To my dear learned colleague, Chris Trotter – you are terribly wrong and I disagree strongly

By   /   November 15, 2013  /   26 Comments

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You are a friend, a mentor and someone who has inspired me from my first moments of entering the media.
But I think you are terribly wrong with your latest column.

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To my dear learned colleague, Chris Trotter. You are one of the leading left wing commentators in NZ, of that there can be little doubt. Your book, ‘No Left Turn‘ is one of the most important political contributions to a wider understanding of left wing history in NZ and your moving speech at the Auckland memorial of Rod Donald is a constant reminder that if you outlive me, I want you speaking at my funeral.

You are a friend, a mentor and someone who has inspired me from my first moments of entering the media.

But I think you are terribly wrong with your latest column.

Comrade, Giovanni Tiso has shown what activism in the 21st Century and the influence blogs can produce. Attacking that new power in the way you have seems disengenuous to the very activist base we have always been a part of. Technical points of freedom of speech seem meaningless in a world where you can say anything online. Slater’s sleaze diving into Len’s affair provides ample evidence that if you want a voice, no matter how repugnant that voice, you can share it.

If NZ was really hankering for Willie & JTs brand of misogyny, they can start a podcast. This is not the stomping out of freedom of speech, what happened here was a pouring out of righteous anger that reclaimed the public sphere.

The last thing we would want is what is being considered in Australia by banning such activism.

As for your cultural assumptions…comrade, it doesn’t matter if the framing is cultural, religious, theoretical or academic. It prevents responsibility being placed where it has to be – at the rapist.

Just pause. If the 1% conviction rate is true, that’s 99% of rape victims and those whanau impacted by that rape seeing no justice whatsoever. That means tens of thousands of historical rapes that have never seen justice. Chris, Imagine tens of thousands of murders never seeing justice. Tens of thousands of tortures never seeing justice. The finer points of freedom of speech just don’t even appear when lined up to that ocean of pain.

I personally believe that what is required now is for the male commentators to step back, shut up and listen to the women and whanau who have been damaged by rape. What will be said will be angry, it will be cutting, it will challenge our privilege and it will force many men to re-evaluate our role in rape culture while popping and deflating some male pride and ego.

It’s not going to be pleasant, but it will be righteous and justified and when you consider the historical legacy of injustice perpetrated upon all the invisible victims of rape, it’s something we need to front up to with some humility and dignity.

It’s the very least the debate requires from us.

I don’t think your column, Chris, managed to appreciate that, and, it sounded defensive and out of touch while being ridiculous in its assumptions on Rape Culture. You may have technical freedom of speech points, that may be right, but that pales into insignificance when compared to the pain of rape injustice.

It’s time we let the wahine speak, Chris, and it’s time we just listened.

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PLEASE NOTE: In light of what has been exposed by the Roast Buster debate, TDB will be actively seeking more female bloggers for the site. Our commitment is to provide more women with a platform.

Martyn Bradbury
TDB Editor

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26 Comments

  1. Julz says:

    Very very well said Martyn- it is hard for all of us to recognise our own privilege and in NZ society there is no-one more privileged than the educated white male. His voice is important but it has dominated for too long.

  2. You’ll “let” the Wahine speak?

    That’s mighty big of you.

    • Ovicula says:

      It’s a step up from actively silencing them, which is what has happened in a lot of left fora for many years.

    • fatty says:

      Yes “let” Rumi. That’s one important way that privilege can be transferred. The privileged need to step aside and create space.
      Don’t get all titchy over nothin

  3. “If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Stalin and Hitler, for example, were dictators in favor of freedom of speech for views they liked only. If you’re in favor of freedom of speech, that means you’re in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.”

    – Noam Chomsky, in the documentary film “Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media” (1992)

    • Crunchtime says:

      In all conscience, I cannot say that blaming a rape victim and perpetuating rape culture qualifies for “freedom of speech”.

  4. “What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”
    Salman Rushdie, as quoted in “The right to be downright offensive” by Jonathan Duffy in BBC News Magazine (21 December 2004)

    • Ovicula says:

      Rushdie should have added “With official protection by the West, freedom to offend can be hugely profitable.” Sorry, but I can’t take the guy seriously.

  5. “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”
    – John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

  6. Arthur Monteath-Carr says:

    People keep misconstruing what happened to John Tamihere and Willie Jackson as “censorship.” It was nothing of the sort.

