Tag Archives: Tim Ellis

This is not Tu Quoque, it is not, it is not

10 Mar

The ad hominem argument known as “tu qouque” or “you too” goes like this:

She cannot sue me for libel because she was just successfully sued for libel.

It’s clear this is fallacious: the fact that she has been found guilty of libel doesn’t mean she can’t claim she’s also been libeled. While we can exclaim at the hypocrisy we may see in such a situation, hypocrisy in no way negates claims that are deserving of attention whether she has committed the same offense or not.

My post of January 10 that caused Melinda Tankard Reist to threaten defamation action has understandably been subjected to a great deal of scrutiny and commentary. A consistent criticism is that I didn’t have the “facts” on which I based my allegations about Reist’s religious influences, that I made knowledge claims without the knowledge. I’ve pointed out that I used information available uncontested in the public domain for a long time, that I watched and read interviews with Reist by journalists, and that I have sources dating back to 2006 questioning Reist’s religious motivations.

For some two years now, I’ve been contesting what I consider outrageous claims made by Reist (and others, but so far nobody else has threatened to sue me), and outrageous attacks on public figures that are supported by nothing other than Reist’s opinion. Why nobody has threatened her with defamation action I don’t know. I do know from correspondence with some of these people that they’ve considered, and in a couple of cases are still considering taking action against her. The cost of such action is a major obstacle for many who might otherwise resort to it, however this does not seem to be a consideration for Tankard Reist.

What’s remarkable is that those who have developed an intense interest in my post of January 10 have shown absolutely no interest at all in the injustices perpetrated by Reist in her savage personal attacks on men and women whose lifestyles and opinions she does not care for.

For example, this crusade against a singer whose song she finds objectionable doesn’t stop with him: Reist attacks his girlfriend for failing to prevent him writing it. This is what I wrote at the time:

MTR also holds Delta Goodrem partially responsible. Why didn’t Delta check the lyrics before allowing Brian to record them, she asks. Is Delta so inured to sexual violence that she didn’t even notice what Brian was on about?

This would be unfortunate, MTR suggests, as Delta is a spokeswoman for Avon Voices, a group that raises awareness of violence against women.

I guess the sexual conservatives also hold women responsible for what the men they live with do.

Personally, I think that’s a pretty low and unnecessarily malicious swipe.

Indeed on ABC’s The Drum the article title is: “New song from Delta’s man feeds rape myth.” Delta’s man?

Then we have this attack on Tasmanian DPP Tim Ellis. Reist continued to post this article on her website when other sites such as On Line Opinion took it down, after being advised by the DPP that it contained references to a case currently underway, and risked incurring charges of contempt. The article and Reist’s commentary make no reference to the extraordinary decision by the DPP to publish his reasons for not proceeding with prosecutions in the Hobart Mercury. They simply attack him personally and professionally.

Then we have this gem, Reist’s interpretation of a video she doesn’t like:

Women are slaves and bitches who can service a man’s sexual needs, even in death. Men are brutal and dominant, and have no empathy for women. Men enjoy dead women as sex and entertainment. The female body is to be devoured, reduced to the same status as meat. Female bodies should be displayed before men as a great feast for their consumption.

Beside which my allegedly lurid interpretation of the virgin birth looks quite inadequate.

Then we have this vicious tirade, directed against Shaune Metcalf seven, yes seven years after he committed an appalling crime, had been found guilty, and punished. Reist also attacks a defense of Metcalfe by Celia Lashlie. I’ll post in full the observations of commenter Bruce Thombo Jefferson on Reist’s article, because it’s worth it:

Bruce Thombo Jefferson :

15 Apr 2011 12:43:05pm

I think the point of this article as I read it is that Ms Tankard Reist feels betrayed because Ms Lashlie has allowed a balanced and educated approach to dealing with a criminal who commissioned a crime when he was a 16 year old several years ago. My guess is the actual assault is a secondary matter being used a vehicle by Ms Tankard Reist to go to war with those ostensibly of her faction that do not tow her party line. 

The theme seems to be the righteousness of her anger and her right to indulge it freely when that sort of approach is being questioned by Ms Lashlie. It appears, from the little I have managed to find out, that Ms Lashlie is a person who worked with male prisoners as a warden in the NZ system and she seems to dedicate herself to the notion of rehabilitation and the possibility of positive outcomes. Ms Tankard Reist seems to enjoy more punitive approach. 

