Social Media / Anti-Social Misogyny

twitter23aug0201Most people reading this will be well aware of the recent so-called ‘Twitter spat’ between Joanne Rowling and Natalie McGarry MP. McGarry raised with Rowling that Twitter user @brianspanner1, who Rowling has a supportive online relationship with (in that Rowling endorses him and converses with him regularly online) is actually a well-known misogynist who tweets extreme abuse to women. Women who are mostly but not exclusively Scottish female politicians, almost all of whom are pro-independence. Indeed he regularly refers to women as the c-word, belittles them, abuses them for how they look, abuses them specifically in relation to being female – including abusive comments tying in appearance with the menopause and female genital mutilation; none of which I would want to reproduce here but all of which has been well documented. See the ‘Tweets You Won’t Read’ here for some samples. And this didn’t just start recently; Spanner began abusing women online like this two years ago.

It seems it was McGarry’s view that having the kind of supportive relationship with a known misogynist that Rowling has with Spanner (who she also follows) was a reflection on Rowling herself. This is a view she has a right to as surely we all have a right to assess character for ourselves. And let’s be clear – McGarry never accused Rowling of overtly supporting misogyny and in fact went out of her way to say so. She just made the point that Rowling’s endorsements of Spanner were endorsements of someone who is a misogynist.

It’s important to mention here than unlike some have contended, Rowling’s endorsement of Spanner isn’t about one statement she made when he helped raise money for her charity. Compliments, approval and agreement characterise her interactions with him; she has referred to him as ‘simply brilliant’ and even joked that she is the real person behind his account – and that is when she isn’t complimenting his ‘wisdom’, like she did when he tweeted that nationalists tend to be people with ‘hum drum lives’, or indeed wishing him happy birthday. However Rowling, instead of addressing the real issue McGarry raised – i.e. misogyny – responded by threatening to sue McGarry with what she later referred to as her ‘island’ full of lawyers, in what can only be described as an effort to silence another woman. No surprise that threats of legal action from a billionaire worked. No surprise either that Rowling isn’t actually suing her.

It’s also no surprise that Rowling felt she could ignore Spanner’s misogyny altogether; for two years he has been able to be a misogynist of an extreme kind largely due to the fact that while the Scottish media has been obsessed with ‘cybernat’ abuse (mostly consisting of some people calling some other people ‘traitors’ on the internet) they have left the most abusive, misogynistic account on Scottish political twitter completely alone. Indeed recently the Herald even blurred out his anonymous twitter handle when it had to be included in their reporting of said argument, which is particularly unusual in media reporting of tweets, possibly even unheard of.

So whilst our media has been quick to publicly identify and condemn so-called cybernats for much less, now – even though journalists have said online that several of them know the identity of this extreme misogynist and indeed have even met him – they have chosen to protect him. Apparently his misogynistic tweets at the heart of the disagreement between McGarry and Rowling are completely irrelevant to the story and something the public are ‘just not interested in’. But someone saying ‘meh’ in response to hearing about the death of David Bowie, or deciding to no longer eat Tunnocks Teacakes – and also being pro-independence – well that will be reported in newspapers and news-sites as a story in itself – twitter handles and all.

Indeed it’s interesting that ‘writing for the public interest’ invariably tends to mean only printing stories detrimental to those on one side of the constitutional question, however petty, boring and unrepresentative the particulars are. Only now it also seems to mean actively protecting the identity of unionist abusers the public would be very interested in having revealed – and definitely more interested in than reading about some random who stopped eating a specific kind of cake.

