2

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/

Advertisements
1

Milo Yiannopoulos and Free Speech

I wrote an article about Milo Yiannopoulos on my MCXV platform following the Berkely University riots and I’d be interested to hear what people think of the whole thing.

All About Milo

Some of you may remember that I wrote an article last year following a frankly embarrassing TV debate involving Milo and a few feminists who shouted over him, accused him of calling for someone’s assassination and were generally rude and obnoxious to everyone including other female speakers.  This doesn’t mean I’m a fan of Milo and his political opinions, but at least when he turns up to a debate he attempts to address the question, he allows others to speak and he comes across as calm and logical rather than angry and crazy.

If you actively hate the guy then this is actually a really big problem, because if he really is as dangerous as some people need then the last thing you want is to make him look like the good guy. And unfortunately, when he gets into debates this tends to be what happens. People spend so much time calling him a bunch of names that they never try to respond to what he says, and that just makes it look like there is no good counter argument so he must be right.

Freedom From Speech

The thing is that people are growing concerned with what is happening. It’s becoming really hard to talk about politics at all because the people who believe in a particularly rigid type of identity politics seem to have decided that everyone who disagrees with them isn’t just wrong, they’re bad. It is obviously true that hate speech is not the same as free speech and just shouting insults or going on racist tirades should not be tolerated in the public sphere, but I’ve been watching a lot of ‘discussions’ in the past year and that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening.

What is happening is that a lot of people has such a binary view of things that they refuse to take anyone who doesn’t agree with /everything/ they say seriously because they think they are just bad, ignorant people who don’t want to learn the ‘proper’ way of thinking. And the thing is their ideas aren’t particularly problematic or hard to follow: Yes you should listen to people and not dismiss their personal experiences, yes you don’t know what life is like for someone else, yes we should fight for equality, yes there are still problems and it’s not okay.I haven’t really seen anyone actually disagree with these things. It’s the way they put them across and all these other beliefs mingled in with them that are the problem.

The problem is the idea that you are either a feminist or a misogynist, that you are either left wing or a member of the alt-right, that you either believe all white people are inherently racist or you refuse to ‘let go of your privilege in favour of equality’. That you are either an SJW or a member of the alt right. That’s not how it works. You may disagree with the things typical social justice people focus on whilst equally disagreeing with the alt-right. You may be left-wing and critical of identity politics.

People should develop their ideas through a mixture of listening to other people, learning via reading up on things, and their own rationale. You can’t just be told: “this is what is right and you have to agree or you’re bad”.  A lot of this stuff came from sociology and if you have studied sociology then you know that the whole point is to learn about different theories and arguments, not just decide that this one theory is now suddenly absolute fact and everything else is evil. It all comes down to the different ways people are defining things and even though there is truth behind these ideas they should NOT be above criticism.

Debate Is Not Hate

It is getting to the point where people are being banned from the very groups that are meant to be ‘safe spaces’ for them. I’ve known of trans people who have been kicked out of discussion group for disagreeing that something was transphobic. I’ve known of mixed race people who have been told to ‘check their white privilege’ by a white person because they didn’t disagree with something someone said about racism. People forget that the world is made up of individual people with their own experiences, opinions and ideas. It is not made up of all-encompassing groups which necessarily speak for each other. Surely the whole point of equality is that we are not judged by whatever ‘group’ we belong to but by what we actually do ourselves.

Disagreeing with someone’s solutions or someone’s particular take on the world does not mean you are disagreeing with equality itself. People need to be able to have open, civilised and respectful discussions where they do actually listen to people with different points of view so they can see where the other person is coming from and either strengthen or question their own arguments. I’ve been getting into YouTubers recently and I’ve seen videos by people like Blaire White and Roaming Millennial, people whom I know a lot of people seem to regard as ‘dangerous conservatives’, but even though I may disagree with what they are saying they are not spreading hate speech, they are just giving their view of the world which you are then free to disagree with.