Now the punishment after the fact orientated sort of republican Southern Baptist style of rhetoric so fashionable in the USA is a good vote catcher over there but we have to ask ourselves if it is really effective in making a better society? Clearly they have been a total failure in lowering the number of abortions, one of Ms Tankard Reists pet projects, sex crimes or even teenage pregnancy. The reason for this is that is outed by Ms Tankard Reist herself. The object is not rehabilitation , its not prevention, it is the revelling in the feeling of righteous anger and self justification. 

Is this type of self indulgence worth supporting? I would argue not. These people may like to keep their kids as their play dolls by hiding any hint of human sexuality from them They may resurrect the lynch mobs of the fifties but they can even establish repressive, even in extreme cases genocidal regimes lasting decades but they wont actually achieve a better society.

Ms Lashlie appears to represent the other side. One is reminded of Victor Frankl who after years of incarceration in German Concentration camps felt it was his duty upon release to work with ex guards and other Nazis to help them come to terms with what they had done and move on. I always like the notion that the aim of life was to heal a fractured world rather than drive a wedge deeper in but that’s just me.

I notice that most of Ms Tankard Reists supporter entourage here are concentrating on the side issue of the horror of the crime rather than on Ms Tankard Reists theme of her right to tantrum. Perhaps that is because even to them its hard to see the point of it. 

I would argue that all round Ms Lashlie’s constructive engagement approach is better because it will lead to a better outcome for all parties, the ruby player , the mother and the child than Ms Tankards Reist’s approach which will lead to third parties having an indulgent anger fests but nothing else really.

It really is most interesting that my January 10 post should attract such attention when articles such as Reist’s (and there are many, many more that I haven’t noted) go entirely unremarked by my critics.  If one is honest about striving for a media in which knowledge claims are supported by knowledge, and in which people are not singled out for unfair criticism, the work of a writer such as Tankard Reist is a good place to start your critique and offers far more examples of what offends than does my insignificant post.

Which is not to claim that I should be left uncritiqued, or that Reist’s complaints and threats are invalid because she has also committed offenses. This is not tu quoque, it is not, it is not.

More like a question of balance.

Using “Angela” as a means to an end is not just

1 Dec

At Melinda Tankard Reist’s website she comments thus: Today I am thinking about a 15-year-old Tasmanian girl and what she thinks of the Australian justice system. I’m wondering if she is questioning if it was worth taking her harrowing ordeal to the courts to find no justice at the end of the process.

Tankard Reist then goes on to re-publish the article by Professor Caroline Taylor  in which she calls for the prosecution of some 120 men who allegedly paid for sex with the allegedly eighteen-year-old “Angela.”

There appears to be no awareness of the contradictory nature of these two posts. Tankard Reist admits the harrowing ordeal of subjecting “Angela” to a court process that results in “no justice,” yet she supports and re-iterates Taylor’s demands that “Angela” be subjected to 120 more such experiences because it’s in the public interest.

As well, both women believe the Tasmanian DPP ought not to be permitted to decide “behind closed doors” that there isn’t sufficient evidence against the men to make a case that has a reasonable chance of attaining justice. Rather they believe the 120 men ought to be brought to court, where a jury can make that decision in clear sight.

In order for this to occur, both women are apparently willing to subject “Angela” to 120 more harrowing experiences, every one with little potential for offering her justice.

This makes no sense. It sounds like the kind of blind, vengeful fury that inevitably destroys everything in its path. In this case blind fury is willing to sacrifice “Angela” to attain it’s own ends, those ends being the humiliation of 120 men. That there will be anything more than humiliation for the men is unlikely. However, for “Angela” there will be years and years of  unrelenting “harrowing ordeals” and no justice at the end of it.

The fact that “Angela” has refused this fate is apparently irrelevant to these enraged seekers of “justice.” In their worldview, society is entitled to demand that “Angela” satisfy it’s need for retribution, no matter that she’s suffered unspeakably, and doesn’t want to fulfil society’s needs.

Do they really believe that there can be any justice for “Angela” in a system that will do little more than temporarily humiliate her abusers? Do they really believe the suffering she will endure throughout the process will be adequately compensated by seeing the men named and temporarily shamed?

