How we got Jim Wells wrong, Twitter rage and the redaction of empathy…

I’d forgotten that the Jim Wells story which broke on 23rd April, an exceptionally slow news day ended up with a case being referred to the Department for Public Prosecutions. Nearly six months later and it has become very clear that Mr Wells has (and had) no case to answer.

The full transcript of his remarks show that those reported in video and audio files on social media, and here on Slugger O’Toole, diverged from Mr Wells’ fuller remarks taken in notation at the time:

“If you want gay marriage don’t vote for me. Under no circumstances will I ever support the diminution of the traditional view of marriage. Marriage is a fundamental building block of society and you tamper with it at your peril. And all those who are now demanding gay marriage want to make life extremely difficult for those who have genuine concerns — Muslim, Jews, Evangelical Christian, or devout Roman Catholic who have real difficulties with that.

And we saw with Ashers Bakery how much protection there was for people who have a genuine concern about this position. We saw the sacking of the firemen in Glasgow who were devout Roman Catholics and who refused to take part in a gay pride parade in full uniform.

We saw the sacking of the Evangelical Christian registrar in Islington because she asked her colleagues, who were happy to comply and help out, could she step aside on that particular day and do other work and let one of her other colleagues carry out a gay marriage.

That’s the real world. The demands of the gay lobby are insatiable, they simply do not know that we have gone as far as we can go in the form of civil partnerships.

Marriage is between a man and a woman; marriage is for the procreation and bringing up of children. All evidence throughout the world says the best way to raise children is in a loving, stable, married relationship; the facts show that, the facts show that certainly you don’t bring a child up in a homosexual relationship.

That a child is far more likely to be abused or neglected (uproar among audience) I say again, I say again, a child is far more likely to be abused or neglected in a non stable marriage situation, gay or straight.

I will be voting no on the 27 of April (gay marriage debate in the Assembly), I hope to be the first at the door to vote no. I feel very strongly about this and I feel the vast majority of ordinary decent people in south Down support me.

This morning’s SluggerReport, on how Twitter can lead to a widespread withdrawal of empathy (and reason):

  • templewater

    Surely if he ascertains that “a child is far more likely to be abused or neglected in a non stable marriage situation, gay or straight”, then the opposite should hold, “the best way to raise children is in a loving, stable, married relationship (gay or straight)”?

  • Lorcs1

    Am I missing something? Does a written transcript of a speech trump an actual first hand recording of it?

    Was the recording tampered with?

  • Slugger led that social media mob with immediate (and first hand unless this post is misleading) reporting, embedding the social media. on SluggerReport this morning you tried to deflect that, but the post remains http://sluggerotoole.com/2015/04/24/good-heavens-youre-the-health-minister/ posted, and updated by 1.26am following the hustings.

  • Dan

    How dare he have an opinion……..just like the Pastor, or Ashers, he had to be hounded and attempts made to prosecute him …..

  • Kevin Breslin

    That a child is far more likely to be abused or neglected (uproar among audience) I say again, I say again, a child is far more likely to be abused or neglected in a non stable marriage situation, gay or straight.

    It would be interesting to see if the case was true. There are incidents of incestuous sexual abuse in Stable marriages, unstable marriages and divorced couples. I’m not sure if an objective study has been done

    Personally I would use “loving marriages” before “stable” marriage, legally speaking the Fritzl’s marriage was probably stable, since no grounds for divorce were able to be presented and there was no chance to run away from it.

    He did say loving in the previous exchange, but I think he emphasized a lesser adjective soon after.

  • Kevin Breslin

    That may’ve been a better way to counter him than playing the man certainly.

  • mickfealty

    I’ll be honest and say I went back to the post after your remarks and re-read them. (I also thought I had closed it).

  • HopefulPessimist

    It all depends on the punctuation.

  • Richard

    Plenty of studies have been done that show the benefits of stable marriages. This article mentions some of them – http://www.str.org/articles/should-government-recognize-and-legalize-same-sex-marriage

  • Kevin Breslin

    I was looking for something that had stable vs. unstable … even with the control factor of being a heterosexual marriage.
    I’ll read the article anyway.

  • notimetoshine

    Poor Jim wells, obviously a victim of those dastardly gays, put to pervert the fine institution of marriage.

    That he insinuates that a gay marriage would be inherently more unstable that a straight marriage, give me a break.

    Shame on slugger for covering for this unpleasant man.

    Not the first time that hatred for gays has been given a free pass on this site.

  • Heather Richardson

    I have to disagree with you, Mick – I think those of us who thought Jim Wells’ remarks appalling got him right, and the larger context of his speech reinforces that. Everything he says up until the point of his ‘abuse’ remark is a criticism of the ‘insatiable’ ‘gay lobby’. He throws in the bit about non-stable straight marriages in response to the uproar of the audience who could clearly tell what way his comments were going. Hopeful Pessimist draws out attention to the way this transcript has been punctuated:

    “the facts show that certainly you don’t bring a child up in a homosexual relationship.

