Sunday, 16 July 2017

Annihilationism: The Basis of TERFism.

Neo-TERF Blaire White has once again foregrounded the dirty secret that the TERFs have tried to hide-in-plain-view since the infamous Janice Raymond exhorted that trans people should be “mandated out of existence.” Her hastily-deleted comment about immigrants exposing the fundamentally right-wing basis of her ideology. “Gas ‘em” is every bit as chilling as you might think, and it exposes the inherently annihilationist nature of TERF ideology. 

The esprit fasciste of TERFism laid bare in White’s and Raymond’s comments is in fact an ever-present basis of TERF dogma even if it is disguised or cloaked in linguistic alibis. To its core TERFism is inherently annihilationist of trans people, whatever its modus operandi or claims it makes, it ultimately seeks to prevent trans people from existing. In particular the new TERF alignment, a formal one in many instances, with hard-right/alt-right/extremist “Christian” far-right/Trumpist oppressive groups exposes this. The tsunami of anti-trans “bathroom bills” in the US have been given a veneer of legitimation by TERF narratives. These bills are designed to prevent trans people from accessing employment, education, social life, civic engagement and more by preventing us from using the appropriate public convenience. This is simply a way of preventing trans people from living their lives, and it is a tactic specifically aimed at trans children.

Of course the idea that trans people threaten women’s existence is another ultimately annihilationist stance and resonates with the propaganda of 1930s Germany. The idea that trans women are inherently “anti-women” or “anti-feminist” is of course based on an essentialisation of trans people and a deliberate misrepresentation of us. Their need to present their own confected image of what trans people are like is necessary to maintain this argument, an essentializing one presented in the clothes of something else. This is why TERFtexts try to focus the arguments on older, late-transitioning trans women (victims of more transphobic and oppressive times) like Caitlyn Jenner, as opposed to younger (and more representative) trans girls like the tough cookie who is Jazz Jennings. Not only is this reductionist, but it employs the propaganda techniques of the far-right; define your target in the minds of your target audience in a way that reinforces your argument; dehumanise, misinterpret, misrepresent, demonise, monster… It allows you to avoid engaging in real arguments, and means they can avoids defending their arguments against pesky things like facts.

TERFs engage in all kind of activities of an annihilationist nature, and in particular with trans children; spreading the lie that simply treating a trans child as the gender with which he, she or they identify will result in their being placed on an unstoppable conveyor-belt to gender-reassignment surgery. This is Julie Bindel in that well-known subversive radical-feminist publication the Daily Mail;

“If I were a teenager today, well-meaning liberal teachers and social workers would probably tell me that I was trapped in the wrong body. They might refer me to a psychiatrist who would prescribe fistfuls of hormones and other drugs. And terrifyingly, I might easily be recommended for gender re-assignment surgery… just because I didn’t like the pink straitjacket imposed on girls.”

Obviously Bindel has not read my article on CulturalCisgenderism published in 2013 by the British Psychological Society (or indeed countless stories of trans kids and their parents trying to access acceptance at school or any kind of treatment). Yes Julie Bindel, there is a conveyor belt, but it is an invisible one that is pointed in the opposite direction from the one you have concocted. Cultural Cisgenderism is a tacit ideology that positions cisgender as the norm and transgender as deviant. Trans kids are more vulnerable to this than most, not having the resources to challenge it or the power to resist it. In my opinion by spreading the myth that teachers, medical professionals and others are putting kids on a conveyor belt makes TERFs potentially complicit in child abuse. Anyone who has worked with trans kids will know that the opposite of this narrative, is true.

However this is indicative of how, for TERFs, their worstnightmare is large numbers of trans kids being who they are, this is why they have devoted so many resources to campaigning against trans kids, in effect advocating a kind of amateur Conversion Therapy by teachers and parents, by not allowing trans kids to be themselves, effectively encouraging adults to bully trans children, at home or in school.

Of course trans people and our allies call the TERFs out on their dishonesty all the time, which is why they have changed their modus operandi. Now, quiet words behind the scenes individually have become the way of spreading their hate and disinformation in order to influence others without opposition.

What we need to remember is that TERF ideology is predominantly comprised of deliberate misinformation supported by caricaturing trans people. What Blaire White’s outburst reminds us, is how anihilationism is the ultimate goal of TERFism. All their anti-trans activism is based on this, and what they have shown is that they do not care who they work with to achieve this aim. Ultimately fascism, like all bigotry and hatred, is based on essentialisim, and TERFism is no different, the dissimilarity is that TERFs also essentialise women in a biologically reductionist narrative cloaked in faux social-constructivist language. Far from trans women being anti-feminist, it is TERFs, whether through the essentialist foundations of their narratives, their profound annihilationist hatred or their association with fascists, who are the real anti-feminists.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Why there is no longer any mandate for Brexit.

