Vanity Fair reveals secret discussion at the NYT about using Hamas sources for headlines: “hedging” versus “attributing”

October 26, 2023 • 12:30 pm

Of all places, Vanity Fair has a short but interesting discussion of the New York Times headline fracas! You may remember that when there was an explosion in a Gaza hospital on October 17, the NYT reported what Hamas told it: first that there was an Israeli airstrike and then, when that became less credible, the paper still reported a highly inflated death toll given out by the Gazan Health Ministry, which is of course a mouthpiece for Hamas. Finally, the paper just said there was an explosion with 500 dead (an overestimate, it turns out), and, days later, the paper sort of apologized for its coverage.

Here’s the series of morphing headlines from The Free Press. These weren’t innocuous, because the acceptance by the “best” American newspaper of Hamas’s lies helped set off a conflagration in the Middle East, a conflagration that led to the canceling of a summit meeting between Biden and Abbas, as well as to riots throughout the region, including the West Bank:

As of today, the figures for the dead are anywhere between 100 (from the article below) and 470, with Hamas providing the higher figures. The actual number could be below 100. It’s sad, of course, but it’s not the fault of the Israelis. Pin this one on terrorists killing their own people.

Click below to read about the scuffle in the NYT newsroom over the headlines.  Vanity Fair somehow got hold of the discussion group among NYT staffers on a Slack account. (I’m sure there’s a lot of leaks in these discussions). I’ll give excerpts from the article (indented):

From the article:

A series of Slack messages obtained by Vanity Fair shows there was immediate concern inside The New York Times over the paper’s presentation of the Gaza hospital bombing story. But senior editors appear to have dismissed suggestions from an international editor, along with a junior reporter stationed in Israel who has been contributing to the paper’s coverage of the war, that the paper hedge in its framing of events.

Here’s how it went, with the more careful staffers warning about using Hamas as a source, but the journalists eager for a story (and one that blames Israel) insist that they’re not going to “hedge” the headline. Wanting to “hedge”, means not being so blatant about the headline, and the “hedgehogs” were opposed by the “attributors”: those who wanted a bold headline but with “Palestinians say” as the attribution, or source. More:

On the afternoon of October 17—shortly after the Times published its first version of the story, with the headline, “Israeli Strike Kills Hundreds in Hospital, Palestinian Officials Say”—a senior news editor tagged two senior editors on the Live team and wrote, “I think we can be a bit more direct in the lead: At least 500 people were killed on Tuesday by an Israel airstrike at a hospital in Gaza City, the Palestinian authorities said.”

One of the tagged Live editors replied, “You don’t want to hedge it?”

A junior reporter for the Times who has been covering the conflict for the paper from Jerusalem chimed in: “Better to hedge.”

The senior news editor replied, “We’re attributing.”

The exchange took place in a Times Slack channel called #israel-briefings, which hundreds of journalists have access to. Vanity Fair is withholding the names of the Times staff involved at this time. The Times declined to comment on the Slack messages.

A few minutes later, a senior editor on the International desk wrote in the same Slack channel, “The [headline] on the [home page] goes way too far.”

A second senior news editor asked, “How is it different than the blog hed,” referring to a headline in the paper’s live-blog format. “They both say Israeli strike kills, per Palestinians.”

“I think we can’t just hang the attribution of something so big on one source without having tried to verify it,” the International editor said. “And then slap it across the top of the [home page]. Putting the attribution at the end doesn’t give us cover, if we’ve been burned and we’re wrong.”

Then a second senior editor on the Live team replied to the International editor, asking them to confer with a senior Standards editor. “This was discussed with a bunch of people,” that second senior editor on the Live team noted.

The apologia took more than a week.

This is not how a newspaper should be operating, and I applaud the International editor (I guess you could identify who it was), who said, “I think we can’t just hang the attribution of something so big on one source without having tried to verify it, and then slap it across the top of the [home page]. Putting the attribution at the end doesn’t give us cover, if we’ve been burned and we’re wrong.”

But the hedgers won because they were Senior News Editors. I wonder if they’ll fire them, as they fired James Bennet, the editor of the NYT Opinion section, simply for publishing an editorial by a conservative Senator calling for the military to brought in to quash protests against police violence in American cities.That was said by black Times staffers to have created an “unsafe environment,” which of course was a bogus claim.

To my mind, publishing that opinion column was what the paper is supposed to do:  giving debatable views on diverse issues. In this case they took the word of a terrorist group to produce a clickbait headline. They apologized for that, but didn’t apologize for firing Bennet.

But if any media company is worse than the NYT in its Israeli coverage, it’s the BBC. The Vanity Fair article discusses its coverage, too, along with some others who jumped in too fast:

The BBC has also issued a mea culpa for its coverage of the immediate aftermath of the explosion, as a correspondent for the news channel, while emphasizing they had yet to verify who was behind the blast, suggested it was “hard to see what else this could be, really, given the size of the explosion, other than an Israeli air strike or several air strikes,” based on his experience as a reporter in Gaza. “We accept that even in this fast-moving situation, it was wrong to speculate in this way about the possible causes and we apologize for this, although he did not at any point report that it was an Israeli strike,” the BBC wrote in a statement last week. CNN’s Oliver Darcy reported Monday evening that other outlets that gave credence to Hamas’s version of events have either remained silent (The Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera, the Associated Press) or admitted no fault in their coverage of the blast (CNN, Reuters).

The Times’ own Opinion columnist, Thomas Friedman, said his paper made the wrong call on a podcast last week. “Islamic Jihad may have achieved its greatest PR victory in this world by blowing up its own hospital—inadvertently, by the way. By all evidence, they launched part of a missile barrage toward Israel, and as often happens, one of their rockets failed and landed in the parking lot of this hospital,” Friedman, who is among the US media’s leading voices on the Middle East, said on the paper’s Matter of Opinion podcast last Friday. “It immediately went around the world, headlines everywhere—Israel attacks hospital—including in a newspaper that we know very well. And by the time the truth had a chance to put its shoes on, this inflamed the entire Arab world.”

I have to say that since the war started, my trust in the “objectivity” of some media, especially the NYT and BBC, has waned considerably.

This is as far as the NYT will go in apologizing for bad and harmful reporting

October 23, 2023 • 12:00 pm

They’re apologizing for the first headline, which changed over time:

Here’s a screenshot of the Times’s Instagram post, which for some reason refuses to embed:

They can’t bear to say that the weight of the evidence shows that an errant Palestinian missile, fired at Israel by terrorists, is what caused the explosion.  It’s “Hamas said” on one side versus “Israel denied” and “Americans have said” on the other. They apologize only for reporting taken from the mouths of Hamas.

