Hate crimes, hypocrisy and political fiction

Hate crimes, hypocrisy and political fiction

What is Hate Crime?

‘Hate’ is a horrible word. I remember as a child (circa 1960s) my mother’s wise advice. ‘Never use that word, Louise.’

It’s easy to get into unintended provocative speech habits without noticing it, so she had a good point. For example, ‘You don’t hate carrots, you just don’t like them.’

But can you make the emotion of hatred into a violation of the law? If so, is it indeed smart to do so?

Hate Crime has been around in the UK since the Public Order Act of 1986. But the Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2006, which seemed a reasonable idea to trial, is when it really took off. But has it worked in getting us to respect one another well enough to consider extending it even further? Some believe it is a step in the right direction. There are others who believe it’s counterproductive.

Critics of Hate Crime argue legislation has done the opposite of what it was designed to do. They claim anti-hate laws have provoked a culture of victimhood, damaged freedom of speech, wasted police time, and created massive confusion. It has done little more than to make us all into a bunch of hypocrites: thinking something, saying another, and led to a more divided society than before.

Extremism as a topic of political fiction

I cover these issues in my novels. In my book The Missing Activist Met Detective ‘Quacker’ Partridge is dead set against extending hate crime to misogyny. The Killing of the Cherrywood MP covers hate crime generated by growing local tensions between two diametrically opposed societies: The Far Right and the Muslim extremists.

As a crime novelist, writing about two-faced smiling assassin characters is part of the stock in trade. Like the owl, Machiavellians probe beneath the surface, manipulating the art of hate. Thoughts, please.


What happens when you grass on someone at work?

What happens when you grass on someone at work?

the Missing Activist by Louise Burfitt-Dons ISBN 9780953852284

He’s grassed. Now he’s missing. Is there a connection?

The news that a culture of bullying pervades the NHS and stories of surgeons throwing scalpels and bawling out interns is quite alarming. Patients are also in the firing line. The sentencing of Ian Paterson, jailed for 15 years after carrying out unnecessary cancer operations, highlighted the safety risks on the public when junior medical staff are too intimidated to report poor practice.

So why’s it happening? In traditional societies and equivalent organisations, there’s  the belief that the boss is God. The aviation industry got on to the downside of this attitude years ago following fatal air crashes deemed avoidable had the crew been able to “talk back” to their captain to warn him of a poor decision in-flight. Safety records improved immediately. But in 2013, after the Korean Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco, speculation was made that the prang, which cost lives and hundreds of injuries, was down to a same-same command issue. The Korean mindset.

In an article of the time by Heesun Wee for CBBC, he quoted Thomas Kochan, a professor at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as saying, ‘The Korean culture has two features—respect for seniority and age,  and quite an authoritarian style. You put those two together, and you may get more one-way communication—and not a lot of it upward.’

Understood. But it’s a fine line between ditching the hierarchical structure to avoid bullying and save lives and preserving it to maintain discipline and save lives. Yesterday the BBC One Show ran the story of surgeons taking to their bikes to raise awareness amongst trainees on how to cope with an operating theatre prima donna’s rant for the #LetsCycleIt and #LetsRemoveIt. The same day we also heard from an emergency worker how staff now “expected” to be assaulted by the ungrateful, drugged-up or drunk public, while going about their highly honourable business of trying to save lives.

There are no easy fixes to this predicament. These campaigns are great. Talking about it helps, as does writing about it. In The Missing Activist, a young Tory campaigner disappears in London after lodging a complaint: he’s been bullied by a senior member of the party. He fears for his long-term dream of a career in politics. But when our heroine Karen Andersen tries to investigate, she’s obstructed at every turn as senior echelons close ranks to protect Party interests. Sound familiar? The moral question is, should he ever challenged the authority in the first place?

As someone who’s been speaking on this subject for early twenty years since I set up Act Against Bullying, it’s a question nearly everyone grapples with in one form or another every single day. They live in fear of the Kurdaitcha. Whether to stay schtum or sing out? Is a grass sneak or saviour? I’ll leave it to you to judge.



