Rape is one of the most heinous crimes that exist. I cannot begin to imagine how horrific it must be and completely understand how a survivor of rape would be indelibly scarred for life. I know this might sound like stating the obvious, but given the current climate in which we live, stating the obvious is often necessary.

Over the past number of days, I have been labelled some pretty vicious words such as “pro-rape” and “supporter of rape” all because I had an opinion about not having an opinion. My café and I have been the target of a hate campaign of negative reviews, vicious vitriol and worrying displays of both irrational and illegal behaviour. People have told me they’ll get great entertainment the day “I top myself” and that the reason for my “hatred towards women” is because I never received skin to skin contact as a new-born. Stating the obvious again, but for the record, I do not hate women. I just hate women who think everybody hates women.

I am not looking for sympathy by writing what I did in the last paragraph, I am simply highlighting to you the lows to which the human race is capable of stooping. I have said it before and I’ll say it until the day I’m six foot under (or cremated, I haven’t made that decision yet – maybe I should!), I much prefer dogs to humans. As Mark Twain once said, the more I get to know people, the more I love my dog.

Last Thursday, 4 men were found not guilty of the rape of a girl in Belfast. That very day, I noticed a hashtag trending on Twitter entitled #IBelieveHer. Thousands upon thousands of people were supporting the girl, without knowing the ins and outs of the case, without hearing any of the evidence studied by jury, and most importantly, without being present on the night of the incident.

When I saw this, I immediately thought that people were simply jumping on a hashtag and blindly believing something for which they had no evidence. I thought this was wrong. I then released this tweet:

The next day I was lying in bed and saw a video of hundreds if not thousands of people standing on O’Connell Street with placards reading the same hashtag #IBelieveHer. This angered me. Whatever about writing something on Twitter based on emotion rather than on fact, but to stand in the middle of Dublin’s main thoroughfare shouting the words “I stand with her” when we don’t even know her name, never mind the exact minutiae of the evidence heard in a court of law for which a not-guilty verdict was arrived at, is, in my humble opinion, behaviour that I can only describe as ‘deluded’.

To say you believe in something for which you have no evidence is, to me, no less and no more than saying you believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny or God. Those of you who know me will know I am an atheist AKA a realist. I believe in things that I know are true. I believe in things for which I have solid evidence. I don’t believe in God as I have no proof of his/her/zir/hir/its existence.

Having seen the IBelieveHer protests on O’Connell street, I decided to write the following tweet, after which the world went up in fucking flames.

Let me just reiterate, at no point during this saga did I ever say I disbelieved the girl. Despite the fact that a jury of 12 arrived at a unanimous decision that the 4 men were not guilty, this didn’t make me side with them. I remained neutral at all times. The only people I called out were those who were blindly believing in something for which they did not possess the full facts.

When I sent the #IBelieveInSanta Tweet, the reaction was as hate-filled as it was immediate. Despite that my joke was simply about those blindly following the herd like gullible sheep, everyone was making out that the girl was the target of my joke. I never once said anything derogatory towards that girl (or any girls). I simply called out those who took a side on a case they were not familiar with in full detail. My biggest crime was the fact that I thought people were not in a position to judge, and I was essentially lambasted for having an opinion about not having an opinion.

Jason, my partner, was one of the many people who were not happy about my Santa tweet. That afternoon, he explained to me the rationale behind his disagreement. When I initially saw the protesters on O’Connell Street, I assumed that it was all about THAT particular case. It was one day after the verdict, so I presumed the ‘her’ in ‘IBelieveHer’ was the lady who had just lost her case in Belfast. It turns out I was wrong.

What I didn’t understand is that the rally was not simply about ‘her’, but about any rape survivors who never got justice. Those of you who follow our Snapchat will remember the argument Jason and I had that afternoon. While I admit this argument made for uncomfortable viewing, I think it was an important one, not just for me, but for anyone else who didn’t understand that the rally had a much wider reach than the Belfast case. I apologised on both Snapchat and Instagram to anyone who was offended by my Tweet.

The Reaction

I can totally understand how people might be annoyed by something they read online. I realise how each person can react differently to something that upsets them. I admire people that challenge you in a civil manner about your opinion. I worry greatly, however, about the small but ever so present section of society that doesn’t engage in conversation with you but wants to simply shut you down in order that their voice is heard. For the purpose of this post, I am not going to call them the radical left, leftists, left-wing radical ideologues or anything like that, I’m simply going to refer to them as loo las.

