With horrid inevitability

Mar 2nd, 2024 11:12 am | By

Naomi Wolf apparently doesn’t realize that weather can change from day to day, or hour to hour.

She also appears to have cirrus clouds confused with cumulus clouds. Cirrus are the ones that don’t have crisp edges while cumulus are the ones that do.



Particular configurations of privileged knowledge

Mar 2nd, 2024 10:42 am | By

Doc Stock on brilliant form at Unherd:

Is it possible to write a satirical campus novel anymore? Satire requires exaggeration and the pointed introduction of absurdity, but it is hard to see how modern university life could be further embellished in these respects. As usual, there were some classic stories served up this week for civilians to laugh at.

In the Daily Mail we read that policies at Glasgow University and Imperial College London now direct staff and students to avoid the phrase “the most qualified person should get the job” because this counts as a microaggression.

So the least qualified person should get the job? Innnnteresting.

Over in the US, yet another professor resplendent in beadwork and buckskin has admitted to falsely claiming possession of Native American ancestry. And an article just out in the Applied Linguistics Review provides a brand new excuse to lazy researchers: the requirement of a literature review in some disciplines imposes “particular configurations of privileged knowledge” amounting to an “enactment of symbolic violence”.

It’s true enough. That whole system in which people have to learn a lot of material in order to qualify to do various kinds of work is inherently hierarchical. It’s grossly unfair to the lazy, and is why I’ve never been a surgeon or an engineer or a Supreme Court justice. Many of us can say the same. The problem is, that same many of us also want to be safe getting on a plane. We want the skilled professionals and we want to skip all that pesky learning stuff. Taking the “privileged knowledge” route feels good in the moment but not so much when you need an expert.

The organisation that first uncovered the story about microaggressions is the Committee for Academic Freedom, newly formed by philosophy lecturer Edward Skidelsky to push back against institutional incursions on free inquiry. During drinks at the committee’s launch, where I was a guest speaker, more astonishing tales were aired. I heard of endocrinologists at one Russell Group institution being forced to disavow binary theories of biological sex; of male trans-identified dance students at a prestigious arts establishment insisting they be allowed to perform lead ballerina roles and be hoisted aloft during lifts; and of a reading list in one department with pronouns added for every cited author, including those of Osama Bin Laden (“He/Him”, in case you’re wondering).

Well now how did they know that? Did they ask him before that encounter in the secret compound?

Sadly, there are few if any left to complain.

…it is still true that most employees within relevant institutions remain po-faced and acquiescent in the light of blatantly stupid initiatives by their managers and colleagues. Partly this is because they are frightened to do otherwise, as new research also published this week by CAF suggests. But partly, perhaps, it’s because nearly all of the personality types who might in the past have viciously mocked, scathingly critiqued, or otherwise put up an intellectual fight have been weeded out of the system.

Leaving behind a wasteland of piety and censorious meddling.

Part of the problem, Stock goes on, is the idea of the student as customer.

For trailing in the wake of the new breed of customer came the smooth professionals good at customer service — lecturers adept at producing fancy PowerPoints and ticking items off on promotion checklists, but low on intellectual aggression and the will to stand against the mob. Out were the mercurial and antisocial intellectuals of yore, in love with complex ideas for their own sake and gloriously scathing when others trampled all over them…

And yet we need such characters more than ever. Or at least, we need to adopt their magnificently scathing contempt for daft claims, sloppy thinking, and fallacious reasoning. Not all ideas are created equal, and academics must stop acting as if they are: nit-picking endlessly over small intellectual differences but going quiet about the big ones. It is admirable that there are legislators and organisations now talking about the value of academic freedom in the abstract, and attempting to create a space for it. But unless thinkers fill that space with arguments that take deliberate aim at the stupidity of colleagues and managers, it will remain a vacuum.

But we’re not even allowed to say “stupidity” or “daft” or any related words because that’s “ableist.”

And philosophy itself has a crucial role to play here. So many humanities departments house people who call themselves philosophers but who are no such thing, according to the traditional understanding of that term. Out of politeness or fear of intellectual confrontation, they have been allowed by actual philosophers to get away with it. 

Judith Butler please note.

The predictable result is thousands upon thousands of former students who sincerely believe that truth is relative, sex is fluid, cis het white men are scum and all the rest of it. We need to wrest the discipline back from these charlatans.

Starting with Judith Butler, please.



Not a regional aberration

Mar 2nd, 2024 7:10 am | By

Permanent fires:

As of Friday, the Smokehouse Creek Fire had affected more than a million acres, making it the largest wildfire in Texas history, and one of the biggest in the history of the country. Still only 15 percent contained, it has crossed into Oklahoma, leaving in its wake herds of dead cattle and dozens of burned homes. At least two people have died. The forecast is for what people in the firefighting business call “fire weather” — hot, dry and windy. Under these conditions, the dozen fires in the region could, theoretically, keep burning indefinitely.

