Categories
Media

A modest proposal: term limits for columnists

I’ve written many columns for various magazines, but I don’t do it so much any more: there are still plenty of places to pitch to, but I’m too old and too tired to pretend to be irate about things I really don’t care about, or to mock people I don’t know to try and demonstrate how edgy and hilarious I am.

That’s the thing about writing columns. Sooner or later you run out of ideas, but you still have to keep writing. So your writing gets worse and worse. How it gets worse depends on your own life; some columnists, hired to represent the ordinary man or woman on the street, end up affluent enough that they write their columns from a gated community in Florida; others are clearly shitfaced when they write; still others end up writing about their own Twitter adventures or just recycle the same copy every week.

Mic Wright, a former columnist himself:

The notion that the issue with columnists is that people outside of journalism demand conformity of opinion is absolute mirror world logic. There is no trans person with a regular national newspaper column articulating that view. Where are all the black columnists with regular access to a national platform? Most columnists in British national newspapers are over-40, white, and either based in or linked to London [in the Scottish press the first two still apply – CM].

The ease with which a writer can slip from The Guardian to The Daily Telegraph or conversely from The Daily Mail or Daily Telegraph to The New Statesman is not an example of their flexibility but of the homogenous quality of British media.

Columns aren’t there, as Freeman, suggests to “reveal a variety of perspectives”. Any columnist who regularly offered perspectives that were counter to the accepted lines of the British media — on houses, landlords, the market, politics, royalty, sexuality, class — would not have that job for long.

The rallying cry of the columnist is “no one tells me what to write” but the point is that no one has to. Every columnist knows that they are subject to the whims of the editor and, ultimately, the peccadillos of the proprietor. If they fall foul of either, they’re gone. A columnist who sticks around for decades is a columnist who knows how to endlessly compromise.

Parker Molloy has noticed the same thing in the US, and argues that the problem is simple: don’t let columnists write columns for very long.

It really does seem as though the longer columnists retain their gigs, the less meaningful output they seem to have. They are not experts in any particular field, but rather, generalists who often run out of useful ideas. This is how you end up with contrarianism for contrarianism’s sake and stories about sandwiches. After five years on the job, swap them out with fresh faces.

…Opinion journalism can be wonderful, but when columnists lose touch with readers and fail to provide factually sound content, we are all left worse off. If newspapers must have opinion sections (another issue that I may one day write about), there’s no valid reason not to strive for a substantive, factual discussion centered around a collection of experts. This is especially true when it comes to things like public health, climate change, and the other challenges that face us.

But as long as places like the Times continue to allow columnists to stay on staff to the point of brain rot, the public is going to continue to be force-fed repetitive nonsense about controversies on college campuses and personal grudges.

Categories
LGBTQ+

Call us Cassandra

In Greek mythology, Cassandra was cursed to utter true prophecies that would never be believed. I suspect she may have been trans.

Since the Bell vs Tavistock case was first announced, trans people have been trying in vain to get people to understand the real goal that “gender critical” feminists are supporting: the end of the Gillick competence that ensures, among other things, that teenage girls can access contraception without their parents’ consent.

For more than a year people have been telling us that we’re wrong, and that the case was absolutely nothing to do with Gillick competence.

Today, Kiera Bell’s lawyer – better known for his many anti-abortion cases – took his mask off in true Scooby-Doo villain style.

Categories
LGBTQ+

Reversible treatment

The Bell vs Tavistock judgement, which effectively stopped trans teenagers from getting appropriate healthcare under medical supervision, has been overturned.

As Gendered Intelligence points out, the original decision – which today’s verdict says should never have been made – has since been used by anti-vaccination activists and various other cranks.

