Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hypocrisy - specifically; mine.

I did a bad thing here yesterday. A stupid, emotional thing that was contradictory and lame - not unusual, I'm perpetually full of it, but I want to own up to it this time.

I linked to David Cameron bemoaning the low rates of sex crime convictions, and then I linked a successful terrorism conviction and got sceptical and paranoid about it. This is not only an inconsistent attitude towards criminal justice, towards the principle of innocent until proven guilty - it's also inconsistent regarding individual people.

I've mentioned this in passing before: there's these two guys - Jean Charles de Menezes and Mohammed Abdul Kahar. You've probably heard of at least one of them.

I'm not cherrypicking examples here - they are the only two people to have been shot by Metropolitan Police officers as part of Operation Kratos, in which a shoot-to-kill order was applied to terror suspects who were thought to be capable of causing imminent damage. Menezes died after being shot eight times while catching a train at Stockwell tube station, and Kahar survived being shot once in the chest during a house raid at Forest Gate.

Both were, within days, confirmed to be innocent of terrorism.

Both were, shortly afterwards, charged with sex crimes - Menezes was accused of rape and Kahar was accused of downloading child porn.

Further forensic examination found that both charges were as devoid of substance as the original terrorism suspicions.

So if we're going to ask that our legal system doesn't shoot to kill, assumes innocence until guilt is proven, and requires a case to be solid beyond reasonable doubt, that has to apply to terrorism and to sex crimes because the wrongly accused may well be the exact same people, under suspicion for the exact same reasons. (and it doesn't take much in the way of paranoia to cause speculation as to why these two men were wrongly accused of sex crimes - if it happens the next two times as well, maybe we can talk about a trend).


Anonymous said...

Thene, admitting she made a mistake - impossible, don't worry we can tell you were doing it through gritted teeth!
Cameron may make his crowd pleaser statements about harsher sentences for rapaists, but I would take it with a pinch of salt, especially if it involves chaps from the Eton with girls who were just teases! Must have been difficult for you to deal with this though, I mean we know that women are top of your human rights pyramid and if it had been a member of the white boys club who was executed in Stockwell it wouldn't have merited a comment - but non-white men, hmm where do they fit in in your perfect world. Obviously better than the white male scum, but clearly not quite women, (are non-white women on a special pedestal or does the sisterhood sing as one)? I know a large number of Brazilians based in London and without exception they have no idea why the incident happened in Stockwell, some have asked why the case was investigated under Health & Safety it is difficult to answer them because if the same thing had happened to a British National in Sao Paulo do you think it would have been treated as lightly?
As for sex assaults, I assume you are suggesting that accused men should have anonymity until their guilt is firmly established, that seems reasonable enough to me.

thene said...

No pyramids or pedestals, please - it's not the Oppression Olympics. Besides, some of my best friends are white men. :) No gritted teeth either - I do aim for consistency, though few armchair pundits (or indeed, politicians) can truly achieve that. And no sisterhood. I've never much bought into that one, personally.

Believe me, I would've been this bothered whoever had died for no reason at Stockwell that day - no man, woman or child, whatever their skin colour, should have been shot eight times while simply trying to catch a train. The Met's continuing efforts to say 'he deserved it' are unbelievable. But the truth is that if he'd been a white boy it's unlikely he would've been shot. That's the impression I get from the Met's claim that he looked like Hussein Osman - can't see the resemblance myself, and if your eyesight's that bad I guess a white boy could also have been mistaken for Osman, but it's certainly not so likely, is it?

And then there was the photoshopping - the defence team rearranging Menezes' face to make him look less Brazilian and more Pakistani. It's weird that you see my reaction to the event as racially motivated, but you imply the original event wasn't - that it was as likely to have been a white man who died. From my own POV that's reversed, but fortunately you'll have to take my word for that - fortunately because only no innocent white people have been shot by anti-terrorist police since 7/7.

I wasn't suggesting anonymity for rape suspects - it hadn't occurred to me to do so, tbh. It's an interesting suggestion, and it raises a question; if anonymity is necessary for accused rapists, why not for accused murderers? Is 'rapist' a worse slur than 'murderer'? And if so, why? One obvious problem with the idea: it would prevent other victims from coming forward, which would make it harder to prosecute serial rapists, who currently are often caught when, after one accusation becomes known, other victims come forward.

