I’ve seen my name in print quite a lot recently, but it hasn’t all been book-related. I’ve been dragged into the culture war because of a BBC Radio Scotland item I contributed to, and as a result I ended up in publications ranging from PinkNews to The Independent and the LA Times. As a journalist, you rarely want to be the story. But as a journalist it’s interesting to see how the sausage is made from the other end of the process.
The short version: the BBC publicly apologised to JK Rowling about a piece I contributed to.
The long version: I didn’t say what PinkNews and The Independent claim I said.
I suspect The Independent has just cribbed from Pink News, because the misrepresentation is the same.
PinkNews in February:
During the BBC broadcast, trans writer Carrie Marshall said she boycotted the game because she believed it to be funding “the anti-trans movement”.
The Independent today:
A week later, the BBC apologised again after a transgender woman appearing on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland show said that the new PlayStation game Hogwarts Legacy was funding “the anti-trans movement”.
Both of these reports are misrepresenting what I said, and I’ve asked both publications to correct them [Update, 9 Mar: The Independent has said “oops, sorry” and corrected their article] [13 Mar: PinkNews has also corrected its piece, and a second piece based on the first]. I didn’t say I was boycotting the game, and I definitely didn’t say it was funding the anti-trans movement.
If you’re quick you can catch the whole item on BBC Sounds for a few more days; it expires this weekend. And if you do, you’ll hear me say that “This is money that people believe very strongly is going to fund the anti-trans movement”. I didn’t share my own views on that, or say whether or not the belief is correct. Asked to come on air as a trusted journalist to explain what some people were saying about the game, I came on air and explained what some people were saying about the game.
Here’s the full extract, which only the LA Times included any of for context; it’s no coincidence that US newspapers are famed for their fact-checkers, a role that’s largely absent in UK media.
“Quite a lot of LGBT people are concerned about the Harry Potter franchise, because JK Rowling has been very proud of her association with the so-called Gender Critical movement and some of its leading figures, and has also strongly suggested that she considers her income as proof that people share her views. So this has become about much, much more than the video game. To some people, this is about a culture war issue. We’re now seeing quite a lot of people who are now harassing trans gamers saying ‘I’m buying ten copies of this. What are you going to do about it?’ and it’s become really quite horrible online.”
“This is money that people believe very strongly is going to fund the anti-trans movement, which has over 300 anti-trans laws in front of US legislators and has become a real battleground in Britain as well. This is having a measurable effect on trans people’s lives and perhaps our safety too, so it’s not just an abstract issue about the ‘death of the author’. It’s about real people’s lives. And I think that’s why so many trans people are concerned about this game.”
To add insult to incorrect quoting, PinkNews originally said I was a “trans activist” – it’s now been changed to “trans writer”.
I’ll let you decide whether the apology was justified, but by comparison I’d like to share the BBC Complaints response when I was one of thousands of people who complained about a 2021 BBC article that defamed trans women as rapists. The article’s sources were a sex offender and an anti-trans hate group; the former’s name was removed from the article a few days later when she posted death threats targeting trans people. Here’s what the complaints department had to say.
“The article was carefully considered before publication, went through a rigorous editorial review process and fully complies with the BBC’s editorial guidelines and standards.”
The article is still online. The complaints department remains unapologetic.