Accusations of heresy should not be cloaked by pretence of legitimate complaint
On 26th October 2021 an ‘open letter’ to the BBC was published, to complain about an article written by Caroline Lowbridge, discussing lesbians coerced into sex with transwomen who retained male bodies. Others have dissected the content of the letter; see this thread from Dr Clare Jane Jones:
1. Bullshit argument 1: When you say 'some' trans people you actually mean ALL trans people and you are demonising the whole of a marginalised community so you must never say anything about any members of that community and they must be immune from all suspicion of VAWG. pic.twitter.com/v4RzEOq151
— Dr. Jane Clare Jones 🦕 (@janeclarejones) October 27, 2021
So I will not repeat previous criticisms, but note the letter is rambling and contains serious inaccuracies about both fact and law.
But if many thousands of people apparently feel strongly enough about something to put their names to a letter condemning it, then we cannot simply dismiss it without more thought. Just how many people are signing up to something that misrepresents facts and law? How seriously do we have to take this? As many seem keen to go along the ‘might is right’ road, the first step is to examine just how many of the signatures are verified and valid.
So with some very willing volunteers from the Women’s Rights Network– thank you all! – we decided to scroll through the signatures.
We archived the letter at 17.17 on 29th October 2021 when it stood at 19,789 signatures. Only the 11, 833 ‘verified’ signatures are visible for analysis. Friday afternoon was announced as the cut off point for the organisers, but they appear to have waited another day, by which time the letter had gathered a few hundred more ‘verified’ signatures. We don’t think this detracts from our analysis.
It seems the organisers were aware of a number of ‘hateful’ and ‘trolling’ comments and were doing their best to remove them – but sadly had not been able to find and remove the 62 pretty obvious fakes we identified within the ‘verified’ signatures on 29th October. The organisers said:
We are working to keep on top of and remove hateful and trolling signatories. When we were recommended this site to publish our open letter we were not aware that the site was run by a very small team, and the limitations that would have on the speed at which we can remove signatories. We are aware and sorting these over time.
This problem of obvious abuse and trolling is not helped by a verification process that appears very flimsy – merely to click on a link sent to an email
Additionally, we are aware of some users having difficulty receiving emails to verify their signatures. For now, the best advice is try a different email address (some have found Gmail to work), check spam and promotions folders, or try putting N/A in any empty entry fields. We are aware and working on this.
Fake, incomplete or outside the jurisdiction
We examined the signatures and put them into three categories, which we consider make them #NotValid. We set these out as Annexes A, B and C. The total number for all three groups was 2,132 which make the actual number of ‘verified’ signatures only 9,701 – below the cut off of 10K for a Parliamentary petition for e.g.
Annex A – Fake
62 signatures were obviously fake – abusive, attempted humour or name of fictional/cartoon character. Some of these involved sexual threats or seriously unpleasant abuse: 3983: Suck my girl cock or you’re a transphobe; 3915: Gas the kikes, Race war now, 1488, Auschwitz. 11430: Silence the Women so we can rape them!
All were ‘verified’ as of 5.15pm on 29th October.
Annex B – incomplete or anonymous
805 were incomplete or anonymous – we expect to see a first name, surname and location as bare minimum to support a valid signature on any letter that purports to be influential or taken seriously. Many signatures were simply ‘anonymous.’
Annex C – outside the jurisdiction
1,265 were outside the jurisdiction including Canada, North America, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and Europe. We wondered – what interest do they have in the workings of the BBC? And what notice does the BBC have to take of them? If this letter was in fact a ‘world wide’ effort then 11,833 verified signatures appears even less impressive given that the combined populations of the foreign jurisdictions mentioned total over 1 billion people.
Why does this matter?
The letter claims at its head to have 19,789 signatures as of 5pm on 29th October 2021. In rather smaller type we are informed that only 11,833 are verified signatures. Therefore 40% of the signatures are not verified and not listed on the page. The claimed total of 19,789 as of Friday 29th October is immediately and seriously misleading.
Of those 11,833 supposedly verified, we have identified problems with a further 2,132. We suggest a more accurate figure is 9,701.
