Libdem minister calls for sacking of Julie Burchill


by Sunny Hundal    
6:29 pm - January 13th 2013

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In a series of tweets the Libdem minister Lynne Featherstone today called on the Observer columnist Julie Burchill to be sacked from the newspaper.

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Some on Twitter defended her stance

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Others weren’t so impressed

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The article in question is this by Julie Burchill today titled ‘Transsexuals should cut it out’.

Angry emails and criticism on Twitter led to the Observer Readers’ Editor saying he will look into the issue and will reply in due course.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Horrid article- any argument she was trying to make was drowned out by her personal attacks on the appearances of trans people (which is ironic, given that Moore’s article which started all this was about beauty standards).

People may think trans people are being touchy, but this article wouldn’t have been published about any other minority. And certainly not in the “touchy feely” Observer. Talk about double standards.

Here’s a good reply from a long time Guardian columnist. http://adventuresofagoodcitizen.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/dear-readers-editor-i-am-writing-to-you.html

Burchill is entitled to express her views.

The Observer is entitled to publish them.

Readers are free to object to the article.

Featherstone is entitled to call for Burchill to be sacked.

Others are entitled to object to that.

This is an excellent example of the principle of free speech in action.

What’s the problem?

Nobody died.

Fill your boots.

3. Matthew Blott

Let’s take a step back here. If a government minister was asked their views on Ron Atkinson calling a black footballer a “fucking lazy thick nigger” and their reply was that Atkinson should be sacked would anyone have had a problem? I read Burchill’s article and it’s the most shocking piece I think I’ve ever read on Cif. And when one considers the number of articles by Islamists, anti-semites and other fruitcakes the Guardian sees fit to publish these days it is really saying something that it’s managed to shock.

The article is vile, it targets a vulnerable minority and should never have been published. We should treat it as we would treat something explicitly racist.

As to MPs and columnists being sacked, I’m sure it wasnt being suggested that MPs decide which journalists keep their jobs. It’s just someone making clear their position, in this case that they are rightly disgusted, in as strong terms as possible.

I really cant believe the Guardian on this one.

@pager

Entitlement isn’t the issue being disputed. JB is entitled to be a horrible person and the Guardian are entitled to give her a platform (assuming what she says doesn’t constitute incitement to violence).

The point is that the Guardian ought not to have exercised that right. Given the organizations readership and underlying values, the editorship’s decision to publish was not only immoral but also ill-advised.

Complain to this email:

reader@observer.co.uk

and on this online petition:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/167/042/971/demand-an-apology-from-the-guardian-for-publishing-hate-speech/

I agree with Matthew and Navidson – particularly with the last sentence of Matthew’s comment – but the main thing is it shouldn’t have been published in the first place.

7. Dick the Prick

Vicky Coren’s gone downhill after her wedding.

Burchill in the Observer: “…but we’ve experienced a lifetime of PMT and sexual harassment and many of us are now staring HRT and the menopause straight in the face – and still not flinching. Trust me, you ain’t seen nothing yet. You really won’t like us when we’re angry.”

That is a horrible thing to say. Burchill used to say challenging things with a purpose but the only purpose in those words is spite. She disregards transgendered people and ignores the everyday problems that TG people face.

Burchill became pointless years ago, if there ever was a point to her.

10. sunder katwala

On the racism analogy, would government ministers call for the Tarantino film Django not to be screened, or to be denied a certificate?

I think government ministers should be very cautious about calling for columnists or editors to be sacked, and should pretty much never do so.

However much you disagree with the piece, the references to “incitement” are nonsense or hyperbole. It seems obvious the piece does not break the law by inciting hatred.

A different point would be that the PCC or successor should rule it breaks the code. This strikes me as being in the Jan Moir category, a sharp and nasty polemic that should not be officially spiked. (Others might think it does cross this line).

If it doesn’t break the code, that leaves a third point – that a particular title, eg the Observer should not publish something that another title might. For example, as an Observer reader might disapprove strongly if they signed Richard Littlejohn, while expecting him to appear in the Sun or Mail. If the paper did that, they might write in, blog or tweet or stop buying the paper, or grumble and carry on.

But that is a very different type of challenge to claims of loose claims of “incitement” meaning “offence”. Offence can be very deeply felt indeed (as it almost certainly was for some who protested the Satanic Verses) without that becoming a reason to prohibit publication.

11. Matthew Blott

@ sunder katwala

I get a bit tired of people calling for people to be sacked and, indeed, I do not want Burchill sacked. I was making the point that when Ron Atkinson made his shocking racist remarks it was seen as an open and shut case. Yet the pure bile published by Burchill (and Julie Bindel on various occasions) against the trans community is seen as defensible by some sections of the left who really should know better.

12. David Cooper

What a dull article. I think its a close run thing between the pointlessness of Julie Burchill and the brainlessness of Lynne Featherstone. Fire both of them, I say.

Matthew Blott

You mean there are still some sections of the left who think that government ministers should keep their illiberal opinions to themselves and refuse to join in the lazy calls for retribution every time someone says something they don’t like ? Surely not.
As for your Ron Atkinson analogy, well I would have exactly the same response had any government minister called for his sacking – namely “what the fuck has it got to do with you ?”
Isn’t it amusing though to see yet another example of a Liberal who doesn’t understand the meaning of the word.

14. sunder katwala

Matthew (11)

Yes, I see your point. Atkinson was reprimanded or dropped, and the government did not get involved. A sad incident for those of us who remember his championing of black players in the 70s.

On the other hand, the government did get involved (Blair on the this morning sofa, from memory) in Glenn Hoddle talking rather daftly and no doubt offensively about reincarnation and the disabled, before he was sacked, and probably should have left that too.

Those calling for Burchill to be sacked are doing no more than showing the Observer what they believe is appropriate for a publication to put forward. No compulsion is here, people are free to think people aren’t fit for their jobs, big ol’ meh from this side.

