A respected journalist is bullied out of the Guardian

November 25, 2020 • 1:00 pm

The Guardian is the British equivalent of HuffPost, and Suzanne Moore, one of its premier op-ed writers, has become the British equivalent of Bari Weiss.  For Moore, who had a distinguished career—winning among other awards the Orwell Prize and the British Press’s “Columnist of the Year”—has now been hounded out of her job. Of course it’s because she wrote a piece that offended the Woke, which enraged over three hundred of her colleagues, who wrote a group letter denouncing her. After her editors refused to defend Moore’s right to publish her views, she quit.

She describes this incident, and also her entire career, in a new piece at UnHerd (click on screenshot below). It’s long and rather discursive, and, truth be told, I didn’t find the details of her career all that interesting (the cutesy prose didn’t help), though I felt sorry for her travails in trying—successfully–to break into an all-male domain. The piece gets interesting when she describes how her colleagues hounded her out of the paper after she wrote a column about sex, gender, and transsexuals. (No surprise about the reaction: there is no deviation permitted from Accepted Thought about transsexuals.  

The skinny: in March of this year, Moore published the column below, which isn’t all that inflammatory—unless you take the extreme hard line on sex and gender: i.e., that both are social constructs, and that transsexual women are in all relevant respects identical to biological women.  I’ve put a few quotes from the column below, but read it for yourself and judge how “harmful” it really is:

 

Moore’s big sin was to say that in some respects transsexual women are not the same as biological women—not with respect to their presence in prison or other spaces (I’m thinking of halfway houses, sports, or as rape counselors). She also affirmed the indubitable fact that biological sex is binary and not a social construct. (Moore does see gender as a social construct):

The radical insight of feminism is that gender is a social construct – that girls and women are not fated to be feminine, that boys and men don’t have to be masculine. But we have gone through the looking-glass and are being told that sex is a construct. It is said that sex is merely assigned at birth, rather than being a material fact – actually, though, sex is recognisable in the womb (which is what enables foetal sex selection). Sex is not a feeling. Female is a biological classification that applies to all living species. If you produce large immobile gametes, you are female. Even if you are a frog. This is not complicated, nor is there a spectrum, although there are small numbers of intersex people who should absolutely be supported.

. . . Male violence is an issue for women, which is why we want single-sex spaces. Vulnerable women in refuges and prisons must be allowed to live in safe environments – the common enemy here is the patriarchy, remember? How did we arrive at a situation where there are shocking and rising numbers of teenage girls presenting at specialist clinics with gender dysphoria, while some who have transitioned are now regretful and infertile?

Even if you disagree with her take, you can’t doubt that the issue, given the way many women feel, is certainly discussable, and surely material for an op-ed column. But the Authoritarian Left have rendered it non-discussable, and that’s why, after her column was published, Moore was the (unnamed) subject of a letter sent to the paper by 338 of her colleagues, many of whom were her friends—but not one of them bothered to call her. Here’s the letter:

She was of course hurt, and even more so when her editors declined to defend her piece. What the hell is going on at the Guardian when its editors can’t even say, “We allow our op-ed writers the liberty of their own opinions and have no further comment”?

And so a couple of excepts from her UnHerd piece:

I was discussed at “conference”, the newspaper morning meeting open to all: editorial, digital, advertising, everyone. (It looks like equality, but some people sit on the floor and others get seats, let’s put it that way.) I never go in to the office, or attend conference, but it was reported that a trans woman developer, who had already resigned some weeks earlier, resigned again that morning, because my words, my column, had made her feel unsafe. According to the news story: “the column was ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back,’ the trans employee said, following a series of pieces that pitted trans people against women and against women’s rights.”

The “unsafe” bit is simply a canard, and I don’t buy it for a minute. In fact, we’d all be better off if we started questioning these ubiquitous claims of feeling “unsafe,” which rarely make sense.

