Category Archives: Journalism

In Which I Wonder What Some Men Think Women Think After They’ve Been Harassed

I’ve been wondering about this for a while. What’s kicked me off into actually getting off my arse and sitting down to write about it is the Lord Rennard/Lib Dem Cover-Up story (link here to an early story summary if you’ve missed it).

I don’t wonder what men think when they see a story like the Lord Rennard story. I wonder what men think the victims are thinking immediately after the harassment. I know that’s like a third-order consciousness or something, but bear with me.

The reason I wonder what some men think goes through a woman’s mind after being sexually harassed is this: There are so many men out there who seem to think women view sexual harassment as an opportunity to enact revenge in the medium-to-long-term future. Revenge for what? Whatever the man in question happens to dream up: that’s what.

For instance, Michael White, in the Guardian had to wonder why the claims against Lord Rennard are surfacing now. But here’s what I don’t get: does Mr. White believe that the women involved, who were touched inappropriately, or invited to inappropriate places, or worse; does he really believe that their first thought afterwards was “Hmm. I think I’ll hold on to this to save up for a by-election when I can really do some collateral damage”?

This kind of thinking really frustrates me. We saw it in the Julian Assange debacle, where hordes of men decided en masse that the women must have been exaggerating to bring down the Chosen One. And we’re seeing it now, where a bunch of self-righteous (mostly) male keepers of truth have all openly wondered why the women are only coming forward now and why there were not more specific allegations made at the time.

I’ve never been raped, but I have been the victim of a serious incident of sexual harassment from another man – a man older and more senior than myself, in much the same way as Lord Rennard was to these women. I did one thing and one thing only at the time: I fled the fuck away as quickly as I possibly could. It was only later that afternoon that I was able to return and report the offence to someone who could do something about it. I was promised things would be handled and things were quietly swept under the carpet. I don’t believe there was any real punishment for the offender involved, although he may have had a quiet talking to, I suppose.

After that, I felt impotent, which I suppose I should feel a sense of irony over. Ultimately the incident wasn’t enough to see this man dealt with in any way. And it doesn’t feel like there is anything else I can do – all power feels like it has taken away from me. But if in 10 years I see his face in the paper with similar allegations, you can bet your life I’m calling the paper up and adding my experience into the story. Because sometimes that’s the only way these people see justice for their behaviour.

My experience is just one person’s experience. And it’s not even a woman’s experience. I’m not going to pretend to truly understand what other people go through when they are raped, abused or harassed. I’m explicitly telling you not to generalise from what I’ve written and apply it to other people.

Instead, the message needs to be that second-guessing people’s motives for publicly coming forward with rape or sexual abuse allegations is damaging to the women coming forward and to all other women who may have to face coming forward with their own story in the future. This creates a culture of hostility towards victims and makes no ones lives any better.

There are many reasons why people don’t come forward with accusations of rape or sexual harassment for years at a time, and it is not our place to second-guess those reasons. Our job is to support victims as best we can and try, bit by bit, to change our world into one where sex is consensual and women are treated as equals instead of meat.

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Filed under Feminism, Journalism, Politics

A Tale of Two Letters

Since I’ve been walking to walk for the last month, I’ve unsurprisingly stopped reading the Evening Standard. And a good thing that is too, being as it is the printed minutes of Boris Johnson’s campaign headquarters. But on Monday I did pick up a copy – a shitty journey back from Guildford left me feeling like catching the fastest tube back home rather than bothering to walk.

A couple of “opinions” on the letters page caught my eye. Why am I only writing about these now? Only the voices in my head know why. And they won’t tell me.

Here they are [emphasis mine]:

Light entertainment at the BBC in the Eighties was a very different place from today – with a culture centred on the bar, full of characters and an almost anarchic sense of fun, with the producers themselves often larking about. 

I recall the rumours about Savile but they also flew around about lots of other people, including BBC executives. Isn’t there the risk of everyone with an axe to grind now jumping on the bandwagon? A well-known actor threw a bacon roll at me once: should I launch into print and say in hindsight it was an assault? And how can George Entwistle, a director-general who has been in post five minutes, chair an enquiry on the issue?

