Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+

Faith in the system

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A bigot does bigoted things that reflect badly on their employer, they get the boot, and the Christian Legal Centre tries to make them a free speech hero. Said centre is then handed its arse on a plate by a tribunal judge who points out the bleeding obvious: you can believe what you like, but you can’t behave how you like.

This week’s case features Karen Higgs, who worked at her son’s Church of England primary school as a pastoral assistant and who was sacked for railing against the same school’s relationship lessons very vocally online. “THEY ARE BRAINWASHING OUR CHILDREN!” You know the kind of thing.

The reason you can’t do this kind of thing is because it brings your employer into disrepute.

Every employment contract I’ve ever signed had one of those clauses. It’s a standard bit of boilerplate that means  that you can’t go around bad-mouthing your employer and expect to stay employed. For example, if you work for a restaurant and tell loads of people on Facebook that the food is shite and you hate the customers, you shouldn’t clear your diary for the next staff Christmas party. 

The Church of England makes it very clear that its schools value “All God’s Children”, not just the straight cisgender ones with straight cisgender parents, and it has a very clear policy on anti-LGBT+ bullying and how staff in primary schools should discuss issues such as same-sex parenting and trans parents.

In particular it says that primary schools should “promote a strong anti-bullying stance that shows that HBT [homophobic, biphobic and transphobic] remarks and behaviour are unacceptable.” Posting homophobic and transphobic things online is of course in direct conflict with that.

In her defence, Higgs claimed that it was okay to rail against same-sex marriages because while “I am aware that same-sex marriages are now recognised under UK law… I believe that is contrary to God’s law”. But while they may be bound by God’s law in their head, they’re bound by UK law at work.

As school governor Stephen Conlan told the tribunal: “You can post your beliefs without posting this sort of language and it is perfectly possible to communicate your beliefs without using such strong language.”

I feel sorry for the people of faith who these clowns claim to represent. The people demanding “religious freedom” to defame and demonise others don’t represent anybody but themselves. They’re not devout. They’re just dicks.

Categories
Bullshit Media

Some people never learn

One of the reasons so many left-leaning people were shocked by the election of Donald Trump was because to much of the left-leaning media, Trump was simply a figure of fun; not somebody worth taking seriously, let alone doing anything to try and stop.

I think they’re taking him a lot more seriously now. But they haven’t learnt their lesson. Boris Johnson was a national joke; now he’s a disastrous PM. Nigel Farage was a national joke who became one of the most significant political figures of recent times despite being almost unelectable. And now we have a new national joke, the deeply loathsome Lawrence Fox. The left-leaning press’s dismissal of him as a figure of fun is arguably just as dangerous as the right-wing press’s lionising of him. He may be a ludicrous, pathetic twat, but he’s a ludicrous, pathetic twat with influential backers and an increasingly large platform.

Journalist Mic Wright:

The right-wing media channels — not just papers but their talk radio counterparts and forthcoming TV channels — will give Fox acres and hours of coverage. He will be heard and he will be heard seriously by those outlets and the people who consume their output.

I take Fox seriously because he is a narcissist who wants desperately to keep getting the attention that acting has brought him and he will say anything to keep that spotlight on him. Fox, in the same way that mouthpieces like Darren Grimes have done, is allowing himself to be used as a megaphone by more publicity-shy bastards. In interviews, he has referred to his ‘policy people’… I wonder who they might be?

Fox is ludicrous and ludicrously stupid, but he has money, he has support, and he has a platform. That combination is a dangerous one.

Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

Hating for ratings

How’s this for a TV show? We get a racist – a proper racist, ideally a knuckle-dragger from a really racist organisation such as the EDL or Britain First, someone who’s really loudly and proudly racist and spends loads of time being really racist to people on Twitter – and we pair him up with a nice middle-class Black woman. Then we get the two of them to sit down for a nice dinner and a chat and we film the whole thing.

