Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Censored No More: Julie Burchill.

It all started when Suzanne Moore was browbeaten and bullied and hounded to the ends of the earth for an essay she wrote. Courtesy of New Statesman, here is the offending essay, and here is the offending paragraph: 
"The cliché is that female anger is always turned inwards rather than outwards into despair. We are angry with ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual. We are angry that men do not do enough. We are angry at work where we are underpaid and overlooked. This anger can be neatly channelled and outsourced to make someone a fat profit. Are your hormones okay? Do you need a nice bath? Some sex tips and an internet date? What if, contrary to Sex and the City, new shoes do not fill the hole in your soul? What if you aspire to another model of womanhood than the mute but beautifully groomed Kate Middleton? What if your anguish is not illogical but actually bloody spot on?"
She's a bit sick of the cliché, is the point, a point not a few idiots failed to get. Julie Burchill, the Observer's delightfully cantankerous resident genius, decided to have a go at all the precious offence-taking. For her trouble, she had her column pulled by the Observer's cowardly editor. On my Ottawa Citizen page, you can read Julie's censored essay, in its entirety.
You're welcome.

7 Comments:

Blogger Francis Sedgemore said...

The text you quote was not that which offended.

Moore was politely criticised on Twitter by a woman who supported the general thrust of the New Statesman article, and took umbrage. She then flew off the handle with all sorts of highly offensive and bigoted remarks aimed at transgender folk: remarks that closely resemble those of a faction of the radical-feminist movement that has been described as the Westboro Baptist wing of feminism. Moore's friend Julie Bindel - long known to be extremely hostile to transsexuality - then weighed in, and finally Burchill, who you quaintly describe as the Observer's "delightfully cantankerous resident genius".

Others, myself included, see Burchill as a bigoted click-whore polemicist. Bryan Applyeyard back in 1998 got the full measure of Burchill, and although Appleyard thinks rather highly of himself and the definitiveness of his writing, in this case he is entirely justified.

http://www.bryanappleyard.com/julie-burchill

An NUJ colleague today reminded me of the time when, as a subeditor for Time Out, he objected to his boss about Burchill's copy, which included the hope that pop singer Annie Lennox would die in a plane crash. Delightfully cantankerous indeed. Then there was the near prosecution in 2002 for race hate, when Burchill damned the entire Irish nation. But, you know, Burchill is an equal opportunities hater. She absolutely fucking detests the Germans, and a whole load more.

This is no free speech issue. It is cold, hard, visceral bigotry. But then, when it comes to the transphobic element of Burchill's bigotry, my personal story renders me incapable of looking at it with a dispassionate eye, so I guess I should recuse myself and keep quiet about transphobia.

My late father was a transsexual, and I have seen and felt at first hand, from the tender age of eight years, the suffering inflicted on transsexual people and those close to them. This includes discrimination arising from fear and loathing in those who profess themselves to be liberal and progressive. Just one example of many: as a child I was kicked out of school, and told to keep my head down in life, and lower my aspirations. It took me 20 years to regain any sense of self-worth and realisation of potential. And to this day my experience of transphobia causes me considerable grief.

The world is full of cunts, and Julie Burchill is one of them: a cunt with a penis fixation.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Thank you, Comrade Frances. I am content to take your word for it, and not Burchill's, that Moore gave some greater Tweet-offence that compounded her initial "Brazilian transsexual" offence. I won't dispute that your "bigoted click-whore" characterization of Burchill may well be far closer to the mark than my own - sorry to have been quaint - although you might have considered the offence your own pejorative would otherwise give, the compound adjective being, you know, "sexist" and all.

As for Burchill's 2002 "hate speech" re-invasion of Ireland, which she described as a nation of "child molesters," "Nazi sympathisers," "parasites" and "bloodsuckers," and called the Irish flag "the Hitler-licking, altar-boy-molesting, abortion banning Irish tricolour," I thought it was uproariously funny. But then, my people are Irish, so what do I know?

I don't see her latest as "cold, hard visceral bigotry" at all, and although indeed Burchill may well be - at risk of incurring a talking-to from those of my feminist comrades who insist that the epithet "cunt" is inexcusably sexist and misogynistic, a "cunt," as you put it.

I'd rather keep a sense of humour about it. Reductio ad absurdam is more of the quality of the Burchill piece, I thought, and a kind of self-satire the expense of her enemies. Humour can be complicated. The funniest jokes always are.

But I deeply respect where you're coming from, as they say - I didn't know the story of your dear father - and I do defer to your greater familiarity with Burchill's spotty moral record as well. I just don't like it when a boss ingratiates himself with a crowd calling for the defenestration of one of the workers, and I don't like it when a columnist's work is pulled for having given offence. That is the justification the boss Mulholland gave. Not that it was hate speech or even bordered on it, but that it gave "offence."

