Okay, hands up everyone who predicted that when Big Brother arrived, he’d be wearing a dress, hauling anyone who refuses to wax his ladyballs before a human rights tribunal, and bellowing “It’s Ma’am!”
No, George, stop being cheeky and put down your hand. We know you wrote, “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” And you also wrote, “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.” And, “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” You wrote this as well:
“The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy: they are deliberate exercises in doublethink.”
We know you predicted postmodern nonsense, writing, “Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else.” And we know as well that you had one character say to another:
“How can I help it? How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.”
You had a representative of Big Brother respond:
“Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”
You also showed us the way out of this insane “sanity”:
“Being in a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.”
But you also wrote, “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.” You said a boot. You did not say a men’s size twelve Christian Louboutin Hot Chick Patent Leather Pump stamping on a human face — forever. You, who predicted Big Brother would force us to say two plus two equals five and to say war is peace and to say we have always been at war with Eastasia, did not quite predict that we would also have to say that Big Brother has always been Big Sister, that the penis can be a female organ (and has always, when the owner chooses, been a female organ), and that males can give birth. You did not predict that “Transwomen are women” would be the pledge of allegiance — the oath of loyalty — we would all have to swear, hands over our non-binary chests.
Big Brother — ahem, Big Sister — has struck again.
For 15 years, most of Derrick Jensen’s 20-some books were published by one publisher. They never tried to censor him, even when he wrote that salmon would like it if we took out dams, that the earth would appreciate the end of civilization. All of that was fine to say.
But in 2013 he wrote a book about a war being waged for the soul of anarchism. On one side are those who understand that governments take better care of the rich than they do the poor. On the other side are anarchists who believe that all social restraints are inherently oppressive and must be destroyed. This latter leads to horrors such as support for pedophilia. An entire chapter of the book was devoted to chronicling queer theorists’ support for pedophilia.
The publisher held the book for five years. Derrick kept asking if he was sure he wanted it. The publisher kept saying yes. In 2018, Derrick finally signed a contract. The book was in the catalogue for a November release. In August, the publisher pulled the book. Why? Because the chapter on queer theory’s support for pedophilia was, the publisher said, “hateful.” He compared Derrick’s sobering exposé of theorists promoting the rape of children to anti-Semitism and racism. He also wrote, “I’m not saying there isn’t truth, some truth, some important truth, in the things you are saying. People always use truth when they are attacking things, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a misuse of the truth.”
If we can’t attack the abuse of children, what does the Left consider worthy of defence? And if we can’t use truth as a means of critique, what would they recommend instead? This is a dizzying moment — the moral compass of movements we once believed in are now in wild free fall.
Queer theory is based on the postmodern notion that there is no physical reality, only the stories we tell ourselves about this reality. This is why Allen Ginsberg can write, “Prepubescent boys and girls don’t have to be protected from big hairy you and me, they’ll get used to our lovemaking in two days provided the controlling adults will stop making those hysterical NOISES that make everything sexy sound like rape.” That is to say, it is not the rape of children that harms children but the “hysterical NOISES” made by those of us who oppose child rape that harms children. It’s why Judith Butler can argue that “there are probably forms of incest that are not necessarily traumatic or which gain their traumatic character by virtue of the consciousness of social shame that they produce.” It’s also why those who identify as transgender can argue that their identification trumps biological fact.
It’s because postmodernists have theorized the material right out of reality that they cannot defend their positions, any more than Big Brother could defend the notion that two plus two equals three or five or whatever He tells you it equals. As the philosopher Daniel Dennet puts it:
“Postmodernism, the school of ‘thought’ that proclaimed ‘There are no truths, only interpretations,’ has largely played itself out in absurdity, but it has left behind a generation of academics in the humanities disabled by their distrust of the very idea of truth and their disrespect for evidence, settling for ‘conversations’ in which nobody is wrong and nothing can be confirmed, only asserted with whatever style you can muster.”
