Andrew Sullivan back at the Weekly Dish, and a disquisition on the J. K. Rowling kerfuffle

July 26, 2020 • 11:00 am

Andrew Sullivan has left the room, meaning New York Magazine (NYM), and good for him—and woe to them.  He’s back at the Weekly Dish, a reincarnation of his previous website, complete with his trademarked beagle. You can subscribe for for only $50 a year (here), though for a limited time the content is free (click on screenshot below). After looking at his first “issue,” I think I’ll probably subscribe. It’s the same price as the New York Times (if you threaten to unsubscribe and then take their counteroffer), but a lot more fun—and unpredictable. It also includes the famous “view from my window” feature, in which you have to guess where a locale is that was photographed by a reader from their window.

As with his NYM columns, this week’s offering is tripartite: a mini-essay on the connection between the pandemic and the demonstrators, a defense of J. K. Rowling, and a nostalgic look back at a past that had dial telephones and open restaurants. There’s also a postscript in which Sullivan recounts some pushback he’s gotten from readers, to which he responds. I like that feature, and may do something like it here, though I don’t want to ape my betters.

The pandemic/demonstration connection may be a variant of the essay that NYM refused to publish, which likely prompted Sullivan to leave the magazine. It’s not that incendiary, though it does blame the pandemic for some of the political unrest pervading the country. That said, Sullivan still pins most of the blame on Trump, though he worries that the violent nature of some of the demonstrations may better Trump’s chances in the fall. Two short extracts:

We are, mercifully, in a much better place [than in 1918]. But it strikes me that this medical achievement doesn’t resolve the psychological trauma, the suspension of normality, the anxiety of an invisible enemy. It merely diverts it away from the illness itself toward broader social and political grievances. I don’t think you can fully explain the sudden increase in intensity of the social justice cult, for example, and its explosion in our streets and in our media in the last couple of months, without taking account of this. I don’t just mean the pent-up plague-driven frustration of young people, who, often forced to live at home with their parents, took the opportunity to finally get out, get together and do something, after the horrifying murder of George Floyd. I mean the more general frustration and despair of a generation with a gloomy and unknowable economic future—suddenly finding shape and voice in a simple, clarion call to reshape all of society.

I suspect that if this was part of Sullivan’s “canceled” essay, the mere suggestion that people made restive by the pandemic could throw their boredom into demonstrations would be likely deemed unpublishable by a woke rag like NYM, even if it be true. After all, it’s not only demonstrations that were probably invigorated by the pandemic: there’s also an epidemic of civilian shootings, especially in Chicago. This goes beyond our normal summer violence, and I think a good hypothesis is inactivity, pent-up emotions, and the absence of regular outlets for activity.

Sullivan on Trump:

All of which is a highly combustible situation, bristling with menace. What Trump has been doing since the Mount Rushmore speech—stupidly dismissed by woke media—is to try and cast this election as a battle between anarchy and the forces of law and order, between a radical dystopia laced with violence and the America we know. He’s trying to jujitsu the plague-fueled revolt into a winning campaign issue. He can’t exactly run on his record of double digit unemployment and an epidemic raging out of control. So this is his instinct. And politically, it’s not a bad one. In an environment where people are afraid and uncertain, authoritarianism has an edge. The more some cities descend into lawlessness and violence this summer, the edgier, and more popular, that performative authoritarianism could get.

. . . I may be worrying too much about the effect of this on the election, as Trump’s abject failure to control the virus remains front and center. He’s still likely to lose, absent a major surprise. But plagues are highly divisive and highly unpredictable.

But I want to talk a bit more about Sullivan’s defense of J. K. Rowling, who has been demonized and called a “transphobe” for issuing these tweets:

Indeed, while I agree that gender is a “social construct” (though I’d prefer a better word), biological sex is real and almost completely bimodal.  If there are transsexual people, then, are they simply moving from one gender role to another, or are they moving beyond their biological sex, which is what “transsexual” literally means. And how can you move beyond your sex if sex isn’t something that’s real?

