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Toronto’s Meghan Murphy Meltdown: A Case Study in Media-Driven Social Panic

Speaking on the Quillette podcast last week, David Frum described how his hometown of Toronto sometimes feels unrecognizable to him, having been utterly transformed by waves of successful immigrants. It’s something you hear from many older Torontonians, who remain awestruck by their city’s rapid metamorphosis from a sleepy provincial capital ruled by a clique of moralizing WASP conformists, to a glittering, cosmopolitan hub of entertainment and finance. But every once in a while, one still can catch a glimpse of the city’s old, preachy cold-roast-beef identity. In fact, that is exactly what happened this week, when Meghan Murphy came to town.

And who is Meghan Murphy? According to CBC radio host Carol Off, Murphy is someone whose extremism summons to mind comparisons with “a Holocaust denier or a white supremacist.” A Globe & Mail writer dedicated a column to branding Murphy an agent of “fear and meanness.” Toronto Mayor John Tory was so concerned by Murphy’s apparently horrifying message that he publicly called out his city’s chief librarian for permitting Murphy to deliver a speech on library premises. Hundreds of angry Torontonians gathered to protest that speech on Tuesday, telling at least one Murphy supporter to “go kill yourself, go bleed out and die.” The next day, Toronto’s governing council voted to review library policies, with a view toward ensuring that such a shocking spectacle would never again blacken the city’s reputation. For good measure, a pair of drag queens named Fay and Fluffy announced they would no longer come to the library to read books to children.

Is Murphy a Nazi? A war criminal? Perhaps a hooded KKK leader who appeared at the podium under a burning cross? Well, not quite. Meghan Murphy is a young Vancouver-based feminist activist and writer who says out loud what most Canadians think: that the rights of trans women must be balanced against the rights of girls and women as a whole, and that the admission of male-bodied individuals into spaces where women are vulnerable is an issue that can’t be resolved by screaming slogans or Tweeting emojis. As National Post columnist Chris Selley wrote after he attended Murphy’s Toronto event, the substance of her speech wasn’t even that controversial. The true scandal was out on the street, where progressive hypocrites yelled at Murphy’s feminist supporters in the way that Westboro Baptist Church members berate women entering an abortion clinic.

When I write about this subject, I often get notes from readers who either thank or excoriate me, the attitude being dictated by their position on the question of so-called “gender ideology.” And for those who have not been following this issue, but have become alarmed by the fanatical campaign of censorship and de-platforming it has inspired, I will offer a few sentences of background. Murphy represents the view that biological sex, male or female, is a permanent feature, and that gender is a mash-up of social expectations and stereotypes. This view often is described as “gender-critical” or “TERF” (a term that stands for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist,” but now is used almost exclusively as a term of abuse). Many “gender crits” are sympathetic to the challenges faced by people with gender dysphoria. But all of them reject the now-fashionable orthodox position that we should be able to simply declare ourselves man or woman at will, for all legal and social purposes, based on some inwardly experienced revealed knowledge about our gendered soul. They also decry the old-fashioned sexism that is implicit in gender ideology, since trans women and girls often will base their self-identification on the basis of what toys and clothing they prefer, or whether they like pink or blue.

As with any clash of rights, it will require good faith and hard work to hammer out a fair policy solution in this area. And I have every confidence that once the current spasm of progressive social panic recedes, a compromise will emerge that protects the dignity and safety of trans people, while also acknowledging the right of women to operate in certain spaces that are free of male bodies. The notion that only one side of this argument has legitimate points to make is unsustainable, which is why a full-fledged schism now is developing within the wider LGBT movement.

In fact, it is this development that so alarms ideological enforcers within orthodox gender circles, as they (rightly) fear that they are losing their monopoly position. This, in turn, helps explain their fanatical desire to shut Murphy down—since the spectacle of her speaking common sense may invite other people to imagine that they can do the same without suffering punishment. And then, eventually, as with all cultish movements that rule by fear instead of persuasion, the whole house of cards will come tumbling down.

As a man, I have no personal stake in this battle—because the entire weight of gender-ideology extremism is borne by girls and women. (There are no women demanding access to my health-club locker room, or making a mockery of male athletic competitions.) But I do have a stake as a journalist. For I know of no other issue that has had such a mind-warping effect on the work of otherwise intelligent writers and broadcasters.

