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On Jack Monroe, Jilly Luke and the perils of blogging

Report internet abuseTwo days ago, we published a piece entitled Lentils and lager: why we forgive tax evaders but not benefit claimants by Jilly Luke about the media portrayal of benefit claimants. It has generated quite a storm, and received over 8,000 hits in 48 hours, more than any other article on this site. It argued that the few occasions when claimants are treated as “deserving poor” are where the image presented is one with which the middle classes could identify. A similar equation of taste with morality also explains middle class sympathy with or forgiveness of tax evaders.

The case on which this argument was constructed was Jack Monroe who, as a 24-year old unemployed single mother, turned to blogging after reading an article in her local paper by a Tory councillor entitled Druggies, drunks and single mums driving upmarket shops out of Southend. As well as being an effective advocate for those struggling to live in poverty, she produced an ever-expanding set of recipes to help others eat well and healthily on inadequate resources, and has since won a well-deserved book contract. The quality of her blogging was applauded by the Guardian which described her as the face of modern poverty.

Although the Left Futures article initially received positive recommendations on Twitter, Jack Monroe took strong exception to it, as she is of course entirely entitled to do. In a piece originally entitled Dear Jilly Luke, I tried to top myself six months ago in my Beatrix Potter cosy poverty, she described the piece as “outright lies and misrepresentation”. Readers should read the piece in full rather than rely on my interpretation but, above all, she objected to one phrase in Jilly Luke’s article: “the cosy frugality of a Beatrix Potter book” which was used to describe her version of poverty – that of the deserving poor” – as judged by the Daily Mail and other Tory media commentators.

My strong view is that this was based on a misinterpretation of Jilly Luke’s article. Jilly used the first person to represent the view of the mainstream media which some comments say was confusing but the context made Jilly’s intent very clear, such as the opening paragraph’s statement “We’re sick of scrounging… because the Daily Mail tells us to be.” Readers should make their own judgement on that.

However, I readily concede that wherever there is misinterpretation, both the author and the publisher should concede, at the very least, the possibility that they may have contributed to that misinterpretation by being insufficiently clear. In addition, if offence has been caused as a result of a misinterpretation for which we are, at least in part, responsible, we should be prepared to apologise for that offence. Readers deserve an explanation for the fact that we have not apologised.

I can see why Jack Monroe disliked the phrase “the cosy frugality of a Beatrix Potter book,” and the statement that she had been “judged lightly”  (which was a reference to the Daily Mail’s judgement of her as “deserving” compared with their judgement of most claimants) when she understandably feels that she too has been judged very harshly by the media.

What Jack Monroe then did was to take the full force of the very powerful voice given its best expression in her piece Hunger Hurts , throw in a reference to her attempted suicide, and throw it at Jilly Luke, whom she declared guilty, not of inadequate clarity of argument but of “outright lies and misrepresentation” – “Dear Jilly Luke, I tried to top myself six months ago in my Beatrix Potter cosy poverty” – then tweeting it to her 12000+ followers. Her piece was extremely powerful and well written but, in my view, a direct attack on Jilly Luke and a completely disproportionate response written in obvious anger.

There followed a torrent of abuse directed against Jilly Luke from Jack Monroe’s numerous and loyal readers and Twitter followers. Because of the tone and vehemence of her attack on Jilly, Jack is at least partly responsible for this abuse, especially that which she permits to be published on her own website such as:

Spot on. We’re dignifying what is basically a pile of cow pats from a very silly moo” (Clare)

A splendid and heartbreaking demolition of what sounds like a dreadful and viciously stupid article (I can’t read the original even if I wanted to as their site appears to be down – hopefully as the result of lots of people letting them know what they think of this Jilly Luke individual). Don’t let people like her get to you, Jack. You’re doing a fantastic thing and you have WAY many more supporters than detractors. Which is why the bitter, callous, deeply un-empathetic and stupid Jilly Luke of the world are trying to drag you down. Don’t let ‘em!” (Jon)

The tweets were worse and those comments on the Jilly’s article which have not been published (mainly because they contain offensive language or personal attacks) are worse still. For example:

You are a disgusting, vile and jealous human being. What Jack has managed is amazing and she is an economical queen that has helped thousands of people eat well on a budget. You come off as bitter and uneducated.