The letter made it clear to me that it wasn’t just social media activists who wanted me out of the paper. My fellow staff were gunning for me: time to hand over my job to the young Corbyn crew who spend their lives slagging off the mainstream media but cannot wait to be part of it. Could they write a good sentence? Say something from the heart? Does that matter? Apparently not, they simply think the right things.

The letter was then leaked to Buzzfeed and then the names were made public. I was devastated to find people who I like and had worked with had done this. In 30 years of journalism I have often disagreed with people and had stand-up rows with them but no one has ever done something so underhand as to try and get someone fired because of one column.

. . . Mistakenly, I thought my editors would stand up for me because that was my experience at other papers; or they might issue a public statement. They didn’t. There was some internal email, and I hear it was discussed at the Scott Trust, which governs the paper. What this means I genuinely have no idea. Nor do I understand what editorial independence means any more. Do they? Not in my book.

This to me was utter cowardice. Shouldn’t you stand by your writers? But on this issue the Guardian has run scared. I suspect this is partly because of Guardian US sensitivities and, partly because the paper receives sponsorship from the Open Society foundation, which promotes trans rights.

To be sure, there were people who supported Moore, and one even did so publicly, but most did so sotto voce: after all, they didn’t want to be fired or demonized.

So Moore quit the Guardian, just as Bari Weiss quite the New York Times after hounding from her fellow writers. And shame on the Guardian for their refusal to defend their writers.  Nor can we hope that Moore’s column will make things easier. As she says:

The censorship continues and I cannot abide it. Every day another woman loses her job and a witch-burning occurs on Twitter. My fear is not about trans people but an ideology that means the erasure of women — not just the word, but of our ability to name and describe our experience. We are now cervix-havers, birthing parents, people who menstruate. On Amnesty’s latest posters to support the women’s strike in Poland, the literal translation from Polish for the thousands of women who were protesting the awful tightening of abortion laws was: “I stand with people in Poland”. Which people? Women forced to give birth on a plastic sheet to a dead baby with foetal defects? Say it.

We must not be afraid of being called “transphobes”, which we are not if we merely point out socially relevant differences between transsexual women and biological women. For most purposes there aren’t relevant differences, but sometimes there are, and we need to talk about them. Pity that the Authoritarian Left has made “transphobe” a slur to be feared, just as they’ve done with “Islamophobe” or “racist”. Those labels are just easy ways to shut people up. We can’t stifle ourselves (as Archie Bunker often importuned Edith) for fear of a label.

h/t: Pyers

34 thoughts on “A respected journalist is bullied out of the Guardian

  1. PCC(E) wrote: “She [Moore] also questioned the indubitable fact that biological sex is binary and not a social construct.”

    Should that have been:
    She also affirmed the indubitable fact that biological sex is binary and not a social construct?

  2. . . . the common enemy here is the patriarchy, remember?

    Sorry, sister, that was last year; racism is à la mode this season. I fully expect to hear the Trans community decrying the matriarchy.

  3. I do not think we should shed too many tears for Suzanne Moore. She is part of a toxic culture at the Guardian and it is fascinating to see one its own journalists consumed by the ideological purity spiral that they themselves have contributed to.
    The Guardian use to be fine left leaning newspaper that has gone to the ‘woke side’Suzanne Moore did her bit to create that toxic culture.

    1. Alas, the Jacobins never learn. What happened to Robespierre, Danton and St.-Just happened to Zenoviev,Kamenev,and innumerable others during the Stalinist purges of the Old Bolsheviks, and in many other revolutions. The Wokies are just lucky that when their turn comes, they’ll just be subject to intolerable working conditions and Twitter-bashing, rather than getting a bullet behind the ear in a cell in a basement.

    2. I used to have the Observer (the ‘Sunday’ Guardian) delivered and read and contribute comments to the opinion pieces.

      Then the paper gradually eased away from truth into ‘feelings’, especially after the Brexit referendum. It is the poorer for it and I’m not surprised that Suzanne Moore felt unvalued. In my opinion she is a one note author (feminism) which, while still a worthwhile subject, is no longer a rallying cry.