Warmest regards to you Frances.

T

1:05 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Actually, that wasn't a compound adjective. My mistake.

1:07 PM  
Blogger Francis Sedgemore said...

Cymrawd Terence,

"Click whore" is a pejorative of indeterminate gender given to journalists who engage in what is essentially a form of literary prostitution. As for "cunt", you should look at my use of the term in context: "a cunt with a penis fixation". That is, a woman obsessed with men who chop off their dangly appendages. In terms of reaction from women readers, it's roughly 20:1 in favour.

I'm not sure if Burchill's 2002 brain fart was regard as hilarious by many Irish persons, and it was an Irishman with some or other community leadership position who first complained to the police. There was a fair amount of public debate at the time, and the prosecutor took the complaint very seriously. Burchill came out of it rather badly, but editors and readers in the age of the interwebs seem to have foreshortened attention spans. I blame Twitter.

If someone were to make similarly offensive comments about my peoples - Cymry and Aotearoans - I would be minded to break their legs and laugh uproariously whilst doing so. Free speech is lovely, but, you know, there can be consequences. Call me old-fashioned, but I regard personal responsibility as equally important.

I'm with you on Mulholland's unpublishing of Burchill's rant. It should have been left in place, with an apology that wasn't so absurdly qualified. He hasn't heard the last of this.

I do regard Burchill's article as hate speech: bigoted speech that serves to incite or foment hatred in those exposed to it. Since the publication of Burchill's article there has been a marked increase in hateful 'transphobic' comment from both anti-transsexual radfems and those even further to the right in their ideologically-driven, pseudo-scientific, socio-biological determinism. A very close eye shall be kept on police reports of violence against transgender people. The statistics are pretty grim as they are.

My best to you too. May the road rise to meet you.

Francis

4:27 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Thanks for this, Frances.

An amusing aside. "May the road rise to meet you," said to be an old Irish well-wish, I've always found odd. The first I encountered it, it struck me as: "May you fall flat on your face." I know that's not what you were wishing for me.

t

8:14 PM  
Blogger Henry said...

Not a freedom-of-speech issue. Hate speech. Do me a favor.

I suppose mentioning "bad wigs" may, to some, rank up there with "the jews invented the holocaust." That being said, I remember the whole Zundel affair here in Canada, and also remember that it was a freedom-of-speech issue, certainly it was for me.

Personal responsibility. Sure. But personal responsibility doesn't conflict with freedom of speech. Freedom of speech means you don't go to jail unless you cause real incitement to violence. Burchill's comments fall far short. Moore's original comment, the trigger for this entire affair, wasn't even insulting, much less inciteful, though individuals primed to take offence obviously jumped at the chance.

Burchill is basically a political Don Rickles. And I suspect the PC crowd, including your current visitor, would slap him in irons or, to be more accurate, would wait outside his dressing room, "break his legs, and laugh." I can't entirely disagree with that; I feel much the same when neo-nazis march through Jewish areas (e.g. Skokie Illinois in the 1970s). The difference is that those guys are real hatemongers, whereas Burchill is just taking the piss. Too bad so many these days just can't tell the difference, and rely on blind emotion and PC posturing, for how else could Burchill's throwaway remarks be construed as "serving to incite and foment hatred." In short, inciting hatred = transsexuals should be jailed or killed, or perhaps the milder "take away trans rights"; taking the piss = bad wigs, etc.

5:48 PM  
Blogger Henry said...

Not a freedom-of-speech issue. Hate speech. Do me a favor.

I suppose mentioning "bad wigs" may, to some, rank up there with "the jews invented the holocaust." That being said, I remember the whole Zundel affair here in Canada, and also remember that it was a freedom-of-speech issue, certainly it was for me.

Personal responsibility. Sure. But personal responsibility doesn't conflict with freedom of speech. Freedom of speech means you don't go to jail unless you cause real incitement to violence. Burchill's comments fall far short. Moore's original comment, the trigger for this entire affair, wasn't even insulting, much less inciteful, though individuals primed to take offence obviously jumped at the chance.

Burchill is basically a political Don Rickles. And I suspect the PC crowd, including your current visitor, would slap him in irons or, to be more accurate, would wait outside his dressing room, "break his legs, and laugh." I can't entirely disagree with that; I feel much the same when neo-nazis march through Jewish areas (e.g. Skokie Illinois in the 1970s). The difference is that those guys are real hatemongers, whereas Burchill is just taking the piss. Too bad so many these days just can't tell the difference, and rely on blind emotion and PC posturing, for how else could Burchill's throwaway remarks be construed as "serving to incite and foment hatred." In short, inciting hatred = transsexuals should be jailed or killed, or perhaps the milder "take away trans rights"; taking the piss = bad wigs, etc.

5:48 PM  

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