One of the very notable things that happens in the immediate aftermath of a ghastly crime in recent times is the appropriation of the narrative to serve an agenda. Typically this happens long before the facts of the case are established. A pre-emptive strike that will set the narrative in a way the facts, when they emerge, will never be able to overtake. We have seen how this worked in the tragic Savita Hallapanavar case and the Tuam Mother and Baby Home controversy. We saw it with the framing of Trump supporting Covington school boys as racists. We see it now in the appropriation of the tragic killing of Aisling Murphy which has already been bedded within the narrative of gender based violence before we knew anything about the motives or mental state of her killer.
It doesn’t signify much whether the crime is perpetrated by one individual against another or orchestrated by a group against another group. What matters is how it can be plausibly set within an ideological narrative. Very quickly, the public will be led to see the crime in one of two ways . It will be framed either as the act of an individual who alone is answerable for his actions or as the expression of a wider societal dysfunction that spreads the blame across a wider demographic. The controlling ideology gets to decide which crime goes in which category.
Attacks on women in European towns and cities as well as terrorist attacks from both the far right and far left, along with attacks by religious fundamentalists of all stripes, shows how the narrative framing works from one story to another. When a mosque was attacked in Christchurch, New Zealand, Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, announced that extremists were not welcome in her country, Nothing at all wrong with that but when a Muslim extremist committed a terrorist attack some time later she took pains to emphasise that his crime was the act of an individual who alone bore responsibility for his actions. A terrorist can be either a lone wolf or member of a deadly pack, depending on the political point to be made. Similarly, arson or violence during a politically popular protest is depicted as an aberration while criminal behaviour carried out or even alleged to have been carried out by a politically incorrect group is framed as a straw in the wind of a deadly subversive gale.
It is stranger yet that public figures, who so often insist that cultural background has no relevance to how individuals behave, can nevertheless present a criminal’s gender, provided it is defined as male and straight, as carrying an inherent propensity towards violence. While gender based crime like all other categories of crime, from car theft to gang crime to terrorist attacks, are almost invariably committed by men, the mere fact of maleness is not in itself of significance. Family and community influences, education, socio-economic status are far more determinative of how we behave. After that, it is largely about having the means to exploit opportunity. The fact that shoplifting, alone among crimes, is more often committed by females is revealing.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, responding to demands for action from publicly funded womens’ groups, has pledged to drive gender based crime off the slate. Her party colleague, Josepha Madigan, has asked ‘why we live in a country where this can happen?’ Has she never noticed that assault like all crimes has always been part of life everywhere? Does she not see that it is always about preying on those least able to defend themselves, whether it is a child placed by the state in an inappropriate foster home, an elderly couple in a remote farmhouse or a lone hiker, of either sex, out of earshot of help?
There are no shortage of womens’ groups and agencies who will clamber aboard campaigns for zero tolerance for gender-based crime and provide willing personnel to help McEntee improve ‘prevention, prosecution, sex education and policy’, as she has undertaken to do, in order to drive crime against women to zero. Such groups need to stick their heads above the parapet when such opportunities arise to maintain and if possible extend their influence. The fact is the State has an equal duty of care to every vulnerable person of whatever age, condition or gender.
Josepha Madigan and others mentioned pornography and the laddish culture of Irish social life as factors underlying gender-based crime. The easy availability of pornography is certainly something that has been flagged for a very long time. it was discussed after the appalling but less hyped tragedy of the killing of teen Ana Kriegel by two other teens. Why was there no follow up action after that appalling crime to tackle pornography? The Fine Gael party had ample time to address that issue over many years but it was never anything like the priority of addressing what they deemed offensive imagery during the Repeal of the Eighth Amendment in 2018. if it was that easy to get the social media industry to ban pictures of babies at different stages of gestation, surely they could persuade, or if necessary pressure, media behomoths into banning the unarguably pernicious pornographic graphics that are, as pointed out already on this platform only a few clicks away from the page you are now reading?
Desirable as this would be, it is not quite as easy as that to ‘fix’ human nature. it might suit the politically correct stance of feminist groups to make sex education, the justice system, macho culture and pornography their mission field but the fact is women are just as likely to fall prey to sexual violence from men whose cultural milieu could hardly be described as laddish or overtly sexualised as the Rotherham and Cologne attacks have shown. A reductionist approach to crime elimination is an agenda serving strategy that politicians are guilt tripped into following by vested interests who use virtue signalling to bring public policy under their control.
The statistics show that while serious criminals are overwhelmingly male, their victims are more likely than not to be other males. Of the 22 murders committed in Ireland in 2021, 15 of the victims were male. Even in the area of personal harassment, according to recent research, far more males, than anyone might think, are victims. In fact, one in five females and one in ten males between the ages of 16 and 30 now experience some form of stalking.
Specific strategies against specific crimes can make sense of course. Tracking and if necessary tagging those with a serious criminal records is one useful tool but will prove challenging to a Justice Minister who has granted amnesty to thousands of undocumented immigrants whose personal records extend no further back than the four years they will have spent in this country, the sole condition for permanent residency. There is no question at all that the vast majority of such people are law abiding and deserving of a fresh start in life but so too are the overwhelming majority of the Irish men who collectively stand in the dock of public opinion for being part of a culture that enables the kind of behaviour that can on occasion cross a line into shocking forms of brutality against women.
It is not acceptable to socialise the guilt of some individuals but not others, whether the category applied is ethnic, religious or gender. Consistency demands that all are treated equally by the State and that, where scrutiny and oversight, are deemed appropriate in the interests of public safety, the same standards apply to all.