In these days of rife mis- and disinformation, the Divisional Court’s now-overturned decision is being held up as gospel by many people opposed to the vaccination of under-16s. Even if the original decision had a larger scope than the care pathways of children with gender dysphoria — which, we must reiterate, it did not — the High Court has annulled this decision. At Gendered Intelligence, we are not interested in debating the merits of vaccination – the evidence speaks for itself – but would highlight only the weaponization of court decisions made around trans youth to potentially harm the wider population. Trans people and our rights are the canary in the coalmine, and any attempt to rescind or damage our rights will inevitably be used to damage the rights of others. This is but one reason why we ask that people stand with trans, gender diverse and indeed all LGBTQ people – especially youth — because “a loss to trans youth is a loss to all”.

Categories
Bullshit Health

Salad daze

This, by Amanda Mull for The Atlantic, is brilliant: Don’t Believe The Salad Millionaire.

It’s about the CEO of a salad chain for affluent customers. Said CEO claimed that the solution to COVID wasn’t masks or vaccinations: it’s salad. Americans are too fat, too lazy, and it’s their fault if they get sick.

As Mull writes:

that salad is the ideal medicine for an incredibly contagious respiratory virus might not be a trustworthy argument coming from a literal salad millionaire.

But there’s a wider point here.

More interesting, though, is how telling Neman’s salvational ramblings are of a harmful conviction about health that America’s wealthiest, most privileged class long ago laundered into common sense: that people who, unlike them, end up sick or poor have simply refused to make the right choices and help themselves. Speculating that America’s health-care crisis could be solved if everyone just had to eat some salad is not only lazy and wrong; it’s perpetuating an attitude that is making health—and the pandemic—worse for millions of people.

Although this is a story about the US, it’s just as relevant here: our media and political class has the same contempt. But despite the constant narrative of the undeserving poor, poor people don’t make bad food choices because they are stupid or greedy. They make bad food choices because they’re forced to. Poor people make bad choices because they’re poor.

Research has shown that poor people know what they’re missing from their diets, and they want quite badly to have those things.

Food is expensive. It’s expensive to buy good quality ingredients. It’s expensive to buy cookware and kitchenware. It’s expensive to pay for the energy to heat your food. And it’s expensive in terms of time: time spent preparing, time spent cooking, time spent shopping, time spent getting to and from the shops – shops that in many cases are far away from where many poorer people live.

I love to cook, but I’m doing it in a kitchen full of privilege: I can afford to pay my rent, cover my utility bills and still have enough money left to buy good quality ingredients. I have enough free time that I can afford to spend hours messing around with recipes I don’t know if I’ll even like, and I can make things for the kids in the knowledge that if they don’t like it I can simply whip up something else or get a takeaway. I can afford to waste food. These things are luxuries denied to many people.

I’m reminded of Terry Pratchett’s story about poor people’s boots:

The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

As Mull writes:

The people who benefit most from this belief system tend to be those who have parlayed personal advantages into even more enormous personal wealth; they were born on third base and swear they hit a triple.

Categories
Hell in a handcart

“Violent enforcers” of a manufactured culture war

This Daily Kos piece on the Proud Boys, the neo-nazi thugs who’ve allied themselves with anti-trans groups, is terrifying: When Proud Boys show up at local school protests, they’re following a larger far-right blueprint.

The Pacific Northwest’s gang of Proud Boys was very active over the past weekend. In addition to ginning up violence at an anti-masking rally in Olympia, Washington, on Saturday, the same group of right-wing thugs forced the lockdown of three schools in Vancouver, two hours south, the day before, when one of them forced his way into a high school as part of an anti-vaccination protest.

This is not the first time that the proto-fascist street brawlers have inserted themselves into local school board controversies, nor will it be the last. That’s because the nation’s local school boards have become the primary target of a nationwide far-right campaign to overwhelm such political entities with anti-vaccination/masking agitation, along with attacks over “critical race theory,” and those explicit takeover strategies happen to mesh neatly with the Proud Boys’ emerging tactic of attaching themselves to local right-wing political events.

