One of the effects of the ensuing intense controversies was that I was unable to finish an article I had been working on for months at the time: a lengthy, deeply reported examination of the internal war engulfing the ACLU, fueled by a raging conflict between its more traditional lawyers who still believe in the primacy of free speech and the need to defend it and the newer political liberal activists and lawyers who do not.
The ACLU used to be a strident defender of all speech, including speech that it detested. It now has become an organisation that is pro-censorship of speech that some people find offensive.
The same has happened in NZ with the misnamed NZ Council for Civil Liberties. Once upon a time they were defenders of free speech, but now they more often are apologists for restrictions on speech.
On Friday morning, Abigail Shrier — author of a new book exploring the rapid, massive increase in teenage girls self-identifying as trans boys and undergoing permanent gender reassignment therapies and surgeries in their teens — published an article in Quillette describing the extraordinary efforts by major corporations and various activists to prevent her book from being purchased
A taboo topic. In a sane world you should be allowed to have a view fully in support of trans people being able to undergo gender reassignment, but also have a view that some (not all) young people may not know their gender identity and could conflate it with their sexual orientation.
The recent protest by Spotify employees over Joe Rogan’s podcast was triggered in large part by his decision to invite Shrier onto his program. Many liberal employees inside the streaming service demanded this episode be removed. “Many LGBTQAI+/ally Spotifiers feel unwelcome and alienated because of leadership’s response in [Rogan’s] conversations,” was one of the questions posed to Spotify’s CEO at a tense staff-wide meeting, along with a demand to know why that program had not been deleted from the platform.
Note that what is being discussed here are not efforts to criticize or protest Shrier and her book. Nobody disputes such criticisms would be appropriate. It is much more extreme than that: an effort to prevent others from hearing her views in her book — i.e., censorship: not state censorship, but corporate censorship.
Exactly. If Shrier is wrong, then tell us why. Instead though there is a concerted effort to prevent people from being able to access her book.
But for numerous reasons, the ACLU — still with some noble and steadfast dissenters — is fast transforming into a standard liberal activist group at the expense of the free speech and due process principles it once existed to defend. Those reasons include changing cultural mores, an abandonment by millennials and Gen Z activists of the long-standing leftist belief in free speech and replaced by demands that views they dislike be silenced (which in turn causes Gen X and Boomer managers and editors fearful of losing their jobs or being vilified to succumb to this authoritarianism)
This is why I eventually joined the Free Speech Coalition. Groups like the NZCCL and the Human Rights Commission only defend speech they agree with. You need a group that will defend speech they vehemently disagree with.
I know that the legal and cultural assault on trans people is very real, and fervently believe trans people have the absolute right to full legal protection of and respect for their identities (Shrier herself has repeatedly said she also believes this: “I fully support medical transition for mature adults,” she wrote in her Quillette article).
But the question of whether young teens are being misdiagnosed with gender dysphoria, and at what age they are capable of making choices to permanently alter their bodies and identities, is of course a question society is exploring and should be able to explore in good faith without being demonized as bigots.
Not many things I agree with Glenn Greenwald on, but this is one of them.
UPDATE: Also worth reading this post on Medium about autism and transgender. It was published on Medium as it was effectively blackballed elsewhere.