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Criticism of failed economists is not cancel culture

Everybody is concerned with ‘herd immunity’ at present as the pandemic continues on ravaging our social and economic lives. But I have been studying the concept of ‘herd mentality’ for some years, aka – Groupthink. Mainstream macroeconomics is sustained, not by any internal logical consistency (on which it fails), by close congruency with the empirical data (on which it fails), which are the usual qualities of a dominant system of ideas, but, rather, by (using modern terminology) its long-standing and on-going cancel culture. So it is rather amusing to read one of the leading voices in that paradigm, Kenneth ‘Spreadsheet’ Rogoff, whinging on the Internet that ‘cancel culture’ is being used to undermine the reputations of one of his mates (Larry Summers). Both continue to get platforms in the world media without trouble to push their vapid ideas into the narrative. The antithesis of cancel culture it would seem. What is going on is that more people are realising that the prognostications of mainstream macroeconomics are deeply flawed, and, while many may not know the technicalities and the theoretical complexities, they can see the empirical dissonance, and that means they know a – lemon – when they see one. And social media has given more people a voice and they are using that to call these characters out for what they are. And the sense of invulnerability that pervades all disciplines riddled with Groupthink is being questioned.

I wrote about my view on ‘cancel culture’ in this blog post – Be careful of what parades as academic research (Uber) (January 29, 2020).

In general, I do not like the social media phenomenon which is typically a sign of intolerance.

I consider that education is the path to a more enlightened, tolerant and inclusive society.

I particularly dislike progressive commentators publicly shaming others for being racist, sexist, mysoginist, anti-semitic, transphobic and more when the evidence is to the contrary.

I think there are valid criticisms of the Israeli government, for example and the illegal occupations that they Zionist settlers have imposed on the Palestinean people.

I don’t think that makes the person who makes those critical arguments anti-semitic.

I don’t think a person is always intrinsically transphobic, if they question the ‘fairness’ in sporting events, where biological males, who identify as females seek to make reputations by competing in those sporting events, where success is considerably influenced by physical strength and the fields are typically limited to biological females

Such a person might transphobic but the meagre point of raising the issue doesn’t immediately qualify for them status and disqualify their opinion or evaluation.

I understand the complexity of these issues and the need for respect for everyone and I think the ‘cancel culture’ tendency is the anathema of that.

My view is that education should be our guiding light and the cancel culture is bound to reveal its hypocritical tendency because at times we are assuredly better off being forgiving and adopting pragmatic strategies.

Rogoff and Summer – poor little darlings

But, of course, there is a clear difference between healthy criticism and debate and ‘cancelling’ a person outright for their views.

I too often see on social media that difference being blurred with vilification becoming the way of defending a position under attack, because it becomes easier to be abusive than to construct knowledge-driven arguments as riposte.

And it is clear that mainstream economists are being subjected to healthy criticism from more and more commentators, who, as I noted in the introduction, are becoming more erudite on economic matters, and are increasingly seeing that the predictions of mainstream macroeconomists bear little congruence with the real world events.

They are becoming sick of mainstream economists claiming that fiscal deficits, which clearly help people protect jobs and incomes etc, are dangerous and drive up interest rates and cause inflation.

They are becoming sick of mainstream economists claiming that when central banks buy government debt and thus control bond market yields (taking away any influence of the private bond investors, who have motives not usually linked to advancing general well-being), accelerating inflation will result and morph, at some point into hyperinflation.

The data doesn’t show that. People see the data and put two and two together.

They are becoming sick of mainstream economists claiming that bond market investors will stop funding governments and render them insolvent when it is clear the queues to get access to public debt (as corporate welfare) are long and showing no signs of drying up.

They are becoming sick of mainstream economists claiming that saying that governments cannot afford to provide provide proper health care or proper employment support or addressing climate change or anything else that helps the most of us, when the same economists are silent or supportive when government bails out corrupt banks or hands massive tax breaks to the top-end of the income distribution.

And more.

That dissonance is now manifesting as widespread criticism of economists who have rarely been questioned such is the position they have created in the public debate for themselves.

But now those economists, who more recently have been railing against the size of fiscal support being given by the US government – when there are something like 8.2 million jobs short of where they were in February 2020 (see my latest US labour market assessment – US labour market goes backwards with mixed signals – but significant slack remains) – are being criticised for their ‘conservative’ views.

I wrote a bit about that issue in this blog post – The inflation mania is growing – but manias are manias.

More specifically, I addressed the sort of claims that Lawrence Summers and Kenneth Rogoff have been making about inflation fears in this two-part series:

1. Is the $US900 billion stimulus in the US likely to overheat the economy – Part 1? (December 30, 2020).

2. Is the $US900 billion stimulus in the US likely to overheat the economy – Part 2? (December 31, 2020).

It seems that Rogoff and Summers are feeling the heat as a result of the mounting criticisms of them, particularly from commentators who might identify as being progressive and Democrat, which excludes many of those who identify as being Democrat supporters in the US.

