Categories
Bullshit Hell in a handcart Media

Here come the thought police

A new report says that right-wing academics are being silenced by the thought police. Inevitably they’re talking about that silencing on the front pages of right-wing newspapers.

Here’s Newsweek.

There is an experiment of sorts taking place in American colleges. Or, more accurately, hundreds of experiments at different campuses, directed at changing the consciousness of this entire generation of university students. The goal is to eliminate prejudice, not just of the petty sort that shows up on sophomore dorm walls, but the grand prejudice that has ruled American universities since their founding: that the intellectual tradition of Western Europe occupies the central place in the history of civilization. In this context it would not be enough for a student to refrain from insulting homosexuals or other minorities. He or she would be expected to “affirm” their presence on campus and to study their literature and culture alongside that of Plato, Shakespeare and Locke. This agenda is broadly shared by most organizations of minority students, feminists and gays. It is also the program of a generation of campus radicals who grew up in the ’60s and are now achieving positions of academic influence. If they no longer talk of taking to the streets, it is because they now are gaining access to the conventional weapons of campus politics: social pressure, academic perks (including tenure) and — when they have the administration on their side — outright coercion.

Surprise! The Newsweek article is 30 years old. It’s from December 1990.

As media researcher Becca Lewis notes on Twitter, “it’s really incredible how identical the talking points are, thirty years later.”

Categories
Bullshit Uncategorised

Na-na-na-na Facts Man!

This, by Annie Lowrey, is fantastic.

You have met Facts Man before if you have spent any time online in the past half decade or so. He’s inescapable. He podcasts. He makes YouTube videos. He traffics in Medium posts. He burns up Facebook. And he loves—loves!—Twitter.

What does he serve up there? Truth. Facts. The overlooked and the undercovered. The unvarnished and obvious conclusions that the media do not want you to believe. The conclusions that the social-justice warriors and sheeple professors will not let you reach. The conclusions that mere mortals, including lauded subject-matter experts and the people who have actual lived experience of the topic at hand, have not yet grasped.

Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+

Taylor Swift is trans

According to some people on the internet, that is.

Owl Stefania in Metro:

On this occasion, the conversation that caught my eye involved discussions and videos about celebrities who are allegedly ‘secretly transgender’.

This included names like Taylor Swift, Meghan Markle, Holly Willoughby, Jodie Whittaker, David and Victoria Beckham, Keira Knightley, and all of Prince Harry’s ex-girlfriends.

The site in question is a UK one, or it would also have included Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and pretty much any other Black female celebrity or athlete too. I saw a post today that roped in Marilyn Monroe because she clearly had a “male spine”.

The people posting this shite are the same people who want to police who can and can’t use public toilets.

Categories
Bullshit

“So much ignorance”

When people scaremonger about proposed legislation, it’s a safe bet that they are ignorant of the existing legislation and of similar legislation in other countries: if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be scaremongering.

The manufactured controversy over Scotland’s proposed hate crime legislation – a controversy largely fuelled by religious groups and the right-wing press – appears to fit the pattern. It’s focused on the offences of “stirring up hatred”, which we’re told will be the end of civilisation as we know it.

Here’s lecturer and commentator Andrew Tickell, who knows a thing or two about the law.

The debate on Holyrood’s Hate Crime Bill is eminently necessary and important – but by gum, it is already characterised by so much ignorance about (a) what the law already is and (b) often misplaced hysteria about what the law will be if this Bill is passed.

For one thing, for the various unionists going crackers, it is probably important to know that the headline offences of stirring up hatred on the grounds of race, religion and sexual orientation are already criminal offences in England and Wales under the Public Order Act 1986.

That’s the thing about bringing legislation in line with other countries: when people tell us the sky will fall in, we can see if identical legislation caused the sky to fall in elsewhere.

Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

The people who love to hate

Yesterday, the Scottish Daily Mail ran a front page story damning Scotland’s proposed new anti-hate crime legislation.

The source of the story is Lois McLatchie, who the Daily Mail says “works with the UN Human Rights Council”.

That’s a very clever way of implying she’s part of the Council. She isn’t; in fact, she is part of an organisation that represents pretty much everything the UN HRC stands against. McLatchie lobbies the UN Human Rights Council, because she’s the legal analyst for ADF International.

ADF International is an anti-abortion, anti-LGBT hate group.

Founded by some 30 leaders of the Christian Right, the Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal advocacy and training group that has supported the recriminalization of sexual acts between consenting LGBTQ adults in the U.S. and criminalization abroad; has defended state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad; has contended that LGBTQ people are more likely to engage in pedophilia; and claims that a “homosexual agenda” will destroy Christianity and society. ADF also works to develop “religious liberty” legislation and case law that will allow the denial of goods and services to LGBTQ people on the basis of religion. Since the election of President Trump, ADF has become one of the most influential groups informing the administration’s attack on LGBTQ rights.