But… the article was awful, and while not quite inciteful it was essentially a long ironically hypocritical piece that did nothing but bully, use privilege to lessen another minorities rights, and provide a cover for those who are truly hateful (if Burchill isn’t) to continue and amplify their hate.

Some very confused arguments seem to be doing the rounds about how illiberal it is to call for Burchill to be sacked and thus to have her right to free speech restricted.

What bollocks. The Observer would no more be restricting Burchill’s right to free speech by sacking her than it is currently restricting the right to free speech of every other bigot it chooses not to employ in the first place.

Funnily enough, my having the right to express stupid and hateful opinions does not place the editor of any national newspaper under any obligation to publish them and put me on the payroll.

I do think it’s generally scabbing to call for people to be sacked.

More generally, people need to lay off the fucking PC.

@ Navidson

Given the organizations readership and underlying values, the editorship’s decision to publish was not only immoral but also ill-advised.

That’s your opinion, to which you are entitled. Clearly the editor took an alternative view.

My problem is with anyone who suggests that someone else’s view should not be permitted to be heard because, for example, it is considered to be “hate speech”.

You’re not saying that, are you?

Someone’s still paying the Burchillator money? Who is this fuckwit? Because they’ve clearly more money than sense. I smell an easy mark.

I normally defend JB ( that’s Birchell, not Bindel) on hte grounds that her prose sparkles and it’s as joyous, as an addition to human appiness, as Bernard Levin’s was. However much on disagreed, still good reading.

This didn’t rise to that standard.

But Pagar at 2 has it right even so:

“Burchill is entitled to express her views.

The Observer is entitled to publish them.

Readers are free to object to the article.

Featherstone is entitled to call for Burchill to be sacked.

Others are entitled to object to that.

This is an excellent example of the principle of free speech in action.

What’s the problem? ”

Free speech, it’s a right bugger, ain’t it?

I must be in a minority here because I think Julie Burchill is a national treasure. A government minister calling for the sacking of a journalist is a good demonstration of how free they really believe the press should be, not very is the truth.

Op-ed pieces are supposed to be provocative and challenge assumptions. However, the new BTL outraged like the Twitter mobs do not want to read anything that they disagree with in their sphere. Most of the JB outrage is not what she said but that it was in the Observer. A sad downside of the internet is that there is a large degree of polarising where people only ever read stuff that they already believed. When someone intrudes on the echo chamber there is inchoate outrage. Offended on behalf of others is a new form of medieval burn the witch where the offended demonstrate their moral superiority over the heretic.

The problem I would have with the JB column is that it was not really challenging anything. She seemed more interested in deliberately demeaning those she considered opponents. Moreover, using a column to get revenge on behalf of a friend is not what a op-ed should be about.

Looking on the bright side the outraged response will provide a wealth of material for numerous Brendan O’Neill columns.

22. Arthur Seaton

Agreed Richard W

If Burchill’s piece had been criticising the government, and Featherstone was then calling for her to be sacked, I would have a problem with such calls – it would look like trying to silence criticism. But given the article wasn’t in any way directed at Featherstone or the government, I don’t have a problem with her response. She clearly isn’t speaking on behalf of the government in any case, nor threatening any action on its behalf – this isn’t like when the government threatened the Telegaph over Maria Miller’s expenses.

And she also happens to be right – Burchill *should* be sacked for writing that awful article. I don’t believe it breaks the law – in that sense, it is a legitimate expression of free speech – but nonetheless it’s the kind of prejudiced abuse that newspapers should really know better than to print.

Isn’t JB a freelancer these days? Cannot be sacked from the paper as such.

Of course, it was a horrid, stupid article that an editor should have spiked. Also shows how twitter draws government ministers, among other people, into instant reactions and needless distractions.

@GO – very much agree. Kneejerk calls for anyone to be sacked always go against the grain, but this is indeed not a ‘free speech’ issue. A useful parallel (though I haven’t read it) might be that Guardian piece advocating sympathy for paedophiles which caused a storm – that seems to have put forward a provocative or at least challenging perspective, and I wouldn’t say it shouldn’t have been published. But Burchill’s piece was not simply challenging – it was attacking a whole group in a really crude and hateful way. No one would have said it was illiberal to say a grossly racist article shouldn’t have been published, would they?

26. Chaise Guevara

I don’t know about whether she should keep her job, it’s entirely down to what kind of content the Observer wants to publish. But that article was unbelievably disgusting. “Dicks in chicks’ clothing” indeed. I was expecting slightly more subtle bigotry; genuinely shocked by what this horrible excuse for a human being thinks about trans people.

To be fair – qualifying for transgender treatment on the NHS is under the Mental Health Act so they are legally crackers.

28. Chaise Guevara

@ 21 Richard

“Op-ed pieces are supposed to be provocative and challenge assumptions. However, the new BTL outraged like the Twitter mobs do not want to read anything that they disagree with in their sphere.”

The issue with this article is not that many people disagree with the politics, but the viciousness of her attack on one of society’s more vulnerable groups. You yourself said something similar, so I don’t see how you can make this point.

“Most of the JB outrage is not what she said but that it was in the Observer.”

Trust me, it would have generated heat had it been in the Daily Mail (where it belongs), as well.

“A sad downside of the internet is that there is a large degree of polarising where people only ever read stuff that they already believed.”

Well, yes, but again I don’t see this as a counterargument to the people criticising Birchill’s cruel and vindictive attitude.

“Looking on the bright side the outraged response will provide a wealth of material for numerous Brendan O’Neill columns.”

Oh gawds. “Despite what the liberal elite would like to believe, the average bricklayer couldn’t give a toss about trans people”.

Julie Burchill in over the top hyperbole shocker! Its her stock in trade. Without that she’s got nothing.

Though the attacks on Suzanne Moore are/were ridiculous. Utterly so. So I can understand Burchill’s desire to defend her, just a shame that Burchill decided to do it in the way she did. Its almost a parody of herself.

