An open letter in the style of the last bunch of yahoos to write an open letter

Somebody, sooner or later, must speak up. So sad that it was us – whoever we are – and now, and that our chosen topic was, among other things, the distinction between a petty anxiety and the horror that arises when you become aware that you are witnessing persecution…apparently.

Topic change! In olden times, a letter that anybody could read was called a postcard. On one side it had a picture of some landscape and, on the other, 3 or 4 bland and formulaic statements. “Wish you were here”, “Having a lovely time”, “It has pissed down for 8 solid days”, etc. Now that we’re modern, it takes 3 pages of bland and formulaic statements to paint a picture of an entirely fictional landscape. We’re calling that progress.

“When we consider the paradox of tolerance – that is that in order to be inclusive we must intolerant of some ideas – we soon see that… (postcard 1 of 517)”

Topic change! Only by completely refusing to allow some people a voice can we make things more inclusive of everyone. That sounded better in my head. The important thing is that, at the moment, everyone has a voice, but things would clearly be fairer, apparently, if the anonymous people who wrote our letter decided who was allowed to speak and who wasn’t. To quote Ernest Hemingway, “Fuck literature!” Now that we think about it, that quote doesn’t entirely support any of the 47 points we were trying to make, but this is a letter about the book industry, so we need a couple of quotes in, don’t we? As William Shakespeare said, “Yes.”

There is no cancel culture, but there really should be. Once again, that sounded better before we wrote it down. The point is, if we don’t cancel people then the people we don’t cancel may use their un-cancelled status to cancel others, and the people they’ll be cancelling are a tiny minority. By cancelling the people we want to cancel, which is quite a lot, then we’ll be protecting the very small number of people from cancelling, which means that, on the whole, more people will not be cancelled. Hang on, we might have forgotten to carry the 3.

Topic change! When you think about it, the real damage is done by those who stay silent in all of this. Those people are tacitly supporting the people we don’t like, possibly because they think they don’t know enough about the subject to comment. Hopefully this open letter will show them that needn’t be a bar.

Topic change! Stereotypes, eh? Maybe when women think about allowing trans men into women’s spaces their silly girl brains picture a huge man invading their spaces. What they’ve done – bless their feeble minds – is mistake being trans for wearing some kind of costume. There’s not space here to discuss how a transwoman might look a lot like a regular man wearing some kind of costume, or might look like a regular man not wearing a costume, who says they’re trans anyway, or to discuss the hundreds of objective and fool-proof ways to tell these groups apart. No, indeed, women are silly and we’ve got another 3 pages of open letter to write. Onwards!

Topic change! The things people are saying now sound very much like hateful incidents from the past, if you change some of the words they’re using, and ignore the context, and make up your own facts. Dear god, all the injustices in the world, and the one we’ve decided to write an open letter about is the one that only stands up if you prop it against an actual civil rights issue and then blur the language, until they sound like they’re sort of about the same thing.

If you just change “meek” to “Anglo-Saxons” then you’ll see that the bit about them inheriting the Earth was straight-up white supremacy. That’s how this works!

Anyway, the point is, some things that happened in the past are now seen as bad, and we’ve decided to use the spectre of history’s judgement as a stick to beat you with, because if the open letter isn’t the format to have a free-form, footnote free, reckon about the future course of humanity, and why it should turn out the way we want, then nothing is.

Topic change! As Blake said, “All right, Avon. You were right and I was wrong. You said persuasion wouldn’t work and it didn’t. So now we use force.” Again, not really our point, but it’s a great line.

Topic change! As creative people, the idea of gender being more than pink or blue has always been with us. Writers have created stories about people who weren’t men or women, male or female…some of them were robots. Because literature always describes absolute reality, and dictates how society should be organised, we can infer books should only exist if they support whatever we believe in, and are written, published and sold by people who also believe in whatever we tell them to, or are are at least prepared to make statements to that effect.

Topic change! Also, some cultures have more than two genders. We didn’t bother learning about them, so we’re just assuming that they’re great. Go them!

Topic change! The time to repeat history is past. Let’s not do any harm, or in any way consider that what we’re proposing could do harm! Just do what we want! Send!

Getting to the bottom of it.

I spent the early to mid 90s working for a multinational corporation. At around the same time the Daily Telegraph, the newspaper my parents read, started to syndicate Scott Adams’ Dilbert strip, a cartoon about a techie working for a large corporation.

I became a big Dilbert fan. I cut out the cartoons and pinned them to the wall of my cubicle, I bought the collections of strips that were released, I bought the hardback books written by Adams. Then I read The Dilbert Future, and never bought another thing of his.

This was the best part of two decades before Adams became a supporter of, or at least an apologist for, President Trump, so what did he do to upset me?

He proposed a new theory of gravity. Or, rather, he postulated that there was no gravity and that, rather, everything in the universe was constantly doubling in size, creating an illusion of gravity. The example he used was a person jumping into the air. This creates a gap between them and the planet, but then both the jumper and the planet double in size, which brings them back together again.

Adams seemed be seriously proposing this as a theory. In the introduction to it he said that he’d mentioned it on his emailing list, and nobody had raised any serious objections. Remember, this was back before the world was full of people who would happily spend their days arguing with what, they must have assumed, was a joke.

What annoyed me about this theory was that it has so many obvious little thought-experiments that would invalidate it immediately. The very first one that came to mind for me was asking why, under this theory of gravity, a child’s helium-filled balloon would float, but a melon with a piece of string taped to its bum wouldn’t. If you think for a few minutes beyond that, even with no specialist scientific knowledge, then you can come up with hundreds more. How would planets orbit a star? What is happening to the speed of light? Why wouldn’t big objects fall faster than small ones? How do clouds work?

As much as I hate Adams for putting this stupid, quarter-baked, idea into a book, which I paid actual money for, it is at least a scientific theory. It can be tested. It can be falsified.

DISPROVED!

Falsification isn’t a particularly high bar to clear. Even the pre-Newton theory of gravity – that objects fell to Earth because Earth was at the centre of the universe, and everything naturally fell towards the centre – is testable. If we’d still been wondering if this was true by the late 1960s then Neil Armstrong stepping onto the lunar surface, rather than beginning a quarter-million mile plummet towards Earth, would have shown us the error. This is one small arrrrrrrrrrrrrg!

This is why I was so delighted to see a thread and blog post from Jordan Levi, which introduced falsification into the trans debate…

This, for me, is one of the key questions that I have yet to see asked in the constant to and fro. If the statement Trans women are women is supported by the science, as its advocates claim, and is not a religious belief, then what evidence would they accept to falsify it?

I’ve no intention of answering on behalf of the trans ideology supporters and, as we already see them willing to peer over mountains of evidence, to throw pebbles of pseudoscience at non-believers, I don’t think they’ll be prepared to answer on their own behalf either. Plus, of course, we already know that there is no testable definition or quantifiable metric of trans that will produce groupings that place women and transwomen together, but exclude men, while also identifying a group which is men and transmen, but not women.

So, don’t hold your breath weighting (see what I did there) for an answer, but however much you see claims that trans ideology is based on science, just remember that without a claim that is falsifiable…well, everything falls down.

Fringe benefits

Every group has its wild outer fringes; those who subscribe to the central doctrines of the group as a whole, but add their own madness on top. Christians have young-Earth creationists, who assert that the Bible is word-for-word literal truth, and deriving from there that the Earth was created in its current form, and with all of its life as it is now, fairly recently.

These days a tiny minority of Christians are young-Earth creationists. Subscribing to that view means arguing that evolution, geology, cosmology, physics and countless other scientific disciplines are wrong, which is an increasingly hard position to defend. They do still turn up every so often, mainly in America, demanding that children are taught their latest mishmash of pseudoscience.