While the first tweet above was perhaps unwise (I wouldn’t have said it, though I think the use of these euphemisms for “women” is ludicrous), the second tweet is pretty much accurate. But of course it is hateful to speak some truths these days, and that’s what angers Sullivan.  People like him, me, and Rowling all agree that we will accept whatever gender role people adopt; we insist on their equality in law and morality (with a few small exceptions, see below); and we’re glad to use whatever pronouns people choose. We abhor and excoriate those who demonize transsexuals, and insist that their identities be treated with respect. The rest is commentary, but what commentary! It’s led to many outlets insisting that Rowling is transphobic (she isn’t), and that her books are now verboten.

If you read her open letter about her views, it’s hard to construe her as a transphobe; but read it for yourself. She’s concerned with the distinction between biological women and trans women, and that is a matter worth discussing on some fronts, like sports, rape counseling, who goes to prison, and so on. But she also issued the tweet below, explaining it in her open letter;

For people who don’t know: last December I tweeted my support for Maya Forstater, a tax specialist who’d lost her job for what were deemed ‘transphobic’ tweets. She took her case to an employment tribunal, asking the judge to rule on whether a philosophical belief that sex is determined by biology is protected in law. Judge Tayler ruled that it wasn’t. Ergo this:

And yes, biological sex is real. And no, transwomen aren’t biological women, but they assume that gender role; and it would be wrong to denigrate them or deny them rights for doing so.

At any rate, Sullivan, who is of course gay, has an eloquent defense of Rowling, and here’s some of it:

[Rowling] became interested in the question after a consultant, Maya Forsteter, lost a contract in the UK for believing and saying that sex is a biological reality. When Forsteter took her case to an employment tribunal, the judge ruled against her, arguing that such a view was a form of bigotry, in so far as it seemed to deny the gender of trans people (which, of course, it doesn’t). Rowling was perturbed by this. And I can see why: in order either to defend or oppose transgender rights, you need to be able to discuss what being transgender means. That will necessarily require an understanding of the human mind and body, the architectonic role of biology in the creation of two sexes, and the nature of the small minority whose genital and biological sex differs from the sex of their brain.

This is not an easy question. It requires some thinking through. And in a liberal democracy, we should be able to debate the subject freely and openly. I’ve done my best to do that in this column, and have come to many of the conclusions Rowling has. She does not question the existence of trans people, or the imperative to respect their dignity and equality as fully-formed human beings. She believes they should be protected from discrimination in every field, and given the same opportunities as anyone else. She would address any trans person as the gender they present, as would I. Of course. That those of us who hold these views are now deemed bigots is, quite simply, preposterous.

Where Rowling and I draw the line is saying that a trans woman is in every single respect indistinguishable from a natal woman. We believe that a natal man who is a transwoman, for example, cannot have a vagina exactly as a natal woman does. That’s all. And that is objectively true. Note also that this has no impact whatever on how someone should be treated by society or under the law. A transwoman can and should be treated exactly as a woman, even if she isn’t in every single respect a woman.

There are a few areas where this becomes a problem for some: a) restrooms, b) sports, and c) shelters for abused women. On a), I have zero issues with trans women with penises using the women’s room. I know some worry that creeps simply posing as transwomen could exploit this in order to gain access to children. But I have yet to see such a case in reality. It should be simple: just use a stall and mind your own business. On b), sports is different, because the physiology of male and female bodies is, by virtue of our species’ reproductive strategy, bimodal, and in sports reliant on strength and size and speed, no co-ed contest can be fair. And the last issue c) is about whether women who are in shelters for those who have been abused by men should be allowed spaces where no actual penises, even if attached to women, are around. On this difficult third area, I defer to abused women on the question of shelters. And here’s the thing: Rowling is one such woman. She told her own story of marital abuse in her letter, with a disarming honesty that surely should evoke engagement, rather than vilification.