Because of all this, there is now a litmus test in academia and publishing — and increasingly in the culture at large — where if you don’t agree with postmodernism, queer theory, or transgender ideology you are not allowed to speak, are considered “hateful,” and are called a bigot. You may lose your job. You will be de-platformed. Your publisher won’t (can’t) deny you are telling the truth, but he will say your book is a “misuse of truth” and you will lose your book contract. This is because the only way postmodernists can win their arguments is by not allowing the other side to speak.
Yes, George, we see your hand raised; and “misuse of truth” makes no more sense to us than it does to you; and yes, we know you wish you would have come up with that phrase for use in 1984; and yes, you can still call it Orwellian; especially because yes, we know you predicted all this in Animal Farm, where all animals are created equal, except the pigs are more equal. All narratives are created equal, except queer theory is the only narrative you can have.
So, call for blowing up dams, no problem. But point out that queer theorists have promoted pedophilia, and that men who call themselves “transgender” are still men, and suddenly you’re toxic.
The authors of this article have written a book called Bright Green Lies, which is not about queer or transgender issues at all, but about how wind and solar power will not stop the murder of the planet. Our previous publishers refused to look at it. We shopped the book, and another publisher offered us a contract. Less than a week later we received the email we knew was coming — the one demanding we explain our “transphobia.” The publisher didn’t even bother to wait for our response before sending the next email: the one voiding the contract.
Derrick has done the math, and out of the literally millions of words he’s published, only 0.14 per cent (yes, that’s point 14 per cent) of those words have to do with transgender ideology: two short essays, only written after female comrades began receiving a host of rape and death threats for wanting to sleep, bathe, gather, and organize free from the presence of males. The cult-like demand of loyalty on the part of Big Sister is so rigid that 99.86 per cent agreement does not suffice.
We responded to the publisher, explaining the feminist position: that mammals can’t change sex, that females have a right to women-only spaces, that transgender ideology is reactionary, and that publishers should count the defence of free speech as a sacred duty. [Our email response is published in full at derrickjensen.org.]
As expected, we received a reply — written back quickly enough to have made even cursory thought infeasible — that didn’t address any of the issues we raised, much less answer any of the questions we asked.
Because of course the publisher couldn’t.
The problem is that, deep down, no one really believes that two plus two equals either three or five; that war is peace; that there is no reality outside the human mind; that the stories we tell ourselves trump reality; that child rape is only harmful because our cultural narrative tell us child rape is harmful; or that humans (or that any other mammal) can change sex.
These ideas can be inculcated into us — inculcate coming from a root meaning to stamp in with the heel, presumably in this case a men’s size twelve Hot Chick Patent Leather Pump — such that we learn to parrot them back; and we can learn that if we do not parrot back that two plus two equals five we will be punished. If enough pressure is applied, we may even forget how to think. We may become no longer capable of the critical thought necessary to see through these lies. At which point we may be qualified to receive our PhD in gender studies.
Lies are expensive to maintain, and so must be repeated incessantly, lest they start to lose their hold. And even more importantly, the truth must never be uttered, because if enough people utter the truth, the lies will be shown to be what they are.
In The Politics of Experience, psychiatrist R.D. Laing describes how one person can control another’s perception of reality. If Jack succeeds in forgetting something, this is of little use if Jill continues to remind him of it. He must induce her not to do so. The safest way would be not just to make her keep quiet about it, but to induce her to forget it also. Laing writes:
“Jack may act upon Jill in many ways. He may make her feel guilty for keeping on ‘bringing it up.’ He may invalidate her experience. This can be done — more or less radically. He can indicate merely that it is unimportant or trivial, whereas it is important and significant to her. Going further, he can shift the modality of her experience from memory to imagination: ‘It’s all in your imagination.’ Further still, he can invalidate the content. ‘It never happened that way.’ Finally, he can invalidate not only the significance, modality and content, but her very capacity to remember at all, and make her feel guilty for doing so into the bargain.
