How Not To React To Constructive Criticism

If you believe in ghosts and you base that belief on ideas that are not rooted in evidence or facts then the chances are that somebody at some point is going to question you about them. If you start making factual-sounding claims based on those beliefs that aren’t evidence based, then it’s very likely somebody is going to question those claims. When your claims are questioned because they do not seem to be logical and you are not providing evidence to back them up you shouldn’t be surprised, and it is not out of order for someone to question you like that. The ‘burden of proof’ always lays with the person making the claim. It is arrogant of anybody to expect other people to simply accept them at their word without providing any other evidence to support the claims they are making. If your claims are questioned then you should be willing to either back your claims up by providing the evidence they’re based on (and if there is none, perhaps that should speak volumes to you), or be open minded and be willing to accept that you might be wrong.

If your claims are questioned then you should be willing to either back your claims up by providing the evidence they’re based on (and if there is none, perhaps that should speak volumes to you), or be open minded and be willing to accept that you might be wrong.After all, if you provide the evidence that your claims are based on – and it isn’t flawed or illogical evidence, then that is all the questioner was after and that’s a great outcome.

Asking to see evidence of something is not a bad thing and nobody should be treated as the bad guy for questioning somebody else’s claims. The worst way to react to someone questioning your claims is to go on the attack and to try and censor your attackers. Yet, among belief-led ghost hunters, going on the attack and trying to scare people into shutting up, with threats of legal action, seems to be a very common reaction to any criticism or questioning of their claims.

This is not healthy, and this is not open minded.

I have on numerous occasions been as the receiving end of threats and abuse simply for writing critically about specific ghost hunters and their behaviour or actions. The threats are normally about apparently libelous comments I have made, or about how I have infringed their copyright.

The comments that are allegedly libelous are normally the things I have written that criticise the ghost hunter/s, and the copyright infringement accusations stem from me using photos, footage, audio or similar presented by the team as part of the claim I am criticising.

Although it is possible for critical comments to be libelous, in the context I write things I always try to ensure that my criticisms are based upon available facts, and if not then I will readily admit that I have made a wrong assessment of the available information.
When, and if, I use photos or footage or similar to demonstrate the points I am making I do so knowing that I can use such materials – even in they’re copyrighted –  because the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 states that ‘fair dealing’ can be attributed to the use of copyrighted materials for research and private study, criticism, review, and news reporting.

The problem that I want to write about here though isn’t whether or not I break the law when criticising ghost hunters, but the fact that such accusations are the reaction that I am faced with time and time again.

The most recent case of this happened yesterday when Don Philip reacted abusively to an article I wrote weeks ago for the Vigilantes Blog that I co-author. The article was ‘The Worst Ghosts of 2011‘ and Don and his team were mentioned twice in the countdown because of the ludicrous claims they have made in the name of ‘paranormal research’ without any good evidence to support them.

GSI Paranormal appeared at Number 5 for their investigation of a case called ‘The Braunstone Ghost’ in which their behaviour was psuedo-scientific, illogical and ethically questionable. They also appeared at Number 2 with footage called ‘The Wilton Ghost Horse’ in which they claim to have captured an EVP of what is alluded to be the spirit of a horse.

Unfortunately these videos no longer exist on the ‘ Worst Ghosts of 2011’ article as yesterday, in reaction to the article, Don Philip removed the videos from his youtube account so that they would no longer appear on the Vigilantes Blog.

Don also threatened on the Facebook group for ‘The Vigilantes Blog‘ that I had ’24 hours’. I presume he meant 24 hours to remove the article, or the videos.

“Having an embedded youTube video on your online article or website is exactly like having an embedded image – thus permission must also be given from the owner of the youTube video,”

When I didn’t react back or cave in and remove the article or videos Don became even more abusive in his comments.

