This belief that online is ‘free’, that it doesn’t take anyone’s paid writing job away or stifle anyone’s voice – while unspoken and in most respects probably true – needs to be measured against the crisis of magazines and of formally-edited selections of content more generally.
Everyone except the most flagrantly freeloading of publications, it seems, agrees that something needs to be done about the parlous state of writers’ pay – but what, exactly?
Start with yourself, but don’t finish with yourself.
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Most of the responses to the Cardiff petition follow a familiar liberal template for discussion on bans and boycotts. Whether the topic is Germaine Greer’s misogyny towards trans women, Chris Brown’s history of partner violence, Geert Wilders’ denial of the Holocaust, the Sydney Biennale’s links with the detention industry or Israeli universities’ role in the occupation of Palestine, it’s a template that pits vilification against free speech, asking: what is bad enough to justify a ban or boycott? What do you have to say or do to deserve silencing?