Important background article: http://hpanwo.blogspot.com/2012/01/my-interview-on-critical-mass-show.html Since this radio show was recorded I’ve received confirmation that the case against me was centred around my appearance in the national newsprint media, as I always suspected; this was clearly published in the Management’s case dossier. The only thing revealed to me about the “complaint” against me was an email that was like no other I’ve ever seen from a member of the public. I was told that it was anonymous and it simply read: I have reason to believe that Ben Emlyn-Jones, one of your hospital porters is behaving in an unprofessional manner on the internet. I would not like to visit your hospital with this person as a porter in my care, or one of my family. I thought I would bring this to your attention. Thank you. And it contains a brief list of some of my videos that this “person” feels “concerned” by. However in pride of place at the top of the list is a link to the online edition of my interview in the Wales on Sunday. I’ve seen letters of complaint from members of the public before. They're usually long and rambling and tend to be self-referring, like: "I'm not somebody who often makes complaints, but..." or “This badly affected my experience of being X-rayed...” etc. This email is totally different in style: it’s short, factual and uses terminology more commonly used by political and senior administrative officers than outsiders. This very thin paper trail was to be the backbone of my defence case, and unfortunately it was too thin. Yesterday I was discharged from the Hospital Portering Service. I am now a civilian. I was so mentally exhausted last night when I came home that I only had it in me to write a brief notice on the Voice, see: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.com/2012/01/porter-no-more.html
I met with my shop steward on Thursday evening to make a plan of action and we totally disagreed on what should be done. Lately he has been coming round to seeing things my way. To begin with he was very sceptical of my suspicions and denied that the newspapers had anything to do with what’s happened to me, but since the dossier came out and my prediction was confirmed he's changed his mind. However he still wanted me not to use that to defend myself and instead try to counter the specifics of the allegations; I, on the other hand, thought it best to refuse to discuss the specific allegations and instead focus on why I thought they were a complete charade to disguise the real reason I was in trouble. I don’t blame my shop steward at all; he advised me and I went against him. However if I’d gone along with his course of action I doubt if the results would have been any different. As I said in the radio interview linked above, I know how NHS management works and I recognize the symptoms of bloodlust when I see them. They wanted me out, and they were determined to get me out! They have a number of methods for doing this and many of them were deployed against me at yesterday’s hearing.
The hearing was due to start at 1.30pm and I felt strangely calm and relaxed as I walked the few miles from my home to the hospital yesterday lunchtime. This was odd because the afternoon before I had been very anxious, dreading what was to come the next day like a dentists appointment. I strolled at a leisurely pace and walked through the parkland and wooded areas on my journey, avoiding the quicker and more direct route along the main roads. For some reason that I couldn’t fathom at the time, I kept humming to myself the song Feed the Birds from the musical Mary Poppins, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABc1-6o9cF0 The hearing was held in one of the conference rooms and was presided over by a squad of six officers from the Trust’s central administration Management. It’s important to realize that this “complaint” had originated from outside the hospital; there's a rumour going round that an MP is involved. Therefore neither the Head Porter nor any of her deputies from my own department, my immediate bosses, were allowed anything to do with it. I was charged under the category of “conduct outside work”, in other words they had no problem at all with the quality of my job or anything else that went on while I was on duty; it was instead alleged that what I was saying and doing in my personal life off-duty had a direct and major impact on the Trust’s reputation and ability to perform its designated purpose. This is a highly unusual situation; most disciplinary cases are very straightforward, for instance: a member of staff turns up for work drunk or steals money from a cashbox etc. When I was first suspended I was given a copy of the NHS’ Disciplinary Action Procedure handbook and under the category of “conduct outside work” it only covers suspected criminal activity. For example, if a member of staff were accused of abusing a child that operative would be suspended to protect the children who were patients, which is fair enough. My case was totally different; it was “conduct outside work” but involved no criminal allegation, and so has no precedent in the published policy.