The Earth, pictured in 4005BC

No matter how vocal they are, it would be unfair to treat the Young-Earthers as representative of all of Christianity. Indeed, the Vatican itself, having been on the wrong side of both heliocentrism and evolution, was so keen to salvage its reputation that Pope Pius XII had announced that the Big Bang theory was correct well before there was anything like scientific consensus that this was the case.

Christianity, of course, has had a couple of thousand years to pull together its central doctrines and define itself, and it’s something that most Westerners have a reasonable familiarity with. This means that when we see the Westboro Baptist Church protesting, saying that dead US soldiers are God’s punishment for America endorsing homosexuality, we know that they’re the fringe and not the main body.

What happens, though, when we’re dealing with a much newer group, which doesn’t have such a codified dogma and is more of a mystery to the general public?

I was lucky enough, a couple of weeks ago, to have a civilised debate with someone on the other side of the trans issue to myself. They are not a vocal trans-rights activist, but a firm believer in the mantra that transwomen are women (which, at least, we can all agree is core ideology, even if it’s considerably less likely that we’d all be able to agree what it means).

What I discovered, over 2 hours of discussion, is that they held many views that would see them denounced as a TERF, if they were to express them in public. They believe that sex is real, that self-ID alone is not sufficient to grant someone access to female spaces, and a host of other little heresies.

I was reminded of that conversation this morning, when I read Nicky Clark’s thoughts on the trans debate.

What really rang a bell was this tweet.

No trans woman I know claims to be biologically female, is the key sentence here. While this may be true, it’s also true that many transwomen do claim to be biologically female, including some very high-profile figures.

What happened in my real-life discussion was that, several times, the person I was talking to made similar sweeping claims, such as, Nobody is saying that sex isn’t real. Presented with contrary evidence, those views were then ascribed to a fringe group, “Nutters”.

As gender ideology is, currently, a religion without a church, nobody is really sure which prayers they should be chanting or which hymns to sing. Instead, every person is free to adhere to whatever parts of scripture speak to them, and assume that any views they can’t condone, or haven’t seen personally, are fringe views.

This creates a problem and an opportunity.

The problem is that while the majority are always quick to claim that the fringe don’t represent them, the fringe never have a problem claiming that they represent the majority. Christianity’s young-Earthers and gay-bashers are always willing to portray any dismissal of their views as a dismissal of all of Christianity. Similarly, there’s no demand made on behalf of trans rights that those doing the demanding won’t claim it’s transphobic to refuse.

This means that the “Nutter” edge of the trans rights movement does most of the deciding who is transphobic. Here, for example, is another vocal transwoman being rounded on by her own side, for suggesting that it’s too much to ask people to re-learn what kind of genitals they’re attracted to.

Gender critical people on Twitter are fond of sharing #PeakTrans moments, when people who were previously supportive of, or neutral to, trans rights finally encounter a bridge too far for them.

However, being able to ascribe these moments to the fringes of the movement negates this effect. The lunatic fringe, which should be damaging the TRA cause, protects the core ideology, because they carry the can for outlandish ideas, the unreasonable demands and the abuse and threats.

The opportunity is that there is a body of people who, if asked, would say that they support trans rights, but who also support positions that are core to the gender critical side; that sex is real and immutable, that self ID may not be the answer to everything, that women should still exist as their own class.

If these people get lambasted for saying that transwomen are women, or for defending high profile figures, like Eddie Izzard, from ‘misgendering’, and get worse treatment still, from our own fringe, then they feel attacked.

It then comes down to us calling them handmaids and idiots, for not being 100% gender critical, while the other side called them TERFs, for not being behind 100% of gender ideology. They’re being forced to pick a side, and if they already see themselves as a trans ally, and presumably had their own reasons for being so, and believe that the rhetoric against them from that side is just a fringe, then they’re likely to stick with that side.

We have the opportunity to gain allies amongst people who are, perhaps, 60/40 on the GC side, but see themselves as being on the TR side. Not by yelling about them about how wrong they are about the 40%, but by being supportive when they speak about the 60%.

Ultimately, settling the disputed ground between what transwomen want, and what women are willing to give, will come down to a numbers game, through voting, through polling, through protesting, fundraising, lobbying and grass-roots support, and it would be terrible to lose the numbers game because we made the mistake of demanding total ideological purity. Let the other side follow that path.

We’ve all come to hate the phrase Just be kind, but maybe, when we’re talking about those stranded in no-man’s land, shelled from both sides, there is, after all, some value to it.

And Gxd created womxn

When Dictionary.com added Womxn to its lexicon, early in 2019, it described it as term used especially by intersectional feminists to be inclusive of trans and nonbinary women.

Of course, if you live by intersectional sword then you die by the intersectional sword and, on Monday night, the Twitch streaming service was forced to take down a tweet and issue an apology after try to celebrate Womxn’s History Month.

What they quickly learned is that Dictionary.com had it all arse-about-face. Womxn wasn’t created by the good intersectional feminists, but by their evil rivals, the trans-exclusionary radical feminists! And it was never about inclusivity, rather it was maliciously designed to exclude transwomen, and shunt them from womanhood into mere womxnhood. Or possibly womxnhxxd.

By the time you read this the retroactive application of this etymology will probably be nearly complete. Trans-supporting social media accounts will be purging their history of womxn, university societies will be hurriedly pulping fliers about getting more womxn into science, and the LGBTQI+ activists, who gave interviews saying how great it was to see womxn in the dictionary, will have been hunted down and metaphorically nailed to a X.

As the gender-critical feminists always hated the word, womxn will be left unloved by all. A word nobody takes credit for creating, nobody wants to use, and which describes nobody. Given that it’s impossible to pronounce, it can’t even look forward to rap-music revival, like the slightly less hated n-word.

Sometimes it’s hard to be a wom-ex-en, giving all your vowels to just please men

The demise of womxn was preceded by the embargo on transwomen (without a space) which, unlike trans women (with a space), does not convey the connotation that trans women are a kind of woman, and comes long after the denouncings of female, natal women, biological women, or even (sotto voce) real women. The language to distinguish between those who were born into a class that has experienced centuries of oppression, and those born into the class that has been doing the oppressing, is being eroded.

This creates something of a linguistical problem. Referring to transwomen as trans women, rather than just women, continues the distinction. To identify transwomen as trans is to suggest, even using the currently acceptable terms, that they are not part of the same class. If saying womxn reminds transwomen that they are not women, then the same argument can be applied to every trans-identifying term. Even the mantra, trans women are women, is either exclusionary or redundant. Yet some sort of term is still required. One cannot claim, for example, that trans women are more oppressed than cis women, if you lose the terms to separate them.

Speaking of cis women, elsewhere there is less inclusion to be seen. As the term woman is being widened, to include anybody who fancies a swing at it, the terms deemed acceptable for referring to biological women are being narrowed. Women, once a well-defined and cohesive group, is now a mish-mash of overlapping groups; people who have periods, uterus-owners, pregnant people, cervix users, vagina monoliths. The potential for women to identify themselves as a political group, with its own needs, is being deliberately removed. It’s hard to present a unified political force when you need a medical dictionary to discover what you have in common.

Stock photo of the three ages of woman, (left to right) Bleeder, Tavistock-fodder and HRT thief

The fallen womxn is a lesson in how important it is to protect the trans community from any reminder of reality, while allowing women to define themselves only in ways which reduce them to basic biological functions, and exclude women not at the same stage of their reproductive lifecycle. The chances are that in the next few years we’ll see trans women, and trans itself, go the way of womxn, and be denounced as exclusionary terms. Maybe even cis will go, although it hits all the important targets of being unappealing to women, sounding scientific, even though it’s being used incorrectly, and carrying an air of undesirability and wrongness.

Ultimately, the masters of gaslighting will redefine woman. It will turn out that it’s always been a term for everyone who identified as a women and that only TERFs think that it ever had some other meaning, and then we’ll have lost something.

Women, for a start.

In defence of gender

A list popped up on Twitter this week of all 112 genders “at last count”. A full version can be found here (which gives Tumblr as the source, but links to the homepage, rather than the original), but here is a sample.

Obviously it’s easy to mock such navel-gazing, especially when, reading the list, you realise it’s not 112 distinct anythings, but rather a set of construction tools for building yourself a fascinating trait.

Take Demigender (a gender that is partially one gender and partially another); this is clearly meant to be used in conjunction with at least two other genders. One could therefore be demigender between mascgender (a non-binary gender which is masculine in nature) and proxvir (a masculine gender similar to a boy, but on a separate plane and off to itself), and if that identity reflects who you’re with then your gender would be mirrorgender demigender mascgender/proxvir which, I think, means you’re masculine, but more laddish when you’re watching the football down at the pub than you would be, say, when out for a fancy meal.

How unique and interesting.

That would also make you transgender (the feeling of being any gender that does not match your assigned gender) because, presumably, your parents didn’t welcome you into the world and immediately spot your transgender mirrorgender demigender mascgender/proxvir nature. Those boring old squares probably just thought you were a boy, or some shit like that.

“I’m so happy ze is Surgender colorgender-pink with femgender supplementing it” “Hah, can’t believe the stupid midwife thought ze was just a girl. Do they even train those bitches?”

This is before we add in the 71 listed prefixes and suffixes that you can use to even more finely tune this precise description of yourself, which is incomprehensible to anybody without access to a glossary. I particularly like the prefix Thym-, which relates to those who feel attraction which varies depending on emotional state, and would love to chat with someone who, piling on another prefix, is athym- and, presumably feels an unwavering level of attraction, unconnected to their emotional state / surroundings / whether they’re on fire, etc.

Interestingly, more than a 10th of the listed genders are for people who don’t have a gender (agender), don’t care if they have a gender (apagender) or who think they should have a gender, only to find it vanishes when they try to work out what it is (vapogender), those who think their gender is just them (egogender), applies only to them (autogender), have a gender that only manifests if they think about it (existigender), know they aren’t cis (non-trans) in some unspecified way but have decided to act like they are (commogender), refuse to accept gender (exogender) or even feel that gender is nonsensical (quoigender)…many of which are thoughts that might well get you called transphobe or TERF, if you didn’t dress them up in gender nonsense first.

And nonsense it is, of course. All we’re really missing is someone whose entire gender is explaining their gender, in the hope it gets them a shag (genderendergender?) Shagging itself is a bit of a problem, especially if you’re gay, as the prefixes section tells us that the homo- prefix refers to the feeling of being attracted to your own gender. With 112 genders and 71 prefixes (plus -fluid and -flux prefixes) and countless combinations thereof, the chances of you ever meeting someone with the same gender as yourself are effectively nil. Are there really two homotransgender mirrorgender demigender mascgender/proxvir people out there, and even if there were, the chances are even smaller that they won’t find each other to be absolutely insufferable narcissists?

However, one shouldn’t object to nonsense just because it is nonsense. Teens and early-20s people have, forever, been doomed to live in a world that doesn’t understand how unique and special they are, in their brief window of opportunity to bloom, before life grinds them into the rights shape to fit into the entry-level-job-long-term-relationship-place-of-their-own-having-kids-buying-a-Mondeo machine that is adult life. If the worst they do to underline their individuality is declare they’re some weird gender, with its own set of pronouns, then, seriously, let them get on with it.

My own search for my individuality – thankfully before the days of social media – took in wearing a trench-coat (too much Highlander), growing a ponytail (too much IT), platting my pony-tail (too much cannabis), sporting a goatee (even I don’t know what this was about) and being obsessed with Ford Capris.

The author, circa 1993, with one of his Capris. Trench-coat, ponytail and goatee (thankfully) not shown

No matter what your gender is, it’s unlikely to demolish a traffic-island by going through it sideways at 25mph after a slightly damp bend (tailhappigender). At least in that respect, it’s harmless.

I can’t even find it in myself to get annoyed by Stonewall, an organisation which once had a purpose, championing Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week, to help out those who are, according to Stonewall’s definition, a person of any gender or sexual orientation who does not experience romantic attraction

I’m going to be honest, I don’t know what discrimination they face. Are they being disenfranchised? Not being allowed to not marry? Being refused jobs? I mean, I interview people quite often and if the interview ends up taking in their personal view of romantic relationships then it has gone badly off the rails. But, whatever, they need people to be vocal, so if you can work out what the hell you’re meant to be being vocal about then you go for it.

Ultimately, it looks a lot like those 112 genders are nothing more than a way of ushering people into tiny minorities, that can then lay claim to some sort of oppression, which gives organisations like Stonewall, erstwhile solutions, desperate to find new problems, something to campaign about. Where, really, is the harm in that?

However, from that list, a full 50% of the genders described are either impermanent to some degree, or are defined by literally being impossible to define (my favourite is anongender – a gender that is unknown to both yourself and others) and that shit doesn’t belong on a census any more than my stupid choice of facial hair did.

Nineteen eighty-four is now

Nineteen Eighty-four, viewed through the lens of gender politics

A personal note
I first read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four in its titular year, the year I turned 13. It’s a good book to read young, and to keep returning to as you age, because it’s a text that ages with you. I’ve re-read it more than a dozen times and, every single time, I’ve found a new aspect of the book that I didn’t fully appreciate previously.

Also, as we will see, events in the real world change the way the story can be viewed, often tempting one to wonder if Nineteen Eighty-four was prophetic or has provided a template for totalitarianism. The answer is more the former than the latter. Orwell was a socialist, highly critical of both the far-left and the far-right, and had enough experience of both to see where their methods overlapped and the one became indistinguishable from the other. He was, after all, the original Blairite.

The purpose of this essay isn’t to suggest some shadowy gender organisation is diligently working their way through the novel, applying the techniques that were only a step or two ahead of those Orwell had seen in real life, but rather that Orwell had already seen how those with an ideology could come to see it as the only thing in the world with any meaning and, from there, reason that any methods used in its name were justified.

Nor do I want to get too drawn into mere superficial similarities, such as saying that both the ruling party in Nineteen Eighty-Four and the gender supporters want to eliminate sex. It’s true, in both cases, except the latter wishes to remove sex as a biological classification, whereas the former wants to eliminate the sex act itself (ironically, of course, by 1984 they would have had the means to do so, but Orwell didn’t foresee test-tube babies, and settled for reducing the sex act to an annual, loveless, formality).

Children will be taken from their mothers at birth, as one takes eggs from a hen. The sex instinct will be eradicated. Procreation will be an annual formality like the renewal of a ration card. We shall abolish the orgasm. Our neurologists are at work upon it now.

Nineteen Eighty-Four, Part 3, Chapter 3

The closest Orwell gets to the current meaning of eliminating sex is with honorifics, rather than pronouns.

‘Mrs’ was a word somewhat discountenanced by the Party–you were supposed to call everyone ‘comrade’–but with some women one used it instinctively.

Nineteen Eighty-Four, Part 1, Chapter 2

For the same reason it would be incorrect to draw sexcrime into the discussion. Again, that’s a reference to the sex act, rather than it being a crime to recognise that sex exists. The similarities between Orwell’s world and the gender wars is deep enough that we don’t need to dwell upon superficial similarities.

Finally, I do sometimes get asked why I write so much about trans people. In truth, I don’t think I have ever written about trans people. Why would I? My interest is only in the ideology and its methods, which I have argued against and mocked. Trans people have my best wishes. Their lives are their own, to live as they wish. When they, or more commonly people claiming to speak on their behalf, insist that the world adopt a secular religion, complete with all of the commandments, ahistorical stories and anti-scientific pronouncements of such, they infringe upon my freedom and the freedom of everyone who does not wish a religion imposed upon them.

