Discussion on topic of “both sidism” and respecting other opinions and good faith. With some Trans content in there.
I’ve been thinking about our society’s dysfunction when it comes to debate. Debate has certainly been a part of humanity since the earliest days. It was a part of ancient Greek and Indian civilization. The Romans were masters at the art form, elevating it and degrading it at the same time. Senators debated issues in public, but at the same time, were viciously attacking each other in the process. Cicero famously accused Clodius of incest with his brothers and sisters. This practice was known as “invective” which entered the English language in the 15th century after passing through Middle French from the Latin “inveho” meaning “carrying in”.
But I digress. Debate ran through the history of Europe and came to the United States with the ideals of the founding fathers. The debates of the constitutional convention, the ratification debates. The format of the houses of Congress for debate of issues. The famous Lincoln – Douglas debates leading to the 1858 senatorial election in Illinois. The concept of debate has been an idealistic one of academics in a debating society with formal rules and polite respectful behavior.
Of course there are always outliers, in 1856 South Carolina representative Preston Brooks beat Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner unconscious on the floor of the Senate, with cane, following a debate wherein Sumner insulted Brooks’ friend South Carolina Senator Andrew Butler. Brooks resigned and was immediately re-elected to his position. Sumner eventually recovered and remained in the Senate for another 18 years.
I digress again. What I was thinking about was public debate of issues in today’s society. Who deserves a say in the public debate. What does it mean to say you are impartial. The past decade or so has seen a big change in the issues we discuss and how we discuss them. Voices are being heard that we haven’t heard in a long time.
When an issue comes before us we like to hear the various sides of the issue so that we can make an informed decision. Is there a plot of land that will be developed? We would like to hear all the proposals. [more examples needed] But, what if the issues have bigger implications? Abortion? Gun Control? Discrimination? Who gets a spot at that table? People can have good faith positions that differ on these issues. But there are also people who have opinions that are so far out of the norm as to no longer be in good faith.
The first 80 or so years of our nation, and for a good time after, there were people who legitimately thought it was fine to own another human being and make them work for you. The Lincoln – Douglas debate I mentioned above is an example of that. The infamous three fifths compromise was an example of that. Anti-slavery delegates were more interested in preserving the country than the rights of slaves.
Those delegates who supported slavery, had a place at the table and were given a voice in the debate. Would they get that today? Should they get that today? It seems to me that they are. People with opinions that have no basis in fact are given a platform on the national news with no challenge. Vaccine deniers and Covid skeptics were given time next to medical experts like Dr. Fauci and were able to spread their falsehoods to the detriment of thousands of gullible people who are now dead.
Likewise, the election fraud crowd has been featured on the national news, despite the overwhelming lack of evidence of any election fraud. In fact, the little fraud that has been found has mostly been committed by members of the same party that are alleging the fraud.
The people who are out to harm transgender children are given air time despite the fact that their arguments are based on lies and misinformation. They are alleging things that just don’t happen, but they are given a voice. They say that small children are given puberty blocking drugs, they are not. Kids with gender dysphoria are counselled and supported until the time that puberty would normally commence and only then are blockers considered. Puberty blockers are however, prescribed for children with early onset puberty, also known as precocious puberty. That keeps the child in line with their peers and allows them normalcy.
Opponents allege that children are too young to know if they have gender dysphoria and that adults are forcing the change on them. Nothing could be further from the truth. The general idea is to allow the child to explore their identity safely until they are at an age and level of maturity where a decision of such import can be made. Hormone therapy can be started and stopped if needed. No one can get gender conforming surgery until they reach the age of majority.
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s (WPATH) Standards of Care—Eighth Edition (SOC-8) was published in September 2022. This sets forth the standards of care for transgender patients and all ethical practitioners should be following its guidelines.
Chapter 7 covers children. The recommendations include therapy and counselling for the patient and the family, age-appropriate education on gender development, education as to treatments that are available when age appropriate, and the risks inherent in social transition. They also recommend support for the child to explore their gender identity and expression and that the child’s choice of gender be acknowledged and validated. It is all about therapy, counselling, and support for the child. It does not recommend any medical intervention in childhood.
Chapter 6 covers adolescents. After assuring that providers are properly trained, they recommend counselling and therapy, and support for the adolescent in a way that no particular gender expression is favored over another. It is the patient’s decision. They strongly recommend against any sort of conversion therapy. They recommend puberty blockers for those patients experiencing dysphoria until the patient graduates to adult care.