JAC: I agree with the Sullivan’s take on the three “exceptions” above.  He ends with some common sense: demonization is not a response to an argument, it is avoidance of an argument. Sullivan:

It pains me to see where this debate has gone. There’s so much common ground. And I do not doubt that taking into account the lived experiences of trans people is important. But if we cannot state an objective fact without being deemed a bigot, and if we cannot debate a subject because debating itself is a form of hate, we have all but abandoned any pretense of liberal democracy. And if a woman as sophisticated and eloquent and humane as J K Rowling is now deemed a foul bigot for having a different opinion, then the word bigotry has ceased to have any meaning at all.

I’ve quoted more extensively than I wanted, for Sullivan’s website will become a subscription-only site, soon, and my quotes after that will fall within “fair usage.” But I urge you to subscribe, as it looks like a good place to visit.

39 thoughts on “Andrew Sullivan back at the Weekly Dish, and a disquisition on the J. K. Rowling kerfuffle

  1. I like that feature, and may do something like it here, though I don’t want to ape my betters.

    As the saying goes, theft is the highest form of flattery.

    1. I think the saying is imitation is a form of flattery — in my experience, theft is often not intended to flatter at all!

      But I would be glad to read PCC(e)’s responses to pushback from readers (although surely he is so reasonable that no one would ever disagree with him?).

      1. The usual cliché goes “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

        The one I gave is a ludic take on the original. I don’t recall where I initially encountered it, but it has the ring of Oscar Wilde.

  2. Sullivan: “…if we cannot state an objective fact without being deemed a bigot, and if we cannot debate a subject because debating itself is a form of hate, then…”
    Then we have arrived at much of the academic world at present. The outlawing of objective facts is exactly why the woke are so partial to postmodernist jargon; and the outlawing of debate is precisely what they mean when using the term “hate speech”.

    We can lay all this at the feet of the academics who, a generation ago, allowed the growth of whole departments based on and spewing out the New Obscurantism. Ideas have consequences, but bullshit does too.

  3. “[D]emonization is not a response to an argument, it is avoidance of an argument”

    This is an excellent phrase with which to respond to the many attempts to cancel on social media. I think it captures the most important argument against Woke shutdowns: outing their attempt to place their theories beyond discussion. It is better than referring to free speech as that has too many political associations.

  4. My favorite part of the kerfuffle is parents who insist that their children no longer enjoy the Harry Potter books because Rowling believes that the biology of sexual dimorphism is a real thing.

    1. They can join the evangelical numpties who won’t let their kids near the books or movies because they think it’s satanic dark magic and that witches are real. (And yes, they really do believe this. I’ve known a few of these dim bulbs.)

  5. I had earlier read J.K. Rowlings’ open letter, as I wanted to understand what some of the kerfuffle was about.
    I have to say, however reluctantly, that I don’t agree or don’t fully agree with some of her points in that letter. The main body of this document describes 5 points. I want to comment on points 1, 2. Someone could help me out here.

    1. She provides financial support and programs for women who’ve gone through domestic abuse. Also she supports MS research toward women since they have special vulnerabilities to this disease. She is concerned that expanded trans rights would redirect these funds. (I don’t see how this could possibly be significant. Would battered, vulnerable women who seek shelter really be triggered by a trans woman also seeking shelter? The latter would surely not look like a man, but would instead look like a woman or like a trans woman. That is why they too are seeking shelter. Anyway I don’t see how this would be triggering.
    No credible researcher or funding agency would think that MS research money earmarked for ‘persons with ovaries’ should instead go to ‘persons without ovaries’ simply because they claim to be women. I don’t see how this is a significant threat to bio women).
    2. Safeguards for children’s education would be threatened by expanding trans rights. (I don’t understand this one. What did she mean here? I am sure there are issues that need debating like having trans girls use the girls bathroom. But I am not sure what was meant here.)

    Of the other points, point 4 is really pretty shocking if I understood it correctly. But read the letter.

    1. I think the issue with women’s shelters is that people sleep in close quarters, which could be an issue if you have women with a history of abuse sleeping near a person (who may be attracted to women,) with a penis. Not to mention, what happens if there is reason to suspect someone is not actually trans but just trying to gain access to a shelter full of vulnerable women? How can you possibly decide who is ‘legitimately’ trans and who is not?

      Regarding schools, there is this nugget from George Packer about his son’s NYC school when they attempted to support trans rights:

      Within two years, almost every bathroom in the school, from kindergarten through fifth grade, had become gender-neutral. Where signs had once said boys and girls, they now said students. Kids would be conditioned to the new norm at such a young age that they would become the first cohort in history for whom gender had nothing to do with whether they sat or stood to pee. All that biology entailed—curiosity, fear, shame, aggression, pubescence, the thing between the legs—was erased or wished away.

      The school didn’t inform parents of this sudden end to an age-old custom, as if there were nothing to discuss. Parents only heard about it when children started arriving home desperate to get to the bathroom after holding it in all day. Girls told their parents mortifying stories of having a boy kick open their stall door. Boys described being afraid to use the urinals.

      1. To your first point about women’s shelters. Women are numerically more likely to be housed with lesbian women in these shelters. Being housed with trans women who are anatomically male and attracted to women — I don’t see a history of this being a problem. Its’ a hypothesis in search of evidence. Likewise there is no history of cis men trying to get access to women by playing the part of a trans woman. These seem to be unfounded fears, although I am open to learning otherwise.

        The childrens’ bathroom thing is going to be far more complex. Both sides have impassioned and salient reasons for their arguments.

        1. Maybe it is an unfounded ‘slippery slope’ argument, maybe not. But I feel a general sense of frustration at what I see as the Left’s “wildly idealistic until mugged by reality” approach to such issues, from defunding the police to throwing men and women, boys and girls together in coed spaces with the assumption that it will all work out. Part of solid leadership is anticipating and working out potential problems, not just saying “they’ll probably never happen”. Remember that the same could have more or less been said about pandemics a year ago – “Eh, where is the evidence that they happen in this day and age?”.

          Regarding women being housed with lesbians – I think the difference here is that men commit crimes of sexual violence at exponentially higher rates than women, and tend to be physically stronger.

          1. It leads to an interesting metadebate that I think is worth having. Some of Rowling’s critics seem to be saying: “evidence is in, so any one who continues the debate is disingenuous.” My example from this site’s founding theme: evolutionary biology. If you dispute evolution as such these days you’re a disingenuous creationist, so please go away is a reasonable stance. The metadebate is: when and how does that occur. Also, since in at least two of the topics the debate is over relative risk, what standards should we adopt to accept the risks in question for each? (This is for the shelters and the bathrooms concern; I am not sure it applies elsewhere.) I for one think that the balance of risk is overwhelmingly in favour of the “let trans use their gender’s washrooms”, but that’s *my* sense of the risk. Note this sort of decision-making parallels reactions to the pandemic, to broken software of my profession, what to do about criminals, and more.

            1. I think the difficulty with intuitive sense of risk is that it’s based on circumstances as they currently are. That doesn’t really factor in the “when word gets out” phenomenon. I agree that at the moment I don’t think cis men pretending to be transgender is much of an issue – however, I think it is reasonable to worry that it could become an issue as the world and rules – such as allowing biological males into women’s shelters as females, no questions asked, if they say they identify as female – changes.

  6. “I suspect that if this was part of Sullivan’s “canceled” essay, the mere suggestion that people made restive by the pandemic could throw their boredom into demonstrations would be likely deemed unpublishable by a woke rag like NYM, even if it be true.”

    I had wondered what possibly Sullivan could have written that a column was deemed unpublishable.

    If indeed that mild of a connection between pandemic/demostration caused the cancellation, then I wonder just how deep “cancel” culture distorts what is published. Not just at NYMag, but at every mainstream and non-mainstream entity.

    Case in point: What is going on in Portland? (Something that Sullivan himself tweeted about.)

    1. This was sent out on Facebook by a former fellow employee who lives in Vancouver, WA. I don’t know who his source was, but the info given corresponds with the many news articles I have been reading (Apple News, NBC News, CBC News, BBC News, AlJazeera English News, Reuters News, BuzzFeed News, etc.) I thought our presidential and federal “governance” could go no lower in American history in my lifetime, but I was wrong. . I don’t think the source(s) I received it from would mind my sharing (I hope.) Please forgive the length.

      Here is what someone has observed in Portland over the past few days:

      “1. The protests are confined to a 2 block radius around the courthouse, and if you’re 4 blocks away, you can’t tell anything has been happening. There is nothing going on outside of that region, and Portland is functioning as normally as the Pandemic will allow. It is not burning, nor is it out of control.

      2. The protesters are absolutely peaceful at the Protests that I have been part of, and with the exception of graffiti, are completely within their constitutional rights to protest. The protests involve singing, chanting, and have used “white walls” to block whites who are trying to disrupt or corrupt the protests. Yes, cursing is rather commonplace. More than ½ of the protesters are white. All are protesting for Black Lives Matter, although the entrance of the federal paramilitary force has brought out a lot of people, including myself, who are incensed at the use of unregulated federal force against law abiding citizen and against the will of the state and local governments.

      3. ALL of the protesters are wearing masks to minimize transmission of CoV-2. However, as at times there are 1000 or more of us, it is hard (though not impossible) to maintain social distancing. When the federal paramilitary force is deployed, it becomes impossible.

      4. The Police responded unprovoked and were brutal, but nothing like the paramilitary force. There is a court order that forbids the police to use teargas. I was not there when it was just the police.

      5. At the protests I have attended, I did not witness any unlawfulness on the part of the protesters. Each time, the federal paramilitary personnel launched an apparently unprovoked attack. There have been no “riots.” The federal paramilitary force has had no training in crowd control, has no oversight, was not invited to Portland by local leadership, does not have any form of identification do not wear name badges, and wears military camo. They are heavily armed with flash-bang grenades, less-lethal bullets, pepper bullets, pepper spray and tear gas. They will pull goggles off of protesters and spray pepper spray into their eyes. They used a baton to beat a US Navy vet, broke his hand and sprayed pepper spray in his eyes because he asked why they weren’t honoring their vow to protect the constitution. During the assault, he stood still and did not resist until blinded by the pepper spray, he turned around and walked away. The “line of mothers” on Sunday was gassed and shot with less-lethal bullets for chanting Black Lives Matter. At least one was pregnant. A protester holding a sign up with both hands was shot in the head with a “non-lethal” bullet and will likely have permanent brain damage. While I have not personally seen this, there are videos of people being kidnapped into unmarked vans by the federal paramilitaries as they left the protests, held for a couple of days, interrogated, then released without charges or explanation. At this time, re-read my first two points. The protests are no threat to Portland and only encompass a 2 block area. They have been peaceful, with graffiti as the only illegal activity. They are well controlled and supported by a cross section of Portlanders. There is no reason for the federal government to be involved, and the excessive force being used appears to be nothing more than a political show of force against US Citizens by the Trump administration.

      6. About 3000 protesters showed up last night (July 21); all with masks, very well behaved. Certainly no chaos, no violence on the part of the protesters. I left at 10:30, the paramilitary attacked at 12:30. I spent an hour talking to the medics. They say they are being targeted by the paramilitary personnel. They are often the first to be shot at and tear gassed. When they try to help an injured protester, the paramilitary personnel throw flash-bangs and tear gas at them (they carry gas masks). One of them was beaten, dragged away from the injured person they were treating and arrested. They are from OHSU as well as Portland Fire.

      7. The Elk statue was taken down by the Police to “protect” it, but the Elk statue was a favorite of the protesters because it was uncontroversial; so they got a blow-up elk and put it where the real statue used to stand. It’s sort of a rallying point.”
      This should concern, if not terrify, all of us. This is an unidentified and unaccountable federal police presence attacking American citizens who are not violating any federal laws. This is literally how the “secret police” in other authoritarian regimes began. The comparison to the early stages of Nazi Germany is NOT AN EXAGGERATION anymore.
      Silence is complacency. Please share this post. Please spread this information. Please get involved. Do not allow or condone this conduct by our federal government. I don’t care which political party you support, this is an affront to the U.S. Constitution and the founding principles.

