When The Crowd Turns

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Hazel Larkin

Last week, an item by Hazel Larkin about parents having to resort to crowdfunding to pay for their children’s health needs provoked much discussion with criticism levelled at the motives of  its author.

Hazel writes:

Oh Lordy! There have been some weird things said about me in the comments here, and elsewhere. For quite some time now, I have had a policy of not reading the comments on things I write.

Everyone knows the comments section of the Interwebz is where the crackpots and conspiracy theorists hang out. When, however, I got the heads-up that the comments had turned from just nasty to actually defamatory, I reckoned it might be an idea to read the comments and address the nonsense therein.

I did speak with a solicitor, and – while I have a case, there is no point in suing people who have no assets worth suing them for. It’s also mighty expensive and time-consuming. Most people who say ‘just sue them’ have either no idea of the justice system, and how it works, or they are multi-millionaires who can afford to indulge themselves.

The piece that’s managed to get everyone in a flap was a simple enough article written on foot of a few campaigns I’d seen where parents were trying to raise funds for their children’s housing, educational, and medical needs.

I included links to these campaigns to illustrate my point. You know, fuelled on caffeine, and wielding my social justice warrior’s sword.

One of these was a fundraiser for a child whose family is struggling to pay for this child’s exceptional educational needs. It was set up by someone I know because he felt it was in the best interests of the family to protect them from the kind of vitriol that has been directed at other people (like Tara Flynn and Tracy McGinnis).

That is his call, and I completely understand where he’s coming from. Given some of the nastiness unleashed, then it seems he was right. What he didn’t expect was to have keyboard warriors cast aspersions on his excellent character.

Yes, he’s a friend of mine. Yes, I know the family involved, yes they wish to retain their privacy. No, I don’t blame them. Adults are not just cruel to other adults online, they are cruel to children, too.

John has many friends, both on and offline. As have I. He’s so upset by the things that have been said about him, however, that he has closed the fund and returned the money that has already been sent. I can’t say I blame him.

His professional reputation was being questioned and – even though he has done nothing wrong – he doesn’t have time to firefight. Nor should he be expected to. For that matter, neither do, or should, I.

As far as these funding campaigns are concerned, guess what? You get to decide what is, and is not, a worthy cause. You get to decide what to do with your time and money.

Some people think that collecting money to send flowers to a rape victim is a worthy cause, some people think that collecting money to fund the retirement of greyhounds is a worthy cause, some people think that collecting money to send someone on holidays is a worthy cause.

People can decide for themselves what resonates, and what doesn’t. GFM campaigns are set up every day.

Throw a few bob at them, or don’t – that’s entirely your own decision – but stop attacking men, women, and children because they don’t match up to what your idea of a person in need looks like.

Seriously, I thought we had learnt from the recent referendum campaign that one person’s difficulty is not the same as another’s, that we need to be less judgemental; that compassion goes a long way; that we are not entitled to every tiny detail of a person’s life, that some things are private. Clearly, I was wrong.

What strikes me, however, is the gendered element of the comments. By that I mean, the difficulty people have in this country with mothers trying to provide for their children. In Ireland, there is still a notion abroad that mothers raising children alone should be shamed. Including shamed for doing their best – even if that ‘best’ doesn’t look like what other people think it should look like.

If some young fella set up a GFM campaign because he wanted money to go to the World Cup in Russia and get some beers while he’s there, what would the reaction be? I’d be willing to bet that there would be a bit of annoyance, but also a lot of admiration for the sheer brass neckery of it.

People would think he was ‘gas’ and would be keen to know how he got on. That’s okay for a bloke – who would affectionately be called a ‘chancer’. But women, raising children on their own, and doing their best for those children? They get an entirely different shake of the stick. I find that interesting.

That aside, there are a few factual errors referred to in the comments, and they do need to be addressed:

1. There is no provision, in Ireland, for the special educational needs of children who are gifted. There hasn’t been since 2004. So these children can’t get access to the education they need through the state system.

