Embattled Trump plays homophobia card to strengthen his fascistic base

REUTERS/Karen Pulfer Focht

29 July 2017

The Trump administration’s attack on the democratic rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people is the implementation of a reactionary political strategy. It seeks to combine appeals to homophobic hysteria, religious bigotry, the glorification of police and xenophobic American nationalism to encourage the growth of a fascist movement.

Embroiled in perpetual crisis, the Trump administration is attempting to establish a base of political operations centered around the demagogic president and outside the existing structure of the two-party system. By firing former Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus as chief of staff and replacing him with Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Trump has taken another step toward his goal of establishing a personalist executive comprised of a close group of fascists, generals, family relations and billionaire oligarchs.

The pattern of Trump’s maneuvers this week proves the attack on LGBT rights is central to this strategy.

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice filed an advisory “friend of the court” brief in a private New York lawsuit arguing that corporations can fire LGBT people because of their sexual orientation on the pseudo-legal grounds that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect LGBT people. After half a century marked by growing social acceptance and advances in the legal rights of LGBT people, millions of LGBT workers are again at risk of immediate firing because of their second-class legal status.

Earlier on Wednesday, Donald Trump tweeted an announcement that his administration would bar transgender people from military service “in any capacity” on the reactionary grounds that transgender people cost the military too much and because of the “disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

The same day, Trump announced the nomination of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback as the State Department’s ambassador at large for international religious freedom. This move is aimed at bringing the evangelical and Catholic organizations that bankrolled Brownbank’s short-lived 2008 presidential campaign into a bloc with Trump. After the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, Brownback issued an executive order prohibiting the state government from suing or punishing churches that refuse to provide marriages and other social services for LGBT people.

White House sources told the Daily Beast that Trump and Bannon are working closely with Vice President Mike Pence, who has the closest ties to the evangelical establishment and who personally orchestrated the transgender ban tweets. According to the unnamed sources, Trump, Pence and Bannon thought that the move would be popular “with his base.” The fact that military advisors said they were not consulted about the tweets confirms the fact that Wednesday’s policy announcements were conceived within the West Wing.

Wednesday’s policy announcements were bookended by two major speeches, the first on Tuesday night in Youngstown, Ohio, which set the political tone for the moves. Paying tribute to “our values, our culture, our borders, our civilization and our great American way of life,” Trump told a raucous crowd that “family and faith, not government and bureaucracy, are the foundation of our society.” He continued: “In America, we don’t worship government, we worship god.” This out of the mouth of a man who has never worshiped anything but money and himself.

Speaking yesterday in Long Island, New York, Trump addressed another of his key constituencies: police and immigration officers. He announced a major escalation of immigration raids to be carried out under the pretext of fighting the El Salvadoran gang MS-13.

“We have blood-stained killing fields,” Trump said, describing in gruesome detail the violent tactics of the gang. Police and immigration officials “are liberating our American towns,” he added, and told officers he loved watching criminal suspects “get thrown into the back of a paddy wagon.” He appealed to the country’s over 1.1 million full-time police officers in the United States, 50,000 border patrol agents, and 20,000 ICE officials: “Please don’t be too nice.”

The official response of the Democratic Party has been remarkably restrained, with criticism limited to arguing that Trump’s transgender ban would weaken the military.

Given the significance of Trump’s attacks, the muted character of the Democratic Party’s response contains a real warning. None of the democratic rights gained over the last century are secure so long as their enforcement is left in the hands of one or another faction of the ruling class, and are therefore vulnerable to shifts in the political winds.

The Democratic Party has dropped all references to democratic questions such as immigration, LGBT rights and abortion in its new “Better Deal” agenda, announced last week. Defending the new program, Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters that social issues such as the rights of LGBT people and immigrants “won’t be the focus” of the new agenda. “Essentially,” he added, “what we don’t want to do is distract people… we don’t want to distract ourselves.” In other words, the Democratic Party leadership is appealing to social reaction and religious bigotry to win votes in the 2018 midterm elections.

Several Democratic leaders have expressed concerns over the “Better Deal” program’s failure to mention any democratic or social questions, and many will oppose the Trump administration’s attack on LGBT rights. But the decision to promote a policy based on a pledge to “aggressively crack down on unfair foreign trade” (as the program states) will only fan the flames of nationalist chauvinism and further strengthen Trump’s maneuvers.

The fight to defend democratic rights is urgent: Trump’s efforts to establish a fascistic movement based on nationalism and religious bigotry threaten the social rights of hundreds of millions of people, not only immigrants and LGBT people. But to fight political reaction, one must understand its objective roots.

Political reaction draws its strength from a set of economic and social relations that have arisen on the basis of the dramatic expansion of social inequality and wealth concentration under capitalism. After more than 15 years of permanent war fought for the profits of American corporations, the military and intelligence agencies control the elected officials and dictate the policies of the government. Faced with growing social polarization, the police are armed with military weapons left over from the wars waged in the name of the “war on terror.” They have been granted a license to kill by the courts.

Since the growth in the power of the military, the police, the churches and the deportation agencies is the product of the growth of inequality, the fight for democratic rights must be based on the struggle for social equality. Such a struggle must involve the political activation of the working class, the powerful social force that produces all of society’s wealth under capitalism, but which is exploited by the capitalists regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Genuine democracy can be achieved only by abolishing capitalism, the system of economic relations that gives rise to political reaction in all its interrelated manifestations. Only on the basis of the unity of the working class in the struggle for socialism can democratic rights be won and preserved.

Eric London

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/07/29/pers-j29.html

It’s Now Undeniable That LGBTQ Rights Are In Danger Of Being Rolled Back

A powerful minority is trying to get the fix in.

BRENDAN MCDERMID / REUTERS

I’ve many times discussed “victory blindness,” brought on by the seduction of big wins for civil rights and which has had many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people believing they’ve “arrived” ― that LGBTQ rights are secured ― while not seeing the perils ahead.

From as far back as 2014, watching the way that anti-LGBTQ forces were organizing for the future, I was worried about how the LGBTQ community would get too caught up in the anticipated win at the Supreme Court on marriage equality that was coming down the pike in 2015.

The onset of the Trump administration has certainly been a clarion call to snap out of it. And so many queer people have seen the threat and joined the Resistance.

But some recent exchanges and interactions I’ve had lead me to believe that many people, queer and straight, still believe that LGBTQ rights are secure and advancing. They point to public opinion polls, to cultural changes and to progress even in the most conservative corners of the country.

