Friday, April 29, 2016
Greenies trying to stop oil exploration in the Great Australian Bight
It's Greenies doing what Greenies do and compromise is unknown to them. But if drilling is to be banned there, drilling is impermissible anywhere. For most of the length of the bight (over 1,000 kilometers), the land adjoining the Bight is basically desert. There's nothing there. So virtually no people to endanger in any way. The land concerned is not called the Nullarbor plain for nothing. Most people seem to think it is an Aboriginal name but it is in fact Latin -- meaning "No trees". That's how barren it is.
And the minimal runoff from the land means that there is not much to encourage life in the seas there either. There will of course be marine life feeding off marine algae and the like but there is no reason to think any of it is unique, let alone importantly unique. All deserts have creatures in them at low densities so the Greenies can claim that creatures on land and sea there are "endangered" but that is just a reflex. Nobody that I know has shown that there are in fact unique creatures there, let along importantly unique ones. No doubt there are whales etc there but are there any whales there that are not found elswhere? Even the Greenies have not yet claimed that.
So if exploration even in a desert area is impermissible, where is it permisible? To Greenies NO oil exploration or new production is permissible but less obsessed people do not have to agree
When executives of the global oil giant BP fronted the company’s general meeting in London this month they knew they faced plenty of upset shareholders.
The mop-up from the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico had just eaten up another $US20 billion ($25bn) of shareholder funds in a major legal settlement, and collapsing world oil prices had smashed the company’s full year profit, causing an investor revolt over an executive bonus scheme that seemed completely at odds with the financial performance.
But when the most senior BP executives faced investors, the level of hostility towards an oil exploration project 16,000km away took them by surprise.
“Gosh, this investment in Australia is not very popular today,” BP chief executive Bob Dudley said. But he couldn’t see why all the fuss. “The country had an area and invited people to participate in a bid,’’ Dudley said. “We do this around the world in exploration; it is not a particularly unusual or harsh area.”
BP’s plans, along with rival oil giants, to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight is highly contentious, but the potential rewards — up to 1.9 billion barrels of oil worth up to $110bn (at today’s depressed prices) are great. But so are the risks. It could be the next Bass Strait, enthusiastic backers claim. Or it could be the next Deepwater Horizon disaster, passionate opponents warn.
At the general meeting, BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg emphasised that the company was not trying to pressure governments. “To run Bight or not run Bight is not a decision for BP,” he said. “It is a decision for Australia.”
Now, as BP plans a $1bn exploration program and a $US750 million drilling rig nears completion in a South Korean shipbuilding yard, the federal Senate is taking a very keen interest.
Today, a Senate inquiry holds its first public hearings, hoping to determine how the contentious drilling permits were issued and administered and whether the great risks in drilling in such a hazardous environment as the Great Australian Bight were properly assessed.
The Bight drilling program is at a very early stage but is vigorously touted as being the next Bass Strait: an area containing billions of dollars worth of oil reserves that could transform Australia from a net importer of crude oil into an exporter.
For risk-hungry explorers it represents one of the world’s great unexplored deepwater oil regions, similar in potential to that of the Niger and Mississippi deltas. Major oil companies, led by BP, Statoil, Chevron and Santos, are lining up for a piece of the action.
But the calamitous events six years ago in the Gulf of Mexico, when an explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon well killed 11 workers, spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the ocean, killing countless wildlife, ruining fisheries and decimating local communities, mean that the Great Australian Bight drilling plans have put environmental groups on high alert.
Leading environmental groups have spent many months war gaming a major confrontation with BP over its Great Australian Bight plans. The campaign dovetails into a broader agenda to limit fossil fuel developments, most particularly in new frontier and potentially difficult areas like Alaska and deepwater targets such as the Great Australian Bight.
BP says in its submission to the federal Senate inquiry, it wants the matter concluded quickly “given the Senate has taken the unusual step of specifically naming our company and its proposed investments in Australia”.
Global oil and gas production will keep rising over the next two decades, it says, to help meet world demand for primary energy. It points out that Australia has produced oil since the 1960s with a history of drilling in Commonwealth Marine Areas, including the Great Australian Bight. And Australia is a net oil importer, as consumption keeps rising despite domestic oil production steadily falling. The whole nation would benefit from the discovery of a new oil or gas region, and not just through tax and other macroeconomic benefits, BP says.
