On the Destruction of Discourse and the Cult of the Postmodern Left

On the Destruction of Discourse and the Cult of the Postmodern Left

Originally published at DerrickJensen.org.

This letter was sent to a publisher with whom we signed a contract for our book Bright Green Lies. After the contract was signed by all parties the publisher unilaterally voided on the contract. The publisher voided the contract because we refuse to deny physical reality, that is, we refuse to say that male human beings can “identify” their way into becoming women. The book has nothing to do with that question, but is about how high technology will not stop global warming or the destruction of the planet.

This is the cult-like behavior of the postmodern left: if you disagree with any of the Holy Commandments of postmodernism/queer theory/transgender ideology, you must be silenced on not only that but on every other subject. Welcome to the death of discourse, brought to you by the postmodern left.

We are profoundly disappointed that you chose to void the contract. That’s not particularly professional or ethical. Nor is it what we expected from a press that bills itself as an alternative to the corporate model of publishing.

You asked for our views on “gender,” and then didn’t even bother to wait for an answer before voiding the contract. Again, not what we expected from a press that seems to pride itself on communication.

Here are our views on “gender.”

We are part of a global, multi-generational feminist struggle that is critical of gender. There are many aspects to this political tradition, one of which is criticism of modern gender identity politics.

To make clear our position:

  • We believe that physical reality is real. This includes biological sex.
  • We believe that women–adult human females–have been oppressed under patriarchy for several thousand years.
  • We believe that sex stereotypes–aka gender–are social constructions. There is nothing biological that drives women to wear high heels and makeup, and drives men to fail to show emotions. Those are created by society to keep men on top and women subordinate. Sure, it’s perfectly fine if men want to wear makeup and high heels, but a desire to do so does not make them women.
  • We believe that people should be allowed to dress however they want, love whomever they want, have whatever interests and personalities they want. And of course they shouldn’t be discriminated against or subjected to harassment or violence. But these fashion choices, sexual preferences, and personality characteristics do not change anyone’s sex. Insisting that they do is reactionary. The whole point of feminism was that both women and men have full human capacities and shouldn’t be constrained to half of our human potential. The catchphrase of the seventies “free to be you and me” has become its polar opposite, where a little girl who likes trucks must really be a boy and hence may be subject to profound and life-changing medical alteration.
  • We believe that the modern gender identity movement is resulting in concrete and widespread harm, such as via dismantling hard-won protections like Title IX, private bathrooms, separate prisons, women’s sports, changing rooms, scholarship programs for women, women’s events and groups, etc. And of course it is causing harm through the destruction of discourse by the systematic silencing of anyone who disagrees with any portion of the gender identity movement.
  • We believe, as did Andrea Dworkin, that “Those of us who love reading and writing believe that being a writer is a sacred trust. It means telling the truth. It means being incorruptible. It means not being afraid, and never lying.” We believe the same holds true for publishers. Or used to. Or should.
  • We believe that there is a crisis in publishing and in public discourse, brought on by what has been named “the regressive left.” This movement bears no relation to the historic left that has spent decades fighting for a just and sustainable world. The historic left believed in the power of education and the free exchange of ideas as the foundations of democracy and as bulwarks against authoritarianism. The regressive left has instead based itself on harassing, threatening, deplatforming, and/or assaulting–that is, silencing–anyone who dares to disagree with any of its dogma. We are certainly not alone in noticing this. It has been remarked on by everyone from Noam Chomsky to Ricky Gervais. This regressive left has embraced authoritarianism, and has empowered both petty tyrants and smug cowards. It is not an exaggeration to say that we are deeply chilled by the regressive left’s rise to power. The values necessary for civic society to function and the institutions whose job is to embody and protect those ideals are eroding, and, with a few brave exceptions [for example, the above mentioned Chomsky, Gervais, various comedians, various old-school lefties like Chris Hedges; as well as The Committee on Freedom of Expression at the University of Chicago, FIRE, Heterodox Academy, and Bret Weinstein], not enough people seem willing to stand and fight. Probably because when we do, regressive lefties threaten our careers, our livelihoods, and our very lives. They deplatform us. They get us fired. They void our contracts. Many threaten to rape and kill the women, and to kill the men. This has become routine. The new orthodoxy is anti-intellectual, anti-democratic, and fundamentalist in its mindset. Its tactics of bullying, deplatforming, stalking, severe social censure, and violence will never create a just and sustainable world. It will only create autocrats, self-righteous quislings, and in the case of gender identity, a generation of children who have been sterilized and surgically altered. Children are already being harmed by this project. Some of those young people are speaking out, and we urge you to listen to them:

Pique Resilience Project

If no one is allowed to disagree with any one particular group of people–whether they be capitalists or Christians or Muslims or those who support (or oppose) Israel or those who identify as transgender–then there can be no reasonable discourse. Allowing any group to hold discourse hostage is the death knell for pluralistic society. It leads to fundamentalism. It is a fundamentalism. It’s a classic trick used by despots and pocket despots everywhere: to ensure agreement with your position, make certain that all other positions are literally unspeakable. For the religiously minded, the epithet of choice has often been blasphemy. For the patriot, it’s traitor. For the capitalist, it’s commie. And for the liberal regressive leftist, it’s oppressor, or in our case, transphobe.

