This is our truth, tell us yours
@CarlGardner is a blogger and law lecturer, a former barrister and government lawyer.
He believes Kate Smurthwaite about what happened when her gig at Goldsmiths got cancelled. He thinks anyone who doesn’t believe Kate is biased, and taking sides because of Kate’s views on sex work. He also thinks it’s ‘anti free speech’ and ‘professionally insulting’ to say Kate Smurthwaite isn’t funny, or to re-publish reviews to that effect.
Now, let’s be clear here. Kate Smurthwaite’s position on sex work does affect my view of her reliability as a witness, but not just because I don’t share her views. It’s the fact that her views don’t make sense. You cannot believe in the rights of sex workers, and yet be opposed to their being paid for their work, unless there’s something you’re not saying. A standard method in this case is substitution – if you don’t believe me, try replacing the words ‘sex workers’ with, say law lecturers.
Now, it might be that all Kate Smurthwaite means is that she believes sex workers have the same human rights as anyone else. In that case, though, why say sex workers? Why not just say I believe in universal human rights?
The answer of course is that Kate’s position is profoundly dishonest, and motivated by tactical concerns within her practice of feminism. Faced with challenges, within feminism, from those who are feminists and sex workers, people like Kate have come up with a position that says ‘we’re not against other women, it’s the men who pay who are the problem.’ Sex workers still aren’t satisfied by that position, but it plays well to Kate’s intended audience, which is those feminists who believe feminists should never attack other women.
Now, I think that’s a profoundly dishonest position, because it denies women the choice to be sex workers, (since Kate would ban anyone from paying for sex, making it a job you could only do for no pay) while claiming to be on their side. If you’re a man, and disagree with Kate, you are pro-pimp, or part of the pimp lobby. Again, you might wonder why Kate uses the pejorative word pimp – a pimp is, after all, just an agent who negotiates on behalf of the worker. Lots of sex workers get by without them, just as lots of workers get by without employment agencies. Funnily enough, some people think employment agencies aren’t always honest or fair, just like some pimps, which is why employment agencies are regulated.
Once you understand that it’s impossible to hold the position Kate Smurthwaite does honestly, (since you’re lying, by omission, about your intention to make sex work impossible) it’s possible to approach anything Smurthwaite says sceptically. Carl Gardner prefers to believe her. What that says about Carl Gardner, I’ll leave to others to work out.
Want some concrete examples of why I don’t believe Kate? The smoking gun is the blatant exaggeration, by Kate, of one tweet into a planned protest against her. Now, Carl trained as a barrister, so he will know about the selection of evidence. If you want to make a case that a protest was planned, do you play your weakest card, or your strongest? Kate put into play one tweet, from someone outside London, asking someone in London whether anything was planned.
That’s it. Nothing more. No ‘I’ll make the signs, you bring the rocks for the stoning.’ No plans, no preparations, just a quick question. From that, according to Kate I thought it was only fair to let the organisers know that I thought there was a risk of a protest or of people coming along to the show with the specific aim of disrupting it or arguing with me. I think it would be unprofessional not to warn organisers if there was a possibility of disruption.
The exaggeration is obvious, and clear. But Carl believes Kate. Carl says the college’s safe spaces policy was an issue, but, as Kate says, she was never sent a copy of it. SO where does that leave us?
The only person who said there would be a protest was Kate. She’s published her best evidence. It doesn’t stand up. It’s not anti-free speech to point that out.