Saturday, June 12, 2021

Jeffcotism: The Foundation of Twenty First Century Thought

Zechariah Jeffcott's destiny was determined at the age of five, when he heard his mother say to his father -- who had just said that it was universally agreed that the angles of a triangle added up to 180 degrees -- "Oh, that's because nowadays the geometry mob will vilify you if you dare to say they add up to anything else." 

"At that moment", Z. Jeffcott assures us "There flashed across my mind the great truth that behind every widely held opinion there is always a powerful elite systematically enforcing conformity and punishing dissent. The more widely believe something is, the more likely it is to be false."

That is how Jeffcotism became the foundation of 21st century thought. 

Back to The Future

Jeffcotism (6)

Take up the White Man's burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness
On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.

And then we turn to the Houses of Parliament. The House of Commons. The people who govern us. The actual British Conservative party.

It was widely reported in the press that MP called Christipher Pincher had suggested that Kier Starmer,  centrist anti-Corbynite, had gone mad, and that he had further described him as a POW, prisoner of woke. I naturally decided I had better find out the context.

It was debate about statues. 

God almighty when I first came to Bristol I had no idea that one piece of fucking street furniture would send out such ripples. 

An MP called Gareth Bacon was in apocalyptic mood.

"Britain is under attack—not in a physical sense, but in a philosophical, ideological and historical sense. Our heritage is under direct assault. There are those who seek to call the very sense of what it is to be British today into question. Attempts are being made to rewrite our history, indoctrinate our children with anti-British propaganda and impose an alternative worldview."

And yes, this philosophical, ideological and historical force assaulting our heritage is popularly known as Woke.

So. Woke is an anti-British world view that "calls the very sense of what it means to be British today" into question.

We need to be very sure that we know what Britain means; what it means to be British; and what pro-British propaganda would look like. If we can get to that, we might finally have solved the mystery of what it means to be Woke.

"In woke eyes, the British empire is no longer seen as a modernising, civilising force that spread trade, wealth and the rule of law around the globe. Instead, it is viewed as a racist, colonialist, oppressive force than invaded sovereign foreign countries, plundered them and enslaved people en masse."


According to Conservative MPs in the House of Commons the idea of Britain and Britishness is that the British empire was an unmitigated good. The Woke Perspective, which is going to destroy the very idea of Britishness and what it means to be British is that the British Empire plundered and enslaved its subject nations and that that this was a bad thing.

Colonialism good = British. 

Colonialism bad = Woke.

Empire brought wealth and trade to the fuzzywuzzies = British. 

Empire enslaved people, sold them, used them as live stock, whipped them, drowned them = Woke.

Britishness is to believe in the White Man's Burden. 

Finding the whole idea sanctimonious and nauseating is Woke.

Britishness is literally about White Supremacy: about the good that we, the white people, generously did to you, various shades of brown people.

Of course, there can be nuance in the study of history. 

Of course that can sometimes get lost in the race for O levels and SATS. 

The old joke was that GCSE had reduced English history to Hitler and Henry -- the Tudors and the Second World War. I have some slight sympathy with the complaint that "according to the Woke perspective" Britain is seen only through the lens of Empire; and the Empire is seen only through the lens of slavery.

Although I can't help thinking of the old joke about the Welshman. "I am in the church choir every Sunday: do they call me Jones the singer? I make delicious bread five days a week; do they call me Jones the Baker? I play for the rugby first team most Saturdays; do they call me Jones the Sportsman. But just once they catch me with a sheep..."

I don't think that Germany is reducible to the Third Reich; I certainly don't think Germany is reducible to the Holocaust. But I can say "other things happened in Germany too" partly because the Germans have admitted that the Holocaust was a Bad Thing. They don't say "killing six million Jews would be politically incorrect by today's standards, but you can't judge the 1930s by the standards of today."

We are tilting at the shadows of windmills. If it were true that children were taught that Shakespeare was not a good poet and Jane Austen was not a good novelist and Darwin was not a good scientist and Christopher Wren was not a good architect because slavery, this would be a little one-sided. But if that were the case (which it isn't) there would be no need to appeal to the fiction of Wokery. We could point to particular flaws in particular text books; and bring in historians and schools inspectors to correct them.