Here are some questions. These questions aren’t rhetorical. If you’re going to break our contract and not publish us based on internet slander, on an issue that has nothing to do with the book at hand, and apparently without bothering to find out our actual positions, we think you owe us the courtesy of at least honestly considering these questions.

  1. Do you believe that a little boy who likes to dance and play with dolls should be put on puberty blockers and possibly have his genitals removed; or do you think that a little boy who loves to dance and play with dolls should be loved precisely for who he is, which is a little boy who loves to dance and play with dolls? Likewise, do you believe that a little girl who likes to play football and fix bicycles should be put on puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and then have her reproductive organs surgically removed; or do you think she should be loved precisely for who she is, which is a little girl who loves to play football and fix bicycles? If you think there is nothing wrong with these children, and they should not be put on dangerous drugs, then you will be called a bigot, and publishers will refuse to publish your book about stopping the murder of the planet.
  2. Do you believe that women, including those who have been sexually assaulted by men, should be forced to share their most vulnerable spaces with men? This has happened in spaces like homeless shelters, women’s prisons, and battered women’s shelters. As a result of unquestioning acceptance of the idea that men can simply identify as women, women have been raped. Women have been assaulted. We have spoken up about this. How many women have to be raped before it will be acceptable for someone who stands in solidarity with women to publish books on any other subject in the world, including stopping the murder of the planet? If you believe that women should not be forced to share their most vulnerable spaces with men, then many on the regressive left will call you a bigot, and publishers will break their contracts with you.
  3. Do you believe that women who have been sexually assaulted and call a rape crisis center should be forced to talk to a man? This has happened. The Vancouver Rape Relief Shelter operates a crisis hotline and was sued in Canadian courts by a trans-identified male who wanted to “man” the phone lines. The crisis center organizers fought back on the basis that a male voice answering the phone would create problems for women in crisis. They eventually won their case, but have since been under assault, including having funding taken away because they refuse to force women who have been raped to talk to men. If you believe that women who have been sexually assaulted by men should not be forced to speak with men when they call a rape crisis center, then those on the regressive left will call you a bigot, and publishers will break their contracts with you.
  4. Do you believe that women in prison should be forced to share their cells with male prisoners who have been found guilty of rape? This has happened numerous times, and has led to the rape of women by these men. See, for example, Karen White in the UK. See, for example, any number of cases in the US. If you believe that women in prison should not be forced to share their cells with men, then those on the regressive left will call you a bigot, and publishers will break their contracts with you.
  5. Do you believe that women should be allowed to compete in women-only sports leagues? Or do you believe that women should be forced to compete against males? Men who identify as transgender are already taking medals, money, and scholarships from girls and women, as, for example, in this case, in which a white male millionaire who identifies as transgender cost an indigenous Samoan woman who overcame childhood sexual abuse her gold medal. How can the regressive left rationalize supporting this? But they do. We are the ones called bigots for protesting this. This is an appalling statement of how demented, and regressive, the left has become. Women are being harmed by this–economically, socially, morally. If you believe in Title IX, and believe that women athletes should be allowed a level playing field, then you will be called a bigot and publishers will break their contracts with you.
  6. Do you believe that women should be compelled by law to touch men’s genitals, or risk being hauled before a human rights tribunal? This is happening right now, as a trans-identified male named “Jessica Yaniv” is suing poor immigrant women of color in British Columbia because they refuse to wax his genitals. Yaniv has already forced several of these women out of business. If you do not believe that women should be forced to handle his genitals, you will be labeled a bigot and publishers will refuse to publish your work.
  7. Do you believe that lesbians who do not want to have sex with men are bigots and should be shamed into having unwanted sex with men? This is common in modern lesbian communities. In fact it is happening right now to an entire generation of young lesbians. In any other circumstances, we would call this what it has always been called, which is “corrective rape.” But now the regressive left promotes it, and vilifies those who oppose it. If you do not believe that lesbians should be shamed into having sex with men, then you will be called a bigot and publishers will break their contracts with you.

If you don’t believe women should be forced to share their most vulnerable spaces with men, then we are baffled by your position. Our book is not about that issue, and our position on that issue has nothing to do with this book. Are you simply afraid of the backlash?

If, on the other hand, you do believe that women should be forced to share their most vulnerable spaces with men, then we are still baffled by your position. You publish lots of stuff we disagree with. Who cares? We came to you to publish a book on whether industrial wind and solar will save the planet. Your views on whether women should be forced to share their spaces with men are irrelevant to us and to that book. We are not fundamentalists, we are not afraid of open discourse, and we are not afraid of being somehow “contaminated” by contact with those who hold positions with which we disagree. But then again, we are not part of the new regressive left.

