Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Gender is a social fact

The rise of the trans phenomenon is based upon the distinction between sex and gender. Whilst sex is recognised as a biological fact, gender is seen as being merely social, a convention, an arbitrary construct of human whim. This view reveals a shallow, superficial sociology, which has more to do with wishful thinking than any sociological analysis or theory.

Gender is a social fact. And like all social facts, whilst malleable, it is neither arbitrary nor subject to personal determination.

Society, any society, is composed of an interlocking set of social facts. Individuals do not get to choose those facts anymore than they get to choose the facts of nature. Rather, social facts predate any specific individual; all of whom are born into a pre-existing social order. Gender is just one of the sets of social facts that exist in society. And it is no more a matter of personal choice than any other set of social facts.

Take money for example. Money is a social fact. Just look at a bank note. On its face is clearly stated that it is plainly not money, but merely a promise to pay a particular sum of money on demand. Yet, if one were to take a bank note to the Bank of England and demand that the promise by honoured, one would very quickly be shown the door. No official of the Bank would accept that the bank note was not in fact money. Promissory notes are, as a social fact, money.

Even though money is a social fact no one pretends that he or she can simply decide: I am a billionaire. No one thinks that if they were to declare that they were a billionaire, everyone else would acknowledge them as a billionaire and treat them accordingly. Although money is a social fact, its facticity is denied by no one. Everyone recognises that no one can by merely personal preference alter the (social) fact of money.

The same is true of all social facts. I might, for example, prefer that I am a general, but just because I assert I am a general does not make me a general. In order for me to be a general other persons have to recognise me as a general. This list could be elaborated virtually infinitely. However, I think the point is clear. Social facts are created by society, and are not open to change by any particular individual - and this is why the trans movement demands that so called misgendering (that is being accurate) be criminalised, for in order for the trans movement to be successful other persons must recognise the changed gender as the gender.

The trans movement is based precisely on the notion that the social facts of gender can be changed at the will of any particular individual. This is more than a revolutionary doctrine; it is an anarchic doctrine, which potentially threatens to undermine the whole social order. When who one is socially can be changed by mere personal preference, the sets of interlocking social roles, facts and institutions are all radically put a risk.

If I can change my gender by merely wishing it, why can I not change my age by merely wishing it? The response that age is a biological fact is only partially true, for age (just like sex and gender) is both a fact of biology and a social fact. In international law anyone under the age of eighteen is a child and anyone who is eighteen or over is an adult. Yet no one imagines that there is a fundamental qualitative change that occurs on a person's eighteenth birthday. The distinction is clearly social, albeit based on biology.

The trans notion of self identify is a radical threat to all social facts, for it denies the very facticity of the social order. Gender is a social fact, grounded on the biological fact of sex. The people who are pushing the notion that gender is a matter of personal choice are, doubtless, well intentioned, but their project threatens the very processes (the processes that create social facts) which hold societies together and make intersubjective meaning and understanding possible, the processes which ensure that social behaviour is predictable. Self identify is a road to anarchy.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Epstein and the media's changing narrative

On Saturday CNN reported that Jeffery Epstein had been found dead in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. The report asserted that Epstein had been on suicide watch at the time of his death. By Sunday the corporate media had changed the story by asserting that Epstein had not been on suicide watch at the time of his death. This change was not reported as a correction to be original reporting; rather, it was presented as though it had been the story from the outset. This was just the first revision.

Next came the assertion that the video cameras (plural) had malfunctioned so there was no video evidence of what had happened. Then we were told that the correctional officers had been tired due to overwork and so had not periodically checked on Epstein in accordance with standard procedure.

On Monday, the Medical Examiner announced that an autopsy had been conducted but they were  unable to determine the cause of death. The faux journalists who work for the corporate media seemed to be completely devoid of curiosity as to why the Medical Examiner was unable to determine the cause of death of a man who had been found hanged in his prison cell.

The corporate media's (changing) story of Epstein's death seemed to be almost designed to create a storm of speculation, which is certainly what happened. One result of the storm of speculation was that President Trump retweeted a post that suggested that the Clintons might have been involved. This provided CNN, and other outlets, with a new angle to focus upon. Now the story became Trump was pushing a conspiracy theory and this proved he is unfit to hold office. Epstein's death faded into the background. The foreground was full of talk about how dangerous Trump is and how the twenty-fifth amendment should be implemented.

The Attorney General, William Barr, has ordered an investigation into the death of Epstein. Given that he was in jail and there were only a limited number of people with access to him, it should be relatively easy for the FBI to ascertain what happened and to do so in a relatively short space of time. I suspect that given the sensitivities issue and the biases of the FBI, the result of the investigation will be that Epstein committed suicide and that the MCC should review its policies and procedures. And the political media elite will heave a sigh of relief and simply say, "Nothing to see here, move along."

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Tom Watson: anti-Semtism blowback

Tom Watson, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, who has worked tirelessly to undermine Jeremy Corbyn, has found himself a victim of blowback.

Recently, Mr Watson demanded that any member of the Labour Party who was accused of anti-Semitism be immediately and automatically expelled from the party. Karma was not long in coming.

