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 BellFor the record, the headline included the newish word “trans*,” which includes the asterisk as part of the word. More on that below.
The comic was ignorant about issues affecting the trans* community. But he shut up, listened, and now he's learning
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.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.”
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: 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.
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.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.
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.
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.