You're performing advocacy one way or the other whether you're aware of it or not
Yesterday writer Emily Bazelon posted a lengthy thread on Twitter defending her work in a recent story for the New York Times Magazine. Thin-skinned Times writer unable to accept criticism from the left as colleagues circle the wagon isn't exactly news but nevertheless. The piece in question was an ostensibly neutral "deeply reported" look at what's framed as a hot new trend of transitioning among young people. It was the type of "just asking questions" shit that we've seen done over and over again the past few years in prestigious publications. Unsurprisingly it platformed a host of transphobic "gender critical" activists and laundered their bigotry for the Times' audience who are all to be sure very nice and concerned liberals that are just worried that perhaps it may be becoming too easy for children to transition.
I love this idea by the way that children can just stroll into the transitioning store and there's a doctor there ready to treat them like a used car salesman. We're pricing these babies to move! Do these people have any idea how much of a pain in the ass it is to get the most basic medical care in general? I've been trying to get someone to figure out why my foot hurts for like six months now and everyone I've seen about is like I dunno go ask some other guy this is not my problem.
The article was not very well received by a lot of people for whom the central question of pieces like this – not the one on the surface that the writers pretend they are writing about but the real central question if you follow me – is a matter of life or death.
That point in the last tweet there is key here. Violence and discrimination against LGBT people is not some hypothetical future we're talking about. We're not at the top of a slippery slope looking down at what may come to pass we are halfway down the fucking slide. It's here now. It's already happening and it's only going to get worse.
You'll recall the latest iteration of this good old fashioned moral panic being driven by the right and ushered along by our proud journalistic institutions began with questions about who gets to participate in youth sports. It quickly spread from there to outrage about even acknowledging the existence of trans people in schools and solidified with a host of anti-LGBT legislation being introduced in dozens of states around the country. All the while right wing media and politicians have been pouring oil on the fire to the extent where their common very widely accepted talking point has become that talking about LGBT issues – or even being openly LGBT – around children makes you a pedophile and a groomer. That's particularly frightening because you know what a lot of people think should happen to pedophiles. Anything. Who cares. Do what you want.
The conflation of LGBT people and those who support them with pedophiles is stochastic terrorism in its clearest form. It's a license to murder. Wouldn't you want to protect children from people seeking to harm them after all?
To be clear this shit is not going to stop at "the trans question." We're already seeing this hatred take aim at completely innocuous drag shows and story hours. It's a vile oil spill that's threatening to pollute anything LGB-related never mind just the T.
Remember this? This was like a week ago.
And this was yesterday.
The Washington Post reported recently on how the "surge in right-wing hate-mongering against LGBTQ people is spilling into violence..."
Extremism researchers have long warned of an escalating risk as hard-right Republicans and militant groups portray LGBTQ people as “groomers” targeting children, along with other baseless smears. Now, provocateurs are acting on those messages in what President Biden last month called “rising hate and violence” targeting LGBTQ communities.
The attacks have intensified this month during the first big Pride events since pandemic restrictions were lifted, most notably with the white nationalist Patriot Front’s foiled attempt to disrupt a celebration in northern Idaho.
In recent days, right-wing politicians and preachers have openly called for killing LGBTQ people. On a conservative talk show, Mark Burns, a Donald Trump-allied congressional candidate from South Carolina, called “LGBT, transgender grooming” a national security threat and proposed using treason laws as the basis for “executing” parents and teaches who advocate for LGBTQ rights. In Texas last Sunday, a pastor railed against Pride month and said LGBTQ people “should be lined up against the wall and shot in the back of the head.”
A study released Thursday signals these are not isolated incidents. Anti-LGBTQ activity including demonstrations and attacks increased more than four times from 2020 to 2021, from 15 incidents to 61, according to the global nonprofit conflict-monitoring group known as ACLED. As of early June, ACLED counted 33 anti-LGBTQ incidents so far this year, indicating an even bleaker 2022.
Fascists as you may have heard typically do not stop once they succeed at destroying the lives of the first group they set their sights on. There's a very famous poem about it.
All of which makes me wonder what these supposedly respectable and decent journalists think is going to happen to them once the other groups are dispensed with. Journalists and academics and liberals don't tend to do well in these scenarios a little further down the line. And in an environment where millions of people in this country will call Joe Fucking Biden of all people a communist I don't think pedantry about your authentic political identity is going to serve as a shield. No no wait stop I'm actually fairly fiscally conservative!
Which brings me back to Bazelon's Twitter thread. This is what our prestigious reporters believe about themselves. Well I don't know if they believe it believe it but it's what they perform that they believe because their job requires it.
I'm just a humble servant of the facts (which are always real and knowable by the way) that the universe has presented to me uninformed by my own choices.
This is the thinking of a bygone era. You are performing advocacy one way or the other whether you are aware of it or not. The difference now is that more of the audience is onto the con and can yell at you about it on Twitter every day.
There has never been such a thing as a completely neutral journalist but it's even more apparent today. And yet many of them still don't seem to realize it or refuse to admit it. And for what? What are they holding on to besides their professional stature? They all think that if they confess that they believe in anything they’re violating their little fraternity's oath of objectivity. That entire standard is just made up! It's not real. Journalists are like you can’t say Macbeth in the theatre and we’re all supposed to buy into their delusion.
I'd rather be a decent human being than a journalist in good standing but maybe that's just me.
Don't get me wrong you shouldn't lie when you are reporting – I certainly don't want to ever do that in here – but it's possible to perform the act of journalism without pretending you're a cipher who respawns every morning with a baby's brain and zero clue about how the world actually works.
On the other hand the very ethics of PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISM absolutely require that you lie in the first place. You have to pass along opinions that you know are wrong or hateful out of so-called objectivity but worse than that you then get to feel proud about doing so. You get fucking promoted for doing it well.
So no I'm sorry there is no distinction between serious capital-J Journalism and advocacy when it comes to issues of life or death anymore. When the debate is between one group of people who simply want to live their lives in peace and another who want to see them eradicated. Bazelon and many others like her in her rarified stratus are in fact advocates. In this piece she is explicitly performing an act of advocacy for a specific side on an extremely important issue. It's sad that she doesn't seem to see that but again her profession requires it.
(As a side note pretty cool that a group like that has a place to organize on Substack.)
Alright see ya. Good look out there. He's a good song. Thank you for your continued support.