As I took my place at the table I had a definite strategy at hand. Firstly and throughout the meeting, I kept my gaze fixed on the tabletop in front of me and avoided all eye-contact with the presiding officers. I also kept my hands clasped in front of me and sat straight up in my chair. Many officials in Government operations of all kinds are trained in interrogation techniques, such as reading body-language and subliminally influencing the minds of other people. Organizations like Common Purpose are said run courses in it, see: http://hpanwo.blogspot.com/2009/06/alternative-view-ii-part-5.html and even TV celebrities like Derren Brown demonstrate it, see: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/derren-brown-mind-control/4od I was concerned that the people in that meeting room with me might be some of them. From the very start I knew that Management had anticipated my defence from reading my submitted statement, and perhaps also by listening to my radio show or watching HPANWO TV, because the chairman said in his introduction: “It may be necessary for me to remind us all to stay focused on the allegations themselves and not deviate onto supposedly related matters”. The Management’s advocate opened their case by repeating what was written in the dossier. The Wales on Sunday article was mentioned only when the “complaint” letter was dictated and not referred to again. The Management advocate’s whole testimony was based on the notion that some of my HPANWO material was "offensive", most notably my films Microchip a Muslim Day, see: http://hpanwo-tv.blogspot.com/2010/09/microchip-muslim-day.html , David Icke’s New Book, see: http://hpanwo-tv.blogspot.com/2010/05/david-ickes-new-book.html and I'm Thinking about Sex, see: http://hpanwo-tv.blogspot.com/2011/04/im-thinking-about-sex.html There’s no doubt that Management have gone to a lot of expense and effort to build this case against me. They must have set up an entire office for weeks on end to create this file; regular HPANWO-readers will know how many articles and films I’ve made! Despite the 20 billion pounds cut from this year’s NHS budget and staffing levels at an all-time low, the Trust's Management felt that getting rid of me was money and time well spent. How flattering! I remember that this was what happened to Kevin Annett, see: http://hpanwo-tv.blogspot.com/2011/03/kevin-annett-liverpool-lecture-12311.html . This also brings me back to the question of why I was suspended straight away, without any discussion first. For an employer, suspending somebody is very awkward; it generates a lot of paperwork, takes time and costs a lot of money. It’s something you normally would only do when you have to, if for instance one of your staff has committed an act of gross misconduct, like getting drunk on duty, as I said above. I hadn’t done that, so why didn’t they just ask me nicely first to remove the objectionable material? This is not how they normally operate, and this adds to my suspicion. However, my suspension does make sense if you suppose that their motivation was to break me down psychologically. When I was suspended I was told next to nothing about what I’d done wrong and was left for an entire week at home before they contacted me, to lie awake at night and bite my nails. This is a standard technique used by torturers and interrogators. They always lock their victim up alone in a cell for a while first, to let them “stew in their own juice”. So before the interrogation even begins, the victim is thinking: “What have I done!? What are they going to ask me!? What are they going to do to me!?” and so when they finally come for you you’re “softened up”. I suspect Management hoped that when I walked into the investigation meeting a week later I’d be a nicely-compliant nervous wreck. Well I wasn't! It didn’t work! I was offered a deal: To remove the “offensive” material and they'd reconsider my suspension, which I refused. Firstly I had already guessed that this incident was generated by my appearance in the media and so experience says I was doomed anyway; secondly, they were a bit vague about exactly what they wanted removed. It started with just the Butt vid, but then they said they were concerned that I had my uniform on in a few vids. They could have eventually decided everything I’ve ever done was for the chop; and thirdly I know people, like Kevin Annett whom I mentioned above, who have made a stand against the Man when they’ve had far more to lose financially than I do. I’m in a lower-paid job with no mortgage or anything; I’ve even got a very sympathetic landlord who’s going to let me carry on living where I am for “a few months” without paying rent, so what excuse do I have? How could I look Kevin Annett or Tony Farrell in the face and tell them I was too scared to stand up to all this when they weren’t!?
According to Management my film Microchip a Muslim Day is racist which is complete nonsense! It is, I think, a very obvious anti-racist satire; this is what I intended it to be and this is how I think it comes across. My character is smoking a fake cigarette and wearing pink sunglasses! In that entire series Butt is presented a figure of contempt. The theme of the film is to warn people not to be goaded into feeling hostility for Muslims, or other creeds and colours, which is what our media and political leaders seem to want us to do as a standard divide-and-rule tactic. However when I tried to make this point the Management appeared to feign an attitude of forced obtuseness. The chairman said: “What? It’s a comedy, yet it makes a serious political statement? That’s a contradiction.” I then had to explain, not that the film was a satire, but what satire was! I asked the chairman if he’d ever seen the politically satirical film Dr Strangelove and he replied: “that’s not relevant”. This is a phrase that they would repeat again and again; a tactic to confuse my points and twist facts. In fact using these tactics it’s possible to persuade somebody that almost anything anywhere is offensive! Skeptics are trained in the same methods, see: http://hpanwo.blogspot.com/2011/11/london-skeptics-in-pub-141111.html . The other films were supposedly considered unsuitable presumably because I’m unclothed in them, but this is equally ridiculous. I’m not any more unclothed than anybody you’d see in any public swimming pool or on the beach. If I had posted HPANWO TV films of myself naked then YouTube would quickly have removed them and given me a stern warning. There are some online video sites that don’t mind members posting videos of themselves naked, indeed some keenly encourage you to do so! But YouTube is definitely not one of them. At any rate, I refused to say this in the meeting. Apart from my discussion over the Butt film, my policy was not to address the allegations; this was the basis of my defence which I had my chance to present next.