Texans know that fires aren’t uncommon in the Panhandle this time of year, and neither is snow. But huge, lethal fires like Smokehouse Creek represent something different. Winter fires on this scale signal a much larger disruption to climate stability that will distort not only our concept of seasons, but everything we do and care about.

For weeks now, red flag warnings from the National Weather Service indicating elevated wildfire risk have been popping up all across the United States — from the Mexican border to the Great Lakes and the Florida panhandle. Similar warnings are appearing north of the Canadian border. On Feb. 20, the province of Alberta, the Texas-size petro-state above Montana, declared the official start to fire season. This was nearly two weeks earlier than last year, and six weeks earlier than a couple of decades ago. Alberta is in the heart of Canada, a famously cold and snowy place, and yet some 50 wildfires are burning across that province. In neighboring British Columbia, where I live, there are nearly 100 active fires, a number of which carried over from last year’s legendary fire season (the worst in Canadian history) linked to low snowpack and above average winter temperatures.

…What is happening in North America is not a regional aberration; it’s part of a global departure — what climate scientists call a phase shift. The past year has seen virtually every metric of planetary distress lurch into uncharted territory: sea surface temperature, air temperature, polar ice loss, fire intensity — you name it, it is off the charts. 

Gonna be a bumpy ride.



Objection

Mar 2nd, 2024 4:30 am | By

Waterstones spits in our eye again.

Juno Dawson ain’t no female author.

Don’t brag at us about how you’re celebrating female authors and then start with a man who pretends to be a woman. That’s insulting.



Guest post: The BAD PEOPLE BILL

Mar 2nd, 2024 4:14 am | By

Originally a comment by Artymorty on A new power.

It’s insane. This bill is so childish. It’s basically the BAD PEOPLE BILL. They’ve decided there are BAD, HATEFUL PEOPLE and they must legislate to punish them. But they’re leaving it ENTIRELY UP TO LATER to define who these bad people are.

The people supporting this bill aren’t even asking WHO will be doing this crucial defining. It’s a nightmare.

It’s literally impossible to ethically support a bill that proposes a bunch of penalties — right up to the nation’s maximum penalty of life imprisonment — before anyone has bothered to set the fucking definitional terms of what they’re criminalizing. It’s purely an irrational appeal to emotion. That always works out well, right?

Ban it first; define it later.

I can predict all the excuses:

“The definition is self-explanatory, ok? It’s just hate.” I can hear people argue that. “Look, hate is just bad. No one has ever politicized the definition of hate before, right?”

(Ridiculous!)

It’s going to become life and death what counts as hate in Canada. But nobody can fucking bother to decide who makes that call. There are stupid situations, and then there are STUPID SITUATIONS.

And yet, even SKEPTICS of this turd of a bill fell for one of the oldest tricks in the book: the original draft was LIGHT YEARS WORSE, and now that the government has retreated and then returned to proffer a “moderate” proposal RELATIVE TO THE ORIGINAL SHITSHOW, the loudest critics have fallen for it and they’re cooing about how reasonable the new version of the bill is (Overton Window Suckers), and they’re now placated enough to not be raising nuclear alarms…

I despair at the state of Canada right now. The Online Harms Bill seems very obviously like a disaster to me.



Iss juss worrrrds maaan

Mar 2nd, 2024 3:39 am | By

Oh dear. That’s such a rookie error. The scorn and hilarity must be scalding for the “Prof”.

O what an ignoble mind is here o’erthrown.



Guest post: Government by da feelz

Mar 2nd, 2024 3:15 am | By

Originally a comment by Francis Boyle on A new power.

Canada: government by da feelz. Canadians (and everyone really) could do with a crash course in the relationship between sentimentalism and fascism. Unfortunately our standard cultural template for totalitarianism is 1984 and while Orwell had a keen understanding of bureaucracy and the ways it can be perverted I don’t think he had any real understanding of the way propaganda works. (Of course he understood how it was used – he practised it after all – but he didn’t consider it important. In the novel it’s just AI generated mush for keeping the proles in their place. Neither it nor the proles themselves are considered particularly interesting, something I found puzzling when I first read 1984 and I still find puzzling many decades later. Maybe someone with a better understanding of Orwell’s politics can explain it for me.)

Anyway lengthy asides aside, what I came here to say is that had Orwell paid as much attention to Goebbels as he did Stalin and his cronies he might have replaced the “two minutes hate” with a “two minutes love”. Goebbels knew that hate justified by a sentimentalised love is far more powerful than hate alone. The truth may be “a boot stamping on a human face – forever” but the lie that sustains it is the the image of the boot of the monstrous other stamping on the face of our most vulnerable again and again.



