I’ve been fairly quiet on the pictures of Charles Saatchi assaulting Nigella Lawson for a number of reasons. I feel like it’s a grotesque invasion of privacy, and that Nigella’s silence on the matter indicates that she probably doesn’t want these details of her life and marriage being discussed everywhere.
However, a lot of journalists haven’t been anywhere near so cautious, nor respectful. Our Ur-bellend here is some Guardian hack named Roy Greenslade, who yesterday decided to shit on an iPad and call it a column. Dear Roy urged us caution in interpreting what had happened, that we shouldn’t “rush to judgment”, as a picture of a man with his hands around a crying woman’s throat could have a number of different explanations (none of which Roy actually bothered providing). Oh, and also it’s totally OK to print those pictures because after all, it happened in public so it’s not, like, breaking any laws or anything. Then, to back up his non-argument, Roy edited the piece to include some quotes from the Evening Standard who, for some reason, thought it appropriate to run an interview with Saatchi letting him explain away what happened as a harmless tiff.
Self-satisfied, and throwing away a semen-encrusted sock, Roy declared that the whole incident must have been so embarrassing.
Less than a day later, Roy looked like even more of a dickhead than he had previously shown himself to be, and taught us all a cautionary tale in why in stories like this “keeping an open mind” is synonymous with “siding with an abuser”. See, contrary to Roy’s assertion that the police were uninterested in the event, Charles Saatchi was given a caution, which is a thing lawyers tell you to accept when you’ve really fucked up and probably don’t stand a chance in defending yourself in court.
So Roy pulled down his pants and began straining over the iPad again. Apparently his denial of the possibility of abuse was not that, and people had just interpreted it as such! Apparently–oh, ho, ho!–rather than Saatchi and Nigella being embarrassed, he should be! Apparently he only dismissed the idea of abuse because he is Nigella’s friend! Apparently up is down and left is right and there’s a few Vikings riding round on dinosaurs outside which is probably definitely not a portent of anything!
And of course, Roy isn’t the only dickish commentator to have denied or trivialised abuse. Most of the press has excitedly splattered the Evening Standard’s interview with Saatchi everywhere. A lot of commentators have articulated similar views to Roy. They’re all wrong, and they’re all thorough dickwhistles.
Yet this whole cycle of bullshit was woefully inevitable, precisely because this idea of “keeping an open mind” when it comes to violence against women and girls means that survivors are not believed. That it is apparently reasonable to doubt that men are capable of perpetrating this, despite the fact that it is hideously common. That the voice of the perpetrator is the one that we ought to hear and believe unquestioningly as it backs up our prejudices, backs up our bedtime story that violence against women and girls is something which is rare.
So of course the reaction has been shit, and I doubt it will get any better. Perhaps it will swing to a paternalistic, cloying form of pity which is steeped in benevolent sexism. Perhaps it will rumble on in its current form. What will not happen is precisely the thing which should happen–respect for what Nigella Lawson wants, and unconditional support if that is what she needs.