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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

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I exercise free speech; you are a bully; they are a Twitter mob
Okay, this story is getting beyond bizarre now. For those of you who have not been following the affair that closely, a quick recap...

When Julie Burchill's now-notorious rant about trans people ("bedwetters in bad wigs", etc) was pulled by the Observer after thousands of their readers - cis and trans - expressed their disgust at the newspaper for publishing it, the White Knights of Fleet Street queued around the block to write articles about how awful it was, how free speech was being threatened, and how trans people should grow a thicker skin. Here are a few members of this Round Table:



ETA: A latecomer to the party: Allison Pearson in The Telegraph: "Why taking offence is Britain's new national sport": "Two small words of advice to all the transsexuals “offended” by Suzanne Moore: man up!"


That's pretty clear, isn't it? Everyone must be free to offend, no matter how vulnerable their victims, no matter how much it will increase the amount of abuse and discrimination they receive. Anything else is a gross violation of the sacred rights won in Magna Carta, etc. etc. Okay, we get it.

And then came the story that I posted about yesterday, concerning the murder of Cecilia Marahouse. The Pink News published their own report, which is clearly based on the same source. Like me, they make reference to Suzanne Moore's "Brazlian transsexual" line, as you would expect any journalist to do, since it brought the plight of Brazilian trans women to wider pubilc attention within the last week. Otherwise, it is a simple, unemotive transmission of the facts.

Now, here's a question for you. What do you think crusading journalist Suzanne "If you want to be offended it's your prerogative" Moore tweeted when she saw the Pink News article (for yes, having been "hounded off Twitter" she is now courageously back on)?

Was it:

a) This has really brought home to me the grisly reality behind my flip remark about "Brazilian transsexuals". Thank you, Pink News!
b) This is uncomfortable for me to read, but Cecilia Marahouse deserves to have her murder reported.
c) I am offended by the Pink News mentioning my name in this report, but I will defend to the death their right to do it. And so will Tom, Terence, Simon, William and Toby.
d) Read this piece of shit and Pink News will hear from my lawyers in the morning

If you guessed d), give yourself a cookie.

Yes, SM lost the argument entirely with that one (and the plot). The only person actually silenced in all this is Cecelia Marahouse.

Have spent an interesting evening & morning responding to Allison Pearson on Twitter. Some of what I read here helped me formulate my arguments. Striking how mainstream journalism has closed ranks on this, and how little they seem to like the freedom of speech granted their readers by social media.

The more I think about SM's response to all this, the more it makes me think of an elderly uncle who goes off in a huff when someone at the family gathering asks them not to use the word. "P*ki". Only elderly uncle can't resort to pages of national press to say what a brave warrior he is.

And this morning, someone called Suzanne Moore has an article in The Guardian all about the importance of free speech. Are they by any chance related?

(no subject) - altariel, 2013-01-17 09:32 am (UTC)(Expand)
OMG.

Quite.

I am particularly interested in my local version of The Man on the Clapham Omnibus's take on all this, specifically, The Teen on the Witney Schoolrun, since we happened to be in the car yesterday when Radio 4's The Media Show included Roz Kaveney vs Toby Young, and Laurie Penny vs Peter Preston. To that point, my son and his girlfriend in the car were entirely unaware of the whole row.

I have posted elsewhere about their initial reactions - and a 17yr old boy does tend to forthright critique - on Toby Young, 'he's talking bollocks.' 'He's still talking bollocks"'. On Roz, 'oh, good, someone sensible. Nice to hear from someone intelligent.'

This morning, we were discussing the argument (I use the term loosely) that eg the Burchill post is defensible because it promotes debate.

'No, it promotes buzz, and that's not debate. These people just want to be noticed and then they can feel special and brave when other people say they're talking bollocks, and then when the other idiots join in to support their prejudices, they can tell themselves they were right in the first place.'

'You mean they're just looking for validation?'

'Yes, because otherwise they'd have to realise that outside their friends, no one gives a toss what they think.'

Which strikes me as a sound comment on the general irrelevance of the London Commentariat/this particular clickbait clique to the youth of today.

NB we have had a conversation about the appalling murders in Brazil and the other issues raised by TransDocFail - which *do* need discussing without the interruption of derailing bile.

If even half the teenagers are as clear-sighted as your son and his girlfriend, there is hope for the future!

As far as I'm concerned, the UK doesn't have a written constitution and, unlike the US, I am not aware that we have any unalienable right to "free speech".

