April 17, 2023 - 10:15am

Robert Conquest’s famous Second Law of Politics states that “Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.” For the 21st century, it’s time to update that. We might call it Harrington’s law of cyborg theocracy: “Any organisation not explicitly sex-realist eventually becomes a vector for trans activism.” And as we’ve already seen with organisations whose previous remit was sex-based, such as the Women’s Equality Party, this usually means riding roughshod over the erstwhile mission. 

The same apparently also goes for culture: for US comedy show Saturday Night Live, becoming a vector for trans activism has wholly obliterated the original remit of ‘being funny’. The appearance of the show’s first non-binary cast member, Molly Kearney, took the form of a lecture on trans rights, with all the forced jollity of a school theatre company hired to educate sixth-formers about internet safety or climate change. 

But Harrington’s law of cyborg theocracy becomes more disturbing yet as it propagates through what the 20th century called “the rules-based international order”, which is to say the network of America-led institutions that have maintained relative international peace and political consensus since the end of World War II. 

The most recent such instance comes via a new report from various United Nations bodies. Nominally aimed at tackling the spread of AIDS, the ‘8 March Principles’ call for the total decriminalisation of activities including drug-taking, prostitution and — in some contexts — adult-child sexual activity, all on human rights grounds. Trans activism is woven through the document like a stick of rock, with “gender identity” repeatedly referenced as a common “intersecting” ground for discrimination. 

Two passages in particular amount to an explicit attack, by a major international body, on child safeguarding across sexual activity and gender experimentation alike. Central to this is the report’s emphasis on “adolescents’ evolving capacity to consent in certain contexts, in fact, even if not in law, when they are below the prescribed minimum age of consent in domestic law”. 

This means that as far as the UN is concerned, it doesn’t matter what nations’ domestic law says; being below the age of consent doesn’t necessarily mean being below the age of consent. In a stroke, this undermines laws designed to protect children from sexual exploitation. And we only have to look at the way the trafficked girls of Telford and Rotherham were deemed by police to have “consented” to see where that goes. 

Another passage seeks to end any measure aimed at inhibiting the active recruitment of children into the trans identities that set otherwise healthy individuals on a direct path to irreversible medical interventions — the mutilations I was recently cancelled for calling “butchery” and which Molly Kearney euphemistically calls “healthcare”:

No one may be held criminally liable for consensual practices aiming to assist others with the exploration, free development and/or affirmation of sexual orientation or gender identity, unless there was force, coercion, fraud or medical negligence, or a lack of free and informed decision-making on the part of the person concerned.
- International Commission of Jurists

But doesn’t this include safeguards? Well, let’s not forget that the CEO of trans children’s charity Mermaids, Susie Green, resigned last year following safeguarding concerns. None of the revelations that triggered her departure strictly qualified as “force, coercion, fraud or medical negligence, or a lack of free and informed decision-making”. Even so, cumulatively, they proved enough to trigger a formal investigation into the charity. 

These UN proposals would undermine states’ ability to apply a sane understanding of child development and cognitive ability, instead presumptively assuming children’s right to self-determination in sex and gender except in circumstances drawn far too narrowly, and without regard for the suggestibility of youth. 

It is, in other words, a radical escalation of Harrington’s law: hijacking the cumulative institutional cachet not just of a 45-year-old comedy show, but of the entire postwar “rules-based international order”, in order to smooth the path for profoundly controversial political proposals. When the moral consensus that now seemingly prevails within such institutions departs so profoundly from common sense, perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves what relation such bodies really have to good governance, or indeed to “democracy” as such.

Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.