Today’s online furore over Julie-Burchill’s-column-in-support-of-Suzanne-Moore’s-column in so many way typifies what I hate about the internet, and Twitter in particular. Something that was meant to increase our freedom of speech, our ability to share ideas, has actually become quite repressive.
Luckily, once again, Stephen Tall has written a blogpost so I don’t have to. He says:
It’s precisely because I don’t know a great deal about trans-sexual politics, though, that I’m going to put finger to keyboard. Because one of the things I’ve found most troubling about the past week’s online furore has been that my first instinct (and I don’t think I’m alone) is to say: I’m just not going to go anywhere near that issue. Trans-sexuality is to identity politics what the Arab-Israel conflict is to international relations. Better off hunkering down, let others bear the brunt.
Like Stephen my original thought was to leave it. To go and walk the dog, buy the papers, and watch the football instead. However, that is not right. Just because a certain group, in this case identity politics obsessed lefties, shout loudest doesn’t mean they should be the only people that get to speak. That is not what the internet is about.
Stephen is of course far politer than I am and calls himself out for not writing about this sensitive issue:
It’s wrong first, because it’s cowardly. But it’s wrong also because, by omission, it contributes to the closing down of free speech and the exchange of ideas which should be the Internet’s greatest gift.
Stephen is 100% right.
The growth of angry identity politics is that we have all tried to be more-repressed, and more right-on, than thou. As Tim Stanley points out on the Telegraph:
Liberalism has created different political classes of minorities who compete with each other for title of the most oppressed – and this invariably creates new forms of fascism as one group asserts itself over the other.
I’d possibly replace the word liberalism with leftism, but broadly this comment has some merit. We saw it when Caitlin Moran dared to write a piece about equality, and we saw it when people realised that there were no black characters in first series of the brilliant HBO series ‘Girls’. People thought that because Moran is now successful she can’t possibly comment on discrimation, and because Lena Dunham was dealing with issues around young women, she should also take on issues of race. They ignored the fact that Caitlin Moran has done a huge amount for encouraging working class women into the media, and the Lena Dunham made us 20-somethng ladies feel a little bit better about ourselves.
The thing about all these incidents is that the internet made it worse. Much worse.
It is great that it gives previously unheard groups a voice. That’s what we should all want. What is reprehensible though is when people are so scared to take on certain issues because they fear the possible backlash from the baying mob of the Twitterati.
As a gay woman who hardly sees anyone like me on mainstream TV or newspapers I have plenty to say on a variety of issues like this. It angers me that while thankfully gay man are become more and more part of our mainstream culture, gay women still go largely ignored. As if to prove the point, BBC3′s lesbo-drama Lip Service has just been axed. Do you know what the response will be if I was ever to write something like that? “Your white and middle class, what the hell do you know?”
I thought Julie Burchill’s piece was pretty horrible, and unnecessarily nasty. The headline was offensive. However, as I said at the beginning, the internet should be a place where people can publish and discuss a variety of ideas.
If we lose this freedom under a cloud of politically-correct-right-on-rage we will have lost something very special indeed.