Won’t someone think of the Tories?

I sometimes wonder if a master satirist has seized control of parts of the mainstream media. How else to explain the Telegraph’s video that asks us to consider the plight of poor, marginalised, oppressed… Tories?

I’m not joking. The video tells us that the only safe space – a term the Telegraph despises, yet uses without irony here – for young Tories is the Conservative Party Conference. It even pauses to show us the terrible headline: Abused for being a Tory.

In one particularly traumatic event, one young man was called “a *** in a park” by teenagers, presumably of the ruffian variety.

A ****! In a park!

Oh Lordy, trouble so hard, don’t nobody know their troubles but God.

To be fair, the video does include someone saying that they have been told to kill themselves by strangers on the internet. And as someone who has also been told to kill myself by strangers on the internet – interestingly, strangers whose post history indicates that they are Tory supporters; my goodness isn’t that a strange coincidence what are the chances etc etc etc – I know how upsetting that can be.

If these people are being abused randomly online or in public then of course that’s unacceptable.

But.

You knew there was a but coming.

But it seems a bit off to complain that people accuse you of racism, sexism and homophobia if you’re out canvassing for a party that’s clearly racist, sexist and homophobic.

That’s not to say these particular young people are any or all of those things. I’m quite sure the Telegraph has carefully selected them and checked their social media history to make sure they haven’t publicly posted the kinds of terrible, despicable, bigoted things that, er, their party leader would put in a Spectator column.

But.

The abuse they’re getting is probably because they publicly support the party of benefit cuts and hostile environments, the party of Windrush and of slashed spending on disabled support and mental health services, the party of austerity and an enfeebled NHS, a party whose Prime Minister has said terrible things about ethnic minorities and LGBT+ people and whose cabinet largely voted against equal marriage.

It’s a bit like complaining that people are calling you a Nazi just because you’re goose-stepping around the place in a Hugo Boss uniform with a swastika wrapped around one of your biceps. Just because you’re herding minorities onto trains doesn’t mean you aren’t committed to social justice and LGBT+ equality!

There’s an obvious solution, which echoes the advice many Tory people like to offer LGBT+ people who talk about the much more serious and sustained abuse they experience.

Have you tried, you know, not being a Tory?

One of the good ones

Yesterday, Home Secretary Priti Patel threw immigrants under the bus. With obvious delight, she vowed to “end the free movement of people once and for all”; in a deeply sinister dog-whistle she added: “this daughter of immigrants needs no lectures from the North London, metropolitan, liberal elite.”

The phrase “North London metropolitan elite” (also expressed as “North London liberal elite”) is a common far-right dog-whistle, because North London is where many of the Jewish community live.

There are two possible explanations for a senior politician using a well-known dog whistle in a speech. One, they knew exactly what they were doing and used it deliberately, in which case they’re wicked. Or two, they’ve heard others use it and didn’t realise it’s a favourite of anti-semites, in which case they’re incredibly thick.

Either way, it’s pretty scary.

It’s the other part of her sentence I want to talk about here, though. “This daughter of immigrants” needs no lectures on the effect her policies will have on families just like her own, on fuelling the hostile environment that targets families just like her own, on the intolerance she’s helping breed against families just like her own.

What Patel is effectively saying is simple. I’m not like those people. I’m one of the good ones.

Writer Musa Okwonga:

The ethos of the Racial Gatekeeper = my policies against [x] cannot be regressive, because I myself am of [x]. To escape my policies, [x] must be exceptional, like me.

…The problem with Priti Patel’s dog-whistle is that those who hear it will never love her as much as she wants them to.

Such gatekeepers can be found in all kinds of minority groups.

There are some gay men who speak with the evangelical right against gay men; trans women who ally themselves with anti-trans bigots; people of colour who get into bed with openly racist political parties.

“We’re not like those people,” they say to the people they try to ingratiate themselves with. “We’re the good ones.”

And to prove it, they throw their communities under the bus.

Okwonga:

Priti Patel cheerleading for the end of freedom of movement, oblivious to Sajid Javid being thrown under the bus as soon as Trump came to the UK. When fascism enters the room, immigrants get swept under the carpet.