Back To Milo And The Riot

So getting back to Milo for a moment. Some of the things he says are pretty bad (especially his fear of Islam and rejection of refugees) and others are more reasonable (his criticism of the wage gap as misleading is pretty well acknowledged by economists and statisticians). He says things in a deliberately provocative way, he is quite obnoxious and realistically he is just a bit of a dick, but does that justify rioting on your own campus to stop him giving a talk? Is he really the epitome of all evil? Is he even worth the effort? Isn’t it just fuelling his growing fame?

Some people think he or Breitbart or both orchestrated the whole riot thing for publicity and if they did it was very effective. Milo has a new book due next month which is already on Amazons best seller list and so this recent media attention has happened at a very good time for him. Milo’s book is about how college campuses are closing themselves off from debate, how they police points of view and refuse to give anyone with whom they disagree with a platform. The Berkeley university riots were the perfect advertisement for his book. Maybe he did orchestrate it because it seems to have worked out very well for him.

What do you think?

https://mcxv.com/lets-talk-milo-yiannopoulos/

0

Thoughts on victim blaming

As a writer who likes to focus on news/current events, I’ve been a little dubious about delving into feminist discourse and engaging with those ideas. As I don’t personally identify as a feminist (I’ll write more about that in another post) I’ve found discussing the issues that relate to feminism quite difficult because so many people will quickly become offended and angry if you disagree with them, even if you don’t actually disagree with them as much as they think. However, I’ve been thinking and reading about this stuff for a while now and I think it’s time to get involved.

This is the first of a few social issues topics I’m going to be looking into, and for this article, I’m going to be looking at the concept of victim blaming.

Victim blaming

I do believe the victim blaming does happen, but I think there’s a bit more to the concept than we tend to assume. As far as I’ve seen, a lot of people will automatically assume that if you were sexually assaulted you were drunk and provocative, and so some people think that not being drunk and provocative will ensure you’re not sexually harassed. And that’s just not the case.

One time I was coming home on a Sunday evening (around 7pm) after a shift at the Zoo. I was wearing a long red anorak type jumper and jeans, and I was tired and anti social as hell. And these dudes on the bus kept talking to me, and asking me where I was getting off and such, and then they tried to follow me home even though I barely engaged with them and told them multiple times I didn’t want to hang out with them. I’m not saying that is sexual assault because it’s not, but it is a form of harassment, and it’s not pleasant. Harassment happens a lot, and it can happen no matter what you’re wearing. People can also be assaulted in jeans, tracksuits, and conservative clothes.

Because of this, it can get really annoying when people assume every time you’re harassed it’s partly your fault. I understand the frustration behind it, but I do feel that to help people understand this a greater distinction needs to be made between the different situations that sexual harassment or assault could happen. People can be harassed and assaulted when they are drunk and semi-clothed, but that isn’t the only instance where it could happen. It can also happen in broad daylight, or on public transport, or when you are walking home from work. It can happen at random, it can happen to women regardless of their sexual history, and it is often not provoked or encouraged in any way.

I don’t feel the campaigns that went viral depicting acts of everyday sexual harassment went far enough because as far as I saw they didn’t mention young people under the age of 18, who are actually more likely to experience this kind of thing frequently, but I do believe that these campaigns were and are very important, and that is one part of feminism I could definitely get behind.

The backlash against safety precautions

The problem, as far as I can see, is that some people refuse to accept that there can be a difference between harassment or assault that occurs when the victim is drunk, unaware and vulnerable, and that which happens in other situations This difference doesn’t mean that one is worse or more justifiable than the other, but it is just a different discussion.  For the rest of this article, I’m going to to be talking about assaults and crimes as relating to drunk, unaware victims.

There’s been a backlash against so-called victim blaming for quite a long time, and I’ve seen it focus quite a lot on safety adverts and warnings telling girls not to get too drunk and wander off alone. Some people believe this is avoiding the problem, that it doesn’t matter how drunk a girl is because she has a right to do whatever she wants and not have to worry about people taking advantage. Some people say that the focus should be on teaching boys not to rape, not teaching girls how not to be raped. And of course  that’s true. People shouldn’t sexually assault other people, and people shouldn’t rape other people. Period. No ifs no buts.

