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E-Pluribus | April 12, 2022
What's next, "midperson"?; the future of media and speech; and a lawsuit over one university's indiscriminate "anti-discrimination" rules.
A round up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Amy Eileen Hamm: I’m Being Investigated by the British Columbia College of Nurses Because I Believe Biological Sex Is Real
One would expect an institution with “midwives” in its name to have the issue of biological sex nailed down pretty well. Amy Eileen Hamm begs to differ. At Quillette, Hamm tells of her mistreatment by the British Columbia College of Nurses and Midwives for her positions on gender-identity and for a billboard (!) supporting J.K. Rowling.
My troubles started when the BCCNM [British Columbia College of Nurses and Midwives] informed me that two members of the public had complained to the organization, to the effect that I am transphobic and so might be incapable of “provid[ing] safe, non-judgemental care to transgender and gender diverse patients.” One of the complainants is a social worker named Alex Turriff, who self-describes as “a passionate social justice advocate … interested in structural violence and oppression [and] influenced politically by Marxism.” The other has been awarded the privilege of remaining anonymous, even as he or she has attempted to ruin my career: The BCCNM apparently agreed with the anonymous person’s belief that I might “retaliate” if I knew who they were.
[ . . . ]
About six years ago, I became interested in what some call gender-identity ideology—which is centred on the claim that one’s self-asserted gender identity should trump biological sex in all areas of service provision and policy-making. As many have observed (including here at Quillette), there’s been an ideological creep from niche Internet communities and academic faculties to the real world of bathrooms, prisons, and sports teams. I date my own publicly stated concern about this phenomenon to the first time I was denounced with the slur “TERF” (trans-exclusionary radical feminist), which was in 2016.
[ . . . ]
After I’d gone public, the BCCNM attempted to get me to sign a consent agreement, which would have ended the investigation. But I refused. The proposed agreement involved me receiving a public reprimand, signing a statement of facts agreeing that I’d made transphobic comments online, getting a two-week suspension that would remain permanently on my record, pledging never to discuss gender identity while mentioning that I am a nurse, and other assorted items (such as “education” in regard to the use of social media). The BCCNM wanted me to agree that I had breached my professional standards “related to Ethical Practice, Professional Responsibility and Accountability, and Client-Focused Provision of Service.” But they weren’t able to articulate the manner in which I’d breached any of these standards; nor could they back up their more recent claim that I’d made “medically inaccurate statements.” The reason they haven’t done so is because they can’t.
Read it all.
Matt Welch: Are Newsletters the Future of Free Speech?
The evolving media environment along with rising concerns over free expression, group-think and censorship has generated a wave of defections from traditional media outlets to much smaller groups of journalists and writers producing what are often targeted newsletters to reach readers tired of predictable and shopworn content. At Reason, Matt Welch interviews Substack’s Hamish McKenzie about this trend and how platforms like Substack (home to Pluribus) are helping to preserve and expand free speech.
[Matt Welch:] Your profile, whether it's intentional or not, is that you're champions of free speech within the world of online media. You state a lot of foundational liberal values, including in that statement about censorship you made in January. How did those shared values shape the way the company was formed?
[Hamish McKenzie:] We started Substack to improve discourse and help restore financial dignity to writers and help readers take back their minds—an alternative to the attention economy. For those things to all be true, you need to create a space that is accommodating for a broad range of views and for genuine discussion, and to not have a company sitting at the top that appoints itself as the referee of what's acceptable.
So we do hold those values. They're reflected in the design of the system, which is that writers are in charge. They make money through subscriptions, which are trust relationships. They have to live up to the contracts they have with their readers. They have to respect and reward the attention and trust of their readers.
Substack in turn has to respect and reward the attention and trust of the writers. Writers own everything on Substack. They own their mailing lists. They own their content. They own their [intellectual property]. They could take all of that with them at any time. It's not like Twitter, where you can't leave Twitter and take all your Twitter followers with you.
Read it all here.
Allie Simon: Conservative UHouston students, afraid to share views under new ‘anti-discrimination’ policy, file lawsuit
The debate over free speech on college campuses has come to the University of Houston. Three anonymous conservative students have sued the school over its “anti-discrimination” policy that they contend undermines their right to free expression, reports Allie Simon for The College Fix.
The students, who are unnamed in the suit, also believe in issues such as that biological males should not be allowed to compete against biological females in sports and that students should not be forced to use a peer’s preferred gender pronouns.
But under the public university’s new anti-discrimination policy, enacted last December, discrimination or harassment on campus is now defined as including “negative stereotyping,” “threatening, intimidating or hostile acts,” and “denigrating jokes.”
[ . . . ]
The conservative students want the freedom to point out flaws in left-leaning arguments and “talk frequently and repeatedly on these issues” as part of campus debate without fear of violating the university’s harassment policy, which makes them reluctant to openly express themselves, the lawsuit states.
That’s because such beliefs may be considered “harassment” under the new policy if left-leaning students or others find conservative views “humiliating,” “abusive,” “threatening,” “denigrating,” “averse” or “intimidating,” especially if such views are shared passionately and repeatedly.
[ . . . ]
In the complaint, Speech First argues that the university’s officials have created a “speech code” that acts as a deterrent for students who want to express views that might differ from “the mainstream.”
“Instead of promoting the ‘robust exchange of ideas,’ universities are now more interested in protecting students from ideas that make them uncomfortable,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit further alleges that according to the policy, academic freedom and freedom of expression will not absolve one if his or her behavior is deemed to be in violation.
Read the whole thing.
Yesterday, Corinna Cohn wrote “What I wish I’d known when I was 19 and had sex reassignment surgery” for the Washington Post. Cohn since posted a thread on Twitter with some clarifications and reactions to the response to the essay. Here are excerpts:
Via Bloomberg Opinion contributor Dan Wang, some of the Communist Chinese Party’s self-serving “warnings” about the internet:
And finally, Yascha Mounk on former labor secretary Robert Reich’s assertion that “an ‘uncontrolled’ internet” is “the dream of every dictator, strongman and demagogue”: