Tuesday, 22 January 2019

The Issue is Transphobia

Hbomberguy's fundraiser for Mermaids did an awful lot more than raise $336,000+ for Mermaids, the inspirational charity that supports trans children, and in many cases saves their lives. It also provided, for an all too short a time, a free space for trans people and their allies to discuss the issues facing trans people in general and trans kids in particular. This is important and also very revealing. For the first time in ages online there was a space that allowed trans people and our allies to discuss issues and express ourselves freely. 

This was because the space was not managed, curated, edited, chaired, infiltrated, threatened or controlled by transphobes for once. It wasn't a "discussion" set up by the faux "women's concerns" hate groups. It wasn't a "debate" confected for broadcast media where an ignorant carpet-chewing bigot is set up against a knowledgeable and reasonable trans person or ally. It wasn't an "investigation" by a "journalist" member of the secret anti-trans media cabal, regurgitating their weird groupthink. It didn't include cheap glinning throwaway one-liner misrepresentations of trans people, it didn't have the constant dead-hand threat of having any phrase misused in mainstream media to mean something different from
what was intended. It didn't include voices of the faux "silenced" loudly claiming to be "SILENCED!". It didn't include cis transphobes retrospectively lying about being mistaken for trans guys when they were kids (back in the 1980s? Yeah right!). It didn't include protected Freeze Peach of the kind being provided by York University.

In short it was a conversation, a social media space which was, for a short period, beyond the control of the transphobes. And this is significant, not merely because it demonstrated that, despite the intense media anti-trans campaign (a propaganda wave that deliberately and systematically excluded trans people, yet which described itself as a "debate"), trans people have much more support out there in Real-World Land than the media transphobes think.

It also struck me (although I couldn't spend much time there over the weekend because I had a couple of other projects on the go) that the ultimate root for the discussions was not trans "issues" - we are people not "issues" - but transphobia, cisgenderism, cis-mythologization, trans erasure or whatever other anti-trans processes you might want to define. We are in the midst of a media-orchestrated wave of anti-trans hate centrally-organised by a shady clique of transphobic bigots behind the scenes who are then published by the likes of Murdoch and Rothermere. Bigots whose actions are carefully crafted to connect with social media to produce online bullying and abuse and which all too often play the player rather than the ball. 

That is the issue.

We urgently need to turn the "debate" away from "trans issues" and faux "concerns" and on to the issue of transphobia. Transphobia is the reason Mermaids exists and its life-saving work is needed to prevent children from dying. Obviously the anti-trans lobby wants to stop this lifesaving work, they would rather trans kids just quietly died by suicide like they used to, which is why their media campaign is so focussed on this wonderful charity. Anyone who says that, despite the general ineffectively of the biased media hate-campaign, trans people, especially children, are not being harmed by this propaganda, is being dishonest.

Transphobia is the issue; the rise in transphobia is a media problem and therefore we cannot expect the media to honestly engage in a "debate" about such issues, so trans people need to make space for this ourselves, in the same way hbomberguy did.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Brexit: Another dishonest Guardian campaign

A few months ago the Guardian ran a one-a-day drip-feed campaign to convince people that transphobic academics were being "silenced". This campaign which culminated in a widely criticised and factually incorrect transphobic editorial, an editorial that was so bad that the Guardian US, in an unprecedented move, actually ran a counter-editorial criticising it. The guardian drip-feed campaign was actually so dishonest that, despite telling us that transphobic academics are being "silenced" every day for five days, it did not actually produce a single example of a transphobic academic being unable to produce transphobic material. Yet at the same time Nic Shall, a trans PhD student is still being prevented from speaking and calling out transphobia. Needless to say this was not mentioned in the drip-feed. 

Being able to scream "I am being silenced!" in the national press is, ultimately, proof that you are not being silenced at all.

Now the Guardian appears to be starting a drip-feed campaign against a people's vote second referendum on the final deal for Brexit, and, yes you guessed it, it is just as dishonest as their transphobic "free speech" campaign.

It claims that a third of Labour voters would be "less likely" to back Labour if it adopted a 'Stop Brexit' policy. The fact that this "third" actually turns out to be 9% when you read the text, certainly does not surprise me;

"11% of current Labour voters said it would make them less likely to vote for the party."

This follows material produced by the normally reliable Owen Jones arguing that "Norway+" would be a great deal for the country. So losing influence in Europe and in effect becoming a colony of the EU is preferable to full membership. Now it turns out that the study to which the article refers also includes the following figures if Labour decides to back a people's vote;

9% of Tories more likely to vote Labour
39% of Lib Dems more likely to vote Labour
40% of Greens more likely to vote Labour

I'll take that lot rather than a share of the 9% TBH.

Of course supporting a people's vote on the final deal is not "stopping Brexit", it is giving the population an opportunity to vote on the final deal, something not available in 2016. However we also need to consider the meaning of "less likely" in this context. If this group is "less likely" to vote Labour that does not mean that they will not vote Labour, and one of the considerations would therefore be who would they vote for...?