Good, right? It’s a social experiment!

I haven’t even got to the best bit yet. It’s not just a chat. We give the racist guy a script of really racist things to say to the Black woman over dinner and we film her response. Maybe she’ll cry!  Maybe she’ll walk out! Maybe it’ll go viral!

No? How about we pair a neo-nazi with a nice Jewish lady?

Of course not. Trying to get a fight for ratings is disgusting, as we saw with the Jerry Springer and Jeremy Kyle shows. But that doesn’t mean TV production companies don’t keep trying to bring back the formula, which is essentially hating for ratings. For example, an Irish TV company is currently sending this to various trans women (and to other marginalised groups, such as members of the travelling community).

As one commenter on Twitter translated: “We’re making a show where we have members of marginalised groups sit down with people who think they shouldn’t exist, for entertainment purposes. Also we’re suggesting that marginalised people are the enemy, in the title.”

Earlier this year Evgeny Shtorn wrote about the importance of storytelling in regards to minority and marginalised people.

Considering how powerful storytelling is, we cannot pretend that the infrastructure built around it by media and researchers is always ethical and respectful towards those who constitute those stories… journalists were rude to me, disrespectful and abusive. Using my words or ideas without quotes, giving erroneous interpretations and false promises. Trans and non-binary people, homeless people, other migrants, people of colour, people with disabilities and a lot of others who I shared my concerns with, told me that they often experienced similar treatment from journalists, but also from artists, researchers and other ‘supporters’. It is called ‘cognitive exploitation’, and this is exactly the opposite to the idea of the empowerment of the community through storytelling.

…The problem is that after such an interaction most people retreat into their closet and don’t want to tell their stories anymore, despite those stories being so important to tell.

There was an example of this in England the other day: trans person and poet Jay Hulme was invited on BBC TV to discuss the government’s response to GRA reform.

I was going to be on the BBC today having a chat about the GRA – but I pulled out yesterday, having been informed that it’s BBC policy to have a cis woman invited to speak on any segment about trans ppl – I’m not going on TV to be yelled at by a transphobe from the Daily Mail.

By “cis woman” the policy doesn’t mean a cisgender woman who’s supportive of trans people, even though such women are the majority (and were the majority in the GRA reform consultation too). It means the kind of woman trans commentator Shon Faye was expected to go on air with this week. Faye was one of several trans people invited on BBC Woman’s Hour to discuss gender recognition. At the last minute, the panel was expanded to include an anti-trans activist who has taken great delight in publicly misgendering her and who Faye says even shared a now-deleted defamatory petition implying she groomed children. Faye declined the invitation.

I have some experience of this. I’ve refused to go on multiple programmes because the approach was clearly going to be gladiatorial, not editorial; other contributors were not people with concerns about specific bits of legalese but members of groups who peddle hatred on social media. Taking part is therefore a trap for marginalised people: if you don’t robustly challenge the other contributors they get to lie, lie and lie some more; if you do, and worse still if you also dare correct the presenter, you’re dismissed as unreasonable and aggressive. And even the most innocuous appearance will have bigots descending on your social media.

It’s clear that the people commissioning and structuring these programmes are thinking about ratings, not the damage these narratives can do to marginalised groups. And they are doing damage. By presenting extreme views as mainstream, such as perpetuating the myth that the two sides of the trans debate are “trans activists vs feminists” rather than “most of the country vs a few well-connected bigots”, they’re fanning the flames of intolerance and positioning extreme views as if they’re mainstream. We’ve seen this before with the platforming of far-right views, of anti-vaxxers and of climate change denial.

The problem yet again is that the people making these programmes have no skin in the game. Their human rights are not under attack. Their safety is not threatened by the rise in hate crimes. Their ability to participate in society is not something producers think should be up for debate. To them, it’s just another item. To marginalised and demonised minorities, it’s our lives.

