There’s a poster that’s been live on the Internet for a while. UKIP don’t like it, obviously, but apparently one UKIP politician likes it so little that he actually tried to get the police to have it taken down.
I was quite doubtful about this blog when I first read it, because it seemed so improbable that any politician would do anything so damaging to his own party.
[Update: But apparently that Cambridgeshire UKIP councillor is not the only UKIP representative to think the police’s job is to stifle criticism of their party: Ukip’s South East chairman Janice Atkinson and her fellow candidates Patricia Culligan and Alan Stevens have written to the police this week demanding they arrest any protester who calls them “fascists”.]
Yesterday afternoon as I was debating whether to continue watching some lame James Caan movie about midget submarines, I was disturbed by a police officer peering through my lounge window. I do live on the ground floor, so not as surprising as you may have imagined. I went to the door and there were two constables there. The first thing they said was that there was nothing to be worried about, they just wanted to come in for a chat. Not something that has ever happened to me before, but I showed them in and sat them on the sofa.
They wondered if I was the Michael Abberton on Twitter and I said yes. Then they said this was in relation to a complaint that had been made by a certain political party in relation to tweets I had published about them and one tweet in particular which talked about ten reasons to vote for them. The PC wanted to know if I had made that poster. I explained that I hadn’t but it had been doing the rounds on Twitter for a while, and so I had decided to see if these claims could be verified.
There were two big arguments going on in non-party-political politics the past two years: lifting the ban on same-sex marriage (England and Wales, 29th March: Scotland, sometime this autumn after the Commonwealth Games and this other thing: Northern Ireland as soon as they lose the court case).
Making it legal for same-sex couples to marry, matters hugely to people in same-sex relationships, obviously, but to everyone else aside from a small number of seriously homophobic fanatics, it’s no big deal: two-thirds of the population of Scotland agreed that gay marriage should be made legal in a 2012 poll.
This other thing that is happening in Scottish politics: the referendum. In the US, where they have referendums whenever they can get enough voters to sign off on one, they went through a phase of holding referenda in which voters were invited to agree that “marriage is between a man and a woman”, which was then held to mean that marriage between a man and a man, or a man and a woman, was unlawful. In the UK we referend much more rarely, and only – so cynics say – when the government thinks they can get the public to vote the way they want.
On Tuesday 8th January, Suzanne Moore’s essay on the power of female anger went up on the New Statesman website. I read through it, liked it, winced at one line in it, and glanced at Twitter and saw I had not been the only one to like, but to wince. I also saw Moore’s reaction to the polite criticism she was getting, and I thought “Someone should explain to her why this is going to get people upset” and in this spirit (and because it seemed an appropriate article for LGBT.co.uk, for which I am contracted to Write Stuff) I wrote No, Not Moore Transphobia, pointing out too that a conversation about #TransDocFail had been going on before the article with the unfortunate line about “Brazilian transsexuals” went online.
I swear, I thought this was all going to calm down within a few days. Suzanne Moore did get a couple of very awful tweets (“cut your face off” / “you should have your head cut off”) were, while not (in my view, and I wouldn’t blame Suzanne Moore for differing in that) serious call-the-police threats, they were wretchedly unpleasant things to get – as unpleasant as the “cut your dicks off” line Moore tweeted – and I blocked both of the senders. But, most of the comments Suzanne Moore was getting initially were on the lines of “That line about Brazilian transsexuals is problematic” and I thought that once she cooled down, read the open letters and blog posts written by women for whom (I assumed) she could feel nothing but respect, she would have to admit; she screwed up.
What I didn’t think of either – and should have – was that the situation for trans women in Brazil was not going to get any better just for Suzanne Moore taking up all the media attention possible and claiming this was all about her hurt feelings. The distress of the privileged is real distress, even if it is different in scale from injustice. Moore was celebrating the anger of women: shouldn’t she get that anger is splendid even when it was directed at something she wrote?
Stories that you’ll never now hear from Wikileaks:
On 19 November 2011
the President of the National Assembly, Fernando Cordero, issued a public warning against Betty Escobar, an Ecuadorian citizen who lives in the United States. Through the micro-blogging social network Twitter, Cordero warned Escobar to “change her language or she would soon regret her licentiousness,” after she tweeted a comment that was critical of the official.