Facebook and transphobia

Can Facebook’s community standards be used to drive transphobic content away? The rules are promising. Anything transphobic may fit under prohibited hate speech, defined as “a direct attack against people on the basis of what we [and British law] call protected characteristics” including gender identity. “We define attacks as violent or dehumanising speech, harmful stereotypes, statements of inferiority, expressions of contempt, disgust or dismissal, cursing and calls for exclusion or segregation.”

The heart of the anti-trans campaign is calls for exclusion of trans women from women’s spaces.

There are long lists of what is dehumanising, including generalisations or comparisons to insects, animals, filth, sexual predators, subhumans or criminals.

“Statements denying existence” are forbidden, which arguably includes suggestions that people transition on a whim, such as, “he wakes up one morning and declares he’s a woman”. Referring to trans or nonbinary people as “it” is specifically forbidden.

Calling us mentally ill is forbidden. Alleging “Moral deficiency” is forbidden, including calling us perverts, so mentioning “autogynephilia” should be forbidden. Statements of our inferiority, such as calling us freaks, abnormal, or worthless. Expressions of contempt, or admission of intolerance, is forbidden. Denying that the protected characteristic should exist. Expressions of contempt, hatred or disgust. Cursing and profane terms are forbidden.

Demands that we be segregated or excluded are forbidden. Facebook does not specify that excluding trans women from women’s spaces counts, but arguably it should. Advocating political, economic or social exclusion is forbidden, including “denying access to spaces (physical and online) and social services”. Slurs, “defined as words that are inherently offensive and used as insulting labels for the above-listed characteristics”, are forbidden.

Heading 16, “Cruel and insensitive”, may also be relevant. It forbids mocking “victims of serious physical and emotional harm”, which could include transphobia, internalised or external.

Facebook refers us on to this essay on hate speech by Richard Allan. It is a balance. They want to encourage self-expression, but have rules against bullying. Attacks on social groups, including trans people, are hate speech. Context matters.

Facebook profits from “language designed to provoke strong feelings, making the discussion more heated” because it drives engagement. They believe in “harmless use cases”. In the context of immigration, Allan writes “we don’t want to stifle important policy conversations”, and that could be a defence for transphobes, arguing that trans woman access to woman’s space is a policy debate. So the hatred has to be something more than that.

Trans people can quote hate speech in order to argue against it, and reclaim slurs: I can call myself a tranny but no-one else can. There is a thin line between expressive opinion and unacceptable hate speech, and AI can’t define it, so users should report it to moderators.

Facebook is an American company with American cultural values, including commitment to free speech: “The goal of our Community Standards has always been to create a place for expression and give people a voice.” However on the same page they say they want content to be “authentic”- “we don’t want people using Facebook to misrepresent who they are or what they’re doing”. So, anti-trans campaigners often pretend to be women’s rights campaigners, or lesbian rights campaigners, when what they seek is trans exclusion. This is not authentic. Hate speech fits under their principle of Dignity: “We expect that people will respect the dignity of others and not harass or degrade others.”

So what happens when the anti-trans campaigners breach the community standards? Trans people and allies have to complain. And while groups and pages breach the community standards, complaints are restricted to particular content on groups. You can, however, report a page.

I want to see how this works. I see a hateful picture: it has the words “human beings cannot change sex and the law should not pretend that they can”. I click the three dots, then “find support or report photo”. I click “Hate speech”, then “Sex or gender identity”, then “Next”.

It asks, “Does the post go against our Community Standards on hate speech?” I click Yes, then Next. Unfortunately, it does not allow me to explain how it does that.

On the page itself, I click the three dots, then, again, “Hate speech”, “Next”, “Report page”, “Done”. Again, I cannot give reasons. It suggests I can block the page, so stop seeing it, but I don’t want to: instead, I want to prevent other people from seeing it: trans people, who might be hurt by it, and potential haters, who might be radicalised by it, or confirmed haters, who might share its rubbish.

Facebook claimed to have “taken action” on 22.1m pieces of hate speech content in three months, which means removing it, covering it with a warning, disabling accounts, or reporting it to agencies. They say that out of every 10,000 content views, 10-11 included hate speech.

After an hour, I got a message to say that the page did not go against any specific community standard, so would not be removed, but suggesting I block it. So far, so useless, and no opportunity to put the case that it is transphobic hate. Possibly the most extreme hate might occasionally be deleted, but not this, which campaigns to take away trans rights and pretends trans people do not exist.

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Unfortunately, the implementation does not live up to this promise. I reported an image, and have not heard back. Then I reported a comment- transphobia whited out on my site, not all text-readers will- “‘Trans women’ can be males with gender dysphoria but a huge majority are males with autogynephilia, which is a male sexual fetish based on being validated as their idea of woman.” This is a lie, and also a “derogatory term related to sexual activity”, so banned. But the response is,

we reviewed the comment that you reported and found that it doesn’t go against any of our Community Standards… we understand that you don’t like it. We recommend that you hide the comment or unfollow, unfriend or block the person who posted it.