Categories
Bullshit Hell in a handcart Media

“The out-group must be crushed”

There’s a really good piece about QAnon in The New Republic.

The “nocturnal ritual fantasy”—a term coined by the historian Norman Cohn in his landmark study of European witch trials, Europe’s Inner Demons—is a recurring trope in Western history. And it is often a politically useful one. Deployed by the Romans against early Christians, by Christians against Jews, by Christians against witches, by Catholics against “heretics,” it is a malleable set of accusations that posit that a social out-group is engaged in perverse, ritualistic behaviors that target innocents—and that the out-group and all its enablers must be crushed.

…Q adherents are perfervid Trump supporters by necessity, as Trump’s valiant battle against ultimate evil forms the spine from which the many limbs of the conspiracy grow. But a recent wave of émigrés into the Q landscape consists of New Age moms and influencers with previously vaguer politics, whose interests, during the strained days of the Covid-19 pandemic, have migrated from crystals and wellness to taking down a world-straddling cabal of demonic pedophiles.

The section on the “satanic panic” of the 1980s is particularly apt.

It was gospel belief in the media and among ordinary citizens that rings of sex abusers were everywhere. Satan and his blood-drinking minions were peripheral players, but the panic is usually referred to now, through the mocking lens of self-assurance, as the “Satanic Panic.” We in the twenty-first century could never be so naïve.

Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+

Celebs speak out

Minor celebrities: We must write an open letter to protest against online abuse of women!

LGBT+ folks: Like the vicious abuse some of your co-signatories and many supporters of your multi-millionaire pal have spent years dishing out to trans women, to the mothers of trans children, to cisgender women who say they support trans rights and to cisgender women who work in rape crisis centres and other trans-inclusive organisations?

Minor celebs: Not like that!

PinkNews:

More than 50 public figures and anti-trans campaigners signed the letter published in The Sunday Times, which condemns the “insidious, authoritarian and misogynistic” opposition to Rowling on social media.

…the letter claims that Rowling “has consistently shown herself to be an honourable and compassionate person” – just days after the Harry Potter author promoted a website selling “f**k your pronouns” and “sorry about your d**k bro” badges mocking the trans community.

One of the signatories has been banned from social media for a years-long campaign of hate speech against trans women and any cisgender women who dared disagree with him, a campaign that cost him his career and his marriage; others have been criticised for making transphobic statements that were at best tone-deaf and at worst actively malicious. One of the signatories previously accused a gay journalist who supports trans people of being a “sucker of Satan’s cock”.

As Judith Butler said in her New Statesman interview the other day:

if we are going to object to harassment and threats, as we surely should, we should also make sure we have a large picture of where that is happening, who is most profoundly affected, and whether it is tolerated by those who should be opposing it. It won’t do to say that threats against some people are tolerable but against others are intolerable.

Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

History reheated

The Sun, 1984. Three decades later and it’s still singing the same song.

Categories
Bullshit Hell in a handcart Media

Breaking the news

You’ve got to feel sorry for ageing conservative men who believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that while they have all the power in this country they are nevertheless an oppressed minority. The latest media outlet pandering to their victim narrative is the soon to be launched GB News, which has poached the loathsome Andrew Neil from the BBC to broadcast to people who feel “underserved and unheard by their media.”

Not people who are unheard; people who feel unheard. People whose only representation is in The Times, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Express, The Spectator, The Sun, The Economist, Spiked, LBC, The Herald, The Scotsman, most of the BBC’s current affairs output, every bloody phone-in in the country, all the right-wing US news sites that dominate news sharing on Facebook and so on.

I think it’s safe to predict that the dominant skin colour on GB News will be white and that its representation of minorities will largely be Eton alumni talking about how these days, right, if you say you’re English, they’ll arrest you and put you in jail.

The New York Times famously promised “All The News That’s Fit To Print”. Perhaps GB News should adapt it: all the news that’s fit for pricks.

