Featured Post

PZ Myers dissects evolutionary psychology: brief, sharp and fabulous

I admit I LOL'd at the part about lighting up "like a Christmas tree." WATCH AND LEARN all IDWs!

The Brian Ferguson Interview

Saturday, February 18, 2023

NYTimes vs. transpeople: Tom Scocca and The Onion respond

"Month after month, story after story, the Times is pouring its attention and resources into the message that there is something seriously concerning about the way young people who identify as trans are receiving care."

I read an excellent piece a couple of weeks ago by Tom Scocca about the NYTimes increasing obsession with "asking questions" about medical care for transpeople

I found it again after I heard about the letters of protest against the NYTimes about its coverage:

About 200 New York Times contributors have signed an open letter calling out the legacy newspaper for its coverage of transgender issues.

In the letter addressed to the Times' associate managing editor for standards, the contributors say they have "serious concerns about editorial bias in the newspaper's reporting on transgender, non⁠-⁠binary, and gender nonconforming people."

Scocca wrote:

...Page A1 is where questions go. Is the number of young trans people suddenly unusually large? Is it good for young trans people to be getting medical treatment as drastic as breast-removal surgery? If they’re deferring more drastic medical treatment by taking puberty blockers, is it harmful for them to take those puberty blockers? If they’re not getting medical treatment at all, are their schools letting them socially transition too easily?

This is pretty obviously—and yet not obviously enough—a plain old-fashioned newspaper crusade. Month after month, story after story, the Times is pouring its attention and resources into the message that there is something seriously concerning about the way young people who identify as trans are receiving care. Like the premise that the Clintons had to have been guilty of something serious, or that Saddam Hussein must have had a weapons program worth invading Iraq over, the notion that trans youth present a looming problem is demonstrated to the reader by the sheer volume of coverage. If it’s not a problem, why else would it be in the paper?


I actually first caught wind of the protests via The Onion's response:

It Is Journalism’s Sacred Duty To Endanger The Lives Of As Many Trans People As Possible

...We stand behind our recent obsessed-seeming torrent of articles and essays on trans people, which we believe faithfully depicts their lived experiences as weird and gross. We remain dedicated to finding the angles that best frame the basic rights of the gender-nonconforming as up for debate, and we will use these same angles over and over again in hopes that this repetition makes them suffer. As journalists, it is our obligation to entertain any and all pseudoscience that gives bigotry an intellectual veneer. We must be diligent in laundering our vitriol through the posture of journalistic inquiry, and we must be allowed to fixate on the genitals.

It is against free speech to stop us from fixating on the genitals.

Much of the recent debate concerns medical procedures, particularly in children, and whether things like hormone replacement therapy or gender-affirming surgeries are safe and appropriate. Indeed, there are critical questions to be asked about the social complexities of gender, as well as medical ethics in a profit-driven healthcare system. We are simply not interested in any of that. Instead, we will use flawed data and spurious logic to repeatedly write the same hand-wringing arguments asking whether there are suddenly too many trans people around. Journalistic integrity demands nothing less.

One of the things I liked about Scocca's piece was that it mentioned Jesse Singal's role in pioneering the media's approach to trans issues:

...Singal’s story also established the template for the meta-coverage of the subject. Trans writers and activists expressed dismay and outrage about the piece’s alarmist angle; the Atlantic defended it; some of the protests became vituperative and personal; Singal himself curdled over time into, at minimum, a position of combative and obsessive anti-anti-transphobia. The fuss over such an ostensibly thorough and ostensibly reasonable article struck some people with no particular investment in trans issues as censorious and irrational, and those people became invested instead in trans coverage as an object of “cancel culture” discourse: a line of inquiry under attack by the opponents of free inquiry. 

The idea that arguments against trans care are forbidden knowledge, which journalists have a duty to bring to light, is still driving coverage. Last week, the Atlantic published a piece by two scholars who are themselves trans, arguing that there is prejudice against people who have transitioned to another gender and then transitioned back, and that discussion of those experiences is being suppressed. “Haven’t seen it discussed much,” the tactically annoying liberal pundit Matthew Yglesias tweeted, praising the piece. “I think since the authors are harder to dismiss than most.”

