An ultimatum

Abigail Shrier on Gorski et al v Hall, via Bari Weiss:

Within a day, Dr. Hall’s article was flooded with nearly 1,000 comments, mostly, she says, from activists demanding the article be stripped from the site, but also from some readers expressing their appreciation. Angry emails from activists swamped the blog’s editors. Within two days, those editors had given Dr. Hall an ultimatum: retract, rewrite, or allow them to add a disclaimer. 

This is a colleague, remember, not a subordinate. It’s an itchy feeling when colleagues start giving you ultimatums (or ultimata if you prefer). The temptation to say “You’re not the boss of me” becomes very strong.

“What surprised me was that my fellow editors attacked me, too. Basically what they said was that my article was not up to my usual standards as far as medicine, science and critical thinking went. And I didn’t feel that I did anything but what I always do. That surprised me,” she told me. Considering the editors’ ultimatum, she elected to have the editors who disagreed add a disclaimer to the website. “I told them I did not want it retracted. And the next thing I knew, they had retracted it.”

So the ultimatum actually was: retract, rewrite, or allow them to add a disclaimer, and if you choose the last then we’ll retract it anyway.

It’s not only corporations facing this type of activist pressure. Public libraries now do, too.

Halifax Pride, the annual LGBTQ festival, announced late last month that it would cut ties with the city’s library system over its insistence on carrying Irreversible Damage, calling it “transphobic,” and claiming that it “jeopardizes the safety of trans youth” and “debates the existence of trans people.” 

I wonder if it ever occurs to them that over the long haul this kind of coercion isn’t going to make their ideology more convincing but rather the opposite. “If they have to force it on us maybe it’s kind of a feeble set of ideas?”

There are more people who already think that than we’re allowed to know. Shrier hears from them.

Child and adult psychologists and psychiatrists write to say they have witnessed a surge in transgender identification among teen girls who seem to be acting under peer and social media influence. Teachers write to say they believe that the phenomenon is plainly an example of social contagion within their classrooms. Surgeons and pediatricians and endocrinologists write to wonder aloud at what has happened to their profession.

There are lawyers who posit that lawsuits are on the way — brought by others, presumably. Professors who have come to hate their jobs — you can’t discuss your own research without trampling on a young generation’s vast neural network of sensitivities. Journalists at our most storied newspapers, TV networks, and literary magazines, even at NPR, write to tell me they liked my book, they agree with it, and to tut-tut the abuse directed at me. They assure me that the horrible accusations — from child predation to white supremacy and transphobia — accusations that will forever live on the internet, blackening my name, are things no one really believes. They wish — wish! — they could say so publicly.

This is fine. Teenagers are ruining their futures, and people can’t say anything about it publicly, because the venomous pressure to shut up is so powerful.

For more than a year Shrier thanked people who wrote to her this way.

But then, a few months ago, a pediatrician reached out to say that she also thought it was insane that minors were self-prescribing testosterone and that she agreed that her profession was negligent in unquestioningly “affirming” the sudden trans-identification of teenagers. 

The standard response didn’t cut it this time. I wrote back as politely as I could: That’s just not good enough. You are a doctor. We aren’t the same with regard to medical scandals. I can continue to seek and publish the truth. I can interview experts and report what they’ve said. But you can appeal to your own authority. You took a Hippocratic oath. If you see young patients in harm’s way, you have an obligation to do something.

The same is true for other professions. If you are a teacher, you entered the profession in order to expand young minds. If you are watching them being warped, it’s your responsibility to fight that. If you are a journalist witnessing lies being spread by your colleagues, it’s your responsibility to stand up for truthIf you are a professor, watching your colleagues being bullied — a med school professor watching hokum being peddled as fact, a scientist watching the corruption of research — there’s no one else to speak up but you. 

And if enough people do it will swiftly become far less dangerous to join them.

8 Responses to “An ultimatum”