This essay, then, is not about trans-people, it is about gender theory and ideology.

And, of course about Nineteen Eighty-four

About Nineteen Eighty-four
The story, in case you’re not familiar, is fairly slight. Winston Smith lives in dystopian 1984 London and works at the Ministry of Truth, altering old newspaper articles, so that they always reflect the current views of the ruling Inner Party. He begins an illicit affair with another ministry worker, Julia, and the two of them set up a love-nest in a rented room above an antiques shop. Together they join a covert organisation, dedicated to the overthrow of the party. They are arrested and the final third of the novel details Winston’s torture, within the Ministry of Love.

The birth through death of Winston and Julia’s affair is just a mechanism for Orwell to take the reader on a tour of his own vision of totalitarianism. The first act of the book takes us through the details of everyday life on Airstrip One. Act two shows us how the lives of the inner party are different and, when Winston gets a copy of the book by Emmanuel Goldstein, the arch-enemy of the people, we get to see how the wider world works. The final act reveals the true motivations and methods of the party.

The novel has given the English language the terms Thought Police, Room 101, Big Brother, and, of course, the adjective Orwellian, almost all them misused every time they appear. That said, it’s hard not to have some grudging appreciation for the idiots promulgating the #1984IsHere hashtag, after Twitter removed Donald Trump’s account. The Party, you have to feel, would have loved Twitter. The idea that with a single keypress you could remove everything that a person had ever said, every photograph they’d shared, every link to every friend they’d made, everything they liked, would be irresistible to them. Twitter moderation is The Party’s wet dream.

And above all we do not allow the dead to rise up against us. You must stop imagining that posterity will vindicate you, Winston. Posterity will never hear of you. You will be lifted clean out from the stream of history. We shall turn you into gas and pour you into the stratosphere. Nothing will remain of you, not a name in a register, not a memory in a living brain. You will be annihilated in the past as well as in the future. You will never have existed.

Nineteen Eighty-Four, Part 3, Chapter 2

During the course of the novel, Oceania (the superpower bloc that contains Airstrip One, formerly the UK) changes alliances, and shifts from being allied with Eastasia to being at war with them. The change is instantaneous. Angry crowds tear down propaganda poster which claim that Eurasia is the enemy. Winston and his colleagues have to work flat out changing old newspaper articles, so that they now correctly identify Eastasia as the enemy. It is not sufficient to recognise that Oceania is now at war with Eastasia, Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

Who controls the past controls the future

Party slogan, Nineteen Eighty-Four

From 1984 to the 21st century
At the start of December 2020 the actor formerly known as Ellen Page announced that they were a transgendered man, called Elliot. Within hours their IMDB and Wikipedia entries had been edited, to reflect this new reality, even when such edits were nonsensical at points where they clashed with reality.

Page also received recognition for his role in the film Hard Candy (2005), and won the Austin Film Critics Association’s Award for Best Actress

Wikipedia entry for Elliot Page (emphasis added)

From the point of Page’s announcement anybody suggesting that nothing material had changed, that Page was female, or ever had been female, would be guilty of misgendering them. To refer to Elliot as Ellen would be to deadname them, a term worthy of inclusion in the B vocabulary of Newspeak.

The B vocabulary consisted of words which had been deliberately constructed for political purposes: words, that is to say, which not only had in every case a political implication, but were intended to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them. Without a full understanding of the principles of Ingsoc [English Socialism] it was difficult to use these words correctly. In some cases they could be translated into Oldspeak, or even into words taken from the A vocabulary, but this usually demanded a long paraphrase and always involved the loss of certain overtones. The B words were a sort of verbal shorthand, often packing whole ranges of ideas into a few syllables, and at the same time more accurate and forcible than ordinary language.

[…]

The B words were in all cases compound words […] always a noun-verb

[…]

No word in the B vocabulary was ideologically neutral. A great many were euphemisms.

Nineteen Eighty-Four, Appendix: The principles of Newspeak

It’s staggering how well deadname fits Orwell’s rules. Aside from being a noun-verb compound word, with the stress equally on both syllables, it cannot be easily translated into Oldspeak (standard English). Deliberately calling someone by a name they formerly used, might be as close as it’s possible to get, but that fails to convey the ideological overtone that this is a malicious or hateful action. It is even euphemistic, given that as the old name is removed from records and official documents, even, in some cases, birth certificates, it becomes not the name of one who is dead, but one who never existed. People lifted from the stream of history.

As the appendix notes, as of 1984 no-one used Newspeak for their day-to-day communication, although its words and grammatical constructions were becoming more common. This is analogous to our current situation, where only a small percentage of the population would be comfortable with terms like misgender, deadname, cisnormative, or gender-fluid, and their ideological overtones are not yet fully integrated into the outgoing language…#1984IsNow

It would be easy to dismiss similarities between Orwell’s Newspeak and the terms of gender ideology as an amusing observation were it not for two things. Firstly, how closely one mimics the other. Indeed, it takes only a few word changes, and a loss of none of the sense to turn Orwell’s essay into a discussion of the current language of genderism. Second is how not just important but fundamentally intrinsic to Orwell’s vision of totalitarianism the use of language is. The language is not designed to simply describe the world, but to enforce a particular worldview, to make any argument against that view literally impossible, even to curb the limits of thought, by denying heretical thoughts a form in language.

Trans women are women

Popular nonsense

Newspeak even has a word for forcibly preventing oneself from thinking anything heretical. Crimestop.

CRIMESTOP means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. CRIMESTOP, in short, means protective stupidity.

Nineteen Eighty-Four, Part 2, Chapter 9

Look through any on-line debate on gender and you’ll see crimestop in action and you’ll see crimestop everywhere someone, almost always a woman, is being polite but firm. Crimestop is the sudden block, the “Muting you now,” response, it’s in the ever-popular “Shut the fuck up, terf” graphic and, indeed, in every other insult and threat thrown out there. Why does crimestop exist in Orwell’s world? Why has it become such a motif on Twitter? Because gender ideology shares what Orwell called the special feature of Ingsoc…the denial of reality.

We know about this denial of reality from relatively early on in the novel. One of the novel’s most famous lines comes towards the end of chapter 7, The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential, command. Orwell, however, tricks us into believing this is simple lying, for political purposes.

For example, the Ministry of Plenty’s forecast had estimated the output of boots for the quarter at 145 million pairs. The actual output was given as sixty-two millions. Winston, however, in rewriting the forecast, marked the figure down to fifty-seven millions, so as to allow for the usual claim that the quota had been overfulfilled. In any case, sixty-two millions was no nearer the truth than fifty-seven millions, or than 145 millions. Very likely no boots had been produced at all. Likelier still, nobody knew how many had been produced, much less cared. All one knew was that every quarter astronomical numbers of boots were produced on paper, while perhaps half the population of Oceania went barefoot. And so it was with every class of recorded fact, great or small. Everything faded away into a shadow-world in which, finally, even the date of the year had become uncertain.

Nineteen Eighty-Four, Chapter 4

Our first indication that the underpinnings of Oceania aren’t so aligned with our own political expectations comes in Part 2 of the book where, through Winston, we get to read part of Goldstein’s banned book. Goldstein tells us that the constant war between the three superpowers, with ever-shifting alliances, isn’t a struggle for survival, or a battle to protect borders, and that there is, in truth, no real differentiation between the three ideologies. Instead, it suits each of the three to have war continue indefinitely, with no prospect of any power being defeated, or of defeating the other two. War is desirable because it provides a cause to rally the people, it allows endless production without ever raising standards, it delivers an excuse to give for The Party doing whatever it must do.

Yet it is within the Inner Party, the very people who understand that the war is a sham, that Goldstein tells us that we find those most convinced that the war is a necessity. The people who understand best that it cannot, and should not, be won are those most convinced that it will end with Oceania triumphant.