This is completely useless. Hate and lies about trans people spread across facebook uncontrolled.

Trans on facebook

Should I debate trans issues on facebook?

There are arguments for coming off it completely. I have given it data which show a detailed account of my personality and desires, and is used to manipulate me. There are trans support groups, but they often share things to be miserable about, which are followed by a dozen comments railing in misery. Yawn. Transphobe says something transphobic.

There’s a group discussing BBC radio. It can be fun. Recently, though, it’s infested with anti-trans campaigners. Should I disengage?

There was a programme where a self-described TERF talked to trans people. A post on that exploded to 775 comments, where few posts get more than a hundred. Word of Mouth, devoted to LGBT language, began with Michael Rosen’s moving confession and repentance of homophobia. These programmes are worth listening to, and I heard about them on that group. The thread’s at 240 comments and going strong.

There I am, trying to find agreement. I can find it in unexpected places. An anti-trans campaigner writes, “I’m a gender abolitionist; I think we’d all be better off if we were more free to behave in less stereotypical ways”.

I agree. “So the question is, how to get there when much of the anti-trans sentiment is conservative support of gender stereotypes and hatred of trans people for subverting them. The answer is to support everyone who is opposing assigned gender stereotypes, by whatever means they do it.”

I think she is too far gone for that to make a particular impression, but it might do some good.

I might hone my arguments. I now can state clearly and simply why the Equality Act assumes trans women will be in women’s spaces, despite passionate denial: “[The Act} doesn’t say that someone with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment must be treated as if they were the opposite sex and require them to be given access to facilities designated for the opposite sex. There is a lot of misinformation in circulation unfortunately.”

Easily answered. “Schedule 3. Paras 26-27 allow men to be excluded from women’s spaces. Para 28 allows trans women to be excluded. There would be no need for different provisions if it was as you say.” Well, that’s technical, and most people’s, even many trans people’s, eyes would glaze over long before that point- but I know what to say when that comes up.

Then there are the swivel-eyed obsessives. “Transwoman used to mean transsexual – a man with the distressing psychological condition of gender dysphoria. That has now exploded to include even part-time cross dressers and men who get their kicks dressing as women or being treated as women. Only those undergoing gender reassignment are covered by equality laws and even then there are exceptions where women need single-sex spaces. Stop with the power grab – women are aware of your tactics and we are standing up to them.”

Oh dear. Reading that is merely depressing, and I hope that anyone not wholly invested in the debate would be put off by it. I can answer it. Should I bother? Given that there are 36 replies to my original comment, no-one not obsessed would read the whole thread, and I could just leave it.

If I enjoy commenting, I should. I got in a top comment, 15 likes or loves, which may persuade some people. The poster objected to the phrase “gender assigned at birth” in Word of Mouth, so I commented, “Gender is assigned at birth. If you’re in a pink babygro, people goo-goo at you differently than if you’re in a blue one. Big strong boy! What a pretty girl! If your gender can’t be told from your clothes, people will want to know your name so they can assign you. The stereotypes are enforced from birth. I am amazed that “gender critical” people deny this. Surely they’ve noticed!”

Commenting like that, I might encourage a trans ally, discourage a hater, make someone think, but should not overestimate the effect I will have. Out of hundreds of comments, all having their incremental effect, mine will make little difference. If I drop out, there are plenty of others to argue in the same way. If anti-trans campaigners take over, their effort is not proportionate to any gain of persuading the unpersuaded.

Then one pulls one of the nastiest tricks in the transphobe armoury. You know they are filled with hate for every trans person when they do this. “Self-ID provides an obvious incentive for male sex offenders to identify as female. Some examples here:” and she gives a link.

So I said we’re not all sex offenders, and we have self declaration already. That’s enough, in her eyes, to make me an apologist for sex offenders at best. “We know that some men pose a risk to women… your cavalier dismissal of it… is very telling”. In the ellipses was even nastier stuff. Accusations of my selfishness and misogyny follow. There is nothing I could say to such people.

facebook is addictive. The system is designed to keep you coming back by getting you riled up. The notifications bell is a ping of dopamine. The hurt and frustration I feel from others’ anger is not worth it. I enjoy writing a well-crafted comment, but I would be better writing something less ephemeral.

TERFs off duty

Who are the anti-trans campaigners? What are they like, when not posting exclusion and dehumanisation? On facebook, I could just trade the usual lines with them, but instead I clicked on their profiles. I am not doxxing- kudos to anyone who finds the source of the pseudonyms I give them. The Green Party of England and Wales shared a simple meme, “Trans rights are human rights” on a trans flag background, and the hate commenced.

Abigail is an actor, who lives in Brisbane. She shares tourist photos of her in Europe. She obsessively shares articles attacking trans rights: her two latest public shares are an attack on Joe Biden’s allyship, and a claim that autistic trans people are not really trans, both in the Times. She claimed that that meme alone would stop her voting Green.

Catharina lives in Portland, Oregon, US. She coined the term “album-ination” to mean a record which was unfairly trashed. She refers to trans women as “men who wear women’s clothes”, but “respects that plants are living beings”. She accused the GPEW of trying to silence women, and warned it would make those women more keen to shout their transphobic hate, though that’s not how she put it. Brisbane? Portland? The GPEW? They clearly trawl facebook for anything supporting trans rights, so they can join a pile-on.

Annestine is 63. She went to Beverley Girls High School, and studied at the University of Sheffield. She created an image to “celebrate Pride” by imposing a rainbow on a picture of poppies. She donated to animal-free research, and an animal rescue centre. She fearmongers about “male bodied people in changing rooms”.

Someone commented on the length of the thread. “It’s driven by a business model that incites rancour”- well, yes, because that drives engagement. He got 41 replies, including Eleanor’s comment about the “cotton ceiling”. Eleanor’s other obsession is Remaining: her profile pic says she’s “Still European”. She shared a photo of graffiti, saying “I dream of you in COLORS that dont exist” and a vile transphobe “joke” tweet. She crocheted a gorgeous, complex blanket.

Olympe called the GPEW post “woke nonsense”, and said people are leaving the Party because of this. She is a freelance classical singer and singing teacher, a member of Jewish Voices for Labour and anti-Zionist. She also supports Extinction Rebellion.

Ann lives in Tewkesbury. She shared a cartoon showing Covid as a tidal wave about to engulf Westminster, but dwarfed by Brexit, which was in turn dwarfed by climate change. I agree. She has photos of countryside, and sheep. Her other visible posts are hateful, mocking transphobe images, including one of a trans woman’s penis.

Madeleine likes Jeremy Corbyn and does not like NHS privatisation. However everything else visible on her profile is transphobe. She obsessively repeats the mantra “adult human female” as if it meant that trans women do not exist.

Dorothea shared the quote “Let this radicalise you rather than lead you to despair”. I love that quote, though I would hope pushback about trans rights would make her see sense. She is a young woman who supports Labour. She self-justifies by claiming trans exclusion is “asserting boundaries”.

Jane is a lesbian from Buenos Aires. She shares cute puppy photos marked “buenas”. She also shared a tweet from “Assigned angry at birth” claiming “lesbian is female same sex attraction”, as if the most important thing for lesbians was ending trans rights.

Sarah claims trans people “hate women”. She is from Seattle. She is “Anti-Q, wanted for thought crimes”. Her profile picture is the photo of Bernie Sanders in mittens.

When they’re not obsessively campaigning about trans, they “love to hear the little brook a’gurgling, and listen to the merry village chime”. I share fbfnds with some of the haters. If I could meet and talk to them, we would find things in common, maybe even like each other. They get into anti-trans campaigning from a desire to protect vulnerable groups, or to stand up for themselves, which I could admire if it were not perverted in this way. Coming from all over the world, they plot together to go on any public post saying positive things about trans rights, and flood it with hate.

Some pages are using that to get clicks. They post a simple pro-trans meme, the haters pour in, and their page gets more attention.

Liz Truss

Liz Truss spoke about Equality, and attacked Trans rights.

“In Britain, you can be whoever you want to be. Dress however you want to dress.” Of course this is not true. At work, some men are expected to wear ties, and some women skirts. But worse, it is an attack on trans people. It’s not just about the clothes. The clothes are the way I express my nature. It’s not just that I could wear a man’s suit and a tie, but choose to wear skirts. It’s that I find presenting male unbearable- weeping, curled in the foetal position unbearable.

And no, trans women can’t wear what we like. Presenting male, we might go under the radar, though it is living a lie in a way that makes the rest of life a drifting dull ache. Expressing ourselves female, we are exposed to hate and prejudice which Liz Truss and her government have encouraged.

It is a clear trans reference. Why else would she tell a falsehood about clothes?

Liz Truss says she will reject identity politics, and “move well beyond the narrow focus of protected characteristics” because those “end up excluding other people”, and are used to define people rather than our “individual character”. People often don’t see my “individual character”. They see only my gender reassignment, and treat me worse because of it. Sometimes they think they are considering my character, but they judge me more harshly because I am trans. (If someone with Cotard’s syndrome can rationalise away evidence that they are alive, anyone can rationalise away evidence that they are prejudiced.) That’s why we need protected as a characteristic, because we suffer direct discrimination. It’s also why we need statistics gathered about our employment rates, because we are less likely to be employed, and that is a sign of discrimination against us.