“Wood Mackenzie, an independent oil and gas analytical firm, estimates the potential resource in the Great Australian Bight to be 1900mmboe (million barrels of oil equivalent) of oil — more than 20 times the entire Australian production in 2014,” BP’s Senate submission says. “A new oilfield development could make a material difference to the balance of payments — and to tax revenues.”
Ironically, BP was granted special tax arrangements over its Great Australian Bight exploration program and can deduct 150 per cent of costs from its royalty obligations. But in response to publicity about the tax arrangements, the company said it “considers transparency an important requirement to increasing trust in tax systems around the world”. The company told an earlier Senate hearing into tax avoidance that BP Australia’s effective tax rate had averaged 28.4 per cent over the past five years with income tax payments alone exceeding $2.2bn.
Given the company’s recent history in the Gulf of Mexico, however, it is not tax matters that concentrate the minds of environmental groups.
The Great Australian Bight is an “extraordinary ocean and coastal environment of global conservation significance”, the Wilderness Society says in its Senate inquiry submission. “It is remote, wild and pristine, with more local marine life diversity than the Great Barrier Reef.
“While scientists are still trying to understand the diverse ecological values of the Bight, we know already that it is a major haven for whales, including the threatened southern right whale, and home to other significant marine wildlife such as the Australian sea lion, giant cuttlefish, dolphins, great white sharks and a vast array of seabirds. All of this life and immense natural beauty supports thriving fishing and tourism industries and a uniquely Australian way of life for the many coastal communities of the Bight.”
Both sides are haunted by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. According to BP, if the Bight was hit by a worst-case scenario — a loss of control of the well resulting in uncontrolled flow of petroleum into the ocean, “oil would take several weeks to reach shore and the direction in which it could drift varies due to seasonal differences in current and wind direction”.
But the Wilderness Society says an oil spill from a deep-sea well blowout could close fisheries in the Bight, Bass Strait and even the Tasman Sea while even a low-flow oil spill could affect all of southern Australia’s coast, from Western Australia right across to Victoria through Bass Strait and around Tasmania.
BP aims to begin exploratory drilling in October and has a $US750m harsh environment, semi-submersible oil drilling rig nearly completed in South Korea and ready to ship to the Bight.
The Senate has a fortnight to investigate but given the looming federal election, it is feasible the Senate may not finish the task. The inquiry terms of reference call for an assessment of the potential environmental, social and economic impacts of BP’s plans, including the risks of something going wrong.
Submissions to the inquiry include local councils and fishing groups. The city of Victor Harbor thinks the risk of an oil spill within the Bight may be low but the consequences potentially catastrophic. It points out that the Bight is a pristine environment and a critical sanctuary for many threatened species that support two significant industries: fishing and tourism.
The South Australian Oyster Growers Association says it does not want to block potentially beneficial oil projects for the Eyre Peninsula and South Australia. But drilling for oil does pose a “significant risk to the currently pristine unpolluted environment and the image of this”.
“These are the features that our reputation and credentials in the marketplace are based upon, and have taken decades to establish and promote,” the association says.
Then there’s damning evidence by the world’s foremost engineering disaster expert, Bob Bea. Bea, nicknamed the “Master of Disaster”, criticises BP, saying there is not “sufficient information to determine if BP has properly assessed the risks”.
“The information that has been presented indicates that BP has apparently integrated the key aspects of what has been learned about drilling in high-risk environments,” Bea says. “However, the information is not available to determine if BP has properly assessed and managed the risks associated with an uncontrolled loss of well control.”
Bea, professor emeritus at the Centre for Catastrophic Risk Management, University of California-Berkeley, has worked for more than 55 years on offshore oil and gas industry operations in 72 countries.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers journal says: “If Robert Bea turns up on your project, it’s not a good sign. Either you’re in the middle of a major disaster or someone is worried enough to send out the nation’s foremost forensic engineer to take a look.”
The Wilderness Society says BP has admitted containment booms and skimmers will not work in the Bight and that the area is “right on the edge of” the reach of helicopters. But of major concern is the level of secrecy imposed by the government-sanctioned approving authority, which has all of the environmental powers of the federal government over the offshore exploration area including endangered and listed marine species.
The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority is an independent statutory authority that is the national regulator for health and safety, well integrity and environmental management for offshore oil and gas activities in Australian waters.
Green groups demand that BP release its environmental plan and that the federal government assemble an independent expert panel to look at oil drilling in the Bight. They claim NOPSEMA does not have necessary environmental expertise. “While we know the Bight is a pristine marine environment with at least 36 species of whales and dolphins, there is still much we don’t know as the GAB Research Project, which BP has partly funded, won’t report until mid-2017,” a Wilderness Society spokesman says.