There was one point that my shop steward managed to get struck from the record and that was the most hurtful and insulting allegation of all: That I had bullied another member of staff. What had really happened was that I and another member of staff decided to make a comedy video together for our own mutual amusement and post it on HPANWO TV. This person was a very close friend of mine at work (Still is I hope!) and I’d never dream of doing anything to harm him. This person is a grown man in the same age group as myself; however because he suffers from a comparatively minor learning difficulty and is registered as a vulnerable adult my accusers have reduced this completely harmless, enjoyable and innocent project to some kind of “happy-slapping” attack on my part. Anyway, a member of this person’s family contacted me privately and asked me to remove the video in the first week of my suspension, one of the many peculiar coincidences that have struck in the last couple of months.
My shop steward remained in the room although he didn’t speak at all for this session other than to confirm that I was presenting a case that he did not approve of. I said that I was not going to address the allegations directly because there was a fundamental difference between the Management’s view of matter and my own. I didn’t think it would do any good for my case to “play along” with Management, but instead take a step back and base my defence on the bigger picture. As I said above, my shop steward advised me to cooperate with Management by directly addressing the allegations made. If I did this, he said, I would apparently have stood a good chance of being allowed back to normal duty. After that things would probably return to normal and there’d be no reason to suppose that any further complaints would be made against me. I doubt that very much because what has happened to me has happened to several other people; and the outcome of their own disciplinary procedures has been very different. What I strongly suspect would have happened would be that more complaints would soon be made against me, Management would inevitably make more and more demands of me, want more material removed, and have me jump through more hoops generally. The pressure against me would increase until I either couldn’t face it anymore and resigned of my own accord, or got sacked for some other reason. During the investigation meeting back in October I mentioned that I was suspicious that this “complaint” had been received so soon after I had been featured in the national newsprint media and the investigating officer did not reply. Why was this not revealed to me in the investigation meeting? Why were there no references to it in the report other than the pictures? We have an “elephant in the room” situation here. The only real reason I was in trouble was because of me being in the newspapers. As you can see if you take a look, I’ve been running HPANWO for over 5 years and the HPANWO TV channel for nearly as long. I make no secret of this and have many viewers and readers among the hospital’s staff, including managerial grades, yet nobody has ever complained about me before; not once! Nobody has even approached me privately, in a friendly manner, to warn me that I am breaching regulations with my content. Yet now, less than a month after appearing in the newspapers, complaints are flooding in. Am I supposed to believe that this is some kind of bizarre coincidence? Is it also a coincidence that Kevin Annett and some other people I know of have also been harassed when they start speaking out publically in the media about certain subjects, not just given a reprimand or warning, but threatened with losing their career and livelihood!? It seems that there is a hidden policy in place to destroy the careers of people who talk about certain things openly.
The letter of complaint was very strange in tone, as I’ve said above. I can’t help but wonder if this is a genuine letter of complaint from a member of the public or something contrived and fabricated. I realize now I should have seen this coming because I speak out about the same subjects that the other people I refer to do, and they’ve all either been sacked and dragged through the courts or threatened with being sacked and dragged through the courts. These secretly-taboo subjects are, among other things:
1. That children are being abused, and even sometimes murdered, on an institutional level by the state, corporations and Churches.
2. That the attacks on the United States of America on September the 11th 2001 were a false flag military operation carried out by the government itself, rather than the crimes of foreign terrorists.
3. That the Unidentified Flying Objects that are becoming more and more common in the skies above our heads are actually the artefacts of an extraterrestrial civilization, or one that might be “otherworldly” in a different way.
(In my statement underneath all that I wrote: “This list is not exhaustive”. It was a bit of a micky-take and confidence booster because this is a catchphrase Management always likes to use in its documents!)