Why don’t they cite the DATA, instead of giving both sides’ statements? Why don’t they say, “We apologize for misreporting what was likely a terrorist missile strike, and that this misreporting caused the Middle East to erupt in a frenzy of Israel-hating?”

Why not? Because they’re the NYT, and one side is Israel.

I’m also curious if they’ll put this mea culpa on the Times website, or in the paper.

The failure(s) of the New York Times

October 22, 2023 • 10:30 am

I’m afraid I’ll be posting more about the war today—but from various angles. The angle here is the failure of the New York Times in reporting the war, and especially the explosion at Al-Ahli Hospital.  The Times, relying entirely on information from Hamas and its agencies, published an initial headline (see here and here), “Israel strike kills hundreds in hospital, Palestinians say.” Yes, they did qualify it with “Palestinians say,” but those Palestinians were in fact Hamas, and it’s simply not kosher to implicate Israel in a headline like that, regardless of what “Palestinians say.” Nor did the NYT note that Hamas and the Palestinian media simply can’t be trusted to give an objective view of what happened.

Now we know that in all likelihood the “Israel strike” was a misfired terrorist missile whose parts and fuel landed in the parking lot of the hospital.  This is the result of many independent news sources and analysts, the latest being CNN and the Wall Street Journal.  Nor do we know how many people were actually killed or wounded.

This kind of journalism is inexcusable, and I attribute it to both the NYT’s well-known bias against Israel and its credulousness in accepting the claims of terrorists as “news.” Its reporters on the crisis are often people who we know from elsewhere are Israel haters.

The article below, from The Dispatch via yahoo! news, is an excellent analysis of what went wrong with the NYT, and with the media in general, as instantiated in reporting the hospital explosion. I’ll just give a few quotes, and you can judge for yourself. Click on the screenshot to read: No author is given although the writer uses the first-person “I”. Kudos to him or her, anyway.

As we discussed on a recent episode of Dispatch Live, the Times does great reporting on any number of important subjects, but it also has real problems when it comes to a handful of very big issues: Israel and the Middle East, the so-called social issues in domestic politics (notably sexuality and guns), and religion—especially in traditional, conservative, orthodox forms. The Times knows this. When he was executive editor, Dean Baquet observed that the paper and its New York- and Washington-based peers simply “don’t get religion. We don’t get the role of religion in people’s lives.”

They don’t get religion, but they clearly think they must impart it to the reader, most recently evidenced by Anglican pastor Tish Harrison Warren’s endless series of tedious and banal columns about how Jesus can make things better. (Fortunately, the paper gave her the pink slip not long ago.)

But on to the Gaza incident:

The Times’ account of the Gaza hospital explosion was headlined, “Israeli Strike Kills Hundreds in Hospital, Palestinians Say.” The truncated version that initially appeared on Google News and in many social media posts even omitted “Palestinians say.” But “Palestinians say” isn’t the kind of cover the Times editors seem to think it is. For one thing, it may very well be the case that there was no Israeli strike and no hundreds dead, and you need more than a “sources say” to hang an airstrike on. “Please note it did not read ‘Missile Strike Kills Hundreds at Hospital; Investigation Ongoing,’” Commentary’s John Podhoretz wrote. “The formulation of the headline sentence was designed to make Israel the motive actor, even if the final clause acknowledges it as a Palestinian claim.”

The formulation also raises the question of which Palestinians? In this case, the source was a health ministry in Gaza controlled by Hamas, a terrorist organization that is not exactly known for being scrupulous with the truth. The Times headline appeared over a photo of a wrecked building that most readers would conclude was the hospital in question—but it wasn’t. The actual site of the explosion seems to have been the parking lot at the hospital, and experts looking at the evidence have cast doubt both on the claim that the damage was the result of an Israeli bomb or missile strike and the claim that nearly 500 people were killed.

The Wall Street Journal offered this headline, later updated: “U.S., Experts Cast Doubt on Palestinian Claims of Israeli Strike on Hospital; analysts say deadly explosion was more likely due to misfire by local militant group, but anger in Middle East builds.”

Every newspaper—and every reporter—makes mistakes. If you aren’t running regular corrections, you probably aren’t doing enough work. But genuine errors are random. When the errors follow a particular pattern, generally run in the same way, and almost always serve the political interests of one of the involved parties in the controversy being covered, that is bias. And if it seems to you like the Times’ Israel-Hamas coverage takes a distinctly sympathetic view of Hamas and a distinctly hostile posture toward Israel—especially when Israel is being governed by a right-wing government led by Benjamin Netanyahu—then there’s a reason for that.

The last paragraph is telling. The Times‘s reportage of news generally leans the same way: against Israel and for Palestine, despite some initial honest reporting about the October 7 massacre. But that has given way, in the paper and among the mainstream media in general (and among the “progressive” American Left), to article after article about Palestine and the humanitarian crisis that, everyone says, is solely the fault of Israel. (I deplore the “siege” and favor immediate aid, but worry that relief will go into the hands of Hamas.) The hostages and the butchery have been forgotten.

Here’s some straightforward writing, which makes me want to know who wrote this.

If the Times gets so easily wrongfooted by this kind of amateur-level disinformation—similar claims of official atrocities while at war have been a staple of martial propaganda for centuries—how is it going to deal with the avalanche of radically more sophisticated and voluminous disinformation that is headed its way? I am a Times subscriber, and, like many other readers, I do not count on the Times for a neutral or unbiased account of hot-button issues, but I do count on being able to assume that events I read about underneath that big blackletter “T” are things that actually happened. That is not the same as things Hamas claims have happened. This matters, because the Times does enjoy that prestige I mentioned above, and for that reason, it has real power to shape readers’ understanding of public events—well beyond its own pages.

And, the ending:

Among newspapers, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post have names that mean (with apologies to my friends at both papers) almost as much as that of the New York Times, and there are a few non-U.S. players that have something like the necessary standing, the Financial Times and the Economist prominent among them. And, of course, ultimately the work will fall to more than one institution—specialization will be necessary and desirable. But we need somebody to do what the New York Times pretends to do, promises to do, and, more often than critics might admit, actually does. Like Congress, the New York Times suffers from an excess of self-importance and a deficit of self-respect, both of which undermine its ability to do its job. And the job needs doing.

I have little hope that the NYT will shape up. It didn’t even apologize for its initial misreporting, but simply imputed its changing headlines to “changing claims”, not to its initial reliance on a palpably unreliable source, known for its lies and hatred of Jews. The paper slowly and gradually corrected its headlines, but the damage was done: people believed the first version and, I think, this contributed to riots in the West Bank and elsewhere in the Middle East.