It’s hardly surprising that the ADF is against any legislation that might suppress its ability to spread hate. And it’s also unsurprising that the Daily Mail would happily jump into bed with the Christian Right yet again: its anti-trans campaigning frequently platforms evangelical groups from the lunatic fringe, and might well fall foul of any anti-hate speech legislation. But giving the front page to the ADF is a new, chilling low.

The US Christian Right operates globally, pouring its considerable resources into overt and covert campaigning against women’s rights and LGBT people’s rights. It’s connected to the violent anti-LGBT movements in Eastern Europe. It tried to influence the Irish referendum on women’s reproductive freedom. It’s trying to influence, and appears to be funding moves against, a whole swathe of legislation in the UK and in Scotland. And it’s increasingly indistinguishable from the far right.

The Daily Mail, once again, is dining with the Devil.

Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+

Hypocrites

Over the past few weeks, some very wealthy writers have been very vocal about the importance of free speech. People should be free to voice their honestly held opinions, they say, no matter how offensive or hurtful those opinions may be.

This week, the same writers have sent their lawyers after multiple people and publications whose honestly held opinions are that the wealthy writers are transphobic.

Those opinions are honestly held. But they are not held by people who are wealthy. And that means the people they criticise can, and do, use the threat of financial ruin to silence them.

 

Categories
Bullshit Health Media

Death by numbers

On Twitter, Dan Barker has posted an interesting thread showing how terrible reporting becomes conspiracy theory nonsense.

It begins with The Telegraph. Its science editor reported that lockdown could cause as many as 200,000 preventable deaths, and the headline was clear:

The same claim was then posted by other news outlets citing the Telegraph. For example, Metro’s headline was “Coronavirus lockdown could cause ‘200,000 extra deaths'”.

Remember, most people who share news stories on social media don’t read beyond the headline.

This is important, because as Baker demonstrates, people are taking the headline and using it in anti-lockdown posts such as this one.

First of all, that’s not what the article says. It is not a report about actual deaths. It’s a report about predictions of possible deaths in a very specific scenario.

And secondly, the Telegraph has framed the story in what appears to be a deliberately misleading way.

As Barker points out, the report this story is based on isn’t just about lockdown. The figures it quotes are from predictions based on “protecting the NHS” – that is, cancelling other healthcare to prioritise COVID-19 cases.

The report asked the question: what would happen if prioritising COVID cases meant cancelling 75% of elective treatments, such as cancer treatments and other life-saving surgeries?

That’s where the 200,000 figure comes from. It’s a worst-case scenario that says up to 25,000 people might die because their treatments were delayed; in the medium to long term, such delays could kill up to 185,000 more.

So in this scenario, if we protect the NHS from being overwhelmed and have to do so for a long time it might – might – cost over 200,000 lives.

And if we don’t?

We’ll kill a million and a half.

It’s there in the report, and in the Telegraph article, which notes that:

…nearly 500,000 people would have died from coronavirus if the virus had been allowed to run through the population unchecked. And there would have been more than a million non-COVID deaths resulting from missed treatment if the health service had been overwhelmed in dealing with the pandemic.

So protecting the NHS would kill 1.3 million fewer people than doing nothing.

And yet this report is being used to fuel anti-lockdown sentiment when a second coronavirus spike in England, and the need for at least local lockdowns, is highly likely.

Barker:

In other words: The report implies lockdown could save hundreds of thousands of lives – the opposite of the headline.

Newspapers are very keen to blame social media for spreading conspiracy theories, but many of those theories originate from newspapers and their online offshoots. Some of the most enthusiastic conspiracists are well known media figures: for example, one of the people currently pushing the “lockdown will kill 200,000 people” narrative is Toby Young.

Many of the worst conspiracy theories circulating online originated in print.

Here’s Marianna Spring from the BBC, who got chatting to two young men outside Topshop this week.

Also an anecdote – while I was recording this on Oxford Street, two guys in their twenties started talking to me.

Without me even explaining what the report was about they told me they wouldn’t be getting a coronavirus vaccine because it was a plot to microchip everyone.

The roots of that conspiracy theory are in the anti-MMR vaccine scare, which predated Facebook and Twitter: it spread not on social media, but in the pages of the Daily Mail, The Sun, The Daily Express, the Daily Telegraph and The Spectator. The anti-vaxx movement it spawned is already responsible for thousands of preventable deaths; as it evolves into COVID vaccine denial it could kill thousands more.

Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

Facebook is spreading hate

Last year, Ofcom found that 49% of the UK population used social media to access news reporting; the Pew Research Center reported a similar figure, 55%, in the US.

Much of the news people see and share on social media is highly partisan, and it’s often highly inaccurate too. Right-wing bullshit factories have come to dominate the online news sphere.

A new study by Media Matters shows how that affects people’s knowledge and understanding of trans people.

NBC News:

Anti-transgender Facebook content shared by right-wing news sources generated more engagement than content from pro-transgender or neutral sources combined…

“Facebook users are getting a totally biased and factually inaccurate understanding of the multitude of issues that impact trans people”.

Sigh.

Of the top ten sources of trans-related news, seven were avowedly anti-trans; of the 66 million shares, 43 million were of content from anti-trans websites such as the Daily Caller.

This is an American study but the phenomenon is global: the vast majority of trans-related articles and opinion pieces I see shared by British people on social media, particularly Facebook, are from right-wing publications based either in the US or the UK.

Gizmodo:

we know from a 2019 Pew Research poll that Facebook has a nearly even split—35% and 34% respectively—between users that consider themselves some sort of liberal or some sort of conservative. But we know from other research that those with a conservative bent are more far likely to share (and fall for) news articles that reinforce their preexisting point-of-view, even if they’re sensationalistic or downright debunkable. 

…because a good half of Americans get at least some of their news on Facebook, that means that the bulk of people are reading stories about the transgender community that, again, paints them as icky leches on society, instead of just normal people living their normal lives.

Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+

Blasts from the past

I’m currently reading Transgender History by Susan Stryker, and one of the saddening things about it is how little the arguments of anti-trans people have changed – not least the tendency to accuse us of believing things we don’t believe.

This is doing the rounds on Twitter at the moment.

If a vagina doesn’t make you a woman, how come lipstick, high heels and a handbag do?

Nobody’s claiming having heels or a handbag makes you a woman. Nobody. It’s a straw man, a made-up claim designed to reinforce the idea that trans women are unserious people who are merely playing dress-up, and anti-trans activists have been using it for over 40 years now.

“Man” and “woman” are genders, not sexes, and while they generally correspond to people’s observable birth sex that is not always the case. We’re much more complex than that.

Many cultures understand this and have long classified people into not just two genders, but many; they understand that the genitals you are born with do not necessarily dictate the gender you are or the way you will live your life.

One of the reasons we conflate sex and gender is because for many people they match. But they don’t always, and it’s often gender – how closely you conform to stereotypical ideas of what men and women should look like and behave like – that is used to classify you.

I’ve written about this before, because I find it bleakly funny: when I began presenting as me full-time the change was dramatic. Literally overnight I went from being a valued member of one project team to a person whose opinions were only worthwhile when repeated by one of the men; from being someone who could read a book in a bar without interruptions to someone who couldn’t; from being respected as an expert to being dismissed as a “silly little girl”. My genitals didn’t change, but people’s perception of my gender did.

And part of that perception is based on the presence or absence of lipstick, heels and handbags. It’s not that those things make me a woman; of course they don’t, any more than sitting without makeup in a t-shirt covered in bits of fried egg makes me any less of one. It’s that they make other people less likely to be difficult.

The closer I conform to stereotypical gender presentation, the less shit I have to deal with – so while my presentation doesn’t change my gender identity, it does change how some other people treat me.

Here’s an example. The other morning I went to my own bank to pay my own money into my own bank account. I was dressed like I normally am: skinny jeans, animal print tunic, a bit of makeup and a bit of jewellery. And normally I’m greeted without incident or misgendering. But this time out I was wearing a mask that hid most of my immaculately made-up face, and when the teller heard my voice and compared it to what was on her screen – a female pronoun, a female name – she asked me: “are you sure this is your account, sir?”

Most of the time I present stereotypically female because it makes life easier: I’d rather not be treated with suspicion when I’m paying money into my own bank account.

Biological sex is what you begin with, but gender is the space in the culture that you inhabit – and the former does not necessarily dictate the latter. You can be born with a vagina and be a man; you can be born without one and be a woman; and you can be born with any configuration and be non-binary. Other cultures have known this for millennia. It’s just taken us a bit longer to catch up.

Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

“Those with money, power, and influence have the advantage”

A personal and powerful essay by Katelyn Burns who, like me, is a late transitioning trans woman.

As a child, I could not see positive examples of trans women having meaningful lives, so I could not be a trans woman who had a meaningful life.

I’m a bit older than Katelyn so I didn’t discover the internet until later: she was a teen and I was in my twenties. But this is nevertheless very familiar.

