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Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

They’re here

TIME magazine:

Twenty-eight U.S. Christian right groups have spent millions of dollars pursuing conservative agendas that threaten LGBTQ and women’s rights in Europe, a new investigation by British news website openDemocracy found Tuesday.

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Hell in a handcart

“I’ve seen some mention of lizard people?”

This is a great, and terrifying, piece of journalism: The 31-Day Campaign Against QAnon. It’s about what happened when a “nice guy” ran for Congress against a right-wing extremist.

There was a time when Kevin Van Ausdal had not yet been called a “loser” and “a disgrace” and hustled out of Georgia. He had not yet punched a wall, or been labeled a “communist,” or a person “who’d probably cry like a baby if you put a gun in his face.” He did not yet know who was going to be the Republican nominee for Congress in his conservative district in northwestern Georgia: the well-known local neurosurgeon, or the woman he knew vaguely as a person who had openly promoted conspiracies including something about a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles.

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Health Hell in a handcart

Weakness

If you’ve been wondering why the far right is so keen on anti-masking and so against any measures to combat COVID other than letting the virus rip through the most vulnerable, the answer is simple: a core tenet of fascism is about casting out the weak.

On the internet there’s a famous trope called Godwin’s law, which says that in any online argument sooner or later somebody will be compared to the Nazis or Hitler. But as Godwin himself has said, the law only applies to false comparisons. When you’re talking about actual neo-Nazism, Godwin said:

By all means, compare these shitheads to the Nazis. Again and again. I’m with you.

And right now, the shitheads are everywhere.

It’s frightening to see ideologies that once belonged solely to the far right appearing in mainstream discourse, as sides in a “debate”. It’s as if we’ve persuaded ourselves that fascism only manifests itself in Hugo Boss uniforms and shiny boots, rather than in smart suits, carefully chosen soundbites and Facebook groups.

Here’s political analyst Natascha Strobl on the far right’s belief that COVID should be left to eliminate the weakest members of society, an ideology that’s becoming worryingly echoed by sectors of the mainstream press too.

And it is precisely here that we witness one of the most central elements of fascist ideology: the weak and all its synonyms. A decadent, soft, unmanly, hysterical, panicky, timid, effeminate society is the problem… men aren’t men anymore, but nervous, urban, overly intellectualized and (here it comes) sickly weaklings. The idea of sick as weak is important.
… Protagonists now proclaim with great pathos that should they be befallen by the virus, they will look death calmly in the eye. Self-heroization against a virus (which doesn’t care at all).
And what is demanded as a globally social strategy is to let things go their usual way, both in order not to ruin the economy and because the lockdown is a fearful and thus unmanly strategy, and the measure are the strong, not the weak.

The idea that some people are weak and not deserving of saving – that their weakness is harming the strong and damaging the economy – has a chilling precedent. The first victims of the Nazis were the “unfit”, the “unworthy of living”: the disabled, the mentally ill, the chronically sick. Nazi propaganda posters told the public that disabled people were a drain on the economy, and that the money spent on them was “your money too”.

One of the programmes responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of disabled people was called Aktion T4, aka T4. Speaking at the unveiling of a memorial to its victims, German culture minister Monika Grütters told the crowd that the memorial “confronts us today with the harrowing Nazi ideology of presuming life can be measured by ‘usefulness.’”

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Health Hell in a handcart

Competence and cronyism

The UK, which is very far away from China, has a population of around 66 million people and has officially recorded 635,000 cases of COVID-19 and 43,000 deaths.

Vietnam, which has a long land border with China, has a population of 95 million people. It has recorded 1,113 cases and 35 deaths.

The difference isn’t some special Asian COVID-resistant DNA, as some of the more unhinged right-wing commentators have suggested, or the Vietnamese government suppressing the real scale of the virus; doctors on the ground say the figures match their experiences. It’s that Asia has learnt lessons from previous pandemics and applied them competently.

To take just one example, in Vietnam temperature checks were introduced in Hanoi airport in January before human to human transmission had even been confirmed. In the UK, we started trialling temperature checks for Heathrow arrivals in late May, two months after we went into lockdown. Vietnam began contact tracing and quarantining in January. As The Guardian reports, the UK track and trace system wasn’t announced until late May and it still isn’t working.

the government’s Sage scientific advisers have concluded NHS test and trace is not working.

