Hypocricy on BBC Question Time

Britain is holding a snap election on the 8th of June to determine who is going to be the next prime minister. During the campaigning period, all party leaders have (to greater and lesser extents) taken part in televised question and answer sessions with the British public. That’s what the BBC Question Time special last night was all about: current prime minister Theresa May and the leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn both spent 45 minutes answering questions from the British public.

What struck me about the debate is that the two biggest areas the Corbyn was challenged on were not his plans to nationalise the railways, there was just one question on scrapping zero hour contracts, no one seemed to care about his vision for social care or the NHS. What people did want to know is why he won’t outrightly condemn the IRA and why he won’t commit to sending off nukes to blow up people if  ‘we had to’.

The thing about Jeremy Corbyn is … he’s a nice guy. He has been campaigning for peace for decades and he is clearly against nuclear weapons. This should not come as a surprise. His party won’t let him get rid of the weapons, but obviously, he doesn’t want to use them to blow up entire regions and murder people.  Our nuclear weapons are there as a deterrent so I can see why it’s a little alarming that Jezebel won’t even make it look like he would use them if he had to, but he never outright said he wouldn’t use them either.  He said he wouldn’t just send them off without weighing up the situation and trying other options. Is that really so bad?

The other thing that always seems quite popular is Jeremy Corbyn’s supposed links to the IRA. He did meet with members of the IRA, as did many other members of parliament, in an attempt to create a ceasefire. People also think he supports the IRA because he spoke at a remembrance ceremony for them and because he refuses to condemn them without also condemning the violence of rival groups.

History is complicated. It isn’t always as simple as saying these were the good guys and these were the evil people. Both sides normally do terrible things and neither side is ever blameless. Acknowledging that the situation with Ireland was complicated and that deaths on both sides should be mourned isn’t the same as advocating terrorist attacks. I’m really not sure why this and nothing else seems to bother people so much.

This leads me onto my next and main point. Britain currently sells weapons to Saudi Arabia. We know this. We also know that Saudi Arabia uses those weapons in ways which most probably violate international law. We know that those weapons were used on civilians in Yemen, and there is pretty strong evidence to suggest that some of those weapons are also going to ISIS in Syria. So it just seems a bit crazy that we are so quick to jump on Jeremy Corbyn over not wanting to celebrate people dying during the troubles but we have no moral qualms about selling weapons to a country which uses them in violation of human rights and often violates the human rights of people within its own country.

Things are complicated, and I am not suggesting that the U.K should break their ties with Saudi Arabia. I just want to highlight the hypocrisy in condemning Corbyn for his ‘friendliness’ towards terrorists whilst we just ignore things like this. Judge them on their policies and their record and their actions. But if you want to judge one of them for ‘leasing with terrorists’ then take a closer look at what is actually going on before you let that be the deciding factor.

I wrote an article about this topic in more depth. If you would like to read it please go to: https://evonews.com/world-news/2017/jun/03/opinion-the-bbc-question-time-debate-theresa-may-jeremy-corbyn-and-saudi-arabia/


Milo Yiannopoulos, Big Questions and bad feminists

I have very recently discovered a man called Milo Yiannopoulos, a gay catholic journalist who appears to be a bit of a controversial figure because of his allegedly anti-feminist views and pretty real ego-manic persona.  He recently appeared on the BBC’s The Big Questions program, and the episode in question included a debate on ‘whether social media reveals men’s hatred for women’. The panel also included two women named Kate Smurthwaite and Connie St. Louis, both self proclaimed feminists who were apparently arguing that yes, social media does reveal men’s hatred for women. They complained that women are still not  allowed to express their opinions because they are being unfairly attacked on twitter and other social media platforms, and the attackers are men who make disrespectful comments and outright threats to their lives. I’m going to talk about that in due course, but first here is a little side note regarding Tim Hunt.

