Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

The science of discrimination

In the nineteenth century, scientists were very interested in the differences between men and women. Not because they wanted to know more, but because they wanted to justify oppressing women. So they came up with ever more inventive ways to define who was superior and who was inferior.

As historian Susan Sleeth Mosedale writes in Science Corrupted: Victorian Biologists Consider “The Woman Question”, scientists wanted to attack feminism. As reported by Jstor Daily:

These attacks were often riddled with contradictory evidence and conflicting analysis, Mosedale argues. The scientists “operated in blissful ignorance of their prejudices,” allowing their own “socially conditioned feelings” to guide their application of scientific theories. Biologists grasped for vaguely scientific reasons why women shouldn’t be allowed to vote, get an education, or aspire to anything more than having babies.

So the scientists created an “index of inferiority” to decide who got rights and who didn’t.

One biologist argued, for example, that women “exhale less carbonic acid,” proving them to be mentally and physically “more sluggish” than males. This supported the antifeminist argument that “the sum total of food converted into thought by women can never equal the sum total of food converted into thought by men. It follows, therefore, that men will always think more than women.” Another apparent “mark of female inferiority,” writes Mosedale, was “the relatively low proportion of carbonate of lime in feminine bones: 4.52 parts, compared with 9.98 parts for the male.”

This is, of course, confirmation bias: the scientists set out to prove that women were inferior to men and less deserving of human rights, and they desperately searched for anything they could point to in order to protect their own privileged status. They did similar things with race, and with disability: the horrific history of eugenics was based on pseudoscience.

You don’t need me to point out the parallels with today’s attempts by anti-trans activists, people who use confirmation bias to justify abuse of and discrimination against trans women: their focus on biology and science is only on the biology and science they can weaponise in order to exclude others, not the overwhelming evidence that they are wrong. It’s just saddening to see the same thing happening again and again throughout history.

In 1890, the philosopher David G Ritchie noted that “scientific” discrimination was:

always the favourite sort of argument with the jealous champions of privilege: first to prevent a race or class or sex from acquiring a capacity, and then to justify the refusal of rights on the grounds of this absence—to shut up a bird in a narrow cage and then pretend to argue with it that it is incapable of flying.

Categories
Bullshit Health Hell in a handcart

Conspiracy magnets

Something that’s become really apparent in the final days of the Trump administration is that cranks of a feather flock together. If you believe that the US election has been stolen, chances are you also believe that the COVID vaccine contains microchips, and that furniture shop Wayfair traffics stolen children.

Thanks to Twitter I discovered that there’s a name for this phenomenon: crank magnetism. As RationalWiki puts it:

A sovereign citizen, a creationist, an anti-vaxxer, and a conspiracy theorist walk into a bar. He orders a drink.

The reason for it is very simple. Believing in a conspiracy theory means denying evidence, denying authority, denying reality. And once you do that once, once you decide that despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary the people in authority are covering something up, you’re much more open to the idea that they’re covering other things up too.

To put it simply: once you believe they’re covering up one thing, it’s easy to believe that they’re covering up everything.

For example, if you believe that mainstream medicine is covering up the efficacy of homeopathy or of ancient Chinese medicine, it isn’t much of a leap to believe that mainstream medicine is covering up the links between MMR and autism. If you believe that Big Pharma is being funded by the Jews to turn everybody trans, it’s hardly a stretch to believe that Big Pharma created COVID to sell vaccines or that those vaccines contain microchips.

Once you deny one reality, you can easily end up denying all reality. You can see that in the COVID deniers, in the QAnon craze, in the ludicrous things people believe about marginalised groups.

The conspiracies don’t even need to make sense, or fit with a coherent worldview. Studies have found that conspiracists will happily believe conspiracies that contradict each other – so if you believe that Princess Diana faked her own death, you’re also highly likely to believe that Princess Diana was murdered. The specifics don’t really matter: either way, there’s a cover-up.

It’d be fascinating if it weren’t so frightening.

Categories
Bullshit Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

A disgrace

The Good Law Project’s Jo Maugham notes that almost every supposed expert witness in the High Court puberty blockers case was dodgy. Most have overt links to anti-LGBT, anti-abortion Christian Right groups, notably the ADF and the Heritage Foundation.

As Maugham writes:

Even if you do not care to listen to the views of the trans community you should be deeply alarmed that these or some of these highly marginal figures in world medicine are influencing the law around healthcare for children in the UK.

And if you do not care about the trans community – but you do care about abortion rights or gay rights – you should be deeply alarmed at the influence those who are no friends of ‘progressives’ are gaining in the UK.

