"Bugger of a day, had a fall and now I am in hospital."
November 20, 2018 4:22 PM   Subscribe

Harry Leslie Smith, 95, WW2 RAF pilot and fierce anti-fascist (previously), had a fall while traveling in Canada and is in the emergency room. Things don't look good. His son John has taken over the account and is keeping everyone apprised: "Thank you all for keeping vigil over Harry with me. It truly is less lonely this way for me."

2:59 PM:
He sleeps deep, his legs jerking like he's riding a bike
And, I wonder if in his dreams, he's 7 again and riding on his uncle's bike from his grandparents' house to the moors, where he felt free from the sting of his poverty.
posted by Johnny Wallflower (34 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
7:23 PM:
I watched Harry battle sepsis 6 years ago and pneumonia in Feb. But I watch him now like someone on shore who sees a ship, with loved ones on it, being battered by waves and storm and there is nothing I can do.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 4:25 PM on November 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


I've got to say, these past couple of years it's like the world is spiraling down - a death in the family, deaths of colleagues, deaths of friends, deaths of mefites and now this too. I've been following him on twitter for a while now. I know that someone who is 92 is approaching the end of their life, and I know there's worse things at 92 than to be famous and loved because you've done actual good, but I just want people to stop with the dying for a little while.

I really hope he recovers and can take it easy for a while. I really hope this.
posted by Frowner at 4:40 PM on November 20, 2018 [29 favorites]


The Reaper may be coming for Harry this time, but he's coming politely, because he's learned his fucking lesson over the years.
posted by Etrigan at 4:48 PM on November 20, 2018 [23 favorites]


I follow him, but somehow I missed this. Hang in there, Harry!
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:24 PM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I saw this earlier today. I’m glad it’s here on the blue. I’ve been following Harry for a while now on twitter and holy hell I hope he pulls through.
posted by nikaspark at 11:25 PM on November 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


He has, it must be admitted, had a decent innings, but the world still needs him. I really hope he pulls through.
posted by acb at 12:51 AM on November 21, 2018 [1 favorite]




95 is just so fragile. A head-cold you can shrug off in 48 hours as a young adult can kill. A fall is as disabling as a fractured femur in someone younger. And so on.

What amazes me about Harry is how lucid and angry he's been, for so long, in the face of such banal and cruel disregard. He's remained engaged with the present long after most people his age have given up and floated away into a warm sea of nostalgia and memories.

(As someone younger, I feel for his son. Sitting by the sick bed just sucks. I went through it last summer when my father died, two weeks after his 93rd birthday; I'm going through it again now, as my mother spirals down, a couple of months short of turning 90. It's not like waiting by the sick bed of somebody with their life ahead of them: you know this is nearly the end, and even if by a miracle they rally, they'll be back in it again sooner rather than later.)
posted by cstross at 4:36 AM on November 21, 2018 [34 favorites]


I literally just discovered his twitter this morning at 7 a.m. via a retweet from a local Ottawa blog. Timely to see it here. My thoughts are with him and his family.
posted by aclevername at 6:36 AM on November 21, 2018


Hugs, cstross. I know it's hard.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:41 AM on November 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


Someone tried to shut down an RAF veteran for not wearing a poppy

JFC, not only is the disparaging tweet still up, that moron doubled-down on her idiocy.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:45 AM on November 21, 2018


It seems selfish in a way to want this man to hang on, to stay with us, at 95 and at the end of a well-lived life, but I was in tears last night and restlessly checking Twitter for more news. There are so many false heroes, and actual ones that I have looked to all my life (Ursula Le Guin, Pete Seeger) have also gone on their farthest journeys. I want to hold Harry back to see him bringing truth to the lies of this world. Knowing that so many others feel the same way is the one joy in all of this, seeing the thousands of responses on Twitter and the waves of love and care directed at Harry and John. Even if not this time, it will still be soon, so godspeed Harry and thank you.
posted by jokeefe at 8:08 AM on November 21, 2018 [4 favorites]


5:59 PM:
After 36 hours in emergency, Harry has been finally moved to the icu. #istandwithHarry
And Doug Ford wants to make Ontario's healthcare system worse?
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 3:06 PM on November 21, 2018


I really have my doubts that Harry Leslie Smith actually controls his Twitter account. I mean, the man is real and deserves our sympathy, but I really do get the feeling that the Twitter persona is controlled by someone else. The persona says some pretty odd things (on Twitter) from time to time, as well as a lot of saccharine stuff that makes us Lefties feel good. There is just something off about the Twitter account.

I do hope that the Harry Leslie Smith who is in the hospital gets better soon.
posted by JamesBay at 4:40 PM on November 21, 2018


I've seen people question the authorship of his twitter account before, often citing that in his articles and video interviews, Harry Leslie Smith talks as you'd expect a 90something year old to do but on twitter he's more concise with modern phrasing / abbreviations. And has opinions I'm surprised a WW2 veteran would have, like:
"It's a frightening fact but Albert Speer in his later years had more integrity than #tonyblair today."

Previous suggestions were that his publisher was using the account to promote the book but not really a reliable source. Mainstream press does refer to it as his twitter account though and you'd think would easy to verify and reported if not.

