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Sargon of Gasbag Smears Black Lives Matter as Anti-Semitic

Despite their recent popularity and the wave of sympathetic protests and demonstrations that have erupted all over the world in the past few weeks, Black Lives Matter is a very controversial organisation. They’re Marxists, who wish not only to get rid of capitalism, but also the police, the patriarchy and other structures that oppress Black people. They support trans rights, and, so I’ve heard, wish to get rid of the family. I doubt many people outside the extreme right would defend racism, but I’m not sure how many are aware of, let alone support, their extreme radical views.

A number of Black American Conservatives have posted pieces on YouTube criticising them. One, Young Rippa, objects to them because he has never experienced racism personally and has White friends. He’s angry because they’re telling him he is less than equal in his own country. It’s an interesting point of view, and while he’s fortunate in not experiencing racism himself, many other Black Americans have. Others have objected to the organisation on meritocratic grounds. Mr H Reviews, for example, who posts on YouTube about SF and Fantasy film, television, games and comics, is a believer in meritocracy and so objects to their demands for affirmative action. For him, if you are an employer, you should always hire the best. And if the best writers and directors are all Black, or women, or gay, their colour, gender and sexuality should make no difference. You should employ them. What you shouldn’t do in his opinion is employ people purely because they’re BAME, female or gay. That’s another form of racism, sexism and discrimination. It’s why, in his view and that of other YouTubers, Marvel and DC comics, and now Star Wars and Star Trek have declined in quality in recent years. They’re more interested in forced diversity than creating good, entertaining stories.

Now Carl Benjamin aka Sargon of Akkad, the man who broke UKIP, has also decided to weigh in on Black Lives Matter. Sargon’s a man of the far right, though I don’t think he is personally racist. Yesterday he put up a piece on YouTube asking if the tide was turning against Black Lives Matter ‘at least in the UK’. He begins the video with a discussion of Keir Starmer calling BLM a moment, rather than a movement, although he later apologised for this and retracted the description. Starmer also rejected their demand to defund the police. Benjamin went on to criticise a Wolverhampton Labour group, who tweeted their opposition to Starmer’s comment about BLM and supported defunding. Sargon also criticised the football players, who had taken the knee to show their support, and also Gary Lineker, who had tweeted his support for BLM but then apologized and made a partial retraction when it was explained to him what the organisation fully stood for. But much of Sargon’s video is devoted to attacking them because they’re anti-Semitic. Who says so? Why, it’s our old friends, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. Who are once again lying as usual.

Tony Greenstein put up a piece about a week or so ago on his blog discussing how the Zionist organisations hate BLM and have tied themselves in knots trying to attack the organisation while not alienating the Black community. Black Lives Matter support the Palestinians, and according to all too many Zionist groups, including the British Jewish establishment – the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Chief Rabbinate, Jewish Leadership Council and the Jewish Chronicle and other papers, anyone who makes anything except the mildest, most toothless criticism of Israel is an anti-Semitic monster straight out of the Third Reich. This also includes Jews. Especially Jews, as the Israel lobby is doing its damnedest to make Israel synonymous with Jewishness, despite the fact that’s also anti-Semitic under the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism they are so keen to foist on everybody. As a result, Jewish critics in particular suffer insults, smears, threats and personal assault.

Yesterday BLM issued a statement condemning the planned annexation of one third of Palestinian territory by Netanyahu’s Israeli government. This resulted in the usual accusation of anti-Semitism by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. The deliberately misnamed Campaign then hypocritically pontificated about how anti-Semitism, a form of racism, was incompatible with any genuine struggle against racism. Which is true, and a good reason why the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism should shut up and dissolve itself.

Israel is an apartheid state in which the Palestinians are foreigners, even though in law they are supposed to have equality. In the 72 years of its existence, Israel has been steadily forcing them out, beginning with the massacres of the Nakba at the very foundation of Israel as an independent state. The Israel lobby has been trying to silence criticism of its barbarous maltreatment of them by accusing those voicing it of anti-Semitism. The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism is a case in point. It was founded to counter the rising opposition to Israel amongst the British public following the blockade of Gaza. And Tony Greenstein has argued that Zionism is itself anti-Semitic. Theodor Herzl believed that Jews needed their own state because there would always be gentile hostility to Jews. He even at one point wrote that he had ‘forgiven’ it. It’s a surrender to anti-Semitism not an opponent, although obviously you would never hear that argument from the Israel lobby.

Sargon thus follows the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism in accusing BLM of being anti-Semitic. He puts up on his video a screen shot of the CAA’s twitter reply to BLM’s condemnation of the invasion of Palestine. But there’s a piece on BLM’s tweet that he either hasn’t seen or is deliberately ignoring.

Black Lives Matter issued their condemnation as a series of linked tweets. And the second begins by noting that over 40 Jewish organisations have objected to Netanyahu’s deliberate conflation of Israel with Jews.

That tweet can clearly be seen beneath the first and the CAA’s reply as Sargon waffles on about anti-Semitism.

