In defence of Laurie Penny


by Rumbold
9th May, 2011 at 7:26 am    

I do not share Laurie Penny’s politics. I am not a regular reader of her material, and I strongly dislike some of her assertions, such as comparing housing benefit reforms to the murder of six millions Jews. From what I have read, there is plenty to criticise in her writings, and she should be held to the same standards as everybody else. But she isn’t.

Ms. Penny, more than any other writer, attracts a tidal wave of hate-filled abuse. In the comments on one critical post, her death is called for, her looks are dissected and scorned, she is called a ‘cow’ and ‘bitch‘ various times and attracts other comments too unpleasant to link to.

And that is just under one post. Posts frequently emerge attacking her, often leading to a plentiful supply of hateful comments, especially those focusing on her appearance. Much of the abuse is sexual/gendered in nature, and I can’t see a male blogger attracting the same sort of vitriol.

The other frequent criticism of Ms. Penny is due to her privileged background. She is quite open about this, and it is unclear why having a privileged background should stop an individual from taking the stances that Ms. Penny does (as long as she practices what she preaches). Would her critics prefer that she ignores the issues she cares about and instead revels in the advantages her upbringing has given her?

Some people manage to criticise Ms. Penny without resorting to either of these tactics, as they should. Those who can’t manage to criticise Ms. Penny in a civil way should hold their tongues, as they are nothing more than bullies.


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  1. sunny hundal

    Blogged: : In defence of Laurie Penny http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/12595


  2. Heitzman

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  3. Sirena Bergman

    RT @sunny_hundal In defence of @PennyRed http://bit.ly/lSK0lC


  4. Helen Lewis-Hasteley

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : In defence of Laurie Penny http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/12595


  5. Jonathan Davis

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  6. Emily Davis

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  7. Jamie Khan

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  8. Gods & Monsters

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  9. Mehdi Hasan

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  10. Linda Marric

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  11. Neutron Decay

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  12. Owen Jones

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  13. Chris Stagg

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  14. Gary Barratt

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  15. George Readings

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  16. Bathtubgin

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  17. Polly Samson

    Privileged, pretty and opinionated. It's a crime: http://tinyurl.com/6fo8dvp (@PennyRed. @Jemima_Khan)


  18. Kimberley Pledger

    RT @PollySamson: Privileged, pretty and opinionated. It's a crime: http://tinyurl.com/6fo8dvp (@PennyRed. @Jemima_Khan)


  19. Siraj Datoo

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  20. Alan Eses

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  21. Dave Mellows

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  22. Michael Bater

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  23. B Shenanigans

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  24. Christine Ottery

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  25. Gavin Boyd

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  26. Jenni Payne

    EXCELLENT. RT @sunny_hundal: In defence of Laurie Penny http://bit.ly/irYjUB


  27. Naadir Jeewa

    Reading: In defence of Laurie Penny: I do not share Laurie Penny’s politics. I am not a regular reader of her ma… http://bit.ly/l88Vtn


  28. Anna Belsham

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  29. daniel waweru

    via @randomvariable RT @sunny_hundal In defence of @PennyRed http://bit.ly/lSK0lC [PickledPolitics]


  30. vitoria

    In defence of Penny http://bit.ly/ma1ZVL


  31. Rosa Manueal

    RT @Phat_Catz: In defence of Penny http://bit.ly/ma1ZVL


  32. Lena K Andersson

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  33. The Daily Quail

    In defence of Laurie Penny http://bit.ly/iX3f6x < I can't stand her but attacking her because she's young/female/whatever is f'ing stupid.


  34. Steven Baxter

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : In defence of Laurie Penny http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/12595


  35. peter alison

    In defence of @PennyRed http://bit.ly/iX3f6x


  36. Alex J. Thomas

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : In defence of Laurie Penny http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/12595


  37. Megan Lucas

    RT @DailyQuail: In defence of Laurie Penny http://bit.ly/iX3f6x < I can't stand her but attacking her because she's young/female/what …


  38. Anna R

    RT @DailyQuail: In defence of Laurie Penny http://bit.ly/iX3f6x < I can't stand her but attacking her because she's young/female/what …


  39. BristolFloozie

    RT @sunny_hundal: In defence of Laurie Penny http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/12595


  40. Dick Mandrake

    For those who don't know, here's an example of why I despise the blogger known as Guido Fawkes http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/12595


  41. Khaleda Akhtar

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : In defence of Laurie Penny http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/12595


  42. 50 Million Missing

    RT @sunny_hundal: In defence of Laurie Penny http://t.co/SUkrvri


  43. It speaks!: on being a woman and an activist « Another angry woman

    [...] her writing, or even to her politics, but, rather a stinking mire of hatred, much of it focused on her gender, including calls for her to be raped and an obsessive deconstruction of her [...]


  44. Becky Lindeman

    In defence of Laurie Penny http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/12595 <<< Completely agree.


  45. Lisa Harding

    Disagree > shes an over privileged idiot who wouldn't know poverty if it hit her – In defence of Laurie Penny: http://bit.ly/mSStuP


  46. Rosalind Thompson

    RT @sunny_hundal: In defence of Laurie Penny http://t.co/wbNQheI << She does get a lot of flack, some of it quite unnecessary.


  47. Ella Wredenfors

    In defence of Laurie Penny http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/12595 <<< Completely agree.




  1. JuliaM — on 9th May, 2011 at 7:35 am  

    “…is unclear why having a privileged background should stop an individual from taking the stances that Ms. Penny does (as long as she practices what she preaches).”

    Answered your own question there, didn’t you?

  2. Nighthood — on 9th May, 2011 at 7:37 am  

    She seems like a nice enough person, but her beliefs are very muddled. I’m torn really, I think that her (admittedly overemotional) accounts of the student protests were quite good, but aside from that she strikes me as a little clueless about real life.

