This may again be old news, but after I called attention to Richard Dawkins’s video with Helen Joyce this morning, I found out two things from Twitter (it does have its uses). First, people complained to YouTube about that video on the grounds that it contained “violent speech”. (If you watched it, you’ll see how stupid that complaint is.) Second, that prompted Dawkins to write an article on freedom of speech, and the distortion of language, for London’s Evening Standard. You can see that article by clicking on the screenshot below the tweet.
On July 26, I interviewed Helen Joyce about her book Trans. @YouTube has restricted our video’s licence to advertise. Thankfully, @X /@elonmusk sensibly over-ruled the complaint that I had engaged in "violent speech".
In response to this I wrote an article explaining how…
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) August 22, 2023
Dawkins first describes several instances of censorship or deplatforming he encountered, including the American Humanist’s Association retracting his 1996 Humanist of the Year Award for this “discuss” tweet (note his explanation):
I do not intend to disparage trans people. I see that my academic “Discuss” question has been misconstrued as such and I deplore this. It was also not my intent to ally in any way with Republican bigots in US now exploiting this issue .
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) April 12, 2021
The difference between transgenderism and transracialism is a perfectly good and intriguing philosophical question to discuss, but merely raising it cost Dawkins his award. This reflects very badly on the American Humanist Association, and not on Dawkins.
But what’s relevant today is that the video with Helen Joyce was reported to YouTube as an example of “hate speech”. And there was a punishment levied, though the video wasn’t banned:
On July 26, I interviewed Helen Joyce about her book Trans. The interview is being very well received on YouTube. As it should be, for Joyce is extremely well-informed in her subject and she spoke cogently, soberly, reasonably.
But one of YouTube’s in-house judges heard only hate. And tried to censor the interview.
Short of an outright ban, YouTube has a variety of punishments at its disposal. In this case we got a minor slap on the wrist, a restriction on our video’s licence to advertise. But the real point is, yet again, the ludicrous hypersensitivity of the complainant. Those warped ears heard not reasonable argument deserving a reply, but “hateful and derogatory content”, and “hate or harassment towards individuals or groups”.
Obviously I can’t disprove that here. The interview runs to more than 10,000 words. But judge for yourself, it’s still up on YouTube. I earnestly challenge Evening Standard readers to search diligently for literally anything that a reasonable speaker of the English language could fairly call hateful. Enter it, labelled “Challenge”, in the comments section under the video, and I promise to respond.
I just said “a reasonable speaker of the English language”, and maybe here lies the key: language. If we want a fruitful argument, we’d better speak the same language. In today’s overheated sparring over sex and gender, both sides may appear to be speaking English, but is it the same English? Does “hate” mean to you what “hate” means to everyone else?
The complaints to YouTube, if you’ve seen the video, are clearly from the hyperoffended, and should be ignored. There is nothing “hateful or derogatory” in the entire video. But that leads Richard into a discussion of the debasement of language, in particular the words “hate” and “violence”. We all know how these words have been defanged by the woke or Easily Offended, with “hate” now meaning “any speech I do not like” and “violent” meaning pretty much the same thing. This blurs the distinction between real hatred and discussion that offends someone, as well as between genuine physical violence and, again, something that hurts someone’s feelings.
This blurring is deliberate. It’s hyperbolic, meant to confuse people and make discussion almost impossible because some ideological discusssion (i.e., that which criticizes wokeness) is seen as hateful and violent. It’s telling that these substitute words are used by the woke, not the antiwoke, and are meant to control discourse by shutting up the latter. Dawkins, of course, has something interesting to say about this:
As a textbook example of incitement to real violence, you could hardly do better than “Sarah Jane” Baker’s speech at London Pride this year, where she told the cheering crowd: “If you see a TERF, punch them in the fucking face”. Or Sky News (January 23) has a picture of two SNP politicians grinning in front of a large, colourful sign depicting a guillotine and the slogan “DECAPITATE TERFS”. They claimed they didn’t know the sign was there, and I sympathise. You shouldn’t be blamed for the company you keep. No doubt I shall be labelled “right-wing” for writing this article — and that’s the most unkindest cut of all.
The Guardian (February 14, 2020) reported that police officers turned up at Harry Miller’s workplace to warn him about his allegedly “transphobic” tweets, such as the obviously satirical, “I was assigned Mammal at Birth, but my orientation is Fish. Don’t mis-species me.” One of them told Miller that he had not committed a crime, but his tweeting “was being recorded as a hate incident”. [JAC: The UK police really need to learn the meaning of “freedom of speech”.]
Well, if Miller’s light-hearted satire is a hate incident, why not go after Monty Python, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Rowan Atkinson, Private Eye’s royal romances of Sylvie Krin, the early novels of Evelyn Waugh, Lady Addle Remembers, Tom Lehrer, even the benign PG Wodehouse? Satire is satire. That’s what satirists do, they get good-natured laughs and perform a valuable service to society.
“Assigned Mammal at Birth” satirises the trans-speak evasion of the biological fact that our sex is determined at conception by an X or a Y sperm. What I didn’t know, and learned from Joyce in our interview, is that small children are being taught, using a series of colourful little books and videos, that their “assigned” sex is just a doctor’s best guess, looking at them when they were born.
And so it goes. There’s more in the article, but read it for yourself. I’ll give you just the ending, after Dawkins has noted that we don’t live in an Orwellian society, one with a Gestapo or Stasi:
But shouldn’t we just indulge the harmless whims of an oppressed minority? Maybe, were it not for a strain of aggressive bossiness which insists, not so very harmlessly and not sounding very oppressed, that the rest of us must humour those whims and join in. This compulsion even has the force of law in some states. And alas, we often zip our lips in abject self-censorship because we aren’t as brave as JK Rowling, and don’t fancy becoming a target of Twittermob vitriol. No, we don’t fear Big Brother or the Stasi. We fear each other.