And you wonder why we’re cranky

This is from Sky News.

It’d be funny if it weren’t serious. Trans activists aren’t campaigning for this, because IT’S THE LAW.

The relevant law is the Equality Act 2010, which formalised something that’s been common practice for decades.

What’s actually happening is that bigots are telling blatant lies about the law and trans people, and mainstream media outlets such as Sky News are parroting those lies.

The word “bathroom” is telling here, because it’s the US word for toilet. So-called “bathroom bills” are a deliberate tactic by US evangelical right-wingers to try and divide the LGBT community by painting trans women as predators. They used to say the same things about gay men and lesbian women.

It’s funny how Sky News, owned by News Corp, keeps running really misleading stories about trans people while The Sun, owned by News Corp, keeps running really misleading stories about trans people.  Meanwhile The Times and Sunday Times, which are owned by News Corp, keep running really misleading stories about trans people. In other countries, publications owned by News Corp run nasty stories about trans people too: in Australia last week the Sunday Telegraph was condemned for using the slur “tranny” in a headline.

News Corp is owned by Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch has suggested boycotting Guinness for its support of LGBT groups, accused Hillary Clinton of fascism when she spoke against anti-LGBT discrimination, and supported an openly homophobic US presidential candidate who believes gay marriage is a “marxist plot”.

I wonder if these things could be connected.

Follow the money

Have you been wondering how the odious racist Tommy Robinson has managed to attract so much apparent support? The answer’s simple. He’s being bankrolled by US right-wingers.

This is by no means unusual. US evangelicals are driving anti-trans groups over here and tried to derail the Irish campaign to repeal anti-abortion law. The Russians, as you may have noticed, are pulling all kinds of strings. But it’s rarely quite so overt. This is a press release from the US Middle East Foundation, a right-wing, anti-Muslim group with deep pockets:

MEF is sponsoring and organizing the second “Free Tommy Robinson” gathering in London on July 14. MEF previously provided all the funding and helped organized the first “Free Tommy Robinson” event held June 9 in London.

…The Middle East Forum is aiding Mr. Robinson’s defense in three main ways:

  • Legally – By using Legal Project monies to fund his legal defense.
  • Diplomatically – By bringing foreign pressure on the UK government to ensure Mr. Robinson’s safety and eventual release.
  • Politically – By organizing and funding the 25,000-person “Free Tommy” London rally on June 9 and now the July 14 protest, also taking place in London.

It’s not a conspiracy theory when the conspirators publish press releases about what they’ve done.

It’s time to regulate social media

According to Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, holocaust deniers don’t really mean it. “I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong”, he says, explaining why so much hate speech remains online on Facebook.

The real reason, of course, is that hate speech makes money for Facebook. Hate platforms such as Infowars and articles about holocaust denial generate lots of page views and audience interaction, which is the lifeblood of any social network.

As the Irish Independent reports:

Moderators in Dublin were instructed not to remove extreme, abusive or graphic content from the platform even when it violated the company’s guidelines.

An undercover investigation found that while nudity is almost always removed, violent videos involving assaults on children, racially charged hate speech and images of self-harm by children all remained on Facebook after being reported by users and reviewed by moderators.

This, from the UK Independent:

far-right and racist content is given special protections that stop it being deleted quite so easily. Trainees are shown being told that content that racially abused protected ethnic or religious groups would be removed – but if that abuse is limited to immigrants from those groups, the posts would stay up.

In the footage, moderators are shown explaining that a post targeting Muslims with racist language would be removed, for instance. But if the posts specifically targeted Muslim immigrants, then that could be allowed to stay up because it is a political statement, Facebook has suggested.

Facebook, and other social networks, are out of control. They’ve proved beyond any doubt that self-regulation doesn’t work. The claim that Facebook isn’t a publisher is bullshit. It’s bigger than any newspaper or TV network, and it’s time it was regulated as such.

Cannon fodder

I wrote this song about angry young men being groomed by right-wingers, and I think of it any time Jordan Peterson is mentioned: the stupid man’s idea of an intellectual has managed to build a very lucrative career by persuading angry young men that he’s some kind of guru.

Peterson spoke at an event in Dublin last night from which Peter Kavanagh tweeted a glorious stream of comment, including this:

“Imagine that you’re naive” says Peterson to an audience that paid €50-60 to hear him speak.

Not going to be an issue here, Jordo.

I think Peterson is a very dangerous, bigoted man peddling dangerous bullshit. Over at Longreads, Laurie Penny has a more nuanced critique. It’s well worth your time. She writes:

If every generation gets the intellectuals it deserves, we’re in serious trouble.

…In times of angst and confusion, anyone who accurately describes how you feel will briefly seem like God’s own prophet. This, as any half-decent writer can tell you, is a talent that is extremely easy to abuse.