One of the things I find particularly disgusting about this is that it’s been happening in plain sight for years. There is a co-ordinated attempt by the Christian Right to use trans people as a wedge issue for a wider attack on LGBT+ rights and on women’s reproductive freedom. This particular case is just a particularly despicable example, but the religious right is behind pretty much every anti-trans legal case and is funding a great deal of the supposed grass-roots anti-trans groups. And since this verdict they have been talking openly about using this case as a springboard to attack abortion and contraception, which was the game plan all along.

Very little of this is happening in secret, and yet the entire UK press and broadcast media chooses not to investigate or report on it. Instead, they are complicit. Shame on them.

 

 

Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+ Music

The f*ggot debate

It’s that time of year again: straight people demanding the right to sing and play the uncensored version of Fairytale of New York, which contains a homophobic slur.

Huw Lemmey did an excellent piece about it last year:

Well, this is it, from now on. Like the War on Christmas, the faggot debate is set to become a perennial staple of the culture war. Every year column inches will be devoted to it, thinkpieces like this one will be written, people will become more polarised on the issue, and more and more straight people will gleefully sing about faggots, not because they hate queer people but because they’ll be damned if they’ll be told what to do by the ‘woke’ left. Meanwhile more and more queer people will be reminded of those people who do hate them, and everyone will trust each other a little less and the world will get a little bit shittier for everyone. We need, as a culture, to break out of this loop. The problem is, we won’t, until it’s too late.

As for me, I don’t care if you, as a straight person, do or don’t sing the lyric about the faggot, but I would like to live in a society where you’re not desperate to. 

Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

Awareness of hypocrisy

It’s trans awareness week, and that means we get to see more pridewashing: as with other awareness weeks it’s an opportunity for corporations that don’t give a shit about group X to pretend they give a shit about group X.

Here’s Twitter.

TRANS RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS

TRANS RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS

TRANS RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS

TRANS RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS

TRANS RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS

#TransAwarenessWeek

That the responses to this tweet included very many transphobic ones illustrates the point: this is a network that doesn’t do anything about protracted and/or co-ordinated abuse of trans people and accounts set up specifically to attack trans women but which immediately bans trans people who tell their tormenters to fuck off; a network that often takes years to act against repeated violations of its anti-abuse policy by accounts with large audiences; a network that for many trans people is unusable without blocking hundreds or even thousands of accounts; a network where reporting even the most blatant examples of hate speech is largely pointless.

You can’t wrap yourself in the trans pride flag when you have policies to protect minority and marginalised groups that you simply don’t enforce.

As one person pointed out in the comments to Twitter’s post:

You’re not even taking action against the transphobes in the replies here.

Categories
Books Bullshit LGBTQ+

Irredeemable bullshit

Dianna Anderson reviews Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters. The book is at the centre of yet another trumped-up free speech row because US retailer Target chose not to stock it and Amazon chose not to take adverts for it. Some trans people are unhappy that it’s number one in the Amazon transgender studies chart, because while it’s many things it certainly isn’t a study. It’s part of a moral panic.

Anderson:

Irreversible Damage is the Michelle Remembers of 2020. It is clearly designed to speak to parents of teenagers who have come out as trans, particularly to parents of children assigned female at birth. These teenagers, Shrier argues, are coping with their ongoing pain of being assigned female, of going through puberty, by deciding it would be easier to escape womanhood altogether and become a man. In true moral panic fashion, Shrier blames iPhones for isolation that causes teens to doubt themselves, Youtube stars for making transition seem like The Answer to everything, the Medical Establishment for making it far too easy for kids to access gender affirming treatments, and school districts for teaching “gender ideology” to kindergartners. This book has it ALL.

The one thing it does not have, however, is the voices of the young teens in question.

This is a “study” of teenagers that doesn’t study any teenagers, a book about trans people that doesn’t believe trans people are real.

Like the completely invented pseudoscience of “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” it’s based on interviews with parents; the book has very little understanding of or insight about the actual teenagers it talks about because Shrier didn’t talk to most of them. According to this review it also grossly misrepresents the treatment available to teenagers, telling readers that twelve-year-olds are being given surgeries. They aren’t. And at core it pushes a very stereotypical view of women: “Far from giving us explorations of what womanhood can be, Shrier narrows it back down to the biological function of breastfeeding and having babies, excluding women who choose not to engage in such activities from the banner of true womanhood.”

As Anderson points out, the book fails to support its central premise: that teenagers are being rushed by various sinister forces into making decisions they will regret.

Shrier’s panic is simply an invented, elaborate narrative, unsupported by the actual facts, that trans identity is somehow contagious – just as gay people were discriminated against in the 1970s because apparently we were going to teach it to your children.

Categories
Bullshit

Famous friends

Jonny Depp lost his libel case against The Sun this week: a judge ruled that when the paper called him a “wife beater”, it was stating a fact.

It’s worth reminding ourselves of the actual article that sparked the lawsuit:

The Sun article was based on a blog post by the author in which she said that she was “genuinely happy” to have the actor cast in the film of one of her books; she was aware of the allegations of domestic violence – and the ‘legitimate questions’ of fans – but felt that, as The Guardian put it:

the circumstances of Depp’s divorce from actor Amber Heard last year were private and should be respected.