Yes, there was a time when the cleverest people in the world thought that the world was flat. Yes, we should challenge taboos and not follow fashion. God knows, a proper historical account of Empire would involve nuance. The missionaries honestly thought that when they tore down the idols and forced the natives to wear trousers they were doing God's work. We enslaved people, but we built bridges. Hitler made the trains run on time.

But this is white man's burden talk. What it means to be British involves that we, white people, had to take law and order and wealth to you, black people. It is white supremacy written in forty foot high letters of fire. The British empire was a good thing because we, Europeans, know better than you, Africans and Asians.

The committed Jeffcotian never argues that his opponent is in the wrong. There would be no point in doing that. If the opponent is in the wrong, or might be in the wrong, you would refute him by his own arguments. The patron saint of the Jeffcotians is St Jude. He is only ever invoked on the side of hopeless causes. Slavery was good; the British Empire was okay; it's fine to be racist; it's bad to be gay; it's okay to insult minorities, trans folk shouldn't be allowed to get changed in swimming pools. The Jeffcotian argues that the hopeless cause is an hegemony; that a near universal lobby has stifled debate; and that this stifling of debate, not the racism, the sexism, or the homophobia is the real threat.

And because the hegemonic establishment is the real threat, the final Jeffcotian manoeuvre is so subtle, so elegant, so much a work of genius.

Woke is the evil because it will not allow dissent. 

Critical Race Theory is the real evil because it cancels and silences people. 

So we must enact legislation to prohibit Woke texts; to prevent Race Critical Studies being taught in colleges; to tell the the BBC that in order to continue to exist it must promote British Values. (British Values are that the Empire was an unmitigated good. Doctor Who and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue can only be allowed to exist if they actively promote the White Man's Burden.) 

The word Orwellian has done a lot of work lately. But this is literally Orwellian. The creatures are looking from pig to man and from man to pig; but it is already impossible to say which was which is which. 

[note for unfinished final section]

Jeffcotism (5)

Andrew Sullivan is able to help us out. It turns out that Woke isn't hypocrisy or piety or madness or Marxism. Woke, it turns out, is applied post-modernism

It seems that there are academic writers who think that everything in society is explicable in terms of those pesky power structures which bind us. How you define words; what you think is true about the world; and what politics and religion you agree with is determined by your position in the power structure. If you are powerful and privileged it is highly likely that what you define as "politically correct" or "good literature" or "fair laws" or "the right way of adapting Sandman" are the words, books, laws and Netflix boxsets that reflect and reinforce your privileged position. If you don't have power or privilege, your first move is necessarily going to be dismantling those definitions. This can fairly be called neo- or cultural- Marxism because it follows the classical Marxist view that social structures grow out of inequalities and tend to keep those equalities in place; it is "neo" because it is more interested in social inequalities rather than purely economic ones. Old Marxists thought that Church and Goverment and Media grew up in order to ensure that the rich man stayed in his castle and the poor man stayed at his gate and no-one asked why; Neo-Marxists think it is as much about ensuring that white people and straight people and especially men retain the upper hand. 

This is referred to throughout as "critical theory". It is unclear if there are a specific group of intellectuals who define themselves as critical theorists; or whether it is a neutral description of a tendency in academia; or whether this is merely a term which has been adopted by certain people to describe certain other people who they don't like. Very few critics actually call themselves Post Modernists, but post-modernism is a widely used term to describe certain actually existing trends in the arts and philosophy. Political Correctness, on the other hand, seems only ever to have been a hate-word adopted by people who didn't like it. 