…”They’ve been piggybacking on other people’s events,” Jared Holt, a fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, told USA Today. “They go where they believe the culture war is being fought, because they see themselves as potentially violent enforcers in a broader culture war.”

Categories
Music

Dreams that glitter

I’m really sad to read about the death of Sarah Harding, who has died of breast cancer aged just 39 (please, please, please get yourself checked out whether you’re male, female or neither). Her band, Girls Aloud, were one of the finest pop bands we’ve ever had: they had the same crying-on-the-dancefloor thing as the best ABBA songs and made some of the most anthemic, life-affirming and joyous bangers you’ll ever hear. I have never wanted to be in a band as much as I wanted to be one of Girls Aloud.

RIP, Sarah.

Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+

“You are not one of the witches. You are one of the witch-hunters”

A fantastic thread from author Dr Claire Askew on the ignorance of bigots claiming to be the descendants of witches. Turns out they’re as ignorant about history as they are about biology.

Our ancestor-witches weren’t witches. They were people who, among other things, committed the so-called sins of being old, disabled, single, too sexually active, not sexually active enough, and/or – yep, you guessed it – living outside or subverting social norms around gender.

…’witchcraft’ in the olden days was actually an excuse to launch a programme of panicked eugenics. The people the witch-hunters wanted to get rid of were precisely the people who still face the most oppression in our society today: including trans/non-binary folx.

…If you chuck around transmisogyny or go in for this gender essentialist crap about biological female WHATEVER, you are not one of the witches. You are one of the witch-hunters. You are writing a new Malleus Maleficarum when you partake in transphobia, ableism, racism, bigotry.

Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+

I see the biology experts have logged on again

A genuine post from a self-proclaimed “gender critical” feminist on Twitter today:

I don’t believe trans women are allowed in lifts. Something to do with the HRT they take. Read it on Stonewall.

Categories
LGBTQ+ Media

“This book gives me hope”

This is a nice, thoughtful and personal piece about Shon Faye’s new book, written by journalist Vic Parsons. I read the opening line after seeing a bunch of new anti-trans pieces in the UK press this morning:

Barely a day goes by without another hostile article about trans people.

Today’s pieces are claiming that the real bigots are people telling bigots not to be bigoted and that gay men are actually homophobic straight men. So another perfectly normal day in rainy fascist island, then.

The fixation on “trans issues” in the British media – The Times alone published nearly two articles a day between January and May of this year, about a group that is less than 1% of the UK population – is not really about trans lives at all. It’s a moral panic: an irrational fear, stoked by the media, that trans people are a threat to society, much in the same way that gay men and lesbians were portrayed as dangerous deviants in the 80s and 90s. Right now, trans people are a minority group that is being bashed by the press, which isn’t at all interested in reporting on the very real, urgent and serious challenges that make our lives as trans people more difficult than they need to be.

Anyway. I’ve pre-ordered Shon’s book and from what I’ve seen so far it looks like an important work and an antidote to the full-blown moral panic we’ve been in for so long now.

Categories
Bullshit Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+ Media

The LGB Alliance isn’t a hate group. It’s much worse than that

A must-read thread on why the LGB Alliance aren’t a hate group: they’re much more sinister than that.

Well, that’s an oversimplification. They most certain are a hate group, and act the same as any other anti-LGBT hate group, but more than that, they’re something more sinister: They are controlled opposition. And that’s considerably worse.

…They’re not just a hate group; they’re masquerading as a legitimate LGB rights organisation, seeking to undermine the existing charity that fights for LGBT rights, and replace them, while being nothing but an arm of the religious right.

…Imagine for a second they hadn’t faced such public scrutiny and pushback and got their way? The UK would have an “LGB rights charity” that opposes anti-bullying, opposes hate crime legislation, thinks gay teachers are predators and that school LGBT groups are harmful

This is all well documented and easy to find. Media outlets that continue to platform them or present them as a legitimate organisation are either incompetent or malevolent.