Scare quotes

Update, 16 October:

This is even worse than it looked. The Newsnight article says this:

The results of the study are yet to be published, but a number of concerns were raised to BBC Newsnight and the British Medical Journal:

Let”s spell this one out.

The original BBC Newsnight item and article were put together by Newsnight’s Deborah Cohen and Hannah Barnes. 

The allegations investigated by the HRA were made by Newsnight’s Deborah Cohen and Hannah Barnes. 

The article in the BMJ that Newsnight’s Deborah Cohen and Hannah Barnes use to corroborate their own claims was written by Newsnight’s Deborah Cohen and Hannah Barnes. 

The follow-up article strongly implying a whitewash was written by Newsnight’s Deborah Cohen and Hannah Barnes. 

So a couple of BBC journalists filed a complaint, did a big item about how “someone” had made a complaint, and when the complaints were found to be groundless were allowed to cast doubt on the investigation into their own complaints.

That’s shockingly, sickeningly unethical.

Original post below… 

In July, BBC’s Newsnight ran a feature raising significant concerns about the prescribing of puberty blocking drugs in London’s Tavistock Clinic.

The story was based on claims that a key study that informed those prescription decisions was dodgy. It was alleged that researchers did not obtain proper consent, that they did not provide adequate information and that it was methodologically unsound.

As Newsnight reported, those claims were being investigated by the NHS Health Research Authority.

The investigation was ongoing at the time of the item, but a notorious anti-trans activist, a sociologist who was caught operating a pseudonymous Twitter account to post transphobic nonsense online, provided the BBC with documents he claimed demonstrated that children and their parents “were not given the information they needed in order to take this momentous life-changing step”.

The HRA couldn’t respond in detail because its investigation was ongoing, so the Newsnight item was pretty much a hit piece based on allegations that couldn’t be disproved until the investigation was complete.

Guess what? The investigation is complete and the claims were disproved.

An official review by the HRA into the conduct of the study, has cleared the researchers of any wrongdoing.

It found that researchers worked “in accordance with recognised practice for health research” adding that in some areas they were “ahead of normal practice at the time”.

Don’t hold your breath for an equally prominent on-air correction. The BBC report about the HRA investigation quotes “experts [who are] only prepared to comment off the record for fear of reprisal”, and runs with the headline:

Questions remain over puberty-blockers, as review clears study

I’d interpret that as “study was wrong”, wouldn’t you? That’s certainly how it’s being framed on social media, where people are sharing the headline but not the detail.

The piece concludes:

While the evidence continues to emerge, debate will no doubt continue about use of puberty blockers in young people.

Repeatedly giving trolls a megaphone isn’t a debate. It’s scaremongering, scaremongering that helps fuel the growing anti-trans sentiment in the UK: they’re coming for your children!

Let’s see how that manifests, shall we? Here’s Danny Shaw, BBC News’ Home Affairs Correspondent, this morning:

BREAKING: There’s been a ten per cent rise in hate crimes recorded by police in England and Wales [in 2018-2019]… Transgender hate crime went up 37%



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