In the gender-wars we see the same thing. Those who must be reminded every single day that they are not who they claim to be are the most adamant that they are, and that the rest of the world is mistaken. The people who fundamentally understand that no amount of validation will make them as they wish to be are the ones who fight hardest for more validation.

The war is eternal because it can never be won. Just as no external force can conquer any of Orwell’s super-blocs, so no external force can deliver to trans people what they think they want. Oceania is at war with itself and the trans-rights movement is at war with the irreconcilable dichotomy at its own heart, TERFs are just the people who remind them they can’t possibly win such a battle.

In his capacity as an administrator, it is often necessary for a member of the Inner Party to know that this or that item of war news is untruthful, and he may often be aware that the entire war is spurious and is either not happening or is being waged for purposes quite other than the declared ones: but such knowledge is easily neutralized by the technique of DOUBLETHINK. Meanwhile no Inner Party member wavers for an instant in his mystical belief that the war is real, and that it is bound to end victoriously, with Oceania the undisputed master of the entire world.

Nineteen Eight-Four, Part 2, Chapter 9

Doublethink is Orwell’s term for being able to hold two, or more, contradictory ideas as being simultaneously true. It is to believe what you are told without question. To use crimestop to prevent oneself from noticing the glaring logical inconsistencies that arise. It’s tempting to think of this as akin to cognitive dissonance, but that recognises that the mind is conflict by contradictory facts, doublethink implies no such mental torture and, rather, a straightforward acceptance that mutually exclusive statements can both be true.

How else would we see doctors and scientists insist that transwomen are women, while carrying out jobs that require them to know that they are not; that there are differences between the sexes and that sex cannot be changed, except at a superficial level.

Until the final act of Nineteen Eighty-Four it’s still possible for the reader to believe that they are still seeing ‘normal’ political lying, that those in a position of power tell untruths to keep themselves there and deny knowing any different. The events after Winston’s arrest undermine that view.

At first he is merely tortured, interrogated, forced to confess to crimes real and imagined, but then, a physical and emotional wreck, he is delivered to O’Brien.

‘I am taking trouble with you, Winston,’ he said, ‘because you are worth trouble. You know perfectly well what is the matter with you. You have known it for years, though you have fought against the knowledge. You are mentally deranged. You suffer from a defective memory. You are unable to remember real events and you persuade yourself that you remember other events which never happened. Fortunately it is curable. You have never cured yourself of it, because you did not choose to. There was a small effort of the will that you were not ready to make. Even now, I am well aware, you are clinging to your disease under the impression that it is a virtue.

Nineteen Eighty-Four, Part 3, Chapter 2

In modern terminology we’d call this gaslighting, and it has been a major weapon in the arsenal of those supporting gender ideology. An exhaustive list of the outright fabrications used by the genderist would, indeed, be exhausting, but one doesn’t have to delve very far into the debate before one is assaulted by notions that society has always recognised that there is no real difference between men and women, or that the idea that there are two sexes is a relic of racist colonialism, or that differences in sporting performance between males and females is down to women not trying hard enough.

O’Brien, who merely wants Winston to believe that he never saw an incriminating photograph, starts to look like a bit of an amateur at this.

As O’Brien continues, however, we find that his aims go beyond this. He believes that The Party – the dominant ideology he represents – control reality, that there is no reality beyond how the collective perceives it, and that The Party control that perception and, therefore, controls reality. Winston is not an enemy because he opposes The Party, he is an enemy because he refuses to accept the reality that the orthodoxy mandates.

You preferred to be a lunatic, a minority of one. Only the disciplined mind can see reality, Winston. You believe that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right. You also believe that the nature of reality is self-evident. When you delude yourself into thinking that you see something, you assume that everyone else sees the same thing as you. But I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external.

Nineteen Eighty-Four, Part3, Chapter 2

It is during this conversation that Winston assures us that O’Brien is not a hypocrite, is not pretending, that he truly believes every word he says. This goes beyond even religious belief. Every religion since the dawn of time has had to deal with non-believers. While it has certainly not always been the case that religions have been tolerant of heretics Ingsoc goes beyond that. It even goes beyond the fundamentalist view that non-believers must be killed. Instead, Ingsoc and The Party, seeks total and absolute conversion to their worldview.

Did I not tell you just now that we are different from the persecutors of the past? We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us: so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him. It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be. Even in the instant of death we cannot permit any deviation.

Nineteen Eighty-Four, Part3, Chapter 2

This is where Ingsoc and genderism finally meet in both their methods and objectives, for genderism can also tolerate no dissent. Gender ideology styles itself as a civil rights movement, but unlike any such movement before it demands that all conform to its view of reality. It, like The Party, advocates that reality is not some external, measurable and observable phenomena, but a product solely of the human mind, that if a man believes he has become a women, and all around him agree that this has happened, then it is the truth.

‘But how can you control matter?’ he burst out. ‘You don’t even control the climate or the law of gravity. And there are disease, pain, death—-‘

O’Brien silenced him by a movement of his hand. ‘We control matter because we control the mind. Reality is inside the skull. You will learn by degrees, Winston. There is nothing that we could not do. Invisibility, levitation–anything. I could float off this floor like a soap bubble if I wish to. I do not wish to, because the Party does not wish it. You must get rid of those nineteenth-century ideas about the laws of Nature. We make the laws of Nature.’

Nineteen Eighty-Four, Part 3, Chapter 3

Much earlier, in the first part of the book, Winston had written in his illicit diary that, Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows. Winston, and Orwell’s, point here is that if you are allowed to express even something so simple as child’s arithmetic as being true then that provides a foundation on which further truths can be built.

Through torture O’Brien first makes Winston lie that 2+2=5, then breaks him to the point where he no longer knows and, finally, drugs him, so that he sees 5 fingers held up in front of him, when he knows that there are only four. Winston inadvertently drew a line in the sand with his comment and created a fact from which O’Brien, on behalf of The Party, must distance him.

The same spirit can be seen in the rapid territory gains made by the gender movement. Despite their oft repeated claim that transgender people have been around throughout history, even 10 years ago it would have been entirely uncontroversial to say men are male, women are female. Five years ago it would have been equally untroubling to say that males and females are biologically different. Through as much torture as they can muster, normally in the form of threats and bullying, the most vocal supporters have changed that.

Through these tactics an artifice has been built that the gender-ideological view is the only correct and inclusive one. This ignores that it is based on complete fabrication and strongly seeks to exclude those who disbelieve in it.

As with Winston and O’Brien, both sides claim that the facts on their side.

‘But the whole universe is outside us. Look at the stars! Some of them are a million light-years away. They are out of our reach for ever.’

‘What are the stars?’ said O’Brien indifferently. ‘They are bits of fire a few kilometres away. We could reach them if we wanted to. Or we could blot them out. The earth is the centre of the universe. The sun and the stars go round it.’

Winston made another convulsive movement. This time he did not say anything. O’Brien continued as though answering a spoken objection:

‘For certain purposes, of course, that is not true. When we navigate the ocean, or when we predict an eclipse, we often find it convenient to assume that the earth goes round the sun and that the stars are millions upon millions of kilometres away. But what of it? Do you suppose it is beyond us to produce a dual system of astronomy? The stars can be near or distant, according as we need them. Do you suppose our mathematicians are unequal to that? Have you forgotten doublethink?’

Nineteen Eighty-Four, Part 3, Chapter 3

O’Brien’s view of science exactly mirrors that of genderism; science is not a process of discovery, based upon fact, it is something to be shaped to meet an ideological outcome. This can be seen in the many, many discussions of genetic or sexual disorders, which are being used to suggest that the scientific consensus is that sex is a spectrum. This, in turn, is used to say that the human world is not as straight-cut as being split into males and females.