    My younger sister thinks she’s great though, so maybe I’m just not the sort of person that sort of journalism appeals to.

  3. Matthew S. Dent — on 9th May, 2011 at 8:13 am  

    I don’t always agree with her, but I still enjoy reading her point of view. The vitriol she receives from all sides is frankly an embarrassment from what purport to be civilised countries.

  4. Doug Smith — on 9th May, 2011 at 9:27 am  

    With respect, she can’t always hide behind this excuse as a refusal to answer her critics. Many have delivered accurate critical assessments of her which she has refused to comment on, like here;

    http://www.shoutingatco.ws/blog/2011/05/04/laurie-penny-the-left-wing-littlejohn/

    and here

    http://brokenbottleboy.posterous.com/please-note-penny-red-is-not-a-journalist

    A lot of people find her writing quite brazen and insulting to people she doesn’t agree with, so find it hypocritical when she bemoans people for hateful things they say to her, then describes Kate Middleton as “essentially void of personality; a dress-up dolly for the age of austerity”. Stuff like this makes her complaints hard to swallow.

  5. john P reid — on 9th May, 2011 at 9:31 am  

    Apart from her assertion that she has moved on from her middle class upbringing and now suffers the hardship the working class or homeless have as she hangs around with them, Does she have any idea how patronising or offensive this is to those who are poor through no fault of their own, secondly when rational explanations of why her views that men falsely accused of sexual harrasment don’t have their lives ruined when cleared,or all the evdence of the views that their was a case of Murder (or attempted) on ,Smiley Culture or alfie meadows, have since been disporved, she hangs on to these smears ,without relasing they only stir up hatred to the police and it justifies the anarchists to infultrate the student protests and through snooker balls at the police’s heads, similar makig out edward Woolard (the student who through the fire extinguiser form the roof) shouldn’t have been in prisoned, yet brings up Jean Charles Demenez or Blair peach, the latter that hapened 8 years before she was born, and her view is only one from what she had read in socialist workers archive,
    the personal insuts are offenive ,but whats worse calling her silly or the embaresment she will have when she gets to 30 and relasies that her one sided view is so factually incorrect that she won’t be able to save face by saying some of it was right by mentioning say that some police action was wrong, like the Climate camp kettling might not be legal.

  6. Sarah AB — on 9th May, 2011 at 10:21 am  

    Rumbold – I completely agree. I deeply disagree with a lot of what she says but she gets relentlessly criticised in the most spiteful way for all the wrong reasons (sometimes for the right ones, and that’s fair enough.)

  7. earwicga — on 9th May, 2011 at 10:27 am  

    Way to patronise john P reid. What does ‘the latter that hapened 8 years before she was born’ mean? That we shouldn’t have a view on events in the past? That we can’t understand them because they were in the past, or we weren’t there?

    Class A cock!

  8. earwicga — on 9th May, 2011 at 10:29 am  

    Doug Smith – I found that column completely meh, and disliked the insults towards Kate Middleton. But then I tried to remember what her personality is, and couldn’t come up with anything.

  9. douglas clark — on 9th May, 2011 at 10:34 am  

    Rumbold,

    You read Order-Order and you were surprised at the comments? I would have thought that that was a fairly typical thread.

  10. Underflow — on 9th May, 2011 at 10:35 am  

    First off, Laurie’s an excellent writer. No mistaking talent. However, she’s not that good a journalist in that she can’t quite maintain the level of objectivity required. There are also questions posed about fictionalisation.

    To take an example, she was present at the Trafalgar Square ‘incident’ and was tweeting live. She said that she had been hit by a barricade thrown or used by the protestors. However, in her article there was no mention of the barricade and she wrote that she had been hit by a truncheon or at least knocked about by the police (can’t recall accurately which it was).

    If Laurie can detach herself from what she is reporting on and write factually she might become another Maggie O’Kane.

  11. Sunny — on 9th May, 2011 at 11:11 am  

    Many have delivered accurate critical assessments of her which she has refused to comment on, like here;

    Nah, that shouting at cows article is rubbish.

    I’ve already shown how concern about police pre-crime arrests is an issue:
    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/05/03/where-are-the-right-wing-defenders-of-liberties-now/

    The writer there doesn’t know w2hat’s going on, and simply takes shot at Laurie for hyperbole while not knowing the issue itself.

  12. KJB — on 9th May, 2011 at 11:57 am  

    Doug Smith – what bollocks. That first link compares a few pieces and some tweets of Laurie’s against Littlejohn, who has a much larger media profile and whose prolific output of mental sewage is legendary. It’s also a bit BS to try to compare her to Littlejohn on the basis of ‘hyperbole and hypocrisy.’ Perhaps when she starts showing the flagrant disregard for reality (let alone truth), virulent xenophobia, racism and sexism and general intolerant bigotry that trademark almost every Littlejohn piece, the comparison will be valid.

    As for the second one – since when was it law that journalists could not be involved in what they report? Again, bollocks. Orwell is one very famous example of that. All media is ideological – Laurie is simply open about her beliefs. Which is much preferable to the likes of our mainstream newspapers like the Mail which pretend to be saying ‘what everyone’s thinking’.

    I have extremely mixed feelings about Laurie and have criticised her quite viciously in the past. Generally, as a person, I quite like her. She has proven herself to be open to criticism and responded to my written attacks on her with incredible grace. Also, despite what Douglas Smith seems to be insinuating, she does not, as far as I have seen, use the utterly hateful abuse as an excuse to avoid people (apart from maybe on Cif to a degree, which is understandable), when she easily could. Women bloggers have been effectively chased into hiding online through sustained sexist harassment and abuse.

    Douglas:
    You are missing the point here, which is that:

    From what I have read, there is plenty to criticise in her writings, and she should be held to the same standards as everybody else. But she isn’t.

