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Culture War Roundup for the week of February 20, 2023

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I wonder how much JK Rowling is hated just because she's hated. Like the Kardashians are famous for being famous, it seems to me that Rowling is hated because other people hate her, and not because she's actually done anything particularly objectionable. You ask people to provide specific details for why they hate her and they either can't, or they make a tenuous reach to connect her with something transphobic, or they just plain make up completely false facts.

Rowling is hated because she is a transphobe. She could have bent the knee but she didn't. She chose a different team. No one was hating Rowling before the trans stuff. Before that, at best she was being mocked a bit for being a hamfisted fuddy duddy about retconning all of the characters in her books as being either gay or black. At worst she got involved in UK politics criticizing Corbyn and co for not being anti-Brexit enough.

This changed when she was obviously tangled with TERF stuff. First by liking a tweet that referred to trans women in a derogatory manner, which a PR person of hers lied about and said it was 'liked' through an accidental slip of the finger. And then later when she got involved with the Maya Forstater thing. Maya being a person who made very explicit transphobic comments including the statement that men can not change into women. Rowling stood up for this person explicitly.

Imagine a different scenario, where Rowling accidentally likes a tweet about race and IQ research that says blacks score lower than whites. Oops. What an accident. Why would she even be reading that? Anyways, a year later she, out of the blue, stands up for Noah Carl and talks about how ridiculous it was that he was fired. That doesn't mean she is a racist. Right? She just likes academic freedom stuff. Later she writes a lengthy blog post about the reality of evolution in humans. She doesn't say anything explicitly, she just says that we are all different and that this is great. But that the differences are real and immutable. OK. She then starts tweeting about the excesses of the black rights movement and how the movement is promoting conditions that make white people unsafe. She then writes a novel about a black serial killer... lol

Now, at which point do you think the real Rowling would call the 'different scenario Rowling' a racist? I'm pretty sure it would happen as soon as the support for Noah Carl came out. And she would never look back or bother reading a blog post about some racist 'explaining their views'.

So much of what pisses me off about these conversations is that I'm betting your description of her behavior is fairly accurate to a degree. The sticking point for me is the completely-bought framing that any of this qualifies as 'transphobia'; at least in a way that I could give weight to the term, as opppsed to simply granting and swallowing the activist line.

It seems obvious to me that if you dig deep enough, immutable differences between the sexes will reveal themselves. This does not automatically entail that trans people don't deserve respect or the same same basic protections and amenities as any other citizen. To my understanding, this is Rowling's position. And if there's a moat around her stance, its on what would have previously been largely agreed-upon, practical notions like "putting penises in womens' prisons and shelters is a bad idea". Compassion and universalism does occasionally need to reconcile itself with the hard limits of bad actors and material reality.

If the word 'transphobic' encapuslates even this, then it's a dead word to me. I register it as a hostile entity everywhere it comes up.

Now, I'll admit that I actually don't know much about who Rowling allegedly platformed or buddied up with. Perhaps they were truly terrible and a shade too red even for me. But if their statements and conversations are less "Delete trans people" and more "Your neovagina - bluntly - is incapable of fooling anybody", then I'm so over it.

Given that I recently copped a permanent sub ban and a weeklong site-wide admin ban for daring to make a three-sentence tepid defense of JK against activists (not trans people with any specificity) - charged with transphobia and 'promoting hate' - I think my disdain for this word has been freshly renewed, and replanted a few feet deeper towards core of my being.

I don't disagree. What I disagree with is the selective rejection of otherizing language. Where we want to have our cake and eat it to.

'Transphobe' was always an otherizing dehumanizing term. And as soon as it's applied to oneself it becomes obvious. What is less obvious is that the deconstruction of 'transphobe' applies to all the other terms as well. Racism, homophobia, misogyny or any other group defining otherizing language. The point of these words is not to accurately describe, the point is to otherize and dehumanize anyone who is not sufficiently demonstrating themselves to be a member of the ingroup.

I can't join a pity party for people like Rowling who have excessively enjoyed the luxury of being able to dehumanize their opponents instead of actually making an effort in understanding and discussing things with them. This is her world. She does not bother with reading blogs detailing the finer points of the position of some racist or misogynist in their own words. She allows herself the convenience of dehumanizing them as members of the outgroup. She doesn't weigh herself down with the effort of understanding them as human beings. No, she just otherizes them. That's the game being played and she sees no issue with it so long as she is the playmaker.

Well, now Rowling dun goofed and found herself enemies that are doing the same thing to her. They are not bothering with her blog, or mealy mouthed excuses. They are just recognizing her as the enemy. And they are not wrong. Rowling is against trans women having the same rights as women. Why should a trans person accept that? Why should the boundaries of acceptability for trans emancipation be tied to the sensibilities of some author?

This is a battle in the culture war. Rowling picked a side. She is a transphobe.

I'm curious, what do you think of the term homophobe? I know the comparison between trans and gay people have all sorts of problems but as far as pathologizing critics as inherently irrational it does seem to be the same tactic. I've always kind of found the tactic pretty frustrating despite mostly disagreeing with those called homophobes and mostly agreeing with those called transphobes.

so many word games are played just in the monikers groups go by these days and I always find the tactic infantile. Naming your group what amounts to the "good guys" and the opposing group what amounts to "insane bad guys" really should get you looked at like someone who is deeply unserious about the topic and has no interest in good faith.

I think you're right on the money. Group pathologies are all very similarly expressed but that doesn't mean the reality on the ground is necessarily similar. But that's also a convenient excuse for whenever ones own group is in contention.

You could easily make the sort of argumentation against gays that get made against trans people. Be it cost to society, pedophilia or broader 'they are gross' derived arguments. But I think the key differentiating factor is that anti-gay stuff never had a consistent group to form around that wasn't already otherized by the mainstream. It was always vague argumentation based on theoretical 'conservative' principles, like the 'sanctity of marriage' stuff. Which are very much unlike the current circling of the wagons arguments we see against trans people that revolve around 'protecting' the girls and women.

There's also a pretty obvious difference between appealing to a vague premonition you have about the future, which is based on caring about the conservative ingroup, and simply pointing to a crying little girl. Most people don't really care about the future of conservatism. Even most conservatives don't when their vague ingroup, that they are only allowed to express through theories and principles, gets pitted against the wants of women. I think it demonstrates just how utterly pathetic conservatism as a group is. I believe it genuinely could not stand against trans people on its own. Which is why they are now hitching a ride with women that have an actual ingroup.

I don't think the 'conservative' arguments were necessarily wrong. It seems rather ridiculous that society should just contort itself to accommodate the bad cultural habitat of the modern gay man that seems to focus a lot on risky sex, alcohol and drugs. And then, under the false pretense that gays are 'just like us', bend your institutions and rituals to accommodate them. But you can't make those arguments properly if you don't otherize gays and fortify your own 'conservative' ingroup. And since the mainstream banned the otherization of gays and branded any instance of it 'homophobic' whilst simultaneously ridiculing the 'conservative' ingroup, the battle was lost before it began. You need something more than just ideas and principles.

Fair enough argument, and I suspected this was the lean of your post. And Rowling is in many ways a victim of the kind of culture she herself enabled.

I wish there was a way for her to get her comeuppance without making life more irritating for everybody else. Le sigh.