Why we're all drowning in rivers of bullshit
Great piece Helen and I do fear that respect for the profession may reach the lows of Universities and that would be no good for anyone!
There’s a lot of pungent truth in this, but I think that the attrition of professional reputation through some individuals’ infatuation with their own social media performance isn’t the entire explanation in this instance.
First, with many honourable exceptions, deadlines, laziness and ignorance combine to lead journalists to fail to consult experts who are accessible and willing to talk to them at the drop of a tweet or direct message, and without dragging their soapbox into the room with them.
Second, this subject involves two areas of law: gender recognition and equality law, and devolved and reserved matters as between the Parliament of Scotland at Holyrood and the UK Parliament at Westminster. Both of these involve complex and technical statutory provisions. Both are also highly inflammatory topics, with hyoer-partisans on all sides. In the law of gender recognition and equality, a significant judgment in the Court of Session (For Women Scotland 2) only days before the final legislative stage of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill at Holyrood, was not debated or digested in that process. As regards the devolution settlement, the UK government’s power of veto over a Holyrood Bill is a virgin power, exercised for the first time here. So there is new material in territory where in any event (some) fools rush in and wiser people tread with caution. Especially those who already have entrenched and familiar views on either of the legal issues, or on Westminster and its personalities, or have form for cluelessness and incoherence in their work.
Thirdly, there is some discernible foregrounding of men and elbowing aside of women at work here, as Dr Michael Foran, the University of Glasgow academic whose recent work appears to have been influential on the government’s decision to exercise the s35 veto, has himself pointed out. On 14 January 2023 he tweeted
“ ... it really should be said that women have been raising these issues for years and don’t seem to have been taken seriously. I recognise that I brought some devolution aspects to the table but really I’ve not said much new here at all”
This was in reply to a thread started by a human rights lawyer and prolific commentator, also male, who had referenced Michael Foran’s work and said
“I’m looking for commentary on the Scottish gender recognition bill. ... Anything else out there?”
As anyone who had been paying any attention to the subject would know, there was a great deal “out there”, much of it written by women policy analysts and lawyers. QED
Superb as always.
"...it’s genuinely difficult to know when something is true or real..."
Increasingly, it seems that those that pedal in BS for likes, are patently aware of this struggle and utterly indifferent about being 'found out'. The tsunami of tribal support for each and every jibe lifts them up and carries them on to their next great pronouncement.
Excellent post. One thing I think also plays into all this is that there is a general lack of public understanding of genuine expertise / relevant knowledge as opposed to self-awarded expert status. There seems to be a breed of "expert" that actually just have an eye on a media-type career broadcasting to echo chambers who mistake the fact they agree with the "expert" for expertise and lap it up.
There is almost certainly money and "prestige" in it for the people who do it, but it harms the quality of genuine debate and the educating effect that would have.
I always learned something when I listened to you with Mike Graham . Where can I listen to you now?