    Some of the comments on this thread, for example, have perfectly fair criticisms of Laurie, which I agree with. What Rumbold describes is the tip of the iceberg. I would develop an anger problem if I got even 1/5 of what Laurie gets, routinely. She is much more willing to take it than I am – but she shouldn’t have to be! A lot of the vitriol directed at her is quite clearly simple because people can’t stand the fact that she dares to take ‘unfashionable’ positions (socialist, feminist) openly, and that she is getting somewhere with them. She defies the notion that women should shut up and sit down, and hence the desperate scrambling to silence her.

    Rumbold, MWAH. ;-D

  13. damon — on 9th May, 2011 at 12:11 pm  

    I certainly don’t approve of nasty personal attacks and find her interesting and lively.
    However … I think there is someting about the ”Left wing Littlejohn” accusation that sticks.
    Being a mainstream commentator is a really hard thing to break into, and you have to have something special, which I think she certainly has.
    But then so does Melanie Phillips, and she comes in for shed loads of abuse also.

    There is something I don’t like about the new left movement that she (and Sunny) represent. I just read her latest column in today’s Independent.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/laurie-penny-fight-for-your-right-to-be-heard-2281185.html

    And that is a good example of what gets on my nerves (just a bit). It’s such an anti-police article. And the new anti-cuts movement relies on winding the police up and then crowing about police overreactions. It’s there in the link that Sunny just did above. The youtube of the police snatch squads in Soho Square.
    Whether the police are right or wrong to go pulling people out of demonstrations – trying to interfere with arrests and making a drama out of a small bit of police work is the disingenuous problem IMO.
    Our police are generally fair, but if you wind them up they will often react in a flat footed uninspired manner. And I have the opinion that that is seen to be part of the requirement of these demonstrations quite often. Without a few broken windows and a bit of argy-bargy, there’s no story and no buzz. So the easiest thing is to be a bit ‘naughty’ and then film the police’s overreaction and stick it on Youtube.

    Maybe it’s because I’m exactly twice Ms Penny’s age and remember demonstrations from the early 80s that I am somewhat underwhelmed by the modern protest movement. It all seems a bit old hat.

  14. Kismet Hardy — on 9th May, 2011 at 12:16 pm  

    “The other frequent criticism of Ms. Penny is due to her privileged background.”

    I found this confusing in my brief dalliance with politics when I joined the SWP at uni (I wanted to shag the cute girl in the mowhair jumper but the whole having to listen to billy bragg was the relationship deal breaker) and they were so into being ‘working class’ that when one member was outed as being from rich stock, I was the only one who didn’t feel ‘betrayed’ enough to console the poor sod: ‘the fact that your parents are filthy rich and you still grew up to be someone who gives a shit is good enough, just like my parents are Asian Muslims but I didn’t grow up touting arranged marriages and hating on jews…’

    Who cares where you’re from? It’s where you’re at that counts, and other assorted hippy dippy musings x

  15. Rumbold — on 9th May, 2011 at 12:19 pm  

    Doug Smith:

    She is not obliged to respond to all criticism of her (as she wouldn’t have time for anything else).

    SarahAB:

    Thanks Sarah. As you and I both think, criticise Laurie just like you would any other writer.

    Douglas:

    I was using that as a useful example of the sort of abuse Laurie attracts frequently.

    Thanks KJB.

  16. Sarah AB — on 9th May, 2011 at 12:26 pm  

    “(I wanted to shag the cute girl in the mowhair jumper but the whole having to listen to billy bragg was the relationship deal breaker)”

    Kismet – oh, I do sympathise – I blame an easy-on-the-eye canvasser for the fact I now get strings of emails from Cambridge Socialists.

    KJB – yes, I have also noted that (up to quite an impressive point) LP is gracious, good humoured and quite funny in the face of horrible comments. I think part of her Deep Wrongness (in her articles) is a function of her need to keep people reading, even if it means making them cross.

  17. N/A — on 9th May, 2011 at 12:59 pm  

    She’s not alone, Cath Elliot comes in for some pretty brutal personal criticism, but she is a bit less ‘trendy’ than Laurie Penny.

  18. LP — on 9th May, 2011 at 1:36 pm  

    Thank you Rumbold for this post.

    Underflow at 9: I maintain that what I wrote about March 26 was the absolute truth. I was hit by a flying piece of fence that some protesters threw at the police AND by a police shield that day. It’s hardly uncontradictory, I was in the middle of a big fuckoff police battle and, as a reporter, I was unable to pick up anything to defend myself. You can choose not to believe it if you wish, but I am a journalist and I tell the truth. Sorry if that truth makes you uncomfortable.

    As for the comment at 3 on asking why I don’t choose to respond to every single carping, bitching ad hominem directed against me – I simply can’t be bothered to engage with mindless personal attacks. I have no particular duty to do so. I have written (and you can find on my blog) all I wish to say about privilege, ‘romantic’ writing, the difference between narrative and fiction, etc, etc – questions that have been raised with me by readers whose respectful critiques I respect in turn.

    I know, most of my readers know, and my friends know that I try to be a principled, honest and good-hearted professional with a deep understanding of the ways that class, gender and race intersect with my writing. I don’t have to respond to every crabby little troll to address those issues.

    The posts you link to, far from being ‘accurate’, are snide, pissy, poorly-written personal attacks. They’re the blog equivalent of calling someone up, heavy-breathing at them down the phone for a while and then getting enraged when they don’t respond. If people want to see me as a cartoon punching-bag, then fine, but they can hardly get pissy at me for refusing to respond to their childish rants. I have far, far more important things to do.

  19. AJT — on 9th May, 2011 at 1:43 pm  

    That Shouting At Cows post was a huge exercise in wilfully missing the point.

    It’s open season on Penny – she’s young, female, passionate and opinionated. You don’t have to have a valid criticism, or even make sense when ‘challenging’ her, she’s only a little girl, innit, John.

