Burchill: deleted by Observer, resurrected by Toby Young

Jan 15, 2013

Observer accused of betrayal after removing online version of Julie Burchill's anti-transsexual tirade

THE OBSERVER newspaper has been accused of a "betrayal" of its core values after doing the one thing more controversial than publishing Julie Burchill's tirade against transsexuals in Sunday's paper – removing the polemic from its online edition.

The decision to spike the piece yesterday evening on guardian.co.uk shocked Toby Young, who has republished the column in full – with Burchill's permission – on his Daily Telegraph blog.

"It cannot be said often enough that freedom of speech, if it means anything, must include the freedom to say things that some people find offensive," says Young.

He questioned whether there was still room for polemicists like Burchill "in this post-Leveson world", blaming "left wing lobby groups" for silencing her.

But Independent columnist Owen Jones felt the decision to remove the piece made sense, tweeting: "If Burchill had used similar venom against Jewish or black people, would there be any backlash against the article being withdrawn?"

Announcing his decision to pull the article, Observer editor John Mulholland apologised for publishing the column, saying the newspaper "got it wrong" when they printed Burchill's 994-word rant in which she labeled transsexuals "chicks with dicks" and called them "screaming mimis" and "bed-wetters in bad wigs".

Said Mulholland: "The Observer is a paper which prides itself on ventilating difficult debates and airing challenging views. On this occasion we got it wrong and in light of the hurt and offence caused I apologise and have made the decision to withdraw the piece."

In pulling Burchill's article, the Observer also removed all the comments made in reaction to the piece, which has further infuriated the site's users.

Former Guardian staffer Martin Belam writes on his blog: "A lot of users, including myself, spent time and effort composing a response to the article. In my case I thought it was important to state that as someone who still sometimes writes for guardian.co.uk, I wouldn't have expected to be able to use the same kind of language that Julie did and be published," he says.

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It is sad for anyone to have Toby young on their side. My heart goes out to Julie.