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Monthly Archives: January 2014

Quantum Leap

Celebrity Tea Tray Sliding is great. It’s easy to sniff, but finally our television has made something worthy of the new millennium. We came close with Take Me Out; we were so nearly there with Don’t Scare The Hare. Close, but not quite perfect.

Now we have it. The Jump. Fans of Rita, Sue and Bob Too might recall the word “jump” meaning a different thing, and it’s easy to think that the career prospects of the slippy-slidey celeb no-marks had been fucked in the back of a Ford Cortina by this pile of flaccid, feeble slop, bearing as much resemblance to the Olympic ideals as the Little Chef Olympic breakfast.

Yes yes, of course. It’s a trashy, garish, tedious, self-loving glans waved in your face once a night. The sickly colour palette means even the most svelte of contestants to weeble around the set like plump Quality Streets, while host Davina, who makes a living from being fit-as-a-butcher’s-dog fit, is allowed the luxury of slimming black. It’s a sickly, mucky mess of Dolly Mixture awfulness sprayed over your front doorstep.

And yet, and yet… you get to see Marcus Brigstocke injure himself on television.

Sure, it used to happen. I remember when Lennie Bennett had his teeth smashed out playing pro-celebrity cricket (oh yes, that was very much A Thing) in the early 1980s; it was a TV Gold moment to rival the Space Shuttle blowing up. “Did you see Lennie Bennett get his teeth smashed in?” Good times.

Time was when dangerous stunts were ruled out for taste and decency concerns – to so-called post-Edmonds era, remembering when his programme shattered a man’s pelvis live on Saturday teatime (with bonus appalled John Peel commentary) and then rather more sombrely killed a man. It couldn’t happen again. It would never.

It’s happening again. We sit there gawping, awaiting the crunch of Sinitta’s splintered limbs.

It’s wrong. It’s awful. It’s despicable. We’re despicable. But we made it happen. We created Celebrity Tea Tray. We made the Jump happen. We created the jeopardy of someone going down what appears to be a child’s slide, but which in all likelihood could rip their head off. When it happens, we’ll just reach for the remote, pause and rewind. It’s what we’ve become. Lap it up.

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Posted by on January 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Wanting to understand

I’ve read a couple of things lately that have annoyed me in a particular way. One was this by Moronwatch; one was this by Michael White. I think they’re expressing similar thoughts, namely: I don’t get it.

More than that, though: they seem to be saying “I don’t get it, and I have no intention of trying to get it.” It expresses a wider thought, of ignorance to a wider problem about women unduly suffering abuse and bullying, not just online but as part of a wider pattern.

Look at this paragraph from White:

I don’t know precisely what Rennard is alleged to have done to the complainants, let alone whether he did. “Large, but unmenacing” would have been my verdict on him before all this blew up. What do I know?

How about looking it up, Michael? Would that really be so hard? All the information is available, if you do the simplest of searches for it; furthermore, as a leading political columnist for a national newspaper, why not bother to do your research before you’re writing about something? “Large but unmenacing” is the best you can come up with – really?

But then this demonstrates the attitude. I don’t know; it doesn’t matter; my opinions trump your lived experience, no matter what it is. Listen to me, and I will tell you why you are wrong, even though I can’t be bothered to find out the facts.

This next bit come from Moronwatch deciding that the threats to rape, torture and kill Caroline Criado-Perez were not really that important:

Another female journalist, who followed events on the day, tells me that Criado-Perez only received a handful of abusive tweets; and yet the event was picked up by the press and massively exaggerated.

Again, how about actually finding out rather than relying on hearsay? How about reading about the impact of these threats on the “perfect” victim? How about thinking that the lived experience of the person on the receiving end of these things is a valid thing, rather than deciding that you can dismiss it because you’ve suffered threats before yourself?

But no. I don’t need to know; I can just decide. In a world in which information is freely available at your fingertips, it’s still too much damn effort to actually go and look for it and find out whether your prejudice about these things is justified. Why bother?

Without using the p-word (privilege) or the other p-word (problematic) or the m-word (mansplaining) I want to write about why men need to look harder. I’m trying to write for my fellow men here. I’m trying to write for men because I am one and because I think there is a blind spot that male writers do have when they’re writing about abuse, particularly online abuse.

This isn’t to say that it’s only women who suffer bullying or abuse, or that the bullying or abuse that women go through is necessarily worse than some of the abuse that happens to some men. Of course not, and I am sure there are many examples of men being unfairly treated for a variety of reasons, occasionally maybe even because of their sex. All abuse and bullying is horrific and hurtful. However, it’s possible despite any caveats or anecdotes to acknowledge that there is a wider pattern, a larger thing happening, in which the vast majority of evidence points in a particular direction.

Firstly, it doesn’t hurt to look at the evidence. I’d even suggest it’s quite a good idea to look at it before you come to a conclusion. If you want to make your mind up about the abuse endured by Caroline Criado-Perez without reading the detail of it – which is still widely available for you to see, despite its graphic nature that has been omitted by some reports – then there is a chance you’re not getting the full picture. If you then go on to compare your experience of online abuse with someone else’s whose abuse you haven’t even read, that’s going to make you look like you’re making an awful lot of assumptions.