    3. Sorta like Ophelia Benson at FreeThoughtBlogs, until she was ‘turfed’ out.

      She was happy to support that toxic dump, which was spewing venom at liberals, humanists, and those dreaded ‘moderate centrists’ for years, until she was caught up in the revolution.

  4. I think one of the big problems with the reflexic use of such epithets as “transphobe” and “racist” is that they will lose even their legitimate impact. It’s in danger of becoming a “boy who cried wolf” scenario, I fear. More and more people will just not care if someone is calling them a racist, or any other such term of condemnation, because the terms are so overused and so often in unjustified circumstances. And then, of course, they might even become a sort of “badge of honor”, signifying (apparently) just someone who speaks freely and thinks independently, and isn’t cowed by the Woke, rather than – quite possibly – someone who really is a bigot.

    1. Since when have (white) people stopped caring about being called a racist? They are terrified of that accusation. I also notice more and not fewer worries about being called transphobic, especially among educated professionals.

      I find your point unconvincing.

      1. Face to face perhaps. But on social media or ‘talking heads’ on TV not so much.

        Away from the political extremes and academia I suspect most people don’t consider such allegations part of their daily lives.

      2. It depends on which group you’re speaking with, and I was specifically saying that it is in danger of becoming unimportant or dismissable…and the more it is overused in under-justified circumstances, the more likely it is to become a dismissed claim.

    2. This already happened, in New Atheism no less. After years of crying wolf, the real wolves arrived, a gang of far right identitiarians and under the motto of “diversity of thought” and “days of freedom” and suchlike, took over the “Intellecual Dark Web” already when that name was popularized by Bari Weiss (her piece contained a website that already included far right personalities).

    3. Despite being firmly in the liberal camp in most other respects, my skepticism generally persists about people with penises and a Y chromosome claiming to be women, and people without such claiming to be men. In some cases, there really does seem to be something to it, e.g., when a person is committed enough to their identified sex to undergo surgery and make the plumbing more or less match up with what’s inside their brain. Those are cases of extraordinary skepticism being met with extraordinary evidence.

      It’s not that important an issue in my life personally, and I have zero expertise to fall back on for what is just an mostly intuitive personal opinion. But I find it interesting that one of my friends who rails against biological men demanding to be treated as women and intrude into women’s private spaces is a woman who suffered tremendous abuse early in life at the hands of a man. She wants absolutely no part of having people with penises and generally stronger bodies wandering around her locker rooms.

  5. The Guardian is the British equivalent of the HuffPost?? Dear oh dear, Jerry.

    Meanwhile, Suzanne Moore expresses an idea that has been brewing in my head for a while — that declaring somebody (usually an older, accomplished woman) as a TERF is the last bastion of acceptable misogyny

    1. Yes, I slightly bridled at the Guardian/HuffPo analogy, as the former has a long and distinguished history of reporting (and campaigning) since its founding as The Manchester Guardian in 1821 in the wake of the Peterloo Massacre. Sadly its general drift, and now its behaviour in the Suzanne Moore case, suggests that it is losing its way and is in danger of inviting such unfavourable comparisons.

  6. Moore does see gender as a social construct

    It’s tempting (though I’m resisting) to indulge in a bout of schadenfreude here.

    Feminists have long argued that gender and gender roles are purely social constructs (whereas they are *partially* social constructs, but with a large amount of biological underpinning), and thus that one should expect and demand an equal number of men and women in all roles (whether primary-school teacher or deep-sea fisherman).

    Then the trans activists came along and started arguing that sex is also a social construct, and thus that anyone could “identify” with any sex.

    They are using a playbook that the feminists wrote.

    1. I’m having trouble following your reasoning here.

      Per feminist definitions,
      “Sex” has to do with biological pathways for reproduction. “Gender” is defined as the socially-constructed assumptions about behavior, abilities, roles, etc. Sex and gender are seen as two different things. “Femininity” and “masculinity” are gender, and rejected.

