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    A case of you

    I try not to say nasty things unless I feel I’ve been given no choice, so I can’t claim to be a fan of Ann Coulter’s. Nevertheless, her enemies have a way of proving her points about freedom of speech time and again.

    If you haven’t encountered the story yet, Coulter just did a speaking tour of Canada. Mayhem naturally ensued. Rondi has a few posts up that give a good quick summary.

    Mark links to a post by Kathy Shaidle on the spooky approbation censorship gets in Canada from (though she doesn’t put it this way) the very people who have the most to lose when speech isn’t free:

    Sadly and inexplicably, Fox News chose radical lesbian activist [<--NB: person who has the most to lose when speech isn’t free—SRK] Susan G. Cole to represent Canada on one segment on the Coulter-In-Canada controversy. Here’s how Cole (who, as a playwright, has sucked on the taxpayer teat for most of her career) characterized my country:

    We don’t have that same political culture here in (Canada). . . . We don’t have a 1st Amendment, we don’t have a religion of free speech. . . . Students sign off on all kinds of agreements as to how they’ll behave on campus, in order to respect diversity, equity, all of the values that Canadians really care about. Those are the things that drive our political culture. Not freedoms, not rugged individualism, not free speech.

    It isn’t that Cole’s characterization is inaccurate. It really is word perfect, actually.

    The problem is, that fact should shame and disgust Canadians. Alas, most of my fellow citizens are either in complete, smug agreement with Cole, or just indifferent.

    Having reached a Certain Age, I shouldn’t be surprised when gay activists blithely support censorship in the name of “tolerance” or “diversity,” but it still dumbfounds me. Because gays and lesbians aren’t a visible minority unless we speak up for ourselves, freedom of expression is directly in our interest. The current way of rigging the game, of course, is to protect what we say and give a good caning to anyone who “disrespects” us and our delicate-flower sensibilities. But giving the government all kinds of power to intrude on people’s lives, under the assumption that your friends will always be wielding it on your enemies, is an exceedingly dangerous precedent to set. There’s a lot more acceptance of homosexuality than there used to be, and I’m obviously very happy about that; but our liberties are still very new historically, and minorities with few friends don’t always fare so well when there’s a social upheaval. We have no way of knowing when the next climate shift or terrorist attack or asteroid is going to hit.

    If we want people to believe that we’re part of society and invested in its future, we can’t be constantly fixated on momentary concerns: someone called someone a fag five minutes ago, someone said the Bible condemns homosexuality in an editorial on the opposite coast yesterday, someone made a joke about sweatpants to a lesbian colleague. I’m not saying none of these things deserve a response, but the proper response is more speech, not a ball gag. I can think of no better way to betray the gay kids who are going to be coming out in fifty or a hundred years from now than to leave them a heritage of petty, snippy, thin-skinned screeching for the censors at every little hint of opposition. Rough-and-tumble debate is the best way to test and sharpen your ideas. When you smugly try to shut it down, the unmistakable implication is that you don’t have nearly as much conviction as you want people to think you have.

    The issue with Coulter wasn’t just a gay thing, of course, but the dynamic is the same. Sensible people look at this crap, and her opponents look whiny and emotionally underdeveloped, while she looks fearless and unbowed under pressure. Great PR move.

    Added later: More great moments in merchandising: Eric reports on that brouhaha over a movie about transsexuals that some activists were trying to get removed from the Tribeca Film Festival:

    According to the festival description, the film has a deliberately campy empowerment theme about transgendered women turning the tables on their attackers (“the violated vixens turn deadly divas”). This, it seems, is intolerable to the prudish pacifist censors (who presumably want transgendered people to be victims):

    That summary alone was enough to prompt many angry comments at the tribecafilm.com Web site. One commenter who gave her name as Marie wrote, “This movie trivializes people dying for being who they are. You need to consider whether you want to be remembered for such transphobic trash.” Another commenter named Margaret B wrote, “I can’t imagine a more offensive film to denigrate and demean a minority group. Please remove this film from your line up.”