When I say ‘shut you down’ I mean it literally as well as figuratively. After my admittedly insensitive and wrong tweet, I saw evidence of this. The number of 1 star, negative reviews written on our café was overwhelming. Hundreds of people chose to damage the reputation of our café by spewing hate about it. They had complete disregard for the fact that the café provides employment for 22 people. That it puts bread and milk on the table of the families of our employees. They don’t care about any of this. They see something online that they don’t agree with and respond with hate-filled online reviews. This is not civil discourse. This is not reasoned debate. This is anarchic behaviour.

The first few negative reviews

Some high profile individuals decided to weigh in with their own version of hate. Some in the form of requesting people to boycott us, others in the form of simply uttering expletives, one girl, in particular, a journalist, took it upon herself to come into the café and tell our customers why they should not be eating there because she disagreed with something I wrote online. I’d like to be able to think of a very intellectual word to describe this, but I can’t. The only words that come to mind are ‘fucked up’.

I am led to believe that the day after Holly wrote this tweet she was mugged on holidays. If this isn’t the definition of karma then I don’t know what is.

It gets more worrying than this though. In a tweet below, we see a certain girl ask another well-known celebrity why he is liking the original tweet. This demonstrates that not only are we not allowed to have an opinion about not having an opinion, but we are not allowed to like other people’s opinions about not having opinions. Opinions are totally fine when they are in line with ‘mine’, but when someone else has an opinion, not like ‘mine’, it’s not ok, and ‘you’ mustn’t like it either. The last time I checked, this type of behaviour was known as fascism.

I have heard of Amanda Brunker before, but know little about her. I think she is on TV from time to time, but still don’t know exactly what she does and certainly wouldn’t put her in the category of ‘people affecting positive change on the world’ or ‘people working for the greater good of humanity’.

Above we have another would-be ‘influencer’ of the millennial generation who, rather than engaging in rational debate, wants to again ‘shut us down’ by getting his followers to report us. From seeing this type of behaviour I would be inclined to worry about his generation, but the fact that he didn’t achieve his goal of getting us reported would suggest that the vast majority of his followers did not follow through on his request. This would restore my faith in his generation. There are, without doubt, some millennials who still have some sense.

While the cafe did lose some of its following, the numbers lost was in or around 0.6%. This would suggest that the loo la brigade represent less than 1% of the population which is a heartening figure. If we have managed to spare ourselves of this small number of people from ever visiting the cafe, I am happy.

Support

Despite the outpouring of vitriol following the tweet, the amount of support was overwhelming. I received hundreds of messages from people saying they agree with me 100%. The interesting thing about these messages is that they were all sent to me privately. This is the main point of this post. People will say things in private that they are not willing to say publicly. They are afraid to speak their mind. They will betray their inner feelings in order to suit the agenda of loo las who will shut them down if their opinion does not suit theirs. This is sad. This is wrong.

I would go a step further than this. I would say that people will actually lie in public forums for fear of taking the wrong side of the loo las. It’s not the internet that has made us spineless. It’s not Twitter that has made us not want to speak our mind. It’s the loo las that inhabit the internet and Twitter specifically. They have made us want to suppress our thoughts. They’ve rendered ordinary decent folk voiceless.

We see evidence of this in both Brexit and Trump. Nobody thought Trump would win. How could he? The loo las call him a ‘misogynist’, a ‘racist’ and a ‘bigot’ and guess what, the man wins the presidency of the USA. No one knew he was going to win because everyone was afraid to say they’d vote for him for fear of the loo la brigade ripping them apart. The silent vote won Brexit too. Maybe if the loo las had engaged in a reasoned debate the outcome would have been more reasonable.

In the case of George Hook, I believe what he said was wrong, but I’m also aware that he is a man in his 80’s and of a different generation. I would think my granny would have also said something like he did. George lost his job, not as a result of what he said, but because of the loo la brigade. The sponsors pulled out of Newstalk, not because of what George said, but because of the loo la brigade.

I have no doubt that if I were working for a company other than my own, I would have been fired after sending that Tweet. I have no doubt that the equivalent of the sponsors pulling out would have happened here too. Again not because what I said was any different to what the vast majority of people were thinking, but because of the loo las.

