More Twittering from Aaronovitch in the last hour or so, in reply to an interlocutor called Bensix. (I've removed all the twittery bits, placed 'tweets' in order, and joined them where they are clearly intended to be continuous):
BENSIX: Tim Wilkinson vs. @DAaronovitch...http://tinyurl.com/37vbrkn
DA: Yes, I particularly like the bit where Wilkinson suggests that Tom Mangold is a security service agent. Thanks for the spot.
BENSIX: Yes, hadn't noticed that and don't endorse such speculations. OTOH, he offers valid points: the Times letter-writers are neither nuts nor nit-pickers, and their claims should be addressed.
BENSIX: New: If That's Occam's Razor I Suspect He Wore A Handsome Beard...http://tinyurl.com/27k2q4t
DA: You mean apart from calling Tom Mangold an agent, the guy has a point? Nope. He's one of those 'just sayin'' plausible kooks.
BENSIX: To be specific, I agree with him that your "legal purist" aside was unconvincing. The letter was challenging the stated cause of death, not quibbling at the edges. This should be considered, even if the "blood", "knife", "dead man" combo appeals to our intuition. Parsimonious theories take note of all the data. And if one considers Prof. Forrest's opinion to be meaningful one has to establish why it's more so than similarly accredited figures (ie. the "medical experts" crew). Just sayin'... ;o)
DA: Have you actually read either my Saturday Kelly piece in full or the Kelly chapter in my book in full?
BENSIX: Have read the book. Quite agree that Baker's theory seems unlikely. (That's as far as I can go - haven't read 'iz tome.) OTOH, you quote Prof. Forrest on pg. 270 and suggest his opinion's telling. ("Had Baker shared [his] view, the impression would...have been dissipated". The views of authorities should guide our opinions, yes, which is why I think there's good reason to be intrigued by the Doc/Prof's letter. I wish they'd expand, and they could well be wrong, but I don't think it's fair to dismiss their points because they don't align with my - rather intuitive - view. If Tim didn't quote all of your Sunday piece then I might well have missed something. Am a skinflint; thus, no subs. Sorry if that's the case.
DA: So you wasted my time and yours asking questions that I have already answered cos you can't be arsed to read or pay? Wot r u?
BENSIX: Er, no, I assumed he'd quoted all your piece (900 words - seems fair enough) and tried to offer reasons why one...may find the letter compelling. Think that's time-wasting then by all means ignore. What am I? Jus 'zis guy, you know...
The main thing to notice here is that Aaronovitch immediately sniffs out and latches onto a remark of mine - in comments - in which I mention Tom Mangold's motives for his dishonest and overly enthusiastic weighing in on the Kelly debate in its early stages. I even refuse to dismiss the possibility that he may be a friend of one or both of the main secret services.
I did have slight misgivings - for exactly this reason - about failing to rule out such - entirely reasonable - speculation, for speculation it is. But I naïvely supposed that just as one speculates about motives, conflict of interest etc. in all other areas of life, there's no sane reason to refrain from doing so when someone is obviously entangled to some degree with the espionage and security 'community'.
I actually think it more likely that Mangold was intervening off his own bat, perhaps hoping to curry favour with his sources - and demonstrate how safe his hands are - or just relishing the idea of getting involved.
But to Aaronovitch, this is a perfect opportunity. It seems my remarks cross a red line into the realm of the unsayable, so A can leap on that comment, and ignore the entirety of the article. It works tolerably well - Bensix seems slightly abashed, and hastens to distance himself from these mad ravings about the insane idea that a man who is closely connected to the secret services, and whose profession involves receiving favours from members of it, might actually do some favours in return, even if unsolicited.
However, Bensix is not to be deflected - he points out that the article makes good points. Aaronovitch, intransigent: 'Nope. Plausible kook.' He seems to agree that what I say is plausible. But the 'kook' label, applied on such flimsy grounds, has stuck, at least as far as Aaronovitch is concerned, and trumps mere plausibility.
Bensix persists. So Aaronovitch tries another favourite tack: 'have you read the whole of the article, and the whole chapter of my book? If not, end of discussion.
Bensix says yes, he has read the book, and he had assumed that the whole of the article was quoted in my post. (He was correct to do so: everything is in there, even photo captions.) So the answer to both questions is yes, but Aaronovitch, who would surely have recognised that his whole article was quoted had he read my post rather than trawling the comments for slightly dubious remarks to shriek about, thinks he has uncovered enough uncertainty here to dismiss Bensix with some contempt.
[Update : and he actually claims that he has answered all Bensix's questions, seemingly intending to suggest that there are parts of the article that I haven't quoted, which would be a lie.]
And throughout the exchange, he has not addressed a single one of the many points in the post that destroy his article. Piss and wind indeed.
While fiddling about with those tweets, I also noticed the following little progression. Aaronovitch seems insistent that bellacaledonia should go beyond the evidence to construct and adopt a specific conspiracy scenario. At which point he can go on the attack, and complain that BC is going beyond the evidence to construct and adopt a specific conspiracy scenario:
[update: I've reversed the order so it's chronological]
# @bellacaledonia A critical culture is a vital thing. Unfortunately what you're talking about is a stupid culture. 11:10 AM Aug 17th via TweetDeck in reply to bellacaledonia
# @bellacaledonia No point in carrying this on at a level of generality. Be specific about what you want to say - ie Blair offed Kelly. 11:13 AM Aug 17th via TweetDeck in reply to bellacaledonia
# @bellacaledonia So what are you saying? That rogue elements in security services bumped Kelly off? How? Name one particle of evidence. 11:20 AM Aug 17th via TweetDeck in reply to bellacaledonia
I didn't try and follow the full conversation - life's too short, and Twitter's too poorly designed.
I recall a similar insistence from a certain Phil D'Bap, a regular commenter on Aaronovitch Watch who is indistinguishable in every way from Aaronovitch himself:
Can we dispense with some of the nonsense here? You think that many/several of the conspiracy theories that Aaro debunks are true, don't you? Isn't that the real issue?
This kind of counter-attack is important to Aaronovitch since he has little chance of defending his own ludicrous assertions on a level playing field (as the rest of the thread demonstrates, demolishing as it does the pretensions of his very silly book.)