How Prof Brian Cox got sin-binned for having the 'wrong' wife; and what that means for us all. - blog by Gurdur


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How Prof Brian Cox got sin-binned for having the 'wrong' wife; and what that means for us all.
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Posted 26-Feb-2015 at 07:22 AM (07:22) by Gurdur

Laughably, Prof. Brian Cox - a household name in Britain in science-communication - was attacked for having the 'wrong' wife. Not so laughable at all though was the large-scale harassment directed against him by flamers. They also mounted a major campaign of harassment against another person who is also a household name in Britain for science-communication, Prof. Mary Beard. The personal attacks upon Cox about his wife were in the course of Cox' having tweeted in mild, polite support of an open letter in favour of free-speech. Though Brian Cox was not one of the many signatories to that open letter, among those who had signed it was his wife, Gia Milinovich (@giagia). The flamers used this to make personal attacks on Brian Cox, even though there is no evidence at all to show that Brian Cox is transphobic. Edited to add: Nor am I aware of any factual evidence to show that Gia Milinovich is transphobic, either.

It was Sarah Brown (@auntysarah), a trans person and activist, who started the personal attack on Brian Cox about his wife; Natacha Kennedy (@natachakennedy), also a trans person, and @IRLNoah, who claims to be a trans person, then quickly joined in. Self-appointed net-vigilantes quickly seized the chance to be personally abusive and dishonest. There is no evidence whatsoever that Brian Cox is transphobic. All the trolls could do was point to Cox' mild support of the open letter against no-platforming, his marriage to Milinovich, and his poking very mild, polite teasing in one tweet only of the BlockBot-team troll who first directly attacked Cox about his wife. Then J Crowley (@jdcrowley) claimed:
"Nobody told him who he should be married to; rather, they pointed out who he IS married to",
which is dishonest nonsense. A great many flamers were busy attacking Cox for being married to someone of whom they disapproved, namely Milinovich. By attacking Cox for being married to her, the flamers were indeed very much making a statement about to whom he should not be married. That falls directly under the whole subject of telling him to whom he should be married. I have Storified a little of the exchange here, while here is the 'official' BlockBot Storify of the blacklisting of Cox. Sarah Brown has long had an animus against Brian Cox; that would at least eventuate in one funny tweet from 2013:
"Brian Cox is married? This lends a whole new level of awfulness to the whole thing".

There a a few rockbottom principles at stake here:

The BlockBot team and their supporters can no longer pretend that the original letter in support of free-speech was simply mistaken. Now that the flamers have written an open letter to the Guardian themselves in support of no-platforming, i.e. in support of limiting the free-speech of others on British university campuses, and have also written another open letter yet again calling for others' free-speech to be limited, no pretense can now be possible.

The same is observable when Sarah Brown (@auntysarah), who is in Cambridge, tweets appearing to regard British campuses as her own living-room, and not the commons, not the common property of each university in question, the students and staff of each uni, and in the end society at large. This is arrogance writ large. It is also directly contradicted by other students and academics of Cambridge University, who are in support of free-speech and against no-platforming, including the trans activist Dr. Rachel Padman, who remains strongly in support of free-speech on campus. The wannabe authoritarians have now made it very clear here, and here, as well as in many other places, that they wish to stop certain people from speaking at functions at British universities.

The BlockBot team and their supporting trolls and flamers have directly harassed Brian Cox about to whom he is married. This directly contravenes a bedrock principle written into many legal systems - spousal privilege, the idea that under many circumstances (though not all) a person cannot be compelled to testify against their spouse. The reason why we have such a principle is that we recognize partnerships are very important for those in them, and there is most often no need to disregard that relationship vital to the person. So we don't usually force people to testify against their partners.

Equally, we do not compel partners to inform on their spouses, or to apologize for them. The principle that we do not compel spouses to be informants is often ignored by authoritarian systems; the most recent widely-known example is of the "informal collaborators" of the East German secret-police. Many marriage, partnership and friendship broke up after the secret-polices gradually became known after 1989. To destroy a good partnership or even good friendship by forcing one person to become an informer or public denunciator is justly anathema to us excepting the most serious situations. The BlockBot people cannot pretend this is in any way such a serious situation. Their attacks on Cox for his wife are merely attempts to instill fear in Cox and all others on the net.
All of this is the attempt to force people to police others out of fear of the original self-appointed sheriffs. It is all vile, deeply unethical stuff. What it means for us all is demonstrated here: the BlockBot people and their hangers-on will:
  1. lie about what people actually support or think (e.g. how Brian Cox has been accused of being transphobic);
  2. attack people because of their partners, spouses or friends;
  3. actively seek to no-platform anyone they dislike, i.e. they will seek to stop those people having a say in the public commons that belong to large groups or us all, such as uni campus or Twitter.

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  1. Old Comment
    Just thought I would post a comment to say I have read all of your recent posts, and I'm sure you know me well enough to know I am in full agreement with your dislike of the Blockbot, public shaming, and twitter mobs exacting what they feel is justice for a worthy cause.
    Posted 28-Feb-2015 at 10:30 PM (22:30) by An Ardent Skeptic An Ardent Skeptic is offline
  2. Old Comment

    You've earned yourself a new follower

    Not on twitter, mind, I never got into that particular social media site.

    But I shall follow your blog with interest.
    Posted 24-Nov-2015 at 07:23 PM (19:23) by Unregistered
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