The BBC has been showing us how Britain fed itself during the war. I can only assume this is government propaganda bracing us for the shortage of land caused by its reckless immigration policy.

I play a game called “Two a Day” with the Metro and the Standard. Every single day there are two letters (or texts) which are so far to the right they’re off the lunatic fringe. And Monday was no exception. But it was special in how hard these two people had to work to get their absurd ideas out.

Jeanette Eccles from N7 had to compare child molestation to having a bacon sandwich thrown at her in order to dismiss the possibility of investigating the Saville affair. And Vanessa of no permanent address had to spend the last few years ignoring the fact that net immigration is negative (that is: more people are leaving than coming in) just in order to hold on to her opinion for this long. Then she had to come up with one of the most awesome non sequiturs I’ve seen in the Standard since they had Theresa May write an opinion piece about terrorists.

Congratulations Jeanette and Vanessa. Your prize for today’s piece of gibbering, frothy-mouthed hatred is my ire. Go wallow in it.

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My Favourite Ever Word Salad

One of my favourite unintentionally hilarious websites is Biased BBC: a bilious, self-important ball of super-far-right hatred, all aimed at Auntie Beeb. The belief of the Biased BBC community is that the BBC has some sort of intrinsic preference for some (i.e. left-wing) political opinions over others. A bias, if you will.

And they see their bias everywhere. In particular, they see it in the BBC’s supposed love of Muslims. Y’see, it turns out all Muslims are barbaric, murderous savages. Any that aren’t are easily explained away: they couldn’t possibly really be Muslims, because the Qu’ran is barbaric, murderous and savage. And so peaceful Muslims aren’t really following the Qu’ran, etc etc. A shame he doesn’t have a similar epiphany about monogamous Christians. How many wives did Abraham have again? One? or much much more than one?

But the BBC, who love Muslims oh so very much, reveal this bias by not mentioning how awful Muslims are in every other article. For example – the BBC have mentioned that JK Rowling, one of the most successful British children’s writers of all time has her first adult book out. “WHY AREN’T THE BBC TALKING MORE ABOUT THE MUSLIMS?”, Biased BBC asks.

But my favouritest ever article is this article, titled The Egg Headed Vanguard. If you can work out what they mean, translate into English in the comments:

The BBC?…..‘good examples of moderate, liberal devotion to the idea of a polite, eggheaded vanguard, without whom the proles get distracted, confused, besieged, and eventually succumb to the terminal disease of false consciousness.
The problem is that the contemporary Left has been used to the idea of itself as a paid bureaucracy as the measure of the success of class struggle.
You actually believe that someone like you [intellectual liberal/socialist] is better able to grasp the “objectivity of a social reality” than are poor workers, because your privilege, your education, has better equipped you to see the world as it really is, without the ornamentation of language, without the bias of place or time–absent the subaltern subject position they suffer from. You’ve been able to rise above ideological distortion.
Notice what you have made of yourself: God. Your perspective is from nowhere. In the name of those poor workers, you have turned yourself into the God who will judge them for their sins against the “objectivity of a social reality,” the sins that usually congregate under the heading of false consciousness.’

They’re quoting from some equally mental, equally unreadable screed from elsewhere on the internet, but Biased BBC seem to think this is wisdom so great it needs no further explanation.

If you have an RSS aggregator, follow this site. There a good 15 minutes of giggling every day to be had.

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Filed under Bloggers, Islamophobia, Racism, Republicanism

Sunny on Englishness

@sunny_hundal likes Englishness. In fact, he’s liked it ever since Ed Miliband decided to do a speech about it. But the important thing about this article is that his ideas are better than both the right-wing (Englishness is racist for them, boo) and the left-wing (who are just pooh-poohing anything which sounds nationalist).

I always thought patriotism was the last refuge of scoundrels.

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How to Write a Jubilee Article

Warning: This post is not for people with dependency management issues. If you didn’t understand the Matrix, you won’t like this article. If you did understand the Matrix, it’s likely that you still won’t like this article.