    The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has made the same demand of the Tribeca festival. In a statement, the alliance said, “The film, its title and its marketing misrepresent the lives of transgender women and use grotesque, exploitative depictions of violence against transgender women.” The alliance added that Mr. Luna and the festival “have refused to take responsibility for the problematic content and offensive marketing of this film,” and urged its membership to contact the festival and demand that the film be pulled from its schedule.

    In an important way, this isn’t an effort at censorship, since it doesn’t involve bringing in the state. But it’s still an attempt to keep challenging ideas out of circulation, rather than trusting the audience to be able to weigh them and make up its own mind. Happily, the committee isn’t caving, according to the NYT:

    The Tribeca Film Festival responded in a statement: “The filmmakers provided a copy of this film to GLAAD in February, and for weeks the organization had been supportive to the filmmakers. In fact, GLAAD representatives advised the film’s producer, director and cast on how to describe the film to its core constituency.” The festival added that it “looks forward to the film’s premiere” next month.

    I’m not sure what the problem is. Would the people who are flipping out prefer to see a movie about transsexuals who live in the suburbs, serve on the school board unmolested, and convince the good citizens of the community to fund a new crisis center? When someone tries to beat them up, should a cop show up in five seconds and disable the miscreant with his bare hands, just to show that you should wait for the government to defend you and that weapons are bad? Seriously, if you think a different movie should be made about transsexuals, then why don’t you just make it? Or support it with your ticket-buying power when someone else makes it?

    10 Responses to “A case of you”

    1. Leslie says:

      I would prefer that the festival not even mention its interaction with GLAAD, as the subtext seems to be: you gay people make up your minds, and in the meantime, we’re going to go ahead since GLAAD’s approval gives us cover. God forbid we should make the obvious argument that artists and filmmakers and “other” groups should be the ones defending free speech to the limit.

    2. Julie says:

      When I read Eric’s post, I thought that movie sounds awesome, in a Russ Meyer-meets-John Waters kind of way. I don’t know if that’s true, but I’m dying to see it.

      I think that statement about all the values that Canada really cares about is profoundly alarming. Two legs bad, four legs good, I guess. Until they’re not.

    3. Veeshir says:

      It stuns me that they’re proud of that.

      The best answer to too much free speech is more free speech.

      The problem is that these oh so intelligent and benign people are afraid that the hoi polloi will hear the wrong things and not think the right way.

      It’s for our own good really. We should be thanking her.

    4. Sean says:

      Yes, to everyone. As I say, it’s spooky how many of the people who want to curtail freedom of speech are those who wouldn’t be able to operate today without it as a precedent. Talk about pulling up the ladder behind you!

    5. Mark Alger says:

      Late-come, here…

      I would say that Tribeca FF’s action IS censorship on this basis: they undoubtedly receive SOME government funding. Therefore, their restriction of free speech is every bit as much a violation of the First Amendment as would be the use of public school funds to voucher students into Catholic schools.

      Hey! Sauce for the goose…


    6. Sean says:

      Good point, Mark. It’s important to note in this case, though, that the action was hypothetical: the film festival didn’t actually cave.

    7. Julie says:

      I’m going to link to this from my Facebook along with this http://www.feministing.com/archives/015410.html because I think the comments there illustrate perfectly the kind of thing you’re talking about. I also intend to add commentary about how generally awesome you are. If that is not OK, let me know. Because I am an ableist (and also a sexist, an elitist, almost certainly a racist, and an admitted hyperbolist), and so you may not want to be associated with me.

    8. Sean says:

      I feel frightened just occupying pixels that neighbor yours, Julie, yes. And I’m sure there’s some Mediocrities Advocates’ Alliance that will jump all over you for wanting to tout my “awesomeness,” such as it is. But a wise woman told us a few years ago that dissidence is the highest form of patriotism, so I’d be honored. You may say what youlike. :)

    9. Julie says:

      Well, I posted it, and one of my friend promptly pointed out that I am also a “species-ist” so I guess I get to add that to the list, and now I guess I can “awesome-ist” as well. I’m trying to get someone to call me an anti-Semite by asking everyone “JEW eat yet?” but, alas, no one’s taking the bait.

    10. Sean says:

      It’s only a matter of time, sweetie.

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