August 6th 2014 archive

Intention Is No Defence | Week Three Lecture Reflection

The arrangement of yesterday’s ‘Q&A-style’ symposium was unique to any lecture I’d experienced before. It almost felt like I was a part of a studio audience on some sort of talk show –call it ‘Media Talks,’ heat up the debate a little and insert some dramatic sound effects. Jokes aside, it was interesting to hear the variation in tutor’s answers to the questions raised.

Related to the week’s previous readings on copyright, the first question discussed the fine line between critique and defamation. A key concept I took away was the fact that your ‘intention is no defence.’ I thought I’d write a little story to explain this further…

Bob is your everyday top bloke. Builder by day, blogger by night. He writes a blog post on his view of how male tennis players should be paid more than female tennis players. He critically outlines his reasoning, such as how males play longer games, attract bigger audiences, and so on. Bob uses the tennis player Sally as an example to add some depth and substance to his argument. Bob has no intention of offending Sally, and tries to be as gentle as possible in addressing the sensitive subject. However, Sally happens to come across Bob’s post and she is immediately shocked and offended. She claims that Bob is being a sexist pig towards her, and thus her people take action against him. Despite Bob’s protests that he didn’t mean anything by it, he is sentenced to prison.

Okay, so that ending was a bit dramatic. I’m unsure of what the specific consequences of that scenario would be but whatever the case, the outcome wouldn’t be a good one for poor ol’ Bob. A hefty fine is more probable than a jail sentence, but for the purpose of the story, let’s just roll with it.

My question is, what if Sally made these claims, but she was clearly out of line? What if Bob said something so innocent and the only one who interpreted it as being sexist was Sally? Does a formal judge decipher if something is truly sexist, or is that only Sally’s call to make? It seems almost ridiculous that merely one interpretation can be the determining factor. There are some pretty oversensitive people out there, and how is it fair on Bob if Sally is one of them?

I might have to do some more research or raise these ideas in class. #fightforbob!