Is telling the truth now safe only in fiction?
I was struck by the recent brouhaha over J. K. Rowling’s comments about transsexuality and female identity. I won’t repeat all the details here, but those who didn’t follow the controversy can find the details in these articles:
The crazy thing is, from a medical and scientific perspective, Ms. Rowling was and is absolutely correct. One’s sex is defined by one’s chromosomes. If you have XX chromosomes, you’re female; if you have XY chromosomes, you’re male. With the vanishingly small exception of those who are intersex, that describes 99%+ of the human race. It’s a fact. It’s reality. It’s medically incontrovertible. Yet, one finds alleged “stars” proclaiming that “Trans women are women, trans men are men and non-binary identities are valid” – in defiance of medical and scientific reality.
Matt Taibbi points out that US journalism appears to have fallen into the same trap. Political correctness and “wokeness” appear to have trumped facts and reality.
It feels liberating to say after years of tiptoeing around the fact, but the American left has lost its mind. It’s become a cowardly mob of upper-class social media addicts, Twitter Robespierres who move from discipline to discipline torching reputations and jobs with breathtaking casualness.
The leaders of this new movement are replacing traditional liberal beliefs about tolerance, free inquiry, and even racial harmony with ideas so toxic and unattractive that they eschew debate, moving straight to shaming, threats, and intimidation. They are counting on the guilt-ridden, self-flagellating nature of traditional American progressives, who will not stand up for themselves, and will walk to the Razor voluntarily.
They’ve conned organization after organization into empowering panels to search out thoughtcrime, and it’s established now that anything can be an offense, from a UCLA professor placed under investigation for reading Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” out loud to a data scientist fired from a research firm for — get this — retweeting an academic study suggesting nonviolent protests may be more politically effective than violent ones!
Now, this madness is coming for journalism. Beginning on Friday, June 5th, a series of controversies rocked the media. By my count, at least eight news organizations dealt with internal uprisings (it was likely more). Most involved groups of reporters and staffers demanding the firing or reprimand of colleagues who’d made politically “problematic” editorial or social media decisions.
. . .
All these episodes sent a signal to everyone in a business already shedding jobs at an extraordinary rate that failure to toe certain editorial lines can and will result in the loss of your job. Perhaps additionally, you could face a public shaming campaign in which you will be denounced as a racist and rendered unemployable … However, because it is politically untenable to discuss this in ways that do not suggest support, reporters have been twisting themselves into knots. We are seeing headlines previously imaginable only in The Onion, e.g., “27 police officers injured during largely peaceful anti-racism protests in London.”
Even people who try to keep up with protest goals find themselves denounced the moment they fail to submit to some new tenet of ever-evolving doctrine, via a surprisingly consistent stream of retorts: f*** you, shut up, send money, do better, check yourself, I’m tired and racist … In a business where the first job requirement was once the willingness to ask tough questions, we’ve become afraid to ask obvious ones … The media in the last four years has devolved into a succession of moral manias … It’s been learned in these episodes we may freely misreport reality, so long as the political goal is righteous.
. . .
The traditional view of the press was never based on some contrived, mathematical notion of “balance,” i.e. five paragraphs of Republicans for every five paragraphs of Democrats. The ideal instead was that we showed you everything we could see, good and bad, ugly and not, trusting that a better-informed public would make better decisions. This vision of media stressed accuracy, truth, and trust in the reader’s judgment as the routes to positive social change … People depend on us to tell them what we see, not what we think. What good are we if we’re afraid to do it?
There’s much more at the link. Recommended reading.
Matt Taibbi’s comments can equally well be applied to books and their authors. It begins to appear as if telling the truth is only acceptable – and that only barely so – in a fictional setting. If our protagonists hold views that are outside the politically correct mainstream, our work is unlikely to ever be acceptable to mainstream publishing in its present state. They’re infested with and infected by the politically correct, like a severe plague of progressive fleas that’s caused the literary equivalent of seborrheic dermatitis. We’ll have to publish our books ourselves, for want of any outlet that prizes and values truth and objectivity.
The question is, how long will we be able to do even that? Amazon has censored several books already, refusing to offer them for sale (or withdrawing them from sale) because they were perceived as too “extreme”. Constitutional guarantees of free speech (such as they are) do not apply to a private e-commerce platform. Will this become even more oppressive in future? My bet is that it will. We’d better begin planning our response now, before events force one upon us.