      Non-feminist conservatives see sex and gender as connected: men should be masculine, women feminine. They’re pro-gender.

      So how does pro-gender trans activists combining the two (if you’re masculine you could be a man, feminine you could be a woman) derive from feminism, instead of from conservatism?

    1. To be clear, Moore’s second piece also doesn’t warrant the treatment she received from her Guardian colleagues and is entirely supportive of transwomen in most important respects, as described by PCC(E)’S comments about Moore’s earlier article from March.

      1. OK, now I’m confused…! Moore’s piece in UnHerd does indeed reference the March 2020 article she wrote and which PCC(E) linked to. But she was later able to publish the second article on a related subject in August. In fact, her most recent article for The Guardian was earlier this month and about the US election. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/commentisfree/2020/nov/09/biden-is-far-from-perfect-but-we-should-still-take-a-moment-to-savour-his-victory . I’m really not sure of what happened between Moore and The Guardian, but it seems to be a little more complicated than her version in UnHerd. She certainly didn’t resign after her colleagues’ response to the March piece, got a second bite of the cherry in August, and was still writing for the paper in November. WTF?!

  7. Is there not a single individual among that 300+ who can sit down with the apparently offensive article, pull those supposed mistakes apart in a convincing manner, and get the Guardian to publish their rebuttal?

    I realize I’m sounding naive. But really this just points out once again what is fundamentally wrong with wokism: an utter unwillingness to rationally defend, even to express in anything much beyond a ‘caveman grunt’, whatever position they have taken, rather than adopting the mob (much like religious) mentality and actions, with laughably un-defendable slogans.

    1. > an utter unwillingness to rationally defend . . . .

      The extreme Woke will respond that reason and evidence are “the master’s tools” that cannot be used to “destroy the master’s house.” It’s a blatant attempt to avoid putting any intellectual effort into their positions. They might as well be shouting “Feelz before realz!”

  8. For all connoisseurs of irony, feast on this column by Moore, published a scant eleven months ago, in which she complains about Laurence Fox, ‘Why are these people so easily offended?’ and observes that ‘Whatever the BBC is, some of its current affairs coverage is now so unwoke, it is in a coma’. Well, clearly that accusation can’t be charged against her now former employers. Offense cuts both ways, eh?

    We seem to be in a kind of tragedy-of-the-commons situation, where the most extreme zealotry becomes the key to survival, because people figure that if they don’t have holier/wokier/etcetier bona fides than everyone else, someone else willa get to that position ahead of them and they’ll be found wanting, and maybe get terminated, however that works. Those who don’t realize how far it’s possible to go—and Moore here seems to be a good example—wind up getting axed for just that reason, which of course serves as an example to everyone else of what awaits you if you don’t leapfrog over the current most radical position to some new most radical position. This is, I think, how movements driven by a manichaean ideology wind up destroying themselves. Moore’s experience is going to be duplicated many times before the whole thing falls apart.

    1. I suspect we are in a period of ‘Elite Overproduction’ – a concept developed by Peter Turchin, which describes the condition of a society which is producing too many potential elite-members relative to its ability to absorb them into the power structure. (See the Cliodynamica web site).

      Too many courtiers struggling to find or retain seats at the top table, as it were.

    2. Moore could certainly dish it out if she thought the targets were justified.

      She said of Jordan Peterson, “Hello Editor types. Jordan Peterson holed up in rehab in Russia. F*** me gently with a chainsaw… let me do that story. Come on!'”

      Anyway, this is a common trend. Those who were part of the call-out left had no problem with abuse and bullying, until it came to their own front door.

  9. I think the “great sin of Moore” is not distinguishing between cis women and trans women, but to have traded the supposedly transphobic organization Woman’s Place UK.

    An analogy: If someone who writes about race defends a racist organization, I think we would all conclude that that person is a racist.

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