2. Ireland is a signatory of the UNCRC, Article 29 of which states: ‘1. States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to: (a) The development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;’

3. Clearly, the government is violating the rights of these children by not affording them the opportunity to develop their mental abilities to their fullest potential. Giftedness is hugely mis-understood and seen as some kind of ‘win’ for kids who are this smart. I thought it was worth challenging that misconception. I still think it’s worth challenging, but probably in an article just devoted to that subject.

4. I have had precisely one GFM campaign ever set up for my benefit. It has been referred to several times in the comments, and was set up to pay for my therapy as well as a final installment of my fees. The therapy element – which was the larger portion – has been ignored by every commentator. I had expected that my settlement would cover these expenses, but it hasn’t yet been paid. Sadly, my legal team never informed me of the fees and expenses involved in pursing recovery of the settlement (€10k+) until afterwards (refer to my earlier comment about accessing the law in Ireland).

5. It has been erroneously claimed that the Open University doesn’t admit students under the age of 18. In fact, it does. There is no lower age limit, but those under 18 must go through an additional set of processes for what they refer to as ‘young learners’.

My ‘gap year’ wasn’t nearly as glamourous or as expensive as it would appear people think. I lived in Asia for many years, and still have friends there, so when I returned to pursue my ex for child support (long, difficult, drawn out, involving many jurisdictions, still not resolved), I stayed with people I’d known for nearly 20 years. So, no accommodation costs.

When we flew to Copenhagen we paid the grand total of €1.80 for the three of us. Ryanair. You really can’t beat them (in fairness, it was a one-off to celebrate the launch of the new route: Three thousand tickets, sold over a three-hour period, for €0.30 each). Google it. Or check their Twitter feed. We stayed with friends there and in Sweden, too. Ditto the UK and the Netherlands – we got there as cheaply as possible, and stayed with friends. On occasion, we were treated to our fares, like when we went to the UK, and stayed with an old friend who needed help. Later, another friend saw I was suicidal because of the abuse my ‘family’ was putting me through in advance of my brothers’ trials. She reached out to me – with the keys to her spare house in a village in France. It was a mental health break, because it was either that or a psych unit. And if I took the latter option, where would my kids have gone? Into ‘care’? We all know what that’s like in Ireland. (Abusive family, remember, couldn’t leave the kids with them).

Laid bare like that, it’s not really very glamorous, or exciting, is it? And that’s without detailing the panic attacks, the constant anxiety, etc. etc. Yes, I have a lot of good friends. Probably because I am a good friend.

6. There have been allegations that I am not a PhD candidate in DCU. Well, I am. My supervisors are Dr Mel Duffy and Dr Eileen Courtney.

7. Aspersions have also been cast on the credibility of the course I’m offering for midwives and other birth workers, with the insinuation that there’s something dodgy about it. I don’t know what more would be expected than approval from An Bord Altranais agus Cnáimhsceachais na hÉireann.

8. Then there were suggestions that I’m workshy. Sadly, that line we were all sold about working hard at your education so you’d get a job? It’s a crock. The dynamics are very, very, different. (Hmm, might be another article in it). If, however, you have a job that you’d like to consider me for – I’d be delighted to hear from you. Also, I think it’s important to note that there is a difference between work and a job. I’ve picked up quite a few bits of work since I got back to Ireland, some paid (most unpaid) but securing a job is a different kettle of fish.

8a. It was interesting to note that there were plenty of commentators saying that I was
workshy, and then others actively, deliberately, and maliciously trying to scupper my attempts to earn. So – which is it? Which trope suits your idea of what a lone mother should look like? Can we get a consensus?

9. Then there’s the allegations of child trafficking. They are so bizarre, I don’t know where to start. For the record, I have never trafficked a child. Now, there’s a sentence I never thought I’d have to write.

10. There was also a lot of concern about my bowels. I’d like to categorically state that, as far as I am aware, my bowels are fine.

11. If you’d like more intimate details of my life, feel free to pick up a copy of my book – it’s got a quote from Kate Holmquist on the front, which she is perfectly happy about:

No matter how good a Googler you are, Google doesn’t have all the answers.

