Tuesday, 1 January 2013

If you don't believe in censorship stop telling writers to shut up

Image- Oliver Standard visible Writer is owned by Virginia Hammer  licensed for reuse here

Privilege checking is big news.

As a concept it's absolutely sound. As an exercise in censorship it's spectacularly effective.

I don't like seeing people told to shut up. I accept that to some the notion of rudeness is an anathema, just another in a long line of "rules" to be jettisoned but when it comes to being up close and personally abusive, rudeness dressed up as fact will get you there fastest.

These are people who believe absolutely that their confidence and assurance of correctness precludes any need to humanise their target. They strike the pose and they verbally vogue themselves into a frenzy of accusation, which leaves no one in any doubt of their position. It's just not anything approaching truth.

They do it on Twitter and facebook, on forums, in stortify's and on and on it goes in a bitter and acrimonious war of attrition. Although they cry privilege checking as the root of their accusations of quasi-"oppression", they may as well just cut to the chase. The message is simple and easily decanted into two words. Shut up.

As the message permeates through cyberspace, collecting "opinions as facts" as it travels, it sucks all the oxygen out of crucial debates. Topics which need addressing like racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, abortion, disablism and feminism are rapidly traduced into a simple determining of who may or may not speak. Decided all too often by those who have seemingly supplanted rage for reason, gossip for evidence and lies for lives.

There has never been a greater need for collective voices than now. There has never been a more important time for respected writers, who already have a platform, to bring neglected issues to the fore, yet increasingly I'm seeing these writers, many of them women, being pointed at and accused by those benefiting from the trail blazed before them.

No one is asking for gratitude simple politeness would do, yet even this most basic courtesy is seemingly too much.

Cruelty levelled at anyone makes me cry, bullying breaks my heart, gossip makes me tired but demands for silencing of writers makes me really angry.

The perceived bank balance of our best writers is it seems another justification for silencing. This is a joke. The number of blogs which call for the silencing of writers then go on to mention how much money they have, immediately lose the argument through transparency. Whilst it is seemingly, clearly, underpinning most of the aggression, it's also boring.

It cheapens all debate into a yawning, whining, competition of "I don't have that, so why should they?"

It also carefully neglects the fact that many writers have put decades of their lives into their work. If they have now achieved recognition and financial reward for themselves they are also breaking through for those who follow in their wake.

Writers change lives, shape society, give voice to the voiceless and take us out of our own difficult lives and into a realm of imagination which has never been more vital. If this is being recouped financially good.

I usually earn nothing for the writing I do, so I feel able to exhibit my lack of privilege on this topic.

Call it privilege checking if it comforts you but remember to also check your online reflection. I've been on the receiving end of  a great deal of this crap and I can tell you the aggression I routinely encounter feels very Daily Mail reader to me.

It sticks in my throat as "fab" "new"concept because it feels in it's mass application like, censorship peddled as always by those who champion free speech over all. As long as it's their speech which is free and everyone else listens politely.

It's a new approach with new terminology but if Political Correctness was the mother of all silencing of compassion and empathy in the last decade then misappropriated privilege checking is it's angry, equally vocal new millennium offspring.

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