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E-Pluribus | July 13, 2022
Disinformation Governance Board: The Sequel, the disproportionate harm of gender "affirmation," and the politicization of science.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Jenin Younes: Kamala Harris’ Free Speech Task Force
The short-lived Disinformation Governance Board has not discouraged the Biden administration from pursuing ways to clean up social media, but Jenin Younes writing for Tablet says that Vice President Kamala Harris’s new free speech task force is not the answer either.
For many women with large Twitter followings, using the platform entails not only incessant insults, but also an unrelenting stream of angry, threatening, and sexually explicit messages. Using the platform primarily to criticize U.S. government-imposed COVID restrictions and the unscientific approach of hysterical elites and experts compounds the gender-specific vitriol, an unpleasant new feature of my life for which I would eagerly welcome almost any realistic legal solution. Vice President Kamala Harris’ new “White House Task Force to Address Online Harassment and Abuse,” meant to help women, racial minorities, and LGBTQ individuals, clearly isn’t it. Neither government nor the tech companies themselves seem capable of regulating “harassment and abuse” without also curtailing the constitutionally protected speech intrinsic to a healthy democracy. In fact, the Biden administration’s unconstitutional policing of nongovernment approved viewpoints on COVID-related subjects has demonstrated with particular clarity that it cannot be trusted to determine what constitutes “harassment and abuse.”
At first blush, Harris’ new task force sounds like a laudable idea. Who wouldn’t want to spare members of marginalized groups—or anyone, for that matter—the anxiety and fear that accompany online harassment and abuse? But the concept, at least insofar as Harris has indicated she intends to implement it, is replete with troubling signs. For one, her announcement about the creation of the task force itself conflated threats of violence, cyberstalking, doxxing, and revenge porn—all serious types of misconduct and in many cases already criminally chargeable—with “harassment,” use of offensive language, and name-calling, all of which conceivably fall under First Amendment protected speech.
Read it all here.
Holly Lawford-Smith: How Automatic Gender ‘Affirmation’ Hurts Girls and Women
Questioning the appropriateness of immediate affirmation of anyone expressing their preferred gender identity is considered heresy among transgender activists. At Quillette, Holly Lawford-Smith says this impulse, however, is disproportionately harmful to women, and that among young girls particularly, any “harm” caused by a slower, more cautious approach would be significantly less than the potentially irreversible consequences of plowing ahead.
What about the harms of refusing to affirm as trans people who are in fact trans? There is little data on this. Although legislation is being introduced in multiple countries to prevent “conversion therapy” on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the legislation seems to be justified with reference to research that is disproportionately about sexual orientation.
Furthermore, refusal to affirm a gender identity is not equivalent to rejection or outright disbelief. The clinical alternative to the “gender-affirmative” model is the “watchful waiting” model, which explores with the child in therapy their other issues, and makes sure to affirm a trans identification only if and when other explanations are ruled out.
As Diane Ehrensaft—Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), and Director of Mental Health at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Child and Adolescent Gender Centre—explains, “Since a large majority of gender nonconforming young children seeking services at gender clinics desist in their gender dysphoria by adolescence, best practices would be to wait and see if the child persists into adolescence before making any significant changes in the child’s gender identity.” The harms of affirming kids who are not trans as trans are likely to far outweigh the harms of failing to affirm as trans kids who are trans, especially if the alternative is watchful waiting.
Read the whole thing.
John Staddon: The Racialization of a Top Science Journal
The British science journal Nature has been around since 1869, but John Staddon writes at Minding the Campus that the venerable publication has fallen prey to the same social justice pressures as many other institutions. Even in 2022, correlation still does not equal causation.
It is both embarrassing and disgraceful that Nature, the preeminent British scientific journal, should surrender science to social justice.
Science requires the separation of fact from passion. “A scientific man ought to have no wishes, no affections, a mere heart of stone” wrote Charles Darwin. First prove your claim, then decide what to do about it. Nature should be responsible for the first part, values and the legal-political system for the second. This editorial skips the first step and goes straight to values: if a fact is upsetting, label it “racist.”
[ . . . ]
Never mind its impropriety—the recent editorial doesn’t even offer a decent defense for its social-justice case. For example, because the rise of European slavery coincided with the rise of science, science is supposedly both tainted and complicit.
During that period, a scientific enterprise emerged that reinforced racist beliefs and cultures. Apartheid, colonization, forced labour, imperialism and slavery have left an indelible mark on science.
Does the coincident rise of science and, say, slavery mean that one caused the other or, as the authors claim, that science is somehow tainted because it developed when society was in decline? To demonstrate at this distance that science, or at least scientific ideas, caused or were caused by slavery is essentially impossible (if there is any plausible link, it is more likely to be positive: as the Industrial Revolution advanced, the need for slave labor declined)…
Read it all.
Excerpts from a Jesse Singal thread on the can-men-be-pregnant exchange at a Senate hearing this week:
Via Christopher Rufo, the What is a Woman? question is older than most people think:
And finally, it might be time to open a new front in the War on Challenging Incidents: