I continue being not well, for which reason I still have not yet written more
the DSM-5TM and there also was no Nederlog
yesterday. I also wanted to write a bit more
about psychiatry and about
Cargo Cult Science and pseudoscience, but these things
also have to be queued awaiting somewhat better times.
Meanwhile, having had Ms. Goudsmit drawn to my attention by
public writing about me, that I may well call "harassment", as I will
explain, I have a small treatment
On "harassment" by internet:
2. Harassment and the internet
5. The Harassment Act
6. Harassment and the internet
8. Three rules for (British) forums concerning
Note that apart from Ms. Goudsmit, I am interested in the matter for
general legal reasons and my own concerns about free speech,
and have written about these matters in Nederlog
in Dutch in the past, and am well aware that there is more to say about
it than I do in this text, but one does as one can, not as one wants in
On "harassment" by internet
I wrote several days ago about my being upset by
what Ms. Goudsmit felt free to assert or imply
publicly on the ME Associations Facebook Wall - that I had not
visited till then and do not know very much about - about my site, my
academic qualifications, my integrity and my honesty.
In some sense of the term, I could say that I feel
"harassed" by Ms. Goudsmit, supposing that someone who asserts or
suggests falsehoods about one's
my site, academic qualifications, integrity and honesty is
Whether this is so is debatable in a
semantical or etymological sense, and one may also suggest other terms
are appropriate for public assertions, implications or innuendo to the
above effect, as I did on September 21, viz.
"Slander", "Calumny", "Defamation" and "Libel",
and I then provided the relevant parts of the definitions I found in my
edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary aka S OED.
I presuppose these definitions as known and give four more,
since Ms. Goudsmit seems to know of no uncertainty in her mind as to when
she is "harassed" by persons on the internet, and
specifically on the Facebook sites of both the ME Association and the
Action for ME charity which - if I do understand her prose well, which is
not so very easy as it should be since she mostly delivers herself of her
ideas in a very chatty style, that touches and judges things, but - gives no arguments other than the implied or asserted authority of Ms.
Goudsmit's writing what she does.
What's more, Ms. Goudsmit, it turns out, seems to mean
something quite specific when she writes on a public forum that
somebody else, say X, who is on the same forum saying things that might
perhaps be construed as stating or implying some possible criticism of
Ms. Goudsmit's person, style, way of expressing herself, or of her
publicly stated strong opinions (*), that such a person X (1) is "harassing" her
thereby, if and when Ms. Goudsmit thinks so and feels moved to publicly
write so on some Facebook page; and much more specifically (2)
is "harassing" her in the specific sense of
the Malicious Communications Act of 1988 or the
of 1997; and moreover (3) that Ms. Goudsmit then is perfectly
justified - she thinks - to call the police to arrest the "harassing"
perpetrators (aka persons who criticized Ms. Goudsmit on such public
lists as Facebook); and finally (4)
that Ms. Goudsmit then is perfectly justified to do just
that: Go to the police, file a complaint for harassment, and ask the
Crown Persectution to get the ones complained about arrested or at least
appear in court, and be judged according to the said acts, for
This seems to me to be where it presently stands, as Ms.
Goudsmit has incited such a courtcase which presently is ongoing;
as she also did some years ago, according to information I have found or
received; and is threatening several other persons with on the Facebook
Walls of the ME Association and of the Action for ME charity,
incidentally, all having nothing to do with
what she wrote about me (that I can
rationally see), but
with what Ms. Goudsmit perceives, or at least writes she perceives, as
harassment from them on these public Faceboook Walls.
2. English terminology
Personally - and I do have a most excellent M.A. degree in
the science of psychology, although Ms. Goudsmit, who must know this
since 2002 at the latest, chose to assert, suggest or imply
I must have
lied about that on my sites and two M.E.-forums many times - I am
somewhat amazed in several ways and for several reasons, that I shall try
to elucidate in what follows, also because this may clarify matters some
Let me start with giving the definitions of "Harass",
"Harassment", "Innuendo", and "Mad" as supplied by
one of my most favourite books, namely the S OED:
Harass (..) 1. trans. to wear out, or
exhaust with fatigue, care, trouble, etc. Obs. or dial.
2. To harry, lay waste -1710. 3. To trouble or vex by repeated
attacks 1622. 4. To worry, distress with annoying labour, care,
importunity, misfortune, etc. 1656.
Harassment (..) 1753. (..) The action of
harassment; the being harassed; vexation; worry.
These are interesting and useful
definitions, also because "Harass" sense 1., is quite close
to having ME: I have been harassed by ME 32 years now, and
I have been harassed by Amsterdam's
municipal bureaucrats and their refusals to maintain the Dutch laws in my
personal case for over 20 years now. Incidentally, note that the nature
of the "attack" is unclarified, and that there is no talk of threats in
the definition (though one can clearly threaten one that one will harass
one, or harass one with saying that the other is harassing one, and so
Innuendo (..) 3. An oblique
hint or suggestion; an insinuation, esp. of a deprecatory kind.
