Why Trump Is Targeting Trans
Plus: The Roald Dahl debate gets interesting
Via the NYT: “Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump Subpoenaed in Jan. 6 Investigation.”
Via the Wapo: “Arizona’s top prosecutor concealed records debunking election fraud claims.”
Via Semafor: “Tim Scott says he’s the perfect Republican to defeat the race-obsessed left. He has competition.”
Via NYT: “In Sharing Video With Fox Host, McCarthy Hits Rewind on Jan. 6.”
Via Mediaite: “Trump Tells Ohio Residents He Brought Them ‘Trump Water’ and Also ‘Lesser Quality Water’ to Help Overcome Toxic Chemical Spill.”
Via the Wapo: “Trump’s grip on the Republican base is slipping — even among his fans.”
And our WTF Story of the Day. “Georgia juror unsettles Trump investigation with revealing interviews.” Here’s this morning’s Drudge Report:
The culture war the right might win
Some savvy number crunching from our former colleague David Byler.
By now, we know that the GOP is losing the culture war over abortion. Polls continue to show strong opposition to the kind of sweeping bans that are passing in red state legislatures.
But what about the trans issue? Why is Donald Trump doubling down on draconian proposals "which would prohibit federal agencies from promoting “the concept of sex and gender transition at any age” and mandate that the government recognize “male and female,” as assigned at birth, as the only genders.
In the Wapo, Byler notes that “the battlefield in the culture war is shifting. For now, Trump believes he’s found some new, valuable turf.
Trump knows that the trans issue excites his base — especially the Christian Right.
But, writes Byler, “Trump isn’t striking these chords now only for the base — he’s hoping to appeal to a broader audience.”
And some of his anti-trans positions might prove popular with elements of the wider electorate, which has recently become less open to transgender rights.
Sixty percent of American adults reported last summer that they oppose including options other than “male” and “female” on government documents. Fifty eight percent favor requiring transgender athletes to compete on teams that match their sex at birth. Forty one percent say transgender individuals should be required to use the bathroom corresponding to their sex at birth (31 percent disagree and 28 percent don’t have a position). And Americans are roughly evenly split on whether public elementary schools should teach about gender identity.
You can read his whole analysis here.
Lots of Bulwark types going to be here next weekend, including a live podcast… and a Bulwark Happy Hour!
Bubble-wrapping Roald Dahl
Admittedly, this whole thing started out as a more or less silly culture war contretemps, but the debate over the vandalization of Roald Dahl’s books has actually gotten rather interesting.
Some critics have chosen to focus on whether this is a story about Capitalism or censorship.
But, ultimately, it’s really all about the stupidity, isn’t it?
An unusual consensus has united the rational right and left on the question. Savvy observers of various denominations recognize that the bowdlerization of the classic works by the sensitivity trolls of the “Inclusive Minds” collective is an episode of naughty, stupid children in the china shop with hammers.
Laura Hackett, a childhood Dahl fan who is now deputy literary editor of London’s Sunday Times newspaper, had a more personal reaction to the news.
“The editors at Puffin should be ashamed of the botched surgery they’ve carried out on some of the finest children’s literature in Britain,” she wrote. “As for me, I’ll be carefully stowing away my old, original copies of Dahl’s stories, so that one day my children can enjoy them in their full, nasty, colourful glory.”
But there have been defenders; usually along the line of: the vandalism is being done by the legal holders of the copyright, so CAPITALISM! And, indeed, the publishers do seem to have the legal right to add/delete/mangle Dahl’s works to their hearts’ content.
But that’s not really the point is it?
Simply because someone has the right to do something, does not mean that they are justified in doing so. If your neighbor paints his house bright red and covers its sides with pictures of unicorns, pig excrement, and severed heads, the most pertinent and pressing question is not the status of his mortgage or lease.
But we’re not dealing with houses here; we’re talking about a work of literature, even it is merely children’s literature. And so, the question arises: what are the rights of the (dead) author, and the generations of readers who came to love the non-defaced versions?
A similar question would arise about art: If Elon Musk bought the Mona Lisa, would he have the “right” to draw a moustache on it?
Nick Cattogio notes that “some countries formally recognize that art is different by granting an artist ‘moral rights’ in the works they’ve created even after the property rights in those works have been sold.”
If you purchase an author’s copyright, you’re free to reproduce his work and to profit from doing so—but you can’t deny him proper attribution as the author and you can’t alter the work in a “derogatory” way that might damage his reputation. “Moral rights” function as a sort of warranty that a work accurately reflects the artistic vision of its creator(s); if you deface the work or credit someone else falsely with having produced it, you’ve breached that warranty. Even if you own the copyright.
The extent to which moral rights might legally protect a dead author from his own successors is above my pay grade but it’s plain as day how the moral intuition behind the concept applies to Dahl’s case. If you’re reading a bowdlerized version of Matilda, you’re not reading Roald Dahl; you’re reading Roald Dahl as abridged by Inclusive Minds. If the book appears with only Dahl’s name on the cover, it’s nothing more or less than false advertising. It’s not his work.
The warranty has been breached….
Stripping an author of his magic for the sake of turning him into a didactic if well-meaning bore would qualify as derogatory in any court that has me as a judge.
Then there is the absurdity of trying to bubble-wrap Dahl, whose books have never been for the squeamish of heart. Helen Lewis writes in The Atlantic: “Roald Dahl Can Never Be Made Nice.”
When I think back over the most memorable parts of Dahl’s work, it’s always the nastiness that lingers. At one point in the writer’s first memoir, Boy, Dahl’s father, Harald, has a broken arm that an incompetent doctor mistakes for a dislocation, tugging on the injured limb until it is permanently disabled. The awful married couple at the center of The Twits subject each other to a campaign of relentless psychological harassment. The message of George’s Marvelous Medicine is “Why not brew up all the chemicals you can find in your house and feed the resulting concoction to your grandmother?” This is not an easy fit for an era when peanut packets carry a warning that they contain nuts….
A few edits, though, are so contrary to the spirit of Dahl that they feel like a violation. In The Witches, for example, the protagonist’s grandmother warns him to watch out for the evil women who rule the world. They are bald, and cover this up with wigs, as well as hiding their claws under gloves. The grandmother used to say: “You can’t go round pulling the hair of every lady you meet, even if she is wearing gloves. Just you try it and see what happens.” Instead, in the 2022 Puffin edition, she warns the youngster that “there are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.”
Have you ever read a less Dahl-like sentence? He would never have included such a wholesome teachable moment. His cold, unsettling spikiness is his defining quality as a writer. After all, the conclusion of The Witches sees the young male protagonist stuck as a mouse, with a shortened life span to match. Hardly a happy ending.
So, don’t read Dahl’s books, if this isn’t your taste. But don’t pretend that hacking and chopping and flattening a few words and phrases will somehow transform this into something soft, squishy, safe, and inclusive.
But, we are told, this is bizNeSS; a commerical decision by a company that wants to sell more books.
But this is piffle on stilts.
There’s no evidence that the changes were necessary to preserve Dahl’s commercial viability. As Lewis writes, the “edits” are a case of clumsy corporate ass-covering. “The sheer weight of the Dahl edits reveals a kind of corporate safetyism: This might offend someone, so why take the risk?”
Today’s corporations want to have it all, though. They want the selling power of an author like Roald Dahl, shorn of the discomforting qualities that made him a best seller. They want things to be simple—a quality that we might call childlike, if Dahl hadn’t shown us that children can be so much more.
California’s Billion-Dollar Weed Boondoggle, By A.L. Bardach, The Bulwark
Want Meaningful Gun Regulations? First Rein in the Supreme Court, By Kimberly Wehle, the Bulwark
Heeding the Warning from the Future, By Brent Orrell, The Bulwark
Inside the Dissident Fringe, Where The New Right Meets the Far Left, and Everyone’s Bracing for the Apocalypse , By James Pogue, Vanity Fair
No, he’s not okay.
I am a transgender female the rhetoric coming from Donald Trump & the GOP is very threatening. Transgender individuals like myself live our lives in peace working, paying our taxes, & participating in our lives after work such as in my case going to indoor cycling classes & book clubs.
I started to transition in 2014 and I have not had any problems using the ladies rest room at restaurants & bars & ladies' dressing room at my gym. Transition was a life decision because I knew as a child that I was trans in the early 70s’.
When I leave my home every day I pray that I come home safe & not murdered because of my gender identity. I have received death threats in my life because of who I am.
I'm still waiting to hear an intelligent, articulate reason for conservative opposition to trans if it doesn't impact their own existence. I don't know if it is satisfying or miserable to go through life constantly looking for someone or something to resent or hate instead of channeling that same energy into activities that yield productive results. Either way, you know what they say about idle hands and the Devil. The Christian Right might be well served to talk less and listen more.