TALKING TO OURSELVES: What’s in a word?

FRIDAY, MARCH 21, 2014

Part 4—At Salon, upset with Piers Morgan: At the Babel-inflected new Salon, Prachi Gupta was upset, perhaps even very upset.

Was she also showing how we progressives can end up talking to ourselves? Whatever one thinks of Gupta’s piece, it often seems the new Salon was invented to teach that very lesson.

How do progressives end up talking to themselves—perhaps even alienating the sympathies of others? In this instance, Gupta was very upset with Piers Morgan, or so Salon’s headlines implied:
How to be an ally: What Piers Morgan can learn from W. Kamau Bell
The comic was ignorant about issues affecting the trans* community. But he shut up, listened, and now he's learning
For the record, the headline included the newish word “trans*,” which includes the asterisk as part of the word. More on that below.

Was Gupta principally upset with Morgan? Not necessarily, no. At the new Salon, headlines and photos often serve as so-called “click bait.” In many instances, famous figures will be featured in headlines and photos even though they aren’t even mentioned in the piece they adorn.

In this case, Gupta was principally praising W. Kamau Bell, a black comedian, for “cover[ing] a wider range of subjects, including transgender rights,” in his work on stage (as opposed to simply discussing racial issues). Along the way, Morgan was one of several media stars Gupta criticized for “ignorance of transgender issues” and for resulting acts of bad behavior.

Salon’s headline gave Morgan a starring role he hadn’t been given by Gupta. In our case, though, the click bait worked. In part, we read Gupta’s piece this week because we’d been struck by the original flap involving Morgan, whose work we don’t normally like.

As happenstance had it, we were watching Morgan’s show on February 4 when his alleged “ignorance of transgender issues” and his offensive behavior supposedly came to the fore. As part of his show that evening, Morgan did two segments with Janet Mock, a transgender woman who is the author of the current book, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More.

Watching the show, we were struck by the amounts of praise and support Morgan heaped on Mock. Transgender rights is still less than fully mainstream. We were surprised by Morgan’s advocacy.

Warning! Errors contained herein:

MORGAN (2/4/14): Janet Mock has a remarkable life story. Janet is born a boy and at the age 18 took an extraordinary step to become the woman she is today. But Janet Mock, even further in 2011, revealing her secret to the world in a profile in Marie Claire magazine. Janet is now a fierce advocate of the transgender community. And telling us story of the new memoir "Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More". And Janet Mock joins me now exclusively.


MORGAN: So, here you go, these things of courageousness. So you're going to school, you've gone from “Charles” to “Janet,” from boys clothes to girls clothes, and you've conquered all the teasing and the bullying, you come through it, has made you, I guess, strong and you had enough to say, I'm going to through properly with this and become a woman or have a transgender operation, which is a huge thing to do at 18. Tell me how you felt when you achieved or approaching the operation.

MOCK: Well, that was a big step and a long journey, right?

MORGAN: Right.


MORGAN: It takes such guts, Janet. As soon—the thing that strikes me about your book and having met you is you're obviously just incredibly gutsy, very determined. Because it must be so many people, I guess, trying to persuade you this is not a good idea, that you should “stick to nature's plan,” you know, all the cliches.


MORGAN: Obviously, when you, when you did all these things and then you write the Marie Claire piece and now you’ve got the book and stuff, not many people have come out and being quite so brave and frank and honest about being transgender.

You can see now people like Laverne Cox and others, you know, appearing now in a more mainstream way and I guess helping the American people and other countries come to terms with this as being perfectly normal thing.

For you, it's been a real struggle but you talked about it very honestly in the book. Somebody's watching here who might be like a young “Charles” and still feel they can't go through with this, that feel desperate, they want to be woman, what's the best advice you would give them?


MORGAN: Well, I can't think of anyone better to be out there promoting all these than you, Janet Mock. It's been a delight to meet you. The book is called Redefining Realness; My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love and So Much More...

MOCK: Thank you so much.

MORGAN: Good to see you. What a remarkable lady.
You can see how obnoxious and insulting Morgan was that night. The next night, when Mock appeared on his program again, he was more explicit about the fact that he has “always been 100 percent supportive of...transgender rights.”

As Morgan finished his segments with Mock this second night, he said this: "Your book remains a great inspiring book. I remain a great supporter of the transgender community. I hope we can both move on from this and I appreciate you coming back on the show tonight.” But he also had some complaints.

During this session, Morgan complained about the trashing he had taken that day, from Mock herself and quite a few others. He asked Mock why she hadn’t objected to anything he said during the original interview, if she thought his performance was so offensive:
MORGAN (2/5/14): I want equality for everyone in America and around the world. That's always been my position. Anyone who watches this show knows that's exactly what I've always stood for.

I had you on the show. You had a very powerful book. I did nothing but laud your courage, I said you're a fantastic person to be out there sent to stage, sending the message, there's no need to stigmatize transgender people. I've called you a woman throughout the interview. I never disputed the fact that you're a woman. And yet today, I have spent literally 12 hours being viciously abused by the transgender community. Egged on by your own tweeting last night that you were somehow very dismayed by the way the interview had gone.

Now, I was surprised because you never said anything during the interview to indicate you were remotely dismayed within the turn of the interview. At the end of the interview, you were very cordial, we shook hands, you thanked me for the interview and off you went.

I mean, the interview was done five days ago. So I ask you, Janet Mock, to explain to me why you didn't say anything during the interview? Why you seem quite happy with it afterwards, why you then felt the need to tweet quite hostile tweets in my direction which then sparked this furor amongst the transgender community, because I feel pretty peeved about it.
In our view, Mock didn’t do a very good job this night explaining why she hadn’t challenged anything Morgan said in the interview.

Other people’s opinions may differ, but that isn’t the ultimate point. As we've noted, Morgan closed the session expressing his full support for Mock and her cause.

But Morgan was back in Salon’s headlines this week, with Gupta redredging this somewhat peculiar episode. As she did, it seemed to us that was displaying the new Salon’s phantasmagoric ability to take offense at any and all racial, ethnic or gender slights, whether those slights are actual, real, imagined, ginned up, conjured or invented.

Meanwhile, headlines at the new Salon will report that Salon’s writers “can’t stand white belly-dancers” or think their fellow Irish-Americans are “disgusting.” Those headlines get dismissed in comments as “click-bait” too, and they create the modern Babel which serves the one percent.

Are “progressives” like Gupta talking to themselves in some way? Even worse, are they possibly driving others away from progressive causes?

We would say that could be the case! For one slightly peculiar example, consider that word from Salon’s headline, the word which is spelled with an asterisk.

In her article, Gupta does use the somewhat unfamiliar newish word “trans*.” That said, there’s no asterisk at the bottom of the page, explaining the meaning of “trans.”

Instead, Gupta provides a link to this page, a page where the newish word “trans*” gets explained. Quite literally, this new word is a word like none other. The asterisk is part of the work, just like the word’s five letters.

Will the word “trans*” (asterisk included) ever become common usage? If linguistic history can serve as a guide, it almost surely will not.

That doesn’t mean there’s something “wrong” with the word, or with the impulse behind its invention and introduction. It may mean this:

Sometimes, perfectly well-intentioned people can end up talking to themselves. They may even invent unfamiliar rules of discourse which serve to keep others away.

On February 4, we were amazed to see the way Morgan embraced a group of people who still lie outside mainstream consensus. The next night, we were amazed to learn that he had been trashed all day for amazingly feathered perceived slights—perceived slights Mock had a hard time explaining.

For decades, the liberal world slept in the woods, letting the one percent rule. Now that we have begun to roar, we often seem exceptionally skilled at talking to ourselves—even at inventing ways to drive all others away.

If this impulse didn’t exist, the one percent would want to invent it. When progressives work to create a new Babel, we leave the plutocrat community with very little to do.

A rocket ship straight to Babel: In her piece at Salon, Gupta says that Jared Leto (The Dallas Buyers Club) “made jokes at the expense of transgender people in his Golden Globes acceptance speech.”