This is not unusual. People are doing such things to each other all the time. In order for such transpersonal invalidation to work, however, it is advisable to overlay it with a thick patina of mystification. For instance, by denying that this is what one is doing, and further invalidating any perception that it is being done, by ascriptions such as ‘How can you think such a thing?’ ‘You must be paranoid.’ And so on.”
When the invalidation, the impingement, and the guilt don’t suffice to shut Jill up, Jack can also call her a bigot, de-platform her, get her fired, have her book contracts voided, have her kicked out of public spaces like bars and Pride Marches, and punch her. Big Sister can do his damnedest to destroy her career. Big Sister can threaten rape and murder. Big Sister can threaten and commit other acts of violence, like nailing a dead rat to the door of a rape crisis shelter. In Canada, the United Kingdom, and some other places, he can sic the police on her and haul her into court. He can even murder her, her lesbian partner, and their son.
In just the last week, we’ve personally heard from:
– An attorney for a major NGO who was fired — not for incompetence, since she had just won a major case — because she refuses to say that a man can be a woman;
– A man who was banned from Twitter for saying that a man who identifies as transgender is still a man, while one of the most prominent newscasters in his country tweeted that he should be fired and never gain another job;
– A woman who is terrified to say the words “a woman is an adult human female” for fear she will lose her job;
– A university professor who is being hounded out of her job because she refuses to say that men can become women;
– A friend who received phone call after phone call from a man who identifies as transgender, threatening to kill her and her family and reciting her address; and;
– A colleague whose children attend a school where every last bathroom will now be open to all — not even one will be left for girls to attend to their private bodily functions without boys present.
We are told that none of this is happening, and since mainstream media outlets refuse to report on it, no one believes us. The war with Eastasia is always going well; meanwhile, the war with Transasia is invisible, unspeakable.
It is long past time to speak of it. The only way this will stop is if we stop it. That will take all of us, and it starts with speaking up. Not in closed Facebook groups. Not in whispered, private messages of, “You’re so brave, I wish I could…” Do you really think we “could,” more than anyone else? Our ability to do our work, pay our bills, and appear in public has been gutted. We were never safe from punishment. We risked it anyway.
Because no one is coming to the rescue. The Left has long since abandoned women to prostitution, pornography, and every last fetish that men can create for themselves. Meanwhile, the Right’s opposition to transgender ideology is soft at best, and comes wrapped in a bundle of misogyny. We are all we have.
Speak while you can. And by “speak,” we mean out loud, in public. Talk to your neighbours, your kids’ school, your professional association, your elected representatives — especially your elected representatives. Testify before every governing body that will have you, from your local school board to Senate committees. They aren’t going to invite you — you will have to go to them. You have a right to address your grievances to your government. Make enough noise that the press will have to cover it. Interrupt if you have to. We used to know how to do that, as a movement. Now we hold our breath and hope that the eye of Big Sister will pass over us.
It’s time to remember, before we forget entirely. The Left and the values it once held dear are eroding to an authoritarian impulse that we should have learned to firmly reject in the last century, yet here we are.
Stand and fight. Fight for reality, because two plus two equals four and it’s degrading to human dignity to be forced to submit to falsehoods. Fight for women, because we have a right to our boundaries and our own liberation movement. Fight for the children, especially the lesbian and gay kids, who are being sterilized and forever denied their future sexual function. Fight for a Left that believes in democracy and all its necessary conditions, from free health care to free speech. Fight every authoritarian impulse, which always springs from sexual sadism and never ends well for women. But fight. Find your courage, find your comrades, find your voice, and fight.
Derrick Jensen is the author of 27 books on the destruction of the planet, male violence, and political resistance.
Lierre Keith has been a radical feminist for 39 years and is the author of six books.
Max Wilbert is a writer and community organizer living in occupied Kalapuya territory (western Oregon).