The Wilderness Society is demanding a transparent process. “Instead, we have an Environment Minister who has handed off his responsibility to protect the environment to a poorly known regulator; one running a highly flawed and opaque process that fails to ensure the protection of our environment or properly assess the cumulative impacts of all potential oil development in the Great Australian Bight.”
BP is no doubt banking on the Senate inquiry falling victim to the electoral cycle. It wants to start drilling in October and the federal government has delegated the decision to its regulator.
In its own Senate submission, NOPSEMA says a final decision on the BP plans for the Bight is yet to be made. It notes that two statutory independent reviews found NOPSEMA to be a “robust, rigorous and competent regulator”.
Manus Island asylum-seekers in legal limbo as PNG shuts detention centre
Malcolm Turnbull has categorically ruled out bringing the asylum-seekers detained on Manus Island to Australia, warning against becoming “misty-eyed” about the plight of more than 900 asylum-seekers and refugees in limbo on the island.
Although his Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has chosen his words carefully – indicating some refugees may be allowed to come to Australia on a non-permanent basis – the Prime Minister today declared “none of the detainees there will come to Australia”.
“We are seeking to ensure that the people detained at Manus can either settle in PNG as they have the opportunity to do, or in third countries, but they will not come to Australia. I want to be very, very clear about that,” Mr Turnbull said in Hobart..
“There will be no transfer of those individuals to Australia because to do that would send a signal to the people smugglers to get back into business, and that is utterly unacceptable.”
Mr Turnbull said the government needed to show people smuggling syndicates that Australians were “very clear and determined” in defending their borders.
“If we want to have secure borders – if we want to ensure that women and children are not drowning at sea, put into leaky, dangerous boats by criminals and gangsters, by people smugglers – then we must have secure borders and we do and we will, and they will remain so, as long as I am the Prime Minister of this country.”
Bill Shorten pledged a “unity ticket to defeat the people smugglers” but blamed the Coalition’s “incompetent” handling of Manus Island for the political “train wreck”. “Labor is resolute against the people smugglers. It doesn’t matter about Liberal or Labor we have the same position on opposing the people smugglers,” the Opposition Leader said.
“But Minister Dutton and Prime Minister Turnbull have created a situation, an almost unworkable situation of semi-permanent, indefinite detention.”
Victorian independent senator John Madigan said the government needed to “man up” and accept the asylum-seekers, warning of “devastating effects”. “The government’s policy on asylum seekers has always rested on the idea that we must treat those who arrive on our shores as harshly as possibly as a deterrent to others. Whether or not this is effective, it is immoral,” Senator Madigan said.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young claimed the government’s policies were about “fear-mongering, punishing people and winning votes”. “We don’t need to have this cruel treatment of people seeking asylum, there is a better way. Assessing people’s claims quickly and fairly, so that they can be flown here safely, is the answer,” she said.
International lawsuit may force Manus detainees’ return
Papua New Guinea could bring an international lawsuit to force Australia to take back more than 800 asylum-seekers from Manus Island, Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs said today, with the Turnbull government refusing to permanently resettle any of the refugees.
The federal government was scrambling to decide on a response last night after the O’Neill government demanded “alternative arrangements” for the 905 asylum-seekers and refugees on the island, sparking renewed calls to settle them on Australian soil.
PNG High Commissioner Charles Lepani today insisted the asylum-seekers were “within Australia’s responsibility” and his government never understood it has been asked to hold them “for such a lengthy period of time”.
“It’s an issue that Australia has to deal with. That’s our position,” Mr Lepani told ABC radio.
“This is within Australia’s responsibility; they are there on account of us trying to help Australia resettle and process these people. That was the original intention — to process these people, not to have them for such a lengthy period of time.”
However Immigration Minister Peter Dutton was adamant the men would not find permanent sanctuary in Australia.
“The men off Manus Island will not be settling permanently in Australia and we will work with the Papua New Guinea government to help them return home or back to third countries,” he told the Nine Network.
Professor Triggs said the stand-off could ultimately be resolved by both governments submitting to arbitration by the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
“Basically of course Australia can’t force Papua New Guinea to hold people who were originally Australia’s responsibility, but equally of course for practical matters it’s very difficult for Papua New Guinea to force Australia to take these asylum-seekers back,” she told ABC radio.
“International law always has the option of perhaps initially some form of mediation or conciliation, possibly even an agreed arbitration of the matter, but ultimately it would be of course possible for one to bring another state before the International Court of Justice — the world court — for determination.