This definition is considerably longer in the S OED, all
of it interesting, but less relevant here and now than the last summary
definition. One finds several examples in Ms. Goudsmit's public warning
not to visit my site in her text I quoted on September 21.
Mad (..) 1. Suffering from mental disease;
out of one's mind; insane, lunatic. In mod. use: Maniacal, frenzied.
b. causing madness (rare) - 1676. 2. Foolish,
unwise. Now only: Wildly foolish; ruinously imprudent. OE.
3. Carried away by enthusiasm or desire; wildly excited; infatuated
ME. (..) 4. Beside oneself with anger; furious. Now only
colloq. (In many dialects and in U.S. the ordinary word for 'angry'.)
5. Of an animal: Rabid 1538. 6. Uncontrolled by
reason; extravagant in gaiety; wild 1597.
This seems to me fair enough, especially the senses 2. and
6. and the reason to mention the term and concept at all is that it is
What if one believes one is harassed if one isn't;
what if one says one is harassed if all that happens is that one
is being criticized (without threats or defamations, slander or libel,
and without statements or insinuations of falsehoods that damage
one's personal reputation if believed); what if one is in fact oneself
paranoid, schizoid, not of quite sound mind, severely stressed, delirious
or whatever; and what if the complainers of what they call "harassment"
only abuse a badly crafted law to silence all opposition, namely
by the crafty abuse of the term "harassment" and threats with persecution
if the opposition merely honestly says what they believe?
These surely are relevant logical possiblities, so lets
turn to the letter of the law:
3. The Laws in case
I mentioned two British Acts above: The Malicious
Communications Act of 1988 and the Harassment Act of 1996, both of which
I myself would take not to apply to what people say on internet, or in
extreme cases only, where other laws, such as against slander or
defamation, might apply as well or better.
But these things differ since Ms. Goudsmit (so far I know
and infer from such information as I have) did already go
to the police once for what she claimed to be harassment by way of the
internet; had at least one person arrested for that; did incite a court
case, and presently is involved with another over "harassment", and very
recently threatened at least two others on the Facebook pages of the MEA
and of AfME (different charities, with different pages!) that she might go
to the police to complain about their "harassment", which as far as I can
see consists in their despicable, hateful and immoral crime of
disagreeing with something Ms. Goudsmit said or did, left unsaid or
undone, but all without calling her any names,
disqualifying her, without denying that she has the
academic degrees she has,
without saying that anybody who has lived in England would
know that she lives herself in a dreamworld of England, not in the real one,
and without threatening her in any way: Ms. Goudsmit feels able and
willing to go to the police if someone on a forum she also writes is
critical of what she writes. That's "harassment", especially if and when
she has said it is. Here is how she ended a recent post on Facebook:
The police will decide if there is a case to answer. If
there is, the CPS takes over, not me. This has to be the end of the
discussion. By law.
Here are some links to the laws that Ms. Goudsmit seems to
deem appropriate to shut up those whose opinions disagrees with her own
Let me refer to these legal acts as MCA and
HA respectively. Both acts of parliament are legal pieces of standing law
in Great Britain, and both have counterparts in Dutch law, which I add
because I am Dutch, not British, but there are quite a few differences,
which need no discussion here other than registering the fact.
In any case, while I see some of the needs for some sort
of laws of this kind, I don't agree with their formulations, nor with
their applications, nor indeed with the use that has been made of them to
silence opposition of any kind, who were silenced by being persecuted or
being threatened with persecution for harassment, when their real 'crime'
was that their opinions contradicted those who persecuted or threatened
them with persecution under these acts.
Malicious Communications Act 1988
The MCA I will not say much about, beyond the fact that it
was a bit difficult to find out what its current wording is, since it has
been revised since 1988, and that the quoted statement about the MCA
that makes it illegal in England and Wales to "send or
deliver letters or other articles for the purpose of causing distress or
embodies several of my main reasons for disagreement:
First, often one cannot, in my opinion, fairly
decide on what are or were "the
purpose" or "the
intention" of some act, because one only can
observe the act, and not the actors thinking, feeling and desiring. So
that involves a serious difficulty of getting solid factual evidence for
attributions of purpose or intent.
Second, the law ought to be, and has been for ages,
apart from the Catholic inquisition and dictatorships, such as those of
Mao or Kim Il Jung, concerned with observable behaviour rather
than thoughts and feelings, that are hidden from observation, and must be
inferred (also about people saying that they feel, believe or desire such
and such, because they may not be speaking the truth). The aim of
rational law in the legal sense must be to regulate their behaviour,
their thinking, feeling and desiring.