Much has been made of how a wafer-thin margin of 51.8% to 48.1% in a non-binding referendum is supposed to have

represented a “clear” (Theresa May) decision to leave the EU.
Today Britain Elects reveals that around twice as many people think that leaving the EU with no deal would be worse than leaving with some kind of deal, in addition there is now a majority, 53% in favour of a referendum to ratify whatever final deal Theresa May – or more likely her successor – come up with.

In a week in which Michael Gove has said the UK will definitely be
leaving the Customs Union a poll for the Mail on Sunday reveals that 69% of voters want to remain in this.

A few weeks ago the Prime Minister called an election on the basis that her, and her party’s popularity on Brexit in particular would result in them getting a landslide on June 8th. This failed to happen, and Jeremy Corbyn’s Soft Brexit Labour Party denied May an overall majority, reducing her number of seats in parliament.

This comes on top if numerous polls which essentially say that people would like the ‘Have our cake and eat it’ impossible approach of the Fairy Godmother, AKA Boris Johnson. Meanwhile the latest opinion poll on the core issue of Remain/Leave puts Remain at 45%, Leave at 43% and gives a massive 12% to “Don’t Know”, a massive increase since June last year. This represents a classic case of a country changing its mind, with a huge 9% drop in the number of people who definitely support Leave since the referendum.

The recent survey that showed that 89% of the Uk population would like to have dual nationality also demonstrated that the support for Brexit is wafer-thin.

The one thing that is becoming abundantly clear is that there is no “clear mandate” for Brexit whatsoever. There is no agreement amongst the British people about what they would like Brexit to look like, no idea how to get there and no understanding of what it means in most cases anyway.

Putting all this data together it is abundantly clear that only a deluded fantasist can claim that there is a “clear mandate” for Brexit. At best there is chaos and confusion, at worst the British people are starting to follow the rest of the EU and turning decisively (if rather more slowly) against leaving. As we have witnessed in the General Election people can change their minds and do so over quite a short space of time: I have certainly changed my mind substantially on Corbyn. This is why either we need to cancel Brexit entirely or we need another vote on it, and soon before too much irreparable damage has been done to the country.

All the way to the top, as political as it gets.

Capitalism has always been a conflict between profit and safety. Profit for the rich against safety for workers, customers, passengers, clients, pupils, inhabitants and neighbours. The history of capitalists putting profit before safety, or taking huge risks to make a fast buck is long and unworthy. The Titanic, Bhopal, Chittagong, the Torey Canyon, Fukushima, Deepwater Horizon, Thalidomide, Potters Bar…

In each of these, and many more, safety was compromised by the desire of the rich to make more money by exposing others to higher than necessary degrees of risk. Corners were cut, unnecessary risks were taken and lives were lost, unnecessarily. Not surprisingly those who stand to make money from having to spend less on safety want fewer health and safety rules, the costs of these come out of their profits, consequently they have campaigned long and hard to remove as many of these as they can. They manufactured the narrative about “red tape” as if to imply that the only reason for the existence of these laws was simply to keep bureaucrats in jobs. This is why campaigning against health and safety rules has been at the heart of Tory Party policy since the late 1970s. And when I say “at the heart”, it has been a fundamental, core objective which has never ceased to underpin Tory fundamental Tory ideology not merely as expressed through their policies but through their actions in government and through the output of their propaganda mouthpieces from the Sun and the Times to the BBC and the Mail. Removing rules and regulations has become so deep-seated in their ideology that confected phrases like “nanny-state” are commonplace in their narrative, such that these rationalisations are hidden behind a doxa of abstract justifications centred on a carefully crafted mythology.

The myth of the plucky, struggling entrepreneur up against imperious and overbearing bureaucrats is the side of the argument they like to present, and like any myth there is a grain of truth in it. (although these people are often lauded because of their willingness to 'take risks', yet what we increasingly see are those risks being offloaded from the entrepreneur onto others, from workers to consumers) However health and safety regulations mostly impact on large corporations and those who benefit from their withdrawal are largely insulated from the consequences of their failure or of deaths resulting from those failures. The self-employed electrician who puts someone in danger by cutting corners wiring a house will go to jail if he or she is found to be at fault and a fire is caused, whereas the shareholders of a large corporation responsible for negligence, whether direct or indirect, are protected from all but financial loss by being at arms length from direct responsibility.