The recommendations include continued therapy and counselling on the options that will be available and the risks associated with those options including loss of fertility. Then they have strong recommendations on who and when to recommend a patient move into gender conforming treatment. The patient must fit the diagnostic requirements of the ICD-11. The patient’s gender incongruity must be marked and sustained over time. The patient must display the emotional and cognitive maturity to provide informed consent.
The patient must have reached a certain point in puberty and been on hormone treatment for at least 12 months before surgical intervention can be considered. They generally recognize that blockers would begin no earlier than about age 12, hormone replacement at 16 and surgery after 18. No one is pushing children into gender changes recklessly.
This is also happening with climate change. It is happening with white supremacy, racism, and anti-Semitism. During the Trump – Clinton campaign news outlets gave time to the people claiming there was a child trafficking ring run by Hilary Clinton operating out of the basement of a pizza restaurant in Washington D.C.
Alex Jones and his Infowars show spreads despicable lies on many topics, from pizza-gate and Hilary’s emails to the sad situation at Sandy Hook. He shamelessly exploited the 2012 tragedy for his personal gain. It wasn’t until 2022 that he was finally held accountable through billion-dollar judgements against him. But for all that time, he had a voice that was reported on in the main stream media without any substantial challenge.
Alex Jones and the late Rush Limbaugh were good examples of this issue. They had opinions that were not based on reality, they were based on their own prejudices and used solely for personal gain, yet they had a huge audience. Why were they given a platform?
White nationalists, American Nazis, The KKK, The Proud Boys and the Oathkeepers. Why do I even know the names of these groups. How did we let them get into the national conscious.
These are all very important issues that need to be discussed and considered in the public forum but who gets to participate? When a white supremacist is invited to speak at a college campus by a student group, should it be permitted? Well, generally it would be at a state school thanks to the First Amendment, but does the press have to give the speaker a platform? When the nightly news reports on the story, do they give the speaker’s arguments any airtime?
When the Sunday morning news panel shows are looking for ratings, should they invite the extremist positions to debate? It lends an air of legitimacy to the far-out opinions. Four hundred years ago, the extreme position was that the Earth orbited the Sun and not the other way around.
The First Amendment prohibits the government from infringing free speech. I support this wholeheartedly, but it does not guarantee the speakers a platform in the public debate. News outlets do not need to report on them, which lends a sense of legitimacy to their position. Internet providers do not need to allow their hate on the internet. The saturation of social media and electronic communications, gives the extreme opinions a way to spread that was not available 20 years ago.
The BBC has prided itself on its impartiality but in the past few years it was perverted in their misguided attempts to be impartial. During the Brexit debate they gave a platform to those contributors who based their positions on racism and nationalism, particularly Nigel Farage who had nothing to contribute to the debate but racism and lies.
A recent academic survey showed that the BBC was giving more airtime to the conservative government representatives than liberal representative at a rate of 4 to 1.
A former BBC presenter recently gave lecture where she described their process during the Brexit debate, “It might take our producers five minutes to find 60 economists who feared Brexit and five hours to find a sole voice who espoused it … But by the time we went on air we simply had one of each; we presented this unequal effort to our audience as balance. It wasn’t.”
This is known as false balance or bothsidesism. Another good example shown in the Wikipedia article centers on climate change. In 2013, 97% of climate scientists believed that climate change was happening. However, in 2013, among Fox News guests 31% believed it was happening and 69% did not believe climate change was happening.
Likewise, they have given platforms to the same transphobic people I described above.
The First Amendment protects everyone from the government infringing on their right of free speech. That does not mean everyone’s speech is equally valuable or equally entitled to the heard. Some say that we need to give these people a voice so that we can know what they are up to. I disagree. I fully support their first amendment right to say horrible, evil things, but I do not support their right to have those words broadcast to the public or be allowed a place in public debate. I am not suggesting the government get involved, I am calling on the media to be responsible. Do not fear the cries of bias from the extremists on either side. Provide the truth.
I am completely happy giving different sides of an issue a chance to speak, assuming those opinions come from a good faith basis. However, we should not give the time of day to the outrageous, bad faith opinions of people who are hateful and harmful and want nothing other than to improve their own situation, sow hatred or sow chaos.