(The NYTimes, remember, brought Singal in to defend Steven Pinker and to attack Pinker's critics. )

Scocca makes an excellent point about how the Times' trans coverage frets often over possible damage to young people having trans-related medical treatment, but not nearly as much over medical treatment for young people, equally serious, but not related to trans:

Stories about the sudden rise of trans identity acknowledge the problem of scale, sometimes, in passing. Writing about top surgery for teens, the Times noted that there are other, more prevalent gender-affirmation surgeries going on in the world, too. After scraping together what single-year figures on teen breast removals were available (203 total surgeries across 11 clinics that answered a reporter’s questions, 13 more by one publicity-seeking doctor, 70 at Kaiser Permanente Oakland in a study in a different year), the Times added some context:

Experts said that adolescent top surgeries were less frequent than cosmetic breast procedures performed on teenagers who were not transgender. Around 3,200 girls age 18 to 19 received cosmetic breast implants in 2020, according to surveys of members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, and another 4,700 teenagers age 13 to 19 had breast reductions. (Surveys from other groups have shown that girls under 18 also receive implants, though the ASPS does not recommend breast augmentation for minors.)

Once you start asking questions about things like breast-enhancement surgeries in comparison to trans care, it’s hard to stop. Some 30,000 teens each year get rhinoplasties—irrevocable, highly visible, life-changing surgeries that are overwhelmingly performed on girls, many of whom are motivated by body dysphoria, peer pressure, and invidious internalized notions about race and ethnicity. 

The Times expended more than 6,000 words on puberty blockers, raising the specter that, despite doctors’ widespread agreement that the treatment makes life better for adolescents who identify as trans, the drugs carry the risk of reducing bone density. Bone density loss is also one of the many side effects of isotretinoin, more famous as Accutane, which has been used to alleviate severe acne in millions of teenagers over the decades, even though it comes with a list of potential psychological and physical harms up to and including its ability to cause severe birth defects. 

Any medical decision involves some sort of judgment about how to balance competing sets of risks. Yet the Times isn’t publishing multiple front-page stories about whether teens are endangering their bodies by getting treated for cystic acne. 

And back to that pioneer, Jesse Singal:

...And Singal, trying to argue against social gender transitioning, accidentally described the logic that keeps those (gay) kids there: 

[I]f a decision to socially transition that is kept from parents sticks, a young, developing person will then spend months, or maybe even years, living one identity at school and another among their family. That just can’t be psychologically healthy. It fosters distrust between students and parents, and it isn’t sustainable because the parents are inevitably going to find out (if schools think they can keep it a secret in the long term, that’s ridiculous). 

If it wanted to, there’s no question that the Times could find parents and support groups who are still bothered, today, by their children identifying as gay. The parents would be furious if the children were out at school without their knowledge, and would feel that their parental rights were being violated. Selected experts would share the parents’ concerns. What would that do for the kids?

And what will all this trans coverage accomplish? The Times considers itself an objective repository of current events, not a crusading newspaper, but when a publication fixes its attention on a subject and keeps it there, it is making the case that its attention matters. If youth trans care is a problem, the Times is bringing that problem to light, so that the public and people in authority can understand it and make it better.

Finally, Scocca makes the case for how the NYTimes, either deliberately or fecklessly, is aiding and abetting the current Republican war on transpeople:

In the spirit of asking critical questions, then: how many thousand words on the front page of the Times does it take to acknowledge the existence of doubt? At what cumulative word count does it become possible to read it as something less neutral—something that could in fact give ammunition to Republican politicians? 

What if, perhaps, a mainstream liberal moral panic about young trans people has been moving in synchrony with “a barrage of bills to regulate the lives of transgender youths, restricting the sports teams they can play on, bathrooms they can use and medical care they can receive”? What if the laws are being promoted by “some of the same figures who fought the legalization of gay marriage”?

And what if the latest wave of this legislative assault included “bans on transition care into young adulthood; restrictions on drag shows using definitions that could broadly encompass performances by transgender people; measures that would prevent teachers in many cases from using names or pronouns matching students’ gender identities; and requirements that schools out transgender students to their parents”?

This was what the Times reported on Jan. 26, three days after it had used its front page to air parents’ objections to teachers using names or pronouns matching students’ gender identities, and letting those parents suggest schools should have requirements that out transgender students to their parents. 

