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"I would like to thank you for dismissing my 22 years' service in Her Majesty's Armed Forces."
November 3, 2009 8:27 AM   Subscribe

In 2007, Moira Cameron, a soldier with a distinguished 22-year military career serving in Northern Ireland and Cyprus, was named Britain's first female Yeoman Warder... a Beefeater. Unfortunately, she has also been the target of sexist workplace harassment by several of her 34 fellow Beefeaters, all of whom are supposedly mature forty+ year old veterans. This has led to two Beefeaters being suspended with an additional Beefeater currently under investigation. Equally unfortunately, Rupert Murdoch's Sun is adding to her humiliation, while Reuters has put the "Ha, ha!" in harassment by filing the story in their "humorous" Oddly Enough category.
posted by markkraft (38 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm not sure why the Sun's gone digital. How do you wrap your fish with it?
posted by klangklangston at 8:43 AM on November 3, 2009 [9 favorites]


Workplace harassment via wikipedia editing.
posted by smackfu at 8:45 AM on November 3, 2009


What other country has so much pomp & circumstance around a tour guide posting?
posted by jeffburdges at 8:45 AM on November 3, 2009


"Workplace harassment via wikipedia editing."

Actually, no. That was just a rumor that the Sun put forth on Monday, which is untrue, and has been denied by the Tower of London's spokespeople.

The Sun has been trying to dredge up the dirty details on this story, but the Tower's people -- quite rightly -- refuse to elaborate on it.

Scotland Yard confirmed Monday that a 56-year-old man had been reprimanded about improper use of the Internet. But again, details were not disclosed... quite rightly.
posted by markkraft at 8:56 AM on November 3, 2009


Why would it be "quite right" to cover up this sort of thing? Workplace harassment is not something that ought to be swept under the rug and hidden as best possible.
posted by explosion at 8:59 AM on November 3, 2009


Why would it be "quite right" to cover up this sort of thing?

It's the cover-up that makes it news. What's the adage? "... everything else is advertising"?
posted by hippybear at 9:03 AM on November 3, 2009


"Why would it be "quite right" to cover up this sort of thing?"

It's an investigation in progress, and, as such, it would be inappropriate -- and potentially damaging -- for them to comment on completely unconfirmed details at this time.

Give them about three weeks to finish their investigation. Sheesh.
posted by markkraft at 9:09 AM on November 3, 2009


The 35 warders, all ex-military personnel, guide visitors around the tourist attraction...

Well, I can see why you wouldn't want women undertaking a grueling job like that. Or disrupting the tight "band of brothers" camaraderie that tour guides have always enjoyed.
posted by PlusDistance at 9:14 AM on November 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


To top it off... the Internet filter at work won't let me get to the Sun's website. It says " Incidental Nudity not allowed".
posted by nimsey lou at 9:15 AM on November 3, 2009


Just get rid of all the ravens in the tower and the monarchy will fall apart. Problem solved!
posted by Scoo at 9:17 AM on November 3, 2009


Obviously, I forgot that most Americans prefer unsubstantiated, potentially damaging and libelous rumors over, say, reality. Let's just say that libel is a big thing over in the UK, as it's the responsibility of the writer to prove that what they said is true.

(This goes some ways to explain why The Sun has lost so many libel cases... they publish a bunch of unsubstantiated gossip, and get nailed for it. In the US, they would simply have to show it wasn't their intent to do harm.)

I mean, the people being investigated for bullying and abusing? They're *still* distinguished veterans and government employees, who are entitled to a fair investigation before they have their careers and reputations trashed.
posted by markkraft at 9:21 AM on November 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


If you keep your eyes open, you start to notice how many times things that are basically assaults on women--child marriages, public abuse, imprisonments and kidnappings, beatings--end up in "News of the Weird" segments.

And then you have the New York Times putting stories about women's rights or issues related to women or feminism in the Style section.

Women: They're Almost Like People!
posted by emjaybee at 9:27 AM on November 3, 2009 [30 favorites]


I'm not sure why the Sun's gone digital. How do you wrap your fish with it?

Well, normally I wouldn't put my fish in contact with that rag, anyway. Maybe on its way out of my digestive system, but not before.
posted by Skeptic at 9:28 AM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Let's just say that libel is a big thing over in the UK, as it's the responsibility of the writer to prove that what they said is true.

