Here comes another government consultation. I do suspect our government do this whenever they’re scared of making big decisions themselves. This is a ***long read*** but I hope it will help me, as well as you, if you’re reading it, to produce clear-headed responses to the government’s latest, as well as to some of those odd conversations down the pub. I accept that I could be right or wrong in my conclusions and choices about any of the examples I give below but, please join me in thinking about the phenomenon, and how difficult it makes our own decision-making.
Where do the words in your head come from?
We’ve had a million catchy phrases ringing in our ears in the decades since the PR-mongers and strap-line sellers have been in charge. I remember way back in the last century, someone saying it all started with ‘your country needs you’. With the development of modern media, political catch-phrases did a lot of work, and developed to an art form with ‘you’ve never had it so good’ but, since the dawn of social media, we have *really* struggled, and often failed, to free our minds from the word-spinning illusionists, from coal-belching climate-change deniers to post-modernist sex-deniers.
Destroying the Labour Party
Yes, I think it has been pretty much destroyed and I think the line that did more than any other to wreak that destruction was ‘rife with anti-Semitism’. Not ‘the occasional careless comment’ or ‘a few nutters here and there’ but ‘rife with anti-Semitism’. You may or may not believe that either Jeremy Corbyn or his followers were seriously anti-Semitic but, time and again, when I listened to the ‘I will never vote Labour again’ tribe on the topic, they used that same phrase ‘rife with anti-Semitism’. I don’t think ‘rife’ is a word that comes naturally to that many tongues, so why did nearly all the anti-Corbyn people who came to our Labour Party stall back in the day use the same words? I see it as evidence that that line was fed in by social media posts managed by someone’s expensive word-spinning PR team.
I first noticed the character-destruction technique back in the days when I still read the Guardian. It’s no co-incidence that we’ve thought of a special word for a special breed of journalists – the Guardianistas. The name arose because the very visible loyalty that Owen Jones and the rest of them had to editor Rusbridger’s Guardian led them all to use the same words to attack those Rusbridger reviled, and then you’d hear everyone who imbibed the Guardian view of the world repeat those same words as though giving their own opinion, when they helped to take down Rusbridger’s enemies. Russell Brand was a ‘narcissist’, Julian Assange was ‘egocentric’ and ‘a control freak’. Rusbridger’s words, via the PR team, through obedient journalists’ typing fingers, into everyone’s conversations.
Leaving the EU
‘Brexit means Brexit’ was a great way of deflecting any attempt at explaining what a Tory-led Brexit would be like. ‘Take back control’ was a great way to present leaving the EU as a no-brainer. ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ was a pathetic debate-avoider by Remainers who were worried about their skiing holidays, but not that clear about the campaign they were on, because not many of us actually knew every much about the pros and cons of the EU. And whose idea was it to habitually call Corbyn’s studied neutrality ‘ambivalent’, ‘lukewarm’ and ‘indecisive’? He had stated clearly that he wanted to inform, and let people decide. That was not the story the media told, so it wasn’t the story down the pub, either.
Can you change sex?
I’m sure you can think of other examples but what’s been driving me witless lately is the way the words relating to sex and gender have been twisted and misused by the self-ID trans lobby, who time and time again have had the average citizen scratching their heads and saying ‘I can’t really comment because I don’t get it’. You may ask why a PR team would set out to confuse the nation, rather than sell a slick idea. The answer to that is in the Denton Report, a document offered up to those with the money to buy PR, as a way of selling self-ID and child transition – the ‘born in the wrong body’ idea.
The central argument of the report was, ‘if people get what you’re trying to do, they will oppose it.’ So the self-ID lobby studiously avoid debate, slip their ideas into articles and resolutions along with others people approve of, and stick to PR lines everyone can remember and repeat, regardless of whether they get the issue. The surest way to avoid debate in a more or less free country is to fog, mislead, and scare off attempts at debate, but provide people with something catchy to say.
Have you noticed how very few official forms ask you your sex, or even your gender these days? They tend to ask you what gender ‘you were assigned at birth’. Did you know, that phrase was originally developed back in the day when doctors didn’t know how to identify the sex of babies with disorders of sexual development so they would, initially, choose a sex and assign it to the baby. That’s not true any more, except in an infinitesimally small number of us but, the phrase comes in handy for inculcating the notion that sex is not real (it is) or binary (it is).