Rogoff, retains a global platform in the media, despite his role in the Reinhardt-Rogoff spreadsheet scandal during the GFC.

During the GFC they produced ‘analysis’ that suggested that there was an 80 per cent threshold for “safe” public debt ratios and once the ratios went above that level, growth suffered and insolvency threatened.

They received massive press coverage for their ‘threshold’, given that mainstream macroeconomists can always command a widespread platform in the media and political process.

Journalists kept repeating their stupid mantra ‘this time is different’ (title of their book) without critical scrutiny, which is another aspect of the platform these economists enjoy.

Rogoff and Reinhardt claimed during the GFC that “austerity is necessary” because the rise in deficits and government debt would create dangerous insolvency and inflationary consequences.

They said that “the overall debt problem facing advanced economies today is difficult to overstate”.

Nine or so years later their predictions have been revealed to be plain wrong.

And, eventually, their ‘analysis’ was exposed as being either incompetent or fraudulent (who knows) because the spreadsheet they had based their claims had been wrongly manipulated (presumably by a research assistant).

When the available data was used correctly, their threshold results lapsed.

Further, the causality between debt ratios and growth could run either way but the evidence suggests that it runs from real GDP changes to changes in public debt ratios.

The furore over the Rogoff and Reinhardt work was not really about their spreadsheet incompetence but the direction of causality.

Any reasonable person came to understand that the meltdown in 2008 was not a public debt event.

It was a collapse in confidence that led to a spending withdrawal that cause real GDP to decline sharply.

This was followed by the imposition of fiscal austerity in most nations which further dented growth. The rise in the deficits and, under the current institutional arrangements, the rise in debt issuance, saw public debt ratios grow rapidly.

I wrote about his work with Reinhardt in this blog post – More worn out ideological prattle from R&R (November 21, 2013).

Given the massive failure of their predictions, one wonders why characters like Kenneth Rogoff still commands a public platform.

But they consider they are largely invulnerable to scrutiny.

Think about Summers and his role, with Robert Rubin and Alan Greenspan during the period before the GFC and the demonisation of Brooksley Born, who became the head of the US federal Commodity Futures Trading Commission and tried to warn the US government of the increasing dangers of unregulated financial markets.

I wrote about that in this blog post – Being shamed and disgraced is not enough (December 18, 2009).

Now, as their views are being increasingly scrutinised in the public arena, they don’t like it.

Rogoff told Politico’s West Wing Playbook that (Source):

… it’s very courageous of him to make … [his arguments] … in this world where there’s this, basically, cancel culture, and there are plenty of people who probably want to do that to Larry.

The West Wing Playbook suggests that Summers is used to criticism but now his world is difference because:

… he’s enduring it while outside the circles of power and not within them is a sign of how far economic policy-making has shifted since the Obama administration.

They also suggest that the Biden Administration “is also chock-full of Summers critics—economists who believe that decades of Democratic economic policy that failed to address wage stagnation, outsourcing and rising inequality led to the rise of DONALD TRUMP.”

The response of Rogoff is possibly because neither he nor Summers are part of the Biden Administration, but their presence in the official policy making arena would probably not alter policies much, given how weak the Biden camp has been on fiscal policy to date – reneging on key promises etc.

This is just another dimension of Groupthink

The real issue is the complete denial from the mainstream macroeconomists of the reality they operate within.

They have created such a fictional world that they believe they are insulated from criticism.

I have written several blog posts (and articles/books) about the phenomenon identified by social psychologists called – Groupthink.

The original article – Groupthink – was published in 1972 by Psychology Today (Vol 5(6), pp. 43-46) and was written by American social psychologist – Irving Janis.

He refined the term that US sociologist – William H. Whyte – coined in 1952.

Irving Janis extended a lot of the ideas from his 1972 paper in his 1982 book – Groupthink : psychological studies of policy decisions and fiascoes – published by Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

The concept is very applicable to the economics discipline and the way the academy operates in this area of study.

Cancel culture is the norm within this discipline.

The dominant professors control the evolution of the ideas in many ways.

Examination processes militate against any critical views by students.

Scholarships to graduate studies are then highly biased towards those who have ‘done well’ in the undergraduate examination.

Then appointments to the lower jobs in the academy are highly controlled and a certain type of graduate typically gets a job.

Then promotion is tightly controlled according to the type of publications one produces and the rankings of the journals they are published in. These rankings are highly controlled and vet out heterodox publications from the higher (and more valuable) ranks.

The professorial appointments are tightly controlled.

The competitive research grant process is tightly controlled to restrict money flowing to research projects that might be too ‘challenging’ for the mainstream viewpoint.

Then access into influential policy jobs in central banks and treasury departments become highly biased towards perpetuating the mainstream viewpoint.

