Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Playing Jo Johnson's Game

Like his Brother Boris, Jo Johnson, the higher education minister, is in the habit of talking hogwash. The idea that not inviting a handful of transphobic bigots to spout their repetitive and disingenuous hate in universities around the country amounts to a threat to free speech is as nonsensical as brother Boris's pronouncements of Brexit (or just about anything else for that matter). None of the transphobes so far disinvited from speaking at events organised by university student societies is under threat of having their "ideas" suppressed or censored. The drivel produced by the likes of Germaine Greer, for example, is widely distributed in mainstream neoliberal media.

What the TERFs do like to do however, is to claim victimhood and then to weaponise it against trans people campaigning for human rights. They need to do this, because otherwise they have no arguments against trans people's rights, at least none that are not PRATTs (Points Refuted A Thousand Times).

Anyway, Johnson seems to be getting his knickers even more in a twist over what is clearly a stupid idea, and one that, like Brexit, falls apart if you even ask elementary questions. However, we should not despair at the possibility of hate-groups like A Woman's Place attempting to organise their hate-fests in a university, in an attempt to make their hate look respectable, to weaponise faux-victimhood or engage in Provoke and Publicise actions like the racist desegregationists of the American deep south whose methods they have recruited. The logic can be reversed.

The Times, amongst other neoliberal mainstream media (MSM) platforms, has operated a policy of no-platforming the voices of trans people or our allies arguing for trans people's human rights. The Times has selectively published dozens of articles  intended to undermine trans rights, many of which are both misleading and dishonest. However they have refused to publish any opposing points of view, like the New Statesman, and even worse than the Telegraph, the Mail and the Express, who have at least allowed small amounts of opposing viewpoints.

What is therefore not unreasonable is for this measure to be applied to the media as well as universities. The right for those who hold differing points of view to those of the editor to be published, and in a reasonable position and quantity, is now something that, as a consequence of Johnson's project can be argued without serious opposition. Pandora's box is opening. Obviously challenging this media bias by selection should not just apply to the deliberately misleading portrayal of trans people, but to other issues where the media has been selectively biased, such as Brexit, immigration and refugees, poverty, indeed the way Jeremy Corbyn (or indeed any other Labour leader) has been portrayed in MSM should precipitate an equivalent right to respond, and this should include minority parties like the Lib Dems and the Greens who are deliberately excluded from MSM.

If Johnson is going to insist that universities must give a platform to transphobic haters, homophobes and other such undesirables, then trans people and others should have the right to be published in the neoliberal MSM arguing our case for the human rights against which they campaign, and those who want to stop Brexit, oppose NHS cuts, tax cuts for the rich etc should also be given a platform in MSM. Occasionally standing in a lecture theatre with my back to a bunch of TERFs while playing video games on my mobile is a small price to pay for that.

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