Meanwhile, our politicians’ heads are so befuddled now they are well on the way to allowing the harmless-sounding phrase ‘gender identity’ (a matter of how you feel, or how you express yourself) into law in place of the existing terms ‘sex’ (a biological reality) or ‘gender reassignment’ (a recognition of those ‘living as’ the opposite sex, that does not require a belief in magical transformations).
Changing the terms to ‘gender identity’ is a really bad idea because the current terms protect everyone, but the unproven, unevidenced idea of ‘gender identity’ does not. Courts can’t make evidenced decisions about something that, as far as we know, is entirely subjective. Its presence on the statute books would make sex discrimination law, and other measures in place for women, inoperable. No-one would agree to that if they had had a chance to think it through, which is why the ideas twisters have been at work amongst our politicians.
If you are as old as me, you will be absolutely sure that conversion therapy is A Bad Thing. Before the triumphs of the Gay Liberation Movement had cleared the air, we often heard terrible stories of organisations – usually low-brow fundamentalist religious ones – that would ‘take charge of’ children showing signs of ‘problem’ attitudes such as being lesbian or gay, and trying to change their minds. We called it ‘conversion therapy’, and we opposed it in the name of liberation and natural expression. We even heard of the barbaric idea of ‘corrective rape’ for lesbians – we still do, in news from more benighted parts of the world, and such practices do seem to be creeping back into supposedly enlightened societies so of course we stand by the idea that conversion therapy is a bad thing, and should be banned.
Lesbian and gay children are under threat again
But the ideas-twisters have struck again. Lesbian and gay organisations, and many of the more thoughtful child-therapists, have in the last few years expressed concern that ‘transing children’ is becoming a highly fashionable and highly passionate crusade, very dangerous when plied with such enthusiasm that any child who feels alienated, traumatised, at odds with the world, might pick up the idea that they are ‘someone else, really’. Any child whose trauma is expressed as dysphoria can be swept up into the belief that they need protracted and invasive medical treatment, to ‘live as’ the opposite sex – to a young child, this sounds horribly, easily, far more possible than it actually is.
Dysphoria has more than one cause
A few years ago in the UK, a young woman who had transitioned realised her error, and detransitioned. She found that where her original transition had been aided and cheered on by enthusiasts, her detransition had been a lonely business, so she did a call-out for others in her situation. She immediately had hundreds of contacts from young women in the same boat. They had transitioned, then realised it wasn’t what they needed, and gender clinics and trans groups weren’t interested in that idea. That is crazy – young people with dysphoria need counselling, to ascertain the cause of their feelings, and they’d be far better having it *before* a trendy rush to transitioning. But now, those who are swept up by the ‘transgender trend’ are calling that counselling ‘conversion therapy’. The predicament of all dysphoric children is being pulled into the trans activists’ arena of ‘no debate’. If the child thinks he or she is ‘the wrong sex’ or ‘in the wrong body’, no-one must argue. That, they say, would be ‘conversion therapy’. If the child (or young woman) has doubts later on, listening or advising them is ‘conversion therapy’.
Beware the ideas twisters
I don’t remember hundreds of lesbian or gay youngsters gathering in such a way, saying they wished people had discussed other explanations with them, or that they need a doctor to help them become ‘ungay’, do you? The two cases must be different, don’t you think? But because of all that ideas-twisting, when the government run their public consultation on ‘conversion therapy’, there’s a real danger people will be passing motions and running petitions and filling in the consultation form with completely opposite ideas in their minds when they see those words. Are we talking about a ban on ‘conversion therapy’ as in trying to persuade gay kids to become straight (a bad and futile thing) or ‘conversion therapy’ as in offering counselling to dysphoric children, to check where their distress came from (that counselling could save a lot of unnecessary suffering to gay, autistic and traumatised kids who might think they are ‘trans’.)
If you find yourself being asked to do that government consultation, or sign one of those petitions, please make sure you know which variety of ‘conversion therapy’ you are supporting and/or denying.
Some info that might help:
Please give the government your view, and don’t be put off by those ideas-twister words and phrases – just hit the ‘other’ button, or ‘comments’ boxes when you need to, and explain your own views and distinctions in your own way.