As evidence, Gupta linked to this earlier Salon piece, where Daniel D’Addario complained about a Fresh Air interview “in which [Leto] called his character ‘transgendered.’ ”

In turn, D’Addario links to this earlier piece, in which he called that term “politically incorrect,” without explaining what was actually wrong with the term.

In this chain of links, we encounter a defining impulse of the insult-seeking, Babel-inflected new Salon. To consider one problem with this defining impulse, you might review this 2010 post by Joanne Herman.

In just her first two paragraphs, Herman tries to explain what is wrong with saying “transgendered” instead of “transgender” and with the old locution, “colored person,” as opposed to “person of color.”

It’s painful to watch Herman try to accomplish this task—painful and perhaps a bit deafening.

We don’t refer to “colored persons,” and we'll say “transgender” instead of “transgendered.” But good lord! How the one percent was laughing, clapping and cheering as Herman struggled to explain the fruits of a small tribe’s impressive desire to speak in a private language.


  1. Can someone explain who is considered "transgendered"? Someone who had surgery to change their sex would obviously be transgendered. But, what about someone who is physically one sex, but who feels s/he really is the other sex. Is this person "transgendered"?

    1. Your question expresses the misunderstanding at the heart of the dispute between Morgan and Mock. Too bad Bob couldn't explain in instead of reprinting Morgan's back patting monologue.

  2. The problem is simple; Many people who call themselves liberal aren't really interested in liberal values. What they're interested in is tribalism based on intellectual snobbery. They see themselves as better than the benighted masses, especially the ones who are white and have penises that are occasionally slipped into vaginas. Unfortunately for them, the world is fast becoming a more humane and less bigoted place (as long as you don't include identity politic morons).

    In a desperate effort to maintain the overweening sense of superiority, they are forced into clinging on ever more trivial and confusing issues to get outraged over in order to differentiate themselves from the hated others.

    They don't care about regular people. What they care about is their own unchecked egoism.

    They are assholes.

    Waiting for your response, deadrat.

    1. They are assholed.

    2. Not funny, Anonymous 4:29. The politically correct term is "cornholed."

    3. HB from a public computer addressing Anonymous at 10:34 PM

      To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, "assholed by any other name...."

  3. "In our view, Mock didn’t do a very good job this night explaining why she hadn’t challenged anything Morgan said in the interview."

    Perhaps if you had spent even a sentence or two explaining what Mock had objected to, or what her explanation was, we could agree with you.

    But you did not.

    Coming from a blogger who spends post after post objecting when reporters do not ask the questions he would like to have had asked, or presented statistics the way he would like them presented, I find this ironic.

    1. Somerby doesn't seem to understand that there are readers here who don't have a left click button on their mouse and therefore can not follow the link he provided to go to the rest of the transcript after he's pasted several paragraphs from it. Me, I've got a left click button, a right click one, side click ones, and a scroll wheel. Let me help you out. I'll repeat that last two paragraphs posted above and some of what followed from there in the transcript:

      Morgan: ...Now, I was surprised because you never said anything during the interview to indicate you were remotely dismayed within the turn of the interview (ph) is easy. At the end of the interview, you were very cordial, we shook hands, you thank me for the interview and off you went.

      I mean the interview was done five days ago. So I ask you Janet Mock to explain to me why you didn't say anything during the interview? Why you seem quite happy with it afterwards, why you then felt the need to tweet quite hostile tweets in my direction which then sparked this furor amongst the transgender community because I feel pretty peeved about it?

      JANET MOCK, AUTHOR, "REDEFINING REALNESS": Well, I'm sorry that you feel offended. I think that people in the trans community feel equally as offended. I think that one of the number things with trans-women specifically is that so much of our lives are open to dissection and illegitimacy and investigation.

      And we're constantly questioned ever since we're very young that who we are is incorrect, wrong and should kept secret and I think that being someone that is very visible in a stigmatized community, you know, I am a trans-woman of color, I'm a young woman and these are issues that I think that we need to give trans people space to tell their own stories and we should follow the lead of people who are out there and being visible and actually advocating for views rights.

      MORGAN: But that's exactly why I had you on the show. That's why I promoted your book. That's why I told everybody to go and read the damn thing. So, I ask you again, why I have been vilified for being transparently supportive of you? I don't get it.

