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Thursday, May 15, 2014 

Allegedly guilty.

Three cheers for the Graun! They've teamed up with the Torygraph and YouTube, aka Google in a bid to host one of the expected leaders' debates next year.  An online debate is clearly necessary, as it will give "voters more opportunities to engage with debates through tweets, likes, shares or questions to politicians", all things that simply wouldn't be possible if they were once again hosted by the old media.  Translated, the bullshit puffery means they simply want to get in on the act, as the debates will be a guaranteed source of hundreds of thousands of hits: 9.4 million watched the first debate live on ITV in 2010.  Even if the novelty of seeing the big three (or possibly four, this time) engaging in mock verbal combat has worn off since then, it's certainly not going to be something they'll lose money on, which for the Graun has to be a bonus.

As to where and why it's losing money, you only need to look at the ever mounting piles of crap being served up on Comment is Free, which this week hosted an article by Becky Smith on why she wasn't a hypocrite for taking a selfie (along with millennials, quite possibly the worst neologism coined in recent times) with David Cameron in Nando's.  I would explain further, but frankly I just, I just.  I don't know.  Imagine the scene from Fulci's City of the Living Dead where Giovanni Lombardo Radice's character's head meets a huge industrial drill, and know I'd rather it was my skull than have to think about Smith ever again.

Smith doesn't have anything though on Jessica Valenti, whose latest piece goes against just about everything the Graun is meant and usually does stand for.  In it, Valenti praises the people who have named alleged rapists at New York's Columbia university as "heroes".  She agrees it would be awful if someone named on the lists pasted up all over the campus were innocent of any crime, but it's OK as all those named so far are "allegedly guilty".  Let that sink in for a second.  Allegedly guilty.  Besides, for as long as humiliating women for allegedly having sex as they apparently do on certain online forums is legal and naming those "allegedly guilty" of rape is criminal, she'll support the victims, regardless of the methods they choose to make themselves heard.

I am obviously simplifying the forces at work here.  If the men weren't reported to the police by the college authorities due to their status despite being found responsible for sexual assault, then I like Valenti don't have much of a problem with their being named.  We don't know that's the case however, and neither does Valenti.  All we have is a list of names.  In this country we were rightly sensitive when the News of the World under Rebekah Wade (now Brooks) started publishing the details and whereabouts of convicted paedophiles, precisely because it resulted in the police having to intervene to protect some of those who were named.  More recently, Bijan Ebrahimi was murdered after being falsely accused of paedophilia, while Luke Hardwood was also killed by a vigilante gang after he was pointed out as a rapist, again without any corresponding evidence.

There's an extremely fine line between protecting women from sexual predators through naming those responsible, especially when they are only "allegedly guilty" and starting a witch-hunt, the end result of which can't be predicted or anticipated.  The Guardian of all papers ought to know why we should always be cautious of welcoming anonymous accusations.  When it comes to America and the internet it just doesn't seem to matter as much.

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