Sarah AB
@GO – very much agree. Kneejerk calls for anyone to be sacked always go against the grain, but this is indeed not a ‘free speech’ issue.

Why is not a free speech issue, because you and others have decreed it hate speech ? That way you can safely anathematise anything you don’t like and feel safely righteous about them possibly being deprived of their job as a result. Also there seems to be some confusion about the real problem here, which is not whether JB was being obnoxious or whether the Observer should have published her remarks but a government minister calling for someone to be sacked for expressing an opinion she found repellant. You and plenty of others here don’t seem to be bothered by that, which is why a lot of us distrust and even fear the left, at root you care nothing for the civil liberties of anyone outside your chosen groups, which all vary according to whichever minor sect or identity group you most approve of.

31. Baying Lynch Mob

Nobody died

Hundreds of people already did

http://www.transgenderdor.org/memorializing-2012

…because uninformed, hateful opinions like Burchill’s are given a platform, while the voices of trans people are sidelined or ignored.

32. Robin Levett

@Thornavis #30:

Why is not a free speech issue, because you and others have decreed it hate speech ?

Where’s my freelance contract to write a regular column in the Observer? It is an issue of free speech that GMG has chosen to withhold my contract and to deny me that platform.

Robin Levett

I haven’t got a clue what you’re on about but I’m sure it’s all very profound and important.

34. Chaise Guevara

@ 32 Robin

While your point is valid, Thornavis was replying to Sarah, who did seem to be arguing on the basis that it’s not a free speech problem if it only affects nasty opinions.

35. Robin Levett

@Thornavis #32:

I haven’t got a clue what you’re on about but I’m sure it’s all very profound and important.

Calling for Burchill’s sacking from The Observer is only a free speech issue insofar as her entitlement to free speech includes an entitlement to have her rants published in The Observer. If she has such an entitlement, so do I; the fact that I have no such entitlement suggests that the argument that this is a free speech issue fails.

Julie Burchill is never knowingly understated; but if her style of knockabout debate is not to trans-sexuals’ taste – and it isn’t to mine – ignore her.

37. Spiff & Spoff

Of course Julie Burchill has form on this issue. She seems to like applying the “Black & White Minstrel” quote to them too.

It looks to me like she’s been nursing this one for a long time.

The question isn’t so much whether Burchill should or shouldn’t be so thoroughly vile, but rather whether The Guardian, a paper that claims to espouse liberal toleranr values should print the crap that she writes.

38. white trash

@Tone 36 Yeah, if you ignore bigots and bullies they always go away, don’t they?

“Let’s take a step back here. If a government minister was asked their views on Ron Atkinson calling a black footballer a “fucking lazy thick nigger” and their reply was that Atkinson should be sacked would anyone have had a problem? ”

I know it’s only a small point but Ron Atkinson never actually said that. I heard his comment live and re-inventing history isn’t always the best way to make a point.

YT @ 38:

Bigotry and bullying? No, this is feminists vs trans-sexuals in a game of I’m-more-oppressed-than-thou. It’s about who has primacy in the hierarchy of victimhood.

@ pagar

No, and I’ve not really heard anyone serious suggesting that, seem a bit of a straw man argument you’re addressing. It is “hate speech” in the separate sense of having no argument and encouraging hatred of a vulnerable minority for no apparent reason.

42. Shatterface

Birchill speaks for a generation of feminists who are, despite their radical posturing, essentialists. You see the same attitude in Germain Greer and Bea Campbell.

There’s another issue with this: moralism.

“X did a bad thing. X is a bad person. We should condemn X.”

Do people not realise that we actually aren’t responsible for our actions? It’s an illusion. Everything we do is predetermined so there’s really no place for moralism in our world.

There are bad people, like there are rotten apples and defective machines, but there’s no reason to get self-righteous about it. No one chooses what they are.

Regardless of people’s definition of hate speech, that article in concluding veered very close to making an unmistakeable – if coyly undefined – threat to TG people. That is where it went completely over the line and perhaps worthy of police investigation. It’s one thing to say you don’t like such and such a group, another to issue a ‘warning’ about what you and others will be like when you are really angry.

Calling it a matter of Burchill’s free speech is nonsense. No one has any right to be published in a newspaper, or to issue threats, however murky. And nor have they ever had such ‘rights’.

45. white trash

Tone “feminists vs trans-sexuals in a game of I’m-more-oppressed-than-thou”

No Tone, that’s just how the more reactionary want to see it as they snigger behind their hands. The reality is that Burchill and Moore and their nasty little crony Bindel are using their privileged positions as bully pulpits to attack and belittle an already abused minority who they dislike for their own twisted little reasons.

This has been building for years now.

I for one am glad to see this boil get lanced and have these people out themselves as the bigots they are for all to see clearly. La Burchill is particularly poisonous on a number of issues, ranging from women’s sexuality to the environment.

Eg “When the sex war is won prostitutes should be shot as collaborators for their terrible betrayal of all women, for the moral tarring and feathering they give indigenous women who have had the bad luck to live in what they make their humping ground”.

http://www.quotecosmos.com/quotes/32857/view

@ Chris

“There’s another issue with this: moralism.

“X did a bad thing. X is a bad person. We should condemn X.”

Do people not realise that we actually aren’t responsible for our actions? It’s an illusion. Everything we do is predetermined so there’s really no place for moralism in our world.

There are bad people, like there are rotten apples and defective machines, but there’s no reason to get self-righteous about it. No one chooses what they are.”

Here’s a reason to ‘get self-righteous about it’: by condemning bad behaviour and explaining why it’s bad, we might positively influence the future behaviour of the person who has behaved badly, or of other people who might otherwise have behaved the same way.