Small and capital C conservatives often have a sense that Booklearned People don't like them. When I was in the Christian Union, we very frequently used the word Existentialist to refer to the general sense that clever folk mostly didn't believe in God and mostly thought life was pointless and Morality was whatever you said it was. The most important cultural figure of the 1980s, Adrian Mole, was a nihilistic existentialist. I don't know what would have happened if someone had told us about Kierkergaard. A bit later, about the same time as they discovered Political Correctness, the conservative newspaper columnists started talking about Deconstruction: apparently, universities and school teachers had discovered this theory that let them say that books meant exactly what they wanted them to mean. More recently, Post Modernist has become a popular word for talking about new things we don't agree with. I have heard evangelical Christians describing critical historical readings of the New Testement and anything which wasn't translated by King James as "post modern versions of the Bible." "New Age" did the same job for a while. 

Sullivan doesn't name any writers in particular -- he just points to a general enemy called Critical Theory. But I can see which tendencies in academic thought he is talking about -- Critical Theory is not a non-existant-thing, in the way I suspect Political Correctness always was. And some people on the Left certainly have read their post-structuralist text books. Comedy trade minister Liz Truss wasn't even completely wrong to say that some of the things she doesn't like in English education come ultimately from the ideas of Foucault. 

Sullivan's "critical theory" is clearly an exaggeration -- a parody -- of an actually existing set of ideas. 

"Truth is always and only a function of power. So, for example, science has no claim on objective truth, because science itself is a cultural construct, created out of power differentials, set up by white cis straight males."

It is possibly true that some left-wing thinkers think that all human endeavour comes with ideological baggage. The kinds of answers you get depend on the kinds of questions you ask and the kinds of data you pay attention to. Science is no more neutral than anything else, although it may try harder than some things. (A spade is a spade whether you are a feminist or a reactionary: but if you think that men are better than women you are likely to be more excited about digging up a sword than digging up a saucepan: so you can quite meaningfully talk about feminist archeology.) But it can't possibly be true to say that this new Critical thing says that there is no such thing as scientific truth. Or if it does, then it can't have the stranglehold on academia that the thinks it does: or of it does, then it can't be doing very much harm. The Woke controlled universities and businessmen who don't believe in scientific truth seem to be doing quite a good job of creating smart phones, sending probes to Venus and developing covid vaccines. And of course it isn't the Woke Left who are telling us that masks don't work, climate change is not a thing and vaccines are tied in with Bill Gates orbital mind control lasers. 

"There is no such thing as persuasion in this paradigm, because persuasion assumes an equal relationship between two people based on reason. And there is no reason and no equality. There is only power. This is the point of telling students, for example, to “check their privilege” before opening their mouths on campus. You have to measure the power dynamic between you and the other person first of all; you do this by quickly noting your interlocutor’s place in the system of oppression, and your own, before any dialogue can occur. And if your interlocutor is lower down in the matrix of identity, your job is to defer and to listen. That’s partly why diversity at the New York Times, say, has nothing to do with a diversity of ideas. Within critical theory, the very concept of a “diversity of ideas” is a function of oppression. What matters is a diversity of identities that can all express the same idea: that liberalism is a con-job. Which is why almost every NYT op-ed now and almost every left-leaning magazine reads exactly alike. "

It is true that the concept of privilege has become widely accepted. It is true that "check your privilege" has become a bit of a shibboleth or a slogan. But it is just not true that Critical Theory says that everything said by a less privileged person is right and everything said by a more privileged person is wrong; that men must always defer and listen to women; that anything a man says is automatically written off as mansplaining. 

In four years of studying English literature at school, I think I encountered two black characters. One suffocates his wife with a pillow. One is a comedy African sophisticate, who other characters in the book describe as a nigger. The characters who use the word are represented as upper crust fools, I concede, but at no point in the write-an-account-of-themes-and-effectiveness essays was the offensiveness of the word questioned. In my private reading I came across native porters and amusing gollywogs. Once in a blue moon there was something consciously Ethnic on the BBC; I remember a Jackanory story about a black boy and a cow. Lots of Cowboys and Indians of course. And, as so often, Stan Lee came to the rescue with the Black Panther, the Falcon, Robbie Robertson, Hero For Hire and Brother Voodoo. No, really. 