Not only is it now considered perfectly normal (even admirable) for state-funded journalists to compare gender-crits to Holocaust deniers. One also sees the opposite phenomenon at work: Male-bodied individuals are praised as “shining examples of what humans can accomplish with training and effort” when they take medals away from biological women. In some cases, genuine sociopaths from among this group are even lauded by the media for their “courage.” This includes Rachel McKinnon, a cycling “champion” who dominates much smaller (female) competitors, told critics to “die in a grease fire,” and recently celebrated the death of a 36-year-old feminist from brain cancer. Throwing people into grease fires seems a lot closer to Nazi talk than anything Meghan Murphy ever said. And yet this would be the very same Rachel McKinnon who is regularly celebrated on the CBC in sunny features with titles such as We Have to Promote Inclusive Sport.

To any normal observer, it must seem like the media has lost its collective mind. The question is: Why?

When conservatives try to provide an answer, the focus often centers on the ideological distortions contained within orthodox gender studies. But that explanation doesn’t satisfy, because campus cults exist in all corners of academia, often without their dogmas metastasizing into mainstream culture and politics. What’s unusual about radicalized gender activism is that it has imposed itself not only on policy-making, but also on the way that policy-making is debated and critiqued in the media. And so even as some measure of sanity seems to be returning to this issue, it’s worth taking the opportunity to understand how mainstream journalists turned themselves into cheerleaders for dogmas that few people actually believe.

* * *

The first and most obvious factor is that the entire discussion of trans rights has taken place in recent years with limited participation from conservatives. In Canada, for instance, neither Ontario Premier Doug Ford, a Conservative, nor federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, have had much to say on this issue. And the reason seems clear: These politicians still are paying the price for having picked the wrong side of the gay-marriage argument in the 2000s, and so (rightly) feel that entering the trans-rights debate would invite yet more accusations of bigotry. On matters of LGBT social justice, in other words, conservatives simply have very little credibility—and it’s their own fault.

The comparison between gay rights and trans rights is inapt, of course—because the institution of gay marriage itself (as distinct from the campaign to censor the debate over gay rights) never really infringed on anyone else’s rights. As Kathleen Stock, Helen Joyce and others have noted in Quillette, however, the same isn’t true of the most radicalized formulations of trans rights. Yet the conflation of the two has stuck in the public imagination, in part because of the use of blurring terms such as “LGBT.”

The result of this is that the debate about trans rights now is largely an intra-progressive affair—though that hasn’t stopped orthodox activists from smearing their critics as crypto-conservatives (a laughable claim given that the most impassioned activists within the gender-crit movement tend to be feminists—many of them lesbians—who have spent much of their careers manning the barricades against right-wing misogynists and homophobes). More broadly, the whole arc of left-wing activism over the last century has created a spirit of triumphalism in regard to every cause premised on an expansion of asserted rights—including anti-sexism, anti-racism and anti-homophobia. In the media, as in activist circles, anti-transphobia typically is presented as simply an obvious extrapolation of these earlier causes, and so anyone who offers any form of opposition to the orthodox stance is assumed to be a bigot. There is no acknowledgment that social-justice campaigners now have scraped up against the bare-metal limits of the rights that can be vindicated by society without biting into other, older rights won by previous activist cohorts.

A third factor is the role of social media, including within the LGBT community, where a healthy debate might once have occurred. In the pre-Twitter past, different factions of the queer movement often were able to assert themselves within a patchwork of different media. But Twitter now allows the angriest and shrillest voices to coalesce into a de facto ideological inquisition. Britain’s PinkNews, in particular, has become a notorious enforcer (and is now dismissively referred to as Penis News by exasperated lesbian critics). Canada’s Xtra is moving in the same direction. The eventual result, as Brad Polumbo recently argued, is that “LGB rights and T activism, hav[ing] been revealed to be unnatural bedfellows…will go their separate ways.” But in the meantime, anyone who embraces a gender-crit position is at risk of de-platforming. This includes Meghan Murphy herself, who left the ultra-progressive web site rabble when she refused to toe the line on gender.

