Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

Olympian ignorance

Today in the Olympics, a weightlifter didn’t win a medal. This wouldn’t be remarkable if the weightlifter weren’t Laurel Hubbard, a transgender woman. But Hubbard it was, and her loss is confusing me. I thought trans women had to be kept out of sports because of their male-born advantage? That’s what social and right-wing media has been telling me about Hubbard for weeks now: her chances of winning because of her gametes or chromosomes or supposed lack of womanly essence were so incredibly high that her rivals shouldn’t even bother turning up.

And then she lost, all three times.

The anti-trans have an answer for that. Hubbard threw the event. Not only that, she threw it because she had a wider purpose in mind: to make people believe that trans women don’t necessarily have an unfair advantage in sport. It’s not that Hubbard was beaten by a stronger woman, because that couldn’t possibly happen: women are weak and need to be protected from the evil transes!

It’s incredible to see the speed at which the anti-trans mob have gone from “no woman can compete with a transgender woman!” to “the transgender woman threw the event!” But it’s easy to do that when your argument starts from your desired outcome – in this case, that trans women should be banned from everything. The same thing happened when the flaws in the “trans people are bathroom predators” argument were exposed; the anti-trans mob quickly changed to “predators will pretend to be trans people to get into bathrooms.” When reality disproves your argument, simply pick a different argument that leads to the same conclusion as your last one.

This is exactly the same thing cult leaders do, and that QAnon does. Every single prediction QAnon has made to date has been either meaningless or wrong, but because people are so invested in the conspiracy theory they interpret the evidence that it’s bullshit as evidence that it is real. We misinterpreted what QAnon said, or the Deep State got word of the event and made it too risky to continue with, or Q is testing us. The real answer, that Q is fucking with you, is not something the faithful can bring themselves to consider.

There are lots of names for this. I like the term sunk cost fallacy, which applies to illogical behaviour: it’s why gamblers keep on paying to play when they’ve lost almost everything. The rational behaviour is to realise that you’ve made a mistake and gambled more than you can afford and to stop. But the sunk cost fallacy says that you’ve put so much money in that it would be foolish to stop: the big win is coming any time now, and if you walk away you’ll lose the lot to the next person who comes along and plays.

With conspiracies it’s much the same. The more invested in the conspiracy you become, the more of you you have sunk into it and the more difficult it becomes to extricate yourself, or for others to help you extricate yourself. It’s much easier to flip to a different conspiracy theory than to accept that you’ve been hoodwinked, lied to, used. We humans do not like cognitive dissonance, which we experience when reality differs from our beliefs and expectations.

And with the Olympics, the reality is that in the 17 years since trans women were eligible to compete, not a single trans woman has won a medal. In fact, before these Olympics, not a single trans woman or trans man even qualified. Rather inconveniently for the anti-trans crowd, while one trans athlete did bag a medal this week the athlete was a non-binary person who’d been assigned female at birth, not a trans woman.

And yet our papers and airwaves have been filled with the supposed dangers of Laurel Hubbard all week in a way they haven’t been regarding any of the other issues concerning women’s sports, such as predatory coaches, income inequality or the apparently racist, misogynist demands for Black women athletes to take birth control to suppress their naturally occurring hormone levels or be excluded from events. It’s almost as if these pundits and social media posters don’t really care about women in sport at all.

As Hannah Jewell of the Washington Post (and author of 100 Nasty Women) put it:

and the gold medal for cruelty to trans people goes, as always, to britain 🏅

if you listen closely you can hear the tippy-tapping of a thousand british columnists rewriting their hateful columns to account for the fact that laurel hubbard did not do well at the weightlifting, while preserving their awful world view 🏅🏅🏅

Categories
Bullshit Media

This is not a technology story

I’ve had multiple calls from media wanting to do an item today on the tech story du jour, the NHS COVID app telling more people to isolate. But it’s not a tech story. The app is pinging more people because more people are getting infected.

The uncritical framing of this as an app problem rather than the app doing what it’s supposed to do is really appalling: it’s pure spin, a blatant bit of Trumpism: tests are reporting more infections so we must reduce testing.

I shudder to think what the body count of so-called Freedom Day will be.

Categories
Bullshit

Entitlement

Another great piece by Jessica Valenti, this time on the hilarious idea that if women don’t want to sleep with right-wing men it’s a sign of “political discrimination” and authoritarianism.

As Valenti points out, it’s the same argument put forward by incels. The only difference is that this time the whiny man-baby has been to university.

As frustrating as it is to some men, women are actually human beings with preferences and free will. We are allowed to reject you because of your political beliefs, your sense of humor, or even your shoes.

…Kaufmann’s argument is near-identical to the ideology of online misogynists who are furious that women have a choice about who to sleep with at all. Just as he frames women’s dating preferences as a civil rights issue, incels claim women “withholding” sex is a human rights violation. The only difference is the academic sheen and where they’re publishing.

There’s a similar sense of entitlement in the bleats of bigots whose friends no longer want to hang out with them: the demand is always for the friends to tolerate the bastard, not for the bastard to stop being a bastard.