I hope that was entertaining for you – I have nothing more to say on the subject – except that I have work to do, kids to raise, a PhD to keep working on, cats to feed, a few social justice campaigns to work on, and lots of coffee to drink.

Hazel Katherine Larkin is a ‘caffeine-fuelled social justice campaigner’. Follow Haxel on Twitter @HazelKLarkin.

Previously: Go Fund Yourself

73 thoughts on “When The Crowd Turns

    1. Nigel

      So do I. Also a car a boat a dog a small top hat and some chance cards Rest of the game got lost though.

          1. mildred st meadowlark

            Well I never!

            Looks like I’ve burst a pipe and blown a fuse. Send help.

  1. TheRichList

    My conclusion after reading that article; stop publishing anything personal on the web. If you do, people will judge, comment and there is a very strong possibility you are not gonna like what they say.

    1. Nigel

      Funny that the instruction to stop is directed at the target of the attacks rather than the instigators.

      1. TheRichList

        After reading the original article, comments and the thread on Reddit, there seem to be a lot of things that don’t add up.
        My advice stand; don’t go asks the internet for money when you advertise on Twitter that you haven’t had a job in eleven years.
        Even I could have guessed how the web would respond.

        1. Nigel

          You’re siding with people who accused her of child trafficking and think it’s outrageous she has an opinion on taxes?

  2. ReproBertie

    So many of the comments on the original post from poster names I don’t recognise. I know I was away for a while and that some people change their username as often as I change my socks but it’s a bit strange.

      1. The Old Boy

        A GUBU incident indeed – there was even an extra-mural continuation of the discussion on Reddit, of all places.

        General points about the author’s possible lack of transparency and the advisability (or otherwise) of enrolling a 13 year old on an Open University course are fine, I think, but a good deal of the commentary, particularly oblique insinuations about child trafficking, were extremely odd.

          1. The Old Boy

            Yes – what was that collective madness re “bowels”? I feel we ought to be told.

        1. Picard

          The insinuations where very strange and not something that I held any faith in. But I did have a real problem with the lack of transparency.

  3. Anomanomanom

    I was in full agreement till you started the crap about Ireland shames single mothers and basically judges them, it would be a tiny minority of uppty doo doos that think that.

  4. b

    how about you set up a gofundme to sue the broadsheeters that slighted you? i’d contribute but apparently have no assets

  5. Bruncvik

    I haven’t commented on the original article, but I’ve read the comments. From what I gathered, they focused on three main issues:

    1. There were links to two GFM campaigns owned by the author, and this fact was not disclosed. Here, the author owns up to only one of these; I’ll let people with more free time than me fact-check it. However, as of the beginning of last year, the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland has been requiring disclosure for any affiliate links posted by bloggers. So what I’m wondering is: was Broadsheet contacted yet by ASAI for undisclosed affiliate links?

    2. Author asked for higher income taxes to fund education, while she herself was not paying any taxes due to the fact that she wasn’t able to find a job with multiple degrees. This has not been refuted in her current rebuttal.

    3. Author wanted to obtain funding for a child under 18, for the study at Open University, even though the age limit is 18. I think the author successfully defended herself here; I checked and she is indeed correct that children under 18 may be admitted after special exams.

    I do have to admit that there were quite a few posts questioning the author’s character or nitpicking on tiny factoids that may or may not have been correct. Some of those posts may have been motivated by malice, but in my opinion most posters were just upset by the undisclosed affiliate links, and the audacity of someone with very limited experience of paying income taxes suggesting that people should pay more of them.

    1. Nigel

      2, This is stupid. Presumably she aspires to be in a position to pay income tax sooner rather than later and is as entitled to an opinion as anyone else.

      1. Termagant

        The are many people who don’t have a BA who have jobs
        There are many people with a BA but no MA who have jobs
        There are many people with an MA, a BA but no LLM who have jobs
        There are many people with an MA, a BA and an LLM, but who aren’t doctoral candidates, who have jobs

        If Hazel here had any grá for the idea of being a working and contributing to society instead of being, and I use this word hesitantly, an entitled parasite then she’d have a job and be paying back some small part of the taxpayers’ money that’s undoubtedly been sunk into her impressive but apparently purposeless assemblage of qualifications.