We don’t publish abusive comments or personal attacks on Left Futures. The sort of comment and tweet published above have no part to play in political discussion. Being the object of that abuse is deeply unpleasant and Jilly Luke has done nothing to warrant the abuse that Jack Monroe has unintentionally stirred up.

I think Jack Monroe now realises that Jilly Luke has become a victim of internet abuse. In an email exchange on Sunday with Jilly, she admitted she responded angrily and (without a hint of remorse) added:

I wasn’t just responding to the Left Futures piece, I was responding to every Daily Mail commenter that said something similar, every piece of hate mail that said I was too pretty to be poor, and every similar comment since before this all began.

Following that and yesterday’s editorial addendum clarifying Jilly’s article, she has changed the title of her blog to something relatively anodyne and now makes no reference to Jilly at all. But the accusations in the text and all her tweets remain unchanged, as do the comments.

Jilly referred to Jack Monroe because she stood apart from most claimants as someone who was acknowledged by the right-wing media as a strong articulate ‘presentable’ voice with whom their readers could identify, as someone ‘successfully coping’ on benefits. The mention was justified and, in my view,- nothing that could reasonably be regarded or understood as a personal attack was said. Though the clarity of argument could perhaps have been improved, the context is clear enough. The vitriol Jilly has experienced is in support of Jack’s response, not to the content of her original article. And Jack’s response, as she has now admitted, was in fact an angry response to many things other than Jilly’s article though it directed entirely at Jilly.

I hope that is enough said about this regrettable row. As Jack has said, we are on the same side in opposing the government’s wilful disregard of the plight of so many living in poverty in Britain. That’s what Jack, Jilly and Left Futures all want to change.

Comments are welcome provided that they conform with our comments policy. Any comments making personal attacks or containing abuse will simply be deleted.

 

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-partner=”tweetdeck”><p><a href=”https://twitter.com/jonlansman”>@jonlansman</a> But I think we&#39;re on the same side: I use the platform I have to talk TO the middle about gritty nasty realities of poverty.</p>&mdash; A Girl Called Jack (@MsJackMonroe) <a href=”https://twitter.com/MsJackMonroe/statuses/371983574687563776″>August 26, 2013</a></blockquote>
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26 Comments

  1. D Storey says:

    Personal attacks on the author or indeed on anyone are not acceptable but this was a badly written piece.

    “her [Jack Monroe’s] version of poverty is the cosy frugality of a Beatrix Potter book” … well it is not surprising Jack Monroe took exception to that statement and it doesn’t read to me as part of a piece on “criticisms of media narratives”.

    Time to drop this.

  2. Jilly Luke only has herself to blame for being attacked. She referred to Ms Monroe in entirely pejorative terms which implied that she was somehow to blame for being ‘acceptable’ to right wing media and, by extension, also partly to blame for the right’s attacks on those in poverty.

    I’m not surprised that Ms Monroe responded as she did. Mealy-mouthed “Oh that’s not what we meant” blubbing does not alter what the article actually said.

    Luke clearly forgot that Ms Monroe is an actual person in real life, not just a blog. You know, with feelings and stuff. Try remembering that next time.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      To Andy (@NCCLols): I cannot see how Jilly referred to Ms Monroe “in entirely pejorative terms” – perhaps you could detail the precise references? And likewise “that she was somehow to blame for being ‘acceptable’ to right wing media and, by extension, also partly to blame for the right’s attacks on those in poverty”. These seem to me to be imagined, probably as a result of prior reading of Jack’s response which was, we now know, really an angry response to a whole number of things although entirely directed at Jilly.