She names some protected characteristics- “sex, race and gender reassignment”. Why those three? Half the population are female, and 14% are BAME. A different but overlapping 14% are immigrants. 22% are disabled. By contrast only about 50,000 people are protected by the gender reassignment rules, 0.1%. She is using the rule of three, which is a good way of inspiring passion but also a way of conveying bathos. She uses “gender reassignment” not as a climax, but intending it to sound a dull thud, making the protected characteristics even less inspiring- because she finds gender reassignment unpleasant, and imagines other people do so too.

She will consider “socio-economic status and geographic inequality”, and “white working-class children”. This is pernicious. It divides the working class, and encourages the white majority to be racist, seeing themselves as particularly done down. The problems of BAME and immigrant people often come from being working class, because they are disproportionately so. We need class solidarity, not division by race.

The data project she offers is a good thing. It will “look at issues around geography, community and socio-economic background”. If the government actually addressed regional disparities, with infrastructure spending in the North of England, that would help. Her government is arguably exacerbating geographic inequality, spending £44bn on another rail link between London and Birmingham. Public spending is no problem to them, as long as the money is wasted.

She promises more Academies, run by private companies rather than supported by local authorities. This results in worse education. Always she puts the Tory privatisation ideology above the good of the country.

She has some warm words: “It is outrageous in the 21st century that LGBT people still face harassment in public spaces”. She promises no action against that.

The most threateningly transphobic line is not on the government website, which excises “political content”, because it is an attack on the Labour Party. It is also an attack on trans people: “It has led to the Left turning a blind eye to practices that undermine equality, whether it be failing to defend single-sex spaces, hard fought for by generations of women, enabling and tolerating antisemitism, or the appalling grooming of young girls in towns like Rotherham.” Antisemitism, sexual abuse, and trans women in women’s spaces are linked together here, equally appalling.

She describes protected characteristics as “misguided, wrong-headed and ultimately destructive ideas that take agency away from people”. She will do less to advance the equality of protected groups, and especially trans people. Her other attacks on trans rights frighten me. The speech is here.

Since then, I have been debating the speech on a public facebook group- not a trans or “gender-critical” group, but a general interest one, where trans folk and phobes may attempt to convince the public. One person raised Truss’s Foucault with a Baudrillard, which I thought a good bet. I said Foucault was right, and found myself in a debate with six women, which started when one claimed only transphobe MPs were “sticking up for women’s and children’s rights”. I asked them repeatedly whether they found any of the speech objectionable- its racism, its opposition to any method to ameliorate inequality- and they did not say, as if its one use of the term “single-sex” had hypnotised them. For them, it appears there is only one important political issue, eclipsing even Brexit and Covid.

The haters admit, lesbians support trans

Where could I find evidence of the support of lesbians and feminists for trans people? Oddly enough, the whining of haters. “There are very few public stories of lesbians on the ‘cotton ceiling’” said a transphobe, Angela C Wild, who worked with a named transphobe organisation to try to get more, but failed. While QAnon and other conspiracist groups can get 200,000 in a facebook group, Wild’s energetic attempts to find transphobic lesbians found respondents from three continents, but only resulted in eighty responses to her questionnaire.

“The sample does not claim to be a representative sample of the lesbian community,” Wild writes. Rather, her eighty respondents show an extreme view. “Would you consider a transwoman (sic) as a potential sexual partner,” she asked, and though lesbians will, all but one of her respondents said no. Wild uses the word “transwoman” though she does not consider it appropriate, preferring to think of us as males. This is valueless as research, but some of the stories are interesting.

The haters were members of lesbian or LGBT groups online or IRL. Though 58 of them were part of groups excluding trans women, they still felt “silenced” or unable to speak freely. Allies of trans women had excluded forty of the haters from LGBT groups. One hater had been sacked- perhaps it was Maya Forstater. The pressure came from “other women” (that is, not trans women) within their groups.

Online, it is easy to find your own kind. Facebook will suggest groups for you. So, some of the respondents had left their LGBT groups and joined hater groups, where they could be sure their views were not challenged. They prefer hater groups even though they say “how much more difficult it has become for them to meet lesbians”- the hate they share was their main focus. One said in a city of a million people all the lesbian groups included trans women, at least potentially.

On dating sites, in getting messages from trans women, one is quoted as saying “she has never felt coerced or intimidated”. While others claim to be pressured, they admit that the pressure comes from cis lesbians. Despite her repulsion against trans women, one had had a relationship with one, but they judge us on our looks, claiming we were not “making an effort to pass”.