…None of this is to say that Peterson himself is a fascist. An obsession with hierarchy does not make a person a totalitarian, just as a devotion to proto-eugenic thinking combined with a rigid religious morality does not make a person a Nazi. They do, however, have real gateway appeal for anyone considering a career in neo-fascism, and while Jordan Peterson may not be a hatemonger, the same cannot be said of all of his fans — many of whom move from his relatively measured pronouncements to the hard stuff.

Penny will be abused for writing that article. She’ll get rape and death threats, possibly worse. Because that’s what Peterson’s fans do. That should tell you something.

Brace yourself for the backlash

The UK government publishes its new LGBT strategy today. Part of the strategy includes publishing the findings of a survey that show – surprise! – life is often really shit for LGBT people.

The plans include improved hate crime protection, a ban on dangerous quackery such as conversion therapy (aka “pray the gay away” cures for being gay or trans), reform of the Gender Recognition Act to make things less bureaucratic and other positive things.

Much of the strategy only applies to England, as a lot of LGBT-related issues are covered by devolved legislation. But the anti-LGBT backlash we’ll see online and in the media will affect the entire UK and beyond.

I don’t envy equalities minister Penny Mordaunt, who’s trying to improve things and reform the Gender Recognition Act in a climate where just 13% of Conservative voters think the GRA should be reformed (coincidentally, the vast majority of anti-trans misinformation and outright falsehoods about GRA reform is printed in newspapers and periodicals read primarily by Conservative voters; The Guardian and New Statesman do their best to compete, but their circulations are tiny by comparison):

The current process doesn’t work for people. It’s overly bureaucratic and it’s highly medicalized with people making decisions about you who have never met you.

There’s also huge inconsistencies throughout the process – you have one identification document in one sex and another in another.

It doesn’t work, it needs to be radically improved, and that’s why we’re going to consult on that. Really the outcome we’re looking for is that people are supported through that process… it is a challenging enough thing to go through without the state and its bureaucracy adding to people’s stresses.

We will get the best results from this consultation if it is done in that environment with people being sensible, people looking at the facts and not making things up, and ensuring people are respected.

There hasn’t been much in the way of facts or respect so far.

I hope I’m wrong, but I think the next couple of months are going to see some really shameful reporting of LGBT issues and more demonisation of trans people in supposedly respectable publications, as well as online. Some of it will have the dread hand of religious evangelism behind it; some will be from people building personal media brands by stepping on vulnerable people; all of it will be damaging.

Knowing that the perpetrators are on the wrong side of history doesn’t make the present any easier to live through.

If you would like to better understand the truth about being LGBT in the UK, the Government has published its full survey online. It’s available here in PDF format.

Words and weapons

Another day, another mass killing in America by a man who – surprise! – has a history of troubling behaviour towards women.

The target, the Capital Gazette newspaper, had previously reported the shooter’s online harassment of a woman; he tried and failed to sue them. So three years later, he picked up a gun instead.

The shooter, Jarrod Ramos, appears to be a Trump supporter.

President Trump has previously said of journalists: “I would never kill them, but I do hate them.” This week, he once again referred to mainstream news journalists as “the enemy of the people”, a claim he’s been making for two years now. Also this week, alt-right darling and thoroughly reprehensible troll Milo Yiannopoulous said he couldn’t wait for “vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight.”

You don’t need to be a weatherman to see which way the wind blows.

Civility only goes so far

This is from the New York Times in 1934.

There are quite a few of these things being shared on social media at the moment, including old articles urging black people to be civil to people who want to keep them segregated, and more recent articles urging LGBT people to be nice to howling bigots.

The sharing is in response to a non-story about Trump henchwoman Sarah Sanders, spokesperson for a vicious, intolerant, authoritarian regime, being politely refused service in a restaurant: some of the staff are LGBT and didn’t want to serve an apologist for the ban on trans people in the military.

Naturally, the right-wing press have engaged in a bad-faith argument about the supposed intolerance of the left – people who, the last time I checked, weren’t caging children and attempting to return the world to the glory days of the 1930s. That’s all okay. Politely saying “you’re not welcome here”, on the other hand…

This is based on Karl Popper’s writing from 1945.

Trump fans are protesting outside the restaurant. This image is from ABC News.

The signs being held by the people demanding civility say “Homos are full of demons” and “Unless they repent, let God burn them”.

No, the government hasn’t said it’s okay to discriminate

Imagine I started a petition claiming that the government was going to ban bees and demanding that it didn’t.

“We’re not going to ban bees,” the government would respond. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

How would you report that? Would you:

(a) Conclude that ‘arseholes create petition about imaginary problem’ wasn’t newsworthy in the first place?

(b) Write a brief story noting that some arseholes created a petition and that the government told them to get stuffed?

Or (c) Run the story with the headline “Bee friends force government into humiliating climbdown”?

If you chose (c), you’re probably writing about trans issues for national newspapers.

(I have a more mature version of this going live on Metro today, where I’m not allowed to call people “arseholes” or say “fuck”).

Over the weekend, multiple newspapers ran a story that the government said trans people can be banned from toilets, changing rooms and other single-sex spaces.

That isn’t true. Doing so is illegal.

