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Clifford Longley 'silly', says friend

The other day I wrote about the remarkable behaviour of the "distinguished" Catholic commentator Clifford Longley in cutting and pasting an article from a religious website and submitting it to the Advertising Standards Authority in a protest against the Atheist Bus Campaign. I found it "scarcely credible that such a supposedly intelligent, learned - and undoubtedly experienced - commentator should have imagined that his lazy act of plagiarism wouldn't be found out. Or that the journalistic standards of this old-school writer should have been so lax." I also pointed out that the quotes used in Longley's complaint misrepresented the views of prominent scientists.

Longley was far from alone in complaining about the slogan "There's probably no God" - at last count there were almost a hundred submissions to the ASA. And Stephen Green - described memorably as a "godsend to atheists" by Steve Hill on CIF - has so far got most of the publicity, presumably because he lends so much support to the idea that the ad's detractors are all comedy fundamentalists. Longley, though, had the kind of profile that might just have led to the ASA taking him seriously - which is why the ASA received a communication the other day from the Heresiarch pointing out both the ill-thought-out basis of his complaint and the inaccurate quotations from scientists including Stephen Hawking and Paul Davies that it contained. (See update below.) But if Longley has more innate credibility than Stephen Green, he also has rather more to lose - which is why he must be feeling particularly foolish to find that his complaint unravelled so quickly. Or at least he should.

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