        1. Nigel

          Oh feck off you window-squinting Victorian snob, People get through their education as best they can alwithout leering fools second-guessing all their choices. When she has her qualifications she will be contributing to the economy professionally and fiscally at a far greater rate than a bunch of part-tine jobs. That you’d feel entitled to join in the atracks on someone obviously going through a difficult time and already subject to all sorts but of other malicious nonsense just because she has an opinion on income tax? The hell is wrong with you?

          1. Termagant

            “When she has her qualifications”

            She has her fupping qualifications! Three major 3rd+ level qualifications and working on a fourth! She has gotten through multiple educations already and worked no jobs (paid no tax) in that time, and is telling the rest of us we should pay more!

            Nige I know you enjoy taking a good contrarywise position, don’t we all from time to time, but be reasonable.

          2. Jonzo

            @Nigel,
            “When she has her qualifications she will be contributing to the economy professionally and fiscally at a far greater rate than a bunch of part-tine jobs.”

            This is not always the case. There is a clear trend in returns on investment when it comes to education level and the topic of that education. Of course there are several variables such as ethnicity that will be attributed but in this case, I think she would fall on the privileged ethnic make up.
            https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2018/06/15/which-traits-predict-graduates-earnings
            Side with caution with assumptions on education level and salary. Don’t shoot the messenger, I just want to add fact to the debate.

          3. Rob_G

            @ Nigel –

            Ara would you go away out of that – how many degrees can the state reasonably be expected to pay for before a person deigns to enter the workforce? There are people who come here from Brazil and China with no recognised qualifications, no contacts, and little in the way of language skills, and they somehow manage to find jobs.

            There is work there for people who want it; 10+ years claiming benefits tells me all that I need to know about a person’s motivations in that regard.

          4. Sheik Yahbouti

            One thing only. I would very much have liked to attend University, but circumstances did not permit. Nonetheless, I have managed to be in continuous employment in a variety of work for 52 years. In that time, of course, any and every tax, charge, levy – whatever has had to be met by me. A couple of months retired now on my munificent State Pension of E243 per week (included recent increase of E5 much boasted about in the last budget). My needs are modest and I can manage on this. My question: how much does Ms Harkin receive per week or month?

      2. Bruncvik

        “Presumably she aspires to be in a position to pay income tax sooner rather than later”

        Nobody in their right mind aspires to take more income tax. As a tax-paying parent, I can tell you that I aspire as little income tax as possible, in order to have more disposable income to spend on my kids. And as a tax-paying parent, I’m also entitled to my opinion. At this point, I haven’t formulated my opinion here, and I don’t plan to: my opinions will play a role during elections, not in comment sections.

          1. Bruncvik

            Nope. I’m entitled to an opinion, which I’ll disclose by my votes in elections and/or campaigning for politicians I agree with. Formulating my opinion in a comments section to an already controversial article is stupid and counterproductive.

    2. george

      A factoid is something that is incorrect and is presented as fact. It cannot be correct by definition. A factoid is not a small fact.

    3. Sheik Yahbouti

      Brunckvik, there is little to disagree with in your concise summation. BTW I didn’t comment on the original post, owing to rules on taste and decency! :-D

  6. Not On Your Nelly

    *goes back to original post and attempts to make some mental comments in the hopes of getting sued for the craic*

  7. Hansel

    Wow, I just read the original article after reading this one. Some weird targeted comments and repeated comments by a small number of people alright.
    But with all that being said: wow, the author has some brass neck.

  8. Spaghetti Hoop

    Even considering suing internet commentators for defamation, simply for financial gain, is pretty damn low. Successful defamation cases would be when the victim has suffered personal anguish, emotional stress, loss of income etc., not to prise a share of the accused’s assets!

    1. george

      The compensation for defamation is always money. It also costs significant amounts of money to sue for defamation.

