This is our truth, tell us yours
It’s been an odd week.
First of all you have the NSPCC sharply criticizing the lack of police resources to forensically analyze seized computers. There’s not actually any evidence that having more forensic examiners would prevent any actual abuse of children; the NSPCC are acting as a pressure group and demanding that, as a society, we should place an all or nothing bet on deterrence as the best way of preventing abuse, and via the proxy of targetting resources on those who consume images of abuse, even if they do not pay for it.As a practice for preventing abuse, it’s a risky bet, but as a way of promoting the NSPCC and getting them lots of publicity, it works really well.
We’ve talked a lot on Twitter about the latest attack on Brooke Magnanti from an American right wing website which claims it has done investigative journalism, and from a feminist dingbat who accidentally outed someone else entirely by claiming that they were also Brooke Magnanti. Suffice to say, there’s reason why we aren’t all investigative journalists, and it’s because it’s a skill that requires something more than the ability to mistake coincidence for correlation or, specifically for causation.
We also had this week the TV coverage for the self styled paedophile hunter. There’s not an awful lot that can be said that’s new about entrapment and vigantilism coinciding, except that it seems to be the least appropriate topic for a TV programme that I can think of.
And then, today, by accident, I joined the dots about the bundle of joy that is the Duchess of Hackney. Apparently, the Duchess is bragging, via her various social media accounts and associated shonky websites, that she has filed a police crime report against some sex workers who she claims are running a vendetta against her. Now Remi Makinde, or Remi De Cou, or Brynn Lamont or whatever she calls herself today, is a failed madam who’s trying to make it in the brave new world of social media, which seems to be a good shout since she’s had more than a few issues with her dog and cat sitting services which remain the major, and probably the only paid, advertisers on her various website.
As soon as I told friends I was going to blog and mention Remi I got a warning that she’s not above threats of violence. Sure enough, a new sock puppet account popped up on Twitter claiming to be an events directory but inviting me (and others) to knock ourselves out by talking about Remi. Being knocked out by a sock puppet would be a first of course, but hey, I’m not macho.
The thing about Remi is that there are three possible explanations of what she’s doing. One is that she really is a total fucking barmpot who goes round making threats any time she doesn’t get her own way. This is perfectly possible, and, let’s face it, as a self confessed madam/pimp who’s done bird she’s not exactly advertising her moral sensibilities as being one of her strong points, and she can’t actually claim to be a successful criminal if she’s done as much bird as she claims.
The second possibility is that she’s one of the slightly potty chancers who hang around the edge of the scene, the Billy and Betty Big Times who’ll tell you they’ve done time to try and convince you that they’re serious hard cases when in fact the hardest time they’ve done is detention at the school for naughty boys and girls. Remi rings bells with me on that score because one of the key indicators for such people is that their exploits are always somewhere you can’t check up on them – like across the Atlantic. There was a guy used to hang round the bars in Newcastle who claimed to have been an associate of the Manchester Quality Street gang who’d joined the French Foreign Legion to avoid a contract on his head. He was more likely to have spent any time he was missing in Jesmond British Legion than the French Foreign Legion, but the stories just continued and became more and more fanciful any time anyone was stupid enough to buy him a bottle of dog. I was telling stories about Bo Jest, as we called him, in a pub in Gosforth one day when a friend, a registrar at St Nick’s sadly nodded his head and said ‘He’s one of our regulars.’ As a footnote, I’d add that putting out tweets to all and sundry saying that you’ve made a crime report is classic attention seeking behaviour; if you’re a neighbour of Remi’s you might want to wonder if she’s the kind of person who might set fire to their flat to see who cares about her, and to have something else to complain about. Remi’s complaint that organized criminals set up a nasty blog about her (that she took six years to get taken down) is classic stuff of this kind; in my experience organized criminals can usually organize some more direct ways of persuading you to relocate than a blogpost about your birth certificate. Again, a lack of a sense of proportion is, in my experience, a part of the Billy Big Times phenomenon.
The third possibility of course is that Remi is some of the things she says she is, and an astute entrepeneur (although her cat sitting failures suggest she’s bigger on ideas than implementation.) We are living in a vigilante society, where you capture the public imagination by finding people to isolate, to attack and demonize. If you’re a serial purveyor of crap websites, as Remi is, you get your hits up by focussing on crime, on pseudo-investigations, on outings and noise. Punching down is the name of the game, and Remi has found her place punching down at Asian sex workers, tapping into the powerful memes of trafficking for sex work and pimping as her signature pieces.
My guess is that Remi sits somewhere between possibility two and possibility three, and is indeed capable of offering threats and close up personal violence if she doesn’t get her own way. Vigilantism is her way into the mainstream, her chance to put all the disasters and mistakes of her past behind her and cast herself as the heroine she thinks she is.
This is the world all of us have made, and by pandering to narratives of vigilantism, deterrence and punishment, and by abandoning prevention and protection based on risk assessment we are consenting to the Remi Makinde’s of this world being given space in the public discourse as if they have something to contribute.