Nor should the role of Facebook be discounted, even if it caters to an older demographic. One of the women who organized Meghan Murphy’s Tuesday event noted to me that, “it’s surprising how many of our most vicious critics are middle-aged,” something she chalked up to old progressives “trying to act like they’re still relevant.” But as an older person myself, I can attest that it’s more complicated than that. Most of us in our 40s and 50s operate on Facebook and Instagram within a wide network of college friends and neighbourhood parents, often numbering in the high hundreds, or even thousands. Statistically, at least one or two of these middle-agers will have a trans child (or niece or nephew), who often will take center stage in photo montages, racking up many likes, alongside links to crowdfunding drives and web sites devoted to trans rights. Prominent among the well-intentioned urban progressives who go all in on these social-media pages are journalists, who know they can spin just about every one of these children into splashy weekend features.

As early as 2011, Toronto’s Star newspaper showed you could set the internet on fire with this sort of article. And the established form of writing these pieces is such that they are presented more as celebrations than actual profiles. Crucially, stories about detransition are effectively taboo—because even acknowledging the existence of de-transitioned youth serves to impugn the media’s own sunny approach to the issue (which is why detransitioned youth increasingly are bypassing the mainstream media and setting up their own web channels). All told, the media has a natural incentive to act as a one-way filter in regard to news about trans issues.

A fourth factor is the economic decline of traditional journalism as a whole, which has affected the way newsrooms now are run and staffed.

As recently as the late 1990s, which is when I began my career in journalism, media organizations were able to insulate themselves against social panics and fads through the employment of a large corps of experienced, risk-averse, highly professional desk editors and middle managers. They supplied a sort of ideological ballast, so that a small number of activist journalists within the organization couldn’t exert veto power on controversial issues. Over the last 20 years, that entire stratum of professionals has been packaged out, and the editorial staffing in these organizations generally consists of just two groups: (a) a small corps of managing journalists in their 50s and 60s who are desperately trying to make it to retirement; and (b) a larger corps of poorly paid 20-somethings. Because members of this latter high-turnover group (rightly) feel have little expectation of long-term employment, their primary ideological loyalties are to social media, not to their nominal bosses.

In some cases, media bosses no longer even pretend that their staffers are anything but in-house social-justice activists. A notable example here is the Star’s Vancouver-based reporter dedicated to “covering diversity, inequality and education.” Perhaps no other journalist in Canada was in a better position to investigate the explosive scandal surrounding Jessica Yaniv. But since this was a story of a trans person weaponizing trans status to extort money from impoverished immigrants, as opposed to a front-page photo-op about a child with blue hair, the issue was left to alternative outlets.

Fifth and finally, there is the extraordinary classism that infects the woke media. In her recent Quillette story, Male-Bodied Rapists Are Being Imprisoned With Women. Why Do so Few People Care?, Canadian writer April Halley described how imprisoned women—poor, Indigenous women, in particular—are at daily risk of harassment and assault by dangerous male-bodied criminals who “self-identify” as female (such self-identification sometimes being announced in between trial and imprisonment). Given the mania for Indigenous “reconciliation” that is supposed to be a national priority in Canada, not to mention the overlapping imperatives of the MeToo movement, one might imagine that the plight of First Nations women trapped behind bars with potential rapists would be a huge national scandal. But in fact, everyone in the Canadian mainstream media has done their best to avoid acknowledging the issue.

The reason for this goes beyond the simple sense of mortification that most progressive journalists feel when faced with the fact that even a tiny handful of trans women are preying on other prisoners. It’s also related to the reality that journalists tend to hail from relatively privileged backgrounds—as few working-class people now can afford to put down stakes in a shrinking industry with zero job security and low wages. Most of the privileged types who do seek out journalistic work have never been inside a prison, or even known anyone who’s served time. They likewise don’t know anyone who’s had to use a rape-crisis center, since middle-class folks generally have friends and relatives who can help them in times of crisis. Such young journalists are much more likely to have friends who post on Twitter about being misgendered at Starbucks, or who are organizing an online protest against an arts-funding agency that doesn’t allow applicants to register as “non-binary.” These are the teapot dramas that get ink, while feminists who dare point out the plight of female prisoners and rape victims are casually compared to Nazis on CBC radio.

