Thursday, 24 March 2011

lessons for julian assange

darren hughes is currently being investigated on charges of "a sexual nature". well that's pretty crap wording right there, based on the way reporters were framing their questions. they could have asked if the charges involved sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual violence or any more apt descriptors. really, i don't understand the need to tone down the nature of the investigation.

the only positive thing that has so far come out of this is the response to the allegations. to date i haven't seen any attempt to denigrate the person making the allegations, and i really hope that continues. i think of the awful treatment meted out to people like neelam choudary, kristin dunne-powell and so many others, and am thankful that none of that is happening here. it's possible to defend oneself with out without attacking the other person, by simply saying "i have done nothing wrong". or even adding "i intend to defend myself against these charges". julian assange could take some lessons.

there is very little information available, and i don't want to put myself of other blog writers here at risk by putting any defamatory material into this post. as things develop, i'll certainly be keeping an eye on the commentary around this young man. somehow, i don't expect anyone will be asking what he was wearing, how much he was drinking, why he was out so late, why he was alone with another person, and what he did to keep himself safe. aside from the fact that none of these issues may be relevant to this particular case, they are questions that should never be asked but are too often asked of women.

please use discretion in comments. i'll be keeping a close eye, and will close comments if needed. please comment on general issues rather than any specifics.


Hugh said...

The Assange/Hughes comparison did occur to me. Nice to know I'm not the only one.

it's possible to defend oneself with out without attacking the other person, by simply saying "i have done nothing wrong". or even adding "i intend to defend myself against these charges".

Unfortunately even in those cases the speaker is attacking the other person, albeit not directly. But by saying that the accusations are false you are, at very best, accusing the other person of not having a correct understanding of events. Which does constitute an attack.

stargazer said...

well yes hugh, but i hardly think that is equivalent to hunting down and exposing the name of the person making charges, then making comments about their appearance, their mental health, their morality, lying about the nature of the charges, letting loose your supporters to do all of the above, as well as all the other shaming techniques used against the victim.

Hugh said...

It certainly is. There are degrees of severity, and saying "This person doesn't know what they're talking about" or even "This person is lying" is much less severe than "This person is insane" or "This person was clearly asking for it". So it is possible to restrain the degree to which one attacks the other person, but not to avoid attacking them entirely.

stargazer said...

except those statements you've mentioned weren't even made, from any reports that i've seen. so if you're talking about degrees of severity, "i've done nothing wrong" is the lowest you can get apart from complete silence, and i don't see it as an attack at all.

again, i can't see it as similar to the things that the women i've mentioned in the post have had to deal with.

Hugh said...

No, I'm speaking generally now, as opposed to about this specific case. As I thought were you, at least when talking about what was possible.

But if one person says "He did something wrong" and I respond by saying "I've done nothing wrong" I am, at least by implication, accusing them of lying, if possibly unknowingly.

stargazer said...

we're now talking in circles hugh. i accept your last comment in terms of the implication (as i did in my first response to you), but i don't accept it as an attack nor in any way comparable to what others (especially women) in similar circumstances have had to endure. nor do i see "this person doesn't know what they're talking about" as a reasonable implication of the statement "i've done nothing wrong". it's quite different in nature and tone.

Deborah said...

Sure, it's a difference of degree only, but so great a difference of degree that it may as well be a difference of kind.

But really, couldn't we get away from the sort of clever nit-pickery I expect to see in 1st year critical thinking classes where it would be welcome, and concentrate on the substantive issues.

Hugh said...

Well, regarding the substantive issues I think we have to ask what is going to happen to Darren Hughes. Regardless of the legal outcome of this case, which is now for better or worse in the hands of the police and courts, there's the question of his status as a politician. I really think he has no option but to resign, effective immediately.

There are also questions to be raised over the Labour party leadership, who apparently have known about this for some time but have taken no action against Darren. I'd say this has implications for Labour's performance next election but I think they have already been reduced to their core vote, which probably won't really be effected by this.

[And as an aside... was Darren Hughes out of the closet? I had not generally heard him described as queer, but that may just be me being uninformed. If he wasn't, I'd have expected at least some commentary along the lines of "aha, I always suspected" in the blogosphere, but I'm not seeing that]

stargazer said...

uh no hugh, the substantive issues in my post were about victim-blaming and the treatment of those who lay a complaint. mr hughes' sexuality is irrelevant to any of this, which is probably why it ihasn't been raised and i'd appreciate it if you wouldn't do it here.

and thank you deborah, i was having a deja vu moment from yesterday. it's been pretty frustrating.

Hugh said...

I haven't been keeping a close eye but I haven't actually seen anything I would class as victim blaming, even in the usual places. Possibly because the usual places are quite keen about the prospect of a Labour MP taking a fall. Or possibly because, as you note, the victim in this case isn't a woman.

katy said...

Quite the opposite, as in the example of Bomber's post on this:

Interesting perspective from Sue Bradford more generally about how situations like this one affect political party candidate screening processes. Obviously Sue is not defending those who commit crimes but reflecting more broadly on what the wider impact is of situations like this being lived out in the media:

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Hugh, but I can't see anything attacking in those statements either.

"Having done nothing wrong" is not mutually exclusive of having committed a criminal act. "Wrongness" is relative. There have been laws in the recent past that could have resulted in someone becoming a criminal when most people would say they did nothing wrong. The wording is really quite important there.

Even more so with "I intend to defend...". It does not deny the act having taken place. It simply says "I don't think there is enough evidence to secure a criminal prosecution".

Not only is it not attacking the other person, it isn't even necessarily disagreeing with them.

And like stargazer, I am pleased that at least in this case there has been none of the usual questioning of the victim's activity or morals. Not yet, anyway. Sadly, I have no great expectation that it will continue.

A Nonny Moose said...

Unfortunately on National Radio this afternoon I heard them ask whether the person laying the charges was a "serial complainant". The person who answered the question quashed the idea pretty quick, but someone was looking for a victim blaming angle.

Moz said...

GoodGravey: There have been laws in the recent past that could have resulted in someone becoming a criminal when most people would say they did nothing wrong.

We still have laws like that today. Possession of child porn is a strict liability offence - you don't need to have solicited it, intentionally obtained it or even know that you have it, you are still guilty of a criminal offence. Should you, say, buy a second hand cellphone with a few saved sexts on it you could easily become a sex offender on receipt.

There's also the insanity of modern copyright law, where it's an offence to rip a CD to your ipod. The US keeps trying to make that a criminal offence via "free trade" agreements.

As far as the actual topic, I do like the way the defence has been restrained. I do wonder if the RWDB have been restrained more by homophobia, sexism and a desire to tar the alleged offender than out of genuine respect for the alleged victim.

Julie said...

Phil Goff press conference in 10 minutes is widely expected to announce Hughes' resignation as an MP. I have no inside info, just what I'm hearing through public sources.

LudditeJourno said...

I haven't seen any victim-blaming yet, including from Darren Hughes. I have noticed many commentators calling the 18 year old male a "boy" repeatedly which I've been interested in - for me this is unusual? And obviously suggests vulnerability and, because this is a same-sex situation, queer male associations with paedophilia. And I'm no politician geek, but I thought it was pretty common knowledge Darren Hughes was queer?
I'm keeping an eye on it too. Thanks for the post, Stargazer :-)