Posted by: ErrorPositiveInfinity | January 25, 2010

‘Rape’ is a loaded word, but Cullen should not be shot

I truly hope reports on the extent of Google’s data retention of web searches are exaggerated, otherwise I may one day be embarrassed by having had to search ‘Cullen rape’ for this little piece.

Over the last few days, there has been a small furore regarding Martin Cullen’s use of the word rape to describe the ordeal suffered by himself and his family due to the accusations that he was having an affair with Monica Lynch, accusations which proved to be false. The exact text of his speech can be found here, and I strongly advise anyone seeking to comment on this issue to read what he actually said before doing so.

Mr. Cullen made it clear during his speech that he was aware that the words he was using were inflammatory, but the Minister obviously felt that they were appropriate to the feelings of violation that he felt during that period, at the abuse of his family such as the bullying his children suffered, and the rumours that floated around his local area.

Mr. Cullen did not have to make that speech and make those comments. In fact, considering that the Irish media and public have long since moved on from this issue, and any PR representative worth their salt would have nixed the idea of reviving it, one can only assume that this what it appears to be: the bitter rant of a hurt man. There is no real reason to doubt Mr. Cullen’s sincerity when he made his remarks as they were planned, give him no discernable political advantage, and were made in a forum comprised mostly of journalists, who would have been very hostile to the Minister’s support for any proposed Privacy Bill (and thus the Minister), and would doubtless be unsympathetic to his frustration.

It’s clear from the context of the Minister’s comments that he was using the word rape not as a physical description, but as a way of expressing his feelings of violation at the intrusion and disruption of his life, the decimation of his personal privacy, and the suffering caused to his family.

In short: It’s clear what he meant; he was using the word ‘rape’ in a common enough usage; he was making a point which should be heard: that untruths printed in the media about public figures cause genuine harm to those people and their families.  Everyone needs to move on from this – there are far more offensive and inappropriate ways to use the word rape, and the Minister’s usage was at worst a little dramatic. It is certainly not a resigning matter.

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