An exchange with Ally Fogg (Guardian journalist)

A little over four hours ago I emailed a letter to Ally Fogg, a journalist with the Guardian, with a request. I had no intention of putting it into the public arena, but Ally is happy that I do so:

131022 a request to Ally Fogg

Ally responded with the following, and shortly afterwards accepted my suggestion that I publish both my letter and his response (below), for which I thank him. It would have taken him considerably less time and effort to publicly challenge the three feminists I referred to in my letter, which simply reinforces my point about the media being disinclined (with rare exceptions) to challenge feminists on their misleading statements. I’ve indented a paragraph which gave me particular pleasure.

Dear Mike,

Every day I read things that are not true. Our newspapers are full of things
that are not true. Our politicians say things that are not true. People write
me letters and emails telling me things that are not true.

For example, your letter to me, after a preamble and quoting my words at
length, begins:

‘We live in an era when the EU has announced its intention to introduce
legislation to ban anti-feminist speech, a matter not mentioned by any major
news outlet in the UK to the best of my knowledge.’

The reason this has not been mentioned in any major new outlet is because it is
not true. It is not just slightly  factually mistaken, it is palpably,
unequivocally 100% false. The EU has made no such announcement. The EU does not
have the legal power to prescribe domestic law on areas such as hate speech to
nation states, even if it wanted to – and there is no evidence that it does
want to.

What the article on A Voice For Men describes is a document prepared by an NGO
called the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation – which has no
authority whatsoever  – who have submitted it to the European Parliament
Civil Liberties Committee (which itself has no meaningful authority whatsoever)
and if you read the actual document, it amounts to suggestions to nation states
as to what laws they might want to pass against hate speech. I can find no
evidence that the European Parliament Civil Liberties Committee plans to do
anything with it. You really shouldn’t believe everything you read on the
internet, you know.

You go on to say:

‘You must surely be aware of how feminist-friendly the British media
are.’

No. I am not. The Guardian is certainly very feminist-friendly, as is the
Independent. They have, between them, fewer than 300,000 daily circulation.

The Daily Mail and the Sun between them have around 4 million. The Evening
Standard, the Telegraph, the Star, the Express and the Times have another two
and a half million or so between them. For every column with a vaguely feminist
tint by Suzanne Moore or even Janet Street Porter, there are the dozens of
 columns by Richard Littlejohn, Melanie Phillips, James Delingpole, Peter Oborne
 etc etc etc.

This does not begin to address the point that the great bulk of news coverage –
on issues such as family policy, female celebrities, coverage of crime,
coverage of economic and political matters in the vast majority of British
media is not what anyone could call feminist friendly.

You ask, ‘Is it not one of the duties of the media to challenge prominent
figures who make ‘unequivocally, demonstrably false claims?’

Yes, it should be. And the more important the claim, and prominent the figure,
the more important it is that they are challenged. When we look at the
downright falsehoods uttered almost daily by Iain Duncan Smith about benefits
claimants, by Michael Gove about schools; the utter falsehoods about the EU
that regularly appear on the front pages of the Mail and the Express; about
immigration and asylum seekers by the Sun and the Star, we should all be deeply
concerned. These lies and falsehoods have a major and damaging impact on our
political culture and democracy, and in some cases create real and often
horrific hardship for vulnerable individuals.

In comparison to the above, whether or not the (with all due respect to her) almost entirely obscure and powerless feminist Caroline Criado-Perez is accurate in what she says about the impacts of women on the boards of companies
strikes me as almost entirely trivial.

Quite a large proportion of my output as a writer is devoted to challenging or
correcting falsehoods and mistakes on issues of gender that circulate in the
media. Those include falsehoods and mistakes propagated by feminists,  by
men’s rights activists, and by those such as Hanna Rosin who float somewhere
between. I actively support and champion projects such as fullfact.org which
 are devoted full time to correcting the innumerable mistakes and falsehoods in
the political and media realm. I don’t need any prompts, challenges or
‘requests’ to challenge any specific writers or campaigners, I have a
 whole media smorgasbord to choose from on any given day of the week if  I
so choose.

I certainly don’t need advice to pick out feminists as being uniquely dishonest
or untrustworthy. When compared to the shameless mendacity and full-blown
 propaganda of the corporate right wing media, feminist activists and
journalists are, frankly, small beer. To single out feminists would be to imply
that feminists are uniquely guilty of dishonesty or inaccuracy and that would
be, ironically enough, both dishonest and inaccurate.

So the answer to your request is no. In the meantime, if you are really
concerned about truth and accuracy, you might want to consider issuing one of
your ‘public challenges’ (or indeed ‘requests’) to A Voice
for Men to demand that they delete their entirely false claim that the EU
intends to introduce legislation to ban anti-feminist speech.

You are very welcome to publish both your letter to me and this response,
should you have the decency.  In the meantime, I don’t intend to continue
our correspondence in any serious way. I find that in order to have a sensible
conversation with you, I have to spend a good few minutes correcting the
innumerable mistakes and falsehoods in everything you write, and to be honest,
I have more important things to do with my time.

All the best

Ally

About Mike Buchanan

I'm a men's human rights advocate, writer, and publisher. My primary focus is leading the political party I launched in 2013, Justice for Men & Boys (and the women who love them). I still work actively on two campaigns I launched in early 2012, Campaign for Merit in Business and the Anti-Feminism League. In 2014 I launched The Alternative Sexism Project, aiming to raise public understanding that the sexism faced by men and boys has far more grievous consequences than the sexism faced by women and girls.
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  • Nick diPerna

    I agree with the points regarding accuracy – you don’t want to see the ‘manosphere’ turn as bad as the opposition.

    The Guardian may have low circulation compared to others, but Ally forgets to mention that it is the most popular paper for those who control our lives, whether being university administrations, various public bodies and charities, or the BBC. His “corporate right wing media” often mirrors the centre-left on gender issues and has limited impact on public policy.

    The “almost entirely obscure and powerless feminist Caroline Criado-Perez” appears almost everyday in my local paper and had lots of exposure in the national press – far more than J4MB to date. He clearly prefers dishonest feminists to ‘intolerant’ middle-Englanders.

    What Ally Fogg is really saying is that “in order to have a sensible conversation” with him, you need to join his crusade against the plutocracy, whatever that is…

  • As managing editor at AVfM I take it very seriously if we are accused of getting a story wrong. Not being an expert on the EU I am dependent on others in that area to inform me what is going on. If we have misreported we need to do a correction.

    • And in case I wasn’t clear about that, it means I’ll be doing an investigation.

  • Upon investigation I find that Fogg is correct and our reporting on this matter was misleading. There references were there but the description of what was happening was hyperbolic. We will be addressing this and I thank him for bringing it to our attention.

    • That should have read “The references in the document were given properly but the descriptions were misleading.”

      The story is being pulled and a correction will be issued.