It is an understatement to say that this issue is rich with irony. Consider, for instance, that, in response to Murphy’s speech, leaders of Pride Toronto may ban the city’s public library from inclusion in 2020 pride events—to go along with the existing ban on police participation in Pride’s annual parade. Yet when you watch a video of Murphy’s fans leaving the library on Tuesday night, what you see is a group of professional police officers defending a group of besieged feminists, while a bunch of unhinged woke men scream at them.

In any normal universe, one would naturally view the officers as the good guys, and the triggered men as the baddies. The fact that some of the most influential progressives in this city believe (or pretend to believe) precisely the opposite shows how, by twists and turns, a progressive social-justice ideology meant to promote caring and universal respect can be turned into a de facto hate cult. And it is my humble suggestion that fellow journalists begin reporting on this odd and unsettling phenomenon, rather than contributing to it.

 

Jonathan Kay is Canadian Editor of Quillette, and Tweets at @jonkay.

 

Comments

  1. As a man, I have no personal stake in this battle—because the entire weight of gender-ideology extremism is borne by girls and women. (There are no women demanding access to my health-club locker room,

    If we hold Murphy’s opinion that biological sex, male or female, is a permanent feature, then most certainly female to male (FtM) trans men, i.e. women, including those who have not had genital reconstruction procedures performed, want access to male lavatories and locker rooms and likely are using them. They may not be as vocal as trans women, or maybe the media has decided to amplify one issue and demote the other. Still, this may be controversial to some men, though apparently not to Mr Kay.

    Two problems I have with the “As a man”, “As a Scientologist”, “As a head hunting cannibal” and similar prefaces is 1) it creates the appearance the person is speaking on behalf of all of the group, i.e. the person’s words carry more weight than they do, though that group does not speak as one voice; and 2) it’s done to justify the exclusion of a person from the conversation, one usually about law and the involvement of public funds, by virtue of some characteristic, often an immutable one. If it is to be some conversations exclude others and are for particular group exclusively, then it holds “As a transwoman,” may be used to exclude non-transwomen, who may mention their unique experience to buttress their argument women (and others) get no say. Moreover, what he considers to be his “stake” may not be shared by other men who define their stakes differently. This leads to preposterous outcomes such as “Jonathan Kay, a man, said men don’t have a stake in this, yet you, a man, say you do do. Are you not a man?”

    What about the expert? “As a dentist, I say everyone must chew Trident.” Yet, there are those 1 out of 5 who don’t say this. Often experts take care to underscore their opinion is not held by everyone else. They mention there’s a consensus or a majority view.

    As I understand Kay’s comment, he utterly forgot about trans men, so his “as a man” could also be “as a man who forgets things”, “as a man who failed to grasp the entirety of the issue”, “as a man who thinks this doesn’t affect me but I’ll still have to help pay for it, so oopsie doopsie” and other prefaces.

    Whether or not you support abortion, the conversation isn’t exclusively for women. Whether you are a person of colour or not, what is and isn’t racism isn’t exclusively for the people of colour to determine. The same holds for any and all conversations about trans people. And women.

    I think the word I is a better one for people to use. And as it is presently, it’s a pronoun that doesn’t give people heartburn. Stay tuned, though.

  2. Canadian writer April Halley described how imprisoned women—poor, Indigenous women, in particular

    Would these indigenous women also be from communities proclaiming the wonderful existence of two-spirit people?

    Also, I’m growing weary of the “in particular” aside common in identity politics. It appears to me to be a demand for certain people to be held above others. That imprisoned women are subject to sexual abuse in prison is bad, but it’s extra-special bad when the woman is an Indian. How so? I’m thinking this “in particular + person of oppression” construct is merely a ploy to have people who don’t align with identity politics also play along. No matter who has it rough, you’d better make sure to state Indian and black women have it worse. That’s the insidious nature of identity politics - it worms its way into everything.

  3. Men lost the bathroom/changing room battle years ago when the courts allowed female journalists into male locker rooms. Gays and feminists are getting what they always wanted, equality with men. Welcome to the oppressor class.