Mustn't libel McDonald's!
posted by smackfu at 9:31 AM on November 3, 2009


Obviously, I forgot that most Americans prefer unsubstantiated, potentially damaging and libelous rumors over, say, reality. Let's just say that libel is a big thing over in the UK, as it's the responsibility of the writer to prove that what they said is true.

Yeah, that's working out real well for people like Simon Singh.
posted by kmz at 9:43 AM on November 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


Women: They're Almost Like People!

It's taken years of practice, but we've almost got it! Peoplehood, here we come!
posted by rtha at 9:45 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Mustn't libel McDonald's!"

For those who don't get the reference, here's the case in question. It's basically seen as a textbook case on how BigCo's have tried -- unsuccessfully -- to abuse British libel laws to punish their critics.
posted by markkraft at 9:59 AM on November 3, 2009


These Beefeaters are total hardasses.
A word of advice -do not lock your bike to the fence around the Tower!
posted by Flashman at 10:00 AM on November 3, 2009


It's basically seen as a textbook case on how BigCo's have tried -- unsuccessfully -- to abuse British libel laws to punish their critics.

That's a very optimistic view of it. Is any other non-profit going to take a poke at McDonald's now without a very serious think about it?
posted by smackfu at 10:12 AM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


These Beefeaters are total hardasses.
A word of advice -do not lock your bike to the fence around the Tower!


Total tangent, but I want to hear the story behind this.
posted by AdamCSnider at 10:18 AM on November 3, 2009


Yeah, the McLibel suit is almost the definition of a SLAPP suit.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:20 AM on November 3, 2009


MarkKraft - why do you seem to be flying the flag for UK libel laws, especially as (I think) you're a Brit? They're bloody awful and the sooner we reform them, the better.
posted by rhymer at 10:25 AM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


These Beefeaters are total hardasses.
A word of advice -do not lock your bike to the fence around the Tower!


Before I finished reading that, I was hoping you had tried to lock your bike to one of those chaps who never smiles.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:35 AM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


markkraft: "In 2007, Moira Cameron, a soldier with a distinguished 22-year military career serving in Northern Ireland and Cyprus, was named Britain's first female Yeoman Warder... a Beefeater. Unfortunately, she has also been the target of sexist workplace harassment by several of her 34 fellow Beefeaters, all of whom are supposedly mature forty+ year old veterans. This has led to two Beefeaters being suspended with an additional Beefeater currently under investigation."

Perhaps more than anything else, this post has made me realize that "Beefeater" is really fun to say.

Beefeater, Baffiter, Biffiter. Be feeter!
posted by Rhaomi at 10:51 AM on November 3, 2009


"MarkKraft - why do you seem to be flying the flag for UK libel laws, especially as (I think) you're a Brit? They're bloody awful and the sooner we reform them, the better."

American father, British mother, eligible for dual citizenship, but currently living in America.

While I think the laws should be reformed somewhat, I am also very skeptical about US libel laws, which basically empower FoxNews-style journalism.

There is definitely something gained by British journalism, in that the onus is on them to be more truthful. It's part of what allows British reporters to be such pitbulls, as compared to reporters in the US. Dishonest pitbulls aren't allowed to ask questions, and oftentimes gravitate towards extreme partisanship, which feeds the FoxNews style of "journalism".

I would hate to see Britain go in that direction, although I suspect it will. Basically, there will be a lot of Conservative "reforms" that will increase the power of Murdoch's media sources to lie to the British people, while weakening the BBC.

Yes, I think it's bad that occasionally, someone who is a worthy advocate for the consumer but not very precise about their wording gets targeted by a BigCo. That's extremely unfortunate, even though it oftentimes backfires on the company in question. However, you have to keep in mind... news sources lie to you every day.

It's hard for me to say that allowing them to knowingly lie and distort with impunity is the price that should be paid in order to make sure that those few we support whose words aren't verifiably correct don't fall prey to the same laws.

British society needs to find ways of modernizing, without falling victim to the same "laissez-faire" traps we see in the US. Oftentimes, a hands-off approach is just another word for abdication of responsibility.
posted by markkraft at 11:07 AM on November 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


Beefeater? Seriously?
posted by elder18 at 11:45 AM on November 3, 2009


It is funny that here in Britain libel in the press is is 'jumped upon', yet one in three teachers claim they have been falsely accused of wrong-doing and many are sacked even after the police drop the case.
posted by Megami at 11:50 AM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


As a footnote, I have written elsewhere on MeFi how Britain, by going Conservative, is going to empower the FoxNewsization of their own media.

