Episode 262 – Cancel Culture
In this episode, we discuss Kanye, Elon Musk, Hong Kong, The Himalayas and Hillsong before eventually getting around to cancel culture and JK Rowling.
Let’s start with a positive story
From ABC news
I was unsure what we nurses would experience at Melbourne’s public housing towers, which this week were put under total lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus and allow health authorities to complete thousands of tests.
Some media had portrayed them as being hostile places, rife with drugs and alcohol and, as I saw it, frightening to go to.
Residents had been shown pleading for help, food and basic supplies; there were reports of protests and a lot of anger.
Over the past few days, my colleagues and I attended the towers in Flemington and North Melbourne.
When I first arrived, there was a massive police presence and strict lockdown — my heart was in my mouth. I had never been exposed to public housing, violence or police incidents.
… We were given a list of the names of residents on each floor and worked our way through every apartment, continuing until they’d all been visited.
Testing was completely voluntary, yet not one resident said no. They were incredibly thankful, respectful and grateful for us being there.
… The police stood back away from them and us, showing the same respect and kindness at every door we knocked on.
At every apartment, we asked: “Are you okay? Do you have enough food? Do you need any medication, is there anything we can do to help?”
There were some very simple requests: lactose-free milk, an onion and tomato, dishwashing detergent, sanitary pads and toothpaste.
We noticed bags and boxes of food which had been delivered in the foyers, under tents outside, outside doorways and inside rooms.
One man, with the biggest smile on his face, told us he had never had so much meat.
Again, the residents were so grateful to be tested. They were worried for their health and that of their families. They proudly showed us their negative results, which were sent by text message to their phones. Some wanted to be tested again.
Most were worried about not being able to go to work and support their families or that they’d lose jobs entirely.
We encountered many parents whose partners had been locked out; some had nieces, nephews and cousins who’d been locked in.
These people had simple requests as well, and we were grateful to have a social worker with us who was able to arrange what was needed then and there.
I’m so proud to be a nurse
I left that day with a full heart thanks to all the “thank yous” and “I love yous” from the residents.
We were invited into many homes, and even offered tea and coffee. I went into a few rooms with elderly, frail people and young children (this was optional and only if we felt safe).
We felt like guests. I saw dozens of boxes of food and supplies.
… I have so many wonderful memories of the past few days, all positive. I’d like the broader community to understand that sometimes media portrayals of what goes on are not necessarily true.
Despite suggestions otherwise, wheels are in motion to support these people — maybe things moved slowly at first, but from what I saw, lots of help is now on hand.
There are translators, social workers, support systems and many other resources.
Elon Musk and Kanye
What goes up must come down. And like his SpaceX rockets, Elon Musk’s support of Kanye West for president appears to have fallen back to Earth.
Hong Kongers visas extended
More good news, if you commit a crime and want to avoid extradition, you can go to Hong Kong.
We don’t have on with China. Is that why Landon Hardbottom’s is over there? Is he like a Nazi hiding out in Paraguay?
Australia will offer a path to permanent residency for thousands of Hong Kong citizens, while suspending its extradition agreement with the city in response to China’s crackdown on personal freedoms and dissent.
The changes announced by the Prime Minister apply to people already in Australia, offering safe haven and a path to remaining in Australia.
Temporary work visa holders and student visa holders currently in Australia will have their visas extended, and will have the opportunity to apply for permanent residency after that period.
Separate efforts will be made to entice businesses looking to move their operations from Hong Kong to set up shop in Australia.
It is understood the visa changes will affect about 10,500 students and 1,500 people on other relevant visas, most of whom are already in Australia.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not detail any plans for a humanitarian intake of Hong Kong residents.
“The most significant impact of the decisions we’ve made today are for those around 10,000 people who are already in Australia,” he said.
“The refugee and humanitarian stream remains available for those seeking to apply through that channel, and that is available to people all around the world.”
It received a mixed reaction in Hong Kong among pro-democracy figures — many had hoped for a special intake offer for Hong Kongers.
In the words of one lawyer who spoke to the ABC, the move was as “loud thunder but only tiny drops of rain” — a Chinese idiom.
Australia is also suspending its extradition agreement with Hong Kong.
High stakes in a Himalayan hotspot
In the language of geopolitics it’s known as salami slicing, a tactic used to covertly snatch disputed lands, sliver by territorial sliver.
And on the border between China and India in the remote reaches of the Himalayas, that’s exactly what Beijing stands accused of doing — incrementally extending its footprint.
Tensions between the two Asian neighbours erupted last month at a frontier post in the Galwan Valley more than 4,000 metres above sea level — a no-man’s-land in the middle of nowhere.
When an Indian army patrol attempted to tear down temporary structures erected by the Chinese military on terrain claimed by India, it set off a brutal six-hour melee in sub-zero temperatures.
No firearms or explosives were used, as per a long-standing convention designed to avoid a serious escalation between the two nuclear-armed powers. Instead, soldiers battered each other with sticks, stones and improvised studded clubs into the early hours of the morning.
Daylight revealed a staggering toll of dead and injured. Twenty Indians, including the commanding officer, succumbed to their wounds or to hypothermia and another 76 were injured. And there was an unknown number of Chinese casualties.
Waz and Hillsong
The journey begins! A new beginning. Apparently I’m going ‘to be made whole, or to be saved’ and ‘submit to God and His plan and purpose’ for my life.
This should be fun.
After some consideration, I realised I had made a commitment to you three guys and the Dear Listener to go to Mt Gravatt Hillsong church’s physical location and so I’m going to honour that commitment. I would feel as though I’ve taken the soft option to only dial into ‘church online’ and that I would later regret it.
I’ve registered online through the Hillsong website following the link ‘I have decided to follow Jesus’. In order to register I was forced to say that I had ‘prayed the salvation prayer’.
Dear Jesus, I’m praying this prayer because I know that I have done wrong by living without You. I am sorry and I trust that You will forgive me. I accept Your love and grace for me and ask that You would be my Lord. Help me believe in You and love You every day, and help me to show the world what You are like and how great Your love is.
In Jesus’ name, amen.
I’ve provided my name and email address. I nominated the Brisbane Central ‘Campus’ (Mt Gravatt) as my preferred physical location I wished to connect to. I also gave the following consent.
After registering I was sent just one email – the one below. I have some reading to do.
I considered creating a fake email address, name and life story but have decided to be completely honest. Partly because I’m a terrible liar. Partly because of my belief in honesty as the best policy. Yes, Hillsong manipulates and lies but I want to rise above not stoop to their level.
Welcome to the first week of our 6 week course as we discover Christianity together.
Week 1 – Paradise Lost.
Imagine a place untouched by the world around it.
The air is clear, the foliage is lush. In this garden, animals live in harmony and scented roses bloom without thorns.
There is no pain or fear, no sorrow or shame. The colours are rich and life sparkles in every scene. It is the kind of place where we dream of going for our holidays.
This is a picture of how it was in the beginning. It is a picture of Paradise, the handiwork of God.
The questions of who we are and where we come from have occupied humanity since the beginning of time. The answers are essential because they shape our thinking, give us direction and ultimately give us an understanding of our purpose and identity.
The creation account presented in Genesis describes God and the reason for man’s existence on earth! It answers the questions of what God is like and how we stand before Him.
In the Ancient Near East, temples were a place of worship and were seen to contain the presence of the gods. An ‘image’ (an idol) was placed in the temple to represent the god. In a similar way, the Garden of Eden can be seen as the dwelling place of God’s presence.
However in this case, the image placed in the garden temple was not a stone idol but a human being. Man and woman were created to be God’s image with the purpose of representing Him on earth. Later, God expressly forbids the making of images of gold and silver as an object of worship. Stone idols can never represent God – only we ourselves are His image, made to represent Him!
In your personal time this week consider times where you have experienced the weight of mistakes and failings. What have you done to deal with this? How effective has it been?
Without God’s presence in our lives, we are unable to resolve the effect of sin in our lives. The good news is that there is hope and freedom found in relationship with Jesus Christ. This concept will be developed more next week.
Each day this week, aim to read one Bible passage from the list below. Write down any questions you may have from today’s lesson or the passages and feel free to email them to us. One of our team will be in contact with you shortly.
Genesis 1-3 – a time to meditate on the passages discussed in this session
Genesis 12:1-8 – promises of blessing given to Abraham
Exodus 20:1-26 – giving of the 10 commandments and the law
Deuteronomy 30:1-20 – responsibility and blessings of obeying God
Jeremiah 31:31-34 – God’s promise of a new and better covenant
Romans 3:9-26 – problem of sin in all of our lives
These readings will highlight the problem of sin and how attempts at resolving it constantly failed. They show the need for salvation and a Saviour, which will be presented in the next lesson.
A self made man has seriously limited his life. Self can’t take you where God intends you to go. – Brian Houston
He got an email but …
IMPORTANT NOTICE: This email, including any attachments, may contain privileged, confidential, and/or proprietary information, or may be subject to copyright. This email is intended only to be seen and used by the named addressee(s). If you are not the intended recipient of this email, you must not disclose or use the information contained in this email.
My name is Daniel and I want to say a huge CONGRATULATIONS on your decision to follow Jesus!
I just want to let you know that I am here if you have any questions, and I also wanted to extend an invite for you to join our Alpha Course:
Alpha is a free 7-week course designed to create a space where people are able to conversate about life, faith and Jesus. Here is the link: https://www.alpha.org/
Once you click the link, you’ll only need to click ‘get started’ then create an account and you’ll be on your way to an incredible walk of greater discovery in Christ!
If you have any questions or if there’s any way I can help you take your next step, please let me know. I would love to know how we can help!
So excited to hear back from you!
From Miriam Webster Dictionary
Conversate has the power to upset a great many people, if the hundreds of comments left by users of this dictionary under the word’s entry are any indication. One of the reasons it annoys people is because conversate is a back-formation, a type of word made by removing a portion of an existing word (such as the suffix). Thus, escalate was formed by shortening escalator; televise comes from television, and donate was made from donation. There are many hundreds of words in English made this way, but some people will forever look askance at words such as liaise (formed by back-formation from liaison).
New Patrons and Feedback
Dear Fist, Glove and 12th Man,
Thank you for your wonderful podcast. For longer than I care to admit, I have been ignoring my guilty conscience and in the words of Cameron Reilly, have been a “free loading fucker”. As an Aussie who has been living in Denmark for the last five years, your updates keep me entertained and informed on the goings on back home. The nefarious machinations of the vile ScoMo and his underlings give me no cause to regret residing in this socialist democratic utopia!
Keep up the good work!
Your man in Copenhagen, Wayne
Also Steve said thanks and sent info about atrocities in the Phillipines.
And Chris enjoyed it and referred me to Clive Hamilton’s book on Chinese atrocities (which Chris hasn’t read yet)
Cancel culture, the online phenomenon of boycotting public figures who say or do the wrong thing, is the Macquarie Dictionary’s word of the year.
The term was chosen over several other new words added to the dictionary of Australian English in 2019, including “whataboutism”, “robodebt” and “thicc” (curvaceous; voluptuous). .
The dictionary’s entry for cancel culture describes it as “the attitudes within a community which call for or bring about the withdrawal of support from a public figure”.
“In a way it’s an attempt to wipe them out, as a punishment,” said Victoria Morgan, senior editor of Macquarie Dictionary.
Those who have criticised cancel culture included former US president Barack Obama.
“This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re politically woke, and all that stuff – you should get over that quickly,” he said, adding: “One danger I see among young people particularly on college campuses is that I do get a sense among certain young people, and this is accelerated by social media, that the way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people and that’s enough.”
The words chosen must have been added to the dictionary this year. Past winners include “me too” in 2018 and “milkshake duck” in 2017.
Anecdata – information presented as if it were based on systematic research, but that is actually based on personal observation or experience.
Cleanskin – someone without any tattoos.
Healthwashing – the marketing practice of presenting a food brand or product as being more nutritious or wholesome than it actually is.
Thicc – curvaceous; voluptuous
Cheese slaw – coleslaw to which grated cheese has been added
Flight shaming – criticism or ridicule directed at someone travelling by air because of the carbon emissions produced by such travel.
Whataboutism – a technique used in responding to an accusation, criticism or difficult question, in which an opposing accusation or criticism raised.
An Open Letter on Justice and Open Debate
From Harpers magazine
Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial. Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts. But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity. As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second. The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.
The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty. We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms. Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes. Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.
This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other. As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes. We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences. If we won’t defend the very thing on which our work depends, we shouldn’t expect the public or the state to defend it for us.
Saladin Ambar, Rutgers University
Marie Arana, author
Mia Bay, historian
Louis Begley, writer
Roger Berkowitz, Bard College
Paul Berman, writer
Sheri Berman, Barnard College
Reginald Dwayne Betts, poet
Neil Blair, agent
David W. Blight, Yale University
Jennifer Finney Boylan, author
David Brooks, columnist
Ian Buruma, Bard College
Noam Chomsky, MIT (emeritus)
Nicholas A. Christakis, Yale University
Roger Cohen, writer
Ambassador Frances D. Cook, ret.
Drucilla Cornell, Founder, uBuntu Project
Meghan Daum, writer
Gerald Early, Washington University-St. Louis
Jeffrey Eugenides, writer
Federico Finchelstein, The New School
Richard T. Ford, Stanford Law School
David Frum, journalist
Francis Fukuyama, Stanford University
Atul Gawande, Harvard University
Todd Gitlin, Columbia University
Michelle Goldberg, columnist
Rebecca Goldstein, writer
Anthony Grafton, Princeton University
David Greenberg, Rutgers University
Rinne B. Groff, playwright
Sarah Haider, activist
Jonathan Haidt, NYU-Stern
Roya Hakakian, writer
Shadi Hamid, Brookings Institution
Jeet Heer, The Nation
Katie Herzog, podcast host
Susannah Heschel, Dartmouth College
Adam Hochschild, author
Arlie Russell Hochschild, author
Eva Hoffman, writer
Coleman Hughes, writer/Manhattan Institute
Hussein Ibish, Arab Gulf States Institute
Zaid Jilani, journalist
Bill T. Jones, New York Live Arts
Wendy Kaminer, writer
Matthew Karp, Princeton University
Garry Kasparov, Renew Democracy Initiative
Daniel Kehlmann, writer
Khaled Khalifa, writer
Parag Khanna, author
Laura Kipnis, Northwestern University
Frances Kissling, Center for Health, Ethics, Social Policy
Enrique Krauze, historian
Anthony Kronman, Yale University
Joy Ladin, Yeshiva University
Nicholas Lemann, Columbia University
Mark Lilla, Columbia University
Susie Linfield, New York University
Damon Linker, writer
Dahlia Lithwick, Slate
Steven Lukes, New York University
John R. MacArthur, publisher, writer
|Susan Madrak, writer
Phoebe Maltz Bovy, writer
Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center
Kati Marton, author
Debra Mashek, scholar
Deirdre McCloskey, University of Illinois at Chicago
John McWhorter, Columbia University
Uday Mehta, City University of New York
Andrew Moravcsik, Princeton University
Yascha Mounk, Persuasion
Samuel Moyn, Yale University
Meera Nanda, writer and teacher
Cary Nelson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Olivia Nuzzi, New York Magazine
Mark Oppenheimer, Yale University
Dael Orlandersmith, writer/performer
Nell Irvin Painter, Princeton University (emerita)
Greg Pardlo, Rutgers University – Camden
Orlando Patterson, Harvard University
Steven Pinker, Harvard University
Letty Cottin Pogrebin
Katha Pollitt, writer
Claire Bond Potter, The New School
Zia Haider Rahman, writer
Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, University of Wisconsin
Jonathan Rauch, Brookings Institution/The Atlantic
Neil Roberts, political theorist
Melvin Rogers, Brown University
Kat Rosenfield, writer
Loretta J. Ross, Smith College
Salman Rushdie, New York University
Karim Sadjadpour, Carnegie Endowment
Daryl Michael Scott, Howard University
Diana Senechal, teacher and writer
Jennifer Senior, columnist
Judith Shulevitz, writer
Jesse Singal, journalist
Andrew Solomon, writer
Deborah Solomon, critic and biographer
Allison Stanger, Middlebury College
Paul Starr, American Prospect/Princeton University
Wendell Steavenson, writer
Gloria Steinem, writer and activist
Nadine Strossen, New York Law School
Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., Harvard Law School
Kian Tajbakhsh, Columbia University
Zephyr Teachout, Fordham University
Cynthia Tucker, University of South Alabama
Adaner Usmani, Harvard University
Helen Vendler, Harvard University
Judy B. Walzer
Eric K. Washington, historian
Caroline Weber, historian
Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers
Sean Wilentz, Princeton University
Thomas Chatterton Williams, writer
Robert F. Worth, journalist and author
Molly Worthen, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Emily Yoffe, journalist
Cathy Young, journalist
Institutions are listed for identification purposes only.
The Problem – what are the examples they refer to?
The Editor who was fired probably refers to this.
James Bennet Resigns as New York Times Opinion Editor
James Bennet resigned on Sunday from his job as the editorial page editor of The New York Times, days after the newspaper’s opinion section, which he oversaw, published a much-criticized Op-Ed by a United States senator calling for a military response to civic unrest in American cities.
“Last week we saw a significant breakdown in our editing processes, not the first we’ve experienced in recent years,” said A. G. Sulzberger, the publisher, in a note to the staff on Sunday announcing Mr. Bennet’s departure.
In a brief interview, Mr. Sulzberger added: “Both of us concluded that James would not be able to lead the team through the next leg of change that is required.”
At an all-staff virtual meeting on Friday, Mr. Bennet, 54, apologized for the Op-Ed, saying that it should not have been published and that it had not been edited carefully enough. An editors’ note posted late Friday noted factual inaccuracies and a “needlessly harsh” tone. “The essay fell short of our standards and should not have been published,” the note said.
The Op-Ed, by Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, had “Send In the Troops” as its headline. “One thing above all else will restore order to our streets: an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers,” he wrote. The piece, published on Wednesday, drew anger from readers and Times journalists. Mr. Bennet declined to comment.
Mr. Bennet’s swift fall from one of the most powerful positions in American journalism comes as hundreds of thousands of people have marched in recent weeks in protest of racism in law enforcement and society.
Books withdrawn for inauthenticity
Probably refers to cultural appropriation
Journalists are barred from writing on certain topics
What is that about?
Professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class
Probably refers to this.
The Pulitzer-nominated poet Laurie Sheck, a professor at the New School in New York City, is being investigated by the university for using the N-word during a discussion about James Baldwin’s use of the racial slur.
The investigation has been condemned by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (Fire), which is calling on the New School to drop the “misguided” case because it “warns faculty and students that good-faith engagement with difficult political, social, and academic questions will result in investigation and possible discipline”.
Sheck, who is white, was teaching a graduate course this spring on “radical questioning” in writing. She assigned students Baldwin’s 1962 essay The Creative Process, in which the black American writer and civil rights activist argued that Americans have “modified or suppressed and lied about all the darker forces in our history” and must commit to “a long look backward whence we came and an unflinching assessment of the record”. During the class, Sheck pointed to the 2016 documentary about Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro, and asked her students to discuss why the title altered Baldwin’s original statement, in which he used the N-word instead of negro during an appearance on a talk show.
PEN America has now joined Fire in calling for the investigation to be dropped. “Some words are so heinous that one can never expect to say them without some risk of offence,” said Jonathan Friedman, PEN’s project director for campus free speech. “But this is a case where intent matters. There is a distinction to be made between a racial slur wielded against someone and a quote used for pedagogical purposes in a class on James Baldwin. The New School cannot and must not discipline a professor for speech that is protected by the principle of academic freedom.”
Sheck said that she is prepared to teach her classes when term starts in two weeks, despite not hearing from the university.
“PEN has warned them that to act against me would be to violate academic freedom. If a university can censure a teacher for quoting James Baldwin and raising with graduate students – students who are aspiring writers – the issues involved in changing the words of an iconic American writer, then surely much is threatened and much is at stake, for thousands of people teaching throughout this country,” she said.
A researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study
The heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes
A criticism of the criticism
From Areo Magazine
Some critics oppose the contents of the letter, claiming that no illiberal restraints on free speech exist, and that cancel culture just means holding people accountable for inappropriate behavior. Another set of critics do not think it appropriate to co-sign a letter with those of an unsavory ideological bent.
For example, Jennifer Finne Boylan has offered a public apology for having signed a letter alongside J. K. Rowling, Bari Weiss and Matthew Yglesias. The presence of these names, according to some critics, is evidence that the letter contains bigoted dog-whistles and coded attacks.
But signing an open letter merely establishes agreement with the contents of that letter, not with all the past and present beliefs of the other co-signatories.
Historian Kerri Greenidge also recalled her endorsement of the letter, and even been granted her request to retract her signature.
So, did Greenidge voluntarily sign something she disagreed with? It seems more likely that her recent actions were the result of social pressure because her name was included among those of the ostracized. This kind of social pressure, ironically, proves the need for the letter itself.
An attempt to cancel Steven Pinker!
From the National Review
… we have an amusingly sloppy open letter from “The Linguistics Community” — with the number of signatures nearing 600 as of this writing — trying to get Pinker stripped of his roles as “distinguished academic fellow” and “media expert” with the Linguistics Society of America.
The very first of six complaints against Pinker demonstrates what’s happening here. It’s about a tweet:
The letter points out that the New York Times article he’s tweeting contains this line: “The data is unequivocal. Police killings are a race problem: African-Americans are being killed disproportionately and by a wide margin.” But this ignores the rest of the piece, which digs into that disparity to see why it exists. The article points out that the disparity in police shootings is roughly the same as the disparity in arrests, meaning that while blacks are killed disproportionately relative to their share of the population, they are not killed disproportionately relative to how often they come into contact with police in the context of an arrest. It also points out that while officer bias may play a role in arrest rates, so do suspect descriptions and the fact that cops are deployed more heavily to poor neighborhoods.
JK Rowling – What has she said about Trans folk?
J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues
This isn’t an easy piece to write, for reasons that will shortly become clear, but I know it’s time to explain myself on an issue surrounded by toxicity. I write this without any desire to add to that toxicity.
For people who don’t know: last December I tweeted my support for Maya Forstater, a tax specialist who’d lost her job for what were deemed ‘transphobic’ tweets. She took her case to an employment tribunal, asking the judge to rule on whether a philosophical belief that sex is determined by biology is protected in law. Judge Tayler ruled that it wasn’t.
My interest in trans issues pre-dated Maya’s case by almost two years, during which I followed the debate around the concept of gender identity closely. I’ve met trans people, and read sundry books, blogs and articles by trans people, gender specialists, intersex people, psychologists, safeguarding experts, social workers and doctors, and followed the discourse online and in traditional media.
… All the time I’ve been researching and learning, accusations and threats from trans activists have been bubbling in my Twitter timeline. This was initially triggered by a ‘like’. When I started taking an interest in gender identity and transgender matters, I began screenshotting comments that interested me, as a way of reminding myself what I might want to research later. On one occasion, I absent-mindedly ‘liked’ instead of screenshotting. That single ‘like’ was deemed evidence of wrongthink, and a persistent low level of harassment began.
Months later, I compounded my accidental ‘like’ crime by following Magdalen Berns on Twitter. Magdalen was an immensely brave young feminist and lesbian who was dying of an aggressive brain tumour. I followed her because I wanted to contact her directly, which I succeeded in doing. However, as Magdalen was a great believer in the importance of biological sex, and didn’t believe lesbians should be called bigots for not dating trans women with penises, dots were joined in the heads of twitter trans activists, and the level of social media abuse increased.
I mention all this only to explain that I knew perfectly well what was going to happen when I supported Maya. I must have been on my fourth or fifth cancellation by then.
I’d stepped back from Twitter for many months both before and after tweeting support for Maya, because I knew it was doing nothing good for my mental health. I only returned because I wanted to share a free children’s book during the pandemic. Immediately, activists who clearly believe themselves to be good, kind and progressive people swarmed back into my timeline, assuming a right to police my speech, accuse me of hatred, call me misogynistic slurs and, above all – as every woman involved in this debate will know – TERF.
If you didn’t already know – and why should you? – ‘TERF’ is an acronym coined by trans activists, which stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. In practice, a huge and diverse cross-section of women are currently being called TERFs and the vast majority have never been radical feminists.
Fist: She explains 5 reasons.
- Her female oriented charities
- As an ex teacher she is concerned about education and safeguarding children
- As a writer she has an interest in Freedom of speech
- Fears regarding coercion
- Fears regarding safe spaces
R number 4
… I’m concerned about the huge explosion in young women wishing to transition and also about the increasing numbers who seem to be detransitioning (returning to their original sex), because they regret taking steps that have, in some cases, altered their bodies irrevocably, and taken away their fertility. Some say they decided to transition after realising they were same-sex attracted, and that transitioning was partly driven by homophobia, either in society or in their families.
Most people probably aren’t aware – I certainly wasn’t, until I started researching this issue properly – that ten years ago, the majority of people wanting to transition to the opposite sex were male. That ratio has now reversed. The UK has experienced a 4400% increase in girls being referred for transitioning treatment. Autistic girls are hugely overrepresented in their numbers.
The same phenomenon has been seen in the US. In 2018, American physician and researcher Lisa Littman set out to explore it. In an interview, she said:
‘Parents online were describing a very unusual pattern of transgender-identification where multiple friends and even entire friend groups became transgender-identified at the same time. I would have been remiss had I not considered social contagion and peer influences as potential factors.’
Littman mentioned Tumblr, Reddit, Instagram and YouTube as contributing factors to Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria, where she believes that in the realm of transgender identification ‘youth have created particularly insular echo chambers.’
Her paper caused a furore. She was accused of bias and of spreading misinformation about transgender people, subjected to a tsunami of abuse and a concerted campaign to discredit both her and her work. The journal took the paper offline and re-reviewed it before republishing it. However, her career took a similar hit to that suffered by Maya Forstater. Lisa Littman had dared challenge one of the central tenets of trans activism, which is that a person’s gender identity is innate, like sexual orientation. Nobody, the activists insisted, could ever be persuaded into being trans.
The argument of many current trans activists is that if you don’t let a gender dysphoric teenager transition, they will kill themselves. In an article explaining why he resigned from the Tavistock (an NHS gender clinic in England) psychiatrist Marcus Evans stated that claims that children will kill themselves if not permitted to transition do not ‘align substantially with any robust data or studies in this area. Nor do they align with the cases I have encountered over decades as a psychotherapist.’
The writings of young trans men reveal a group of notably sensitive and clever people. The more of their accounts of gender dysphoria I’ve read, with their insightful descriptions of anxiety, dissociation, eating disorders, self-harm and self-hatred, the more I’ve wondered whether, if I’d been born 30 years later, I too might have tried to transition. The allure of escaping womanhood would have been huge. I struggled with severe OCD as a teenager. If I’d found community and sympathy online that I couldn’t find in my immediate environment, I believe I could have been persuaded to turn myself into the son my father had openly said he’d have preferred.
… I want to be very clear here: I know transition will be a solution for some gender dysphoric people, although I’m also aware through extensive research that studies have consistently shown that between 60-90% of gender dysphoric teens will grow out of their dysphoria. Again and again I’ve been told to ‘just meet some trans people.’ I have: in addition to a few younger people, who were all adorable, I happen to know a self-described transsexual woman who’s older than I am and wonderful. Although she’s open about her past as a gay man, I’ve always found it hard to think of her as anything other than a woman, and I believe (and certainly hope) she’s completely happy to have transitioned. Being older, though, she went through a long and rigorous process of evaluation, psychotherapy and staged transformation. The current explosion of trans activism is urging a removal of almost all the robust systems through which candidates for sex reassignment were once required to pass. A man who intends to have no surgery and take no hormones may now secure himself a Gender Recognition Certificate and be a woman in the sight of the law. Many people aren’t aware of this.
From The Guardian
A researcher who lost her job at a thinktank after tweeting that transgender women cannot change their biological sex has lost a test case because her opinions were deemed to be “absolutist”.
In a keenly anticipated judgment that will stir up fresh debate over transgender issues, Judge James Tayler, an employment judge, ruled that Maya Forstater’s views did “not have the protected characteristic of philosophical belief”.
Forstater, 45, a tax expert, was a visiting fellow at the Centre for Global Development (CGD), an international thinktank that campaigns against poverty and inequality. Her contract at the charitable organisation, which is based in Washington and London, was not renewed in March after a dispute over publicising her views on social media.
She was accused of using “offensive and exclusionary” language in tweets opposing government proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act to allow people to self-identify as the opposite sex.
The Central London employment tribunal convened a preliminary hearing over the issue of whether her tweets, such as “men cannot change into women”, should be protected under the 2010 Equality Act. She funded her legal challenge through the CrowdJustice website.
But in a 26-page judgment released late on Wednesday, Tayler dismissed her claim. “I conclude from … the totality of the evidence, that [Forstater] is absolutist in her view of sex and it is a core component of her belief that she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. The approach is not worthy of respect in a democratic society.”
In response to the ruling, Forstater said: “I struggle to express the shock and disbelief I feel at reading this judgment, which I think will be shared by the vast majority of people who are familiar with my case.
In the judgement
Belief (like religion) is a protected characteristic pursuant to section 4 EqA (Equality Act 2010).
It is defined by section 10 EqA:
Belief means any religious or philosophical belief and a reference to belief includes a reference to a lack of belief.
To qualify as a “philosophical belief” under section 10 EqA, the belief must
satisfy the five criteria in Grainger plc v Nicholson  ICR 360, para 24
(“the Granger Criteria”):
However, I consider that the Claimant’s view, in its absolutist nature, is
incompatible with human dignity and fundamental rights of others. She goes so
far as to deny the right of a person with a Gender Recognition Certificate to be
the sex to which they have transitioned.
Fist: Basically the judge then says she can campaign for laws to be changed but must use correct pronouns in the meantime.
ASIO Boss is offended
ASIO boss Mike Burgess has read the riot act to the Law Council over suggestions that proposed counter-terrorism laws were akin to the Chinese crackdown on Hong Kong.
The nation’s top spy boss blasted evidence given by the Law Council of Australia’s David Neal on Friday and revealed there had been a spike in children engaging with extremist content since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Under a bill proposed by the Morrison government, ASIO’s compulsory questioning powers would be expanded from terrorism-related threats to cover espionage, foreign interference and politically motivated violence.
And the age at which ASIO could compulsorily question a minor suspected of planning a politically motivated attack would be reduced from 16 to 14.
Probed by opposition legal affairs spokesman Mark Dreyfus whether the legislation was broader than China’s controversial national security law imposed on Hong Kong, Dr Neal responded: “The answer to that is yes.”
… “However, we are very concerned that … agents of ASIO would be entitled to detain people for 40 hours to question them about things which are detrimental to the interests of Australia because they’ve been talking to someone who’s classified as a foreign power.”
But Mr Burgess blasted the suggestion, declaring Dr Neal was “completely, completely wrong”. “I’m actually offended by that statement and it’s offensive to the men and women of my organisation who put their lives on the line and protect Australians from serious security threats,” he said.
Mr Burgess said the new Hong Kong law made it a terrorism offence to damage public transport, granted life immunity from prosecution to Chinese security agents and could subject peaceful protesters to a term of life imprisonment if they had foreign links.
“To suggest that these bills are comparable — in fact, that our bill is worse — is just beyond the pale. It’s completely, completely wrong.”
Mr Burgess also revealed that ASIO was investigating “active cases” of youths involved in onshore terrorism. “We are seeing increasing numbers of young Australians involved in onshore terrorism,” he said.
“This is being observed in both the Islamic extremism and extreme right-wing circles.
“And this includes children as young as 13 and 14. This threat is amplified by the corona crisis, with some young Australians being exposed to radicalisation as they spent time online meeting and engaging with like-minded individuals.”
Mr Burgess assured the committee the compulsory questioning powers would not be used in every case, with ASIO having used the powers sparingly in the past.
“But in a complex and challenging security environment, compulsory questioning may represent the best option ASIO has to gather information about an impending attack or a damaging plot by a foreign intelligence service,” he said.
Dr Neal had also raised concerns that the questioning powers could be applied to Black Lives Matter protesters, a claim Mr Burgess also disputed.
“No, absolutely not,” he said. “We are actually prohibited under our bill from getting involved in protests.”
Law Council of Australia president Pauline Wright said the council wanted stronger protections for children brought in for questioning.
She also suggested an independent judge should be given the final say on warrants to detain someone for questioning.
What Does Sam Harris say about offence?
Sam Harris is in the top 3 of the most articulate people speaking in a generation, however, these excerpts lack a certain panache that so adorns his words when being spoken and heard.
Public intellectuals are like restaurants. Sam’s place is still good but there are just better places to eat at the moment. Losing me a bit here.
I’m congenial to your podcast and Waking Up App, but you are dead wrong about this one Sam. I think you need to re-examine your assumptions about human subjectivity and nature.
This is such an ignorant mentality. Being offended over something as minor as someone’s taste in music, that is something that shouldn’t be respected. But when it comes to a persons fundamental identity, you should absolutely respect that.
It’s interesting that it’s always the same people. Same demographic that tries to preach this bullshit so often. It’s really not that complicated, nor difficult to not be a dick…
Sam Harris you’re a damn disappointment. I always found you to be the weakest compared to Dawkins and Hitchens but man have you gotten shittier.
On Offense by Richard King
The principle of free speech is meaningless unless it includes the freedom to offend.
The claim to find something offensive should be the beginning of the debate, not the end of it.
The modern fetish for sensitivity is corrosive of civility.
If I punch you in the face and break your nose, your broken nose is an objective fact. But if I say I don’t like your face, your feelings of hurt will be peculiar to you, if they exist at all. This element of subjectivity is inherent in the notion of offence.
The past 2 weeks of Morrison Shitfuckery that no-one cares about
- How would you rate your state government’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak?
Weapons Inspector like powers
A transcript of interview between Paul Murray and Scott Morrison on Sky News
22 April 2020
MURRAY: It’s the new curve. Now about the World Health Organisation, you’ve been very clear about some of their limitations here but you’re also trying to lead an international consensus about the where to from here. I saw today there was a suggestion that you believe that the World Health Organisation should have a power that other UN organisations have, essentially to be like weapons inspectors where it’s not an option whether they’re able to enter a country at a time like this. Do you think that’s where we need to go?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, a couple of points. The first one, when I’ve had these discussions with other leaders, there’s a clear view that we need to have a transparent and independent process to look at what’s gone on here. And importantly, even more importantly, what are the things that need to change and one doesn’t necessarily have to follow the other. I mean, it could take some time to get that independent process to look at the origins of this and how it occurred and the lessons to be learned. But I do think there are immediately things that can improve. And that is, I mean, one of the things that would have been very helpful to the rest of the world is if there wasn’t any delay and if there was the ability to get this information very early on that could have alerted the rest of the world to the greater risk that was occurring there. It did take a while. And I don’t make that comment to be critical. It’s just an observation, and I personally think it would be very helpful that in circumstances, and it wouldn’t matter if it was in Australia, if it was in South America, if it was in Southeast Asia or Africa or China or anywhere else, in Europe. That if there is a virus of this nature that is believed to be of pandemic potential and very dangerous to the world, well we need to know what’s going on and fast, very fast and if we have that ability, that could have potentially saved thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of lives. And we need to have that sort of ability and so that’s why yeah I am an advocate of that case. Now, the other countries as yet, they won’t have formed a view on my specific proposals. But the broader area of cooperation, independent, transparent, getting to the heart of what’s happened here so we can learn the lessons, that’s incredibly important. I mean, after the Ebola episode, the WHO had an independent review of all that, they had a whole series of recommendations about what should change and nothing was changed. And I don’t think we can have a repeat of that exercise and so like-minded countries like France and ourselves and Germany and I’m sure, as yet, when I next get to speak to Boris in the UK and Canada and the United States and so many, we have a lot in common here. And we need to ensure there’s transparency, that there is independence and getting to the bottom of these things and getting world global organisations, which have their place, they can do really good work. But they’ve got to be able to do that without, you know, being fettered in any way in the way they find out what’s going on so the rest of us can take action.
And the PM office transcript of a Press Conference on the 23rd of April
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can you just detail what sort of inquiry you’d like to see in the genesis of this pandemic and the sort of lessons the world can learn? And what’s your message to China about its responsibility to comply with such an inquiry?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, my message on the latter is the same for all nations. What I’m simply seeking and advocating for is two things – and the Foreign Minister set this out in her opinion piece this week – we will need an independent inquiry, that looks at what has occurred here so we can learn the lessons. Now, there will be debates about the timing of that. We are in the middle of dealing with the pandemic right now and I understand some of the hesitations that have been expressed about the timing of that particular inquiry. But Australia would have cooperated with such an inquiry. Any member of the World Health Organization, I think that should be something that should be understood and that’s part, I think, of your responsibility – or should be anyway – in participating in such an organisation. The other thing that can happen – and you can do two things at once – and that is to look at things that can be done to improve the safety of the world more readily. Now people are aware of my view about having the sort of authorities that would enable independent public health inspectors to be able to go into areas where a virus of potential pandemic implications can be understood quickly, because that information, undoubtedly, can save lives. Now, you’ll know that with weapons inspectors, that people access that because those who sign up to the weapons inspectors’ arrangements, sign up to – if they’re in that situation, then those inspectors would come in. Now I expect the same arrangements in terms of what I’m suggesting about how that could be done. They don’t have a roving commission to go anywhere they want in the world. If you’re going to be a member of a club like the World Health Organization, there should be obligations and responsibilities attached to that. That is how, that is why you would collectively band together in a global organisation like that, to protect the world’s health, and I would think that the ability to understand what’s happening in a particularly dangerous virus that has the potential to do what this virus has done to the world, people would want to know that information sooner rather than later.