      MOCK: Maybe you don't get it because you're not a trans-woman. Trans-women are ...

      MORGAN: Well, explain to me. Explain to me what I did wrong. What did I do wrong?

      MOCK: You called -- so before commercial break, we had a lovely conversation and then all of a sudden you said, who was formerly a man. I was a baby, I was assigned male gender because of the parents of my genitals. As I grew up, I discovered my girlhood, I discovered my womanhood and I proclaimed and define for myself as Audre Lorde said. If we do not define ourselves ...

      MORGAN: Why didn't you correct me at the time? Why you didn't correct me?

      MOCK: I did not because I was scared.

      MORGAN: Did you feel that strongly?

      MOCK: I did not because ...

      MORGAN: Scared of what?

      MOCK: ... I was fair and I want it to be a cordial guess ...

      MORGAN: Scared of what?

      MOCK: ... and I think that that was probably incorrect of me. I wanted to be kind. I wanted to be generous because I was appreciative of having two segments on a mainstream show. It was my first major appearance as a young trans-woman who wrote her first book.


    2. ...continued

      MORGAN: And I thought you were terrific by the way and for what it's worth. I thought it was terrific ...

      MOCK: And I thought it was a terrific experience too. I think that I love that you called me ...

      MORGAN: And by the way Janet ...

      MOCK: ... that I looked like Beyonce, that you said all these amazing things and I was great ...

      MORGAN: I honestly ...

      MOCK: ... but I think that also being offensive and being kind are not mutually exclusive things. I think that we can be completely have great intentions and be good people but also be ignorant and have a lack understanding about these issues and a lot of these things especially for trans-women or about understanding.

      MORGAN: Well, OK. I mean ...

      MOCK: It's about understanding and intention is great but we also need action....

  4. I don't have the energy today. What's this post about? Can anyone summarize? I saw something about liberals asleep in the woods.

    1. When we liberals are in a circle jerk, we make up our own language that only we understand. According to the blogger, only liberals do this and we look to progressive icon CNN for guidance.

    2. Brit tv twit in tither over tran* tweets quits.

    3. Oh. I am trying to remember the last time a fellow liberal mentioned to me something he/she watched on CNN. Might've been during Gulf War 1.

    4. Something about a major news organization's embarrassingly unprofessional conduct.

    5. A penisplanation of word play.

    6. It is about a guest who had ample chance to correct an interviewers misunderstanding during the interview but said nothing, then tweeted complaints after the fact.

      Somerby has frequently talked about how noone corrects panelists on shows when they state misinformation. This time the guest could have intervened on the spot but didn't until afterward, when the interviewer had no chance to respond or correct his behavior. He then had her on the show again and asked why she didn't say anything, and she said she was afraid.

    7. Why didn't Bob say that?

  5. Slightly off topic: Transgender Woman Claims Former Male Self a Murderer

    Authorities in Washington State believe that a series of murders of prostitutes in 1990 were committed by Washington resident Douglas Perry. Now Perry has been captured and charged with the murders, but Douglas has become "Donna," a transgender woman...

    Donna's novel defense is that as a male she was prone to violence so she had gender reassignment surgery in Thailand a few years ago in order to purge herself of those violent tendencies. Further, since she is now a woman, she is a wholly different person and therefore she isn't responsible for what her former male self did.

    1. Treating transgender people as some sort of freak show is offensive, David. If you are curious, do some extracurricular reading.

  6. "How the one percent was laughing, clapping and cheering as Herman struggled to explain the fruits of a small tribe’s impressive desire to speak in a private language"

    And you know this how? LOL - what a JOKE you and this sad and sorry website are! Pining to be part of a group who HATES conservatives as much as liberals do: pro-business Republicans aka Chamber of Commerce. While they may put up with you by holding their noses - they certainly won't EVER let you become one of the "one percenters"

  7. ps: try using less quote marks around EVERYTHING ... like the "press corps" or "progressives" or ... etc etc. LOL ... blog writing 101 - guess you're still in remedial classes due to Republican budget cuts

    1. You are later than the spammers.