Below The Belt



The Guardian trawled through 70 million comments and found that, of the newspaper’s 10 most abused writers – in the comments section – eight were women and two were black men.

The 10 writers who received the least abuse were all men.

Further to this, Una Mullally wrote about the matter in today’s Irish Times

Una writes:

The vitriol that women and minorities experience online is anecdotally obvious, but now we have the data. Perhaps finally, news organisations will wake up to how the scale and scales of abuse are tipped towards women and minorities.

The bigger picture also calls into question the value of comment sections at all. Whatever the motivations for the Guardian study, what it shows is something any journalist who is not male, straight, white, or all three already knew, but that was often undermined by their male, straight, white, peers.

Women get more flack because they are female. That doesn’t mean that male journalists never get abuse, but the motivation for that abuse is different.

Gendered abuse or criticism is not as obvious as “I hate this article because you’re a woman”. It is more insidious than that. Male journalists are often criticised for the opinions they hold, whereas women are often criticised just for holding opinions.

…Where is the value in making potential comment posters and readers angry and annoyed when they go below the line? The authors of articles are not the only victims of abuse, but also other comment posters who go up against the most domineering comment posters.

Comment sections as they currently exist have failed. Instead of fostering intelligent debate, they are taken over by ranters and ravers. Instead of adding value for the reader, they detract from the reading experience.

Instead of representing alternative points of view, they are specifically hateful of women and minorities. In an industry obsessed with what its readership wants, the tail has ended up wagging the dog.


Una Mullally: No Comment (Irish Times)

The dark side of Guardian comments (The Guardian)

142 thoughts on “Below The Belt

    1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

      Then why do people post comments that are about her gender?

        1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

          Those people are the point of her piece and the guardian pieces

    2. Chris

      Una is a good writer. A pain in the swiss? Seriously you Neanderthal, I’m surprised you can even read if that’s the depth of your contribution given what she had to say.

  1. Daddy Wilson

    Ah lads, una gets an awful lot of flack. You know she’s not popular here, why bring more abuse to her door

    1. classter

      I guess Una would say that she does not want to retreat in the face of misogynistic bullies. So not linking to her argument because ‘she’s not popular’ would prove her point.

  2. rob

    Agree – the best things that trolls could do is ignore her. I’d say that would piss her off much more than critical comments. I get the sense that Una revels in the attention. Again, nothing to do with her being female.

  3. Harry Molloy

    The Guardian survey is rather worrying. And it is true,that a lot of the comments under Mulally’s articles are probably from angry white men which is wrong.

    But the majority are there due to her awful awful articles and her piss poor logic. And her hate and contempt for men.

    1. classter

      The Guardian article is worrying.

      I do wonder though what proportion of articles by women are about ‘women’s issue’ and what proportion of articles by minorities are about ‘minorities’ issues’

      Maybe in a roundabout way, the Guardian has exposed how it patronises & uses as click-bait women & minorities.

      Or (sadly more likely) it shows what Una thinks it shows.

    1. ⓕⓐⓘⓡⓐⓣⓜⓔⓜⓔⓢ

      Yep and available to hire for reasonable rates. Just ask Glorious Leader Putin.

      1. MoyestWithExcitement

        We’ll see. Please, continue explaining how the abuse is awful but Una really deserves it.

        1. rotide

          Every comment so far has explained that Una’s opinion is awful.

          Whatever else you imagined is just that, imagined.

          But continue to demonstrate everything that is wrong with comment sections.

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            OK. Folks, above me is the ramblings of a delusional troll who confuses his emotions directory objective reality. Avoid reading his posts if you regard comments sections as important for some reason.

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            I prefer that to your usual routine of following me around and biting my ankles, Troll.

          3. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            But that’s the point no? Her opinion may be awful but why is she called (insert gendered expletive) when say Julian isn’t despite everyone on here hating him?

          4. Goosey Lucy

            I think Julian gets his (IMO generally fairly due) share of abuse for his flawed logic or arguments that aren’t backed up with facts.
            She v rarely (IM humble opinion) has anything resembling logic, more usually it’s a rant.

          5. rotide

            Julien is called a lot of names here Don, what are you talking about?

            Anne Marie also comes in for criticism, as does Frilly. None of them are ever called genitalia. Actually Mercille probably has been called something similar.

          6. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            I’m saying that women get a certain type of commentary men don’t. Read any of the BS articles that we had about articles she had written and compare that to what Julian gets. Not the same at all.

