Update II: I have received some private messages questioning this blog post – mostly along the lines of “aren’t you inferring a bit much?” and “aren’t you a bit of a gramar [sic] nazi?”
The correct answers to both of these questions are “no” and “it’s correctly spelled ‘grammar’, you dolt.”
More to the point of the second question, consider the following phrases:
Wikileaks founder allegedly rapes women.
Pretty normal. You can read that sentence with pretty much whatever inflection you want.
Wikileaks “founder” allegedly rapes “women.”
This phrasing calls into question the fact that he’s the founder, and what he’s raping can accurately be called women.
Wikileaks founder allegedly “rapes” women.
This phrasing calls into question that there is such a thing as rape, or whatever the founder is doing could be considered rape.
Wikileaks founder allegedly “rapes” “women.”
Probably my favorite and most hilarious example – this example calls into question the definition of rape as well as the subject of the “rape.”
Wikileaks founder allegedly “rapes women.”
This usage of quotations indicates that I’m quoting someone else’s allegation of rape.
So no, I don’t think I’m being overly harsh on Butcher. Words mean things.
Update: Some bloggers investigating the case now suggest that the whole rape allegation is a complete fabrication. Most of these investigations are the work of blogger Göran Rudling. His (presumably) self-written by-line says this:
Göran Rudling, born in 1951, is the editor of Samtycke Nu/Consensus Now, a site promoting sexual self-determination that uses the motto ‘it is a human right to decide for oneself when and with whom we are going to have sex’. Rudling is a frequent contributor to Newsmill where he writes about the need to introduce democratic laws that are based on sexual activities needing to be consensual to not be considered criminal.
To translate the obfuscating language into plain English – Göran Rudling suggests that rape needs to be de-criminalized (read more from Rudling here and here). I think that, by the nature of his personal axe to grind, that makes his research and blog posts very suspect.
I think it’s also important to note that these “revelations” weren’t widely known before my post was written, nor were they widely known before Butcher’s post (or any of the other rape-defending posts in the tech press) were written.
Techcrunch’s Mike Butcher treads on very dangerous territory through his overuse of quotation marks in his writeup of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s rape of a Swedish woman:
The specific charges are:
Charge One: A “Miss A” alleges she was victim of “unlawful coercion” on the night of 14 August in Stockholm. Assange is alleged to have “forcefully” held her arms and used his bodyweight to hold her down.
Charge Two: The second charge alleges he “sexually molested” her by having sex without using a condom, when it was her “express wish” that one should be used.
Charge Three: A third charge claims Assange “deliberately molested” Miss A on 18 August.
Charge Four: A “Miss W”, alleges that on 17 August, Assange “improperly exploited” the fact she was asleep to have sex with her without a condom.
Granted, we all assume, at least in America, that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
… but let’s parse how Butcher phrased this sentence, shall we?
A “Miss A” …
OK, I get why we have quotation marks here. That’s probably not her real name.
… alleges she was a victim …
Got it. The crime hasn’t been proven yet, so we’ll call it “alleged.”
of “unlawful coercion” on the night of 14 August in Stockholm.
Starting to get a little shaky here. In English, which is what this post is written in, we call generally “unlawful coercion of sexual congress” rape. The quotes probably should have started at “unlawful coercion” and ended at the end of the sentence, since most of the whole sentence was ripped from another post anyway.
Assange is alleged …
Again, proper usage of that word again.
… to have “forcefully” held her arms and used his bodyweight to hold her down.
Again, in America, we call that rape, when there’s sex involved (as there is “alleged” to be here). More importantly, though, when you put quotes around the word “forcefully” and it’s immediately preceded by the word “alleged,” it belittles the accusation.
The implication is: everyone gets their sex this way, and that it really shouldn’t be a crime to force a woman to have sex with you – because what woman isn’t really forced into sex anyway?
Sorry, Butcher, not everyone has to rape someone to get laid. If that wasn’t your implication, perhaps you should have gone a little lighter on the punctuation that makes you sound skeptical that this even happened in the first place. I understand that at Techcrunch (and many other corners of the web), Assange is some sort of hero for compromising US national security.That said, what we’re talking about is an alleged rape. Let’s not trivialize all rape in an effort to make this guy out to be a tragic hero.
This isn’t about him simply not using a condom while having sex. Charge one is actual, dyed-in-the-wool, genuine rape.