There is a perfectly good conversation to be had about why this was. If English Literature means "the study of literature written in England" then white writers are going to predominate: if it means "the study of literature written in English" then you would think that quite a lot of Africans, English speaking Asians and even one or two literate Americans would appear. If it is the case that if there is only a finite amount of time on the school curriculum, then saying "We are going to look at some English speaking African authors" means that some dead white men are going to drop off the list. If you are a dead white man, you might perceive this as harming you: there are suddenly less people like you on the list. Boris Johnson commissioned a report which literally framed "reading books by black people" as "banning white authors". 

Checking your privilige does not mean "as a white person I am always wrong". It does mean "perhaps there is some reason why I perceive that copy of Maya Angelou in the school library as a threat." 

Post Modern theory certainly exists; and it certainly contains beliefs and assumptions which are highly contestable. I think it is overwhelmingly unlikely that there is a single university in the country which hands students a copy of The Archeology of Knowledge and and says "this is the unarguable truth and we will test your catechism next week." One of the planks of the new Theory is that students ought to be encouraged to explore ideas for themselves and form their own conclusions: this was why Liz Truss thought Focualt was to blame for all that horrible permissive modern education. 

Sullivan doesn't come right out and say that Critical Theory is wrong . He thinks it is quite interesting and might have a good point. He doesn't give any particular examples of Critical Theory resulting in bad or wrong actions. He simply complains that it is hegemonic. No-one is allowed to think anything else. 

Considering the overwhelming whiteness of academia, the judiciary, the British and US government, bussiness, and the church, it seems overwhelmingly unlikely that there is a fixed party line that anything a black person says is automatically right and anything a white person says is automatically wrong. Presumably, the opposite has happened: black people have sometimes started to say that white people are not always right just because they are white, and that some white people don't like it. It's not that white people have been forced to sit at the back of the bus; it's just that black people are now sometimes allowed to sit at the front of it. If Critical Theory now controls absolutely everything, how is it that there are so many newspaper articles and blog posts denouncing Woke as a terrible thing? If the main problem with Woke is that it doesn't permiot dissent, why are there legislative moves to prohibit the teaching of race critical texts or race critical theories from schools and colleges? 

If one of my collegues saught special permission to leave work early on Fridays in the winter, I might be puzzled. Once I learned that was an Orthodox Jew, I would not need any further explanation: the Jewish day of rest begins when it gets dark on a Friday. Similarly, if a client refused point blank to sign his name on a form or claimed to be called John Smith despite it saying something different on his ID then knowing that he subscribes to the Freedom on the Land conspiracy theory makes his behaviour entirely explicable. If someone keeps discovering something called an Oedpus Complex in literary texts; or if they describe themselves as a Hufflepuff and one of their friends as a Ravenclaw then it helps to know that these words have special meanings in the writings of Freud and J.K Rowling, respectively. In each case, the person's beliefs required explanations and the special case helpfully clarified why they were doing what they were doing. 

If I see someone with the number 14/8 tatoo'd on his wrist, I would probably assume that it was his birthday, or maybe an army number or even the name of a pop group I haven't heard of. But I have been reliably told that 8 stands for the letter H, so 88 means H.H, as in "Heil Hitler." And a popular Klu Klux Klan slogan is often referred to by accolytes as "the 14 words". So it is at least possible that 14/8 has a meaning that is only apparent if you know the context. I used to have a nice teeshirt with a picture of a dial marked "Polarity flow +/-" and the initials WWTDD?. You either get it or you don't. 

But if someone thinks that "slavery was bad" and that "bad things should not be celebrated" then no further explanation is necessary. Slavery was bad and the celebration of bad things is bad: so obviously so that the burden of proof lies entirely on the side of the person who thinks that seventeenth century slave traders and confederate generals can and should be lauded as heroes. I do not say that the counter-case cannot be made. I do not say that "any memorial, once erected, must never be demolished" is an impossible brief. If the question was "memorials, even racist ones, should only be removed through due process of law, never through unilateral action and mass protest" then I would be prepared to speak either for or against the motion. I merely say that those of us who think that Colston was not the best and wisest male person ever born ion Bristol; and that the hero worship of man whose fame rests entirely on having run the company which owned the monopoly on buying and selling black people have a prima facie case. We don't need to say "this otherwise inexplicable view is explained once you discover they subscribe to a bizarre ideology called Woke". 