If another receptacle for their votes is available then this likelihood increases, if there isn't it decreases. Given that the only possible destinations for their votes if they are that concerned to support the wanton destruction of Britain that they want to vote for a Leave-supporting party are the Tories and Ukip, there is not much choice. Ukip is a busted flush and will probably only be able to field a handful of candidates in a general election. Which leaves only the Tories. In fact very few voters ever switch from Labour to the Tories, and, in the 2017 election very few did so even in seats where there was a Leave-supporting Tory and a Remain-supporting Labour candidate. Indeed Remain-supporting Labour candidates won in large number of Leave-voting seats.

Contrast this with the possibilities for Remain voters. Remain voters have a number of alternatives; The SNP in Scotland  (who are likely to take 10 seats off the Tories at the next election) and Plaid Cymru in Wales as well as the Greens and Lib Dems countrywide. Indeed it seems that the Lib Dems are already quietly picking up a small but potentially significant number of Labour Remain votes as their polling has increased from bumbling along at 7-8% since the 2015 referendum, to between 10 and 12% now. So while Leave voters only really have the option of not voting (given that supporting the Tories will be anathema to most of them), while Remainers have a number of different possibilities, and are starting to take advantage of these possibilities.

It is also worth remembering that the current polls that show a 12% majority for Remain but that this is misleading. It is asking the question that was asked two and a half years ago, and not the question that would be asked in a People's Vote. 

A People's Vote on the final "deal" whatever that is, whether a catastrophic "no deal", the May Deal, Norway Plus or whatever, is just that. A vote on the specifics of whatever deal du jour happens to be on the table when they finally get round to accepting the only truly democratic way out of this mess. 

The contrast between a specific deal (and, for the sake of argument the May Deal is the only one currently on the table, the only one having been accepted by the EU) and the general notion of  "leaving the EU" is crucial. When all those leavers voted leave in 2016 they all had different ideas of what Brexit would be like.

Some voted for 'sovereignty'
Some voted for '£350m a week extra for the NHS'
Some voted to be wealthier
Some voted to have their cake and eat it.
Some voted to be like Norway or Switzerland
Some voted for a hard brexit (believing that there would not be any resulting economic collapse)

The difference with a Final Say referendum is that it is about voting on a very specific proposal, on the reality of brexit rather than the unicorns sold last time. So the variety of reasons people voted leave will be replaced with a cold, hard reality that is devoid of unicorns, with less money for the NHS not more, with no cake either to eat if have and in which everyone becomes significantly poorer.

In this scenario Remain vs Whatever Deal, Remain wins by a margin of around 35-40% rather than the 12% in the current opinion polls. This looks like a much better way to start the process of bringing the country back together and healing the divisions than persisting with an increasingly unpopular Brexit, the majority for which consists entirely of dead people, and which will make everyone poorer. 

How the Guardian got itself into this mess of publishing such blatantly dishonest propaganda of the Daily Mail kind is anyone's guess. Sort it out Viner.

Friday, 11 January 2019

A Real Socialist Alternative to Brexit

It is probably no coincidence that Owen Jones, on the same day that Jeremy Corbyn told us he was going to renegotiate a “new brexit deal”, published an article in the Guardian suggesting that the way forward was a Norway+ deal. Norway Plus is a kind of “Brexit In Name Only” deal that would see us remain in the Single Market and Customs Union and keep freedom of movement. Given that Jeremy Corbyn also said he wanted to bring Remainers and Leavers together, one can see the attraction of Norway+ as an apparent compromise.

As a Remainer, on a personal level I could probably live with Norway+, despite it effectively having the same principal flaw as May’s Blind Brexit “deal”, that of vassalage. Being on the naughty step of Europe is in many ways fitting for the UK right now.

However I am opposed in principle to any renegotiated deal, whether renegotiated by Mr Corbyn or anyone else, that would see us leave the EU, and I am opposed to it as a socialist, and member of Another Europe Is Possible. Norway+ would be a victory for Putin and fascists all over Europe. Here's why...

Being outside the EU, even if we were as closely linked as in Norway+, would have a big disadvantage; we would no longer have any real voice in Europe, we would not be able to campaign to change the EU for the better and make common cause with other socialist groups across the continent, like Podemos in Spain and Sryza in Greece, as well as emerging left-wing groups in Portugal, Austria, Malta and other places. It would mean we would not be able to help and support new left groups likely to emerge in places like France and Italy. 

One of the problems with the EU is its current neoliberal stance; this is something that needs to change and which can be changed, indeed it is ripe for changing. Being outside the EU means we will have absolutely no influence whatever over things like this. Inside, we can change the EU, the Gilets Jaunes protests suggest that there is a growing appetite for change across the EU, away from a neoliberal position to one like that associated with the policies of Jeremy Corbyn. 

The problem is, as we have already seen, the extreme right is always waiting to capitalise on grievances like those of the Gilets Jaunes, and as we have already seen, extreme right versions of this group have been popping up in many different places; in the UK the Yellow Vests are fascists. This is more than a metaphor for the way the far right works, appropriating the outward signs of anything vaguely rebellious. This is the way the far right operates at its core. The problems with neoliberalism and the way it disenfranchises and impoverishes, which are now becoming more apparent as the neoliberal forced consensus breaks down, are seized on by right-wing groups as vehicles for their own agenda. These fascists use the disaffectedness caused by neoliberal economic policies as a fertile recruiting ground for their hate. Fomenting hate and division is what these groups always do and this is what they are doing with those disenfranchised and left struggling under the oppression of neoliberalism. 