This is really ‘cancel culture’.

There were very few people with my views who made it through graduate school and then went on to reach the top of the hierarchy.

I was only able to get through because I was technically competent (maths, mathematical stats, econometrics) which meant I could do technical work that attracted a lot of research funds without having to actually ever publish anything remotely mainstream.

It also meant as an undergraduate and postgraduate I could solve their ‘meaningless’ puzzles easy to get top examination grades.

But that path is an anomaly.

Further, access to the media is highly constrained and journalists typically just rehearse the views of the top end of the mainstream academy giving them global voices on a daily basis.

The platform they enjoy is amazing and journalists rarely subject them to critical scrutiny.

Has any journalist ever asked Rogoff whether he checked the spreadsheet that led to the scandalous and incorrect claims about public debt thresholds?

Has any journalist ever asked them to account for the massive empirical dissonance between the main predictions of New Keynesian macroeconomists and the empirical history we all have experienced?

The norm is that despite major failures in prediction, these characters just retain their voice and are wheeled out as experts on the next issue that commands the public attention – at present inflation.

Have any of them been forced to explain why Japan has had no accelerating inflation despite the Bank of Japan purchasing most of the public debt issued over the last 20 years?

Have they been forced to explain why bond yields are negative around the world when their macroeconomic framework predicted rising yields?

And more.

The privilege these characters enjoy as public celebrities and the voice they can express without scrutiny is massive.

I am regularly told by journalists that they have to ‘ration’ my access to radio and TV because they get criticised for having me on by politicians and other economists.

The Groupthink that protects them has given them an ‘illusion of invulnerability’ where according to Irving Janus, group members deny basic facts that refute their views.

They create group rationalisations of any ‘failures’.

US Marxist economist David Gordon noted in his 1972 book Theories of poverty and underemployment; orthodox, radical, and dual labor market perspectives (Lexington Books) – how orthodoxy keeps reinventing itself when confronted with an anomaly that exposes the theoretical structure to rejection.

They vilify critics and call them ‘crazy’, ‘socialist’, etc.

This sense of invulnerability is what allows Rogoff to create a narrative that he and Summers are the victims rather than the millions of workers who have been forced into unemployment by the sort of austerity-biased policies that New Keynesian macroeconomists have promoted.

Irving Janus writes (p.84):

The symptoms of groupthink arise when the members of decision-making groups become motivated to avoid being too harsh in their judgements of their leaders’ or their colleagues’ ideas.

This is the problem of “concurrence-seeking” which:

… tends to override realistic appraisal of alternative courses of action.

Those captured by Groupthink also take on a sort of moral superiority.

Irving Janus noted that:

Victims of groupthink believe unquestionably in the inherent morality of their ingroup: this belief inclines the members to ignore the ethical and moral consequences of their decisions.

Go back to my comments above on mass unemployment.

It is also behind Rogoff trying to deflect criticism by claiming that ‘cancel culture’ is attacking a “courageous” Lawrence Summers and these critics are hiding behind social media anonymity etc – these ‘cowards’ are attacking courage.

Rogoff is also serving a role identified by Irving Janus as a “mindguard”.

Accordingly:

Victims of groupthink sometimes appoint themselves as mindguards to protect the leader and fellow members from adverse information that might break the complacency they shared about the effectiveness and morality of past decisions.

Mindguards are there to enforce conformity and disabuse anyone of questioning viewpoints.

Conclusion

Given that the dominance of mainstream macroeconomics is maintained in part by a sort of cancel culture, it is quite amusing that Rogoff would resist the mounting criticism by appealing to the same concept.

His sense of being victimised is ludicrous.

He is just displaying all the characterisations of being caught in a groupthink bubble and that usually means the group has become dysfunctional and dangerous.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2021 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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    This Post Has 31 Comments
    1. Absolutely love this post. “The poor little darlings” LOL!!

      I’ve been particularly upset with Larry Summers since December when he started his crusade of ‘responsibility’ because of the ever present doom of possible inflation. I guess he has about a one in ten chance of events looking like they proved him right in the future- but let’s see what happens if all this rampant inflation he warns about does not materialize. I doubt he will be out there proclaiming how wrong he has been. But whatever- there is a chance he was correct about something even if the tools he uses for analysis are comparable to hitting a bullseye blindfolded when you have no idea where the dartboard is.

      I personally will commit to writing an abject apology to him if it turns out that inflation in the US in 2021 becomes a significant problem. I doubt he will say he is sorry for opposing government spending during a global pandemic if significant inflation does not materialize.