Third, both points enter into the problem whether
it makes sense at all to design laws against people communicating (by
words or pictures, not by physical abuse) what is claimed and may have
been meant "for the
purpose of causing distress or anxiety". What if the distressed or
anxious person lies about being
distressed or anxious? What if
the distressed or anxious person feels distressed or anxious because the
person has misunderstood what is meant? Or is mad?
So the MCA seems to me to not a good law as it stands, and
it seems to me that without it there should be sufficient means in the
existing laws to defend oneself in law against such communications as may
be fairly deemed malicious, namely such as embody threats to one's person
or property, or defame one with falsehoods.
Next, the Harassment Act seems a worse legal act, and it
has been widely criticized since its inception, it turns out. Indeed, the
Wikipedia article on it starts thus:
The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 is a piece
law, which, among other things criminalises, and creates a right to
and persistent bullying in the workplace. However the first three people
prosecuted under the act were all
peaceful protestors, and commentators such as
George Monbiot have voiced the concern that the amended Act
effectively "allows the police to ban any campaign they please".[
The Wikipedia article
he Harassment Act of 1997
seems adequate though brief. I quote
The Act defines harassment in section 1(1) as a "course of
conduct" amounting to harassment and provides by section 7(3) that a
course of conduct must involve conduct on at least two occasions.
(Originally these occasions needed to involve the same person, but in
2005 the act was amended by the
Serious Organised Crime and Police Act so that "pursuing a course of
conduct" could mean approaching two people just once.)
If these requirements are satisfied, the claimant may pursue a civil
remedy for damages for anxiety: section 3(2)
Under this act the definition of harassment is behavior
which causes alarm or distress. The Act provides for a jail sentence of
up to six months or a fine. There are also a variety of civil remedies
that can be used including awarding of damages, and restraining orders
backed by the power of arrest.
These seem akin to fairly dictatorial judgments, "legal"
actions and persecutions, that should not be thus made into law, for
reasons briefly indicated above:
The Malicious Communications Act 1988.
Besides, the law is nonsensical or self-contradictory in
various ways. Thus, much of what the police, the CPS, the prison
authorities, and indeed the authorities do, not only the legal and
political ones, but also medical ones such as messrs. Wessely and White,
is to engage in many "courses of conduct" they know must cause anxiety in
many, and that in fact often is the purpose. Indeed, laws themselves can
be taken as harassments and being intended to cause anxiety.
Anyway... having at the moment no desire to engage in
legal philosophy, and indeed having published before in Nederlog in Dutch
on comparable articles and applications of comparable laws, notably -
much downloaded by lawyers and legal types, it seems - in my
Argumenten inzake vervolging Wilders,
I shall leave the topic of these British laws for the moment and turn to
6. Harassment and the internet
It seems to me that Ms. Goudsmit abuses bad British laws,
in which she is not alone, as the above shows, and it seems to me in more
general terms that there is no such thing as harassment on the internet,
in any special sense that goes beyond such protection as other laws
provide, namely against defamation, libel, threats with violence to
person or property and the like.
That is: One can be fairly said to be harassed on the
internet - which is a public place - if one is defamed, libelled,
threatened with violence etcetera, but that is a sense of "harassment"
that should not itself be made into a legal article, or if it is,
as in laws against stalking, should be far more specific, and also
clearly depend on objective empirical evidence regardless of feelings or
value-judgments, and not on accusations based on mere feelings
without further proof of facts.
As it stands, and on the two public Facebook-sites Ms.
Goudsmit regularly writes on, she is regularly criticized, which she
experiences - or says she experiences - as "harassment", which indeed it
may be if she experiences distress because of the criticism,
etymological reasons, and she may appeal to the existing British laws as
a British citizen, and appeal to the Harassment Act and the Malicious
As I explained, I believe these laws are inappropriate and
should be removed or radically revised, and indeed many others believe
the same, it can be found on the internet, even groups of women who
pleaded for acts like the Harassment Act against stalking, but found that
the law was mainly abused for ends it was not intended for (by them or at
Ms. Goudsmit chooses to call repeated criticism of her (by
some persons at least) "cyberstalking", which is a term that has not yet
found its way into lawbooks but can be found in the Wikipedia:
the use of the
Internet or other electronic means to
stalk or harass an individual, a group of individuals, or an
organization. It may include false accusations, monitoring, making
threats, identity theft, damage to data or equipment, the
solicitation of minors for sex, or gathering information in order to
harass. The definition of "harassment" must meet the criterion that
reasonable person, in possession of the same information, would
regard it as sufficient to cause another reasonable person distress.[
This is well-intended, but "reasonable
links to "The man on the Clapham omnibus", who is - you might
not know or believe - supposed to be "a reasonably
educated and intelligent but non-specialist person", which is not much of
a clarification and a bit of two
once (begging the question and red herring), and the last
statement again has the fundamental problem that it insists that it
involves "distress" as in
reasonable person, in possession of the same information, would
regard it as sufficient to cause another reasonable person distress
This firstly has the difficulties -
among other ones - that distress is not public evidence
but must be inferred; secondly that distress is subjective however
reasonable one is; thirdly that not even the most reasonable persons are
reasonable always or in all respects; fourthly that different persons
have different interpretations and evaluations of the same information;
and fifthly that as stated, if giving information - other than threats,
defamations, libels - that is causing distress in a reasonable person may
be construed as harassment that is prosecutable by law and punishable by
up to 6 months imprisonment, we have arrived at the end of all communication of criticism
or indeed unpleasant news to the one informed.