“There’s a long way to go to think about that, but these are always options in international law.”
Professor Triggs said it seemed “very unlikely” that either major party would buckle on its “politically successful” policies on the eve of an election.
“It may very well be that it takes a unanimous decision of the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court to finally shift certainly public opinion and maybe hopefully also political views,” she said.
Greenies trying to worm their way into Primary school classes
A new program is being launched to Primary Schools during Term Two by the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) Australia. The Future Generations program focuses on bringing the cross curriculum priority of sustainability into every subject – from the Arts to Humanities and English.
Through consultation with Primary School teachers across the country, FSC Australia found that incorporating sustainability into subjects other than science was sometimes difficult and resources were limited or hard to find. “We are a five star sustainable school and sustainability is core to our values, but we still struggle to integrate sustainability into lessons. And it’s so important for the children to take an active interest in sustainability and the future of our world,” said Stephen Rothwell, Principal, Chatham Primary School.
Working closely with Deakin University and with the support of Tork® Professional Hygiene, FSC Australia has developed a series of lesson plans and activity sheets. These free lesson plans are available for primary levels from one up to six and are inline with AusVELS curriculum. The lesson plans and activities are creative and thought-provoking and cover topics including deforestation, ecology and the food chain.
The role of FSC is to help take care of forests, their wildlife and the people who live and work within and around them. Forests provide material for so many things in our lives such as books, tissues, furniture, buildings and more. As Adam Beaumont, CEO of FSC Australia puts it, “By ensuring these resources are managed responsibly, we at FSC seek to strike a balance between the needs of society and the needs of the forest. The Future Generations program aims to increase awareness of FSC and its role within the next generation.”
The Future Generations Lesson Plans and Activity Sheets are available and free to download through the FSC Australia website.
Press release from FSC
'Sneaky' move gives Queensland Premier major advantage at the ballot box
Queensland's opposition has likened Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's controversial voting reforms to Greg Chappell's infamous underarm bowling tactics that embarrassed Australian cricket 35 years ago.
Liberal National Party leader Lawrence Springborg says while parliamentary rules allowed the Labor minority government to 'sneak' through compulsory preferential voting last Thursday, they weren't in the spirit of the game.
The shock move, without public consultation, gives Labor a major advantage at the ballot box, assisted by preferences far more than the LNP.
A still-fuming Mr Springborg compared the blindside to what former Australian captain Chappell did when he ordered his younger brother, Trevor, to bowl underarm in a one-day international final to deny New Zealand a six for a possible last-ball tie.
'What the Labor Party may have done in parliament may have been in the rules but just the same as the infamous underarm bowling incident with Trevor Chappell in 1981 it may have been in the rules but it doesn't make it right,' he said.
'Ms Palaszczuk came to power in Queensland promising to be open, accountable and, above all, consultative. 'Last Thursday in parliament she became all of those things she rallied against in 2014-15.'
Ms Palaszczuk defended the government's actions, saying it would help prevent informal voting and bring Queensland in line with federal elections.
She also said she was looking at compulsory preferential voting in local government elections, much to the chagrin of the Brisbane lord mayor.
Graham Quirk said Labor councillors had already spoken about wanting compulsory preferential voting two weeks before, and said the public should view the change in a 'cynical' way. 'This was a choreographed piece - this is a premeditated arrangement,' he said.
Conservatives love to hate political correctness, but the left should rail against it too
A Leftist below argues for civil debate over political issues. She may even mean it. Leftists are normally civil only to those who agree with them, so a call for civility from them is usually a demand to agree with them
By far the most insightful person on Australia’s Q&A program this week was the Catholic theologian and philosopher John Haldane. He took complicated and charged questions and tried to make sense of them. In doing so, he spoke of something critical in a liberal democracy, something we are at risk of losing – the idea of “reasonable disagreement” on controversial issues.
“People who hold contrary views on these matters are neither stupid nor wicked,” he said. “In the US, conservatives tend to think of liberals as being bad people, immoral people, but liberals think of conservatives as if they are stupid.” The answer was not moral relativism, or a failure to make decisions, but “civic friendship” in the way we discuss these issues.
“We’ve got to keep the conversation open.”
I am wary of religious doctrine whatever the faith. Religions have a history of intolerance and there is a remarkable lack of self-awareness by those who complain it is now the religious who are being silenced on debates such as same sex marriage.