Even though these double standards inherent in our media and indeed the unhealthy conditions they create have been clear for some time, I think the extent to which the unionist establishment are trying to protect Spanner has still been a surprise for most of us. Despite his proven misogyny having now been presented to many of them directly (although most are his twitter pals and follow him so were likely already aware of much of it, if not all) not one prominent unionist (and the term is used here loosely) has publicly condemned it. Some, like Rowling herself, didn’t refer to the abuse at all and instead tried to present Rowling as the victim; others like journalist Stephen Daisley simply commended Spanner for apologising to two of the women he had abused (which Spanner only did after his tweets had been published in online articles) although Daisley made no mention of the fact that Spanner also stated he had no intention of deleting his misogynistic tweets and as such they are still there at the time of writing. Others like journalist Ross McCafferty (and indeed Spanner himself) resorted to whataboutery, despite the fact he didn’t provide any evidence of anyone with prominent yes support tweeting misogynistic abuse at all, let alone at the same level as Spanner (indeed no-one has because it doesn’t exist). Then there are those such as the author Muriel Gray who appeared to reduce Spanner’s misogyny to just being a bit ‘rude’, and added that he was ‘hilarious’.
All these reactions amount to condoning misogyny.

Misogyny is something we either condemn or condone – there is no in-between. This doesn’t mean that every single incidence of misogyny we come across is something we have to involve ourselves in, but it does mean that when we do involve ourselves, especially when we are faced with the misogyny of a person we endorse, that we must overtly condemn such damaging hate being clear we absolutely do not endorse it. This is at the very least and indeed is especially important when it comes to prominent and/or establishment figures.

We must do this because otherwise we are tacitly condoning their actions. This is what our silence does. Misogynists and abusers who see silence (from those other than their victim(s)) in response to their abuse, especially from those who endorse them, obviously take this as vindication as it is a form of acceptance. Ignoring abuse or overtly supporting it both mean the same thing – accepting and allowing it. Indeed this is well-evidenced in Spanner’s misogyny in the fact that it has been continuous and persistent – he obviously thought it was fine to publish his attacks and that he could do so without repercussion and indeed he has done because it has been ignored by the people who support him. Thus it’s pretty clear acceptance not only allowed his abuse, but perpetuated it as well. Acceptance after all is also vindication – i.e. the absence of blame and accusation of wrongdoing. Every single abuser of women who is aware of the silence/failure to condemn Spanner’s misogyny, and indeed the continued endorsement of him, will very likely feel vindicated somewhat by the acceptance and thus condonation this portrays (it’s hard to imagine how anyone could ever argue that it would cultivate anything other than this in the eyes of abusers). And anyone who has ever been the victim of abuse/worked with the victims of abuse will very likely know that vindication only leads to continued and often worse abuse; indeed anything that contributes to the idea that what they are doing isn’t really so bad or so wrong will usually have this effect. Thus the issue here isn’t just the anonymous troll account @brianspanner1 – the real issue is protecting women. If you are accepting misogyny you are not just condoning it but you are also thereby encouraging both misogyny and the abuse of women in general – because this is what acceptance cultivates.

Another result of such silence is that it leads many people to deduce (or at least to pretend) that it cannot be misogyny at all. I personally received a number of tweets from Rowling’s followers defending Rowlings’ silence, many of whom alleged that Spanner’s misogyny wasn’t really misogyny and that women like me who said so were idiots. This denial is an inevitable ramification and the effects reach far beyond the confines of social media, as all of this does.

Silence in the face of misogyny: one of the most effective ways to cultivate both denial of abuse and actual abuse towards women – both on and offline.

It is of course for prominent unionist figures who endorse Spanner and/or who have commented on this situation to decide how they wish to respond to such misogyny and indeed for which ends they use their platform. But they should understand that if their choice amounts to condoning misogyny, not only will that choice be clear, but the bigger the platform they themselves have, all the more damaging their choice will be for women in the end.

Comments (32)

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  1. Matt says:

    And that’s without even going into Rowling’s attempted extortion. “Donate to my charity or I unleash the hounds.”

  2. Stuart Sinclair says:

    The word misogyny appear twenty seven times in this article. What does it mean?

    1. Jim Bennett says:

      It means “being a dick”, Stuart.

      1. David says:

        No it means a hatred of women. Any form of sexism is despicable, but I would be interested to hear some concrete proposals on how you address sexism on Twitter?