I fear for the human race. The loo las are the very first people to label others as bullies, but the reality is that this is exactly what they are. They bully people into submission for not having an opinion in line with theirs. They call you vile names. They try to shut you down and don’t care who gets in their way, even if it means people may lose their jobs. They are, by their very nature, the ultimate bullies.

We need to stay strong. We need to stand up for ourselves. We need to HAVE opinions, even if they are opinions about not having opinions, and certainly if they differ from those of the loo las. We need to speak our mind and not let anyone bully us into submission. Otherwise, the human race is frankly fucked.

Dialogue

When I was in town on Friday night, I met a number of people and talked to them about the insensitive tweet. Some people agreed with the sentiment of the tweet, others disagreed. I was in many ways happier to speak to those who disagreed as this would allow me to find out their reasons why they weren’t happy. I appreciated their opinion and we had what can only be described as a civil discussion. I learnt from these people how insensitive the tweet was. I learnt from these people why I was wrong. I learnt absolutely nothing from the people telling their followers to boycott us, from the people barging into the café screaming to our customers about why they shouldn’t eat with us or from the people who said they’d laugh the day I kill myself.

If anything comes out of this whole saga, I think it’s something positive. Dialogue has begun. People now realise that the rallies were more than just about that one case, but more about every survivor of rape who did not get a fair trial or who are scared to bring the case to court for fear of losing and being labelled a liar. I am glad that this conversation has begun and I’d like to think that it can be had without resorting to hate-filled commentary and pettiness.

You may think I hate the people who labelled me names or tried to get others to boycott us. The reality is I don’t. I know we’re all capable of mistakes. I know we fuck up. Yesterday we buried our friend Niamh who passed away with cancer at the age of 20. Niamh taught me a number of invaluable lessons and one of them was to not hate anyone. Don’t label anyone with hate, just forget it and move on. Life really is too short. We shouldn’t be spending it hating others. We should focus on the good in people.

Summary

  • In my opinion, it is wrong to take a side on an argument we know little about
  • The rally was not simply about that one case, but rape survivors all over Ireland
  • No positive change will come from anarchy
  • People can be extremely vicious
  • When people say “we had enough information from the media to be able to form our own conclusion about the case”, never forget the journalist that barged her way into our cafe and shouted at our customers
  • Loo las need to calm down and be more respectful of the views of others
  • We need to speak our mind and stop being afraid to do so
  • Civil discourse is needed when it comes to issues like this
  • Don’t hate anyone, life is too short for that shit

About the Author PaulVStenson

I am the manager of The White Moose Cafe and Charleville Lodge in Dublin, Ireland. I believe that you only live once. I believe that life should be enjoyed. I don't see the point in whinging and moaning. I see myself as someone who speaks the truth. The truth doesn't seem to suit everybody's agenda, so I am labelled with the term 'controversial'.

8 comments

  1. Hi Paul:
    I truly appreciated this post. As a Yank, I follow your antics all the way from total LooLaville, Portland, OR. Here’s why I love this blog: we are totally fucked if we don’t stop and listen to one another. We can make all kinds of assumptions about other people, but if we don’t take a moment to converse, we will all just be a bunch of asses. Lack of dialogue and understanding is why the world is in the state it’s in…all that us vs. them and me vs. you bullshit. As Maya Angelou said, “We are more alike than we are unalike”. As someone who was sexually assaulted in college, I did not tell my story because I didn’t think anyone would believe me. I thought I would be blamed, because I was intoxicated and unable to say No. I was ashamed. When I saw the man years later in a different city, I got physically sick and knew what I felt was valid. I love you and Jason, and will continue to be an entertained follower. I get to Dublin every few years, and hope to one day pop into the cafe for a meal and a handshake. (As an aside, I am very sorry about your friend. I think cancer is something we can all agree on as a total motherfucker.) Love, Katherine Kilduff