      If you don’t think the person is likely to be able to afford compensation then it will simply cost a lot of money for the court to tell you that you were defamed.

      Choosing not to sue in this instance doesn’t mean that the only reason to sue would be financial gain. It means you will be significantly worse off if you spend money suing someone who can’t pay and that would be unwise.

      1. Spaghetti Hoop

        Yes I know the compensation is almost always financial – to compensate for the harm caused. Other compensation would be an apology. The poster is solely financially-motivated to sue whether there was harm caused or not. Pretty sure no solicitor would entertain a case against a blog commentator in this context! She should spend her time finding other ways to earn a living….like a job or something.

        1. Cian

          I’m pretty sure there are solicitors that would entertain a case against a blog commentator. It’s not *their* dime – they get paid regardless of the outcome and are happy to do so.
          I hope that no *judge* would entertain a case against a blog commentator in this context!

  9. Cian

    4. I have had precisely one GFM campaign ever set up for my benefit. It has been referred to several times in the comments, and was set up to pay for my therapy as well as a final installment of my fees.[…]

    Out of curiosity – was the GFM campaign for OU fees for the 13-year-old for Hazel’s daughter? Because if so – she is continuing to be extraordinarily disingenuous.

    1. Sheik Yahbouti

      Cian, I wonder if this lady has contacted Mensa at all? They are particularly keen to support and nourish ‘gifted’ children.

    2. Jonjo

      I’d like to know this too. She hasn’t argued this point posters made under the original story. There are 2 links (links 2 and 3 were the same as far as i can see). One was for Brendan and the other was the ‘give up a coffee’ one. Was this for her own child? Is she claiming this is not for her (Hazel’s) benefit but her child’s?

  10. Frilly The Plant The Plant The Plant

    C’mere
    Everyone
    Anyone
    Wether you’re a Conspiracy Theorist or a Crackpot
    (According to this lady who is only looking for your money)

    Are these sources of funds
    Like payable from these crowd funding platforms
    Treated as income
    Or gifts
    For tax purposes like

    Asking for a friend
    Obviously

    1. Jeffrey

      Donations, so must be added on tax returns as such. Potentially liable for tax on that then.

  11. Picard

    Lets be clear, the GoFundMe is clearly intended for Hazels daughter.
    Had she been upfront about it from the start I dont think people would of had a problem with it.
    But its a bit cheeky to come on here and after being caught out, try to weasle out of it
    Was the GFM for your daughter or not? Just yes or no.
    If its not you, thats fine. I will put my hands up and apologise. But if you where an outsider looking in, you have to admit it looks like the GFM is for your daughter.

    I did post questioning the validity of your claim to be a PhD candidate. At the time, and that may well of changed. You where not listed as a PhD candidate by DCUs school of nursing. Its not that unusual that someone might question your claim after checking. And I would like to apologise. I was clearly wrong.

    As for the job thing I might be able to help you out. My sister was in a similar position when she was working on her PhD. Single mam, two kids under ten. She spent the four years working in McDonalds, they are very accommodating for single mothers and always hiring. They are also all over the place, so you should have no problems finding one near you. I spent my nights working in bars while working on mine, if I had known how flexible Mickeys Dees where I would of taken a job there

  12. Daniel

    Listen….Hazel makes some really credible points but at the same time. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck.
    I don’t know if anyone has also been following the reddit thread but either this lady has been incredibly unlucky the past 20 years with her Times and place being called into question (including someone she knows setting up a go fund me for another gifted child from a single parent family with two girls and a penchant for social justice he knows or…..quack.

