Brave contrarian Brendan O’Neill


Brendan O’Neill is happy to characterize feminists as stupidly and feebly delicate and hyper-sensitive, and to use (or to allow the Telegraph to use) a 19th century illustration of a vapid woman tipping over to underline his sneer.

Would he be equally happy to see other people characterize Irish people as stupid and otherwise contemptible and use a 19th century cartoon to illustrate the sneer? Like this one maybe?

race-white-irish-discriminatory-cartoon-1

 There are more where that came from. Does Brendan O’Neill of Spiked really want major media returning to the good old days of publishing insulting caricatures of Other racial and ethnic groups? Or is it just women, or just feminists, who are fair game for that kind of thing.

#mencallmethings

Comments

  1. says

    To be fair to Brendan O’Neill (and I’ve met the man, when he came to an Oxford Libertarian Society do), I think he’d be equally happy throwing ethnic or racist epithets around. It is difficult to explain to a non-libertarian/classical liberal crowd the perverse thrill some on my side of politics get out of winding people up, especially when they perceive that the group in question is claiming an exaggerated ‘victim’ status.

    For my part, I think it’s important and clarifying to keep victim status claims separate from incivility, both offline and on. That the former may be exaggerated, or tedious, or whiny, or whatever, does not excuse the latter — from anyone. For some reason, many conservatives (on both sides of the Pond, alas) are incapable of walking and chewing gum at the same time, which means they respond to victimhood claims with incivility.

    I have lost count of the times I have seen the following graphic appended to comments threads on libertarian/classical liberal sites when people have complained of racism or racist epithets:

    http://www.gifbin.com/981768

    Sometimes a modified version — the little boy wears ‘bling’ and eats watermelon — is deployed. I have no doubt, if I looked, I would find something similar directed at feminists.

    It is very depressing.

  2. says

    Skep – but would he (do you think) be equally happy seeing cartoons like that in major newspapers?

    I don’t think the perverse thrill is all that hard to understand. It’s the not thinking beyond that that’s hard to understand. It’s the thinking and going on thinking that it’s just feefees or victimology or whining.

    Emily, thanks for that (and not really off topic).

  3. says

    The fact that he is a father surprises me a little, since the ranting, violent nature of a lot of his posts comes across like somebody who lives alone with a cupboard full of dead dogs.

    Ha!

  4. Ewan Macdonald says

    Brendan O’Neill is also of the opinion that advocacy groups opposing say, child abuse and domestic violence, essentially lie about what abuse and/or violence are, and when they take place, to perpetuate their own existence. He’s made quite a lot of money out of seeing only the absolute worst, most base motivation for any given action or thought, except when it suits him.

    It’s a real challenge to be po-faced and unserious at the same time but he really pulls it off.

    @skepticlawyer: I was a libertarian for years, it would never have occurred to me to revel in posting racist cartoons. And I simply didn’t care one way or another about feminism then. Of course your experience could well differ from mine but I didn’t find the aren’t-we-naughty, let’s-post-racist-cartoons set to be in any way indicative of libertarianism. Maybe it’s an Oxford thing?

  5. says

    Ophelia: Yes, I think he would, for the reasons Ewan outlines in his first par @5.

    It’s not an Oxford thing (quite a few of the people in O’Neill’s audience at Oxford were shocked, as I recall). It has (and here I am going to sound like Harriet Bracegirdle-Smythe of the Chipping Norton Pony Club) come about thanks to the fashionable belief that people can go around saying whatever they like, wherever they like, without restraint, because they have ‘freedom of speech’. The idea that they may be prevented from doing so because they are on someone else’s property, or under someone else’s authority, or because what they say may have unpleasant consequences (for them as well as others) does not seem to rate.

    To wit: I am always stunned when people express shock that they have been fired for being vile or stupid or drunk on Facebook. In the past, they were fired for being vile or stupid or drunk in the High Street. The internet changes nothing (although it does increase the audience for one’s idiocy). And yes, I am appalled when I see libertarians, classical liberals and conservatives (UK version) behaving like this because it used to be a fairly reliable stereotype that Tories were politer than their political interlocutors. This is, I fear, no longer true. Many people on all sides are outstandingly and mutually rude and disgusting, regardless of political leanings.