      To Andrew Williams: You are right that we are not apologising for any upset which may have been caused by a possible lack of clarity because of the nature of Jack’s response which was a very significant over-reaction to any possible upset, which we now know is because her “response” was really to a whole number of things that were nothing to do with Jilly and, in my opinion, were very much more significant.

      To Ruth Crumpton: There is no evidence for the motives you ascribe to Jilly (hence the need for you to use the phrase “comes across as though…”) and I believe them to be entirely false. The “judged lightly” refers to the judgement of the Daily Mail etc who clearly don’t treat Jack as a “scrounger” as of course they should not but which is the way they they treat claimants in general, which they also should not. And though I do believe Jack’s “response” to Jilly was unreasonable, I do also believe we are on the same side in general.

  3. Andrew Williams says:

    I think that Ms Luke’s article was not clearly written and on first reading I didn’t understand what she was trying to say about Ms Monroe. I would have thought that an editor should have picked that up. I think that you have acknowledged this, but your article suggests that you’re not apologising for the original article because of Ms Monroe’s reaction. That seems odd to me; either you apologise for offending someone by publishing an unclear article or you don’t.

    In any case, I think that you should certainly apologise for this article, because you appear to be blaming Ms Monroe for the behaviour of readers of her blog and her Twitter followers – this must surely be unfair?

  4. @Sectioned_ says:

    Why not take clear responsibility for the poor article that was published in the first place, rather than coming up long-winded justifications?

  5. ruth Crumpton says:

    This isn’t what you want to hear but my sympathies are entirely with Jack. I read Jilly’s piece and frankly it sounded as though Ms Luke was sneering at Jack for being “middle class” and for having a cosy “version of poverty”. That is to say, it came across very much as though Ms Luke thought that Ms Monroe is somehow finding her current financial statement and quality of accomdation etc to be “cosy” and as though she believes that Ms Monroe is actually undergoing little more than not being to afford to call herself “middle class”. It honestly did at first read as though Ms Luke was mocking Ms Monroe for eating as she does because it is somehow not a “working class” diet. To claim she has been “judged lightly” is ludicrous anyway.

    Surely, if the point being made was that the right-wing media have only written any positive articles about her because they can portray her to a middle-class readership as “being like us” in her wants for herself and her child and in how she eats [i.e, they can say in effect ‘look, she eats kidney beans not chips, so she must be better than most benefit claimants’ – utter nonsense of course but truly a Daily Mail style and message] then it would have been simpler to actually SAY so? Instead, Ms Luke’s piece, which starts of being sarcastic against the right-wing media stories, then appears to attack Ms Monroe – somehow who surely Left Futures should be on-side with?

  6. Charlie Whitaker says:

    Isn’t the problem here that Left Futures has painted Jack Monroe as a representative of a social class when she herself has done no such thing? I looked again at her first BBC TV appearance, and really, the topic of discussion was her recipes and their cost, nothing more. And in terms of her blogging, all I see there is an honest attempt to convince people that financial poverty is no joke, good recipes or no good recipes.

    Anyway, without getting into the rights and wrongs of the Twitter back and forth, you can understand why someone wouldn’t want to be co-opted into a not very well developed argument about taste and British class structures.

  7. Lesley Anne Burton says:

    I think in these days of twitter and sound bites, people don’t actually read anything anymore, they just skim through. Then people read the comments other people make and make judgements based on them.
    I said “Much as the humour is lost when you have to explain a joke, having to explain satire is a waste of time.”
    I was instantly accused of finding the article funny, when I was obviously saying the article was satirical.
    As my English teacher used to say “read and inwardly digest”

  8. jaydeepee says:

    Badly phrased article attempting to be too clever by half.The author should have anticipated the degree of misinterpretation she may face by trying to be nuanced.
    Time to move on. The Tory government should continue to face the opprobrium of all empathetic people.