So, the struggling journo thinks to himself, I should write an article about the Jubilee. Lots of people seemed to take it pretty seriously, and every journalist seems to have an opinion. But I also want to make sure I get a staff position somewhere – maybe the Telegraph or somewhere like that. I’d really love to write something that’s both original (so I can look clever and witty to the Mail) and conformist (so I don’t look like one of them crazy Queen-hatin’ liberals).

If only, he thinks, I had access to this article, which completely details everything I need to write a serious piece about the Jubilee without saying anything stupid.

How to Write a Jubilee Article

The Headline: A headline is all important for an article about the Jubilee. Remember that this is a feature as it’s been nearly a week since the weekend itself, so you’ll need to pose your headline as a question to make it look like your analysis goes deeper than simply gushing about the benefits of long-term inbreeding. A few hints to get you started:

  • Throwing in a reference to mainstream politics is always good:
    • How Does the Queen’s Legacy Contract with the Transience of Modern Politics?
    • Are the People Ready to use the Queen as an Example of how to Live in Modern Britain?
  • Remember you never need to address the question itself, this is only here suck people in to your article and make them assume you’ve thought very deeply about the questions of monarchy itself.
  • Don’t ask the question in a way that could conceivably be answered with a No:
    • In Today’s Society, does the Jubilee Highlight the Queen’s Continuing Relevance? – this is out, as it’ll let the bastard lefties in to the comment section to ruin the image of conformity and destroy a budding journalistic career. And you wouldn’t want that.

To begin the article itself, remember that the Jubilee is not about you – it’s about the Queen, so be sure to shoehorn in your personal feelings about the Queen into the first paragraph, so everyone knows how much this article is about her. If you have one, tell an anecdote about meeting her once when you went on a school trip or something. If you’ve never done so, imagine what meeting her would be like and write that down. People love to read what other people think meeting the Queen might be like. It’s gold.

Move on to describe the boat show – as the main ‘attraction’ of the whole thing you should spend some time doing this, with at least one paragraph on each of

  • What the Queen was wearing. Her personality is less important than the talents of her wardrobe staff. Remember she’s a figurehead of imperialism, not a real human being with any feelings. If there’s a political twist to the exact shade of pastel she’s wearing, throw that in there for good measure.
  • Comment on her bravery for spending all day in the rain. Because she’s in her 80’s, and standing in the rain is tough at that age when all you have is millions of pounds and the best medical staff money can buy. Extra points for then explaining that the unemployed scroungers forced to sleep under London Bridge  for no money should take a lesson in fortitude from their reigning monarch.
  • Describe how awesome you thought the boats were. Cold hard numbers are good – how many boats, how long did it take, if you laid them end to end how many times would they go to the moon and back. Add in numbers for crowds too – it’s only a guess anyway, so add on a few zeroes if you fancy. Lying means you love the Queen the most.
  • Adjectives that may assist
    • Resplendent
    • Moving
    • Stalwart
    • Beloved
    • Joyous
    • Regal
    • Astonishing
    • Erstwhile (if you fancy something a little different)

Briefly mention the concert – people usually derided as chavs in the sorts of newspaper you want to work for can suddenly become national treasures by singing out of key for Queen’n’Country. Be sure to mention their working class background, to show that even celebrities from very poor backgrounds will sing at a concert on the Mall on National Television. Leave implied that the real reason they’re doing it is because everyone loves the Queen so much

The latter half of the article should be a brief story of her reign. Mention how she ascended the throne, and then run through a list of things that have happened since then, to show just how darned awesome she is. Don’t compare how the 30 year reign of Mubarak was considered a disgusting exercise in despotism – people don’t like to think we have double standards in the UK. A list of events that may help:

  • Katrina and the Waves won EuroVision
  • Rationing ended
  • Thatcher systematically destroyed the labour movement in Britain
  • Liberty X had four (count ’em) top 5 hits
  • The sun rose and fell 22,030 times
  • Tim Ballantine was born, 3rd December 1987
  • Tim Ballantine had 24 birthdays

Add others as necessary.