          7. rotide

            Well as Harry mentioned above, nearly every article that gets x-posted to broadsheet is ABOUT gender in some way. Mercille’s generally aren’t

          8. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            So you seem to be saying because an article is about gender, the author should receive unrelated comments about her gender rather than a critique of her argument? That’s not right and you know it. And it doesn”t even need to be about gender to get the type of comments being discussed.

          9. Nigel

            They haven’t explained, and they generally don’t, they just assert that it is. That’s fine, obviously, but it ain’t substantive criticism. And at least one comment said she probably loves the abuse and had to people agreeing with them! Yay!

  4. Willie Banjo

    Is it me or is the Irish Times trolling its readership more and more? Many of its opinion pieces (eg most on 1916) seem crafted to incite a response and draw in angry clickers. Must be good for the website metrics.

    Thank Jeebus that Broadsheet would never stoop so high.

    1. bruce01

      Good point, used to comment there but when you know it’s a desired response it makes it undesirable to do. Anyway, all good comment sections and boards require serious (nearly professional) moderation. Happens here a bit, though again i agree about all this rte plugging and ljg nonsense which reduces the appetite somewhat…

  5. Himself.

    Funny that The Guardian doesn’t share her position and didn’t decide comment sections had failed but that they need to be moderated more stringently according to community guidelines.

    This is just reactionary tosh dressed up as a equality lark and masquerading as provocative thought leading. It’s just ill thought out, last minute keyboard jockeying.

    “A taxi driver said a racist thing once to me, ergo free speech and taxis have failed” is the logic of her position.

    What next? Call’s for Twitter and Facebook to be banned so we are all subjected to the constant parochial visions of Ireland’s sanctioned writers and licensed opinion mongers?

    No thanks.

    1. sendog

      This is precisely what the establishment wants. To stifle and usurp the internet. From encryption through to CIPA through to this Journalists illogical conclusion. The emperor has no clothes.

      There is an invented moral panic within the newspaper industry in regards the internat. they cannot adapt so they go on the attack. Una’s opinion is no more valid then a rant on her sites comment section and she doesn’t like that.

      1. Cromuel

        Umm, you think the kind of boys who automatically comment on a woman’s appearance or their delusional fantasies of doing her violence are non-establishment?

        1. sendog

          Una wants to close comments sections. A tad reactionary one might conclude?
          Instead of reasoned solutions like increased moderation.

          Una’s piece is arrogant and reactionary. Traits of a dying industry.
          It wasnt long ago that the IT wanted to charge people for linking to their website!

          Whatever about sexism articles like this are a symptom of an old order losing control.

          1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            Calling someone a stupid c-word for having an opinion is an anti-establishment political statement now?

          2. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            They haven’t here right now but that’s not what I’m talking about.

      2. DeSelby

        It’s true, she read the article, but has cherry picked from it. I read this piece during the week, and drew very different conclusions. The Guardian journalists themselves overall were very in favour of comments, and were happy with the type of moderation that the Guardian initiated.

        Una’s interpretation is self serving. This is understandable in some ways, she does get a lot of flak… justified or not.

        The Irish Times is a relic that despises new media, they wish it would just go away. I have spoken to one “technology” journalist from the paper and ended in a heated row on this very topic… his attitude was gobsmackingly old world given his title.

        1. DeSelby

          Also I meant to say… if this was the Guardian site. At least 50% of the comments here would be removed :)

          1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            There would be no comments section here of the same rules applied!

    2. MoyestWithExcitement

      Good man, Meaty. Abusing people on the Internet is a right that nobody should take away from you.

      1. sendog

        lol! You point out the flawed logic in Una’s conclusions and get abuse for it!
        Give up now. Una is 100% correct and we should just agree with everything she says. /s

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          Yes yes. Your emotional whining is really an erudite analysis of this woman’s work. You’re really important and we should all listen to what you have to say. Do you have any pamphlets?

          1. sendog

            what exactly is your point?

            Both of your comments attacked the man and not the ball.

            Comments sections need more moderation. This is not new. Una’s solution is to ban them. Its illogical.
            Yet pointing that out has resulted in name calling and baiting from you.

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            Yes. Banning. ‘I question their value in their current form’ definitely means she’s calling for a ban and you’re definitely not proving her right with your not at all hysterical reaction to those words.

          3. sendog

            ah here! are you really going to feign naivety?

            Social marketing is a subtle paradigm. People in positions of power don’t just issue decrees. They engineer perceptions over a period of time. The narrative leads to the end result. The thin end on the wedge.