        1. Mike says:

          “No it means a hatred of women. Any form of sexism is despicable, but I would be interested to hear some concrete proposals on how you address sexism on Twitter?”

          Its obviously up to Twitter in how they deal with it on their site but the reporting and condemnation of it in the UK media should be at least balanced and accurate not unbalanced and inaccurate.

          Don’t you think?

  3. Valerie says:

    Good piece, covering a real low point in Scottish media, and an eye opener regarding children’s author, Rowling.

    Most of us had a low opinion of the media prior to this event, so this incident is just another nail. The media closing ranks around this revolting Spanner person/persons is pretty much media personnel living down to our expectations. I would have been astounded if anyone in media unmasked and denounced, showing some integrity.

    However, perhaps Spanner and his support have stretched their collective intellect, and this garbage is their masterpiece.

    Laughter, ridicule and misogyny towards Independence supporters is something that happens on a regular basis, except Spanner has friends in high places. Their purpose is to ridicule, and that’s because they have no better response.

    https://www.rt.com/uk/256213-general-election-snp-fix/

  4. David S. Briggs says:

    Well said Kimberley. More power to your elbow.

  5. thomaspotter2014 says:

    The arrogance of BrianSpanner1 and his associates is astonishing.
    By circling the wagons around this abomination of a troll we are left in no doubt that anything goes as long as he is found to be ‘hilarious’.

    Beggars belief that the ruling classes and their flunkies in Corpmedia think they are untouchable.

    1. greatbighoo says:

      In an advanced mature western liberal democracy with a free media and freedom of speech, yes, anything goes – up to a limit.

      Anything goes as long as it is not inciting or directing violence.

      e.g. – ‘that person / group should be physically harmed or killed because they believe / they don’t believe _______

      Absolutely everything else goes, absolutely.

      Be thankful and grateful that you live in an advanced mature western liberal democracy, where you are privileged to be able to do so.

      1. Kenny says:

        Freedom of speech is all well and good. That’s not the biggest issue here though. Rowling is happy to cry to the friendly British Nationalist media when someone is a wee bit rude to her on Twitter. Sturgeon is called on to specifically disown any “offensive” tweet by anyone she happens to follow. British Nationalist papers will print stories about anyone they suspect of being pro-Scottish independence saying something off colour on Twitter. But in this case, Rowling’s best Twitter pal is an offensive dickhead and she, her army of lawyers and the simpering, spineless British Nationalist media circlejerk around her actually defend the guy and claim he’s not doing anything wrong. To Muriel Gray he’s a hilarious satirist. To Al Murray, he’s “just” a misanthrope and his hatred of nationalism makes it all OK. (The irony of Al Murray pretending to hate nationalism is just one of those quirks of Englishness that we’re meant to pretend doesn’t exist.) To Stephen Daisley, Spanner is a big man for apologising to the one British Nationalist he insulted (Margaret Curran, incidentally, who has spoken extensively of her hatred of online misogyny) but the pugnacious pug sees no reason to condemn his anti-independence supporter tweets. To Jamie Ross of Buzzfeed – he of the hilarious Scottish Resistance t-shirt and wacky Salmond portrait – no-one cares who Spanner is so it’s not worth reporting…even though it was central to the story that WAS worth reporting, of JK Rowling having “the perfect response” to an “attack” from an “SNP MP.”

        Misogyny is a bad thing. I don’t think anyone disagrees about that. Online abuse is not nice. I think we can all agree to that too. The problem is that when British Nationalists attack independence supporters, it’s justified/funny/no big deal. When an independence supporter retweets an ACTUAL satirical article, the story is twisted beyond all recognition so that it may well have cost him his election. Then again, I don’t suppose there’s anyone reading Bella that doesn’t know that the British Nationalist media has a very hypocritical take on a whole lot of issues.

  6. Bill Steele says:

    IS it possible for one of our MPs to raise a question about this in Parliament, and present the details of the whole case? Could it including the evidence of the misogynist’s tweets, the support he has been receiving and from whom, the bullying perpetrated on those who sought to address it, and the submission of the media to that bullying? Can questions raised in Parliament be a means of informing the public?

    1. greatbighoo says:

      “IS it possible for one of our MPs to raise a question about this in Parliament.”

      Christ Almighty. Do you think they might have more important matters to attend to?

      Or is the ‘defence’ of one of your hallowed fabulous fantastic fighting 56! more important than health, or education etc?

      “Can questions raised in Parliament be a means of informing the public?

      Jesus Christ on a bicycle. The ‘episode’ in question took place on the Internet!

      1. Jim Bennett says:

        GBH. You’ve deliberately missed the point of the article. It’s about calling out and challenging misogyny. Given the levels of abuse that women can endure in Scotland, it’s precisely this potential public naming of abusers which we should applaud.
        But you’re just here to bait the nats, eh?

        1. greatbighoo says:

          Given the levels of abuse that women can endure in Scotland

          Really? Well that would be down to the behaviour of abusive Scottish people, wouldn’t it?

          I thought Scotland was an ‘Egalitarian’, Fair, Equal, Social Justice fetishising, Socialist Utopia?

          Seriously, it sounds like Scotland has a specific Scottish and terrible problem with misogyny and abuse.

          Perhaps you should do something about it? Some kind of cultural revolution, where everyone sits around in a circle, holds hands and says the Omm?

          “it’s precisely this potential public naming of abusers which we should applaud”.

          Why should this be necessary and desirable?

          And to what end?

          I shudder to think, in the land where the cause cannot fail, but can only BE failed, and a ‘Day of Reckoning’ awaits those with the temerity to show dissent.

  7. greatbighoo says:

    Notwithstanding anything else, this ‘event’ underlines what a puerile, ignorant, incapable Monkey Natalie McGarry is.

    Seriously, are people unconcerned about her suitability to be an MP?

    Is it really just enough to be ‘SNP’ and ‘Stronger for Scotland’ – ?

    1. Jim Bennett says:

      Monkey?
      Really?
      Monkey?

      1. greatbighoo says:

        Yes, really, Monkey.

        Have you seen, read or heard the way that she conducts herself, an elected representative of the people?

        WEEGIE MONKEY.

        1. Jim or jom says:

          So your position on this is it’s okay for this Brian spanner guy to carry on abusing women and hide behind a false name? If it’s okay why does this brave guy not tweet using his own name?
          I can only assume you have similar views towards women. Aren’t you just a big brave star.

          1. greatbighoo says:

            “So your position on this is it’s okay for this Brian spanner guy to carry on abusing women and hide behind a false name?”

            As long as he is not exhorting actual harm or violence on women (which is the only limit on free speech) – then yes, absolutely fine, no problem.

            And that is the only way for it to be in an advanced mature liberal democracy. Everyone must have the right to offend, insult and abuse others. We all know the results when you start demanding special treatment for individuals / groups. (And the reality is there are people and groups queuing up to be offended)

            “If it’s okay why does this brave guy not tweet using his own name?”

            Yes. One of the functions the internet provides is anonymity (more or less, with limits, e.g. unless you are committing an offence worthy of pursuit for prosecution)

            “I can only assume you have similar views towards women. ”

            No, my wife is a feminist, and a highly successful, highly paid, at the top of one of the high professions feminist at that. She got there entirely through her own hard work, and the support of her family who themselves were not born with natural advantages, access to capital etc (“working class” as some put it).

            However she sweats the big stuff, not the small stuff, not idle tittle tattle on twitter, latched onto by Separatist nutjobs as the continue to cultivate their baseless grievances

            “Aren’t you just a big brave star.”

            I’m not the one blaming others for their own problems and shortcomings, while demanding that those others continue to stuff their mouths with gold.

          2. “Separatist nutjobs”. Yellow card greatbighoo

    2. Sorry I hadn’t seen this. This is unacceptable language. Please moderate your language or you’ll get kicked off.

      1. C Rober says:

        For fairness I am pro indy and FFA , and can and do see some “separatist Nutjobs” , although in a somewhat lesser level than those that give it lip service while being elected on its promised supply.

