Politicsweb has come under withering criticism from a number of prominent journalists, and others, for running a facetious opinion piece by regular contributor, Jeremy Gordin. In his article, which appeared on the website on Friday, Gordin ridiculed the claim, made at least twice last year by journalist Michelle Solomon, that columnist David Bullard had propositioned her for a threesome in September 2011.
It is this allegation, which Bullard has said is "fantasy", that led him to first start publicly questioning the credibility of Solomon's December 2010 claim to have been raped by her best-friend's ex-boyfriend in East London - after inviting him home to her house after a drunken night out some months earlier. Solomon did not lay a charge with the police at the time, and has refrained from disclosing the name of her assailant for fear, she says, of opening herself up to litigation.
Bullard's Twitter comment to Solomon, on Monday last week, that "Face facts Mish. You got horribly drunk, had a bonk, regretted it in the morning and called it rape to protect your reputation" triggered a firestorm of outrage across social media and news and opinion websites this week.
Bullard was described on Twitter as a "rape-apologist", "racist", "sexist", promoter of "rape culture", "fuckwit" and "misogynist", and calls were made for him to be banned from writing for Politicsweb. (Bullard wrote a weekly column for the site before taking a protracted sabbatical for health reasons late last year.)
In his article on Friday, Gordin - who said he took Solomon's word that she was raped - extensively mocked the notion that Bullard would have propositioned her, and in this way. He defended Bullard's character in this regard, writing:
"I know the Bullfinch [Bullard] reasonably well, and I have known people with whom he mixes and mixed (some alas are dead) for decades - and the one thing the Bullfinch does NOT do is hit on women (or men). He just doesn't. It's not his thing. Some of us do; some of us don't. He doesn't - unless of course Ms Brainbox Solomon mis-read a silly or mis-directed quip (which the Bullfinch does sometimes make ... well, nobody's perfect.) So I think, Ms Solomon, you need to re-think your fantasy ... in short, you need a more adept accusation."
This article was violently condemned by various prominent opinion-makers from the moment that it went live on the website.
Lexicographer and Daily Maverick journalist Rebecca Davis commented in reaction:
There must be so many talented young black voices in this country looking for a platform. Why do we give these sick old dinosaurs airtime?— Rebecca Davis (@becsplanb) February 7, 2014
Investigative journalist Mandy de Waal also criticised the site for running Gordin's article; having run another report on the whole affair; and for having provided a "home" to Bullard. She commented:
I stand in solidarity with @mishsolomon in the case of the sustained hate speech against her by David Bullard, Jeremy Gordin et al.— Mandy de Waal (@mandyldewaal) February 7, 2014
Is morally reprehensible that PoliticsWeb is being used as a platform for the sustained misogynistic public 'attack' on a woman— Mandy de Waal (@mandyldewaal) February 7, 2014
PoliticsWeb is home to David Bullard, the man who mocked, belittled and refuted Michelle Solomon's rape claims on Twitter.— Mandy de Waal (@mandyldewaal) February 7, 2014
She also criticised Politicsweb for its lack of political plurality:
@momaake PoliticsWeb is not a platform that is politically diverse, unfortunately.— Mandy de Waal (@mandyldewaal) February 7, 2014
Vinayak Bhardwaj, the advocacy coordinator of the Mail & Guardian's Centre for Investigative Journalism and, according to his Twitter profile, a "Fervent believer/advocate for freedom of speech" tweeted to Politicsweb's editor, James Myburgh:
@jamesmyburgh How do you explain the publication of Jeremy Gordin's hateful, valueless, asinine drivel? Shame on you and your website.— Vinayak Bhardwaj (@bhrvin001) February 7, 2014
Meanwhile, Michelle Solomon, who currently works at the Daily Dispatch, in East London also reacted:
I read Jeremy Gordin and Politicsweb's latest sick attempt to remove my personhood and triggered at my desk in the newsroom.— Michelle Solomon (@mishsolomon) February 7, 2014
In a series of further Tweets she commented (inter alia):
Bullard, Gordin, the idiots behind Politicsweb are nothing more than sick bullies looking to fuck with me and break me down. IT WON'T WORK.— Michelle Solomon (@mishsolomon) February 7, 2014
Politcsweb has absolutely ZERO integrity. It is nothing more than a shithole for racists, sexists and misogynists to spew their bile.— Michelle Solomon (@mishsolomon) February 7, 2014
Then she accused Gordin of being a rapist:
Gordin completely erased my rape, adding I "missed the best parts"as I was drunk. Then admitted he was little more than a rapist himself.— Michelle Solomon (@mishsolomon) February 7, 2014
Meanwhile, the comedian and occasional Daily Maverick contributor John Vlismas boasted that he had more Twitter followers than Politicsweb:
Alistair Fairweather, Chief Technology Officer at the Mail & Guardian and a Rhodes University journalism graduate, also weighed in on Twitter:
Jeremy Gordin publicly declares lifetime membership to The Society of Disgusting Mysogenists Way Past Their Prime: http://t.co/6Ty0BciEn2— Alistair Fairweather (@afairweather) February 8, 2014
He then added that he thought Gordin's writing was of exceedingly poor quality:
And then there's the fact that Gordin is such a crap writer. For someone who's spent his life pushing words, that's a bit tragic. Shem.— Alistair Fairweather (@afairweather) February 8, 2014
Fairweather then proceeded to compose an article which he posted on his personal weblog. The piece, which avoided linking to the original article by Gordin, or quoting or précising it, accused Bullard and Gordin of "epitomising rape culture." He also stated that a "very-old-boys club" was clearly in charge at Politicsweb. In his conclusion Fairweather noted:
"It [rape culture] is not about the 21-year-old bros screaming "Suck my cock" - those are just the inexperienced vanguard of the unspoken global rape alliance. In time they learn the best weapons: spin, dissimulation, trivialisation, ridicule, scoffing dismissal. The fact that a white man in his 60s with considerable resources and connections has used that influence to openly attack a woman in her 20s, however strident she may be, on behalf of another man in his 60s (also gifted with money and influence) should be sign enough of what's wrong with this picture. This isn't journalism, commentary or even free speech. This is bullying by the most unforgivable class of bullies this planet has to offer: old, rich, connected white men."
Finally he stated:
"Bullard and Gordin make me ashamed to be white, male and South African. To be associated with them, even obliquely, fills me with disgust."
The Editor-in-Chief of the Mail & Guardian Chris Roper tweeted his approval of the piece, commenting:
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