One person, educated in the history of the LGBTQ movement, told me that he couldn’t believe that the Supreme Court would undo something that the majority of Americans now supported ― marriage equality ― and implied a lot of the sounding of the alarm was for the conspiracy-minded.

I find this thinking to be naive and enormously dangerous.

It often doesn’t matter what the majority of Americans believe ― over 90 percent support universal background checks on gun purchases, after all, but we can’t get the legislation passed. The Supreme Court has handed down ruling after ruling that reversed precedents and defied the majority of Americans’ beliefs on voting rights, corporate money in politics, immigration and so many other issues. What is happening in our country right now is clear: a powerful minority is in control and is trying to get the fix in so that it can rule from the minority for a long time to come.

Let’s look at the facts:

Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch  wrote a dissenting opinion two weeks ago regarding Arkansas and birth certificates for children of same-sex couples, defining himself as the new hardline leader on the court for religious conservatives and inviting lower courts to view the Obergefell marriage equality decision not as settled law, but as open to interpretation, possibly allowing for religious or other exemptions for those opposed marriage equality.

Days later the Texas Supreme Court refused to see Obergefell as settled, sending a case back to a trial court. Slate legal writer Mark Joseph Stern, in a piece headlined, “Marriage Equality Could be in Peril,” laid out the case last week for the how marriage equality, with Gorsuch in the lead and Justice Kennedy perhaps retiring at any time and replaced by another anti-LGBTQ conservative, could be overturned.

Mississippi last year passed the most far-reaching anti-LGBTQ law we have seen and just a few weeks ago a federal appeals ruled that the law should be allowed to take effect. The law allows for businesses and government employees to decline service to LGBT people, and that includes bakers, florists, county clerks and and other government employees, based on religious beliefs. It allows for discrimination in housing and employment against same-sex couples or any individual within a same-sex couple. Businesses and government, under the law, can regulate where transgender people go to the bathroom. The law allows mental health professionals and doctors, nurses and clinics to turn away LGBT individuals. It also allows state-funded adoption agencies to turn away LGBT couples. With the Supreme Court’s conservatives seeming to welcome these exemptions, expect other states to move in the same direction and, again, with Gorsuch on the court and Kennedy perhaps retiring at any time soon, it’s frightening to think what the court might decide about such exemptions.

Texas joined Michigan, North Dakota and Mississippi in banning adoption to same-sex couples by state-funded adoption agencies. In the cases of both Texas and North Dakota, the laws were passed this year and seemed to fly under the radar of all the attention on Donald Trump. But they, too, get at that same issue of allowing exemptions to same sex-marriage, turning same-sex marriage into second-class marriage. Again, look for more states to follow this lead.

Opposition to North Carolina’s odious HB2, which banned LGBT rights laws in North Carolina municipalities and regulated what rest rooms transgender people use, helped to narrowly defeat GOP governor Pat McCrory in 2016. But the new Democratic governor Roy Cooper, rather than holding out for stopping this kind of law entirely, worked with GOP lawmakers on a “compromise” that does nothing of kind: It still bans LGBT rights laws and regulates transgender people until some time in the future ― when it will surely be extended. But it was enough to get important collegiate sports programs and companies to come back to the state after previously boycotting.

The Trump administration has thrown transgender students overboard, withdrawing guidelines put in place by the Obama administration for schools. And the Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, sees no problem with giving federal dollars to schools that discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender students.

Trump’s cabinet and undersecretaries include some of the most ardent foes of LGBT rights, from Houseing Secretary Ben Carson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price and his director of the Office of Civil Rights at HHS, Roger Severino, an anti-LGBTQ advocate who last year accused the Obama administration of attempting to “coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology.” Already we’re seeing important programs that affect LGBT people in jeopardy. Six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS resigned in recent weeks, calling Trump a “president who simply does not care.”

Trump has essentially made LGBTQ people invisible. There was no presidential Pride proclamation in June, let alone a White House reception. Two surveys by HHS about older Americans and disabled people have removed questions about sexual orientation, refusing to collect vital data. And the Census Bureau dumped plans to finally include information about sexual orientation and gender identity in the 2020 census.

Some Democratic strategists are advising that the party move away from “identify politics,” and that means steering clear of LGBT rights. Since the election, we’ve seen this stupid idea promoted over and over again, most recently by former Clinton pollster Mark Penn, co-writing an op-ed in the New York Times, where he worried that voters saw the Democrats as “mired” in “transgender bathroom issues,” among other things. This is always bad advice for the party, as the base ― which includes every group under the umbrella of “identify politics” ― must be energized. And it’s terrible advice on LGBT rights, which, if followed, leads to “compromise” on civil rights― as we saw in North Carolina.

These are just a few examples of a list that is only growing. This is a vigorous attempt at a full-scale rollback by religious conservatives who’ve been part of Trump’s and the GOP’s base, and it’s already had some success. There is no denying it. Many are woke to it. But I’m afraid far too many LGBTQ people are not, still wanting to revel in victories, pointing to polls and to progress globally.

The United States, however, is right now led by an authoritarian whose party ― always hostile to LGBTQ rights ― has so far given him free rein to engage in ultimate destruction against anyone and everyone.

None of us can believe any of the rights we’ve fought for are safe. But more importantly, we need to wake up and see that they are already being stripped away right before our eyes.

HUFFPOST

CNN’s “The Nineties”: Empty nostalgia for a decade we should let die

CNN delves into a decade of pat neoliberalism and hollow spectacle and, unsurprisingly, comes up with nothing

CNN’s “The Nineties”: Empty nostalgia for a decade we should let die
The Nineties (Credit: CNN)

To anyone who came of age in the 1990s, the current cultural ascent of fidget spinners is likely to induce an acute pang of recognition — equal parts wistful nostalgia, anxiety and woozy terror. The ‘90s were, as any certified “Nineties Kid” can attest, a decade marked by a succession of asinine schoolyard fads.

One can imagine an alternative timeline of the decade that marks time not by year, but the chronology of crazes: the Year of the Beanie Baby, the Year of the Tamagotchi, the Years of the Snap-Bracelet, the Macarena, the Baggy Starter Jacket, the Painstakingly Layered “The Rachel” Hairdo, and so on. What’s most remarkable about our culture’s whirring fidget spinner fetish is that it didn’t happen sooner; that this peak fad didn’t emerge from among the long, rolling sierra of hollow amusements that defined the 1990s.