I no longer pay to get the NYT as our library offers it for free, and I do rely on it, but it could do a lot better, starting with eliminating its bias in reporting.

The New York Times’s distortions about Israel

October 8, 2023 • 11:36 am

As the Elder of Ziyon site states, dissecting one of the claims made by an author of the NYT pieces below, “Raja Abdulrahim has become an expert on how to write slanderous, one-sided articles about Israel while carefully adhering to the journalistic standards that supposedly ensure “fairness” of the New York Times.” And the paper’s given her plenty of space to splash her distortions all over their pages.

Below are two articles that Abdulrahim either wrote herself or co-authored; both appeared yesterday and both involve apologetics for Hamas. The first piece implies that things in Gaza have been made so bad by Israel that resistance was justified (it blames Israel for everything bad in Gaza), and the second talks in detail about the deaths in Gaza that resulted when Israel defended itself by bombing non-civilian targets. In neither case is there a mention of qualifying facts: Gazans and the Palestinian Authority have themselves made Gaza much worse off than it could be. Further, Abdulrahim and Ameera Harouda don’t utter a a word about the Israeli civilians killed (so far twice as numerous as dead Palestinians: a disproportionality!).

Before I show the distortions in Abdulrahim’s first piece, let me add that Palestinians themselves have rejected two-state offers at least five times (1937, 1947, 2000, 2006, and 2020), some having quite generous terms. Further, Israel voluntarily gave up Gaza in 2005 and evicted Israelis there, all in the interest of making a gesture of peace and trying to create an enclave for Palestinians that would promote peace. (Does anybody remember Israeli’s voluntary relinquishing of Gaza?) The point is that, as Abba Eban supposedly said, the P.L.O. (Palestinian Liberation Organiation) “has never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”  If Palestinians claim their situation is due to Israeli’s behavior, well, they didn’t have to be in that situation in the first place. They could have had their own state.

But onto the first misleading article, whose title tells the tale. You can click on the screenshot to see it, or go here.

Let’s have a look at Abdulrahim’s claims (paragraphs of the piece are indented, bolding in NYT pieces is mine).

For some Gazans, Saturday morning’s surprise Palestinian attack into southern Israel seemed a justified response to a 16-year Israeli blockade. Others worried that the coordinated attack would only add to Gaza’s misery as the tiny enclave braced for a large-scale response from Israel.

The Palestinian territory of Gaza has been under a suffocating Israeli blockade, backed by Egypt, since Hamas seized control of the coastal strip in 2007. The blockade restricts the import of goods, including electronic and computer equipment, that could be used to make weapons and prevents most people from leaving the territory.

This blockade was indeed imposed by Israel and Egypt to curb the influx of material that could be used to foster terrorism. But the blockade does not “prevent most people from leaving the territory.” People can apply for permits to leave through Israel (though I think you can’t return for at least a year), and they can also exit through Egypt. Most applications of exits of people through Egypt are approved (this is from a UN article giving data for just April of 2023):

Movement of people to Egypt

  • In April, the Egyptian authorities allowed 8,572 exits of people from Gaza (some travelers may have exited multiple times). This is 33 per cent below the number of exits in March, and 29 per cent below the monthly average in 2022.
  • A total of 324 people were denied entry to Egypt, compared with 132 denials in March 2023. The grounds for denial are typically not provided, but according to the local Palestinian authorities, Egyptian authorities have often cited security concerns or specific limits that often apply to men aged 18-40.

The claim that most applicants are prevented is a lie.

The same site has information about exits from Gaza to Israel; most of these involve Gazans who work in Israel and go back and forth. Further, Israel generally approves applications from Gazans seeking medical attention in Israel (generally, the only Gazans denied such applications are terrorists, and even the children of terrorists can go to Israel for medical treatment so long as they’re accompanied by non-terrorist relatives).

Movement of people to Israel and the West Bank.

  • In April, the Israeli authorities allowed 43,043 exits of people from Gaza (in most cases, travelers exited multiple times). This is 16 per cent lower than in March, but 22 per cent higher than the monthly average in 2022. However, it is 91 per cent lower than the monthly average in 2000, before the imposition of category-based restrictions by the Israeli authorities.
  • Up to 90 per cent of the exits were by Palestinians allowed out for work-related purposes, most of whom are employed as day labourers in Israel. The Israeli authorities increased the number of exit permits for such purposes from 21,306 in March to 21,835 in April.
  • Five per cent of the exits were by patients referred for medical treatment in the West Bank or Israel and their companions. Some 1,211 exit-permit applications were submitted to the Israeli authorities for medical appointments scheduled for April. Of these, 22 per cent were not approved on time, compared with 18 per cent in March. Click here for more information.

More from the NYT:

More than two million Palestinians live in Gaza. The tiny, crowded coastal enclave has a nearly 50 percent unemployment rate, and Gaza’s living conditions, health system and infrastructure have all deteriorated under the blockade.

The decline in infrastructure is due to Palestine, mainly the Palestinian Authority, who will not pay for medicines or to support the health system, and have taken money aimed at infrastructure use (some from the US) to support terrorism instead. It is not Israel’s responsibility to provide a health system or medical care for Gaza or Palestinians, but nevertheless the provision of Israeli health care to people from the Palestinian territories is ubiquitous.

Israel says the blockade is necessary to stop the flow of arms into the territory, but Palestinians and aid groups say it is collective punishment and exacerbates dire economic and social conditions.

I am not sure what Abdulrahim means by “collective punishment”, but Gaza has in its own hands the power to alleviate its situation, simply by stopping terrorist attacks on Israel, including the firing of rockets. They get plenty of donated money, including from the UN, other Middle Eastern countries, and even the US, to improve their lot, but insist on diverting much of that money for terrorism. Remember, Hamas’s charter has vowed to eliminate the state of Israel, and this aim, not mentioned by the author, has caused much of the woes in Gaza.

Diplomats say that Hamas had repeatedly indicated in recent months that it did not want a major military escalation in Gaza, in part to avoid worsening the humanitarian situation so soon after the devastation of a war in 2021.

The statement by Hamas was true, but in view of the months of preparation that the attack by Hamas required, it was clearly a lie.

The Gazan authorities are still repairing buildings damaged or destroyed by Israeli airstrikes during previous rounds of fighting, including five days of war in May between Israel’s military and Islamic Jihad, the second-largest armed group in Gaza. And some Gazans are worried about losing access to Israeli work permits, a major lifeline for the enclave’s limping economy.

Note that Israel, the “apartheid state”, allows thousands of Gazans to work in Israel.  If Hamas continues to attack Israel, yes, Gazans should worry about their work permits. If they want to alleviate their worries, they should get rid of Hamas.

