you may not know this about me, but for about four years I worked at Little Sister’s Book and Art Emporium in Vancouver, an LGBT bookstore that fought against actual government censorship of literature by queer and trans people for well over 20 years.
Here’s an example of censorship: in the mid-80’s, the Canadian government refused to allow the importing and distribution of safer sex literature by and for gay men, citing anti-obscenity laws and the need to “protect” the Canadian public.
Little Sister’s, a business that was trying to import and distribute said materials, sued Canada Customs and attempted to take the case to the supreme court in order to change the obscenity laws so that such materials could enter the country freely. As part of their case, they invited a gay activist who was HIV+ to speak to the court about the necessity of safer sex materials for gay men and how safer sex education can save lives.
The government delayed the hearing, year after year, until the man invited to speak on the subject developed AIDS, until his health deteriorated, and until he died of complications from his illness. Once there was no way he could testify, because he was fucking dead, they allowed the case to proceed.
Daniel Tosh advocated a violent and gendered crime against a woman at one of his shows. Advocating violence on the basis of gender is hate speech. People who engage in hate speech while on the job ought to be fired; Daniel Tosh’s job is that he is a comedian. Pulling his show is not censorship, it’s firing someone who engaged in hate speech while on the job. It negatively affects no one but Tosh. Tosh’s work is not necessary for the survival of anyone; there are a million other dude comedians you can watch if that kind of humor is your thing; he doesn’t say anything unique so there’s no message that’s being withheld from the public here; there’s no systemic power behind people wanting him off the air; the government is not involved; nobody is prohibiting him from ever finding any alternate way of engaging with an audience (ie publishing, writing a blog, whatever).
Censorship is a huge, systemic problem, and the fight against censorship is very close to my heart as a queer woman, as a writer, as an artist, as an activist, and as a human being.
Stop fucking co-opting that fight in defense of fucking douchebags who think hate speech is funny.
The point that there was no censorship of Tosh is valid, however this argument goes about proving that in the wrong way.
The distinction between “hate speech” and “speech” is subjective and meaningless. What matters is whether speech is actively suppressed. The anecdote about the safe-sex literature was censorship because speech was being suppressed and its expression prevented. In Tosh’s case, he can still say whatever the fuck he wants. He just won’t have the support of his former employer. They have every right to choose which speech to support. Even the government has the right to do that, as long as they don’t prevent the expression of what they don’t support. Now, if his employer gagged him and shoved him in a closet, that would be censorship. However, that is obviously not what happened.