  20. Globam — on 9th May, 2011 at 1:46 pm  

    It made me chuckle when Toby Young wrote “[Laurie Penny's] description of herself as “deviant, reprobate, queer” sits a little uncomfortably with her conventional, golf club upbringing.”

    In what way do any of those things sit uncomfortably with a well-to-do upbringing? Presumably Young thinks working class people can’t be anything other than deviant reprobates.

  21. JDKenzy — on 9th May, 2011 at 1:54 pm  

    Apart from the fact that I love her, when you read some of the crap in the Mail and the Telegraph, I think her personality and writing is a gift from heaven.

  22. Nick Bryans — on 9th May, 2011 at 2:08 pm  

    @LP

    As the writer of ‘Laurie Penny: The left wing Littlejohn’ I was excited to hear you mention on your twitter feed that you’d responded to your critics.

    ‘Snide, pissy, poorly-written personal attacks. They’re the blog equivalent of calling someone up, heavy-breathing at them down the phone for a while and then getting enraged when they don’t respond’

    Interesting, and an absolute sack of bollocks. We were incredibly coy not to sink to your level and make a single personal attack (Kate Middleton, anyone?). Nothing was mentioned about you as a person or your background, we wrote purely on the content of your writing.

    I apologise for how poorly written it was. I didn’t go to a top 10 university and I’m two years younger than you, so sorry if it wasn’t up to the standards you expect. Next time i’ll cut the jokes and swearing out and sit with a whopping great thesauras on my desk in order to seem all smart ‘n shit.

    There’s the article there:

    http://www.shoutingatco.ws/blog/2011/05/04/laurie-penny-the-left-wing-littlejohn/

    Please, by all means, find me a single sentence that could be described as a ‘snide, pissy, poorley written’ personal attack.

    You can continue to go on about how people use you as way to get their website hits, but it might, just might, be the case that people think you’re a piss-poor jounalist who doesn’t represent ‘the left’, and this is a fact which needs highlighting. Maybe. Who knows. Our article has had almost universal approval, and we’ve responded to every crictism, so clearly one of us is wrong.

  23. Sarah AB — on 9th May, 2011 at 2:23 pm  

    Nick – I thought your article made some fair points,was free from the kind of criticisms Rumbold objects to, but was a bit long!

  24. LP — on 9th May, 2011 at 2:25 pm  

    - ‘poorley written’? Sorry, but LOL.

  25. Boyo — on 9th May, 2011 at 2:27 pm  

    I may be alone in never having read anything by her and indeed only being aware of her via passing references, so much so I had just to wiki her. Being born in 1986 made my heart sink in one sense, and having been in a burlesque troupe in another, however I can condemn her for neither…

    The fact that she is apparently a posh girl who makes much of being down with the chavs is hardly a crime – they’d have to string up most of the London cognoscenti if it were – but perhaps the fact that she has been out about it doesn’t go down well. Or that she was a blogger who crossed over… well!

    There are doubtless lots of young people with just as much ability as Ms Penny but without the cash or contacts to ‘become someone’, and it has always been thus.

    Although fate has been reasonably kind to me in my career of choice, coming from a background sans the above I do believe part of the problem of wider scale higher education is that it creates expectations that can often not be fulfilled, and cultivates sufficient intelligence to be really, and legitimately, angry about that, which is not Ms Penny’s fault but it may explain some of the resentment.

  26. Nick Bryans — on 9th May, 2011 at 2:44 pm  

    @SarahAB

    I am a verbose, rambly tit sometimes. I think it may be hereditary, my dad can talk for Britain.

    @LP

    Well that’s me told…

    Can I just say that it’s been an honour to be patronized by your intellectual snobbery, Laurie. Now I know how Kate and every other person that has ever disagreed with you feels. You made absolutely no attempt to answer the question, but, you know, who cares, eh? It only conerns little things like ‘consistency’ and ‘justifing flippant accusations you make at other people’; and who cares about boring things like that, huh!?

    Regards.

  27. Rumbold — on 9th May, 2011 at 2:45 pm  

    No problem Laurie. I don’t see why you should have to engage with some of the rubbish thrown at you, as too many people seem to lose their civility when they criticise you. It is very wrong, and they should be ashamed of themselves.

  28. chairwoman — on 9th May, 2011 at 3:00 pm  

    earwicga – I also had a problem with ascertaining a personality for the woman formerly known as Kate Middleton, but then I remembered that I had never met her, so it isn’t all that surprising :) .

    As for Laurie Penny, I’m sure her shoulders are broad enough to bear the weight of the unpleasant comments she receives. Surely she wouldn’t do unto others what she can’t handle herself.

  29. Leon — on 9th May, 2011 at 3:04 pm  

    Wow, hasn’t this turned into a polite little shitstorm…*nostalgic for the good old days when we used to scream and shout at each other about Israel*

  30. Kismet Hardy — on 9th May, 2011 at 3:08 pm  

    “Our article has had almost universal approval”

    Sounds like there’s some good coke flowing in your neck of the woods fella. Hook me up please

  31. BenSix — on 9th May, 2011 at 3:08 pm  

    We seem to have this odd idea that opinion columnists are published to reflect the truth of X, Y and Z. I’m not sure this has ever been the case. By and large they’ve got more in common with the Greek sophists than any tough empiricist.

    Oh, by the way, crawl back to Mashaal/Netanyahu, Leon, you anti-semite/zionist.

  32. Rumbold — on 9th May, 2011 at 3:09 pm  

    Chairwoman:

    As for Laurie Penny, I’m sure her shoulders are broad enough to bear the weight of the unpleasant comments she receives.

    I have no doubt Laurie can take a bit of criticism as much as the next chap (or chapess). The problem is the weight and viciousness of the abuse thrown at her. From just a quick survey of articles, she has received dozens if not hundreds of comments mocking her appearance, calling for her to be harmed/killed, crude sexual innuedno etc. To be on the receiving end of that on a persistant basis is different from legitimate criticism or even the odd snide comment.