Surveying the current pop-culture landscape, one gets the sense that the ‘90s— with all its flash-in-the-pan fads and cooked-up crazes — never ended. On TV, “The Simpsons” endures into its 28th season, while David Lynch and Mark Frost’s oddball ABC drama “Twin Peaks” enjoys a highly successful, and artistically fruitful, premium-cable revival. The Power Rangers, Ninja Turtles, Transformers and Treasure Trolls have graduated from small-screen Saturday morning silliness to blockbuster entertainments.

Elsewhere, the “normcore”/“dadcore”/“lazycore” fashion of singers like Mac DeMarco has made it OK (even haute) to dress up like a “Home Improvement”-era Jonathan Taylor Thomas. And Nintendo recently announced its latest money-printing scheme, in the form of the forthcoming SNES Classic Mini: a handheld throwback video game platform chock-full of nostalgia-baiting Console Wars standbys like “Donkey Kong Country,” “F-Zero” and “StarFox.” Content mills like BuzzFeed, Upworthy and their ilk bolster their bottom line churning out lists and quizzes reminding you that, yes, the show “Rugrats” existed.

To quote a nostalgic ’97-vintage hit single, which was itself a throwback to ‘60s jazz-pop, it’s all just a little bit of history repeating.

It’s natural to languish for the past: to trip down memory lane, get all dewy-eyed about the past, pine for the purity of the long-trampled gardens of innocence, and go full Proust on the bric-a-brac of youth that manages to impress itself on the soft, still-maturing amber of the adolescent mind, even if that stuff was total crap like Moon Shoes or a Street Shark or Totally Hair Barbie doll or a bucket of Nickelodeon-brand goo called “Gak.” The 1990s, however, offered a particularly potent nostalgia trap, something revealed watching CNN’s new TV documentary miniseries “event,” fittingly called “The Nineties.”

A follow-up to CNN’s previous history-of-a-decade events (“The Sixties,” “The Seventies” and “The Eighties”) and co-produced by Tom Hanks, the series provides some valuable insight into the nature of ’90s nostalgia. The two-part series opener, called “The One About TV,” threads the needle, examining the ways in which television of the era shifted the standards of cultural acceptability, be it in Andy Sipowicz’s expletive-laden racism, Homer Simpson’s casual stranglings of his misfit son or the highbrow, Noel Coward-in-primetime farces of “Frasier.”

To believe CNN’s procession of talking heads, damn near every TV show to debut after midnight on Jan. 1, 1990, was “revolutionary.” “The Simpsons” was revolutionary for the way it hated TV. “Twin Peaks” was revolutionary for the way it subverted it. “Seinfeld” ignored (or subtracted, into its famous “Show About Nothing” ethic) the conventions of the sitcom. “Frasier” elevated them. “Will & Grace,” “Ellen” and “The Real World” bravely depicted gay America. Ditto “Arsenio,” “Fresh Prince” and “In Living Color” in representing black America. “OZ” was revolutionary for its violence. “The Sopranos” was revolutionary in how it got you to root for the bad guy. “Friends” was revolutionary because it showed the day-to-day lives of, well, some friends. If the line of argumentation developed by “The Nineties” is to be believed, the TV game was being changed so frequently that it was becoming impossible to keep up with the rules.

Despite seeming argumentatively fallacious (if everything is subversive or game-changing, then, one might argue, nothing is), and further debasing the concept of revolution itself, such an argument cuts to the heart of ‘90s nostalgia. In pop culture, it was an era of seeming possibility, where it became OK to talk about masturbation (in one of “Seinfeld’s” more famous episodes) or even anal sex (as on “Sex & the City”), where “Twin Peaks” and “The Sopranos” spoke to the rot at the core of American life. “The Nineties” paints a flattering, borderline obsequious portrait of Gen-X ’90s kids as too hip, savvy and highly educated to be suckered in by the gleam and obvious propaganda that seemed to define “The Eighties.” (The ’90s kid finds a generational motto in the tagline offered by Fox’s conspiratorial cult sci-fi show “The X-Files”: trust no one.)

What “The Nineties” misses — very deliberately, one imagines — is the guiding cynicism of such revolutions in television. Far from being powered by a kind of radical politics of inclusivity, TV was (and remains) guided by its ability to deliver certain demographics to advertisers. In the 1990s, these demographics splintered, becoming more specialized. Likewise, entertainment streams split. The bully “mean girls” watched “90210,” the bullied watched “My So-Called Life,” and the kids bullied by the bullied watched “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Then on Thursday night, everyone watched “Seinfeld.”

This parade of prime-time cultural revolutions betrayed the actual guiding political attitude of the decade: stasis. The second episode of “The Nineties” turns to the scandal-plagued political life of Bill Clinton. “A new season of American renewal has begun!” beams Clinton, thumb pressed characteristically over a loosely clenched fist, early in the episode. For the Democrats, Bill Clinton seemed like a new hope: charming, charismatic, hip, appearing in sunglasses on Arsenio to blow his saxophone. But like so many of TV’s mock-insurgencies, the Clinton presidency was a coup in terms of aesthetics, and little else.

Beyond his sundry accusations of impropriety  (Whitewater, the Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky sex scandals, etc.), Clinton supported the death penalty, “three strikes” sentencing, NAFTA, “don’t ask, don’t tell” and countless other policies that alienated him from his party’s left-progressive wing. Clinton embodied the emerging neoliberal ethic: cozying up to big banks and supporting laissez-faire economic policies that further destabilized the American working and middle classes, while largely avoiding the jingoist militarism, nationalism and family values moralism of ‘80s Reaganomics. Clinton’s American renewal was little more than face-lift.

“The Simpsons,” naturally, nailed this devil-you-know distinction in a 1996 Halloween episode, which saw the bodies of Bill Clinton and then-presidential rival Bob Dole inhabited by slithering extraterrestrials. Indistinguishable in terms of tone and policy, the body snatching alien candidates beguiled the easily duped electorate with nonsensical stump speeches about moving “forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom.”

A 1992 book by the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama summed up the ’90s’ neoliberal approach to politics. In “The End of History and the Last Man,” Fukuyama posited that the collapse of the Soviet Union following the Cold War had resolved any grand ideological and historical conflicts in world politics. Liberal democracy and capitalism had won the day. Free market democracy was humanity’s final form. History — or at least the concept of history as a process of sociological evolution and conflict between competing political systems — had run its course.

Following the publication of “The End of History,” Fukuyama became an institutional poli-sci Svengali (John Gray at the New Statesman dubbed him the “court philosopher of global capitalism”), with his ideas holding significant major sway in political circles. The 1990s in America, and during the Clinton presidency, in particular, were a self-styled realization of the “end of history.” In the wake of the Cold War and collapse of the Berlin Wall, the president’s position was largely functionary: enable the smooth functioning of markets, and the free flow of capital. Such was the horizon of political thought.