    That a child is far more likely to be abused or neglected…” (uproar among audience)

    If you listen to it, it sounds like this:

    “the facts show that certainly you don’t bring a child up in a homosexual relationship, that a child is far more likely to be abused or neglected…” (uproar among audience)

    I’m not justifying the Twitter lynch mob, nor the police investigation, but let’s not try to fool ourselves that Jim Wells was misquoted or taken out of context.

  • mickfealty

    Well, he was misquoted, not least because of the uproar in the room.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I strongly disagree with this retraction.

    Jim Wells’ remarks were properly quoted and were recorded, with the audio being played back for all to hear. He denied at the time what he said, until the audio recording emerged.

    Well’s resignation as Health Minister did not come immediately after those remarks were repeated. A few days after the hustings event, there was media coverage of an incident when he was canvassing in his constituency and came across a lesbian constituent whom he subjected, allegedly, to a long and unsolicited rant about their “lifestyle”.

    My recollection is that it was this matter which led to that resident reporting Wells to the police, and in turn, Wells’ resignation as Minister on the grounds of his wife’s poor health – not the Slugger report on his remarks at the hustings. In any case the decision of the police/DPP not to proceed with a prosecution does not mean that he did not say what he said; it means that they don’t think a prosecution is in the public interest.

    While we are on the subject of politicians resigning ostensibly for health reasons, isn’t it about time that there was a little more inquiry into this ? Wells is bouncing back on the scene, larger than ever, after claiming he was stepping back to care for his wife. Today, it’s reported that Jimmy Spratt who also ostensibly stood aside early for health reasons, made a remark that he would not have stood down from his seat in South Belfast if he had thought it would have gone to Ruth Patterson.

    It is certainly below the belt to go after politicians who are sick or are dealing with difficult personal circumstances at home, but it’s spectacularly bad faith for anyone to claim personal grounds and then to bounce back later ready for action.

  • Heather Richardson

    I’m confused – are you saying that the transcript doesn’t accurately capture what he said?

  • mickfealty

    No. The transcript above is a correction to the accounts that went out at the time…

  • Daragh

    An incredibly misleading title, I do not think anyone has Jim Wells ‘wrong’.

    His remarks may not legally amount to a hate crime as defined by statute, but they are completely homophobic and offensive.

    I find it slightly disturbing that this site is providing cover for such views. Perhaps this site feels comfortable in doing so safe in the knowledge that alternate views can just be dismissed as being part of the of the ‘insatiable’ ‘gay lobby’.

  • Nevin

    You had closed it, Mick, and the webpage is gone but the contents still lie in Google cache.

  • Chingford Man

    I did say here at the time that it looked like people were so puffed up in their own outrage that no one was interested in a full account of what Wells actually said.

    One of the problems with social media is that the loudest voices are often affluent, relatively progressive lefties and they currently have the power to make a non-story snowball into a lead story.

    There are plenty of Slugger below-the-line contributors who should be apologising for the disgraceful way they treated Wells if they have an inch of integrity.

  • mickfealty

    You can agree or disagree. I’m cool with either to be honest. But I care about accuracy, not least because I’ve been known to be critical of others.

    I also think we need to keep empathy in mind when we deal with people who dissent from the metrotextual mainstream as FitzJames Horse might put it.

    I think you are clutching at straws somewhat on the Spratt story. Health is a touchy subject. I don’t believe it should entirely off limits.

    The Adams’ private op thing had real policy implications which drew us into a place I would far rather not have been. But it’s pretty clear that there’s been axes ground here that would have been better left sheathed.

    For goodness, with either wording, what on earth was the attempt at prosection all about. Nous sommes Charlie? I don’t think so.

  • mickfealty

    I did that after TD commented.

  • mickfealty

    Who’s giving them cover? They are out there in plain technicolour, er, black and white. And you can criticise them as you like.

  • Daragh

    If they were genuinely laid out in plain black and white print without spin you may have used a title that said something along the lines that ‘Jim Wells’ outburst does not lead to any legal charge’, and let the facts speak for themselves.

    Instead the spin you have added is that we have got Jim Wells ‘wrong’ and that he is somehow a victim here of ‘Twitter rage’. That’s a big difference and it will leave readers of this blog to speculate as to the reasons why you have added this spin.

    The truth is that while Jim Wells’ remarks were not illegal, they were homophobic, offensive and completely unacceptable from someone who is holding high office where he is expected to act on behalf of all sections of society.

  • Granni Trixie

    Jim has defnately lost the plot. Yesterday he wanted his Health job back today he announces he s so wreaked he has asked DUP for two weeks off.