I'd note that not all rapists or accused rapists are men, just as not all rape victims are women - many feminists frame rape as being a man-on-woman crime, but I'm not one of them and I've called them out on it in the past. A third of child abuse victims are male (or so said the Metro a few weeks ago, I don't know where they get their numbers from, or how they extend to adult victims). Only a tiny percentage of accused rapists are women, but they are there and perhaps that number would be less skewed if fewer people had bought into the man-on-woman myth, if people felt more able to come forward about woman-on-man or woman-on-woman abuse.

It's weird that you interpret my writings about the under-representation or dodgy representation of women as meaning I think women are better than men. Gender supremacy is shit, whether it's men or women you want to put at the top of the heap.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't suggesting that your post was racially motivated, although I do feel your blog tends to favour positive discrimination, (maybe that is just my interpretation). I know what you mean about not identifying potential rapists deterring some victims from coming forward but I feel all accused people, (including murderers), should have anonyminity until there is enough firm evidence. As for the Stockwell incident, I am aware of the dodgy attempt to make him appear more asian, but the failings in that case are just so huge it is difficult to know where to start. The public should be aware that as many as 25% of police are armed now and maybe if some of them have dodgy eyesight they shouldn't be given guns! Mind you it would also explain why they managed to miss him with one shot despite being at point-blank range. I am waiting for someone to post camera footage on you tube, showing the officer saying "do you feel lucky, punk"

thene said...

I feel all accused people, (including murderers), should have anonyminity until there is enough firm evidence.

IANAL and neither are you, so I suggest you find a few criminal justice lawyers and see what they make of that idea. I'd imagine it'd make manhunts - things like the eventual capture of Hussein Osman, in fact - a little more difficult.

As for positive discrimination, it's just patching over the symptoms of bias without disturbing the roots, so I'm never sure which way to lean on that one. Eg, the fact that there are few women in parliament is a sign of deep institutional prejudice, but the causes of that won't be immediately addressed by just parachuting more women into parliament - you need to take apart a few underlying things (like the nuclear family bullshit, and all the other gendered social practises) to set things aright.

Positive discrimination is thought to help in the short-term - companies perform better if they have more female directors, for instance, and I'd be unsurprised if the same were true of parliaments. (This happens because, absent positive discrimination, talented women are systematically overlooked or discouraged from being speakers, leaders, gazers and all the rest of it, and instead their places are filled by less able men. Positive discrimination usually improves the quality of a structure simply by near-doubling its talent pool).

thene said...

and oooh, up pops a good example regarding your cause, Anon. Though that doesn't pertain to suspects, only to people who already have convictions - but it does show that identifying offenders is what gets them caught.

Anonymous said...

You are right, I am not a lawyer, however my mother is, (although she specialises in immigration issues and human rights abuses), she was a corporate lawyer before that so she is not just a do-gooder. While we meet rarely and agree on things even less often we have had this argument on a number of occassions. I think she agrees with me to a certain extent because of some of the cases she has worked on, for example she helped a Colombian teenager whose family had been executed because of his fathers testimony. It is difficult to say wether any degree of anonymity would have saved the boys mother or sister, because there is always a way to find people if you are well connected enough. She has also had to represent people who achieved UK citizenship despite questionable things they had done in other regimes, who needed their identities protected for their own safety. She may not have agreed with what these people had done, and I am talking about citizens from former regimes in Iraq, Somalia, Yugoslavia amongst others but she had a job to do. She has also seen how being anonymous has resulted in victims of atrocities being denied refugee status simply because they were not important enough of didn't meet the right quotas. I am guessing that you have rather less "real life" experience, but that is ok because this is your blog and is a forum for your opinions.
Funnily enough one of the things my mother does share with me is a dislike of positive discrimination. She is from an age when people achieved things on merit and while we agree that the best person for the job should be the most qualified, we have both had experiences where people have been promoted because of their race or gender. A good example was when I did a stint working in a South African investment bank, due to legislation a lot of black Africans were given positions for purely political reasons. It didn't bother me much because I am not South African and the trading room is largely a performance based meritocracy. Also it is hard to argue against such a justified cause, but many of the white South Africans were clearly disturbed by the new realities. I have had a number of similar experiences working with and for women. While I have had a few capable female colleagues, far more have been out of their depth. I doubt the situation would ever occur but if I was establishing a trading company I would think long and hard before hiring a woman purely because of the number of discrimination law suits I have seen during my brief working career.

thene said...