      1. I know someone who works in the Portland legal system in the effected area. The statements above are dubious, to say the least.

        The protests are limited to a particular area, but that area looks like “a post apocalyptic movie”. Not only graffiti, most of the windows are boarded up to prevent them from being smashed out.

        Many of the protests are peaceful but there have also been multiple arrests of non peaceful protestors attacking people. Some protestors also broke into one of the buildings and tried to set it on fire. The Elk statue was taken down after protestors set multiple fires around its base. The statue was damaged to a point where the city was concerned about liability if it collapsed on someone.

        Trump is obviously reacting to the situation in the most provocative fashion to bolster his campaign, however, the protestors are making it easier for him.

        1. Thanks for your response.

          I don’t know what part of the Portland legal system your friend is in but the Portland Police have been accused of using excessive force currently and in the past against blacks moreso than whites, including the kinds of weaponry used by Trump’s soldiers. If I read correctly, Portland police are restricted now from using some of those weapons at present. I understand that they were put under observation by Copwatch and by the federal government well in advance of these current protests and violent acts by other groups.

          It very well may be that certain protestors have lost their cool and joined in some of the less legal behavior. Much of what has been done by our President seems to have had the intent of causing anger, and violence so he can do his “law and order” show in Democratic cities.

          With my age and health issues, I’ve had to stay home to avoid Covid-19 so I haven’t been out among the protestors. I do wish that it were easier to separate the sheep from the goats in re legitimate protesters vs. those groups that come in to instigate violence. This has happened in many Portland protests regardless of what the protests were for. It happened back in 2016 when protesters were wearing “Pussy Hats” to protest Trump’s election. I had numerous friends and family who were there in 2016.

          There have been peaceful protests in other Oregon cities, down at least as far as Eugene including Corvallis, Albany, Salem, etc. There was a one-person protest in littler Silverton, OR with a man standing on a Main Street corner holding up a Black Lives Matter sign. There are some signs posted in building windows in Silverton. And, as I mentioned previously, there are signs all over Portland
          other than the few blocks downtown where people are showing support for the Black Lives Matter protestors. Given the greater percentage of whites to blacks in OR, who do you think are supporting the signs and protests?

          I agree with you about Trump using this as a tactic to bolster his campaign. Fomenting conflict and rebellion seems to be one of his routine modus operandi. We must not let him get away with it.

          1. The way they portray these demonstrations on Fox News (“streets running with blood” or something to that effect), I worry that many in the country will think our cities are in the process of melting down and blowing up. Trump has pretty much told everyone that deploying troops in Portland is just a trial run, a “focus group” to see how everyone reacts. If successful, he will take it to other cities, Chicago in particular. He just wants to see whether the “Law and Order President” meme takes hold. So far, it hasn’t as far as I can tell but public opinion tends to move slowly. It is also worrying that these cities don’t seem to be able to stop this via the courts. Once again, Trump has found and exploited gaps in the laws that define our government.

            1. It is frightening, really. Here in Milwaukee there is overwhelming opposition to tRump’s stormtroopers being deployed. Our mayor, the Common Council, even the Chief of Police have emphatically stated that these forces are unwelcome and can only do harm.

              1. I’m sure that’s the majority opinion within cities as they strongly lean anti-Trump, but I worry about the rest of the country. They can so easily fall in love with the idea that armed mobs are going to start visiting their little towns once they’ve burned the big cities to the ground.

      2. Absolutely peaceful? There are videos of them trying to burn down buildings (mostly unsuccessfully), shooting and throwing fireworks (and rocks and frozen bottles, etc.) at officers, ambushing officers and attacking them with a hammer, etc.

        This report from the DHS lists their actions against federal buildings and officers over the first 47 days of rioting.

        Additional reports describe what happened over subsequent days.