Priti Patel, Sajid Javid, Candace Owens and others are performing the role of “racial gatekeepers”. They validate far-right political positions, thinking that being non-white makes them immune from critique. They’re bouncers for nightclubs to which they’ll never be admitted.

If they weren’t so dangerous I’d have some sympathy, because I think I understand part of the mindset.

You don’t want to be defined by your identity, whether that’s your race or your gender identity or your romantic orientation. You want to be seen as a success, and a success in your own right. You are not your identity.

And how better to prove that than by helping others pick on people just like you?

If that sounds rather playground, well… that’s because it is. And so is the inevitable result, which is that the person who allies themselves with the bullies is hated by by both sides.

People who act as racial (or gay, or trans, or…) gatekeepers are often loathed by the communities they come from and loathed by the people they so desperately want to impress. I won’t name names here but I can think of multiple individuals whose personality is rather like that of a beaten dog that returns to be kicked again and again and again.

The abuse appears to do something strange. It appears to make the people more extreme. The abuse from the community they’re betraying convinces them that they’re in the right, that they’re heroic truth speakers; the abuse they get from their so-called allies makes them more extreme because they convince themselves that it’s really aimed at those people, not the gatekeeper, and if they just tried a bit harder everybody would see that they’re not like those people. They’re one of the good ones.

I’ve experienced it myself: when I first came out a few years ago I was keen to distance myself from those trans people. You know. The weirdos. What I didn’t realise at the time, and what I’m deeply sorry for not understanding at the time, was that the weirdos didn’t really exist. A handful of extreme and completely unrepresentative examples were being used to demonise an entire group, and I’d fallen for it. When I realised this and started to question the stories I was being told, the storytellers turned on me too. I was no longer one of the good ones, no longer a useful idiot to legitimise what I now understand was bigotry (incidentally, that’s one of the reasons I’m so vocal now: I’m trying to compensate for any damage my naivety might have caused).

The problem with trying to be one of the good ones is that your identity is still there. You’re still one of those people.

You’re not there because you’re special.

You’re there because you’re useful.

You don’t have that platform because you’re a skilled politician, an accomplished orator or a great thinker.

You’re there because your presence enables others to hurt people like you without feeling bad about themselves for doing it.

How can it be racist if a black man says it’s a good thing? How can we be accused of being anti-LGBT if a gay guy’s in our party? How can the Prime Minister be misogynist if a woman defends him?

The key thing to remember – having known people with Patel’s worldview – is that being a Racial Gatekeeper is very lonely. It creates a genuine feeling that you are a member of a heroic and hounded minority, even though it is a membership of a cruel club you chose with relish.

The only way to evade the loneliness is to double down at every turn, to adopt views so extreme that that they startle even those you are trying to impress. You say the nastiest things you can with the biggest smile. Drawing fuel from adversity is all you have.

If you spend years doing that – surrounded by people who tell you that you’re better than those [x], since unlike them you worked hard, raised yourself up – you begin to believe your myth, to buy into your sense of destiny. But the people who surround you are still afraid of you.

And the people from your community will pay the price for your ego.

That’s entertainment

Image by Martin WeFail. You can buy his disturbing prints at wefail.art.

(Content warning: slurs)

If it were possible to bet on the public pronouncements of terrible people, you could make a ton of money with a very simple rule: if someone has awful opinions on trans people, sooner or later you’ll discover that they have lots of other awful opinions too.

Here’s just one day’s trawl.

First, SNP MSP John Mason lodged a Holyrood motion calling for the Scottish Parliament to restrict abortion. Trans people were shocked – shocked! – by the news that someone who is a vocal critic of trans women’s rights and bodily autonomy would also like to restrict the rights and bodily autonomy of other women.

“This is our shocked face,” we said.

Then, tiresome contrarian Brendan O’Neill of climate-denying, right wing billionaire-funded Spiked incited violence on a current affairs programme. Trans people were shocked – shocked! – by the news that someone whose publication repeatedly incites hatred against minority groups might also incite hatred against other groups.

“No, really, this is our shocked face,” we said. “We’re shocked. So, so shocked.”

What’s almost as tiresome as these tedious arseholes is the fact that a significant number of people couldn’t care less about any of it until and unless their own particular group is suddenly in the firing line.

