Sadly, it seems the campaign of lies continues, and in this case the people responsible are Matt Vernon, Marquis de Stowe and Lucy Quinton in a new facebook group called “Foraging Wild UK”.
Marquis de Stowe is repeating this ludicrous lie that Edible Mushrooms plagiarised John Wright and Roger Phillips, “and some descriptions are almost word for word copies.” Mr de Stowe does not, of course, bother to provide any evidence to back up this claim.
Ms Quinton is telling people that “[Edible Plants] is like a coffee table hipster version on trendy foraging with fuck all useful information.” Clearly she has never actually seen the book, which contains over 80,000 words along with 600 photos. The large hardback version of Food for Free is a coffee table book – it is the same physical size, but contains less than a quarter of the text.
Mr Vernon made a vague claim that I “caused a spot of bother for another well-loved forager and TV personality”. Of course, there is no information about who this person actually is, or what I am actually have supposed to have done.
I am going to leave this page here, just in case Ms Woodfield crawls out of the woodwork at some point in the future. Today I was contacted by the current admin of Wild Food and Hedgewitchery facebook group, told that Ms Woodfield no longer has anything to do with them, and invited to rejoin the group. I now consider this matter closed.
Like so many people, I currently have lockdown-induced time on my hands, and it has been brought to my attention that Ms Woodfield, Colin Unsworth and a handful of their associates are still engaged in a campaign of absurd lies about myself and my work. The hate campaign in question is restricted to a small number of facebook groups (the largest being Wild Food and Hedgewitchery and Mushroom Spotters UK) where the people in question are admins, and therefore free to censor any dissenting voices. They post lies about my work themselves, anybody who challenges them has their posts deleted, and if they persist then they are banned from the group. Some of them then contact me to ask what is going on.
This post is a response to those lies, and an open invitation to the people involved to come out of their facebook bunker and respond to me, in an environment where they are not free to silence anybody who questions them.
What are these lies? Two categories – firstly about my book, and secondly about my political views.
About the book:
(1) The photos were stolen
The lies about my book started with the claim that I stole all the photos from facebook, and that therefore they were very poor quality, so the book is rubbish. Not a particularly well-thought-out lie, since anybody who actually owns the book can see it isn’t true. They then changed the story to “the photos are good, because he stole them [from somewhere else].” Oddly enough, nobody is actually complaining that I stole their photos, and Ms Woodfield and company never say where or who I am supposed to have stolen them from. The reality is that 90% of the photos were taken by myself (after 6 years, and thousands of miles of walking), and the rest were used with legal permission of their copyright owners, who are individually listed on the photo credits page.
(2) The text is plagiarised
They also repeatedly claim the text was plagiarised. Usually no details are given of where the text was plagiarised from, but occasionally they claim the source was John Wright’s River Cottage Handbook. John has never claimed his work was copied, and anyway the claim is absurd for two other reasons. The first is that John’s book is less than a third of the size of mine and covers fewer than a quarter of the species, and the second is that it is extremely hard to see how it is even possible to plagiarise the contents of a fungi foraging book. What am I supposed to have plagiarised? The botanical descriptions? The words describing edibility? Had I done this, I think John’s publisher (Bloomsbury) might be interested.
(3) The book is full of mistakes
As with the previous claims, no details are forthcoming. There is just a general claim that the book is full of mistakes, but no specific examples are ever provided. It may well be true that book contains mistakes – most non-fiction books of this sort do, and the first edition of mine also did contain some minor mistakes. I am not personally aware of any that made it into second edition, and neither is Ms Woodfield.
About my political views:
(1) I am a racist.
Again, no details are forthcoming. Ms Woodfield and Ms Cavallero keep telling people I am a racist, but they never actually tell anybody what I have said that justifies the accusation. And in this case, I have absolutely no idea what they think I have said or written, in any place at any time, that would lead people to think I am a racist. And neither do they. It is total fiction.
(2) I am a sexist, and a “rape apologist”.
This is where the dispute started. So, for the record, this is what happened. This is what I did that justifies, in their minds, a six year attempt to destroy my reputation and my work.
When my book first came out, I promoted it on facebook. Ms Woodfield sent me a friend request, which I accepted. Her behaviour was odd from the start – over-friendly and sycophantic. This all changed when a discussion came up, on a private facebook page, about the case of the footballer Ched Evans, who at the time was nearing the end of a two-year prison sentence after a rape conviction that was already looking unsafe. I defended Evans’ right to resume his footballing career after release, and complained about the behaviour of mobs of feminists and social justice warriors, on twitter and facebook, who were trying to make sure his career was ended, since footballers ought to be role models, and rapists can’t be role models. I stated an opinion that some of these people behave like cult members, and try to replace our criminal justice system with mob rule. I also argued that his conviction was unsafe, and that he probably should never have been found guilty in the first place. This provoked an extreme reaction from Ms Woodfield, who duly summoned a mob to attack me. When I refused to back down, they began their campaign of bullying and lies. They pursued me all over the internet, endlessly repeating the lies.
Since these events took place, Ched Evans has had his conviction quashed by the court of appeal. So my claim about Evans turns out to have been factually correct: he shouldn’t have been convicted in the first place. This clearly isn’t “rape apology”. And as for my claim about the appalling behaviour of some radical feminists and other leftists, their own ongoing behaviour is all the proof anybody needs of that.
Outside of the facebook groups they themselves run, their hate campaign eventually ran aground, since they weren’t able to substantiate any of their allegations and couldn’t silence dissenting voices. Inside the groups, the campaign continues. You can test this by joining and asking a question about my book. You will either get some version of the lies described above or you will be told that all discussion of my book is prohibited.
I obviously can’t post in their facebook groups, so I am posting this elsewhere. Perhaps anybody who is in contact with Ms Woodfield and Ms Cavallero might pass this message on:
Are you going to keep this up for the next thirty years? Because the book is likely to be around for the long term. I can’t sue you for libel, for the simple reason that I’d have to prove you have caused me financial damage, but sales of my book go up every autumn, so I can’t claim the lies have harmed me financially. Hate on this level generally does more harm to the haters than it does to the people they hate. Time to let it go, maybe?
I ask that anybody who sees these lies being posted responds by posting a link to this message.
Happy foraging and stay safe in these troubling times,