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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

No Means No

What? Pardon? What MANNER of grotesque foulness is this? How on EARTH have I missed this opportunity for outrage?

‘The BBC has been accused of "trivialising rape" with its new show The Verdict, in which a jury of C-list celebrities decides the outcome of a mock trial.
The End Violence Against Women campaign condemned the BBC2 programme, which began on Sunday night. The fictional rape case involves a 19-year-old waitress who claims she was subjected to a degrading sex attack by a footballer and his friend. All are played by actors.
End Violence Against Women is a coalition whose members include Amnesty International UK, Refuge and Women's Aid.
According to their campaign, 47,000 women in England and Wales are raped each year, with most attacks committed by someone known to the victim. Of the cases reported, more than half do not reach court and only 5.3% result in conviction.
Professor Liz Kelly, campaign chairwoman, said: "The Verdict is guilty of trivialising rape. This is reality television that misses much of the reality of rape.
"With rape rarely dealt with at any length by broadcasters, The Verdict is a missed opportunity to show the facts on rape. The bleak truth about rape is that little support or justice exists for women in this country."’


So, let me get this straight: the BBC – a publicly-funded body – has screened a reality television ‘game’ show, in which a panel of ‘celebrities’ decide whether a fictional woman has been raped or not?

We’re actually giving screen time and precious exposure to such beacons of social morality as convicted criminal and liar Jeffrey Archer, wife-beating ‘dogger’ Stan Collymore, and some chap who, humorously, goes by the title ‘Megaman’ and who, according to the BBC’s own website, has also done time in prison for murder? Oh wonderful.

And we’re asking these people for their opinions on rape crime, for ENTERTAINMENT purposes?
Good to know.
Really FUCKING good to know that - in a country in which a raped woman has (roughly speaking) approximately bollock all chance of getting justice - we're able to watch 'rape as entertainment' over our early evening spaghetti hoops on toast.
I suppose, if you like a bit of morally and ethically reprehensible 'grit' chucked in with your reality shows, it's got the edge over Dancing on Ice on the other side.

It’s not often I say this, but I’m genuinely almost lost for words.

Oh but hang on, it gets worse; this is a case of a young woman being ‘raped’ by a footballer, is it?

That’s wouldn’t be an unfairly loaded scenario right there, would it? We wouldn’t be implying that rape is the fall-back position of stupid young women, desperate to get their claws into rich and famous young men in exchange for cash and tabloid exposure, would we? Not on the BBC, WOULD WE?
It's lucky normal women don't get raped by normal men, I suppose.

According to Ofcom, there has only been six complaints about this show so far. Six. No wonder poor old Jade ‘conveniently dispensible celebrity scapegoat’ Goody is feeling a little hard done by.

The Ofcom complaints page is here:

http://www.ofcom.org.uk/complain/progs/specific/

The BBC complaints page is here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/
Go on.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wonder if you have actualyl seen The Verdict. If you had, you would know that:
* It's not a "game" show.
* The only actors are the defendents and the accused.
* All other roles taking part by people who fulfil the same roles in actuality - it's a real judge, real barristers, real court.
* Anyone who saw the first episode with the testimony from the accused would hardly desribe it as "entertainment" - a very normal young woman describing the most horrible of attacks - sadly, as one of the jurors said afterwards, it felt as if the young woman was being raped all over again by the barrister - as you ought to know, this is a very common complaint by women who do have to testify in court in this type of case.
It's hardly a "celebrity" jury - three of the 12 are barely household names - the young entrepeneur and the woman who runs Ann Summers. And only the sickest, most twisted of minds could possibly suggest that Sara Payne would ever have chosen to become well known in the way that she has.
The point of the programme is to highlight precisely the difficulties of getting justice in the present legal system - something many women who hve been raped have posted to theBBC message board in support of (of course, you would know this if you'd managed to read anyone else's contributions before putting your own obviously well-regarded thoughts on there). No one - not you, the judge, the jury or the barristers knows as yet what actually happened in this case. There may have been a rape, there may not. If there was a rape, those accused of it may not in fact be the guilty parties. The point of having a jury that consists of people who we do know something about is that we, the viewing public, get the chance to see how their views are influenced by their own experiences - which we happen to know because of their previous public exposure. Having a jury of "ordinary" people wouldn't allow us to see how one's own personal experience colours one's view of the evicence presented.