Yet, at the same time, these people donate to, support and vote for the Conservative Party in large numbers, a party which seeks to reduce their overheads by removing, or watering down, health and safety legislation, and, of course it does not stop there. One of the first things the last Labour government did was introduce the Human Rights Act, which put the European Convention of Human Rights formally into British law. This act is now being targeted because, of course, being forced to concede human rights to employees, customers and the public is also an expense for big business.

In fact a huge part of the motivation behind the stupidity of the coming economic catastrophe that is Brexit is motivated by a desire, on the part of the Conservative Movement (and by "movement" I include all the big business that funds them and the far-right media that maintains them) to remove rules and regulations, in some instances mythical ones (like Boris Johnson’s bananas). Ultimately then the tragedy of Grenfell Tower was not merely that it was avoidable but that it was profoundly political in nature.

And by political, I do not just mean from the point of view of the
S London:
 On the right a new, privately-owned block with no cladding
On the left an old block, clad in...we don't know...
incompetent and criminally negligent (allegedly) Kensington and Chelsea council, but political in the sense that the Tories, in all their guises; from MPs to the media to big business interests, have pushed the confected narrative of deregulation to the extent that we had a 24-storey building wrapped in highly flammable plastic and with no sprinkler system, and it looks like there may be many more like Grenfell.

Of course the Tories and their apologists on the right have been attempting to shut down criticism of this state of affairs since the disaster, claiming that people are “politicising” this disaster. Nothing could be further from the truth; this disaster was politicised by the Tories 40 years ago, and constantly ever since. For the last 40 years The Conservative Movement has campaigned against health and safety regulations, not merely explicitly in political debates but seeking to create a deep-rooted, partly tacit cultural environment in which health and safety legislation is regarded as always a problem. They used constant media reinforcement, in which the reduction in “red tape”, “The nanny state” or whatever euphemism they could concoct, for deregulation to became an unchallengeable, unquestioned and unquestionable Good Thing.

As Jonathan Friedland argued in the Guardian; the Tories’ ‘bonfire
of regulations’ has been shown up for what it is. So make no mistake, this tragedy is about as political as it gets, the deaths of everyone in that tower were produced by the underlying, central, core ideology that the Conservative Movement has been pushing since the 1970s; this is not just about a few policies, a few individuals or a few incompetents but about a deep-seated (although probably ultimately astroturfed) political culture which created the environment for something like this to happen.

Which is why, over the next few days and weeks we will experience a subtle but determined media campaign to get the public to ‘Look over there!’ The media will try and distract us with celebrities, celebrities, sport and more celebrities. It will focus on any story it can to distract from Grenfell, and when it does talk about Grenfell it will seek scapegoats. Expect a whole heard of scapegoats to appear and disappear, expect the media to attempt to focus our attention on the individual, the detail, the microscopic, whatever, (including the conspiracy theories which are beginning to creep through, and faux righteous indignation about damage caused by rioters venting their anger) as long as it takes the focus away from the ideology they themselves have been pushing, as their prime, core dogma for the last four decades.

Ultimately the responsibility for creating this cultural milieu of a reduction in necessary health and safety regulation lies with those most responsible for creating and perpetuating it, those in the very highest leadership positions of power in the Conservative Movement. To that end the likes of Thatcher, Bojo,
Gove, May, Dacre and Murdoch are the ones most responsible for this tragedy. We can expect, and hope, that those responsible at a local level will be held accountable for this crime. Holding those more generally

responsible for it, at a higher level will be much harder, although in my opinion ultimate responsibility lies with those at the top of the Conservative Movement. We owe it to the victims of their selfish, harmful and dangerous ideology in Grenfell, to prevent
those responsible right at the top, from getting away with it.

Monday, 1 May 2017

May's Brexit Delusions.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (abbreviated FAZ), is a centre-right, liberal-conservative German newspaper. It leaked the chat at the disastrous dinner between Juncker and May.

Jeremy Cliffe, Berlin Bureau Chief at the Economist, has relayed these for English readers in a series of tweets. You may be sure that the EU (thankfully) has no intentions of keeping these negotiations quiet.

Not pleasant reading, and says little for May or her advisors.:

1) May had said she wanted to talk not just Brexit but also world problems; but in practice it fell to Juncker to propose one to discuss.

2) May has made clear to the Commission that she fully expects to be reelected as PM.

3) It is thought [in the Commission] that May wants to frustrate the daily business of the EU27, to improve her own negotiating position.

4) May seemed pissed off at Davis for regaling her dinner guests of his ECJ case against her data retention measures - three times.