        1. Auldcynic says:

          Freedom of speech is important which is why it is unacceptable that Ms Rowling should threaten to sue Ms McGarry unless she publicly apologises and additionally pays money to het charity.

          1. Broadbield says:

            Gratuitous abuse is not freedom of speech. If the offensive tweets had been about Blacks, Jews, Muslims or some other ethnic/racial/religious/whatever group he’d have had his account cancelled immediately and no one would have said “what hilarious satire from this sardonic master”. But because it was only about women then that’s ok. Women have suffered at the hands of men since time began and continue to suffer. It’s time for it to stop – and I say that as a male.

            Attitudes like his, making out that some group is not quite human, is what leads to violence against them. Do the people who support him not have the intelligence to realise that? Is that also what they condone?

          2. C Rober says:

            @Auldcynic

            “Freedom of speech is important which is why it is unacceptable that Ms Rowling should threaten to sue Ms McGarry unless she publicly apologises and additionally pays money to het charity.”

            I am sure McGarry could easily defend herself in a litigious case and be found innocent , but then again JKR could just keep bringing the case to trial and bankrupt her , and all thanks to MS MCGarry’ own party repealing the “double Jeopardy law” , which would be quite ironic.

            But considering the sheer number of SNP politician now Lawyers and Ex Lawyers , FM included , then I am sure she would get a deal financially secured on her hoose for payment from another SNP politician.

            Whoops I do hope my least favorite , multimillioairess , authoress JKR isnt reading this and has a dog in a fight with the SNP.

            But then again the SNP only have token Socialists , so would be keen to distance themselves from Ms McGarry when push comes to shove over her inability to use a calculator , a line from Father ted seems appropriate at this point , “It was only resting in my account”.

            Oh no , I just said something about three wummin and mentioned the Catholic church by proxy in a negative way , JeSuisBrianSpanner and religious hate mail accusations on a postcard to….

    3. Alan says:

      As long as he is not exhorting actual harm or violence on women (which is the only limit on free speech) – then yes, absolutely fine, no problem.

      With free speech comes responsibility. Spanner’s speech is not discussion. It doesn’t involve an interlocutor. It’s not about discovery, learning, solving problems, or building relationships. It’s verbal warfare whose intent is the humiliation and domination. He’s apparently not someone who needs the protection of anonymity to express views contrary to established wisdom. The sort of group he runs with, political journalists working for established news media, are exactly the sort of people whose activities should be transparent and accountable to the public in a democracy.

  8. howauldzyergranny says:

    It’s bizarre watching people getting into social media for the wrong reasons i.e getting others to shut up (I see someone, possibly Muriel Gray even got Irvine Welsh to retract). It’s like the people who get a teachers job because they hate children.

  9. Alf Baird says:

    Excellent article. Despicable behaviour by the unionist side, not entirely unexpected, given project fear. The author Rowling further diminished in the eyes of many Scots, exception no doot being the ‘proud Scots’ sending their kids to receive a high cost English education at Heriots, Watsons etc. I used to think Muriel Gray a patriot, based on her Munro series; evidently not.

    1. Jim or jom says:

      I disagree entirely with Gray’s political stance on independence but I could respect her to a point. I think she has talent. If it’s true she considers Spanner to be just some harmless fun then I will lose any respect I had for her.

      1. RabMac says:

        Jim or Jom

        She most certainly does. A number of people (including myself) called her out on it, but she tried to justify it all as being just a bit of fun and actually used the word “hilarious”.

        I lost what little respect I still had for her then.

  10. RabMac says:

    Sorry, forgot to say, excellent article Kimberley, totally agree with you.

    GBH, shouldn’t you be under a bridge somewhere? And why aren’t you posting as “Glasgow Working Class”, which you use on Scotgoespop?

  11. MVH says:

    Best article on Spannergate I’ve seen. Excellent.

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