Five Fast Facts: Act Against Bullying

Five Fast Facts: Act Against Bullying


Act Against Bullying is a set of monologues I researched in 2000 and first published in 2002. It was the reason for me setting up Act Against Bullying as a charity. They’ve been used in schools as a means of discussing the awkward situations which can lead on to serious bullying.  Recently I’ve updated them to include cyberbullying, sexting and parental abuse. I’ve researched, written broadcast on bullying for a range of media as listed on my site.

During school years, bullying is one of the most common expressions of violence in the peer context. The common definition is  ‘aggressive, intentional acts carried out by a group or an individual repeatedly and over time against a victim who cannot easily defend him- or herself’. The relevant criteria are (1) repetition (2) intentionality and (3) an imbalance of power. Or systematic abuse of power by peers.  Imbalance of power can be derived from physical strength, social status in the group, or from group size (e.g. a group targeting a single person). Or knowing and exploiting a person’s vulnerabilities (e.g. appearance, learning problem, family situation) to harm him or her. It is recognised globally as a complex and serious problem which is why I wrote the Act Against Bullying monologues.

Friendships are either unilateral (one-sided )or reciprocal or somewhere in between the two categories. Recent studies show loneliness increases as friendship quality decreases. (i.e the adolescent received a friendship nomination but did not reciprocate that nomination) and/or a lower quality of best friendship. These findings (a) indicate that loneliness is negatively related to the number of friends adolescents have, as perceived by themselves and their peers and (b) suggest that, once a friendship is established, lonely adolescents may interpret the friendship quality less positively compared to their friends.  In Act Against Bullying, many of the monologues centre on that feeling of loneliness and this is often related to peer-based group bullying.

Before I wrote Act Against Bullying, I did my own research. I mostly spoke with children aged between 7 and 13. Bullying peaks during middle school years (i.e. 12–15 years), and tends to decrease by the end of high school. Boys and girls bully in different ways. Between boys, it is more likely to be physical. Bullying among girls is more relational, such as manipulating friendships and extending feuds.

Bullying research started more than forty years ago when it was recognised as a major problem. The focus on anti-bullying interventions is significant and shows  programmes are often effective, reaching an average decrease of 20–23% for bullying others and of 17–20% for being bullied. It seems peer witnesses’ responses are crucial to either inhibit or fuel bullying. So some of the highly effective programmes are focused on enhancing bystanders’ awareness, empathy and self-efficacy to support victimised peers, instead of reinforcing the bullies’ behaviour. This is where programmes using the Act Against Bullying monologues are so useful.

Moderating Feminism: The Past The Now and What Comes Next

Has feminism produced the goods for women or not? Do the Men’s Rights Movement, who now also claim discrimination, have a point? Why do feminists not agree among themselves on abortion, pornography, or the burka?

I’ve been delving into this subject for years, and now you can read my own account of how I think feminism has to update.

In this Ebook Moderating Feminism, I started with a look from the beginning, so the first section is a broad-based history from Elizabethan times to today’s feminist events. A hundred years ago women’s rights were mostly concerned with girls education, votes and work opportunities. Today Western feminism is more inclined towards identity and the blame culture than anything else.

This is my account of how that change came about and why.

In it I’ve also covered many of the contradictions from why liberated women still shop for shoes to the aggressive tone of radicals advocating women as peace lovers. In her work The Feminine Mystique Betty Friedan called out the boredom of suburbia, but today we have University educated girls slipping back to the past by wanting to become subservient Jihadi brides.

Then there’s the relevance debate. There is little sympathy for radical feminists pushing an anti-male agenda. It’s viewed as lopsided, hypocritical and unrealistic.Today tens of millions of professional women occupy top jobs. So much so that birth rates have plummeted and single living by choice is the norm. But the success stories are only a fraction of the complete picture, with most women leading and wanting more modest traditional lives. The challenges waiting in the wings too are many, from imposing Sharia law and its implications on modern women to the girl alone in the street more at risk than ever in an increasingly violent modern society.

So is it possible to moderate feminism? This is what this book is about. At the end, I’ve outlined my philosophy. If you enjoy my blog Common Sense Feminism, you may well agree with some of my suggestions.  Read Five Fast Facts