Posts Tagged ‘freedom of speech’

wpid-goya-2010-06-19-05-00.jpg probably most of us would agree with francisco goya; el sueño de la razón produce monstruos. but it is one thing to repeat after the inscription on 43rd plate of the caprichos that the sleep of reason produces monsters, and quite another to fear monsters when the reason is awake.
i find such feeling extremely irritating and highly unnerving because even though i might proudly reject every form of belief and laugh at superstitions, i would still feel intimidated when approaching modern taboos created by our secular societies.
personally i find manoeuvring between these numerous “no-go areas” as insulting waste of energy; and tendencies of certain groups to get upset and worked-up while discussing certain subjects as affront to their and my intelligence.

deliberation on false rape claims and on incidence of rape would have to be regarded as one such area. so in order to avoid certain misunderstandings i feel compelled to explicitly state that i am indifferent to numbers of both rapes and false accusations of rape, to their frequencies and rates when compered to each other. it is not my intention to argue nor to present evidence nor to make any specific claim in respect of these two types of crime. my intention is to briefly analyse certain attitudes towards the subject. and by doing so i hope to shed some light on the mechanism which makes this particular subject area very difficult to talk about and for researchers to operate in which effectively prevents creation of evidence based policies designed to tackle these social problems.

according to message posted on twitter by UK_Feminista, “The Daily Mail’s campaign of trying to convince the public that all rape accusations are false is getting ridiculous:”. needles to say that the message quite well summarises main points of the text linked to together with the comments left by the readers. in addition the authors provide links to several articles published by The Daily Mail as examples of said campaign.

of course i am very well aware of the daily mail’s dubious reputation. however, after skimming through few of the articles and after checking up on the facts with other sources i could not find any clues that could indicate that these stories were complete fabrications. in this assessment i focused primarily on the facts behind each story but i also paid great attention to any broad and unjustified statements made in the articles as well as any instances of stereotyping. overall there were very few minor instances of misrepresentation of fact but none of these were material. as for reliance on stereotypes these were on level comparable with other newspapers (including guardian and times). it is important to note that i consider political bias in media reports as a norm rather than exception; with this in mind, the articles that i analysed were not exceeding the normal level of bias peculiar to this paper. overall, the articles would have to be regarded as factually sound reports concerned with particular type of crime which editors of daily mail identified as a more systematic problem and considering the number of cases to which even UK Feminista refers to as to campaign, this does not seem to be totally unreasonable conclusion.

in other words it seems that these articles reported on cases of false accusations of rape and gave accounts of devastating effect that such accusations have on lives of victims. the articles were reflecting on victims who were subject to humiliating and damaging campaigns by media and communities in which they lived and which would usually last for several months if not years and often result in imprisonment, broken relationships, splits in the families, victim’s alienation and suicides; the accusers were depicted as delusional liars who took advantage of the institutional veil of full anonymity and when (if) prosecuted and convicted the punishment this criminals were subjected to could be seen as not proportional to the damage that their actions inflicted on their victims.

unsurprisingly, the above assessment differs significantly from the one found on UK Feminista. according to this feminist blog “… there’s just page after page of stories relating to so called ‘false’ accusations of rape.” what i find quite remarkable is that apart from the links to daily mail articles the blog does not provide any information that could substantiate views that the articles are just “…misogynist lies about rape that paper insists on pedaling.” it seems as if the author consider this to be some self evident truth which does not require any further explanations. and indeed these unsubstantiated and broad allegations of hatred towards women on the part of dm are unequivocally accepted by commenting readers who then ask “what the hell can we do to challenge this evil women-hating rag?!!”. due to the lack of explanations i can only guess the rationale behind these claims; and it seems to be related to the role that reporting of these type of cases play in undermining credibility of true rape victims. direct accusations as the ones presented above are further sprinkled with other colourful complaints: “i think my head is about to explode in rage!!!”; “Jesus, two in one day? That’s just ridiculous….”.

despite gaping discrepancies between views on the issue held by the crowd on UK Feminista and presented by daily mail one thing seems to be certain; and that is the existence of some issue. and even though in such a case robust research into the nature of the issue might seem to be most plausible course of action, those taking part in discussion on feminist weblog seem to have quite a different view which stems from their perception of the nature of the issue. and so we read:

“It absolutely sickens and outrages me … what we could do to challenge this?”

“Demo is always a safe bet, or possibly something to call the Mail on it.”

“…campaign for more responsible media depiction of women…”

“…we can definitely plug it on the action section of the site”

“…to take full action on this?”

“Anyone for starting a campaign about this? Shall we see if we can hook up some of our lovely groups?”

it seems fairly clear from the actions considered that what this “lovely group” perceive as a real problem is not the certain type of criminal activity reported by daily mail but the reporting of the crime itself!? strange as it may sound it does explain why no one commenting on the article even thought of actions aimed at establishing some means of support for the victims. the main thrust of potential actions is focused on reporting of these cases. i guess it would require some amount of mental acrobatics to connect such a viewpoint of the issue in question with quoted earlier allegations of contempt and hatred towards all women which supposedly are intrinsic to reports of such cases. i am disinclined to go into this subject any further and would gladly leave this peculiarity to others with more time to waste.

leaving on the side the issue of plausibility of these claims let’s consider the target of proposed actions. paraphrasing one commentator the aim is to “…campaign for more responsible media depiction of women…”. in current case this vague aim translates into application of pressure on media outlets in order to make them stop reporting on cases of false allegations of rape. i understand that the ideal outcome in this instance would be total removal of such reports from public view and subsequently from public debate.