The overseas element is concerning. We have seen foreign agents attempt to interfere in domestic law and policy about ‘trans issues’ before, most notably with Google UK in June 2020 urging people to write to the Government in support of the ‘trans community’
— Google UK (@GoogleUK) June 18, 2020
In 2015, Google was reorganized as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alphabet Inc.. an American multinational technology conglomerate holding company with headquarters in in Mountain View, California. The BBC meanwhile is a public service broadcaster in the UK, established by Royal Charter. It is funded by the licence fee paid by UK households. It is simply not the business of foreign nationals to attempt to influence the work of our public service broadcaster. As one Twitter user commented:
The suspicion has to be that it's likely to be North American exceptionalism (US & Canada) interfering in other countries because of their beliefs. Damning 'colonialism' verbally whilst actively colonising other cultures to force them to bend to their personal belief system.
— Hypatia Cassandra (@TinaPJMD) October 30, 2021
Not a letter of complaint but an accusation of heresy
But the number crunching tells only part of the story. We now have to consider the substance of the letter, which goes far beyond any rational criticism of the BBC’s commitment to its own rules. The driving purpose appears to be to proclaim and demand fealty to the Holy Truth that any man can be a woman on his declaration alone – and to lie about the law in the UK while doing so.
However, to repeatedly insist that these attributes mean that the transgender woman is in fact a male is an act of transphobia, because in the UK she is recognised as a woman.
A transgender woman with a deep voice, a square jaw, and a penis that you do not want to have sex with is not a man. She is a woman that you don’t find attractive.
This isn’t true. And it isn’t the law in the UK. This may explain why so many signatures declare themselves from other jurisdictions where possibly the law is different.
It is less easy to explain why UK scientists and others from a wide range of sensible professions put their names to it – such as Brian Paddick. Michael Cashman, the CPS, a Citizens Advice Bureau, a science reporter for the Independent, Business Services at CAFCASS, social workers, academics and researchers, the LGBT+ Liberal Democrats, charity workers – these are professions of importance, with influence, where rationality and respect for the rule of law ought to be important.
But given that they are ‘verified’ alongside ‘Joanna Rowling’ from Edinburgh ‘Prince Andrew’ ‘Michael Souris’ from Florida and ‘TERFS suck my balls’ –who knows who anyone really is?
I have seen many people on social media remark approvingly about the thousands of signatures the letter has acquired. No doubt this ‘19K plus’ signatures will become as real a figure to some as other bogus statistics such as ‘1 in 12 transpeople are murdered’. Indeed the BBC reported that the letter was signed by ’16,000 people’, which is seriously misleading. Even the organisers concede they could only verify 60% of their claimed total number. Our analysis brings that percentage down to 51%.
To expect that weight of numbers should operate to sway public opinion or a public service broadcaster, those numbers must be valid. This letter and many of its signatories are #NotValid and we will be sending our findings to the BBC. So far the BBC have not backed down and are defending its reporter’s right to do her job.
But a focus on the numbers is a distraction from the primary problem. It isn’t a letter of complaint. It’s an accusation of heresy, relying for validation on spin, smoke and mirrors and trumpeting that ‘might is right’. When a complaint moves from criticism of an organisation’s compliance with its own rules, to demanding fealty to a quasi religious belief, then we know we are in very dangerous territory.
It doesn’t matter if one person or 10 million put their names to such an effort. It is wrong to expect one belief to triumph over all others. We accept people have a right to complain and be heard. If the BBC have transgressed against its own rules, this is serious and will require attention. But censorship cannot be demanded on the basis of weight of numbers when in reality there are only half the numbers claimed .
We agree with Rachel. Verification is important. Whatever side of the line you are on.
And we would add – if you are going to make a world wide appeal for support for your religious dogma, then 9,701 verified signatures is a pretty poor response.
Now that the era of ‘no debate’ is dead and buried, we need to remember what rational debate and discussion actually look like and we urgently need to engage with it. This letter is not helpful to that process. Accusations of heresy should not be cloaked in pretence of legitimate complaint. No single religious belief should be allowed to triumph over all others. We will respect your right to believe whatever you want – as long as you respect our rights to reject it.
NB: I could not publish Annex B and C as this would make the post too long to be published. If you wish to check our analysis of these signatures, please email me at [email protected] and I will send you the word document.
