EYEtalked to the Liberal Democrat’s Jo Swinson about the importance of accurate reporting in the media and the best way to ‘Reclaim the Internet’.
Out of all the curious characters championing the (apparently) cross party Reclaim the Internet campaign, Jo Swinson’s political perspective is perhaps most closely aligned to my own.
Which is why EYEwas especially curious to ask her why she had remained silent about the outrageous and incredibly misleading headlines that followed a Labour MP’s slightly disingenuous claims about people on twitter talking about her rape.
At the height of the whole hoo ha the Daily Telegraph published an opinion piece which struck me as a plain and unambiguous claim by said Member of Parliament that thousands of people had sent her rape threats via an open forum social media platform.
For the Uninitiated the truth of the matter is more than a little more nuanced and, without excusing her trolls, it still strikes me as quite disgusting to think that an MP would make such inflated claims about something as serious as rape threats.
Especially someone who used to manage a Woman’s Aid refuge, served on the West Midlands Police and Crime Panel and currently styles herself as Labour’s spokesperson for victims of domestic and sexual violence, not to mention their bravest champion against online abuse.
Curiously enough Jo didn’t quite see it that way.
After re-reading Phillips’s article, the former Equalities Minister’s assessment was that if you actually take the time to read what Jess Phillips actually says below the headline, it is clear that she does not actually claim to have received any rape threats.
Even so Ms Swinson didn’t quite agree with my suggestion that the ‘thousands of rape threats sent to me‘ headline was grossly exaggerated but did at least acknowledge that it certainly wasn’t ‘carefully worded’.
And remarkably her perspective on this apparently minor nuance is that MP’s actually have no control over the headline that newspaper’s choose to put above the column they are purportedly paid to write.
Which strikes me as an entirely curious, albeit convenient claim.
EYEalso put it to her that the Reclaim the Internet campaign appeared to be tainted by overt political bias and flagged up that the fact that on the very same day that the Daily Telegraph was apparently putting words into MP’s mouths, the campaign team she is championing shut down a discussion thread asking if exaggerated claims of abuse can actually harm genuine victims and scare people off social media.
Curiously she had nothing to say on that point whatsoever.
After the tragic news of MP Jo Cox’s brutal murder last week it seems slightly churlish to consider the curious inconsistencies of a Liberal champion of free speech.
But Labour MP’s are already suggesting that: ‘whatever the specific circumstances of her murder, the torrent of rape and death threats faced by woman in public life are an undeniable part of the culture in which it happened’.
If they are right and something is to be done about this culture of hate then surely the time has come for supposedly concerned parties to show a bit of leadership and stop making, or making excuses for, grossly false or exaggerated claims for personal and political gain?
Just a thought.
On a related note…
During our discussion it also transpired that EYEhad done Jo a disservice in an earlier post by suggesting she had a curious track record on LGBT rights.
This post has been corrected because it seems that the former Junior Minister for Equalities actually has a commendable track record in this area and was even short listed for last year’s prestigious Pink News’ MP of Year award.
Having reviewed my notes it turns out can that it was actually Jo’s former colleague in the Women & Equalities Office and current Reclaim the Internet champion who was reported to have either voted against or been absent from all major LGBT rights votes in the House of Commons up to her Ministerial appointment in 2012.
Indeed former Tory Minister Mrs Maria Miller’s record on a number of equality issues were called into question at the time.
Then again at the end of last year she was being presented with Pink News’ prestigious MP of the year award. So my apologies to Jo Swinson and make of all that what you will….