If you don’t believe that sort of thing can happen because everybody is predetermined to behave a certain way regardless of what other people say or do to influence their behaviour, please explain the following:

1 – how other people’s attempts to influence their behaviour come to be excluded from the causal chain that determines their future actions;

2 – why you consider it worthwhile to attempt to influence the behaviour of people you feel are inclined to get self-righteous and start moralising, given that their self-righteous and moralising behaviour is predetermined, they don’t choose to be that way, and nothing you say or do can change it.

I agree with the points made by Robin Levett and Lamia – I am not saying she should not be able to publish or post such comments anywhere, just that the Observer should not have published such a hateful piece, in the same way the Guardian should not have published a nasty antisemitic letter a while back.

http://hurryupharry.org/2012/04/19/guardian-limbo-always-a-new-low/

The Guardian deleted the letter and now the Observer has deleted Burchill’s post – there is a case to be made for retaining both pieces, for the record as it were, but I don’t see either example as a ‘free speech’ issue.

I’d say that deleting it, and attempts to suggest that expression of such views must be banned, has *made* it a free expression issue.

49. Robin Levett

@Matt W #48:

attempts to suggest that expression of such views must be banned

Has anybody made that suggestion?

Let me rephrase that – the Guardian/Observer now have to decide how they are going to handle freedom of expression, since they have opened a can of worms.

What will they publish? What will they post-censor?

How angry do how many readers have to get to have an article withdrawn?

Which subjects will they be post-censoring on?

etc

Once a media organisation has made the decision to publish an article the reality of the publication is real. The Observer decision to subsequently unpublish the column is absurd. Whether they were right or wrong with the original decision is neither here nor there only factual inaccuracies should be subsequently amended after publication. The public are perfectly entitled to criticise the original decision but one can’t undo that decision. Withdrawing an opinion piece in the face of complaints is censorship. Welcome to the world of opinion approved by government ministers.

52. Baying Lynch Mob

@51 Richard W

You don’t reckon they pulled it because it was turning out to be bad for business?

@2: Readers are free to object to the article.

Yes, but they shouldn’t object. Instead they should just igonre Burchill — she’s a useless waste of space.

I have never come out of reading a Julie Burchill article feeling I understand the world better than before I read it. Has anyone else? I doubt it.

I think Twitter should be sacked.

55. Chaise Guevara

@ White Trash

“Eg “When the sex war is won prostitutes should be shot as collaborators for their terrible betrayal of all women, for the moral tarring and feathering they give indigenous women who have had the bad luck to live in what they make their humping ground”.”

Holy. Fuck.

Please tell me that there’s some kind of mitigating context to that quote. Burchill surely can’t be so free of self-awareness that she can whine about “tarring and feathering” while calling for the death of prostitutes because she’s offended to share a gender with them.

@55 It gets worse when you notice the ‘indigenous women’ remark she’s thrown in there.

57. the a&e charge nurse

[50] I think two main factors influencing such decisions are the sensitivities of certain groups, and affect on circulation.

Having decided to publish I think the Guardian/Observer should have kept the article out there.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5ybDS2Ddzo

WT @ 45:

“The reality is that Burchill and Moore and their nasty little crony Bindel are using their privileged positions as bully pulpits to attack and belittle an already abused minority who they dislike for their own twisted little reasons.”

If you say so. But you are essentially accepting my point that this dispute – which you say has been building for years – is about power, about privilege, and above all about primacy in the hierarchy of groups perceiving themselves as oppressed.

In the hierarchy of oppressed groups – sexual, racial, disabled, etc – certain individuals (like Burchill et al) build careers on campaigning for greater entitlements and privileges for their group. Reading Burchill’s piece, I sense in certain phrases that she feels her interests are threatened by trans-sexual people who claim the entitlements of being a woman (and so are oppressed) when they are not ‘real’ women, but who yet can claim another layer of oppression as trans-sexuals.

On much of the left, a victim is the thing to be. It gives you moral status and with that comes the opportunity to guilt-trip others, devise linguistic vetoes, express moral outrage at perceived (and often unintended) offence, and to claim various entitlements, privileges and benefits. And, if you have the inclination and ability, to build a career for yourself as a leading activist.

This spat between Moore/Burchill/Bindel and the trans-sexual lobby grows out of the victim culture and the power struggles between different groups jostling for position in the hierarchy of oppression. And like Peer Gynt and his onion, there’s always another layer of oppression to uncover…So on it goes.

I think it’s rather pathetic, and I’m not sniggering. I wish we could consign victim culture to the waste bin of history and look at the needs of different people without quite so much emphasis on group identity and tribalism.

59. Chaise Guevara

@ 58 TONE

“On much of the left, a victim is the thing to be. It gives you moral status and with that comes the opportunity to guilt-trip others, devise linguistic vetoes, express moral outrage at perceived (and often unintended) offence, and to claim various entitlements, privileges and benefits.”

True as all this is, it’s yet another case of you assigning a universal flaw solely to the left. The right does it too:

“Calling racist/homophobic people bigots silences the debate.”

“The only people you’re allowed to be prejudiced against are straight white males.”

“What about OUR rights?”

And so on.

60. Chaise Guevara

@ Cylux

“It gets worse when you notice the ‘indigenous women’ remark she’s thrown in there.”

I don’t even know what that means in this context.

I do know that “My womanliness is marred by your whoring” is the same stupid, self-obsessed logic as “My marriage is devalued by your gay wedding”.

@58 You could do with looking up intersectionality, since the concepts that deals with is apparently what you’re attempting to bring up. Needless to say Burchill is not an intersectional feminist.

62. Spiff & Spoff

@ 55 Chaise.

Please tell me that there’s some kind of mitigating context to that quote.

Well, if you call being a thoroughly nasty piece of work a context, then I suppose there is. Whether that counts as mitigation or not is another matter

63. Chaise Guevara

@ 62 Spiff and Spoff

Well, she certainly is that.

