Torn down by the Mob

For those so far uninformed, I have this footnote to add to my post of two days ago. ‘The Public are Cautioned not to Feed the Sharks by Hand’.

Welsh Labour Minister Carl Sargeant, who was suspended last week for ‘personal conduct’ (the exact nature of which was never disclosed to him) has been found dead.

I wonder which part, which limb, or which fragment of someone’s sacred dignity he allegedly so offended that it carried the penalty of death without trial?   I wonder who, at the hub of this vicious, unfeeling, mindless rumour mill might have a little trouble in sleeping tonight?

I find myself helpless in fury, because no matter what the circumstances of his demise may be, there can be no doubt the heartless way he was treated must have played a major part.

My respects and condolences to Mr. Sargeant’s family.  May they find peace.

The Public are cautioned not to feed the Sharks by Hand

 

Scandals pepper our history.  Those in public life daily run a gauntlet of falsely conceived accusations of impropriety, as well as some genuine ones.   The media, or hitherto the gutter press, has feasted eagerly on the carcasses of the luckless and the guilty, while those most adroit in the art of escapology survive.

Bad news, people.  We are all ‘The Media’ now.  Escapology is a science of the past.

A couple of centuries ago, the old lady who made the blacksmith ill by concocting the wrong herbal remedy would once have been able to start afresh in another village;  now she faces a lynch mob of millions.

There is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.  The internet has given the vultures wings, and no crevasse, no shield of politics or faith can hide you from the rip and tear of their beaks.

Lynch mob?   Witch hunters?  Whatever soubriquet you give to those who get ghoulish pleasure from seeing their quarry squirm, they are very much among us.  And the severity of the crime or the reliability of the evidence is of no concern to them, when it is set against the warped satisfaction of bringing their victim to ruin, without ever really questioning either the morality or the dire consequences of what they do.

I think the trouble started when it was deemed appropriate to include certain offences under the law that do not need corroboration.  I am not saying this is wrong, although it is a very difficult area and one which should be applied with extreme care.  The problem, though, is compounded by the inadequacy of the law in dealing with libel, still less with slander.  Accusations that fall within that category, the more lurid the better, can be offered up to the hanging jury of Facebook without fear of redress.  Are you a journalist in search of your Big Story? Have you an old score to settle?  Do you personally dislike someone in the public eye, or are you simply hoping to make some money?  Then start a rumour, begin the daisy chain of innuendo that will bring the object of your jealousy down.

I have always been uneasy with this situation because there is no proportionality.  By aligning a minor transgression, a naïve or foolish misunderstanding with a real crime, some angry or lascivious act which inspires real fear or creates a scar, we demean those who are true victims – even discourage them from coming forward, because genuine people are naturally shy of administering such blatant excoriation.  It is an erosion of free speech, and it is a breakdown in the rule of law.

This week a senior politician resigned from his position as Minister of Defence because he had to admit to patting a journalist’s knee ten years ago.  To the tuneless thunder of other journalists’ feet as they jumped on the bandwagon, allusions to ‘other offences’ have been made, though lacking proof.  Notwithstanding my personal view that any accusation made by a journalist should be discounted, or at least subjected to very close examination, there can be no doubt the man has shown fallibility.  He has been, at the least, clumsy.  But where once there might have been an acceptance that the ‘rules’ have changed in the last decade or so, an apology made and admonition given (even the journalist herself commented that she did not feel threatened and she thought the resignation ‘absurd’), that will no longer satisfy the ravening horde.  Now it must be ostracism and ruin for a very talented man in fields where sexual ineptitude are irrelevant, and who might have had much to contribute.   And now, of course, the pack is loose.

Any politician in the UK Parliament now has to walk in fear, lest a friendly pat or a playful remark made a generation since is brought from its closet and shaken out in the light of this burgeoning set of new ‘rules’ which the feminist movement is writing down as fast as it can think them up.  Many are being accused who haven’t transgressed but that doesn’t matter.  This thinly clothed hatred of the male sex is glaring out from under every stone and it does not care who it hurts, or how.  Our political balance is at a very crucial point.   When this kind of hysteria infects the slow-witted and the fast-persuaded it can have consequences that are extreme.