Finally, avoid quoting your own article. It generally makes one look pretentious. And avoid the pronoun ‘I’. One would not be amused to see the queen say it, and she would not want to hear it from you. And one wouldn’t want that.

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BBC News’ Rose-Tinted Glasses

BBC News website has run a hauntingly saccharine look at what life was like in 1952, the year the Queen was crowned. It’s called You in ’52. It covers thing like how you may have dressed (if you were rich), the music you might listen to (were you able to afford a wireless), and the food you would eat (assuming you had the wealth or connections to avoid the still-in-place wartime rations).

Aah, you may say, a return to the life of those days would be nice. Don’t you wish for the family values? The happy children playing in the street? The gay men imprisoned and chemically castrated for their “perversion”? The black people racially abused and still treated as second-class citizens? The women treated as unpaid house-staff, unable to work for themselves with any measure of economic freedom once married? Or the unmarried women, derided as unlovable spinsters? No? Okay, then.

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Examiners ask Stupid Question in GCSEs

But politicians fail to understand why.

The Telegraph article Pupils asked ‘why do some people hate Jews?’ in GCSE exam highlights a huge mistake on the part of AQA. Asking such a politically, racially and religulously charged question of a fair few thousand 16 year olds is clearly in poor taste. It’s in poor taste for many reasons, not least of which at least a few of the kids answering the question will already hate Jews themselves and might unsurprisingly give some pretty hateful answers.

An answer along the lines of “Because they run a secret cabal which rules the Earth on behalf of their shape-changing alien lizard overlords” is not especially enlightened, but is pretty damned enlightening for anyone who might read it. Additionally, there is a fair amount of scope for people who would feel pretty offended to have to explain, however briefly why some people hate one another for no good reason. For some, it’s okay, and for others not so much.

So the really dumb part is not necessarily the question (which I’ll get to later), but the fact that 16 year olds are being essentially forced to answer it. If you’re going to require participation in an exam, probably the best thing to do is to leave questions which remain highly charged in the world of today out of it.

But, predictably, Michael Gove and I don’t see eye-to-eye:

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, branded the move “insensitive”.
He told The Jewish Chronicle: “To suggest that anti-Semitism can ever be explained, rather than condemned, is insensitive and, frankly, bizarre. AQA needs to explain how and why this question was included in an exam paper.”
“Insensitive” is indeed the word that describes the actions of AQA, but our agreement stops there. In fact Michael Gove’s second paragraph is kind of inexplicable. The only way I can make any sense of it is to assume that he can’t tell the difference between the words “explain” and “justify”. For example, the text of the exam question is:

Explain, briefly, why some people are prejudiced against Jews.

When what I think Michael Gove read was:

Justify, briefly, why some people are prejudiced against Jews.

Now, the difference between these two is crucial. The former is asking for the real reasons why people think something which is very very bad to think. The second is asking people to support the prejudice itself. Michael Gove’s statement applies well to the latter question, but not so much to the former. Both questions, as I’ve already said, are not really appropriate for an exam question, but his statement is not just wrong when it comes to this discussion among adults, it’s blatantly counter-productive.
For example, were I a world-reknowned social and political scientist (I am not), and I wrote a paper with the following abstract (I have not), I would be perfectly justified in suggesting that anti-Semitism can be explained: 
An explanation into the motivations of anti-Semitic belief. The following paper, using interviews and polling data from the US population, investigates the fundamental vehicles for the inheritance of anti-Semitic beliefs. In modern society, open anti-Semitism justifiably has pariah status, and yet many continue to openly profess such beliefs. This paper concludes that a combinations of religious belief and political motivaton of group leaders often act as catalysts for such beliefs, and that other group members undergo conformative biases in order to fit in with their group. Once such a belief is expressed openly, the very nature of the belief encourages its holders to retreat to enclaves of anti-Semitic communities, causing groups to become even more closely knit and exacerbating the in-group/out-group hostilities which often arise.
The paper further concludes that greater integration, particularly during primary and secondary levels of schooling would act as a powerful factor in reducing the incidence of such beliefs as they cross such in-group/out-group lines and allow children the capability to see people from different backgrounds.
The point is that explaining a belief is a good thing, even if the belief itself is unjustifiable – understanding why people become anti-Semitic would help us learn how to improve things. We can hope people with stupid beliefs change, but the only thing each of us truly have the power to control is our own actions, and searching for explanations for why other people behave abominably informs us on the best steps we can personally take to reduce such behaviour.
Compare and contrast, for example, the reactions to the London riots last year. Gove, and the rest of the Tories, were quick to dismiss all who took part as part of a feral criminal underclass who can’t be saved. Anyone who suggested that we investigate why they did it was met with scorn: “How dare you suggest it is our fault?” they would scoff.
Of course it’s not our fault, responsibility for criminal behaviour lies with the criminal behaver. But once again: we are not trying to justify the actions of the rioters, only explain them. The riots began for a reason, and all governments have the power to do is change the way the government itself behaves. So the only questions we can ask following the riots is what the government can do differently to prevent more riots, and we can only do that by understanding why it happened in the first place.

