Piers Morgan is a pompous blowhard. There shouldn’t even be a debate about that. Irrespective of this fact and even if it’s simply a matter of convenience, however, his politics do lean to the left, which ostensibly makes him an ally when it comes to liberal causes, even if he occasionally needs to be prodded in the direction of the light and away from his tendency toward grandstanding and tabloid sensationalism. Yes, he’s a white guy — a British white guy, no less, which puts him in a stratospheric echelon of privileged snobbery — but he’s still someone who’s espoused a center-left, equal-rights philosophy much of the time since taking the reins of his nightly CNN show a few years back.
With that in mind, you’d think that rather than bitterly assail him for taking an inadvertently insensitive tack with a transgender guest two nights ago, the usual suspects among the hyper-liberal faction of Twitter would at the very least calmly address his mistakes and try to make him understand what he did wrong. You’d think that, if this weren’t the hyper-liberal faction of Twitter we were talking about — people who figure bullying their way to a satisfactory form of social justice is a thing — and we didn’t live in the age of perpetual social media outrage. If you’re looking for a nuanced discussion of partisan issues on Twitter, rather than 24/7 knee-jerkery, you’ve sincerely lost your mind.
Last night, trans activist and advocate Janet Mock returned to Morgan’s show to confront him over a series of hostile tweets she fired off in his direction, which began a firestorm of like-minded online criticism, in the wake of her initial taped appearance that aired Tuesday. Morgan expressed frustration and bewilderment at being attacked following the first interview, during which he spoke very highly of Mock but unfortunately chyroned her “Janet Mock/Was a Boy Until Age 18.” Mock said that Morgan simply didn’t understand what it was like to face the discrimination transgender women and men often face and that his tone and the chyron were offensive to the trans community; Morgan countered by saying that it was a simple statement of fact that she was at one time in the body of a man and her transition to becoming and living fully as a woman is what the book she’s currently hawking is all about. Admittedly, during last night’s interview Morgan should’ve been more receptive to Mock’s complaints right off the bat and attempted to learn what missteps he’d made rather than being defensive, but it’s tough to blame him when he’d just spent the past 24-hours being called a transmisogynist Neanderthal on Twitter.
Last month, Grantland set off a nuclear explosion of white-hot anger by publishing a story that outed a transgender woman who, as it turns out, had committed suicide during its writing. The argument by some was that the trans status of “Dr. V” wasn’t at all relevant to the piece being put together and its author had no right to out her; the reality is that while it’s a fine line, and Grantland was correct in apologizing for not taking a draft of the story to a transgender person for evaluation before publication, given that the piece examined Dr. V’s history it would’ve been a noticeable dereliction of journalistic duty to leave her life before transitioning completely blank. But what the article showed was both the need for sensitivity on the part of media people when it comes to the transgender community and the mine-field that often has to be navigated these days when discussing gender status. As Michelle Goldberg wrote in a recent piece for the Atlantic called “Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars,” even ostensible allies can be on the receiving end of a vicious calling-out these days, and that may actually be damaging overall social progress. The first response when someone says something offensive or insensitive, even if that person makes the mistake in good faith, isn’t a hand to hold — it’s a closed fist.
Obviously, it helps for Piers Morgan and everyone else to live and learn, to be educated on the most enlightened way to address both the concerns of the transgender community and the community itself. But Morgan is right when he says that being made the target of the Twitter mob because he accidentally stepped on one of those hidden land-mines or, in a general sense, failed to speak the right politically correct shibboleth, amounts to nothing more than a circular firing squad. The education we might need on matters like these shouldn’t come under the threat of public excoriation from those who should by all accounts be allies. That advances no cause other than endless rage and worthless counterproductivity.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.