Getting All Defensive

Changing Attitude are amusing.

New Changing Attitude LogoInto the vacuum left by Ms Williams’ silence have stepped would-be defenders.

On the one hand there are those who want to defend her by saying we can’t be sure she said these things.  See for example Peter Ould who devotes his blogpost on December 18th to attacking the reporter Lester Feder, a classic case of shooting the messenger when you don’t want to hear the message.   But if Williams did not say these things what did she say?  At a conference where other speakers were also advocating imprisonment for gays.  And why is she so uncharacteristically unwilling to tell us what she said?  Peter Ould simply does not want to face the fact that he is metaphorically in bed with some rather distasteful bedfellows.

Let’s break that down bit by bit.

Peter Ould who devotes his blogpost on December 18th to attacking the reporter Lester Feder, a classic case of shooting the messenger when you don’t want to hear the message.

Interesting how they don’t link to my blogpost though. If they did they would have seen I wasn’t attacking the reporter per se, but rather questioning why he wouldn’t clarify any details about the conference.

  1. If Andrea and her fellow speakers never condemned anti-gay violence in Jamaica, how hard would it be to simply confirm this? Might it actually be that that is one of the things they did do and the reporting of such condemnations damages the view that the conference was all about demeaning gay people?
  2. If Andrea didn’t expand on the link between homosexuality and paedophilia that it is reported she made, how hard would it be to simply confirm this? Might it actually be that some good evidence was presented to support this assertion (I doubt such evidence exists but I would love to see it if it does) but it is inconvenient to report it?
  3. If the speeches weren’t provided as hard copies, how hard would it be to simply confirm this? Might it actually be that transcripts were available and that reading them would give us a better context of the claims made?

And that’s all fair points I think.

Let’s carry on.

But if Williams did not say these things what did she say?

Here’s the thing. You don’t have a transcript, I don’t have a transcript. All we have is one report from a journalist who categorically refuses to confirm any details and provide any more information to backup his story. So YOU don’t know what she said in context, I don’t know what she actually said in context and that is the whole point.

But the best is yet to come.

Peter Ould simply does not want to face the fact that he is metaphorically in bed with some rather distasteful bedfellows.

On the contrary, here is what I wrote.

Having said all this, it would be really good, really really good, if Christian Concern could clear up the reported statement, “They hate the line of homosexuality being linked to pedophilia”. I think we need to know from Andrea,
(a) Did she say that?
(ii) If so, what did she mean by that?
It is a common slur to link homosexuality to paedophilia. Whilst it is true that recently reported rates of abuse by males of boys compared to girls make the ratio around 1:3 (so around 25% to 30% of those abused are “homosexual abuse” – eg Blanchard et al.,1999), it is not necessarily true that those adult males who abuse male children are themselves homosexual (e.g. Sgroi 1988). That doesn’t negate the fact that male same-sex child abusers (i.e. those men who abuse boys) have a higher recidivism rate than other abusers, but the notion that these are all specifically gay men is unsupported by the evidence. Furthermore, implying that all men who engage in same-sex child abuse are gay is the same kind of reductionism of sexual orientation and identity that it’s proponents reject in other places (“People aren’t really gay”).
It was also suggested to me last night that Jamaica has a particular issue with male same-sex child abuse (and therefore Andrea’s comments were given in that context). That may very well be true, but we would still need some evidence that there is a particular problem with gay people in Jamaica committing these crimes.

Obviously I was trying to just push the whole paedophilia = homosexuality thing under the carpet, ignoring how unpleasantly it comes across. That’s why I blogged about it again today. In the interests of trying to push it under the carpet, that’s why last night I tweeted this

and this

Any time you want to apologise Changing Attitude, you know where to find me.

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  • James Byron

    You say you weren’t attacking the reporter per se, but in the original blog post, you said he “obviously has an axe to grind.”

    We lack transcripts for the vast majority of newspaper reports. Bluntly, we trust reporters to report accurately, which is why there was such scandal over Johann Hari and Jayson Blair. Williams spoke in public, and her words appeared as direct quotes, relayed by a reporter who was there in person.

    At present I have no grounds to doubt the report’s accuracy. What are yours?

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      My position is this – I would like some more context to the quotes provided. The reporters point blank refusal to provide that context speaks for itself.

      • James Byron

        What further context is needed? What context would excuse the reported comments?