Mason’s anti-trans stuff merited barely a squeak, but now he’s targeting cisgender women there’s finally talk on whether the SNP’s broad church should be a little less broad, and whether a modern, supposedly progressive political party should accommodate creationists with regressive views. There’s an irony to that, of course: two very high-profile SNP politicians are science deniers too, but because the science they deny is about trans people that’s apparently okay.

And then there’s Spiked, which rose from the ashes of the Balkan holocaust-denying LM and whose writers are reliably on the wrong side of everything.

Despite its origins as a far-left publication, LM quickly tacked rightwards and was beloved of far-right thinktanks. It was against the anti-apartheid sanctions on South Africa, claimed straight people didn’t need to worry about AIDS, attacked environmentalism (the greens were “Hitler-loving imperialists”), told its readers that whaling bans were “cultural imperialism”, was against the no-platforming of the National Front and (as Wikipedia puts it) “engaged in a sustained campaign of denial of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.” They were memorably described by one old socialist as “media pranksters and disco fascists.”

To borrow a phrase from Douglas Adams, LM were a bunch of mindless jerks who’ll be first against the wall when the revolution comes. And yet they’ve carved out an important niche in the UK media.

Despite the obvious fact that you shouldn’t trust any of them to tell you the time, Spiked writers and O’Neill especially have been on the BBC’s speed-dial list for years to rail against feminism, LGBT+ rights, Muslims and of course trans people with very little opprobrium; it’s only when the hateful rhetoric finally extended to “ordinary” people that there seems to have been any sign of surprise, let alone a backlash.

As the Best For Britain Twitter account put it:

Sorry, but if you invite someone who has written pieces like:

Why I’m Sick of Gay Pride
Now It’s The Tranny State
Angelina Jolie’s Mastectomy; When It’s Trendy to Be Ill

and

Breivik: A Monster Made by Multiculturalism

you can’t legitimately feign shock when he talks crap.

But it’s not just talking crap. It’s sowing division and in some cases, hatred. By the time “ordinary” people start to pay attention, those bitter seeds have already been sown.

And the media has played a huge part in it. In much the same way it ignored the danger of Trump because he was good for ratings, it treated genuinely dangerous people like Nigel Farage – who yesterday told the Brexit Party faithful that the people would “take the knife to the pen-pushers in Whitehall” – as ratings fodder. Spiked’s BBC presence has long been massively out of proportion to its UK readership because its writers can be relied upon to say “controversial” things on cue. And thanks in a large part to the state broadcaster, we’ve been encouraged to see hateful, unethical and amoral people such as Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson as hilarious comic figures.

It’s been really strange to see so many people’s reaction to the Prime Minister’s furious, frightening posturing this week. Boris – BoJo – is bad? But he’s the funny man from the TV!

Because of course, for most of us Boris is the funny man from TV – a character the media continued to push, despite the reality being much darker. This is of course the man who as a journalist, falsified stories; the man who as a more junior politician conspired to have a journalist beaten up; the man who as a schoolboy was part of a group famous for destroying restaurants and humiliating homeless people.

It’s the same with Rees-Mogg, another hilarious rich man from the TV. His unlawful machinations around Brexit are entirely in keeping with his record. Suzanne Moore in The Guardian:

Rees-Mogg is a class warrior (for his class alone) who has a track record of voting down every socially progressive policy. Far from being “eccentric” or “freethinking”, as the extreme right likes to characterise itself, he embodies their tick-box views: anti-gay marriage; anti-abortion; doesn’t believe in climate-change legislation, votes against any rise in benefits, even for disabled people; supports zero-hours contracts and tuition fees. He supported Trump, although he has since distanced himself. This is pure neocon territory.

He’s like a walking version of Spiked. And inevitably, where one lot of intolerance exists, more is just around the corner.

…When the Tory party was pushing for more ethnic-minority candidates, he warned against having too high a proportion of them. “Ninety-five per cent of this country is white. The list can’t be totally different from the country at large,” he said. In 2013, he was “guest of honour” at – and gave a speech to – the annual dinner of Traditional Britain Group (TBG), which describes itself as “the home of the disillusioned patriot”. It wants to return black people to “their natural homelands”.

Can you believe that a man with terrible right-wing views seems to be racist too? This is my shocked face.