The current live tweeting of his medical stats does make me uncomfortable but I assume he has given consent for it. Regardless, he's had an incredible life and I hope he isn't in pain.
posted by JonB at 8:22 AM on November 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


persona says some pretty odd things (on Twitter) from time to time

An old person saying weird shit on social media seems improbable to you? I'd be more sceptical if it all seemed like some sweet old buffer with all the predictable opinions. I'm confident he has assistance with social media, but I see nothing suspicious in a person, no matter how old, who doesn't fit my stereotype of what I'd expect him to be. In fact, I think the opposite: never trust anyone who believes exactly what you'd expect them to believe, it means that they are regurgitating, not cogitating.

And the point about Speer seems entirely reasonable, to me. Speer, in his later years, took at least some responsibility for his role in the Nazi regime. It seems entirely fair to credit him with more integrity than Blair, who took our country to war on a lie and has never indicated even a scintilla of contrition for his crimes. I don't see why a WWII veteran would be any less likely to hold that opinion than anyone else.
posted by howfar at 9:02 AM on November 22, 2018 [7 favorites]


I first saw Louis Barfe raise the question of the authorship of the Harry's Last Stand Twitter account, and I think he might have a point. Barfe is an expert and writer on British light entertainment and so he spends most of his time interviewing and talking to octogenarians and nonagenarians and is in no doubt at all that that Twitter stream as it is written is not plausibly by someone of that age. Not the sentiment, but the phraseology (which is, much of the time, indistinguishable from any number of Momentum accounts, written by people less than a third of Smith's age). What proportion is written by whom, it's difficult to say, but having had it pointed out I find it difficult to unsee.

Quite what that means, I don't know. I found the deception - or the idea of the deception - fairly unshocking until people started being very angry at Barfe on Twitter, and he was suitably feisty in return. I think he's at least 60% right, though.
posted by Grangousier at 3:06 PM on November 22, 2018


Quite what that means, I don't know. I found the deception - or the idea of the deception - fairly unshocking until people started being very angry at Barfe on Twitter, and he was suitably feisty in return.

I'm guessing that might be because of his use of phrases like "the cynical exploitation of an old man," "rum and mawkish," "truly monstrous," "cynical, ghoulish, creepy and the son's clearly an utter cunt," "horrible and borderline abusive" (okay that last was a retweet).
posted by tiger tiger at 1:11 AM on November 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


That's certainly true, though if his thesis is correct most of those statements are accurate if overwrought. The central accusation, though - that the account is largely a sock puppet for somebody or somebodies younger and ideologically driven - I found both unsurprising and unshocking, if a bit sad, and I think is probably the case. It's hardly a 9/11 truther scale conspiracy theory, in fact I wouldn't be surprised if Smith the eldest approves, just that he's not actually thinking up and tweeting most of the stuff himself. It could end up being more counterproductive to the cause they all support and the person they've filtered it through than anything it might achieve. But then, perhaps not, let's see how it plays out. I accept that it's tasteless to discuss it as the old man lies dying, but that's when the topic arose.
posted by Grangousier at 4:24 AM on November 23, 2018


Harry Leslie Smith (the actual Harry) does both podcasts and public speaking engagements, so I'm not quite sure what's so allegedly sinister about the Twitter account (even if every single Tweet doesn't come from him, which is sometimes the case with popular accounts that have loads of followers), unless one suspects there is some kind of JT Leroy-level of conspiracy going on here.

I also have an 80-something year old mother who is pretty far left, whose health is not nearly as good as HLS's, and who navigates her way around a not-insubstantial amount of political posting just fine on Facebook with absolutely no help from anyone. I find the speculation weird, ghoulish and cruel in its timing, and pretty ageist.
posted by tiger tiger at 5:27 AM on November 23, 2018 [14 favorites]


I find the speculation weird, ghoulish and cruel in its timing, and pretty ageist.

So do I, and with "pretty" replaced by "extremely". This is a writer, a speaker, a man who creates podcasts-- why wouldn't he use Twitter? I hope this is the end of this derail; there's been more than enough attempts to dismiss or undermine Harry's message as it is, I'm saddened to see it here, as well.
posted by jokeefe at 12:38 PM on November 23, 2018 [9 favorites]


Harry died this morning.

A great older article of his I enjoyed reading. One line stood out and seems to have only grown in relevance since he wrote it in 2013:
We have allowed vitriol to replace earnest debate and we have somehow deluded ourselves into thinking that wealth is wisdom.
posted by JonB at 1:25 AM on November 28, 2018 [3 favorites]


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posted by acb at 1:57 AM on November 28, 2018


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posted by antiwiggle at 2:08 AM on November 28, 2018


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posted by Etrigan at 3:38 AM on November 28, 2018


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posted by ocular shenanigans at 4:42 AM on November 28, 2018


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posted by Doktor Zed at 5:47 AM on November 28, 2018




Rest in power, Harry, and thank you.

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posted by gauche at 6:28 AM on November 28, 2018


BBC Tribute / Obituary.
What a man.
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posted by adamvasco at 9:31 AM on November 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


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posted by bryon at 11:47 PM on November 28, 2018


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posted by andraste at 11:47 AM on November 29, 2018


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posted by homunculus at 8:16 PM on November 29, 2018


Icon Books (twitter link) are making two of Harry's ebooks free to download this weekend.
posted by h00py at 5:06 AM on November 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


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