When newspaper op-ed sections start to question what they run and what they shouldn’t because it might upset someone, it’s a bad sign.
But the writing has been on the wall for some time at universities. Once they were places where a free exchange of controversial ideas fuelled discussion and research. Now they are gulags of leftist dogma where only the approved narrative is allowed.
Today two examples of newspaper cancel culture crossed my screen and it’s exactly what Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi talked about in his piece last month entitled The American Press is Destroying Itself.
The first was a response from the Wall Street Journal Op-Ed editor to a letter signed by 280 reporters at the newspaper demanding they rein in some of the columns published in that section.
One was by by VP Mike Pence, the other coincidentally one linked on Facebook entitled, The Myth of Systemic Police Racism which challenged the approved narrative.
It was written by Heather MacDonald, a New York writer whose work I plan on sharing again probably much to the chagrin of my co-principle curator, Keith.
What is so delicious is the response from the WSJ, basically, Fuck You.
But uttered so politely, because it is the WSJ, of course, and there are certain standards.
Here’s what the letter reportedly said:
In the spirit of collegiality, we won’t respond in kind to the letter signers. Their anxieties aren’t our responsibility in any case. The signers report to the News editors or other parts of the business, and the News and Opinion departments operate with separate staffs and editors. Both report to Publisher Almar Latour. This separation allows us to pursue stories and inform readers with independent judgment.It was probably inevitable that the wave of progressive cancel culture would arrive at the Journal, as it has at nearly every other cultural, business, academic and journalistic institution. But we are not the New York Times. Most Journal reporters attempt to cover the news fairly and down the middle, and our opinion pages offer an alternative to the uniform progressive views that dominate nearly all of today’s media.
The reference to the New York Times, of course, is a direct shot at the cancel culture there which forced the Op-Ed section editor James Bennett to step down after a letter from reporters decrying a decision to run a column.
This was followed within days by the resignation of Bari Weiss.
We posted a piece earlier looking at how far the demands of the mob for narrative compliance will go and it seems it hasn’t reached the end of its run, at least except for the WSJ which stood firm.
But this has happened at the National Post too with the outcry over a column by Canadian national treasure Rex Murphy who broke ranks by declaring Canada is not a systematically racist country.
While the Post management quelled that fire, apparently it has left a scar.
And thus Barbara Kay, who has been a fixture on their pages, has decided enough is enough.
Here’s a snippet of what she posted on her Facebook page.
It’s been two decades since my first byline appeared in the Post. For a woman who already was well into middle age when her career began, the experience has been a thrill and a privilege. Perhaps more importantly, it’s been lively, energizing and fun. The National Post was conceived in 1998 as a safe haven from the stale pieties that dominated (and still dominate) the legacy Canadian media. Unfortunately, the spirit now has gone out of the place. And I’ve decided to step away from my regular column, at least for now. I’ve been noticing for a while that much of the best writing about Canada is increasingly taking place on platforms that didn’t exist until recently (and in some cases aren’t even Canadian). Numerous international writers whom I admire have decided to find new ways to reach their audience. I will now join their ranks.
And here’s the column which would have been her last. (annotations mine)
By Barbara Kay, July 24, 2020
Most authors dedicate their books to loved ones or inspirational teachers. Debra Soh, sexologist and neuroscientist, dedicates her new book, The End of Gender: Debunking the myths about sex and identity in our society to “everyone who blocked me on Twitter.”
It’s a fitting tribute, since aggressive opposition to Soh’s spirited defence of science against the prevailing theory-based doctrines of the trans movement has guided Soh’s professional trajectory for a number of years now.
As Soh informs readers at the outset, she left her eleven-year research career in academia, because it was clear her field had been compromised by trans activism, and her freedom to explore her subject – gender, sex and sexual orientation – was continuously shrinking. Assessing the “long, ugly history between transgender activists and sexologists,” she could see no foreseeable end to the tensions, and segued to a career in journalism (Playboy, the Globe and Mail, Scientific American, Quillette, and others).
