Posts Tagged ‘censorship’


Happy New Year!  I hope to introduce you to more writers, thinkers and do-ers  in 2014. Maybe I’m a bit tired of the cut of my own jib, or maybe I’ve suddenly gone shy(!). Either way, I think engaging with a variety of perspectives is always a good thing.

An independent-minded UK-based blogger/tweeter I like is Jacobinism. He has begun the year with a thought-provoking post entitled Racism; Censorship; Disunity. He puts forward the view that the ‘Left’, and ‘intersectional’ activists and writers within the Left, can be blind to oppression and violence unless it comes from white people. To illustrate his point he uses a case study from within the feminist blogosphere, where a young feminist woman was attacked and then censored by ‘intersectional’ feminism, for her views.  Jacobinism writes:

‘There is a damaging idea fast gathering influence on the Left that – like a lot of contemporary postmodern Leftist thought – urgently needs dismantling. This idea holds that racism is only possible when prejudice is married with power.

The corollary of this premise is that racism may only travel in one direction – from the powerful to the powerless – and it is therefore nonsensical to discuss, still less condemn, racist attitudes expressed by ethnic minorities. In the West, racism is the preserve of the white majority who use it – often, it is claimed, unconsciously – to sustain their advantage and to oppress those they deem to be ‘other’. In the geopolitical sphere, meanwhile, this racism is the preserve of the world’s wealthy democracies and is expressed as Orientalism, Military and Cultural Imperialism, and Neoliberalism, all of which are used to dominate and subjugate the Global South.’

Jacobin’s discussion of the feminist ‘storm’ that illustrates his points is probably best read in full. To give a flavour of the ‘case study’ here’s some extracts from his post:

‘On 20 December, the feminist writer and activist Adele Wilde-Blavatsky published an article in the Huffington Post entitled Stop Bashing White Women in the Name of Beyonce: We Need Unity Not Division. Wilde-Blavatsky’s post was a rebuke to those – on what she described as the post-colonial or intersectional feminist Left – who use identity politics and arguments from privilege to delegitimise the voices of white feminists speaking out about the abuse of women in the Global South and within minority communities in the West…

The response to this argument from the bien pensant Left ranged from the incredulous to the vitriolic.

In the comment thread below her article and in a storm which overwhelmed her twitter handle and her hashtag, Wilde-Blavatsky (who tweets as @lionfaceddakini) was derided with accusations of arrogance, ignorance, bigotry, racism and cultural supremacism. She was advised that she had not listened sufficiently closely to authentic voices of women of colour.  Others declared her to be beneath contempt and an object example of white feminism’s irrelevance. She was accused of using a fraudulent call for unity as a way of advancing an argument from white victimhood. It was demanded that she immediately re-educate herself by reading various academic texts on the subject. Her “white woman’s tears” were repeatedly mocked, as were her protestations that her own family is mixed-race. And, of course, there were the predictable demands for retraction, penitence and prostration…

To accept that one’s unalterable characteristics can play any part in the validity of an opinion is to submit to the tyranny of identity politics and endorse an affront to reason. Arguments about rights and ethics must be advanced and defended on their merits, irrespective of who is making them. There is no other way.’

I applaud Jacobin for taking on this thorny subject, and for referring to feminism in doing so. Not only do feminists find it difficult to have aspects of their dogma questioned, they find it particularly hard to stomach coming from a man. But I have a couple of points to make that disagree with his argument.

1) All feminism suggests men are ‘innately’ powerful and women not.  I agree with Jacobin  that actions should not be protected from criticism simply due to the identity of those taking them. But I am wary of Wilde-Blavatsky’s  allusions to patriarchal culture and behaviour in her criticisms of violence against women in ‘the Global South’. Isn’t the term ‘patriarchy’ a way of playing ‘identity politics’ too? Don’t men get dismissed by feminism in general for having views on gender because of their ‘unalterable characteristics’?

2) All feminism reinforces the gender binary There have always been tensions within feminism and different schools of thought within the ‘movement’. However as I have said in my ‘controversial’ piece Against Feminisms, all feminists rely on the binary of man v woman with ‘man’ being found powerful, oppressive and so not worth listening to. And so

‘ feminist theorists such as bell hooks and Julia Serano and Beverly Skeggs, even when they are referring to other divisions such as ethnicity, class and transgender identities, are still relying on the reification of the man v woman binary to support all their arguments about gender.’

3) Feminism is more ‘united’ than it seems I will write more on this another time, but my view is a lot of the ‘conflicts’ in feminism are not exactly fabricated, but they’re superficial.  Feminism does have common characteristics.  I find this ‘flowchart’ that was doing the rounds online recently, laughable. But it does indicate a basic worldview that I would suggest all feminists share to a large degree. It also illustrates clearly how not being a feminist is unacceptable and derided by feminists of all stripes (click image to enlarge):


I don’t want a young woman writer to be censored for having the ‘wrong’ outlook. But I think young men are ‘censored’ from expressing their views on gender before they even begin. Gender studies and media output on gender are dominated by versions of Wilde-Blavatsky. I don’t privilege (‘white people’s’) racism over gender but I don’t think gender inequalities function how any feminist presents them. If that makes me persona non grata at some dinner parties who cares? I can have my own party (and the booze is always great)!

A slightly worrying note from anna racoon’s blog:

‘Apparently the problem can be traced back to a troll who had been posting comments using the e-mail address and avatar of Matt Cutts. Matt who? For the uninitiated, Matt Cutts is the CEO of Google, and when you are the CEO of Google being annoyed by a troll and you decide to stamp your foot, it can be a pretty heavy handed stamp indeed.

Software engineers were dispatched to the dimly lit cellar to come up with a solution. Back in 2007, Gravatar (which is where you went to get those dinky pictures that link to your e-mail address and pop up when you comment) and WordPress conducted a trendy civil partnership. Gravatar customers were automatically awarded wordpress accounts. By Thursday afternoon, the software engineers had flicked a switch which stopped anyone using, oh, lets say for instance, Matt Cutts e-mail address along with his avatar to leave unhelpful comments on the web. They had also stopped the flow of witty comments and helpful information from individuals across the world who wished to comment anonymously, or under a temporary name on political blogs. A small price to pay when the Boss is upset.’


I am considering ‘upgrading’ my wordpress so I get access to which does not censor comments in this way. This means I need some cash!


This is an email I received on March 13, 2012

Smashwords author/publisher update:  PayPal Reverses Proposed Censorship

Great news.  Yesterday afternoon I met with PayPal at their office in San Jose, where they informed me of their decision to modify their policies to allow legal fiction.

Effective last night, we rolled back the Smashwords Terms of Service to its pre-February 24 state.

It’s been a tumultuous, nerve-wracking few weeks as we worked to protect the right of writers to write and publish legal fiction.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to Smashwords authors, publishers and customers.  You stood up and made your voice known.  Thank you to every Smashwords author and publisher who wrote me to express opinions, even if we disagreed, and even if you were angry with me. You inspired me to carry your cause forward.

Smashwords authors, publishers and customers mobilized. You made telephone calls, wrote emails and letters, started and signed petitions, blogged, tweeted, Facebooked and drove the conversation. You made the difference.  Without you, no one would have paid attention. I would also like to thank the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). These three advocacy groups were the first to stand up for our authors, publishers and customers. Their contribution cannot be overstated.  We collaborated with them to build a coalition of like-minded organizations to support our mutual cause. Special kudos to Rainey Reitman of EFF for her energy, enthusiasm and leadership.

I would also like to thank all the bloggers and journalists out there who helped carry our story forward by lending their platforms to get the story out.  Special thanks to TechCrunch, Slashdot, TechDirt, The Independent (UK), Reuters, Publishers Weekly, Dow Jones, The Digital Reader, CNET, Forbes, GalleyCat & EbookNewser and dozens of others too numerous to mention.

I would like to thank our friends at PayPal.  They worked with us in good faith as they promised, engaged us in dialogue, made the effort to understand Smashwords and our mission, went to bat for our authors with the credit card companies and banks, and showed the courage to revise their policies.

This is a big, bold move by PayPal.  It represents a watershed decision that protects the rights of writers to write, publish and distribute legal fiction.  It also protects the rights of readers to purchase and enjoy all fiction in the privacy of their own imagination. It clarifies and rationalizes the role of financial services providers and pulls them out of the business of censoring legal fiction.

Following implementation of their new policies, PayPal will have the most liberal, pro-First-Amendment policies of the major payment processors.  Will Google Checkout and Checkout by Amazon be next now that the credit card companies have clarified their positions, and have essentially given payment providers the permission to adopt more enlightened policies?   Finally, thanks to Selena Kitt of Excessica and Remittance Girl for helping me to understand and respect all fiction more than I ever have before.

This is a bright day for indie publishing.  In the old world, traditional publishers were the arbiters of literary merit.  Today, thanks to the rise of indie ebooks, the world is moving toward a broader, more inclusive definition of literary merit. Smashwords gives writers the power and freedom to publish.  Merit is decided by your readers.  Just as it should be.


Mark Coker


I find, in the contemporary social-media dominated world, that when people discuss politics they never explain what is going on! Rather they tend to just demand that you support their cause. Sign this petition! Save the children! Come to this important meeting! Occupy Wall Street! Stop the killings!

Well. I like to understand an issue before I support a campaign.

So, when I saw the calls for people to ‘blackout’ their websites today in protest against #SOPA, I thought rather than blindly follow instructions, I’d use the  day to learn about what SOPA actually is. And to decide if I am opposed to it, and if so, what I can contribute in the campaign.

Wikipedia is one of the websites being blacked out in protest against SOPA:

Which is a bit of a bummer considering they are a major source of information. But, luckily, they have kindly left a page up explaining SOPA and PIPA. It reads:

‘SOPA and PIPA represent two bills in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate respectively. SOPA is short for the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” and PIPA is an acronym for the “Protect IP Act.” (“IP” stands for “intellectual property.”) In short, these bills are efforts to stop copyright infringement committed by foreign web sites, but, in our opinion, they do so in a way that actually infringes free expression while harming the Internet. Detailed information about these bills can be found in the Stop Online Piracy Actand PROTECT IP Act articles on Wikipedia, which are available during the blackout. You can also follow them through the legislative process here and here. The EFF has summarized why these bills are simply unacceptable in a world that values an open, secure, and free Internet.’

And here, Anonymous have collated some information about SOPA:

I am going to spend some of today reading up on this subject. Because freedom of expression and an open internet is important to me!

And if you get bored, here are some lovely photos of gorgeous men to keep you entertained:

UPDATE: I will add some links about #SOPA as I get them. Any info welcome!

This one asks if the ‘problem’ SOPA is trying to solve even exists: /via @warrenpearson

Here wordpress join the protest against SOPA: /via @sesshabatto and others

Mashable’s take: /via @scribbles78

This is a creative way of doing a ‘blackout’ of a website for the protest: /via @AbiePB and others

Here is stoner with a boner, regular commenter at QRGHQ’s take on SOPA:

And this just in at the Nervous Breakdown literature/writing site:

Mic Wright debates with someone on MSN about SOPA and PIPA: /via @brokenbottleboy

Why In Mala Fide is not participating in today’s blackout: /via @FBardamu

How Copyright Industries Con Congress: /via @mattlodder SOPA Soaps, via stoner with a boner

Guardian CIF on SOPA:

@How_Upsetting on SOPA and PIPA:

A post-blackout analysis from wikipedia watchers: /via @quarridors


This image of the male model Andrej Pejic was censored by the bookstore chain Barnes and Noble, because it could be mistaken for a picture of a topless woman

As the Jezebel article states, other magazines featuring covers of shirtless men have been stocked by Barnes and Noble, but the men in question have been muscle-bound metrosexuals.

What does this tell us about gender anxiety and attitudes to ‘obscenity’ and nudity in the 21st century?

I think it is interesting, in the light of that recent photoshoot for Abercrombie and Fitch in Paris, where over one hundred male models got their tits out for the whole of Paris to enjoy. Because in some ways, muscled up pecs look more like women’s breasts than a skinny androgyne’s ones.

I also think this serves as a reminder that the feminist campaigns in the UK by organisations such as OBJECT, to cover up lads mags and to put them back on the ‘top shelf’, may lead to similar incidents of censorship here.

Jezebel decides that the thorny issue of how feminists simultaneously bemoan ‘double standards’ of how men and women’s bodies are perceived in our culture, and also campaign for the censorship of images which ‘objectify’ women but not men, should be left for ‘another day’:

‘Why it is exactly that women’s toplessness is considered inappropriate for magazine covers in this country is a question for another day, but this debacle does call into question the general ridiculousness of these standards’

Very wise, Jezebel, very wise. But on this or any other day, I could point out how contradictory and full of its own double standards, feminist dogma about gendered bodies is. I’m not going anywhere…

Lou, from Porfolio X By Robert Mapplethorpe 1978

World AIDS Day came and went like any other for me. But it drew my attention to how screwed up we all are about talking about sex, even more than most days do.

I saw someone post this article, about how a gallery in America has taken down an AIDS related exhibit,  due to pressure from Christian campaigners. The exhibit is a video, featuring images of Christ, naked, being eaten by giant ants. I guess it is an allegory?

The person who posted the link works for The Guardian newspaper. I told him I thought the Guardian is forever featuring articles, especially by feminists, arguing for the restriction / censorship of images of women in various objectified poses, as they are ‘offensive’. I pointed this out with a view to suggesting he was advocating we apply one set of values for one image, and another for others.  I thought he might see my point, and distance himself from the feminists. But no, he took the harder road of arguing that pornography is different from this video, and censorship is valid in some cases. Oh. And who decides when it is valid and when it isn’t? Probably Guardian journalists and their feminist friends I expect.

I reminded this person, who I used to think was pretty sound and maybe even, huh, radical on matters of sex and culture, that Kathryn Flett had written a particularly cloying article about how she didn’t approve of people taking their kids to a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition. She needed us to know how cultured and ‘risque’ she is by liking Mapplethorpe, but also that she is a good mother and an upstanding member of the middle classes, who would not expose her children to such outrageous material.

My correspondent said he agreed with Kathryn.  ‘Portfolio X is not for toddlers’ he told me, authoritatively.

I don’t understand. Deep down in my perverted heart I don’t understand. Why is it not offensive to show an image of Christ being eaten by ants, but it is offensive to show images of men with their fingers up their urethra? Or rather why is it NOT offensive to show an image of a man with his finger up his urethra in an art gallery, unless there are children in the art gallery? And why are feminists allowed to be offended by ‘offensive’ images of women, but Christians aren’t allowed to be offended by ‘offensive’ images of Christ? And why can’t Mapplethorpe, as well as Christ, be used to educate people, including children, about sex and AIDS?

This is a thorny topic and I keep pricking my fingers.

Everything seems like pornography to me anyway. And I don’t have children. But if I did, I would be happy for them to look at Robert Mapplethorpe pictures, and I’d be happy for them to read the Bible, and watch videos of Christ getting eaten by ants. I might draw the line at Harry Potter books and films though. A mother has to have some standards.