I made mention of an Australian web site called The Conversation in an earlier post. The Conversation features articles that range from politics and general current affairs to more esoteric matters, with a marked predisposition towards the tastes and values of left-leaning progressive liberals.
Most readers comments seem to be penned by sycophantic members of the ‘chardonnay set’ and career academics, although it’s hard to say if they are truly representative of the overall readership given that many other comments are moderated into oblivion.
Feminism and feminist topics are heavily covered (example), whilst mens issues are all but ignored. As a consequence, The Conversation often runs articles concerning domestic violence, sexual assault, and the ‘wage gap’ with only minor variations around the standard feminist theme on those subjects.
On 1 October 2014 they ran an article entitled ‘Why don’t we speak up when we see signs of domestic violence?‘ by Sarah Wendt. There was nothing exceptional about the article – it claimed that domestic violence was a gendered issue, made no mention of male victims or female perpetrators, and slipped in a promo for the author’s book. Absolutely typical of its genre really.
No, the exceptional part was the fact that almost all of the readers comments were critical of the biased treatment of the subject. Later, many also raised the issue of the relatively large number of comments being removed. Some readers also queried why the author of the article had chosen not to contribute her thoughts regarding the unfolding discussion.
I launched into the fray quite early on, commenting thus:
“So “Domestic violence is about gender power relations”? What then of recent research that tells us that lesbian couples are the most predisposed towards partner violence?
So another article about domestic violence that assumes from the get-go that DV consists purely of men’s violence towards women and that any other form of DV is a rare aberration that is unworthy of serious consideration. These stats seem to tell a different story: http://www.oneinthree.com.au/storage/pdfs/1IN3_Fact_Sheets_Sept_2014.pdf with many more at http://www.fighting4fair.com/misrepresenting-reality/domestic-violence-one-sided-media-coverage-and-bogus-statistics/
This ongoing feminist monopolisation of the DV debate is tired and its wrong. If we want to tackle the scourge of DV, rather than just lob grenades in a war against a mythical patriarchy, then we need to acknowledge, discuss and address the entire problem not just the bits that fit into the feminist narrative.”
Based on my earlier experience with The Conversation I was surprised by the lack of punitive action by the site’s moderator. All that changed the next afternoon, however, when the thought police suddenly appeared on the scene and removed sixteen of the comments. By the time the site stopped accepting readers comments at lunchtime the following day, a total of twenty-seven comments had been removed.
In a final hurrah before the editorial team took their bat and ball and ran home, Helen Westerman, Deputy Managing Editor at The Conversation, posted a comment stating that:
“Nowhere does this piece suggest that domestic violence does not affect men. We have run many pieces making the point that men are also subject to partner violence (by women or other men) and I thank the men here who have shared their experiences. They are moving and valid.
And I would ask that this understanding is also extended to the viewpoint of women around this topic and that women be allowed to speak about this issue. And I also thank the women who have left their experiences here. They are moving and valid.
Sadly, this debate so often this devolves into a zero sum game: if women’s perspectives on violence are written about, then somehow it means that men’s are being “ignored”. Simply not true.
The hard truth is whichever way you cut the cake, women are affected disproportionately more than men by domestic violence. However, men are more affected by violence in general.
Neither fact should make us feel particularly proud – and should make us want to change this situation. The common ground here is that it shouldn’t happen to anybody, not matter who is meting it out.
It makes for very uncomfortable reading and elicit strong emotions. But we’ve got to talk about it.”
To this I replied:
“Helen, thank you for contributing your thoughts but please, your opening sentence is an embarrassingly poor defence in response to the legitimate concerns that have been raised about both the bias of the article and in the subsequent moderation of comments.
Seriously, if the shoe was on the other foot, and you were reading an article about (only) male victims of domestic abuse … would you accept the excuse that “the article never said women were not victims”?
None of those commenting here have suggested that women not “be allowed to speak about this issue”, and that includes those comments that were binned. I think everyone, like myself, appreciates the opportunity to hear all perspectives on the subject. But this forum is for grown-ups and some questioning and rebuttal is an expected feature of adult ‘conversation’
Yes I agree, “we’ve got to talk about it”. Now about those moderated comments”
Highlights of the comments section included several insightful and incisive comments from psychologist Adam Blanch, including:
“Domestic violence is about people who are angry, jealous, distressed and mentally ill acting out their frustration. The motive for ‘control’ and ‘power’ is only present in a very small percentage of DV, and both sexes do it to the same extent.
The partner abuse state of knowledge Project, the largest and most comprehensive meta study of DV ever conducted, makes this information freely available at http://domesticviolenceresearch.org/pdf/FindingsAt-a-Glance.Nov.23.pdf
The entire Duluth model, which assets that domestic violence is about ‘Gender power relations’, has been so extensively disproven by legitimate researchers that no fair minded person without a ‘gender agenda’ could possibly subscribe to it.
