A strange characteristic of progressive cancel culture is that, quite often, those targeted by outrage mobs are not especially conservative. Rather, they are liberals who buck the trend of uniformity by expressing an opinion that doesn’t fall completely in line with the progressive orthodoxy.
Such is the case with Jesse Singal, a freelance journalist whose work has been featured in left-of-center publications such as New York Magazine and The Atlantic. In recent years, Singal has faced numerous and visceral attacks on his character and reputation from a cacophony of liberal, pro-transgender voices.
His crime: Daring to acknowledge the reality of “desistance,” when a child who presents as transgender or gender dysphoric later returns to a gender identity that aligns with their biological sex.
In a fascinating column published Thursday in the online magazine Quillette, editor Jonathan Kay outlines what he calls the “campaign of lies” again Singal, all apparently stemming from Singal’s journalistic recognition of desistance — something which Singal notes is widely recognized among medical associations and clinicians in the U.S.
Yet while desistance may be broadly recognized in the medical world, among “progressive activist and journalistic subcultures,” it is widely regarded as a “myth” both harmful to children and injurious to the transgender movement, at large.
In that world, the only the “approved view,” argues Kay, “is that any child’s expression of trans identity must summarily be ‘affirmed’ by parents, educators, and therapists.” And so by acknowledging desistance within the journalistic subculture, Singal was breaking a binding social code. His punishment was to be outright cancellation.
And so it was. Over the next several months, a large group of well-known trans activists and columnists, including Julia Serano, Nicole Cliffe, Samantha Riedel, Brianna Wu, and Dianna E. Anderson, spewed wild accusations against Singal, none of which have been proven true.
Among them were allegations that Singal was secretly transphobic; part of a cabal of “elite cisgender media figures” hellbent on silencing trans voices; had a sexual obsession with trans women; that he threatened to out a trans person; that he’d “just fire out DMs asking trans women about their d**ks”; and that he had “sexually exploited” at least “a dozen trans women.” Again, Kay pointed out that not even a shred of evidence for the allegations has yet to emerge.
However, as pushback against such claims is leveled, Kay notes that “many of these activists will add self-pitying flourishes, describing themselves as oppressed truth-tellers, beaten down by pro-Singal trolls.”
He added: “And yet for all their passive aggressive tactics, every single mob member listed above has their own prominent media or corporate platform from which to continue spouting misinformation. And none, to my knowledge, has suffered any substantial consequences for engaging in what those outside this cultish milieu will recognize as a malicious and willfully dishonest propaganda campaign.”
In other words, there are no consequences for the outrage mob, and that is eminently dangerous.
The only silver lining to the sad story of the attempted cancellation of Jesse Singal is just that — to this point, it remains only attempted; so far unsuccessful. Singal has yet to be de-platformed and his “Singal-Minded” Substack remains popular. However, he should not expect the attacks to suddenly stop.
For, as Kay notes in his column, “If you grovel enough, woke mobs might eventually forgive you for being wrong — but never for being right.”