Thursday, 7 April 2011

The New Statesman, an online row and some clarifications

[this post has been edited to mention the names after a comment i received. please read the comments for further info]

This week I have found myself embroiled in a row that seems to have stretched across the blogosphere but had its focal point on Twitter and the New Statesman. Anyway, last night I discovered there was a whole dimension to the row that I didn’t even know existed, and I felt quite upset that people thought I may have defended or endorsed or supported things that I didn’t know about and would never have thought to be appropriate. So am going to write my side of the picture as it were, because if you can’t clear things up on your own blog, then where can you?

If you weren’t following the row then this post will bore you to tears so I recommend reading the last para and then skipping to the next post to sign a letter to the government protesting the cuts to domestic violence support services.

Right – are you sitting comfortably? I’ll begin.

On Tuesday, Steve Baxter wrote his weekly blog on the New Statesman about the closure of the Daily Sport. He welcomed the soon-to-be redundant staff to the ‘clean world’ and blogger and tweeter Quiet Riot Girl (QRG) extrapolated from this that he was saying sex was dirty. I posted something at that point about how the Sport was to sex what it was to sport. Anyway, the sex is dirty post wound Steve up and he wrote a sweary, angry tweet which popped up on my feed. I replied:

‘uh-oh! what a nightmare. so ridiculous, but just try and ignore her, easier said than done. i know i always feed trolls!’

I then popped over to the NS blog to see that QRG had made an insinuating and rather unpleasant comment about a blog post I had written. It didn’t name me, but just as she felt that Steve’s angry tweet was about her, I understood this comment to be about something I had written.

I was pretty angry. Very angry. And there were a couple of things I could have done. I could have ignored it (prob the best course, but I am me). I could have challenged it on the comments thread, but felt this would derail a post that was already veering off the rails. So I did the silly thing and went and whinged on Twitter, tweeting Ropes to Infinity who had written a similar blog post to the one being bad-mouthed in her comment.

@stebax her second comment seems to either be alluding to me or @RopesToInfinity what do you think RTI? You or me? Or both? either way, it

... @stebax @RopesToInfinity COMPLETELY misrepresents my post and makes either you or me sound pretty unpleasant. Ugh. what a pain.

@stebax @RopesToInfinity i am not going to comment, i am not going to comment, i am not going to comment...but really! so bloody rude.

In the meantime, Steve and RTI made some amusing tweet jokes about what-about-ery and soup, which I thought rather amusing. Something about how if you liked cream of chicken then you were oppressing minestrone. Or something. Remember this – I come back to it later.

So, got it off my chest and that was the end of that.

Or so I thought…

I then got an @ message saying I’d be outraged if the tweets going round had been written about anyone else. Deciding that I should really stop talking about another person on Twitter behind their back, I sent a DM in reply saying that I felt QRG had written untrue things about me and that I was putting this in a DM because:

‘i have been guilty of talking about her online before and i recognise that was a bit mean and immature of me’

Bored yet? I wouldn’t blame you if you were. But I am putting the record straight.

In the meantime I noticed on the NS thread that the commenter was writing a complaint to the New Statesman about Steve’s tweet. Now, I like Steve and I respect him. I commented that I didn’t think you could complain about something said in a personal capacity on Twitter to a publication. I said that because I think it’s true. I might be wrong. My boss wrote a rude tweet about a Giles Coren article once. In response, Giles Coren tweeted ‘@*** suck my dick fat boy’. I don’t think my boss could have complained to the Times about it. It doesn’t mean I was defending either tweet. 

And that was the end of that.

Or so I thought…

A while later I got an @ message saying:

a well made point from *that* NS article: "@Sianushka you're a FEMINIST defending MEN who've dragged a woman through the mud as a troll...

This comment really upset me.  And it made me think. Actually, venting on Twitter is immature. It is something we all do, but perhaps me bitching about that comment online with other people did come across as me ganging up on QRG. I felt bad, and I was sorry that I had behaved in an undignified and petty manner.

So I did what all right-thinking people would do. I apologised. I went on the NS comments thread, virtually stood up and said sorry for being immature and talking about someone behind their back online, and making jokes at their expense. I really hope that my apology was accepted because it was and still is sincerely meant. I was behaving a like a numpty and an apology was called for.

And that kind of was the end of that. But because I am nosy and can never leave well enough alone, I popped over to QRG’s blog which was linked to on the NS comments thread to see what she had to say about the whole debacle. And then I saw these nasty, horrible tweets that made unnecessary, personal and offensive comments about her sexuality in lieu of arguing with her, for example, political or theoretical views.

That’s why I am writing this post. Because I do not want anyone to think that I was defending or supporting or endorsing those tweets. I’m sure people don’t, but because people were upset by some things I said, I was concerned I had been grouped with the people who were slagging off someone’s sexual preferences.

It is never ok to use someone’s sexuality against them as a way to undermine and criticise them. I say this because it should just be a basic truth, and also because I have been on the receiving end and know how stupid it is. I have been called a lesbian online, (I’m not), have had people ‘joke’ online that because I have an anti porn and sex industry stance that I must think that you should only have ‘vanilla’ sex with someone you love, and have been asked publicly online what I use to ‘get myself off’ seeing as I don’t watch porn. All pretty stupid, all pretty unpleasant. And just three of the reasons why I feel very strongly that a woman’s or man’s sexuality should not be used as a tool to mock or criticise them, or even be speculated on by complete strangers, or friends, or anyone, online or offline.

So I hope that clears that up. I never saw those tweets before last night and I utterly, utterly condemn them.

Also on her blog she quoted a tweet Cath Elliott sent to me and Steve saying:

@stebax @sianushka Haha, just caught up. *salutes @stebax* for tweet of the year ;)

Now, I thought that this tweet was about the soup jokery. QRG thought it was about the sweary tweet. We could both be wrong, one of us could be right. But it does show how easily things can be misinterpreted on Twitter to cause upset  (I told you the soup tweets would return!).

That’s that anyway.

Now part 2: derailing, banning and nonsense

It has come to my attention that someone has been tweeting and posting on blogs that they have been banned from my blog, and that I only want to be surrounded by ‘yes men’. Seeing as this is a post about clearing things up, I would like to clarify that this is not true. I didn’t publish two comments on my blogpost regarding the Daily Mail’s reporting of gang rape as I felt they were derailing and possibly triggering. The comments ended up on another blog and an interesting debate happened there. I have a moderation policy that I use as a guide, because I went through a period where I got a lot of abuse and wanted to make it clear that on my blog, I write about what I want to write about. However, I regularly post comments that break my mod policy, and don’t have anything on my mod policy that says ‘you will not be allowed to post if you disagree with me’. So unless you’re the person who physically threatened me, or informed I would burn in hell for having a gay mum, no-one is banned. And seeing as I can’t remember their names, those people aren’t really banned either.

Right, that is all. Lets draw a line under this whole silly out of hand debate.

Thank you and good night.


Elly said...

Sianushka - if you wanted to 'clarify' matters why couldn't you refer
a) to me by name (being called 'she' or 'the commenter' in this context when everyone knows it is me is frankly not very nice)

b) give links to the article/blogposts in question so people have context e.g. as my post does:


Elly said...

as for cath Elliott's 'tweet of the year' comment it was obviously aimed at Steve's original tweet insulting me. She would not have read the whole boring soup joke blah.

Also she has had days to disassociate herself from the bullying, which I have clearly described on my blog and she has not said a word.

When I write to the Orwell Prize I will mention her, Steven Baxter and David Allen Green as being involved in the nasty behaviour.

If you'd been on the longlist I would have mentioned you too but you're not.

It is not up to you when to 'draw a line' under this.

I haven't finished.

Marina S said...

Well I think that you are completely and utterly wrong and misguided on the important issue of semi-liquid foodstuffs! There is no soup more fundamentally soup-like than French Onion soup, and by talking about any other kind of soup you are obviously ignoring this crucial and seminal truth! Now publish this if you dare, you cream of chicken quisling!

On a less lofty note, I'm amazed at the tenacity of some people on-line. All successful blogs have them - regular, frequent commenters, not quite outrageous enough to be instantly dismissed as deliberate trolls. They seem to have an almost preternatural talent for derailing any and all discussion, by showing just enough intellectual plausibility to always get taken seriously by someone, and elicit a response.

It's annoying and draining enough when it's that one FB "friend" who has to comment on every status and start an argument among your friends. But there is this small group of people - celebrities, really, because most regular readers of liberal blogs can probably name a few - who manage to occasionally derail not just threads, but what feels like the whole damn internet. If it wasn't so infuriating, it'd be admirable.

I wish I could learn from them and turn every mildly sexist post or status I come across into a passionate debate about feminist issues instead! Maybe we should have a panel about that at some future blogging workshop... :)

sian and crooked rib said...

hi elly,

sorry i didn't mention your name. I did debate whether to, but was concerned that it might be a bit confrontational or that you might feel like it was getting a bit much, because of all the different talking and to-ing and fro-ing that had been going on. So, was just a way to be polite really but seeing as i've heard from you i will go back and put your name where i've said she or commenter - that's no probs!

Elly said...


P.s. My comments about how bloggers/journos present 'rape porn' were not about you or Jonathan specifically but the whole of the 'liberal' and 'feminist' press and blogosphere. It was a coincidence that you two had written on the subject recently. I will blog about this subject and you may or may not see what I mean.

Honestly it was not a dig at you. I would have mentioned your blog if I was referring specifically to you.

rubacasa said...