This document cannot be dignified by the term “research”. For example, Wild misrepresents Dhejne’s research, though Dhejne has refuted Wild’s interpretation, and in her “references” cites tweets, youtube, and a Medium article. Though facebook radicalises people, by suggesting extremist groups to anyone who might do a search, Wild has found few people, and they tell of the pressure from cis women including cis lesbians to accept trans women.

Wild’s account makes a number of serious allegations, of threats and even assaults, but these come from a prejudiced source, from anonymised obsessives who would rather leave a lesbian group than accept the possibility that a trans woman might join. Most lesbians understand that if hatred against trans women spreads, lesbians will be next in the firing line. Now, with this Tory government, we need LGBT solidarity.

For example, there is this statement on the Pride in London website, when such haters disrupted the Pride parade in 2018:

The lesbian board members at Pride in London made their anger towards the unsanctioned group clear and our organisation as a whole condemns their actions. The protest group showed a level of bigotry, ignorance and hate that is unacceptable.

We reject what this group stands for. They do not share our values, which are about inclusion and respect and support for the most marginalised parts of our community.

We are proud of our trans volunteers, proud of the trans groups that are in our parade, proud of our trans speakers at events and proud of the trans people who take part in our campaigns and proud of those who cheered even louder for them yesterday.

While The Times and other powerful right wing forces seek to spread hatred of trans people, and internet contacts ensured her questionnaire reached Canada, Germany and New Zealand, Wild’s “research” shows this has little purchase among lesbians.

being valued

What could be better than a Margaret Atwood when you’re feeling low? The characters are guaranteed to be having a worse time than you. I am loving The Testaments. The tale of Aunt Lydia’s breaking is terrifying and if I don’t want to believe it’s plausible I can believe it would work.

And it’s full of wonderful writing. A substitute culprit will not do in this case. A what? I get what she means immediately. Someone must be seen to be punished, and normally it’s OK if it’s not the responsible party. That someone would name the concept, use the term so casually- there’s so much darkness in two words.

I received a compliment, in writing, on Wednesday. It was from a Quaker, so it must be true, and it was a reference to my “very real gifts”. Unfortunately there was quite a lot of bad stuff around it.

So I asked Facebook for more. “Is there anything that you value in me?” It sounds disbelieving, and I soon changed it to “what do you value about me?”

-Insight. I find your thoughts enrich my understanding.
-warmth, wisdom, intelligence.
-You’re mysterious and unpredictable. You’ve always got something worth listening to, to say, that comes at things from a different angle.
-your friendship, writing, insight and creativity.
-100% honesty and a different point of view to mine which can only be balancing/enriching.
-your wisdom
-your friendship!
-twinkle in your eye.
-your integrity and concern for others.
– your calmness and spiritual nature.
-your sharp mind, vulnerability and kindness. And you’re fun. And you have beautiful eyes.
-You are a great listener, soft voice, warm eyes. You post a lot that I agree with.
-honesty
-integrity
-tenderness tenacity boldness
-openness, honesty and willingness to keep plugging away at loving relationship with others when it is bloody difficult. Also Quakers who it’s ok to be sweary with are a valuable resource.
-so interesting to talk to. Witty, shrewd, good listener. Great writer, determined. Etc!!!
-Openness and courage.

I note these things here to treasure them, because I need to hear them.

It has me reeling that people collected “observations” on how I irritated others. In five pages that phrase “very real gifts” was the only positive. I am suspected of being potentially physically violent, and accused of being manipulative, deceitful and completely lacking in empathy. I had to right royally irk several people to provoke that reaction. I did it, in part, by this. We realise these comments will be difficult to hear but we need to see signs that she acknowledges these concerns and commits to making appropriate changes to her conduct. Um. I am rueful. I am not sure I am confident enough to commit to changing conduct. I was angered before, might I be so again? It is humility rather than arrogance making me hesitate.

She who cannot control herself cannot control the path to duty. Do not fight the waves of anger, use the anger as your fuel. Inhale. Exhale. Sidestep. Circumvent. Deflect.

I wish they had asked, what do you think of Abigail? Then there might be a few positives.

Oh God! Perhaps they did!

Highlight of Facebook today was a post on a trans support group. Above a picture of an attractive woman it said, Am I the only romantic lesbian/transgender admirer left on this planet. If it’s love affection and 100% commitmen you’re looking for then I could be just that woman.

I took this too seriously. As some people seemed to be taking the bait (I was tempted) I wrote I am sorry to say I am suspicious. I had a look at your profile, and find your oldest cover photo and profile picture are from 29 October, which I think means that is when you started using the account, yet you have over a thousand fbfnds. There are some vulnerable people here. Are any of your fbfnds trans? Perhaps someone here has fbfnds in common with you.

