Update: Over at his website (this portions can be read for free), Matt Taibbi goes hard after the MSM’s distorted reading of both Chapelle’s bit and its own faulty reporting. Read Taibbi’s “Cancel culture takes a big ‘L‘”.
After Netflix broadcast Dave Chappelle’s latest comedy show, “The Closer,” he was accused not just of transphobia, but homophobia, and by gay-plus organizations like GLAAD (see here and here, for instance). Netflix employees walked out in a protest, and had a scuffle with Chapelle fans who also showed up. Here’s an example of the rancor (this video is hard to find; I think the Netflix protestors are embarrassed, as they shoul be):
That got deleted too. Here it is again if anyone needs it – pic.twitter.com/oj1r58fonV
— 😶 (@thatperson836) October 21, 2021
Here’s Andrew Sullivan’s take on the incident from his latest column on Substack (I believe a read is free, but do subscribe):
It was, as it turned out, a bit of a non-event. The walkout by transgender Netflix employees and their supporters to demand that the company take down and apologize for the latest Chappelle special attracted “dozens,” despite media hype.
But the scenes were nonetheless revealing. A self-promoting jokester showed up with a placard with the words “We Like Jokes” and “We Like Dave” to represent an opposing view. He was swiftly accosted by a man who ripped the poster apart, leaving the dude with just a stick, prompting the assailant to shout “He’s got a weapon!” Pushed back by other protestors, he was then confronted by a woman right in front of him — shaking a tambourine — and yelling repeatedly into his face: “Repent, motherfucker! Repent! Repent!”
This is the state of what’s left of the gay rights movement in America. Judgmental, absolutist, intolerant, and hysterical, it looks to shut down speech it dislikes, drive its foes out of the public square, compile enemies’ lists of dangerous writers, artists, and politicians, and cancel and protest anything that does not comport with every tiny aspect of their increasingly deranged ideology.
Now gay activists don’t behave like this, at least now; it’s largely the trans activists who do, and Sullivan compares them to the opponents of gay rights in the past:
Anti-gay forces, hegemonic for centuries, were just like these trans activists. They were just as intent on suppressing and stigmatizing magazines, shows, and movies they believed were harmful. They too targeted individual artists and writers for personal destruction. They too believed that movies and comedy needed to be reined in order to prevent social harm. They protested in front of movie theaters. They tried to get shows canceled. And if you’d marched in any gay demo or Pride in the 1990s, you’d always be prepared to confront a grimacing Christianist yelling “Repent! Repent!” in your face.
In fact, it’s hard not to see the trans far left as a farcical replay of the Religious Right of the past. They are the Dana Carvey church ladies of our time, except instead of saying “Could it be Satan?!” when confronting some cultural or moral transgression, they turn to the camera, clutch their pearls, and say “Could it be whiteness?!”
This was never, ever the spirit of the gay rights movement in the past. In fact, it was America’s guarantee of free expression and free association that made the gay rights movement possible. It was the First Amendment, and the spirit of the First Amendment, that was easily the most important right for gays for decades. From the fledgling Society for Human Rights, formed in Chicago in 1924, and its pioneering magazine, Friendship and Freedom, to the struggles against censorship in the 1950s, with One Magazine, and erotic Physique pamphlets under siege, it was the First Amendment that, especially under Oliver Wendell Holmes, allowed gay people to find each other, to develop arguments for their own dignity and self-worth, and to sustain free associations when the entire society viewed them as perverts and undesirables and child molesters.
What Sullivan says about the First Amendment and gay rights is, so far as I know, true. Thus the irony in that those backing trans rights often call for suppression of speech. A notable and especially ironic twist is that the ACLU itself, formerly a hard-nosed defender of the First Amendment, has as its chief attorney for trans right an explicit censor:
Here is an ACLU lawyer saying their goal is to stop the circulation of books and ideas…
In case you were wondering how free speech is doing. pic.twitter.com/jIGhCSEAbZ
— Wokal Distance (@wokal_distance) November 13, 2020
Seriously, I don’t know anybody who has “transphobia” in the sense that they want to suppress or deny the rights of transgender people. But within the issue there is room for debate about how cis-trans relations should work—cases involving prison enrollment, sports participation, and so on. But even to broach these topics is taboo, as J. K. Rowling and others have found who have questioned the exact equation of transwomen with natal (biological) women. The instant you mention such issues, you’re branded a transphobe and the mob descends. It’s easier to hurl epithets than cobble together a coherent defense.
I don’t remember such rancor with the gay rights movement, but of course that was a long time ago. There were of course dire things gay-rights advocates did, like “outing” closeted people, but it seems to me the movement advanced largely by reasoned argument—things like Andrew Sullivan’s cogent arguments for gay marriage. (Read, for example, his 1989 New Republic article, “Here comes the groom.”
At any rate, behavior like that depicted above, or the constant demonizing of people who are really in favor of trans rights as “transphobes” because they’re not 100% with the party line, will not only not help their cause, but plays right into the hands of Republicans eager to elect Trump in 2024. Sullivan goes on about the various ways that gay writers, poets, and playwrights used the First Amendment, but you can read that for yourself. He ends this way, chastising “the capture of the gay movement” by authoritarians who avoid reasoned argument. I’ve bolded one sentence because it’s so characteristic of this kind of authoritarianism:
The capture of the gay rights movement by humor-free, fragile products of the social justice industrial complex is not just terrible PR for all of us. It’s awful politics. They are not even trying to persuade, debate, or make reasoned arguments — as we did relentlessly in the marriage movement. They do not engage and invite critics, as we did. They try to destroy them. Instead of arguments, they tweet out slogans in all caps — TRANS WOMEN ARE WOMEN — as if they’re citing a Biblical text. And the act of persuasion, the key to any liberal democracy, is, for them, an unjust imposition of “emotional labor.” So much easier to coerce.
It also pains me to see the gay rights movement deploy what is in effect mob bullying as a tactic. That’s what these Twitter campaigns are all about. The way these fanatics have tried to turn one of the most successful and imaginative writers of our time, J.K. Rowling, into a hate object has been achieved by the foulest of language, elevated by the megaphone of social media. Yes: the very people most subject to bullying in childhood are now acting like bullies as adults. In the words of the great gay poet, W.H. Auden:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn.
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
This is the temptation. We have to resist it. It is a betrayal of so many through history. And it could provoke a backlash that is as damaging as it is deserved.
Now of course not all trans advocates behave this way. But I’ve seen very few telling their compatriots that they’re going too far. Who in the movement has criticized the ACLU’s Chase Strangio for explicitly calling for censorship?