again I am disinclined to consider whether such situation could bring so strongly desired by feminist readers of the blog raise in numbers of victims reporting rapes to the police; and whether attitudes of the later would change significantly and whether this would result in greater number of genuine offenders being brought to justice? i hope it would.

but is hope enough? what if there is an issue there? what if there are other factors behind the reports? what if daily mail editors are not as delusional as the crowd on UK Feminista would wish them to be? what do we actually know? and lets not confuse “knowing” with “hoping” or “believing”.

it is said that the cases as the ones reported by daily mail are exceptional. fair enough, but who says that?

and that’s where the fun begins, because it seems that we know literally nothing. the numbers on incidence of false rape accusations range from 2%, which is probably the most famous figure and the only one which origins i could explain, to 98%!

so not surprisingly baroness stern in her review (.pdf) said:

“The question of false allegations comes up time and again in any meeting or discussion about rape, with some arguing that the number is large and others insisting that the prevalence is grossly exaggerated. Faster progress could be made in improving the treatment of rape complainants if more solid evidence was in the public domain.
In view of the controversy surrounding false allegations, the strong feelings the subject arouses and the part the controversy plays in the response to rape complainants, we recommend that the Ministry of Justice commissions and publishes an independent research report to study the frequency of false allegations of rape compared with other offences, and the nature of such allegations.”

and in respect of incidence of false allegation i am not going to go any further than that. so, summing up, we know that: 1. daily mail are a bunch of liars and women haters; 2. there seem to be some issue; 3. about which we don’t know much.

but also we know that it is hardly a novel idea to restrict publication as means of dealing with problems that cannot be otherwise accommodated by ones theories. It was this technique that catholic church used in order to keep the earth flat and at the centre of the universe. but it also reminds me of remarks made by russian authorities claiming that in russia the problem of rape does not exist at all. they explained this by simply saying that there is no russian equivalent of the english word “rape”! sounds like brilliant idea, doesn’t it?

but above all we know that atmosphere of hatred, anger, threats and intimidation does have devastating impact on free flow of ideas and can undermine any attempt to promote knowledge and understanding of the world around us.

and in my humble opinion it is the “lovely group” of feminist who should sort their act out because, as we all know daily mail is a bunch of liars and there is no way to reform them.

oh sweet irony. just few days after i posted a piece treating about frivolous attitudes towards official statistics and facts in general, among certain advocacy groups and policy making bodies, feminist blog the f-word published an article by Naomi Mc, “Fact is a Feminist Issue”. and even though the title could be reasonably regarded as promising (if not exciting considering where it was published) the article itself is a bit of a disappointment.

in short the author gives her opinions on scientific reporting in the media, which in her own words is … well, “piss poor”; nothing new here i guess. then we hear yet once again this old hackneyed phrase that “science or medical articles rely on the readerships’ preconceived ideas about women and men and feed gender stereotypes that are straight out of the 1950s;” which is followed by similarly overused short list of such stereotypes. subsequently author elaborates to some very limited extent on reporting of biological differences between men and women and provides “a few tips for approaching scientific and medical press stories that tackle biological sex differences”, which pretty much closes her argument about fact as a feminist issue. so much for excitement.

without paying to much attention to the tedious content of the article i was curious about the authors opinions on reporting of facts by more or less mainstream media outlets in relation to issues which are preoccupying feminist agenda and which on many occasions would have to be described as undesirable, damaging or prejudicial and most definitely as “piss poor”.

i wrote a comment under the article, at first agreeing with the author’s main point that “fact is a feminist issue”; however in order to show my somewhat different take on the subject i quoted Fawcett Society’s “Equal pay, where next? Changing Hearts and Minds” (pdf) with it’s poor treatment of official statistics; together with two quotes referring to publications from Eaves; and which could be best described as a forms of “creative writing” rather than social research. so, first of the two quotes was taken from article by Julie Bindel entitled “Why men use prostitutes” in which Ms. Bindel proudly proclaimed that “the reasons why many men pay for sex [were] revealed in the interviews that make up a major new piece of research; Read the research project’s report on men who buy sex (pdf). the second quote was taken from “Sexual violence fact-sheet” (pdf) published on Eaves website, containing examples of intentional misrepresentation of official statistics by this advocacy group, which was clearly aimed at strengthening misconceptions about the issue of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

overall, my comment was fairly short and in my opinion could hardly be regarded as provocative for it was mainly composed of quotations from feminist publications and this i suppose is a fact perfectly suitable for discussion on feminist blog. nevertheless, comments submitted to f-word are subject to some very general rules which are neatly explained under every article published on the website. among other things the rules state that the f-word:

“… is a safe and friendly space for feminists and feminist allies. Debate and critique are welcome where it is constructive and deepens analysis or understanding. Anti-feminist comments will not be approved. We get to decide what’s anti-feminist.”

so far, it seems that i am neither a feminist nor a feminist ally; and apparently quotations submitted in my comment in order to shed some light on “fact as a feminist issue” were not constructive enough; and elaborating on them could not possibly deepen analysis or understanding of the issue.

it’s hard for me to say whether my comment was anti-feminist. i would say it was not but then again it is them who get to decide what is and what is not anti-feminist. but i must admit that the f-word did inform me about means of appeal to the decision made by the moderator and the rules on commenting are very clear about this:

“We do not seek to censor debate: the beauty of the internet is that anyone can set up their own blog or website to express their views.”

which i duly did.

ironically, even though i was unable to find out what would be Naomi Mc’s (or other f-word readers) opinion on my approach to the issue represented in the title, one thing seems to be quite certain: FACT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE.