Thought Catalog postures as some sort of classical Greek agora where everyone can gather and exchange their ideas freely. It is a website that still believes that it’s possible to be apolitical in a world defined by power asymmetries. It’s a website that attracts bigots because it reassures them that their feelings are important. Thought Catalog’s ostensible position of neutrality ends up turning their website into nothing but a reflection of the power hierarchies in the real world.
Shunning the people who aren’t proponents of love will not make them more loving or accepting of others. Silencing them doesn’t mean their opinions are gone. If we genuinely want change, we have to genuinely confront the reality of what is. Until that happens, we’re just speaking to groups of people that already affirm us, and we’re not actually changing anything at all.
I just want to say that as a trans woman, I feel very triggered by this whole incident. Not because I found what he wrote to be offensive; I honestly don’t care what he thinks about trans women. The reason why I’m triggered, is because Mister McInnes’ crucifixion at the hands of the bloodthirsty progressive mob, brings back traumatic memories of the times when I received the same treatment. I’m also triggered by the loss of freedom in our society, as the list of people persecuted for thoughtcrime in our society grows longer and longer.
Kat Haché, who now writes for the Daily Dot and Bustle, also noted that the site’s purported dedication to free speech belies a callous insensitivity to marginalized people whose voices are dangerously underrepresented in the media landscape. “For anyone crying ‘censorship” or “thought police’, they can blow it out their ass,” she said over email. “[McInnes] had a platform for his bile, now people have the freedom to respond to it or refuse to associate with him. For people handwringing about how this privileged cis white dude lost his job due to his own shitty behavior, my heart bleeds as I think of all the trans people who either lose their jobs or face difficulty obtaining one due to prejudice that he reinforces.”
There will always be ignorant people who insist on categorizing us, but we, as members of society, have a choice as to whether or not this kind of harmful rhetoric is given legitimacy. When hateful, dismissive rhetoric is leveled at a vulnerable population, it should not be tolerated. Erasing the identities of trans people has real life consequences for our community and no amount of crocodile tears at the unwillingness to understand or accept us can change that. When people call out these verbal assaults on our identities, it isn’t censoring them, it’s self-preservation and asserting our right to exist and express ourselves on our terms. I don’t expect Gavin McInnes to have a change of heart about us, but I hope that eventually views like his will find increasing difficulty obtaining a platform and claiming a space within our discourse.
I can appreciate many of the advocates in the trans community pulling their work off of Thought Catalog, but I think by doing this that we are letting the bad guys win. I think their whole point was to shut us up and keep us invisible, and we are complying by pulling our work. I hope the great writers out there that speak out for our community will reconsider and come back with a loud and clear voice that will resonate within the hearts and minds of the Thought Catalog readers.
And in any case, if TC works for the same reason that the Internet works, it also doesn’t work for the same reason that the Internet doesn’t work: that any measure of sensible discussion soon gets drowned in the noise made by assholes like Gavin McInnes. On the Internet, it is generally the people who shout loudest who get heard, and it’s exactly those people for whom TC works most effectively as a platform. The site’s entire raison d’être is flawed, because it’s based on a line of thinking that has plenty of currency on the Internet, i.e. that everyone has a worthwhile opinion and is entitled to ample space to express it.
McInnes and Rogers chose to speak hate (and are feeling the consequences of that choice). Thought Catalog chose to publish that hate, which clearly has led to a vigorous discussion about the issues at hand. Isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t the point of being a writer to express a thought, no matter how unpopular or even hateful, in the hopes that it inspires a discussion? That’s why I do this for a living, albeit a meager one.
To me, that all adds up to seeing the site as a place that fearlessly supports writers — some good, some bad — and pays them, too. If they end up pissing everyone off and driving their customers away, that would be really dumb. I don’t think they’re going to do that. But they’re always going to have a higher tolerance for pain and controversy because they really mean it when they say they want to publish a diversity of voices.