CG @ 59:

“True as all this is, it’s yet another case of you assigning a universal flaw solely to the left. The right does it too…”

Of course, people on the right claim to be victims – we all do at some point – but only the left promotes and even professionalises a victim culture. [As I see it, the left does this partly for strategic reasons - it creates more client groups for the Labour Party, and the harder left see it as a way of chipping away at the legitimacy of the status quo - and partly from obeisance to the dogma of 'equality'.]

Your examples here are unconvincing, because you can’t see the difference between claiming to be a victim and buying into a victim culture. If someone claims straight white males (SWMs) are victims, where is the guilt-trip? The attempts to devise linguistic vetoes? Where are the SWMs expressing moral outrage at perceived (and often unintended) offence? And where are the SWMs establishing organised lobbies in which activists can push for various entitlements, privileges and benefits, and even build a lucrative career?

65. Chaise Guevara

@ 64 TONE

“Of course, people on the right claim to be victims – we all do at some point – but only the left promotes and even professionalises a victim culture.”

No true Scotsman. “A victim is the thing to be”, you said. And have you heard of the Taxpayer’s Alliance?

“Your examples here are unconvincing, because you can’t see the difference between claiming to be a victim and buying into a victim culture.”

There isn’t one. You buy into a victim culture by claiming to be a victim.

“If someone claims straight white males (SWMs) are victims, where is the guilt-trip?”

Uh, that IS the guilt-trip. Poor ol’ straight white males like me, the downtrodden mass. Poor ol’ squeezed middle, not able to afford a new BMW this year because of those pesky taxes being used to feed the needy.

“The attempts to devise linguistic vetoes?”

I already gave you a good right-wing example of such an attempt. This is another no true Scotsman.

“Where are the SWMs expressing moral outrage at perceived (and often unintended) offence?”

All over the damn place. Straights offended by gay marriage. Whites offended by the perception that they’re an acceptable target. Males offended by the TV’s tendency to portray them as incompetent buffoons (I’m with those guys, as it happens).

“And where are the SWMs establishing organised lobbies in which activists can push for various entitlements, privileges and benefits, and even build a lucrative career?”

Well, we have anti-gay-rights organisations, which are more about demanding that entitlements are denied others, but close enough. There’s Fathers 4 Justice. Can’t think of one for race, unless you count the BNP when they think nobody’s looking, but I bet they exist.

Insofar as victim culture is more visible among the left – and I don’t deny it is in terms of organisations and campaigns – that’s simply because a large part of leftist philosophy is about protecting the weak from the strong; there are more actual victims on our side.

CG @ 65:

“No true Scotsman. “A victim is the thing to be”, you said. And have you heard of the Taxpayer’s Alliance?”

No, it’s not the NTS fallacy, because I have defined the criteria by which the ordinary victim differs from someone who buys into the victim culture.

I said: “On much of the left, a victim is the thing to be”. And I said this in the context of remarks about those tiresome lefties who jostle for position in the hierarchy of oppression.

The TPA is not part of the victim culture. They are lobby group. You are defining any right-wing pressure as a victim group, when I am not defining every left-wing pressure group as a victim group. The victim culture is concerned with discrimination on the grounds of sex, sexuality, race and disability. Moreover, those who have deeply bought into the victim culture are concerned to show that they are more oppressed and victimised than other victim groups.

“You buy into a victim culture by claiming to be a victim.”

No, you don’t. A trans-sexual might say to me that s/he is discriminated against. And fair enough, s/he probably is. But that alone is not buying into victim culture: it is more than that – buying into victim culture is flaunting your victimhood, using it as leverage to improve your social and moral status, indulging in displays of self-pity, engaging in Twitter storms over minor perceived offences, claiming that your group is more victimised than other victim groups…and so on.

“Straights offended by gay marriage. Whites offended by the perception that they’re an acceptable target. Males offended by the TV’s tendency to portray them as incompetent buffoons…”

I am not aware that straights who are offended by gay marriage are claiming to be victims: they are just offended…and I don’t understand your second example, or your third because I don’t watch TV. Anyway, just because someone is offended does not make them a victim; and I was talking about those who buy into the victim culture and then take disproportionate offence at some minor remark or piece of terminology – like the trans-sexual twitterati who took offence to Suzanne Moore’s insignificant remark about Brazilian trans-sexuals – or who are concerned to maintain or improve their place in the hierarchy of oppression.

“we have anti-gay-rights organisations, which are more about demanding that entitlements are denied others, but close enough. There’s Fathers 4 Justice. Can’t think of one for race…”

Again, you are confusing lobby groups with victim groups that have bought into the victim culture. F4J can come over as revelling in victimhood, but I would not say they were right-wing.

“…a large part of leftist philosophy is about protecting the weak from the strong; there are more actual victims on our side.”

Victims as such are on no-one’s side. Those who buy into the victim culture as I have described and delineated it are overwhelmingly on the left. And only on the left do you see feminists squabbling with trans-sexuals, or anti-racists with feminists, and so on…

cylux @ 61:

“You could do with looking up intersectionality”

How does some ethno-methodo-socio-jargonologist putting a pretentious conceptual label on something resolve the hierarchy of oppression?

@67 By factoring everything in. The Queen, for an extreme example, is not going to be subject to women’s oppression, or whatever else you might want to call it, because of her firmly belonging to the ruling class.

69. Robin Levett

@TONE #66:

You are defining any right-wing pressure as a victim group, when I am not defining every left-wing pressure group as a victim group. The victim culture is concerned with discrimination on the grounds of sex, sexuality, race and disability

I see. So concern about discrimination against straight white men doesn’t count as victim culture because…

Or is it just that by your definition concern about the kind of discrimination the left is concerned about is “victim culture”, but you exclude from that definition concern about the kind of discrimination the right is concerned about. If so, why not just say left and right wing, rather than adopting/making up pejorative terms?

All I have to say about Burchill is ‘do not feed the trolls’.

