Last week, performance artist, professional agitator, and Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes took to Thought Catalog—a publication known for particularly vapid and terrible millennial musings—to speculate about how "transphobia is perfectly natural." People were outraged. People demanded the piece be removed. Thought Catalog responded by slapping on a big old trigger warning—if you go to the McInnes article page now, you'll get a notice that "the article you are trying to read has been reported by the community as hateful or abusive content" before being allowed to proceed—but like hell it was going to take down such spectacular clickbait.
And it shouldn't. A publication can choose what to publish, but it shouldn't pull content that's already been published, now matter how much outrage that content provokes. It's a matter of accountability. Let McInnes and Thought Catalog stand by the ideas they chose to espouse. In fact, writes Freddie deBoer at The Dish, McInnes inadvertantly provides the perfect argument against social censorship:
Go ahead and Google around or plop the link to his piece into Twitter. The large majority of the reactions he's gotten have been some combination of anger or ridicule. His argument hasn't gotten any traction. On the contrary: it's gotten a lot of people talking about transphobia and how mainstream it can still be. His piece has been undone by the reaction to it. That's the way it's supposed to work. If we were to forbid him from expressing his opinions, we wouldn't know how dopey he and they are.
Some of the sillier corners of the online social-justice-warriorsphere have been calling for the piece to be removed, because: hate speech! And sure, McInnes' piece was an angry, vulgar, deliberately-offensive, and only semi-coherent mess. But nobody has to read it. Nobody has to visit Thought Catalog. You could have the same lack of exposure to the article that its disappearance would accomplish by simply not exposing yourself to the article. The only difference would be that no one else could be exposed to it either. People couldn't judge for themselves whether this was an insightful social critique or the ranting of a sad, silly man. (In case it needs to be said, I vote for the latter.)
"It's not the media's job to use its iron fist to enforce social norms in our society," suggests Justine Tunney. Nor should progressives (or anyone) want it to be! At least not if they care more about achieving actual change than getting points for saying the right thing on Twitter. Shifts in thought and social stigma occur not by those with the "wrong" ideas keeping quiet while those with the right ideas sit around congratulating themselves. If the wrong ideas really are that abhorrent, we shouldn't need to hide them to discredit them.