As predicted, 2017 hasn’t started with a wave of tolerance and understanding.
Facebook’s Live feature gained unwanted attention in a viral video of apparently drugged-up black youngsters in Chicago tormenting a white teenager with learning difficulties. They shouted “Fuck Donald Trump” and “Fuck White People”.
While the Chicago Police and CNN pundits downplayed the racial aspects of the attack, social media had no problem linking it to what is seen to be the ongoing demonisation of white people by a section of the Social Justice Left. This is exemplified by the fringe website Everyday Feminism’s stream of material on “Healing from Toxic Whiteness”, Hillary Clinton’s campaigns calamitous misreading of Middle American blue states in the recent Presidential Election, and MTV’s New Year’s resolutions for white men which closed out their 2016.
Then, a late night programme from Britain’s BBC called Revolting (the clue is in the title) featured a sketch called The Real Housewives of ISIS. This mocked young Muslims joining the terrorist group, and brought backlash which claimed to care about the victims of ISIS, but was also enraged at the notion of religion being mocked, even indirectly.
This brought the special irony of those proclaiming that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam declaring that satirising young girls joining the terrorist group was an attack on Muslim women generally.
Meanwhile Islamist attacks in Istanbul, Mogadishu and Baghdad have killed dozens in what is likely to be a banner year for world terrorism. These attacks are Muslims killing other Muslims, fuelled apparently by toxic masculinity, Western foreign policy and economic disadvantage – and nothing at all to do with a religion which is peaceful, but which in an ideal world with properly constituted Sharia Law would execute blasphemers and apostates.
In short, as usual social media amplified what previously would have been local news stories and turned them into international stramashes: in this case metaphors for the big questions of what tolerance and diversity actually mean in an increasingly uncertain and divided world.
Prospects for the rest of 2017 are no less bleak. Trump’s Presidency will bring ever more unknown unknowns. More terrorist attacks will be foiled and forgotten, and every one that succeeds – on Western soil anyway – will be a major traumatic event. Germany, the Netherlands and France face general elections which could see the far right make major gains in Western democracies for the first time in decades.
The Left in general is rightly worried at the prospects of Trump’s Presidency and the ascendant Right: but its response at the start of this new year has largely been the same as that of last year: to insist that anyone who disagrees with it is either a Nazi, or an enabler of Nazis.
I’m still on the Left – in the dictionary and on the “Political Compass” map anyway – despite the insistence of those who brook no dissent to pseudo-religious “Political Correctness” and “Social Justice” narratives.
I fear we are doing a huge disservice to our youth and to the Left in general by promoting post-truth narratives that any ideology cannot be challenged.
It’s no surprise to see students who lose their minds at the idea that someone could disagree with them, teaming up with (non-white, non-Christian) religious zealots, who also want to outlaw blasphemy and ideological dissent.
Some of my friends on the Left are aghast at my “siding” with people Like Donald Trump & Milo Yiannopoulos – which is to say that I think anyone should be allowed to speak and to express ideas which you or I or anyone else might not like, as long as they are not calling for violence or harassment. That is what got Milo banned permanently from Twitter, of course, and why Trump’s indiscretions are so alarming. But Milo and Trump have shown raging intolerance from the left too.
The new notion that mere disagreement is violence, prevalent on the Social Justice Left among activists ranging from Black Lives Matter through Rhodes Must Fall and Pronoun-driven trans/gender activism, is so vapid, so dangerous and so beyond reason that it seems incredible to me that I have to write these words questioning them…But I do.
We can’t can repeatedly talk about how one set of people are cursed from birth with ancestral and cultural guilt, and not expect that group to feel persecuted… And since the group in question – primarily cis white men – are a fair chunk of the Western World, a political backlash is inevitable. We have seen this with the disastrous (for the Political Left) votes for Brexit in the UK and Trump in the US – and very probably the election results across Europe next year.
We are being told by student activists and liberal-leaning mainstream media not only that they are politically correct, but that any dissent to their ideas can only be fuelled by racism and sexism and X-ophobia.
The result of this is that the mainstream Political Left no longer feels the need to try to persuade anyone of anything. Post-truth “facts” are laid out like fait accomplis that only goose-stepping rightists would challenge. Those who dissent are fascists who should not be given the opportunity to speak.
In this Kafkaesque, Orwellian vision, the Left is floundering ideologically, politically, and electorally – in dismay that its messages are not getting across and in abject denial that a change of strategy might be in order.
In 2017, so-called Progressives are insisting that Black People have separate spaces from white people; that language be regulated to enforce pronoun choices that can change from week-to-week and day-to-day; that dissent be silenced; that even jokes in support of oppressed people must not be made; and that the role of “allies” can only to be agree without hesitation or question whatever an “oppressed” person says no matter what that is.
These positions are so illiberal, so far from the ideals of free thought and intellectual rigour, so close to a secular religious certainty, and so open to abuse from those who would love to see Western Civilisation crumble into dust, that those who truly value everything that has been achieved in the realms of rights for women, for LGBT and for other minorities over the course of the 20th century should be very concerned indeed.
Like Aesop’s fable of the dog who sees the reflection of its bone in a river, and loses the real thing in pursuit of a mirage, the Western world could lose the freedoms it has gained.
Complaints about Donald Trump’s Post-Truth, Post-Reality politics would have a lot more credence if mainstream politics itself hadn’t been involved in Post-Truth politics for decades: debt bubbles, a collapsing Middle Class, GMOs, WMDs, welcomed a liberators, “Moderate” rebels, Islamist terrorists who have nothing to do with religion, Western allies facilitating extremism and terror, the list goes on…
Post-truth, post-reality ideologies, immune from contradiction and challenge, are a disaster for us all, whether they come from well-meaning “Progressives”, the previous generation of creation-toting Evangelicals, or the newly resurgent far right.
Everything should be open to question, whether it’s Trump’s tax history, the apparent jump in those exhibiting gender dysphoria, or the effects of young -teen girls being dressed in hijabs and niqabs to ensure they make the right “choices” later in life.
If we insist that our own beliefs and ideologies and ideals cannot be challenged, what grounds do we have to object to anyone else insisting that their beliefs and ideologies and ideals cannot be challenged? If we insist that what offends us must be banned, what grounds do we have to object to anyone else insisting that what offends them must be banned?
The late 20th century has brought us unprecedented advances in technology and social change.
There are enormous challenges ahead of us to solve, politically economically and socially. We will not begin to address these until we are able to challenge our assumptions about the way things are and the way things should be.
As one old white cis man put it, “the whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”
What would the philosopher, mathematician and Nobel Laureate Bertrand Russell make of our world where people have emotional meltdowns because someone disagrees with them? Not much, I’d suppose.
He did however leave us with these words of wisdom:
I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.
To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.
Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by education.
As predicted, 2017 hasn’t started with a wave of tolerance and understanding.