  9. Sally Montgomery says:

    In fairness it was a poor article and it was read by a young woman who has been through a lot and has suddenly had her life turned upside down again. She is doing better re her financial situation but is herself getting a lot of abuse and she probably fears returning to the life she had which was grim.
    I’ve been following her and am surprisingly impressed,it’s of people who support her actually said things like, your in the public eye now, your going to get a lot of this, learn to cope with it or to say that it wasn’t meant to be a criticism of her but of the media representation etc.
    I’m really sorry if this has generated hate mail but at the moment Jack Monroe is appealing to a lot of people from all backgrounds and most are very protective of her. She comes across as everything people wanted but didn’t get from any of the politicians or party’s.
    I think it’s a shame she wasn’t contacted prior to your article being published, perhaps she could have had some input or at least been aware of what to expect.

  10. David Gillon says:

    I think out of the three articles (the original, Jack Monroe’s response, and now this), this is the one that disturbs me the most.

    I can clearly see what the original article was trying to do, but it appropriated Jack Monroe’s life without apparently asking her opinion, and it slipped clumsily into painting someone who has had to fight for her survival as living a life of cosy privilege. Now Jack Monroe may not have been targeted with quite the usual virulence of the Mail’s entrenched class-hatred and disability-loathing, but that does not mean that there was anything remotely cosy about her situation, and to imply that, even unintentionally, is something she was entirely entitled to take offence at, and respond to.

    But this latest piece seems predicated on denying her that right, on denying her the right to be the product of her own experiences, and that I have a problem with, because I’ve been through a similar if different mill as a disabled person, I’ve been targeted for open hate on the streets as a skiver and a scrounger, and for hidden, systematized hate at the Job Centre and in the offices of Atos, I know that there are others who have experienced far worse, but I know that my experiences have damaged me at a fundamental level, and if anyone tried to write-off my experience as ‘cosy’, even with the best of intentions, I know exactly how I would react and it would be exactly as Jack Monroe did.

    Yet in phrasings like ‘without a hint of remorse’ this article seems to set out with the intent of proving that Jack Monroe was wrong to react, to deny her the right to be the product of her experiences, and in doing that it becomes everything that the initial article set out to revile, a cosy middle-class view of what it is right for ‘the less fortunate’ to think, and what it is not. Ultimately it becomes victim blaming at its very worst.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      David Gillon: Jily’s blog “appropriated Jack Monroe’s life”? Really? How precisely? And she never said Jack’s position was cosy – of course there was nothing cosy about it – it was the Mail’s rosy-tinted (nay, rosy-bleached) picture of her that was “cosy”.

      I have no problem with Jack responding, or even being angry with Jilly’s piece. But she should respond reasonably and proportionately. Jilly’s piece was not the hate-filled loathing of the Daily Mail, it was a pro-claimant article. In my view it did not attack Jack at all. Jack is now, through the choices and efforts she made in very harsh circumstances, a celebrity who inspires many people to act. Unfortunately in this case (unintentionally) she inspired many people to spew vitrolic abuse at someone who wasn’t even the main, let alone the only target of her angry response, just the only one who was named and as-good-as blamed (in the original title) for Jack’s suicide attempt.

      However, Jack, Jilly and I are on the same side, as are you, in what is most important. The battle we face against the Government’s attacks on the poor, the unemployed and disabled people, and against the government’s supporters in the media who help to vilify their victims. Rather than argue about who should apologise to whom for what, I suggest we get on and do that.

  11. Huw says:

    In fairness, it was not a poor article.
    As someone, who admires Jack and what she has done and achieved, I read her response first and would have been perfectly primed to find the original article offensive, misleading or whatever else, but when I read it, there was no doubt that it was no kind of attack on Jack. That Jack could be oversensitive is understandable and forgivable but for the majority of those who chose to hurl abuse (as if doing so somehow supported Jack) the article is not responsible for their lack of reading comprehension.

  12. David Gillon says:

    JL: Jack’s life was appropriated simply in using it. In trying to draw attention to the excesses of ConDem austerity we need to be careful in how we use the experiences of others, particularly if we go to the extreme of mentioning them by name, lest we reduce them to a symbol, denying them the right to be an individual (to draw on the disability movement’s position on this: nothing for us, without us).