I added that if the notions on the list above are all “wacko”, “conspiracy theories”, the work of “nut-jobs” etc, then why are our leaders so defensive about them? What I was being accused of here is a Thoughtcrime. I think I’m being persecuted for my beliefs. For example, did the “letter of complaint” include a link to my film Butt’s Winter Wonderland because of Butt’s foul mouth or because the film is a satire against the prevailing theory of man-made climate change? Everything about this case indicated that this is what was happening to me. What is happening here is that people are expected not to express certain viewpoints about certain subjects when off-duty. This is a Thoughtcrime by every definition of the word. I have a completely clean work record and am respected by many of my colleagues, both Portering and civilian. I’ve been running the HPANWO franchise for over 5 years so the question that you should be asking, and any behavioural psychologist will back me up on this, is not: “Does it call into question his ability to perform his duties in the future?” but: “Has it done in the past?” And the answer is an undeniable and resounding “no”. In Devon there’s an MP called Dr Sarah Wollaston who is not only a Member of Parliament with very outspoken anti-establishment views, and who is very critical of current Government NHS policy, but she’s also a practicing GP. I might also add the example of one of the John Radcliffe’s favourite sons and a well-known local character, Dr Evan Harris, until recently another MP and still a man with staunch political views. So you see, if these two people are allowed to be part of an NHS profession and hold political views outside their working hours then so can I. I was always professional and respectful to the patients and other staff. I didn’t preach the subjects I talk about on HPANWO to them when I was on duty. I have never given any cause for complaint in what I do when I’m off-duty before so there’s no reason to think I will do so in the future. The evidence provided in the dossier looks suspiciously like a fabrication and the timing of this incident is beyond what any reasonable person would dismiss as coincidence. For this reason I categorically and emphatically rejected all the allegations made against me.
The chairman listened carefully to me and then replied: “So you don’t want to offer any defence against these allegations?” I answered that this was my defence. He responded: “No, this is not a defence, this is just a reason why you don’t want to make a defence.” I disputed that and the argument went round in circles. Eventually I managed to get Management to respond to my points, but their response was to state that it was not their concern and so not relevent. On the nature of the email they said: “Our job is to investigate complaints made by clients and members of the public. It’s not our place to speculate on whether the letter was written in a particular tone or how long it was or what words it used. All that concerns us is that the complaint was made.” They also dismissed my concerns over the coincidental timing of the “complaint”: “It’s not a part of our duty to ask questions like that. Our duty is to investigate complaints and a complaint has been made. It doesn’t matter when, where or how. It doesn’t matter how it relates to the timing of other events in your personal life.” And so this went on like a stuck record. I suddenly realized that I believed them! These are not the people who want me out of the Hosptial Portering Service; these are the people who were automatically enforcing the will of whoever it was above them who had demanded my removal from the Hospital Portering Service. I doubt if they know any more about the email of “complaint” than I do. They’ve just been told that their superiors want something done and so they do it, with the obedience of soldiers on a parade ground. It is these long, exponentially-increasing networks of administrators and jobsworths that allow a very small number of Elite individuals to impose their will on a vast population. It’s also why this system reacts so brutally against anyone in that chain who doesn’t play their assigned role of obedience; like Kevin, Tony Farrell and me. We are literally fatal to its function.
After this session we took a half-hour break while the panel considered, and then I was called in and the meeting reconvened for the decision. The tone became very formal, like a Crown courtroom with the chairman like a judge. I amused myself by imagining that he had a black cap over his head sentencing me to be hanged. He said that he had given me every attempt available to submit a defence and I had not done so; this is untrue, but, as I said, they refused to accept my defence as a relevant testimony. “You clearly believe that you are the victim of some kind of conspiracy.” He said (“Ha ha!” everybody else thought!). “But we’re not here to listen to a defence based on your beliefs; we are here to consider these allegations based on agreed facts and nothing else; therefore you have not defended yourself at all against these allegations. So therefore my decision is that you are to be deseconded from the company and dismissed from the Oxford University and Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust.” I then realized that what had happened was something I knew all along would happen. All I could do at that point was to make sure that I was discharged with as much dignity as I’d always tried to serve. They asked me if there were any personal belongings in my locker and I told them that I had a brew-kit consisting of some teabags, coffee, powdered milk and sugar; and that I’d like to donate those to the other Porters. When I was asked if there was anything else I'd like to say I replied: “I’d just like to say that if anybody in this room is unhappy with what has taken place here today, and you have any information you think I should know, then please contact me privately in the strictest of confidence.” It was by now almost 5PM, and I was then solemnly escorted to the site entrance from where I walked home.
