How Long Do We Have To Listen To White Dudes Whine Before They Are Officially Uncensored?
Get out your smelling salts -- for I am about to tell you some things that will blow your very mind, and you are going to want to be prepared for this.
There are people out there, in this very country -- and, in fact, all over the world -- who have opinions that not everyone else agrees with.
Now, you may be thinking "Uh, everyone has opinions? What is so shocking about that?"
Well, what is shocking is that these opinion-havers are mostly white people, and mostly white men, who consider themselves intellectuals. And no matter how many times they shout into the ether that their opinions are very reasonable, there are still people out there who disagree with them. And that, my friends, is censorship.
Here are some things that you will hear when you sit down to dinner with the vanguard of the Intellectual Dark Web: There are fundamental biological differences between men and women. Free speech is under siege. Identity politics is a toxic ideology that is tearing American society apart. And we’re in a dangerous place if these ideas are considered “dark.”
These are also probably things you will hear if you sit down to dinner with pretty much any Republican on the planet. They are things you will hear on pro-Trump message boards, and throughout the manosphere. They are things you will hear on Fox News, and in the New York Times -- in columns written by the continually "censored" Bari Weiss herself. They are things that you will hear, every day, probably if you are a woman on the internet. In fact, despite free speech being under siege, I have had at least five men in the span of this morning yelling all of these things to me on Twitter.
The "dissidents" Weiss profiles include Sam "Atheism is for boys ONLY" Harris, Michael Shermer, Ben Shapiro, Eric Weinstein (a mathematician and managing director of Thiel Capital -- Peter Thiel being a notorious friend of free speech) and some of his relatives, Jordan Peterson, Christina Hoff Sommers (who Weiss, once again, insists is a "feminist"), and Islam critics Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Weiss explains that although they don't necessarily agree politically, they have more important things in common.
First, they are willing to disagree ferociously, but talk civilly, about nearly every meaningful subject: religion, abortion, immigration, the nature of consciousness. Second, in an age in which popular feelings about the way things ought to be often override facts about the way things actually are, each is determined to resist parroting what’s politically convenient. And third, some have paid for this commitment by being purged from institutions that have become increasingly hostile to unorthodox thought — and have found receptive audiences elsewhere.
Imagine thinking you are so special that you are the only group of people out there having civil discussions on meaningful subjects! That must be nice. Imagine being a very famous and wealthy person, who often gets paid for their opinions, and feeling silenced and "purged." Imagine actually believing that "popular feelings about the way things ought to be often override facts about the way things actually are."
This last one -- this "facts over feelings" nonsense -- has become an incredibly popular saying these last few years among white men who believe their opinions and beliefs are facts and that no one is allowed to question them. They refer, generally, to one of the the following beliefs:
1. Men and women are inherently different, Mars and Venus, blah blah blah.
2. Black people are not as smart as white people.
3. Things are better in a society when people are all the same race or religion.
4. Muslim people are objectively bad in a variety of ways.
5. Trans people do not exist. This is really the foundational belief upon which the entire "facts not feelings" thing is based. The whole purpose of it was, initially, to invalidate the existence of trans people, and all the other bullshit extended from that.
That is what it comes down to, every time. Now, these things, objectively, are not facts. Facts are things like "sea cucumbers eat with their feet" or "Hillary Clinton won the popular vote" or "the guy who sang the theme song from 'The Gummi Bears' is now the lead singer of Toto." They are verifiable.
These beliefs on the other hand, are just that -- beliefs. My belief is that these are all ridiculous and stupid beliefs to hold. I also believe that none of the people holding these beliefs are psychic, which means that they could not possibly know any of these things "for a fact" to begin with.
This is not me putting feelings before facts, it is me understanding the difference between fact and opinion.
In Weiss's article, she notes that the members of the Intellectual Dark Web say that a decade ago "none of these observations would have been considered taboo." They're not entirely wrong, but also this may explain why no one is that interested in hearing them. We know what they are, we know what we think about them, and no one wants to be having the same conversations they were having a decade ago. We have all moved on.
Declaring yourself a rebel who will never ever be any good because you want to talk about whether or not we can trust trans people to tell us who they are, or about how ladies are just naturally submissive and no one else wants to talk to you about that, is like getting surprised that no one will sign up for your Keith Partridge v. Leif Garrett: Who Is The Dreamiest? debate.
So now we must move on to the next issue -- how are these "intellectuals" being silenced if they never shut up? If they have larger platforms than 99.9999999999% of the people in this very country? The answer is simple. They are not being silenced. They are not being agreed with, which is basically the same thing if you are the kind of person who believes they ought to be in charge of what other people think.
There is no amount of platforms they can be given, no amount of books sold, no amount of television appearances that can possibly sate them. None of this will make them feel unsilenced or uncensored. Shit, Donald Trump probably still feels like he's being silenced. The only thing that will make them feel the way they think they ought to feel is by eliminating one of the things that they claim to stand for so bravely -- free speech.
To them, free speech is not the right to disagree with them. It is not the right to protest things one opposes. It is not the right to boycott things for the reason of one's choosing. Free speech is when they get to say what they want, and -- more importantly -- the person listening listening responds "Oh wow, I never thought of it THAT way. Are you like a genius or something? Teehee!" in a Marilyn Monroe voice. And it has to be the right people that respond that way. It can't just be their Reddit fanboys. It has to be feminists and trans people and people of color and all the people they have their little issues with.
Ultimately, this is not about them saying "dissident" things, it is not about them being censored, it is not even about what they believe or say or do. It is about their fear that they are losing social power, dominance and authority, and the fact that their egos tell them that the world will be the worse for it. They imagine hordes of social justice warriors saying, "Well, this black trans woman says that fairies are real, and since you are a heterosexual white man, I'm going to take her word over yours!" and then imagine themselves cowering in a corner going, "I was only trying to tell the truth!" That is, of course, not at all what is happening, but it is absolutely what they think is happening.
Until they accept equality, they are always going to feel oppressed, they are always going to feel censored, they are always going to feel silenced. There is nothing we can do for them, short of agreeing with everything they do and say and telling them they are wonderful, special, and have the shiniest, bounciest hair we've ever seen. I don't see that happening any time ... ever, so they're probably just going to have to get the fuck over it.
Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse