Caught Catalog: Gavin McInnes & Freedom of Speech

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LAST WEEK, Gavin McInnes wrote a transphobic essay that was published on Thought Catalog.

Calling it transphobic is an understatement. It was a rant filled with incredibly hateful and stomach-turning prejudice. described it as using “language more vile than even the most overt transphobes would dare print.” The article has since been taken down by Thought Catalog and replaced with a veil in the form of a black screen and white text reading: “The article you are trying to read has been reported by the community as hateful or abusive content.” The initial article was fully readable for three entire days while articles published across the web on sites like Salon and Jezebel pleaded for it to be taken down.

In the wake of his article, Gavin McInnes has been asked to take a leave of absence from his own ad agency and Thought Catalog has been thrown to the forefront of a discussion about the kind of content they publish. It realy doesn’t help that they published an article called “Ferguson, Missouri Looks Like a Rap Video” in the same week. Those coming to McInnes’ defense — and Thought Catalog’s, as well — are citing one unsurprising thing: freedom of speech.

It might help to know a little bit more about McInnes. He was one of the co-founders of Vice, before parting ways with the company in 2008 (you can only imagine why) and some of his other articles for Thought Catalog include “When Is It OK to Hit a Woman” and “Hey, Ladies! Short Hair is Rape.” In late 2013, he provided expletive-ridden rants during a HuffPost Live conversation with three other participants about how masculinity has changed over the years. Bringing up women in the workplace, McInnes got creative with some facts and data:

“Women are forced to pretend to be men. They’re feigning this toughness. They’re miserable. Study after study has shown that feminism has made women less happy. They’re not happy in the work force, for the most part. I would guess 7 percent [of women] like not having kids, they want to be CEOs, they like staying at the office all night working on a proposal, and all power to them. But by enforcing that as the norm, you’re pulling these women away from what they naturally want to do, and you’re making them miserable.”

Brilliantly playing the part of a fourteen-year-old making an argument throughout, equipped with singsongy sarcasm and an increase in volume and expletives when he felt his point was not being heard or understood, McInnes didn’t exactly come across as intelligent or as an expert in anything other than being a jerk. For their parts, the other three participants remained calm and carried on an intelligent conversation about the topic. McInnes wound down the conversation by calling Professor of Law Mary Anne Franks, the only female participant on the show, a “f**king idiot.”

It’s clear that Gavin McInnes has been a real dick well before his most recent Thought Catalog piece came out, but let’s get back to his freedoms of speech.

Thought Catalog is founded on the belief that “every thought is relevant” and that “anyone can use Thought Catalog to articulate their ideas and stories to the world,” with “no one excluded from the conversation.” Which is not entirely true — Thought Catalog has a submission process and it’s not a free platform. Thought Catalog does not have to publish anything they do not want to. They do have a selection process and it is not a free-for-all, though it has certainly read like one in the last few years. Nowadays, Thought Catalog seems to mirror much of our society: whoever shouts the loudest, or has the most controversial thing to say, or tends to be the most strident about expressing their views… well, guess who’s there, waiting in the digital wings to publish them and reap the traffic rewards? Thought Catalog chose to publish McInnes and McInnes used them to get very loud with his views.

So, are Gavin McInnes’ First Amendment rights being violated?

Absolutely not.

No one had to read his views, no one had to publish them, and the First Ammendment deals very specifically with the government passing legislation that restricts free speech. McInnes used his free speech to write more than one derogatory, unfounded, and disgusting bit of blather and Thought Catalog decided to publish them. When the majority of people found his latest piece offensive, Thought Catalog made the choice to take it down. No government involvement, no illegalities. Gavin McInnes is still free to be a total a**hole in his spare time and on whatever platform is still willing to publish him. And the rest of the world has the right to ignore him, make efforts to get his writing taken down, and write about how his words make them feel.

Sorry that the readers of popular platforms just aren’t interested in reading your nonsense anymore, Gav, but no one took away your freedom of speech.

And, if we want to talk about freedoms, why not consider the people Gavin McInnes’ inane writings targets? What about their basic human rights? His words encourage women and transgender people to stay hidden, embarrassed, afraid, and demoralized after centuries of work against prejudices and hate. Thankfully, most people have the sense not to listen or be swayed by his particular opinions about the ways of the world or cries about free speech. If you want to talk about actual violations of freedom of speech, please look no further than what’s currently happening in Ferguson, Missouri.

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