Saturday, November 9, 2013

The tyranny of the mob - again

Sigh. Here we go again: the tyranny of the mob. Emboldened by numbers and anonymity, the finger-waggers swarm on to Twitter and Facebook, demanding the heads of RadioLive broadcasters Willie Jackson and John Tamihere for asking supposedly inappropriate questions of the friend of an alleged Roast Busters victim. Moral righteousness is never so easy as when there are thousands of you and opinion is never cheaper than when you can join the shrill chorus of condemnation without having to identify yourself.

We have been here before. We saw it with the furore over the late Paul Holmes' throwaway remark - which I suspect was meant ironically, although that point was lost in the moralistic clamour that ensued - about Kofi Annan being a "cheeky darkie". We saw it again when Alasdair Thompson was hounded from his job because he made a perfectly legitimate remark that was deemed offensive to women.

Once again we see timid corporate advertisers being panicked and bullied into boycotting the programme involved, just as happened to Holmes. And once again we see the contrite hosts making the now-ritual apology - and inevitably, then being condemned because it wasn't considered sincere enough. You can't win.

The initiator of the boycott, reportedly, was left-wing blogger Giovanni Tiso, who is understandably bathing in a self-congratulatory glow. Funny how it's almost invariably the Left that wants to shut down opinions it doesn't like, and even odder that capitalist companies should meekly fall into line.

Before I'm accused of indulging in victim-blaming, which is one of those accusations (like "racist", "sexist" and "beneficiary basher") that activists use to intimidate opponents into silence, I should state that there are few things I detest more than  sexual abuse. I abhor the misogynist culture that exists within parts of New Zealand society and, like most people, I'm aghast at the reported activities of the so-called Roast Busters - and perhaps even more so at the lackadaisical reaction, at least until this week, of the police.

But the outrage over the Roast Busters has triggered a potentially valuable national conversation about how such attitudes could exist in a supposedly enlightened, civilised society, and everything should be on the table. If we genuinely want to understand what's been going on in West Auckland, a few awkward questions need to be asked. One of those questions is whether the behaviour of the victims may have been a contributory factor, consciously or otherwise. Asking that question doesn't excuse the contemptible behaviour of the perpetrators. Neither does it mean blaming the victim.

If we don't ask those uncomfortable questions, an opportunity will have been lost. And the enemies of free speech and open debate will have triumphed again.


Lindsay Mitchell said...

Well said Karl. Dramas are created out of dramas to feed a collective appetite for sensation. Starting to get on my nerves.

Pdogge said...

Giovanni to the left ??? Man you are lost today, a middling liberal...wel maybe...

Giovanni Tiso said...

I'm going to instruct the mob to pressure meek corporation Google into closing down this blog. Be right back.

Karl du Fresne said...

Two things to your credit, Giovanni: you don't hide behind a pseudonym, and you have a sense of humour.

Giovanni Tiso said...

Easy for you and I to have a sense of humour, though, eh Karl? And frankly, if you don't get how it's our *privilege* to use our real names when we write, instead of a pseudonym, when the subject under discussion is rape, I don't know how to help you. But I even more emphatically don't know how to help you if you think that the abusive interrogation of an 18 year old caller who had herself barely escaped being raped by a gang of thugs is tantamount to asking important, uncomfortable questions.

Your faux-Volterian appeal to free speech doesn’t cut it on a logical basis either: what are the boycotting businesses doing if not applying their prerogative to free speech? There is a reason why sponsoring is also called endorsing, and it works both ways. Do you really find it a failure of democracy that a bunch of companies prefer not to have their brand associated to two middle aged men bullying a young woman? Give me a break.

Giovanni Tiso said...

(Or I could ask you how in the world you think that A 13 YEAR OLD GIRL might possibly contribute to being raped. How's that for an uncomfortable question, Karl?)

Mary St George said...

Research has shown that where investigations and public discussions of rape focus on prevention through behavioural choices by women, two things happen. One is that rape is not successfully prevented. The other is that victims are less likely to come forward and seek help. I think it was the Canadian "Don't Be That Guy" campaign which was based on this particular research.

Inviting advertisers to join other concerned citizens by using their economic power to make a statement about how violence against women should be discussed brings more people to the conversation, not fewer.