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Filed under Ethics, Journalism, Politics, Racism

Moron Criticises UKUncut for not being Labour Shill

In yet another example of keyboard warriors on the left criticising people who actually act, Sunny Hundal is criticising UKUncut’s street party protest on Saturday. I’m aware of the irony of me, a man who doesn’t go to anywhere near enough protests or actions, writing a blog post criticising a Labour activist for criticising UKUncut. I’m aware of that. But I have the good graces not to criticise the people who are actually fucking doing shit.

Sunny’s taken time out of his Labour “activism” – stuff like making Cameron memes out of silly photos – to criticise a group of people who are exploring the Coalition’s broad sense of agreement on the necessity of the cuts.

Liberal Conspiracy as a blog pisses me off already. It refactors left-of-centre politics as Labour politics, when in reality, left-of-centre politics almost by definition needs to be non-partisan. After all what mainstream party can legitimately claim to support the real liberal left wing? Not Labour, they spent the last 13 years finishing off what Thatcher started. Not the LibDems, they’re worse than the fucking Tories right now. The Greens? Maybe, but they remain a single issue party who happen to be in the right on the majority of issues, so I guess that for now they fail to meet the “mainstream” bit of the criteria.

And Sunny epitomises this. It’s important to Labour to attack the Tories, as they know the LibDem’s support has evaporated, and their support will mostly switch to Labour. What they now need is to hit the Tories hard to ensure they have a shot at regaining power in 2015. So, were UKUncut a Labour Party movement, then criticism like

I think the street party was nevertheless counter-productive in its tactics.
By that I’m not referring to the claim it brought out sympathy for Nick Clegg. I just think it makes more sense to target Conservatives than Libdems on this issue.

Did it? The LibDems are just as culpable as the Tories. Again, Labour have been trying to act like the Tories are the Agents of Evil Incarnate (imagine that in the voice of the Mysterons), while the LibDems are the unwitting dupes pootling along without realising what the Evil Tories are doing. But it just isn’t true – while the LibDems are socially liberal, they remain fiscally conservative, and the Coalition agreement was built on the common ground the two parties shared over the needs for a smaller government.

Does that mean we shouldn’t attack the LibDems? An argument could plausibly be made that since the LibDem voter base already support the cuts, we should instead be going after the big kahunas. In fact, Sunny attempts to do so:

But the main problem is that the Libdems are fairly supportive of the welfare cuts. Broadly their constituency doesn’t rate welfare as a key priority and there are other issues Libdem voters find more pressing. Nick Clegg will focus on social issues such as gay marriage, financial benefits such as raising the tax threshold, civil liberties and the environment to rally his base.
Welfare cuts won’t come into the Libdem equation, mostly because a majority of voters believe that some benefits cuts are needed. The leadership is too cowardly to pick a fight there and saving its political capital for other fights.

But what are the UKUncut protests trying to achieve? Is it to convince people who want cuts that they are wrong? Well, partly. But mostly it’s to do what all protests attempt to do: to show that there are a large group of people in opposition to the policy. It’s meant to showcase how many people are being harmed by these swingeing cuts which hurt the voiceless the most. It’s meant to demonstrate to the political class the mass public support that already exists for a change in Coalition welfare policy.