The unfortunate truth is that some people do sexually harass, assault and even rape other people, and I don’t believe it’s something you can just educate away. I do believe they should include consent and when it is not possible for someone to consent in those obligatory ‘growing up’ classes they have at school. They should also talk about street harassment, and why boys should not harass girls who don’t want to interact with them. You can’t really teach social skills in a classroom, but perhaps some basics in body language and how to tell when someone is interested and when someone doesn’t want to be approached could help.

They should  also talk about male victims in abusive relationships (in both homosexual and heterosexual pairings) and how that does exist because there is still a lot of misunderstanding and understanding about this issue, and I believe they should also educate both men and women about the dangers of getting too drunk. Because when you get really drunk, you are vulnerable. And some people might take advantage of you. Some people might hurt you. You could also hurt yourself.

Rape culture?

Educating people about these issues is important, but I think this idea that you can ‘teach’ people not to be rapists, that all rapists are ‘confused’ as to what constitutes rape and what doesn’t, is quite naive. The consent lessons could help some people, but ultimately we are already taught as individuals within this society that crimes such as rape and sexual assault are bad. ‘Rape culture’ may refer to a society where rape victims find it hard to get justice because people will question their story and then a conviction is hard to come by, but by the reality of the crime, rape is not easy to prove in a lot of cases.

It often happens in secluded places without witnesses, if it is reported a few days, weeks, months or years after the event there will be little or no DNA evidence.  It doesn’t mean rape isn’t a terrible thing and rapists shouldn’t be punished, but by the nature of the crime it is often very hard to achieve a conviction without substantial evidence, whether the judge personally believes the victim or not. A court of law has to remain unbiased until they receive enough evidence to tilt them one way or another whether they want to or not, and if they don’t get that evidence and there isn’t a confession it is very difficult for them to proceed. It is especially hard to make a conviction if the victim was intoxicated and therefore does not have a clear memory of the event, in the same way that it is harder to make a conviction several years after the event when the exact details may not be as clear.

A court of law has to remain unbiased until they receive enough evidence to tilt them one way or another whether they want to or not, and if they don’t get that evidence and there isn’t a confession it is very difficult for them to proceed. It is especially hard to make a conviction if the victim was intoxicated and therefore does not have a clear memory of the event, in the same way that it is harder to make a conviction several years after the event when the exact details may not be as clear.

I’m not saying it’s not a bad thing that so many rapists are never convicted, but I just don’t really know what the courts can change to make things better. They have to remain unbiased until they are given sufficient evidence, and if they don’t get that evidence whether they want to or not they can’t convict based on your version of events alone. I know it’s horrible, but I really don’t know what the solution is.

I have never been a fan of the term ‘rape culture’ because when people use it it seems to encompass anything from cat calling to penetrative rape. Whilst this isn’t always the case, I keep seeing people using examples of street harassment as examples of ‘rape culture’, and that doesn’t sit well. You cannot rape someone with your eyes or with your words. Catcalling and unwanted attention are not pleasant, it can be frightening and it has the potential to turn into an assault, but it in itself is not assault, and it is certainly not rape.

Sexual harassment is not pleasant. At best it is annoying, and at worse it is frightening. But someone trying to talk to you, whistle at you or get your phone number is NOT in the same category as penetrative or enveloping rape. The idea that a guy catcalling you is closely related to rape seems a bit ludicrous to me, and it definitely seems to undermine the experiences of rape survivors.Rape shouldn’t be a buzz word that’s thrown around to identify any form of sexual harassment or unwanted advances. Rape is rape, harassment is harassment. The distinction needs to be made.

You can’t just teach the problem away

It is common knowledge that theft, violence, murder, rape and pedophilia are all bad. We have laws against them, we have news stories about them which condemn the crimes and the perpetrators, and these crimes go against the ethics that most people at least pretend to live by in our society. This does not, however, stop some people from doing any of those things. To explain why any individual let alone multiple individuals murder, rape and abuse children is a job for trained psychologists and even then we may never fully understand, but I doubt the people who committed these heinous crimes wouldn’t have done so had they just had a consent class at a university or school that they may or may not have attended.