Someone replied to me, “Stop moaning and send her your bank details”.

The Testaments ends with the words Love is as strong as death.

Encouragement and discouragement

What makes you want to get out of bed in the morning? What makes you want to roll over and block out the world? When the necessity of getting up to perform a duty at a particular time is likely first to make you want to lie longer, and then curl up in shame at failure which purges your motivation completely, you are “depressed”. What can make you continue? For me-

Social media gives variable rewards, which are more addictive because less fulfilling. I find myself more keen to check the Guardian opinion section because I may write a comment, which may get up votes. There are four opinion contents pages, and this one indicates when comments are opened by digits. If “0” shows, there is the heady possibility of getting one of the six comments seen by most people, and therefore getting most up votes. I sometimes comment to “join the discussion”, and sometimes for the up votes.

At best, up votes give me a dopamine high, as nourishing as sugar, which might get me out of bed. At worst, hunting up votes gets me repeatedly returning to a page to see I have no more votes than last time. Or my blog stats page, to find no more views, especially after a day when I have had lots of votes or views.

Facebook is the worst. Clicking there might show a notification, but it might be a Like (Hooray!) or a disagreeable comment, which sucks me into a pointless argument. Or some bore has invited me to Like their page. Scrolling might show something interesting at first, but as I go on less and less interests me.

The fact that returns are diminishing increases my compulsion to keep on scrolling. Surely there must be a dopamine hit eventually!

Reaching for my phone in the morning at best gives a sugar high which is short-lived, and distracts me to seek its repetition for the rest of the day, and at worst sinks me into a fruitless search for such a high. It’s not quite

Gnashed her teeth for baulked desire, and wept
as if her heart would break

but I cannot drive Goblin Market from my mind.

The idea of getting up a little earlier to have time for meditation always crosses my mind, seeming to be an attractive possibility, and never tempts me so much that I actually do it.

I am in the toils of seeking immediate gratification. Duty advances my goals, but so slowly! And are they my goals anyway, or introjected?

Possibly I could wean myself off the dopamine, I think, especially after a particularly large hit of it, and find myself always returning. The Guardian informs me, and gives me new ways of seeing, though often it just stoked my rage and frustration with the same old stuff. Facebook gives me the illusion of social contact, and insofar as it is attractive parasites off that need.

Find delight in acting appropriately, says Marcus Aurelius, Meditations X.33. I feel seeking solid joys and lasting treasure should inspire me, and I still pick up my phone in the mornings.

Sometimes I turn from the phone, my head feeling stuffed with dough, and wish for clear perception. Sometimes my mantra

I am here. This is. I am.

seems to hold out hope for that. I had hoped when starting this post it would be more positive, more about solutions than problems, but, oh well. Aurelius just nags:

At dawn of day, when you dislike being called, have this thought ready: ‘I am called to man’s labour; why then do I make a difficulty if I am going out to do what I was born to do and what I was brought into the world for? Is it for this that I am fashioned, to lie in bedclothes and keep myself warm?’ Is that the best one can do?

Spotting fake news

Dubious sources and buzzwords devoid of content in the Prime Minister ABdP Johnson’s bluster show he is not credible.

We are leaving the EU on 31st October come what may, no ifs or buts. This is essential to restoring trust in our democracy.

Leaving? Not if he can’t get a deal. Not by no deal if he can’t get an election before 17 October. It’s a promise he can’t keep. He can’t even legislate to unite Ireland as it would be contrary to treaty obligations. And he won’t endorse the backstop.

We are getting on with the job of renewing our country and building an enterprising, outward looking and truly global United Kingdom.

Renewing? Yes it needs renewed after nine years of Tory rule, but Tories are not the ones to do it.

Like you, I am proud that our party believes in freedom and opportunity for all. I believe everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity and to be given the opportunity to succeed on merit.

Enterprising, outward looking, freedom, opportunity. Empty words from De Pfeffel’s letter to a new Tory potential candidate. Especially “merit”- what can an Etonian say about that?

A nameless facebook commenter: The elitist left are happy to give billions to a trading organisation and are happy to allow a Marxist to destroy the economics of our country. Tax cuts benefit the poorer workers…

“The elitist left”? What? It makes no sense. The grammar and syntax mimic meaningful English, but there is no argument, just bland assertion black is white. The more you earn the more you gain by tax cuts, and ABdP Johnson proposes cuts to the top rate.

Another: What a pathetic job of hosting Question Time tonight Fiona Bruce! Interrupting Brexiteer people trying to answer, letting Thornberry and McTavish drone on as they like.

I can’t listen to the BBC news any more. Tories and Tory commentators- eg a former editor of the Spectator waffling meaningless rubbish- go unchallenged. When I am screaming swear words at the radio, I switch off for my own sanity. My Leaver friend feels the bias goes the opposite way. Pathetic, drone- words to belittle, and reduce respect. He is discourteous, and that muddies the waters further.