I suggest you read up about what a rape apologist is and how the rape apologist's stance is unhelpful in creating a safer society.

Damian said...

"One of those questions is whether the behaviour of the victims may have been a contributory factor, consciously or otherwise. Asking that question doesn't ... mean blaming the victim."

Actually Karl, I'm pretty that's exactly what it means.

Redbaiter said...

"Actually Karl, I'm pretty that's exactly what it means."

Actually, I think that if there is any contributing factor elsewhere than with the rapists, it could be seen as parental failure and I think this is probably what Karl implies.

Nick Taylor said...

It's always people "from the right" who are always accusing people "from the left" for doing things that "people from the right" are always doing.

Just thought I'd point that out.

I'm pretty sure it's only people from the right who actually think there ARE people from the left. People from the left certainly don't think of themselves as being on the left... it's just that there are these people from the right who are so extreme, that the middle is the new left, and simple stupidity is now mainstream.

Think I'm wrong? Turn on the TV. It's impossible to avoid.

māmāof2 said...

OK so we are meant to take you seriously on the topic when you show you stance with "because he made a perfectly legitimate remark that was deemed offensive to women." You as a male believe you can decide what is OK for women to find offensive. Funny too that it has to be politics to the left or right that show how people behave: The good thing about this is that the left and capitalism have showed morals for the good of society. Why is it jumping on the band wagon when lots of people say enough is enough? History proves it has taken the population to rise up and be heard to effect change. Do you suggest this (getting rid of misogyny) not a worthy change to effect within NZ society?
The uncomfortable questions you believe you are posing are only uncomfortable as they are not in the best interests of society.
If you were really aghast at the Roast Busters you wouldn't have blogged this post.
Oh the irony that you couldn't help but jump on the bandwagon of the Roast Busters discourse, pity you haven't added anything of value.

Damian said...


I don't think he's implying anything about the parents at all, when he explicitly says: "whether the behaviour of the victims may have been a contributory factor". [emphasis added]

That's a pretty strange way of interpreting that line if you think he's talking about anyone other than the victims...

Stephen said...

I’ve never understood the right complaining this way about boycotts or whatever you want to call it. It’s neo-liberal capitalism functioning as designed. Every agent here is acting freely and in a way that they perceive to be their interests. Why does Karl hate freedom?

As for the substantive issue, it wasn’t just “a few awkward questions”. It’s not as if it was just one or two ‘awkward’ or devil’s advocate questions. It was the entire interview. It was more like what would be expected from a defence lawyer at a trail. I’ve grabbed some low lights from the list on Giovanni’s Overland post.

- “I know you’re only 18 but as the pressure comes on, a lot more girls who might have consented who are identified might well just line up and say they were raped as well.”

- “How free and easy are you kids these days out there? You were 14 [when you had sex], yeah?”

- “But if some of the girls have consented, that doesn’t make them rapists, does it?”

That last one being particularly strange. But the doozy I think is still...

- “That’s why I’m getting a bit confused here right. The girls like them, the girls think they’re handsome, the girls go out with them, then you say they get raped, right?”

That wasn’t even so much an awkward question, as it was an awkward insight into the speaker’s thinking about sex and consent.

JC said...

I'm absolutely appalled by the antics of these rapists and I demand they be hanged.. right here, right now..

Oops, most of you don't agree, so how about life imprisionment and no parole, they are there till they die..

Oops, most of you don't agree so how about 20 years injail and no parles..

Oops, I got it wrong again.. how about 5 years plus parole at 2-2.5 years?

Oh bugger.. you really don't like that either.. in fact you say its not really about the boy rapists at all.. its about a whole lot of other stuff..

Hmm, there's something about these girls coming from West Auckland.. we need to take a closer look at this..


Karl du Fresne said...

I can only conclude that some of you haven't actually read what I've said. Or if you have, you've decided I meant something else. Or you've taken from it only what suits you. Perhaps some of you just aren't very bright.

Giovanni Tiso said...

And I can only conclude you don't want to answer the very simple question I asked you, and that follows directly from your piece: how exactly do you think that the actions of a 13 year old girl can be a contributing factor in her being raped? Feel free to take your time.

