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Brexit Catastrophisation Watch, Part 11 – Neither Imperial Delusions Nor Fearful Retreat From The World

British Empire cartoon

Replacing one slanderous Brexit narrative with another

Janan Ganesh almost gets it right (for once) in his FT column, accurately warning people away from the myth – especially popular with many foreigners – that the vote for Brexit was some kind of reflexive grasp to regain a long-gone empire and adopt a more swashbuckling, colonial-style role in world affairs.

Ganesh writes:

There is a certain kind of Briton, often educated to the hilt, who believes that sick Americans are left to writhe around on hospital floors until they show the doctors a credit card. Even sophisticated people think in simple terms about foreign countries. They just need a plausible line-to-take that sees them through a dinner party as it turns to political chat.

Americans give as good as they get. To the extent that their smartest people talk about Britain, they focus on our imperial delusions: here is a country that never adjusted to its loss of empire and does odd things to compensate. In Europe and Asia, too, exit from the EU is read as a desperate lunge for a global role, an act nearer to therapy than to statecraft. Colonial nostalgia has become the one thing the world “knows” about modern Britain.

It just happens to lack the ring of truth if you live here. Vestiges of empire survive in public life and some Conservative ministers picture a new Commonwealth trade zone that diplomats call, in what must pass for office banter, Empire 2.0. But Britain is not Liam Fox. It voted to leave the EU for reasons that differ from those that animate the trade secretary.

Quite. In Britain, the only ones who really see Brexit as a ham-fisted attempt to reclaim the losses of decolonialisation are the pants-wetting, pseudo-liberal preeners at the Guardian and satirical news site the Daily Mash, who love to portray Brexiteers as angry, curtain-twitching retired colonels outraged by the sudden appearance of brown-skinned neighbours.

Talk to the average Brexiteer on the street, however, and this is not the justification that you will hear. Neither is the glib “hankering for empire” explanation borne out through the opinion polls, which – contrary to the race and immigration angle played up by the media – proved that freedom and national self-determination ranked most highly among the priorities of Brexit voters.

Unfortunately, in the course of refuting this particular misguided Brexit narrative, Ganesh goes off the rails and embraces a fatalistic “retreat from the world” narrative every bit as presumptuous and fatalistic as the original:

The regions that shaped and were shaped by empire voted to remain, including London, the old metropole; Scotland, the source of many settlers and administrators; Manchester, not just the empire’s industrial centre but its liberal intellectual heart; and the port cities of Liverpool and Bristol. Inland Birmingham voted to leave, as did the countryside and market towns of Deep England. What those communities seem to want is Nation 1.0 — the sovereign statehood that predated the globalised era —

So far, so good. Brexiteers do indeed want the United Kingdom to return to a norm which might be called Nation 1.0. In fact, this is not a dim and distant past but a present reality still enjoyed by every advanced country outside of Europe – enjoying the benefits of globalisation, but not plugged in to a supranational political entity with federalist ambitions to become the government of a united Europe.

Nobody ever argues that Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea need to be part of an homogeneous overarching political union with a shared parliament, judiciary and executive in order to thrive. Neither does anybody criticise these countries for “retreating from the world” or otherwise failing to play their full part in global commerce and cultural exchange. Only in Europe has the pernicious myth taken hold – helped along by media cheerleaders, both ignorant and cynically knowing – that to reject an explicitly political project is also to wish to sever all links with the modern world.

Sadly, this is the trap that Ganesh immediately falls into. To pick up the end of his previous sentence:

— when the population was more homogenous and the economy less exposed to foreign competition. Whatever these impulses are, they are not colonial.

[..] Since 1945, intelligent outsiders have overestimated Britain’s frustrated ambition and underrated its sense of resignation, its desire for a quiet life after a draining few centuries as a player. When the American diplomat Dean Acheson said the British had not yet found a role after empire, he rather assumed that we were looking for one. Insiders make the same mistake. The least effective argument for the EU in the referendum campaign centred on its usefulness as a power-multiplier for medium-sized nations. It is not that voters disbelieved this. They just did not care enough.

History keeps forcing countries into this choice between significance abroad and retrenchment at home. Imagine that it were possible to go back in time and make sure the empire had never happened, in return for much-reduced postwar immigration from the former colonies. I suspect that some of the voters now fingered as neo-imperialists would trade their nation’s record of world grandeur for what might delicately be called a more familiar population. A less extreme thought experiment is already in the news. If a UK-India trade deal were to hinge on freer migration between the two countries, would Mr Fox sign it? He must know his keenness would not be matched by his own voters.

[..] It is easy for foreigners to read imperial nostalgia into something much more parochial. The terminal point of empire is introspection, not a restless desire to do it all over again. Introspection is bad enough but the British cannot be guilty of that and the opposite at the same time. Outsiders are free to fault us, if they pick the right fault.

We now appear to be caught in an imperial / introspective false dichotomy where Brexit can be explained (especially to anxious faux-liberals like New York Times readers) only as a racist country’s dying grasp to regain imperial greatness or a shrunken, scared and insular country seeking to retreat from the dangers of the world.