The fact is, I see a *LOT* of criticism against British libel laws in Murdoch's nedia sources. And the thing is, a lot of it isn't what I would consider constructive criticism, where you point a problem and suggest reasonable solutions. I see, instead, highly partisan criticism. Attack criticism. What I would ultimately describe as *destructive* criticism.

Scrap the laws. Deregulate. Move away from corporate or social responsibility. Very conservative ideas, really. And ultimately, when you look behind the faux-Blair facade, that's exactly what you see with Cameron. Thatcherism's destructive deregulation and privatization, essentially, combined with the same kind of vague, balanced, unthreatening promises that Thatcher once made, about not hurting workers, schoolchildren, or those who were sick.

The British people look at articles critical of healthcare and usually see them as either constructive criticism or partisan criticism, but rarely ever as *destructive* criticism, because the fact is, despite regular criticism of health care's problems, it's very popular and something the British people have overwhelmingly chosen and benefited from, to the point that no political leader could afford advocating that it be scrapped entirely.

They *don't* seem to have a firsthand point-of-view of their own libel law in the same way, however, as most of them were never the ones libeled, nor do they view British newspapers losing libel suits as a victory for truth, and to the overall level of truth out there that ultimately benefits them and their ability to live in a free society.

So, the most frequent, visible manifestation of libel law is overlooked, while the extreme cases get plenty of destructive criticism.

The fact is, if the British people didn't have firsthand experience with their public health service, and faced the same withering criticism day after day, then they'd probably want to do away with it as well.

A day will come, though, when the British might wish they had libel protections themselves... or merely a media that hews more closely to real news stories and veriable facts.
posted by markkraft at 12:43 PM on November 3, 2009


"this post has made me realize that "Beefeater" is really fun to say.

And at 94 proof, it's even more fun to drink!
posted by markkraft at 1:25 PM on November 3, 2009


To top it off... the Internet filter at work won't let me get to the Sun's website. It says " Incidental Nudity not allowed".

Well, I guess 'nudity' could be one complaint against browsing the steaming bucket of ass that is Sun...
posted by FatherDagon at 1:59 PM on November 3, 2009


Obviously, I forgot that most Americans prefer unsubstantiated, potentially damaging and libelous rumors over, say, reality. Let's just say that libel is a big thing over in the UK, as it's the responsibility of the writer to prove that what they said is true.

I prefer that civil rights activists attempting to publicise the actions of corrupt and vindictive police officials should have their ability to do so strongly protected, even at the risk that they may exaggerate or distort their claims, certainly. Public officials/persons, due to the very nature of their roles, have far greater powers of recourse than private citizens and, given their power and prominence not only to expect but are owed greater scrutiny of their actions.
posted by Diablevert at 3:15 PM on November 3, 2009


These Beefeaters are total hardasses.
A word of advice -do not lock your bike to the fence around the Tower!

Total tangent, but I want to hear the story behind this.


Not too exciting but anyway: I used to work in St. Katharine Docks, right across the road from the tower. One evening we went ice skating at the outdoor rink they put up in the moat in the winter, so I locked my bike to a handy iron fence by the river. So, we went to the pub afterwards (as you do!), and much much later I returned to discover that a huge gate had been closed, blocking access to the riverfront. Of course in my drunken state I considered all the options, which boiled down to me hand-over-handing down a chain to the river, traversing the mudflat and then climbing back up the wall, but eventually resigned myself to the potential risks of this might entail, and walked home.
Anyway, walked in the next morning to see my bike still there just as one of the Beefeaters was about to take some boltcutters to my lock. Basically I just got a big chewing out for this offense to Her Majesty's property, and trespass on this private property, which I learned it is - one of the few blockages in the public right of way along the Thames.
posted by Flashman at 3:28 PM on November 3, 2009


"I prefer that civil rights activists attempting to publicise the actions of corrupt and vindictive police officials should have their ability to do so strongly protected, even at the risk that they may exaggerate or distort their claims, certainly. Public officials/persons, due to the very nature of their roles, have far greater powers of recourse than private citizens and, given their power and prominence not only to expect but are owed greater scrutiny of their actions."