  4. Like the old joke about The NY Times headline foretelling the end of the world.
    “Comet to Destroy the Earth Tomorrow. Blacks and Women Expected to be Hardest Hit”

  5. One little niggle the writer leaves out is that Murphy, while she has spoken out against censorship, is nevertheless a radical feminist who is addicted to social justice terminology like “patriarchy” and “the male gaze”. She holds tight to the notion that men are oppressors and women the oppressed. In fact, in much of her writing, men are seen simply as rapists or rapists-in-waiting. The reason I bring this up is because while most of us are wary of trans-activism for common sense reasons (for example, the XY chromosome doesn’t disappear no matter how much delusion you use as ointment), TERFs’ argument against trans is often driven not by logic but by misandry. They simply don’t like others moving into their oppression real estate, especially since The Narrative has boosted the market.

  6. A fine point made. Not only that, Murphy censors comments on her blog.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll do so again: let these two groups fight it out to their mutual demise. The sideline is the side to choose, in particular for black and Indian women as well as those who don’t support either group’s malformed and malignant ideologies. But less so for the latter, of course.

  7. That imprisoned women are subject to sexual abuse in prison is bad, but it’s extra-special bad when the woman is an Indian … … No matter who has it rough, you’d better make sure to state Indian and black women have it worse. That’s the insidious nature of identity politics - it worms its way into everything.

    God forbid if we were just to state sexual abuse in prison is bad for everyone not just for women. Since it is much more commonly suffered by men it seems obscene to exclude the most common victims but that is identity politics and the ideological heirarchy of victimhood. Men don’t matter women do and, as observed race, comes into the heirarchy to. This is disgustingly sexist and racist but is just the norm and accepted without comment even in someone supposedly opposed to identity politics. Why did this become not just acceptable but the norm?

  8. That’s a great question. I accept your criticism because I think it’s offered fairly and does bring to light the gynocentrism of topics. Perhaps it’s this incessant pummeling of women’s issues into our noggins that has us fixate on them whilst making women collectively self centered and dismissive of men’s issues. (To be fair, there are many women who are not this way - Karen Straughan and her cohort come to mind.) Perhaps ignoring them is a way to counter this over emphasis. In my defence, I was addressing the specific imprisonment of extra special women of colour.

    Back to your question, I think is has to do with men being told they have to suck it up, which has its merits with building resilience, though they need not do so always. Then they get the conflicting message they ought to be more emotionally in touch and vulnerable, and when they express emotions others don’t want to hear, for example frustration and anger, then they’re accused of being toxic. Seems there are some implicit no-go zones in that.

    Quite a roller coaster. And when you get off, the carpet gets pulled out from under you for the coup de grace.

  9. It wasn’t offered as criticism so much as an observation that although your observation about identity poliics is valid it is men who are at the bottom of the heap and that this goes unremarked. It is so much the norm that it is easy to fall into it without even noticing.

    Men being considered disposable compared to women is nothing new but a dominant political ideology which claims the opposite is true, demonises men and drives policy to further advantage women in all areas and overturn long established legal protections is new and a real problem.

    Boys need to be taught to be resilient and self reliant because unlike girls the chances are that if they get into difficulty they will not be helped, and they will certainly be prioritisd well below assisting women in much less need. The messages that they need to more emotionally open and vulnerable, in fact more like girls, is I think very dangerous and damaging. Boys who open up and are vulnerable will not receive the help women would but will insstead be mocked and denigrated. Raising false expectations is no help.

  10. If I may repeat my facebook post:

    "From where I’m sitting, the trans movement is the obvious, if subverted, endgame of third wave feminism. You reap what’s been sown.

    Watching feminists and trans communities inside this ouroboros of activism is pure entertainment."

    I have to admit gagamba, that it was reading your commentary on this subject that changed my point of view from Kay’s “the poor feminists” to “hey wait a second, they EARNED this garbage”.

    I also agree with your analysis on identity politics weaseling into everything. It always looks so absurd when a little logic is applied to the statements. I find Kay’s qualifying/disqualifying statements the weakest part of his articles. He can’t seem to help himself. He used to the the editor of The Walrus, which is obsessed with identity issues - perhaps this is an explanation.

  11. I’m losing track of all these progressive taboos. Cultural appropriation is verboten but gender appropriation is applauded. So if a white biological male claims to identify as a Latina, named Rosita, is he/she celebrated or cursed? If Rosita defeats biological females in a weight lifting contest, progressive policy dictates he/she should not be criticized. If Rosita displaces a biological female Latina for a tenured University position, is this a celebrated progressive victory?

    There needs to be a progressive Emily Post “Book of Etiquette”.

  12. It would be out-of-date by the time it’s published. It’s all done on the fly and who can rally the noisiest allies.

    Why? Because it’s the practice of power politics, so as long as it’s someone deemed “oppressed”, s/he can get away with most anything barring the taboos of conservatism, capitalism, coherence, and competence. And Christianity.

  13. I don’t think for a second that this world couldn’t become a better place by people trying to see things from another persons perspective.

    But I also don’t believe that true progressives are really that interested in promoting anything like understanding or finding solutions to issues, but are primarily interested in stirring up the pot in hopes of it boiling over. It’s the conflict they’re after, not the resolution.

  14. This article raises many strong points, and it’s important to write. Thank you.

    However, I do have to disagree with several assumptions and assertions the author makes as I feel they contribute to a poor resolution of this dogma. I’ll go through point by point.

    1. “And I have every confidence that once the current spasm of progressive social panic recedes, a compromise will emerge that protects the dignity and safety of trans people, while also acknowledging the right of women to operate in certain spaces that are free of male bodies.”

    But is this really about the “dignity and safety of trans people”? First, we already have laws in place to protect all people. So what safety are we talking about? The underlying assumption here is that first of all, words are violence and therefore to dare to call a trans person by the wrong gender risks violence. This is utterly unproven and contrary to human experience, and, moreover, is only applied randomly, to certain groups by certain groups. For instance, I regularly read Tweets and posts that are far far more violent against my own group, Jews, and are literal calls to violence. Yet no one does anything about that nor would I want them to–unless there were a violation of actual law, that is a terrorist plan and so on. So what ‘safety’ precisely are we talking about? In all my life I have never once, ever, gone into a public bathroom and noticed whether someone was trans. Even if I did, I’d mind my own business. The whole thing about bathrooms seems invented–there is not a single instance I am aware of that documents violence done to a trans person in the ‘wrong’ bathroom. As far as ‘safety’ in any other way–yes, no one should hurt a trans person. No one should discriminate if they are able to work the job. But that’s all already in the books.

    As far as “dignity”—that is not something that the government should have to ‘protect.’ If I decide to walk around in my underwear and bra (a sight you do not want to see as I’m in my late 50s lol), I would not expect anyone to protect my dignity. I’m not dignified. Similarly, if a man with a beard walks around in a pink wig and exaggerated stereotyped female clothes and make up, they do not look dignified. No one can protect them from themselves, and what would that protection look like anyway? When then would ‘dignity’ be protected? What behavior requires legislation to protect it and how do we define it? I don’t believe there is any legislation because ‘dignity’ is a personal choice of behavior. If you want to be undignified, then no one can protect you. If you are dignified and someone is a jerk to you, well, you’re dignified. So you let it roll off you. Unless they break the already-extant law - eg punch you for being trans - in which case you appeal to the courts.

    My point here is that the assumptions made are that the state is needed to specially ‘protect’ this 0.2% of the population from–what? It’s not defined, simply assumed.

    Then, when you compare this move to ‘protect safety’ to the rights of 50% of our population, women, it becomes clear this doesn’t have to do with safety because the safety of women is already being compromised in sports and in bathrooms and in jails. So the two ‘rights’ already have nothing in common to my mind.

    1. “As a man, I have no personal stake in this battle—because the entire weight of gender-ideology extremism is borne by girls and women.” First of all, as someone else wrote, that should be meaningless. Do I write, “As an adult, I have no stake in child molestation because the entire weight of pedophilia is borne by children”? Either the issue is immoral and wrong, or it is not. If it is wrong, then protest it. Your personal identity should have nothing to do with whether an issue is morally wrong.

    Secondly, the author doesn’t ask why this subset of MtF trans is so loud, aggressive, forceful, and so obsessed with competing with biological women. Hmmmm, I wonder if that has to do with their male hormones and male brain developed in utero? Impossible!

    Why, however, is it the MtF that is making all the noise and threats, and not the FtM? What does that say about the entire idea of trans “rights”? If it were simply about 'being the gender you believe yourself to be" (insert rainbows and unicorns here), then why is the behavior of FtM so starkly different from MtF?

    1. "To any normal observer, it must seem like the media has lost its collective mind. The question is: Why?

