Transitioning to Apocalypse

 

Meghan Murphy, a radical feminist in the classic Second-Wave mold (that’s TERF to you kids), gave a talk to a packed house at the Toronto Public Library last night. She got a standing ovation inside and hundreds of shouting protesters outside.

I’m giving a talk tomorrow at a different TPL branch, to a smaller (possibly nonexistent) audience— on our current environmental catastrophe, the hardwired impulses that have led to it, and a couple of wildly-speculative thoughts on how we might hack Human Nature to try and fix things. Because my talk is being hosted by the same institution that hosted Murphy’s, my co-sponsors— the Black Museum— backed out of the event just this morning, citing “backlash”. At least one fellow Multiverse presenter has relocated their event to another venue. It’s possible that others will cancel entirely.

I am not among them.

The weird thing is, I actually think Meghan Murphy is wrong.

I’ll grant you I’m not entirely sure of the approved definitions. I’ve read that, in trans circles, the word “woman” is now utterly divorced from anatomy, genes, and hormones: that if someone simply states that they identify as a woman then they are one to all intents and purposes. If that’s the case I can certainly see why there’d be concerns about such a person competing professionally in “women’s athletics”— but then I’ve always regarded competitive athletics as faintly bogus anyway, no hill to die on. As for the who gets to use which washroom, I think Murphy’s dead wrong— and in any event the whole issue evaporates if you just make all public washrooms gender-neutral.

But as to the question of whether “trans” woman are “real” women? What does that even mean? Call yourself whatever you like, identify however you please; as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone or have an adverse environmental impact, go wild. It’s not science (at least, not until self-identification can be tagged to consistent and objectively observable physical correlates)— but it doesn’t have to be. Ideological construct, political self-model, whatever. It’s a big tent; there should be room for us all.

So I think Murphy’s wrong, mostly. But having read a number of her columns, having read third-party analyses of her positions, having watched interviews in which she’s been explicitly called out for her opinions on trans rights— I don’t think she’s guilty of hate speech. Not even close.

If someone told my Dad that he should be chucked off a bridge because he was gay— that’s hate. But if someone told my Dad that he wasn’t gay, that there was no such thing as gayness and he was just, I dunno, confused— that isn’t. It’s wrong. It’s bizarrely wrong. But it isn’t hate speech. That’s where I see Murphy.

Of course I’m aware of the immediate rejoinders:  the appalling violence and discrimination faced by trans folks, the exclusionary politics which help to fuel it. But I haven’t found any evidence of Murphy advocating for trans folk to be beaten, or fired, or evicted from their homes. She has explicitly repudiated such abuses, in fact. (Compare this to a seemingly-endless stream of Twitter comments explicitly wishing Murphy dead; you want hate speech, you can always count on the Twits.)

I don’t pretend there’s no connection between speech and actions, even actions committed by someone else— any more than can I pretend there’s no connection between the Eugenics movement and Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection. One fed off the other, to horrific effect. I’m still not going to advocate for shutting down anyone who wants to give a talk on evolution, even if I think their take on it is bonkers. (Unless they are a self-declared member of the Eugenics movement, which gets us back into hate speech territory.)

Of course, my take on free speech might be more extreme than most. If you look, you can still find someone on this very blog fantasizing (if you squint a little you might even say threatening) about ripping off my genitals with a rusty meathook. I let that pass. Back in the days of Squidgate some of the most virulent Lock-Him-Up voices were largely restricted to posting on this ‘crawl because they’d been banned everywhere else. I suspect I value free speech more than most would consider prudent.

But in this case it’s not just me. You can be damn sure the TPL had their legal counsel go over the Murphy thing with a microscope— they knew what was coming— and they decided to let it proceed. My understanding is that the board’s vote was unanimous, even in the face of massive and virulent opposition. Toronto’s chief librarian remains steadfast that the whole point of Free Speech legislation is to protect that which people find offensive; there’s no need to protect words nobody objects to. You don’t get to say Sure, Free Speech is great but I really don’t like what that person over there is saying so it doesn’t apply to them.

I think Murphy is wrong. But I support the TPL’s decision.

It’s gonna cost me. I’m generally not much on tub-thumping so I haven’t pimped my own talk at all,  beyond passing mention in a month-old blog post about the whole “Seeding Utopia” series. It was going to be a small audience at best. Now the Black Museum has caved, so whatever promotion they were contemplating has passed to the winds; and the whole library boycott thing will probably take care of whatever weedy remnants were still planning to attend. I may well end up talking to an empty room.

Which is a shame, because just yesterday Nature published a paper reporting that flooding and sea-level rise due to Climate Change is actually triple what we thought it was. Tribal identity politics are not to be trifled with (they are, in fact, part of the wiring that got us into this mess) but our fucking house is on fire. Maybe we should spend a little more time talking about that.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Wednesday October 30 2019at 09:10 am , filed under public interface, scilitics . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

36 Responses to “Transitioning to Apocalypse”

  1. Will your talk be recorded and published on YouTube or a similar site?

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  2. As to the contents of the post, the #Resistance/Tumblr activists, and Murphy:

    One core part of any ideology is how it addresses the question “What do bad people deserve?” It is a pretty fundamental question as then it goes to “what is bad” and “what makes you a bad person” and basically the whole edifice of moral reasoning. And it is odd that for a whole chunk of the online discourse, particularly those who proclaim themselves committed to equality and justice, the answer to “What do bad people deserve?” is a blanket statement of “pain, misery, utter destruction”.

    As a materialist I don’t buy into that, because I have a different takes on motivations and how to resolve them. It also lets me take a stab at what is driving the performative woke behavior: People feel powerless and threatened in their day to day lives, so attempt to create and enforce a strict hierarchy online with insane imagine penalties attached to violating their self asserted authority.

    But of course, being a materialist, I have a solution for feeling a complete lack of power in your own life – organize around material interests to get a sense of control.. And in the course of it learn more about people and get some empathy

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  3. Jeez, man, wasn’t that whole Requires Hate thing bad enough?
    Not that I’d change a word of what you said – however, I think you’re setting yourself up for a live demonstration of just what you were discussing here – a public burning orchestrated by the New Authoritarian Left.

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  4. Yep, I too have noticed that the Great Melting is happening in about a third of the time generally expected.

    Might want to start selling emigration tickets to all of Indochina, my guess is that about half of mankind will need to be leaving that region Real Soon. Three times sooner than expected, anyway…

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  5. I won’t be attending. Nothing to do with your opinion on Murphy (I pretty much agree with you), but I have too much trouble getting around at night and the awful weather makes it worse. I do hope you can post a transcript after the talk.

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  6. I’ve read a number of articles written by Murphy that claim than trans men desire is to dance around womens change rooms with their hairy chests and penises exposed.
    Deeply unhinged. Pretty damn weird. And ultimately deserves to be ignored until she disappears in a whiff of ozone.

    What I do find disquieting is the prominence she’s given by organizations with money, like Quillette and PostMillenial.

    These publications seem perfectly happy to publish whatever weird fantasy Murphy emits without the slightest flicker of factchecking or indeed a blush and they seem to have some very deep pockets.

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  7. Not sure why you’re surprised by Quillette supporting her – their editor in-chief came out of the “race-realist” “Human Biodiversity” movement, and the site’s been suprisingly regular in publishing a sort of neo-phrenology arguing that black people’s skull shape shows that they’re pre-disposed to crime. It’s featured plenty of articles using dubious science to launder far-right talking points.

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  8. OK, this is one of those complex questions that well meaning, but ill informed people like to get involved with. I’m sure Peter knows all the stuff in the link below, but for those who want to read a primer on defining sexuality and gender go here:

    https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/voices/stop-using-phony-science-to-justify-transphobia/

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  9. Which is a shame, because just yesterday Nature published a paper reporting that flooding and sea-level rise due to Climate Change is actually triple what we thought it was. Tribal identity politics are not to be trifled with (they are, in fact, part of the wiring that got us into this mess) but our fucking house is on fire. Maybe we should spend a little more time talking about that.

    It is all about identity, really. When there’s a talk about survival, there’s always suspicion that some people from the elite camp will try to make a rush from the party, it is crucial to maintain the integrity of the society rather than protect it from danger. Especially if it is already obvious that the downfall in inevitable. Rampant consumerism, liberal economy, political isolationism and radicalization have led to natural resources (and also especially immaterial resources like “trust” and “cadres” which basically lost all meaning nowadays) to run thin, but nobody is even remotely concerned that it is probably a time to stop wasting effort in market competition between corporations, ideologies and majors powers behind them. Because whoever survives, obviously will inherit the planet, or what is left of it anyway.

    In the same sense, people in globalist camp are more concerned about natural resources and climate conditions rather than society – and actively shut down and destroy everything and everybody who can indicate the issue with economical science (it is not even a recent development, it’s been like that for decades). If it wasn’t enough, they are now actively investing into destruction of competition that can possibly shift the balance of power. This is cutting-edge now – shoot your own legs so they can’t stray you from the righteous way.
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/30/chile-protests-president-sebastian-pinera-protest-unrest
    https://www.straitstimes.com/business/banking/hsbc-cuts-hong-kong-best-lending-rate-first-since-financial-crisis

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  10. Mister_DK:
    Will your talk be recorded and published on YouTube or a similar site?

    I don’t think so. The Black Museum used to do that, but apparently their video guy left to explore other opportunities— and now that they’ve run off with their tail between their legs, it’s moot anyway.

    Lars: Jeez, man, wasn’t that whole Requires Hate thing bad enough?

    Yes. Yes it was. In fact, I suspect I’m still a pariah in Ottawa on that account.

    I can look at myself in the mirror without cringing, though. That’s something.

    Keith Soltys: I do hope you can post a transcript after the talk.

    I’ll consider that. In any event, somewhere between a quarter and a third of the talk is lifted from one I gave in Hungary earlier this year (although updated with more recent findings), so at least some of it is already online in a slightly more primitive form.

    Ashley R Pollard: I’m sure Peter knows all the stuff in the link below, but for those who want to read a primer on defining sexuality and gender go here

    That’s a good link, thanks. It’s worth mentioning, though, that the article does focus on the science— observable, replicable, confirmable stuff— which establishes that sex isn’t so much binary as a bimodal distribution (which just looks binary at coarse scales). It doesn’t really address those who say the science is irrelevant, that you’re whatever sex you say you are, full stop. Which is why— while I support trans rights— I don’t think it’s fundamentally a scientific issue. Nor does it need to be.

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  11. Lars:
    a public burning orchestrated by the New Authoritarian Left.

    I have some real questions about your political framing if you consider the proponents of this type of discourse remotely on the left. Let’s recall some of their tenants.

    * Attacking the idea of breaking up the concentration of capital and power of finance because it “wouldn’t end sexism, wouldn’t end racism”

    * that teacher strikes are “bougie” – that famed action of the bourgeoisie, collectively withholding their labor power in exchange for concessions from those who own the place they work. And the UAW strike was just “racist white men trying to claw back the past” in that famously nonwhite town of Youngstown.

    * that solidarity is “ableist” – the call to “fight for a stranger as hard as you fight for yourself” is “insulting to the disabled who barely have the energy to self advocate, or advocate for their community, much less racist white men”

    * rampant Antisemitism, explicitly wielded to attack those to their left, paired with pearl clutching when those on the left invoke concepts like concentration camps

    * the coding of all alienation by white men as pathological and reactionary

    * opposition to universal social welfare programs so as to keep access to social goods limited to the rich (while saying they don’t want universal programs because they would benefit the rich)

    * opposition to anti-trust actions

    * opposition to meaningful climate action

    * defense of war criminals, torturers, and accused rapists on the basis of cultural cues and aesthetics.

    * insisting that memes from a politicians PR shop (or memes they create that are contrary to the politicians stated positions) are somehow the same as those politicians wielding power

    However you want to slice it, these folks are not on the left. Flagging them as “left” because they acknowledge historical wrongs and invoke them in their discourse but crucially while not seeking to right them is really doing more to flag your own views as reactionary rather than identify theirs.

    I don’t want to be all “kids these days” but that’s really what it is. These are kids. There is no coherent ideological structure. As much as they like to use words like “intersectional” they reject the ideas of the Combahee River Collective (or more likely, have never heard of them, much less read their statement). They have internalized Fukuyama’s End of History – they have no theory of power, or how to change it. Their concept of the public sphere is the internet, where when someone does something that hurts, you tag the mods, who ban (or “deplatform”) them.

    These aren’t people who have internalized “strike, vote, or riot”, this running to the hall monitor when someone says a bad word. And their lack of power or interest in holding power shows not just in their stances, but also in their targets. They have overwhelmingly been cultural figures (and pop culture is key in online discourse) and even then, it has been completely unsuccessful. Who has been “cancelled” that has actually been cancelled? Bill Cosby, I guess? Because look at the others, the only one with any real power was Al Franken, and that was self inflicted. Even the big scalp they claim, Milo Yabbdabbadoopolis was because he was on tape defending pedophilia, not because of a twitter hashtag. But Kevin Spacey’s accusers keep dropping dead and no one blinks. Harvey Weinstein is back hunting for actresses and people who complain get dragged out by security. Bryan Singer just won 4 academy awards. Louis CK is finalizing a deal with Netflix. They went harder after people who even breathed the name “Ian Mckellen” than they did against the man. Matt Lauer is on a comeback tour. Ralph Northam is cruising to re-election. Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court. Trump is president.

    This is a mass of young people with no coherent ideological underpinnings trying to apply the norms of BBS to real life. Its fucking annoying, tattletale shit where they run to the mods because they have no power themselves, and seethe because of how powerless they feel. But trying to label it as “Left’ is laughable, seeing as how all of their energy is spent attacking the left or screaming about culture. Meanwhile absolutely zero of it goes towards organizing to enact a change in the distribution of power.

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  12. Mister_DK,

    I agree with what you’ve written here, and to my chagrin, must own up to having, in comparison, “no coherent ideological underpinnings”. That was a refreshing blast of contempt and exasperation, and I quite enjoyed reading it, as you summarized some scattered thoughts and impressions of mine. Better then I could have, for sure.
    However, I did label these people as “New Authoritarian Left”. They consider themselves to be on the Left, and are conflated (handily) with the actual living breathing Left by those on the Right. As such, they constitute a problem for the real Left. They are pissing in the reservoir and telling us all how much this improves the flavour and quality of the water. Easy targets for those who actually do actively oppose and changes in the distribution of power (except to centralize it).

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  13. For the average Canadian, the suffering caused by hurtful language is greater than that caused by, say, mass displacement, economic distress, water shortages, biosphere collapse, starvation, and sulphate-aerosol poisoning. It won’t be this way for long.

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  14. Hi Peter,

    I think it’s so great you’re giving talks on climate change. I’m curious if, thinking back to your days as a practicing marine biologist, you were ever familiar with the work of Leslie Kaufman? I’m asking because I’m currently assisting a team-taught, interdisciplinary course on climate change at Boston University, and Les is one of the faculty. The students also read some science fiction for homework (Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Tamarisk Hunter” is a main one, and we’ve assigned K.S. Robinson in the past). I’ve told Les about “Cyclopterus”–maybe we’ll get that on the syllabus at some point.

    I’m not sure how wide a radius beyond Toronto (if any) you’re considering for giving talks on this issue; but if you fancy coming to Boston, I could ask the faculty if there might be time for you to drop by at some point. It’s a large class, usually 100+ students, all sophomores in the honors program. It’s likely the course will continue to be taught for at least a couple more years, so something to keep in mind for the future, if you’re interested. I have no idea what the logistics would be for compensation or anything like that (although gods know BU isn’t hurting for cash–it’s just a matter of where the cash goes); but the faculty are always interested in trying to connect with people on a wider scale. Feel free to get in touch with me via email if you’d like to hear more at some point.

    Hope the talk went well!

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  15. Pretty sure it would take a military SpecOps team to get Peter Watts into the United States. With good reason.

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  16. gregm,

    Worth a shot 😉

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  17. There’s a lot of noise being made around LGBT+ issues because it’s the most incendiary yet still politically cheap topic the corporate media/propaganda machine has been able to find (anything to do with “identity” and isms, really). These people have human rights, citizen rights, and it’s not a particularly difficult challenge to update the software around marriage and bathrooms, and whatever, though I think the sports thing they’ll just have to accept as a necessary sacrifice.

    Politically expensive? Banning internal combustion engines. Globally.

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  18. That’s a good link, thanks. It’s worth mentioning, though, that the article does focus on the science— observable, replicable, confirmable stuff— which establishes that sex isn’t so much binary as a bimodal distribution (which just looks binary at coarse scales). It doesn’t really address those who say the science is irrelevant, that you’re whatever sex you say you are, full stop.Which is why— while I support trans rights— I don’t think it’s fundamentally a scientific issue. Nor does it need to be.

    I support trans rights, but rights come with responsibilities (I know that sound trite, but they do), and the responsibility is not to scare the women and children, or men for that matter, but for different reasons (a trans person really doesn’t want to be hit by a man who is mad).

    So again this is one of those complicated subjects with no easy answers. Well, actually lots of easy answers that are inadequate or don’t work. There again I’ve been called a body fascist for expecting transgender people to work through the problems of “passing,” a veritable swear word to some activists.

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  19. This is a frustratingly nonsensical post. The process of fomenting hate against minorities (in the current cultural climate) is a multi-pronged and overlapping affair. Some groups, less publicly acceptable, call for trans people to be assaulted or fired, and often times find themselves pushed to the margins of acceptable opinion. But the more publicly-acceptable groups strive to strip people of their humanity by oblique references to “biotruths” or mental illness or confusion or with some other thin veneer of science or “progressivism”. That’s what allows them to remain current and acceptable… their indirectness. No one ever starts at camps or deportations. The overall effect is the same: trans people get murdered. TERFs pal around with fash. Graham Lineham tries to strip the Mermaids Foundation of their charity money. Etc.

    The rest of it is almost too silly to respond to. “Identify as whatever you want!” wails “yer dad” (for a definition of “yer dad”, watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCxqdhZkxCo), conveniently forgetting that Meghan Murphy is explicitly opposed to that position and that its roughly equivalent to the “I don’t see color” argument of every closet racist. “Identify as whatever you want” doesn’t give people legal recognition or HRT or surgery or (in the end) having their deaths investigated as actual hate crimes. It doesn’t give them social safety or security. Its the false dichotomy of negative vs positive rights.

    Some fucking nonsense about freeze peach follows that is so sophomoric it belongs in a Prager U video and definitely runs along the lines of any conversation with any libertarian, ever. If you scan the comments, you’ll even see some AnCaps predictably bleating away about being crucified by the (in)tolerant left.

    I think the Coup de Grace here is deploying the fallacy of relative privation at the end: why are these uppity minorities wailing about their rights when we have to deal with climate change? This is perhaps the saddest deflection I’ve seen recently, on par with the endless right-wing roundabouts of “why are we taking care of immigrants, when we have the homeless to attend to and why are we taking care of the homeless when we have vets to attend to”, and so on and so forth. It also baldly ignores the fact that not only does climate change in general affect the poorest and the most marginalized first and hardest… as climate change becomes ever more undeniable, “eco fascism” will be used as an excuse to strip minorities of their rights even further. Its the classic gambit of every “progressive” asking the marginalized to put their liberation on hold while we address a more weighty concern (to us). Ecological rights, social rights and political rights are of a piece and cannot be separated… no more than fighting climate change can be made an issue of individual action rather than global, collective action.

    Finally, accusing those fighting for their existence and those trying to tactically strip them of their existence as both merely exhibiting “tribal mentality” (itself a nicely loaded term) has got to be peak boomer equivocation.

    As a climate activist, I find your inability to think about blindingly obvious social interactions (and even the near-term interconnectedness of climate change and violence against minorities, powered by the incessant references to freeze peach) pretty unsettling.

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  20. Hi Tardigrade. Cool handle.

    Tardigrade:
    This is a frustratingly nonsensical post.

    I’ve no doubt it is, although probably not in the way you meant it. Having read through your comment you seem to be a near-perfect exemplar of Kahan et al‘s findings that people don’t just reject findings that contradict their ideological beliefs— sometimes, they literally don’t understand them.

    …the more publicly-acceptable groups strive to strip people of their humanity by oblique references to “biotruths” or mental illness or confusion or with some other thin veneer of science or “progressivism”. That’s what allows them to remain current and acceptable… their indirectness.

    I don’t think anyone here would disagree with that. I certainly don’t. Your solution being what: that we shut down voices on the basis of motives they haven’t actually stated (motives that, in some cases, the parties have explicitly repudiated), because we know what they really mean even if they’re too crafty to tell us? That would be more convenient. It would work pretty well, in fact, right up until the point someone told you to shut the fuck up because you obviously hated the nuclear family and were secretly in favor of the Great White Genocide.

    Thanks, but I prefer to make such decisions on the basis of things that are a little less subjective than claims of telepathy. It’s a damn blunt sword, with all the risks and drawbacks you correctly describe, but at least it only cuts one way.

    The rest of it is almost too silly to respond to.

    And yet, valiantly, you try.

    “Identify as whatever you want!” wails “yer dad”

    What, you don’t think people should identify however they please? Or are you saying that when I say it (don’t know where “wails” comes from; surely you wouldn’t stoop to dropping gratuitously-loaded dismissives into a reasoned argument), I don’t really mean it because, I guess, telepathy again?

    conveniently forgetting that Meghan Murphy is explicitly opposed to that position

    …as you seem to have forgotten that I am explicitly opposed to Murphy‘s position on that score. You and I are in agreement here; you seem to think that I’m defending her position.

    If so, it’s an example of a troubling and frankly boneheaded belief that seems to have a lot of traction in some quarters: that if I’m okay with someone disagreeing with me, then I must I agree with them. It’s a blatant logical paradox and in this case it’s patently untrue, but it does serve the useful purpose of tarring anyone who isn’t pro-censorship as “siding with the enemy”. It’s a good strategy— it reinforces tribal norms and gets you extra social status— and the fact that it’s false isn’t really relevant in cases of moral grandstanding.

    “Identify as whatever you want” doesn’t give people legal recognition or HRT or surgery or (in the end) having their deaths investigated as actual hate crimes.

    Neither does “trans people are real”; the only statements that do give legal recognition are legal ones (honestly, I shouldn’t have to be pointing this out). But neither do those statements deny said rights. If you’d read the post carefully (or if you’d even read it more casually, but less in thrall to the Kahan Effect), you might have realized that “identify however you want” was made in explicit response to voices in the trans community claiming that gender identity is, by definition, decoupled from any observable biological correlates— that all you have to do to be a woman is to identify as one. It’s not a scientific statement because of that decoupling— but so long as it doesn’t claim to be, it doesn’t hurt anyone, and should be respected on that basis (although I would like to know what word we’re supposed to use now to describe an anatomically female adult human).

    (Note also that I’m not denying the host of genetic, hormonal, anatomical and neurological traits that do frequently manifest amongst trans folk; I am merely responding to the voices who claim that the presence or absence of such traits is irrelevant to identity. If you think that’s bullshit, take it up with them.)

    In any case, the implication that I somehow don’t think trans folks should be able to get gender-reassignment surgery or that hate crimes should not be investigated as such is utter bullshit. I said as much in the post.

    Some fucking nonsense about freeze peach follows

    “Freeze Peach”? What are you, eight? I know you didn’t make that up yourself, but if you’re going to mock the principle of Free Speech at least put in the effort to invent a slur that’s an actual insult and not a glorified typo.

    that is so sophomoric it belongs in a Prager U video

    I notice you don’t actually back up that assertion with any kind of argument or analysis, beyond comparing free speech to frozen fruit. So now you’ve graduated to ad hominem. Which, again, is not necessarily a bad strategy. I’m sure it’ll play well with the home team.

    I think the Coup de Grace here is deploying the fallacy of relative privation at the end: why are these uppity minorities wailing about their rights when we have to deal with climate change?

    Interesting that you should regard this as a Coup de Grace; I, in turn, regard it as perhaps the clearest example of you literally not understanding what I was saying (an event whose downstream effects include you not knowing what the fuck you’re talking about). I was not suggesting that we should backburner trans rights until we’ve solved the environmental crisis; I was pointing out that reaction to Murphy’s appearance resulted in backburnering the environmental crisis. The TPL hosts myriad events that have nothing at all to do with Murphy or the horse she rode in on— not just my little dick-ass basement talk but (as it turned out) an appearance by the far more knowledgeable, far more influential David Wallace-Wells (author of The Uninhabitable Earth). A long-overdue wakeup call on the climate emergency, boycotted for no better reason than that the TPL had the temerity to book a room for someone talking on an entirely different topic.

    So it’s exactly the opposite of shut up about trans rights when we have to deal with climate change. If the boycotters had their way, it would have been Shut up about climate change— shut up about anything anyone presents at the Library— because the Library didn’t shut up Meghan Murphy.