The argument runs; Some people do not have XX or XY chromosomes ∴ sex is a spectrum ∴ males and female are the same, except that none of the conclusions follow naturally from the previous statement because what we’re seeing is not science, but the language of science being used to purely ideological means, as if trying to prove that the stars are both near and distant, depending upon requirements.

There is a story (I hope apocryphal) that the mathematician Euler, when debating an atheist, asserted, “Sir, (a+bn)/n=x, therefore God exists, answer please.” His opponent, Diderot, was no mathematician and was well aware of Euler’s prominence that field, and so could do nothing but concede the point. The story is sometimes presented as proof of Euler’s genius, but it is a trick no more capable of winning a debate than switching to a language that your opponent does not speak, or whispering your point too quietly for them to hear and refute. Worse than those options, though, it is a deception that has, at its heart, an appeal to authority, the very antithesis of science.

These days, O’Brien’s line, Do you suppose our mathematicians are unequal to that?, brings to mind that story and the current gender debate. In which people who have taken the gender ideology side of the debate present facts in the hopes of brow-beating those who are gender-critical, rather than because those facts have led them to a conclusion.

Yet this is the very core of both Ingsoc and gender ideology – what O’Brien calls collective solipsism – where a minority assert that they define reality for the majority and are self-perpetuating, in that only those who share their worldview are allowed to speak on behalf of that minority.

Where does it all end?
O’Brien famously tells Winston that if he wants an image of the future then he should imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever. After that he goes on to give Winston a more detailed description of what’s coming.

‘And remember that it is for ever. The face will always be there to be stamped upon. The heretic, the enemy of society, will always be there, so that he can be defeated and humiliated over again. Everything that you have undergone since you have been in our hands–all that will continue, and worse. The espionage, the betrayals, the arrests, the tortures, the executions, the disappearances will never cease. It will be a world of terror as much as a world of triumph. The more the Party is powerful, the less it will be tolerant: the weaker the opposition, the tighter the despotism. Goldstein and his heresies will live for ever. Every day, at every moment, they will be defeated, discredited, ridiculed, spat upon and yet they will always survive.’

O’Brien to Winston, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Part 3, Chapter 3

What’s interesting is the need for The Party to be against something, and that this something – in this case Goldstein’s heresies – is something that they entirely control and have created for themselves.

In the real world, gender activists have declared themselves against transphobia, the definition and boundaries of shift ever outwards. They are fond of telling us that they are the most oppressed minority, and the exact nature of this oppression shifts all of the time. Activists are fond of claiming that transwomen have been using female facilities for decades, seemingly without ever questioning why that status quo shifted.

It shifted, of course, when simultaneously the bar to be considered trans was lowered and the idea arose that to make any distinction between transwomen and women was transphobia. This, however, has become their power move. The more they push for new rights the more people oppose them, and so the more that they can demonstrate that transphobia is rife to law-makers and those with a desire to be “progressive”.

They complain endlessly about TERFs, yet they create TERFs, they define them, and they need them. The difference is that in Orwell’s world Goldstein was subjected only to 2 minutes of hate per day, whereas those denounced as TERFs can find it a distinctly 24/7 affair.

For Winston the story is nearly over. After his sessions with O’Brien he tries to bring himself to agree with The Party, to share its ideology.

He set to work to exercise himself in crimestop. He presented himself with propositions–‘the Party says the earth is flat’, ‘the party says that ice is heavier than water’–and trained himself in not seeing or not understanding the arguments that contradicted them. It was not easy. It needed great powers of reasoning and improvisation. The arithmetical problems raised, for instance, by such a statement as ‘two and two make five’ were beyond his intellectual grasp. It needed also a sort of athleticism of mind, an ability at one moment to make the most delicate use of logic and at the next to be unconscious of the crudest logical errors. Stupidity was as necessary as intelligence, and as difficult to attain.

Nineteen Eighty-Four, Part 3, Chapter 4

He has reached the point where he accepts that The Party cannot be defeated, his only hope of freedom from them is to have a final, unspoken, hatred of Big Brother swell in his mind, in the moment that they finally shoot him.

O’Brien, of course, has already planned for this, and takes even that hope of freedom away from Winston.

The novel closes with Winston’s only moment of true happiness, as he finally realises his love for Big Brother, and daydreams about them shooting him now, while is mind is perfect.

In the here and now we find many people – predominantly women – where Winston is at the start of the novel. Keeping their heads down, faking conformity, even fermenting thoughts that, through PeakTrans, the proles will rebel and overthrow the Inner Party. The rest of the novel is yet to be written, we can still yet create a happier ending for them.

DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER (whatever he identifies as)!

The emperor’s new cause

In September of 1859 a bankrupt businessman, around 40 years of age, named Joshua Abraham Norton, reappeared in his adopted home city of San Francisco.

He’d vanished from there a couple of years previously, after losing a lengthy series of legal battles and, with them, his modest fortune – perhaps $7- or $8-million in today’s money, and the property which had helped him build that fortune. He’d lived hand-to-mouth for two years and owned nothing more than the clothes he stood in.

Naturally, he declared himself to be the rightful Emperor of America.

For the next 21 years, the remainder of his life, he lived as Emperor Norton I. He walked the streets of San Francisco, wearing a military uniform provided by the city, talking to his subjects. He issued his own bonds – each one numbered and signed by hand – for values of 50¢ to $10. He wrote to heads of state, offering them counsel and, in the case of Queen Victoria, proposing marriage. He issued proclamations, via letters to local newspapers, starting with the declaration of his emperorship (At the peremptory request and desire of a large majority of the citizens) and continuing on to dissolve congress and, when he grew sick of his edicts being ignored, ordering the soldiers of the United States army to arrest its elected representatives.

Norton died 140 years ago, but his final resting place (inside a suitably grand coffin, paid for by a local business association) still recognises the life he chose to lead.

I think about Norton a lot in these days of identity politics.

First off, I think we can agree that ’emperor’ is the mother of all social concepts. You could grind an emperor to dust and not find a single atom of physical evidence of their status (please check with your local constitution or law-enforcement before grinding).

Were you of such a mind, we could fill an evening and empty a few bottles arguing over the definition of emperor. I might smugly suggest that it was cut and dried, that you can’t be an emperor without ruling an empire, and you’d shoot back with emperors who lived in exile, commanding nothing more than some windswept rock in the sea or 100m2 of hotel room in a country foreign to them. There are those born into the title, those who seized it, and those who had it thrust upon them. Some emperors rules over millions, some, doubtless, over fewer than the 10,000 who took to the streets to watch Norton’s funeral procession.

With sufficient bottles – providing sufficient excuses to visit the bathroom and do a spot of Googling – I doubt I could come up with an argument for Norton’s role being illegitimate that couldn’t be disproved with some outlier who history regards as a rightful emperor.

“Must an emperor not,” I may argue, “Be recognised officially by others? Heads of state, and so forth?”

“One second, nature calls…Ah, that’s better. Did you know that, towards the end of his life, King Kamehameha V of Hawaii (1830-1872) refused to recognise the democratically elected government of the US, and would only deal with Emperor Norton? Plus, of course, the 1870 census records his occupation as ‘Emperor’. How’s that for official?”

Norton proposed a bridge from San Francisco to Oakland and, only 56 years after his death, one was built. Now that’s Emperor-power!

Rationally, of course, we both know that whatever may bestow upon a man the role of emperor it’s not a 40-year-old man with problems (financial ones, at the very least) unilaterally deciding one morning that the title applies to him. What it would be easy to miss in this wine-driven battle of wits is that while the history of emperors will, by the very chaotic nature of humanity, contain many oddities, edge-cases and curios, Norton will be the only “emperor” who must be adjacent to them all in order to be considered legitimate.

