As is increasingly typical of debates in the postmodern era, the question of transgender “rights” has morphed into an all-out propaganda war. It is a battle that will be won or lost in the realm of language—the definitions of words, and the ability of voices in the media to clarify or cloud the truth through journalistic framing devices.
Last week, the Associated Press ran an article entitled “No big backlash for states passing anti-transgender laws”. The report began:
Five states have passed laws or implemented executive orders this year limiting the ability of transgender youths to play sports or receive certain medical treatment. There’s been a vehement outcry from supporters of transgender rights – but little in the way of tangible repercussions for those states.
There are at least two striking observations that we can make about this opening paragraph.
First, though this “report” sounds like news, it clearly isn’t news. News is, by definition, about events that have happened. This piece is about events that have not happened, but that AP evidently hopes will happen—namely, corporate boycotts and legal action against American states that have moved to protect the integrity of women’s sports and the innocence of children.
The article is a flagrant call to arms to transgender activists and their allies in the corporate and legal spheres. Indeed, in the remainder of the piece, AP provides a megaphone to several transgender activists to promote their agenda and drum up support among the AP reader base.
The “report” also promoted a full-page ad published in the New York Times by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) urging corporate leaders to:
take action now by publicly denouncing state legislation that discriminates against people, refusing to advance new business in states that are hostile to corporate values and refusing to support sporting events where transgender athletes are banned.
From beginning to end, the AP piece was free advertising for the transgender movement and the corporate giants that have dutifully bent the knee. As CatholicVote political director Joshua Mercer observed,
There was a time not long ago when this AP article would be considered a scandal all to itself… I mean, it couldn’t be clearer. They’re openly calling on corporate America to launch a national attack on the people’s duly elected leaders.
The second observation we can make is the deliberate distortion of the issues through the use of framing. “Limiting the ability of transgender youths to play sports or receive certain medical treatment” is how the writer frames the present transgender tussle. Countless other, far more accurate phrases could have been chosen to describe the same issue. “Preserving the right of young female athletes to compete in separate women’s divisions” works just fine. As does, “protecting vulnerable children from irreversible genital surgery and hormone therapy”.
Neither of these descriptions are a comment on the value, dignity and worth of transgender people. But they do fairly account for the concerns of the women and children who will be most injured if sports, bathrooms and bodies continue to be rearranged by the transgender agenda.
If these observations comprise a warning about the weaponisation of media in the culture wars, we can also glean some hope from AP’s propaganda piece: the fact that AP felt it had to be written.
There is a notable grassroots pushback against the transgender movement and the threat it poses to women and children. No doubt the Biden administration has played a central role in prompting this pushback, through radical executive orders that require the armed forces to pay for so-called gender reassignment surgery, and that embolden biological boys to use girls’ bathrooms, showers and changing rooms in schools around the nation.
Everyday Americans and sane state legislatures are waking up to the issues. This is why the woke press senses the need to stoke fear and weaponise big business in the culture wars.
Several years ago, recounts the AP, when North Carolina passed a bill reserving women’s bathrooms for biological women, “there was a swift and powerful backlash”. But “so far this year, there’s been nothing comparable,” the article laments —“little in the way of tangible repercussions”.
No, this isn’t news. But if it could be classed as news, it would be good news.
Perhaps the tide is turning.
This article was first published here.
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Kurt Mahlburg has studied architecture and theology among other interests of philosophy, history, surf, the outdoors and travel. He spent several years in Indonesia and has worked as a young adults pastor. He is now a teacher, a freelance writer, the Features Editor of the Canberra Declaration and contributes regularly at Caldron Pool & other online publications. He hosts his own blog 'Cross + Culture' at KurtMahlburg.blog.
Check out Kurt Mahlburg’s new book Cross and Culture: Can Jesus Save the West?