I actually find rights-based discourse unhelpful and even problematical because you just end up with an intersecting and conflicting mess of "rights". You can't give someone the "right" to say whatever they want whilst at the same time ensuring that another person enjoys the right to live their lives without being persecuted and reviled. In fact in the UK we don't have the right to say absolutely anything we like because there are laws to protect some minorities and also laws about behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace. Articles like Burchill's disturb the online peace and whilst one cannot prevent people writing whatever they want on blogs (especially those hosted outside the UK), you ought to be able to ensure that the supposedly reputable press uphold standards of decency.

(no subject) - jemck, 2013-01-17 10:55 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - mevennen, 2013-01-17 10:48 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - steepholm, 2013-01-17 10:58 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - kalimac, 2013-01-17 02:20 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - steepholm, 2013-01-17 10:53 am (UTC)(Expand)
(Deleted comment)
He had a wise head on his shoulders.

I've written a Huff Post piece about this. When they have published it I will cross post it here. I would say that trans rights are at the stage gay rights were 40 years ago. People don't understand. Thanks to a couple of friends here I understand a lot more than I used to. Moore's inital comment was just clumsy. It's Burchill who upset me the most.

It may disturb you to know, btw, that Huffpo UK is one of the most egregious culprits in transphobic reportage- my isp take their news feed from them and it is........unpleasant, to put it politely.

(no subject) - veronica_milvus, 2013-01-17 12:39 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - cmcmck, 2013-01-17 12:53 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - steepholm, 2013-01-17 12:26 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - cmcmck, 2013-01-17 12:54 pm (UTC)(Expand)
This seems all very strange to me.

I am speaking not here of physical violence against transsexuals, which is all too common in the US; one of the touchstone cases of a young trans woman murdered by young men occurred in a town very near here.

But the American commentariat, the chattering class, seems to have absolutely no interest in verbally abusing transsexuals, whereas in the UK it appears to be a constant hobby. At least, I hear about British cases all the time from you and Cheryl and Roz, whereas the American liberal bloggers I read, though sensitive to other GLBT issues, neither include examples of verbal trans abuse among their regular citations of the outrageous, nor indulge in verbal trans abuse themselves.

In fact, other than expressing the outrage that any decent person would feel against cases of physical violence, US commentators rarely mention transsexuals at all. It just doesn't seem to be much of an issue here.

Whereas, to take another GLBT issue, same-sex marriage creates the utmost roiling in the US, both pro and anti, while in the UK, even the government announces plans to enact it; the churches grumble, but nobody, even the opponents, seems to be either tremendously bothered or elated by what in the US is an "end of civilization" vs. "coming of the millennium" issue.

You're right, I think there is a real difference there, and I can't explain it. I'm sure if they rummaged around in Leviticus it wouldn't take the US right five minutes to come up with something showing that being trans was an abomination. As for the British, I'm tempted to say that the widespread fetishization of trans news stories betrays some deep-seated cultural anxiety around gender - but that would be no more than a guess.

(no subject) - kalimac, 2013-01-17 03:45 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - steepholm, 2013-01-17 07:36 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - drasecretcampus, 2013-01-18 12:55 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - steepholm, 2013-01-19 03:20 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - ethelmay, 2013-01-19 10:13 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - steepholm, 2013-01-19 10:15 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Some very tacky comments there, made by people who clearly think they are the first ever to come up with such wit.

Bleagh.

Like kalimac, I am bemused by what appears to be systematic vitriol spewed towards transexuals in the UK. They are rarely referenced here, except along with gays, and when they are it is usually with some sensitivity. I am not aware of the same kind of "tranny" jokes that I've seen referenced in British media. Very strange. And I have to confess that I quite like the Canadian attitude to freedom of speech, which is that your freedom is not unlimited- we have hate laws. SM could easily have been charged under them here. We have our ultra-conservative commentators in the press that everyone loves to hate, but I can't imagine that article being published here at all.

Edited at 2013-01-17 05:28 pm (UTC)

There are hate laws here too, but unfortunately in the big tidy up known as the Equality Act, trans people were either inadvertently or deliberately excluded.

Most of us suspect the latter..............

(no subject) - ethelmay, 2013-01-17 11:03 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - cmcmck, 2013-01-18 08:44 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - ethelmay, 2013-01-18 07:36 pm (UTC)(Expand)
It never ceases to sadden me how so many journalists flock to defend each other and resort to 'free speech' wails in this sort of circumstance. Group privilege above all else and certainly above thinking, principles or decency. Sigh.
One of my iron rules is never to read Burchill.

Free speech for them, not others of course. Quite apart from Moore threatening to sue the Pink News, they were censoring the comments on Toby Young's free speech article like billio. And I hear that today he called for Cathy Ashton to be sacked for saying something he disagreed with. And so it goes...

(no subject) - la_marquise_de_, 2013-01-17 11:07 pm (UTC)(Expand)