    Yes, the article clearly attempted to attack the Mail and the rest of the media, but it used Jack as a bludgeon with which to do it, and as a bludgeon which stood for ‘cosy privilege’. I think Jack Monroe had every right to be furious with being used in that way, because I know that I would have been incandescent with rage if my experiences had been so carelessly dismissed.

    How exactly was Jack Monroe’s response ‘disproportionate’? All she did was remind people of what that ‘cosy privilege’ really represented. Why does the fact she has become reasonably prominent alter her right to defend herself when her experiences are so casually dismissed?

    Should Jilly Luke be abused for the clumsiness of her piece? No. Are there grounds to validly criticise it? Yes indeed. Is Jack to blame for that? Not in my opinion, because the way she responded was the product of that ‘cosy privilege’, and it shows that there was nothing remotely cosy or privileged about it. To deny it once was bad enough, but to deny it twice?

    We are indeed on the same side, but that does not mean the rights of the individual should be subjugated to the struggle. Perhaps I am more sensitive to this in coming out of the disability movement, where disabled people had to fight to reclaim control of their destiny and their individuality from the cloying, non-disabled, hand of big-charity, but a struggle that dismisses our individual rights and experiences in pursuit of a useful metaphor to bludgeon the opposition with, and then dismisses our right to respond, isn’t one that I can be remotely comfortable with.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      David Gillon: “we need to be careful in how we use the experiences of others, particularly if we go to the extreme of mentioning them by name” – true enough, though it ceases to be “extreme” if that person publishes their views to a wide audience on a daily basis, has 12000 Twitter followers, is regularly interviewed on television and radio and writes articles in mainstream newspapers. At that point, mentioning them is fair comment. And they have an image which is rarely entirely their creation, which is what we were discussing.

      I notice that you do not deal with the point that she was respondning not only or even mainly to Jilly yet targeting her remarks solely at Jilly.

      I suspect however we’ll have to agree to differ.

  13. Clare C says:

    My my! The Left is getting mighty touchy these days. Is calling someone a ‘silly moo’ serious abuse these days? Jilly should thank God she’s not male; have a look at any even mildly controversial piece written by a man and you’ll find all kinds of lewd comments about the size of his manhood and sex life, or lack of it.

    I am the perpetrator of the ‘cow pats’ remark. It was written in response to another comment; my point, detailed elsewhere, was that Jilly’s article was best ignored. As far as I can make out, it made two valid, but hardly revelatory points: that it is easier for the better off to identify with an attractive, articulate benefit claimant who appears to be making an effort than with one who doesn’t seem to have any personal advantages, and that we judge tax swindlers more lightly than benefit fiddlers.

    Fine as far as it goes. However it was a badly written piece that didn’t make its points particularly well and relied far too heavily on swipes at one individual. The ‘Beatrix Potter’ remark was not just ill-judged but downright silly. As many people commented, it doesn’t sound as though Potter was high on Jilly’s childhood reading list. She gave her animals voices and clothing, but she didn’t sanitise their lives. Peter Rabbit’s father ends up in a pie and Jemima Puddleduck is a neglectful parent. Tom Kitten narrowly avoids being eaten and ends up permanently traumatised as a result.

    My real concern about Jilly’s piece is that she simply didn’t do her homework. She was guilty of making assumptions – much as the better off sometimes do about ‘chavs’ – and she was way off the mark. People seldom fall neatly into categories: Jack is gay and has tattoos, for example, and her detractors haven’t been slow to make spiteful comments about these facts. Interestingly, some of the worst haven’t been on the Daily Mail boards but on the dear old Guardian, where the brown rice brigade have made all kinds of nasty, personal remarks. They don’t always think much of her food, either. Yes, people are constantly surprising.

