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So I heard back from the Press Council - Tactical Ninja

Nov. 20th, 2013

10:44 am - So I heard back from the Press Council

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The Herald has, of course, defended itself and Bob Jones. I'm not allowed to copy/paste their response, but here is a summary of the main arguments they make:

1. I misrepresented their previous response as "He didn't mean it, where's your sense of humour?"

2. Mr Jones is deliberately provocative and should be taken that way. The vast majority of readers did take it that way. (read: he didn't mean it)

3. He was only insulting some women, so obviously he didn't mean all of them. (he didn't mean it)

4. He was trying to be funny. (where's your sense of humour?)

5. The column does not condone violence against women. (he didn't mean it)

6. Freedom of speech is important.


Oh, I stand corrected then.

Actually, I don't. Apparently because it was all a big tongue-in-cheek joke and because the police didn't take his letter seriously, we should all have a laugh together at the amusing troll and carry on our merry way.

The only place I don't entirely disagree with them is about freedom of speech. Generally, I'm a believer. But in this instance, I think that kind of speech should have consequences for the speaker, because there are consequences for those who are the victims of the attitudes he's perpetuating.

So here is how I responded. I was permitted 150 words, this came in at 146:

"The main thrust of the Herald's defence of Mr Jones is the principle of freedom of speech, whereas my complaint is based in the principle of discrimination and diversity, which states that discussion of gender issues is legitimate when relevant and in the public interest.

Mr Jones' column entitled "Spare us from road-clogging women" is neither relevant, nor in the public interest. While I acknowledge that Mr Jones seeks to be inflammatory, his column does not exist in a vacuum. The attitudes expressed in Mr Jones' column contribute to an environment of disdain for women in this country, which in turn allows situations like the recent Roast Busters scandal to thrive. Thus, I argue that Mr Jones' inflammatory opinions are not in the public interest, but against it, through perpetuating a sexist culture. It is disappointing that the Herald seeks to defend and support such attitudes."

I refuse to call this man Sir. (I didn't put that in my response, don't worry)


I do not expect that the Press Council will uphold my complaint. Part of this is because I was unable to address individual points in my response, despite the defence from the Herald being over 500 words. Part of it is because NZ's Human Rights laws and Press Council principles treat opinion pieces as if they are special. And partly because we live in a culture where a woman objecting to being insulted and denigrated by a rich old white guy in a paper is considered to be an uppity, militant man-hater who should probably just STFU and stop being oversensitive and get a sense of humour.

Ironic, really.

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Comments:

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From:pombagira
Date:November 19th, 2013 10:06 pm (UTC)
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wow.. that is.. wow,

just because the vast majority of readers didn't take it that way, dosn't actually mean that it is right or ok to write it.. i can think of many examples where the vast majority of people thought that x was ok, when actually it wasn't..

Xraying pregnant women, the world is flat, asbestos, need i go on..

stupid press council..

also if you can't copy past their reply, can you either take a screen shot and or, can you type it out instead, hey maybe you can hand write it.. *evil grin* i mean if they are being pedantic with the letter of the law, type stuff... *evil smirk*
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From:tatjna
Date:November 19th, 2013 10:08 pm (UTC)
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1. If they bother to read the comments, they'll see that the vast majority of people actually think BJ is past it and should be put out to pasture.

2. That response is from the Herald, not the Press Council. The Press Council will now look at the various arguments and make a ruling.

3. It's got one of those confidentiality clauses, which kind of sucks. Doesn't stop me making my own response public though.
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From:t_c_da
Date:November 19th, 2013 10:20 pm (UTC)
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Yay for confidentiality clauses - we can say what we like in as many words as we like, but you're only allowed 150 words, and you can't publish what we say in our defence - what a load of cobblers.

I wonder what my daughter (who works for them) has to say about it...
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From:pombagira
Date:November 19th, 2013 10:22 pm (UTC)
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really a confidentiality clause.. really.. given the whole freedom of the press and freedom of speech thing that the herald are using currently, the confidentiality clause is rank.. and i would have to say morally just wrong.. where is the fair and with integrity in that?

*arrgghhh*
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:November 19th, 2013 10:45 pm (UTC)
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Does the confidentiality clause belong to the Herald or the Press Council?

What impact can the Press Council have when it's made a ruling?

I believe in freedom of speech, but not in freedom of speech without social consequence. I'd be concerned about legislature that resulted in state enforced sanctions against someone for expressing something unpopular/offensive (however wrong I believe it is).

(ps link to previous response is broken)
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From:tatjna
Date:November 19th, 2013 10:55 pm (UTC)
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Link should be sorted.

The clause belongs to the Press Council.