We don't even need to say "you may think they are pulling down a statue of a slaver, but to those in the know, pullling down racist statues has a scary, secret meaning, like 14/8". The pulling down of the statue represented the fact that white people buying and selling black people was a bad thing; this represented the fact that the oppression of black people by white people in the present day is also a bad thing. You may think that black people are not oppressed by white people; you may think that structural racism is not a thing; you may think that only studying books by white authors about white characters is fine; and that you are only a citizen of Bristol if you can prove that your mother lived in Bristol for the last three generation. These are arguable points. No light whatsoever is shone on the question by saying "Many of the people on the demo which removed the statue had a quality called Woke; Woke derives from something called critical race theory." An idea is not refuted by saying that it is the kind of idea which people who believe in ideas of that kind might believe. 

It is true, in that case, that everyone agrees that Colston had to go. The schools set up in his name agreed. The school that was indirectly related to one he personally founded agreed. The theatre agreed. Both the pubs agreed. The Merchant Venturers and the Dolphin Society who originally put up the bloody statue agreed. 

Everyone agrees that slavery was bad; everyone agrees that Colston was a slaver. So it follows that you are not allowed to think that it was and he wasn't. We will give it a silly name. And we will say, over and over again, until you are bored to death, that the real danger, the threat to the continuation of society, is not the statue. It is the fact that you are prohibited from not being in favour of removing it. 

Sullivan is, in fact, adopting the tactics we saw Graham promoting a week or so back. He has spotted a tendency he doesn't like. He has given it a name. Instead of telling us what he doesn't like about it, he has simply claimed that "they" have absolute power and that dissent has been forbidden. Don't say "white supremacy does not exist". Say "you are not allowed to say that white supremacy doesn't exist; and not being allowed to say that white supremacy doesn't exist is the really serious form of oppression." 

Critical Race theory may or may not be a thing. The Roots of Wokeness is sheer Jeffcotism.

[Unrevised final draft]

Jeffcotism (4)

"There’s four sorts of people tryin’ to get to be rulers. They all want to make things better, but they want to make ’em better in different ways. There’s Conservatives an’ they want to make things better by keepin’ ’em jus’ like what they are now. An’ there’s Lib’rals an’ they want to make things better by alterin’ them jus’ a bit, but not so’s anyone’d notice, an’ there’s Socialists, an’ they want to make things better by takin’ everyone’s money off ’em, an’ there’s Communists an’ they want to make things better by killin’ everyone but themselves." 

William the Dictator 

We know that there is this thing called The Woke Mob, The Woke Left, The Woke Establishment and The Thoroughly Woke. 

We know that it will punish you for using inauthentic ingredients in Italian meat sauce 

We know that it will force drugs and hormone therapy on adolescent boys who like playing with dolls. 

We know that it is an alien ideology which most ordinary people are afraid of. 

We know that it has somehow taken control of the mind of Neil Gaiman and forced him to hire a dark skinned actress to play a comic book character who was originally drawn with light skin. 

But what actually is it? 

For some time, I have amused myself during the long winter evenings by asking strangers on Twitter what they mean when they use word Woke. I have received a variety of answers. 

Some people have frankly admitted that it is just a synonym for "of the Left" or "to the Left of me." It means "applied neo-Marxism" or "radical left wing politics".

One person told me that was a form of mental illness, but we didn't get very far in finding out who had diagnosed it or what the symptoms were. 

I have been told that it is the converse of common sense, and that to be Woke is to be hypocritical. "It means the need to appear virtuous trumps safety, truthfulness, and common sense" said one correspondent. He had objected to a sign in a college library that said that people should use the toilet they felt comfortable with, and that no-one else had any right to tell them they shouldn't. 

Very frequently have I been told that I already know what Woke means and am being disingenuous. (This is Tony Blair's line: he can't or won't define Woke and P.C, but ordinary people (he assures us) know exactly what they mean.) 