    I’m a regular reader of Jack’s blog and several things are very clear. She’s very bright and talented, and she wants to be political. When she places herself in this arena, however, she finds it very difficult to cope with the inevitable flack and fallout. As a result of her notoriety, her life has changed radically in a very short time. She doesn’t yet know the rules of engagement – and that is one of her great charms. I doubt she’ll be able go on moderating all the comments that get left on her blog on her own for very long, or that she’ll continue to answer back as readily as she does now whenever someone posts something she likes or hates. That’s a shame, in some ways. She’ll be more media-savvy and less herself. Something, maybe, for those who have had the huge privilege of a Cambridge education to think about next time they decide to pen a piece.

  14. just passing says:

    Basically, I came to say what David Gillon said. The original piece was regrettable. Jack’s response was entirely understandable. But THIS tawdry little piece of white-knighting? It’s exactly the outright attack on Jack that she thought the original piece was. You should be ashamed of yourself – but of course, your responses to David indicate that there’s no chance of that. And so does this: You indicate that Jack responded “without a hint of remorse”. What, precisely, do you believe she should be showing remorse for? Has she killed anyone? Was she spiteful? No. She responded to what she perceived as an attack in a direct, straightforward way. You know, that thing you have not done at all here.

    (Five words to show your true character. That revelation could had be so cheaply from everyone…)

    On the same side? I really don’t think so. I don’t know what your side is. But you’ve made it abundantly clear that you *have* one.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      just passing: “What, precisely, do you believe she should be showing remorse for?” As I said in response to David Gillon, “I have no problem with Jack responding, or even being angry with Jilly’s piece. But she should respond reasonably and proportionately. Jilly’s piece was not the hate-filled loathing of the Daily Mail, it was a pro-claimant article. In my view it did not attack Jack at all. Jack is now, through the choices and efforts she made in very harsh circumstances, a celebrity who inspires many people to act. Unfortunately in this case (unintentionally) she inspired many people to spew vitrolic abuse at someone who wasn’t even the main, let alone the only target of her angry response, just the only one who was named and as-good-as blamed (in the original title) for Jack’s suicide attempt.”

      But I should add that the “with no remorse” referred not to the reply on her blog but to a personal email to Jilly Luke. This was part of a correspndence in which each was explaining what they were trying to do, honestly I think on both sides. But to Jilly, who had been subjected to what I regard as a barrage of abuse which arose I’d submit was as a result of the vehemence of Luke’s public response to her loyal readership, she admitted that ” I responded angrily, but I wasn’t just responding to the Left Futures piece, I was responding to every Daily Mail commenter that said something similar, every piece of hate mail that said I was too pretty to be poor, and every similar comment since before this all began.” Without a hint of remorse. No recognition that to redirect anger for a whole number of things at just one person who was trying to explain, privately, that she had meant no harm at all, is absolutely without qualification unreasonable.

  15. David Gillon says:

    JL: “mentioning them is fair comment”

    Indeed, but this whole issue is about the importance of talking about people in a fair fashion. Jack Monroe has written about her experiences, yes, but that doesn’t give us license to twist them to our own purposes, the Mail doing that is, after all, what Jilly Luke was trying to draw attention to. But in doing that she twisted Jack’s experiences in turn by implying that she had gotten away lightly. Even if Jack hasn’t been personally savaged by the Mail, she has still been collectively savaged, along with people like me, along with the people Jilly Luke was trying to talk about, by every evil Mail, Telegraph, Express or Sun headline that sets out to portray us as scroungers, skivers and worse, and believe me when I tell you that when repeated day in, day out over a period of years that doesn’t just hurt, it actively damages you. And that ‘cosy’ comparison implicitly demeans her experience, while the deeply unfortunate Beatrix Potter phrasing just worsens the insult.

    Jack had every reason to be upset with the article, whether she understood its intention or not, whether Jilly Luke intended to demean her or not* her, because intention or not, comprehension or not, the article demeans her experience. And that fact not only did, but still does justify her response. There is nothing for her to express remorse for, no matter how often you demand it, because the article demands that response from her.