    We have freedom of speech. What people fail to appreciate is that free speech has consequences.

    All that happened was this: Willie & JT freely spoke their views, as they are entitled to. The advertisers, once made aware of the situation, were perfectly free to withdraw their support from the programme. The studio bosses then chose to remove them from the airwaves as a result.

    All rational, free actors, acting in accordance with their consciences, and perfectly entitled to do so.

  7. unsol says:

    Given that 99% of rapists are men & 93% of the victims are women, this is a good call. Rape, sexual abuse – 1 in 4 women have had this happen by the time they turn 16 (in my circle I know 2 rape survivors & 3 sexual abuse survivors. 1 went to the police & you guessed it – not enough evidence to convict. Date rape is very very common & next to impossible to prove). So yeah, sorry freedom of expression does have its limits – the idea that you can just say what you like without consequence is a myth – and when it comes to something that men generally know squat about, have almost zero personal experience with, then it is best to just put up or shut up. After all, we don’t really want to hear any more men say “she just had to close her legs” do we?
    I say this of course acknowledging that men & boys are sexually assaulted too, but by allowing women to dominate this conversation rest assured that we will validate & show empathy towards ALL rape & sexual abuse survivors.
    The best thing than men can do is promote campaigns like the Canadian Don’t be THAT guy one, to look at their own lives, look at how they treat their wives, daughters, sons & the example they are setting, and leave the rape talk to women. We instinctively know how far is too far, men as a general rule don’t. So yes, let us do the talking while you guys get on with the doing – being better men, husbands, fathers & sons & let your wives, daughters, mothers know that if they are ever raped or sexually assaulted it is NEVER their fault. That rapists cause rape. Nothing else.

  8. Leanne Pooley says:

    This is NOT a freedom of speech issue. Willie and JT have not been arrested, tortured or killed for their views. They expressed them freely and if they want they can continue to do so. They just can’t ask someone else to pay for their soap box. The deep seated misogyny they revealed on their radio programme was repugnant to many of us in the community and we are “free” to express our anger through not helping to pay for their megaphone.

  9. Dean Smythe says:

    “The advertisers, once made aware of the situation, were perfectly free to withdraw their support from the programme”

    No they weren’t, the inference was that if they didn’t withdraw support they would be tarnished as supporting the roastbusters.

    This is a trite, childish piece, that appears to have missed the entire point of Chris Trotters original article.

    • Arthur Monteath-Carr says:

      The advertisers were free to withdraw their support, or not.
      The public would then be free to boycott those advertisers- or not.
      I think you’ll find it’s freedom all the way down.

    • Arthur Monteath-Carr says:

      Also, from what I’ve been able to gather, the original thrust of Chris’ article is “Willie & JT were innocent because 1) they didn’t know any better and 2) they are brown and anyone disagreeing with them is racist.” No, really, that is an actual thing that actual Chris Trotter actually said.

      For. Fucks. Sake.

  10. peterlepaysan says:

    Yes they should be of air for a very long time.

    Media types seem to need to be blabber mouthed (usually loud) arrogant egoistical bullies and the majority are, they need to (indeed crave) ATTENTION.

    Media types are always playing to an audience.

    Playing to an audience requires skill, judgement (including respect), ask any seasoned stage actor, not schoolboy playground crapola.

    These two idiots have never had respect for anything except their own egos

  11. peterlepaysan says:

    Further to the above post advertisers pressure should never be a factor in deciding who hosts, writes, presents a media event.

    Advertisers are trailers (no pun intended) to media programmes.

    Advertisers make very very bad tractors.

    Both WJ and JT needed to be booted off because of their contempt of rape victims (under age just makes it worse).

    • Pascal's bookie says:

      Meanwhile, in the world that actually exists, commercial radio’s reason for existing is to deliver ears to advertisers. That is it’s business.

  12. Win says:

    Those two were living on the edge for a long time and their opinions stated as fact and ‘blamed’ on the context in which they live, annoyed many people, Māori included. While they may have done much for Māori and urban Māori in particular they have also benefited from what they have done and sit at the brown table, beneficiaries of all that comes from this location. Perhaps the angry and intense reaction was as much a result of this perception of privilege coupled with their their ‘stink’ arrogant attitude toward Amy.
    They are quite entitled to say what they like but they just don’t get paid for it this time around. They can set up their own blog, paper, radio programme, soap box and say whatever. Maybe their brothers and sisters at the table will sponsor them.

  13. C. H. says:

    Chris seems to believe that freedom of speech means the freedom for oppressors to go about and propagate their harmful views.

    Should racists and fascists also be allowed to freely recruit people to their cause? Why should a democratically-elected government not take progressive action in defence of the people’s common interests?

  14. Max says:

    In no way condoning the obnoxious aberrant behaviour of such scum as the Auckland rapists. As a man my relationship life with women has included terrible abuse in the background including multiple occasions as a child and teen by different people amongst the worst in terms of physical damage she claims was a lesbian rape.
    However I would challenge the perpetrators of the notion that we have a ‘rape culture’ to produce credible stats with the original research sites, for their claims. My reasonably extensive study in gender issues suggest a lot of stats stated are political agenda masquerading as research. The 1 in 4 women being abused can be traced to amongst other possibilities, a Canadian campus study which included verbal altercations between lovers as abuse. I note that this stat is being used by a commenter, just this week, on Hand Mirror as 1 in 4 women raped in their life time. It is also evident that rape has been redefined, within this political agenda as that of sex lacking explicit consent or where after sex the woman feels violated. This last is only a short ‘distance’ to ‘she regrets’ the sex. Where in this distortion of reality of abuse does the claim of only 1 rape in 100 gains a conviction, sit? The law rightly requires evidence of actual rape.
    I would suggest that at least some of the ‘rape culture’ portrayal of our society is just like US president Bush and his bullshit ‘war on terror’ used to promote an illegal war and to dismantle the norms of democracy. That is ‘fear’ is a political tool to drive an agenda of a gender divide. In this human issues being portrayed as a problem gender. In playing this obnoxious divide game, what accounts for the ‘elephant in the room’ of the considerable influence of the mother in the raising of these aberrant humans? Further in exaggerating a real evil, called rape, the real victims are diminished.
    I have written elsewhere that the overarching agenda is the economic changes we have lived through in the last few decades.
    http://mountainmax.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/feminism-as-monica-under-the-desk-manipulated-puppets-of-neo-liberal-globalism-2/
    That said we obviously have problems of disrespect translating into violence in our streets. Yes rapists are responsible for rape and violent thugs are the ones that bash others. However to look behind the violent deeds we now debate, how much of the ‘rape culture’ and general violence in its reality in the streets has arisen out of the wholesale guilt tripping of males.
    After 50 years of social influence from second wave feminism, young boys get a fairly clear message about the evils males do in our society. The irksome ‘male villain/female always victim’ is well absorbed by these boys who lack the cognitive ability to question the reality of this. Add to this the reality of somewhere around 20% unemployment for the young which is clearly impacted on a gender basis, by the relative failure of boys in our schools.
    To take issue with a comment on men needing to be role models. What of the openly declared war by radical feminism on the institution of the nuclear family and its contribution to sole parenting? What of our schools where male teachers have been chased away because they know they have targets on their backs around children arising from an exasperated societal focus on paedophilia. The education failure of males is further seen at the university level, with one third male to two thirds female at undergrad level. These undereducated and underemployed go onto be society’s druggies and the population in our growing prisons. The trail there is littered with victims. However if society has failed to show them respect why should we expect that they would show respect back?
    It is absolutely beholden upon the social movement of feminism now 50 years into its influence on society to turn its considerable ability of critique, onto itself. Most particularly when claiming a lack of achievement in the lives of women and in claiming violence is no better towards women. Because if that is true then the methods used to date are the failure.
    Respect arises out of speaking all truths, about including all the factors in a problem and seeking the solutions from open and honest debate. These issues are human not gendered.

    • Arthur Monteath-Carr says:

      Rape culture is a real thing.

      If you were stabbed in the chest, and took the time to get stitched up before going to the police, the cops wouldn’t ask what you did to provoke your attacker. They wouldn’t suggest that you were asking to be stabbed, leaving the house dressed like that. They wouldn’t imply that if only you’d fought back hard enough you wouldn’t have been injured, and as such there was nothing they could do.