Yet Haldane identified a trend that is no longer a fringe tendency in Australia and in many parts of the western world. Labeling people who have an unpopular view as somehow intrinsically bad or immoral, declaring such views as intolerable even to hold, is now a big part of our culture and is having an impact on our conversations and our politics.
This is not just about religious conservatives feeling that their views, while not silenced, are so ridiculed and personalised that few feel comfortable expressing them. It is just as prevalent in the attempts to silence or attack those who identity as progressives but who may have sent an insensitive tweet, or hold a view that transgresses the orthodoxy of the moment.
For many supposed progressives, disagreement must now be accompanied by a personal attack against someone who doesn’t deserve a say because of who they are, not for what they believe.
I support same sex marriage, yet am deeply uncomfortable with the assumption that anyone with reservations must be a bigot and a homophobe. That is the level of the debate in Australia, and it is championed by so-called “progressives”, who display with glee the same intolerance they rightly accuse churches as historically holding.
It is an insidious tendency because of course progressives should stand up for greater levels of equality and for the human rights of the marginalised and disadvantaged. But to do so by devaluing free speech and thought on the grounds of championing the aggrieved is a betrayal of progressive politics in a fundamental way.
It has not been helped by our well-meaning discrimination laws, which have endorsed and encouraged the view that being “offended” should be unlawful. The very idea debases notion that debate, ideas, and openness to complexity is the way to make progress.
It is a symptom of what’s gone wrong that the Tasmanian anti-discrimination commission deemed the Catholic Church had a case to answer for its booklet opposing same sex marriage on the grounds that it could offend, humiliate or insult same sex couples and their children. To be offended and insulted is distressing, but nobody should be legally protected against it in a democracy, even on a highly emotional issue such as this.
The insistence on personalising disagreement is pervasive.
Actor and writer Stephen Fry has apologised for a few sentences he uttered at the end of a long and fascinating interview in the United States. The irony of this little incident gives it a poignancy beyond the familiar pattern: someone says something that deliberately or accidentally offends people, who declare their hurt and anger, demanding the person is sacked from their job or at least be publicly shamed. The targeted one, sometimes famous, sometimes not, says “up yours”, or more likely grovels an apology, perhaps deleting their social media account to crawl into a hole for a time.
Fry’s was just one example, but it was so telling that he was shamed when the entire purpose of his interview was to discuss the so-called “regressive left”. What happened to Fry was exactly what he was talking about – to be pilloried by the left for something he said that was certainly insensitive, but hardly worth the vehemence of the reaction.
More broadly, he was talking about the phenomenon of people identifying with the progressive side of politics being so intolerant of views deemed unacceptable, especially regarding anything to do with race, gender, sexual identity and religion.
Fry appeared on The Rubin Report, a program that regularly scrutinises this phenomenon. Host David Rubin is convinced that the regressive left is the equivalent of America’s Tea Party – dangerous for progressive politics, whose purpose should be to champion reason and debate to achieve greater equality and improve human rights. “If we don’t have the courage to stop them, then a year or two from now we’ll wonder why our system is screwed up even more than it is now,” says Rubin, who thinks of himself as a progressive.
I don’t think Rubin is overstating the dangers of declaring certain thoughts and speech unacceptable. Although, as Fry would say, it’s complicated.
In the 11-and-a-half-minute interview, Fry mused about all this in his erudite, amusing and slightly pompous way, and said he feared that “the advances of the Enlightenment are being systematically and deliberately pushed back” – the idea of free thinking, open societies not ruled by churches or “enforced thinking”.
“Enforced thinking” was prevalent because “life is complicated and nobody wants to believe that life is complicated, this is the problem. You might call it infantilism of our culture”. The example he gave was the campaign, ultimately unsuccessful, by some students who demanded Oxford University remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College.
Rhodes was a student at Oxford and left money to provide a prestigious scholarship. He was also undoubtedly an imperialist with a belief in the racial superiority of Anglo Saxons. Even in his own time, his views were considered extreme by many.
For outspoken students, a Rhodes’ statue should not grace a university where minority students already felt intimidated – it was offensive to them and a sign that Oxford had failed to come to terms with its past. Pulling down monuments to people who do not have views acceptable in our own age would keep all of us busy for many years, yet the students made a valid point – who would not understand why Confederate flags in the US are so deeply offensive to African Americans?
Fry’s view was that the student campaign was an example of a tendency to declare someone good or bad, full stop. “To remove his statue strikes me as being stupid,” he said. “The way to fight colonialism and the ideas behind it is not to pull down statues. It’s to reveal, to say who he is … look at him, occasionally throw an egg on it.” How very old-fashioned of him to argue that free speech and argument can expose repellent views, that it isn’t necessary to erase them from history, to “unperson” them.
