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:
- Tom Peck in The Independent, "Julie Burchill should be free to offend": "You’d think the trannies could take it really, their shoulders are broad enough. "
- Terence Blacker in The Independent, "The world has gone mad if Julie Burchill can’t stir things up and cause offence": "The offensiveness police are ever more powerful and vigilant, demanding views with which they disagree to be silenced, and individuals of whom they disapprove to be punished. We should be on our guard."
- Simon Kelner, again in The Independent, "Airing controversial views is the great skill of Julie Burchill's career - and something the Observer should never shy away from": "Does the Twitter mob now set the rules on fair comment?"
- William Henderson in The Telegraph, In trying to 'unpublish' Julie Burchill, The Observer displays its ignorance of the internet: "The notion that a journalist’s thoughts can be bludgeoned out of existence following their appearance just because they are politically incorrect, unpalatable, or offensive is as much censorship as it is shameful."
- And, of course, Toby Young in The Telegraph, "The Observer's decision to censor Julie Burchill is a disgrace": "It cannot be said often enough that freedom of speech, if it means anything, must include the freedom to say things that some people find offensive."
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)?
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.