    2. Social media was (still is and will be) used to peddle lies as religious truth.
      It happened in the US in 2016 (in 2021, 75 million americans still believe the lies they bought in 2016).
      It happened in Brasil.
      It is beeing tried elsewhere, allways with the same goal: to push liars into proeminence.
      That doesn’t mean it can’t be used to other ends.
      Each one of us can choose to tune on other channels.
      The systems that run social media have algorithms to scan what you see, what you comment, the words that you use and many more stats about your interests.
      And then you start receiving posts of related topics, with the “religious” stuff – the lies.
      I reject them, but others don’t.
      Most people are affraid of beeing against the dominant religion.

    3. “But worst of all: because everybody is complicit in this subtle fraud, nobody is willing to acknowledge its existence. Who would be such a hypocrite as to condemn in others, behaviors they can see clearly in themselves? And yet, who is willing to undermine their own achievements by admitting that their own work does not have scientific value?1 The sad result is that, as a community, we have developed a collective blind-spot around a depressing reality: even at top conferences, the median published paper contains no truth or insight. Any attempts to highlight or remedy the situation are met with harsh resistance from those who benefit from the current state of affairs. The devil himself could not have designed a better impediment to humanity’s progression.”

      Not in Economics, but in the field of Artificial Intelligence, but the parallels are clear

      The process of producing knowledge is broken.

      “Prof. Littman says that collusion rings threaten the integrity of computer science research. I agree with him. And I am looking forward to the day they make good on that threat. Undermining the credibility of computer science research is the best possible outcome for the field, since the institution in its current form does not deserve the credibility that it has. Widespread fraud would force us to re-strengthen our community’s academic norms, transforming the way we do research, and improving our collective ability to progress humanity’s knowledge.

      So this is a call to action: please commit more academic fraud.

      Blatant fraud. Aggressive fraud. Form more collusion rings! Blackmail your reviewers, bribe your ACs! Fudge your results – or fabricate them entirely! (But don’t skimp on the writing: your paper needs to be written in perfect academic English, formatted nicely, and tell an intuitive, plausible-sounding story.) Let’s make explicit academic fraud commonplace enough to cast doubt into the minds of every scientist reading an AI paper. Overall, science will benefit.”

      I did point out that Economics has been doing this for decades and the improvement effects have yet to be seen.

      https://jacobbuckman.com/2021-05-29-please-commit-more-blatant-academic-fraud/

    4. Excellent words on both Zionist settlers and the undermining of sporting fairness, the latter seemingly requiring even more tiptoeing around an evident truth. And of course on the continuation of the establishment club in academia and the media.

    5. This is another great blog. I kept the tab open because I wanted to use it. Then the last thing I read in today’s FT – letter “Why is Her Majesty’s question still unanswered?” – provided the first opportunity and I posted the link in the comment section. But I’m sure I’ll find something else.

    6. Actually the first thing that came to mind was sending it to Gillian Tett, with whom I’ve had a couple of email exchanges – last year one about ‘groupthink’. She’s an anthropologist.

    7. I have an interest in History and in fact I was going to major in that discipline althugh I ended up doing Economics instead. I can’t purport to be an expert or professional historian but I do read a lot and I have covered plenty on Spanish 16th ant 17th Century history.
      In their infamous book Rogoff and Reinhardt included the defaults of King Philip the 2nd of Spain making the country a serial historical defaulter. There are many errors in the analysis, including the fact that you cannot consider that the State called Spain today is a continuation of the Composite Catholic Monarchy of that era when Castile, Aragon, Sicily, Navarre, Portugal where in fact separate kingdoms. But the main mistake they made is that Philip’s defaults were intentional because he wanted to arm-twit the Castilian cities into approving tax rises in the Castilian Cortes (Parliament).
      It was my knowledge of the institutional framework of 16th Century Castile and the history of those defaults that made me realize that I was not reading a scientific book but a shoddy and spurious correlation of data that could hardly be put together in the same data set. How these characters retain any credibility still today befudles me.

    8. Essentially there are two camps in economics those who believe economies equilibrise automatically in the long run and this notion is based on 17th century mechanical Newtonian physics, the other camp is Keynesian which believes uncertainty plays a determining role in economies throwing up many variables but never achieving any steady state equilibrium. Philip Pilkington, the Irish economist, does a good job shredding the “mechanical physics” economic approach in his 2016 book “The Reformation in Economics: A Deconstruction and Reconstruction of Economic Theory”.

    9. People don’t get to make up their own narratives about things they have absolutely no background in, and then present their view as if it were canon.
      Transgender issues are not no brainer, type issues. Nature is far too complex for that, and yet everyone seems to feel they are entitled to speak publicly of trans people anyway they please, despite the fact fact they are questioning, or even making assertions, on the existence of other human being(s) (erasure, cancelling?) . in the process this contributes to the politics that influence the rights of a marginalized group of people who have experienced a 40% suicide rate prior to the age of 30, as the result of gender dysphoria, which is best treated by use of hormone therapy to make the characteristics of the body more closely match the experienced identity.