All of this would be known to you if you had actually watched the show and taken a little time to research the facts before you chose to comment . Your profile describes you as a journalist. I also wonder if Professor Kelly had seen the programem before making her comments. Again, you choose to quote her comments with attribution to the source i.e. which newspaper, broadcaster etc have you taken this from? Again, it's interesting to note that you say you are a journalist. I wonder what standards of journalism you operate to?

Finally, many women have posted to the Verdict message board to say that - having endured similar circumstances - they find the programming harrowing and disturbing - but ultimately worthwhile. The consensus of opinion seems to be that it won't discourage women from making allegations of rape, and that the series has also made a valuable contritubion to building a wider public understanding of how the legal system works.

I do hope you get the chance to watch the show with an open mind and that if you get the chance you will choose to reconsider your views and post accordingly.

Mrs R Smith

Jo said...

Dear Mrs Smith,

It ought to have been made abundantly clear to you from the first sentence of my posting: as I point out therein, I haven't seen the show in question.

As to whether this allows me to comment on it on a moderated public message board, and on my own website? Yes, yes it does.

I'm not writing in the Daily Mail, after all - if I had been, it might've been politic for me to watch the first few minutes in a state of outraged horror, as did Amanda Platell on Sunday night, and made my comments afterwards.

Now then - to your other issues (about which you seem remarkably uptight if you don't mind my saying - why the need to defend a TV show against a random blogger that you wouldn't know if they sat on you, I wonder?)...

The 'only' actors are the defendants and accused: Um, yes...I don't recall mentioning that anyone else in the show was an actor.
Real barristers, real judge? Yep, I know. Don't you think that rather undermines their professional integrity? I do.
A real court? Erm...in which they're trying a case in which, to quote you, 'the only actors are the defendents [sic] and the accused?'
Have a little sit down and think about that one, yes?

You describe sitting down 'and watching the first episode', but you refute any suggestion that what you were watching, on the entertainment medium that is television, was 'entertainment'. It might not have been the kind of lighthearted early evening reality television that presumably you and yours normally sit down to - Stars in Their Eyes, Strictly Come Dancing and the like, as I believe I made clear with the lighthearted reference to Dancing on Ice. However it is, nonetheless, an 'entertainment' format, featuring C-list celebrities desperately profile-raising, and CANNOT THEREFORE, my love, ever be a serious documentary about the difficulties in bringing rape cases to trial in the UK.
Sorry, but I could watch the show every night for a year and you couldn't persuade me out of that opinion. Does that upset you??

If you think that 'The Verdict' is a documentary, you should probably watch a few more of them and try and get your head around the format.

Your remarks about the celebrity jury: too absurd to answer in depth. Sara Payne? Only 'the sickest, most twisted of minds' would ever have told their researcher to approach such a woman about appearing on the show in the first place.

As for my reading the other comments: I did. Not that I have, in any way, to defend my point of view to you or anyone else.

Why's it interesting to you that 'I say I'm a journalist'? Would I have more right to express my own opinion on a public forum if I was a traffic warden or a trapeze artist? But thank you, yes, I agree it is very interesting that I'm a journalist. Good of you to note it.


You say:
"many women have posted to the Verdict message board to say that - having endured similar circumstances - they find the programming harrowing and disturbing - but ultimately worthwhile. The consensus of opinion seems to be that it won't discourage women from making allegations of rape, and that the series has also made a valuable contritubion to building a wider public understanding of how the legal system works."

I don't agree that it's worthwhile. If other women do, fair play to them. I don't, and I don't have to. Remember: a consensus of opinion is something that can only be reached by different opinions and views being expressed freely, and an overarching 'consensus' being reached as a result.

Think about it.

The 'many women who have been raped' comment is, I presume, your way of making some sort of point about my right as a (presumably non-raped?) woman to comment.

Fair enough, Mrs Smith. Again, I am not obliged to you.

To be honest, I'm only responding at all because people like you - people who get all worked up about the views of others simply because they themselves don't agree with them - fascinate me hugely. WHY should I 'reconsider my views and post accordingly?' What the hell kind of a difference ought it to make to you, Mrs Smith?

I doubt you'll be back to read this - saying that, the ego is a very curious thing - but I figured I'd respond in any case, try and wind you up a bit more.

How am I doing so far?

Love and kisses,

Jo
x

Jo said...

P.S. Defendants and accused, Mrs Smith....Defendants and accused.