Heather said...

Regarding Alasdair Thompson's "perfectly legitimate remark that was deemed offensive to women".

It's perfectly legitimate for you to agree with Alasdair's remark, but not to dismiss other people's right to take offence.
It wasn't 'deemed offensive' by some nit-picking committee. Lots of women just were offended, as is our right when someone in a position of influence is talking some crazy shit about women.

It seems counter-intuitive to presume that a widespread groundswell of opinion must be insincere, simply because it's widespread. Is reaction only legitimate when it's confined to sternly-worded letters to the editor? And, presumably, blogs?

B'art Homme said...

That's brilliant question Giovanni... and the answer goes along the line of the law which has it that a minor is not able to consent, has no part to play in consent to sex let alone rape. The child is protected by us in law for the very reason that in never having had sex s/he has not the capacity to know the thing she is consenting to. And of course when it is rape consent is even further removed from the 'dialogue' ... there is no dialogue it's abuse of power pure and simple. A child does not and cannot 'contribute to being raped' other than protest, submit and be harmed.

Sam Buchanan said...

"...timid corporate advertisers being panicked and bullied into boycotting the programme involved"

Oh dear, PC handwringing nonsense - it so often strikes me that the right has now adopted the rhetoric the left used decades ago. Expressing opinions, or making a market choice, is now labelled 'bullying'. Advertisers who don't like their product associated with certain opinions are condemned as "the mob". When people are outraged by a small group that rejects common values they are guilty of 'tyranny'. Perhaps Mr du Fresne would like the government to step in and provide a subsidy for broadcasters whose opinions are too offensive to recieve financial support from private sources?

Brendan McNeill said...

Well Karl, it looks like you have attracted elements of the herd to your blog, and I note that broadcasters Willie Jackson and John Tamihere have 'gone off air' for the remainder of this year as you implied might happen.

One of your commentators Giovanni Tiso has sought to drag you into what he calls 'an uncomfortable question' regarding a 13 year old girl's possible contribution towards her rape.

It is an uncomfortable question only because quite rightly, nothing can be said to justify rape, or to mitigate the actions of the rapist.

Perhaps the better question might be, given the daily reality that we live in an environment replete with sexual predators (both male and female), are there some circumstances and environments and behaviours that 13 year old girls would do better avoiding?

I would have thought addressing this question was fundimental to responsible parenting, and a prerequiste to keeping ones teenagers safe, regardless of how inexcusable the actions of rapists.

Do sensible precautions place restrictions on our civil liberties? Of course they do. Do you lock your car when parked on the street? Lock your home when you retire for the night?

Do taking these precautions justify the actions of the thief? Of course not, but they are grounded in common sense and based upon an informed understanding of the human condition.

Unknown said...

If you don't have time to read the entirety of Mr du Fresne's scintillating defence of the indefensible, a reasonable replication of it can be found here:

Unknown said...

Brendan said:

Perhaps the better question might be, given the daily reality that we live in an environment replete with sexual predators (both male and female), are there some circumstances and environments and behaviours that 13 year old girls would do better avoiding?

I was going to content myself with a snide-by link, but this comment bears challenging:

It does not matter what any 13 year old girl (or boy) does or does not do, the entire culpability of the crime is on the rapist.

And that goes for every rape, no matter the age of the person raped.

If one is stabbed in the chest, one does not say to the stabbing victim, "What did you do to provoke them? Did you egg them on? Did you ask to get stabbed? What did you expect, wearing that flimsy button-down shirt? If you didn't want to get stabbed, you should've worn body armour."

By all means, lets educate our children. But let's really educate them, and that includes telling boys and young men that rape is not OK and no means no and don't be that guy.

Because, obviously, some men and boys are not getting that message.

Stephen said...

I can only conclude that some of you haven't actually read what I've said. Or if you have, you've decided I meant something else.

Karl, it's good of you to have addressed those respondents who either didn't read your post or didn't address the points you made.

I look forward to your answer to those of us who specifically addressed the content of your post. It's taking you a while, but I guess you are giving it a lot of consideration.

Karl du Fresne said...

Please see my more recent post on this topic.