Signal boosting: The limits of free speech and who gets thrown under the bus

FTB (or, PZ for the most part) periodically wanders into free speech debates that I find intensely frustrating, given that I am a member of several commonly targeted demographics for hate speech. It doesn’t help that avowed ‘pitters are stirring the pot, but even setting aside abusive troglodytes there is the matter of otherwise-liberal people defending the right of someone to incite violence against people like me under the auspice of “free speech.” Part of the problem is that these free speech defenders fail to actually consider speech to be a set of actions, and that Milo has used his speech to publicly call for the sexualized violence against at least one transgender student. Instead of recognizing this, they always fall back to generalizations.

Julia Serano takes it away from there: (emphasis added)

Rather, there is speech that we (as individuals, or as a society) are willing to tolerate, and speech that we deem to be beyond the pale. Every single one of us has a hard limit — a point at which we will exclaim, “I simply cannot tolerate that!” For certain Breitbart employees, the American Conservative Union, Simon & Schuster, and journalist Kurt Eichenwald (whose tweet initially inspired this post), that hard limit is apparently advocating (or seeming to advocate) adult-teen relationships.

I have no problems with any of these groups refusing to tolerate Yiannopoulos’s [pederasty] comment. And I have no qualms with their decisions to “no platform” him over this issue. But I do want to point out that, by drawing the line there, the American Conservative Union, Simon & Schuster, Kurt Eichenwald, and others, are implicitly saying that EVERYTHING ELSE that Yiannopoulos has done up until this point — his long history of blatant racism, misogyny, and transphobia, and his penchant for doxxing, harassing, and intimidating marginalized individuals online and during his talks — all of that is a-okay. Absolutely tolerable. Within the boundaries of normal discourse, in their eyes.

Read more of her here.

-Shiv

 

Irony, thy name is the Guardian

A headline from the Milo affair last week in the Guardian reads: Milo Yiannopoulos’s enablers deserve contempt – and must be confronted.

The irony? This is the same rag that keeps enabling Sarah Ditum and Julie Bindel.

So you’ll forgive me, Guardian, if I am somewhat skeptical of your seemingly newfound defense of trans people. While your writers are calling for confrontation with reactionary transphobes, I have to wonder if the other editors in your company are getting the same memo.

-Shiv

I’m not actually happy about what happened to Milo Yiannopoulos

Professional garbage fire Milo Yiannopoulos finally had his book deal retracted. He also was also set to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference and that too was cut.

I’m not particularly happy at this change of events. Not because I want to hear him speak–I’d sooner swim through a sea of thumbtacks–but because it wasn’t his blatant racism, xenphobia, sexism or transmisogyny that was considered unacceptable. No, apparently all those are still fine, but if you advocate for pederasty, that’s the straw too much!

Let me be clear here: I do not think debate is the correct response for Milo. He knows he’s full of shit. He embodies the nihilistic performative sadomasochism endemic to 4chan. He is not there to expand the knowledge of his audience, he is there to pump them up with a victim narrative and set up a plethora of still-mistreated minorities as the villain of a cheap video game. I will stop just short of endorsing the Black Bloc’s disruptive tactics–Canadian Intelligence has something of a hate-on for anarchists and this post will inevitably be mined by them for dirt should I be arrested–but debate and protest don’t work on him. You need to deter him. You need pain, or the threat of it at least, to get him to give up. The Black Bloc achieved something where peaceful protest did not. That is undeniable.

And that’s what pisses me off. When he was running around the country, performing acts that would be considered criminal in sane democracies, everything was just fine because he was targeting other undesirables. Seriously, he got paid to sexually harass a trans woman so badly she had to flee campus for her safety. This is not a man embarking on a quest for knowledge. This is a man whose mission is to cause pain as some kind of divine retribution for succeeding where insecure basement dwelling entitled white men have not.

Why hasn’t the school been sued to oblivion for permitting this? Why does it seem like enough people don’t give a shit about his inciting violence against trans people?

No, none of that mattered. It was pederasty-while-gay that finally did the deal.

In canceling Milo’s book contract, Simon & Schuster made a business decision the same way they made a business decision when they decided to publish that man in the first place. When his comments about pedophilia/pederasty came to light, Simon & Schuster realized it would cost them more money to do business with Milo than he could earn for them. They did not finally “do the right thing” and now we know where their threshold, pun intended, lies. They were fine with his racist and xenophobic and sexist ideologies. They were fine with his transphobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. They were fine with how he encourages his followers to harass women and people of color and transgender people online. Let me assure you, as someone who endured a bit of that harassment, it is breathtaking in its scope, intensity, and cruelty but hey, we must protect the freedom of speech.

-Shiv


 

Edit Feb 22, 2017: Following reader feedback I have removed a poorly worded reference to Richard Dawkins’ dismissals of the impact of pederasty.

Out Magazine glorifies fountain of shit-spewing, Milo Yiannopoulos

ThinkProgress has an open letter addressed to Out Magazine over its soft-ball profile of the alt right’s deep-fried-awful-battered-in-bullshit posterboy, Milo Yiannopoulos.

We are all painfully aware that gay, white, cisgender male narratives have too-long dominated queer media, including those of us who are ourselves gay, white, cisgender men. Just this week, we saw our sisters at AfterEllen.com have to cease editorial operations because a company decided that lesbians were not profitable enough — oblivious to how many bi and lesbian women found important community there. The excess of this narrow branding of the queer community results in erasure of all those who are not highlighted, an erasure that allows stereotypes, discrimination, and abuse to continue unabated against those invisible intersections.

The Out profile of Yiannopoulos represents the peak of this harm. Here is awhite supremacist whose entire career has been built on the attention he can get for himself through provocation. His attacks against women, people of color, Muslims,transgender people, and basically anybody who doesn’t like him are as malicious as they come, and he catalyzes his many “alt-right” followers to turn on any target he deems worthy of abuse. This puff piece — complete with a cutesy clown photoshoot — makes light of Yiannopoulos’s trolling while simultaneously providing him a pedestal to further extend his brand of hatred. Indeed, he does so in the profile itself, openly slurring the transgender community, which Out published without any apparent concern.

As members of the LGBT media, we believe we all must hold ourselves and each other to a higher standard. Many of us are members of the LGBT community ourselves, and we all develop content that serves the LGBT community either directly as an audience, or on its behalf by educating broader audiences about our politics and our cultures. We thus have an obligation, at a minimum, to ensure that what we publish — no matter how crass or sensationalized it may be — avoids fostering harm to queer people. Out failed in this regard.

Add my name to the list of signatories. Fucker couldn’t lose access to his internet fast enough. May every microphone he bloviate into break before he gets the chance to speak.

-Shiv