Worked out the irony yet?

Jo
x

Anonymous said...

Hi Jo

You ask why I reply to an anonymous blogger? Then why do you invite comments on your blog? Why post the link to your blog when you posted your original contrtibution to the BBC board? And why reply to me, an anonymous commentator on your blog? Does this mean that you like the attention? If not, why blog, why ask for comments and why reply to me? I'm told that blogging is meant to be a conversation - between a blogger and her readers. What do you think?

On the subjct of The Verdict, I find it frankly incredible that anyone can a) comment on a programme which they haven't watched in full; b) make that comment full of inaccuracies - e.g. the "celeb" quotient of the jury; the mistake in saying tht there's a convicted murderer on the jury when there isn't, and so on; and c) be utterly intransigent in the face of the facts when those inaccuracies are pointed out?

Then again, why let the facts stand in the way of ... whatever it is that you think you're doing.

There's much in your reply to me which I disagree with. To pick up just one point, I understand that Sara Payne has been very pleased to be able to contribute to the programme - on last night's epsisode she acknowledged that taking part was painful - but that as someone whose adult life has been in large part determined by what happens in the jury room, she was keen and eager to find out for herself how it felt to take part. At no time has she expressed feeling used or degraded by taking part, and I believe her character is such that she wouldn't agree to any circumstances which she was unhappy with.

I don't quite understand the point you're tring to make about the programme as entertainment. You said it was a game show. I said it's not. You haven't watched it, I have. You said it's based on celebrities, I said it isn't, and tried to explain why I believe the producers have deliberately used people who have lived - sometimes through choice, sometimes not - part of their lives in the public eye. You don't seem willing to acknowledge those points. It would be interesting to know why. To stretch the metaphor (or is it simile?) - who would the jury believe = the commentator who hasn't seen the show, or the commentator who has?

You just singlarly seem to fail to see that the point of the show - and I use that word advisedly - is to illustrate just how hard it is to get justice - remember, we don't know as yet who the victim of these accusations really is, or what the outcome will be.

On a more personal note, I wonder why you choose to comment on my supposed viewing habits. How can you in any way make any comment or suppositon about me when you know nothning of me other than what's in the comments I have left? My own response on your blog entry mentions only what I know about you from your own words and your brief bio. Why do you feel you can win an argument by making personal assumptions about someone you don't even know? Does it make you feel better to adopt a somewhat patronising tone towards me? Why base your response to my criticism of your remarks on your perjorative and completely uninformed assessment of my taste in television? I may (or may not) be an avid viewer of all sorts of lightweight telly, but does that mean that my opinion counts for less than yours? Or anyone else's? Frankly, I think this smacks of a kind of arrogance and contemptuous superiority on your part. I wonder what you base this on?

Overall, I do dispute anyone's right to comment on a programem which they haven't seen. It smacks of the whole "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like" view of the kind of person who's proud to profess their lack of knowlddge . It's okay not to know something, but such willful Ignorance is no excuse or basis on which to comment. Quite literlally, in the case of The Verdict, you do not know what you're talking about.

You could remedy that pretty easily, but it seems that you prefer to remain ill-informed and content with your own prejudices. My only problem with that is when you seek approval from others or try to persuade them of your point of view.

I think it's shocking that someone can be so proud to display their own willfull ignorance, and to claim virtue for doing so adds insult to injury.

That you're a journalist led me to expect that you worked to some kind of professional code or ethic. I'd be curious to learn what that might be in your case.

Quite frankly, I do find it disturbing that someone - regardelss of their profession - can be so willfully intransigent and closed-minded.

R Smith (Mrs).

Jo said...

"You ask why I reply to an anonymous blogger? Then why do you invite comments on your blog? Why post the link to your blog when you posted your original contrtibution to the BBC board? And why reply to me, an anonymous commentator on your blog? Does this mean that you like the attention? If not, why blog, why ask for comments and why reply to me? I'm told that blogging is meant to be a conversation - between a blogger and her readers. What do you think?"

I agree entirely, Mrs Smith. Diversity of opinion and freedom of speech are really quite wonderful things.

Have a lovely day,

Jo
x

Anonymous said...

Hi Jo

I can only respect your decision that we agree to disagree.

Perhaps we leave the last word to Sara Payne herself - it appears she's contributing to the message board now:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbpointsofview/F6558955?thread=3887763

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to reply to your comments.

Mrs Smith