miss_s_b: (Politics: Post Feminism)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
So Mike Fabricant* tweeted a tweet expressing his dislike for Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in colourful and over the top terms. And Twitter exploded. And now he has reluctantly apologised, apparently under threat of having the whip withdrawn**.

I am very uncomfortable with this.

I quite regularly say that various people give me violent urges. I am - or was - under the impression that everybody knows I never actually would rip someone's head off and spit down their neck, or tear their arm off and beat them to death with the soggy end. Such "threats" are so clearly over the top and unlikely that it's obvious I am indulging in hyperbole, surely? We all remember the Twitter Joke Trial, right? We all thought it was dead obvious that Paul Chambers was only kidding. And I would say the same applies to Mr Fabricant's "threat" to punch Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the throat to save himself from brainsplosion. Mike Fabricant might be a total arsehole, but I think it's vanishingly unlikely that, were he booked to debate on TV with Yasmin, he would crush her windpipe in front of the cameras. If only for self preservation.

But even if he were likely to follow through on his "threat", I still don't think that's reason to stop him fom saying it. I would rather arseholes say arsehole-ish things so we can point and laugh at them*** and recognise them for the arseholes they are than that they silently think arsehole-ish things and we all think they are not really arseholes.

I am also deeply uncomfortable with him being forced to apologise under threat of being sacked. If he apologises of his own free will that shows he has learned that being an arsehole hurts people and hurting people is bad. If he is forced to apologise like a reluctant toddler, all that teaches him is that he can't express his views without suffering opprobrium, not that his views are the problem. If the Tory party think his tweet was unacceptable they should take some disciplinary action****, not threaten him with disciplinary action unless he makes an apology he clearly doesn't mean.

I am a big defender of freedom of speech because misogynists and racists and homophobes and transphobes are people I want to avoid*****, and to avoid them I need to know who they are. If we ban them from expressing their views then it makes them much harder to spot. I'd like misogynists and racists and homophobes and transphobes to feel perfectly free to spew as much bile as they like.

Of course I'd like it even more if society didn't reward them with airtime and newspaper columns and positions of power for being misogynists and racists and homophobes and transphobes, even while po-facedly shaking its head and making them fauxpologise, but I realise that's a pipe dream.

* you have NO idea how hard I have had to try to avoid childish purposeful misspelling of his name throughout this post
** according to Cathy Newman, anyway.
*** or shake our heads and tut disapprovingly, or whatever.
**** I am bang behind freedom of association, as well as freedom of speech, and if I were the Tory party I'd sack Fabricant for being an unrepentant arsehole, not make him pretend to repent like that makes everything OK.
***** Some days I have enough spoons to want to debate with them, but not today.

On The Other Hand . . .

Date: Friday, June 20th, 2014 05:13 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Fabricant has a problem with women: he just can't stop offending them. I find this incident disturbing because it clearly reveals how he views women and that view is A Bad Thing.

Had he tweeted a threat to punch Rod Liddle in the throat he should have been promoted.

Date: Friday, June 20th, 2014 06:15 pm (UTC)
andrewducker: (Default)
From: [personal profile] andrewducker
But nobody has stopped him from saying it.

He said it, the mass ranks of Twitter shook their heads and tutted disapprovingly, and then he retracted it.

The Independent article doesn't say he was forced to retract it - but if he was told to apologise or be removed from an organisation then that's an individual organisation exercising their Freedom of Association and deciding not to associate with him any more.

I'm against him arrested for saying it, and I think he should have the right to do so. But that doesn't mean people can't say he's a terrible person, or apply social pressure on him.

Date: Friday, June 20th, 2014 07:01 pm (UTC)
andrewducker: (Default)
From: [personal profile] andrewducker
Aaah, I hadn't encountered that. And I'm with you, and against them, if that helps.

Sorry you're having a fragile time at the moment, I hope you feel better soon.

Date: Friday, June 20th, 2014 09:10 pm (UTC)
andrewducker: (Default)
From: [personal profile] andrewducker
I shall turn off my solutionising chip and put on my supportive hat for it.

Violent metaphors in online debate

Date: Friday, June 20th, 2014 09:24 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Michael Fabricant suggested that a political opponent deserved a "hypothetical throat punch". In various fora, repeatedly, I have read that the "bad guy" (a man convicted of whatever crime) should look over his shoulder before picking up the soap in prison shower (a reference to male prison rape). The soap "joke" is regularly used on TV and radio.

I don't believe that Fabricant or most of the anonymous commentators sought violence. The words were just stupid, ill considered with regard to long term consequences. To me it seems that one pillock using a violent metaphor has been singled out. Identification of a single instance does not achieve much.

Date: Saturday, June 21st, 2014 08:59 am (UTC)
londonkds: (bitch please (nostalgia))
From: [personal profile] londonkds
It's a greater slur on Fabricant that he was moved to rage in defence of Rod Liddle, a genuinely evil trollumnist who has boasted about deliberately feeding a child with full-blown caeliac disease bread (because it's all just beardy-weirdy food crankery), and was the only paid writer to overtly defend the online hate campaign against Mary Beard (with a column that, genuinely, could be "shorter"-ed as "Mary Beard is a stupid ugly old cow who is getting what she deserves for being a stupid ugly old cow who they only put on TV so we can all laugh at what a stupid ugly old cow she is").

Date: Saturday, June 21st, 2014 09:26 am (UTC)
djm4: (Default)
From: [personal profile] djm4
As it happens, when a white man expresses a desire to punch a woman of colour, there's enough difference in power, likelihood of getting away with it and just plain history there to stop it being obvious to me that it's bluster. But I agree that legislating on threats of violence is difficult, so let's assume for the sake of argument that Michael Fabricant is indeed self-aware and enlightened enough to be able to threaten to hit someone as a joke. And let's assume that Yasmin Alibhai-Brown knows it to be an idle threat, so that we don't have to get into the complex subject of 'harm' done to an individual by threats of violence that they take seriously, and can straightforwardly regard his tweet as something that harms no-one and should thus not be the concern of the police.

On those assumptions, I agree. But I think that we also need to look at many of the responses to the tweet in the same light. Many of the people calling for such speech to be banned, or calling for him to be sacked, are doing pretty much the same thing he is; making overblown threats that they wouldn't follow through on because they're angry and pissed off. They, too, are doing the equivalent of threatening to blow up Robin Hood Airport, and should be taken about as literally.

Date: Saturday, June 21st, 2014 09:43 am (UTC)
djm4: (Default)
From: [personal profile] djm4
Yes, I agree with all of that.

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