      The transgender identity as male/female, develops as the result of someone possessing a neural architecture closely matching that of a person born with all of the other sex characteristics that we normally associate with male or femaleness. This has been known since 2004 when controlled studies employing a new imaging technology allowed imaging of brain neuro connectivity of genetic males, females, and transgender persons.
      In trans women the studies demonstrated female type neuro connectivity even prior to any form of hormone treatment. The difference in the patterning of male and female brain connectivity is unmistakable.

      Other studies long ago had established the link between genetics, and epi-genetic variations and the phenomenon of gender identity. Prior to that medical professionals incorrectly believed that gender identity was a matter of nurture rather than nature and this resulted in malpractice resulting in death in some high profile cases.

      There are numerous genetic and epi-genetic conditions which have a potential to result in a transgender brain. There is even a condition called De La Chapelle syndrome were an individual actually has two x chromosomes just as every other female would have, yet develops all of the primary and secondary sex features of a genetic male, because a single gene ( SRY ) gets copied on to one of the x chromosomes. These people develop and look like any normal male.

      Cross gender hormone therapy has profound effects on the body and has been well established as an often essential component of transgender healthcare.

      Sports medicine professionals determined some time ago that following a few years of cross gender hormone therapy all of the male muscle advantage a trans woman may have possessed prior has vanished. Trans women can attest to this; they have the same issues with opening tightly capped bottles or jars or lifting heavy objects that cis women experience.
      The one fly in the ointment as pointed out by the transgender tennis player Renee Richards (also a doctor) is that if a trans woman transitions after puberty they will have a permanently male bone structure, which she felt gave her an advantage in her sport due to better mechanical leverage.

      In a kind of cruel irony, the types of genetic differences associated with transgender also tend to make trans women taller on average than cis gender males, and trans men shorter on average than cis gender women. But then there is a height distribution in cis people too, and height does give advantages in some sports too

      There is a way for puberty to be completely blocked until a trans person is old enough to consent to hormone therapy. If a person has a hormone therapy induced puberty without first experiencing natural puberty, it’s very difficult to tell the difference between a trans woman and a cis woman, and most importantly they posses no significant advantage relevant to sport.
      Not that there are great numbers of trans women in the first place, and the subset of trans women who actually wish to participate in sport is very small, so this is really making a mountain out a mole hill, and I really don’t understand the obsession so many people have with this.

      To get an idea how damaging the politics of identity and erasure can be, In the US there are even bills being introduced in some states banning all trans youth from participation in school or organized sport despite being on puberty blockers! What possible advantage could they have? With female levels of testosterone they don’t even have male aggressiveness as a tool.

      Florida’ legislature has even suggested the examination of bottom parts of anyone wishing to compete as a female in these same situations!
      Some of the same states have also introduced bills aimed at criminalizing health professionals administering established best practice in trans health care. The mere introduction of those types of bill have already killed transgender teens by greatly compounding their already severe depression.

      The existence of identity politics race, gender, transgender etc.. has become a major tool for politicians and their advisors to divide people into an angry rabble, hopelessly distracted from this huge issue that affects the quality of life for all; however it appears that these issues will have to be resolved before it’s possible to move forward unless people suddenly start to see how nonsensical it is to be fuming on social media or down at the pub about things they really have no background in.

    10. A bit of a cautionary tale for me, given I am contemplating postgrad economics right now! I am hoping that Political Economy at USYD will be suitable, given they proudly advertise their heterodoxy. I have spoken to all of the other economics schools in Sydney and when I started to explain my interest in how design creates value they all, without fail, tried to sell me an MBA.

      It would seem that having economics situated within Business, as is the case at all the other Australian universities, makes them more interested in churning out little bankers and capitalists than researching “weird” ideas about value creation.

      Sadly, Bill, that includes Newcastle. Even though you are there, I could not find any coursework that allowed me to study mainstream and heterodox comparatively, or anything much about theory – as opposed to learning about business (in that lovely new business school in the centre of town, must keep the benefactors happy now!)

      I will try again in a few years when I am up for some research, need to do coursework first as I am coming from a design background…

    11. @Bradley Schott

      Don’t worry about coursework in a business school it’s a complete waste of time because it’s a one size fits all approach.

      You just need to find a good Phd supervisor. Tell them what you want to achieve and take it from there. Assuming you have First Class Honours in Design.

      If not – do an honours year in economics at Newcastle. Just because the heterodox side of things isn’t advertised does not mean it doesn’t exist.

      I received a good mix of Keynesian, Austrian, Monetarist / Rational Expectations, Marxian, and MMT at Newcastle during my honours year.

    12. Is part of the problem related to the fact mainstream neo-classical/neo-Keynesians don’t actually recognize a role for the public sector?

      eg, the Job Guaranteee is both outside the realm of, and heavily influencing, “invisible hand” free market outcomes….