        I’ve seen videos corroborating several of the more egregious allegations listed there. They do seem to be mostly wearing masks, though.

  7. So what is happening in regards to the prison system these days? If the legal system bases prison sentences on gender rather than sex, I can see there being significant problems since I suspect the prison population may be more concerned with sex rather than gender.

  8. Re “a nostalgic look back at a past that had dial telephones”, I was reminiscing about them only yesterday when my wife spent more than half an hour talking to a technical support advisor about problems with her iPhone.

    Of course, then it occurred to me that her mobile/cell phone does far more than my childhood rotary dial telephone ever could. And back then we had a “party line”, so if the neighbours we shared the line with were making a call we couldn’t dial out, and anyone calling us got the engaged tone. And when my mum was having a serious conversation about work, the kid across the road could lift up the receiver in his house and scream “Meow, meow! Woof, woof, woof!” (How this particular scenario happened so frequently, I will never know. Maybe he waited in their hallway checking the line and waiting to pounce.) And yet, those were the days…

  9. I disagree with Sullivan on plagues being unpredictable, at least this one. The extent and rate of spread of COVID-19 was accurately predicted by consensus epidemiologists in the earliest days of the pandemic.

  10. I found the attacks on JK Rowling stupid and disgusting, and ultimately self-defeating. I thought the whole point of freedom of sexual identity was to get away from strictly defined gender roles. Ms Rowlings’ critics want to keep the gender polarisation but insist either sex can be at either end of the polarity.

    Regarding Trump, I’m also more in Sullivan’s corner here, I think. when people are fearful, enraged, or under pressure, they make different decision to when not, and Trump thrives on chaos. His assertiveness looks like leadership and decisiveness to those who don’t realises he improvises everything and decides everything off the cuff; those who are trying to deal with the chaos fail to predict his behaviour because they assume he will act rationally and strategically like everyone else (not realising how utterly ignorant and stupid he is).

    The election will be decided above all by just how much chaos Republicans are willing to allow him to create. If they decide that more chaos gives them a better chance of winning, then that’s the end of American democracy for now. And they stand to lose a great deal at the moment anyway, so another blind roll of the dice won’t hurt them.

  11. I am really out of sympathy for the extremists on both sides of the “trans” debate. Some radical feminists exaggerate the dangers of allowing a small percentage of trans-gendered males to have access to women’s spaces, both literally and conceptually. My impression is that some of these feminists have a visceral dislike of all males, and especially of males who wish to live as women. But the vitriolic response from some activists to even the mildest criticism of their “trans” agenda – such as the comments from JK Rowlings – is inexcusable.

    It seems to me obvious that a sober professional evaluation of other possible contributing factors should be made before any decision is made about medical treatment of children and adolescents. It is not “conversion therapy” to consider whether “gender dysphoria” is primary or the consequence of other factors. It is not difficult to conceive that a boy brought up by a single mother who hates men – possibly for understandable reasons – may come to dislike the idea of growing to to become a man.

    All those with a grasp of biological reality are aware that the vast majority of humans, like other mammals, fall into two – and only two – sexes depending on the type of gamete, itself the result of the presence of a functional Y chromosome. I think the term “gender” alone is too loaded to be useful, since many will see it as a more genteel synonym for “sex”. I prefer “gender presentation” as an unambiguous term for the way a person lives in society as a man or woman.

  12. Please forgive me if I go back to the topic of what’s happening in Portland because it is now happening in other American cities as well. When the federal storm troopers were first deployed, supposedly they were going to protect statues as well as federal buildings. I wondered how that would work in that most of the statuary I could read about in Portland were gifts to the city by individuals or groups not in any way associated with the feds. The only statue that was removed was a beloved Elk (I don’t know if it was a Confederate or racist Elk). Shortly thereafter, the reference to statue protection was dropped.

    In some articles I read that the affected area in Portland was about four city blocks. This is a minimal amount of Portland. Under Covid-19 restrictions, the businesses downtown in this area were already suffering. I doubt if the protestors added greatly to that. If you were to drive through other parts of Portland, and other Oregon cities, you would have seen numerous signs supporting Black Lives Matter. I have seen this.