Connie St.Louis, one of the women involved in the debate, was the one who instigated the twitter backlash against Tim Hunt last year. She posted a particularly long tweet on the matter in which she accused Hunt of calling for segregated labs, accused him of living in the Victorian times  and quoted the infamous ‘problem with girls’ comment. The infamous statement was: “There are three problems with women in science; you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and if you criticize them they cry.”  This resulted in the elderly scientist losing his job and position in The Royal Society, and he was wildly condemned by journalists and on social media.  Hunt claimed he meant this statement as a joke which was taken out of context. After the initial statement, he went on to say the words “now seriously” and then proceeded to praise and encourage present and future female scientists, and tell them not to listen to ‘monsters like me’ which was again quite clearly meant to be a joke. I do not believe the backlash would have been appropriate even if it had not been a joke, but as it quite clearly seems to have been intended as such it was completely unacceptable.
From what I understand of the context of the speech, the initial statement was meant as a satirical joke poking fun at sexism in science. His wife is a scientist, which is likely to have inspired the “you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you”section of the speech. As more evidence has come out that  Connie deliberately stretched the  context of his speech to turn a harmless joke at the beginning of a short speech in praise of female scientists into a sexist rant, I am quite frankly appalled she has not been asked to apologize and her own position has not been compromised, especially that it appears she also fabricated large chunks of her own CV to make herself look more impressive . In her CV she stated that she has written articles for The Independent, Daily Mail and The Sunday Times, but according to several sources such as the Daily Mail, there is no record of her writing anything for these papers in the last 20 years. 
There has not been nearly enough coverage on this considering the initial interest, but from what I understand it seems pretty clear that Hunt was joking and frankly even if he wasn’t it was still not nearly as big a deal as people made out. An elderly guy said that women cry and its suddenly the worst thing ever? Seriously? The whole thing was quite frankly pathetic, ridiculous and only backs up the misogynistic view of women as hysterical, emotional and illogical that these very people are apparently trying to fight against.

This brings me to the Big Questions debate. Connie St.Louis and  Kate Smurthwaite spent far too much of the debate shouting over the other speakers, not engaging with the question and personally attacking Milo and then not allowing him to respond. They kept complaining that social media doesn’t allow women to express their opinions because of the fear that they will face online abuse, and then they accused Milo of calling for someone’s assassination, said he should go to jail and then did not allow him to defend himself or properly respond to the accusation. They did not appear to see the irony of complaining that women are abused for having opinions that men do not agree with when they were literally abusing a man for having opinions they did not agree with.
In direct contrast to this completely un-professional behaviour,  Milo quoted existing studies to support his claim that men actually attract more abuse online then women, he attempted to stick to the question where possible and his repeated requests that Smutherwaite and St.Louis back up their claims with evidence were completely ignored.
The whole thing was somewhere in between infuriating and hilarious. I appreciate these women do not like the guy, a lot of people do not like this guy. This guy is a self proclaimed provocater who deliberately makes outrageous claims. But surely the worst thing you could do when in a debate with someone who you feel that way about is to act in such an immature and hysterical way that makes yourself look bad and makes him look good. To have the whole premise of your argument based on the fact that women are not being allowed to express their opinions and then shout down a man when he tried to express his was ridiculous.

Kate Smutherwaite in particular also kept talking over Ella Whelan, another panellist who actually had some pretty interesting and well thought out things to say which I happened to agree with. When Ella attempted to make a point whilst Kate had been speaking for ages despite complaining about how much air time Milo was getting (which was still less then Kate), she retaliated with a very rude “there is some annoying echoing in the back ground”. These people were complaining that women are not being allowed to express their opinions, and then they attempted to stop a woman expressing her opinion and deliberately spoke over her. They did not appear to see the irony in this, but the response on social media suggests it was not lost on the audience.

This was meant to be a debate. No matter how much you may disagree or personally dislike the person you are debating with, you do not shout them down and refuse to back up your own allegations. You listen, calmly, to what they have to say and then you retaliate with a well thought out and factually based argument, which neither of these women even attempted to do. If your response in a debate is to personally attack your opponent and not allow your opponent to speak, then you have already lost the debate. Any debate should allow both sides of the argument to be addressed, because only then can the audience come to a balanced conclusion. The question was  whether social media reveals men’s hatred for women, so clearly for it to be a well rounded debate someone would have to question whether that is what it revealed, or if in fact it reveals the opposite. A debate isn’t about everyone agreeing with each other, it is about challenging each other and showing that your arguments stack up and are better and more logical then the other parties. I have been to a lot of amateur debates over the years with people of varying skill, experience and ability and not once have I seen such a train wreck as this.
Whether you personally like Milo and his opinions or not, you must agree that if someone is invited to a debate they have the right to speak, and if you disagree with them you should try to show that your argument is better then their argument. You cannot simply shout over them and not let them express their argument, because that just makes you look weak, petty and unconvinced in your own claims. Feminism is not above debate. Nothing is above debate, and this kind of attitude, this “I am allowed to say whatever I want, but if you ever disagree with me you are stupid and evil” is not helping your cause. The purpose of free speech is that people are allowed to express more than one opinion whether you like that opinion or not, and the purpose of debate is to challenge those opinions and force people to back them up in the hopes that if they can’t do so they will realize those opinions are incorrect and may be prompted to do some more research and/or change their views. You cannot say you believe in free speech but only for the opinions you like, or that someone is not allowed to speak because their beliefs challenge or are at odds with yours. You also cannot condemn a particular type of behaviour and then behave in the exact same way, but say it is fine because you are a woman and there is one rule for us and another for them. That is not how equality works.  I’m not sure why these women are invited to debate when they clearly don’t know how to do so, but if they are an example of people who make it as journalists today I quite fancy my chances.

If you are in the UK and want to see the debate look no further: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06ymrby/the-big-questions-series-9-episode-2










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Why would Police officers need a degree?

I’ve just read an article on the BBC website which claims that the College of Policing has said all new police officers may be required to have a university degree in the future.


As far as I am aware, the police are sometimes trained at the College of Policing or an alternative and are sometimes required to undertake a diploma in policing, where I imagine they would learn the skills they would need for a job. Others may start off as voluntary officers or be recruited after school/college. Whilst specialists and detectives may benefit from a criminology degree, I see no reason why regular police officers would need one. How is studying an unrelated subject for three years going to make you a better police officer? It seems that the police force is one of the few sectors that does not currently require a degree, and that to me is a very good thing. Rather than having to waste their money, get into debt and only be able to apply for the police at 21 at the youngest, police recruits get specialist training designed for their chosen career, presumably don’t have to get a student loan, would get trained by specialists and would be trained for two years rather than the standard three. If the police have to take a degree, presumably they may still have to undertake specialist training afterwards, which means they would have to wait five years rather than two to start their career. This makes absolutely no sense to me. Why do we have this obsession with degrees? How will a degree help with a job such as this when specialist training is already offered, a job where presumably you would learn best in the field and on courses specializing in what you would actually do on the job?

In order to make the degree at least somewhat worthwhile, we need to expand other vocational options so people who don’t want to take a degree don’t have to without their employment options diminishing. This involves offering more specialist training without a degree being necessary, not less. Stop forcing people to waste their money, and stop acting like a degree is the only thing that makes a profession ‘legitimate’. If you don’t realistically need a degree for a job, why make people get one just because everyone else seems to have one? Why is that a good thing? People who chose to take an academic degree are now at a disadvantage, because the degree is becoming more and more normal and therefore graduates are required to have a range of other skills and work experience that are quite often hard to get at university, and non graduates are now apparently assumed to be ‘lesser’ in the world of work simply because they didn’t choose to go to university.  But how does going to lectures on a general interest subject help in a specialist job; as this article doesn’t say the degree would have to be specific, I am assuming this is what it means. A degree in psychology or criminology may be beneficial, but I don’t see how it would be more helpful than spending those three years gaining experience and/or qualifications directly through the police. I am not saying university is not a good thing, or that the degree of life experience and independence it offers young people should not be acknowledged. But it should not be mandatory for a sector that doesn’t seem to need it and has presumably functioned reasonably well without it until now, and if someone was able to train for a job and actually be working in that sector by the time they would have otherwise left university, surely they would still get those opportunities. A lot of the comments on the BBC article claim that the police would need a degree to make them ‘more intelligent’ than criminals. A degree does not necessarily make you more intelligent, and not having a degree does not necessarily make you less intelligent. Intelligence is also relative, and  is not always carried across. For example, if you did a degree in English literature than you would learn to analyse texts, to write essays and develop your knowledge of literature. Those are not bad skills to have. But when faced with a criminal, I don’t really see how it would put you in a better position than someone who did not have the knowledge of that particular subject. For certain careers, like journalism for example, a degree like English or history is very beneficial because it equips you with skills you can then apply to journalism, such as analysis, a clear writing style and the ability to see things from different points of view. But whilst it wouldn’t hurt if you wanted to be in the police, I don’t really see how it would put you in a better position than someone who had actually gained experience with the police during this time. University is not the only way to learn new skills and develop your intelligence. Since the rise of the internet, a lot of knowledge is already at your finger tips if you desire to look for it. University should be a choice. It should not be mandatory.

Article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34805856