Last night over on the bizarrely named “Tory Totty Online” blog I was almost accused of suffering from OCD. I say “almost accused” as the author played that silly game of not quite joining the dots. She defined OCD, she said “certain bloggers seem to be having recurring obsessive thoughts about other certain bloggers” and then she drew on some examples from my web presence before ending with:

Now, I’m no shrink, and far be it from me to suggest that there’s any sort of ‘obsessive behaviour’ going on here.

But it was just a thought.

And that’s a classic get-out clause. If I say that she said I have OCD then she can say “no I didn’t but, hey, if the cap fits…”. But it’s pretty obvious what conclusions she expects her readers to reach.

It’s a serious accusation to make, so it’s worth examining the evidence. In my day job I’m a programmer and attention to detail is an important part of what I do every day. Many great programmers are good at their job because they are mildly OCD or autistic. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if I exhibited some of the symptoms.

The blog post implies that I’m obsessing over Nadine Dorries. The proof is apparently that the first two blog posts on my web site yesterday were about Dorries and that I tweeted about her “informed consent” plans yesterday evening. It’s a shame that CateyMaxx didn’t look a little further down the front page of my site as there were three other blog entries listed, none of which had anything to do with Dorries. One was about programming, one was about the campaign to get people to answer the religion question accurately at next year’s census and the other was about choice of blogging platform. Had she bothered to look at my main blog’s front page she would have found posts about political campaigning, data backups and three consecutive posts about the pope’s recent visit.

This blog has been running for over eight years. I have written over 1,600 posts here and it looks to me as though 19 of them mention Nadine Dorries (this will be the twentieth). The earliest of them was almost exactly three years ago. Before the two posts that are currently on the front page, the previous time I mentioned her was in April. I’ve written about her four times this year.

The two posts that seemed to annoy Tory Totty so much are two weeks old. Yes, they’re my most recent blog posts (well, until today) but does that sound like an obsession to you? Nadine Dorries has been on cracking form over the last two weeks. There have been plenty of reasons to write blog posts about her. But I really could be bothered. Doesn’t sound much like an obsession to me. In comparison, the front page of the Tory Totty blog (which currently has posts from 25th October to this morning) has four stories that mention Nadine Dorries.

On the basis of this flimsy evidence, I’m going to have to plead “not guilty”. Obsessed with Doctor Who, maybe. Obsessed with getting these bloody builders to finish the work on my house, probably. But obsessed with Nadine Dorries, I really don’t think so.

There’s a serious side to all of this though, of course. Firstly, there’s the idea that Tory Totty would use something like OCD as an insult. It shows rather an unpleasant attitude to people with disabilities. And then there’s the idea that by labelling an opponent as mentally ill, you don’t need to address their points. I had hoped that Tory Totty (@CateyMaxx on Twitter) was going to be interested in an intellectual debate (I know that her choice of pseudonym made that sound unlikely, but I’m a glass-half-full kind of person) it’s a shame that she has lowered herself to this level.

Wow. That went on longer than I thought it would. I’m starting to realise why Tim Ireland’s blog posts are always so long. Anyway, to cheer everybody up, here’s one of my favourite songs from my long distant youth. It seems somewhat appropriate.


  1. Sorry, Dave, I can’t quite let you get away with the programmers / OCD / ASD consideration. As a current programmer who worked extensively in psychology, I thought it best to can this thing a bit.

    First of all, OCD is basically an anxiety disorder – it’s driven by fear and worry, and this is what makes the accusation in the TT blog strange. It’s not as if anyone showed much fear or anxiety about Ms Dorries. Concern for her wellbeing is probably more of an issue. ASD is very different, and an impairment that directly affects social interaction. Neither are really a close fit for your average programmer. So basically, you might show signs that could be interpreted as OCD, but only if they were caused by anxiety would that actually count.

    However there are personality types that do appear to correlate with programming. Not disorders, just ways of thinking. Programmers tend to be introverted (not in a Freud sense, but technically, as one colleague put it: more interested in how a car works than just using it to get from A to B) and strong on intuition and thinking. Most interestingly, thinking (as opposed to feeling) tends to be “rationalist”, less driven by empathy, but still within the bounds of a normal population.

    This is a little too like pop psychology for me on a weekend, and this type model is a little old. But the story is: you’re not at all odd. The accusation is a common strategy to derail an argument.

  2. I’d go further than that, and assert that the programming industry has, through a horrid combination of hostile working practices and hiring practices that verge on the discriminatory, gone out of its way to purge itself of its ASD contingent. Which is ironic, considering that aspies essentially built the industry.

    More on topic, I’d suggest that Tory Totty’s accusations of “obsession” are just a little projecting, given that she seems to have worked up a good old fashioned infatuation with Mad Nads herself. Which is funny.

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