Et tu Index?

Ruth Smeeth, CEO of Index on Censorship, complains of polarization…a complaint I always find rather dull and beside the point. “X is for torture and Y is against it; oh no the polarization!” It seems especially beside the point for an organization whose title and purpose is to oppose censorship. It’s not literal censorship to say stop being so polar, but it is a form of pressure to say different things in a different way.

Of course, the reality is this has always been part of our political discourse. There is a healthy tradition of challenge in our public space. But…my concern is it is no longer on the fringes of our national conversations, it now dominates and the damage that it is doing is untold.

Says the CEO of the anti-censorship organization.

In the last week, we have seen academics compared to the KKK, a trans writer attacked for being long-listed for a literary prize for women, and a new narrative on intersectional veganism which attacks other vegans for not considering the role of white supremacy in their eating habits.

I added an Oxford comma there, because it’s badly needed for clarity. I hate the taboo on the Oxford comma. There needs to be a pause after her second example, so that we can separate it out in order to say what shite it is.

Torrey Peters was not “attacked for being long-listed for a literary prize for women.” The people who put Torrey Peters on the list were criticized and disputed for putting him there. We are allowed to do that, no matter how “polarizing” the CEO of Index on Censorship thinks it is.

Because of the list, there has been criticism of Peters’s writing, especially of the sissy porn “forced feminization is soooo erotic” trope, but again we are allowed to do that. Maybe it is “polarizing,” but whose fault is that? What are we supposed to do about woman-hating porn and woman-displacing trans-identified men? Just shut up? Very politely say sirs we do kind of wish you wouldn’t appropriate everything that’s ours?

I am not saying that people don’t have the right to these views – of course they do. Index on Censorship exists to ensure everyone’s rights to free expression. But that doesn’t mean that our words and deeds don’t have impact or consequence.

We witnessed in America only this year where this form of populist politics can lead to, at the extreme end – the storming of the Capitol. This week we’ve riots on the streets of Northern Ireland, again. Anti-Chinese hate crime has spiked post-Covid. In Belarus, Hungary and Poland we witness daily the appalling impact of the combination of this political polarisation and authoritarian-leaning governments. Words have consequence.

And she’s comparing gender-critical feminist women to that.

Wait, who is it that is polarizing again?

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