Category Archives: Sexism

All your gods have feet of clay: even at 53, some people don’t know that

In a recent interview with Newsweek after the release of her film, Risk, the Oscar-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras asks “What is the motivation of the source?” as part of a reply to a question about a decision on what is newsworthy.

That should tell an observant reader one thing: Poitras may be 53, but she it still very naive. Every leak that ends up on the front or other pages of a publication, or on the TV screen, emanates from someone with an axe to grind. Perhaps one is looking for a business advantage and leaks some details about a rival. Or else, one may be from one political faction and looking to gain an advantage over a rival faction.

Or indeed it could be someone inside one political faction leaking against one’s own, in order to challenge for the leadership. Or it could be a person who has been jilted who is looking to gain revenge. But this is of no concern to a real journalist; the only point of debate for one in the journalism profession is whether it is newsworthy or not.

Poitras’ comment tells one that she is not really versed in the art of journalism, though her byline has appeared on some pretty big stories. She is uncertain about what makes up news.

It is this naivety that leads her to believe that people who are fighting for a cause have to be perfect. Which, in the main, accounts for the split that has arisen between her and WikiLeaks, after she violated the terms of an understanding under which she was allowed carte blanche to film Julian Assange and others who are part of WikiLeaks for the purpose of making a documentary.

(Poitras was involved with Jacob Appelbaum, a developer for the Tor project, and someone who has had a high profile in the security community. Appelbaum has been accused by multiple people of sexual harassment; whether Poitras was also harassed is unknown.)

But for someone who has any worldliness about them, it should be apparent that one cannot run an organisation like WikiLeaks and make it what has become, a thorn in the flesh of world powers, by being nice to all and sundry. One has to be mean, nasty, vicious and able to give as good as one gets. One has to be cunning, crafty, learned and willing to take risks. And one cannot be nice to everyone and still achieve as much as Assange has.

Poitras chose to release her final cut of Risk, the one that went to theatres in the US, as something that focuses on what she deems to be sexism in multiple communities: “It was important to me to look at not just allegations of abuse but the culture of sexism that exists not only within the hacker community but in other communities.”

She says, “I don’t see any incentive for any woman to make claims around abuse if they didn’t experience that”, without being aware that the two women who were pushed to make allegations about rape against Assange were not doing it of their own volition. It is a naive and emotional reaction to a situation where politics was the decisive factor.

There are some similarities to the situation that developed around Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux kernel. Some women felt that he was too aggressive and abusive and tried to bring him down. They used similar arguments to that which Poitras has raised. Torvalds manages the kernel development team and is known for not beating around the bush when people screw up.

Poitras’ film has been released at a time when WikiLeaks is under great pressure. Now that the probe into Assange in Sweden has been dropped, he will be targeted by the US which is desperate to extradite him and try him for releasing footage of the Iraq war that showed exactly how barbaric US troops have been in Iraq.

Thus it is unlikely that Poitras will ever be allowed to film anything to do with Assange or WikiLeaks again. It also casts a shadow on her reputation as an unbiased observer.

Destroying the joint?

AUSTRALIA is a a sexist country. There’s that phrase again. And with good reason.

Last Friday, one of the country’s well-known radio broadcasters, let fly a tirade against the prime minister Julia Gillard and women in general.

In the words of shock-jock Alan Jones, known for his sympathies to the conservative cause, the women he cited – he also mentioned Clover Moore, the mayor of Sydney, and a former police commissioner of Victoria, Christine Nixon – were “destroying the joint”.

Australia has a fairly decent number of women in positions of power – in addition to the three mentioned above, the governor-general is a woman, as is the attorney-general. There are a number of women ministers and plenty of women in public life. Many of them are capable.

But Jones is not required to substantiate his point; he just rants on and on and people do not bother to raise a stink about him.

This particular piece of abuse got him attention on the BBC, which was where I first heard it on a Saturday evening. It wasn’t particularly shocking as Jones has form on things like this, but it is a disturbing trend in a country where women are often treated as chattel.

Jones carries the can for the conservative opposition which is straining at the leash to get into power. Given the current poll ratings, they should take office when the next election is held, but that cannot come too soon for the likes of Jones.

Gillard has a tough gig. She is prone to talk in a patronising manner to people, as though she is talking to a two-year-old and that adds to her problems. Being a woman leader of Australia is not easy.

Dinosaurs should not be given oxygen

AUSTRALIA is a sexist country. This is something I’ve said before. It bears repeating in view of the behaviour of a Liberal party hanger-on this week.

Grahame Morris is a former chief of staff to John Howard, who held the office of prime minister from 1996 to 2007. For some strange reason, Morris, who is best described as a slime, is given lots of air by the radio stations and TV channels to comment on political matters. He is a card-carrying Liberal apologist but is still championed.

Part of this refusal to let deadwood like Morris go is responsible for what happened. The co-host of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s 7.30 program, Leigh Sales, conducted an interview with the Opposition and Liberal Party leader, Tony Abbott, last week. It was a good interview and Sales did what a good journalist is supposed to do – she asked tough questions.

Abbott had not done his homework and came off looking rather foolish.

A few days later, another ABC presented, Linda Mottram, had Morris on the line. She asked him about the interview. Morris response was that Sales tended to be a cow in some of her interviews.

But why was Morris on the line at all? Why are fools like this given oxygen.

Sales responded by calling Morris a dinosaur on Twitter. His sexism should have been dissected and he should have been given a blasting by the politicians whose arses he licks.

But nobody wants to point to the extent of sexism in this country – the last time someone did so was back at the time of the elections in 2010 when a survey clearly indicated that many people had not voted for Julia Gillard because she is a woman.

Fossils like Morris should be put out to pasture.