(We’ll ignore the fact that it was America, not Britain, who just elected as president an authoritarian strongman who promised not to enhance citizens’ liberties but rather to keep them safe from any danger – particularly from China, Mexicans and Islamist terror – and free from all anxiety. But by all means, tell us again how Britain is supposedly the country in decline and fearful of the world).

In reality, neither of these two absurd characterisations get to the truth of Brexit. At its heart – and this is borne out by opinion polls which clearly showed “self determination” to be the key issue for Brexit voters – Brexit is about wanting to normalise Britain and cease participating in a federalist experiment which almost nobody wanted and for which even its loudest champions failed to properly advocate.

British voters simply did not understand – with good reason – why Britain’s participation in a modern economy and a globalised world requires us to dissolve our sovereignty into an explicitly political union, when other advanced countries around the world are not under any similar obligation. And the Remain campaign could give them no good answer, for they have none. The EU is a political project whose economic activities are but a means to the ultimate end. Knowledgeable Remainers could say nothing to the contrary without perjuring themselves.

But rather than admit the truth about the European Union, how much easier it is to sit at a keyboard and invent ever more daft reasons explaining away the vote for Brexit. How much easier for Remainers to use weak satire or hysterical doom-mongering to distract themselves from the vacuity of their own case and the failure of their campaign.

Janan Ganesh is right – Britain did not vote to secede from the European Union through some misguided attempt to timewarp back to the days of empire. But it is not good enough to refute this silly idea only to promulgate another equally lazy explanation, as Ganesh unfortunately also does.

Remainers have long tried to paint Brexit as some kind of aberration, an inexplicable and harmful departure from international norms. But in fact it is the European Union which is an aberration and which flies in the face of human instinct and history. It is the European Union which attempts to force on member states a model of supranational government for which no meaningful democratic consent was ever sought, which reliably becomes less popular the more it is understood and which no other countries or regions of the world have ever sought to emulate.

Brexit was a vote to return to Nation State 1.0, not because we never want to reach Nation State 2.0 but because the EU’s status quo (Nation State 1.5) is buggy, full of defects and leading us in the wrong direction. The European Union is the Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition of political governance systems, and deciding to uninstall it and wait for something better neither means that we are hankering for the past nor giving up as a country. It’s just the smart thing to do.

It may be difficult for self-regarding members of the political media establishment to accept,  but Brexiteers were right to vote as they did. Remainers were wrong. And columnists would do better to analyse the failings, inconsistencies and non sequiturs in the Remainer case – the timidity, the tedious declinism, the remarkable ability to ignore the example of any country in the world outside the European Union – than continue to invent imaginary flaws in the case for Brexit.

 

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Brexit Catastrophisation Watch, Part 10 – Less Lamentation, More Outreach Required From The Church

The fall of Babylon

If the Church wants to survive as a truly national institution rather than amplifying the already-inescapable voices of anguished middle-class Remainers, it had better come to terms with Brexit 

Displaying a complete lack of self-awareness and a fierce, proud disinterest in the lives and opinions of her fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who happened to vote in good conscience for Brexit, Alison Elliot – Associate Director of the Centre for Theology at the University of Edinburgh – wails into the Church of England’s Reimagining Europe blog:

The Church has many resources that are not available to politicians. Politicians are practitioners of the art of the possible: they keep the show on the road, nudging it in varying directions; they fix things; they make promises within a limited horizon.

But the Church has permission to sing songs – songs of lament, songs of confession, songs of hope. I submit that all are necessary today. Lament that is unrecognised expresses itself in anger and accusation; lack of confession leads to mistakes being perpetuated; and hope gives direction to our decisions and our action.

Songs of lament? Oh boy.

Lament names the ache and the void we carry around with us. For me, that involves the pain of a fractured European identity, where my claim to the rich heritage of our continent is being attenuated; where our neighbours continue to shape their future, painful as that may be, and we watch from the side-lines. It involves lamenting the drabness of a world diminished by limited freedom of movement, as multi-lingual chatter disappears from our high streets, we lose the efficiency and enthusiasm of European tradesmen, and our universities struggle to keep a vibrant exchange of ideas alive. And I mourn the rejection of the great insight of the European Project whereby economic activity and social values go hand in hand.

There’s no point in refuting any of this – the fact that Elliot remains every bit as “European” as ever she was, that identity never having been contingent on Britain’s membership of a supranational political union; the risible idea that the remaining EU27, paralysed by indecision and self-interest while currency and humanitarian crises rend them asunder, are in any way proactively “shap[ing] their future”; the hysterical belief that the “world” has been “diminished by limited freedom of movement” when most of the world was excluded from the arrangement and before we know the outcome of the Brexit negotiations; the unsubstantiated notion that Britain’s world-class universities are struggling to keep the torch of knowledge alight in this new Brexit dark age; the tremulous fear that foreign voices will now disappear from our high streets in a puff of smoke as Britain drifts gently away into the mid-Atlantic.