    13. When a conservative voice cries ‘Cancel culture’, what they really mean is ‘Consequence culture’. And they’ve been sheltered from consequences for far too long.

    14. I see cancel culture and the older political correctness as related to the austerity cult.
      The rationale seems to be that austerity is okay provided it is applied in a just manner. Hence it is necessary to require that austerity decisions are made by suitably noble and august personages.
      Otherwise known as my mates.

    15. “In trans women the studies demonstrated female type neuro connectivity even prior to any form of hormone treatment.”

      Really. In which case why hasn’t it evolved into a standard diagnostic technique in 17 years?

      Because when replicated with a wider groups of people you find that such neuro-imaging isn’t consistent and some women who are very much women exhibit male-ish thought patterns.

      We call those people ‘tomboys’.

      Don’t believe everything you hear from lobby groups. They are highly selective in their view of the world. And increasingly dangerous.

    16. Thank you, J, for your comment about trans people. I have a few transwomen friends and know how much they suffer. It seems to me that sport is an issue, which needs some resolution, but all the rest is just prejudice.

    17. I see this as a cultural wedge issue; the supposedly “enlightened” (or “woke”) west vs. the “unenlightened” east (whether European or Middle), and attitudes towards “trans” matters is just the latest instrument with which to establish the west’s self-declared moral superiority – and the liberal media are willingly engaging in its promotion, as they do on any occasion they are called to do the establishment’s bidding.

      It reminds me of the 1950s promotion, as simply another front to be opened up during the Cold War, by the US of Abstract Expressionism and jazz, as a differentiator to the more stodgy and traditional culture promoted by Stalin in the USSR.

      But if anyone thinks that the western Cold War establishment genuinely gave a damn about black people, or modern artists in the 1950s, or that it currently really gives a damn today about those people who believe they were born in the wrong body, then they are deluding themselves.

      When the trans issue has run its course, the battlefield will change, and the next differentiating wedge issue will kick in with gusto, most probably veganism.

    18. “why hasn’t it become a standard diagnostic technique in 17 years?”
      Because we already have a reliable diagnostic technique that is far less expensive and just as informative.
      The Diffusion Tensor MRI imaging studies cost several millions in valuable MRI time and the time of professional radiologists who could otherwise be diagnosing cancer etc..to conduct.

      Trans people have universally described the symptoms of gender dysphoria to their medical practitioners so many times over so many decades now, and, the link between the dysphoria to the detected differences in neural architecture were firmly established by those studies. The presence of gender dysphoria is now regarded as sufficient for a diagnosis.

      Hormone therapy typically does no harm, and is a very slow process which can be stopped at any point along the way for any reason. The vast majority of trans people start feeling relief for their dysphoria soon after the HRT is started, and by the time patients seeks out medical help with their dysphoria, they may already be close to suicide due to a depression which can’t be adequately treated by other means. Any delay in treatment such as a long wait for the inevitably confirming MRI could result in loss of the patient.

      Niel, you might also be surprised to learn that not all trans women are terribly effeminate either. Many do present as Tomboyish. They also come in every color of the rainbow were sexuality is concerned just as their cisgender brothers and sisters do.
      Trying to define a woman in terms of some stereotypical feminine behavior, is just wrong and many women find that offensive.

    19. Sport is indeed an issue Carol Wilcox; and, as you can gather from my comment above the issue is a very complex one indeed. Who are sports for? Is it for everyone? Or is it just for the select types of human who fit neatly into one of two boxes ?
      It’s not even like it’s just sports, we see the same kinds of discrimination occurring in other areas, recalling that trans woman Jenna Talakova had to take legal action to retain her win in a beauty contest.
      The list of possible impacts of a poor decision regarding fairness in sport extends beyond sport alone and would eventually percolate into other kinds of politics that affect trans peoples rights as human beings.

      The choice is whether we define eligibility on the basis of biological sex, male or female or on the capacity to be competitive.

      The definition of male and female given by biologists comes down to whether or not an individual is able to supply sperm or an egg, and there is nothing more to it. Were do people who carry neither functionality fit in? What happens if in the future, technology exists to allow a trans person to have the same biological definition as a cis gender person of the sex they identify as?

      The ability to win at any sport is always determined by the person or team of people most fit for the game on the day it’s played.

      The problem faced here resembles one that was solved for sports like boxing, wrestling etc.. were athletes who weigh less are greatly disadvantaged compared to those who weigh more all else being equal. They divide the athletes into weight divisions rather than exclude the heavy weights from competition.

      I think sport today would be far more inclusive if athletes were grouped into some kind relevant divisions based on the identified and measurable capacity for performance in their sport rather than just biological sex. It’s not as straightforward as classifying by weight alone but I think the general idea has some merit, and it would be very interesting to see it tried before we try to exclude anyone from participating in sport.

      We have to give some credit to the training aspect of sport too. It’s not like any random trans woman or even a male can just walk in and win at any sport against a trained female athlete. The difference between male and female just isn’t that great.

    20. The professor has discussed groupthink many times. I think that groupthink may be present in many fields and even my own, but we often may not think about it at all.

      I for one have always raised my eyebrow whenever people say scientific progress is going to do this and that.

      Last time i checked, i am still having trouble affording housing. IF science can’t fix that, i doubt it can fix any social problems.

      Its just belief in miracles.

    21. J Chistensen

      “The difference in the patterning of male and female brain connectivity is unmistakable.”

      Odd, since I’ve seen a scientist with the MRIs that say female/male brains are a mostly, but not quite, overlapping spectrum. Either way… I can’t find fault with wanting people to not be under threat because they’re different, as if any of them are a Buffalo Bill waiting to blossom.
      But then you get to professional sports, some of which always were what they were to favor testosterone, to the point where flukes like Dillema and Semenya get penalized through no fault of their own. Maybe the idea of rewarding the best genes isn’t a very leftist idea, but maybe that’s just me.
      This to say, the questioning is fine, life’s complicated. The issue with it, other than the rare virtue signaler, is the fake questioning of people who just don’t like the answer. Which is kind of unlike neoliberalism, which is both the prevailing mindset (even if more and more disjointed as its premises crumble to the naked eye), and doesn’t even put anyone’s life or job on the line. If anything, it’s everyone else, including MMTers, who get canceled and distorted.
      Back to one funeral at a time, I guess.

    22. Paulo Marquez

      There is a video on YouTube titled: Healthcare of the Transgender Patient (5/13/19). The video covers a talk given to physicians and medical students by presenter Dr William J Powers, who specializes in transgender health care.

      It’s an excellent educational video for helping anyone interested to gain a better understanding of transgenderism and whats involved in helping trans people gain the ability to live a normal life. It gets a bit technical in places but for anyone who doesn’t practice medicine and just wants a general picture of what causes transgenderism, the first 20 minutes are probably suffice.

      In the video around the 14 minute mark, Dr Powers puts up a power point that cites various studies which have been reshaping our understandings of the sex differences in the neuro anatomy of the human brain, male vs female vs transgender, and the association between those differences and gender dysphoria, the experience which is common to all trans people and is defining because of that.

      It’s true, that male and female brains appear very similar superficially; however, viewed through the correct lens the differences become quite apparent.

      According to historians much of the history of LGBT people has been erased, to permit the control of narratives about them by others. This has been in no small part due to culture wars between empire building political leaders, which has been ongoing for at least millennia, as the snippets they missed and gradually are being unearthed are telling us.
      Nazi brown shirts in Germany destroyed a very large and important collection belonging to Dr Magnus Hirschfeld in the 1930’s, but the politics and the attempts at erasure are ongoing and certain academics in certain fields actively participate in this for the same empire building reasons.

      This is not unlike the colonizing efforts by the government of my country ,Canada, were there is history of an effort to erase the cultural identity of indigenous people. Recently we learned this even involved genocide in the thousands at what were known as “residential schools” for indigenous children, were indigenous history, language, and other aspects of culture, it appears were literally beaten out of the children.

      The “Buffalo Bill” character in ‘Silence of the Lambs’ only describes nothing more than a psychotic serial killer with a bizarre sexual obsession. It’s not a portrayal of a trans woman.

      Gender Dysphoria is not mental illness but it is associated with a cluster of mental health issues if untreated, foremost being severe depression resulting in suicidal ideation and thus it needs to be a medical diagnosis to allow appropriate treatment targeting the root cause of such issues, in the case of trans women it’s known as “the man in the mirror”, which is the misleading image others see. When trans women can no longer see that man in the mirror, they begin to shed the depression and visa versa for trans men.

      When people view that film, they tend to think this depicts a typical trans person and that is a direct result of the numerous libels perpetrated against trans people aiming to discredit, de-legitimize, and erase trans identities. Those thoughts have literally be burned into our brains by this millennia long slinging of BS.
      Trans people who manage to survive long enough to fully transition and thrive amidst all of this are probably the most mentally robust people alive, while transphobes are simply those who have been duped by all the hype.

      Dillema and Semenya are very special examples of the complexities generated when sorting athletes by gender. Dr Powers states in his video that Semenya, (while presumably not transgender) does have the Y chromosome despite having a distinctly female body.

      Genetics and evolution theory inform us that the “best genes” are any genes that survive. Outside of that there is no way to tell which ones will make it beyond the next major crisis. Any number of factors besides athletic ability could be what determines the best gene. So sport tells us little about the best genes, otherwise cockroaches would be stronger and faster than anything else.
      No elite athlete gets to were they are without years of intense training of the mind and the body.