      Afterwards, people would be sympathetic. They would not judge you, or think that somehow your worth was lessened by being stabbed, that you were somehow corrupted and impure because of it. Future romantic partners wouldn’t recoil in horror if they learned that -gasp!- you’d let a man stab you, while you were drunk or drugged.

      Rape culture is a gender theory word to describe an actual lived experience for many- far too many- women and men and transgender people. To suggest that the real problem is second wave feminism is insulting and ill informed.

      (Second wave has its problems, but this is why feminism is an evolving phenomenon. Just as the third and fourth wave will someday need revision.)

  15. Max Thomas says:

    Oh my…I insulted second wave feminism! Ill informed…your interpretation is a shallow read of what I said. My challenge was to include everything in the critique as to why our society is like it is now. That is humans are still being violent towards other humans. In one sentence you say rape culture is a real thing and then you say it is a theory! Which is it? Second wave feminism and in this I refer to the radical voice, because I never had nor do I have an issue with equity feminism, has put forward a lot of theories as to how society has operated and how it could be better and yet here we are calling our society a rape culture after 50 years of social input from second wave feminism.
    It is not insulting to suggest putting all the cards on the table rather than continuing the real insult of attempting to maintain that our social problems are those of a gender divide. Where one gender is the major problem and the other has little culpability.
    Insulting… look no further than the sick misandry rants of French, Morgan, Dworkin, MacKinnon etc that masqueraded as academic writing and informs any theories in radical feminism put forward today. As for ill-informed your apparent narrow focus on what could be contributing to our social problems, will ensure we are still wringing our hands on these issues in ten years’ time.
    The linkage of second wave feminism to neo-liberal capitalism and globalisation was made in 2005 by forward thinking feminists Hester Eisenstein and Nancy Fraser. For me it is clear that attacking the nuclear family and trading such as family protected work hours and wage for 24/7 consumerism and individual based focus has produced another set of problems and these need some honesty in critique. Not more glib theory names! Further that this economic agenda depended on the gender war and this divide still help the real puppetmasters going about their day!
    As for who is insulting who, your analogy to a chest wound, I think that says more about what you think than me given my stated relationship life and the clear writing about what I think about the Auckland rapists. I also note your bias that a man did the stabbing for your world.

    • Crunchtime says:

      Far too much rambling on Matthew. It’s not “those damn feminists” problem that WJ and JT tried to say that rape was somehow the consequence of the victims’ behaviour.

      It’s not “glib” to say that WJ and JT should not have remotely touched on the subject of rape victims having any responsibility for getting raped whatsoever.

      When they ask “what is wrong with our society today” they should be asking why boys are getting brought up in total ignorance of what consent is and what rape is and the consequences it has for the victim.

      NOT what women are wearing, or what they’re drinking, or where they’re going.

    • Delia Morris says:

      You are all over the show mate. It is not feminist like me that were the rapists, it was this teenage gang.

  16. Orinoco says:

    Thank you. I just read Chris Trotters piece with dismay.

    I’ve been so angry this last week. I still am. I’m so damned angry at the (mostly) men and some women too who cannot let go of the “advice” they want to give to women about how we need to avoid rape. I’m so angry at the “rape has always been with us and always will be” mantra. It’s bullshit.

    I can’t lock my vagina away when I go out. Sometimes I have to or want to take it with me when I have to, you know, live my life outside my home!

    Anyway, their “advice” would have been useless to me when I was first raped at 13. I was a child. Just turned 13 from a small town and sheltered home.

    I’m so angry, disappointed and dismayed at the mainstream dialogue in NZ this week. I see the words “rape culture” for the first time in the mainstream, but it seems many just don’t know what it is.

    So thank you for pointing out that men need to STFU and listen. Just listen to us. Rape really is a crime so horrible. I still have indelible effects of it 30 years later! I’ve been burgled and had my car stolen. Rape is different.

    We will never be able to reduce rape if we keep harping on about what women do wrong to get raped. We need to look at what causes rapists to rape. And that means we need to look at men and their behaviours. I suspect this makes many men very uncomfortable so they’d rather not.

    Well guys, put on your big boy pants and grow up. We need your help. This will not change without your input. But you have to let those of us who have been raped and sexually abused lead on this one, and this includes all genders.



Authorised by Martyn Bradbury, The Editor, TheDailyBlog, 5 Victoria St East/Queen St, CBD, Auckland, New Zealand.