  33. Leon — on 9th May, 2011 at 3:11 pm  

    @ BenSix, hippy with fangs. :P

  34. legaljourno — on 9th May, 2011 at 3:12 pm  

    I must admit, I follow Laurie Penny on Twitter and am an avid reader of the NewStatesman. I read both as I’m politically active and interested in the various spheres of perception in relation to both. I’d class myself a Socialist, but in no way militant and do not condone the vast majority of sentiments in this area – i.e the almost martyr-like status given to those such as Adam Fields.

    However, as I say, I’m interested in Laurie’s work as the radical, socialist, feminist viewpoint is an interesting one. Though I may not agree with her every sentiment, her writing style is engaging and worthy of a broadsheet paper with substance, such as The Independent.

    The comments sections on her NewStatesman pieces seem rife with the Cameron-esque ilk: “calm down dear”. These comments use nothing more than condescending, patronising misogyny as a hollow attempt to criticise an writer’s work. There is no justification for this type of response, however incensed the author may be either with Ms. Penny’s viewpoint, her ‘status’ as the ‘voice of the left’ or the content therein.

    In response to comments about Kate Middelton, I must say that I thought those comments were remarkable, insofar as the overaction of commentors to the material. Stating someone is devoid of a personality and a hollow caricature of privilege is a valid statement – neither offensive nor over-the-top. It suited the piece perfectly, where the only message was bemoaning the lack of role models available to young girls today. The offence taken by the article and the Kate Middelton comments was entirely disproportionate.

    Although I do not seek to compare Ms. Penny to Gandhi (as will inevitably be concluded from the following comment), to use the Mahatma’s words “first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they hate you, then they fight you, and then you win”. Laurie seems to be firmly grounded in the “they hate you” stage for the timebeing; excessive scorn and criticism ladelled onto her work, and even every element of her herself: personality, background and even looks.

    To criticise someone objectively and disagree with their viewpoint or the inherent bias in their work is one thing, to criticise the author themselves smacks of having nothing else to say. Laurie Penny might position herself as the radical voice of the left, amidst the squatters and student protestors etc, and yes, she is from a background of privilege but that doesn’t undermine or somehow invalidate her viewpoint. Castro and Guevera led the Cuban revolution and were a lawyer and a doctor respectively. Gandhi was also a lawyer. Why do those who hold ‘radical’ viewpoints have, necessarily, to have come from the social status of those they champion?

    Find me on Twitter: @legaljourno

  35. BenSix — on 9th May, 2011 at 3:13 pm  

    As for Laurie Penny, I’m sure her shoulders are broad enough to bear the weight of the unpleasant comments she receives.

    Come to that, my bank account is large enough to bear my wallet being snatched but I’d be mightily fucked off if someone did it.

  36. Sunny — on 9th May, 2011 at 4:24 pm  

    Please, by all means, find me a single sentence that could be described as a ‘snide, pissy, poorley written’ personal attack.

    Nick Bryans the problem with your article wasn’t that it was poorly written (I can talk, I put most of my stuff in point form!) but that you accused her of being hyperbolic on an issue where THERE IS EVERY NEED TO BE HYPERBOLIC.

    I actually linked to an article justifying her outrage. I see you haven’t acknowledged that either.

    I’ve disagreed with Laurie in the past, esp when she said Trafalgar Sq was a bit like Tahrir Square, but you’re actually attacking her on an issue she has every right to be outraged on.

  37. chairwoman — on 9th May, 2011 at 4:57 pm  

    “Come to that, my bank account is large enough to bear my wallet being snatched but I’d be mightily fucked off if someone did it.”

    Nobody likes being insulted, I am appalled that there are people who consider a reasonable response to political hyperbole is a personal insult of any kind.

    The fact that Laurie Penny continues to write shows that she can certainly take it, and may even relish it a little.

    My opinions differ with quite a lot of hers, but that doesn’t stop me admiring her spirit.

    And her cojones!

  38. earwicga — on 9th May, 2011 at 5:09 pm  

    Good point chairwoman! Perhaps I should hang around Waitrose a little more.

  39. ukliberty — on 9th May, 2011 at 6:31 pm  

    Sunny,

    Nick Bryans the problem with your article wasn’t that it was poorly written (I can talk, I put most of my stuff in point form!) but that you accused her of being hyperbolic on an issue where THERE IS EVERY NEED TO BE HYPERBOLIC.

    I actually linked to an article justifying her outrage. I see you haven’t acknowledged that either.

    I’ve disagreed with Laurie in the past, esp when she said Trafalgar Sq was a bit like Tahrir Square, but you’re actually attacking her on an issue she has every right to be outraged on.

    ISTM, Nick is right to say,

    She perhaps does have a point when she discusses the questionable nature of pre-arresting protesters linked to anti-cuts demos. But for her, it’s not just enough to say this, she has phrase the point in this dystopian POLICE TERRRA hyperbole of her’s, where the police are shills for the utterly feckless Royal family, and innocent people are being arrested for thought crimes! When someone bases their political rhetoric on the hit Tom Cruise film ‘Minority Report’, you have to worry slightly.

    and,

    There seems to be this concept that if anyone on the right exaggerates ANYTHING to do with crime, immigration etc then they are just the biggest bastards in the Western World, whereas Penny can generalise the motivates on the entire fucking police force, and she’s the voice of truth.

    I can see why people shout “Minority Report!” for rhetorical effect, but some people seem to believe this stuff, including Laurie Penny.

    For me, hyperbole is a big turn-off – this stuff seems serious enough without having to drag Tahir Square and the Final Solution into it (hmm, good band name that).

  40. Boyo — on 9th May, 2011 at 6:58 pm  

    ‘When someone bases their political rhetoric on the hit Tom Cruise film ‘Minority Report’, you have to worry slightly.’