Tankard Reist and Taylor are ready and willing to turn “Angela” into a means to their end. A human being is not a means to another’s end, no matter how righteous that end might seem.  To treat her as such is to dehumanize her. It is appalling that people dedicated to advocating for women and children are apparently more than willing to use “Angela” to further their own personal agendas, and in the process, deny her voice, and her humanity.

Tasmanian ex MP will do no jail time for raping child – DPP’s decision vindicated

29 Nov

UPDATE: Terry Martin will not do jail time The DPP’s decision not to proceed with other prosecutions is vindicated by this result. The DPP predicted that anyone charged would either not be convicted, or if convicted would receive only minor sentence. 

Martin is  part of a class action against the makers of the drug claimed to have caused the hypersexualized behaviour Justice David Porter agreed led to Martin’s offenses. Justice Porter’s sentencing comments here

In On Line Opinion on October 11 2010, Professor Caroline Taylor, Head of the Social Justice Research Centre at Edith Cowan University, published an article titled “An (un) convincing argument” The article is a scathing commentary on the decision of the Tasmanian Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Tim Ellis, not to pursue any of the estimated 120 men who allegedly paid to have sex with a twelve-year-old girl. The men had responded to a newspaper advertisement claiming that the girl, “Angela,” was eighteen. “Angela” was put out to prostitution by her mother and her mother’s boyfriend, both of whom are now serving custodial sentences.

Mr Ellis took the unusual step of publishing a Memorandum setting out his reasons for not proceeding with the prosecution of eight of the men known to have had sexual relations with “Angela” here in the Hobart Mercury.

After communications with Tim Ellis the article was pulled from On Line Opinion, as Professor Taylor names ex Tasmanian MP Terence Martin, one of the men accused and at that time undergoing trial. Martin has just been convicted of unlawful sexual intercourse with a young person and producing child exploitation material, and is awaiting sentencing.

However, the same article remained on the website of activist Melinda Tankard Reist, in spite of being sub judice. At the time I wrote a piece in rebuttal of Professor Taylor’s position after an email exchange with both her and Tim Ellis. My piece was also withheld, as the matter was sub judice.

It is unfortunate that some important aspects of the DPP’s decision were left out of Professor Taylor’s article, such as the fact that “Angela” has refused to identify her abusers, and the fact that the accused men would be tried separately. This would subject “Angela” to participation in seven or eight trials, all with, according to the evidence revealed in the DPP’s Memorandum, little chance of a successful outcome. This information is highly relevant to the DPP’s decision not to proceed, and in all fairness, should have been noted in any public critique of his decision. Rather the assumption has been made by many who oppose that decision that it was made solely to protect the alleged abusers, though I have yet to find any motive for Ellis’s alleged desire to protect them.

It is difficult to accept that these men could have been unaware that “Angela” was underage. However, difficult as it is to accept, it is equally if not more difficult to prove that the men were ignorant of her age. They answered an advertisement for sex with an eighteen-year-old. They were, according to the DPP, shown into a darkened room, where many of them stayed for little more than the minutes it took for them to climax. There appears to be agreement between those who have seen “Angela” that she does look a good deal older than twelve. The prosecution would be required to prove beyond reasonable doubt that these men, having anticipated an 18-year-old woman, realised when they entered the room that “Angela” was much younger, and proceeded to have sexual relations with her regardless. While this may well have been the case, proving it is another story.

“Angela” was forced to service up to 200 men over a short time period. Her ability to identify them may well be impaired by their number, and the trauma of the horrific and unrelenting assault on her body and her mind and her spirit. It is hardly likely that “Angela” was in any fit state to closely observe and remember their faces, in circumstances that amount to torture.

In the DPP’s Memorandum it is stated that “Angela” has refused to identify her abusers, and refused to give evidence against them. This presents the DPP with a dilemma. To proceed with prosecution “Angela” must somehow be persuaded to engage in not one, but possibly eight court cases, against her will. This would embroil her in legal action for many more years of her young life, as each defendant must be tried separately. Angela has already endured the trial of her mother, and her mother’s partner. She has now decided that she does not wish to endure any more legal proceedings. As Ellis puts it : “Repeated trials would undoubtedly increase the trauma the complainant has already suffered. Given the unlikelihood of convictions and even if there are convictions, the likely [minor] sentences the accused men would face, in my view, it is not in the public interest to repeatedly subject the complainant to giving evidence and the resulting trauma that she would as a result suffer. ”

According to the DPP’s Memorandum, there is a very good chance that the eight accused would be acquitted. Martin obligingly photographed himself with Angela, but no such evidence is available in any of the other circumstances.

