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Wednesday 18 November 2015

Don’t Menshn You’ve Been Busted

The saga of what Tim Hunt did or did not say during a recent visit to South Korea has been debated almost endlessly since someone in the press decided it would be A Very Good Thing to mount a counter offensive against the initially established wisdom that he said something he would have been best advised not saying, was duly criticised, and for which he then apologised. But that counter offensive is rapidly running out of road.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014

First to blunt the fightback was the exhaustively detailed analysis by Dan Waddell and Paula Higgins, “Saving Tim Hunt”, subtitled “The campaign to exonerate Tim Hunt for his sexist remarks in Seoul is built on myths, misinformation, and spin”. This touched on the obsessive interventions by (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch, who has pursued a complaint against some of those making the initial reports on Hunt’s faux pas.

Sadly for Ms Mensch, the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW) has, after a clearly comprehensive investigation, not agreed with her accusations. Moreover, the comments in their report on her complaints leave no doubt that they are less than impressed with her behaviour and demeanour.

The ABSW report notes that it is “unprecedented” for it to have complaints referred directly to them about the conduct of its members; nevertheless, all are dealt with. These were:

Complaint by Louise Mensch (non-member) against Connie St Louis, ABSW full member and Board member

Complaint by Louise Mensch (non-member) against Martin Ince, ABSW full member, President and Board member

Complaint by Louise Mensch (non-member) against Bob Ward ABSW associate member, and co-opted Board member 

All three complaints relate in some way to the reporting of comments made by Sir Tim Hunt”.

All those complained against recused themselves from part or all of the investigation, as appropriate. Other members of the ABSW board also recused themselves in order to avoid any possibility of a conflict of interest. The conclusions reached were straightforward.

On the complaint against Martin Ince, “The Board did not consider this complaint needed further action”. On that against Bob Ward, “The Board concluded that the substance of the complaint against Bob Ward was misplaced and that no further action was needed”.

On the complaint made against Connie St Louis, the board was particularly harsh in its dismissal: “The complainant does not offer clear evidence that Connie St Louis has done what the complainant accuses her of … The Board subgroup do not consider this evidence sufficient to show that St Louis's has behaved in a way that violates the standards set out in standing order 16”. And it then gets a lot worse for Ms Mensch.

The Board subgroup also considers this complaint to be vexatious and submitted with the goal of smearing an individual rather than with a constructive goal of upholding journalistic quality … The complaint includes evidence and quotations used selectively … The complainant has brought up matters that would most sensibly be addressed first and foremost through other channels … the Board subgroup are saying that they have no credible evidence that Ms St Louis misrepresented anything, and so are not minded to begin any formal procedure under standing order 16”.

That, of course, should be an end to the matter. It will not be. Ms Mensch is totally unable to accept that she has ever done anything wrong, despite her litany of wrong calls (see the Zelo Street take HERE). Moreover, she has not only a significant group of adherents who are still prepared to believe her, but the bully pulpit provided by the Sunday edition of the Murdoch Sun, which she is more than prepared to use in her defence.

The mainstream science community, though, will now move on, while Ms Mensch continues her sorry and inevitable drift into irrelevance, becoming ever-more a figure of ridicule. The Tim Hunt affair was her one chance to show that her grand claims to be an “investigative journalist” had substance; instead, she ends up just another unreliable witness who no-one is likely to take seriously in the foreseeable future.

Louise Mensch is now bust. End of story.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, Tim. It isn't "end of story."

Mensch is a serial neocon whinging whiner. New York and London's full of them, usually in Wall Street and Canary Wharf.

All of them are as predictable as a Nuremberg Rally and for roughly the same reasons.

Fred Wropiquet said...

Your support for ABSW is grossly misplaced. By all means ignore Louise Mensch if you are unable to get her usual politics out of your mind - I accept that can be difficult - but in that case look at the analysis offered by Debbie Kennett http://cruwys.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/the-tim-hunt-affair-call-for-evidence.html

You make the mistake of assuming that enemies of Louise Mensch are decent people who must be telling the truth. You have made a grave error. A decent man has been traduced by a bunch of liars and Louise Mensch jumped to his support. As someone who was attacking her comments just hours earlier this came as a surprise - but she seems to have truth on her side throughout her analysis in this one case.

You do yourself no favours by your stance. I for one now question your other claims that I had taken on trust. Re-think.

Tim Fenton said...


There will be no re-think.

You may find the Dan Waddell and Paula Higgins article instructive, and should read the ABSW findings.

Using expressions such as "bunch of liars" does not help your cause.

Anonymous said...

@Fred Wropiquet.

Did you ACTUALLY READ Tim's blog?

By that I mean UNDERSTAND it.

hatty said...

It's a shame.Mensch did raise valid points about the incident but then any positives were lost in the spiteful, disproportionate baying for blood that followed.Some of her followers certainly fall into the misogynist dude-bro camp, relishing Mensch signal boosting them. And it looks so bad from the distance of half-engaged scrolling through Twitter, a group of (mainly) white men haranguing a single black woman.

A lost chance for progressive dialogue about appropriate speech/forums. Even the most innocently intended joke gives deeper oppression permission to continue. What happens next time someone makes a clumsy joke, no one will dare politely challenge it.