 “Haley (NEWS FLASH CHICKEN) there are no shortcuts do some fecking work of your own live life and then you may have grounds to comment on work of others whilst also having the benefit of a small degree of experience instead of trying to trade on the work of others. (P.S) If i was you id go seek an easier target trust me”

“learn about life before you dare to comment on that of which you dont have a clue with ur underhand tactics. Ive no time more idiots and it would a appear i have a prize one here silly little girl you need to live life before you are qualified to comment on it. You are far from qualified to comment on anything other than your guessed opinions.”

His friends and supporters were also abusive on pages that I could not see, but people who are mutual friends told me about the comments being made about me. Another person who posted on Don’s site offering other possible causes for the oddities they had captured was also treated to abusive and rude comments. With one person threatening to ‘splatter’ him ‘with a lorry’.

This is not acceptable behaviour. It’s not mature and it certainly isn’t open minded.

Threatening people, and trying to censor people simply because they do not agree with you, or have criticised your ideas is not a rational response.

Similar behaviour was displayed by another paranormal team who sent me numerous threatening emails and, when I didn’t respond in fear and remove my criticism of them, they too removed the material I had referenced in my original criticism.

Those who cannot stomach constructive criticism, and would rather hide the offending claims being called into question must ask themselves why it is they are reacting in this way.

I can remember a number of years ago when I believed it possible that people could speak to the dead. I watched a live television show in which a man was on stage delivering a psychic reading to a member of the audience. He was so accurate that it was really impressive, and then suddenly it was revealed that his name was James Randi and he was actually a skeptic.

My reaction was to say that he was stupid and closed minded. I dismissed his criticism of what I believed by attacking him because I wasn’t willing to asses my own close-mindedness and because I had accepted my belief in psychics for no good reason – and based on no good facts, I didn’t have a good argument to offer in reply to what James Randi was saying. So I attacked him as a person.

It was all I had.

I should probably explain that when I say ‘attacked’ I mean that I swore at the television. Now I am able to look back and see how illogical I was being, but I can also see why people respond to my criticisms like they do.

If you have to resort to name calling, abuse and threats of legal action in response to valid criticism then it’s a good indication that you might not have a very strong argument in defense of your claims and beliefs.

I may not have been involved with paranormal investigations for as long as Don claims he has (30 years) but that doesn’t make any difference. My criticisms are based on the best understanding I have on the reality of seemingly anomalous experiences and spontaneous phenomena. If my criticisms are incorrect then prove them so. I will happily admit I’m wrong, but that is yet to happen and I will not hold my breath.

Incidentally, Don ought to review his own practice regarding the use of copyrighted materials before accusing others of breaching copyright laws. A quick visit to the GSI website reveals two still from movies that I’m pretty sure he doesn’t own the copyright to being used as banners on the homepage.


However, that’s neither here nor there, and I’m not childish enough to use that in attack against Don. It does however demonstrates hypocrisy.

My original criticisms still stand, and in fact I believe that my criticisms have been strengthened by Don Philip removing the videos I had used to demonstrate my points.

Time and time again people threaten me with ‘legal action’ and time and time again I invite them to get a legal representative to make contact with me should they be serious about their accusation. To this date this has never happened.

I believe that speaks for itself.
Paranormal Activity 3 belongs to Paramount Pictures.
White Noise belongs to Universal Pictures

About Hayley Stevens 423 Articles
Hayley is a ghost geek and started to blog in 2007. She uses scientific scepticism to investigate weird stuff and writes about it here while also speaking publicly about how to hunt ghosts as a skeptic.

31 Comments on How Not To React To Constructive Criticism

  1. *applauds*

    Wonderful piece Stevens. It really speaks volumes when people are willing to resort to bile filled abuse in order to defend themselves.

    Shame on them. And it’s great such bullies are being publicly exposed. Believers in these people’s claims need to see this.

  2. Well said Hayley! As you know from my comments on your earlier page “F.A.O Don Phillip”, I find his ‘methods’ highly unscientific. He is doing nothing to further paranormal research and in my opinion is trying to become the next Yvette Fielding.