        Even if Williams did condemn homophobic violence, and expanded on the comments about child molestation, it wouldn’t undo the rest.

        • Eaglet2

          The context is this, surely: this is a very heated, complex and ‘politicised’ area, where some (but not all) commentators on both sides of the debate have been known to misrepresent opponents’ comments in order to score points. Peter has I think clearly demonstrated how Changing Attitude have done that just now on his last post, but it’s certainly not confined to liberals – If you are looking for an example of conservatives up to tricks there’s an example on the Anglican Mainstream website right now, just scroll down a bit.

          I’m afraid this area has more than its fair share of commentators willing to stretch the truth. People who have been following this debate for years have seen too many pieces where honesty has been a casualty of war.

          Therefore, if a reporter writes a negative piece about an opponent, and then responds aggressively to queries and requests for transcripts we are entitled to take their report with a huge pinch of salt. This is especially true when the reporter is a relative unknown who has not developed a reputation for fairness or openness to being challenged.

          Andrea Williams is not everyone’s cup of tea by any means, but if he’s to be taken seriously it’s for Lester Feder to back up his article with some hard evidence.

          • James Byron

            How have Changing Attitude misrepresented what Peter said?

            CA said that the blogpost of 18 Dec. attacked Feder. That’s a reasonable interpretation of Peter saying that Feder “obviously has an axe to grind,” and that Feder’s focus on LGBT issues “should set our alarm bells ringing.” I wouldn’t have speculated about Peter’s motives, as CA did at the end, but that’s a matter of opinion, not a misrepresentation.

            • Eaglet2

              Oh dear, James, I mistook you for someone who was interested in a serious discussion of the facts and issues. If you think CA are paragons of probity and good sense I’ve got better things to do with my life.

              • James Byron

                I haven’t said anything about CA being “paragons of probity and good sense.” I merely asked how the quoted article misrepresents the blogpost to which it refers.

  • Fiddlesticks

    The point is, if Andrea really said those things it’s really serious. I want to be REALLY sure she actually said those things before large numbers of Christians start dissociating themselves from this organisation that’s supposed to be representing our interests. You weren’t attacking the reporter – anybody with any sense doesn’t automatically believe a reporter. Most reporters have an axe to grind. Changing Attitudes are just being childish.

    • James Byron

      I’ll believe a credible report. This report is eyewitness testimony from a public meeting, that offers direct quotes of a speech by Williams.

      If the report is inaccurate, Williams could say so. She’s said nothing. Feder, who’s merely reported an event that he attended, is under no similar burden.

      • Fiddlesticks

        I’m not accusing the man of lying, but can you not see why we might want further clarification/context to try to understand why these comments were being made?

        • James Byron

          Sure, but I don’t see it as grounds to reserve judgment on the comments as reported.

          • Fiddlesticks

            Innocent until proven guilty and all that …

            • James Byron

              Running with the legal analogy, testimony of a single witness is sufficient for a jury to convict a person and a judge to imprison them for the rest of their days.

              If it’s sufficient for that, it’s certainly sufficient grounds to believe a news report!

              • http://u-church.blogspot.com/ David Shepherd

                Really? In the absence of corroborating evidence? Well, I never!

                • James Byron

                  Where’s this “equally persuasive evidence to the contrary”? On one hand, we have an eyewitness report of a public meeting; on the other, deafening silence.

                  I’ll believe the report until given reason not to.

                  • http://twitter.com/TheUtarEfson Utar Efson

                    No; what we have is an allegation of content that has not been corroborated nor do we have a source that has been tested.

                    Trust and verify. Every time.

                    UE

                    • James Byron

                      If you refuse to believe an uncorroborated source, that’s your call: I have no problem with it. As this isn’t a court of law, I don’t believe it needs to be tested, either.

                      All these doubts about the accuracy of the account are a distraction from the issue: is this an acceptable position to take?

                    • http://twitter.com/TheUtarEfson Utar Efson

                      Despite your protests, it seems you are quite happy to be judge, jury and executioner. How very telling.

                      UE

                    • James Byron

                      Oh baloney, believing an account isn’t punishing anyone. My belief isn’t gonna stop Williams from going right back to campaigning, and fighting unlikely lawsuits.

