So I thought I’d said about as much as I wanted to say to Mike Buchanan of Justice for Men and Boys.
Then I received an email. Since in my last thread I’d publicly stated that if Mike were to offer one of his public challenges to me I would probably file it in the bin, Mike didn’t issue a challenge. Instead he issued a “request.” And he’d gone to all the trouble of typing it up into a letter on headed notepaper and printing it to a pdf and everything.
I should have just filed it, as promised. But I couldn’t resist. My reply is below. After this, I promise, I shall move on to more interesting matters.
Every day I read things that are not true. Our newspapers are full of things that are not true. Our politicians say things that are not true. People write me letters and emails telling me things that are not true.
For example, your letter to me, after a preamble and quoting my words at length, begins:
‘We live in an era when the EU has announced its intention to introduce legislation to ban anti-feminist speech, a matter not mentioned by any major news outlet in the UK to the best of my knowledge.’
The reason this has not been mentioned in any major new outlet is because it is not true. It is not just slightly factually mistaken, it is palpably, unequivocally 100% false. The EU has made no such announcement. The EU does not have the legal power to prescribe domestic law on areas such as hate speech to nation states, even if it wanted to – and there is no evidence that it does
What the article on A Voice For Men describes is a document prepared by an NGO called the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation - which has no authority whatsoever – who have submitted it to the European Parliament Civil Liberties Committee (which itself has no meaningful authority whatsoever) and if you read the actual document, it amounts to suggestions to nation states as to what laws they might want to pass against hate speech. I can find no evidence that the European Parliament Civil Liberties Committee plans to do anything with it. You really shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet, you know.
You go on to say:
‘You must surely be aware of how feminist-friendly the British media are.’
No. I am not. The Guardian is certainly very feminist-friendly, as is the Independent. They have, between them, fewer than 300,000 daily circulation. The Daily Mail and the Sun between them have around 4 million. The Evening Standard, the Telegraph, the Star, the Express and the Times have another two and a half million or so between them. For every column with a vaguely feminist tint by Suzanne Moore or even Janet Street Porter, there are the dozens of columns by Richard Littlejohn, Melanie Phillips, James Delingpole, Peter Oborne etc etc etc.
This does not begin to address the point that the great bulk of news coverage - on issues such as family policy, female celebrities, coverage of crime, coverage of economic and political matters in the vast majority of British media is not what anyone could call feminist friendly.
You ask, ‘Is it not one of the duties of the media to challenge prominent figures who make ‘unequivocally, demonstrably false claims?’
Yes, it should be. And the more important the claim, and prominent the figure, the more important it is that they are challenged. When we look at the downright falsehoods uttered almost daily by Iain Duncan Smith about benefits claimants, by Michael Gove about schools; the utter falsehoods about the EU that regularly appear on the front pages of the Mail and the Express; about immigration and asylum seekers by the Sun and the Star, we should all be deeply concerned. These lies and falsehoods have a major and damaging impact on our political culture and democracy, and in some cases create real and often horrific hardship for vulnerable individuals.
In comparison to the above, whether or not the (with all due respect to her) almost entirely obscure and powerless feminist Caroline Criado-Perez is accurate in what she says about the impacts of women on the boards of companies strikes me as almost entirely trivial.
Quite a large proportion of my output as a writer is devoted to challenging or correcting falsehoods and mistakes on issues of gender that circulate in the media. Those include falsehoods and mistakes propagated by feminists, by men’s rights activists, and by those such as Hanna Rosin who float somewhere between. I actively support and champion projects such as fullfact.org which are devoted full time to correcting the innumerable mistakes and falsehoods in the political and media realm. I don’t need any prompts, challenges or ‘requests’ to challenge any specific writers or campaigners, I have a whole media smorgasbord to choose from on any given day of the week if I so choose.
I certainly don’t need advice to pick out feminists as being uniquely dishonest or untrustworthy. When compared to the shameless mendacity and full-blown propaganda of the corporate right wing media, feminist activists and journalists are, frankly, small beer. To single out feminists would be to imply that feminists are uniquely guilty of dishonesty or inaccuracy and that would be, ironically enough, both dishonest and inaccurate.
So the answer to your request is no. In the meantime, if you are really concerned about truth and accuracy, you might want to consider issuing one of your ‘public challenges’ (or indeed ‘requests’) to A Voice for Men to demand that they delete their entirely false claim that the EU intends to introduce legislation to ban anti-feminist speech.
You are very welcome to publish both your letter to me and this response, should you have the decency. In the meantime, I don’t intend to continue our correspondence in any serious way. I find that in order to have a sensible conversation with you, I have to spend a good few minutes correcting the innumerable mistakes and falsehoods in everything you write, and to be honest, I have more important things to do with my time.
All the best