Self-Righteous Silencing OR The Kuenssberg Conflation
38 Degrees, a very popular and populist independent campaigning group, recently took down a petition objecting to the political bias of journalist Laura Kuenssberg because of sexist and misogynistic comments made by very few commenters on social media. Their reasons for making such a decision can be found here.
It had been claimed that 38 Degrees themselves supported sexism by allowing the petition to continue although research showed that of all the tens of thousands of signatures to the petition only one or two misogynistic comments could be found as evidenced by the google cache of comments as at 11th May 2016 at 9.29 pm GMT.
This is silencing of the worst type. It takes a very serious issue such as sexism and misogyny experienced by women in the media spotlight and uses it to suppress any dissenting opinion and political viewpoint.
Laura Kuenssberg has a track record of proven bias towards the right wing parties most particularly evidenced in the recent elections across the United Kingdom along with her colleagues. This petition was intended to give voice to those objecting to such bias and was addressed to Ms Kuenssberg as she is the Political Editor of BBC News at the BBC and fronts Newsnight, the flagship BBC political broadcast. It was suppressed, based on false and/or misleading accusations.
Sexism, misogyny, indeed any form of discriminatory language, is faced by those who are female/BAME/transgender/disabled/poor/working class/non-heterosexual all the time. It is nothing new, and indeed the twitterati have been discussing misogyny and violent language directed at feminists for a very long time (since the inception of Twitter, basically). So why was this petition taken down, and why was it this petition and only this petition that was attacked?
I strongly believe it was to silence those who object to the clear bias of Ms Kuenssberg and the BBC’s political department. It’s no coincidence that this happened right before the BBC Charter is up for debate and renewal, and it is a relief to read today that the government will not have the draconian powers it wished to have. Yet. But this is not a blog about the BBC.
By throwing accusations of sexism and misogyny at the petition, however truthful, the point of the petition was lost and the debate was gas-lighted into self-righteous congratulation at ‘supporting’ a female who was being abused. Where is the support for all those women who are abused elsewhere? How convenient for those who wanted the petition gone to have an opportunity of proving themselves as non-sexist in suppressing the voice, ignoring the fact the petition itself was not sexist at all.
If we allow this to continue, then anyone who does not like what a person is saying, or a group is doing, or a campaign point of view, can get a group together and write some reprehensible discriminatory commentary on social media, and hey presto! All opposition is suppressed and silenced and it is for ‘good reasons’. Somebody is indeed ‘thinking of the children’.
I am a feminist. A rampant feminist, as I have been called in the past and embrace as a compliment. I oppose sexism and misogyny in every form. I am an intersectional feminist; I strongly believe equality of opportunity cannot exist if any form of discrimination still exists. It is absolutely right to object to the sexism and misogyny which is addressed to anyone, whatever their political leanings and however reprehensible one might find their personal activity.
It is absolutely unacceptable to suppress and silence using unrelated anti-discrimination rhetoric as the reason.
We saw the same thing recently with the anti-semitism scandals in the Labour Party being broadcast far and wide (background and more in-depth discussion of this here) whilst the racism in the Tory Party being barely reported upon or discussed (link is to an old story, as an example).
Rightly, racism, anti-semitism and islamophobia must be confronted and has no place in modern politics. Wrongly, the fight is not being applied equally and is being used to silence opposition and suppress dissention on entirely unrelated topics.
Self-righteous silencing makes me feel sick to my core. It suppresses dissent. It perpetuates the very discrimination it uses to silence. There is very definitely sexism and misogyny being directed towards Ms Kuenssberg, and that is wrong. That as the first Editor of BBC Newsnight to be female it was to be expected she would face such sexism is both depressing and wrong. That does not mean she is not biased in her reporting, nor that the BBC has been proven to be biased towards the right wing parties in their political broadcasts and news coverage. The two topics are not mutually exclusive.
If the support for those suffering discrimination was honestly intended and truly felt, it would be applied across the board regardless of those who are suffering at the hands of such discrimination. That it is not is very telling. It is a politics of black-and-white. Of no grey areas. Of conflation of ideologies. There is sexism throughout society, just as there is racism and all other forms of discrimination. To use the fight against such discrimination to suppress voices of dissent is insupportable.
I for one have had more than enough of the self-righteous silencing.
I expect you have too.