Note: since Michael is fond of throwing around defamation threats, let me make clear from the outset that “support” in the title is intended in the sense of “provides material support”. I do not allege that Michael agrees with the hate speech he allows to be spread via his website. (dictionary definition)
On 15th Feb 2016, Atheist Ireland chairperson Michael Nugent published a piece titled “The outrageous smear that I am using homophobia to defend misogyny” (link) where he published publicly friends-only posts from the personal facebook page of queer writer Aoife Fitzgibbon O’Riordan. Aoife had described Michael’s reference (in a publicly available article) to a gay man (whom Aoife and I know personally) as having “flounced” away from the Atheist Ireland stand at the GPO as “dog-whistle homophobia”.
Against my better judgement, I entered the ensuing comment thread to defend Aoife’s (and the man who was the subject of the statement’s) characterisation of the usage of the term as homophobia. The argument is in the comment thread and I won’t add to it here except to say that Michael’s insistence that the characterisation of a statement as homophobic is only permissible if the person making the statement can be shown to have a generalised ideological hatred of LGBTQ people would render it impossible to name virtually any homophobic speech – i.e. speech that transmits or lends support to negative attitudes towards LGBTQ people – as homophobic (a state of affairs that would suit the likes of the Iona Institute, but should be intolerable to genuine progressives).
Eventually, one of Nugent’s supporters, having presumably decided to Google me, came across a post by anti-trans bigot Cathy Brennan on a site she uses to attempt to associate trans people and their supporters with rape and abuse where I am accused of “harassing feminists online” and posted the link in the thread. My explanation of the link as coming from Cathy Brennan prompted this (now deleted) comment:
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Cindy then attempted to post a series of links in support of the thesis that trans women are men who pretend to be women in order to gain access to women’s spaces and rape women and girls (see image at top of post) but these were caught in the website’s comment’s filter. She then made a number of comments (1 2) alluding to the transmisogynistic conspiracy theory that trans women use accusations of transphobia to try and force lesbians to have sex with them. A number of Nugent’s supporters in the thread proceeded to misgender me despite my already having stated that I am AMAB trans much earlier in the thread and despite my repeated assertions that I am not a man and don’t want to be called “dude”, (1 2 3 4)
I contacted Michael Nugent first via Twitter to make him aware that his website was being used to spread anti-trans hate speech:
I then emailed him with the same request to denounce the transphobia of his supporters and/or delete the comments:
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Michael’s response was to do neither, but rather to publish the links provided by Cindy in support of her claims that trans women are rapists (1 2) which includes a slew of links to the anti-trans hatesite TransgenderReality. The only anti-trans post he deleted was the one I directly linked to him, claiming he would look over the comments tomorrow. At the time of writing all of the other anti-trans posts, including the links to the hatesite remain on his website.
He did, however, find the time to remove a number my posts referring to malicious false allegations made against me by Cathy Brennan, something I did not ask for and did not want. This would imply that Michael read all of the comments in the thread (how else would he have known which comments to delete?), decided to remove those that pertained to my experience of victimisation by a transmisogynstic bigot, but decided to leave in place those that contained hate speech directed at transgender people, while allowing to be published previously unpublished comments purportedly supporting claims that trans women are male rapists.
He emailed me back to say that he had done this and I replied to say that if he hadn’t the time to moderate the thread he should have left Cindy’s comments unpublished (at this point I had not yet deduced that he must in fact have read the thread and had no problem allowing hate speech to remain on his site):
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Michael replied to say “Feel free to explain what you mean by a hate site, and how the links posted support that description, and I will take that into account.” Clearly this meant he was still online, had been alerted to the content of the comments he chose to publish, and declined a second opportunity to remove obvious unambiguous hate speech from his site:
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Clearly then, Michael is aware that his site, a resource and platform that he controls, is being used to spread destructive lies about transgender women and has chosen to continue to make that platform available for the dissemination of those views. In other words, he has chosen to knowingly provide material support to transmisogyists. Why? Does Michael believe that the claim that trans women are male rapists could be anything other than a weaponised lie designed to make trans women’s lives less livable? How then can he claim an unimpeachable position as an LGBTQ ally that would allow him to speak over LGBTQ people and decide what does and does not constitute homophobia?
At least he likes my music though.
UPDATE 12:00 19/02/16: Michael has now written a blog post about me where he confirms he read the transmisogynistic comments, “spent an hour on the phone discussing [the thread]” and at the end of that concluded that the “allegation” that asserting that trans women are male rapists constitutes hate speech “required more serious reflection”. Again, why does Michael think this could be anything other than a lie designed to whip up hate, that it might potentially be a sincere legitimate contribution to public discourse? All of the hate speech and the links to the hatesite (which he made a positive choice to publish) are still publicly visible on his site.