I had trouble finding helpful information. Search engines weren’t really a thing and most of the AOL chatrooms I found were just forums for “tranny chasers” to have cybersex with trans women. Not a healthy environment for a scared 14 year old closeted trans girl.

I dove further into the closet.

There’s a phrase I like: we cannot be what we cannot see. One of the reasons it seems that there are suddenly more trans people in the world is that there are more visible trans people in the world. Earlier today I saw one anti-trans Twitter user express her disbelief that trans women were around before she was born: “But I’m 42,” she harrumphed.

We were always here. But for a long time we didn’t know there were others like us.

Despite the transphobes’ best efforts, there is now more representation, more visibility and more information for trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people who would previously believe that there was nobody else on Earth who felt the way they feel.

To those who aren’t trans, it may feel like trans people and issues are everywhere. And that’s true. We have trans actors and actresses playing leading roles on TV, even on those over-the-air channels I received as a youngster. Our issues are debated in national publications. Books written by trans people are more available than ever.

If I was a child now, even in the mountain-hill house with no cable, there’s just no way I wouldn’t have had access to positive trans content.

…It’s pretty clear that the dramatic increase in child referrals to youth gender clinics has grown out of the increased positive media exposure of trans people in general. Looking at the numbers, it appears that the children of the past, like me, who didn’t have any idea that you could even be trans, are learning about trans identities at younger and younger ages.

If you go by the most common estimate for the percentage of trans adults as a share of the general population, currently about 0.6 percent, the number of children being referred for gender services in the UK remains below that number as percent of all children. In other words, it’s the same people who previously would have waited into adulthood to transition just deciding to come out earlier in life.

Many of us grew up unaware that there were other people just like us, and that people just like us could be happy and loved. And that, at last, is changing.

There are some very vocal people who don’t want us to have any information, who don’t want us to have any support, who don’t even want us to have any healthcare. Just today, they’re using the hashtag #OnlyFemalesGetCervicalCancer on social media to punch down on trans men and non-binary people, people who already encounter discrimination and gatekeeping in medicine. I know a few trans men whose experience of screening services is horrific. The message is clear: we’d rather see trans men and non-binary people die of cancer than get screening.

These are people whose attitudes towards the “genuine” trans people they pretend to care about was summed up in this tweet by a non-binary mum on Twitter:

trans kids – “you’re too young to know!”

trans teens – “you just need to go through puberty first to be sure!”

trans adults – “why is this just coming up now?”

every step of the way there’s an excuse to try and keep trans people from living an authentic life and its all fkn bs

The justification changes but the core belief – that trans people do not know their own minds, that what they experience is not real, that they are fakes and frauds who do not deserve acceptance, support, healthcare or even basic human rights – is constant. It is the same world view as the climate change deniers, the anti-vaxxers, the anti-maskers, and every other kind of conspiracy theorist: I know what I believe, and the world should conform to my beliefs.

These people and the people who amplify them have power that trans and non-binary people do not.

For example, today The Scotsman ran its second consecutive opinion column in two days supporting JK Rowling against those terrible trans “activists” (never “people”. That’s reserved for transphobes). Today’s columnist notes that the author is a “dear friend” of his.

That one was pretty mild. The day before, in the same newspaper, another columnist slammed trans people as misogynists, said trans women could never have any insight into being women and should not talk about feminism, and namechecked a whole bunch of demonstrably anti-trans activists including the head of the anti-trans hate group LGB Alliance, the anti-trans hate group For Women Scotland (whose founder called trans women “sick fucks… fucking blackface actors” and peddled antisemitic conspiracy theories) and an anti-trans extremist whose demands for the legal right to bully trans people at work were memorably described by a tribunal judge as “not worthy of respect in a democratic society”.

This is the norm in the newspaper industry, and with the wider media ecosystem it so often sets the agenda for. There are no trans equivalents of Nick Cohen, Suzanne Moore, Julie Bindel, Janice Turner, Douglas Murray, Brendan O’Neill, Toby Young, James Kirkup, Kevin McKenna or any of the very many other high profile figures who regularly use their platforms to misrepresent trans people or to falsely claim that trans people’s rights (as Janice Turner would put it, “trans activists’ demands“, because all trans people are activists and rights are only for cisgender people) conflict with women’s rights.

Burns:

To those unaffected, all is seen is words against words in the abstract, surely something worth cheering for. But for folks at the bottom, with enough time and encouragement from those at the top, those words metastasize into violence. Examples abound. In a different context, hilarious memes exchanged on white nationalist message boards about driving cars into crowds of protestors turn into actual terror attacks. Intellectual debates over whether trans women are women lead to mobs of men beating up trans women. Concerned parents take their children’s internet away.

…In our world, debate is a one way street.