    If Mr Phillip believes he has witnessed paranormal activity then he should carry out proper scientific research and produce the evidence for peer review. However I feel this is beyond his capability.

    He has been shown, in his own videos, to use equipment in a manner for which it wasn’t designed and he is ignorant of that fact and obviously is unable to accept helpful critical comment.

    When a video camera fell over from an unsecured mount this was attributed to ‘poltergeist activity’ and the effect that the concussion of the fall had on several frames of the video image (in my opinion dislodged dirt caught between tape and head) was attributed to a ‘ghostly portal’. How scientific is that?

    Now if Don can produce several images of his ‘portal’ recorded on different cameras, tape, digital and perhaps even film; all recorded at the same time, then perhaps he could look forward to a Nobel Prize for research into the Paranormal.

    Until then Mr Phillip perhaps you should sign up for some type of useful science course. Could I suggest GCSE Physics as a good place to start?

  3. Have you seen this on his website?

    “I’ve stepped into the public eye is having seen so much poor evidence being put out that is easily shredded by sceptics, it was time for me to step into the public arena and take on the sceptics & the scientists and show them their conclusions are wrong and their research flawed , this is something I, can do easily and will show publicly very soon!”

    Do I see a man with an agenda?

    • Yes I believe there may be an agenda. They also host public events and I know Don has given up his job to run these events and GSI. I think that is probably why he is so invested in his ideas.

  4. Hmmm…these guys better be careful. You can’t stop time and there won’t be many more years where they can call you a “silly little girl” – then they’ll have to come up with some real criticism. My goodness, that will be taxing!

  5. I thought YouTube was public domain of you allowed imbeding? Good that you didn’t give into the bully and showed you aren’t afraid of him throwing his weight around.

  6. *applause* wish I could express myself so well. Keep doing what you are doing, I am sure it is making a difference that will grow even more over time.

  7. “underhand tactics”?
    Holy poop on a stick, embedding a (then) public YouTube video is considered an underhanded tactic?!

    And there goes the condescension train with “silly little girl”, right on schedule.

    Hayley, the first part of your post reminded me of this comic.


    It’s true. Sometimes people talk themselves into a rhetorical corner in terms of what they believe rather than stopping at one point and asking, “do I have a valid premise here?”

    A faulty premise, no matter how passionately you feel about it, will always lead to disappointment when investigated logically and objectively. Some people just can’t or don’t want to deal with that disappointment and end up lashing out at everyone who feels differently. It’s the cornered tiger syndrome.

    I’m curious as to why people jump so quickly to the “libelous” trump card. If anything that leaves them wide open to even more criticism and, possibly, legal counter-action if they decide to presue that.

    • Haha! Excellent comic!

      Thankfully the threats of libel I have had, have always been hollow threats used as a scare tactic.

  8. IANAL but his claim that embedding a YouTube video requires the permission of the video’s maker and/or breaches their copyright seems bogus. The YouTube terms of service state…
    “8.1 When you upload or post Content to YouTube, you grant:
    […] to each user of the Service, a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free licence to access your Content through the Service, and to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display and perform such Content to the extent permitted by the functionality of the Service and under these Terms.”
    You embedded a video, which was permitted by the functionality of YouTube, so were within the rights granted he when he uploaded the video and allowed embedding.

  9. Haley, it would appear im your new hobby!! I was trying to ignore but alas you want to play!! Have it your way you will soon learn as certain others have not to underestimate people you think you can getaway with trying to discredit your well out of your depth here chicken as you will discover, btw it seems your happy ive removed MY VIDEOS from your blog. Honey really grow up and my advice is to do it fast.. I also note the only clips you did show on ur blog where the ones you wouldn’t have to give an explanation for!! like the ones without voices, if your going to attack my work have something to back it up with instead of your immature random thoughts. On a final note lets also add to your blog last year I personally invited you on an investigation with me! but alas you made an excuse to decline, that in itself shows your only comfort zone is behind the pc. One difference between me and you is I get off my ass and work in the field where you you do feck all but moan about people like me, why ? because you have NOTHING to counter my / our claims. Hope you like chips because very soon ya gonna have egg all over your face. You are a nothing trying to be a something at the cost of others. Now you have something else to blog. Your blog contains so much blatant lies its unreal & a joke, what people choose to believe here is up to them bit in all honesty the fact you have to lie and exaggerate speaks volumes. Lets attack someone’s in an unprofessional manner & indeed them personally then wait till they retaliate then play the victim!! you really are hilarious, feel free to add this to your blog unedited!!!be interesting to see..
    (Don Philips 30.01.2012)