    It is reported that the numbers of protesters were lessening until Trump sent his goons in.
    (They were not requested by the Portland Mayor or state governor. In fact, they were asked to leave.) That accelerated the protest. Mistreatment of protesters and illegal actions of the feds took the involvement of protestors into the thousands. Also, if one observes, the white population of Portland and surrounding cities, large and small, in the valley stands with Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter now express concern that the cause they’re fighting for is being overwhelmed and dismissed. How/when can we get down to making the kinds of changes that are necessary?

    Why was the Portland police department not able to arrest illegal behaviors on the part of the troops sent in by Trump?

    In addition to the Wall of Moms who came out to protect protesters, a Wall of Fathers came out in the last few days, as well as a Wall of Vets. Some are coming from miles away to show their support for the protestors and their hatred for what our federal government is doing. Our military men and women know that they have pledged to uphold the Constitution, first and foremost. Any military men or women in Trump’s Troops are not honoring that pledge.

    In addition to using umbrellas to ward off tear gas, etc., the protesters began to use leaf blowers to send tear gas back to its’ source. The feds apparently decided that was a great idea, and started using leaf blowers also.

    Last I read, 80 people had been arrested but I haven’t read the number that were actually charged or what they were charged with. As has been filmed and reported, camouflage clothing is being worn without identification of military group or individuals. Individual protestors have been kidnapped, loaded into unmarked white vans, and hauled off somewhere without being told by whom, what they are being hauled off for, if they are arrested, etc.

    ‘Nuff said. Did you ever think you’d witness this in America?!

      1. Yep. According to Wiki, the Elk wasn’t damaged and was removed, ostensibly for cleaning. The fires were in the surrounding fountain. It and the marble or whatever the base was were damaged.

  13. If we are now free to choose to be a different sex that the one we were at birth, there is no reason why we can’t choose a new
    linneage entirely for ourselves. I, for one, name myself the Romanov heir to the throne of Russia, or “trans-Tsar”. In this capacity, I expect everyone to bow in my presence, and address me as Ваше Сиятельство.

  14. It’s good to see Sullivan back in a space where he is free to speak his mind and do his own thing (I’m not saying his censorship in that regard before was entirely due to ‘cancel culture’ – to some extent working for someone else always comes with limitations.)

    I agree with him that part of what is behind the current unrest is probably the general distress caused by the pandemic. I also think, however, that the pandemic simply magnified what was already there like a funhouse mirror creating a frightful caricature. I think the Left, made up largely of coastal elites, have been telling themselves for a long time that they are far superior to the “Republican yahoo” types they openly disdain (it’s sadly comical how a person who finds a ‘microagression’ downright traumatic can turn around and make the most appalling jokes about Deliverance, in-breeding, etc., when it comes to members of the their out-group, and apparently see no hypocrisy in doing so.) I think they are like the clueless boss from Dilbert who has no idea what is going on but is sure he will come in, do things his way, and everything will be 1000% times better. Except instead of an office project, they think that surely they will be 1000% times better at traditionally conservative areas like law enforcement, because, after all, they know so much better than the yahoo types. I think reality will be self-correct that perception fairly quickly, the question is at what cost.

    I realize that my comments on the Left are getting progressively harsher and more frustrated, and I’m sorry for that – no one looks good when their worst aspects are magnified and broadcast, and, in my opinion, that is what is happening to both parties right now. We are seeing the “worst selves” of both parties, in my opinion. The current worst selves – things can always get uglier, of course – but hopefully we course correct before that. I really hope the world will settle down and change for the better in 2021, and we will see a better side of all parties.

  15. Interestingly, Ophelia Benson has written about David Gorski and his attitude to feminists like her, as he gave them the “OK Karen” response to their concerns on these issues.

    Tells you something when Gorski is more regressive and anti-science than Benson.

    Sad that two former half-decent skeptics have fallen so far. Although not as far as some (ahem, PZ Meyers).

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