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Paul
    First of all – you and Jason have given me many a laugh! I was initially shocked by your Santa tweet – wondered how you could mock an important protest. Shock turned to being pissed off that you hadn’t established what the protests were actually about before having a dig. But what followed was fascinating. I always steered clear of online conversations about the trial because they inevitably turned ugly – social media can be a scary place! My friends and i discussed it, we all had opinions and didn’t fall out because ultimately we respect eachother and none of us were actually there when it happened! Like you, I enjoy debating – I’m interested in the world and I’m always keen to learn and chat to people about all sorts of shite. But if there’s no respect, even wh3n we disagree, there’s no conversation – it gets nasty and everything escalates and what’s the point! I fecking hate the words triggered, snowflake, sheep, loony leftist, right wing nut job etc. I understand where they come from but they lump everyone into that herd crap and sometimes devalue their opinions.. Some people happily graze there- but not everyone. I try not to. There are lots of things I’m passionate about – we all have opinions, but I have no right to shout anyone down unless they are stepping way out of line or just going out of their way to cause harm.
    You’re right – things get out of hand so easily and quickly these days – there’s so much animosity flying about – where’s the craic in that?! Who knows what the answer is. The world’s a bit fucked up at the minute. On the one hand there’s pushes for equality and rights and people being better to one another and on the other hand everyone’s fighting the bit out online! Mad. Anyway, who knows what the answer is – for me I’ll just try not to be an ignorant disrespectful twat as best I can! Life’s too short and I do believe that people for the most part are good – that includes you- ya eejit ☺☺

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  3. So…..your initial post (Santa) struck me as a generalized statement about belief in general – we’ve got our own sensational media circuses here in the States so were not aware of the trial or the specific issue on which you were commenting.

    My first thought was to encourage you to do it, thinking “sure he’s trying to make a point, but kids will think it’s fun!” The second reaction was more personal “What an excellent point – we encourage children to believe in Santa and Jesus and then have to try to tell them one is made up, but the other isn’t!!”

    Seriously, those were my two first reactions because the statement transcended whatever local event was occurring and touched on a much broader issue.

    It wasn’t until the responses started that a large number of people outside of Ireland had any clue what was happening with the trial because, as mentioned above, we have our own media circuses to deal with.

    A few things:

    1) Your point is genuine, and, while it could be said that the hashtag applies to all victims of rape that can’t or won’t come forward because of the amazing nonsense involved, someone should have passed that memo around a lot more since the majority of commentators didn’t seem to get it. These were, of course, the target of your post and they managed to self-identify with their vitriol. They were focused on just the trial and the victim there. Nowhere did their posts contain comment or commentary regarding it being a broader issue.

    The problem is that, if this was the case, the proposed hashtag should have been “IStandWithThem” and that could have been horribly misinterpreted in the instance with the case.

    There are sheep in every movement, there because they are angry, they want to belong, there is a benefit to the group, they can co-opt it to their cause, etc. Pointing out that people do things without thinking is low hanging fruit. But the ONLY people that will get upset at this are…the sheep. In every movement, the genuine thinkers and movers are as frustrated by the idiots as those outside it are – they don’t understand the point, they get the issues wrong, they spout off nonsense that’s embarrassing to the movement, and then they create negative press and impressions that drive the thoughtful and middle of the road away. Is rape something that should be protested? Absolutely. Is accusing all men of being potential rapists bad? Well, there went half your audience…

    Shining the spotlight on them is satisfying to some, but will always get you a stick in the eye back because, while they may not understand what they are yelling about, they sure as hell know how to yell.

    2) Much like what we see on this side of the Atlantic, it’s over before the street sweepers arrive which is doubly frustrating. They are so good at screaming slogans and badgering people who disagree, but when push comes to shove…that’s all they do.

    90% of my legal practice cannot pay me. I represent children, the aged, disabled, and others who cannot get access to equal justice. Every one of my clients deserves a rally, if for nothing else than to celebrate the obstacles they have overcome in the daily challenges they face. Could I get 50? 5? to show up? No. Because it’s easy to be an armchair warrior, spouting nonsense at people on pages, but actually working with victims in a shelter, donating time, money, or professional expertise…that’s beyond them. Because they are, first and foremost, angry and negative. Working to accomplish something is not in their wheelhouse. That takes kindness, compassion, and positivity. (Which is a word I made up).

    And before someone starts taking the stick out of their ass to beat me with it, this is from experience. I’ve been at rally’s, spoken to activists…all starry eyed and hopeful. “You want to make a difference!?! I have a list you could choose from!” and then the excuses start, the eyes on the ground, the feet shuffling…

    Because the real activists don’t get involved in facebook page fights. They don’t have time for that kind of negativity. They’re too busy trying to hold back the flood of despairing humanity that’s threatening to overwhelm us at any moment.

    Yes, people suck. Not all people. Just the one’s that want to sit on the wagon and bitch about everything instead of getting out and pushing. And there are so many sitters…and so few pushers…

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