Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Dear Rebecca Davis,

         You didn’t half get your knickers in a twist over my Tweets attacking you for swearing on Twitter. The on-line paper the Daily Maverick that you write for then, somewhat surprisingly, gave you space to vent your anger with In defence of sweary women.
         In your haste to get into print you didn’t let the facts stand in the way of a good story. With the result that you got the wrong end of the stick completely.
         You huffed and puffed for something like 1000 words displaying the huge chip you seemed to have about being a woman. At the same time, like a child that had just been reprimanded for swearing, you used the phrase Fucking hell which was the subject of my complaint twice and finished with I’m fucking angry.

         Just to emphasise that nobody, least of all a man, was going to stop you swearing, you threw in horsehit four times as well as your show off boast that Profanity is part of my rhetorical armoury.
         For those readers who don’t keep up with Twitter’s swearing female journalists the background was this. Rebecca commented on the case of a teenage boy who had been convicted of killing his parents and his sister who he also raped.
         She Tweeted: So the accused raped his own sister? Fucking hell.
         I asked on Twitter if it was alright to use Fucking Hell in the stories that appear in the Daily Maverick.

         I gave a link to a previous post I had written entitled Can Swearing & Journalism mix . In it I took Carien du Plessis the senior political writer at City Press to task for using crap, fukkit, bullshit and pee in my paints in her Tweets.
         I argued that as a journalist she would not be allowed to use this kind of language in the stories she wrote for City Press. So as she was in the public eye she had a duty not to swear on social media as this would reflect badly on her paper.
         And Rebecca you had obviously read this post because you referred to it in your Maverick report as being badly written and that I only accused Du Plessis of using the word crap.

         I wasn’t even aware that ‘crap’ counted as a swearword, which shows how far beyond the pale I really am, you added.
        It also shows what a wrong impression you can give if you leave out a significant part of the story. To use your phrase this is extremely selective. 
         Also had you done a bit of research you would have found that Du Plessis ceased her vile Twitter language immediately after my post appeared. Did she have second thoughts or did her Editor Ferial Haffajee tell her to stop it. I don’t know so I’ll leave it to you to decide what this proves.
         Your paper seems to have one rule for its writers and another for people who comment on it. Those who comment are expected to abide by polite society everywhere so I would have expected that writers like you would be required to do the same.
         Evidently your Editor and founder Branko Brkic and I have very different ideas of polite society. My version certainly doesn’t include the use of words like fucking and horseshit.
         Your paper’s website tells us that anonymous comments are not acceptable as they do not breed thoughtful civilised debate. Real names make for a real community.
         So could you ask Branko why it was that among the comments on the bottom of your story there were people (I assume they were people) with names like Kate, LG, Bonb, Panther, Hilton and McKeon etc. You can’t get much more anonymous than that.
          My second question to him is this. If names are so important why didn’t you mention my name which is on my Twitter profile? Instead you described me as a stranger; one of the critics of my swearing and this same man.
         By inference you attributed this to me. It is my experience, however, that the same men who jump to rebuke me for swearing do not seem remotely disturbed by the swearing of my male counterparts, which suggests that their delicate sense of offence is extremely selective.
         Well as you have not yet got the message Rebecca my criticism of your swearing had nothing to do with you being a woman. It was, as I have already mentioned, entirely due to the fact that you are a journalist. I would have said the same about any male journo who did what you did.
         From what I’ve seen so far the male scribes have more sense and don’t have to court publicity by soiling their own doorstep with swear words on Twitter.
         Having once been employed editing Oxford English Dictionaries I wouldn’t dispute your brag that you can legitimately lay claim to a rich and extensive vocabulary; a bounteous lexical storehouse stacked high and deep with sufficient entries to convey countless shades of meaning and nuances of emotion.
         A built in dictionary doesn’t necessarily make you a good journalist.
         You went on to say that I know loads of words. I know so many words that I know ‘horsehit’ is by no means my only option to express repugnance.       

         Yet like the little girl, sorry I better mention a boy as well, trying to get attention you chose swear words instead of any of the other more acceptable words in your head. So you had no logical excuse.
         As you rightly said The precise form the censor takes varies, but the essence is always the same. In choosing to swear on a public platform, you reveal yourself not to be a ‘lady’. You betray a fundamental lack of ‘class’. You expose a vocabulary so deficient that you lack non-sweary alternatives. You encourage observers to lose all respect for you.
         You said it Rebecca not me and whether you like it or not this is exactly how sweary birds are perceived by many people.
The key question is: Do newspapers that often expose the imperfections of others need columnists and reporters like this?
          Craig Bishop, who was probably unaware of the journalist aspect, gave an apt if not somewhat harsh summary of the situation in his comment on your report.
 This is not a feminist problem – it is a social problem, he wrote. Trying to paint swearing into a feminist corner, while not invalid, limits the total resources society can bring to bear upon the problem. Besides, swearing has been and always will be the refuge of the illiterate, the uneducated, the vilely narcissistic, and rightfully, people who have dropped a sledge hammer on their toe.
         As an aside I think a lot more women must be taking up DIY.  There’s an awful lot of foul-mouthed chicks out there. It doesn’t somehow make them equal to men. It makes them equal to the illiterate, uneducated and vilely narcissistic men they have been told they can be equal to.
         Why not be better?
         The first comment I got after my tiff with you referred to my Du Plessis post. It was an Anonymous one saying:  Fucking sexist crap, this.

         Obviously I don’t know who sent it but the wording has the same sort of ring to it as the Readers Comments Policy on the Maverick’s website that begins Don’t write stupid crap.
         That’s one of the problems with those many cowards who hide behind Anonymous tags. They leave so much to the imagination.
         Anyway enough of my cr..azy and fff…… fanciful ideas on how hacks should behave because we all know that practising what they preach is not one of their strong points.
         Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman, who exposes the embarrassing stuff about the Press that it would prefer to keep under wraps.

P.S. In the interest of fairness I would have liked to get a comment from your Editor before I posted this but I was unable to do this. Your paper’s website tells us that as the individuals on your paper are constantly running around to bring you amazing news and analysis we can be a little hard to reach. This proved to be true as far as I was concerned.

P.P.S. This seems far from ideal if you are in the news gathering business.

P.P.P.S. It seems this post did some good because the Maverick's Readers Policy was changed. Here is my Tweet about it on 25/9/2014.

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