Only then, once I’ve been chased from every port and erased from every blackbook, will I finally have the chance to be totally silenced on the front page of every newspaper and the bulletins of every major broadcaster in the country.
The recent phenomenon of being “silenced” – most likely by the woke mob, if I’ve got the pre-written script right – is really an example of power disguising itself as victimhood, usually as a means to deflect criticism from those with less wealth, less access to the media, and less means to defend themselves.
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And it doesn’t matter how many times so-called silenced politicians have their views plastered across every platform and broadcaster ad nauseam. The observable disconnect between “what has been said” and “what is apparent” never seems to register – whether by design or otherwise.
There are, however, voices that are genuinely absent from our so-called political discourse – counter-cultural criticism, anti-capitalist activists and, often, the very critics of the supposedly silenced themselves who, intentionally, remain unheard.
So, who is really being silenced in the “woke culture war”? The voices who get near unlimited opportunities to describe how cancelled they are, or the voices so thoroughly excluded from the discussion that you may not even know they are missing?
To bastardise a Donald Rumsfeld quote: “There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” We know the voices of “silenced” reactionaries very well. The voices of their critics, however … much less so.
Last week the United Nations’s independent expert Victor Madrigal-Borloz, an authority on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, shared his assessment of the state of LGBTQ+ rights in the UK following a 10-day visit.
The results were concerning but not surprising for a community that has been relentlessly under fire from reactionaries and right-wingers alike in recent years.
Abusive rhetoric from politicians and pundits, he stated, is creating a hostile atmosphere for the UK’s LGBTQ+ community, while promised legislation to tackle discrimination has been sidelined and delayed to the point of perplexity.
“The vicissitudes of this and other necessary public policies appear to be connected to political discourse concerning gender-diverse persons and refugees and asylum seekers, two areas in which recent state actions are cause for concern,” Madrigal-Borloz concluded. Alongside his findings, the UK has also dropped further down the ILGA-Europe’s index of how LGBTQ-friendly European countries are, slipping from 14th to 17th this year.
In 2015, the UK sat in first place – but following years of increasingly far-right conservatism and anti-trans rhetoric, the reputations of the nations that comprise the UK as open and inviting countries for lesbians, gay men and transgender people have taken a hit.
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And in an act that itself confirms this disturbing trajectory, this news was near universally ignored by the UK press. In fact, the only real coverage in mainstream outlets that I could find were two opinion pieces that sought to discredit the UN expert’s findings.
But on the report itself … nothing.
Now who in this situation has found themselves silenced? Certainly not the figureheads of the gender-critical movement, who were free to write opinion pieces in response to a report that itself wasn’t even reported on – a critique of an empty space. Across the political and social world, we find variations on this theme.
Elon Musk defines himself as a free speech absolutist. Yet Twitter appears over the weekend to have acquiesced without the slightest pushback to demands from the Turkish government to censor social media one day before an election – while the platform continues to be flooded with more and more right-wing accounts keen to spread misinformation.
And in the fallout from the Metropolitan Police’s anti-coronation arrests, we find a distinction between those who were deserving and those who were undeserving of having their civil liberties violated, evident in the decisions of who was and was not platformed to tell their stories of police overreach.
The consent that politicians and press wish to manufacture is present not only in those voices given a platform, but in the absence of those who would challenge them.
Remember that and ask yourself whose voice you aren’t hearing.