In the light of the recently uncovered Suzanne Moore debacle, the response has been polarised. While most decent, normal people have rightly responded to this deplorable display with the unilateral condemnation it deserves, looking in the right places (such as the best rated daily mail comments on this article) can reveal a sad, shocking, but perhaps worst of all ultimately unsurprising truth. People are okay with being discriminatory.
Under the guise of free speech, people have been clamouring to defend the comments made with a deliberate view to marginalising an already voiceless minority. Journalists claiming Suzanne has “the right to offend”, and that “taking offence is Britain’s new national sport.” While I’m not one to play the privilege card, I should wonder why on Earth these journalists feel so threatened in some way by being called out by the people they are falling over themselves to harrass. It’s not as if transgendered people have a wide platform, or offer any mainstream resistance. Even this sympathetic article in the New Statesman profiling some of the most prominent transfolk highlights a bunch of people I can almost guarantee you’ll have never heard of. Certainly, none of them have regular columns – and regular paychecks – in the national media.
To then have the audacity to say we’re censoring anybody when we tell them columns that victimise people are wrong using “freedom of speech” is nothing short of reprehensible. In the offending articles, the authors have claimed to feel threatened by a “trans lobby.” I have no idea what that is. Certainly, I know there’s a standard of decency which I hope a majority of people try to live by and encourage, but a “trans lobby”? Please. Spare me. A few dozen people on Twitter contacting the authors directly and spreading the word through networks of similar people cannot compete with published writers who reach hundreds of thousands of people through printed media circulated nationwide, with at least as many reading the online versions.
To put it bluntly, then, I don’t buy into this “protect free speech” gaggle of ridiculousness. When ex-Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone took to Twitter to speak up for us, she was met with ConDemnation. Articles calling it “a knee jerk response“, completely ignoring the fact that Lynne is perhaps the most progressive Liberal Democrat with one of the most impressive LGBT records held by a government minister ever. For example, her Trans Action Plan outlining an actual obligation and committment to achieving equality and better standards for transgendered people is something almost nobody seems to know about. If anyone’s well placed to put national pressure on the media to defend our interests, in the absence of actual transgendered people, then it’s Lynne Featherstone.
But it doesn’t even need to be as specific as that. Even a cursory glance at the independent Editor’s Code Of Practice reveals that the Burchill article in particular is an open and closed case. Scroll down. Section twelve. Discrimination. “i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.”
Oh. That’s been so effective over the past fortnight. I guess if we actually expect standards to be enforced, we’ll have to try and do that ourselves. Oh. The media doesn’t like it when we try to take away cheap targets, easy laughs and perpetuated intolerance.