                  • http://u-church.blogspot.com/ David Shepherd

                    ‘Where’s this “equally persuasive evidence to the contrary”?’
                    You might have said the same straight after a damning testimony in court. Perhaps, you will await the scrutiny of the testimony by thorough cross-examination knowing that we cannot subpoena witnesses…as they do in court.
                    Your comparison of this situation with the courtroom dispenses with the importance of completing due process before a verdict can be rendered.

                    • James Byron

                      I didn’t draw the legal analogy, Fiddlesticks did. I merely explored it further.

                      This isn’t a court of law. If Williams faces any official sanction for her comments, she’s of course entitled to every protection the law can provide. Until then, it’s a different ballgame.

              • http://twitter.com/TheUtarEfson Utar Efson

                Scots law wisely requires corrobororation.

                UE

                • James Byron

                  By accident of history; they’re in the process of abolishing it.

                  • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                    Two witnesses is a Biblical principle.

                    • James Byron

                      Under the Mosaic law, which no country, including Scotland, currently operates under. Unless you’re suggesting we reinstate it, I don’t see the relevance.

                      I’m more concerned with quality than quantity.

                    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                      Actually I was making another reference.

                    • James Byron

                      If it was to Matthew 18, that’s about conflict resolution within the church, not whether we should believe reports absent corroboration. In any case, I believe there’s better ways to evaluate testimony than head-counting.

                  • http://twitter.com/TheUtarEfson Utar Efson

                    It has not gone past the discussion phase. It would be foolish to abolish it.

                    UE

                    • James Byron

                      Even if it would, whether we should believe a news report isn’t dependent on the workings of Scots law.

              • Fiddlesticks

                Yes, but I think the witness might be expected to answer a few simple questions!

                If it’s any consolation, I wouldn’t just automatically believe a report from Christian Concern that somebody at a gay rights conference had called for all Christians to be locked up in prison. Even if one of their members had attended to conference and reported back, I’d still want to investigate.

  • The Church Mouse

    Peter

    I’m a little troubled by your approach to this topic. The situation is pretty simple. Andrea is being reported as making a series of comments at a conference aimed at opposing any change to a series of (in my humble opinion) appalling anti-homosexuality laws, in a country with endemic and entrenched homophobia. The journalist has confirmed to you he was present, so provides the only first hand account available.

    But it isn’t a story about a journalist is it. You have discussed whether the reports are reliable and what Changing Attitude have said in response, but there are two far more important issues.

    1. why on earth was Andrea at this conference and defending this law
    2. if she did say what she is reported to have said, how do we feel about that

    Of course we should seek clarification on the comments, context etc, but since Andrea is clearly not playing ball with that (something that you yourself suggested was her wisest course of action on twitter, I note), and the conference organisers have not responded to my enquiries, it looks like we’re out of options.

    I think most people’s reaction was – “gosh, she shouldn’t have said that, but let’s just check the actual transcript before jumping to conclusions”. You don’t seem to have said the first bit, and seem to have quite a lot to say on the reporter and other commentators.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      If you look at what I’ve said on the subject over the past few days you will see I have addressed both your points. One thing is clear, I am not going to jump to Changing Attitude’s agenda, especially when they misrepresent my position.

    • Fiddlesticks

      What’s more troubling is that the people who should have the moral high ground are losing it by attacking Peter instead of concentrating on the actual issue – what’s been said? how do we hold Christian Concern accountable? what are we going to do about it?

    • Simon Taylor

      Yes indeed. And the silence of Andrea Minichiello Williams and Christian Concern is beyond startling – an individual and an organisation with no hint of being self-effacing and shy of press comment hitherto. Their failure to correct the reports, which are now widely spread, look very much like confirmation that the reports are correct and that they have nothing to add about context or other comments made that would put the reported comments in a truer light than the original report itself does.

      • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

        Simon,

        I’m broadly in agreement with you. The refusal of any party to clarify calls into question their position.

        • James Byron

          I see that as false equivalence. Feder’s provided direct quotes, and has clarified that he was there in person; Williams has said nothing.

          Feder didn’t do everything you asked, but we have more than enough to go on.

          • HarryJM

            I agree with Peter that direct quotes – even if true – mean nothing without the context. ‘Some people say “I hate football” but the truth is I love it’. can easily be quoted as me saying “I hate football”.

            • James Byron

              We know a lot of the context: a speech given in Jamaica, at this conference.

              How much more context do you need?

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