    When conservatives try to provide an answer, the focus often centers on the ideological distortions contained within orthodox gender studies."

    Great question, but the answer seems disingenuous, at least as far as I understand it. Perhaps conservatives in canada are different, but in the US, a) That’s a bit of a straw man. No one argues these distortions are 'contained within orthodox gender studies." They say the entire movement is an ideological movement, not a movement that cares about trans or women per se, but instead a movement that seeks absolute power both culturally and politically and will do so by any means necessary. They view themselves, like priests of 500 years ago, as morally right and entitled to use any means to punish the disbelievers and to gain autocratic power. b) this would explain why it’s so appealing. There are always petty bureaucrats who lust after power, as well as sociopaths, as well as weak minded people who like to be told what to think, etc. The appeal is obvious if you have a certain personality or position in society.

    I don’t think the media 'appears ’ to have lost its mind; I think it has already lost it. And you have the answer when you describe the recent destruction of the professional media model and instead rely on upper class indoctrinated 20 somethings who can afford a poorly paid job in the hopes of glory and being invited to the correct parties - who have known very little material discomfort and who have insulated themselves from the unwashed masses all their lives, up to and including college and their jobs - and social media. The mainstream media’s chasing after social media is, I believe, their biggest error in their race to irrelevancy. They should have known their own brand and stayed with that. Instead, they post entire articles based on rumor and falsehoods, chase Tweets as news ("Bob from Boise, Idaho tweeted a racist thing! That means America is racist! Here is an entire article about it "), and have zero repercussions for not doing their job as there would be in almost any other job. That is, if a journalist willfully lies or presents opinion as fact - which they have been doing more and more lately - nothing happens to them as long as they toe the “progressive” line. This is also very tempting for someone who is worried about job security and who has a need for moral superiority while they want to live their upper class lives exactly as always with very little risk. As long as they regurgitate the dogma.

    1. “And the reason seems clear: These politicians still are paying the [price] for having picked the wrong side of the gay-marriage argument in the 2000s, and so (rightly) feel that entering the trans-rights debate would invite yet more accusations of bigotry”

    Again I don’t know canada but here in America everyone was against gay marriage, up to Obama. However, maybe canada is different? But how is being anti-gay marriage bigoted? I personally have no problem with it, but I respect those who do; their argument is usually based on their religious beliefs. Why can’t they have that belief? How does that hurt me? I completely disagree it’s ‘bigoted’ to be against gay marriage and definitely disagree anyone should be ‘paying the price’ if they believed it 20 years ago. What is the price exactly? And why are they paying ‘the price’ but tons of people who expressed their opinion not paying ‘the price’? When does one ‘pay the price’ and when does the price stop?

    As far as their being afraid of talking because they were so ‘wrong’ before, I disagree. The real reason they don’t speak is that the media will attack them like rabid dogs if they dare to open their mouth even mildly, like if a conservative said, “Well, the science says there are biological differences between men and women”. Whereas a progressive is generally accorded grace and forgiveness if they do a Maoist apology and present their backsides. In other words, the dogma offers forgiveness for speaking the Wrong Words, but only if you are in the cult. The feminists being viciously attacked are attacked because they won’t do a Maoist apology and don’t adhere to every tenet of the cult.

    Apologies for the length of this. I found the article, despite my disagreements, very thought provoking and well written. My own question is why is this cult so very appealing to a particular subset of the upper and upper middle classes (the author was totally right to bring of social class)? I don’t really know. My own theory is that it’s a way for them to consolidate the power they are terrified they’re losing with the rise in wealth globally, the loss in power of the media, the equalizing of speech via social media. With this cult, they get to keep the power while telling themselves they’re virtuous. It’s why their claws come out when the lower orders dare to speak or the Little Brown People dare to express an opinion they don’t like. They want control and power, and are attracted to this because it’s an easy way to get it without risking much of anything and while telling themselves they’e not petty despots.

    At any event, thanks for the article.

  15. @gagamba, I know I’m not supposed to feed your posts, but I do have to say I think you may need a bit more of a sense of humor and proportion, and some grace. I also officially rescind my suggestion that it would be best to have a talk about this over drinks (if that were ever possible!); I’m guessing that would be rather a disaster…All best.

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