71. Chaise Guevara

@ 66 TONE

“I said: “On much of the left, a victim is the thing to be”. And I said this in the context of remarks about those tiresome lefties who jostle for position in the hierarchy of oppression.”

So you’re abandoning the original claim? I will grant you that this jostling is a leftie disease. But playing the victim isn’t.

“The TPA is not part of the victim culture. They are lobby group. You are defining any right-wing pressure as a victim group, when I am not defining every left-wing pressure group as a victim group. The victim culture is concerned with discrimination on the grounds of sex, sexuality, race and disability.”

Ah – a convenient cherry-picked list to make you right by your own definition that you’re gradually revealing as you have to withdraw further and further from what you originally said!

How convincing!

“Moreover, those who have deeply bought into the victim culture are concerned to show that they are more oppressed and victimised than other victim groups.”

Yeah, and again this happens on both sides, hence the “only whites endure racism” canard. The problem that’s (almost) unique to the left is that leftie attacks leftie.

“buying into victim culture is flaunting your victimhood, using it as leverage to improve your social and moral status, indulging in displays of self-pity, engaging in Twitter storms over minor perceived offences, claiming that your group is more victimised than other victim groups…and so on.”

Your Scotsman gets more specific by the post. Nevertheless, all of this applies to right-wing self-defined victims too.

“I am not aware that straights who are offended by gay marriage are claiming to be victims: they are just offended”

Really? That’s strange, because I’ve seen you in these debates quite a lot. You must have missed it by some bizarre fluke. Here’s the deal: a lot of anti-SSM types whine, utterly pathetically, that their own marriage would be devalued by SSM being legalised. That’s playing the victim while acting the bully. Of course, you’ll respond with apologetics because you see all this as a war between opposing sides, and your side must not be criticised even when it’s wrong.

…and I don’t understand your second example, or your third because I don’t watch TV.”

I’ve already spelled out my second example, so I assume you’re just dodging the issue. Have fun with that. For the third, there’s a marked tendency for TV shows and ads (along with other media, but it’s most pronouned here) to portray men as clueless idiots who annoy and/or are dependent on women for such difficult tasks as making a stir fry. If there’s a mixed-gender group and one of them makes a fool of themselves, it’s almost always a guy. It’s irritating, but I think it would be a mistake to cry victim over it, as it’s really a backlash thing, and it’s improving a bit.

“Anyway, just because someone is offended does not make them a victim; and I was talking about those who buy into the victim culture and then take disproportionate offence at some minor remark or piece of terminology – like the trans-sexual twitterati who took offence to Suzanne Moore’s insignificant remark about Brazilian trans-sexuals – or who are concerned to maintain or improve their place in the hierarchy of oppression.”

Aside from the last clause, all of this applies to both sides, although there are probably more lefties who will fly off the handle at a minor remark than righties. Try saying anything non-enthusiastic about soldiers in a public forum, though.

“Again, you are confusing lobby groups with victim groups that have bought into the victim culture.”

Because what defines the difference is “what suits TONE’s refusal to ever condemn the right”.

“F4J can come over as revelling in victimhood, but I
would not say they were right-wing.”

You asked for an example of victim-culture organisations on several issues, including male rights. F4J is one. They’re not inherently right-wing, but then a disability-awareness group would not be inherently left-wing.

“Victims as such are on no-one’s side.”

That’s ridiculous. How, exactly, are victims prevented from taking sides?

“Those who buy into the victim culture as I have described and delineated it are overwhelmingly on the left.”

Not overwhelmingly. But like I said, our victim pool is bigger to begin with. It’s the side (broadly speaking) who fought for women’s rights, racial equality, gay rights, better support for disabled people, redistribution of wealth to the needy, safe workplaces for disempowered employees. The left has evolved in part as something that tries to protect victims from their oppressors.

“And only on the left do you see feminists squabbling with trans-sexuals, or anti-racists with feminists, and so on…”

As I said, I’ll grant you this. A lot of people on the left don’t know where to stop when it comes to identity politics.

RL @ 69:

“So concern about discrimination against straight white men doesn’t count as victim culture because…”

Well, it could do; but it doesn’t at present. Because having a grievance, or being offended, or lobbying for legislative change, or even being a victim of discrimination, are all quite different to buying into the ‘victim culture’.

To reiterate, the distinguishing features of the victim culture include flaunting your victimhood, using it as leverage to improve your social and moral status, indulging in displays of self-pity, engaging in Twitter storms over minor perceived offences, the ability to detect offensive or discriminatory behaviour in others in homeopathic concentrations, claiming that your group is more victimised than other victim groups, the emergence of the professional victim who builds a career on his/her victimhood…and so on…

Lots of people on the left and on the right have grievances without buying into the ‘victim culture’. However, only on the left do we find these hierarchy of oppression disputes typified by Burchill vs the trans-sexuals; and where you have such disputes, you know you have found the victim culture.

Now, the left does not have a monopoly on stupidity, so such debates may start to appear on the right, but somehow I doubt it.

73. Robin Levett

@TONE #72:

the distinguishing features of the victim culture include flaunting your victimhood, using it as leverage to improve your social and moral status, indulging in displays of self-pity, engaging in Twitter storms over minor perceived offences, the ability to detect offensive or discriminatory behaviour in others in homeopathic concentrations, claiming that your group is more victimised than other victim groups, the emergence of the professional victim who builds a career on his/her victimhood

“Flaunting your victimhood” means what? Complaining that you are a victim?

“using it as leverage to improve your social and moral status”; you mean asking society to stop discriminating against you?

And so on.

However, only on the left do we find these hierarchy of oppression disputes typified by Burchill vs the trans-sexuals; and where you have such disputes, you know you have found the victim culture.

You consider Burchill as being on the Left? I know she started in the SWP, but that was decades ago. Her recent(ish) Independent columns wouldn’t have been out of place, policitally, in the Sun.

CG @ 71:

What I say @ 72 answers some of your points.

Essentially, I make perfectly reasonable distinctions like ‘being a victim’ and ‘buying into the victim culture’, or between ‘having a grievance/feeling offended’ and ‘buying into the victim culture’, but you deny the distinction is reasonable. (Ad hominem, you say ‘what defines the difference is “what suits TONE’s refusal to ever condemn the right’, when I disagree with the right on quite a lot of things and have done so on this site). You do this because you know equivocation will suit your purposes.

Meanwhile, in asides, you are gradually making concessions that narrow the gap between us significantly – eg “this jostling [in the hierarchy of oppression] is a leftie disease” (my parenthesis), “The problem that’s (almost) unique to the left is that leftie attacks leftie.” “there are probably more lefties who will fly off the handle at a minor remark than righties”, “A lot of people on the left don’t know where to stop when it comes to identity politics.”

You also accuse me of the late Anthony Flew’s No True Scotsman fallacy, while apparently not understanding what the fallacy consists of. You say “Your Scotsman gets more specific by the post”, when the essence of the fallacy is to take refuge in vagueness. To spell it out for you: if I say ‘All x’s are F’, and you say ‘Some x’s are not-F’ and I reply ‘All true x’s are F’, then I have committed the fallacy. However, if I respond with ‘All x’s that meet criteria a, b, c, d…etc are F’, I have not committed the NTS fallacy but clarified the claim.

“a lot of anti-SSM types whine, utterly pathetically, that their own marriage would be devalued by SSM being legalised.”

I must confess I haven’t seen or noticed that argument, and I agree it is a very poor one. (My concerns about SSM are that the legislation will be hard to draft [and an adventure playground for lawyers, possibly leading to unintended consequences], and that it unnecessarily antagonises many Christians, most Muslims, etc and so will be counter-productive and conflict-producing.) Anyway, I don’t hold that my side must not be criticised even when it’s wrong.

‘“Victims as such are on no-one’s side.” That’s ridiculous. How, exactly, are victims prevented from taking sides?’

Eh? I never said victims were prevented from taking sides. I said “as such” victims are just victims. They are not automatically categorised as left or right.

“It’s the side (broadly speaking) who fought for women’s rights, racial equality, gay rights, better support for disabled people, redistribution of wealth to the needy, safe workplaces for disempowered employees.”

Fair point. But I can’t help noticing the significant overlap with what you called my “cherry-picked” list of “discrimination on the grounds of sex, sexuality, race and disability”. So it appears it wasn’t such an unreasonable list after all.

RL @ 73:

““Flaunting your victimhood” means what? Complaining that you are a victim?”

I think you need to look up ‘flaunt’ and ‘complain’ in a dictionary.

““using it as leverage to improve your social and moral status”; you mean asking society to stop discriminating against you?”

No, there is nothing wrong in asking “society” to stop discriminating against you. Indeed, I think such behaviour is positive. However, there are people who are discriminated against who trade on this fact: ‘I am black/female/disabled/gay; so I deserve a free pass on this issue’. Some go on to make careers for themselves out of hustling for their group.

“You consider Burchill as being on the Left?”

She describes herself as a “militant feminist”; and as such I’d say she was of the left, whatever other nastiness she spews out in order to earn a crust.

You consider Burchill as being on the Left? I know she started in the SWP, but that was decades ago. Her recent(ish) Independent columns wouldn’t have been out of place, policitally, in the Sun.

Doesn’t sound too far off the trajectory that Richard Littlejohn travelled to reach his position as highest paid columnist in the land. Or the late Christopher Hitchens for that matter.

77. Chaise Guevara

@ 74 TONE

“Essentially, I make perfectly reasonable distinctions like ‘being a victim’ and ‘buying into the victim culture’, or between ‘having a grievance/feeling offended’ and ‘buying into the victim culture’, but you deny the distinction is reasonable.”

I do indeed.

“Ad hominem, you say ‘what defines the difference is “what suits TONE’s refusal to ever condemn the right’, when I disagree with the right on quite a lot of things and have done so on this site.”

That isn’t ad hom. I genuinely believe that’s your criteria. Ad hom would be if I were declaring your word was meaningless on the topic because you’re biased, which I’m not.

“You do this because you know equivocation will suit your purposes.”

You are confusing my equivocation with your false dichotomy.

“Meanwhile, in asides, you are gradually making concessions that narrow the gap between us significantly”

It appears that way because you’ve no true Scotsmanned your way across from a single unreasonable statement to a complex position containing some truth and some nonsense. I’m not going to disagree with the bits that are true out of churlishness.

“I have not committed the NTS fallacy but clarified the claim.”

Your clarification does not support the original claim, and you have yet to withdraw the original claim, so you’re still guilty of NTS until you do one or the other.

“I must confess I haven’t seen or noticed that argument, and I agree it is a very poor one.”

I’m honestly surprised about that, because it’s the main one used. It takes several forms, including claiming gay rights people are trying to take over marriage or assert dominance of the word itself. I’ll take your word for it, though.

“My concerns about SSM are that the legislation will be hard to draft [and an adventure playground for lawyers, possibly leading to unintended consequences]”

Can you unpack that? As far as I can see it’s simple as hell, the equivalent of adding “of the same or different gender” to a few existing laws. I realise that the literal act of amending the law would involve a bit more work than that, but it hardly seems complicated.

“and that it unnecessarily antagonises many Christians, most Muslims, etc and so will be counter-productive and conflict-producing.)”

Tough. It’s none of their business, and therefore we shouldn’t allow them to dictate to gay people what they can and can’t do. Plenty of religious practices antagonise me, but that’s not a reason to ban them (see veils etc.).

“Eh? I never said victims were prevented from taking sides. I said “as such” victims are just victims. They are not automatically categorised as left or right.”

In that case: Eh? I never said victims were automatically so categorised. I have to work with what you give me, straw-manning me seems to have caused confusion.