Fukuyama’s book has been subjected to thorough criticism for its shortsightedness — not least of all for the way in which its central argument only serves to consolidate and naturalize the authority of the neoliberal elite. More concretely, 9/11 and its aftermath are often cited as signals of the “revenge of history,” which introduces new, complicated clashes of world-historical ideologies.

Though it’s often touted for its triumphalism, as a cheerleading handbook for the success of Westernized global capitalism, Fukuyama’s end of history theory is suffused with a certain melancholy. There’s one passage, often overlooked, which speaks to the general content and character of the ’90s (and “The Nineties”). “The end of history will be a very sad times,” he writes. “In the post-historical period there will be neither art nor philosophy, just the perpetual caretaking of the museum of human history. I can feel in myself, and see in others around me, a powerful nostalgia for the time when history existed. Such nostalgia, in fact, will continue to fuel competition and conflict even in the post-historical world for some time to come.”

Our fresh new millennium has been marked, in political terms, by cultural clashes between decadent Western liberalism and militant Islamism (both sides bolstering their positions with the hollow rhetoric of religious zealotry), the abject failure of both the Democratic and Republican parties, the reappearance of white supremacist and ethno-nationalist thinking, the thorough criticism of neoliberalism, and the rise of a new progressive-left (signaled by the popularity of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders), alongside a similarly invigorated form of moderatism referred to as “the extreme centre.” Amid such wild vicissitudes, the placid neoliberal creep of Fukuyama’s “post-history” feels downright quaint.

This is the sort of modern nostalgia that CNN’s “The Nineties” taps into: a melancholy for the relative stability of a decade that was meant to mark the end of history itself. Not only did things seem even-keeled, but everything (a haircut, a GameBoy game about tiny Japanese cartoon monsters, a sitcom episode about waiting for a table) seemed radical, revolutionary and, somehow, deeply profound. We are, perhaps invariably, prone to feeling elegiac for even the hollowness of A Decade About Nothing. It’s particularly because the 1990s abide in our politicians, our ideologies, our prime-time entertainments, blockbusters movies and even, yes, in our faddish toys, designed to ease our fidgety anxiety about the muddled present, and keep us twirling, twirling back into memory of a simpler, stupider past.

John Semley lives and works in Toronto. He is a books columnist at the Globe & Mail newspaper and the author of “This Is A Book About The Kids In The Hall” (ECW Press).

The night they busted Stonewall

I was there when gay power came to Sheridan Square

June 28, 1969, was just another night in New York City. I had graduated from West Point only a few weeks earlier and was spending my graduation leave renting a loft down on Broome Street before I departed for three months’ training for the infantry officer basic course at Fort Benning, Georgia. I know . . . I know . . . what was a West Point graduate doing in a loft in SoHo? Well, truth be told, I was freelancing for the Village Voice that summer. I know . . . I know  . . . what was a West Point graduate doing writing for the Village Voice in the summer of 1969 at the height of the Vietnam War? Well, I had started writing letters to the editor of the Voice while I was still a cadet and the year before had published my first couple of pieces in the paper. It wasn’t such a bad fit.

The three founders of the Voice, Dan Wolf, Norman Mailer, and Edwin Fancher, had all been infantrymen in World War II, and in an interesting twist of circumstance, Ed Fancher had served in the 10th Mountain Division under my grandfather, General Lucian K. Truscott Jr., in Northern Italy near the end of the war. Still, a West Pointer writing for the Voice was  . . . unusual. But I was writing rock criticism — remember rock criticism? — and covering stuff that was all over the map. My first piece was on Christmas Day at the Dom on St. Marks Place with Wavy Gravy and the Hog Farm, soon to be made famous at Woodstock, and only the week before I had covered a Billy Graham religious revival at Madison Square Garden.

I wasn’t expecting to find a story when I left my loft at Broome and Crosby and walked toward the West Village, looking to spend the evening drinking at the Lion’s Head, the writer’s bar on Sheridan Square just off Seventh Avenue. It was a hangout for writers like Pete Hamill, then of the New York Post; Joe Flaherty, a former Brooklyn longshoreman currently writing for the Voice; David Markson, a novelist just making his mark; Nick Browne, the Lion’s Head bartender who covered the Village bar scene for the Voice; Fred Exley, who had just published the marvelous memoir “A Fan’s Notes”; and Joel Oppenheimer, the Village poet and graduate of Black Mountain College. Somehow I managed to fit into a scene that is still celebrated as a kind of golden age for Village writers with a drinking problem, or drinkers with a writing problem. Take your pick.

I was coming up Waverly Place from Sixth Avenue approaching Christopher Street when I saw the police car lights flashing. A cop car and a paddy wagon were pulled up in front of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar two doors down from the Lion’s Head, and uniformed policemen were hauling Stonewall patrons out of the bar and putting them into the back of the paddy wagon. A crowd had gathered across the street, and some of the arrestees were pausing at the door and pursing their lips, doing as best as they could to blow kisses to the crowd with their hands cuffed behind their backs. I stopped to watch.

The crowd was young, some of them very young, the Stonewall being known for its underage crowd. In fact, it turned out that the purpose of the raid was to bust a Mob blackmail ring being run out of the Stonewall. The Mob was using underage hustlers to entrap older gay men, mainly from Wall Street, and extract money from them. All the gay bars in the Village were Mob owned. There was a “morals clause” in the New York State Liquor Authority laws that outlawed selling alcohol to “immoral” persons, which the authority arbitrarily defined as gay people, so they wouldn’t issue a liquor license to bars catering to gays. The Mob was happy to oblige, however, setting up illegal bars like the Stonewall and selling overpriced watered-down drinks to gays without a license and paying off the cops to stay open. It would take several years after Stonewall until the authority issued its first license to a bar with gay owners, the Ballroom on West Broadway, followed quickly by Reno Sweeney on 13th Street.

But on this night, gay bars were still illegal, and as they did every time they busted one, the cops were rounding up and harassing the patrons. The crowd outside was loving it as they came out striking poses, but the cops weren’t loving it. This was not the way gay people were supposed to act when they busted a bar. They were supposed to come out of the bar in cuffs with their heads down, hiding their faces in shame. But not this time. This time they were vamping and calling out to friends in the crowd.