Indeed. But it shouldn't be an either/or situation.

99% of what is needed is a simple modification to the law, which states that private citizens are immune from libel laws, so long as it cannot be reasonably shown that there was intent to libel and significant evidence of harm.

Basically, private citizens should get the kind of protection from libel that the US media gets every day.
posted by markkraft at 6:37 PM on November 3, 2009


As a side-story, I have to admit that I have always had an appreciation for the Yeomenpeople of the Guard and what they do, dating back to a very early story of mine.

When I was about five, I went with my mother to visit my grandparents for a few months. During the course of all that, we visited the Tower of London... where I basically got lost while my mother wasn't looking, giving everyone a rather good fright.

Apparently, I went right up to a Beefeater and demanded to see the Queen.

(Didn't work, btw. I did, however, get a more private tour than most people would expect, and got reconnected with my mother again.)
posted by markkraft at 7:43 PM on November 3, 2009


Why would it be "quite right" to cover up this sort of thing? Workplace harassment is not something that ought to be swept under the rug and hidden as best possible.

Are you OK with continued employment being a matter of trial-by-media-mob rather than proper investigation of claims of improper behaviour?
posted by rodgerd at 11:21 PM on November 3, 2009


99% of what is needed is a simple modification to the law, which states that private citizens are immune from libel laws, so long as it cannot be reasonably shown that there was intent to libel and significant evidence of harm.

Wait, what? You have lost me entirely. You want private citizens to be as strongly protected from libel claims as the media is? But earlier in the thread you were complaining that the strong protection of freedom of speech under US law enabled the Fox News-ization of the media establishment and that it was better that writers should have to prove what they were stating was true as they do in Britain.

As it stands now, for a public figure to sue a media organization for libel in the US is damn difficult, as they have to prove not just that what was published was false factual information (not just opinion or criticism) , that the publisher knew or ought to have know that it was false and published it anyway, and further, that what was published caused verifiable, material damage to them. This is a very, very high bar, but it is generally held that the need to expose corruption and other harms is so valuable that one should be able to publish as freely as possible, even at the risk that someone's reputation might be damaged, rather than have free speech chilled and corruption, etc. go unreported.

For a private citizen to sue for libel the bar is much lower ---- they merely have to prove that what was published was false factual information and that there was negligence on the part of the publisher in not sufficiently verifying the truth of the info before publishing it.

So in terms of private citizens being able to sue, the bar's already a lot lower. But you seem to be saying that private citizens should not be able to be sued --- which, I dunno how that relates to the Fox News thing --- but either way I don't follow, because anyone who writes something down and and shows it to other people is subject to libel laws. You can be sued for libel for what you write in a letter or a chat room or on a billboard. Media organizations have the most to fear from libel, because you can cause a lot more damage to someone's reputation when what you write is seen or heard by hundreds or thousands of people rather than just a few dozen. But if you're sued over your IRC post by a public figure, than all the same tests apply to you as they would to NBC.
posted by Diablevert at 6:01 AM on November 4, 2009


"You want private citizens to be as strongly protected from libel claims as the media is? But earlier in the thread you were complaining that the strong protection of freedom of speech under US law enabled the Fox News-ization of the media establishment and that it was better that writers should have to prove what they were stating was true as they do in Britain."

Private citizens and not-for-profit bloggers are *NOT* the same as professional journalists, nor do they have the same reach or cause the same scale of damage when they libel.

So yes, the standards for what constitutes libel *should* be less stringent for private citizens than for professional journalists, just as the standards for what constitutes invasion of privacy are lower for private citizens as opposed to celebrities or public figures.

It protects freedom of speech for the vast majority of people, which I think most view as essential. And no, I'm not saying that private citizens cannot be sued for libel. Rather, that libel laws for private citizens be very similar to that of libel laws for citizens in the US... some of whom do, occasionally, lose libel cases.
posted by markkraft at 7:23 AM on November 4, 2009


"You want private citizens to be as strongly protected from libel claims as the media is?"

To clarify, I want libel laws for the British media to be very much the same, so that they can still be held accountable to the truth.

Only libel laws for private citizens should be substantially changed, as right now, libel law is so strict in Britain as to allow for abusive lawsuits from moneyed interests, with the goal of silencing public criticism.
posted by markkraft at 7:45 AM on November 4, 2009


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