Gaza’s hospitals regularly suffer from equipment and medicine shortages because of the blockade, and Palestinians in Gaza must apply for permits to leave the enclave to seek treatment either in the West Bank or inside Israel.

The equipment and medicine shortages are due to the Palestinian Authority’s unwillingness to pay for medical equipment and medicine. These items are NOT blockaded; only material that could be used to make weapons or support terrorism are blockaded.  Permits are almost always approved for Gazans seeking medical help in Israel. Israel doesn’t have to do that, of course, and any Israeli seeking help in a Palestinian hospital would probably be killed before getting there, or tossed in the gutter.

In the past, Gaza’s sole power plant has at times been forced to shut down for lack of fuel when Israel has closed the border crossings for goods.

This happened once, when the Palestinians were attacking the border crossing and fuel could not be sent across. At other times, Palestine has simply refused to pay Israel for fuel, which it has to do (it’s not Israel’s responsibility to provide free power to Gaza). Israel has not punished Gaza by repeatedly denying it electrical power.

Civilians, especially children, in Gaza have paid a high price. In 2021, at least 67 children were killed in Gaza during 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

This appears to be true, but occurred during fierce fighting after Hamas fired rockets into Israel. Children were not deliberately targeted, of course, but were casualties of attempts to stop terrorism. In fact, the true number may be higher; as one site reports for 2021:

Israeli forces killed 76 Palestinian children, including 61 Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip and 15 Palestinian children in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Armed Israeli civilians killed two Palestinian children in the West Bank. Seven Palestinian children were killed by rockets misfired by Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip, and one Palestinian child was killed by an unexploded ordinance, the origins of which could not be determined, according to documentation gathered by Defense for Children International – Palestine.

Note that some children were killed by Hamas itself via misfired rockets. This is never noted in stories by Abdulrahim. Of course all these children are to be mourned, as they never got to grow up, but the fact is that if Hamas keeps attacking Israel, there is going to be a response, and in those responses some children will die.

In May, at least 12 civilians were killed by Israeli strikes during the fighting in May this year.

This statement is analyzed in an Elder of Ziyon dissection of an earlier NYT article by Abdulrahim article (one she cites in the piece above) the  article, and all I can do is give you their response:

It says that there were 9-12 civilians killed – but doesn’t mention that they were killed in the course of targeting and killing over 20 terrorists. This makes the ratio of innocent victims killed one of the lowest in the history of airstrikes.

Here’s that article, and a bit of the EoZ’s analysis of how Abdulrahim adheres to the distortions mentioned by Bari Weiss in this morning’s article. Click to read.

and the EoZ’s analysis:

. . . . This is some of the bias in the article’s contents.  But that is only a small part of how this article is lying in effect.
The main way that this article gives an entirely wrong message while adhering to a narrow set of facts is by omitting a huge amount of context – context that a fair reporter would seek out.
It doesn’t mention that under international law,  the existence of civilians around a military target does not make that target immune from attack. In other words, Israeli airstrikes on major Islamic Jihad leaders are perfectly legal under international law of armed conflict. Instead, Abdulrahim quotes an Amnesty report claiming (falsely) that Israel violated international law in previous conflicts in Gaza.
It doesn’t mention that the ratio of civilians killed compared to militants is perhaps the lowest in any airstrikes on urban areas where the targets live among the people in history.
It doesn’t mention the huge amount of time and money, not to mention the number of legal checks, that Israel uses before choosing a target.
It makes it sound like Israel could have somehow killed only Islamic Jihad targets without hurting any civilians – but does not say exactly how.
It does not interview any military experts. It does not interview any international law experts.
The entire article is meant to give an impression on readers that Israel is acting wantonly, that it is violating international law, that it either doesn’t care about or deliberately chooses to target civilians, without saying those things explicitly and without giving any easy-to-find facts that would undermine that entire narrative.

Below is the  second article published yesterday by Abdulrahim and a coauthor. It’s even more misleading in that it completely neglects the Israeli dead and wounded (about which there’s no similar article I can find in the NYT).  The last two sentences, which I’ll reproduce below, are doozies.

Click to read:

The article is headed by a disturbing photo (caption below):
(from NYT): Two Palestinian women in Gaza on Saturday after one of their sons was killed.Credit…Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times

Of course it’s heart-rending to see this, but is there a similar photo (much less an article) on the losses of Israeli mothers? If there is, I haven’t seen it. This, then, appears to be biased reporting; these are not op-ed pieces but news pieces.

From Abdulrahim and Haroudfa’s piece:

The streets of Gaza City were mostly empty throughout Saturday as Israeli airstrikes hit the blockaded Gaza Strip, sending huge plumes of gray-and-black smoke into the sky.

But hospitals and morgues were packed by relatives seeking news of their loved ones.

The tiny strip has witnessed many wars, but its inhabitants were terrified of what could come after Gaza’s armed groups [JAC: note the deliberate omission of the word “Hamas”] launched a coordinated and unprecedented attack into southern Israel on Saturday morning.

The bodies of Palestinian fighters returned to Gaza from Israel filled the morgue at the Shifa Hospital, where by afternoon there was no space left inside the refrigerators and corpses were laid out on the floor. But more bodies and injured fighters continued to arrive, as did families of the dead.

The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza said that 198 Palestinians had been killed and 1,610 wounded. Yousef Abu al-Rish, the top Palestinian health official in Gaza, said that most of the casualties resulted from clashes inside Israel.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said Israel had struck a hospital in northern Gaza, killing one worker, and struck an ambulance in front of another hospital in the southern Gazan town of Khan Younis, wounding several hospital workers and civilians.

There’s no mention that more than 600 Israelis are dead compared to 370 Gazans. If that were reversed, there would be a statement about “disproportionate killing”. Further, some Arabs are referring to the Israeli women hostages as “sex slaves”. Can you imagine what would happen if the situation were reversed and Palestinian women prisoners were called sex slaves. Of course, this isn’t the situation because Israel has taken no hostages, male, female, or Hamas. Here’s the tweet mentioning “sex slaves”. Its Google translation is this:

Palestine Gaza:

A Muslim terrorist photographs all the women he has kidnapped and calls them “slaves” – a specific term used in Islamic jurisprudence for infidel women who are sex slaves in the hands of Muslims.

I can’t vouch for its veracity, of course, but neither do I think it’s fake. The article goes on to discuss the Muslim practice of allowing captured women to be used for sex. I do fear that all the hostages are in big trouble, as I don’t think Israel will empty its prisons of terrorists in a giant prisoner swap. The alternative is trying to secure the hostages via a land invasion, and Israel would be very reluctant to do that, both because of the death of Israeli soldiers involved in such an incursion as well as the likelihood of the hostages being killed in a rescue attempt.