When I was a child, hearing the Christmas Bible readings and singing the Christmas carols, I asked my parents directly what it meant for Mary to be a Virgin. They wouldn't tell me. I think they pretended they didn't know. I was able to piece together the kind of work the word was doing in the poems and readings: Mary was young, holy, and it was surprising that she would be having a baby. I can piece together what the word Woke is doing: I know how it is used. But no-one has yet taught me the facts of life: I can't say what the thing is. 

Not too long ago, before all the fuss started, a nice folksinger introduced a song about some men who went whale hunting, possibly having sailed out of Balina or huddled round a little pot stove. "I know this isn't very Woke" he said, and you could hear the quotation marks round the word. It mean right-on or sound or even PC. "The kind of thing most of us in this room approve of." We don't agree with hunting whales, but we are going to sing the song anyway. 

Some sensible people have appraised me of the history and origins of the word. A comment on this very blog said that it meant "Aware of the power structures which bind us". And this is definitely what it means, or what it used to mean. But that doesn't get us very far. "Chris Chibnall ruined Doctor Who by making it too aware of the power structures which bind us" might possibly be a coherent sentence. "The mob who are aware of the power structures which bind us can rage all they want, I am still putting Branston pickle in my lasagne", not so much. And I don't think that the singer meant that the song was insufficiently aware of power structures. 

The best suggestion was that Woke means "preachy". This is helpful, because it covers many of the usages and provides some insight into what the kinds of people who complain about things being Woke are complaining about. Greta Thurnberg is a bit of a scold. Jodie Whitaker explains the moral out loud at the end of each episode. I can see what those two things have in common. I can even draw a line between "telling cooks they shouldn't add carrots to lasagne" and "telling cops they shouldn't murder black people, save for some reason". 

"Everyone's gone a bit preachy and judgemental" might be a statment I could get behind. I think that Jodie Whittiker's impassioned speech to camera about how Rosa Parks was a Good Thing is a little bit corny; but then so was David Tennant's speech about how Agatha Christie was a Good Thing. And to be honest I could do without Captain Kirk telling me how brilliant the US Constitution is, or Charles Ingalls explaining that God wouldn't destroy a little girl's optic nerve without a jolly good reason. But no-one would ever called patriotism or piety Woke. 

On this modest definition, Woke would have to be defined as "preachiness on the part of liberals or left wingers". In fact, it would mean "The Left have started to talk about equality and the environment in the way that The Right have always talked about flag and family." 

This is not a bad point. I could go some distance with the the person who says "Black Rights Matter and Extinction Rebellion are making some very good points, but they need to learn not to be such jerks about it." I would have been largely on Tony Blair's side if he had told The Left that they weren't going to win anyone's hearts and mind by adopting a holier than thou stance. " But I would still be suspicious that the accusation of excessive piety was a tactic. I would think that Woke was the strategic pretence that anyone to the Left of the speaker is threateningly pious. I can't plausibly argue that White Supremacy is good. I can't even plausibly argue that White Supremacy does not exist. So instead I say that anyone who believes that White Supremacy is bad is sanctimonious and that sanctimony is the Real Threat. That gets me off the hook of having to explain why I am right and you are wrong 

But I don't think that Woke Equals Preachiness cover the case. It is just barely possible that when Tony Blair says that Woke represent a bad, sinister, alien ideology that goes against what Ordinary People believe in, he means "The one thing that ordinary people really don't like is being preached at." It is conceivable that when Mr Sullivan spoke of a Woke Establishment that controls everything, he meant "powerful people are more sanctimonious and judgemental than they used to be." But I think that is not what he meant at all. That is not it at all.

[Unrevised final draft]

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

How Jeffcotianism Posions Everything (3)


One Andrew Sullivan wrote a piece called
 "Truce Proposals in the Trans War."

On the surface, the piece was arguing for an unobjectionable proposition: that if people who think that trans women are women and trans men are men and people who are far from sure that gender works like that could both be a little bit less shrill, we might all get along better. 

I think this is true. I think that it is true about nearly all subjects. "What do we actually disagree about?" and "Is there anything we agree on?" is almost always a better starting point than calling each other nasty names. Instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us we should cordially unite in those things wherein we agree, as the fellow said. 