I don’t need to start quoting Martin Niemöller to remind you that when you tolerate the mob, sooner or later the mob will come for you. Here’s Marina Hyde in today’s Guardian on the current UK political landscape:

the “big thinkers” who pander to these instincts are never going to be the ones getting hurt.

…To adapt that phrase of the alt-right to whom you tack closer every day: mobs don’t care about your feelings. If I had to come up with an adjective to help you understand mobs, it would probably be mob-like. Very mobby. Mobtastic. If you go to the country in a people v parliament election, you may indeed get elected and be part of a triumphant Tory majority. But when you have been elected, and when you’ve “got Brexit done” – which is to say, when you’ve either taken the UK off the no-deal cliff, or opened up the next however many painful years of trade negotiations fuckery-pokery, which is never going to solve the problems it is magically supposed to – you, then, are “parliament”.

The even angrier people are then versus YOU. That’s when they come for you, because you asked them to. You invited them in. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this line “the revolution devours its children”? That’s you, babe.

There is a well-worn path between demonising minorities and advocating violence – whether literal violence or metaphorical violence such as a “hostile environment” that treats some people as lesser humans, or a state that deprives humans of their rights. But again and again we ignore that and put terrible people on TV because they’re good for ratings. We give them publicity, and a presence. And by doing so we give them terrible power.

In 1984, the educator Neil Postman suggested that in the age of show business, we were “amusing ourselves to death”: that the future would look less like 1984 and more like Brave New World.

As Postman wrote, Huxley’s vision was that the people in power wouldn’t need to seize our rights because we would be persuaded to hand them over voluntarily.

in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.

At the very end of his book, Postman concluded:

What I suggest here as a solution is what Aldous Huxley suggested, as well. And I can do no better than he. He believed with H. G. Wells that we are in a race between education and disaster, and he wrote continuously about the necessity of our understanding the politics and epistemology of media. For in the end, he was trying to tell us that what afflicted the people in Brave New World was not that they were laughing instead of thinking, but that they did not know what they were laughing about and why they had stopped thinking.

Bigots’ feelings are better than facts

A few months ago, Irish TV channel RTE gave airtime to a notorious anti-trans bigot and bully in order to “balance” the insights of people who actually know what they’re talking about.

The wonky-eyed washed-up yokel impersonator from a village currently missing an idiot was given multiple opportunities to spout ill-informed, often malicious nonsense; when a number of people complained that the human ham was allowed to make comments that were “inaccurate, harmful and displayed prejudice against transgender people,” the broadcasting regulator effectively said: Hey! That’s showbiz!

More specifically, it said:

it would be wrong to limit contributors to people with personal experience or expertise

Imagine if we started having people with “expertise” on our current affairs programmes!

How to ensure your LGBT+ child hates you

Right-wing shite-peddler The Federalist has printed a piece urging parents of trans and gender non-conforming kids to cut them off from the internet and their peers and beat them daily until they renounce transgenderism and its Satanic ways.

I’m exaggerating, but only slightly. The latest in a string of similar pieces misrepresents research, makes unsubstantiated claims and advocates a course of action that we know to be incredibly damaging to children: conversion therapy.

As author and commentator Brynn Tannehill points out, it won’t have the consequences the parents want. But it will have consequences.

If you do this, and it doesn’t end up driving your kid to suicide, you kid will hate you for the rest of your fucking life.

Tannehill has interviewed many trans people whose parents did exactly what The Federalist is advocating.

Universally, they have zero desire to ever see their parents again after they were treated in exactly the manner described above. Turning 18 was like getting out of jail, and they have no intent of going back. They ghost their parents and disappear.

That’s the best case scenario. Not all kids with unaccepting parents make it to 18.

Conversion therapy causes lifelong harm, and transgender adults who were exposed to it are 4X more likely to have attempted suicide than those who weren’t, whether the therapy was professional or religious.

There are Internet forums haunted by angry, bitter, lonely parents whose children severed contact with them as soon as they legally could. The parents rage and the parents mourn, and the parents tell each other that their children hate them because of social contagion, because of peer pressure, because of invented pseudoscientific bullshit such as “rapid onset gender dysphoria”.

Occam’s razor offers a better explanation, an explanation that they are unwilling or unable to accept: they lost their children because they made it clear to them that they’d rather have a dead child than a trans one.