Rowling was, and presumably remains, a friend of the actor: she bought his luxury yacht after holidaying on it.

The reaction to Rowling’s defence of Depp by victims of domestic violence often assumed that she hadn’t experienced it, because if she had she would not give the actor the benefit of the doubt. But we know now that Rowling has been a victim of domestic abuse, which – as is so often the case – was perpetrated by her male partner.

The author didn’t use that experience to condemn Depp, however. She used it as partial justification for her anti-trans stance, even though trans women are overwhelmingly victims of domestic violence, not perpetrators of it.

Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

Nobody checks anything

Yesterday, multiple newspapers reported the return of Woolworths, a retail chain that no longer operates in the UK. The story was in the Metro.It was in the Daily Star. It was in the Mirror. It was in the Brighton Argus, and Birmingham Live, and the rest of the UK’s local press. It was everywhere.

It was bullshit.

Not a single journalist at any of those titles bothered their backside to check whether it was true before publishing. It wasn’t. The story was based on tweets from a fake account that couldn’t even spell the company name properly. That was enough for acres of coverage.

This is how too much journalism works now. All you need is a Twitter account and a logo and nobody fact-checks what you’re saying or investigates who you actually are; if it’s going to get clicks, it’s going to get published. It’s harmless when we’re talking about pic’n’mix, but this is exactly how anti-LGBT+ groups and right-wing lobbyists get coverage too. Far too many supposed “alliances” and “institutes” are little more than social media fronts for people who are extremely dodgy. They can only do their jobs because too many journalists aren’t doing theirs.

Categories
Bullshit

Let them eat handbags

The UK appears to be having one of its periodic outbreaks of idiocy when affluent people claim that they could absolutely feed a family of 12 on 23p a week and have money left over. So Twitter is currently full of people claiming you can buy a chicken in Aldi for £2 (this, clearly, is the branch of Aldi in Madeupshire) and that with that, a carrot and the Blitz spirit you can eat like kings for a fortnight.

You can’t.

Jack Monroe literally wrote the book on this stuff: she’s been helping people make tasty and nutritious food on low budgets for years. And she’s absolutely furious at the people sharing selected bits of her advice as if it’s evidence that struggling to afford food is the result of personal failings, not poverty.

As she wrote two years ago:

Again, having choices around the food you eat is a privilege. Not having to shop exclusively from the white labels of the value ranges, or raiding the battered old veg at the end of the day at the market, is a privilege. Not mentally calculating the pennies difference in every item that goes into your shopping basket is a privilege, and one that millions of people in the UK (and across the world) increasingly do not have. Access to fresh fruit and vegetables, and the means with which to buy them, is a privilege.

And it’s not just buying core ingredients. All those kitchen cupboard essentials, the seasonings and the spices and the stock cubes, have to be bought too. You need pots and pans and utensils and something to cook on, and the money to pay for the energy to cook with. And so on, and so on, and so on.

One of the problems with this blame-the-poor narrative, which returns far too frequently, is that you absolutely can survive on sod-all money when your cupboards are already stocked, all your bills are paid and you’re only doing it for a week. But all you are doing is having a holiday in somebody else’s misery. Poverty means not just buying your food from the bargain aisle – an aisle that, when I was living in a leafy suburb, was always picked clean by affluent women of a certain age who’d block the area with their trollies until they’d had their pick of the reduced items – but being unable to pay bills, replace the clothes your children have outgrown or gone through and all the other things that demand what little money you have.

Not only that, but being poor is expensive. You can’t stock the freezer, assuming you have a freezer, with bulk buys because you can’t afford to buy in bulk. You can’t get the best price on energy because you’re on a prepay meter. You can’t buy things that last because they are simply too expensive.

If you were a satirist, you’d struggle to come up with a better villain in this than Nick Clarke, who suggested that parents struggling to feed their children should not only skip their own meals, but “sell assets”. What assets? “Handbag, pearls, mobile phone?”

Imagine being so removed from reality that you think the poor are bouncing around with designer handbags and strings of pearls. Poor people don’t have “assets”. They have debt.

One of the best descriptions of poverty I’ve ever read was by the late Terry Pratchett:

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.

Categories
Bullshit Media

“Pundit brain is a form of stupidity”

This, by Tom Whyman, should annoy the right people.

If the image of the pundit-brained journalist has been crystallized anywhere, it is in the early satire of Chris Morris: shows like The Day Today and Brass Eye where his anchor character was constantly drawing wildly over-confident conclusions from nonsensical infographics, howling at unassuming guests that they need to solve absolutely everything that’s wrong with the world, right now, and smirking gleefully to camera at the possibility of instigating a war.