On Sunday, Professor Geoffrey Alderman wrote to the Labour Party's General Secretary, Jennie Formby, to formally complain about Watson. The professor cited Watson's Easter message, pointing out that it contained "the oldest antisemitic trope" - the allegation that the Jews were responsible for the torture and execution of Jesus.

Fortunately for Mr Watson, it appears that Ms Formby has decided to not follow Watson's advice, as he is still a member of the party.

The corporate media, which for years have been pushing at every opportunity the Labour-Party-is-anti-Semitic narrative, have chosen to completely ignore the accusation against Tom Watson, the second most senior member of the party. This would be completely incomprehensible if it were not for the fact that the whole purpose of the narrative is simply and exclusively to attack Corbyn and his supporters. Reporting that Watson had been accused of anti-Semitism would be completely counter to that purpose: hence the media pretence that it has not happened. By imposing this media blackout on what ought to be headline news, the corporate media clearly reveal their agenda in pushing this anti-Semitism scandal.

Friday, 19 July 2019

The witch finder tactic turned against a witch finder

Baroness Hayter compared Jeremy Corbyn to Adolf Hitler in the final days of the Nazi regime. She was immediately sacked from her position as Shadow Minister for Exiting the European Union. The Labour Party issued a statement describing her comments as deeply offensive, especially to Jews. The situation is imbued with irony on so many levels.

The Labour Party's response perfectly mirrored the tactic that Diane Hayter and her fellow travellers have consistently used against Jeremy Corbyn, and his allies, ever since he was elected leader of the party. The party took her words, wilfully misconstrued them, expressed outrage and responded punitively. This is precisely the tactic that Hayter et al have employed for years. They have pretended to see anti-Semitism, expressed outrage and demanded punitive action.

Now that this tactic has been employed against Diane Hayter, she and her supporters are apparently mystified that her words could have been misunderstood. She explains that she was not saying that Corbyn was like Hitler, but that like Hitler, Corbyn was not listening to information he did not want to hear.

Hayter's interpretation is of course entirely accurate. But it smacks of hypocrisy and double standards for her to offer the defence when she has repeatedly wilfully misconstrued the words of others, pretending that they constitute clear evidence of anti-Semitism, when the clearly do not.

Of course Hayter could have avoided this if she had not resorted to the use of figurative language (or trope, to use a term she and her ilk are especially fond of). If she had simply stated the Corbyn was not listening to message he did not wish to hear, it would have been completely uncontroversial. The fact that she did not stick to plain language, however, was no accident. She resorted to the Hitler trope because she wanted to implicitly accuse Corbyn of being anti-Semitic. She also avoided using plain language in order to hide her own malicious intent.

If she had simply said that Corbyn and his inner circle were not listening to messages they did not wish to hear, all she would have been accusing him of would have been groupthink. But pointing out that a party is engaging in groupthink isn't an accusation; it is a mere common place. All political parties are subject to groupthink. Indeed a political party that was not characterised by groupthink would be a political party being torn apart by internecine struggle. And this is precisely something she wish to avoid making plain, for she and the rest are tearing the Labour Party apart by engaging in internecine struggle. They do not accept the decision of the party to elect Corbyn as leader and are determined to overturn that decision, regardless of the cost. The accusations of anti-Semitism are merely the currently preferred tactic, the others having failed.

The sacking of Baroness Hayter is a step in a fight back. The use of the witch finder tactic is regrettable, but when the opposition is using this tactic, it may be the only effective tactic left.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

British concern for human rights: Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong

This week two events cast clear light on the British government's concern for human rights. The first was the government's response to the court of appeal's ruling that British arms sales to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are unlawful. The second was the government's response to the policing of the protests in Hong Kong. Both cases involved the issue of human rights. Yet the government took entirely inconsistent positions.

On Monday, in response to the court ruling arms sales to Saudi Arabia unlawful on the ground that the British government had not taken into account the use of such arms to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law, the government disagreed with the court's judgement and stated that it would seek leave to appeal. Yet the notion that the arms had not been used to commit such violations was not just false, but blatantly so. The Saudi led coalition waging war on Yemen has killed approximately one hundred thousand people, the vast majority of whom being civilians. The Saudis have targeted schools, markets, residential areas, funerals and weddings. The Saudis have even more lethally imposed an economic blockade upon Yemen, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths from malnutrition and preventable diseases. Nevertheless, the government incredibly asserts that its sales of arms has not resulted in human rights violations and British corporations should be allowed to continue the multi-billion pound business.

On Wednesday, the British government announced that the way the police in Hong Kong had responded to protests violated the human rights of the protesters and that the government would therefore stop the sale of crowd control materials to Hong Kong. It is worthy of note that not a single person died as a result of the protests. Indeed, if one compares the policing of the protests to other protests around the world, the Hong Kong police appear to have behaved relatively normally. In fact, in comparison to say the police response to the Gillet Jaunes in France, the Hong Kong police were remarkably restrained. A similar comparison could be made in relation to the Spanish police's response to Catalans voting for independence. Yet the British government has never felt moved to condemn such policing. Indeed, it has supported the French and Spanish governments in these clear cases of excessive use of force.