For example, someone X tells you the news your parents
have died in an accident. Naturally, you are distressed. Being reasonable
persons you and X knew and could know the news would distress you. Your
name is Goldsmith, and you go to the police, and seek huge damages,
quoting the Harassment Act.
Distinctly possible, in legal fact and actual British
practice, though I do not know about claims for damages - but then, if
one can be imprisoned for half a year for bringing undesired information
("let's start with killing the messenger"), surely one must have caused
considerable damage, that as surely requires some compensation.
Cyberstalking article in Wikipedia is rather a bit more to the
point in providing a list:
A number of key factors have been identified:
- False accusations.
Many cyberstalkers try to damage the reputation of their victim
and turn other people against them. They post false information
about them on websites. They may set up their own websites, blogs
or user pages for this purpose. They post allegations about the
victim to newsgroups, chat rooms or other sites that allow public
contributions, such as Wikipedia or Amazon.com.
- Attempts to gather information about the
victim. Cyberstalkers may approach their
victim's friends, family and work colleagues to obtain personal
information. They may advertise for information on the Internet,
or hire a private detective. They often will monitor the victim's
online activities and attempt to trace their IP address in an
effort to gather more information about their victims.
- Encouraging others to harass the victim.
Many cyberstalkers try to involve third parties in the harassment.
They may claim the victim has harmed the stalker or his/her family
in some way, or may post the victim's name and telephone number in
order to encourage others to join the pursuit.
- False victimization.
The cyberstalker will claim that the victim is harassing him/her.
Bocij writes that this phenomenon has been noted in a number of
- Attacks on data and equipment.
They may try to damage the victim's computer by sending viruses.
- Ordering goods and services.
They order items or subscribe to magazines in the victim's name.
These often involve subscriptions to pornography or ordering sex
toys then having them delivered to the victim's workplace.
- Arranging to meet.
Young people face a particularly high risk of having cyberstalkers
try to set up meetings between them.
I agree these are reprehensible behaviors
which should be curbed, and also note that here for the first time a
fairly clear list of fairly clear misdemeanors is provided.
But none of these things seems to involve in such
complaints as Ms. Goudsmit made about persons "harassing" and
"cyberstalking" her on the MEA's and AfME's Facebook pages, for which see
also the above point
False victimization - that
incidentally need not happen on (reasonable) purpose.
8. Three rules for (British)
forums concerning "harassment"
Having considered these issues of "harassment" and
"cyberstalking", I end with a general consideration of a reasonable
person and three rules, that I have formulated in the style of the
Facebook rules I have meanwhile inspected.
My consideration of a reasonable person is that
in law and in society there is and ought to be a system of graduated
checks and balances, and indeed for internetforums there is
something like it in principle:
Members of a Facebook wall or indeed any forum can
complain to its moderators (or its directors or owners if its moderators
don't answer) and ask them to adjust their pages or their users (so
members C and E could ask moderators on a form to throw out the other;
any third member X could ask to stop them from bickering or from
posting); if these do not answer one can require the next level to do
something, such as Facebook's moderators or owners or the providers of
the forum; and only if all that doesn't and didn't work one could start thinking about
lawyers and police, depending on the seriousness of what was said, that
is, if one
is a reasonable person to start with.
That is what I think a sane reasonable person would do,
and here are my three new rules for Facebook and for internet-forums that
have to work under British laws. I'll call them
x. You will not threaten other users with the
Harassment Act on our pages.
y. You will take up conflicts about contents of posts that posters
do not remove or do not change as you requested (privately) from the
poster, or failing what you see as a satisfactory response, then with the
moderators, the owners and the providers, in that order.
z. You will be banned if you threaten other users with the
Harassment Act on our forum's public pages.
P.S. And there it stands for
the moment, and corrections need to be brought in later. I wrote it
mostly because others didn't and there seems to be some need for it.
P.P.S. It may be I have to stop Nederlog
for a while. The reason is that I am physically not well at all. I
don't know yet, but if there is no Nederlog, now you know the reason.