If we were to meet again, absent alcohol and richer in time to consider this, and you were to continue to insist that Norton was a “real” emperor then I would be forced to conclude that either you were a liar, or that you were in thrall to one.

If you then tried to shore up your position with talk of lived experience or claimed that Norton’s personal understanding of what he was outweighs any objective evidence then I’d merely take comfort in you being as willing to lie to yourself as you are to lie to me.

Thankfully, ‘you’ here are an imaginary opponent I’ve created, and the real you, the one reading this piece, isn’t so entwined in some clearly ludicrous argument that you have to constantly lie in the face of empirical (cough) evidence contrary to your position, nor go searching the Fortean Times for vanishingly rare counterexamples to reasonable and rational points.

This means that we can both enjoy that Norton was an interesting character, and we can both be happy that many around him – without any obligation to do so on their part – chose to validate him; tourists flocked to see him, police officers saluted him when they passed in the street, his friends forged replies from the heads of state that he corresponded with, so that he wouldn’t feel ignored. We can delight that, when he was arrested for lunacy, the Alta California rallied to his defence, saying that, he had shed no blood; robbed no one; and despoiled no country; which is more than can be said of his fellows in that line.

We can, perhaps, even chuckle that a 1923 history of Norton complained that some of the printed proclamations from Norton were jokes, which originated with the graceless wags and inspired idiots of the day, and agree that even something as new as Twitter isn’t really that new at all.

Emperor Norton, pictured yesterday in Victorian-era America

Because we’re not interested in lying to each other, or suggesting that basic facts are wrong, we don’t need to worry about why Norton did it. Was he insane? The census that records him as Emperor also records him as such. Was it all a grift? He died with less than $10 to his name but he had lodgings, restaurants accepted his home-made currency and he definitely enjoyed a better standard of living than most of those destitute in late 19th century America. He was a wealthy landlord, he spent his fortune trying to wiggle out of a contact that was signed in good faith, and the purpose of that deal was to make him richer, by screwing over the poor on the price of rice, so we’ve no reason to suppose he was fundamentally a nice person.

We don’t even need concern ourselves with the problems that would arise if we generalised from Norton and suggested that the trappings of office, he was afforded freely by those who chose to do so, were to be legally mandated to anyone who claimed the title of emperor for themselves.

A Norton $10 bond. Beautiful if your restaurant decided to accept them, economic ruin if it was forced to

Whatever the financial cost of providing a uniform and food to everyone who wanted to bash our their own currency, it would be nothing compared to the cost to freedom of forcing everyone to pretend that something everyone knows is not true is fact.

So it’s a good thing, then, that you’re not the kind of person who is so dishonest that they’d build up a Jenga tower of lies to stand atop while they battled for rights for marginalised emperors.

Norton is a century-and-a-half dead, the emperor does not need a new cause.

Starry, starry right

A couple of weeks ago we sailed past the 2nd anniversary of the publication of the truly, deeply, terrible Edie Miller article, on why the British media is so transphobic. It would have been a fine thing indeed to leave that anniversary unmarked. After all, there’s no reason why Miller’s woeful writings should be remembered when far superior works are forgotten.

This, for example…

Miller’s work, however, reappeared this week, because some people found a tweet praising it, made in June, by Glenn Greenwald, and gave it a few quote-tweets. If you’re not sure who Glenn Greenwald is then this diagram may help.

A Glenn Diagram (also, he’d be horrified that I’ve used ‘Align center’ on it)

Whatever the reason, I’ve written about Miller’s article before and I’ve no intention of revisiting it, or even re-reading it, but the central straw of her argument – that those who are now, in her eyes, transphobes also supported the same “brand” of science that debunks horoscopes and homeopathy – perhaps deserves revisiting.

It’s not like there aren’t certain parallels between astrology and gender politics. Take the oft repeated claim that everyone has a gender identity, it maps neatly on to the claim that everyone has a star sign. This is, of course, true. If you divide the calendar into 12 and assign signs based on a date of birth then it becomes impossible not to have a star sign. In fact, you might have many. There have been different versions of astrology throughout history, and if someone’s made up a whole new one in their bedroom this afternoon then you still have a sign in it, whether you want to or not.

In the same way, if you start with gender identities that are identical to biological sexes, and then add extra ones, it becomes impossible not to have a gender identity, even if all you have is one of the boring ones, that maps exactly on to a sex.

In both cases what you’ve added is something with no material component, but which may have psychological value to some, and is clearly very important to some.

What’s strange is that, even for sceptics, there’s a certain mental pressure to treat the completely made-up thing as more important than the physically real thing.

“Not me,” I can hear you saying, from your throne of debunking-brand-science, “I’m all rational and shit.” Well, good for you, but let me ask you this…can somebody change star sign?

A quick Google search didn’t turn up anybody who was a Leo, trapped in the body of an Aries. Nobody, it seems, is desperate to live their life as a fire sign, despite being born into a water sign.

Why not? It’s not as if astrology is a precise science. Indeed, because the direction of the Earth’s axis of rotation turns in a 26,000 year long cycle, called precession, the constellations are constantly slipping against the calendar seasons. If some ancient wise-man said, a thousand years ago, that being born on March 1st made you Pisces then it doesn’t hold for the rest of time, unless you’re intent on ignoring the only part of your doctrine that has any basis in material reality.

(You could also wonder why people who would shrink in horror at the though of using a 20 year old TV, or a smartphone from a decade ago, have such reverence for pseudoscience, based on its vintage)

On the other side of the coin, the Gender Recognition Act, in its own words, changes sex to match the applicants gender and, according to legal blogger Adam Wagner, does so without creating a legal fiction.

If the acquired gender is the male gender, the person’s sex becomes that of a man and, if it is the female gender, the person’s sex becomes that of a woman

Gender Recognition Act (2004), Section 9

If the law can change reality then why doesn’t the act change a person’s gender (the made-up component) to match their sex (the real, measurable component)? See, even if you’re a cynic, that question sounds a bit mad.

It’s almost as if the human psyche has some inbuilt tendency to treat the fantastic as more meaningful than the mundane, the invented as more important than the observable, the imaginary as unquestionable.

We even have a word for it, religion.

Of course, “religion” conjures up images of strangely dressed men, telling us what we’re allowed to think, which doesn’t really apply to astrology these days, but it’s worth remembering that there are some religious sects that have been so totally erased from history that we only know what they believed by the writings of those faithful to orthodoxy, refuting those beliefs. The deleted writings remain only as relief cast of the arguments against them.

It’s possible, then, we’ll only be remembered if Edie Miller’s text, and those like it, are remembered, and even then we’ll only be as the inverse of her barely-coherent position. I’ve got to say, I hope that’s not what the stars hold for me.

Pro-throw

Hello, I’m here today to speak on behalf of the association of blindfolded knife-throwers (ABKT)

People born with the innate desire to chuck around lethal weapons, while being unable to see where they’re chucking them, have been around for all of recorded history. In many societies they were both revered and celebrated, although imperialist Western society has a shameful track record of regarding them as little more than freaks and circus entertainers.

We have a unique opportunity now to correct these historic injustices and allow blindfolded knife-throwers to live their lives with dignity, and as their true selves.

Not a kink! Not a fetish! Not that many survivors!

Blindfold knife-thrower rights are human rights!
(A great phrase that seems very meaningful, so long as you don’t take the time to actually think about what, if anything, that meaning might be)

Some people, on hearing that slogan, ask “What rights do blindfolded knife-throwers want?” After I’ve reported them to their employers, for being bigoted, I tell them this:

The right to be our authentic selves. Blindfolded knife-throwers don’t want to be shut away behind closed doors. We want the right enshrined into law that wherever we are, be it in the office, the shopping centre or the park, we can blind-folded and throwing sharpened steel around.

A small number of fascist right-wing Nazi women get all hysterical and period-y about this, claiming that this, somehow, reduces their rights.