Too few people are getting tested, results are coming back too slowly and not enough people are sticking to the instructions to isolate, they say.

The system “is having a marginal impact on transmission”, as a result, and unless it grows as fast as the epidemic that impact will only wane.

One of the reasons it isn’t working is that the government decided to outsource everything to private firms instead of using existing public health services. The Guardian again:

The percentage of people reached and asked to provide details of recent close contacts [by the national test and trace system] hit its lowest level since June at the end of September, with performance worsening steadily over the month. It means about 25% of contacts are not reached at all.

Our World In Data has a fascinating and comprehensive explanation of how and why Vietnam responded to COVID. Not everything could have been replicated elsewhere, but in its conclusion the report says that many lessons are applicable to other countries: investing in public health infrastructure, taking early action to curb community spread, having a thorough contact tracing system, quarantining based on possible exposure rather than symptoms, and clear, consistent and serious public communication.

When Vietnam did lockdown and contact tracing, it did it properly. Here, the time lockdown was supposed to buy us wasn’t spent on building an effective track and trace system; it was spent enriching the Government’s mates and giving lucrative contracts to cronies. That’s already killed thousands of people, and it looks likely to kill very many more.

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Health Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

Intended consequences

The anti-trans mob and their evangelical Christian pals are behind a judicial review that could have chilling effects on young women’s access to contraception. That’s not a potential unintended consequence. It’s the whole point.

Stonewall’s Nancy Kelley, writing in the i Paper:

If [we] chip away at the idea that children and young people are not fit to know what’s best for them, we open the door towards eroding Gillick Competency. ‘Gillick’ was a case in 1985 which established that young people under the age of 16 can consent to their own medical treatment, without the need for parental knowledge or permission.

Gillick is a cornerstone of children and young people’s rights and helps ensure young people can access the healthcare service they may need, including abortion, contraception or sexual health services.

So, this case isn’t just about healthcare for trans young people, it’s about a much wider issue: whether we believe children and young people have a right to treat their bodies as their own.

The lawyers representing the people bringing the case say it would push Gillick to ‘breaking point‘. This would give a green light to those who want to use this an opportunity to roll back the healthcare rights of not just LGBT young people, but all young people.

Getting rid of Gillick is a key goal of the religious right, who do not want any teenagers to have access to contraception or sexual health services. The anti-trans women hoping the verdict goes against the NHS are either willing accomplices or deeply, deeply stupid.

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Health Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

This is what cancelling looks like

This week, the BBC and The Times both went after the private GP service GenderGP, an ongoing target of the anti-trans mob.

I’ve written about GenderGP before: it’s a practice that enables trans people to access healthcare privately when the NHS expects them to wait for many years for an initial assessment. I’m a former patient, so I can attest that while it isn’t perfect it is also serious and professional in its prescribing. It certainly isn’t handing out HRT like sweeties.

The reporting was full of innuendo but didn’t find anything significant to report. Despite this, the UK’s pharmacy regulator has responded to the bad publicity and removed GenderGP’s ability to prescribe HRT to trans people with immediate effect.

Overnight, thousands of trans adults have had their private healthcare stopped – not because GenderGP has been proven to have done anything wrong, but because two of the most powerful media outlets in the country have targeted it.

The anti-trans mob, of course, are rejoicing about this. Removing life-saving trans healthcare from thousands of adults, as far as they’re concerned, is something to celebrate.

Trans people will continue to need medicine. By shutting down safe, legal services, all that’s going to happen is that trans people will turn to possibly unsafe services instead. If you’re one of the people affected, there’s a good thread of (safe) options here.

Once again this gives the lie to the idea that any of this is about ‘reasonable concerns’ or ‘protecting women’. These people want us dead.

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Bullshit Hell in a handcart Media

“The out-group must be crushed”

There’s a really good piece about QAnon in The New Republic.

The “nocturnal ritual fantasy”—a term coined by the historian Norman Cohn in his landmark study of European witch trials, Europe’s Inner Demons—is a recurring trope in Western history. And it is often a politically useful one. Deployed by the Romans against early Christians, by Christians against Jews, by Christians against witches, by Catholics against “heretics,” it is a malleable set of accusations that posit that a social out-group is engaged in perverse, ritualistic behaviors that target innocents—and that the out-group and all its enablers must be crushed.

…Q adherents are perfervid Trump supporters by necessity, as Trump’s valiant battle against ultimate evil forms the spine from which the many limbs of the conspiracy grow. But a recent wave of émigrés into the Q landscape consists of New Age moms and influencers with previously vaguer politics, whose interests, during the strained days of the Covid-19 pandemic, have migrated from crystals and wellness to taking down a world-straddling cabal of demonic pedophiles.

The section on the “satanic panic” of the 1980s is particularly apt.

It was gospel belief in the media and among ordinary citizens that rings of sex abusers were everywhere. Satan and his blood-drinking minions were peripheral players, but the panic is usually referred to now, through the mocking lens of self-assurance, as the “Satanic Panic.” We in the twenty-first century could never be so naïve.

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Hell in a handcart Media

How social media makes people evil

There’s an interesting piece in The Walrus about the radicalisation of “incels”, celibate men who increasingly turn to violence. Frustratingly the reporting of these men as mentally ill lone wolves disguises the fact that there’s something much more serious going on: the online radicalisation of angry young men on a very large scale.

There are three pillars of radicalisation: needs, narratives and networks.  These are the critical drivers that can turn perfectly nice, normal people into something much more dangerous. And social media brings them together more effectively than ever before.

Needs are people’s motivations: what drives them. That could be a need to feel special, or a need to feel part of something, or it could be a negative such as having experienced trauma.

Narratives are the stories these people can become part of, and many of those narratives are conspiracy theories. They’re incredibly appealing because they tell you that you’re special, that you have knowledge that the wider population is too stupid, too brainwashed or too evil to see.

And finally there are networks, which are the people who will give you the approval and status you crave and who will constantly reinforce the narrative of your particular group. These networks have always existed to some extent but social media has supercharged them and brought them into every home. As a result the time between someone, say, expressing doubts about the government’s COVID strategy and attending anti-mask, anti-5G marches because the Coronavirus is a global conspiracy can be measured in weeks.

The Guardian:

“QAnon feeds on widespread conspiracy theories, new age, and occult belief systems,”said Chamila Liyanage of the Centre for the Analysis of the Radical Right. “QAnon will not be able to influence UK politics right away, but it will first gain a foothold among the enthusiasts of fringe belief systems and conspiracy theories. This is metapolitics, changing minds, then cultures can be changed in the long run.”

QAnon is still relatively small in the UK, but we shouldn’t be complacent. In a few years we’ve gone from laughing at American cranks to waving QAnon banners outside Buckingham Palace. From incels to anti-trans conspiracy theories to QAnon, social media is radicalising people like never before. It’s truly terrifying.

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Bullshit Hell in a handcart Media

Breaking the news

You’ve got to feel sorry for ageing conservative men who believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that while they have all the power in this country they are nevertheless an oppressed minority. The latest media outlet pandering to their victim narrative is the soon to be launched GB News, which has poached the loathsome Andrew Neil from the BBC to broadcast to people who feel “underserved and unheard by their media.”

Not people who are unheard; people who feel unheard. People whose only representation is in The Times, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Express, The Spectator, The Sun, The Economist, Spiked, LBC, The Herald, The Scotsman, most of the BBC’s current affairs output, every bloody phone-in in the country, all the right-wing US news sites that dominate news sharing on Facebook and so on.

I think it’s safe to predict that the dominant skin colour on GB News will be white and that its representation of minorities will largely be Eton alumni talking about how these days, right, if you say you’re English, they’ll arrest you and put you in jail.

The New York Times famously promised “All The News That’s Fit To Print”. Perhaps GB News should adapt it: all the news that’s fit for pricks.

GB News is the latest attempt to bring more Fox News-style partisan bullshit to UK broadcasting, and in a sane world OFCOM would make that very difficult. But this isn’t a sane world and the UK government has told The Sunday Times that it’s going to make Paul Dacre the chair of OFCOM. That’s Dacre of Daily Mail fame. If you haven’t already read it, this foul-mouthed evisceration of him in the London Review of Books by Andrew O’Hagan is masterful.

As many people on Twitter have noted, putting Dacre at the top of OFCOM is like appointing Harold Shipman as chair of Help The Aged.

But there’s more. The government also apparently intends to appoint former Telegraph and Spectator editor Charles Moore as head of the BBC. Moore is another loathsome figure with right-wing views; he has claimed for a long time that the BBC is packed to the gills with leftie agitators and he was famously fined in 2010 for not paying his BBC licence fee. It’s hard to imagine a worse candidate for the job except perhaps Paul Dacre.

It’s possible that with these leaks the UK government is throwing two dead cats on the table to distract us from its woeful performance over COVID and the increasing evidence of corruption and incompetence on a truly epic scale; maybe the leak is to soften us up so when two slightly less appalling people are put in place we’ll feel we dodged a bullet. But it does seem to fit with the wider movement within the UK government to take us further to the right.

For example, just this week it announced new guidance for schools that prohibited the use of resources “produced by organisations that take extreme political stances on matters”. One such stance is a desire to overthrow capitalism, something a certain Jesus of Nazareth had a few opinions on.

The most chilling bit for me was in the section on knowing the importance of respecting others “even when they are very different… for example physically, in character, personality or background), or make different choices or have different preferences or beliefs”. That’s clearly intended to foster a climate of mutual respect for people of other religions and none, of people of different backgrounds, genders and sexual orientation, but the UK government has turned it into a Spectator editorial.

Here’s the new guidance:

Our entire democracy is based on seeking to have people removed from their position of authority because we disagree with them. It’s called voting.

In that context, I’m disinclined to believe that Dacre and Moore are dead cats; I worry that instead, they’re dead certs.

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Bullshit Hell in a handcart

Irony

JK Rowling, you’ll recall, doesn’t have a problem with trans people. How could she! The very suggestion!

Just because her second Strike book portrayed trans characters as unstable and aggressive and threatened them with prison rape – it “won’t be fun for you… not pre-op” – doesn’t mean she has a problem with trans people.

And just because her latest book’s villain is a crossdressing woman-slayer doesn’t mean she’s a lazy hack regurgitating tired tropes about murderous men in dresses in a world where 129 trans people have been killed since January, some of them tortured, some of them dismembered, some of them left in burning cars.

No! She’s just very, very worried at the prospect that a cisgender man might pretend to be somebody he isn’t and then attack a woman. Protecting women is her thing.

It turns out that the people we should have been protecting women from weren’t cis men pretending to be trans, though. They’re cisgender men pretending to be Harry Potter characters.

The Mirror:

A naked fantasist who tried to suffocate his partner while impersonating Lord Voldemort and speaking in tongues has been jailed.

Edward Rudd, 37, has been jailed for 11-and-a-half years over the attempt to kill his then-girlfriend while he impersonated the Harry Potter villain.

Maybe we should ban the books, just in case. Y’know. To protect women.

Let’s go back to serial killers, though. The trope of misogynist crossdressing murderers, as seen in Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs and to a lesser extent The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, is lazy because it’s been done to death and comes from a single, upsetting and extreme case: Ed Gein, the infamous grave robber and murderer who committed his crimes in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

There was no way Gein was going to have any kind of happy ending. His mother punished him frequently and severely, prevented him from making friends and told him repeatedly that all women bar her were wicked, immoral, dirty and satanic.

When she died, Gein lost the only person he’d ever cared about and tried to preserve her memory. He boarded up her rooms to keep them pristine and lived in her old house in a small room where he devoured lurid tales of cannibalism and Nazi atrocities.

He didn’t start with murder (although maybe he did; his brother died in suspicious circumstances). Gein was primarily a grave-robber, a body snatcher, exhuming and mutilating bodies on over 40 graveyard visits to obtain body parts from corpses; on some of those occasions he dug up recently buried middle-aged women who resembled his mother and tanned their skins to make various obscene items. His goal was to become his mother, “to literally crawl into her skin.”

There’s a whole bunch of stuff going on there, clearly, but it’s pretty obvious that Gein wasn’t trans or pretending to be. He was a seriously damaged individual who believed that if he could somehow become his mother he could bring her back to life.

As far as I can tell, there has only been one trans serial killer: Donna Perry, who shot three sex workers in Spokane in the US in the 1990s. There have been very many cisgender women serial killers, however: not just Myra Hindley and Rose West, but Beverley Allitt, Karla Homolka, Kristen Gilbert, Amelia Dyer, Juana Barraza, Judy Buenonano and many, many more. They might not have committed crimes as gruesome as those of Ed Gein, but each one of them killed many more people; the stats indicate that we should be much more scared of nurses than of trans people, or of people pretending to be trans. Wikipedia currently has 63 pages dedicated to women serial killers in America alone. Which is 63 pages more than I’ll read of Rowling’s execrable output.