I doubt the situation would ever occur but if I was establishing a trading company I would think long and hard before hiring a woman purely because of the number of discrimination law suits I have seen during my brief working career.

And isn't that a great way to avoid discrimination lawsuits. By discriminating! God forbid you could avoid such things by not discriminating. And think, you could achieve exactly the same result (no discrimination cases) by not hiring men - but for some mysterious reason, you didn't think of that. I wonder why not.

I think one thing you're missing when you're talking about hiring based on 'merit', ie qualifications, is that in some of the situations you mentioned - South Africa for one - a group of people have been systematically denied access to qualifications and to high-level work experience. In other words judging on 'merit' often rates how much privilege someone's benefited from rather than simply how good they are.

Note that there's only one genuinely working-class person in the Cabinet right now (Alan Johnson). Is that because working-class people are somehow lacking in 'merit'? Or is it because they don't have the same level of access to opportunities as the group from which most of our political higherups are from - white, privately-educated, upper-class or upper-middle-class men, predominantly from southern England or the Lowlands? Do you think that tiny group of people actually possess more intrinsic 'merit' than the rest of us? Or are they using their privileged status to get into high office?

I don't much like the idea of positive discrimination. I just see no rational reason why we should accept a ruling class drawn from such a tiny slice of the population. Knocking the walls down between classes, races, genders, could only lead to better, more talented governance.

Anonymous said...

I think you are missing my point, in my work experience women are more of a liability than anything else. The law suits may make sense to them and their lawyers, but it is just meaningless to me. I started at the lowest level, having left school at 16, but yes, I am white and male, and maybe back in 1987 that counted for something. I achieved a reasonable level of success and quit after 10 years because I wanted to work for myself. We all knew the rules the city as it was then was a tough place to be, no shoulders to cry on and a lot of sexism. Women achieved prominant positions and some women continue to be highly regarded. But male members of staff don't feel discriminated against if they are not invited to certain meetings or if someone takes the piss out of the way they dress. I feel that the broadening of the talent pool you subscribe to has reduced the effectiveness of the industry, I could give you examples but it would serve little purpose because you will never agree. When I think of women in the field I used to work in, I think of lack of accountability. It was always someone else's fault. You may be very good at whatever it is you do, but I doubt you would cut the mustard in the highly competitive environment of the city, but I am equally sure you would find some "glass ceiling" type argument to justify your reltive lack of performance.

thene said...

Sorry for letting this lie for a while. I've been busy. This first:

I feel that the broadening of the talent pool you subscribe to has reduced the effectiveness of the industry, I could give you examples but it would serve little purpose because you will never agree.

If you went out there and did a thorough survey of this phenomenon, I might. As is, I'm aware of two recent surveys; one about boardrooms in the USA and one about local government in India. Both have found that organising bodies that include more women achieve better performance.

I am white and male, and maybe back in 1987 that counted for something

If it doesn't count for something now, then why are all the UK's political leaders, and a large proportion of the UK's CEOs, white and male? It's not just a coincidence, is it?

But male members of staff don't feel discriminated against if they are not invited to certain meetings or if someone takes the piss out of the way they dress.

I don't know if you've ever seen The Male Privilege Checklist: not being male, I'm never sure how marked or important any of these supposed privileges really is, but I think these four are relevant here:

3. If I am never promoted, it’s not because of my sex.

4. If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won’t be seen as a black mark against my entire sex’s capabilities.

6. If I do the same task as a woman, and if the measurement is at all subjective, chances are people will think I did a better job.

46. I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.

I'm not sure where #6 is derived from - unlike most of the others, Barry doesn't directly link a source. Given the general thoroughness I doubt he made it up, though.