I can't find anything specific about the powers of the Press Council. I found one ruling in which they ordered a photograph on a website to be removed, and another that found with the complainant (on their home page) but it did not specify the consequence.

I believe they also issue warnings, and possibly rule that apologies must be made - but I don't know for sure.

In this case, I would hope that the Herald would be required to a) apologise and b) consider more carefully the ongoing consequences to society of supporting the publication of such opinions and tone it the fuck down.

Edited at 2013-11-19 10:56 pm (UTC)
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:November 19th, 2013 10:57 pm (UTC)
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I found a mention on the press council saying they need to publish the press councils decision/findings if the complaint is upheld.
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From:tatjna
Date:November 19th, 2013 11:05 pm (UTC)
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I mean, ideally, I'd like a lego to appear out of thin air on Mr Jones's bedroom carpet for every harmful opinion he expresses - but I realise these powers are beyond both the Press Council and society.

I would like everyone to just stop reading his shit until he loses his job, but I can't expect a society that still regularly sniggers behind its hand about women drivers to give him any real consequences without a nudge.

I would like the editor of the Herald (who is a man) to experience a week or a month of experiencing the consequences of his defence of cultural sexism. But I doubt that'll happen either.

The powers of the Press Council appear minimal. I guess that by taking up the time of the Herald's editor (and hopefully others have done too) in trying to defend that git, I've been at least a minor annoyance to them, and maybe those minor annoyances will one day build up to having a real impact.

I know I can't just ignore it, because that is tacitly condoning it. And enough people do that already.

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From:ferrouswheel
Date:November 19th, 2013 11:16 pm (UTC)
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Re: point 2, while there is a segment that undoubtably thinks that, I'm not sure that's really where they get their readership. I think it's deliberately the way it is because it generates outrage, and outrage makes people read things more than anything else. So by clicking a link and seeing why people are outraged, we are adding page views, and we become complicit in the system that keeps Bob Jones employed.

I'm not really sure how to get around it, except by making the outrage more expensive than the ad revenue from clicks/pageviews.

I have some ideas about this, but I'll mention them in person.
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From:tatjna
Date:November 19th, 2013 11:26 pm (UTC)
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This is why I haven't linked to the article and had folks going there from here.

And I agree about the advertising revenue. That certainly worked with Radio Live and the Roast Busters thing. However, internet advertising is somewhat different because the ads are randomly generated so there is a more tenuous connection between the advertisers and the article. An ad could appear on one of Jones' racist rants one day, and the same ad be on a piece about supporting Maori business the next, you know?

But yes. I'd be keen to hear your ideas because complaining to authority is one of the more tedious and unsatisfying ways of attempting to bring about change.
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From:c_maxx
Date:November 19th, 2013 11:57 pm (UTC)
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"I think that kind of speech should have consequences for the speaker, because there are consequences for those who are the victims of the attitudes he's perpetuating."

Hear her!

And b., re previous: If he really wants to be a public hazard driving, he should buy a 600 Ninja and drive like that, and then we'll see how big his you-know-whats really are. To drive like an donkey/alternate word in a v-12 monster sedan only proves that he is a public hazard, as well as a donkey brain. (At the emp, you know...)
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From:tatjna
Date:November 20th, 2013 12:07 am (UTC)
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Bob Jones would last about 12 seconds on a 600 Ninja.
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From:c_maxx
Date:November 20th, 2013 12:34 am (UTC)
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That was one possible benefit for the suggestion.
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From:crazedturkey
Date:November 20th, 2013 12:00 am (UTC)
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Wait, they get 500 words and you get 150?

Am I missi g something?
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From:tatjna
Date:November 20th, 2013 12:06 am (UTC)
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I think they get as many words as they want.

As the complainant, I had an opportunity to make a larger argument when I complained - about 400 words in total as I recall, separated into text boxes in a form. This section is where I have right of final rebuttal, but only if I can do it in 150 words or less.

I can see why they do that, but it's a flawed system.
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From:zoefruitcake
Date:November 20th, 2013 09:40 pm (UTC)
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what do you expect, it is 1963 after all...oh wait, it's 2013 isn't it? Damn
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From:tatjna
Date:November 20th, 2013 09:43 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, if it were 1963 the woman who's dealing with my case would have been a man and there probably wouldn't be a principle of diversity and discrimination to argue from.

Progress?
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From:sophiawestern
Date:November 23rd, 2013 04:53 pm (UTC)
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That is the most perfect 150 word response ever.
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From:tatjna
Date:November 23rd, 2013 07:38 pm (UTC)
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Thanks! There are lots of things I have thought of since that I think should have been in there (like that stuff about consequences), but that always happens, right?
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From:adam_0oo
Date:November 24th, 2013 11:49 pm (UTC)
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Good for you.
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