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This week a writer, Tim Stone, was banned from ever publishing another column in a gaming publication because he posted a comment under one of its articles.
Rock Paper Shotgun is an online magazine about computer games. Stone was a regular freelance contributor for 13 years, and a well-established voice in the world of gaming journalism.
Under a hit piece by Lauren Morton which argued that Ubisoft was right to remove Helen Lewis' voice from a radio station which plays podcasts inside the game "Watch Dogs Legion" because she has spoken in defense of the rights of women, Stone ventured to leave a critical comment.
For context, Ubisoft recently cancelled Helen Lewis after a handful of complaints from transgender extremists about the ideological impurity of the respected Atlantic contributor, and ex-New Statesman editor. Ubisoft said, of its working relationship with Lewis, that it would "Do Better" by more thoroughly vetting future collaborators for wrongthink.
"We understand this collaboration itself may be seen as offensive and we deeply regret any hurt this has caused. In response, we will be replacing these two podcast episodes in an upcoming update and will reinforce our background checks for partners in the future."
Writing in Rock Paper Shotgun, Morton approved of Ubisoft's actions because he objected to Lewis' 2017 article in The Times which a sub-editor entitled—brace yourselves— “A man can't just say he has turned into a woman.” He considered that Lewis' objections to UK self-ID law reforms meant that she, along with the majority of the British public responding to a government consultation on that matter, should be denied a livelihood and a voice.
Stone left a comment in which he respectfully suggested to Morton that there were two sides to the debate over whether men should be able to identify into female spaces and activities, thus ending women's sex-based rights: the women's side, and that Lewis was entitled to hold and share such legitimate views without being punished.
Stone wrote "I have profound respect for you and your life choices. I also believe that questions like 'Should transwomen be able to compete in female sports?' and 'Should male-bodied transwomen be housed in women's prisons?' are worthy of debate."
"To forbid all debate on 'trans rights' and to seek to silence and cancel people who don't unquestioningly support one side of the argument seems horribly totalitarian to me," he said.
Stone was hardly alone in his view. The cancellation of Helen Lewis by Ubisoft was highly controversial, with one liberal male commentator calling the decision "abysmal."
Of course, those who know the dynamics of this conflict note that nothing less than grovelling, prostrate capitulation to the dogma of gender identity ideology, and a public display of contempt for women and their rights, appeases gender extremists. Stone's name immediately joined the ever-longer blacklist.
Gender identity ideologues, and the ultra-woke more generally, inhabit an extremely brittle belief system. It is so fragile that it cannot withstand the slightest pushback, or reference to facts. Hence the "No Debate" mantra of trans activists, and the speed with which they resort to calling for critics to be sacked, and threaten and even enact physical violence against them.
Organizations, faced with even a small online pitchfork mob, are frequently incapable of finding their spines and standing up for basic human rights such as the right to freedom of expression. They tend to fold instantaneously by expelling dissident thinkers, in the hope that the mob will not turn on them.
A mere 48 hours after Stone posted his comment, Rock Paper Shotgun editors tweeted:
"Trans rights are human rights. We strive to create an inclusive space for all people. Earlier this week, a freelancer used the RPS comments section to express views that failed in that goal. We will no longer be working with this freelancer or publishing their column."
The publication turned off replies on Twitter, presumably to avoid criticism for their decision to cancel Stone for having the temerity to speak in defense of the principle of free expression.
Of course, this did not stop a flood of quote tweets from centrists, feminists, conservatives and assorted critics of gender identity ideology and what some have termed, ominously, "the successor ideology," or wokeism.
There were also several verified, blue tick accounts, with the ubiquitous preferred pronouns in their bio, applauding Rock Paper Shotgun's cancellation of Stone as having done a favour to the extreme gender identity ideologues who populate the gaming industry.
Women, and their rights, are the material barrier to trans extremists getting the legal reforms they want. As such, only evidence of the destruction of that barrier cheers their cold hearts.
So, in summary, a magazine decided to cancel one of its writers, not for an article but for a comment under another writer's article, in which the other writer said it was good that a company had cancelled a third writer and broadcaster, from a podcast inside a video game, because her editor once gave her piece a title the second writer didn't like, and because she didn't think it should be any easier than it already is for men to identify their way into women's spaces.
That's where we are.
The take-away point is that we have reached a stage, in this power struggle, where men are being cancelled for exercising their own freedom of expression, and for asserting that women have the right to stand up for themselves. Identifying with women—giving a damn about woman—is tantamount to heresy in liberal institutions captured by far-left ideology. Free expression is dead, especially in nations with weak employment protections.
It seems reasonable, at this juncture, to ask again whether Canadian and US readers are on board with living under conditions of totalitarian controls on free speech which are increasingly indistinguishable from mid-twentieth century Eastern Europe.
Of course, nobody can answer truthfully because they are—with good reason—afraid for their livelihoods and health insurance. In response, I hear only the sound of silence, incredibly loud, incredibly close, and charged with fear.