The cops started angrily manhandling the arrestees, shoving them out the door and quickly into the paddy wagon. The guys under arrest were back talking the cops, asking them what their problem was, which only got the cops madder. Some of the crowd started throwing coins at the cops, taunting them. Then the cops pushed a drag queen out of the door of the Stonewall. She was apparently well-known on the street and paused to strike a vampy pose, acknowledging the crowd, calling out to a friend that she’d meet him when she got sprung from the Tombs in the morning. One of the cops pushed her roughly with a nightstick. She said something to the cop, he swung at her, she dodged the swing, and two more cops joined in, grabbing her and roughly shoving her into the paddy wagon.

That was it. Coins rained down. The crowd, which was now probably more than 100 strong, yelled at the cops, cursing them. Someone threw a beer can, and more trash rained down. The cops menaced the crowd, telling them to disperse. They didn’t. When the cops moved on them swinging their nightsticks, the crowd pushed back. Someone picked up a cobblestone and threw it through the window. The crowd yelled and rushed the Stonewall. One of the cops slammed the doors to the paddy wagon closed, it sped away, and the cops ran into the Stonewall and closed the door. The crowd was yelling at the cops, daring them to come out. The crowd had gotten bigger.

The whole street in front of the Stonewall was filled. I got up on a trash can next to the 55 Bar to see better. Someone threw another trash can through the Stonewall’s window. Someone else tried to grab my trash can, but I pushed them away. A guy right next to me  lit a newspaper and threw it into the Stonewall window. I could see the cops inside struggling to put out the fire. Gay people were pissed off that the Stonewall had been busted and its patrons had been arrested and harassed by the cops. There was a riot going on. They weren’t going to take it anymore.

My friend the Voice columnist Howard Smith had gone into the Stonewall earlier to talk to the inspector in charge of the raid, Seymour Pine, and was trapped inside with the cops. The crowd kept throwing stuff at the Stonewall’s window. They pried a parking meter loose from the pavement and a couple of guys used it as a battering ram on the door, but the door held. The cops called for reinforcements and a few minutes later, maybe six cop cars came screaming down Christopher Street from Sixth Avenue. Cops jumped out swinging nightsticks and people started running, but they didn’t run far.

Some of them went around the corner of Seventh Avenue down West 9th Street and right on Waverly Place and came up behind the cops, taunting them with catcalls and curses. That split the cops, some chasing one group east down Christopher Street, some pursuing a crowd across the park, spilling onto West 4th  and Grove Streets. Now there were several hundred people in the streets, the word having spread to gay bars around the Village which emptied into the streets and more people joined the protesters. More cops arrived, sirens screaming. The crowd kept dispersing in every direction and coming back to the Stonewall. Nobody was in charge. The only thing everyone knew was that it started at the Stonewall, and they weren’t giving  up.

This went on for several hours until finally the cops got a sufficient number of reinforcements that they could hold the street in front of the bar and rescue those trapped inside. Jay Levin of the New York Post and I went over to the 6th Precinct around 4 a.m. I don’t recall the exact number, but I think something like 14 people were arrested. The cops wouldn’t give out any names, so my Voice story and Jay’s squib in the Post didn’t record who the heroes of Stonewall were. But they were there. I saw them. And I saw the gay people who poured out of the bars and clubs and  took to the streets.

The next afternoon, the Stonewall reopened with a sign in the window saying something like “We got nothing but college boys and girls in here.” By dark, someone had spray-painted “Gay Power” over the sign. Crowds gathered on the street and it was on again. This time, the cops called in the TPF, the Tactical Patrol Force, with their plastic shields and helmets and plexiglass face masks. A lot of good that did. Word had spread to the boroughs and Fire Island that there had been a protest at the Stonewall on Friday night and the crowd was huge. The TPF didn’t know the twisting, crisscrossing streets of the Village at all, so the crowd had a grand time taunting the cops and leading them down alleys like Gay Street and  Waverly Place and around the block.

About the time the cops arrived back at the front of the Stonewall and thought they had things in hand, a chorus line of protesters appeared behind them doing a kick routine, loudly singing, “We are the Stonewall girls!/ We wear our hair in curls!/ We don’t wear underwear!/ We show our pubic hair!” The TPF would wheel around and chase them, only to have another chorus line appear down the block singing out the same taunt. Soon tear gas canisters flew. People used wet rags and cups of water from hydrants to splash themselves and kept going. Every once in a while the cops would manage to grab one of the protesters and beat them with nightsticks and throw them in a car, but that only served to set off the crowd, which grew louder and larger as the night wore on. If the aim of the TPF was to disperse the riot and shame the gay people back into hiding, it didn’t work. By the wee hours, you could see gay guys walking home from Sheridan Square hand in hand. It was something you never saw on the streets until that night.

Sunday night the crowd was smaller and older, many people having arrived back in the Village from weekend places on Fire Island and upstate. The TPF tried to line up, blocking Christopher at Seventh Avenue, but other bars and businesses were open and complained, so they had to let people through. Occasionally, someone would throw trash at the cops and they would chase a group down the street, but there was no tear gas. The riot was over.

I spied the Warhol superstar Taylor Mead and Allen Ginsberg standing across Seventh Avenue and walked over. They had been out of town and wanted to know what happened, so I told them. Both longtime denizens of the East and West Village, they were amazed. Allen said he’d never been in the Stonewall and asked if I’d take him, so we walked over and went inside. The place had obviously been trashed by the cops, but the Mob guys had erected a makeshift bar and were back to selling overpriced drinks. Loud music was playing in the back room and people were dancing. Ginsberg asked me if I would dance with him, so we went back there and bopped around for a couple of songs and left.

Walking east across 8th St. toward Allen’s apartment, he continued to express amazement at what had happened. “The fags have lost that wounded look they always had,” he said of the people he’d seen on the streets. We passed couple after couple holding hands to Allen’s obvious delight. We reached Astor Place and as I turned south headed toward my loft, Allen called out, “Defend the fairies!” As I once observed elsewhere, as of that night, they didn’t need defending anymore.

As for me? Well, the brand-new second lieutenant of infantry went home to the loft and sat down and cluelessly wrote a story about how the “faggots” had rioted and asserted gay power for the first time. My piece, and one by Howard Smith, ran on the front page of the Voice that Wednesday. Jim Fouratt, who had been one of the protesters over the weekend and had quickly formed the Gay Liberation Front to give some political form to what he had clearly identified as a movement, held a demonstration in front of the Voice protesting my use of the word “faggot” to describe gay people. So the very first protest of the new gay movement was against me. The Voice committed to using “gay” from then on, and so did I. Gay power had come to Sheridan Square.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He has covered stories such as Watergate, the Stonewall riots and wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels and several unsuccessful motion pictures. He has three children, lives on the East End of Long Island and spends his time Worrying About the State of Our Nation and madly scribbling in a so-far fruitless attempt to Make Things Better. He can be followed on Facebook at The Rabbit Hole and on Twitter @LucianKTruscott.