Though so am I, elsewhere. Here I refer to ABdP Johnson, elsewhere to Spaffer or BoJo the Clown. I must stop that. It makes me feel slightly better for a moment and increases anger and distrust. I must be clear headed!

EU to lose £500bn and UK to gain £640bn in no deal Brexit, economist claims. Ooh, which economist? Patrick Minford! This is not a surprise. Minford is in the minority amongst academic economists, most of whom say Brexit will make Britain poorer. It’s a Telegraph headline, shared by a strong Leaver on facebook. I don’t like the idea of making our allies poorer.

He also shared a post saying Switzerland has no hard border with the EU, so why should we need one in Ireland? I went to check. Switzerland is in the Single Market, which few people would consider to be genuinely Leaving. Yet I did not know off hand. By the time I had fact checked, conversation would have moved on. If you don’t care about fact checkers you can “Win” a lot of arguments, at the expense of trust. You don’t play chess with a pigeon, as they say, but I expect more of friends.

A recent Bank of England study suggested that the collapse of investment since the referendum may have reduced productivity by between 2% and 5% from what it otherwise would have been. I don’t believe Minford, but I believe the Bank of England.

Lies and anger swirl on social media. I personally would not believe anything the papers write, said someone, but that is a counsel of despair. I believe it if it is against their interests.

So what about The Times’ report that the Tories were polling northern Labour seats to see if social conservative positions like being against trans rights would depress the working class vote for Labour? They are the “liberal elite” would be the argument, supporting all sorts of undeserving people and not you. Vote for us. We don’t support anyone, but at least the undeserving won’t get handouts! Who knows what personally targeted ads will go on facebook. The antidote is Hope-

The Times is a transphobic publication, and could be trying to reinforce anti-trans views as mainstream, from the bottom of the hierarchy to the top. That potential candidate, a trans woman, denies the report. I hope that Times readers would be revolted by such a tactic but can’t be sure.

How can we maintain clear heads and an understanding of events in these times? By trusting a reputable source of news, such as The Guardian, and considering other sources of news and comment to hear what others are hearing.

How can we have dialogue across the divide? This is difficult. Understanding how the online discourse works is a help. Groups such as Leavers associate together, honing their rhetoric. Points condense, so that an argument becomes an assertion becomes a slogan shorthand for that assertion. “Democracy requires Leaving”, for example, without any reasoning on how that might be done. Only No Deal is truly Leaving the Brussels Jackboot. Getting back to the level of argument from such slogans- There should be a People’s Vote! – is difficult, especially on line. So we trade buzzwords, feeling vindicated but increasingly frustrated.

Comment thread debate

Remainers are responsible for no-deal Brexit.

That argument surprised me. Could anyone believe that? It is put thus: Mrs May made a reasonable compromise deal on Leaving, but the Remainers in the House of Commons blocked it. They could have had a deal, but they sabotaged it, and no deal is the result.

Well. I disagree. I replied that Mogg’s European Research Group had sabotaged May’s hard-right, hard Leave deal, because their demands got continually more extreme. I wrote “Mogg’s little coterie” and that was his way in:

The key word in that quote is “little”. If you only read the Graun perspective on this you’d easily believe that the ERG consists of over 150 MPs. Must you be reminded that Labour who are much larger than the ERG rejected the deal just to score points and get rid of May.

It’s 55 subscribers to the ERG right now, plus one who resigned in April. More than enough to overcome May’s fragile majority.

There are always others to blame. I don’t know whether that commenter believes it, wants to put an alternative view for the joy of debate, or is a mere troll, but blaming and hating others seems the greatest harm of comment threads, even in the Guardian.

I wrote,

Nothing should be produced that is not recyclable, biodegradable or intended to be useful for a hundred years. As for experiences, what matters is relationships, which can be built in a walk in a local park, not needing a trip to another country. Wonder at the art of Egypt on the telly, not by going there. With Michael Leunig savour the “Joy of missing out”.

I was putting a position for the sake of argument. It is arguably an extreme one, hard to reach from where we are without great disruption, and without major corrections to inequality. But the criticism was poor:

-Out of curiosity: Do you have no idea what amount of pollution a steam- or internal combustion engine built 100 years ago cause? Or do you just not care? I replied that metal is recyclable. Someone said recyclable is too low a bar, we should reduce, or reuse, first.

Possibly there should be no motor vehicles other than public transport. It is not a fully reasoned argument, only a comment, which usually involves no original thought whatsoever.

I am pleased to get “Guardian Picks”, though. They get me attention, and often up votes.

