Monday, 16 May 2011

"Witch, witch, burn her, burn her!"

I gather that Nadine Dorries, Tory MP and doyenne of those who aren't that keen on our supposedly libertine sexual culture, has been at it again. From what I understand, Nadine has commented that, if we encouraged girls to abstain from sex, there would be less 'sexual abuse'. Now I appreciate that such comments seem illogical but that surely doesn't merit the sort of completely over-the-top, lunatic reaction as we actually got:

@Chrisisis Lot of agreement about how repulsive #Dorries is, so lets spread the word about #SlutWalk Manchester

@Hhaylo: If #Dorries was a man, calls for resignation & accusations of misogyny would be widespread. Despicable that as a woman she gets away with it

...and so on - endless tweets and retweets castigating this MP. For what? For having an opinion - one I disagree with - but an opinion nonetheless. The reaction is frankly rather ridiculous - there's a case to be made and an argument to be had about sex education, about the attitude of men towards women and about sexual promiscuity. But these are debates - those who hold the opposite view are not evil people merely people with whom we don't agree.

In this case the reaction demonstrates a real weakness in the arguments supporting 'establishment' views relating to sex education, sexual behaviour and morality. If, when the established assumptions are criticised, the only response is ad hominum attack, over-reaction and the construction of legions of straw men we really do have a problem. Nadine Dorries may well be wrong but I'm also sure she isn't "repulsive", a "misogynist" or even "despicable".

The reaction - the frothing mobb of unpleasantnness - brings to mind the 17th century witch crazes where innocent (and sometimes not so innocent) comments were blown out of all proportion as the crowds yelled:

"Witch, witch! Burn her, burn her!"

So much for a rational society and grown up debate.


Anonymous said...

Your argument would hold water if a) Dorries was putting forward a logical, well-researched, carefully-expressed point of view, and b) her public pronouncements wouldn't have a detrimental effect on anyone (beyond annoyance and distaste).

However. She hasn't put forward a logical argument - she hasn't laid out how exactly saying no to sex when you have a choice in the matter can possibly save you when someone takes that choice away from you. It's nonsense.

And it *does* have a direct, negative effect, because her nonsense reinforces the idea that abuse victims are somehow to blame. She's helping to stop crimes being reported, and she's adding to victims' trauma, and she's letting abusers know that they're not *really* bad people after all.

I haven't noticed any excessive responses to Nadine's statement - the ones I've read have been very thoughtful, in fact surprisingly restrained in the circumstances. Shock and disgust at her words isn't the same thing as a demand for her public burning. :/

Dick Puddlecote said...

The reaction to the Rally Against Debt was similar. No attempt at debate, just an endless stream of ad homs and 'mine is bigger than yours' type comments. It's what tends to happen when one challenges any 'consensus', I've noticed.

Pam Nash said...

I've now wish to be drawn into an argument on the rights or wrongs of Dorries' pronouncements; but I do find the 'pack' mentality, and the hounding of Dorries, deeply offensive. If Dorries stood in the street handing out free £50 notes, a certain group of people would howl with indignation that she had no right to have so much money