Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

New targets, same bullshit

Regular readers will know that I often state the bleeding obvious: people who are bigoted against one group are usually bigoted against other groups too.

Over the weekend, the anti-trans faction of the independence movement turned its attention to disabled people. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: by allowing disabled people to say they’re disabled (in the context of creating more representative shortlists for potential office), such “self-ID” will be abused by predatory able-bodied people to gain access to disabled people’s rights and erase real disabled people.

So now disabled people are being demonised and abused online by supposed progressives.

When you open the door for one kind of bigotry, you open the door for its friends.

Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

QAnon with Prosecco

I’ve written before about the glaringly obvious similarities between QAnon, the deranged conspiracy theory that Donald Trump is fighting a secret cabal of paedophiles, and UK anti-trans faux-feminism, which is basically the same thing with Prosecco. But I haven’t seen it illustrated quite so dramatically as I have today.

In a Twitter thread, a number of apparently intelligent adults openly discussed their belief that puberty blockers are part of a plan by a secret cabal of paedophiles to get round the laws on the age of consent. They will achieve this by making sure their targets don’t go through puberty, and will wait until they are sixteen before shagging them, presumably for the rest of their adult lives.

Because if there’s one thing kiddie-fiddlers are attracted to, it’s adults.

Puberty blockers don’t stop you ageing, and they only pause puberty for a short time. They are a fork in the road, not a stop sign. Their purpose is not to ensure that someone doesn’t go through puberty; it’s to ensure that they don’t have to go through it twice.

It’s batshit insane, I know, but it’s hardly unrepresentative: many anti-trans people are hilariously ignorant about the “basic human biology” they shout about. Some refuse to accept that estrogen causes breast growth; others claim that trans women don’t have pelvises.

And it’s not just the fringe. The UK’s various anti-trans groups all support an organisation that submitted written evidence to a government committee claiming that trans people are created because they are hypnotised by sissy pornography on YouTube.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and listening about moral panics, and we’re firmly in Killer Clowns, Ritual Abuse, Satanic Backwards Messages in Music territory.

In Folk Devils and Moral Panics by Stan Cohen (1973), he described moral panics as occurring when “a condition, episode, person or group of persons comes to be defined as a threat to societal values and interests”. Examples of moral panics can be found throughout history, and many are laughable in hindsight: remember the 1980s panic over Dungeons & Dragons players, or the panic over murderers stuffing razorblades in Hallowe’en treats?

R Drislane and G Parkinson wrote in the online dictionary of the social sciences that “moral panics are usually framed by the media and led by community leaders or groups intent on changing laws or practices… moral panics gather converts because they touch on people’s fears, and because they also use specific events or problems as symbols of what may feel to represent ‘all that is wrong with the nation.’


A condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests; its nature is presented in a stylized and stereotypical fashion by the mass media; the moral barricades are manned by editors, bishops, politicians and other right-thinking people; socially accredited experts pronounce their diagnoses and solutions; ways of coping are evolved or (more often) resorted to; the condition then disappears, submerges or deteriorates and becomes more visible. Sometimes the object of the panic is quite novel and at other times it is something which has been in existence long enough, but suddenly appears in the limelight.

Cohen argued that there are three stages to a moral panic: one, making exaggerated and distorted claims; two, predicting terrible consequence if action is not taken against the targeted group; and three, characterising all members of the targeted group as a threat.

That sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it?

The other widely used model has five steps, not three. In that model, by Erich Goode and Nachman Ben-Yehuda, the first stage is heightened concerns being expressed about certain groups or categories; the second is hostility towards supposed “deviants”; the third is the development of a popular consensus about the existence and seriousness of the threat; and fourth, disproportionality: where public concern is far in excess of what is proportionate or justifiable. Stage five is the actual panic, where reason is left behind and things get ugly.

And that’s where we are right now. As with QAnon, the more embroiled people become in these paranoid fantasies, the harder it is to get them back out again. I feel sorry for them: they’re victims of the most powerful disinformation machines ever created. But I’m much more sorry for the people whose lives they want to ruin, and for the family members watching loved ones lose their grip on reality.

Health Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

A global hate campaign

The horrific new anti-women legislation in Poland, a near-total ban on abortion, is already harming women. The country already had some of the strongest anti-abortion legislation in Europe, and it has now removed the exception for foetal abnormalities. According to the New York Times, 1,074 of the 1,100 abortions performed in Poland last year were for that reason.

Poland’s right-wing government is not the only evil here. Its bigotry and intolerance has been assisted legally and financially by the US Christian Right. As OpenDemocracy reported late last year, Trump-linked religious groups in the US have spent hundreds of millions globally to assault women’s rights and LGBT+ people’s rights: in its report it noted that one organisation had taken part in multiple Polish cases “to defend that country’s conservative policies including against divorce and abortion”.

One of the organisations in the report is the Alliance Defending Freedom, which operates in the UK too: it has been a loud voice against Scots hate crime legislation and against trans people.

The EPF’s [European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights] Neil Datta said: “As Europeans, we cannot sit back and watch what’s happening in the US with distance, thinking that the erosion of democratic norms and human rights cannot happen here. The same US Christian groups pushing for this in the US are now spending millions in Europe trying to achieve the same over here.”

Health Hell in a handcart

100,000 grieving families

You don’t need me to tell you that Boris Johnson lied when he said the UK government had done everything possible to minimise the COVID-19 death toll.

There is a reason we have a death toll exceeding 100,000 while New Zealand has 25, Vietnam 35 and Taiwan 7. As Devi Shridhar writes in the Guardian, we didn’t close our borders, we abandoned community testing, we didn’t lock down quickly enough, we didn’t have enough PPE for key workers and our government messaging has been incoherent and incompetent. So many of the UK’s deaths were completely preventable.

But this is not just about the Government’s incompetence and corruption. It’s also about a media that’s consistently failed in its most basic function, which is to hold power to account. For more than a year, too much of the press has been more interested in parroting the government line, platforming cranks and giving airtime to dubiously funded pressure groups than holding our failing government to account.

Journalist Mic Wright:

Every newspaper front page that heralded ‘Independence Day’ last summer when the first lockdown was eased, every headline that passed on the government’s message that people should get back to offices, every report that passed on demands from bloviating backbenchers and astroturfing groups of suddenly ‘militant’ mums contributed in its own way to reaching that number that is so abstracted in today’s newspapers — 100,000 people have died.

Every puff piece about Boris Johnson and his cute little family, every shot of his future mother-in-law coming to Downing Street, every photo spread about their dog, every column that made excuses for Dominic Cummings, sneered at ‘hipster analysis’ in the early days of this avoidable disaster, or told us about ‘Dishy’ Rishi and how much he cares, contributed to 100,000 people dead.

Every jingoistic throwback pun to a war that none of us fought and to a history that most people misremember contributed to 100,000 people dead, ever ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ promo plastered on a tabloid front-page, every syllable uttered by political hyena Matt Chorley played its part, every Rod Liddle column, every Fraser Nelson quote, every Sarah Vine column oscillating between bafflement at government policy and insidery snideness, every story that poured more shame on celebrities and influencers than the government that got us here shares a piece of the blame.

None of these people will be held to account.

Hell in a handcart

I for one am shocked


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.



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.