One of the greatest moments of my life was when I stood up to Susan Cuthbert. She ran our school playground and, yes, that is her actual name. (So sue me, Susan.) Every lunchtime, Susan assigned us a role to play. I was way down in the hierarchy, so I would spend that time pretending to be a tree in The Sound of Music or, when I crossed her, an actual rail track. I would have to lie down on the tarmac for an hour: “Please walk on me.”
By the age of ten, though, I had the measure of her and spent a lot of time persuading my classmates not to be bit parts in Susan Cuthbert’s mundane re-enactments, but to be stars in my special fantasy games. You could be in Dr Who, Star Trek, or T Rex. You can be heroes. Just for one lunchtime. We froze her out.
But guess what? It turns out there are lots of Susans out there. And there is one Susan in particular who frequently uses his platform to demean women. Social media bullying is still something that no one knows quite how to deal with. It’s virtual until it isn’t, and all I can say is this man’s tweets bring violence and hatred to my door, including rape and death threats. It’s all especially horrible because he’s been to my house more than once for lunches and parties, only to later reveal himself to be a misogynist pest.
Owen Jones has long been very angry with me, and it’s not really to do with trans people at all. (There were trans people at many of those parties he attended — that’s how Terfy I am.) Trans people are merely pawns in his proxy war, and they deserve far better representatives. His real problem with me was that I did not support Corbyn or those who surrounded him. I didn’t feel it was my duty to get this deluded old fool elected. But Owen, with his zillions of Twitter followers, thought otherwise and became increasingly hostile to me.
I may have been rude in my responses, but my animus against that part of the media isn’t personal: it’s about class. Owen went to Oxford and was a bag carrier in Westminster before being handed a national newspaper column. So many of these hard-Left types have no life experience and it shows.
I was reminded of that recently when Jones went on some mad rant, posting 33 tweets about me. Way to go, mate, if you don’t want to look obsessive and harassing. He wanted to rebut the idea that he had anything to do with me leaving the Guardian. The boring details are this: I chose to leave. I was not fired, but I found it intolerable to be censored for relatively mild views. I have never claimed to be cancelled or silenced. Do I think Owen was responsible for getting my “colleagues” to gang up and write a letter denouncing me? I can’t say. I certainly think he was responsible for creating the toxic atmosphere in which it happened. But he denies it and claims the letter was never about me, even though it was leaked to his mate Patrick Strudwick at Buzzfeed, who strangely seemed to think it was.
No need to go into all that again. I wrote at length about it here without once mentioning the twerp’s name. But suffice it to say that in 30 years of journalism, no one has spoken to me the way he did. Of course, anyone on Twitter will be aware he does this on a regular basis to women. That is why #OwenJonesIsAMisogynist started to trend this week, after Private Eye reported that an independent investigator brought in by the Guardian had upheld a complaint of bullying made against him by a female columnist, and that he is yet to face punishment.
When I read the Private Eye piece, I wasn’t surprised: over the years, so many women have complained and nothing has ever been done. The fact that an internal investigator was brought in and “found that it was reasonable” for the complainant “to feel offended, intimidated and insulted by his tweets” surely means that the complaint was upheld up in part. We can argue the semantics here. Is intimidation the same as bullying? Ask John Bercow.
Yet the Guardian responded in pure legalese. In a disingenuous statement, they claimed that “it is not true that anyone was found guilty of bullying”, though some employees “have had to be reminded about the organisation’s social media guidelines”. It’s textbook gaslighting — only this time it has allowed Owen to proclaim his innocence and cocoon himself in his much-treasured state of victimhood.
So on he marches, engaging only with a few pet females who agree with him and blocking everyone else. The fact that he seems to have got away with it again sends a strong message about what the Guardian’s priorities really are. But after the Wi Spa incident — in which the paper’s reporters defended a sex offender in the name of trans rights and ordinary women were trashed as transphobic liars — perhaps we should have known. It allows Owen to dog-whistle on social media which encourages trolls to crawl out of their caves to abuse women staff. It’s a place where writers like me and Hadley Freeman can no longer be columnists. Their senior editors and writers all remain silent on all this, though I was sent supportive messages when I walked out. Their cowardice disgusts me, but ultimately this is the fault of the editor and The Scott Trust, who know what goes on and do nothing.
What Owen doesn’t realise is that he’s harming the causes he claims to be fighting for. He claims to be Left-wing but punches down on women and loathes Keir Starmer. Likewise, his support for trans rights never extends to answering any difficult questions: What is gender identity? What do we do about the huge spike in distressed teenage girls wanting to transition? Are women no longer allowed to organise as a sex class? What do we do globally about rape as a war crime? Or FGM? Or sex selection? Women’s actual issues don’t interest him. Instead, he trolls women MPs and stands up for anti-Semites, again another proxy war.
DARVO is the methodology of abusers. It stands for Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender. Men often use it to deny their behaviour and paint themselves as the victim. It’s a familiar narcissist move, and I was reminded of this when Owen tweeted this week: “It is completely and utterly untrue that I was found guilty of bullying anyone at the Guardian”. He posted it with a straight face, but that’s not quite the whole truth is it, Owen?
If you think this is all part of the trans war, you are mistaken. It really isn’t — this is much bigger. It is about how workplace culture deals with social media. It is about whether, when it comes down to it, we listen to and believe women. Thankfully, the Observer still does, but the Guardian has chosen not to. People often ask me why I left, but is it so hard to understand? Its feminism is a thing of the past. It is edited by Twitter.
I am sad for the good people who remain there, who I know feel silenced and depressed by all this. In protecting Owen, the Guardian has revealed its priorities in ways that are incredibly damaging to their own brand. Unless you think that woman-hating is being on the right side of history, that is.
I have seen off many bullies in my lifetime. I know what male violence is. I know what the truth is. So I do not fear this contemptible man and his enablers. Everyone can see what is happening if they choose to. Over to you then. As for me, I am done with his pitiful delusions of grandeur. I am done with that playground. I can organise my own games. They are much more fun.