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Artillery Row

The Guardian’s McCarthyite gender politics

Ideological policing of Róisín Murphy is a cynical tribalism divorced from social justice

Laura Snapes, deputy music editor at the Guardian, really likes Hit Parade — the new album by Irish singer songwriter Róisín Murphy. Giving it a five star review, Snapes wrote that she had been “playing it obsessively all year” since getting a review copy, describing it as “a masterful album with an ugly stain”. I wondered if she had spilt her oat milk macchiato over her vinyl copy, but no.

The “ugly stain” is Murphy’s apparent transphobia.

For anyone still blissfully unaware of this latest Guardian controversy in the never ending gender wars, Murphy had commented, in a private Facebook group, that she considers puberty blockers to be bonkers and that “Big Pharma [is] laughing all the way to the bank” She also pointed out that TERF is a misogynistic slur. So far, so completely and utterly true. Not for Snapes, who decided to incorporate some kind of rabid opinion piece into what was supposed to be a straight review.

Half of her copy was taken up with details of some dodgy study claiming that puberty blockers are good for “trans kids”, whilst the other half focused on fulsome praise for Murphy’s (male) producer. How low the Guardian has sunk in deciding that McCarthyism — by which I mean the monitoring and making public of private messages in an attempt to destroy a person’s career — takes precedence over their artistic ability and talent.

Accusations of transphobia apparently trump allegations of any actual atrocity

In true Guardian style, the prose is irritatingly pretentious. Stefan Kozalla, for example, “lavishes the record with iridescent detail, as if zooming in on dew drops in the fur of a golden labrador or delighting in the twitching aliveness of a luscious jungle”.

It would appear that accusations of transphobia, particularly when made against women, trump allegations of any actual atrocity that can be committed in the world today. Woody Allen was accused of child sexual abuse for decades (though he has always denied it). He married his stepdaughter when she was 27 and he was 63 (having raised her since she was 10 years old), yet none of this warranted any mention by the Guardian reviewer who lauded his latest release, declaring it “his best film in a decade”.

Then there is Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman who “dated” and subsequently married a 13-year-old girl when he was 47. The Guardian published a warm and affectionate interview with him in 2006 that reads like two pals discussing a bit of youthful high jinks in the past.

As for Roisin Murphy, I had never heard of her or her music before she was exiled to the land of the cancelled. When the “controversy” broke, I played her latest album, slightly worried that it might lead me to join a Satanic cult. It’s not my thing, but the woman is clearly very talented. Laura Snapes obviously thinks so, too, which — now that Murphy has been branded a bigot after her private comments on Facebook were splashed all over social media — must have been some cause for angst in the middle of the night. How could you possibly like Murphy’s music, given how evil she is? Had it transpired that Fred and Rosemary West had composed some heartrendingly beautiful music prior to being fingered as serial killers, it would have had to be destroyed, master copies and all. Snapes clearly sees Murphy’s crimes in a similar light.

The music desk evidently also takes a position on the trans debate. As Ben Beaumont-Thomas, head honcho, tweeted in 2020 in response to the fall-out from the brilliant Suzanne Moore leaving the Guardian following a witch hunt: “Trans-women are women, trans-men are men, non-binary people are non-binary.” Plenty of bearded man-buns repeat this mantra, even though nobody actually believes it.

Gender ideology has provided an opportunity for liberal men to hate women

The following year, my obituary of the lesbian feminist musician Alix Dobkin, who set up the Michigan women’s music festival, was published by the Guardian. The obituary desk is the only one across the entire newspaper that has not “yet” blacklisted me. On reading said obituary, Beaumont-Thomas complained to the desk. He said something along the lines of “there are plenty of queer women at the Guardian who are not transphobic who could have written that piece”. I emailed him, asking why he had behaved in this way, but no reply was forthcoming.

Perhaps the most sickening aspect of Snape’s so-called review was her dismay at the fact that Murphy had not fallen to her knees, whipping herself and begging forgiveness, following the revelation that she doesn’t think kids should be pumped full of potentially harmful hormones. “When she finally commented a week later, notably she didn’t apologise for her original assertion,” wrote Snapes, “only the division she had sowed, and claimed she had never targeted any particular demographic.”

Could Snapes have settled for writing a straightforward review of Murphy’s album? Did she need to go into detail of the artist’s views on gender ideology? Probably not. The Guardian is too far up the tuchus of the US desk to dare consider her position on puberty blockers irrelevant.

“I totally disagree with Murphy’s views,” wrote Snape, clearly hoping to ingratiate herself with the blue-fringed youngsters at the paper, “and understand why for many fans, particularly queer fans, this album is DOA … ”

To which one can only respond — WTF?

The Guardian sees itself as a pro-feminist paper, although it has been some time since that claim could be justified. It now appears to hate women. Gender ideology has provided an opportunity for men who consider themselves to be on the left, progressive, liberal to openly despise women in the name of supporting trans women. Tragically, there are plenty of handmaidens such as Snapes who will sell out their sisters to get cookies from the boys. What I don’t get is this: if these man-bunned dudes, the likes of Beaumont-Thomas, really believe that trans women are women — why do they listen to them?

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