A new power

Mar 1st, 2024 5:18 pm | By

Canada losing the plot again:

Justice Minister Arif Virani has defended a new power in the online harms bill to impose house arrest on someone who is feared to commit a hate crime in the future – even if they have not yet done so already.

This is Canada we’re talking about. We know it won’t be people announcing on Twitter that they’re going to shoot up a classroom full of women. We know it will be people saying trans women are not women.

Since it was published on Monday, some lawyers and constitutional experts have raised fears that Bill C-63 could chill free speech.

The bill would allow people to file complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission over what they perceive as hate speech online – including, for example, off-colour jokes by comedians. People found guilty of posting hate speech could have to pay victims up to $20,000 in compensation.

But not jokes about women of course. Those are 1. sacred and 2. harmless.



We just want

Mar 1st, 2024 9:49 am | By

Remember “Katie” Neeves who is so thrilled that he’s been “accepted as a UN Women UK delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women”? Well here he is in action.

“We just want to wee in safety, the same as you do.” Yes, dude, you just want to wee in safety by making it impossible for us to wee in safety. In “Katie” world the only women who matter are the ones like him.



It’s not a personal view

Mar 1st, 2024 9:30 am | By

The Telegraph on the BBC’s enforcement of lying to the public:

A listener complained that the comment amounted to Mr Webb giving his personal view on a controversial matter in breach of the BBC’s requirements on impartiality.

But it’s not a “view”; it’s reality. It’s “controversial” only because way too many damn fools have made it controversial. News organizations can’t be letting damn fools make basic facts about reality “controversial.” Next it will be controversial to say evolution is true.

The BBC’s complaints unit, in a ruling published on Thursday, said it was not in a position to determine Mr Webb’s personal opinion on the issue but that it was not necessary to do so in order to judge whether he had breached impartiality rules.

It said: “The ECU understood Mr Webb’s intention in using the phrase ‘trans women, in other words males’ was to underline the question arising from the FIDE guidelines but noted a press line issued at the time included an acknowledgement that his phrasing did not convey an entirely accurate impression.

“In relation to impartiality, however, the ECU considered it could only be understood by listeners as meaning that trans women remain male, without qualification as to gender or biological sex, and that, even if unintentional, it gave the impression of endorsing one viewpoint in a highly controversial area. It therefore upheld this aspect of the complaint.”

No. You can’t do that. Your job is to report the news truthfully, that is, without lying. Pretending that men can be women is just lying. That’s not the job of a news organization. Do. your. fucking. job.

On Thursday. Fiona McAnena, director of campaigns at the women’s rights group Sex Matters, said: “Today’s ruling clearly shows the BBC has lost sight of its statutory duty, as the national, taxpayer-funded broadcaster, to be impartial.”

And to tell the damn truth.



You get what you vote for

Mar 1st, 2024 7:23 am | By

Lie down with rats, get up with fleas.

Lauren Boebert has said she is heartbroken over her teenage son’s arrest but that he will take responsibility for his actions and should be held accountable. The Colorado representative’s son is accused of taking part in a series of car break-ins and credit card thefts in his mother’s home state.

Trashy enough yet?

Tyler Boebert, 18, appeared in court virtually from jail on Wednesday but was later released to return in April. He is facing multiple felony charges.

The list of 22 charges include four felony charges of criminal possession of ID documents, one count of conspiracy to commit a felony, and over a dozen misdemeanour charges, the Rifle Police Department said in a Facebook post.

Hey, it’s called family values. Have some respect.

The Boebert family has made headlines several times in recent months. Lauren Boebert’s ex-husband, Jayson Boebert, was arrested on assault charges in January during an altercation with another son.

And in September she was asked to leave a theatre for causing a disturbance, including vaping, singing and using phones. She later apologised.

As I said. Trash.



You DO NOT

Mar 1st, 2024 7:00 am | By

So we’re literally not allowed to talk about LGB without any T. It’s literally mandatory to paste the T onto any mention of LGB. We will literally be called names and accused of evil intentions if we try to talk about LGB without any T.



Another one

Feb 29th, 2024 5:14 pm | By

Meanwhile…

Not a joke, apparently. He has a public post about it on Facebook.

I am delighted to announce that I have been accepted as a UN Women UK delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

The UN CSW is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

And it sees fit to disempower women by giving their roles to men.



Crucial to understanding

Feb 29th, 2024 4:47 pm | By

Some reactions.



About speech acts

Feb 29th, 2024 4:36 pm | By

More on the Justin Webb issue.

Also it’s about what we’re allowed to say, and according to whom.

It’s not a trivial matter, when and if we’re allowed to tell the truth about who is a woman and who is not. It’s extremely important and extremely basic. It’s shocking and dangerous that a news organization, especially one with the clout of the BBC, is telling its personnel that they are required to lie about it.



What are we, chopped liver?