    What was unjustified were the secondary responses from others that cross the line into personal abuse. There are valid grounds to criticise the article, but that doesn’t justify ad hominem attacks. However that doesn’t change the fact that Jack Monroe’s primary response was justified, and that no remorse is required.

    * I have no doubt this was unintentional, I just don’t believe that fact changes anything.

    “I notice that you do not deal with the point that she was respondning not only or even mainly to Jilly yet targeting her remarks solely at Jilly.”

    This is precisely the point I have been trying to make for three comments now. We are the products of our experiences, the traumas we have been through, the worries that gnaw at us in the wee small hours of the night, the abuse we face on the streets and in the media. It has changed me, damaged me, I have no doubt it has changed Jack Monroe. Jilly Luke set out to write about the way that the media demonises poor people, and Jack Monroe responded as someone who has been demonised. If we recognise Jilly Luke’s point, we must similarly recognise Jack Monroe’s reality, because it is the very thing Jilly is trying to draw attention to.

  16. Madeleine says:

    What a patronising response to many people’s genuinely felt offence. Jilly’s article was not “confusing”, it was offensive.
    Perhaps, let us imagine another minority group being “championed” or “defended” by someone who does not belong to it with an article that lists the stereotypes used daily to denigrate it. Is it now fine to say bigoted things if you’re being ironic? if you pepper your article with a sense of class guilt?
    I suggest leftfutures should apologise and take it off the internet. Or you could put salt on the wound and tell everyone you offended that they’re too stupid to get it?

  17. NickPheas says:

    JL writes: “true enough, though it ceases to be “extreme” if that person publishes their views to a wide audience on a daily basis, has 12000 Twitter followers, is regularly interviewed on television and radio and writes articles in mainstream newspapers.”

    You do realise that this is the same argument as used by the Daily Hate in all their ghastlyness. Celebs invite attention and therefore cannot complain if we publish long lens shots of them walking about in poorly fitting clothes. It convinces no-one.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      Nick Pheas: “this is the same argument as used by the Daily Hate” – hardly. What ceases to be “extreme” is “mentioning them by name” not publishing “long lens shots of them walking about in poorly fitting clothes”. The entire original piece by Jilly Luke was in fact about the image of Jack Monroe presented by the “Daily Hate” rather than the real Jack Monroe who does indeed stand shoulder-to-shoulder with so many of the Daily Hate’s objects of hate.

      David Gillon: Jilly Luke “twisted Jack’s experiences in turn by implying that she had gotten away lightly”: That is is not what Jilly said. There is no doubt that Jack has been subjected to enormous hardship and to abuse not least by readers of the Daily Mail who are even more hate-filled than the paper they read. But what Jilly said is that Jack had been “judged lightly” by the Dail Mail, in comparison with the other claimants they condemn as “scroungers, skivers and worse”.

      I have dealt with you point on remorse in response to just passing.

      “We are the products of our experiences, the traumas we have been through, the worries that gnaw at us in the wee small hours of the night, the abuse we face on the streets and in the media.” That is entirely true. We should all have compassion for anyone who has been through such traumas, and Jilly and I both do. But that compassion should not lead us to treating as acceptable the redirection of anger about those experiences towards people who are entirely innocent of responsibility for those experiences. Jack may have been angered by Jilly’s piece (however unintended any offence may have been on the part of Jilly and Left Futures) and she is entitled to respond reasonably and proportionately to Jilly but only for the offence for which she holds Jilly responsible.

      We have now been around the block on this several times so forgive me if I do not respond again – I do have a day job.

      Clare C: On this site, you condemn yourself out of your own mouth. As we say in our comments policy: “Don’t make personal attacks on other commenters, Left Futures’ bloggers or the subjects of posts on the site. By all means challenge the things people say or do, but don’t be personal and keep it civil. Play the ball and not the player…. We’re on the Left. Racist, xenophobic, homophobic and sexist comments, and derogatory comments about people with disabilities or mental distress will be deleted.” So “silly moo” is not acceptable here. Name calling has no part in political discussion which is what we’re here for. Your remark – “We’re dignifying what is basically a pile of cow pats from a very silly moo” – was also made without reading Jilly’s piece. You are entitled to your prejudices and your other opinions but I shall not dwell on them.