Neil Gorsuch Is The Anti-LGBTQ Nightmare His Gay Friends Hoped He Wasn’t

This week’s Supreme Court actions make it pretty clear.

Back in February, when Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, I wrote a piece: “Why Neil Gorsuch Likely Believes It’s Perfectly Fine To Ban Gay Sex.”

It brought out some Gorsuch defenders, including some of his students (at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where Gorsuch taught) and friends of Gorsuch, who responded to me on Twitter and elsewhere, some angrily, accusing me of wrongly portraying Gorsuch as a homophobe.

In fact, I did nothing of the kind, even pointing to the fact that Gorsuch had a former clerk to whom he reportedly offered support upon the former clerk’s same-sex marriage in 2014. My point was that whether he was a homophobe or not, Gorsuch is a constitutional originalist like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whom Gorsuch revered. Scalia based his own opposition to overturning sodomy statutes ― and his other anti-LGBTQ opinions ― on originalism.

A few days after my piece (and after critiques by other writers and LGBTQ legal scholars and groups about the dangers Gorsuch posed), came a New York Times story, just as the organized campaign for Gorsuch by the White House and right-wing groups was gearing up, “Gorsuch, Hard to Pigeonhole On Gay Rights, Friends Say.” I was quoted in the piece:

Just this past week, the gay author and blogger Michaelangelo Signorile published a piece in The Huffington Post headlined: “Why Neil Gorsuch Likely Believes It’s Perfectly Fine to Ban Gay Sex.” In it, he argued that Judge Gorsuch “may be all mild-mannered and cuddly, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t in a heartbeat deny your very existence under the Constitution if you happen to be queer.”

The Times article seemed almost designed to counter those kinds of opinions ― which were based on Gorsuch’s judicial decisions and writings ― by presenting us with Gorsuch’s gay friends, who spoke glowingly of him as a person. In the piece, by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, we meet Phil Berg, smartly photographed specifically for the story in a suit on the steps of a majestic courthouse, along with his husband, Ronald Riqueros. Berg, who went to Harvard with Gorsuch, spoke in the article about the “special bond” he and Gorsuch have had for many years, and explained how supportive Gorsuch is of him and his husband: “We have had a standing invitation to stay with Neil and Louise in Denver.”

The former Gorsuch clerk, Joshua Goodbaum, was interviewed, too, explaining that Gorsuch was “thrilled” for him and his husband when they got married in 2014. Ken Mehlman, the former Republican National Committee chairman and former campaign manager for George W. Bush, who came out as gay a few years ago and helped in the fight for marriage equality, was also described as a friend of Gorsuch’s, who, according to the article, was “circulating a letter of support for the judge and posted a congratulatory message to Judge Gorsuch on his Facebook page.”

Christian Mammen, described as “a Democrat” and someone who “grew close” to Gorsuch when they were at Oxford together, was referred to in the piece as one of several friends who, rather than viewing Gorsuch as in the mold of Scalia, “wonder if his jurisprudence might be closer to that of Justice Anthony Kennedy who has carved out a name for himself as the court’s conservative defender of gay rights.”

“Everybody’s got him pegged as being more Scalia,” Mammen is quoted as saying. “I’m not sure I see that.”

But as I pointed out in a second piece I published later that day in response ― drawing upon the analyses of the highly regarded Supreme Court reporters, Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times and Nina Totenberg of National Public Radio ― this was naive at best, as Justice Kennedy is not an originalist:

It’s not “everybody” else who has Gorsuch pegged as being like Scalia ― it’s Gorsuch who has willingly, unequivocally pegged himself that way. He gave a major speech about the importance of the late justice and his philosophy last year and, again, publicly adheres, like Clarence Thomas, to Scalia’s philosophy of originalism. Based on that and his decisions, the Times put Gorsuch on a chart as just to the right of Scalia, with only Thomas further to the right. And, much as Gorsuch’s gay friends would like to believe otherwise, Justice Kennedy is not an originalist. In fact, his sound rejection of originalism is what had him lead the court majority in ruling that gays are protected against discrimination in the Constitution, should not be criminalized, and most certainly have the right to marry.

And now we have the proof of just how wrong Gorsuch’s friends were, looking at the actions of the court this week. Gorsuch revealed a dangerous disregard for the Obergefell marriage equality decision, in the 6-3 ruling that overturned an Arkansas law that prevented both parents in a same-sex marriage to be on the birth certificate when one gives birth to a child ― as is the case for heterosexual marriages in the state. Gorsuch took pride in writing the dissent, joined by far-right Justices Thomas and Alito, clearly supporting flat out discrimination and ignoring precedent ― something even Justice John Roberts, who dissented in Obergefell but joined the majority in this case, would not do.

Slate legal writer Mark Joseph Stern, noting that Gorsuch is “everything that liberals most feared,” explained how Gorsuch is laying the groundwork to harm or even reverse Obergefell:

On Monday, Gorsuch indicated that he opposes equal rights for same-sex couples, dissenting from a ruling that requires states to list same-sex parents on birth certificates … That, alone, is startling: In Obergefell v. Hodges, the court held that the Constitution compels states to grant same-sex couples “the constellation” of “rights, benefits, and responsibilities” that “the states have linked to marriage,” including “birth and death certificates.” Obergefell, then, already settled this issue. Gorsuch’s dissent suggests he may not accept Obergefell as settled law and may instead seek to undermine or reverse it.

The court also announced it would take the case of a Colorado baker who was penalized for refusing to serve a gay couple ― a couple that wanted a wedding cake but hadn’t even yet discussed design with the baker, and were turned away when they simply identified they were having a same-sex wedding. Many legal observers believed that when the court didn’t take a similar case a few years ago that involved a wedding photographer in New Mexico, it was deferring to state sovereignty in states like Colorado and New Mexico where LGBT people are protected under state law against discrimination in public accommodations. Ian Milhiser, justice editor at Think Progress, weighed in:

[T]he Court announced that it will hear Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case brought by a baker who claims that religion gives anti-LGBTQ business owners the right to ignore civil rights laws.