Here’s what actually happened.

  • Anti-trans activists created a petition demanding the government consults them before changing existing equality legislation;
  • The government politely told them to fuck off on the grounds that they aren’t considering changing existing equality legislation.

To see that presented as a victory for anti-trans campaigners is quite something.

Here’s how the law works. Under the Equality Act, which has been in force for eight years now, you cannot discriminate against trans people. In very specific circumstances, such as women’s refuges, you can exclude trans people provided that doing so is legitimate and proportionate.

Over to you, Stonewall:

The exemptions in the law (which the Government referred to) only apply where services can demonstrate that excluding a trans person is absolutely necessary, for example, if inclusion would put that trans person at risk. However, these exemptions are rarely used and in almost all situations trans people are treated equally as is required by our equality laws.

…This kind of reporting also doesn’t reflect reality; trans people can and have been using toilets that match their gender for years without issue. This is another media-generated ‘debate’, and it’s actually having a negative effect on many people who aren’t trans too; people whose appearance doesn’t fit the stereotypes of male or female are increasingly being challenged for simply going into a public loo.

This lazy and/or wilful misreporting is dangerous. It completely misrepresents the law, and it’s contributing to a culture that’s already seen cisgender (ie, not trans) women chased out of bathrooms for not looking feminine enough. Trans people are victims, and newspapers repeatedly take the side of the bullies.

If you’re regurgitating press releases from pressure groups and failing to check even the simplest facts, you shouldn’t be in journalism.


It’s okay to be offensive if you’re a white guy

There’s a good piece in The Pool by Yomi Adegoke about Alan Sugar’s racist tweet, or rather the reaction to it from media types such as the odious Piers Morgan.

As Adegoke points out, there does appear to be a double standard here. When a black presenter says something that appears to be racist, they’re gone. White presenters? Not so much.

It’s interesting to contrast Morgan’s spirited defence of Alan Sugar, who is white, with his criticism of trans model Munroe Bergdorf, who is not.

According to Morgan, Bergdorf was “rightly fired” from her role at L’Oreal for “calling all white people violent racists.” That isn’t quite what she said, but Morgan’s never been great at facts. As far as Morgan is concerned, because Bergdorf said something he finds “deeply offensive”, it’s right and proper that she should lose her job.

Adegoke’s piece notes that Morgan doesn’t feel the same way when it’s white people being deeply offensive about black people.

If only there was a word for somebody who treats people differently based on the colour of their skin.

Incidentally, I was at the recording of a (non-broadcast) TV show pilot the other night where one of the topics was offensive speech. It was introduced via an unfunny video by a straight, white, cisgender male comedian who said that he had the right to say whatever he wanted and if anyone had a problem with it they should just fuck off.

The issue was then discussed by the three panellists, two of whom were straight, white, cisgender men (a pundit and a comedian respectively). They concluded that the right of straight, white, cisgender male pundits and comedians to offend people was much more important than minorities’ right to be treated with dignity and respect. One panellist disagreed with them and attempted to explain the importance of intent and context, but she was a woman so her opinions didn’t count.

Pride only goes so far

It’s Pride Month, when firms go out of their way to show how cool and groovy they are about LGBT* people. But beyond the posters and window displays, the picture is a lot less positive.

According to a survey of 1,000 employers, nearly half of employers would “probably” discriminate against trans job applicants.

That’s illegal. But just because it’s illegal doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Discrimination is rarely overt, and as a result it’s hard to challenge, let alone prove. You didn’t get the job because your interview skills weren’t great, not because you were visibly trans. Your temporary contract was terminated because that particular job was finished, not because your line manager thinks you’re a deviant. You were passed over for promotion because the other candidate had skills you don’t, not because the firm doesn’t want to send a trans person as its representative. And so on.

Some 47% of retail businesses surveyed said they were “unlikely to hire a trans person”; 45% of IT businesses said the same, with leisure and hospitality coming in at 35%. Even in the most inclusive industry, financial services, just 34% of employers said they were “agreeable” to hiring trans workers.

“Agreeable.” One-third of employers are “agreeable” to not breaking the law.

That’s bad enough, but what if many of them are lying? It’s a known problem with attitudinal surveys: while some people tell the truth, many tell the surveyor what they think that person wants to hear, or what they think will make them sound best.

That means the number of firms who’d actually hire trans people is probably even less.

Trans people get the shitty end of the stick in employment. Stonewall reports that around half of trans people hide their gender identity at work for fear of discrimination; of those who don’t, one-third have been verbally abused by customers or clients and 12% physically attacked.

Hiring is just the start. Firms that aren’t “agreeable” to abiding by anti-discrimination legislation are unlikely to be “agreeable” to providing a safe environment for trans staff. They’re unlikely to be “agreeable” to having policies against discriminatory behaviour by other employees. They’re unlikely to be “agreeable” to giving trans people fair consideration for promotion, or in the event of necessary job losses.

If nearly half of employers admit that they’d discriminate, you can be sure that the real problem is much, much worse.