“Free speech” in the attention economy

This is an important point by Current Affairs editor Nathan Robinson which echoes an argument Will Davies made a couple of years ago. The claim of being suppressed, being denied a platform, plays an increasingly crucial role in how reactionary celebrities build their platform. It draws attention for their work, provides them with their narrative and imbues them with a veneer of ‘dangerousness’. From pg 306 of Robinson’s The Current Affairs Rules for Life:

These guys, Murray, Yiannopoulos, Shapiro, they thrive on attention. They don’t get that attention for their ideas, because they don’t have any ideas that are worth listening to. They get attention from the reaction to them, and so that reaction is their lifeblood. If nobody cares about them or listens to them, they fade into insignificance. If we spend our energy trying to prevent them from opening their mouths, they get a big pleased smirk on their faces because they know that it’s going in the newspaper and it will be on repeat on Fox News. Yiannopoulos, for example, his book was called Dangerous and every chapter title is a variation on the same theme: “Why Feminists Hate Me” “Why Muslims Hate Me,” etc. Without the reaction, there’s no book.

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