I’ve written before that I have some sympathy for unaccepting parents of LGBT+ people:

…to the point where I can understand the fury and denial that leads some of them to excommunicate their family members and even become anti-trans activists.

But the more I think about it, the more I’m starting to think that no, I don’t have sympathy for them after all. It’s one thing to find it difficult to understand or accept your child’s sexuality or their gender, or to worry that their lives will be harder because of it. It’s another thing altogether to be the one to make their life harder, to embark on a course of action that will traumatise them or perhaps even put them in an early grave.

I’ve been thinking about this kind of thing a lot recently, probably because I’ve spent a lot of the last fortnight in hospital rooms looking at my son with tubes going into various parts of him, the only soundtrack a mix of his breathing, the beeps of the monitors and the thoughts in my head.

There’s a particular agony to seeing your child so vulnerable, to seeing your child in pain. All parents know that primal urge to protect, the urge to do absolutely anything to take that pain away, that unshakeable desire to make everything okay – so I understand why parents stay loyal to children who have done terrible, unspeakable things.

What I don’t understand is parents who do terrible, unspeakable things to their children. And conversion therapy is one of those things.

Tannehill:

Let’s get down to the brass tacks: if you think its better to have a child who never sees you again than to have a transgender child, do what The Federalist says.

If you would rather bury your kid in the clothes you pick out for them than accept their gender identity, by all fucking means do what The Federalist says.

We should not build certain technologies because the human cost is too great

Danah Boyd has long been one of the smartest voices in tech, and in her recent awards speech to the Electronic Frontier Foundation she must have made a lot of people uncomfortable. In it she talks about the tech industry’s sheltering of terrible men, and how its technologies can have terrible consequences.

Tech prides itself in being better than other sectors. But often it’s not. As an employee of Google in 2004, I watched my male colleagues ogle women coming to the cafeteria in our building from the second floor, making lewd comments. When I first visited TheFacebook in Palo Alto, I was greeted by a hyper-sexualized mural and a knowing look from the admin, one of the only women around. So many small moments seared into my brain, building up to a story of normalized misogyny. Fast forward fifteen years and there are countless stories of executive misconduct and purposeful suppression of the voices of women and sooooo many others whose bodies and experiences exclude them from the powerful elite. These are the toxic logics that have infested the tech industry. And, as an industry obsessed with scale, these are the toxic logics that the tech industry has amplified and normalized.

…“Move fast and break things” is an abomination if your goal is to create a healthy society. Taking short-cuts may be financially profitable in the short-term, but the cost to society is too great to be justified. In a healthy society, we accommodate differently abled people through accessibility standards, not because it’s financially prudent but because it’s the right thing to do. In a healthy society, we make certain that the vulnerable amongst us are not harassed into silence because that is not the value behind free speech. In a healthy society, we strategically design to increase social cohesion because binaries are machine logic not human logic.

…The goal shouldn’t be to avoid being evil; it should be to actively do good.

The girl vs the gammons

As a rule of thumb, if Spiked columnists, billionaire Brexiters and Toby Young are against something you can be pretty sure it’s a good thing. Guess who really, really hates Greta Thunberg, the young woman who sparked today’s global climate protests?

Jennifer O’Connell in The Irish Times elaborates.

Even for someone who spends a lot of time on Twitter, some of the criticism levelled at Thunberg is astonishing. It is, simultaneously, the most vicious and the most fatuous kind of playground bullying. The Australian conservative climate change denier Andrew Bolt called her “deeply disturbed” and “freakishly influential” (the use of “freakish”, we can assume, was not incidental.) The former UKIP funder, Arron Banks, tweeted “Freaking yacht accidents do happen in August” (as above.) Brendan O’Neill of Spiked called her a “millenarian weirdo” (nope, still not incidental) in a piece that referred nastily to her “monotone voice” and “the look of apocalyptic dread in her eyes”.

But who’s the real freak – the activist whose determination has single-handedly started a powerful global movement for change, or the middle-aged man taunting a child with Asperger syndrome from behind the safety of their computer screens?

If all you had to go on was the hysterical abuse levelled at her, you’d think Thunberg turned up claiming to be the second coming of Christ and was busily throwing moneylenders out of temples.