We cannot know for sure whether Gorsuch voted to take up this case — but it is notable that the Court decided not to consider this issue when Justice Antonin Scalia was still alive. Gorsuch now occupies Scalia’s seat.

It takes four justices for the court to accept a case. It’s hard to believe that Gorsuch is even farther to the right on this issue than Scalia. But Scalia did have a reverence for states’ rights, while Gorsuch seems to have a fetishistic obsession with “religious liberty.” As I’ve described in looking at his opinion on Hobby Lobby while he was a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, he went much further than both Justice Alito, who wrote the Hobby Lobby decision for the Supreme Court, and Kennedy, who wrote a concurrence.

Both Alito and Kennedy held that it was constitutional for the arts and crafts chain to deny certain forms of birth control to women in employer-based health care plans, but put limits on the decision regarding discrimination against other groups. LGBT legal experts believed Kennedy’s concurrence specifically protected against religious exemptions regarding LGBT rights. But Gorsuch, in his 10th circuit decision, had issued no caveats, no limits.

Last week I thought that the first case to be the test of the reach of Gorsuch ’s view of religious liberty might be the abominable Mississippi law that a federal appeals court allowed to go into effect ― considered the worst anti-LGBTQ law ever by many LGBTQ activists and legal experts.

But obviously that will likely be the second act, after the Colorado baker case. All of this is part of the long-term strategy I’ve written about, interviewing those on the right and attending their conferences, in which religious conservatives, dealt a blow by Obergefell, will now work ― as they did regarding Roe v. Wade ― to weaken the decision, and try to turn same-sex marriage in second-class marriage.

Follow Michelangelo Signorile on Twitter:

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/neil-gorsuch-is-the-anti-lgbtq-nightmare-his-gay-friends-hoped-he-wasnt_us_5951d0d3e4b0da2c731e1684?123123

Beyond Neoliberal Identity Politics

Last year,  Daniel Denvir insightfully described Hilary Clinton’s political strategy as “peak neoliberalism, where a distorted version of identity politics is used to defend an oligarchy and a national security state, celebrating diversity in the management of exploitation and warfare” (emphasis added).

This “peak” neoliberal identity politics (NIP) is a great weapon on the hands of the privileged capitalist Few and their mass-murderous global empire. It was central to the Barack Obama phenomenon and presidency. And it is very much alive and kicking atop the corporate Democratic Party and its various media allies more than half a year after Mrs. Clinton’s humiliating defeat.

It works like this. You couldn’t stand and vote even just “lesser evil”-style for the lying neoliberal warmonger (LNW) Hillary Clinton, the vicious tool and ally of the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money, empire, and white supremacy?

Well, NIP says, that just proves that you are a sexist. You’ve got a gender problem. You just can’t deal with women in positions of authority.

Same to you if you dared to note the grotesque imperialism of Hillary’s good and fellow Russia-hating friend Madeline Albright, Bill Clinton’s former Secretary of State.  Albright is the revolting imperial operative who told CBS that the murder of half a million Iraqi children (girls included) by U.S.-imposed economic sanctions was “a price worth paying” for the advance of U.S. foreign policy objectives. (Albright also said that there’s “a special place in Hell” for young women who didn’t vote for the LNW last year).

Same if you don’t do cartwheels over the participation of female U.S. pilots in the bombing of Afghan villagers.

Never mind all the women and girls included among the countless U.S. and world citizens harmed and menaced by neoliberal and imperial agenda that Mrs. Clinton has advanced no less fervently and viciously than her epic woman-abusing husband.

Never mind that fact that many feminist and progressive women could not stomach the corporatism and militarism of Hillary Clinton and backed Bernie Sanders (along with men who were absurdly shamed as “Berniebros” by the Hillary campaign) in the Democratic presidential primaries? Or that you voted for a woman (Jill Stein) for president.

No, NIP says. you hated on Hillary because you don’t believe in women’s rights.

You criticized the first Black U.S. president’s captivity and service to the aforementioned unelected dictatorships and you refused to jump on board his fake-progressive hopey-changey train?  You denounced Obama’s relentless and dedicated service to the rich and powerful? You, didn’t support Obama’s drone-bombing of Muslim women and children with a not-so targeted assassination program Noam Chomsky rightly called “the most extreme terrorist campaign of modern times”?

Well, NIP huffs, that just shows what a racist you are.  You must have a problem with Black people in positions of authority.

Never mind the many millions, nay billions of people of color who were harmed and menaced by the neoliberal and imperial agenda that Obama advanced no less fervently and viciously than the Clintons.  Never mind your warnings and observations on the many-sided disaster that the Obama phenomenon and presidency was (and still is) for the cause of Black equality. Or the fact that many Black Americans dissented from the sickening notion that putting a technically Black face in the nation’s top symbolic high place was a solution to racism’s persistent presence at the heart of American life.

Concerned about the downward pressure that African and Mexican immigrants can have on wages and union bargaining power in your local labor market?

Well, NIP sneers, that just shows what a nativist, white-nationalist FOX News-watching racist you are.

Never mind local employers’ gleeful exploitation of immigrant labor as a low-wage and working class-dividing windfall – or your own efforts to fight for immigrant rights and the inclusion of immigrants in struggles for improved working and living conditions.

Worried about how the influx of rich students from China is helping inflate college and university tuition costs, helping price working-class U.S. kids out of higher education in the U.S.? Find the conspicuous consumption and single-minded business orientation of many of these Chinese students distasteful?

NIP thinks that just shows that you are a racist nativist who secretly wants to bring back the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

Never mind how much you have written, said, and/or done about and against the ruthless, neo-Dickensian exploitation of the Chinese proletariat – the source of the wealth that makes it possible for upper-echelon Chinese families to send their only children to U.S. universities.

Dare to note that the massive influx of women into the U.S. job market during and since the 1970s has helped the employer class suppress hourly wages and contributed to a crisis in working class family life?

NIP says that shows what a male chauvinist you are.  You obviously believe that “a woman’s place is in the home.” You must be a sexist who wants to roll back the clock on women’s rights

Never mind your own longstanding support of gender equality within and beyond the workplace.

Worried about recent data showing that white U.S. working class males are undergoing an historic decline in their life expectancy thanks to the collapse of the job market for working class men in the neoliberal era?

That shows NIP that you are a white sexist who only cares about white men.

Never mind your long opposition to sexism, racism, nativism, and other evils.

Find it less than surprising that many working class and rural whites react poorly to the phrase “Black Lives Matter” given the fact that they have been told that their lives don’t matter by neoliberal capitalism over the last four-plus decades?

