A blogger called David Paxton wrote a very long post as an open letter to Laurie Penny on the subject of a tweet of hers saying she wasn’t Charlie Hebdo because Charlie Hebdo is racist. (I’m not sure I think an open letter is supposed to be hugely long. I think if it’s hugely long it’s not an open letter but some other genre…like for instance a blog post.)
I agree with him overall but the post makes me feel…uneasy. It’s too elephant gun. It’s a long essay and it’s in response to a single tweet – that’s overkill, and in the current climate it’s not really all that cool for a man to use overkill on a woman, especially when she’s one who has been a target of a lot of harassment. But it’s not really all that cool in any case – plus it’s absurd. It’s one tweet. The response should be more proportional.
But on the substance I agree with him. Penny bought into the “CH is racist” canard, and that’s annoying, especially when a bunch of them including the editor had just been murdered.
Murder is vile and unconscionable. Freedom of the press must be protected. But racist trolling is not heroism. Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie.
She was wrong.
Paxton goes on –
This single tweet is all this is about. You didn’t say much else about the attack as far as I could find. And I looked.
I was appalled by many responses to the attacks and wrote a piece highlighting my problems with them. Your tweet is featured in it under the section ‘Reflexive Smearing’. Reading it back I was still struck by what you had written and think it valid to revisit. I believe there is a disparity between what you profess to believe in, how you usually conduct yourself and the content of your statement. Something doesn’t add up and I would be much obliged if at the very least you could help clarify it and end my confusion.
My objections to your message are as follows:
Oh gawd. He’s already written about the tweet, and now, six weeks later, he’s writing about it again, at great length, because he thinks it “valid to revisit” and that “there is a disparity between” blah blah blah…it’s way too much; it’s overkill squared. And also why does he write that way? Without contractions? As if his blog were an academic journal? That kind of pointless formality gets up my nose.
I want to like his piece, I do think that kind of bullshit needs abundant criticism, but I’m sick to death of overkill and bullying.
Then there’s the conclusion:
Now this time has passed and you are able to reflect upon what you wrote, have you altered your opinion any?
I would like you to do one of the following:
1: Justify your opinion. For although you have the right to make it, such a strong opinion, especially about those unable to reply, requires justification.
2: Repudiate your previous statement. Do so publicly and set straight those whom you influence and may have taken your ignorant and precipitant declaration as somehow based on thought and knowledge. Of course, with this should also come an apology and an explanation. What serious person could provide less?
I don’t think I need to spell out the problem here.