Other than money – at least one of the named pundits has been generously funded by right-wing billionaires, whose deep pockets have helped persuade people that there’s still a debate over climate change when there really isn’t – what could possibly motivate right-wing men to hurl abuse at a woman? Here’s Martin Gelin in the New Republic.

In 2014, Jonas Anshelm and Martin Hultman of Chalmers published a paper analyzing the language of a focus group of climate skeptics. The common themes in the group, they said, were striking: “for climate skeptics … it was not the environment that was threatened, it was a certain kind of modern industrial society built and dominated by their form of masculinity.”

The connection has to do with a sense of group identity under threat, Hultman told me—an identity they perceive to be under threat from all sides. Besieged, as they see it, both by developing gender equality—Hultman pointed specifically to the shock some men felt at the #MeToo movement—and now climate activism’s challenge to their way of life, male reactionaries motivated by right-wing nationalism, anti-feminism, and climate denialism increasingly overlap, the three reactions feeding off of one another.

This is how the world ends: not with a bang, but with a barbecue.

The New Republic again:

Climate change used to be a bipartisan concern, the first Bush senior presidency famously promising to tackle global warming. But as conservative male mockery of Thunberg and others shows, climate politics has quickly become the next big battle in the culture war—on a global scale.

As conservative parties become increasingly tied to nationalism, and misogynist rhetoric dominates the far-right, Hultman and his fellow researchers at Chalmers University worry that the ties between climate skeptics and misogyny will strengthen. What was once a practical problem, with general agreement on the facts, has become a matter of identity. And fear of change is powerful motivation.

O’Connell:

…the truth is that they’re afraid of her. The poor dears are terrified of her as an individual, and of what she stands for – youth, determination, change.

…The reason they taunt her with childish insults is because that’s all they’ve got. They’re out of ideas. They can’t dismantle her arguments, because she has science – and David Attenborough – on her side. They can’t win the debate with the persuasive force of their arguments, because these bargain bin cranks trade in jaded cynicism, not youthful passion.

…for her loudest detractors, she represents the sight of their impending obsolescence hurtling towards them.

It’s called consequences, not cancel culture

Kevin Fallon of The Daily Beast reflects on the latest person to lose a high-profile job for having said terrible racist things, comedian Shane Gillis.

If you’re not familiar with the story, a recap. It’s about:

Saturday Night Live’s firing of comedian Shane Gillis, of whom videos surfaced showing him telling blithely racist jokes that caused controversy not even hours after he was announced as a new cast member on the sketch show. (That his jokes traded in boring, retrograde stereotypes of Asian Americans was all the more cringe-inducing given that SNL had just made history hiring its first-ever Asian cast member alongside Gillis, Bowen Yang.)

Gillis’s jokes were outwardly racist. They weren’t jokes about racism, or satire about race, or illuminating truths about the marginalized. They were racist jokes, and quite bland ones at that. People were pissed. Then people became pissed that people were pissed. Censorship! McCarthyism! Worst of all: Cancel culture!

As Fallon points out, it’s hardly cancel culture if the people who say the terrible things are almost always completely and utterly unaffected in any way.

It would take too long to list all the recent controversies involving celebrities who said something alarming enough to detonate social media outrage: Scarlett Johansson defends Woody Allen, Dave Chappelle mocks Michael Jackson’s accusers, Lara Spencer shames male dancers, a Queer Eye host rails against his critics, some Real Housewives are caught being casually transphobic.

Some of these celebrities apologized. Some didn’t. All were likely forced to consider the impact and the responsibility of their words, amid outcry and, in many cases, calls for them to lose their jobs. But none of them were fired.

Many people are building their brands on pretending they’re saying the unsayable, and saying it again and again and again. But on occasion, very infrequently, a tiny proportion of those people discover that their employers don’t want to have, say, massive racists, homophobes or transphobes on staff.

In the non-celeb world, employment contracts frequently have a clause where you can be fired for bringing your employer into disrepute. Clearly Saturday Night Live has something similar.

