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Pink censorship

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A hallmark of every dictatorial regime is an inability to withstand scrutiny. From the emperors of antiquity to the tyrants (both tin-pot and tech-savvy) of today, what absolutist rulers throughout human history all have in common is an extremely low tolerance for criticism. No matter the nature of their regime—a Latin American junta, an East Bloc nomenklatura, or an African kleptocracy—among the very first actions that the aspiring authoritarian takes upon seizing power is to silence those who might point out his shortcomings.

“Authoritarian” is the word that first comes to mind upon reading the open letter addressed to the country’s largest social media platforms earlier this summer, calling on them to “Stop the Flow of Anti-Trans Hate & Malicious Disinformation About Trans Healthcare.” Organized by the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD, two of America’s leading LGBTQ rights groups, the letter, which was signed by over 250 celebrities including Jamie Lee Curtis, Elliot Page, and Patrick Stewart, faults Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Twitter for “a massive systemic failure to prohibit hate, harassment, and malicious anti-LGBTQ disinformation on your platforms [that] must be addressed.”

Like their effort earlier this year reproaching The New York Times over its coverage of transgender issues, this latest missive on the part of HRC and GLAAD is heavy on adjectives and short on facts. In a glaring tell, the word “dangerous” appears four times to describe various types of constitutionally protected expression. So too does the term “hate speech,” which the Supreme Court, under both liberal and conservative majorities, has continuously refused to recognize as a legal category.

Examples of such “hate speech” that the signatories want banished from the internet include “targeted misgendering and deadnaming,” the latter being the practice of referring to a transgender person by their birth name rather than their chosen one. In a footnote, the letter links to an article declaring that the “relentless misgendering of Dr. Rachel Levine,” an assistant secretary for health and the first openly transgender Senate-confirmed government official, “is violence.” You know, violence, a category that now includes punching someone, stabbing them, and using the name on their birth certificate.

To be sure, deliberately misgendering and deadnaming are rude. But it’s difficult to see how banning such practices from the digital public square would not lead to banning whatever any other group of aggrieved people happens to consider offensive. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is called all sorts of nasty names on the internet. Why should Levine, a public official who routinely uses her platform to push dubious policies regarding the provision of puberty blockers and hormones to gender dysphoric youth, be legally protected from insult but not the dishonorable woman from Georgia? The letter’s organizers unwittingly reveal this slippery slope with their insistence that tech companies “urgently take action to protect trans and LGBTQ users on your platforms (including protecting us from over-enforcement and censorship).” In other words, free speech for me but not for thee.

To justify its call for a vast censorship regime, the letter asserts that online “disinformation and hate” have played “an outsize role in the sharp increase in real-world anti-transgender targeting and violence.” Yet it provides no facts to connect these two phenomena. And it undermines its own claim completely by linking to three of the very videos it claims are provoking violence against trans people—an act that, if we were to take the letter’s argument seriously, would itself constitute a punishable form of “violence.”

From the people who told you that Hunter Biden’s laptop was Russian disinformation and the lab leak theory was a racist lie, here’s the latest update on ‘medically necessary healthcare for transgender youth.’

The greatest problem with the letter concerns “disinformation,” a deliberately elusive term the cynical purposes of which my colleague Jacob Siegel has exhaustively diagnosed, and which appears nine times throughout the text. By “disinformation,” the signatories appear to mean anything questioning the advisability of what they euphemistically term “medically necessary healthcare for transgender youth”—that is, sex changes for children. But like “fake news,” its MAGA equivalent, “disinformation” is in the eye of the beholder. Take the letter’s bald-faced assertion that “every leading medical and psychological association affirms the safety and necessity of gender affirming healthcare for trans people, including youth.” Britain’s National Health Service, Sweden’s Board of Health and Welfare, and the Finnish Health Authority—all of which have drastically limited the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones on minors after conducting extensive reviews of their effects—would beg to differ.





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