EYE on Media Misandry
The Guardian’s People’s editor Chris Elliot recently responded to criticism of their coverage of the Tim Hunt affair. If you’ve followed the way his paper has covered the story then you probably won’t be surprised to hear that his analysis was painfully pompous, predictably PC, utterly unapologetic and disgustingly disingenuous. In other words, business as usual at click bait central.
Where the Guardian had it right is in the heart of the leader… …the surge of support shows how widely misunderstood the pressing need for feminist activism still is, particularly in science. Chris Elliot – Guardian
The fact that the Editorial piece he discusses had the gaul to blame ‘an explosive combination of science, sexism and social media’ for an almost entirely old-media manufactured kerfuffle is as disgraceful as Elliot pointing to a few choice statistics about women in science to excuse the manner in which the Guardian has covered and to a large degree helped to create the sad story of the spectacularly sexist scientist and the room full of journalists stunned into stoney faced silence.
The People’s Editor
This whole kerfuffle was sparked by someone, purporting to be a Guardian regular, promoting an unflatteringly exaggerated account of what happened and accusing Hunt of calling for segregated workspaces. Her tweet was immediately jumped on and fanned into a full blown ‘media storm‘ ’ by various ‘journalists’ who took her entirely at her word and then further fuelled on social media by the #distractinglysexy hashtag created by another Guardian columnist (with an obvious vagenda).
Twitter is loud, shouty and mainly male. It is rubbish at nuance, detail or ambivalence but it is perfect for rushing noisily to judgment, sometimes – as women from Connie St Louis to Caroline Criado-Perez have learned – in a downright threatening way. Guardian Editorial
Elliot acknowledges two not especially significant ‘objective factual errors’ whilst nonchalantly ignoring any facts that don’t fit with the Guardian’s preferred presentation of the tale, including the objective fact that the editorial was still claiming that Hunt called for segregated workplaces, even though this allegation had been entirely debunked by the time the ‘People’s Editor’ sat down to write his analysis.
Despite generating over twenty articles in the week following Connie St Louis’ initial claims, the Guardian have completely shied away from (i.e ignored) such significant developments as the release of a speech transcript, a brief audio recording of the audience laughing, testimonies from other people in the room, Hunt’s record of supporting female scientists, UCL’s less than perfect record on gender equality and, of course, the questions being asked about previous claims made by the prosecution’s star witness.
Elliot did (sort of) respond to criticism of a contribution by Connie St Louis herself which demanded that people stop defending Hunt. If only to dismiss ‘at least one commentator’s‘ concerns about the editor’s reluctance to add a correction note acknowledging the significant level of ‘live editing’ that was required.
If basic style and grammar errors are spotted and corrected within hours of a piece being published, we would not usually add a footnote. However, on this occasion we should have done so as, such is the controversy surrounding the story, at least one commentator thought the absence of a footnote might be significant. It wasn’t. Chris Elliot – Guardian
The absence of a footnote acknowledging changes to St Louis’ shoddy first draft was entirely significant in the context that by the time her article was approved other sections of the media had begun to examine the accuracy of some of her previous claims. Her employer is now ‘helping her to update her CV’ and a series of exaggerations and apparent falsehoods have been removed.
It wasn’t just a case of poor grammar either, for example St Louis initially described the Observer’s revealing interview with the couple as ‘handmaidenesque’, whatever that’s supposed to mean. The ‘People’s Editor’ opted not to even acknowledge that this discription was removed, let alone shed some light on what sort of message Connie St Louis was trying to convey.
The fact that the Guardian have completely ignored this and so many other factors relevant to the story exposes either incompetence, sexism or something worse at the heart of their editorial policy. Which goes some way to explaining why and how this whole kerfuffle really kicked off in the first place.