Do people believe such Brexit arguments? I was not out demonstrating about the Parliamentary shutdown, though I thought of going- I needed to rest and do more self-accepting. Do we need anger and action, or more thought? Will Leavers and Remainers ever get over our Great Difference and enjoy each others’ gifts again?

Possibly I need righteous anger against Spaffer Johnson’s manoeuvrings, but only if I could do something about them, which is more than moping or commenting. I shared my friend’s story of the effects of pervasive racism and privilege, to increase awareness:

Three friends, young men, two Black and one white. They are out together having a great time when they see a white woman fall over in front of them. They want to help but the Black men hold back and the white man goes up to help, because the Black men fear the white woman will feel they are threatening and object, even be frightened and call out.

I know the Black men are wise to fear that and hold back, and a Black friend who told me of the incident knows it too; but how sad, that they should want to help a woman in need and feel unable to?

So I have shared it again. We need to be aware of these things.

And I liked the Brene Brown quote: “When someone spews something really hurtful don’t pick it up and hold it and rub it into your heart and snuggle with it and carry it around for a long time. Don’t even put energy into kicking it to the kerb. You’ve got to see it and step over it or go around it and keep on going.”

Wise advice. That’s not always my automatic reaction, but her naming the alternatives might help me see their stupidity. It helps to remember why I might “snuggle with” it- because it refreshes and tops up my introjects, which seem like reality and morality to me. See what is hurtful and damaging.

We ended the Queer Spirit festival with hundreds of us in a chain holding hands, singing

Dear friends, Queer friends
Let me tell you how I feel
You have given me such pleasure
I love you so.

Singing in the sunshine with smiles and human contact. Remember that. Hold on to it. Or dozens in a circle drumming and dozens more in the circle dancing, some of us naked. That joy. That connection. That sanity.

Brexit rage

We survived Napoleon, we survived 1940: surely we can survive No Deal?

Brexit enrages me, and that’s frightening. If I, an equable soul, am enraged, barely able to listen to news reports or interviews with politicians, how are others? Brexit was offered as a people’s rebellion, “Take back control”. The rage at austerity, the destruction of public services, the NHS, the benefits system, the roads, the chance of a good job with prospects or even a steady wage without a zero-hours contract which ends employment rights- I am enraged at all this too- was expertly misled by evil liars, Russian destabilisers, hard-Right US billionaires, to direct it against the EU, which for all its faults symbolises human beings working together democratically rather than as ordered and controlled by the wealthy.

The Tories have been concerned for their own advancement. Mrs May wants to stay in power, and so wants the Tory party in government. Her aim seems to be to unite the Tory party, rather than to achieve anything which might be in the interests of the country, or even a meaningful Brexit. Her Brexit secretaries have resigned, showing that even with Brexiteers in full control there is no meaningful Brexit that can do any good.

Brexiteer- think not “Musketeer” but “Profiteer”. Alexander de Piffle Johnson is a traitor, damaging his country for his private gain.

Ah. You see the rage.

To facebook, to consider friends’ memes. Mick shares a video of a speech in the Bundestag by Alice Weidel, leader of the AfD, with English subtitles saying to Frau Merkel “An example must be made. Britain must be punished. That is your policy.” It is a wind-up, from the far right, and this bloke whom I quite liked when I used to meet up with him laps it up. Then “Don’t believe what the BBC tells you”- that Syrian refugee assaulted at school was, according to Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, a bully who assaulted a girl with a hockey-stick and threatened to stab a boy. That’s a lie, I am afraid. Yaxley is a far right rabble-rouser funded by US Republican “Think-tanks”.

He shared an article about £50m to end FGM in Africa, a good news story, with the comment As if that wouldn’t put a few more coppers on the streets where they are needed, rather than buying gold taps for corrupt despots.

Iss, who is lovely, had previously shared Leave memes saying “foreigners” should pay for use of the NHS, but shared a video saying the NHS is being quietly privatised, Brexit is costing billions, and despite lying Leaver promises that the NHS could get more money it gets less. Brexit is causing NHS staff shortages and will damage health. It has had 1.5m views. Her apparent change of heart gave me some hope, but a day later she was still sharing the Brexit memes. She is Labour through and through, and yet she shares these hard-Right, even sometimes far-Right memes. Is she blind to where they come from?

Someone might have voted Leave out of pique, or on a whim. However, having put a cross in that box they become a Leaver. They are in a way invested in the Leave project. They are inflamed with lies against the EU. And yet I feel my own rage, see how it is inflamed by memes with a simplistic and false view of the world, and worry that the rage and bitterness will divide us further, and that the lies will make the Leave voters more determined. Only the best of them can be persuaded they were fooled, and won over that way. I fear no deal. I fear that enough disaster capitalists will make money from it that they will prevent better paths. That’s the closest I have ever come to believing in conspiracy theories.