How is it that a distinguished Nobel Laureate was completely undone by fourth-hand gossip? Silly tittle-tattle, spread by people who have not achieved one iota of what he has.
It is because Tim Hunt, as an individual, doesn’t really matter; it is “the narrative” which must be preserved at all costs: the narrative that the STEM industry is rife with anti-woman bigotry and it is men like Hunt, who spitefully perpetuate it.
To that end, what a juicy prospect he must have seemed.
This narrative will inform you, with a straight face, that a major scientific figure like Tim Hunt is so filled with misogyny and resentment at having to work alongside female scientists that he willingly risked his entire career just to spew hatred at them. The man is simply bursting with bigotry, apparently.
A similar narrative was at work recently when a fraternity at the University of Virginia was falsely accused of committing a crime of extreme depravity. This story, the invention of a young female fantasist, was gleefully repeated by Rolling Stone magazine and the world’s media, until it was eventually completely discredited and retracted.
The innocent members of that fraternity, however, were just sacrificial lambs to the ignoble narrative: there is a rape epidemic on college campuses.
In my last piece on Tim Hunt I said, “the lessons that can be drawn from this are that the institutions we trust to protect free speech and individual liberty have shown themselves to be pusillanimous in the face of brute force by fanatics, but ordinary people are starting to push back now. Truth will out, eventually.”
Another lesson is that there is endemic political partisanship in the media, which we have to be very aware of (GamerGate originally criticised this in games journalism). We’re not always dealing with honest brokers who report the truth objectively. These are ideologues playing a power game.
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Featured Image Credit: The Remorse of Orestes, where he is surrounded by the Erinyes, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1862 Source: WikiCommons