It is extremely unfortunate when outrage against the perpetrators blinds us to “Angela’s” ongoing suffering. Attempting to bring these men to justice would cost her dearly, and she doesn’t want to do it. The community’s desire for retribution, while understandable, must take into account what “Angela” would have to bear in order for the community’s demands for justice to be sated. It is very easy to call for “justice” when you are not the one who is faced with enduring the process required to attain it, or the terrible uncertainty that at the end of the ordeal, “justice” may well be the last thing you’ll achieve.

There are grown women who will not pursue their attackers in the courts. There are grown men who will not even admit they’ve been sexually abused, let alone name their abusers. Why then should anyone expect a thirteen-year-old girl to do this, not once, but over and over again?

In her article, Professor Taylor claims that: “This child was denied justice and a voice. She was also denied any sense of her humanity, her vulnerability, her suffering. Society was denied the opportunity to demonstrate that we have evolved our social and moral landscape and will not tolerate the sexual abuse, misuse and trafficking of children.”

Superficially, there is little to argue against in these observations. But on a deeper level, the fact is that as “Angela” has refused to participate in any prosecutions, to attempt to persuade her to do so is to deny her the fundamental human right to refuse action in which she does not wish to engage.  She has already been utterly stripped of her rights as a human being, by the perpetrators and by the men who abused her. She has already been denied the right to refuse in ways many of us cannot bear to even imagine. How can “society” even contemplate disregarding and disrespecting her right to say no to further legal action?

As well, there is no guarantee that putting her through a series of trials will result in justice for her. It appears more likely that the result would be quite the opposite, and “Angela” will continue to suffer through a series of negative outcomes. Her damaged sense of her humanity, her sense of vulnerability, and her suffering will all be exacerbated by trials that do not end in convictions. This is not a risk that anyone with empathy and knowledge of the traumatic aftermath of sexual abuse would persuade her to take.

Some of those who object to the DPP’s decision argue that this is an opportunity for societal change if only the right lawyer would up his or her hand to courageously take it on. No doubt there is truth in this, however, on what grounds can anyone justify turning “Angela” into society’s guinea pig?

Respecting “Angela’s” decision not to participate in the legal process is a more urgent moral imperative than society’s right to pursue the offenders. Society must not exploit this child’s misery in order to demonstrate some kind of moral evolution. “Angela” cannot be forced into satisfying society’s need to have these men punished. To do so would be to perpetuate her exploitation, and demand of her a sacrifice no one has the right to demand.

A real moral evolution will be evidenced when we are not blinded by our outrage against these men, but when we are able to see past that outrage and consider what it will do to the victim to insist that she be further victimized in our pursuit of justice.

Just because the legal means are available to address sexual crimes does not guarantee that they are always the best choice for the victim. Many rape victims know this. Many choose to relinquish their desire to see the accused punished because of what it will cost them. As frustrating and disappointing as this is for others, only the victim has the right to decide if she or he wants to, or can, go through the legal process. Victims of sexual crimes have already been forced to endure against their will. It is not society’s job to repeat this trauma, however well intentioned that society may perceive itself to be.

There is nothing more important to a victim of a sexual crime than to have her or his wishes respected and supported. It is one thing to stridently demand what we perceive as right and just, when it isn’t us who’ll have to pay the price.  It is another thing altogether to look into the face of a terribly abused and suffering child who tells you:  “I don’t want to,” and tell her she’s going to have to do it anyway because society demands justice and retribution.

This is a no-brainer. “Angela” is the only person who has the right to decide how she wants to proceed in this situation. This may well be the first time in her young life she’s been allowed to decide anything. “Angela” has decided. Society must accept that decision. Our obligation is to ensure she is receiving everything she needs to help her heal as best she can from unthinkable trauma. Nobody has the right to expect anything further of “Angela,” least of all that she offer herself up to change our world.

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