    • Don – Rather than resort to ad hominem, why not just share this wonderful, mind-blowing evidence you have.

      That is, after all, the point that the blog post is trying to make.

      Just a suggestion.

    • Dave,

      on his Facebook page he posted this in reply to a similar question:

      You needed to be there & im not needing alternative explanations when i know what is factand as far as glasses moving lets throw into that a female spirit calling and a male shouting marlow from nothing more than thin air then ask how natural is that? I don’t need to learn I already have done its not me that hides away from looking for alternative explanations its the sceptics because the only form of defence they have is attack and on a 1 to 1 basis id say my evidence kicks their assumptions on a million to 1 count.

      Speaks volumes…

    • What do you mean a young lady didn’t want to join you 1 on 1 for an over night investigation. Maybe you need to grow up as you have decided to take a fair critique of your work and turn it into a personal assault, that’s true professionalism there.

      If you are so sure of the conclusions from your work then surely you should have left the videos there or provided extra evidence, rather than hiding them.

    • Aww, is widdle Don’s apostrophe key broken? Or is his intellectual level below grasping the use of “your” vs. “you’re”?
      He chides Hayley for immaturity yet stoops to patronising epithets such as “chicken” & “honey”. Does he respond to male critics with the same language?
      Rather than admit to being wrong about copyright infringement he defends his retraction -on his own tube- as being a victory.
      Claiming she has “NOTHING to counter my claims” displays either extreme reading incomprehension or wilful untruth.
      The crowning glory is to merge a whine of being attacked and an accusation of Hayley playing victim in a single sentence. Cognitave dissonance FTW!

      Bravo Don, you’ve ridiculed yourself more than Hayley’s reportage ever could.

    • Don,
      Not only Hayley but a lot of people, who hold this blog in high regard, enjoy the “hobby” of questioning claims like yours. Instead of the condescending bluster give us something meatier to practice on.

      You are claiming miracles, for which no mechanism is known to science. The only way to shut us up is overwhelming evidence of the kind that stands up to the most prosecutorial scrutiny. Or are you just an entertainer telling ghost stories?

    • What an immature and condescending rant. Why is it that people without good evidence for their beliefs, instead of looking for better evidence, go on the attack? In fact, some of your post comes across as rather threatening.

      “Lets attack someone’s (sic) in an unprofessional manner”

      I think you just did….

  10. Wow, Mr Philips really loses the ability to form coherent sentences when he’s angry.
    Next time, count to 100 before venting, lest you sound like a petulant child.

    Keep up the good work Hayley.

  11. Paul Bowen | January 30, 2012 at 2:10 pm
    What’s a news flash chicken? Can I buy one? I love that, perhaps that’s where his evidence comes from, “the news flash chicken”

  12. Dear Mr Phillips,

    I have wasted too much of my monthly broadband allowance watching you videos and I have yet to see anything convincing. Why do you crawl about in a dark loft to ‘talk’ to ghosts when on other occasions the ‘voices’ join you in the comfort of you own car? Are you suggesting that the ‘voices’ would be unwilling to join you on the floor below?

    You use all types of equipment in the manner for which they were not designed. For instance, do you know the settling times for the power rails in the Dictaphones you use? Do you know how long the AVC circuits take to stabilise? Do they overshoot before settling? What about the stabilisation times of any Analogue to Digital circuitry or Digital Signal Processing chips? Is there a possibility (due to a design fault) of several bytes of ‘junk’ data at start up?