The reason I mentioned to you that I thought the NS comment was a well made point was because (in conversation with Baxter) you had referred to QRG as a troll and to his vent as "V. funny". It wasn't my intention to upset you Sian and I thought it was nice of you to apologise (there are people who were involved to a greater extent who haven't apologised for all or any of their involvement).

As for drawing a line underneath the debate; that isn't up to anyone. Those that are having it will draw their own lines under the debate (or suggest that others do) as and when they please and the debate will come to a natural end (or not if they don't).

I made a complaint to the NS and am now drawing a line under it.

Elly said...

Thanks for complaining to the New Statesman ruba casa!

annifrangipani said...

hi Sian,
I've debated whether to reply, but all I would like to say, is that I think it was extremely honourable for you to apologise, and I'm sure many others in your position would not do the same.

You're one fantastic person.

Elly said...

P.s. sian here is a response from someone to the New Statesman:

as you can see, some feminists saw the actions of Baxter and the New Statesman as terrible, and anti-women.

It isn't about me or you. It's about portrayals of sex/gender/sexuality by the 'left' wing media.

You have sided with the 'boys club' on this one. Well done.

sian and crooked rib said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sian and crooked rib said...

I'm not sure co-incidence is the right word. You had read that blog post, and you had read the No Sleep til Brooklands blogpost. It would be a co-incidence if you hadn't known that those posts existed. So even as a general point about how feminist bloggers write about the daily mail's use of language, you still wrote that bloggers who wrote about this subject showed a "morbid fascination with rape", knowing of at least two bloggers who had written about it (there were more of course). So although I can accept it wasn't a direct point at me, it was still, in my view, an offensive and unfair thing to say about a group of people who have different views from you.

Elly said...

I am sorry if you feel offended sian but it is my view. That's the thing. some people's views offend other people. some of your views really really offend me but I do not object to you expressing them.

do you want to live in a world where nobody ever offends you? or if they do you have the right to castigate them or ban or block them from discourse?

I don't.

sian and crooked rib said...

Where exactly have I blocked or banned you from offending me or engaging in discourse? Apart from not publishing two almost identical comments on one post because they were triggering and broke my mod policy, you have free reign to comment all over my blog and other ppls blogs and your own blog! . I even publish comments ypu write that break my mod policy, such as comments which have used homophobic language. But just as you have a right to write whatever you want to, I have a right to be offended by your uncorroborated statement that writing about how the daily mail report rape causes the writer to be obsessed with rape. I'm not saying you shouldn't write it. I'm saying that it was disingenuous to say it was a 'co incidence' when you had read mine and the no sleep til brooklands blog. That's all.

Elly said...

I didn't say youd blocked me anywhere other than on twitter.

The fact is the main place I encounter a 'morbid fascination' with rape is in The Guardian, but yes also on a variety of blogs. And people on twitter who go on about the daily mail's reporting of rape, all the time.

I wasn't referring to you specifically and you can believe me or not.

sian and crooked rib said...

I'm sorry Elly but that is simply not true. You said on Mark Clapham's blogpost that i had blocked you from commenting (, you also wrote on your own blog in a reply to 'Clare' that i didn't publish most of your comments, which is again untrue, and you wrote on Twitter that i didn't publish your comments because I like to be surrounded by 'yes men'. Tbh i don't mind that we disagree on things, why would i, disagreement and debate is what makes the world and the internet go round, but I do object to making stuff up!

And your response to me saying i thought it was offensive to accuse bloggers of having a morbid fascination with rape was:

'or if they do you have the right to castigate them or ban or block them from discourse?'

My saying i thought it was offensive was not a call to block or ban it being said, it was merely my (perfectly valid) response to a statement that i thought was offensive. You can say it as much as you like, it doesn't change my response. I think most things David Cameron says are pretty offensive, I am allowed to feel that and he is allowed to say offensive things. Hence why i asked the question, where have i blocked or banned people from saying things that offend me? I haven't.

Elly said...

i said you were blocking me when you'd deleted those comments by me, as I genuinely thought that meant you'd decided to stop publishing my comments on your blog.

I said that in the context of how I get banned from feminist blogs quite often. I am sorry I didn't go round and retract that statement when I realised you'd not banned me but just deleted those comments.

sian and crooked rib said...

RT @sianushka @RopesToInfinity coz, you know, by writing about the daily mail we are actually MORBIDLY FASCINATED by rape cases < True.

So, actually, you did say that i was morbidly fascinated with rape cases. which was my whole point for the latter part of the discussion.

Elly said...

I tell you something, you feminists love trawling through my twitter account. I really don't know why you find it so interesting!

But everything is in context. I had made the 'morbidly fascinating' comment already. You 'quoted'it out of context on twitter. I said 'true' as I do think it is true but my original comment was a general one not specifically about you.

Really sian, you said you wanted to 'draw a line' under this.

I don't see you doing that!

sian and crooked rib said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sian and crooked rib said...

ps - actually, was worse than trawling your twitter account, was googling my name. oh, the vanity!