I came across Ellie Mae O’Hagan on twitter today, who claims in her twitter biog to be a “Socialist, feminist, columnist”.
Her twitter ID is @MissEllieMae, and she wrote this:
I just used my lunch break to write a twitlonger on Lord McAlpine. Damn you Twitter twitlonger.com/show/k1bdr7
— Ellie Mae O’Hagan (@MissEllieMae) November 16, 2012
Feel free to go read, then come back here. I’m going to break it down and comment.
I want to expand on the tweets I put out this morning regarding Lord McAlpine’s decision to sue for damages after being falsely accused of abusing children.
Twitter is the sort of place where even the most obvious of sentiments must be spelled out, so let me emphasise that I recognise Lord McAlpine has been the victim of false accusations, that he has suffered immensely and unjustly, and I extend my sympathy to him.
I would like to respond firstly to the respondents who accused me of creating a ‘hierarchy of suffering’ in saying what I said. I want to be absolutely clear here: being abused as a child IS worse than being falsely accused of paedophilia. There is no doubt about that – especially as abuse survivors who speak out often become the victims of false accusations as well (they are called fantasists, liars, sluts etc). I invite anyone who wants to contradict me to ask themselves which form of suffering they would prefer.
How is this relevant? Are you trying to say it is ok to be called a paedophile because it isn’t as bad as being abused? Reading this paragraph – you are certainly establishing a hierarchy of suffering.
In any case, I was not trying to create a hierarchy of suffering. I was attempting to redress the hierarchy of suffering which ALREADY EXISTS thanks to the rape culture and privilege which exists in our society. These forces allowed the abuse of Stephen Messham to happen. These forces enabled the abuse to be covered up. These forces allowed the Mail to print a hatchet job of an abuse victim. And now they are responsible for the entire story focussing upon Lord McAlpine, instead of the pursuit of justice for survivors of abuse. That is not an accident. That is evidence of rape culture and privilege.
Consider your hierarchy of suffering created.
It is worrying that so many people are behaving as though it is just coincidence that McAlpine been the focus of the story for weeks, overshadowing the man who survived the actual abuse. It is worrying that so few (especially so few journalists) have acknowledged that this skewed focus is the result of OPPRESSIVE SOCIAL STRUCTURES which destroy the lives of many, and not just the way a news story happened to roll out.
Now I want to turn to McAlpine’s decision to sue for damages. This is his right as someone falsely accused, and I acknowledge that. But just because someone is entitled to do something, that doesn’t make it the best course of action. Let’s look at the context here: McAlpine has just received £185k from the BBC the day before its annual drive to raise money for vulnerable children. And for what? It is now accepted that he was falsely accused. Some have said ‘mud sticks,’ but I fail to see how £185k will make anyone desperate to believe the false allegations think ‘oh well now he’s got MONEY, I don’t believe it anymore.’
And yet, the twitterverse is now criticising McAlpine for not suing Scallywag for similar allegations in the 1990s. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Further, Scallywag was being sued by John Major, and promptly went bankrupt – so there was noone for McAlpine to sue.
As an already very wealthy individual, this money will not ease McAlpine’s suffering in the way that – say – Chris Jeffries’ compensation might. Given the issues of rape culture and privilege in these events (see above), I think it is the wrong decision for him to keep that money, despite him being entitled to do so.
That is entirely your opinion. You are entitled to it. But just as you think it is wrong of McAlpine to keep it (note, he hasn’t said if he is keeping it or donating it anyway), I am perfectly entitled to think you are wrong for your posturing, indeed bullying, in an attempted to coerce him into donating the settlement to abuse victims.
In addition, McAlpine’s solicitor has also said he is in possession of a ‘very long list’ of people who smeared his client. I can’t imagine all of these people are able to afford a legal case, and I suspect legal proceedings might mean financial ruin for some of them. How does that help Lord McAlpine? Will that be confirmation of his innocence? I don’t think it will make any difference to his reputation, but it will make a lot of difference to the lives of these people. Is it really proportionate? Again, Lord McAlpine is entitled to pursue this if he so wishes, but I don’t think that makes it right.
This is irrelevant to the dealings of the monies from settlement with the BBC. However, why not? He was libelled. He has a lawful right to seek redress in the courts. Twitter is not extralegal. Therefore what is the problem?
At this point I also want to point out that abuse survivors who sue are often accused of being in it for the money, and are told it should be about ‘justice.’ But when the accused sue, it is considered fair. A rape survivor contacted me this morning to tell me that when she claimed her compensation, she was smeared in a national newspaper as being a ‘slut.’ That’s another example of rape culture and privilege.
That is terrible – but it seems you are invoking the hierarchy of suffering to say McAlpine has no reason for complaint.
Finally, many have said it is not Lord McAlpine’s responsibility to stand up for Stephen Messham or survivors of child abuse, as he has not chosen to be a part of this story. Given sexual abuse is the product of rape culture and privilege (see above) which is a socially ingrained thing, we ALL have a responsibility when it comes to this. It is doubly incumbent upon Lord McAlpine to do this given how the story has refocused on him thanks to rape culture and privilege (see above). He may not have intended that, but it HAS happened. I would like to see him use this opportunity to call for justice. That could only improve his reputation.
Seriously? It was Stephen Messham who misidentified Lord McAlpine. Why on earth would he want to stand up for him? The story has not refocused. If it McAlpine’s fault that the media (and you) are mentally incapable of separating two stories and running with both?
So, given Lord McAlpine’s solicitor says he is monitoring Twitter, I have this message for him: please ask your client to consider using his influence to speak out for survivors and to donate his compensation to helping them. He is under no obligation to do so, but it would be right and decent under the circumstances, and it would help refocus this story onto the pursuit of justice for survivors.
It might be the decent thing to do. But it is your opinion that it is the right thing to do. What he does with the settlement is entirely up to him and not for you or others to persuade him what to do with it. Trying to sway public opinion with emotive rubbish like this is an abuse of position for any columnist. Further, it is only a settlement of this magnitude that will cause media owners to think twice before falsely accusing an individual of a crime.
Consider this. If McAlpine had been accused of being a thief, or a murderer and it turned out to be a false allegation. Would people be calling for him to donate any settlement to victims of theft or families of murder victimes? No? Why not? I stand by by original twitter comment:
. @misselliemae You probably should have had lunch instead of writing all that drivel.
— Paul Gregg (@pgregg) November 16, 2012
She will probably never read this because she declared me a troll and blocked me for having the audacity to disagree with her opinions.
My final comment is that those who dug themselves into the holes they are in regarding McAlpine should perhaps stop digging.