The unbearable obtuseness of being a Tim Hunt apologist


You cannot make this stuff up.

Hunt apologist Louise Mensch published a post on her blog Unfashionista entitled Royal Society’s ‘Diversity Committee’ Pre-Judged #TimHunt. Now UCL Should Give Him Due Process.

In an effort to defend Hunt’s indefensible comments about women in science, Mensch asks us to consider the impact of the outcry on …. his wife.

[pullquote align=”right” color=”#000000″]Who among Hunt’s apologists offered due process to Connie St. Louis before attempting to eviscerate her reputation? [/pullquote]

Imagine the scene: you are a distinguished female scientist, a Professor and an employee of the college you work for, University College, London. You have a blameless employment record and have served your employer – and its students – with distinction for many years.

Suddenly you receive a call from a senior representative of your employer, pressurizing you about the actions of your spouse – actions you have nothing to do with, and do not understand as yet, because he is unable to speak for himself, as he is traveling back home from the far side of the world.

Your employer’s representative gives you a message for your spouse; he must resign, or he will be sacked. Your employer places you in the middle of its workplace drama with somebody else, a drama which, as a female scientist, you had nothing to do.

What a terrible, stressful suggestion – from your place of work – pass on its threat of public humiliation, without due process, to your beloved husband, an old man of 72, whom they are not allowing to come home and speak to them first…

I’d call that sexist … bloody sexist.

Mensch gets an “A” for effort in twisting herself into a pretzel to defend Hunt. How dare anyone hold Hunt accountable for his misogynistic comments? It’s gender discrimation against his wife and it’s ageist since Hunt is an “old man.”

She also gets an “A” for obtuseness and chutzpah.

Consider this example:

Imagine the scene: you are a distinguished female journalist. a You have a blameless employment record and have served your employer – its students – with distinction for many years.

You attend a conference honoring women where a prominent male speaker makes misogynistic remarks. Like any journalist when presented with a story, you report it.

Suddenly you are subjected to a vicious campaign from apologists for misogynists, involving public abuse and destruction of your repuation.

Your abusers gives you a message; you must retract your comments or the abuse will continue.

Other women are also sent a message: prepare yourself for a vicious campaign of character assassination and abusive public comments if you dare to hold a prominent man to account by reporting on his misogynistic views. Your critics place you in the midst of a vitriolic campaign just because you, as a female journalist, dared to report what you had heard.

What a terrible, stressful situation.

That would be the situation in which the journalist Connie St. Louis finds herself. That’s gender discrimination, too, right? That seems never to have crossed Mensch’s mind.

The bulk of Mensch’s rambling, unfocused piece is devoted to her contention that Hunt did not receive due process.

On June 9th, before Sir Tim Hunt had been able to speak to his university, University College London, or any statement from him had been broadcast, three Professors – two with affiliations to UCL and one to the Royal Society were – without even speaking to Sir Tim – plotting to deprive him of his honours without due process of any kind. It is VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE that they did so BEFORE his comments to Radio 4’s “Today” Show were broadcast.

Let’s leave aside for the moment that due process is a concept from American law and does not have an analog in British law. The idea that it is wrong to rush to judgment without knowing all the facts is certainly a worthy ideal. Which raises several important questions:

Why did Hunt’s apologists rush to defend him before they knew all the facts?

Why did Hunt’s defenders fabricate mitigating details about Hunt’s statements without checking the facts?

Who among Hunt’s apologists offered due process to Connie St. Louis before attempting to eviscerate her reputation? None, right?

What due process has been available prior to publicly heaping abuse on Hunt’s critics? None, right?

Both Mensch’s curious concern for due process for Tim Hunt but no one else and her absurd framing of this episode as gender discrimination against Hunt’s wife while turning a blind eye to the vicious misogyny directed at St. Louis and other Hunt critics is emblematic of the obtuseness of Hunt’s critics. Simply put, Hunt apologists would rather talk about anything else but Hunt’s inexcusable remarks.

What ever happened to taking responsibility for mistakes and accepting the consequences for those mistakes? Hunt made a serious mistake; why are his apologists straining to deny Hunt’s responsibilty and to reject accountability for misogyny?

The manufactured outrage of Mensch and other Hunt apologists is a de facto embrace of gender discrimination and no amount of obtuseness on their part conceals that regrettable fact.