But I have the same problem with calling for truces that I do with writing "Discuss" after incredibly provocative statements. If I propose a "truce" between people who think that covid vaccinations will turn them into mind-controlled Bill Gates' drones, and people who don't then I am conceding that the anti-vaxxers are not completely mental, a point I am very far from conceding. If I say that flat earthers and roundists ought to look for common ground (even if they can't agree what shape it is) then I am tacitly admitting that the round earth theory ain't necessarily so. 

People with fringe positions understand this very well. It is young earth creationists, not people who think your man Darwin was probably onto something, who are perpetually demanding that we "teach the controversy". 

The whole notion of "the trans question" is pretty unpleasant. There are obviously questions. As we as a society gradually came around to the idea that some people happened to be gay, we had to answer questions -- about civil partnership and marriage and adoption and who took whose surname and whether we were going to allow the Church of England to opt out and whether you had two sets of bridesmaids and no best man and did we make exceptions if a very old fashioned bakery didn't want to ice the cake? But The Gay Question (are some people gay, and should we just get over it?) is very much not open to negotiation. As we come around to the idea that gender and sex are not always aligned, questions about modesty and Gillick competency and tennis and who should play Desire in Sandman will come into play. I don't know if Sullivan is correct that there are disproportionate number of people who are "psychologically unstable, emotionally volatile and personally vicious" on both sides. I do think it would be better if you put down your sword and I put down my rock and we tried to kill each other like civilised people. 

The Trans Question sounds all too much like The Jewish Question. It sounds like we are looking for a solution; final or otherwise. 

What interests me, once again, is how the question is framed. The supposed purpose of the essay is to tread a moderate path between two entrenched and extreme positions. Yet throughout the essay, Sullivan paints a picture of a powerful block of "trans activists", committed to something called "trans ideology", streamrollering  the very moderate and tentative objections of what he pointedly does not call the "anti-trans-activists". He doesn't really see himself as brokering peace in a war between two equally matched sides. He sees himself as siding with brave rebels who are striking back against the evil trans-activist empire. 

Once or twice, he does seem to say that the dissenters -- he describes them as reactionaries, "Christianists" and Fox News -- go too far. He says that the fear of women being assaulted by men in public lavatories is largely illusory; he describes laws that would ban teenagers from transitioning and ban trans girls from participating in school sports as "extreme". But he while the reactionaries and the "trans activists" may be equally extreme and equally mad, the former appear to be a tiny, easily silenced sect, where the latter appear to be a mighty, all controlling elite. 

He talks about these "trans activists" in the most melodramatic language. Puberty blockers are "an experiment on children"; there are "countless stories" of their being handed out "like candy". Trans ideology "seeks to abolish the idea of biological sex altogether...It's nuts". He is afraid that teenaged boys who prefer theatre to sport will be told that they are "really" girls and pressured into transitioning. He thinks that the increased numbers of young trans people suggests that the whole thing is a "fad" or a "craze", probably propagated by the internet. 

Sullivan performs very much the same manoeuvre we watched Tony Blair execute a couple of weeks back. Tony Blair said that Radicals were not sensible and that the Sensible people were not radical. A moderate might well have proposed various sensible things the Radicals could do, and various way in which the Sensible people could be more radical. But as we saw, he told the Left to be more moderate and  he told the Moderates to be less like the Left. Similarly, Sullivan purports to be calling for moderation from both sides but in fact paints a lurid picture of the extremism of one side only. 

"(Trans rights) have become a litmus test for social justice campaigners, who regard anyone proposing even the slightest qualifications on the question as indistinguishable from a Klan member". 

For the sake of argument, I will accept that point. But where is the next sentence? Why does he not go on to say that it has also become a litmus test for the far right, who regard anyone proposing a change to pronoun usage or inclusive signage on lavatory doors as indistinguishable from the Gestapo? 

