Faking the news

There’s an excellent example of how newspapers create and maintain moral panics in the Sunday Times today, when Camilla Long notes with horror that:

One school in Wales has written to parents saying it will not be providing “litter trays” for children “who identify as cats”.

The reason for the letter was to debunk the idea that any children were identifying as cats, an anti-trans internet fiction enthusiastically spread by, er, The Times and The Sunday Times on multiple occasions.

For example: “reports last week of a girl identifying as a cat”, 24 June 2023; “a litter of teenagers who self-identify as cats have begun stalking [a] town”, July 10 2023; “A friend of mine who runs a nice little café was surprised one day to see an adolescent girl enter his establishment, dressed from whiskers to tail as a cat… the girl identifies as a cat, Mum and Dad [explained]”, 24 December 2023. And so on.

As I’ve written before, there is a horrific grain of truth to the story: some schools do indeed have litter trays in classrooms. Those schools are in America, where litter trays are provided in case a child needs to go to the toilet during an active shooter drill or active shooting.

Like most anti-LGBTQ+ bullshit, the “kids are identifying as cats” story was fabricated by the right-wing press – in this case Fox News, before being amplified by Turning Point UK (a hard right pressure group) and GB News. It then spread via The Telegraph, the Daily Mail, LBC and, inevitably, The Times and Sunday Times. It was then picked up by beleaguered PM Rishi Sunak who condemned “schools [that] are allowing children to identify as cats, horses and dinosaurs.” None of those things happened.



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