The rest of the article mentions how traumatized the children are by being subject to the sound of Israeli bombs, but there’s no mention of how there would be no Israeli bombs if Hamas stopped firing rockets from Gaza. 

Here are the doozies: the last two sentences of the article:

Along the northern border of Gaza, some Palestinians gathered to watch scenes unimaginable just hours earlier. They cheered as fighters returned, some of them with terrified Israeli hostages or the bodies of killed Israeli soldiers.

Do the authors not sense any irony in that? To even write that shows a fundamental deficiency in the authors’ moral sense.

Now the NYT does have bits about the deaths and wounding of Israelis, but they’re embedded in larger pieces. I find no standalone pieces, equivalent to the two written above by Abdulrahim, highlighting the horrors experienced by Israelis.  That’s no surprise, for the NYT is biased against Israel.  If you don’t know that, you don’t know how to read. But the paper should at least be fact-checking Abdulrahim’s pieces. Giving her this kind of journalistic largesse shows, more than anything else, that the NYT is on the side of Palestine in this conflict, and shows it by deciding which stories are worth publishing.


h/t: Malgorzata

The Associated Press’s Orwellian recommendations for journalists

June 22, 2023 • 10:00 am

If you’re going to use the adjective “Orwellian” to refer to authoritarianism and unsavory manipulation of people’s thoughts, you must have read at least two of his pieces: the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), and his essay “Politics and the English Language” (1946), free online from The Orwell Foundation. They are of course connected; both involve the psychological manipulation of people for bad political ends, the former by government actions and the latter by manipulation of words.  Here are two bits from his essay:

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.

. . . Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

I’m sure that investigative journalist Gerald Posner didn’t write this piece out of right-winged animus or transphobia (he used to be the investigative reporter for The Daily Beast), but rather out of outrage about how other people are trying to change language to achieve political ends. And, at any rate, what matters is not his politics, but the veracity of his reports, which you can check for yourself.  His issue is the language around coverage of transgender politics, and his object is the Associated Press Style Guide, which, as he notes, is

. . . . the leading style and usage guide for many newspapers, magazines, newsrooms, and public relations offices. Journalists and editors largely abide by its grammar, spelling, and punctuation rules and specific styles for everything from numbers to acronyms.  AP editors are supposed to regularly update the Stylebook in order to keep up with changes in language and societal norms.

Modern woke political language however, doesn’t undergo a natural evolution over time; rather, it is imposed from above, and here it’s imposed by the AP Style Guide.

Click to read the piece on his “Just the Facts” Substack site:

Posner is approaching the 3,000 word (!) article on “Transgender Coverage” as an investigative journalist, giving examples of recommended and un-recommended usages. But he does come to a conclusion: it’s ideological and inaccurate.  You can see the data at the “Transgender Coverage Topical Guide” entry at the AP Stylebook.

And here’s Posner’s take on it all. Most of it I agree with, but one or two of his criticisms seems to me not wrong, but a tad exaggerated.

The revised Transgender entry runs 3,000 words, setting forth what it says is the acceptable standard for journalists when “writ[ing] about and interview[ing] transgender people.”  It starts with what seems like a good rule, that reporters must use “accurate, sensitive and unbiased language.”

The editors then proceed to trash the concepts of accuracy and “no bias.” The guide dictates the use of language that in some cases is factually incorrect. Or, as Orwell might have said, the AP editors did their best “to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

Language matters.  Unfortunately, those in charge of setting the rules for the use of it are titling the standards to affect the coverage.

Sometimes, the AP Stylebook contradicts established science, other times ignore inconvenient evidence to the contrary, and repeatedly adopts rules that endorse only one side of what is a vigorous ongoing controversy.

Here are two examples of bad recommendations and one that I think doesn’t matter all that much. Posner’s words are indented, and the AP Stylebook recommendations in bold, italic type. My words are flush left.


 “Use the term sex assigned at birth instead of biological sex, birth gender, was identified at birth as, born a girl and the like…. Avoid terms like biological sex, along with biological male and biological female.”

On the issue of biology being so passé, the AP is insistent. A dozen times the style guide reinforces that a person’s gender is “assigned” at birth.  Richard Ostling, a former AP national reporter (now a GetReligion contributor), notes that, “That’s central to LGBTQ+ insistence that each infant’s gender is arbitrarily imposed from outside and subject to change, so this word allies the news media with one outlook in an intense societal debate.”

Ditching biological sex in one species of animal but not in every other species is unconscionable.  Why is human “gender” (they of course mean “biological sex”) assigned at birth instead of recognized at birth? When I divide piles of fruit flies into sexes, I am not “assigning their sex”, but recognizing it based on sexually dimorphic characters that are nearly perfectly correlated with biological sex. (Remember biologists define sex by the nature of the reproductive system that produces either large, immobile gametes [“females’], or small, mobile gametes [“males’]). I’ve dissected gazillions of male and female flies, and I’ve never seen a “normal-appearing” male with ovaries. (We very rarely get gynandromorphs: flies that are part male and part female, produced when an X chromosome gets lost during cell division in an embryo. But these are developmental accidents, not a “third sex”, and gynandromorphs occur in many animal species).  It would be strange indeed if sex was defined and recognized in animals and plants—except in H. sapiens!

This wording in bold is, of course, there to reinforce the gender activists’ wrongheaded claim that sex a “spectrum” and not binary.  And they claim this because gender (social sex roles) are more of a spectrum—though still bimodal.  It’s the reverse naturalistic fallacy: what you want to be true in nature is what you must see in nature. This language is used to reinforce that fallacy.


If children meet guidelines and are showing signs of puberty, they can begin taking puberty blockers — fully reversible prescription medication that pauses sexual maturation, typically given in injections or skin implants.

The AP editors — without any supporting citation or caveat — set the rule that journalists writing transgender stories must remember that puberty blockers are “fully reversible.”  Mixing some incorrect science into the style guide might be simple enough but has serious consequences.  That is especially true when the science shows there is a litany of serious, long term adverse effects to children who have been on those drugs. I highlighted some of those side effects in my recent WJS piece, “The Truth About Puberty Blockers.”

At least the style guide admits that “the evidence is mixed” about whether hormone treatments and surgery resolve the “stress, depression and suicidal thoughts” to which “transgender youth and adults are prone.”

The effects of puberty blockers, as we are coming to learn, are almost certainly not “fully reversible.” Nor are they without side effects. Nor are they able to “pause” puberty fully and innocuously while a child makes up its mind. This language is straight-out deceptive, and again plays into the agenda of extreme gender activists, who argue that there’s no harm involved in stopping sexual maturation while you decide whether to assume a gender different from the one you have.