    It also baldly ignores the fact that not only does climate change in general affect the poorest and the most marginalized first and hardest…

    Too bad you didn’t attend my talk— I brought that subject up myself. Even had a couple of slides about the relative carbon impact of First-worlders vs everyone else.

    Of course you already know that stuff, so it wouldn’t have been news to you. But maybe, if your team was successful in their efforts, you managed to prevent others from hearing the news. Good job, Tardi.

    Finally, accusing those fighting for their existence and those trying to tactically strip them of their existence as both merely exhibiting “tribal mentality” (itself a nicely loaded term) has got to be peak boomer equivocation.

    We’re social mammals, Tardigrade. We live in tribes, we have tribal mentalities, there’s a vast body of research establishing the tribal-cohesion implications of everything from Socratic dialog to religious belief. I understand it’s inconvenient to regard ourselves as just another species, cobbled together by the same haphazard processes that built every other lifeform on the planet (at least, until Venter and his buddies showed up). I see what you’re doing, and it’s not even the most extreme example I’ve seen (I once watched people object to the term “female” on the grounds that it’s “dehumanising”). All your strident nudge-nudge-wink-wink implications to the contrary, “Tribe” is not a racist term; it’s an ethological one.

    I don’t expect this to fly with you, for what it’s worth. As Pinker once said, Brains are survival engines, not truth detectors. You’ve made your stand, you’ll get your brownie points, you’ll brush off my rejoinders as sophistry and hate-speech apologetics. But maybe this can serve as a teaching moment for anyone else who happens by. Maybe they’ll even remember a post I wrote a few years back on Nazis and Skin Cream, and feel a faint tingle of recognition.

    I thank you for that.

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  21. Tardigrade:
    This is a frustratingly nonsensical post…

    …too silly to respond to…

    …Some fucking nonsense about freeze peach follows that is so sophomoric…

    …any conversation with any libertarian, ever…

    …bleating away about being crucified by the (in)tolerant left…

    …the fallacy of relative privation at the end: why are these uppity minorities wailing…

    …the saddest deflection I’ve seen…

    …endless right-wing roundabouts peak boomer equivocation…

    …blindingly obvious social interactions…

    …pretty unsettling.

    We’re sorry, ma’am, but your son has a terminal case of internet brain. He’s lost the ability to talk in a regular voice; everything just comes out in a sort of lifeless snark. Every adjective needs an adverb; every reference to an enemy needs an in-built denunciation, so anyone reading it knows which team he’s on. Every enemy is the same enemy; all their edges blur together; they are stupid to the point of incapability, yet infinitely mighty. There are jokes, but they don’t really make you laugh, they’re basically just references to things other people have posted, other jokes made in the past.

    “The TERFs are just like the biotruthers (man they suck, right?), and also they’re just like the I-don’t-see-color-types (man they suck, right?), and also they’re just like the Prager U people (man they suck, right?), and also they’re just like the libertarians (man they suck, right?), and also they’re just like those disingenuous right wingers who oppose all welfare based on BS prioritisation (man they suck, right?), and also they’re just like the nascend eco-fascists (man they suck, right?), and also they’re just like the boomers (man they suck, right?).”

    Yeah, they all suck, but the whole way you write is just relentlessly sneering and childish. There’s like a hundred million people who all post in the exact same voice as you, it fucken sucks. I reckon in a few years, doing that voice will be one of the things people do sarcastically, like the way being an internet tough-guy and challenging people to fights is now, just another universal joke.

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  22. The whole trans thing really rubs me the wrong way. I mean, I am in favor of bodily modification, I hope that one day it becomes socially acceptable to genetically modify human embryos so we can put GFP in the eyes of people so they glow while they rave, and I’m also stoked to see what advances in e.g. stem cell therapy will bring.

    So why am I irked by transgenderism? I think it’s because it misses a big point, the freedom from more or less arbitrary gender roles, and instead focuses too much on I’M A WOMAN, i.e. just transitioning to the other box. I also heavily dislike the propaganda surrounding it, especially regarding children, where I’ve read news report of very young children being given puberty blocking hormones etc. so they can transition to their ‘true’ gender.
    It doesn’t make any sense.

    On one hand, you have a lot of these progressive types saying that gender is just a socio-cultural construct, that gender and even sex is a spectrum, but then practically we see a lot of transgender people actively absorbing the gender characteristics of the opposite gender, and the argument behind transitioning is that it relieves gender dysphoria by making these people closer to who they truly are, i.e. you can be born with the wrong brain in the wrong body seems to be the argument here.
    These things are contradictions, but if you point this out – or leverage any sort of criticism towards transgenderism – you are automatically a trans/homo-phobic nazi.

    I just wish we’d have strived for a higher ideal of freedom. Imagine if you didn’t have to transition to the opposite sex to wear e.g. a dress, you could just do it because you wanted to. Would there even be a need to transition then?

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  23. Peter Watts!

    I emailed you a little while back and was very excited to come to this talk. I ended up getting quite sick this week and did not make it. I hope this wasn’t my last chance to see you talk in Toronto. Now that I know I my have been literally (not figuratively) the only person there, I am even more upset I missed it because that would have been hilarious and awesome.

    And thanks for engaging with the fascist in the comments. As some one in/near the millennial demographic, I run into that type plenty and generally have no idea what to say. Or I’m too lazy to refute. Good on you for actually bothering to do it.

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  24. Hope you can forgive me for not attending the talk, seeing as I live in Australia. I too would be interested in a transcript if one’s available.

    And also thank you for standing up to the nutcase wing of cancel culture and explaining your position so well in comments.

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  25. Anonymous: I reckon in a few years, doing that voice will be one of the things people do sarcastically

    We may already be there. I didn’t know what the fuck “freeze peach” meant so I googled it and the top hit was Urban Dictionary stating:

    >>Freeze Peach
    A term used mockingly by those who oppose “Free Speech”. Mostly used by SJWs who are against Freedom of Speech and think it should be substantially curtailed.

    Often has the unintentional side effect of making everybody who does not already agree with them roll their eyes and stop listening. It’s one of those terms that lets you know exactly where the person stands as soon as they say it, and that they will almost certainly be making a very extreme and unconvincing argument – much like when somebody says “Libtard” or “Rethuglican”. You know they will dismiss any other views, are extremely biased, and are probably going to make an argument based in emotion and opinion.<<

    That was certainly my reaction reading the small water bear's post. Don't know who the fuck s/he is hoping to convince, or of what, but I'd guess Tardigrade's success rate, given time was spent writing the thing, is less than zero. Sometimes when I read shit like that I wonder if it's written by some subversive on the far right.

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  26. Luke: Good on you for actually bothering to do it.

    Second that.

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  27. Anonymous: I reckon in a few years, doing that voice will be one of the things people do sarcastically

    Actually, I think we’re pretty much there, given the Urban Dictionary’s take on people who use the term “freeze peach”.

    I’m not even sure Tardigrade hirself wasn’t doing exactly that, although it seems more likely it was a subversive post by someone on the far right.

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  28. Tran Script: I am in favor of bodily modification, I hope that one day it becomes socially acceptable to genetically modify human embryos so we can put GFP in the eyes of people so they glow while they rave, and I’m also stoked to see what advances in e.g. stem cell therapy will bring.

    Watch it, Tran— you might be edging up towards that “yer-dad”ism Tardigrade was talking about.

    Luke: Now that I know I my have been literally (not figuratively) the only person there, I am even more upset I missed it because that would have been hilarious and awesome.

    From your side of the podium, maybe. Fortunately I got 14— and a bunch of us went out for beers after— so I’m calling it a win.

    Hugh: Hope you can forgive me for not attending the talk, seeing as I live in Australia.

    I’ll give you a pass. This time.

    I too would be interested in a transcript if one’s available.

    I’d have to weigh that against not wanting to bore future audiences with stuff they’ve seen before (I recycle material, depending on the context; in fact, a little over a quarter of this talk was lifted from one I gave in Hungary earlier this year). But it’s not out of the realm.

    Phil: Don’t know who the fuck s/he is hoping to convince

    In fairness, there is merit to some of the talking points. (And they do seem to be talking points. I’m currently engaged in an offscreen debate with a friend who’s making the same arguments as Tardi did, in the same order, using substantially similar wording. It’s like they all got their lines from Central Scripting.) There’s no denying that people with academic cred—like Murphy and Peterson— give a certain license to the knuckle-draggers in the audience whether they mean to or not. It’s even possible that that’s their intention, that it’s some kind of Grand Conspiracy (in the sense that almost anything’s possible). But I’d like to see some kind of evidence to that effect before I shut someone down, and “Of course she repudiates the knuckle-draggers in public but we know what she’s really thinking” doesn’t come close to cutting it.

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  29. Peter Watts,

    My apologies for what’s basically a double-post. I wrote one and it vanished. It didn’t come back so I rewrote it more concisely. It also vanished, although they’re clearly (unfortunately) both here now.

    While there might be merit to aspects of Tardigrade’s post, I find its badgering, authoritarian tone so off-putting I can’t be bothered to begin searching for it. I believe s/he does a disservice to those for whom s/he’s purporting to advocate. I’m interested that the post is probably based on talking points – it would explain why the outrage seems directed at a post you didn’t write.

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  30. From your side of the podium, maybe. Fortunately I got 14— and a bunch of us went out for beers after— so I’m calling it a win.

    I was one of the 14 (actually, I was I believe the second one there and we chatted a bit before other stragglers started showing up) and thumbs up for an entertaining talk.

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  31. Tran Script,

    If you are curious about trans people and the reasons for transition, then why don’t you ask them directly?

    The following forum has a good tradition of dialogue and has a significant number of trans users who are very well informed: https://forums.sufficientvelocity.com/forums/science-technology.89/

    I would like point you towards somewhere with more specialised information, but perhaps the people there can assist you? Just post a thread! Though I suppose that the Mermaids charity may answer some of your questions?

    Peter Watts,

    Thank you for this clarification, while in some of your previous posts I winced when you discussed trans people because you well, seemed dismissive I now understand your frustration.

    I’m sorry that you get dragged into stuff like this you seem like a good if not excellent ally, I just wish that more people heard your voice.

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  32. Wattsfan#2948: I’m sorry that you get dragged into stuff like this you seem like a good if not excellent ally

    Well I’m glad someone thinks so. Although it’s not like I’ve actually done anything except say self-evident stuff.

    I’m sorry if I came off as dismissive in previous posts. Offhand I can’t even remember when I’ve discussed trans issues before.

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  33. Peter Watts: Watch it, Tran— you might be edging up towards that “yer-dad”ism Tardigrade was talking about.

    I don’t think I am, but this “yer-dad” argument is exactly what I dislike about the current discourse, since it can be used as a rhetorical device to nullify the other party’s arguments.
    Again, I don’t think I am yer-dadding, but I think it would be super easy to recast anything I say into something that is yer-dad-ish, such is the power of language.
    I mean, one common thing here between the transphobes and some of these vocal-pro trans people seems to be that whatever they feel is also right.
    When the guy says in the video that it’s hard for a trans-woman to prove that she is a woman and therefore the cards are stacked against her, he’s completely correct, but being a woman is not only how some people feel, it’s also a biological category. How do you reconcile these contradictions?
    Again, my problem is not with people acting in ways that differ from whatever arbitrary gender norms we currently have or feeling that they are the wrong sex, it’s the ideological package where I can’t disagree with something without being a transphobe.

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  34. I’m a bit baffled. Is this the speech that you heard? Because it’s pretty text-book hate speech:

    https://www.feministcurrent.com/2019/10/31/35775/

    I say that because Murphy’s whole thesis is to declare that trans people, as a group, by existing openly in society and promoting their own needs and well-being (what she calls ‘gender identity ideology’), pose an inherent threat to cis-gender women, to their identities, to their social franchise, and to their bodily safety. Repeatedly and unequivocally. (Indeed, in one of the comments of the linked transcript, Murphy claims that this is not only an effect but the very purpose of trans activism.)

    This sort of argument, which renders an out-group into an object of fear and contempt, a non-negotiable obstacle to the welfare of the social body, is at the core of all hate speech. No less so than if it were ‘protecting’ white women from the dangers of integration, or school-children from homosexuals, or the Aryan nation from the International Zionist Conspiracy.

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  35. Hi Hazemyth,

    I think you may have got your timelines crossed. You’re responding to a post that was written before Murphy gave her TPL talk. What she had not yet said couldn’t possibly have been at issue; the issue was, had she previously engaged in hate speech (which would have been grounds to refuse her a platform at the TPL).

    I’m guessing your answer might be yes. If so, your opinion is at odds with that of the independent constitutional lawyer the library retained to go over Murphy’s previous public statements. That lawyer concluded that Murphy’s claims to date didn’t come anywhere close to the legal definition of Hate Speech.

    You didn’t use “legal” in your description, of course. You used “textbook”. I understand that there’s a groundswell in some quarters to have Canadian legal free speech protections (already more restrictive than in the US) rolled back to exclude the kinds of things Murphy says. The rationale commonly invoked (indeed, you’ll see it invoked upstream on this very thread) is that even though Murphy doesn’t explicitly cross the line into actual hate speech— even though she explicitly repudiates such actions— she enables the knuckle-draggers in the audience by validating their bigotry and giving them implicit permission to go off the leash. She may be too crafty to say anything incriminating, the reasoning goes, but we know she’s really thinking it.

    And you know, maybe that really is what Murphy is doing. Maybe it isn’t. But as long as she hasn’t expressed those thoughts on the record, what’s being advocated is guilt-by-telepathy. She may be too smart to say it, but we know what she’s thinking, and she must be stopped.

    Orwell invented a word that applies in such cases. The word is “thoughtcrime”.

    It’s a damn convenient way to get rid of the bigots and their enablers, sure. But I, for one, am not especially keen to live in a jurisdiction where I can be shut down because— even though I haven’t actually said anything overtly racist— all my wittering on about Darwinian evolution is “enabling” the eugenicists of the world.

    I don’t know how many more times I have to say this, but: I think Murphy’s wrong. I also think antivaxxers are wrong. I think creationists are wrong. I think climate-change deniers are wrong. I think anyone who believes in an invisible sky fairy who sends you to Space Disneyland after you die is wrong. More, I think a lot of those beliefs are downright destructive. Murphy, after all, is only targeting one small segment of one pest species that the world would be better off without. Religion and climate-change denial are fucking over an entire planet.

    But letting those wing-nuts speak is the price we pay for an open society. It’s the price we pay to keep the jackboots from kicking in my door the next time I say— to paraphrase your own words— that Judeo-Christians, as a group, by existing openly in society and promoting their own needs and well-being, pose an inherent threat to the fucking biosphere.

    Of course, there are people who have a ready solution to that: just ensure that the legislation ensures that they get to call out the enemy, but the enemy never gets to call out them. I’ve recently become aware that such folk traditionally use the term “Freeze Peach” to denigrate one of the most fundamental underpinnings of an open society. The utter lameness of that term— these folks’ apparent inability to even come up with a decent slur — doesn’t reflect well on their level of smarts.

    I take little comfort from that, though. In my experience, stupidity is no impediment to wielding great power.

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