          4. MoyestWithExcitement

            All I’m seeing here is some hermit actually admit that comments sections are very important for his ego.

          5. sendog

            another meaningless jibe.

            what exactly is your point again?

            Her opinions and conclusions have no basis in objective logic. There is a problem with comments and the solution is more moderation not their abolition. That is reactionary. A reasoned and balanced solution is available.

            Also love and compassion for her detractors is surely the best way to reduce sexism and inequality. Education is the key, closing the door is not.

          6. Nigel

            1. Did she call for their abolition? How would that even work?
            2. Moderation is brilliant and a well-moderated community is a joy, but reassuring people who bear the brunt of abuse that moderation is the solution is bound to draw a skeptical response. If there were a choice between moderating and closing down I suspect a lot if places would end up closed down.

  6. ceo

    Comments on the Indo are the best. I can nearly guess what they are going to be as easy as I can shop in Aldi (ANY Aldi), blindfolded, and still put the same stuff in my trolley.

    I heart Aldi.

      1. Paul Wall

        Well why didn’t you say! Of course, this is just fine. In fact it doesn’t even count as trolling. Carry on.

  7. jon

    Una Mullally writes something good once in a while. She also writes a fair bit of total drivel, some of it borderline offensive.

    There needs to be a distinction drawn between legitimate criticism of a weak article and mindless sneering. Having said that, some of the treatment she gets from commenters is a disgrace and totally reprehensible.

        1. rotide

          It’s War and Peace compared to your posts.

          (quick note, I’m getting in the Ad Hominiem stuff before you start. Feel free to look that up and refresh yourself as to what it means)

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            Sssh. Go back to ignoring me like you said you wre doing 5 minutes ago, Troll.

  8. jambon

    It is hateful, and those Guardian figures are chilling. Una is still an awful person though.

  9. Tony

    Una attracts exactly the same amount of hate she espouses. Its Karma. No-one else would get away with her bile, but its the IT, so folk assume its ok.

  10. ivan

    It’s also worth saying, however, that the kind of people who write abusive stuff about Una, or Polly Toynbee or whoever, are the kind of people who think that commenting on a newspaper piece is “worth” it. Yes yes yes, I get the irony of commenting here, but commenting here is largely (Dan and AnneMarie are some of the few exceptions) on content sourced elsewhere.

    In other words, and this isn’t to belittle the problem of online nastiness, (and it’s obviously of sod-all consolation) as a percentage of the opinions of the 70million abusive comments (or whatever the number is) if online commenting was made mandatory, I’m sure the nice people would outnumber the abusive.

    It’s the same logic as not taking seriously a Sky News online poll; y’know….54% of people who could be a*sed said hanging should be re-introduced.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      I think the point here is not so much about the abuse but about the mindset of the trolls that criticise her. They think they’re just criticising her for her “awful articlesband piss poor logic” but really they’re just emotional bigots when title consider that most of the recipients of this “criticism” are women and black guys.

  11. bisted

    …Una seems to have broken into that male dominated realm of contrarians in the print media…

  12. Custo

    The results of the Guardian piece are skewed because Most of the proper articles on the Guardian aren’t available for comment. Most of the “comment is free” articles are troll bait like The Walking Dead failing the Bechdel Test and “how to make toast”.

    1. eoghan

      The Guardian comment section has become disappointingly guarded in recent times.
      The whole paper has gone downhill significantly to be fair.

      1. Bonkers

        They were pretty good with the Panama Papers and the phone tapping antics of Murdochs News Corps before that. Wikileaks before that too. They’re one of the few media outlets who still invest heavily in proper investigative journalism to be fair.

        1. f_lawless

          are you mad Bonkers? haven’t you been noticing the increased Putin-bashing that goes on at the Guardian. The skewed way in which the broke the Panama papers was just the latest episode in that.
          On another point, I get the impression that their method of analysis for “abusive comments” towards the author was highly flawed as many commenters on this article have pointed out (see responses to ‘Guardian Pick’ ) .

  13. sendog

    looks to me that Una has turned into the the very thing she started out hating… the establishment.

  14. Christopher

    I ignore Una as much as possible and haven’t heard her name in a while so thanks for that Broadsheet!

  15. Junkface

    What an interesting experiment about comment sections. Ha ha…Look, if people really want a respectful debate then they should do it in person, its much more enjoyable, its rarely possible online. The average online commenter is a nasty troll, I wouldnt have much faith in humanity if I was to rely on the goodwill shown in the comment sections anywhere! I would agree though that the main problem is young men who go nuts over anything. Look at the gamer gate business. Commenters go from zero to rape threat in one minute. What the hell is wrong with these guys? I just don’t get it. Its a weird world

  16. schweddy

    There are plenty of poo journalists out there, so why does Una get all the hate?

    I get that the majority of you hate her for the reasons you all listed above, but again, is she really so bad that she incites you to make comments about her on a public forum? I read plenty of crap journalistic nonsense every weekend in the IT and Sindo, but would it occur to me to go and bash them online? Nope.

    Why are women not running to the comments section to write hateful things about John Waters and his ilk.

    Why do men think of women like Una as man-haters? Are men really so insecure that they cannot read anything negative about their gender at all without thinking that the woman’s opinion is based on a hatred of the opposite sex?!

    1. Andy

      I don’t think anyone hates Una Mallally.

      I think some people just think she’s a crap journalist. Much like many of her male colleagues – Hancock & O’Toole etc

        1. Andy

          Agreed, I had a line in my post about whether she was a journalist or a columnist but deleted as I couldn’t be bothered thinking about it

    2. Harry Molloy

      she gets the hate because a lot of people disagree with what she says.

      read Brian Boyds awful article in the Times yesterday, he gets the same hate for writing the same crap. you can’t blame it all on the fact she’s a woman, that’s just a method used to shut down or disregard any criticism.

      1. MoyestWithExcitement

        Didn’t you say she hates men? And look at buoy making excuses for the misogynist trolls.

  17. Eliot Rosewater

    It’s never really going to change, though, is it? If the Guardian (and the IT) are operating on a similar model to the Journal, the more clicks on an article equals more revenue earned (what little revenue there is). A good way of ensuring more clicks is to make the comments section open.

    I stopped reading ‘below the line’ on the Journal because it’s beyond depressing. But from my knowledge of it, and from reading some of the threads on Boards, there is a definite problem with people attacking women online (I haven’t noticed it being applied to ethnic minorities, but that’s not to say it’s not an issue). It’s fairly disheartening stuff, but I try to always remember that things like comments sections, and social media in general, attract a certain type of person and the format amplifies their voices. I know few people who would attack somebody based on their gender or ethnicity in real life.

    Having said that, Mullaly’s articles are really, really poorly written. She’s up there with Ian O’Doherty from the Indo in terms of argument, style, and logic.

  18. First time comment

    Una writes about things that I identify with. Her take on gender issues is valid. Women who write about women’s issues have every right to do so. They are brave. I don’t even comment on this stuff because of the commenters who deny what I know to be true. The fact that they don’t agree says more about their lack of insight than anything else. Some (not all) of the comments here have been hateful. The lack of self awareness is shocking.

  19. ahyeah

    “Journalists, believe it or not, want readers to engage with what they write. They want reaction and debate. They want intelligent conversations and interesting arguments.”

    ~ the thing is, though, Irish readers are utterly let down by Irish journalists in that regard. Name three Irish journalists who routinely produce intelligent conversation etc. I bet nobody can. I can think of Gene Kerrigan.

    “Comment sections as they currently exist have failed. Instead of fostering intelligent debate, they are taken over by ranters and ravers. Instead of adding value for the reader, they detract from the reading experience. Instead of representing alternative points of view, they are specifically hateful of women and minorities. In an industry obsessed with what its readership wants, the tail has ended up wagging the dog.”

    ~ this is what really p1sses off the likes of Una. The comment sections haven’t failed – in fact, they’ve taken over. And BS is a case in point: it’s essentially all about the comments section. I’ve read more thought-provoking, challenging, annoying, entertaining and amusing stuff on the BS comments section than I’ve ever found in the IT. Una’s right – the tail is wagging the dog. And that really fupping annoys her.

    1. classter

      ‘Name three Irish journalists who routinely produce intelligent conversation etc. I bet nobody can. I can think of Gene Kerrigan.’

      For me, Gene Kerrigan has long been what is wrong with Irish journalism.

      It is easy to be uncompromising & impractical & to slate all mainstream politicians for their incompetence & greed week in, week out.

      Far more difficult to research issues deeply, suggest practical alternativers, consider compromises, etc.

  20. Spaghetti Hoop

    Oh my. Mullally is not only a poor journalist but is not taking in the global picture at all. I’ve worked long enough in Gender Policy to say that this type of cheap European feminism is in the political lay-bay and she is merely trying to get Irish hits on her Twitter a/c. or feminist writers citing her. I don’t say this smugly, I am and have always been equalitarian and currently working to balance gender representation in my work to include males. If you sideline commentators, and take them as your brief, you are wasting your time. If you see what policy-makers and governments, multinationals are doing, you will see them employing male and female applicants.

