Monday 21 August 2017

Removal of Repeal the Eighth mural shows that censorship cuts both ways

Scratching at the veneer of liberalism: The Repeal the 8th mural in Temple Bar, Dublin. Photo: HunReal Facebook
Scratching at the veneer of liberalism: The Repeal the 8th mural in Temple Bar, Dublin. Photo: HunReal Facebook
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

It's a funny thing, censorship.

Rather like heroin, it's very moreish - and a lot easier to start than it is to stop.

This week's example of censorship comes courtesy of the Dublin City Council, who covered the 'Repeal the 8th' mural on a wall of the Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar.

I've been thinking a lot about this latest micro controversy to exercise the minds of those with little else to worry about and, to be honest, I just find myself laughing.

Here we have Generation Snowflake, the first generation in recorded history to be more conservative, more conformist and more authoritarian than their own parents, being the victims of utterly unjustifiable censorship.

They're not used to that boot being on the other foot - and they don't like it. Before people start hurling one of those novelty Repeal the 8th doughnuts at me, let's clear up a few things first.

For starters, I am reluctantly pro-choice.

In other words, I find some of the pro-life arguments logical. But I simply don't have the moral authority - or arrogance - to tell a woman what she should do with her body.

So, when the abortion referendum rolls around, I'll take a deep breath, swallow the bad taste in my mouth, and vote to repeal.

Also, I should point out that painting over the mural, which had been designed by the artist Maser, was a petty, nasty, spiteful act of political partisanship by the DCC.

So, when I agree - broadly - with the cause and think it was just bloody stupid to cover it up, why does the whole silly charade amuse rather than enrage me?

Well, that's largely because the people currently squealing with righteous and public (oh, always as public as possible) indignation are usually the ones calling for bans, boycotts, petitions and censorship themselves. They are, ultimately, the generation that still runs to teacher to report someone for being bold, and they don't like it when the tables are turned.

Perhaps one of the most inadvertently illuminating comments came from one of the protesters outside the mural, who complained that: "I'm in shock that it was taken down so fast and abruptly. It was a really good piece of art by a respected artist and I don't think it was hate speech or anything."

Ah, she doesn't think it was hate speech. Therefore it shouldn't have been censored.

But who gets to decide what is or is not that nebulous thing known as 'hate speech'?

The outrage over the mural isn't a protest against censorship. It's a protest against the censoring of something they like and they seem genuinely incapable of handling it.

What was particularly amusing was the fact that the tactics used against them are similar to the ones that they so often employ against others.

In this instance, it was an obscure planning regulation which was used as a flag of convenience.

The rules, as they say, is the rules.

They didn't like that decision, but a lot of the people squawking the loudest about the DCC decision were also the ones defending Twitter's decision to ban the professional feminist-baiter Milo Yiannapolous from Twitter - because he broke the rules. You don't have to scratch deep beneath the veneer of liberalism to see that most of those most vocal on social issues also tend to be the most authoritarian.

Let's not forget, in the run up to last year's gay marriage referendum, there were plenty of so-called liberals demanding a watch list be set up to keep tabs on journalists and pundits who might be guilty of homophobic hate speech - which now just seems to be anything our new progressive Commissars simply don't like.

It's also rather wonderful to watch people scream about censorship while they simultaneously demand that Cian Healy be pilloried for a harmless joke they didn't like.

One last thing - can people stop saying our abortion laws make women 'second-class citizens'?

The implication is that they're being denied a service offered to men, which is obviously not the case.

Although the way the trans lobby is going, even saying men can't have abortions probably qualifies as hate speech for someone.

Now will ­people believe that religion  is a factor?

One of the great comforting lies we tell ourselves is that the current wave of terrorism is political. Political considerations are lower down the list of grievances than people in the West would assume.

The problem we face is that we have largely moved on from religion in our society.

Therefore, showing that Western arrogance so common to the right-on, they erroneously assume that Islam is as irrelevant to Muslims as Christianity is to Europeans.

This week's latest ISIS extravaganza, the heroic beheading of an 86-year-old priest in a small rural church, makes for a grim metaphor about the respective religions.

Here we had two fit, homicidal young Muslim men (one of them a convert, and they're always the worst) bursting into Mass and holding the whole congregation hostage while they sliced the priest's head off. How could they hold so many people at bay while they committed such an act of provocative sacrilege?

The answer, of course, lies with the congregation itself - a couple of elderly nuns and two equally elderly parishioners.

In other words, they were an easy target and if you want to look for an image of an old, tired Europe making easy pickings for fanatical, backward savages, then this was surely the one.

But where was the retaliation? After each attack, we're bombarded with warnings that Muslims are now going to be victims of vengeful hate crimes.

But, like the aftermath of other Islamist attacks, there have been none, unless you count the gobshite who was arrested in the UK for leaving a pig's head outside a mosque.

Frankly, I can't shake the suspicion that if this was Jewish militants, there wouldn't be a synagogue left standing between Dublin and the Danube.

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