The only answer, the only way to prevent this from happening, is for the left to respond with coherent and workable anti-neoliberal policies. We need to give these people an option that is made up of hope and empowerment not fascism, division and hate. The left is the only group that can seriously provide an alternative to the grey, crushing neoliberalism that has scarred our world since the 1980s, and to those left behind and impoverished by its inequality-magnifying effects. 

Yet it is the far right that is on the march across Europe, not the left. These are groups which promote only anger, hate and division – all of which (more than coincidentally) help the neolibs by making it less likely that their system will be seriously challenged. Whether the UK is in or out of the EU, we will be affected by this growth in right-wing hate politics. Out of the EU however, we will be able to do nothing to resist it, we will have no influence to mould policies that can change the system and smash the cold, dead hand of neoliberalism which feeds this right-wing activity. 

This is why I oppose any deal that will see us leave the EU, even one negotiated by Jeremy Corbyn and endorsed by Owen Jones. Ultimately if we want to end this neoliberal nightmare we are going to need to work together with our neighbours in the EU, as only a large multinational group like the EU can effectively resist the global neoliberal forced consensus. Attempting to do so on our own will not merely fail, that failure will affect everyone else. The left needs to campaign for a second referendum (with a Remain option Barry Gardiner!) and then to reform the EU away from its current unpopular economic policies of miserable hopelessness. 

There is great danger in abandoning Europe to the far right and its emerging Trumpettes in Eastern Europe, but are great prizes to be won by the left as there is now an appetite for a proper change across the continent. Harnessing that desire for change and directing it to make that change happen is not only possible, it is likely if we work together, and constitutes the only way we can prevent the far right from misdirecting the sense of anger and hopelessness felt by people from the Baltic States to the Canaries. Leaving Europe and retreating into a myopic and ultimately futile, and possibly counterproductive, attempt to take down neoliberalism in isolation is what the neolibs and the far right want.

Seizing the moment and making Europe work for its people is the prize and that prize is one which, as socialists, we need to fight for, before it is too late.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Dangerous, Oppressive Times

The “results” of the recent Times “survey” about trans people’s rights are predictable coming from the UK’s most well-funded anti-trans organisation. And they are as likely to be representative of reality as Alice in Wonderland, especially since other polls have flatly contradicted them.

The Times has employed a number of strategies against trans people in recent years, including excluding genuine trans people from taking part at all in their transphobic “debate”, despite spreading the obvious lie that we are “silencing” others, and, through their punch-down-and-bully department, launching personal attacks on activists including a very young trans woman and parents of trans children.

Their latest strategy is more pernicious and has serious implications, not merely for trans people but for other minority groups also. The question on whether trans people should be “allowed” to change sex legally in a less degrading way, is of course, no-one else’s business but ours. But the Times wants to make it everyone else’s business, and by asking such a question it is subtly adding a new dimension to their so-called “debate”. The idea that the majority should have a veto over minority rights is dangerous, pernicious and profoundly oppressive. The idea, for example, that there should be a referendum on same-sex marriage, reinforces the idea that rights can be given and taken away in the whim of the majority. 

As we have seen recently in Taiwan, the majority has vetoed, after a disgusting campaign by the extreme “Christian” right, equal marriage. Biased media busybodies who have no right to determine who gay men, lesbians or bisexual people can marry claimed the right to unnecessarily interfere in others’ lives. 

The idea that trans rights should be decided by a majority of a largely badly informed populace, is pretty much as oppressive as it gets.

This is doubly so when anti-trans groups like the Times are spreading disinformation about us on an industrial scale, while preventing us from responding with anything even remotely resembling parity. Their propaganda campaign has been exclusionary, dishonest, misleading and spiteful in the extreme. But the notion that trans people’s rights to statutory self-identification of gender should be determined with reference to some kind of popular whim of a populace who are deliberately misinformed is a dangerous step. 

It is not merely a dangerous step for trans people however, it is a dangerous step for all minority groups. The idea that rights can be given, and therefore taken away, by a popularity contest, threatens everyone, including others in the LGBTQIA-family, black and ethnic minority people, asylum-seekers, religious minorities, the disabled and neurodiverse. When hate-groups like the Times campaign for any rights to be determined by popular whim, that is what oppression looks like. Especially for rights like equal marriage, and statutory declaration of gender, which have been shown to affect no-one other than the groups concerned. 

Minority rights should be decided on merit, not by a biased media popularity contest.

That the Times has taken this step, no doubt at great expense, demonstrates not just that they are putting a great deal of money into their transphobic hate-campaign, but that they have one eye on normalising this kind of oppressive, deliberately misinformed populism in order to extend it to other groups. Trans people have always said that we were the wedge issue to be used to undermine other people’s rights. The Times action confirms this.