The following ramblings are the result of my very real fear that freedom of the press and speech are being rapidly eroded in the English-speaking world and a few glasses of Sauv.
I feel sick to my stomach. The endless rollercoaster of gender identity politics seems to have now plonked me down on my arse at the Mad Hatter’s table. At least that’s how it feels in this moment. By tomorrow this will be the new normal and even scarier levels of insanity will be yet to be explored.
Cynicism aside, I felt a genuine churn of fear just now as I read Bernard Lane’s latest piece — copy-and-pasted from behind the paywall of The Australian. He wrote of a new code announced by the Australian Press Council that will make it even harder for the tiny number of actual journalists still in existence to report on issues surrounding gender identity and transgender people. The act of reporting the plain truth about a crime committed by a transgender person — like Evie Amati, the transwoman who attacked two people with an axe at a petrol station — is so fraught with risk for journalists already that few are willing to go there. Even more likely to result in reputation or career damage, is the vital investigative reporting of journalists like Lane himself who are the lone voices questioning the medical harm to children, the erosion of women’s rights, and the homophobia of gender identity activism. Up until now courage has separated these journalists from their appeasing, wilfully ignorant colleagues, but this move by the Press Council is a giant step towards an Australian media that is simply banned from telling the truth about these issues. It is chilling.
‘Deadnaming’, ‘misgendering’, and refusal to utilise Newspeak-like language will now be considered in Press Council rulings. They will have the insulting and ridiculous term “cisgender” normalised in the media giving legitimacy to the notion that we are all completely thrilled with every stereotype attributed to our sex or else we are trans. Biology and science will be bigotry, but only on this one issue. The media will be expected to report with utter seriousness on the science of climate change, on new advances in chemistry, and the physics of space exploration, but they will be required to lie about human biology. Nonsensical statements like “assigned male at birth” suggesting our sex cannot be determined by a simple chromosome test a few weeks in utero are anti-truth and have no place in journalism.
Lane says this will “lead to journalists being smeared as hateful transphobes”. I suggest that ship has already sailed and this will eventually lead to them being called criminal. In many places around the world journalists are be forced to make a choice between telling the truth and their freedom (sometimes their life). In these situations, where the state makes truth taboo, all journalists are heretics because the rest are mere propagandists.
Lane’s piece alone was scary, but today The Australian also ran a story by Legal Affairs Correspondent Nicola Berkovic looking at the Press Council from another angle. The articles are each one half of a whole picture. Where Lane describes what the Press Council seeks to do, Berkovic uncovers the why:
“The Australian Press Council’s resources are being swamped by a little-known transgender lobby group responsible for almost half of all complaints lodged against the nation’s major media outlets. Directors of Rainbow Rights Watch are understood to be responsible for about 42 per cent of the council’s active complaints. A Press Council meeting last month was told 165 of 387 complaints that had been active for more than 17 weeks had been lodged by the outfit’s two directors.”
The Press Council of Australia has been strong-armed by a trans lobby group into essentially making speech they disagree with wrong-speech, hate-speech, even seemingly criminal. They are so overwhelmed with complaints they do not have the resources to address that they seek to appease the complainer. But, they have gone about it the wrong way! Instead of making the bar for complaint higher — and therefore reducing the number of legitimate complaints — the Press Council have lowered it, giving the complainants more scope with which to do more complaining. Good one.
The tactics employed by activists in Australia and all over the English-speaking world to destabilise the freedom of our press are deliberate. This isn’t about single-minded compassion for trans people driving politics indiscriminately. It is a strategy. As Lane describes in his article, we all got a brief moment of honesty from trans activists recently:
“Go-to trans tactics have been revealed in an unguarded report by a global law firm, media foundation and queer group. Tips for trans activists include getting the jump on policy before governments have time to craft their own proposals, yoking trans rights to more popular causes, and lobbying individual politicians while keeping “press coverage to a minimum”, because media “misinterpretation” can generate opposition.”
It seems clear to me the Press Council is compromised. They have been bullied into handing the keys to the house and car to a lobby group and are no longer fit for purpose. If they can be manipulated and controlled by rainbow-flag-wearing whingers, how can Australians trust that they won’t be steamrolled by foreign political agents or anti-vaxxers or anyone with an internet connection and the patience to make a lot of press complaints?
The Press Council has been terrified into fearing the “harmful effect” of journalism on a small population of individuals who wield disproportionate political power. But in capitulating to these mobsters the council has lost sight of the jobs it is supposed to be doing, and the policies and principles it is supposed to uphold. For example, in 2003, the Australian Press Council agreed to the Charter for a Free Press in Australia and encouraged other organisations to adopt it. These new advisory standards for reporting “on persons with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics” are in direct conflict with principles outlined in the charter. In particular, principle 5. They are not compatible.
“5. It is the responsibility of the press to protect the people’s right to know and to contest encroachments upon that right by governments, groups or individuals.”
So who will push back? I must admit my knowledge of the Australian political system is average at best so I’m not the ideal person to be formulating a plot. But seems to me that every journalist, politician, media personality, or news producer who cares even a little bit about press freedom should be saying “get absolutely fucked” to the Press Council.
In New Zealand we have a few courageous media commentators, but we lack an investigative journalist like Bernard Lane who is willing to engage in critical thinking in this hostile political space. Our media is almost entirely compromised already and I no longer have any confidence in the ability of journalists to report on anything that challenges the socio-political positions of the social circles in which they mix. We need Australia to fight back on this one. If you can force your Press Council to do its job, maybe ours will put down the Kool Aid too.
“A free press is a symbol of a free people. The people of Australia have a right to freedom of information and access to differing opinions and declare that the following principles are basic to an unfettered flow of news and views both within Australia and across the nation’s borders.”