“Fair point. But I can’t help noticing the significant overlap with what you called my “cherry-picked” list of “discrimination on the grounds of sex, sexuality, race and disability”. So it appears it wasn’t such an unreasonable list after all.”

It has the opposite effect to what you claim, though I wasn’t aiming to make this point. This is a list of victims traditionally defended by the left; it overlaps strongly with your list; that suggests your list was cherry-picked to overrepresent the left.

78. the a&e charge nurse

I see Suzannne Moore has responded in some detail here
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/17/supporting-freedom-makes-me-opponent-equality

She asks (in her article) ‘Do you actually want to be governed by humourless, authoritarian morons?’ – well, I’m afraid, as Featherstone’s blustering demonstrates, that day has already arrived.

Featherstone who everyday rubs shoulders will all sorts of amoral chancers still manages to save her ire for an aging churno who’s stock in trade is being controversial.

At least we now know what is really causing her to loose sleep at night – Featherstone is too busy fretting over the opinions of a hack rather than her complicity with a government hell bent on fucking over a sizable proportion of the populous.

79. Robin Levett

@TONE #75:

However, there are people who are discriminated against who trade on this fact: ‘I am black/female/disabled/gay; so I deserve a free pass on this issue’

You missed out Christians.

RL @ 79:

“You missed out Christians.”

Unlike Muslims, they don’t aspire to full membership of the politically correct victim culture and so don’t compete in the hierarchy of oppression – at least, not yet.

CG @ 77:

My distinction is not a dichotomy, is not false and it’s not unreasonable, as I think many unbiased observers would agree. (And, btw, do look up ‘dichotomy’ and ‘false dichotomy’: your understanding of fallacies is often flawed.) You want to deny a perfectly reasonable distinction (which many not on the right – Rod Liddle or Dan Hodges – can see) because then you’d have to admit defeat.

“That isn’t ad hom. I genuinely believe that’s your criteria. Ad hom would be if I were declaring your word was meaningless on the topic because you’re biased, which I’m not.”

Of course, it’s ad hom: it’s a claim personally against me instead of against my argument. Moreover, if it’s your genuinely held belief, then it’s a false belief. And it’s false because (for instance) I have criticised the weak rightist argument against SSM above, and made many similar points on this site.

“This is a list of victims traditionally defended by the left; it overlaps strongly with your list; that suggests your list was cherry-picked to overrepresent the left.”

But most, if not all, examples of the victim culture are from the left. All your attempts to find an example of victim culture outside of the left’s traditional concerns are weak and unconvincing (which is why you stubbornly deny what you incorrectly label as my “dichotomy”).

If you wonder why Burchill was so angry, see the tweets sent to Moore: http://gendertrender.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/tweeting-suzanne-moore-a-random-sample/
If someone can please tweet that link to Featherstone she may get why she needs to get a bit more info on the long-running and very contentious discussions between some feminists and some trans. before she wades in again.

83. Chaise Guevara

@ 81 TONE

“My distinction is not a dichotomy, is not false and it’s not unreasonable, as I think many unbiased observers would agree.”

You’re hardly in a position to calculate what an unbiased observer would think. However, it is both a dichotomy and false – not inherently the latter, but in the way you’re using it.

“(And, btw, do look up ‘dichotomy’ and ‘false dichotomy’: your understanding of fallacies is often flawed.)”

Mmm. Evidentally you can’t explain this “flaw” so I assume you’re just being petulant. Even if I’ve moved slightly from the accepted use of the term, your position is fallacious and that’s what matters.

“You want to deny a perfectly reasonable distinction (which many not on the right – Rod Liddle or Dan Hodges – can see) because then you’d have to admit defeat.”

The distinction would be reasonable if you hadn’t engineered it to artifically only apply to the left. Its the rationalisation that’s the problem here.

“Of course, it’s ad hom: it’s a claim personally against me instead of against my argument.”

Hah, looks like I’m not the one who needs to look a few things up. It’s valid to talk about you when I’m discussing you. If what I said earlier was ad hom, then “nice hat” is an ad hom. It becomes fallacious when you move from the personal to the non-personal: “You are an idiot and therefore your argument must be wrong”, for example.

“Moreover, if it’s your genuinely held belief, then it’s a false belief. And it’s false because (for instance) I have criticised the weak rightist argument against SSM above, and made many similar points on this site.”

A fair point. OK, you’re prepared to admit imperfection on the right. But you do still seek to demonise the left, pretending that certain personality flaws exist only on one side of politics.

“But most, if not all, examples of the victim culture are from the left.”

Circular.

“All your attempts to find an example of victim culture outside of the left’s traditional concerns are weak and unconvincing (which is why you stubbornly deny what you incorrectly label as my “dichotomy”).”

You calling it “weak” doesn’t make it so.

84. Chaise Guevara

@ 82 Hephaestus

“If you wonder why Burchill was so angry, see the tweets sent to Moore: http://gendertrender.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/tweeting-suzanne-moore-a-random-sample/

Those are horrible but quite blatantly not a random example. Someone’s obviously selected the most offensive and ignored the rest.

Did Burchill see those comments before writing her piece? Even if so, it’s mitigating circumstances for her behaviour, but not an excuse. She sneered at every trans person in the world. I assume that not every trans person in the world abused her comrade on Twitter.

@ 84. Chaise Guevara

I’m trying to explain not justify Burchill’s anger, she’s deliberately taking the flak for Moore.

Back to Featherstone – as Equalities Minister she seems to have missed out on hearing of the range of opinions about trans. I’m looking forward to reading her published diaries in years to come.

86. Chaise Guevara

@ 85 Hephaestus

“I’m trying to explain not justify Burchill’s anger, she’s deliberately taking the flak for Moore.”

Fair enough.

“Back to Featherstone – as Equalities Minister she seems to have missed out on hearing of the range of opinions about trans.”

Not sure what you mean by this. She can hear a range of opinion without agreeing with all of it. How has she indicated that she’s missed out?


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