doesn't explain the decision on the intervention, just two sentences or so about the visit itself.

And right, the pastor is a nasty piece of work, but for the immediate purpose the police action is kind of more important.

Dick Stanley said...

I have since taken time to read Sizer's blog. He is just your garden-variety anti-Israel schmuck. Else he is terminally stupid. Yeah, that, too.

snoopythegoon said...

Yep, there is that.

Hannah said...

As a British Christian, I am shocked and saddened, and indeed ashamed, at this "priest" who is fighting against the God he claims to serve.

Not all who claim to be Christians really are, or behave as if they are- any more than all who claim to be Jews follow the faith of their fathers or behave according to the Torah.  And historically religious leaders (Jewish and Christian) have often been the worst persecuters of God's true servants.  That hasn't changed.

Anti-semitism is primarily a spiritual thing.  Satan hates Israel and the Jews precisely because he hates God.  The very existence of the Jews as a people and Israel as a nation is witness to the Almighty's power, and His faithfulness to His promise to Abraham.

Therefore Satan moves some fools (that is, fools in the sense of Psalm 14:1)  to the kind of Hitler-esque vitriol shown by this leader of the "Church" of England.  Some such as Sizer are like those of Israel that Isaiah 29:13 speaks against: they claim to worship God and reject Him in their heart.

Maybe the "thought police" will be on to me now, but truth is truth!  I only hope I have clean underwear on if they come! :-P

snoopythegoon said...

Good points all, I bet, Hannah. It's a pity I, being secular, cannot fully appreciate the letter, but I do appreciate the spirit.

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