Meanwhile, the BBC played host on national television this week to a senior female politician from Her Majesty’s Opposition – a party aggressively seeking power – who told a very insensitive anti-Semitic joke.

I have always admired the Jewish community’s sense of humour, especially when they happily direct jokes against themselves; but I do not think any Jewish person I have known would have enjoyed this particular example (and no, I won’t repeat it, although ‘Harriet Harman’ on YouTube will produce what you need, if you must witness it).  Yet there has been no further coverage of the incident on the BBC or, as far as I know, any other channel, despite concerns over the growth of anti-Semitism on the ‘Left’ of Ms. Harman’s political party.  Ample grounds, certainly, to fuel another witch hunt if you have the taste for it – strangely though, no-one has.

So, where are we?   Has the state of the world so altered that a few injudicious sexist remarks or examples of the latest regime of ‘inappropriate touching’ can bring down a government, altering the future for us all, and promoting to power a zealous party of neo-Marxists with an unhealthy hotbed of racism seething beneath?  Is that really where we are?

Look, there are genuine cases – of course there are.  I have been lied about – we all of us experience that from time to time.  I have also been assaulted, compromised, victimised, and so on.  But I am not scarred, not by any of these things.  My scars have more to do with the viciousness of the mob, and its constant attacks on my freedom.  I was once proud of my nation.  Now?  I’m not so sure.

I am beginning to wonder; if I were young and unattached again, how would I set about forging a relationship with the opposite sex?

The answer is, I think, only in the presence of witnesses.

Germaine Greer and Transphobia

On the 18th November Germaine Greer is booked to give a lecture at Cardiff University entitled ‘Women In Power’.

Someone called Payton Quinn is seeking to have Ms. Greer ‘no platformed’. In other words, put pressure upon the University authorities to cancel the engagement. To deny her the right to speak.

Why?

Ms. Greer is accused, as I understand it, of inciting violence against trans-gender people – an interpretation Ms. Quinn bases upon comments Ms. Greer has made in the past to the effect that M to F trans-genders, whether pre-op. or post op., are not real women: that they neither look nor think like women – that the operation is not always the success it is claimed to be.

Now I may or may not agree with Ms. Greer and I have no personal opinion on trans-gender issues, but I would aver that she is a distinguished advocate of gender equality, that she has propitiated the interests of women throughout her life, and I am sure that any opinions she voices are well researched even if I remain unconvinced by them. But I deeply and profoundly resent anyone who wishes to stifle those opinions. I am at least entitled to hear them for myself, to form my own judgment.

Payton Quinn herself claims to be gender neutral, despite the inescapable femininity that plagues her photographs. She is 24 years old, and has seized this very public stage for herself at the expense of everyone interested in Ms. Greer’s lecture and will, no doubt, capitalize in due course. The clichés ‘attention-seeking’ and ‘self-publicizing’ spring to mind.

Quinn claims she wants to gag Ms. Greer because her opinions constitute ‘Hate Speech’. She quotes Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (a clause intended to control people who willfully incite the populace to violence – pages 10 and 11 if you’re interested), thus somewhat aligning Ms. Greer with Abu Hamsa.

Now I am uneasy about anything which tries to quantify a fundamental right like freedom of speech, but I am certainly gravely concerned when it is used to stifle opinion; especially when anyone who wishes may freely challenge that opinion and – importantly – make their argument heard. In fact, through reading some of the vitriol on Ms. Quinn’s Twitter pages, I can only conclude that the ‘hate speech’ is from her side, directed at Ms. Greer.

I hope the wiser heads at Cardiff University will resist pressure to cancel this lecture, if only because I see it as the thin end of a very dangerous wedge. Can any activist minority group seek to stifle free speech in this way? Whatever happened to: ‘I may not like the things he says, but I will defend to the death his right to say them’?

Zealots always seek to quash opposition. They refuse to brook contrary opinion – they merely see it as dangerous. But when you come to think of it, freedom to express opinion is all we have – all that separates us from tyranny and the One-Party State. Universities are meant to be places of learning and reason, where the higher, more challenging matters of existence are debated; a department in which they may have fallen short in recent years.  Perhaps its time to redress the balance.