“[In reporting on transgender people in sports] Don’t refer to male or female hormones. All people have the same hormones; only their levels vary. If discussion of hormones is needed, name the specific hormone(s)…. If transgender players of any gender are banned from playing on teams in line with their gender, say that.”

This is embarrassingly disingenuous. Men and women do indeed produce estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone but the ways their bodies manufacture those hormones means they have completely different blood concentrations and interactions with organs and muscles.

By ignoring the differences between male and female hormones is to ignore the differences that are key to why biological males have a physical advantage over biological females in athletics. Bone size and strength, greater muscle mass, and higher rates of metabolizing and releasing energy cannot be fully reversed after puberty. Males are, among with biological advantages, are more powerful at kicking and hitting; jumping higher; extra endurance; faster swimming and running speeds.

The results of a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2020 showed that different hormones between transmen and transwomen made a significant difference in “body composition and athletic performance.”

I think by now people know this, but the levels of testosterone and estrogen do differ on average between males and premenopausal females, with average testosterone levels very different and the distributions virtually nonoverlapping.  Posner is right that hiding hormone names is a way to minimize the profound effects that different levels of testosterone and (to a lesser extent) estrogen have on secondary sex traits, especially those involved in sports like size and musculature.  But I don’t really care if they use “testosterone” instead of “male hormone” because, as the AP says, both hormones are found in both sexes. So long as writers emphasize the effect that different levels of these hormones (especially “T”) have on secondary sex traits, I’m satisfied.

I do recommend, by the way, that you read Carole Hooven’s book T: The Story of Testosterone, the Hormone that Dominates and Divides Us. It’s a good, accurate, and enlightening read.

There are others recommendations from the A.P. that you can read and assess, and Posner finishes with the AP’s suggestions about how to use phrases that actually “present still contested concepts as settled,” like that it’s fine to use “pregnant people” instead of “pregnant women,”

Posner finishes with a two-sentence zinger that sums up his take on these Orwellian attempts to control language. He puts the AP recommendation in bold italics:

Of course, these rules are often more about following an ideology than acting as the premier style guide. If anyone doubts that, “Do not use the term transgenderism, which frames transgender identity as an ideology.”

A comment on the MSM’s coverage of trans issues

June 12, 2023 • 11:10 am

On my recent post called “The UK’s National Health Service bans puberty blockers for minors except for clinical trials; NYT reports it without mentioning potential physical harms of blockers,” reader Peter left a very good comment that I’m reproducing here in case you missed it.  (I’ve changed some of the bolding to dispel confusion.)

I agree with dd and disagree with Mike:  The New York Times’ coverage on transgender youth medicine and trans issues in general is subpar. And this is not because the Times does not have excellent journalists. It’s because of editorial decisions made at the top of the Times hierarchy.

This is from a journalist who left the Times in July 2016, after almost 12 years as an editor and correspondent:
Michael Cieply: Stunned By Trump, The New York Times Finds Time For Some Soul-Searching. Nov 10, 2016

. . . it’s important to accept that the New York Times has always — or at least for many decades — been a far more editor-driven, and self-conscious, publication than many of those with which it competes.

. . . Historically, the Los Angeles Times, where I worked twice, for instance, was a reporter-driven, bottom-up newspaper. Most editors wanted to know, every day, before the first morning meeting: “What are you hearing? What have you got?”

It was a shock on arriving at the New York Times in 2004, as the paper’s movie editor, to realize that its editorial dynamic was essentially the reverse. By and large, talented reporters scrambled to match stories with what internally was often called “the narrative.” We were occasionally asked to map a narrative for our various beats a year in advance, square the plan with editors, then generate stories that fit the pre-designated line.

Reality usually had a way of intervening. But I knew one senior reporter who would play solitaire on his computer in the mornings, waiting for his editors to come through with marching orders. Once, in the Los Angeles bureau, I listened to a visiting National staff reporter tell a contact, more or less: “My editor needs someone to say such-and-such, could you say that?”

Here are four indicators to judge the quality of journalism when the topic is transgender stuff:

1) Does the article claim that puberty blockers are reversible? – We don’t know that. The evidence we have rejects this claim.

2) Does the article tell you that many medical associations in the US support gender affirming care? – True, but misleading. There is not one medical association in the US that has based its statements in support of gender-affirming care on a rigorous systematic review of the evidence. Not one! Not the American Academy of Pediatrics. Not the Endocrine Society – it’s guidelines are about the how of gender transition not about whether puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones are a good idea in the first place.

3) Does the article claim that the rate of detransition is low or that experts believe it to be low? – This rate is unknown. There are no good-quality studies on this issue. Even the statement that experts believe that rate to be low is misleading. What is low? Who cares about what experts believe if these believes are not supported by scientific evidence?

See Scott Gavura: Fooling myself.(June 2, 2016)

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool. – Richard Feynman

“The three most dangerous words in medicine: in my experience.” – Mark Crislip

And here: David Isaacs & Dominic Fitzgerald: Seven alternatives to evidence based medicine. British Medical Journal (BMJ), 18-25 December 1999, Vol 319, page 1618

4) Does the article use the expressions “culture war” or “moral panic” to avoid telling the readers what opponents of the radical trans agenda think?

There are some journalists whose writing on trans issues are trustworthy: Lisa Selin Davis, Jesse Singal, Bernard Lane, Leor Sapir (not a journalist, Harvard Ph.D. in political philosophy or political science, writes for City Journal, published by the right-leaning Manhattan Institute, New York). The first three are mainly writing on Substack. Coincidence? Certainly not!

I’ve been reading the New York Times for 25 years. In the last three years the Times has published about 6 good-quality articles on trans issues. The overwhelming majority of Times articles on trans issues are distorted and misleading because the issues are viewed through a partisan/woke lens. Transgender people, because of a history of discrimination, are viewed as sacred victims. Hence, what radical transgender activists say goes. They can’t be wrong. If you criticize their views, then you are ipso facto transphobic. You are charged of arguing from a position of hate, fear or ignorance. (Analogous to Jerry allegedly “punching down,” when he criticizes the howlers that were published recently in Scientific American.)

Now the NYT presents ghost stories as serious assertions

May 15, 2023 • 9:30 am

Perhaps readers can help answer the question, “Why does the New York Times keep touting woo, publishing pieces about ghosts, dowsing, reincarnation, and, especially astrology?” Not only does it present stories of woo like this without ever questioning them, but it does so repeatedly. Is woo supposed to be a replacement of religion for the “nones” whom the paper is wooing (yes, that’s a double entendre)? Or is it simply sensationalism? Your guess is as good as mine, but one thing is striking: the country’s most serious and respected newspaper presents superstition and the supernatural over and over again, but never prints articles debunking it. For more examples, see the link in my first sentence.