      The neoliberal mainstream are being very disingenuous when they attempt to apply terms like “erasure” to try and deflect criticisms generated by people using an MMT lens to image their destructive economic suggestions.
      They remind me of some surrounded villain holding up an innocent child in a vain attempt to avoid capture whenever they try to re-appropriate terms used to describe the heinous actions of past and present empire builders continually abusing vulnerable minorities to further their own mindless cause.

      Borrowing the recent words of writer Adrie Rose: “Class consciousness cannot come until liberation acknowledges all of us, and makes room for the realities we do not share.”
      We won’t see an end to neo liberalism or mainstream economics until this happens.

    23. @ J Christensen thanks for providing a well thought out opinion. Sport is reportedly a disaster atm for cis females who compete with other talented trans females. Bigger bone structures and higher levels of T, even after hormone therapy, do not fully bridge the gap. Taken to its logical conclusion, if Rafael Nadal had an epiphany and decided to transition and join the women’s tour (eg, WTA), Rafaella would dominate well into her 60s. No if or buts. It is not transphobic to calmly and sensibly put forward the reality of the situation. I don’t know what the answer is to this problem and it is clear that many females (cis and trans) are perplexed and frustrated at the current state of affairs. I wish you well.

    24. It is ironic how much coverage there is of cancel culture.
      Hard to check out the news without someone complaining how they can not get on the news.

    25. Esp

      Thanks!
      As I noted in my earlier comments, but perhaps didn’t make clear enough, there is no doubt that trans women who completed puberty prior to transition, probably should not compete against cis gender women in many sports, since former trans athletes have self admitted feeling they may have had some residual advantage gained by their athletic training while still exposed to the effects of testosterone in years prior to transition. No athlete takes pride in gaining unfair advantage.

      Many trans women opt for orchiectomy or genital reassignment surgery and cannot produce male levels of testosterone thereafter so T can’t be a factor in those cases. Trans hormone therapy also suppresses T to female levels but the possibility of cheating during training still exists with that unless the athlete is monitored for T level daily.

      BTW: no one really just has “an epiphany” late in life, people tend to feel their ‘transness’ or gender dysphoria at an early age before puberty even begins, though many put off transition until later in life for numerous very good reasons; but yes, have to agree it would be fair to bar a late transitioning Raffa from women’s competition.

      It should be noted that trans women who never experienced natural puberty because they received puberty blockers prior to receiving female hormones do not have those advantages since their was no opportunity to develop a male build in the first place.
      There are also trans women who have genetically predetermined androgen insensitivity and have bodies that do not respond to testosterone in any way, and so cannot develop a typical male build no matter how hard they might train.

      From what I gather, sports physiologists, and sports medicine specialists are getting pretty good at finding out what the limits are for human performance in most sports are. This is how they already detect doping incidents like the times when a bicycle rider looks near death one day only to put on a very aggressive performance and win a mountain stage in the Tour de France the very next day, with help from a boost of T of course. Such miraculous performances would not be possible otherwise.
      So, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think they might be able to find ways of grouping athletes fairly in the future. Ai might be useful there.
      When you think about it, elite level trans and intersex athletes are fairly rare, after all the prevalence of trans women in general is less than 0.5% of the population and far fewer than that actually transition, so this problem isn’t something that would happen often. Perhaps in individual sports, the next best scoring athlete against a trans woman could by default be given the same score as the trans woman and issue two medals instead of one? No one is excluded and they can both claim bragging rights.

      It’s not even like there would be enough trans women to form a division for them.

      One has to try to imagine how dehumanizing it would feel for any child to be told that all participation in organized sport is precluded because of their unique genetic endowments?
      They can’t really participate in boy’s/men’s sport either for their own safety.
      It’s pretty much par for the course for trans women who are discriminated against everywhere they go. Little wonder so many lose their will to live.

      Wishing you well also.

    26. Thank you Carol Wilcox!

      This is about as close to doing the social media thing as i get; but if I ever do join FB or Twitter I’ll certainly look for your page.

      Regarding the Loo; Women living in the city for the past few decades have probably already shared that space or a locker room with a trans woman without even knowing it. Probably many times if they get out often. It’s been a non issue, trans women are women, and the record shows they are in greater danger using men’s rooms than cis women are sharing their space with a trans woman.
      For this reason many trans women often develop urinary tract issues during transition because there is literally no were to go.
      The more recent development of unisex washrooms for disabled people has been a god send for trans people.

    27. @J Christensen – very much agree with your comments. I was being fast and loose with my words re the epiphany bit. The intersex (or differences in sexual development) athletes are quite rare, but such people are thought to be over-represented on the catwalk. The women’s 800m (?) at the Rio Olympics, however, resulted in a clean sweep of the medals by intersex athletes. This unusual outcome perhaps meant that the issue got a lot more airtime (unfortunately much was negative) than would perhaps otherwise been the case. Humans are indeed an interesting lot!

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