Literally no-one says that small differences of opinion about trans-gender issues are analogous to the Klu Klux Klan. It may very well be that some people have used such emotive language about big differences of opinion: for example, differences of opinion about whether transgendered people exist in the first place. 
The anti-trans lobby certainly do use this kind of rhetoric. Graham Linehan literally said that the use of puberty blockers was the equivalent of experimenting on children; that this is closely parallel with Nazi concentration camps; that gender non-conforming children are having their genders changed by these sinister clinicians, and that this amounts, more or less deliberately, to gay genocide. J.K Rowling was less extreme and more thoughtful, of course. But remarks about "throwing open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels that he's a woman" (which means "opening the door to any and all men who wish to come inside") doesn't strike me as a "slight qualification" either. 

We don't call them bathrooms in Britain, incidentally.

My experience of lady's loos is quite limited, but don't they have doors on the cubicles? What catastrophic thing might happen if the person behind one of the doors was a bloke? Men's loos are somewhat less private, admittedly. 

But what primarily bothers me about the essay is the creeping Jeffcotianism. People, especially young people, are coming out as non-binary because a powerful interest group is telling them to. If the Trans Activists had not exerted pressure on them, they would probably still be adding Worcester sauce to their spaghetti. 

Sullivan says that "tom-boys" or "effeminate boys" may be gay or straight, trans or cis. I agree with him. A straight male might perfectly well like Barbie Dolls and a straight girl might perfectly well like Action Men. Whatever gender means, it isn't reducible to a preference for blue over pink. But who is telling these poor boys who just want to be left alone with their antique shops and their Village People records that they are really girls on the inside and should arrange for an operation as soon as possible? 

"And yet they are now pressured both ways: to conform to rigid gender stereotypes by reactionaris or to see their atypical behavior as a sign they were born in the wrong body by woke progressives. Why not just leave them alone?" 

Is it really true that any girl caught with a rugger ball or a copy of Call of the Wild is whipped straight off to the gender reassignment clinic and given a bag of puberty blockers and jelly babies and assigned a newly minted set of pronouns?  I think it more likely that trans activists are a convenient fiction. Some people think they are trans. We are not quite prepared to say "Well you aren't". So instead we say "You only think that because the Woke Progressives told you you were." 

"The Woke Progressives."

Jeffcotists and Bulverists are never far apart. 

And then again: 

"For some trans activists, especially the younger more thoroughly woke ones, I am simply evil, beset by phobias, and determined to persecute and kill trans people, or seek their genocide." 

Well: no. If Sullivan's views are as moderate as he pretends (adults can make up their own choices; some people really are trans; children may not be competent to make life-changing medical decisions; cis women should have a right to willy-free zones if they want them) then I very much doubt that he has been called evil. It may very well be that he has heard the word applied to the extreme, visceral anti-trans ranters like the aforementioned Graham Lineham. 

But again: let's take his word for it that he has been accused to wanting to plan a final solution to the trans question. Who is it who has made this baseless allegation? The Thoroughly Woke, that's who.

Are these Thoroughly Woke young people and Woke Progressives, who go around accusing journalists of genocide and surgically altering everyone who auditions for West Side Story a rare, extreme, esoteric sect?

On the contrary: 

"The woke establishment — all major corporations, the federal government, the universities, all cultural institutions, the mainstream media and now the medical authorities — are unequivocally on the side of anything the trans activists want." 

The Woke Establishment. All big businesses; the whole of higher education; TV, theatre, newspapers, art; doctors and hospitals; and even the U.S government -- are all under the control of this thing called Woke. It's power reaches further than any telepathic alien lizard or elderly zionist ever dreamt of.

It could be a figure of speech. It could be that "the Woke Establishment" just means "the kinds of people who believe in the kinds of things I'm talking about." 

It could be a tactic, the kind of tactic that we saw Paul Graham advocating last month -- stick a label on something and hope it goes away. 

He might, like Paul Graham, simply be talking about prevailing opinions. The fashion used to be for fixed gender, but now it's for fluidity, in the same way the fashion used to be for baggy jeans, but has now turned to tight ones." 

But it could be pure, extreme, Jeffcotianism. 

The Woke Establishment literally exist. 

They control literally everything. 

And they are coming for your children's genitals.