  21. some old queen

    Will Una stand outside the dole office and questionnaire who is srt8 or gay? I sincerely hope she does but like our politicians I very much doubt it.

    Representation of MY (I) generation is way more important.

  22. Brendan O'

    Una is another middle class lefty whitest Irish with a Twitter account. This is what they do, don’t feed the them.

  23. Anne

    Shurrup Una, you’re only a trollop.*
    *Pats Una on the head. There’s a good girl..

    I haven’t looked at the comments yet, but I bet there’s one or two like that.. particular from those with usernames that refer to their manhood.. not mentioning any names.

  24. Anne

    Fupp it, I’m not reading the comments.. I’m in good form.

    Just to say, Una is on the ball.

    Anyone saying she doesn’t know what she’s talking about is not entitled to that opinion unless you’re a woman also, and as you know yourself, if you’re not a woman, that means you can’t know what a woman’s experience would be.. so you’d be best off shutting your pie hole.

    1. rotide

      So we’ll be looking forward to the blissful silence from you on issues that relate to men so?

  25. Jesus Wept

    Just remove comments section from Una’s articles or any other writer that requests it.

    1. Frilly Keane

      But sur then what would she talk about…..

      Sur she’d have s stroke if they turned off the commentary

  26. Bacchus

    I had assumed I was one of the few who regarded Una as a bitter talentless man hating one trick pony. it seems I’ve gone mainstream.
    I’ve given up on the Irish Times. While there are good journalists there the standard of writing in opinion pieces and “culture” is just appalling. Uninformed, ill-informed and badly written. Una isn’t even the worst of them.

  27. RunDemCrew

    Fair dues to her though for hanging David Cochrane, Irish Times Online Community Manager, out to dry for not being able to moderate the comments on the website.

    I luv it when media luvvies fight.

    1. Harry Molloy

      is he your man who had

      I used to look at that the odd time, when I was on the dole. I think everyone else there was on the dole too. Or crazy at the very least.

  28. Odockatee

    Note to Broadsheet: Una Mullally on a bicycle, giving a jaunt to LJG with him videoing himself giving commentary as well, while Una has an incident with a male taxi driver = site crashing due to comments section traffic

    Make it happen

  29. Frilly Keane

    I posted this over on What it says in the papers
    In reply to Batty
    It would do well to note it here

    The Commentary
    Whatever the shade
    Is the best bit for me

    Mullannie is in the wrong game if she’s thinks she can control it
    Or tame it
    It cut it to suit herself

    But I don’t think that’s what Mullannie wants to achieve anyway

    1. Nigel

      She really just needs to accept misogynist abuse as a part of life and stop complaining about it as if her opinion on the subject of the misogynist abuse she receives was important.

      1. rotide

        When it comes to anonymous comment sections, there is a certain amount of abuse you have to accept. Just look at ever second post people like Moyest make.

        There’s obviously a certain amount of abuse you DON’T have to accept but it’s quite hard to police it past moderation.

        1. Nigel

          I’d maybe think twice before telling someone who has been targeted with torrents of misogynistic abuse, which is most women of any prominence on the net, exactly how much they should be expected to put up with.

          1. They Tried To Make Me Go To Rehab

            there’s a perception that the internet is not a real place and people are not real people perhaps because they hide behind avatars, have PR people curating their online accounts etc

            there’s no reasonable expectation of privacy, courtesy or respect if you’re not a real person but hiding behind a fictitious online media celebrity personality trolling for clickbait and likes

            people who whinge about being abused etc would do well to learn that if you antagonise lads in wife beater shirts you’ll be likely to get treated accordingly. you wouldn’t walk out in front of a bus would you in the hope that it will surely stop?

  30. Supercrazyprices

    She’s a band wagon jumper, hops on whatever the latest topic is, sexuality, gender, feminism, blah, blah, just like all so-called journalists who drone on about their personal lives as if it matters to the wider world.

    It’s nothing to do with her being a woman. She’s just needy and annoying. Plenty of men out there doing the same thing.

  31. some old queen

    There is misogamy and there is homophobia but keyboard warriors are no evidence of anything apart from being one handed typers.

    Why is it that politically, lesbians are women first and lesbians second while gay men are gay first and men second? Women get it harder than men and gays get it harder than srt8s but what happens when a srt8 woman discriminates against a gay man? Who do we call?

    Your poo is getting very old Una.

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