If anyone doesn’t want to read a serious and strident post on the blog of a writer who churns out pulp SF for a living, please feel free to move on to the next one. Because this is fairly heavy.
You know how sometimes, something is too big to process, and it takes 24 hours or so to work through your subconscious, and only then can you squeeze your feelings down into a form that can translate into vaguely comprehensible words or manageable actions?
Well, late on Friday night I read this article on the feminist blog Sian and Crooked Rib, about a Daily Mail article on the case of five footballers on trial for the gang rape of two 12 year old girls. It was an excellent piece by Sian, in many ways not surprising as I’ve been reading a bit about Rape Culture lately due to the Dickwolves affair, and not surprising in terms of the despicable lows the Mail sinks to and the horrific underlying attitudes they embody.
Sian’s post had sufficient impact that I felt physically sick with the world. My vision got blurry, I felt a deep nausea, and I went to bed feeling quite unwell.
On Saturday I woke up, felt better, and got on with the day trying not to think too closely about what had made me feel so ill the previous night.
Then, this morning, I read a tweet linking to a Daily Mail story about a guy who claimed he created Davros as a competition entry when he was thirteen, or thereabouts.
(I’m not going to go to the article and check that, for reasons that will become obvious.)
So, a couple of thoughts pass through my head:
1. I’m going to see this Daily Mail link passed around a lot amongst Who fan friends in the next few days.
2. Well, by Daily Mail standards this guy was old enough to be complicit in his own rape, so really if he did get ripped off by the BBC then by Daily Mail logic he got off lightly.
… which made me realise the sheer extent to which I don’t want to give the Daily Mail my clicks, or my time, or anything that might reasonably pass for support or tolerance.
Because, make no mistake, what articles like that Daily Mail piece about the ‘lolitas’ do is foster and support myths that make it easier for rapists to justify their actions, get away with it, and defend themselves publicly for their actions.
In this particular instance what they’re doing is even worse due to the age of the victims. In this case, by spreading those myths, the Daily Mail is, albeit indirectly, supporting a system of prejudices that defend and excuse the sexual abuse of children.
Let’s reiterate that thought and unpack it a little further: by promoting such weaselly justifications for forcing children into sex, the Daily Mail validates those excuses for further use elsewhere. These views encourage men like these rapists to believe that coercing women and girls into sex is ‘normal’ and allowable, and reinforce the idea that blaming the victim is a valid defence.
(Sian puts this more coherently than me, so go to her piece if you want a better unpicking of the issue.)
It follows then, that by encouraging the Daily Mail, by tolerating it and its readers, its journalists, its editors by buying the paper, reading the paper or circulating links to its online version, we support them in everything they do.
By clicking, and encouraging clicks, we help support a culture that excuses the rape of children.
Now, I do not have the energy and mentality to be a campaigner. I don’t have the fervor or temperament to be confrontational about these things. To link to Sian again, my main response to the huge problems of violence against women and girls is to despair, and in my case despair is debilitating and dysfunctional.
I’m a father of a tiny daughter, and of course the scale of the problems terrifies me. But letting myself be flattened by the enormity of it all would just make me a permanent emotional wreck, unable to work of parent, which wouldn’t help anyone.
So, selfishly, no big campaign from me. That’s for braver, more determined voices like Sian.
However, I can draw a line. In the little online spheres I inhabit, I can discourage links to the Daily Mail, although I’m not going to banish Facebook and Twitter people I barely know in real life on the basis of a link here and there. I’m going to point people back to this post to tell them why I don’t want to read that shit.
I’m certainly not going to tolerate any more arguments from media pals o’mine that Mail journos are just doing their jobs, serving the demands of editorial/their publishers/their readership.
Would the Mail’s reporters be so forgiving when reporting on, say, a warehouse worker who turned a blind eye to massive amounts of child abuse images being trafficked under his nose because he wanted to keep his job?
No, they wouldn’t, and in this case the Mail would be right – some crimes are so grievous that any level of support or tolerance is unacceptable. As rank as I find the Mail’s baiting editorials and columns on immigrants or homosexuality or whatever, those are political positions, obnoxious as they are.
But child abuse is an issue that EVERYONE who isn’t an actual abuser is supposed to agree is terrible. And just like my imagined scenario of the neglectful warehouse worker, tolerating articles like that Mail report, support an ecosystem that allows the abuse of women and children to thrive.
So in my own ineffectual and minor way, I’ll be taking a zero tolerance policy with the Daily Mail from now on.
If you’d like to do the same, and use Firefox, you’ll find a good start is Tom Royal’s excellent Kitten Block plug-in.
More jovial matters next time, promise.
A little late, and a rare bout of seriousness for this blog, but Saturday’s Bad Science in the Guardian was another great column by Ben Goldacre, about an AIDS denier who, in advocating the avoidance of drug treatments not only managed to kill herself, but more significantly helped fuel the AIDS crisis by encouraging others to avoid proven treatments.
As with the MMR scare, journalists and editors take stories like herbal remedies for AIDS, denials of the link between HIV and AIDS and so forth and run with them irresponsibly. When taken seriously and promoted by the media, fringe theories like these can result in tragic consequences. In the case of AIDS, as Goldacre explains, this has fueled disastrous policies towards the control of HIV and AIDS in Africa, resulting in countless dead.
To a lesser or greater extent, the people and media outlets who promote these failed policies, usually for their own profit, bear some responsibility for those deaths.
Such is the sense of raging self entitlement of most people who write for or edit broadsheet newspapers, that they frequently just don’t get the sheer extent to which their view of the world is distorted by the bubble of privilege they exist in. The internet exposes this faster than ever – witness the virtual rocks thrown at the gap year blogger on the Guardian site last year.
Here’s a good one: some columnist bemoans the fact that her friend got made redundant from her highly paid Operations Director job (presumably where she was lucratively rewarded for occasionally nodding and saying ‘we need to consider the resource implications of this’ in meetings), went to the Job Centre, and found that not only are they ill-equipped to deal with finding new veins for worthless over privileged parasites to sink their rows of slimy teeth into, but that various dehumanising barriers have been placed between the claimant and benefits.
I’m sure you’ll join with me in weeping bitter tears at this poor worthy soul being faced with the cruel failure of a heartless bureaucracy. I know I positively pissed myself with empathy.