The subversion of phobias leads to a new class of put-downs and blasphemy laws
When is a phobia not a phobia? How can a phobia be used as a new kind of blasphemy law?
One of the finest illustrations of the ancient principle of blasphemy or of being rude about God and religion, punishable by death is in the late 1970s Monty Python film The Life of Brian. In it a crowd of bearded men (including a few disguised women with beards, as only men were allowed to kill by lapidation) stand with baited breath until they are allowed to stone a man to death whose crime is to have used the term “Jehova” in less than holy circumstances. You can easily find this scene on YouTube or from the original film. In the UK at least, blasphemy laws allowing the criminal conviction of perpetrators, rude about religion were only abolished in 2008 although they were effectively written into the US constitution for free-born citizens since around 1787 in the form of the First Amendment. Some religions like Buddhism, also included ideas similar to the First Amendment, and the use of a blasphemy ideology is not confined to religion.
In recent times a new kind of social justice shut down of free speech couched in phobia terminology has emerged. It seems that free speech within a reasonable framework is constantly threatened and our group thinking or fixed views encourages new types of blasphemy laws, often couched under “hate speech” laws.
The term phobia is a Greek language term used in psychology to convey the sense of an irrational fear, dread or aversion of something seen as fearful that may not be quite as fearful as first appears. Apart from the presence of a genuine fear, the use of the term in the traditional sense applies to sufferers who acknowledge they have this phobia and seek help in mitigating it. This word also applies to diseases and curable psychological anxiety states and some of us may have a tendency to some of these phobias.
Here’s a few: Agoraphobia, Arachnophobia, Androphobia, Claustrophobia and as an example of a disease – Hydrophobia or rabies. You can see a good medical list with definitions here: https://www.healthline.com/health/list-of-phobias#az-list-of-fears
Here’s an example of a novel phobia of staircases that arose as a result of psychological tension:
“The parents, thinking the child too young to understand, had failed to discuss the birth of a new baby with her. Puzzled and disturbed by the event but feeling that she must not ask questions, the little girl suppressed her anxiety as well as she could. Each day as she left the hospital after visiting mother and baby, the first object she encountered was the stair railing which came to symbolize the whole situation and to arouse her fear. A similar staircase at the nursery school produced the same response, thereby attracting the teachers’ attention to the phobia. With the parents’ co-operation, the child was given the information she so badly needed and the fear disappeared.” - Sex and the Social Order by Georgene H. Seward, 1954, p. 132, Pelican.
This kind of phobia was induced onto young Truman in the late 1990s film The Truman Show played by actor Jim Carrey. A fear of water associated with the death of Truman’s father was conditioned into him so he wouldn’t try and escape Seahaven’s watery boundaries. Truman overcame the phobia.
In the above examples the phobia is observed by outsiders, especially in contexts of young children and adults. The phobia may be acknowledged by those who have it and they may admit the irrationality of their fear. The formation of such phobias is quite natural and defensive and may easily wane after some shock or other that produced it. Treatments are available and provided in medical contexts though sometimes the condition may be incurable if not fatal.
But a new and more malicious kind of phobia term is now used, all born largely out of a term coined by Iran in the late 1970s – Islamophobia1. This term has been so often discussed in a critical context that it need not be dwelt on here suffice to say that it is often used to shut people down. The slightest angst against the highly varied and vast religion that is Islam may be challenged by brief interjections such as “Islamophobia!, Islamophobic!, Islamophobe!”. Its power has become so all pervasive that it has now proliferated.
Even if this is a real phobia, it does not compare with phobia in the medical sense. Firstly, those suffering from a phobia are understood as vulnerable sufferers, not perpetrators of a faux pas or crime. Secondly, it is not acknowledged by those accused and is often exclusively used by those trying to defend that against which the phobia is associated – in this case as a defence of Islam. Thirdly, the term is used in highly political contexts unlike medical phobias and like blasphemy laws, it can help to ruin your reputation, get you sacked from a job or even get you killed. Defenders of so many minority movements and idealogies have since started queuing up to appropriate the term with relatively benign beginnings. Homophobia, biphobia, transphobia are commonly banded about in often irrational contexts.
I’m personally not aware of anyone who has a fear of bisexual people or of homosexuals for that matter but the terms are often used, even against homosexuals and transgender people to shut them down and get them to agree to some unwritten party line. Those doing such labelling are often supported legally. We must acknowledge that SJW phobias may frame something real. But they seem to grow more rampant with time until their validity needs serious questioning, rather like “racism” which once meant one thing but is now inveighed against opponents in debate and discourse the way that “fascist” was used in the past. Consider the term transphobia.
J. K. Rowling received a lot of publicity for the following tweet on Dec 19, 20192:
Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? …2
The bestselling author has been lampooned, ridiculed and excoriated for her apparent transphobia, even though many transgender people agree with her. The issue has highlighted how a judge sided against a woman called Maya Forstater who’s employment contract was not renewed associated with her expressed views that trans-women do not necessarily qualify as women including a crossdresser who was a convicted rapist. J. K. Rowling supported Maya Forstater.
Since the issue has entered the legal domain, the UK police have started actively pursuing examples of “transphobic” hate speech. Whereas no one has been jailed yet, many people have lost their job for expressing their doubts about allowing men or boys into situations formerly dedicated to women or girls.
“Transphobia” clearly conflicts with feminism, the protection of women’s sex based rights, given they are often in situations that make them vulnerable. The backlash against a vociferous trans lobby in the UK has seen the rise of an LGB movement that has broken ranks from LGBTQ given those who uphold LGB realities could be accused of transphobia. For example, many otherwise heterosexual crossdressers have also been identifying as lesbians, women with male sex organs. Not all lesbians are attracted to such non-traditional women and that could make them transphobic.
Dr Debbie Hayton, a transgender woman has tried to bring light into this political maelstrom but has been accused of being transphobic3. She states that gender dysphoria is real but we simply cannot go along with allocating people into a sex class on the basis of self-selected definitions.
Maybe there are better words to describe people who, for a number of reasons may feel uncomfortable or fearful about the grosser aspects of transgender culture – if they are too negative, they may be termed “trans-excluders” instead of “transphobes” (a similar word to transphobe used against feminists is TERF).
The social justice movement is burgeoning with terms to shut down debate and argument on issues about immigration, race, gender and similar socio-political issues and a backlash against these non-traditional phobias that are certainly applied to destroy reasoned arguments is now starting. This backlash is being championed for example by authors like Douglas Murray, a gay man in his recent book “The madness of crowds” – he has little time, literally for tirades against “homophobia”. It’s also being championed by another gay man in the form of Titania McGrath, a “woke culture” goddess who parodies everything she’s supposed to stand for.
There is at present, no decent term however to malign those who destroy our environment, the very basis of our existence, our civilisation and our culture leaving aside our supposed sexualities. What insult could be applied against politicians and developers who mutilate, destroy and scar the environment and threaten, belittle and exterminate the wildlife that has shared our planet from before our ancestors? I propose “Vogons” – the alient race that destroys Earth while building a hyperspace bypass in Douglas Adams book The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy.
If you are accused of being a somethingphobe in a context that you don't agree with, didn't Machiavelli say "it is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both"? Let’s endeavour not to create irrational phobias shorn of medical meaning and come up with proper insults instead.