The same goes for Mr White. Why not actually read the detail? It’s not just lazy; it’s verging on the disingenuous. No wonder many people detect a whiff of “Well, listen here little lady, let me tell you what I think” about it. In order to avoid such accusations, the best thing that you can do is make sure you’re in full control of the facts. For a blogger to shun an examination of the evidence is one thing; for a leading political columnist with a wide readership on a national platform to do it is quite another. There is a lack of professional pride being shown in one’s work.

The biggest mistake you can ever make is not taking someone else’s experience, or worse dismissing it before you’ve even heard it. You have to listen to people. You have to hear their story. That used to be the whole point of journalism. If you don’t equip yourself with all the facts, you make yourself a weaker argument. Worse than that, you open yourself up to accusations that you think your opinions trump anything else. Worse still, this could be because you really think that.

True, people can vexatiously claim victimisation and abuse on the flimsiest pieces of provocation, and if we unthinkingly and blindly believe everyone’s story straight away it creates a situation that is disagreeable in its own way. But the first thing to do is listen, and read, and learn – then make up your mind. I don’t think that is really so hard to do.

Men need to ask what if. What if there really is something in all of this? What if there really is a culture in which women are disproportionately and repeatedly on the receiving end of bullying and harassment, in real life and in online communications? What if this really happens? What if it reflects a wider balance of power? What if women’s experience of abuse and harassment is very different from the abuse and harassment that men face, objectionable though that sometimes is? What if there is a problem, and we’re part of it?

Or we could just not bother finding out, I guess.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Disengaging

One of the nice things about being in control of your own writing is that you’re able to make choices about how much of yourself you expose to the world. It’s a really important decision to make because I found, in the past, I was getting more and more unhappy with the things that happen when you write something. 

You get drive-by abusers – people who just want to tweet at you (or use the dreaded .@ to tweet at you and tell everyone else in their followers as well, to ensure maximum audience) to tell you that you’re wrong. Or to answer a rhetorical question. Or to tell you that you’re an idiot. Or to tell you that you’re misguided. Or to tell you that they don’t like you. Or whatever. 

I used to dread publishing anything. I used to get a feeling of sickness. Of course most of the replies would be positive but that wouldn’t matter – I’d get a horrible sick feeling every time I published, knowing that the same old faces (and some new faces) would come crawling out of a hole (or from under a bridge) to make the same old points. You’re wrong. You did it wrong. You got it wrong. What you said makes no sense. What you said was wrong. 

Some comments are short and angry. Others are long and angry. Some are longer than what you actually wrote in the first place. Which makes you wonder: whose blog is this, anyway? Well, the answer is of course it belongs to everyone. It’s out in the open, it’s available to the public. That’s why we write in the first place, aiming to communicate. How arrogant to assume that it should only be a one-way process! We want people to read us, but not to write back; we consider our words of being worthy of publication, but not the words of others. 

Yes, I understand how wrong that is, but after a long time of thinking about it, I can’t engage any more, and that’s that. It’s not you that I’m talking about obviously. Not you. You’re lovely. It’s them. The other ones. They’re the ones who make me want to give up. I tried too long to try and fake it, pretend it was OK and sustain an engagement. I was wrong to do it. I hated it. It made me ill. 

A lot of writers will say they love commenters. Maybe they’re telling the truth or maybe they’re blowing smoke up the arses of their commenters. I don’t know the truth. All I can tell you, as a former minor figure in the commentariat, is that I utterly, utterly hated that aspect of writing. It made me sick. It made me sweat. It made me want to walk away from the computer and not look. Sometimes I would publish something, turn off my phone and go for a long walk because I couldn’t bear to watch the tweets coming at me or the messages coming towards me – and I couldn’t trust myself not to look ‘under the line’. 

You’re supposed to engage, as a writer. You’re meant to pitch in and join in the bunfight. You’re supposed to keep some kind of lofty distance above the furore, of course; you’re meant to try and be helpful and to answer points that people put to you. It makes it better if you do, I think. It makes you a better writer, if you can. 

But then there’s a giant internet writer-sized bear trap that opens up, as well. People know that you’re supposed to engage. People know that you’re supposed to stay above it all and be reasonable. People will use that, if they don’t like you. If you say something back, every syllable you write will be interpreted, examined, parsed, shed of context and re-presented as something entirely different – it doesn’t matter how hard you try to be unambiguous or deliberate. Every word you say will destroy you. Everything you say will be wrong, no matter what you say. You are leaving your jam-covered genitals out by the anthill again, and hoping that they’re not hungry. It never happens. It doesn’t work. 

I can’t ‘engage’ anymore. All I can do is write. I know it makes me a bad writer, especially in the age of Web 2.0, which was what got me here in the first place. I know it means I’m shutting myself away. I know all of that. But I have to think about my own health and sanity. This isn’t a full-time job for me anymore: I don’t have the time or willingness or ability or strength to engage. I don’t have the emotional energy. I don’t have the capacity. 

I’m sorry if I don’t really engage. My Twitter is generally for fun rather than serious discussion, because I’ve tried it the other way and I’ve despised it, and the me I became when I was engaging all the time. My blog is for me to write. I know how selfish, self-absorbed and awful that sounds – but I’ve tried it the other way, and it didn’t do me any good. 

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2014 in Uncategorized