Today’s story is by Rachel Louise Snyder, identified in the piece as “a professor at American University, is the author of the forthcoming memoir “Women We Buried, Women We Burned.’” She has an estimable background as a writer and traveler, so this piece defies me. At the very least it shows that an educated and aware person can believe in complete nonsense.

Click to read:

The background: Rachel’s mom died of breast cancer when the child was but 8. Her father remarried, giving her a stepmother and two stepsiblings, but they fought so violently that the evangelical parents kicked all three kids out of the house. Eventually, Snyder made her way to Cambodia, where she learned about spirits of ancestors and ghosts—and finally encountered one in the form of her mom:

My travels eventually took me to live in Cambodia. Many Khmer people believe that there is a world of spirits who live parallel to our human world. Spirits can inhabit the tops of tall trees, make trouble in the life of the living, inhabit the bodies of dogs. The spirits are not those of spooky monsters and creaky homes. They are often ancestors to which we the living must pay homage, to remember them and give them offerings so that they don’t suffer in their next life.

As an American, I rejected such beliefs. As the years went by, though, I began to hear more stories of ghosts, not just from Cambodians but also from expat friends. There was the ghost who’d shake my friend Wynne awake in the night and not stop until Wynne said soothing things out loud: “You’ll be OK. I mean you no harm.” There was the State Department friend who woke in a hotel room one night to see a man walk across the floor and disappear. In the morning, her husband told her he’d seen him, too.

And then one afternoon, 30 years after my mother’s death, her spirit came to me in my Phnom Penh apartment. It was monsoon season, the light in my living room a mustardy yellow, and I was alone. What do you say when the person you love most in the world returns? I told my mom how much of my life she’d missed. I told her of relatives who’d died. I spoke aloud, into the humid air.

And then I knew there was only one question I truly had for her. “I wish you were here,” I said, “to help me decide if I should have a child.”

Her mom’s ghost (a Cambodian-like spirit of an ancestor) replied that this was a decision Snyder had to make, so she went ahead and had a kid. She also decided to let her kid make annual visits to Snyder’s previously alienated dad and stepmother. When her stepmother also got cancer, the relationship with Rachel strengthened. The stepmother then told Rachel that her biological mother died of cancer, which Rachel hadn’t really gasped. As her stepmother approached death, she turned more and more to Jesus, and Rachel accepted the religious woo.

I asked my stepmother, “Are you afraid?” She had just returned home from yet another hospital visit.

“I was afraid,” she told me. But then a chaplain came and talked to her and my father, and finally, she told my father: no more. She told him he could still hope, and she would hope, too, for a miracle. But in the meantime, she said she felt ready and she needed him to be with her. She said her angel had been in her room all week; she could see him as clearly as she could see me now. I thought of how in Cambodia death is just the end of a cycle, making space to start all over again.

Well, I’m not going to disabuse a dying person of her false beliefs, but Rachel’s own belief that death is part of a cycle is dubious at best, and religious woo at worst. It goes on.

Then [Rachel’s stepmother] said, “Can I talk to you about the Lord? I just have to because he’s my life.”

I nodded.

Jesus was on her right side at that moment and her guardian angel was on her left. She could see them. They didn’t talk, except once to say that everything would be all right. She just wanted me to know she could see them, her angel and her Jesus, that they had come to help her on her journey to wherever and whatever came next.

I nodded, listening. I believed her. Of course I did. We travel with our ghosts. Who better to lead us to what comes next? Our next life, our heaven, the birth of a daughter, a new mother, an old one.

I understood then. She wasn’t telling me a story of Christianity or faith or spirituality. She wasn’t even telling me a story about God. She was just telling me a love story. And I was part of it.

Now I’m not sure what the love story is here—perhaps I lack the emotional perspicacity to be moved by this tale. But what bothers me is Snyder’s dogged belief in ghosts—not as metaphors but as real apparitions. Further, the return of her mother’s ghost implies that those who die live on in some form.

Is there no fact-checking in op-eds? I know that when Anna and I wrote our op-ed for the WSJ, we had to vouch for every claim that we made (notice the links in the online version) and answer a passel of editor’s questions.  Is there no fact checking about whether Rachel saw a ghost? Of course there couldn’t be, as there’s no documentation, but everything we know about such claims testifies to the fact that there is no evidence for either ghosts or an afterlife.

You may think I’m being too picky: calling out claims about ghosts and the afterlife in what is supposedly a “love story”.  But what this does is simply buttress other people’s faith in woo, and in the pages of a respectable newspaper, too. In other words, it enables faith: here faith in ghosts, Jesus, angels, and the afterlife.

When I finished the story, I thought, “Jeez, the credulity of the paper is just begging for a Sokal-type hoax. Somebody should make up a story with the wildest claims about woo, embellish it so it’s also a heart-tugging tale, and then submit it to the Times.”  I won’t be the one to do that, but the paper’s penchant for this kind of stuff is real and, ultimately, harmful. What would you think if the paper retold a story about someone who really went to Heaven and met Jesus. who was riding on a rainbow-colored horse?  Oh, I forgot: there was a book about this, and it was a bestseller, earning millions.

From Flickr and the National Archives.

h/t: Greg

British reaction to the sex binary kerfuffle: The Daily Mail and Steven Knight

May 5, 2023 • 10:15 am

I continue to be amazed at how much dust is stirred up by simply asserting the biological observation that, in animals and vacular plants, there are but two sexes, and those sexes are defined by the reproductive equipment they have. Males are “designed” (I’m speaking teleologically: “evolved” is what I mean) to make small, mobile gametes, and females to make big immobile ones.  For decades this has been uncontroversial: A truth universally acknowledged, to paraphrase Jane Austen.

Now, however, for reasons known best to themselves, a small but vocal group of ideologues is denying the sex binary. In my coauthored paper coming out in late June, we hazard some guesses, but those of you following the controversy probably realize that it involves trying to impose one’s ideological views onto nature.

Here’s the kind of stuff that comes out of the woodwork (tweet found by reader Mike and noted in the comments below). It’s an object lesson about how to smear those who advance a scientific fact that you don’t like. (I’ve archived the tweet with a screenshot, but you can see the original by clicking on it).

