“You should write about that Fingal Library thing”, someone said to me yesterday morning.
“What Fingal Library thing?” I replied.
There’s an old rule for barristers, cross examining witnesses, that states that you should never ask a question to which you do not already know the answer.
I wish I had not forgotten it:
Due to unauthorised activity today, the @fingallibraries account has been suspended. Information on Fingal Libraries will be available from this Twitter account and also from Fingal Libraries' other social media accounts. pic.twitter.com/SjQ2m1Cb6U
— Fingal County Council (@Fingalcoco) September 21, 2022
The “unauthorised activity” in question, by all accounts, is that Fingal Library’s twitter accounts had “followed” people who share “transphobic views”. This accusation had been levelled, a few hours before the account was silenced, by a Green Party County Councillor cum Culture Warrior named Karen Power.
“Transphobic views”, if you are wondering, are views which simply state that it is not physically possible for a biological man to become a biological woman, or vice versa. It seems almost redundant to say it, but in other words, views that were accepted orthodoxy for the whole of human history up until five minutes ago.
And so, it has come to pass that not only is Fingal Library’s twitter account transphobic, but that almost every human being who has ever been born, lived, and died – from the time between Fred Flintstone’s discovery of the wheel and Síofra from Dun Laoghaire’s discovery in a UCD lecture that gender is a spectrum – was also transphobic. William the Conqueror was transphobic, by this definition, in addition to all his other crimes. As was Julius Caesar. As was your Granny, lord have mercy on her soul.
That this is all nonsense requires no further elaboration. It’s not a subject on which there need be much argument. Either you are a sane and reasonable person, or you believe that transphobia is a major modern problem, and that the denial that men can have babies is a hate crime. There is no in-between on that one. People can live – and should be tolerated so long as they harm nobody else – as they wish. But demanding that the rest of us believe them to be what they say they are is another matter entirely.
There are more interesting questions at play here, after all, than whether men can give birth to babies, and whether a library is acting in an unauthorised manner by following JK Rowling (the world’s most famous living children’s author) on twitter.
If you are a Christian, especially a Christian who has ever expressed political views informed by Christian values, then you will undoubtedly have heard at some point a sneering question about whether the values of your church are really the values of Jesus Christ. People who profess not to believe in God are very often those who claim to be most committed to the values of Jesus of Nazareth, as defined by them: Jesus was kind. He was compassionate. He was tolerant. These are things usually cited as a way of indicating that Christians, by contrast, are not.
The thing that they miss – perhaps the most important thing that they miss – is that Jesus did not try to impose those values. Indeed, a student of history will know that the popularly understood idea of a “Jewish Messiah” at the time of Jesus was a god-sent figure who would lead the Jews to freedom from Rome, by force if necessary.
In fact, a Jewish military leader called Simon Bar Kokhba claimed the title for himself, a few decades after Jesus. Bar Kokhba used the title to call his banners and start a destructive war of independence, which ended badly for all concerned. He arguably had much more contemporary support in Judea for his claim to messianic status, though, than Christ did, because he was willing to offer earthly salvation to his people and call them to action. People have always preferred their messiahs to “fight” rather than to lead by example. And that, my friends, I’m sorry to say, also explains some of the appeal of Donald Trump.
Those three paragraphs are a long-winded way of making a simple point: Those who most often claim in our society to be advocating the values of kindness and tolerance and compassion have much more in common with Bar Kokhba and Donald Trump than they do with Jesus Christ, for all that they sneeringly claim the latter’s mantle for themselves. For them, it is not enough simply to be kind, and tolerant, and compassionate. The ultimate objective is to force everyone else to be kind, and tolerant, and compassionate – as they define those terms – by means of whatever force might become necessary. The same is true of the hate speech laws presently working their way through parliament. The same is true of those voices on the right who fantasise about “locking up” various politicians and banning pride parades, or whatever it might be. But we’re writing here about the silencing of a library.
And with the silencing of a library, it is important to recognise that the ultimate objective here is not the celebration of difference and the protection of transgender people, but the absolute erasure of all dissent. Silencing a library over something so petty should not be seen as “liberalism gone mad”, but “liberalism expressing its ultimate logic plainly”. The ultimate goal here is not the suppression of dissenting behaviour and opposing views, but their utter and complete elimination. Given the choice, Karen Power and many others like her would live in a society where thinking such things was not permitted. And until they are democratically stopped, they will not stop waging this war on those who differ from them. It should not be understood as political, but instead as religious, and messianic, in the Bar Kokhba sense.
Add to all of this that the councillor in question, Karen Power, belying her name, has very little power. She cannot force you or I to think differently. She certainly cannot silence JK Rowling. All she can do is make her own little contribution to the great cause of the culture war, by owning the transphobes, and revelling in it. An act of petty spite, dressed up as a strike for some kind of quasi-religious sense of virtue.
The real villain here, though, is not Karen Power. The villains are the people in Fingal Library, and her colleagues in the council, who are too chicken to call out insanity when they see it. Karen Power is not the messiah. She’s just a very stupid, but deadly serious, Green.