5) EU side were astonished at May's suggestion that EU/UK expats issue could be sorted at EU Council meeting at the end of June.

6) Juncker objected to this timetable as way too optimistic given complexities, eg on rights to health care.

7) Juncker pulled two piles of paper from his bag: Croatia's EU entry deal, Canada's free trade deal. His point: Brexit will be v v complex.

8) May wanted to work through the Brexit talks in monthly, 4-day blocks; all confidential until the end of the process.

9) Commission said impossible to reconcile this with need to square off member states & European Parliament, so documents must be published.

10) EU side felt May was seeing whole thing through rose-tinted-glasses. "Let us make Brexit a success" she told them.

11) Juncker countered that Britain will now be a third state, not even (like Turkey) in the customs union: "Brexit cannot be a success".

12) May seemed surprised by this and seemed to the EU side not to have been fully briefed.

13) She cited her own JHA opt-out negotiations as home sec as a model: a mutually useful agreement meaning lots on paper, little in reality.

14) May's reference to the JHA (justice and home affairs) opt-outs set off alarm signals for the EU side. This was what they had feared.

15) ie as home sec May opted out of EU measures (playing to UK audience) then opted back in, and wrongly thinks she can do same with Brexit

16) "The more I hear, the more sceptical I become" said Juncker (this was only half way through the dinner)

17) May then insisted to Juncker et al that UK owes EU no money because there is nothing to that effect in the treaties.

18) Her guests then informed her that the EU is not a golf club

19) Davis then objected that EU could not force a post-Brexit, post-ECJ UK to pay the bill. OK, said Juncker, then no trade deal.

20) ...leaving EU27 with UK's unpaid bills will involve national parliaments in process (a point that Berlin had made *repeatedly* before).

21) "I leave Downing St ten times as sceptical as I was before" Juncker told May as he left

22) Next morning at c7am Juncker called Merkel on her mobile, said May living in another galaxy & totally deluding herself

23) Merkel quickly reworked her speech to Bundestag to include her now-famous "some in Britain still have illusions" comment

24) FAZ concludes: May in election mode & playing to crowd, but what use is a big majority won by nurturing delusions of Brexit hardliners?

25) Juncker's team now think it more likely than not that Brexit talks will collapse & hope Brits wake up to harsh realities in time.

26) What to make of it all? Obviously this leak is a highly tactical move by Commission. But contents deeply worrying for UK nonetheless.

27) The report points to major communications/briefing problems. Important messages from Berlin & Brussels seem not to be getting through.

28) Presumably as a result, May seems to be labouring under some really rather fundamental misconceptions about Brexit & the EU27.

29) Also clear that (as some of us have been warning for a while...) No 10 should expect every detail of the Brexit talks to leak.

30/30) Sorry for the long thread. And a reminder: full credit for all the above reporting on the May/Juncker dinner goes to the FAZ.

Monday, 3 April 2017

War in Europe.

The national delusionality fuelled by the media, brexit and Leave seems to be getting worse in the face of the sharp dose of reality supplied by the EU27 after the invoking of Article 50. Now the Tories/leavers are already talking about war with Spain over Gibraltar. They REALLY haven't thought this through...

Not only is Spain not Argentina but Gibraltar is not the Falklands (and for that matter Theresa May is no Margaret Thatcher). Gibraltar has a land border with Spain, is economically dependent on Spain and could be isolated much more easily. A Royal Navy task force would be up against a large land army and any war would result in the deaths of large numbers of people on both sides but especially in Gibraltar.

What they have also not considered are the other consequences. In the event of any hostilities the EU (which by then we would not be part of) would take Spain's side and Britain would be subject to economic sanctions. This would not only result in that 44%+ of our trade with the EU simply drying up overnight, but most of our trade with the rest of the world too, since most of it goes through Europoort in Holland. In other words our trade with the US, the Middle East, China, Japan, Korea and Africa would instantly cease also. Economic sanctions could also result in a ban on flights to the UK and a ban on aircraft flying from/to the UK over EU territory, meaning the only flights that could reach us easily would be from North and Central America.

The economic consequences would be massive and instant. Unemployment would skyrocket as British businesses went bankrupt overnight. The exchequer would run out of money very quickly meaning that the NHS would cease to function and teachers, doctors, nurses, the police and other public sector workers would not be paid.In addition pensions and social security would go unpaid, and those are just the straightforward consequences I can think of off the top of my head. Petrol would become scarce and food very scarce. We would see rationing, poverty, unemployment, power cuts, bankruptcies and consequent riots in the streets within weeks if not days. And I haven't even mentioned NATO, the British people living in Spain, loss of influence around the world, becoming a pariah nation and being ejected from the World Trade Organisation yet...

