It won’t work, Brendan

For a minute there Brendan O’Neill almost deviates into sense.

The alt-right, those anti-PC, bedroom-bound fans of Trump and strangers to sexual intercourse, have finally lost the plot. Consider their hounding of Leslie Jones. Jones is a very funny African-American comedian and the only good thing in the otherwise flat, weird and mirth-free Ghostbusters reboot. Yet for the past 48 hours she has been subjected to vile racist abuse by alt-right tweeters and gamers and other assorted saddos for her part in what they view as the feministic crime of remaking Ghostbusters with a female cast. She has left Twitter. This might mark the moment when the alt-right went full racist, full berserk, full unhinged.

Ordinarily O’Neill doesn’t acknowledge that there is such a thing as vile racist abuse. He acknowledges speech, and dissent, and disagreement, but not vile racist abuse. His rhetoric is usually framed around the assumption that speech cannot be abuse, because it’s speech, and it’s free. It’s surprising to see him admitting so much here.

The alt-right angries, convinced the world is one big lefty, feminist plot to ruin your average white dude’s life, have been fuming about the new Ghostbusters for months…They reserved most of their venom for Ms Jones because… well, because she’s black, and it’s hilarious and super un-PC to abuse a black woman, right?

Well, yes, and ordinarily O’Neill borders on agreeing with them, or at least he avoids condemning them by pretending abuse is just dissent.

The comments made about Ms Jones have been genuinely nauseating. She has been called the N-word. She has been sent photographs of apes. It’s like something from the 19th century. No one who believes in racial equality and basic human decency could fail to be moved by her pained tweet following two days of relentless racial slurs: ‘I feel like I’m in personal hell. I didn’t do anything to deserve this. It’s just too much. It shouldn’t be like this. So hurt right now.’ For any black person to be subjected to racist abuse is horrific; for it to happen to a woman whose only ‘crime’ was to land a breakthrough role in a female-oriented summer blockbuster is particularly despicable. Ms Jones hits the big time and is instantly bombarded with racist smears — awful.

Quite so. It’s too bad it’s taken him so very long to admit that. It’s too bad he refused to admit it when it was aimed at women without the racist component. It’s too bad it’s taken something as extreme as the abuse aimed at Jones to get him to stop saying it’s just dissent.

After that he gets incoherent.

These attacks on Ms Jones speak to something more than the raucousness of Twitter, which can often be a good thing, certainly to the extent that it allows unheard, eccentric and potty voices to be heard. It speaks, more importantly, to the derailment of the important task of challenging PC. Tragically, for those of us who want to prick PC from a genuinely liberal and pro-autonomy perspective, the anti-PC mantle has in recent months been co-opted by the new right, or the alt-right, as some call them. These lovers of Trump (they call him ‘daddy’) and conspiracy theorists about feminism (whose wicked influence they spy everywhere) have turned being anti-PC from a decent, progressive position into an infantile, pathological, Tourette’s-style desire to scream offensive words out loud, like the seven-year-old who’s just discovered the thrill that comes with saying ‘f**k’.

Except that that’s what it’s always been. This isn’t something that has changed “in recent months”; Twitter has been like this for years. Maybe there were a few months at the beginning of Twitter’s existence when it wasn’t like that, I don’t know, but it’s certainly been like that since at least 2011, and probably longer.

And that business about “pricking PC” from a decent, progressive position is bullshit. That ship sailed not years but decades ago.

Their response to new and mad PC rules on how to talk about race and gender is not to criticise them dispassionately, or point out that it’s ironically pretty racist and sexist to suggest black people and women need protection from offensive words; no, it’s to say the offensive words, to say the N-word, as loudly as possible, and ideally to a black person.

Talk about wanting to have it both ways. Look, Brendan, either saying “the N-word” and “the C-word” to black people and women is a bad thing to do, or it isn’t. Either people shouldn’t abuse black people and women by calling them racist and sexist names, or they should. It’s no good saying they shouldn’t but at the same time “it’s ironically pretty racist and sexist to suggest black people and women need protection from offensive words.” No, it really is not “pretty racist and sexist” to say that people should not abuse black people and women by calling them racist and sexist names. That’s not “suggesting they need protection from offensive words” – it’s saying racist and sexist abuse is racist and sexist abuse.

At this point it would probably kill Brendan to drop that stupid, tired, smug line – but if he thinks he can combine it with outrage at the way “the alt-right” abused Leslie Jones, he’s delusional.

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