ANNEX A FAKE, YET VERIFIED
1. 422 Vanessa Oxley, Electronic Pixie Wrangler, SiliconExarch Ltd., Northampton
2. 3306 Aquasol, Intergalactic Ninja, Internets
3. 3870: Ligma Balls, Breaking Bucks, AHS, Garland, Texas
4. 3915: Gas the kikes, Race war now, 1488, Auschwitz
5. 3931:Penny Oaken, Wife beater, Reddit, Garland, TX
6. 3953: Gabby The Flabby hater, Truth Seeker, Brian Lives Matter, Florida
7. 3943: Steve Akins /AgainstHateSubreddits Mod, Bardfinn Reddit Mod, Beat his wife and kid, look it up
8. 3941: Hitler did Nothing Wrong, Buck Breaking, National Socialist German Workers’ Party, Nuremberg
9. 3976: a very quiet gorilla
10. 3965: Steven Joel Akins, Subject Matter Expert: Wife Beating, r/AgainstHateSubreddits, Garland, TX
11. 3983: Suck my girl cock or you’re a transphobe, Hooker, Gay AIDS, Also play with my balls
12. 3992: Revenjamin Buttons, Big City Gangsta, Free City
13. 5553 Fligelstone Doe, STUDENT, Cardiff
14. 5774 RJ Lupin Nurse Naim
15. 5947 cat, hep kat, London
16. 6573 Hayles Hearty, Author (no record of any author by this name)
17. 7275 Jonathan Scaramanga Bristol
18. 7277 Terra Moody Office Bowling Green
19. 8013 Endeavour Lewis, Bristol
20. 8014 Mustapha Fakeone
21. 8022 Herr Hitler
22. 8042 Penis Haver Phwoarr
23. 8727 dyke hater – you are all lying dickphobics, #metoo is over ladies, CEO of Stonewall, Get used to it
24. 8790 Cheers SriLanka, Media Body
25. 9707 Lady Schlong
26. 9877 Basil Brush, Glove Puppet, Boom Boom, Foxville
27. 9907 Stop Raping
28. 9999 Predatory Male Rapist Enablers
29. 10006 Predatory Male Rapist Enablers
30. 10164 Snow Flake, Meme Creator, Goatse, London
31. 10463 Alexander Rennerfelt, socpuppet, earth, Stockholm
32. 10580 colons, Crewe
33. 10593 PORKY PIG, RAPIST, PORKY PIG RAPE FETISHISTS SUPPORT GROUP, Rapeville
34. 10707 Fitz Finger
35. 10894 Nobody is ‘cis’, Down with sexist stereotypes, Transwomen are men
36. 10898 Macho Ma’am, Misogynist TRA, Stonewall, A female-only space near you
37. 11731 Homer Simpson, Nuclear engineer, Burns Energy, Springfield
38. 1313 Zero
39. 1410 Samuel Collyer, transgender layabout, County Maigh Eo
40. 1481 A Bee, Reading
41. 2659 TERFs Suck my Balls
42. 4010 Alec Baldwin, Actor
43. 4019 Ted Kaczynski, Professor of Mathematics (Unabomber)
44. 4020 Dildo Faggins, Engineer, Wanksy Central, Middle Earth
45. 4024 <h1>PENIS</h1>
46. 4036 Nagger, Nagger, Nagger, Nagger
47. 4044 Jeeve Sobs, Founder, Apple
48. 4053 We Cannot, Let The, Win, Trolls
49. 4162 Prince Andrew, Soon to be unemployed, The Royal Family, London
50. 4180 Joanna Rowling, Writer & LGBTQ+ Ally, Lumos, Edinburgh
51. 4238 Cretina P Cretinette, Cervix-Haver, Genderwoo disseminator, Hobbittown
52. 4576 Richard Braithwaite-King (Pseudonym)
53. 7461 Michael Souris, Actor, Disney, Florida
54. 7942 Bigus Dickus
55. 7495 Fitaload Ehshite, Fash Catcher, Fash Petersea
56. 7994 Rape Enablers
57. 6128. Braphogg Axwound, Dilation Stationcleaner, Copenseethe
58. 11046 – Amber Claes, Student, WILO Eksel (type of heating pump)
59.11070 – Keir Hardy, Edinburgh
60.11104 – Valkyra Transwoman, Trans Rights are Human Rights, Lancefield
61. 11430 – Silence the Women so we can rape them!
62. Joshua Moon, KIWIFARMS.NET
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