It says

‘More than 40 Jewish groups around the world in 2018 opposed “cynical and false accusations that dangerously conflate anti-Jewish racism with opposition to Israel’s policies of occupation and apartheid.”‘

This section of their condemnation should demonstrate that BLM aren’t anti-Semites. They made the distinction, as demanded by the I.H.R.A.’s own definition of anti-Semitism, between Jews and the state of Israel. If Black Lives Matter was genuinely anti-Semitic, not only would they not make that distinction, I doubt that they would bother mentioning that Jewish organisations also condemned it.  It is also ironic that it’s up when the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and Sargon are doing precisely what these 40 Jewish organisations condemned.

Black Lives Matter as an organisation is controversial, and I don’t believe it or any other movement or ideology should be immune or exempt from reasonable criticism. But I don’t believe they can fairly be accused of anti-Semitism.

As for Sargon, the fact that he drones on accusing them of it while just behind him is the statement clearly showing that they aren’t tells you all you need to know about the level of his knowledge and the value of his views in this matter. But you probably guessed that already from his illustrious career destroying every organisation he’s ever joined.

I’m not going to put up Sargon’s video here, nor link to it. But if you want to see for yourself, it’s on his channel on YouTube, Akkad Daily, with the title Is The Tide Turning Against Black Lives Matter. The tweet quoting the Jewish groups denouncing the deliberate conflation of Israel and Jews to accuse critics of Israel of anti-Semitism can be seen at the bottom of the twitter stream at 5.26.



Opinions, Rights, and Transgender Persons

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 23/06/2020 - 5:43am in

Transgender persons have a moral and epistemic right to claim their gender differs from their biological sex.

Supreme Court Rules Civil Rights Law Protects LGBT Workers, Echoing Philosophers’ Brief

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/06/2020 - 1:32am in

The United States Supreme Court issued a ruling this morning in the case of Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, holding that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects gay and transgender employees from workplace discrimination.

In the 6-3 ruling, written by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, the court says:

Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear. An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.

The ruling includes reasoning similar to that offered in the “Brief of Philosophy Professors as Amici Curiae in Support of the Employees” (discussed here), co-authored by philosopher Robin Dembroff (Yale) and law professor Issa Kohler-Hausmann (Yale), and signed by 80 philosophers. In that brief, they wrote:

The concept of “sex” is inextricably tied to the categories of same-sex attraction and gender nonconformity. Both categories are partially defined by sex and cannot logically be applied to any individual without reference to that individual’s sex. It is simply not possible to identify an individual as being attracted to the same sex without knowing or presuming that person’s sex. Likewise, it is not possible to identify someone as gender nonconforming (including being transgender) without reference to that person’s known or presumed sex and the associated social meanings. It follows that discrimination on the basis of same-sex attraction or gender nonconformity is inherently discrimination “because of sex.” 

You can read the Court’s decision here.


The post Supreme Court Rules Civil Rights Law Protects LGBT Workers, Echoing Philosophers’ Brief appeared first on Daily Nous.

A Resignation at Philosophical Studies and a Reply from the Editors (updated w/ comments from Cohen, Dembroff, Byrne)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 13/06/2020 - 6:52am in

Last week, Stewart Cohen, professor of philosophy at the University of Arizona, resigned as editor-in-chief from the prestigious academic philosophy journal, Philosophical Studies, a position he held for 25 years.

Why did he resign?

Philosophical Studies published “Are Women Adult Human Females?” by Alex Byrne (MIT). It then accepted an article replying to Byrne’s article, “Escaping the Natural Attitude about Gender” by Robin Dembroff (Yale). Cohen objected to what he called “unprofessional personal attacks” on Byrne in Dembroff’s paper. He wanted the journal to issue an announcement declaring that it was a mistake to have accepted Dembroff’s paper “without removing the personal attacks.” He also wanted to invite Byrne to reply to Dembroff. The other editors, Wayne Davis (Georgetown) and Jennifer Lackey (Northwestern), along with the publisher, Springer, declined to go along with Cohen’s wishes, so he resigned.

Professor Cohen sent me a statement to this effect on June 5th (but without naming the specific papers and parties). Here it is:

There has been a lot of discussion and speculation on social media about this. One thing to note is that there are multiple parties involved in this story, and that Cohen’s is just one account of it.

Here’s another account, from a message sent yesterday to the Board of Consulting Editors at Philosophical Studies by its current co-editors-in-chief, Davis and Lackey:

We were deeply saddened that Stewart Cohen, long-time Editor-in-Chief of Philosophical Studies, and our long-time friend and colleague, resigned from the journal, and did so unhappily. His public resignation announcement may lead to some concerns about the journal that we wish to address. The critical article he found objectionable was reviewed blindly according to the highest standards of the profession by leading, well-respected and objective experts in the area, and after a round of revisions was recommended for acceptance without reservation. We recognize that what some judge to be warranted philosophical criticism may be regarded by others as personal attacks. But unless they engage in genuine libel or harassment, we respect our author’s freedom of expression. The former Editor-in-Chief suggests that the journal’s publisher, Springer, intervened to prevent the author whose work was criticized from publishing a reply in Philosophical Studies. In fact, the author was welcome to submit a reply, which is currently being reviewed blindly as per our policy. Springer leaves editorial decisions to its editors. We look forward to continuing to serve the philosophical community in the tradition of our distinguished predecessors.