And the same sense of entitlement is evident in those who use “free speech” to mean their right to be nasty to others without criticism, let alone consequence.

I’ve written about this before: nobody has a right to be your friend, your lover, your romantic partner, your dinner party guest or your gym buddy. Any relationship is dependent on mutual consent, which can be withdrawn at any time or refused in the first place. Other people’s red lines are not yours to dictate, and if you think they are then you’re exactly the kind of person many of us are not willing to date.

And that’s because it’s indicative of a very particular worldview: the only person who matters in your world is you. There’s nothing attractive about that.

Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

Staged to invoke rage

This report by the Los Angeles Blade should – but probably won’t – make UK anti-trans activists think about what they’re doing and who their friends are. It’s an investigation into the alleged sauna incident I wrote about the other day, which was used by neo-Nazis as an excuse to crack heads and stab people.

There is increasing doubt among law enforcement and staff at the Wi Spa whether there was ever was a transgender person there to begin with. Anonymous sources within the LAPD tell the Blade they have been unable to find any corroborating evidence that there was a transgender person present on that day.

…Treatment at the Spa is by appointment only, and most of its transgender clients are well known to the staff.

…[the video creator’s] Instagram account is almost exclusively Christian memes, which begs the question why she chose to go to a high-end spa well known for being LGBTQ friendly. During Cubaangel’s video, no transgender person can be seen, and no other witnesses have come forward to confirm the allegations made. It’s also not the first time Wi Spa has been targeted for catering to transgender people.

It seems increasingly likely that the supposed event didn’t happen at all, or that it was staged by an anti-trans activist.

The video quickly made the rounds in far right, and Trans-Exclusionary Feminist (TERF) sites. Anti-trans “feminist” websites like Mumsnet, Ovarit, and Spinster were sharing content by far right provocateurs known for disinformation, like Ian Miles Cheong, by June 27th.

The anti-trans protest was a mix of religious fundamentalist street preachers, QAnon conspiracy theorists chanting “save our children,” and Proud Boys… Right wing personality Andy Ngo, who coordinates with far right groups when they’re looking to engage in violence on camera, was also there.

Andy Ngo’s content was the content shared by UK activists and at least one high profile Guardian writer.

All of this fits into an emerging pattern of the alt-right, anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists, violent far right groups like the Proud Boys, the religious right, and anti-trans “feminists” collaborating and coordinating

We’ve been trying to warn people about this for years, but how do you get the media to cover it when their friends and colleagues are the people doing it?

Update: surprise surprise, the US religious right have their fingerprints all over this.

The people behind this escalating campaign, then, are known disinformation purveyors allied with open white supremacists who — as they have done for several years now — created optics-heavy, broadcast news-friendly chaos in order to push a specific agenda.

Categories
Bullshit Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

Careless Wispa

Over the weekend, Allison Bailey from the so-called LGB Alliance proved how divorced anti-trans activists are from the reality-based community. On discovering a Wispa bar and a lemon in her garden, she immediately came to the obvious conclusion: trans activists were trying to kill her dog.

Nobody, least of all trans activists, was trying to kill her dog.

The chocolate and lemon had been thrown there accidentally by the kids next door, who came round to apologise.

It’s funny in a bleak “this clown is taken seriously by the UK press and the BBC” kind of way. But it also demonstrates the lunacy and paranoia of the anti-trans movement. Bailey’s ridiculous claim will become another anti-trans “fact” trotted out on social media and probably mainstream media too for years to come.

Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

Fairy tales

Remember when The Telegraph used to be a serious paper? Now it’s reduced to this.

The story is based on claims by one anonymous woman who claims that the children’s channel CBBC somehow turned her child trans. The age of this child? 19.

Categories
Bullshit Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+ Media

You can’t trust this story about the National Trust

The National Trust did no such thing. It merely told its volunteers that if they wanted to wear face paint or glitter to mark Pride month, they wouldn’t get into trouble for doing it.

See also: Stonewall supposedly banning the word “mother” or any of the other anti-trans culture war stories infesting both right- and left-wing media.

This isn’t just disgraceful. It’s dangerous. This week in Hungary, the “anti-woke” government – of which Spiked and other right-wing bullshit factories are very fond – brought in some of the most repressive anti-LGBT+ legislation we’ve seen outside Russia to widespread public support from people who’ve been consistently lied to about “gender ideology” and “woke” policies.

Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

Belief

Over the next few days you’re going to hear a lot about Maya Forstater, the contractor who took her former employer to a tribunal after they didn’t renew her contract. Forstater is vocally anti-trans and claims that she was discriminated against because of this.

The tribunal found that Forstater’s views, which she claimed were a protected belief under the Equality Act, were not worthy of respect in a democratic society. Forstater appealed and a judge ruled yesterday that unless you’re actually advocating for a Final Solution, your beliefs are not relevant to your employment – unless, and this is crucial, those beliefs lead you to abuse other people.