PS. the ABS personal safety survey has some serious methodological issues that appear to have been built in, twice, to bias the outcome in favour of a ‘Gendered’ view of DV.”
There was also this classic comment from a guy called Andy George:
“Definition of irony:
A website called ‘THE CONVERSATION’, publishes an article titled “Why don’t we speak up when we see signs of domestic violence” calling on people to talk about the issue, then censors comments that are from male victims of domestic violence but leaves the equivalent posts by women who were victims of domestic violence.”
Negative aspects of the comments section included examples of those tiresome, incorrect yet oft-repeated assertions of feminists that:
- men should just listen to discussions about domestic violence but not contribute their thoughts (unless to offer unqualified agreement) because to do so only “derails” the discussion
- men only raise the subject of male victims and/or female perpetrators in order to excuse/minimise the behaviour of male batterers and/or deny/minimise the experiences of battered women
- by raising concerns about the appropriateness of feminists continually asserting that ‘domestic violence = men’s violence towards women’ men are attacking and denigrating female victims, and women generally
Anyway, well done to all the men and women who made the effort to bring the author’s sexist bias to account. Hopefully this will be a harbinger of the reaction to the inevitable future displays of sexism and gender bias at The Conversation, and in the media generally. Enough is enough.
Reddit discussion thread concerning moderation in relation to another article at The Conversation
A little less Conversation, by Institute of Public Affairs (undated)
“As the site’s charter admits, it hopes to ‘give experts a greater voice in shaping scientific, cultural and intellectual agendas’, and aims to work for the advancement of the ‘public good.’ It also promises to be ‘editorially independent’, provide ‘diverse’ content and be ‘free of commercial or political bias.’ Whether it achieves this is open to question.
Professor Judith Sloan, another academic who can boast a tangible impact on policy and public debate, is unconvinced:
‘this site strikes me as emblematic of all that is wrong with Australian universities. Crammed with puerile, naïve, left-wing tosh, the contributing academics…really have no idea when it comes to serious public policy contributions.'”
A rather one-sided ‘conversation’, by Tony Thomas (14 February 2014) Another group – not MRA-related – express their concern about the level of bias evident at The Conversation
Postscript 25 January 2015: There are a few occasions when the moderator remains in his/her kennel, and then it’s refreshing to see that adults can indeed engage in vigorous debate without chaos ensuing. Look at this article for example.
Postscript 23 March 2015: A moderator removed a comment I added to this article about domestic violence. My comment was as follows:
“Rob, I haven’t read your report yet (but will do so shortly), so the following comment is based on what I’ve read in the media. It appears that your report talks about the need for more & better intervention and behaviour modification programs for perpetrators, but that your recommendations in this regard are limited to male perpetrators.
Can I ask why you would not adopt a gender-neutral approach in this regard and have programs that catered for both male and female perpetrators. I mean, it’s not as though there are so few violent women that we can afford to just wave them away.
Indeed I understand that the rate of increase in violent crime by women is exceeding that of men in many jurisdictions. See http://www.fighting4fair.com/
Postscript 1 April 2015: A moderator removed a comment I added to this article about sexual assault. My comment was as follows:
“It’s deeply ironic that the title of your article is “let’s turn the spotlight on known perpetrators”, but within the first sentence you exclude acknowledgement or consideration of all female perpetrators of sexual assault. On what basis? There’s less reported crimes involving female perps, so it’s OK to just airbrush them out?
I’m also troubled by you referencing the 2013 National Community Attitudes Towards Violence Against Women survey, which didn’t bother to ask respondents about their attitudes towards violence to men. Thus the questions about violence towards women were robbed of context and so we don’t know the extent to which the issue is men’s attitudes towards women, or Australians attitudes towards violence generally.”
Reader Craig asked: Why was a dissenting comment regarding information contained in this article, with links to support its claims, removed by the moderator? There was no abuse or apparent breaching of the Community Standards (unless it was a Twitter technicality?)
Moderator Cory replies: We also require research that’s credible:
“Back up your ideas with evidence and fact where possible. If you’re claiming something as scientific fact, try to provide credible references.”
While some of the links were fine, many of them – upon reading them – were less than credible. They were closer to a smear campaign than anything resembling research. This is also prohibited in our community standards:
“We’ll distinguish between constructive comments and smear campaigns. We’ll remove any deliberate attempts to misinform, distort facts or misrepresent the opinions of others.”
Smear campaign? WTF? “
Postscript 30 April 2018: One in Three Campaign – News Articles About Family Violence – Response to The Conversation Fact Check from 1IN3 An example of how ‘The Conversation’ responds to offers to provide correct information to their fact-checking process