  13. postmanpat

    My daughter learned to identify all her colours a few months before most websites say a child should be able to. She’s pretty quick at 6 jigsaws too. 6 pieces in under 2 hours,( humble brag! lol) If anyone wants to throw me a few quid so I can start her off in college early and pay for that too , I have a bitcoin wallet you can send to. When she leaves collage 4 qualification later …say 2060.. she will earn so much money that the tax she pays in this country ( that she is definitely going to live in as an adult and pay tax in), will more than cover the benefits that I receive year after year. My fingers are sore from typing . (Some of the money will go towards an ergonomic keyboard for me to look up cheap flights to visit friends in European city’s and stay with for free , because I need a break ) Some nasty internet trolls will of course be asking “why I don’t pay for this myself,” The thing is, I do pay, didn’t a great man once say: “My time? is that is that not a tax?” I do coloring books with my daughter and some days when I am at my wits end ,my child might point to a dark green crayon and say “teal?” , my eyes tear up and I remember the gift this child is to the world, I need to lie down. I’m crying as I type this.. etc

  14. Picard

    There are a couple of things that have been really bugging me about this. I am going to post them here and then I am out. This whole thing is just to odd to be dealing with anymore.

    1) I dont think anyone here has directed any vitriol at Terry McGinnis, in fact if anything its been the opposite. People have come out on Broadsheet and supported her. I myself donated to her GoFundMe.

    1a) You have not been treated like Tara Flynn, cop yourself on. If you really want to go down the road. It is fairier to say that you have been treated more like John McGuirke after his comments about Tara Flynn.

    2) I don’t think anyone here has cast aspirtions on JP O Sullivan. Who has questioned his professional reputation? I have reread the comments both here and on your last post and I cant see any.

    3) I dont think anyone really has a problem with anyone donationg to any cause they see fit. The problem I had and I think a lot of others have. IS THAT YOU DID NOT DECLARE THAT YOU HAD A VESTED INTEREST IN THAT GOFUNDME CAMPAIGN. I have a really bigboo boo problem with that. Whats more you have a brass neck to still try and claim you are not the beneficiary. Which combined with some other contradictory things you have said in interviews and in your own blogs. Makes it very difficult to take any thing you say or do at face value.

    4) Its very hard to take the high ground about your privacy being invaded. When YOU Hazel are the person putting that information out there. A cursory google search throws up pictures of you breast feeding, pregnant and topless anything anyone here has posted about your private life is information that YOU, have put out there.

    5) This bit really bugs me ” however, is the gendered element of the comments”. They arent, if you where a man, a Agender, third gender, or non binary. The comments would be exactly the same. Its very hard being told by someone who has not worked in 13 years that I and other PAYE workers should pay more tax to support your lifestyle. If you want something beyond what social welfare are offering you, no problem go out, find a job and pay for it. My sister worked for a well known fast food chain while working on her PhD. I myself worked nights and weekends in bars while completing mine.

    6) No one is shaming you for being a single mam, they are shaming you for being work shy. Which your own tweets suggest.

    7) No Hazel, you have had two GFM campains. If you want to get into semantics then yes you have had only one GFM campain set up on your behalf that was the one set up by JP Sullivan. The GFM for your tuition was set up by you! So do we call that one a straight out lie, or you just stretching the truth?

    8) Thanks for the tip, I checked google and twitter You are absolutely right Ryanair did offer discounted flights to Cophenhagen. But the cheapest one was 19.99. So I guess that is another lie.

    8A) Wow you are really racking them up. Lets see what we have so far. Claims of harassment here of Teacy McGinnis, claims that JP O Sullivan reputation has been questioned, claims that you only being attacked because you are a single mother. Your denial of the GFM being for you or if you prefer your daughter, and now the cost of your flights. So that is five, in what is a relatively short option piece.

    9) Hmm I think your employment history shows is all the evidence anyone needs when trying to establish if you are work shy or not. I will leave it at that.

    10) The child trafficing stuff is really bizzare and I have no idea what that was about and agree that is completely unfounded and out of order.

    11) I hope that the “work to do” that you refer to is the paying kind.

    I really hope broadsheet opt not to publish any more of your op eds. You have a very dull way of writing, your ideas are sophomoric and if we refer back to 8A, you have very little in the way of credibility.

    Good luck with the PhD, and the post doc I am sure you will want to follow it up with. But while you are doing all that. Please think of the little folk here on Broadsheet. Your humble PAYE workers, who are housing and feeding you and your kids.

    Ciao Bella

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