Feb 29th, 2024 2:26 pm | By

My thought exactly.



In breach of the BBC’s requirements on impartiality

Feb 29th, 2024 11:33 am | By

BBC to its talking heads: you WILL say men are women; that’s an order.

The BBC has upheld a complaint against Today presenter Justin Webb after he said “trans women, in other words males”.

Webb made the comment during a discussion about new International Chess Federation (FIDE) guidelines on 22 August last year regarding whether being biologically male can give players an advantage in the game. A listener complained that the comment amounted to Webb giving his personal view on a controversial matter in breach of the BBC’s requirements on impartiality.

The only sense in which it’s “controversial” to say a man is a man is the one where tiresome people make a big stupid stink about saying a man is a man. That’s not a very important or urgent sense of the word, and it has nothing to do with the truth of the matter.

The BBC‘s executive complaints unit said, in a ruling published on Thursday, that it was not in a position to determine Webb’s personal opinion on the issue but that it was not necessary to do so in order to judge whether he had breached impartiality rules.

It said: “The ECU understood Mr Webb’s intention in using the phrase ‘trans women, in other words males’ was to underline the question arising from the FIDE guidelines but noted a press line issued at the time included an acknowledgement that his phrasing did not convey an entirely accurate impression.

“In relation to impartiality, however, the ECU considered it could only be understood by listeners as meaning that trans women remain male, without qualification as to gender or biological sex, and that, even if unintentional, it gave the impression of endorsing one viewpoint in a highly controversial area.  It therefore upheld this aspect of the complaint.”

But it isn’t a “viewpoint.” It’s a fact, a reality, a true statement. Ask a farmer. They don’t ask their cows and ewes what gender they identify as. Why don’t they? Because it would be otiose. Cattle and goats don’t bother fretting over their magic genders, they just eat their grass and stay away from wolves. Be more like cattle.



Oh but he has a certificate

Feb 29th, 2024 10:53 am | By

The Telegraph:

Transgender women who are convicted of a crime must be recorded as men if they have not legally changed their gender, Downing Street has said.

The intervention comes after The Telegraph revealed that Scarlet Blake, 26, a male-born transgender woman who was sentenced to life in prison for murdering a stranger and killing a cat, has been recorded as a female criminal in official statistics.

And that’s not ok even if he has “legally changed his gender” – which is frankly a meaningless phrase. If “gender” is just the social bit then why tf would it justify falsifying the statistics? If it’s sex we’re back where we started: no he is not.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “The PM has been really clear on this issue. And the definition of a woman is the biological sex and that biological sex matters. So it is important that we take that approach to these issues.

“Police forces should follow the College of Policing guidance that a person’s gender is that which was registered at birth unless they have been issued with a gender recognition certificate under the Gender Recognition Act.”

Those two claims cancel each other out. If the definition of a woman is the biological sex then “a gender recognition certificate” might as well be an all-day bus pass.



Point missed, Downing Street

Feb 29th, 2024 10:43 am | By

This is how we get inched into it.

That’s not good news at all. Who cares if they have “legally changed their gender” or not? It doesn’t matter. Men’s crimes should not be reported as women’s crimes.

Laws aren’t magic. It’s futile to pass a law saying dung is ice cream; you still don’t want to eat it. You could pass a law saying Mars is an easy 5 hour trip by plane, but it wouldn’t be true. Laws can change some kinds of reality, but not all kinds.



Attention deficit

Feb 29th, 2024 10:05 am | By

Joan Smith writes:

A couple of months ago, it was revealed that 1,151 police officers in England and Wales are under investigation for sexual or domestic abuse, including 657 of Couzens’s former Met colleagues. One in seven of the overall total has been allowed to continue working as usual while 428 have been placed on restricted duties. Only 378 have been suspended. Allegations against officers are so widespread that the Met Police Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, admitted last year that he couldn’t guarantee that a woman reporting a rape wouldn’t be interviewed by a predator. Is anyone surprised that so many rape investigations go nowhere? 

It has been clear for a long time that there are failures at every point in the system, from vetting of police recruits, training and supervision of officers, and investigation of complaints. Various initiatives have been announced in an attempt to regain public confidence, including Operation Onyx, which reinvestigates allegations against officers where lines of inquiry might have been missed.

But none of this is happening quickly enough for women who find themselves agonising over whether to report a rape. Couzens should never have been allowed to become a police officer, but how many more does that apply to? Scarcely a week goes by without another officer being charged with a whole series of serious sexual assaults, but it’s often taken years before they were exposed.

I have to wonder if more attention would have been paid to this issue if people hadn’t been so busy giving all their attention to the plight of Our Trans Family. It’s as if there’s been a collective decision that feminism won a long time ago and there is no longer any need at all to stand up for women, while men who pretend to be women are writhing in agony on a bed of coals as we speak.