GB News is the latest attempt to bring more Fox News-style partisan bullshit to UK broadcasting, and in a sane world OFCOM would make that very difficult. But this isn’t a sane world and the UK government has told The Sunday Times that it’s going to make Paul Dacre the chair of OFCOM. That’s Dacre of Daily Mail fame. If you haven’t already read it, this foul-mouthed evisceration of him in the London Review of Books by Andrew O’Hagan is masterful.

As many people on Twitter have noted, putting Dacre at the top of OFCOM is like appointing Harold Shipman as chair of Help The Aged.

But there’s more. The government also apparently intends to appoint former Telegraph and Spectator editor Charles Moore as head of the BBC. Moore is another loathsome figure with right-wing views; he has claimed for a long time that the BBC is packed to the gills with leftie agitators and he was famously fined in 2010 for not paying his BBC licence fee. It’s hard to imagine a worse candidate for the job except perhaps Paul Dacre.

It’s possible that with these leaks the UK government is throwing two dead cats on the table to distract us from its woeful performance over COVID and the increasing evidence of corruption and incompetence on a truly epic scale; maybe the leak is to soften us up so when two slightly less appalling people are put in place we’ll feel we dodged a bullet. But it does seem to fit with the wider movement within the UK government to take us further to the right.

For example, just this week it announced new guidance for schools that prohibited the use of resources “produced by organisations that take extreme political stances on matters”. One such stance is a desire to overthrow capitalism, something a certain Jesus of Nazareth had a few opinions on.

The most chilling bit for me was in the section on knowing the importance of respecting others “even when they are very different… for example physically, in character, personality or background), or make different choices or have different preferences or beliefs”. That’s clearly intended to foster a climate of mutual respect for people of other religions and none, of people of different backgrounds, genders and sexual orientation, but the UK government has turned it into a Spectator editorial.

Here’s the new guidance:

Our entire democracy is based on seeking to have people removed from their position of authority because we disagree with them. It’s called voting.

In that context, I’m disinclined to believe that Dacre and Moore are dead cats; I worry that instead, they’re dead certs.

Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

Murdoch papers in “bullshit” shocker

I don’t want to go on too much about the UK government’s pathetic response to its gender recognition consultation, but I thought it was worth drawing attention to The Times and Sunday Times’ assertions that the consultation was “skewed” by an “avalanche” of responses by “trans rights groups” who twisted the consultation to say 70% of people were in favour of self-ID.

Here’s a blog by the GRA consultation analysis team.

We spent a long time with the data and employed a number of advanced analytical techniques to investigate the influence of potential campaigns on the consultation responses. However, we have seen little evidence that supports the view that the results were “skewed” by an “avalanche” of responses from trans rights groups. Furthermore, we are not sure where the reported figure of 70% in favour of self-identification has come from. This question was not directly asked in the consultation and this figure does not arise from our analysis.

What they did find, however, was that one anti-trans group was responsible for nearly one-fifth of all responses – and unlike the majority of responses from other sources, particularly trans rights groups, these were identical posts created by a one-click online form “which had a pre-populated set of answers”.

We would like to acknowledge the amount of care, attention and often depth of feeling that went into the submissions that we read, from people and organisations taking a range of positions. There were some long submissions – some over 5000 words –  in response to one individual question, and it was apparent that a large percentage of those who completed the consultation spent a long time writing their answers. We were struck by many of the accounts that people provided detailing their personal experiences or those of loved ones. It is sometimes easy to lose sight, in the arguments that surround GRA reform, that at the centre of this are real people living real and often difficult lives. Due to the need to be brief in order to write a succinct report and the confidentiality required for ethical reasons, the specific stories that were contained within many individual submissions cannot be published. However, reading them, as we have been able to as a team, paints a nuanced and complex picture of the lived experience of people working through these issues in their own lives and the lives of their loved ones.

Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+

Ding dong, GRA reform in England is dead

The Westminster government has finally published its response to the public consultation on reform of the Gender Recognition Act. The short version: it’s going to be slightly cheaper to get a GRC and some of the forms will go online. There are no significant changes otherwise.

This is for England and Wales; officially at least GRA reform is still possible in Scotland, so there will be no let-up in the hate campaigns against trans people. I suspect things will get even worse as they attempt to pressure the Scottish Government to follow the English example.

It’s interesting to note that despite the supposed “swamping” of the consultation by trans “activists”, just 7,000 of the 102,800 responses – responses that were overwhelmingly in favour of reform by a much bigger margin than, say, the Brexit vote – were from trans people. Nearly 19,000 responses were one-click template-based submissions from a single anti-trans group. As ever, the discussion was primarily about us, without us.

As you’d expect from a Government minister, there are some dodgy claims in Liz Truss’s statement.

We have also come to understand that gender recognition reform, though supported in the consultation undertaken by the last government, is not the top priority for transgender people.

Just because the government treats trans people even more hellishly in other parts of the system doesn’t mean legal gender recognition doesn’t need reformed.

Thirty-eight per cent told us the process was too bureaucratic. So we will place the whole procedure online.

Being able to upload deeply personal reports instead of posting them doesn’t make the process any less bureaucratic and it certainly doesn’t make it any less humiliating. The gatekeeping, the requirement to have medical reports and the paperwork you must provide to a faraway panel haven’t changed. Even the BMA says doctors shouldn’t be involved in this process.

Trans people tell us that waiting lists at NHS gender clinics are too long. I agree, and I am deeply concerned at the distress it can cause. That is why we are opening at least three new gender clinics this year, which should see waiting lists cut by around 1,600 patients by 2022.

This is nothing to do with the GRA consultation and Truss is claiming credit for decisions made by NHS England several years ago.

It’s a sad state of affairs when “we’ll make the process slightly cheaper” counts as a victory. But ultimately nothing has changed but the price tag. There’s no change to the Equality Act or its guidance, and the role of a GRC has not been changed (it’s still irrelevant to what spaces we can access or where we can urinate). It’s not going to be any easier to get a GRC than it has been for the last sixteen years, so all of the antis’ “reasonable concerns” have been addressed. They can finally pack up and go home. Right?

Maybe I’m cynical. Maybe now that the UK government has decided not to change anything, the groups created solely to fight against GRA reform will close their campaigns, disband their organisations and take the hundreds of thousands of pounds they’ve crowdfunded from dodgy donors and give that cash to organisations that help vulnerable women.

Maybe.

Or maybe, just maybe, GRA reform was only ever a fig leaf for their real motives.

Categories
Bullshit Health Media

Bad journalism

I’ve been listening to the You’re Wrong About podcast, this time about the infamous Ford Pinto. It seems that almost everything I thought I knew about it was incorrect and largely based on a single Mother Jones article.

The podcast makes an interesting point about that, and about journalism more widely: a lot of bad journalism comes from writers who are operating in good faith, or at least partial good faith. They believe that they have uncovered something so huge that they must tell the world. That belief can cause a kind of myopia.

Journalism is as much about what you choose to leave out as what you choose to put in. Let’s say you’ve got a whistleblower from inside an organisation with a suitably salacious tale. If it’s a really good story, if it’s the kind of story that’ll have people gasping over their morning paper, how much consideration will you give to the things that contradict or cast doubt over what the whistleblower is telling you?

People like to be heroes, and journalists are no exception – so if you think you’re the hero who’s going to break the story, you’re not going to consider that perhaps you’re being misled, or seeing connections that aren’t there, or ignoring evidence that shows that you’re not the hero here but the villain.

The MMR scare is a good example of that. How many journalists telling their readers of the entirely invented dangers thought they were doing Pulitzer-worthy public service journalism? And how many lives have been destroyed by the anti-vaccination movement they helped spawn?