An old editor of mine once warned me off writing ‘man gets job’ stories unless there was a good reason. But ‘woman loses job’ stories are inherently more interesting, particularly if they concern a rupture at a leading newspaper.
I am not talking about opinion editor Bari Weiss’s exit from the New York Times earlier this year, although there is plenty of overlap. This time it’s about the Guardian’s Suzanne Moore, who yesterday announced her relationship with the progressive title had come to an end.
It was entirely my choice to go. I will tell you all about it one day. For now thank you for these lovely messages. I feel like I am at my own funeral or something. Anyway I will keep writing of course! The efforts to shut me up seem not to have been very well thought through x
The barely veiled comments suggest that Moore’s decision to part company with the Guardian has something to do with her views about transgender policy. The confrontation started in March when BuzzFeed UK (RIP) revealed that more than 300 staff had signed a letter protesting the paper’s coverage of trans issues.
Although the letter didn’t mention Moore, it was prompted by a column in which she called for protection of sex-based rights, amid wider disputes over whether trans women should be excluded from female-only prisons, changing rooms and the like. “You can tell me to ‘die in a ditch, terf’ all you like, as many have for years, but I self-identify as a woman who won’t go down quietly,” she said.
Moore was a caustic opponent of those campaigning for the government to reform the Gender Recognition Act to make it easier for trans people to legally change their sex. The government eventually backed the ‘terfs’, or trans exclusionary radical feminists, announcing in September that trans people would still need a medical diagnosis before the legal change.
As others have pointed out, Moore will doubtless find publications willing to publish her opinions. The Spectator, the Times, and UnHerd have all been happy to criticise modern trans ideology and related policy changes. Moore will also probably be happier writing for publications where her colleagues aren’t trying to get her sacked.
Whether the move is good for the Guardian is less certain though. Editors will surely think twice in future before publishing columns expressing scepticism about trans rights. The view that such scepticism is not a legitimate opinion but an expression of bigotry unworthy of publication may well be the paper’s policy in practice, if not in theory.
All news is propaganda, and what a paper won’t publish is as important as what it will. No British paper would publish an opinion advocating a revival of the Atlantic slave trade, and that’s as much an expression of its morality as a piece decrying modern racism.
The trouble for the Guardian is that many of the views the wokies want to stifle are popular. YouGov research shows the British have very mixed views on current trans issues, with a plurality supporting self-identification in a general sense, but a majority opposing trans women’s participation in female sports.
When covering Weiss’s exit from the New York Times in July I wrote this:
This seems to be the mistake that many wokesters have made: their personal morality is not widely shared, and yet they are forcing it on institutions they’ve only a partial claim to. That’s when the standard arguments that narrowing public debate makes us smaller and stupider start to apply.
The Guardian will be made smaller and stupider by its refusal to engage properly with opponents on trans issues, and the rest of the country with it. I can only hope for everybody’s sake that the paper reverses its course.