Does Sunny criticise the Syrian protestors because Assad’s base won’t change their minds and it’s not in Assad’s interest to do so? I have no idea, but I’m sure most people certainly wouldn’t. Instead, we see it as indicative of how the Syrian people feel about their leader: fucking angry and expecting change.

And, quite frankly, the LibDems are more likely to realize that message than the Tories. The LibDems are okay with the cuts. The Tories are positively salivating over the idea of the poor starving to death.

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The Conservative Party’s Double Standards

So, JH is in trouble. First off, no one’s quite sure whether JH stands for Jeremy Hunt or Adam Smith. But second, and more importantly, he’s had a bit of a problem keeping his thoughts to himself rather than, say, putting them into a text-based and easily recordable format, and then sending them to the Prime Minister. In case you live on the plant Zarg (read: outside of the UK) and haven’t seen the text, it reads as follows:

He doesn’t think he will get a fair hearing from Ofcom. I am privately concerned about this because News Corp are very litigious and we could end up in the wrong place in terms of media policy. Essentially what James Murdoch wants to do is to repeat what his father did with the move to Wapping and create the world’s first multiplatform media operator available from paper to web to TV to iPhone to iPad.
Isn’t this what all media companies have to do ultimately? And if so we must be very careful that any attempt to block it is done on genuine plurality grounds and not as a result of lobbying by competitors.
The UK has the chance to lead the way… but if we block it our media sector will suffer for years. In the end I am sure sensible controls can be put into any merger to ensure there is plurality but I think it would be totally wrong to cave into the Mark Thompson/Channel 4/Guardian line that this represents a substantial change of control given that we all know Sky is controlled by News Corp now anyway.

So, very pro-Murdoch. The problem is that ol’ JH is supposed to be an impartial arbiter on the issue of Murdoch’s takeover of BSkyB. Which, clearly, he isn’t.

To be honest, I don’t really care that he made up his mind about Murdoch before the takeover process began. I urge you to name one person who DOESN’T have a strong opinion on the liver-spotted media mogul who looks about 10 minutes away from having the skin on his face fall off and reveal the alien bone structure underneath.

But where I have a problem is in the Tories’ reaction to the whole shebang. In particular, when I compare and contrast with the reaction to Vince Cable’s “war with Murdoch” statement:

  1. Man reveals he is anti-Murdoch. “How dare such a biased person be in charge of a massive takeover aimed at wiping out media diversity in this nation!” Etc, etc.
  2. Man reveal he is pro-Murdoch. “Jeremy has followed all processes to the letter and listened fully to independent advice as per the process he has beeen told to follow.”

Did VC follow all process? I don’t know, the Tories certainly didn’t give a damn whether he did or didn’t. The real reason they were up in arms was that a business man with lots of money might not get what he wants. And the real reason they’re more pragmatic about bias this time is that they now know he will.

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Youth Unemployment and the Bloody Media

I’ve been planning a post for while concerning how irritating much of the mainstream media is on the subject of Youth Unemployment (imagine there’s a lot of reverb when I say those words, Mysterons-style). The condescending tone and vague sound of surprise from puffed-up journalists, a large portion of whom will have been privately educated (the successful ones, at least, as I am reliably informed by Owen Jones).

However, I haven’t managed to find a suitably pithy and witty response to such arse-water, and the topic is swiftly forgotten as my mind becomes enraged by some other piece of absolute bull within a few minutes.

But I need try no longer! For the awesome and far-funnier-than-me-by-half Vagenda have beaten me to it. And as a person who didn’t fall into unemployment following graduation, all I can offer is solidarity as opposed to the Vagenda’s genuine empathy.

I was one of the lucky ones, and I’m not so arrogant as to think it was my genius which got me my graduate position, and that anyone who failed to graduate into a job must by definition be an overindulged moron who’s long-term suffering is merely the price we must pay in a society where intellectual superhumans like myself can reign supreme. I definitely don’t think that.

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