A job on Saturday Night Live is not owed to anybody. It is arguably one of the highest profile gigs in comedy. Fans, audiences, and critics are right to expect some sort of responsibility or awareness, a certain standard, from those who are given that platform. They are right to be upset if it comes out that one of those benefactors has a history of espousing racist views. Gillis, in turn, had a right to respond to those who were angered. His response didn’t satisfy those critics, nor did it satisfy his employer. So he was fired. That is how jobs work.

This hateful ignorance costs lives

Anti-trans bigots are the climate change deniers of gender: despite overwhelming scientific evidence that they’re full of shit, they continue to lobby against life-saving action and push long-discredited pseudoscience.

One of their favourite conspiracy theories is the idea that being trans is contagious, that it’s a conscious choice and that you can be persuaded to become trans through peer pressure. This social contagion conspiracy theory has been debunked endlessly, but it still persists – so this report by the Australian Psychological Society won’t change any bigot’s mind.

The APS isn’t mincing its words here.

“Empirical evidence consistently refutes claims that a child’s or adolescent’s gender can be ‘directed’ by peer group pressure or media influence, as a form of ‘social contagion’,” APS Fellow Professor Damien Riggs said.

“To say that there is a trans-identity crisis among young Australians because of social media pressure is not only alarmist, scientifically incorrect and confusing, but is potentially harmful to a young person’s mental health and wellbeing.

“There is no evidence to suggest that such approaches work in terms of changing a person’s gender.  What such debunked ‘therapies’ do produce, however, are high levels of shame, disrespect and distress.

Belief in “social contagion” goes hand in hand with belief in conversion therapy, the dangerous and discredited “pray the gay away” so-called cure that’s caused incredible damage to so many LGBT+ people: if you believe that being LGBT+ is a choice, then you’re likely to believe that people can be persuaded not to be LGBT+.

Of course, it doesn’t work like that. But bigots’ feelings don’t care about facts.

What conversion therapy does do is persuade LGBT+ people to kill themselves. The latest study into such “therapy” demonstrates yet again that there’s a strong link between it and mental health problems, including suicide attempts. Exposing transgender people to conversion therapy makes them twice as likely to attempt suicide.

The bigots don’t see that as a problem, though: to them, one less trans person in the world is a result. These are people who are currently crowing about the prospect of Brexit-related medicine shortages cutting off trans women’s HRT supplies. Who cares if diabetics don’t get their insulin or cancer patients don’t get essential medicines? If it hurts (or better still, kills) trans people, it can only be a good thing.

You don’t need to wear a swastika to be part of a hate group. Some of the most hateful people in modern society could be your neighbours.

Here’s an example. The crowdfunding site GoFundMe has finally pulled down the page raising money for campaigns against inclusive education in schools (but not before they raised thousands). Here’s one of the key groups who campaigned for the page’s removal, the British Humanist Society:

‘This homophobic crowdfunder was in support of protesters who have been holding disruptive and intimidating rallies that have absolutely no place near a school. There is strong evidence that the protesters involved in these demonstrations have been uttering outrageous homophobic slurs and even calling members of school staff paedophiles which surely was in breach of GoFundMe’s terms.’

The backlash against LGBT+ equality encompasses trans rights and relationship education at schools. It is co-ordinated and well funded and originates in the US. OpenDemocracy:

At the London meeting of Christian conservatives this summer, our reporter – posing as a prospective teacher, to learn what these campaigners were telling teachers about sex education – found an energised opposition movement.

In a room filled with LGBTIQ children’s books, tea and biscuits, the keynote speaker argued that equalities legislation “is not all-powerful”. Rather, he said it can be limited to protect “health and morals” of other students or teachers.

This was Roger Kiska, in-house lawyer at the Christian Concern group that organised the event. He previously worked for Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian right ‘legal army’ and one of a dozen US groups that openDemocracy revealed have spent millions of dollars in Europe.

Christian Concern, you’ll be amazed to discover, is a great believer in the efficacy of conversion therapy. Their communications manager claimed in late 2018 that conversion therapy is “just about any practice that offends the taste of social liberals” and added:

If ‘conversion therapy’ means anything at all, it should surely refer to a process that treats people with cross-sex hormones, damages fertility and cuts up their bodies to portray them as something other than what they really are. In other words, gender reassignment.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s exactly the same argument – using exactly the same words and phrasing – that the anti-trans activists use.

That’s not a coincidence.