Weaponising freedom and fake science

One of the tricks the far right likes to use is phony science. They claim “facts don’t care about your feelings” while putting their feelings above actual facts, such as how human biology works.

Scientific American has had enough of their shit and their “facts don’t care”.

these “protectors of enlightenment” are guilty of the very behavior this phrase derides. Though often dismissed as just a fringe internet movement, they espouse unscientific claims that have infected our politics and culture.

Biology is more complex than you learned when you were 12.

Nearly everyone in middle school biology learned that if you’ve got XX chromosomes, you’re a female; if you’ve got XY, you’re a male. This tired simplification is great for teaching the importance of chromosomes but betrays the true nature of biological sex. The popular belief that your sex arises only from your chromosomal makeup is wrong. The truth is, your biological sex isn’t carved in stone, but a living system with the potential for change.

…the science is clear and conclusive: sex is not binary, transgender people are real.

Do read the whole thing. It’s a really good explanation of how amazing human development is.

Meanwhile in the UK, a handful of academics got an open letter published in The Times with that far-right trope: preventing them from being bigoted towards trans and non-binary students means universities are silencing their free speech and curtailing their academic freedom. Just asking an academic to use students’ correct pronouns is tantamount to locking them away in a gulag for the rest of their lives.

To give you a flavour of the great minds of the 30 signatories, the names include Stuart Waiton. Waiton, an occasional contributor to Glasgow’s Herald newspaper, believes children don’t have human rights, that parents should be allowed to hit their children and that the Scottish government is in thrall to a powerful transgender lobby; he recently stood as a Brexit Party candidate.

The things the academics claim to be oppressed by include Pride flags on campus, anti-bullying initiatives and universities’ messages of support for LGBT+ students.

Here’s Grace Lavery in the LA Review of Books.

…trans people have been made into a convenient scapegoat for the idea that a group (or generation, or class) of people are forcing others to change the way they are speaking. That the phantom authority in question is simply good sense — that it makes sense to refer to trans women as “she” because, well, we look, speak, act, dress, and identify as women, and many of us have estrogen rather than testosterone in our bodies — can be ignored in favor of the paranoid fear that someone else is coming to dispossess us of our language.

Whether intentionally or by accident, the arsey academics are on the side of the far right, of people who want to harass and bully others under the guise of freedom of speech or academic freedom.

The entire movement against the supposed silencing of free speech in education is a far-right movement, which is why here in the UK it’s being driven by right-wing publications such as The Spectator and The Times (and the right-wing-funded Spiked). Here’s a good piece about its US version, which UK right-wingers have copied as part of bringing the US culture wars to the UK.

Fascist politics seeks to undermine the credibility of institutions that harbor independent voices of dissent until they can be replaced by media and universities that reject those voices.

…Universities, they say, claim to hold free speech in the highest regard but suppress any voices that don’t lean left by allowing protests against them on campus.

…Where speech is a right, propagandists cannot attack dissent head-on; instead they must represent it as something violent and oppressive (a protest therefore becomes a “riot”).

Attempting to characterise legitimate protest and even legitimate criticism as violence and oppression is something the far right (and their anti-trans fellow travellers) have been doing for some time now: it’s where bigots’ bogus claims of silencing and erasure come from.

Back to the letter. If 30 signatories are enough for publication in The Times, I wonder how prominent this response from many other academics will be: at the time of writing, it has more than 1,700 signatories (update, the same day: more than 4,000 now before checking for duplications etc.)

We are a diverse range of professionals working in higher education and research institutions. Together we register our support for the inclusion and safety of all staff and students, including trans individuals and gender-diverse people.

…Diversity training addresses equality, diversity and inclusion for all protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. Stonewall promotes an inclusive environment, in which the rights of trans and gender-diverse people are placed on an equal footing with the rights of other historically disadvantaged groups. This addresses the needs of our trans colleagues and students, including use of their chosen pronouns and respecting their gender identities. None of this limits our academic freedom.