By the standards of our detractors, we have committed blasphemy and are now unclean. Our loyalty to women has rendered every other position we take on any subject to literally be unspeakable.

Welcome to the current state of discourse on the regressive left.

Instead of just breaking the contract because of online slander, you can read our actual positions on this issue, and read two articles written by Derrick about the crisis of cowardice in modern universities and publishing.

Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Max Wilbert.

17 thoughts on “On the Destruction of Discourse and the Cult of the Postmodern Left”

  1. I recently heard of a feminist publisher Spinifex Press..perhaps they might be interested in publishing your book.

  2. I am sorry that the label “left” is being used for these neo-libs who I believe are fascists. I dont believe this letter or essay will have any effect that we want.

  3. My friends, your letter/article is right on. Thank you for stating so clearly what many of us feel and think but may not articulate as well as you have. Your position on this definitely coincides with my thoughts on the subject. I hope that some members of the radical leftwill read it and actually give it some thought. I am going to share it, if you have no objections.

  4. Brilliant essay (and very typical of Lierre’s enviable writing skills)!

    I had largely misunderstood DGR’s position on gender, and wrongly saw it as being factionalist on this issue (i.e., by using gender as an issue that would divide environmentalists). It now appears that the opposite is the case.

    As for gender-specific facilities, I am reminded of the sad case of the head of Atlanta’s NAACP chapter, who was forced to resign after complaining about the trauma her two daughters suffered, when they tried to use a women’s restroom, only to find it occupied by tall, boisterous, masculine trannies with baritone voices — demanding their “right” to the facilities.
    What next? A demand for urinals in women’s restrooms?

    My only disagreement is with the statement that “the historic left has spent decades fighting for a just and sustainable world.” On that point, I fear that you’re narrowly defining the “historic left” as the part of the left we support. Most of the “historic left” is about as “sustainable” as open pit mining.

    P.S: And my regrets at having been informed that there is such a thing as “genital waxing.” That alone is reason enough to embrace radical environmentalism.

  5. I could not agree more with this post, though this issue is not my priority (the natural environment and all that live there are). You are the gender you are born, and it’s not an option or an identification. If you don’t acknowledge those facts, you’re as detached from reality on that issue as Trump is when he speaks in public.

    If you want to change your gender, fine by me, so long as you’re an adult. But issues like which bathroom to use are a problem, because you’re making other people uncomfortable and they should not be in that position because you opted to have some Frankenstein-like operation.

    Many in society have been brainwashed to think that gender is an identity instead of what it is: a biological fact only alterable by unnatural means. There are, or at least were, indigenous societies that not only allowed members of one gender to act like and hang out with the opposite gender, but in fact gave them elevated status in the society. That’s perfectly reasonable and I totally support it. But it’s also a far cry from operating on people to change their gender, considering gender a choice or an identity, and/or forcing people to share spaces they consider at least somewhat intimate with people whose gender is unclear because they’ve had it artificially altered. Again and to be clear, I fully support the right of any adult with informed consent changing their gender if they so choose. But those people are not the only ones to consider on this issue.

    As to the censorship issue: The only thing that should be censored are provably false facts (facts are either true, false, unknown, or unknowable). Some people think that free speech is more important than anything and that even lies shouldn’t be censored, but that’s ludicrous. The natural environment and all that live there are more important than free speech. The civil right to be free from racist attacks is more important than free speech. Etc. What do you think is more important: convincing everyone that humans are causing massive environmental problems so we can do something about them, or people lying about this being able to publish those lies? Or showing everyone that we are all the same species and that the color of one’s skin is just superficial, or allowing racists to publish lies about the inferiority of non-white people?

  6. “you are the gender you are born”

    SEX. You mean you’re the SEX you’re born. No one is “born” with a “gender”.

  7. Finally some sanity. I find it increasingly difficult to align with neo-liberal “leftists” that seem to regurgitate Democratic/ liberal talking points. I remember when green-anarchists were talking about being post-left back in the 90s. Little did I know that some would morph into totalitarians.

  8. As a rule of thumb, you should never trust anyone who uses the term “post-left” or claims that the “labels” left/right are “obsolete”, etc. Because this is what happens next. They don’t understand class war (or pretend not to) and keep getting distracted (or intentionally deflecting) with identity politics.

    1. Comments must be manually approved, so a delay in publishing is not censorship — although we can and do moderate comments on this site and enforce these rules. The criteria for banning include:

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      2. Abusive language and personal attacks/name-calling.
      3. Security violations (http://deepgreenresistance.org/get-involved/security-culture)
      4. Tasteless or demeaning humor or statements.
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      7. Trolling: posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting or derailing normal on-topic discussion. Our web page is our page – we are not a platform for those who wish to argue with the DGR analysis at length or dominate threads.
      8. Threats of violence.
      9. Promotion of institutions of oppression (including the sex industry).
      10. Promotion or support of abusive practices (including BDSM).

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