It’s odd that one of the most significant issues of the weekend was what lurked between the legs of a prominent Australian. And yet here we are, Piers Akerman and Ross Cameron were both sufficiently puzzled by other people’s gender that they dedicated an excessive amount of time to pondering the nature of gender and the science that underpinned their hateful horseshit.
A brief interlude: it struck me that both of these people could write fantastically hateful things about a prominent Australian and the overwhelming reaction from Twitter was to correct the science. Who cares if the science is right? This intolerant nonsense shouldn’t have been in the public debate even if the science was piping hot, straight from the mouth of Richard Dawkins himself. If they’d said ‘Cate McGregor deserves contempt for being trans, and there are three hydrogen atoms in water’, why would we spend any time debating the nature of water molecules?
But it’s also surprising to see the appeal to science used to justify all kinds of terrible antisocial attitudes. Speaking of Dawkins, he recently said that race was a biological fact (and therefore his hatred towards Muslims wasn’t racist… making it somehow okay). Both Piers and Ross argued that gender was somehow magically linked to evolution or chromosomes or something, refusing to answer the question: ‘Is C-3PO a boy robot or a girl robot?’ But this is what happens in our hyper-positivist hell dimension where everything has to be an empirical fact or it’s just mushy soppy political correctness gone mad. This is what we get for having celebrity scientists.
Back to the main story: why do conservatives care about McGregor’s gender?
There’s the obvious answer: these people get rewarded for stirring up anger. Mark Latham, who abused McGregor over social media, resigned during the controversy, and then was immediately offered a job on a television show and another column at The Age. When pressure was put on Fairfax not to engage Latham, The Daily Telegraph offered him a job instead. This is ludicrous. There’s no way to win in a system that rewards hateful bullies.
There’s also an answer related to identity. These columnists are performing a character. They have to produce content to a deadline and, often, there’s not a lot to write about. Instead of engaging with the big issues of the day, it’s just easier to fall back on tired prejudice and claim that you’re speaking for some nasty-minded, petty ‘silent majority’. In this performance, they’re not lazy cowards punching out at people who can’t fight back; they’re the brave straight-talkers who don’t back down in the face of the ‘PC Police’. Their success is measured in how much they annoy the ‘other side’, rather than in the quality of the conversation they engage.
And that’s the big loss. There are important conversations to be had in this space. How do we become more inclusive? How do we balance competing interests, perspectives, and needs? What are the limits of reasonable discussion, and what’s the best way to protect people from hatred? &c., &c., &c.
Conservatives need to be part of that conversation. To be part of that conversation, they need to be constructive. Promoting the careers of Akerman, Cameron, and Ross is not cultivating a good public dialogue. And, as with all who are incapable of engaging constructively, we should consider excluding them from public debate. At the very least, we should stop giving them prominent soap boxes.