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Hell in a handcart

I for one am shocked

Newsweek:

Straight Pride Group ‘Super Happy Fun America’ Members Arrested Over U.S. Capitol Riot

…Sahady’s group describes itself on Twitter as “a right of center civil rights organization focusing on defending the American Constitution, opposing gender madness and defeating cultural Marxism.”

“Gender madness” refers to transgender identity and “cultural Marxism,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), is a right-wing term with anti-Semitic roots that generally refers to identity politics, including antagonism against such groups as “feminists, LGBTQ people, secular humanists, multiculturalists, sex educators, environmentalists, immigrants, black nationalists, the ACLU,” the SPLC writes.

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Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

The NHS is getting information from US hate groups

Thanks to a Freedom of Information Request, we now know the source for the recent change to NHS England information about puberty blockers.

A US anti-LGBT blog.

Christine Burns MBE, who was instrumental in the creation of the Gender Recognition Act, on Twitter:

NHS England used justifications from a US hate campaign to alter its public facing web pages on puberty blockers, which were then cited in a Judicial Review

As the account that published the FOI response explains, the website “is funded by US conservative think-tank The Witherspoon Institute. An anti-LGBT and anti-abortion far right group.”

There’s a horrific mix of malevolence and incompetence around trans healthcare right now: incompetence within and malevolence without.

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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.

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Hell in a handcart

“When we give up on truth, we concede power”

In the New York Times Magazine: The American Abyss, a longread about the attempted coup and what led to it.

Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president. When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place. Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves. If we lose the institutions that produce facts that are pertinent to us, then we tend to wallow in attractive abstractions and fictions. Truth defends itself particularly poorly when there is not very much of it around, and the era of Trump — like the era of Vladimir Putin in Russia — is one of the decline of local news. Social media is no substitute: It supercharges the mental habits by which we seek emotional stimulation and comfort, which means losing the distinction between what feels true and what actually is true.

Post-truth wears away the rule of law and invites a regime of myth.

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Hell in a handcart

Profiting from poverty

Another day, another example of the private sector profiteering from poverty. This time it’s free school meals. Previously parents were given £30 vouchers to pay for their kids’ school lunches. Now, the lunches are provided for them instead.

Just one problem. Instead of £30 of food, the packages contain about £5 worth of food.

Bootstrap Cook Jack Monroe is rightly furious.

The vouchers were a good idea. They were BLOCKED from being spent on age restricted products, like alcohol, lottery tickets, cigarettes. Despite this restriction, mouthpieces on Twitter with their own austerity agendas claimed that there was widespread misuse. With no evidence.

…Because of a noisy few objecting with fabricated or v rare examples of an abuse of the system (rich when it’s usually coming from people who themselves abuse every financial loophole they can find…) the vouchers, which were a lifeline, have been replaced with a food box.

…Its value at supermarket prices is under a fiver. To replace a £30 voucher.

 

 

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Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

Fellow travellers

Before they stormed the US Capitol building leading to the death of four people (so far), the MAGA mob cheered a “bizarre” anti-trans rant by Donald Trump Jr.

Speaking before his father addressed the crowd at Wednesday’s MAGA protest against Congress certifying the presidential election, Trump Jr. brought up gender-neutral language as well as transgender women participating in sports as women.

If you were to draw a Venn diagram showing the makeup of the mob – the neo-Nazis, the anti-vaxxers, the anti-semites, the racists and the guys who just want to break stuff – transphobia is where the circles overlap. And the same applies to their cheerleaders in the media, the pundits who’ll spend the coming days and weeks telling you that violent armed mobs are less dangerous than my pronouns. They will ask you to try and understand the angry mob and urge you to listen to their “legitimate concerns”.

We already understand them, because we’ve been listening to them for years. The far right and its enablers always target marginalised groups first. Those groups have spent years trying to tell you about the violent rhetoric, the science denial, the conspiracy theories, the misinformation, disinformation and radicalisation, the rage. We should all be horrified by what happened at the Capitol. But nobody should be surprised.

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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.

 

 

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Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

New homes for hatred

The Atlantic, on hateful trolls finding new homes online:

this tiny group has attracted a disproportionate amount of attention in the past several years, in large part thanks to social-media platforms. Anti-trans feminists have a presence in many mainstream online spaces, including Twitter, “radfem” Tumblr, the Black women’s beauty forum Lipstick Alley, and the British parenting forum Mumsnet.

On these sites and others, they use many of the same trolling tactics as other internet-based fringe political movements to disrupt conversation, skew reality, and make the internet another dangerous place for trans women through doxing and harassment. Anti-trans activists have used social media to call out specific trans women who use women’s bathrooms, for instance, labeling them “predators” and “pedophiles,” and promising to resist them by any means necessary—be it pepper spray or pistol. GLAAD has shown that these sorts of attacks have warped online discourse, turning focus away from discrimination and instead encouraging renewed debate about trans women’s bodies.

What’s described in this article is the same online radicalisation as neo-nazis and incels.

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Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+ Media

Being chased by bears

If you’re trans and talk about it online, people will imply – or sometimes state baldly – that you do it too much or too often. But like many trans people I don’t feel I have a choice: if we don’t speak, nobody is speaking for us.

CaseyExplosion on Twitter:

I so very deeply wish I didn’t have to talk about trans issues, and that there was informed media, policy makers, healthcare professionals, and advocates speaking out instead. Trans people aren’t speaking out because it’s some sort of vocation, we’re speaking out in desperation!

Scattermoon, also on Twitter:

Got told the other day “you really like to talk about trans stuff on Twitter don’t you” and honestly no, I like to talk about my cat or transport infrastructure or puns on Twitter. I talk about trans stuff because I feel I have to because of how bad things are and how few know.

Trans voices are so marginalised in official media, it feels like a constant Sisyphean battle against misinformation. It’s left on us to sound to alarm, to say what is happening, to tell our stories, because the newspapers would rather you never hear from any of us ever again.

So we speak about this stuff out of desperation, pleading, doing our best to try and counter the harmful narrative that is so prominent in this country.

To put it another way, everyone becomes an expert in animal behaviour when they’re being chased by bears.

We’re trapped inside a burning building and we’re trying to sound the alarm.

Categories
Hell in a handcart Technology

Facebook: fighting fascism is bad for business

There’s a damning section in this NYT piece about Facebook’s ongoing refusal to deal with misinformation and hate speech.

The company had surveyed users about whether certain posts they had seen were “good for the world” or “bad for the world.” They found that high-reach posts — posts seen by many users — were more likely to be considered “bad for the world,” a finding that some employees said alarmed them.

So the team trained a machine-learning algorithm to predict posts that users would consider “bad for the world” and demote them in news feeds. In early tests, the new algorithm successfully reduced the visibility of objectionable content. But it also lowered the number of times users opened Facebook, an internal metric known as “sessions” that executives monitor closely.

“The results were good except that it led to a decrease in sessions, which motivated us to try a different approach,” according to a summary of the results, which was posted to Facebook’s internal network and reviewed by The Times.

Facebook chose to use a weaker algorithm.

While that left more objectionable posts in users’ feeds, it did not reduce their sessions or time spent.

The problem has never been that Facebook can’t police hate speech and dangerous misinformation. It’s that it won’t. Big tech is increasingly looking like Big Tobacco, profiting from a product it knows is doing great damage.