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No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Monday 14th January 2013

The Observer's decision to censor Julie Burchill is a disgrace

I'm shocked by the decision of the Observer to remove Julie Burchill's controversial article about transexuals from its website. You can see a cached version of the piece here.

Whatever you think of its politics, the Observer is a paper with a great liberal tradition. For it to muzzle one of its own journalists – albeit a freelance contributor – on the grounds that some people on the Left found her views distasteful is a betrayal of everything the paper is supposed to stand for. (To read more, click here.)

COMMENT | COMMENTS SO FAR: 14 [ FIXED LINK ] Bookmark and Share

Comments page 1 of 1 - 14 post(s)

Re: The Observer
Posted by teleMac on 14-01-2013 22:40:

Thank you!! Mwa. Now must run back over there.

(Pause to bookmark this).

Re: The Observer
Posted by A.Devine on 15-01-2013 01:15:

Hi Toby, always liked your blog but never posted a comment before.

Yet, I'm afraid that my first comment is going to be to disagree with you.

I understand we need to protect free speech, I really do. Has this woman simply posted her views in a calm, rational and polite way I would have defended her, despite disagreeing with pretty much all of the points she makes.

However, she didn't. She produced a purposefully offensive, vulgar and nasty article when there was simply no need to do so. Why exactly, did she need to refer to transsexuals with terms such as "a bunch of dicks in chicks' clothing" and "bed wetters in bad wigs" when simple, clinical terminology would have conveyed exactly the same sentiments.

She has shown herself to be lacking in both class and intellect by resorting to nasty name calling in order to get her point across - something any talented writer should have no need to do.

I have to admit wondering why any respectable newspaper would hire the woman after this, having now proven her vitriol more suited to the pages of the sun or daily sport

Re: The Observer
Posted by sarah on 15-01-2013 10:52:

I'm shocked that you would wish to republish a piece so vile as this. The fact that the observer removed it should have been clear indication that it has no journalistic merit and is merely a load of hate speech. Furthermore it breaks the editors code of practice on all of the following grounds:


The article frequently talks about transsexuals as a general group but makes it seem as if all transsexuals are trans* women. This is misinformation as less than half of transsexuals are trans* women.

The author talks of language used by the LGBT community to refer to trans* people (transgender) and non-trans* people (cisgender). The author likens the prefix cis- to things like "syph, cyst, cistern" while the origin of it is in the latin. (trans - on the other side, cis - on the same side)


The last paragraph is a clear act of intimidation with language such as "You really won't like us when we're angry."


The article implies that all trans* women are pornstars; The author clarifys a point, made by her friend Suzanne More, about "brazilian transsexuals" by stating that women should not try to look like these "oven-ready porn stars".

The article completely demonises the whole community by portraying the author's friend as the "victim" and the community as some "mob" "lobby". The author also likens the community to a boy who murdered his parents.

The author frequently uses slurs throughout the article, not limited to "dicks in chicks' clothing", "bunch of bed-wetters in bad wigs", "Shims, shemales, whatever you're calling yourselves these days" and "trannies". The author even makes mention that she knows that she is using slurs by saying "I know that's a wrong word". This sort of childish name-calling makes it obvious that the piece is just a load of hate-speech.

Re: The Observer
Posted by Alma on 15-01-2013 13:02:

I am incredibly shocked and saddened someone got such a major platform to show how they think some women are less equal than other women. As if trans women are some sort of untermensch.

But thank you for republishing it. People need to see the crap transgender people face on a regular basis; getting misgendered, being called horrible things, repression, hate, etc. And why? Because they are just being who they are.

Re: The Observer
Posted by Cube on 15-01-2013 14:12:

You are a complete Bell-end if you think it was about what she wrote and not about how she wrote it. Coming soon, Toby Young to reprint an article on the downsides of unfettered immigration in a national housing crisis festooned with the words "nigger", "camel-jockey" "eastern-european alcoholic wifebeater", "muck-eating foreigner", "raghead"

If you think that's not comparable you're fucking kidding yourself.

Re: The Observer
Posted by swardell on 15-01-2013 14:20:

All news outlets engage in censorship, its called an editorial process. The Observer badly dropped the ball on this one and have ended up looking foolish. However the decision to 'unpublish' (a queer word if ever there was one), is not really a blow against freedom of speech any more than the editorial process at large.

Having said all that, the article was really revolting; crude and uninformed. If the subject matter had been about a racial minority rather than the trans-gender community I doubt you would have either republished or been upset at its removal from the guardian website. There is little difference between characterizing trans gender people as "wig wearing bed-wetters" than black people as "melon eating savages". That you find the former acceptable and the latter not (I hope) really points to your own prejudice.

The sad reality is, trans-gender people are disproportionately subject to harassment and violence worldwide (especially, as it happens, in Brazil).

Re: The Observer
Posted by Delilah Slack-Smith on 15-01-2013 23:00:

While I disagree with pretty much everything Ms Burchill said in her article, I fully agree that she has the right to publish it. Unlike you, Mr Young, I however regard it as a bigoted work of vilification rather than an admirable polemic.

While I can't blame the Observer for wanting to distance themselves from such an appalling article, I do feel it would have been better for them to leave the article up. In my experience, the best way of dealing with bigots is to let them show their true faces, so I would like to commend you for helping your friend Ms Burchill to continue destroying her reputation by leaving her article publicly available.

Re: The Observer
Posted by Ramtin Shawker on 16-01-2013 17:03:

What did Mr. Young find offensive about the Guardian article on paedophilia?

Re: The Observer
Posted by jess on 16-01-2013 18:02:

Its not **distasteful**, its hatred.

Replace the trans references with, say, "black" or "jew" and see how it reads then.

Shame on you Toby - I enjoy your Spectator columns, but I would have expected you to have been able to distinguish commentary from hatred.

Re: The Observer
Posted by Irony Jim on 18-01-2013 10:24:

Is Julie Burchill a woman? She looks like a bloke in drag, which is why I thought her article odd.

Let's see if that gets censored.

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