  • PeterBrown

    CitR that’s a total misrepresentation of why he wasn’t prosecuted – I can’t find the PPS statement on their website but here on the BBC website http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-34556389 it appears that they are not citing public interest but implying of not actually stating that what he was saying was misrepresented by the edited video (to that the extent that someone has been interviewed about that on the basis that they may have committed an offence) and that when the full quotation is looked at there was insufficient evidence (none?) an offence had been committed. In other words he was stitched up not let off the hook…

  • PeterBrown

    Daragh see my post below about the fact that someone attempted to edit the footage in such a way as to show Jim in a worse light to the extent that their footage was the basis from him being investigated and when the PPS saw the full quote they decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him and instead turned their attention to his accusers – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-34556389. If that person was a member of the “insatiable” gay lobby then maybe he had a point if they are being disingenuous to the point of committing a crime themselves to mislead the public about what he actually said? At least one Slugger regular contributor who was present also posted here and on the media (deliberately?) misrepresenting his remarks and has yet to respond to my challenge on another thread of theirs to comment. Even the BBC was joining in – “to the recent comment by Jim Wells (then Northern Ireland health minister): “If you bring a child up in a homosexual relationship then the child is far more likely to be abused and neglected.” in this article http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/z2pqxsg – can you find me that quote above?

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    Feel free to add me on twitter if you’d like to discuss.

  • PeterBrown

    You started it here and on You Tube why restrict yourself to 140 characters on Twitter which I have never used and don;t intend to start doing so now?

  • PeterBrown

    At least one person who issued a recording of the incident has been interviewed about the possible commission of a criminal offence – http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/police-quiz-woman-over-the-antigay-claims-that-forced-jim-wells-to-quit-post-31597600.html – draw your own conclusions from that….

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    Because this is Mick’s house and I’m respecting that. Can email me if you really want to discuss it.

  • PeterBrown

    Why does it need respect? What harm can discussing your unambiguous statement that the passage above and here I quote from you You Tube utterances “he equated raising children in homosexual households to abuse and neglect”. That was quite clearly at best inaccurate and at worst untrue / dishonest and has therefore correctly been removed by this site and the Belfast Telegraph but none of that can undo his resignation and apparently unwarranted pillorying in the local and indeed national press based not on his prejudice but that of his critics whose silence including your own has been deafening…

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    And of course you’re entitled to that opinion

  • PeterBrown

    Except it is not a matter of opinion is it – these are now indisputable facts and the continuing deafening silence of those who falsely accused Jim Wells may well support the view of some that before accusing him of being a bigot and pointing out the splinter is his eye they needed to deal with the planks in their own…

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    And again, you’d like to discuss it, belfastbarmanager @gmail.com

  • PeterBrown

    Yes that would be entirely consistent with you publicly and wrongly denouncing Jim – you emailed him privately and didn’t post it all over the internet did you? You know what someone who has different standards for others than they apply to themselves – h_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    And of course you’re entitled to that opinion

  • Croiteir

    No point in not playing the man is there?

  • Croiteir

    Well done Mick – the right thing has been done in setting the story straight. It now seems that Jim was subject to the mob mentality that social media so readily lends itself too just like the furore over child graves in Galway and the Savita case, once it gains momentum people find it hard to say – oops – we were wrong. You still see some here who attack you for correcting the narrative in spite of them seeing the correct transcript in black and white. There really is no hope for some people.

  • PeterBrown

    It is not an opinion it is a fact which despite numerous opportunities none of his critics have chosen to challenge although having now come across this article http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/dups-jim-wells-to-sue-media-outlets-as-sixmonth-nightmare-comes-to-end-34123589.html I now understand your releuctance to come out of hiding – would it not be advisbale to take the You Tube video down now too?

  • PeterBrown

    Indeed – not one retraction or apology anywhere. Looks like Jim might have to wait until the door of the court for those

  • PeterBrown

    Heather the people who released those recordings are now being investigated themselves as can be seen from my links – the uproar in the audience masks his completion of the quote which as noted below is factually accurate and not even homophobic but don’t let that stop you continuing to follow the bigoted mob

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    This is an odd form of “hiding” – as are the 4 pieces I’ve posted in the last 7 days. Also, I’ve no idea what youtube video you’re talking about but I have nothing to take down. You’re really keen to discuss it and I can be reached at belfastbarmanager @gmail.com for further discussion

  • PeterBrown

    You are certainly hiding from the fact that this claim https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZBlpZzuXKA is conclusively disproved by the above transcript something which none of Jim’s accusers have acknowledged at any point since the PPS anouncement (unless it hgappened in the police’s interview of one of them).

    And why would I point out your public lies and dishonesty privately when you did not treat Jim with that courtesy eevn when misrepresenting him (to put it kindly)?

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    Of course you’re entitled to that opinion.