That just shows that you are a racist who doesn’t understand the special oppression experienced by people of color.

Never mind your long record of denouncing and opposing racism and your defense of the phrase “Black lives matter.”

You don’t support the dangerous U.S.-imperial project of humiliating Russia?

That just shows that you adore great white nationalist strongmen like Vladimir Putin. You secretly want to go back to the good old days of unchallenged white male supremacy.

Never mind your consistent and steadfast criticism of Putin’s neoliberal oligarchy along with his racism and his sexism.

Can’t stand history or sociology (or other humanities or “social science”) professors who focus  on race and/or ethnicity and/or gender and/or sexual orientation and/or religion and/or nationality and/or age and/or ecology to the absurd exclusion of class in the making of history and current events?

That just shows that you are a racist and/or nativist and/or homophobe and/or religious bigot and/or ageist and/or eco-cidalist.

Never mind the centrality of class inequality and power to the development of race/racism, ethnicity/ethnic oppression, gender/sexism, homophobia, age-ism.

Never mind that the environmental crisis is rooted above all in the exterminist madness of capitalist class rule

There’s a name for all this identity-politicized madness in which so many fake-progressive bourgeois liberals are invested: ruling class divide-and-rule.

I am not one of those social democratic and conomistic, class-reductionist sorts who says that any and all identity politics must be forsaken.  No Left worthy of the label should deny or ignore the specific experience and oppression of females, Blacks, Native Americans, Latinos, gays. transgendered people, Muslims, Arabs. Africans, and so on. Discounting the particularities of peoples’ lives and subjugation as they relate to racial, gender, sexual, ethnic, and national identity leads nowhere morally or politically.

What needs to be rejected is the paralyzing and reactionary kind of bourgeois identitarianism to which the dismal, dollar-drenched neoliberal Democratic Party is so deeply attached. As Conor Lynch noted on Salon last fall, “The Clinton campaign tried to make [the 2016] election all about Trump’s hatefulness (‘Love Trumps Hate’) and his ‘basket of deplorables,’ while offering no real vision of progressive and populist change…when those on the left raised legitimate concerns about Clinton’s uninspiring message or her political baggage during and after the primaries, they were ridiculously labeled sexist or racist ‘bros’ by establishment figures (even though some of Clinton’s harshest progressive critics were in fact women and people of color ).”

The left at its best has understood identity in ways opposed to both ruling class divide-and-conquer and class reductionism.  As Louis Proyect reflected last December on Counterpunch:

“While the idea of uniting workers on the basis of their class interests and transcending ethnic, gender and other differences has enormous appeal at first blush, there are no easy ways to implement such an approach given the capitalist system’s innate tendency to create divisions in the working class in order to maintain its grip over the class as a whole… Back to the 1960s…Trotskyist …leaders conceived of the coming American revolution as a kind of united front of different struggles that would come together on a basis of shared class interests. If that is a concession to ‘identity politics,’ I plead guilty A socialist movement that disavows particular Black demands and those of other sectors of the population acting on their own interests on the basis of gender, sexual preference, etc. will inevitably lack the universality it needs to triumph over a unified capitalist class. To state it in dialectical terms, denying the existence of contradictions and refusing to resolve them will only lead to deeper contradictions.”

That’s exactly right. It approaches identity in a way meant to build working class solidarity in opposition to capital whereas NIP is all about dividing the working class in service to capital. Imagine.

Facebook and Twitter ‘harm young people’s mental health’

Poll of 14- to 24-year-olds shows Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter increased feelings of inadequacy and anxiety

girls on their phones
Young people scored Instagram the worst social medium for sleep, body image and fear of missing out. Photograph: Mark Mawson/Getty Images

Four of the five most popular forms of social media harm young people’s mental health, with Instagram the most damaging, according to research by two health organisations.

Instagram has the most negative impact on young people’s mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young people’s feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.

The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact.

The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate children’s and young people’s body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said.

The findings follow growing concern among politicians, health bodies, doctors, charities and parents about young people suffering harm as a result of sexting, cyberbullying and social media reinforcing feelings of self-loathing and even the risk of them committing suicide.

“It’s interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing. Both platforms are very image-focused and it appears that they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people,” said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, which undertook the survey with the Young Health Movement.

She demanded tough measures “to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young people’s mental health and wellbeing”. Social media firms should bring in a pop-up image to warn young people that they have been using it a lot, while Instagram and similar platforms should alert users when photographs of people have been digitally manipulated, Cramer said.

The 1,479 young people surveyed were asked to rate the impact of the five forms of social media on 14 different criteria of health and wellbeing, including their effect on sleep, anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-identity, bullying, body image and the fear of missing out.

Instagram emerged with the most negative score. It rated badly for seven of the 14 measures, particularly its impact on sleep, body image and fear of missing out – and also for bullying and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness. However, young people cited its upsides too, including self-expression, self-identity and emotional support.

YouTube scored very badly for its impact on sleep but positively in nine of the 14 categories, notably awareness and understanding of other people’s health experience, self-expression, loneliness, depression and emotional support.

However, the leader of the UK’s psychiatrists said the findings were too simplistic and unfairly blamed social media for the complex reasons why the mental health of so many young people is suffering.

Prof Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives.. We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media – good and bad – to prepare them for an increasingly digitised world. There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message.”

Young Minds, the charity which Theresa May visited last week on a campaign stop, backed the call for Instagram and other platforms to take further steps to protect young users.

Tom Madders, its director of campaigns and communications, said: “Prompting young people about heavy usage and signposting to support they may need, on a platform that they identify with, could help many young people.”

However, he also urged caution in how content accessed by young people on social media is perceived. “It’s also important to recognise that simply ‘protecting’ young people from particular content types can never be the whole solution. We need to support young people so they understand the risks of how they behave online, and are empowered to make sense of and know how to respond to harmful content that slips through filters.”

Parents and mental health experts fear that platforms such as Instagram can make young users feel worried and inadequate by facilitating hostile comments about their appearance or reminding them that they have not been invited to, for example, a party many of their peers are attending.

May, who has made children’s mental health one of her priorities, highlighted social media’s damaging effects in her “shared society” speech in January, saying: “We know that the use of social media brings additional concerns and challenges. In 2014, just over one in 10 young people said that they had experienced cyberbullying by phone or over the internet.”

In February, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, warned social media and technology firms that they could face sanctions, including through legislation, unless they did more to tackle sexting, cyberbullying and the trolling of young users.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/19/popular-social-media-sites-harm-young-peoples-mental-health