Rights aren’t a pie, Karen! Just because you give somebody more rights doesn’t mean you have less!

Knife-throwers have been in these spaces for decades, without issue, yet we’re now supposed to believe that giving them the absolute legal right to throw their knives will, somehow, lead to a greater risk. Try to find the logic in that, if you can!

The right to remove barriers to being recognised as a knife-thrower. The present processes for becoming a blindfolded knife-thrower are expensive and overly bureaucratic, with the requirement to buy specially weighted knives, training for perhaps thousands of hours, and not be in A&E so often that you get invited to staff Christmas parties.

None of this is necessary. Medical research[1] now favours an approach that anybody who says they’re a knife-thrower is one, even if all they have are their suspiciously large collection of hunting and boning knives and a few heavy-duty bin-bags full of enthusiasm.

The truth is that if someone knows themselves that they are a knife-thrower then they are. They are not obligated to meet any standards of skill or accuracy placed on them by the non-throwing community. Even asking them to do so is prioritising the already privileged voices of non-throwers.

After all, if anybody really understands what it means to be a knife-thrower then it’s a member of the community that we’ve just said literally anyone can join, no questions asked.

The right to representation. Blindfolded knife-throwers are currently so underrepresented that not a single member of parliament is an “out” thrower.

To correct this we are proposing that self-identified knife-throwers be allowed to also stand on all-women shortlists and all-BAME shortlists, have at least one representative in cabinet, and that all votes for them, in any election of any sort, count double.

This is, simply and plainly, fair.

Accurate representation in the media. We also want a code amongst show-runners, producers, directors, etc that all films and TV shows will include a knife-thrower, and that the knife-thrower will always be played by someone who identifies as one. Always.

To help gain popular support we’d like Mrs Brown’s Boys to the first show to include a blind-folded knife-thrower.

We’d also like the publishing world to completely ostracise J K Rowling for her disgusting portrayal of knife-throwers as evil, through the character Bellatrixie LeStrade, who uses knife-throwing to murder the house-elf Dibby, in the Harry Potter series of books and films.

This character is consistently presented as evil and it’s made very clear that she is evil because she’s a knife-thrower. Or so I’ve been told, the book’s transparent throwerphobia is too distressing to allow me to read it.

This can only be fixed by Mrs Rowling publicly apologising, admitting that nobody has ever been killed by a knife, giving every penny she has to pro-knife-thrower charities, agreeing never to work again, and offering to be stabbed up a bit, until she’s dead.

Remember, not a single house elf ever killed by a throwing knife!

Proper access to health-care for knife-throwers. And their allies. Especially their allies. Those prepared to publicly say that anybody who believes they’re a knife thrower is one doesn’t deserve to have to wait in A&E for ages.

The total eradication of all anti-thrower bigotry. This should be a given, yet a group of stupid women keeping arguing with us. This is so strange when you consider that every knife-thrower needs a women, preferably of some sort of revolving turntable, so we are interested in genuine equality for them and are honestly amazed that so many of them are too stupid to understand this.

Aside from the everyday courtesy of recognising that self-identified knife-throwers are who they say they are, and always refer to use by our stage names, all we want is that the following activities be declared criminal:

  • Suggesting that throwing deadly weapons, while being unable to see, is anyway dangerous or likely to cause injury
  • Resisting blindfold knife-throwers in gaining any rights, including but not limited to, the ones listed about, that they might decide they need in the future
  • Asking perky, impertinent questions, such as, “What rights are you actually asking for?” “Do you acknowledge you’re removing other people’s right to walk through the park without risking a fucking dagger hitting them in the face?” or “Is any of this remotely sensible?”
  • Claiming that any of those are valid, reasonable questions, rather than pure hate-speech
  • Oh, and “Are you just making it all up as you go along?” That should be illegal as well
  • Employing anybody convicted of anti-thrower rhetoric, are who is suspected of it, or who follows anybody who is suspected of it, or who has ever liked a tweet by…well, you get the gist
  • Trying to prevent pro-knife-thrower groups from visiting school, to teach kids not to be afraid of people who simply enjoy throwing knives around, handing out knives to the kiddies, etc.
  • Disputing that knife-throwers are the most oppressed minority group, in all of history, forever
  • Writing thinly-veiled satire of knife-thrower ideology, or reading same
  • Suggesting we’re all a bunch of pricks

In conclusion. I hope this has helped you understand that blindfolded knife-thrower rights are human rights and next time you’re asked what that means repeat the slogan again, you’re not here to speak on behalf of blindfolded knife throwers, stay in your lane!

Anyway, I hope I’ve got my point across.

500,000 shades of grey

“Oh, that was easy,” says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Saying that someone will argue that black is white is normally convenient conversational shorthand for indicating that they’re the kind of dickhead who will argue about anything and in the face of all evidence that they’re wrong, but supposing we took it literally for a minute.

If you were offered some ridiculous sum, say £500,000 to convince people that black was white (and, I guess, vice-versa) then how would you go about it?

Literally the same

Obviously you can’t just wave that show-card in people’s faces and yell that they’re identical, because unless they actually fear you’re about to get violent it’s unlikely that many people would agree with you. A more “scientific” approach is needed.

You could point out that colours are, literally, a spectrum. If it’s a spectrum then every colour sort of flows into every other one, doesn’t it? How can you have a spectrum and say any colour is completely disconnected from all the other colours? It being a spectrum practically proves that black and white are the same thing.

Probably make a good logo as well

No? Well how about the colour-blind, they surely wouldn’t mind being roped in to help out. Colour blindness proves that the whole thing is subjective. Sure, you and I might agree that something is black, but a colour-blind guy might see it as white (NB. Don’t bother taking any time to research colour-blindness. It’s the principle that’s important, not the specifics)

If you’re arguing all of this on Twitter then you’re going to get some push-back, because social media is full of the kind of people who will argue that black is wh…hang on, nearly got myself caught in a loop there. Social media is full of the kind of people who will argue anything, so you need a way of shutting them up.

A good way of doing that would be to make your supporters feel clever for being on your side, and give them a way to belittle those on the other side.

I know, we could tell them that they don’t understand the science!

Let’s be fair, the science is really, really complicated. Colours are all to do with photons being reflected off things, which means you have all kinds of quantum effects, and any scientist will happily tell you that there’s loads we don’t understand about quantum physics. I mean, it could all be string. Can your opponents, with their GCSE understanding of science explain why it’s all string? Of course they can’t.

That’s before we even get into the biology of how the eye captures those photons and how the brain interprets them as colours. That’s proper PhD neuroscience stuff there.

A neuro-man, pictured yesterday

With a bit of science behind us we could even argue that those opposing us are anti-science. Oooo, that’s going to sting.

Of course, that does rather depend on no one noticing that what we’re doing is the exact opposite of science. Starting out with a ridiculous proposition you wish to defend, and cherry-picking only the pieces of evidence that might support it isn’t science. Deliberately using complexity to obfuscate isn’t science. Ignoring big bits of evidence (Exhibit A – the first image in this blog, showing black and white to be different colours) isn’t science. Seeking refuge in it all being too complicate to explain isn’t science. It’s not even mysticism. It’s barely above what you’d get from a bunch of stoned English lit. freshers.

Let’s just call it Woo and, like all woo, if you follow it long enough it will take you through science, into science fiction and then out into the wide open pastures of just plain fiction, and you end up arguing that our consciousness is a soul, because of quantum.

Yeah, we really have to hope that people don’t notice that, because while being anti-science is bad, being anti-woo is a noble position, especially in these times when there is so much woo. Perhaps that anti-science barb will sting so badly that nobody will question whether what I’m doing is really science.

Of course, all of this is hypothetical, because nobody’s really offering ½ a million quid to people just to distort science. That would be crazy.

Crossed fingers – the indication that somebody’s lying to you

Oh.