This doesn’t work so easily with the sex binary, as even nonscientists can observe it with their own eyes. The result is that deniers of that binary, such as Agustín Fuentes and Laura Helmuth (editor of Scientific American who’s published several pieces denying a sex binary), face considerable pushback from both scientists—who work with male and female organisms—and “regular” people, who have eyes to see and neurons to analyze.

You might look at the comments (or “ratio-ing”) of these tweets by both Fuentes and Helmuthy (click to see original tweets and the thread of comments). You’ll see that the vast majority of comments on both tweets are critical. That’s not because of our own incisive analysis, but because Fuentes’s arguments (and Helmuth’s desperate attempts to defend them and stave off the decline of Scientific American) are so transparently weak—and ideologically motivated).

I enjoy a good dust-up once in a while, and this is one of them. Even the Daily Mail, which wrote an article about the controversy and about Sci Am, is pro-binary, though their article is not written at all well and seems to consist of fragments from interviews. Click below to read it.

They interviewed me, Fuentes, Helmuth, and Carole Hooven, and I won’t summarize the text, which, like the article itself, is a bit disjointed. (The writer was clearly not acquainted with evolutionary biology or the biology of sex.)  Let me just say three things.

First, I did not say THIS:

Dr Jerry Coyne, a biologist at the University of Chicago, told that the magazine is ‘forcing a progressive lefty agenda’ onto readers just wanting to learn about science. [Dr Fuentes] is imposing his ideology on nature,’ Dr Coyne said.

I would have said “Leftist”, though I stand by my claim that yes, Sci Am does have a political agenda. “Lefty” is a term I reserve for left-handed baseball pitchers.  It’s probably a bad transcription from our recorded interview, and may be due to my voice, which was horse from a bad colt.

Second, there are pro-binary quotes from Carole Hooven and Colin Wright (whose writings were excerpted). Here’s how Carole responded to Fuentes’s (and Helmuth’s) claim that we biologist think that sex-related characters (beyond gametes and their developmental origin) and behaviors are also binary—an position that none of us have taken because we’re not stupid.

Dr Hooven, said Dr Fuentes is misrepresenting sex and the traits an animal has.

‘No serious scientist would argue that traits are binary; it is sex that is binary,’ she explained.

‘Sex differences in hormones, strength, size, etc. are not the same as sex, but are strongly associated with it, just as an interest in construction equipment or dolls are traits associated with, but not the same as being a boy or girl.

‘In mammals, there are two sexes and two only. One can change their sex-related characteristics like hormones, mode of dress, muscle mass, even voice, but one cannot change sex.

‘The point is, biologists and others understand that while male and female are binary sex categories based on gamete size, and bodies and behavior of boys and girls, men and women are extremely diverse, there are some circumstances in which sex matters.’

Fuentes has a lame reply:

Dr Fuentes disagrees with the assessment from the biologists.

‘There are sexes and differences between them matter. That is not in dispute. But the overlaps between sexes also matter and are sufficient that the frame of a “sex binary” is misleading and inhibits better research and analyses,’ he said.

How can he possibly disagree with what Hooven said, which happens to be true?

Third, I found this the most intriguing part of the article, and hilarious in its arrant fibbing in the part I’ve bolded.

‘Scientific American publishes fascinating articles about the latest scientific research, and often this work is relevant to important and timely issues,’ Laura Helmuth, editor-and-chief of the journal, told in response.

We hope the articles we share, many of which are written by leading experts, help readers understand our world. That is my only agenda.’

Seriously? That is her only agenda? That’s simply not true: a major part of the magazine’s effort is devoted to propping up, using scientific articles and op-eds, Helmuth’s progressive authoritarianism (see my collection of posts about this bias here). If she were interested in truth, why would she flatly reject my offer to write an op-ed about the bad effects of ideology on science? (Well, that op-ed has morphed into a long article that will appear in about 6 weeks.)

Finally, to return to a sensible outlook, have a look at this piece by Stephen Knight (also known as “Godless Spellchecker”) at Spiked (click to read):

Just two excerpts here:

A dangerous strain of utopian thinking has taken hold of the ‘progressive’ left. Many now share the delusion that if we pretend certain falsehoods are true, then various forms of oppression and bigotry will magically disappear. Worse still, the proponents of these falsehoods demand their unequivocal affirmation from the rest of us.

Today’s leftists rightly insist on the importance of scientific truth when it comes to questions like climate change, vaccine safety and evolution. But they will discard scientific facts the moment they become inconvenient to their own worldview. Nowhere is this hypocrisy more pronounced than on the issue of gender, where transgender ideology has almost entirely supplanted scientific truth among the left. More alarming still is the fact that many scientists and scientific institutions, which really should know better, are colluding in this deception.

The latest scientific institution to promote gender pseudoscience is the once-venerable Scientific American magazine, which this week published an article headlined ‘Here’s why human sex is not binary’.

Make no mistake, sex in human beings really is binary and immutable. There are few things more emphatically true in our scientific understanding of the world than the human sex binary.

. . .After some silly and irrelevant trivia about the biology of lizards and fish (humans are neither fish nor lizards), the Scientific American article concludes by claiming that anyone who upholds the human sex binary is ‘trying to restrict who counts as a full human in society’. This single claim inadvertently reveals a great deal about what is wrong with the trans movement. Unable to refute the truth of the human sex binary, gender ideologues resort to demonising those who notice it as having ulterior, sinister motives.

This isn’t the first time Scientific American has lent its (now waning) credibility to gender nonsense. Back in 2018, it published an article titled ‘Sex redefined: the idea of two sexes is overly simplistic’. To this day, this piece is gleefully shared around by gender activists, emboldened by this apparent vindication of their ideology from a credible, scientific publication. However, the author of the piece has since clarified that reality actually is as simplistic as humans having only ‘two sexes’.

Here’s that clarification by Claire Ainsworth:

And yes, Ainsworth is right, but I add the caveat that for many traits, like height and weight, males and females may lie on a continuous distribution, but the distribution is also bimodal because of sexual dimorphism. Sadly, Alice Dreger, whose book Galileo’s Middle Finger was great, rejects even the concept of sexual dimorphism in humans (see bottom of tweet; nothing is “potentially sensitive” there.

And, to end, Knight quotes the wise and ever-snarky Emma Hilton:

Dr Emma Hilton is a developmental biologist at the University of Manchester and a co-founder of the women’s rights organisation, Sex Matters. When I asked her what compels otherwise sensible people to make anti-scientific claims about human sex, she said: ‘Charitably, if you remove the ability to classify (by arguing classifications are arbitrary, meaningless, etc), you remove the ability to discriminate (or at least stigmatise). So, for some, “sex blindness” is a genuine strategy for social change. But it is a stupid one.’

That last five-word sentence made me laugh out loud. Big fun!