To pull out some relevant details from these accounts:

  • Dembroff’s article was published after successfully making it through the normal peer review process at Philosophical Studies, which includes peer review by two referees and revisions.
  • Cohen apparently wanted to avoid the normal editorial process at the journal for Byrne’s reply to Dembroff. The other editors and Springer did not agree with giving Byrne’s paper special treatment.
  • Byrne’s reply to Dembroff has not been rejected by Philosophical Studies, but rather is currently under review.

I will update this story as more details become available.

UPDATE (7:10pm): In light of previous allegations of irregularities with Cohen’s editing at Philosophical Studies (here), I asked him whether Byrne’s initial paper had been anonymously reviewed, and if so, by how many referees. He wrote:

The paper was sent to one referee only. That has been our policy for years, especially since we have been overwhelmed by skyrocketing numbers of submissions in recent years. Springer’s general policy for all their journals requires two referees.  But our publishing editor (who oversees our journal for Springer) has allowed us an exception to this policy given the recent deluge of submissions. Of course, I read the paper myself and concurred with the positive review of the referee.

UPDATE (6/15/20, 7:40am): Dembroff comments on these events and issues in a public Facebook update.

UPDATE (6/16/20, 8:55am): Byrne comments on these events and issues here.

*  *  *  *  *

(An opinion on the alleged “unprofessional personal attacks”.)

Much discussion on social media about Professor Cohen’s resignation focused on what in Dembroff’s paper constituted “unprofessional personal attacks,” with the most popular answer concerning material in the last lines of their paper:

Byrne’s paper fundamentally is an unscholarly attempt to vindicate a political slogan that is currently being used to undermine civic rights and respect for trans persons. And it is here that I return to Byrne’s advice to question the motivations behind this debate. “If someone is personally heavily invested in the truth of p,” Byrne writes, “it is prudent to treat [their] claim that p is true with some initial caution.” I agree. So we may ask: What are the motivations of someone who would so confidently insert themself into this high-stakes discourse while so ill-informed?

In his paper, Byrne complains about what he takes to be a lack of argument for the claim, “TW”, that “Trans women are women, even if they have not had ‘reassignment’ surgery or hormonal treatments,” and suggests that “non-epistemic factors” may be influencing people’s acceptance of it. Insistence by trans women on the truth of TW is not persuasive, Byrne writes, because “if someone is personally heavily invested in the truth of p, it is prudent to treat her claim that p is true with some initial caution.” In short, the motivation of those arguing for TW is relevant to our assessment of the evidence and arguments for TW. Dembroff’s question at the end of their paper appears to be making the same move, suggesting that in light of their examination of Byrne’s arguments, there may be “non-epistemic factors” affecting Byrne’s thoughts on the subject that are relevant to our assessment of the evidence and arguments for his view.

Why did Dembroff’s deployment of this move attract criticism from Cohen and other commentators, while Byrne’s passed relatively unnoticed? For one thing, those who might have felt personally attacked by Byrne’s remarks are trans women, and in philosophy that means that there are fewer people to complain about it, they are discouraged by their social and professional vulnerability from doing so, and their complaints are not taken as seriously.

Another factor, I think, is that there is a bit of a bias we’re all subject to: we treat similar behavior differently based on whether the person engaging in it is part of the dominant “group” or not. Just reverse some elements of this story to see this:

  • Had an established philosopher explicitly said in an article that some specific junior, gender-queer philosopher’s work was ill-informed or the result of motivated reasoning, and the latter philosopher complained about this, “the crowd” would tell them to toughen up, stop being so sensitive, and get used to the rough and tumble environment of professional philosophy.
  • Had the journal editor tried to intervene and either retract the article or issue an apology on behalf of the journal for publishing it, the crowd would have confronted the editor with charges of censorship, howls about political correctness, and demands to step down.
  • And had an editor been found trying to offer a non-peer-reviewed publication to that junior scholar so they could reply, the crowd’s response would have been to blast the editor for favoritism and complain that “these people” or “these views” only get as much space as they do in our professional venues because of special treatment.

That the crowd has acted so differently in the actual case is something we can learn from.

This is not a call for the crowd to be consistently vicious. Nor, alas, is the solution as simple as for everyone to be equally charitable to all, all the time, since the contexts in which arguments are deployed and the motivations of those who deploy them can have epistemic import. That it is rational to alter our distribution of charity accordingly is something we recognize as soon as we take our philosopher hats off. That said, we aren’t mind readers, and we don’t always know people’s motivations or their significance, and we’re limited and biased in our thinking. So perhaps charity all around is generally called for as a kind of default for when philosophers interact with one another. But a default is just a default, and some deviations from it will make sense. Under what conditions? I don’t pretend to have an answer to that, but it is one question among many we might take from this.

Related: “Guarding the Guardians (or Editors)“; “Philosopher’s Article On Transracialism Sparks Controversy

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The post A Resignation at Philosophical Studies and a Reply from the Editors (updated w/ comments from Cohen, Dembroff, Byrne) appeared first on Daily Nous.