Fry went on to discuss the movement particularly on American campuses to ban people from speaking who might offend or “trigger” deep feelings in some students because of their experiences or their identity as a minority. “There are many great plays which contain rapes, and the word rape now is even considered a rape. To say the word rape is to rape,” Fry said.
Rapes are “terrible things and they have to be thought about clearly”.
“But if say you can’t watch this play, you can’t watch Titus Andronicus, or you can’t read it in a Shakespeare class or you can’t read Macbeth because it’s got children being killed in it, and it might trigger something when you were young that upset you once, because uncle touched you in a nasty place, well I’m sorry. It’s a great shame and we’re all very sorry that your uncle touched you in that nasty place – you get some of my sympathy – but your self pity gets none of my sympathy…. The irony is we’ll feel sorry for you, if you stop feeling sorry for yourself. Just grow up.”
I know what he meant, but Fry expressed that woefully. In the context of all that had gone before, he was not saying that victims of sexual abuse should just “grow up”. He was trying to say – clumsily – that if you’re a woman, or a victim of sexual assault, or a racial minority for that matter or a transgender or homosexual or all the other signifiers of identity politics – your personal feelings and experiences are not enough to censor other views, to restrict free speech.
There are real examples of sexism and racism and of course they need challenging. And nobody pretends free speech is absolute. In many ways, I love the fiery pushback from people who have indeed been, and still are to varying degrees, marginalised in a culture that privileges the white middle class heterosexual man. Yet the words “racist” “misogynist”, “homophobe” and “bigot” are so routinely bandied about now they have lost their power.
The cry of “shame” at something someone said or did, the social media pile on, perhaps wouldn’t matter too much except that its impact is to stop people being honest about what they think for fear of being attacked by the mob. Not just that. It’s an insistence that people who hold such views are morally bad.
Many people now roll their eyes at feminist Germaine Greer, but recently on Q&A she refused to be bowed, and there was something brave about it.
It is a sign of human progress that transgender people at least in parts of the West are far more visible and that discrimination against them is being acknowledged and starting to be addressed. Yet as hurtful as it must be for the trans community, I don’t think Greer is alone in questioning the insistence that, somehow, Caitlyn Jenner was always a woman, even at birth.
Did anyone else groan when Glamour Magazine named the famous trans woman its “woman of the year”, or when Jenner declared the hardest thing about being female “figuring out what to wear”?
These are hard issues to raise, and it’s an old feminist debate, but Greer doesn’t accept that men who identify as women are women. She hits a nerve when she says in her outrageous way that, “I don’t believe a woman is a man without a cock”. Call her transphobic if you like, but better to loudly present the arguments why she’s wrong, or just ignore her.
But the outraged don’t want that – last year, Greer faced a campaign by campus feminists to ban her from speaking at a university about a different subject because of her “transphobic” views. Feminists are tied up in knots with intersectionality and understandably want to support marginalised women. But trying to shut down dissenting or offensive views is another kind of intolerance.
And so what happened to dear old Stephen Fry, a homosexual and bipolar sufferer who has fought hard against intolerance and discrimination? The symbiotic relationship between the mainstream media and social media makes the trajectory predictable. A few people were “outraged” on Twitter about Fry’s remarks about victims of sexual abuse. And so the Telegraph in London had a story: “Stephen Fry tells sex abuse victims to ‘grow up’ prompting social media outrage.”
That’s the story – social media outrage. I am sick of reading stories that begin “Twitter was outraged” but it’s obvious why it’s become routine. Conventional media, as well as platforms like Facebook, need drama to achieve online traffic.
“There is a toxic relationship between mainstream media and social media,” said Jon Ronson in an interview recently. Ronson’s book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, chronicles how lives can be ruined by social media humiliation. “To begin with old media just ignored Twitter,” he said. “Then it tried to emasculate it by doing ‘the 50 best tweeters’ pieces, trying to control it ... and then what happened was that mainstream media began to bow to Twitter’s agenda setting.”
So Fry was fried, but surely nothing he said in his interview justified the ugliness of some of the response.
The right loves all this stuff. Conservatives rail against “political correctness” but have little commitment to social justice or addressing structural inequality. Yet progressives should rail against it too, much more strongly than they are now. Because it’s not progressive in any way. The censors of the left may have the best of intentions, but too often, they’re just another bunch of reactionaries.