    No, SF is a much-maligned genre… Not only 1984 and BNW, but Blade Runner, Gattaca, Michael Winterbottom’s stunning Code 46 and yes, Minority Report, demonstrate the shapes of things to come, and coming they are. Feminists have a long history of using SF – Woman on the Edge of Time, the Handmaids Tale – and even OBL was partial – isn’t Al Qaida drawn from Asimov’s The Base?

    Live long and prosper.

  41. earwicga — on 9th May, 2011 at 7:19 pm  

    Boyo, I agree with you. But two pieces of work isn’t a ‘long history’.

  42. D. Quail (expat) — on 9th May, 2011 at 7:37 pm  

    “Nick Bryans the problem with your article wasn’t that it was poorly written (I can talk, I put most of my stuff in point form!) but that you accused her of being hyperbolic on an issue where THERE IS EVERY NEED TO BE HYPERBOLIC.”

    Sorry, Sunny, but this is horseshit.

    Yes, there is reason to be outraged, but one does not make a more convincing argument by shouting louder.

    Why I find Laurie objectionable is her insistence on hyperbole at every possible opportunity. There are few topics at which Laurie isn’t face-meltingly enraged; your Trafalgar/Tahrir Square being one of them, her ‘Kate Middleton is the new antichrist’ being another.

    Letting outrage get the better of yourself is tabloid territory, it is the domain of the right-whinger, and the stuff of unconvincing argument. You reduce yourself by indulging in unrestrained, fist clenching, librul rage. It alienates the very people you should be trying to, and could, sway.

    This is what pisses me off; harm is done by crying thoughtlessly about the issues that matter. The louder you scream, the more you embellish, the less you change. Long story short, I think Nick Bryans made a good point that Laurie should listen to rather than sneer at.

    All of that said, anyone who attacks anyone else for being young, being a woman, not being working-class enough, or for the university they attended, is an irredeemable cretin and it’s understandable that she gets a bit prickly given some of the chimpshit hurled her way.

  43. ukliberty — on 9th May, 2011 at 7:41 pm  

    Boyo, I don’t understand what you mean by the shape of things to come such as in Minority Report. I don’t think you mean there is a danger of society taking seriously the computer translated nonsense predictions of three mentally retarded psychics to the extent that people will be put in prison absent other evidence. Would you mind elaborating your point as it relates to this, please?

    The reference to Minority Report is this “pre-crime!” meme in relation to the arrests on the day of the recent royal wedding – as if the police don’t have a duty to attempt to prevent crime before it occurs and had never done so before.

    I can see danger similar to that described in Nineteen Eighty-Four. ISTM there is precedent for it.

    I don’t recall seeing Code 46.

  44. Sarah AB — on 9th May, 2011 at 7:45 pm  

    Chairwoman – Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland and Katherine Burdekin’s Proud Man and Swastika Night are just a few examples of early feminist sf.

  45. Paul — on 9th May, 2011 at 8:21 pm  

    Laurie doesn’t know much about Kate Middleton’s real personality so she has to write “appears” and “seem”. Ah well, what do little things like knowing the facts matter? Even if Kate isn’t world champion personality, well so what, plenty of us aren’t. And what’s her personality got to do with the thrust of the Princess argument anyway?

    Looks to me like Laurie just wants to take another pop at the Royal Family, and this time it is by means of a personal attack that is basically nasty, unfair and totally unwarranted.

  46. damon — on 9th May, 2011 at 8:36 pm  

    I may have missed it, but I would like to read some opinion on how the police should operate on demonstrations when people are up for a bit of direct action, which can range at any moment from peaceful occupations of shops and banks, to suddenly turning a bit more fiesty like the mini riots over the Tesco store in Bristol. As the police seem to get slagged off no matter what they do. To little to late, or too heavy. It seems to me that the problem is not that the police have a political agenda to stifle protest, but that they just don’t trust the protesters to behave.
    Which is kind of understandable with anarchists and black block people around.
    And it’s been like that for as long as I remember.

  47. cjcjc — on 9th May, 2011 at 9:12 pm  

    I preferred her stuff before she was “famous”.

  48. Boyo — on 9th May, 2011 at 9:43 pm  

    41, depends if you include Frankenstein…?

    43, depends if you take everything literally. I think the concept of people being found guilty of crimes they have thought about committing is a very contemporary theme.

    On the other hand, I think Brave New World, for all its literary anachronisms, is the nearest approximation to the way we live now – one in which constant distraction, infinite choice (alongside a dread of commitment) and pharmacology is the hallmark of civilisation.

  49. Don — on 9th May, 2011 at 10:30 pm  

    ‘Kate Middleton is the new antichrist’

    Did LP actually claim that, or is that mere hyperbole?

  50. KJB — on 9th May, 2011 at 11:28 pm  

    Sarah AB:

    I liked/understood Laurie more as a result of meeting her in person. Obviously,I’m not advocating that she should go out there and wave like the Queen Mother (now that would be some hilarious irony), but that people would do well to remember that the online version of somebody is just that – an edited, artificial version.

    All the commentators falling over themselves to defend the honour of the Duchess of Cambridge – give it a rest. If you’re so worried about her, why don’t you rail against the paparazzi who have been stalking her relentlessly? Of course she’s devoid of personality – she has to be, regardless of whatever her true nature is, otherwise the media will rip her to shreds. Witness how the Mail is treating her sister, Pippa, for the grave crime of… er… not being her.

    To come on a piece about extreme and frequent abuse of a young female journalist (rape threats, etc.), and then say ‘Yeah, but she said Kate Middleton was DEVOID OF PERSONALITY!’ is some serious whataboutery/missing-the-point.

