Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. - Proverbs 16:18
Perhaps it’s because I’m bisexual that I can see the foibles of both homosexuals and heterosexuals more clearly; maybe standing fully in neither sphere gives me an outside perspective on both of them which allows more objective judgment. More likely, it’s simply that I’m not a narcissist who expects the entire world to cater to her preferences and throws a hissy-fit when it doesn’t. Three months ago I published an essay which was harshly critical of the gay rights movement, and today it’s the straights’ turn to be on the receiving end of my opprobrium.
To be fair, I must point out that the parallel is anything but exact: while the gay rights groups I criticized were the largest and most mainstream ones, Straight Pride UK is not remotely mainstream; they appear, in fact, to be of that species of independent thinkers generally referred to as “crackpots”. The organization contends that the 2-3% of the population who are homosexual have somehow managed to get ahold of the reins of power, and that this sinister lavender cabal is now oppressing heterosexuals via pride parades; for no earthly reason I can fathom, its members also seem envious of the ordeal of “coming out”. But if they were just another group of somewhat odd, more-than-a-little-paranoid people coming together to promote their own unique take on reality, I wouldn’t be writing about them; even their grammatically-appalling statement that “Straight Pride support what Russia and Africa is doing, these country have morals and are listening to their majorities” is no more morally reprehensible than similar tyranny-cheerleading practiced by many other anti-rights organizations every day, and thus not remotely newsworthy.
What does make the group newsworthy is the way it responded to a blogger’s publication of a document it labeled a “press release”: by demanding he take it down, and making a bogus legal claim when he refused:
…the email from Straight Pride UK’s press officer, Nick Steiner [said]: “It has been brought to my attention that you have published the email that I sent you to, you did not state this in your email request, nor you did have consent to do this. I therefore request that you take down the article that you have placed on your blog. You have 7 days in which to do this, failing this I shall submit a DMCA to WordPress to have it removed.” I laughed this off, and responded to the email arguing their case was absurd…I assumed this would all be swept under the carpet…[but] I was wrong – within a few days WordPress caved to them without question, removing my article and telling me if I tried to publish it again I’d be suspended…
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is an American law which requires US-based websites (like WordPress) to comply with demands (“DMCA takedown notices”) from copyright holders to remove copyrighted material posted by others; it’s the reason for the ubiquitous “This video has been removed” notices on YouTube. Even though Straight Pride and the blogger, Oliver Hotham, both reside in the UK, a huge fraction of internet companies (including blog-hosting sites) reside in the US; DMCA notices are thus an all-too-common means of censoring others because although the takedowns can be appealed, it takes time, effort and submitting to some onerous conditions. Since Hotham is a student he lacked the resources to pursue this; it would probably have ended there had Steiner, flushed with his sleazy victory, not pushed the issue by demanding Hotham remove all references to Straight Pride UK from his blog and refrain from ever writing about them again. Hotham responded as any self-respecting blogger would: by blogging about it (the post is quoted above). And what happened next?
This is not having the impact that Straight Pride UK might have hoped for. Instead, they are encountering the Streisand Effect in an immediate and catastrophic way. Many bloggers are reprinting Oliver’s post; Oliver has given his permission to do so. Straight Pride UK [reacted with a tweet reading, “Police now dealing with this encouragement of harassment. Any further re-posts, profiles will be printed & provided to them.”] In fact, they are reacting in a manner that shows that they don’t merely hold the completely ridiculous position that their “press release” is protected — they also think that they have a right to be free of criticism about their censorious twatwafflery…
The full text of Hotham’s original post is available at Popehat; as a bonus, you’ll also find the full text of Straight Pride UK’s Facebook-posted response to the controversy, which clearly displays the organization’s collective cluelessness for all the world to see. Incidentally, the lawyers who blog at Popehat (especially Kenneth White, author of that post) are great defenders of free speech and foes of censorship in all of its ugly forms; regular readers know I refer to them often, and may recall last month’s ”The Free Speech Mafia“, wherein I (briefly) explained how Ken rescued me by repelling a thuggish attempt at censorship not entirely dissimilar from the one described above.
(This column previously appeared in Cliterati on August 18th; it has been slightly modified for time references and to fit the format of this blog)