The Fascist media (let's face it they are no longer the "Tory media" they are fascists, daily pushing a fascist agenda) and the right-wing fanatics in the Tory Party like Michael Howard are trying to bounce the country into a war with Spain over the colony. Howard was probably the only party leader in history to be quite a dire as Jeremy Corbyn, and while people accuse Corbyn, with some justification, of still living in the 1970s, Howard and his ilk clearly live in the 1870s. Now we see how the lack of a serious political opposition to the Tories is starting to get really, really dangerous for the country as a whole.
Telegraph 9 May 2016

Remain pointed out the problems with Gibraltar during the referendum campaign and of course the Leave campaign said we were just "scaremongering". 

So far every piece of "scaremongering" has proven not to be scaremongering, but reality, only this time it is much worse even than the so-called "scaremongers" could have imagined. And Leavers had the gall to suggest that the EU has had nothing to do with preserving peace in Europe. 

Plenty more of this to come over brexit. 

Friday, 31 March 2017

(In)visibility and The Transphobes' Big Lie

The prevalence of Sarah Ditum's drearily predictable output in New Statesman has probably contributed to it being renamed "New Transphobe" by trans people. So her recent post in social media attempting to use Rachel Dolezal to delegitimise trans people was not exactly unexpected since she appears to have some deep need to weaponise any possible nugget of information against trans people.

However this time her post has proved very useful in reminding me, not only why the Rachel Dolezal case is not comparable to trans people but why one of the TERFs' main lines of attack against trans people is actually a huge lie. The main difference between trans people and Dolezal is that, while trans people have existed for millennia, people like Dolezal have not. CN Lester's outstanding LGBT History Month lecture at Oxford reveals some of this hidden history, and there is plenty more where that came from.

Marjorie Garber's cultural history demonstrates how trans people have existed throughout history, back to the earliest human civilisation, and in every culture. The discovery by archaeologists of a trans woman buried 5000 years ago in what is now Prague shows how trans people have existed for a long time even in Europe. Harold Garfinkel's study of a transsexual woman in the United States in the 1950s also provides plenty of evidence about our existence throughout history.

But we don't even have to look at second-hand evidence; the autobiography of the Chevaliere D'Eon; The Maiden of Tonerre is the true story of a trans woman who transitioned in London in 1777. Pilot Officer Roberta Cowell's memoirs tell of her transition in the years after she saw action as a Spitfire pilot during D-Day. 

What these examples do, is undermine the basic TERF argument that trans people exist as a kind of "movement", as the result of "transgender ideology" and that being trans is a kind of "fad" or "trend". Indeed two of what I regard as the most dishonest and abusive transphobic websites both use the word "trend" in their title. "Gendertrender" seeming to me nothing more than a collection of weaponised abuse, while "Transgender Trend", in my opinion, aims to harm trans children by misleading their parents.

The aim of these sites, by employing titles such as this, is deliberately to mislead. The idea behind the use of these words is to convey the idea that the emergence of trans people, largely as a result of trans activists hard campaigning inn the last 50 years, is just an ephemeral "fad". The danger is clear; by encouraging people, especially parents, believe that their trans children are just being transgender as the result of a "trend" might engage in actions that are harmful to those children. Yet if something as basic as the names of two of the TERFs' most prominent sites is employing the myth of trendiness, this is actually very revealing of their most basic misleading falsehoods.

One of the reasons trans people have been invisible for such a long time has been the ideological oppression brought about by the central ideology of materiality which was ushered in by the Renaissance, and by fascist attempts to maintain this oppression, for example, these well-known images of Nazis burning books were actually taken as the work of Magnus Hirschfeld, one of the pioneers of research into trans people, was destroyed.

Yet trans people are clearly not a
trend, nor do we exist because of any "ideology" or "movement". We have been around for millennia. Obviously it suits those whose fanatical opposition to trans people can only be sustained by multiple misrepresentations of trans people. Misrepresentations that are becoming harder to maintain. Ultimately it is the particular type of transphobia widely known as TERFism that will turn out to be ephemeral. Existing, as it has done for only around half a century this hate-campaign is the "ideological" "movement". The transphobes have used the historic invisibility of trans people against us, the sudden visibility of trans people brought about by trans activists hard work and campaigning gives the impression that we represent a trend, something the transphobes are desperate to maintain. This is one of the reasons why Transgender day of Visibility is so important, because it exposes this big, fundamental lie. But unlike these anti-trans fanatics, trans people have always been here.