    If you can’t answer all those questions (and others) then stop switching your handy little voice recorders on and off ….. leave them on … continually. Or could it be that there are no ‘voices’ when you leave the recorders on continually?

    Do you have at least 2 of everything? If not why not? I think you should have one of your little recorders in a perforated metal box so that it can respond to just sound and not any electromagnetic signals. Perhaps you should have a third recorder with the microphone shorted out internally. After all, if you really think you’re “on to something” then you need to adopt experimental methods that would be accepted by the world at large.

    Everyone is trying to help you Don, but you just can’t take constructive criticism.

    I don’t think your interested in paranormal research at all: I think you just want to be a showman …. a very rude, arrogant and unscientific one at that!

    • Presumably you are alluding to Hayley’s recent ASA complaint about Christian faith healers in Bath and suggesting that the ASA’s ruling that the claims, in online and leaflet adverting, to be able to cure specific medical conditions by praying for the sufferers was not permissible unless it could be backed up with objective evidence that prayer was effective in curing the named medical conditions represents censorship.

      In one sense it is censorship, but it is not a new kind of censorship, or an unexpected type of censorship, or an undesirable censorship. Personal health is a massively important issue for people (literally a matter of life and death) so it shouldn’t be surprising that the ASA has a well defined attitude towards misleading, inaccurate or dishonest advertising in this area. Stopping the misleading, inaccurate or dishonest adverting is what the ASA exists to do, and what people in general want it to do, so if it is censorship then it is desirable censorship.

      Consider what the ASA are up against. The following is something that I copied from a psychic’s website today:-

      “Natural healing techniques can be used for all types of illnesses from minor health issues to major life threatening health issues, healing cures can and will work for you.”

      It is claiming that in relation to “major life threatening health issues” her “healing cures can and will work”. So what is going to happen if someone with such a health issue takes this particular advertising seriously and the proposed “healing cures” are not effective? If ineffective than the outcome is unlikely to be positive, but if effective then great, a life threatening condition gets cured.

      So the effectiveness of these “healing cures” is of paramount importance, and that is the issue the ASA has to examine in order to judge the value of such advertising. And it is not a matter of whether someone believes that it works (or asserts that they believe such, as the psychic is question is likely to if asked), or whether someone can be found to testify that it works (in general, or for them personally), but rather it is a question of whether there is good quality objective evidence that it really does work.

      After all, if some intervention (any intervention) can affect the outcomes of medical conditions (life threatening or not) then that effect can be shown to exist, so it should be possible to gather appropriate evidence even if it does not exist today. The ASA’s asking for appropriate evidence is the sensible approach to healing claims in general, and not letting advertisers claim cures without being able to show those cures to be objectively effective is a standard that can be fairly and uniformly applied to all such claims.

      Unfortunately for the Christian faith healers the evidence standards that are needed to stop alternative medicine proponents from exploiting the vulnerable do not appear to be something that the proponents of healing payer are willing to meet. Whatever the reason for that may be, abandoning the standards would be an insane reaction because it would results in those suffering from “major life threatening health issues” being exposed to advertising for any “healing cure” that anyone cared to dream up without any regard for how effective those “curers” may actually be.

      Ironically, the psychic website mentioned above may not turn out to breach the ASA rules because it does not actually name specific medical condition. And it probably wouldn’t take more than changing the “can and will” into a “may” in order to guarantee it a place on the safe side of the ASA rules.

      That makes it is a little strange that the Bath faith healers would rather be up in arms about the ASA ruling when they could just modify their own wording such that it avoided making overly specific health claims. It often seems that Christian fundamentalist would rather feel themselves persecuted when they are denied double standards rather than realise that they are only being asked to do the socially responsible thing and live up the same standards as everyone else (where everyone actually includes the vast majority of self-identifying Christians).

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