    I’m also not sure what you mean by ‘stereotype threat’. I think you may mean something different from me when I say ‘victim claims’ or ‘victim status’, although I’ll await correction on that point. The sort of victim claims that many conservatives resent concern the ascription of worth to a position because it is held by someone who is a member of a disfavoured (apparently) group. This bites a Tory in two ways: by floating the idea that there are such things as ‘group rights’, and by suggesting that what is said is somehow inseparable from the person who says it (call it ‘crediting the messenger’, as opposed to ‘shooting the messenger’).

  6. Ewan Macdonald says

    As much as I despise O’Neil and think he’s a hack, surely that’s not why he’s “provocative”? Because he doesn’t see consequences? I think he’s all too aware of the consequences of speech – he just (in one of his more admirable traits) thinks that speech should be unlimited and those who exercise the right left to suffer the outcome. To this end he’d (presumably) argue that racist cartoons are disgusting but that is no reason to ban them.

    Where the confusion seems to arise is that when anyone else criticises any aspect of the discourse, well, it’s because they’re a prudish censor. Or they’re otherwise motivated by something base.

  7. Lyanna says

    “Victim status” is a right-wing meme designed to cloak injustice. There’s such a stigma among the strong, manly, rugged individuals on the Right that someone who embraces “victim status”–i.e., who in any way admits to being, or identifies as, a “victim”–is implied to be, by definition, a whiny coward.

    Let’s call things what they are. No one is “claiming victim status.” People are fighting (like strong, tough, self-reliant individuals!) injustice.

  8. Lyanna says

    The second sentence of my above comment should read: “There’s such a stigma against victimhood…”

  9. Dave says

    @8 – yet BO’N’s embrace of libertarianism doesn’t extend so far, presumably, as willingness to embrace being punched in the face every time he says something stupidly offensive? The bodyguard of the state must stand between him and his audience on that point…

    There are no words to express how strongly I despise the argument that ‘free speech’ is a magic thing which is simultaneously both the most important possession of the individual, and incapable of having real consequences that would merit sanction.

  10. dirigible says

    If you set an infinite number of monkeys to work typing on an infinite number of typewriters for an infinite amount of time, they will produce the collected writings of Brendan O’Neill.

    Just not on the typewriters.

  11. says

    To wit: I am always stunned when people express shock that they have been fired for being vile or stupid or drunk on Facebook. In the past, they were fired for being vile or stupid or drunk in the High Street.

    I know that’s OT, but people shouldn’t get fired for the above mentioned as long as they don’t interfere with their ability to do their job right on Monday morning. It’s not my boss’ business if I get drunk or call my uncle a poopyhead.

    I think he’d be equally happy throwing ethnic or racist epithets around. It is difficult to explain to a non-libertarian/classical liberal crowd the perverse thrill some on my side of politics get out of winding people up, especially when they perceive that the group in question is claiming an exaggerated ‘victim’ status.

    So, basically, those people enjoy hurting people on purpose and gloat at watching them suffer. That’s commonly known as cruelty.

    On the “victim status”.
    It occurs to me that this word is treated like the word rape:
    Only awarded in very special and rare circumstances. Probably the same ones.

  12. julian says

    It’s not my boss’ business if I get drunk or call my uncle a poopyhead.

    No but what you do in your off time does reflect on your business and boss and can seriously impact the work place. Suppose you go into a Mel Gibson style rant outside of a bar and someone puts it up on youtube? Or you post some less than appropriate things about coworkers on facebook?

    I can definitely understand why an employer may not want to keep someone around who does that sort of thing.

  13. Roger says

    Brendan O’Neill is an ex-Stalinist, so he probably regards threats of rape or even real rape as comparatively moderate treatment for people who say the wrong things

  14. says

    Skep – sorry about cryptic nature of my remark about “stereotype threat” – and it was a general remark as opposed to advice for you. Thinking aloud, basically. I’ve been reading and posting about it lately; that’s why I didn’t define it. It’s a term from social psychology; research has found (in many many tests) that it harms people’s performance; that’s why it’s preferable to the squishy “victim” discourse.

  15. A. D. Ickhead says

    @Lyanna #9

    Your derogatory use of the word “manly” victimizes me (since I am male). I hope that the last few weeks’ articles have opened your eyes to how gender based insults are hurtful. Please refrain from doing so in the future out of respect for 50% of the world’s population.

    @Dave #11

    Wow a bona fide supporter of Jerry Falwell. Not surprising you did not like the Hustler parody.

    @Ophelia

    Stop making me a victim of your censorship.

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