That isn’t to say we shouldn’t try, but I think it’s incredibly naive to say “well just teach them not to do bad things, don’t teach us to stop them.”. Because the world isn’t just magically going to ‘become nice’ someday. A lot of people are not going to do these things, but some will, and I don’t know if that will ever change. As we cannot read and police people’s minds, we don’t know what they are thinking. You can’t tell by looking at someone whether they are going to become a murderer, a thief, a child molester or a rapist. You can’t lock someone up before they have committed a crime. So whilst we can and should talk about these issues and spread awareness about them, I don’t think we can ever ‘fix’ the entire population so no one ever does anything terrible to another person.

The importance of safety

Whilst not all sexual assaults happen when women are drunk and unaware, it can happen. It does happen. You should follow simple safety measures when going out, such as not leaving your drink unattended and trying to stay in a group if you’re going to get wasted because it’s safer. It doesn’t mean something will happen to you, and it certainly doesn’t mean it should happen to you. It also doesn’t mean something may not happen to you at another time, in another situation. But whilst you can’t protect yourself from everything, you should at least try to protect yourself where you can, and not put yourself in unnecessary danger regardless of the fact that that danger shouldn’t exist in the first place.

Sexual assault isn’t the only thing that could happen either. If you’re drunk and unaware you’re an easier target for muggings, you might get in a fight, you might lose your belongings and get stranded, and you could also injure yourself. Sexual assault is something you should try to protect yourself against, but it’s not the only thing. To say that women have the right to wander around off their faces at night and not have to take any precautions because nothing should happen to them isn’t that helpful  because of course nothing should happen to them.

Of course it’s the attacker’s fault, not the woman’s. But something could still happen to them. Isn’t it better to not be alone or not be so drunk that you’re totally unaware in that situation? Of course you have the choice and the right to do what you want, but we do not live in a PG-rated violence free Utopia, and until such a fairy tale ending comes about we shouldn’t pretend that we do.

One could use this logic in other situations. What would you do if someone said it was wrong to tell children not to talk to or go off with strangers because the adult shouldn’t harm the child even if the child does engage with them, get into their car or go to their house. And no, of course they shouldn’t harm the child. But they might. Some people would. Of course it’s not a solution to the problem, and of course if something did happen it is never the child’s fault. But you’d still rather not risk anything happening to your child, and that is why you tell them to be careful or you don’t let them walk far on their own. Not because you’d blame them if something did happen to them, but because you want to prevent something happening to them in the first place.

As far as I can see, advising women to take simple safety precautions when they go out drinking isn’t an example of rape culture, it’s sensible advice.  I guess you could argue that it’s sexist to assume that women need to use these precautions when men don’t, and in some ways I’d agree. Men may be less likely (although it’s definitely not impossible) to be sexually assaulted on a night out, but all the rest of the issues above still apply. I’d say the fact women are reportedly more likely to experience sexual violence than men, the fact that women tend to be smaller than men and are perceived to be less physically strong, and the fact that many may perceive them as an ‘easy target’ is why these campaigns tend to focus on women, but maybe we should be targeting men as well.

Conclusion

I do believe a degree of victim-blaming does happen in our society, but I feel our collective efforts are focused on the wrong thing. Statements like “instead of teaching women not to be drunk, let’s teach men not to rape them” are true, but they are also a little pointless because you can’t just teach someone not to be a rapist in the same way you cannot teach someone not to be a murderer or a thief. We should teach consent, we should emphasize the legal implications and as a society we should condemn them, but we can’t assume that everyone who does a bad thing simply ‘needs to be educated’ and that crime will go away. We need to accept that even though we shouldn’t have to, we still need to protect ourselves as much as we can, not just from sexual assault but from all the bad things that people can do to each other.