Top of the British news yesterday morning, was another person with a slight claim to fame, saying that their words had been ‘taken out of context.’ The particular words she’d used were a series of racist remarks that she had messaged to a friend.
Setting aside the questions I have about this woman’s judgement on several levels, what struck me is how often that phrase, ‘taken out of context’ is turning up lately. Isn’t it about time we went back to the idea of challenging users of this defence to put their words into a context?
I know some would counter this by saying that to do so provides the user with a wider platform: it is. Call me naïve, but I can’t help thinking that making offensive behaviours a mainstream media topic is a positive action.
Sidestepping arguments in the legitimate media pages is no longer a solution to offensive behaviour. Most of us can access a whole range of public platforms with ease, and, as the majority of these ‘taken out of context’ stories prove, there seem to be few boundaries to that access. Maybe it’s time we re-thought the strategies for dealing with offence.
What seems to be happening in this case is somewhat typical of other situations I’ve noticed: everyone connected to the woman in question has condemned her, but practically in the same breath they’re now arguing over her higher profile partner’s political future. In this way, the focus has shifted from what she said, to will he or won’t he go?
Are you okay with that?
You’ve got to see this. I had such a surprise as I glanced through the blinds of my office window on Saturday evening that I grabbed my camera. Of course, like every other photographer of fairies, I’ve not managed to capture any clear image. Look carefully, though, and you can see three of them on the left hand side of the picture, glowing against the ivy.
What do you mean, no one believes in them any more? These pictures are incontrovertible proof that I saw them. Okay, so I only got three dancers in any shot, and there were about fifteen, but they moved surprisingly fast. Several of my pictures missed them entirely, and their colours have come out as closer to pink than gold…
No, I hadn’t been drinking, though I was still buzzing after a lovely day leading a memoir-writing workshop. I wasn’t looking for fairies either. I haven’t thought about them for years.
I was unpacking my class notes and reflecting on the activities I’d set. I scribbled a few reminders about the adaptations I’d made onto the session-plan, then slotted it back into the folder. It was as I lifted the folder into its space on the shelf that I noticed the glimmer of movement outside the window.
Coincidentally, over the course of the day we’d had some discussions about writing truthful life experiences. There had been questions concerning the reliability of memory, interpretation and partiality.
Perhaps all of the recent furores around ‘false news’ has made us more conscious of the difficulties in providing an account of events that is true. Maybe you’ll need to look closely at these two pictures, but once you do, I think you’ll agree that you can trust me…