The contrast between the two cases is remarkably revealing. In the space of two days, the government denies that a genocidal war that the United Nations judged to be the worst humanitarian catastrophe in modern history involves violations of human rights, and condemns as violations of human rights a policing operation that would pass as normal in country after country across the globe. What this double standard throws into stark reveal is the fact that for the British state human rights are nothing more than a rhetorical weapon with which to attack its enemies.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Michael Gove, cocaine, double standards and hypocrisy

The public admissions by Michael Gove that he took cocaine have caused much media interest and comment. The focus has been firmly confined to how it might effect his bid to be the next leader of the Conservative Party and thus prime minister. All this coverage has completely ignored the fact that Gove has confessed to a serious criminal offence, punishable by up to seven years' imprisonment.

If the police were to charge Gove and the Crown Prosecution Service were to bring a prosecution, Gove would have no defence. The only issue before the court would be the sentence. Gove would, as a result of his public confession, only be able to offer a plea of mitigation, a request for leniency, after the conviction and before the pronouncement of the sentence. Yet no one in the political media elite seems to be aware of this legal fact. As far as the political media elite are concerned, the issue is simply a matter of politics: will it affect his chances of being elected leader of the Tory party?

The double standards and hypocrisy of the elite could not be more blatantly displayed. Whilst Gove was taking cocaine, he was simultaneously publicly denouncing such behaviour. As Education Secretary he presided over a regime that excluded teachers who had a history of taking illegal drugs. Yet, there is no question in the minds of the political media elite of holding Gove to account, either in terms of the criminal law, nor in terms of maintaining professional standards. There could hardly be a clearer case of the law applying only to some. Apparently, it is perfectly acceptable for the elite to impose laws and standards on the rest of society, whilst having complete immunity for themselves.

Such double standards bring the law, politics, the corporate media, indeed the whole of the establishment into disrepute. If senior politicians can break the law with impunity, why should anyone else be bound by the rules? This is hardly a rhetorical question. Yet it is one which is not even being asked, let alone answered.

Monday, 15 April 2019

The war on freedom of expression: the arrest of Julian Assange

Julian Assange was arrested last week. He was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy by the police. According to Prime Minister Theresa May, he was arrested on the grounds of bail violation and an extradition request from the American government. Assange later appeared before a magistrates' court, where the district judge, demonstrating his impartiality, described Assange as a narcissist. The arrest of Julian Assange is part of a much larger war on freedom of expression, and especially, the war on any attempt to challenge official narratives.

The US charge against Assange does not even make sense. The US allege that Assange conspired with Bradley Manning (as he then was) to hack a US Department of Defence computer. This charge is undermined by the fact that Manning had first tried to release the documents to the New York Times and the Washington Post. Neither outlet was prepared to publish these damning documents. Manning only then provided WikiLeaks with the documents. This sequence shows that Manning was in possession of the documents before any contact with WikiLeaks, which disproves the allegation. Furthermore, the US charge would require Manning to give evidence against Assange, but it is clear Manning is unwilling to do so. Manning is in fact being held in indefinite detention precisely because he has refused to provide any such testimony. The imprisonment of Chelsea Manning (as she is now) should in itself be a scandal. Manning is being held in indefinite detention until she provides a US prosecutor with testimony to indict another person. When prosecutors can use such tactics, no one is safe.

It is clear that the US charge against Julian Assange is simply a trumped up charge designed to provide the verisimilitude of due process, when the motive is really revenge for his publication of evidential proof of US war crimes.

The US persuaded Ecuador to go along with this travesty by a mixture of money and diplomatic support. Following a visit by Mike Pence, Ecuador received ten billion dollars in loans from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other international financial institutions dominated by the US. Ecuador also received ringing endorsements from western political leaders and much praise in the western corporate media. In return, Lenin Moreno revoked Assange's asylum and the Ecuadorian ambassador in London invited the police into the embassy to arrest Julian.

The British government went along with Washington's plan without any such obvious inducements. However, some members of parliament, whilst keen to participate in the persecution of Assange, were somewhat squeamish about being seen to be involved in such a blatant attempt to criminalise the publication of accurate information. Instead, they called for Assange to be extradited to Sweden on the basis of allegations of sexual misconduct, even though the Swedish prosecutor dropped the case years ago and there is no such extradition request. Whilst this move is patently absurd, it has not only the benefit of enabling them to pretend they are not persecuting Assange for journalism, it also enables them to attack Jeremy Corbyn as someone who is a supporter of sexual predators, an entirely new smear in the library of baseless smears against the Labour leader.

In the midst of all this propaganda, the facts that the documents WikiLeaks published revealed are silenced. The shocking images of helicopter gunship shooting down civilians are not shown in the television broadcasts on the story. This silence speaks volumes. Those who are participating in the persecution of Julian Assange are intent on silencing any and all challenges to the official narratives. They are engaged in a war on freedom of expression.