In this story about new legislation, the Times raised the possibility that the interest in young people’s welfare was a tactical pretext by the far right, the opening stage in a full-on campaign against trans people:

Matt Sharp, senior counsel and state government relations national director for the Alliance Defending Freedom, said his group believed “gender ideology attacks the truth that every person is either male or female.”

And Mr. Schilling, of the American Principles Project, confirmed that his organization’s long-term goal was to eliminate transition care. The initial focus on children, he said, was a matter of “going where the consensus is.”

This news ran under the headline “G.O.P. State Lawmakers Push a Growing Wave of Anti-Transgender Bills.” 

It was on page A13.

FAIR (not the right-wing grifters FAIRforall) also has a response

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

It's Black History Month - the IDW & the GOP hate Black History

It's Black History Month. Let's talk about how much the Right - and its IDW division - hate Black History.

Over in the cesspit known as Twitter, as reported by right-wing garbage heap Fox News, the Right are at each others' throats, while promoting the fiction that Steven Pinker is on the Left. He's about as Left as Jerry Coyne

Fox News is displaying attacks against Pinker by Colin Wright and Christopher Rufo. 

Rufo is a hypocrite, naturally, and so in response to Pinker tweeting a link to Cathy Young's criticism of Rufo and his connection to Ron DeSantis and his scheme to erase Black History, Rufo tweeted "Sorry, buddy, we're not going to listen to people who can't even open their comments."

Do I have to mention that Rufo blocked me on Twitter every bit as much as Pinker did?

Cathy Young herself is hardly blameless. I consider her a pioneer of stochastic terrorism.

But the whole thing is odd, because Steven Pinker is a supporter of Rufo's campaign against Critical Race Theory, which is the founding motivation of FAIR FOR ALL

Pinker was a member of the FAIR board of advisors when it was first created in March 2021 along with Rufo. And although Rufo is no longer there, Pinker is.

FAIR is a who's who of right-wing political operatives and members of the Intellectual Dark Web.

Colin Wright has never been a member of the FAIR board of advisors, but they haven't forgotten him. He's mentioned in December 2021 in the News section: New Video: Doing ‘DEI’ Right with Colin Wright.

Now before getting cozy with Rufo's CRT grift, Colin Wright was best known as a hateful transphobe:

Colin Wright, an anti-trans extremist writer for right-wing site Quillette and founder of Reality’s Last Stand, posted a very heinous tweet harming the safety of LGBTQ+ minors by criticizing suicide prevention outlet The Trevor Project’s “quick exit” feature that allows LGBTQ+ youth to have safe conversations without being snooped on by their non-LGBTQ+-affirming parent(s) or other family members and then subsequently get berated, abused, and/or even disowned, or worse, killed. 

His Twitter account was even suspended for extreme transphobia, before fascist Elon Musk came along to set all the little fashies free from Twitter jail.

But both transphobia and hostility to Black history are hallmarks of the Intellectual Dark Web and Quillette. And Wright quickly jumped on board Rufo's anti-CRT campaign, aligning with Trump.

I wonder how Jerry Coyne will react to the attacks on Pinker. On the one hand, Coyne adores Pinker, on the other hand Coyne is a fan of Colin Wright.

It is odd though, this public drama, considering that all the main characters, Pinker, Young, Rufo, and Wright have taken Koch money. And Koch and the Intellectual Dark Web have nurtured Rufo's CRT-panic grift since the beginning.

What Ron DeSantis is doing is the ultimate political expression of the IDW/Quillette campaign against Black history.

Rufo may talk about "Critical Race Theory" but what he's really after is to kill the 1619 Project.

Mr. DeSantis’s “Stop WOKE” law relegates the study of the experiences of Black people to a prohibited category. The canceling of students’ access to accurate, truthful education that reflects their diverse identities and that of their country should chill every American. Not only do these laws offend First Amendment freedoms of speech and expression; to the extent they harm certain groups on the basis of race, gender or other protected status, they also violate principles of equal protection. And they are a chilling precursor to state-sponsored dehumanization of an entire race of people.

