Insults in the real world (not exactly a guest-blog post, but …)

So recently right-wing hack Milo Yiannopoulos (of the doom of the sexbots theory) had a speaking engagement at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which included singling out a trans student by name and belittling her for not trying hard enough to pass. This generated some comments in a recent post on the Slacktivist (I don’t remember the specific post) which I thought were worth reprinting. Names removed, as I don’t know if they want to be quoted.

“I’ve been thinking about this since seeing and reading about Milo’s attack on the transgender student t’other day. He asked during his talk if they couldn’t cope with his insults how would they cope in the real world? And this kind of gives the game away about the objectives of the “alt-right”. For all its talk and self-praise about being dynamic and young and fresh and new, the core concept is not merely conservatism, which allows for change albeit very, very slowly, it is regression. This isn’t “the real world”- in the real world if you deliberately and repeatedly insult someone they will probably respond with insults or go somewhere that you’re not. They will not stay and allow you to subject them to those insults without at least trying to get you to stop.

What the “alt-right” is asking for, essentially, is for society to regress to a point where it was possible to pick out and pick on weaker members and bully and harass them as much as you liked with no consequences. They want to be able to turn the world into a school playground where the teacher is distracted, so they can pick on the weak without fear of consequences. He explained that what he was saying was “just a joke”, as always, and mocked the idea of “harmful words”. This is disingenuous. The man knows what an insult is, he writes them for a living. He is aware that insults exist. If there is no harm in them, then there should equally be no problem in ceasing to use them- they have become useless for the purpose they were created if they are incapable of wounding someone, so their requests that he stop saying them should be no more harmful than his saying them in the first place. Instead that’s an attack on his freedom of speech, a brutal attempt to suppress him, all the tyranny of all the world’s powers are turned against him when Twitter bans him etc.

If the insults are meant as insults, which they are, then he has to be aware that words are capable of harming people, because that’s the very purpose of an insult. This “it’s just a joke” argument is bullshit as a deflection, and the claim that you need to learn to deal with it because that’s “the real world” or “real life” is equally bullshit- it is not how the real world works, and even if it was surely the left is acknowledging that by trying to change it?”

“This is not how the real world operates. If anything, the real world is way, way, way, way the opposite. Try saying something even mildly offensive to a co-worker (let alone a superior or customer) and you will see how quickly you have a meeting with HR. They claim to be against safe spaces and for freedom of speech, but the reality is that the working world consists of nothing but safe spaces and the most anti-free speech areas.”

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