This has been predictably misinterpreted by the transphobe crowd, who believe they’ve been given carte blanche to abuse trans people in the workplace. But the judgement does not say that. In fact, it specifically says that trans people are protected from workplace discrimination and malicious behaviour, and that having a protected belief is not a get out of jail card for harassment or hostility.

This is not new. Lots of cases have said that yes, vile views are protected beliefs under the EqA; no, that doesn’t mean you can be a dick to people at work.

Abigail Thorn of Philosophy Tube summed up the verdict and the anti-trans mob’s reaction perfectly:

Judge: “Yeah so you’re free to believe the moon landing was fake and you can maybe even work at NASA if they’ll have you, but you can’t keep calling Buzz Aldrin ‘a lying piece of shit who fucks dogs’ to his face okay?”

MF: “Ah, my beliefs about the “Moon” have been vindicated!”

Categories
Bullshit Media

“Rhetorical horseshit”

Former Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger gave an interview to The New Statesman in which he happily claimed that kids today are easily triggered snowflakes who can’t handle robust debate. If you’re thinking that’s the kind of crap you’d expect from a columnist in the right-wing press, you’re not the only one: journalist Mic Wright thinks so too.

Rusbridger’s worldview has become increasingly indistinguishable from the ‘free speech’ teethgnashers at titles like The Times and The Daily Telegraph. A man described by the former Observer editor Roger Alton as “admired, but not hugely loved”, Rusbridger is a creature of the establishment who still thinks himself a radical.

The argument Rusbridger is putting forward is simplistic and, in my opinion, wrong: the only way to defeat vile speech – misinformation, propaganda, hate speech and so on – is with more speech. That may be true in the debating halls of a university but it absolutely isn’t true in the wider world, where misinformation, propaganda and hate speech thrive and have demonstrable real-world effects.

I’m currently reading How Fascism Works by Jason Stanley, which goes into some detail about the dehumanisation of minorities. One of the examples he uses is the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, which has been ongoing since 2016; Facebook was instrumental in sowing the seeds of hatred. Here’s the New York Times:

They posed as fans of pop stars and national heroes as they flooded Facebook with their hatred. One said Islam was a global threat to Buddhism. Another shared a false story about the rape of a Buddhist woman by a Muslim man.

The Facebook posts were not from everyday internet users. Instead, they were from Myanmar military personnel who turned the social network into a tool for ethnic cleansing, according to former military officials, researchers and civilian officials in the country.

Members of the Myanmar military were the prime operatives behind a systematic campaign on Facebook that stretched back half a decade and that targeted the country’s mostly Muslim Rohingya minority group.

Wright:

The veneration of debate by people like Rusbridger always forgets a crucial element: Power. Debates do not occur in some kind of pocket dimension where every speaker has the same level of social, cultural, and economic capital. The former editor of The Guardian, sat in the comfortable surroundings of an Oxford College which he runs will obviously love debate because they are never about his right to exist. It’s a party game for him, not an existential question.

I’ve written about this before. The people who commission click-bait columns about minorities, who frame people’s basic human rights as merely one side of a debate, who knowingly platform bad actors because it’s good for ratings or page views… these people are isolated from the consequences of what they do and the views they broadcast and give legitimacy to. They are not the ones who will be discriminated against, the ones whose rights are threatened, the ones who will experience aggression and even violence. For them, it’s just another item.

As Wright says, “The liberal delusion that debate can and will solve everything is insidious.” By framing matters of life and death as a parlour game, people like Rusbridger help hatred to flourish.

Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media Technology

Stick your rainbow

I wrote a piece for T3 about Pride Month and the way some tech firms’ support for the LGBT+ community doesn’t go beyond putting a rainbow on their social media logo.

Earlier this year, a damning study by GLAAD confirmed what marginalised people already know: every single major social networking platform is “categorically unsafe” for LGBT+ people. But hey! They’ve put a rainbow on their logo!

If tech firms really mean it, we need them to do more than post platitudes. We need them to make their platforms safe for marginalised people by actually enforcing their policies against harassment and hate speech. We need them to stop financially supporting anti-LGBT+ politicians in order to get tax breaks. We need them to donate to LGBT+ organisations and advocacy groups who can make a practical difference in the lives of the people who’ve been affected negatively.

But most of all, they need to hire and promote LGBT+ people – particularly people who are also marginalised by race, class, disability or gender. Good decision-making will only come from people who really understand the problems, and who understand the positive and negative impacts of their decisions.

But if you think the tech world is bad, they’ve got nothing on the Tories. Today the Government Equalities Office and the Conservative party have posted their scheduled Pride tweets despite being demonstrably anti-LGBT+. It’s particularly galling to see the GEO claiming credit for equal marriage in Northern Ireland, something the Conservatives and their DUP allies fought tooth and nail.

As I wrote in my piece:

it’s a hollow, selfish gesture: the aim isn’t to help LGBT+ people, but to burnish the corporate image. Telling the world that you agree LGBT+ people exist means nothing when LGBT+ people’s rights, healthcare and safety are under unprecedented attack worldwide.

And it means even less when you’re the ones doing the attacking.