This disturbing pattern of silencing Black voices and aggressive attempts to erase Black history is one of the most visible examples of performative white supremacy since the presidency of Donald Trump. In 2019 the Florida legislature undermined Amendment 4, which a supermajority of Floridians supported and would have restored the voting rights of more than a million formerly incarcerated people. In its place, lawmakers put in place a pay-to-vote system that redisenfranchises hundreds of thousands of those citizens, many of them Black. Similarly, Florida’s antiprotest law, H.B. 1, was enacted in 2021 in response to the 2020 protests against police violence, when Black organizations and peaceful demonstrators in Florida — along with their allies — took to the streets with demands for justice...

..Several book bans and other antitruth measures introduced in the past two years target The New York Times’s 1619 Project (and curriculum), which was created by Nikole Hannah-Jones — who won a Pulitzer Prize for her work — and is a linchpin in today’s conversations about the role of systemic racism in America’s history and its enduring impacts. In Wyoming and Texas, lawmakers and school officials have proposed measures mandating that objectively horrific historic events like the Holocaust and the trans-Atlantic slave trade be presented to American children neutrally and without judgment. (The Wyoming measure failed to pass the state’s legislature.) But why would we want our children to look at these atrocities without judgment?

Rufo and his allies hate the 1619 project. From Jerry Coyne to Colin Wright to neo-Nazi James Lindsay

You would think that Pinker and Young would be happy that their side is winning.

Could this be an example of unintended consequences? 

Could Young and Pinker have really not considered that their constant harping on "wokeness," along with Pinker echoing infamous racist Amy Wax in an attempt to downplay the power of systemic racism, could have political consequences?

I mean, I did not think they were especially bright people, but even I didn't think they were that clueless.

Or is it all phony? Like Jerry Coyne claiming to be on the Left, while constantly agreeing with the Right. Much like this.

But they always pretend - or maybe they are just that self-deluded - that what they really care about is "free speech." 

Fox News refers to Colin Wright as an "evolutionary biologist" but he is not a practicing one. He is on wingnut welfare, paid to promote the views of right-wing plutocrats. I assume he switched to that career because several of his science papers were retracted.

To be fair, although blocking critics is what members of the IDW/Quillette gang do, Wright did not block my Twitter account. This isn't especially significant now, since I'm never on Twitter, but it was something different from the standard member of the IDW/Quillette gang. I guess he refrained from blocking for "free speech."

But to Wright, free speech means if you disagree with him, he will make unsupported vicious attacks against you. And then run away.

But you can't expect good faith from people who have devoted their lives to promoting hatred on behalf of evil old plutocrats.

About Cathy Young's piece - a perfect illustration of her through-the-lookinglass view of the world in this section:
If DeSantis’s objective had been simply to appoint board members who would counteract excessive “woke” influence at New College, he could have picked plenty of people who weren’t in that mold. For instance, Columbia University professor and author John McWhorter, a self-identified black liberal whose book Woke Racism is scathingly critical of Kendi-style “anti-racism” even as McWhorter has been no less scathing about Trump. Or, say, Christina Hoff Sommers, a former academic who is sufficiently “anti-woke” to have been classed among the earlier-mentioned “intellectual dark web” and to have been targeted for deplatforming at several progressive universities, but has said that she regards Trump as an example of “amoral masculinity” rather than positive masculinity. Or social psychologist and New York University professor Jonathan Haidt, who has strongly criticized academia’s move toward prioritizing “social justice” over truth and who recently resigned from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology over a new rule requiring presenters at the society’s annual conference to submit a statement on equity, inclusion, and anti-racism.

McWhorter is not only a long-time employee of Koch-funded organizations and an author at race pseudoscience-loving Quillette, he is also on the board of advisors of the CRT-crazed FAIR.

Sommers, like Young is a pioneer in stochastic terrorism, misogyny division. 

Jonathan Haidt is a long-time supporter of race-pseudoscience, recently seen at Peter Thiel's CPAC for racists. And another member of the anti-CRT crazed FAIR.

The American Right may not agree about Trump, but they do agree about race pseudoscience and transphobia. And the utility of grifts like anti-CRT and the classic free speech grift.

UPDATE February 9: far from defending Pinker from attacks by Rufo, disgusting right-wing goon Jerry Coyne is celebrating Rufo:

After the bad publicity, Texas Tech, according to a tweet by Christoper Rufo, has suspended this DEI policy.

Blog Archive