I don’t feel as sad I thought I would. I think that this experience has taught me that a lot of what I’ve loved about being in Portering has already been lost, and lost a long time before I was called into the Head Porter's office that night last October and suspended. It’s withered slowly over the last few years. A lot of the camaraderie and fun has gone out of the job, and this goes for nursing, medicine and many other NHS professions too. Low pay, more difficult management systems and increasing workload have taken most of the enjoyment out of being in the Health Service. Nowadays people don’t have the time or energy to play; they have to “meet targets” and “deliver services” and “maintain budgets”, and that’s those who are lucky enough to have contracts and are not just seconded from some poxy casual agency. It’s very synchronous that a week or so after I was suspended I heard that the hospital’s Social Club is going to close down in March (See: http://hpanwo-tv.blogspot.com/2011/05/st-theos-day-party-2011.html) Estates are withdrawing the lease. I’m frankly surprised that it has lasted this long with the lack of interest in it from the staff. I’ve known people who’ve been at the JR for years and when I mention it they reply: “The Social Club? What’s that?” When I joined the JR the location of the Social Club was an essential part of your basic orientation! Apparently the JRSSC is one of the last social clubs in any NHS hospital in the country. 20 years ago all of Oxford’s four major hospitals along with the JR: the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, the Churchill and the Radcliffe Infirmary had social clubs. This is a very poignant and revealing symptom of the breakdown of community spirit at hospitals. They’ve lost their soul. This is not by accident, it is by deliberate design, but none of it would be possible without the obedient and robotic rubber-stampers like the ones who have just taken Portering away from me. And this is why I have no regrets about what I did.
This is despite the fact that I also face major financial challenges now as my income stops. I have to find a new one, build a new monetary life for myself. But as I said above, my financial problems are minor compared to other people who have stood up against the hideous machine that society has been made into, so I have to follow in their footsteps. I’ve always said on HPANWO that words are no good unless they inspire action. I’ve done an awful lot of waffling on HPANWO these last 5 years! But waffle is all it is unless I’m willing to do something, to model my own life on my knowledge and principles at a practical level. I feel satisfaction for having done that. In fact if I wasn’t willing to do that then everything I’ve ever written or filmed is worthless and I might as well throw it all away. I should try to remain positive about the future; fortune favours the bold, as they say. When I posted my HPANWO Voice notice on Facebook last night somebody replied: “Maybe this is a time to start writing, Ben”, and maybe that’s true. Perhaps I should see this as an opportunity, an adventure. This experience may liberate tremendous creative forces in my life. In a few years time I might look back and think: “I’m glad that happened!”
One thing I have to do is not to give in to what Andy Thomas talks about when he says: “everything is designed to break our spirit”. I must maintain my identity and personal integrity at all costs. Whatever floods wash over me I must not be carried away with them. I must not be tempted into the seductive lair of Conformism. Maybe this was why that song Feed the Birds was going through my head as I walked to the hospital to attend my hearing. The song is about an old woman who sits on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral in London and sells birdseed to people for 2d a bag, hence the lyrics: “Feed the birds. Twopence a bag”. In the scene in the story, the two children whom Mary Poppins cares for are given twopence by their father and are then faced with a choice: Whether to buy a bag of the old lady’s birdseed or invest it in the bank. The following scene has song about investing money in the bank which is a brilliant satire of materialism, “Twopence, frugally invested in the bank...” see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wzTdW5_2vo This illustrates the choice given to the children in the story: follow the Conformist path to materialism or do something more spontaneous, more spiritual, more free-thinking, more compassionate and emotional, more human. I think I now have that choice too and that song popping into my head was my subconscious mind telling me so!
On a final note, I’d like to think all HPANWO-readers, all HPANWO TV-viewers, all HPANWO Forum-members who have supported and consoled me over these past couple of months. And of course I'd like to pay homage to all my Extremely Proud and Dignified Brother and Sister Hospital Porters. It was an honour to serve alongside you and I intend to stay in touch with you all. Nobody can take you away from me!
(Update 6.1.13): http://hpanwo-hpwa.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/one-year-on.html.
Latest HPANWO Voice articles: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.com/2012/01/porter-no-more.html
Latest HPANWO TV films: http://hpanwo-tv.blogspot.com/2011/12/its-now-2012.html