  51. Nick Bryans — on 10th May, 2011 at 7:16 am  

    @Sunny

    I read your article; I think it’s interesting and important. But like we said in our piece, Penny did raise this point, and raise it well. Then, as she does, went into this bonkers dystopian outlay of thought crimes, police state, Royal Wedding apocalypse, 2 Britons etc etc. As DQuail said, hyperbole is for tabloids, not for serious journalism. The fact that these people are being ‘pre-arrested’ should have enough gravitas on its own, and doesn’t require an outpour of emotionally charged writing from someone basically bellowing ‘THIS IS REALLY, REALLY BAD. LIKE, END OF THE WORLD BAD’. Just makes your point come across as weak.

    Fundamentally, I think we’ve come to the end of the road with Laurie Penny. She offered what we felt was an abrasive and unsubstantiated opinion on our article, and when asked to explain herself with an example, she used her many years of journalistic experience to take the piss out of a typo of ours. It was a magical response.

    After attempts to converse with her over our ‘points’, we were repeatedly knocked back, alleged of things that weren’t fair and seemingly roped in with a crowd that had made sexist and misogynistic comments against her. Which is slanderous and damaging. We’re just nice people who love our mums, feed our cats and try to run a fair and funny website. It isn’t worth our while to be reduced to a mudslinging contest.

    I have problems with journalists who use hyperbole to get their points across, and that isn’t going to change. Ever. If she makes people happy with her writing, then fine. We’ve seen numerous examples where we cannot put any doubt into her readers’ minds, so it’s not worthwhile us continuing to bother. We’re just a comedy website, which spend as much time talking about shit TV, right-wing journalists and former presenter of Art Attack ‘Neil Buchanan’ as we do radical politics. We’ll go back to trying to have a laugh with our readers, she can go back to being ‘voice of a generation’. Everyone is happy.

  52. abdul abulbul emir — on 10th May, 2011 at 7:35 am  

    Mrs A says:

    Laurie Penny should wear a Burkha

  53. Trofim — on 10th May, 2011 at 8:04 am  

    I’m struck by the fact that there is only one mention of her youth and meagre life experience, yet that is the first thing that strikes most people. Would this be because the blogosphere is primarily a young person’s phenomenon? Her grandiosity and self-righteousness are characteristic of those of a certain age. Living in London further undermines any credentials she might have.

  54. Hermes — on 10th May, 2011 at 8:05 am  

    Who cares about any of this shit!!!!

  55. damon — on 10th May, 2011 at 9:34 am  

    From a New Statesman article by LP.

    Consider the case of Smiley Culture, the reggae singer whose 1984 single “Police Officer” was a darkly comic take on routine harassment of young black men. On 15 March, Culture, born David Emmanuel, died from a single stab wound to the heart after a police raid on his home. An official investigation will no doubt return a verdict of no wrongdoing. So did the initial investigation into the death of Ian Tomlinson, even with viral video evidence of the newspaper seller being shoved to the ground by police.

    Whatever the facts are in Smiley’s death, there will be many who suspect that it was not suicide. Even the right-wing Metro newspaper, reporting the case, put the words “stabs himself” in inverted commas, the textual equivalent of raising one eyebrow suspiciously. The violent, premature death of a father of three is a tragedy. It is doubly tragic, however, that we now live in a state where, when a black artist dies during a police raid, some simply shrug and assume that the cops killed him.”

    http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/laurie-penny/2011/03/police-state-riot-death-smiley

    Then the problem lies with those who would so lazily assume that the police might have stabbed him to death.

    With people like Lee Jasper.
    http://leejasper.blogspot.com/2011/04/smiley-culture-and-march-for-justice.html

  56. AJT — on 10th May, 2011 at 9:53 am  

    Interesting that, for instance, Charlie Brooker – who is rarely controversial – is allowed to be full of raging hyperbole (indeed, it’s pretty much his selling point) but IT MUST NOT BE TOLERATED FROM LAURIE PENNY.

  57. Ted — on 10th May, 2011 at 10:00 am  

    The sexism and misogyny LP has to put up with is disgusting. There’s no place for it. However, I’m not sure we should have to read about it every 5 minutes. David Aaronovitch is regularly told by anonymous commenters and emailers that he sohuld have burned in the ovens of Auschwitz. Johann Hari cops it from the homophobes. What all of this demonstrates is that there are some utter loons out there who should be kept away from sharp instruments. Maybe today, in the here and now, LP is getting it more than most, but these things happen in cycles and I’m sure in time the abuse will settle down to normal levels. Moreoever, unlike DA and JH, for example, she seems to have a disproportionate number of friends and even intellectual enemies prepared to “defend” her at every turn. I’m not sure she comes out of all this in a worse position than any of her moderately popular journalistic contemporaries. None of this excuses the moronic attacks, of course, but she’s not quite Joan of Arc yet.

    Also, I’m not sure I like LP’s newly-revealed attitude towards bloggers taking a swipe at her. It comes with the journalist’s territory and not all that long ago LP was one of those bloggers putting the boot into whomever was her bete noire du jour. Again I’ll reinforce the point that gratuitous insults have no place in civilised correspondence, but LP does have a tendency to generalise about her enemies. Not all are obsessed with her looks, youth and background and she is hardly in a journalistic club of one attracting criticism from amateur bloggers whom she likes to dismiss as “trolls” and worse. No, Laurie, these are your readers, supporters and detractors alike, and a bit more humility and a bit less defensiveness wouldn’t go amiss.

  58. Ted — on 10th May, 2011 at 10:04 am  

    Interesting that, for instance, Charlie Brooker – who is rarely controversial – is allowed to be full of raging hyperbole

    Oh pur-lease. That is Charlie’s schtick. That’s why he has a column – to be hyperbolic. I thought LP wanted to be regarded as a serious journalist rather than a comedian in print.

  59. Kismet Hardy — on 10th May, 2011 at 10:37 am  

    Columnists can never be serious reporters because they don’t break news, merely express an opinion about them. I would have thought that was flipping obvious

  60. Ted — on 10th May, 2011 at 10:57 am  

    Kismet, actually you make a good point about the journalist/columnist distinction, but that doesn’t alter the fact that LP is not aspiring to be Charlie Brooker, which is why the observations and criticisms about her employment of hyperbole are valid.

