Janet Mock, transgender advocate, appeared on Piers Morgan’s CNN show last night to discuss her new book “Redefining Realness”. The interview was cordial, Morgan appeared respectful, and Mock seemingly achieved her goal of bringing her story to a mainstream television audience.
Fast forward to today and a Twitter row has erupted after Mock expressed displeasure at the way her interview was broadcast. Specifically, she was upset at screen captions that said she “was a boy until 18” and “formerly a man”. Mock has never identified as a man and has done dedicated work towards educating people about the idea that gender is a social construct, and trans identity not about jumping from one gender to another.
Sadly, Piers Morgan appears chronically unable to process her complaint. It is true that the captions themselves may not have been his doing. But what is most offensive is his reaction on Twitter to Mock’s criticism and the ensuing debate.
This ranges from the disingenuous (“Why didn’t she say at the time?”) to the self-pitying (“Never felt so let down”) to the accusatory (“I’ve been played in a disgustingly cynical manner”) to the ignorant (“the allegations of me being ‘transphobic’ are as nonsensical as they’re offensive”) to the rude (“Shame on you”) to the threatening (“I’ll deal with you tomorrow night on air”).
This last comment cuts to the heart of the problem. Morgan, lest we forget, has a major media platform, and it is quite clear that he plans to use it tonight to transmit his own reading of events. Mock may have increasing visibility in the media, but the scope of her reach is far from comparable.
It is quite clear that Piers Morgan feels he deserves congratulation simply for inviting Janet Mock onto his program. And it is not a decision I would criticize. But if he really believed in using his show as a platform for diverse voices, he would appreciate the value of listening when those voices didn’t agree with him. It is not exactly hard to comprehend that Mock might feel differently watching the edit of her interview than she did in the studio with him, especially given that her key issue was with the screen captions. But Morgan is acting like he has been double-crossed.
“Come back on my show again tonight @janetmock and let’s debate” fired out yet another pompous tweet last night. But as filmmaker Brenda Davis tweeted back at him, “Stop. It’s not a debate. It’s about learning and listening”.