All of the articles linked to require a trigger warning and content note for mentions of rape, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia and racism. I have used ‘do not link’ for most of them.
And so we come to Spiked Online, edited by Brendan O’Neill, whose journalistic outpourings can also be found in the Telegraph and The Australian. He’s a ‘libertarian’, which means that he has no interest at all in liberty for anyone except white heterosexual men.
It doesn’t really do to read too much (if anything) over at Spiked – the need to stand under a shower afterwards and scrub yourself raw isn’t one I choose to indulge that often, and generally Spiked sits in its own corner of the internet, attracting similarly like minded folk as they complain endlessly about how their rights to be pseudo-intellectual straight white male arseholes are always being attacked. And since we live in a democracy, even pseudo-intellectual straight white male arseholes need somewhere to go and let off steam without bothering anyone too much.
So I usually ignore the BS but O’Neill has set himself as the great champion of free speech: it is with a total lack of surprise that I find that this not to be true.
It probably doesn’t help matters very much that O’Neill clearly has an issue with women (who should just shut up) and homosexuals, (who he thinks are big old meanies). Not surprisingly he’s pretty transphobic and is prickly on the subject of racism too: he thinks that talking about racism is a Very Bad Thing That Will Make It All Worse. His libertarian views are, therefore, rooted in making sure that everyone stays white, male and straight and where people are unable to comply with this, he is simply trying to make sure that if they insist on being women, queer and black that they do so as quietly as possible and without making too much fuss about it.
Brendan O’Neill is a patriarchal monolith, and so it is no surprise that his understanding of free speech is shallow: he also has something of an obsession with mobs despite the fact that he couldn’t identify a mob if one were coming at him with flaming torches and pitchforks – which is what, in his latest missive, he imagines women campaigning against rape to be. He also imagines that they wear white sheets, gather at Klan-type rallies and are responsible for general fear-mongering and man-lynching.
#IBelieveHer is his latest target in his quest to prove how dreadful women are; after one of Spiked journalists made last months dismal offering on Ched Evans (“he should be allowed to rehabilitate! but without rehabilitating! because he claims he’s innocent!” – a truly Gordian knot of thinking which is dumb in a faintly irritating way), O’Neill is clearly frustrated that we women are not taking on board the message that we are a ‘mob’ who should be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves. He has therefore decided to monster us in the most trigger-happy manner he can: by making women who choose radical, victim centred belief analogous to the KKK.
Let that sink in for a moment. O’Neill is saying that women who protest against rape, who choose to believe the victim when statistically speaking they are probably telling the truth, and who want some sensitivity shown to the victim should they decide to report, are to men what racists are to black people.
(Historical note: the KKK raped – and encouraged the raping of – black women with the same ferociousness with which they lynched black men. So for O’Neill to use this premise is pretty disgusting and appallingly a-historical).
It should be immediately obvious – to anyone with firing synapses – that O’Neill doesn’t understand the structural nature of oppression, and at best couldn’t care less about the widespread nature of rape, abuse or domestic and intimate partner violence. Heaven forefend that liberation from oppressive structural rape culture should mean that he has to show them some consideration!
In O’Neill’s world, challenging the rape myths which shame victims and stop them from coming forward is not a free speech issue – but those who try and change that culture are threatening free speech: it is the vengeance of the dreadful harridans who are out to deny freedom to men everywhere! Trying to get justice for rape victims and speaking out about the low conviction rates isn’t free speech: it is mob rule, the tool of horrible harpies who want men’s heads on a spike as a warning to all! We’re making them out to be rape apologists, and their feelings are hurt!
Free speech does not extend, in O’Neill’s world, to the women and children who are abused or on the receiving end of domestic violence, but can’t speak out because society shames them, and sends them implicit and explicit messages that it is all their own fault. Free speech does not extend to black people speaking out against racism, to people who want to express their gender identity, to people who simply want to choose to marry, or who want to not be raped.
In O’Neill’s world, freedom and liberty are not for those people at all.
Brendan O’Neill and Spiked are not qualified to champion free speech because they do not believe in free speech. #IBelieveHer does not threaten free speech and any argument that it does is implicitly based on a desire to protect male privilege.