From her first article, arguing against early transition for children, the mobbing began and never let up. But neither did supportive encouragement from ordinary people who find themselves baffled and disturbed by dogmas and vocabulary – “people who menstruate” – that make no sense to them, and which many women find offensive (I certainly do). Soh wrote the book for them: “to answer your questions at a time when it’s next to impossible to tell apart politically motivated ideas from scientific truth.”
The book is organized around a series of trans-movement assumptions Soh identifies as myths: that “biological sex is a spectrum”; that “gender is a social construct”; that “there are more than two genders”; that “sexual orientation and gender identity are unrelated”; and so forth.
It would take thousands of words to do justice to the book as a whole, as it covers such a wide gamut of trans-related issues, and each one handily. Soh’s chapter on the social contagion of “rapid onset gender dysphoria” (ROGD) in teenage girls, for example, is superb. But wordage is the usual pesky constraint for columnists, so this cannot rise to the level of the review the book deserves.
Instead, I’ll focus on what I find to be Soh’s core message, delivered via her beautifully calm, rational and precision-guided dissection of the inherent contradictions within the movement’s catechism. For many readers who have been half persuaded to acquiescence from constant exposure to the mantras Soh challenges, her exposé will fall like rain on parched earth.
According to Soh, then.
Fact: There are only two biological sexes, and they are not “assigned” at birth. Male and female gametes (eggs, sperm) determine our sex, and sex is binary, “not a spectrum.” Fact: Gender, too, “both with regard to identity and expression,” is biology-based and therefore binary. “It is not a social construct, nor is it divided from anatomy or sexual orientation.”
Classic feminists gave us the concept of “social construction.” Feminists believe gendered differences in interests, presentation and behaviours are due to patriarchy and learned behaviour. Science tells us otherwise, Soh says. Male and female brains are demonstrably different. Now, Soh says, feminist chickens are coming home to roost, because – this is a trenchant insight – “If gender is thought to be learned, masculinity will remain the gold standard and femininity will be reduced to aberrations of it.”
Gender fluidity is trending briskly amongst millennials, many of whom self-identify as transgender, agender, bigender or genderqueer (which can mean just about anything). “As more people take on these labels,” Soh observes, “being nonbinary has become a way to find community, a sense of belonging and acceptance.”
She cites a Pew report that a third of Gen Zers and a quarter of millennials know someone who uses nonbinary pronouns like “they” as compared to a sixth of Gen Xers. (Soh’s observation is backed up by a recent questionnaire out of Evergreen State College, in which a full 50 percent of students self-identify as LGBT or “questioning.” )
By normalizing and banalizing the concept of gender fluidity – that is, by inviting the whimsically transient, the mentally fragile, the mentally ill, even the opportunistic and sexually predatory into a small forum traditionally reserved for those with irreversible gender dysphoria, therefore legitimately entitled to medically-aided transition – the movement has radically increased the numbers within the trans-identifying fold.
But this artificial demographic swell has come about at a huge cost to credulous children, vulnerable troubled teenagers, women athletes, and indeed, all women who are now forced to share intimate space with male bodies on the sole basis of uninterrogated gender self-identification. Soh is particularly troubled by one of the more grievous consequences of the “cultlike” trans movement’s social self-promotion, namely the concomitant social demotion (tending to erasure) of gays and lesbians.
“By nonbinary activists’ definition, everyone on planet earth is gender nonbinary,” Soh says. The result is that merely gender-nonconforming children – effeminate boys, the great majority of whom would realize they were gay after puberty, and “butch” girls who would become lesbians – are encouraged in childhood to gravitate towards some form of trans self-identification instead of being allowed to grow into their biology-accepting, authentic sexuality. “I’m constantly amazed,” Soh writes in dismay, “at the number of gay men who will publicly defend childhood transitioning when the movement is leading to the extermination of gay children.”
Shouldn’t we all be dismayed by the harms this movement is causing? Soh and her publishers, Simon and Shuster, have shown courage in standing firm for science and reason in the midst of a moral panic that has gripped our institutions and scattered objectivity to the four winds. For that, they merit our material and moral support.