  18. Marianne says:

    I am with Huw’s comment above and wouldn’t have thought it’s so easy to misread Jilly’s article.

    Since comments on Jilly’s post are closed, here is what I also wrote on Jack’s blog: I think Jilly makes very good points about taste being part of perceived (class) identity and aspirations. I’m not sure I entirely agree with Jilly’s criticism of those who think (paraphrasing roughly) that benefit claimants who eat chickpeas are better than benefit claimants who eat chips. This needn’t always be based on moralizing, it could truly be moral, concerned with the welfare of others (as eating chickpeas is healthier than eating chips). Her criticism reminds me of people accusing Jamie Oliver of patronizing working class people about their tastes.

    I do think though that psychologically she makes astute observations about how we judge others’ tastes. Try a thought experiment: what if Jack’s blog contained advice on where to buy the cheapest pizza or chips or lager in order to live on £10 a week.

  19. Clare C says:

    Jon Lansman: I suppose I do regret the remark, in that it cheapens the debate and gives you a get-out-of-jail-free card. It was a response another commenter’s remark, not the blog itself. I imagine you chose it because, when it came down to it, you couldn’t find much evidence of serious abuse in the comments section of Ms Monroe’s blog. All of human life is there, and the responses vary from carefully reasoned right through to completely bonkers*, but there’s nothing much to keep a robust journalist awake at night. Twitter may well be a different matter. Personally I give it a wide berth.

    As I have already said, it’s clear that Ms Monroe finds it difficult to take the flak that inevitably goes with living her life in public. She ought to shrug off articles that she sees as derogatory, but we are talking about a single mum who set up a blog to talk about her experiences of life on the breadline and publish a few recipes. She doesn’t (yet) have a PR team or indeed powerful colleagues to argue her case for her. I know that you will simply say that Jilly’s article attacked Ms Monroe’s public image rather than the woman herself, but a left-leaning publication really ought to be a little more careful about how it treats people who aren’t accustomed to dealing with media argy-bargy. I fear for Monroe, in some ways. Everything has happened so quickly, and the media is notorious for picking people up and then ripping them to shreds.

    I’ve read Jilly’s article several times. I imagine the amount of traffic that your site received as a result of the piece was unusual. At least you are getting read.

    *I may be sailing a little close to the wind with ‘bonkers’. In which case, substitute ‘misguided’.

  20. nickpheas says:

    Forget the original article. Whether it’s intent matched the delivery is moot. I was specifically commenting on your shameful suggestion that it was somehow OK to put the boot into someone because they had lots of followers on twitter, and somehow unreasonable of them to tell their followers that the boot had been put in. Whether that was the premeditated and aimed kick of the Daily Hate or an accidental and clumsy kicking.

  21. Sandra says:

    I hadn’t realised there was a response to this business until today. Hmmm.

    I have 20 years experience on the left and this incident highlights one of the worst aspects – hanging another activist out to dry because she is getting some publicity. It’s jealousy/tall poppy syndrome. Don’t risk getting above your station now!

    I’m not sure why Jilly Luke wanted to use Jack Monroe as an example in her article about the right wing media’s attack on the working class instead of just making the arguments. It certainly muddied the water. And, as I said at the time, if using chick peas in recipes instead of buying takeaway pizza and lager is an indicator of social class, then someone hasn’t been reading their Marx.

    It was a clumsy piece of writing but this is much worse. JM and her friends and supporters were supposed to turn the other cheek and allow accusations of her acceptability to the middle-class to slide. I expected that once the criticisms were pointed out, the article would be either removed or edited but clearly Left Futures felt they were above all that and defending one of their own was more important. Now they’ve raised that defense to one of some kind of principle – those who complained are castigated but there is no apology for bad writing and nonexistent editing. Because the left is always right even when it’s clearly not. So arrogant.

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