  61. KB Player — on 10th May, 2011 at 11:10 am  

    Women columnists do get more crap thrown at them than male ones. Jemima Khan got a lot of patronising “make us a cup of tea, darling” garbage when she guest edited the New Statesman – in fact she did a good job as guest editor. If women go on to the comments to protest, they will get a lot of “never mind, dear” and other kind of remarks that if you got in real life, you’d chuck a drink at the speaker. I’d bet Yasmin Alhibai-Brown must get the most crap since she is a) female; b) middle-aged; c) Muslim; and d) Asian.

    As for L Penny, she has plenty of defenders as well as critics. I find her a piece of humourless self-importance myself but then I don’t have to read her.

  62. Ted — on 10th May, 2011 at 1:06 pm  

    Women columnists do get more crap thrown at them than male ones.

    What about Jewish ones? Or black ones? Or ones who write for journals like Searchlight and have dedicated themselves to a professional life fighting far-right extremism? What do you reckon their postbags look like?

    Don’t get me wrong, this is not a competition, but LP is not the first journo to cop it and she won’t be the last. My advice is to her is to ignore the abuse (it will die down) and engage her non-abusive critics with a smidgen more humility than she has exhibited thus far. It will help her grow as a writer.

    Oh, and to stop sneering at bloggers.

  63. john — on 10th May, 2011 at 2:52 pm  

    the sexism that laurie has to put up with is wrong, that doens’t mean that she doens’t talk rubbish, With David Aaronavitch and anti semetic commets they aren’t made because he talks rubbish its’ sometimes by pro palestinian supporters who are anti Israel,

  64. organic cheeseboard — on 10th May, 2011 at 3:05 pm  

    i’m not that big a fan of hers.

    But the criticism is mindblowing. on HP sauce regulars say they ‘despise’ her, and the level of hatred is never matched by objective reasoning.

  65. ukliberty — on 10th May, 2011 at 3:52 pm  

    From a New Statesman article by LP.

    http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/laurie-penny/2011/03/police-state-riot-death-smiley

    Almost two centuries later, more and more British people are convinced that the police’s role is to impose the government’s austerity programme, by force if necessary. How did this happen?

    I suggest being hyperbolic and publishing falsehoods might contribute to that perception.

  66. Michael Ezra — on 10th May, 2011 at 4:31 pm  

    organic cheeseboard,

    I do not think you are being fair. I have written in a very positive way about Laurie Penny’s writing and have defended her in threads from attacks.

    My original article on Ms. Penny can be seen here:
    http://hurryupharry.org/2010/12/21/laurie-penny-voice-for-a-generation/

    For the next few days my extensive comments can be seen in this thread:

    http://hurryupharry.org/2011/05/07/bad-penny/

  67. Ted — on 10th May, 2011 at 4:33 pm  

    But the criticism is mindblowing. on HP sauce regulars say they ‘despise’ her, and the level of hatred is never matched by objective reasoning.

    Just not true. There are loons there who do abuse, but there is plenty of “objective reasoning”, also. If you read HP as much as you claim to, you’d know this already.

  68. KB Player — on 10th May, 2011 at 5:40 pm  

    OK, Ted – I can’t prove that with statistics. It’s the kind of crap that is thrown at women which is so f***** annoying. Loads about their looks etc, or “never mind, dear”. The humouring, patronising tone. I agree that LP should ignore it. I would say in her defence that if I was her I wouldn’t want to wade through the crappy abusive comments to find the one or two which reasonably opposes her arguments and points out her factual errors.

  69. Ted — on 10th May, 2011 at 8:41 pm  

    KB Player,

    Apologies, I didn’t mean to give the impression I disagreed. It’s absolutely the case that women have to put up with more of that particular kind of sh*t than men. And it’s appalling. And I sort of agree that, in LP’s position, I don’t think I’d work too hard to sort the wheat from the chaff, either. I’d do less responding and more ignoring.

    The issue is that when she does bother, she needs to make a better fist of it. Not all of her critics are misogynist cretins unable to string a sentence together.

    My own issue with LP is analogous to how I feel about the monarchy. I have less of a problem with the person/people in question than I do with those who lionise and eulogise, in my view nonsensically.

  70. Rita Banerji — on 12th May, 2011 at 5:57 am  

    Glad you made this point Rumbold. You may dislike an individual’s viewpoint, and everyone is free to disagree. But why is it that particularly with women people also get personal and sexually abusive? Here’s a post from our Gender Equal blog: ‘Why do men call women sexual names?’ http://genderbyteslinks.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/why-do-men-call-women-sexual-names/

  71. Sarah AB — on 12th May, 2011 at 6:46 am  

    I agree Rita – but I also (which doesn’t excuse the way people pick on LP or use sexual terms etc) think that I sometimes read really nasty comments addressed to men (usually by men I *think*) who probably wouldn’t be so aggressive to female bloggers. Women get sneered at more – but men attract more aggression?

  72. john P reid — on 14th May, 2011 at 11:26 am  

    erwicga ,Laurie comemtning on somehting that happened 8 year before she was born as a fact that she has only read one side of the views from in literature, doens’t make it it factual, No I’m not a cock, get yuor facts straight,

  73. john P reid — on 14th May, 2011 at 11:27 am  

    women journalsits get thrown at them than male ones, How many times has Littlejohn been called littlecock, littledick, littlejohn thomas.

  74. KB Player — on 14th May, 2011 at 12:58 pm  

    @Sarah – I think you’re right. At least no-one has offered to punch my lights out (as yet). Perhaps some Media Studies graduate could write a thesis on this subject. “Aggression vs Patronage: the gender dynamics of blog commenting.”

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