And so it came to pass that professional contrarian Brendan O’Neill once again fetched up at the Spectator’s Coffee House blog to tell the world how part of it had failed to conform to his ideal. “Intolerance wears a progressive mask in the 21st century. Students hound political undesirables off campus in the name of ‘protecting diversity’. Adverts are banned from the London Underground in the name of women’s rights. Rappers and other hotheads are barred from Britain on the basis that their utterances are ‘not conducive’ to our good, progressive way of life” he tells, none of which is relevant to his subject.
Brendan O'Neill - hypocrite for hire
So what is his beef? “And now assorted leftists and tweeters are seeking to punish tabloid newspapers, to starve them of big revenue, in the name of promoting tolerance. Yes, intolerance - in this case of the redtop press and its right to say what it wants - is tolerance”. So who are these “assorted leftists and Tweeters”?
“Stop Funding Hate is a new campaign aimed at getting big businesses - like Lego, John Lewis, Walkers Crisps, Virgin - to stop advertising in what are referred to as ‘hate newspapers’: that is, tabloids, primarily the Daily Mail”. So he was wrong to talk of “the redtop press”, then. He’s also wrong to whine about “leftists”.
That is because Stop Funding Hate is not a left or right oriented campaign. But do go on. “Let’s curb the euphemisms and all the talk of promoting tolerance - this is a sly, sinister effort to chill and tame the press; a marshalling of capitalist power to punish newspapers and force them to change. It’s a stab at censorship, not a cry for tolerance”. And to that I call bullshit. It is merely asking advertisers to reconsider where they buy ad space.
There is no intimidation, no threats, no bullying, no abuse, no victimisation, no doorstepping, no rifling in bins, no publication of personal information, no “we know where you live”, no stoking of envy or hatred, and definitely no “dark arts”. In short, Stop Funding Hate does not lower itself to the level of the press that O’Neill so slavishly defends.
That does not stop him whining “this is a sly, sinister effort to chill and tame the press … engaged in naked political censorship … these people are conspiring in the creation of a new and terrifying form of press censure … This is elitist, repugnant and illiberal, as are all attempts at press censorship”. But, as Martin Belam has pointed out, O’Neill has a problem. He has recently supported the most vicious kind of censorship.
Zelo Street regulars will have heard of GamerGate and the controversy it generated. For the likes of Brendan O’Neill, it is all about the freedom of young males to fantasise as violently and misogynistically as they wish. But for the (mainly) female gamers on the receiving end of the hatred emanating from the former group, it is an unpleasant, intolerant, bullying, abusive exhibition of man-babies at their worst.
O’Neill had not problem picking a side: “The war on violent videogames is a war on the freedom of thought itself”. He was with the man-babies. GamerGate’s victories were his victories too. That was fine. But this required some highly selective reinterpretation of what GamerGate was all about, especially its tendency to lean on advertisers, and in a far more upfront manner than that used by Stop Funding Hate.
As Paul Tassi told in an article at Forbes, “The GamerGate faithful have been celebrating a victory the past few days after a mass email campaign against gaming site Gamasutra’s sponsors found success by getting Intel … to pull advertising from the site”. Perhaps O’Neill would like to tell his adoring public how this differs from Stop Funding Hate, except that he supports it, and it is therefore not “illiberal”, “terrifying” and “chilling”.
Max Read at Gawker spelt it out: the harassment of Intel had been over an article in Gamasutra by a journalist called Leigh Alexander. The GamerGaters didn’t like it one bit. And “Unable to run Alexander out of game writing, as they had with the writer Jenn Frank, or force her from her home, as they did to the developer Brianna Wu, or threaten her from public engagements, as they did the following week to the critic and activist Anita Sarkeesian, Gamergate went after her publisher”.
Gawker itself was targeted by the GamerGaters. Where was Brendan O’Neill then? Where were his stinging criticisms of the bullying and harassment? Where was his rebuke “This is elitist, repugnant and illiberal, as are all attempts at press censorship”?
Brendan O’Neill, folks, was absent.
Like his pal Mick Hume, O’Neill is always ready to exchange his principles for a paycheque. In Hume’s case, he hit the jackpot with the Murdoch Sun; O’Neill has had to make do with asking Fraser Nelson and his pals at the Spectator nicely. And the resulting articles, in both cases, just happen to chime exactly with the requirement of the press establishment and their desire to bully and harass those they dislike into silence.
In other words, Brendan O’Neill is not merely a stinking hypocrite, but an accessory to the kind of censorship which he pretends to condemn. Nice work if you can get it.