TheTriggering. Or, how a bunch of online douchecanoes inspired me to use content notices.

CN: triggering, people being terrible on purpose. Also: I guarantee you that there is all sorts of awful in the links here.

Welcome to The Triggering.

Today, a bunch of self-identified shitlords have decided to strike a blow to defend freedom of speech.

Defend it against who, you ask? Attempts to censor scientists who publish research that conflicts with government policy, and to suppress workers’ right to protest? Banning student unions from engaging in boycotts the government doesn’t like? Throwing bloggers, journalists and human rights activists in prison?

Of course not.

Speaking out against those real threats takes courage. Do you know what doesn’t take any courage at all? Say, spending a day saying the most offensive things that you can think of, just because you can. Calling it ‘freedom of speech’ without having the smallest clue about what that actually is, or why it’s important.

Freedom of Speech: it’s not all about being a dickhead

Do you remember the first time you heard about ‘freedom of speech’? I was a kid. I’d gotten my hands on a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since I was a kid, the first thing I did was try to find an article I could use to do what I wanted. Say what I wanted. Avoid cleaning my room, get out of homework. (I also pored though the Declaration on the Rights of the Child. There was nothing about chores. I was disgusted.)

I was insufferable for a while.  Of course I was. I was a kid. I had heard of human rights abuses, but I didn’t understand what they really meant. The distinction between fantasy and real life is blurry at that age. When, like me, you grew up with a gaggle of aunties, uncles and adopted mums keeping an eye on you when you were away from your parents? The idea that someone wouldn’t always be there to right wrongs never truly sunk in .

Then I grew up. I realised that people didn’t fight for freedom of speech so that I could shout rude words in the middle of the street any time I liked. Sure, I can do that. But the point of freedom of speech? Is that speech is powerful. Speech can determine the course of history. Speech is how we connect with each other and see each others humanity. It’s how we’re persuaded to follow one political direction over another. It’s how we inform one another of discoveries that change how we see the world.

Do you know why we don’t have to defend the freedom to say mean things to people who have no political power over us? Because we’ve always had that freedom. When Galileo was confined to house arrest by the Inquisition, I’ll bet there was someone outside calling someone else the 17th century equivalent of a douchecanoe. Continue reading “TheTriggering. Or, how a bunch of online douchecanoes inspired me to use content notices.”

TheTriggering. Or, how a bunch of online douchecanoes inspired me to use content notices.

Germaine Greer? The market has spoken. We don’t want the transphobia you’re selling.

Germaine Greer believes some transphobic things. This isn’t new. It’s not even the first time this year she’s been in the news saying something transmisogynistic. Back in January she told a room in Cambridge that she doesn’t believe in transphobia. She went on to say that trans women don’t know what it’s like to have a “big, hairy, smelly vagina”- implying, I guess, that the state of someone’s vag has an impact on whether they can be a woman or not. Of course, Greer has been openly spouting transmisogyny for years. Back in 2009 she described trans women as “some kind of ghastly parody” in the Guardian. As far back as 1997 she was campaigning against trans women’s inclusion in women’s colleges.

Greer is notorious, and she’s done some valuable work in her time. Her views on trans women don’t make her other critiques go away. However, the converse is also true: the fact that Greer has written interesting things about women, the family, liberal feminism and sexuality doesn’t mean that her transmisogyny deserves a platform.

Last week, a group of students petitioned for Greer to be barred from speaking at Cardiff University because of her history of transphobia. Now, it turns out that they probably won’t succeed- so far, the university is rejecting the petition. But let’s say that they did.

I’ve seen three reasons why Greer should have her university platforms. The first- that her views have merit- we can dismiss out of hand. Trans women are women, end of story. The other two, related to each other, do have merit (although I disagree with them both). These are the idea that denying Greer a platform is an attack on freedom of speech, and that even if her views are terrible, the best way to handle them is through giving them an airing- the ‘marketplace of ideas’ approach.

Both of these are wrong. Continue reading “Germaine Greer? The market has spoken. We don’t want the transphobia you’re selling.”

Germaine Greer? The market has spoken. We don’t want the transphobia you’re selling.

Guest Posts for Equality: The No side’s warped understanding of democracy is a bad joke

In the run-up to Ireland’s Marriage Equality referendum on May 22nd, I’ve invited a series of guest posters– people from Ireland or who live here, of many different backgrounds and orientations- to share their thoughts on the referendum, the campaign, and what it means to them. Contributions to Guest Posts for Equality are welcome- drop me a message

This post comes from Brian O’Flynn, from my own home town of Cork, Ireland. 


In the course of this referendum debate there have been many complaints, in particular from the No side, about an undemocratic atmosphere of censorship. When No posters are defaced by unknown persons, they behave as if the Yes campaign had ordered an official strike. When a mural depicting two men embracing was permitted on George Street in Dublin, they behaved as though the government was conspiring against them to give the Yes campaign more publicity.

In short, they are trying to pin the actions of some rogue vandals on the entire Yes campaign, as well as attempting to politicise the everyday culture and celebrations of the LGBT community. We, as gay people, feel that we can no longer hold hands in the street without having someone from the No side present to “give balance” to the situation. In the process of indignantly claiming their democratic rights, they’ve virtually censored our lives and personal histories.

Just watch the very condescending infomercial released by Mothers and Fathers Matter. It claims that one cannot come out against SSM without suffering verbal abuse and accusations of homophobia; a profoundly unfair generalisation. The official No campaign are experts at playing the victim. Their strategy is to assume the role of the underdog, in the hopes that the Yes campaigners will be seen as extreme liberals who believe that free speech and democracy are less important than our feelings.

The end result is that we are supposed to believe that the No side are the defenders of democracy, balance and free speech in Ireland. But let’s examine just how “democratic” the No side are. Continue reading “Guest Posts for Equality: The No side’s warped understanding of democracy is a bad joke”

Guest Posts for Equality: The No side’s warped understanding of democracy is a bad joke

If you can vote and do not, you are not my friend.

There’s a thing I have to make clear.

If you can vote in this referendum, and you don’t? If something came up and you were just too busy and you didn’t get around to it? You are not my friend. We are not friends. You don’t have any LGBTQ friends. Because our lives, our future, our rights weren’t worth a half hour of your time.

I’d rather an honest homophobe over someone who pretends to care but can’t be bothered, any day.

I’m also very aware that this is the kind of talk that the No side will dismiss as bullying tactics. See, the thing that they like to pretend is that this is a simple matter of disagreement. That we should all be friends and polite and respect differences, and that if we don’t we’re intolerant. But there is no requirement for anyone to be tolerant of discrimination. Of institutional, legally-mandated bullying.

They would like to have us all believe that all opinions are equal, and that respecting someone’s right to have an opinion is the same as respecting that opinion.

All opinions are not equal.

If all opinions were equal, or if holding an opinion was neutral and harmless, there would be no point in having them. Freedom of speech would be meaningless. It wouldn’t matter if you could hold an opinion or not, or if you could express it or not. They would have no effect on the world.

But all opinions are not equal.

Continue reading “If you can vote and do not, you are not my friend.”

If you can vote and do not, you are not my friend.