There is no point arguing any of these points with Alison Elliot, for if she is still repeating these tropes now then she is clearly impervious to reason, her mind closed to any argument that could be made by a sane Brexiteer while the gates of her credulity remain opened wide to the most fatuous and cataclysmic of Remainer myths and assertions.

To ache and carry around a “void” because of Britain’s secession from the European Union is quite simply to misunderstand what the EU really is – unless you are a closet euro federalist, which despite her misty eyed despair at the thought of Brexit, Elliot has given no indication that she identifies as such.

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Confession follows on easily from lament. I confess that I missed opportunities to share with people at home the excitement and the depth of reflection from meetings with church partners in Europe, acquiescing too easily with the view that Britain isn’t interested in Europe. I confess to leaving it to others to support refugees and to publicise the contribution our migrant communities have made to the country. And I confess to having done too little to engage local communities in the decisions that affect them.

Yes, if only there had been more head-in-the-clouds theologians waffling on about the benefits of European ecumenism (as though the doggedly secular humanist EU played any real role in forging and facilitating such exchanges) then Stoke-on-Trent might not have voted so overwhelmingly to leave the European Union. That was the Remain campaign’s real problem.

Elliott confesses to “leaving it to others to support refugees”, which is a self-criticism applying to most of us, who do little beyond support the government’s efforts with our taxes. But she displays no such introspection about failing to support her own countrymen, particularly those who found themselves at the sharp end of globalisation (as in being made unemployed and unemployable rather than enjoying the kind of back-slapping church conferences in Barcelona and Bruges that perhaps characterised the church’s more positive experience of European integration) and whose votes ultimately helped to push the uninspiring Leave campaign over the finish line in the EU referendum.

And this is a criticism I direct not only at Alison Elliot – who seems to belong to that well-intentioned-but-dim group of academics and theologians who automatically believe everything good they hear about the EU and everything bad that the Guardian tells them about Brexiteers – but at the church in general. The church (or vast swathes of it) are in grave danger of being seen as brimming over with love, time and compassion for everybody – minorities, economic migrants, refugees – but the vast majority of ordinary Britons, particularly the working and lower middle “striving” classes.

That’s not to say that the church is wrong to devote a large proportion of its efforts to help the most vulnerable; of course they should do so. But clearly they are not spending enough time ministering to people like the Leave voters of Sunderland and Stoke, or to people like me and other principled EU opponents. Because if they were, then bishops and theologians would know more about the arguments for Brexit and the motivations of Brexiteers, rather than continuing to portray us as two-dimensional Guardian caricatures. They would recognise the cultural dislocation and economic disruption rending their own parishes, diocese and communities rather than fixing the full extent of their gaze on problems beyond our shores.

Elliot concludes:

Hope names a future that is at odds with the one we seem to be embracing. Let us hope for a future of international cooperation, where nations put their resources and fortunes at the disposal of others rather than hugging them to themselves. A future where citizens engage with politics at a deeper level than being observers to a soap opera and where they reconnect with each other to construct a rich tapestry of social relationships. A future where economic opportunism is kept in its place and the quality of life of our suppliers and their families is part of the equation. A future where we value the intrinsic worth of strangers as well as friends and recognise the part they can play in realising our dreams.

Tomorrow we will put our technocratic hats on again and plan and envision and mobilise for outcomes and scenarios, but first we need to connect with our grief and our fears. From that we will be liberated to face the challenges ahead.

When half of one’s community is celebrating and the other half mourning, a church leader or theologian worth their salt would quickly turn to asking whether there isn’t some deeper misunderstanding at play – confusion with regard to motives, for example. Most Remainers are not the self-hating, anti-patriotic drones that they are sometimes portrayed as by Brexiteers. And most Brexiteers are not the snarling, selfish, little-Englander xenophobes that they are painted by Remainers.

The trouble is, by talking about “connect[ing] with our grief”, singing songs of lament and donning the sackcloth and ashes in response to Brexit, the church (well represented on this subject by Elliot) firmly takes the side of one half of the country over the other half. Rather than seeking to find those unifying strands – acknowledging the EU’s real flaws and legitimate reasons for departure while seeking out ways to preserve and strengthen that which was good outside of the supranational union – the church becomes an introverted talking shop for Remainers who have made their contempt and dislike for Brexit Britain quite clear, and who have nothing to say to the 52 percent who voted Leave.

Put it this way: if the tide turned and you finally got to have your say in the running of the country after someone else (the pro-Europeans) had had things their way for forty years straight, and then the church planted itself firmly (by roll call of senior figures if not official policy) on the side of your opponents, weeping at the supposed injustice and ruin of your moment of triumph, would you be inclined to listen to them about anything else? Would you feel valued and respected in their eyes?

Perhaps that might not matter if the church were a business, free to choose its target demographic and focus its efforts on appealing to a lucrative niche market. But such behaviour – as we are essentially now seeing from too many church leaders – is entirely antithetical to the universal mission of the church.

There are many reasons why the church (particularly the Church of England) faces an existential threat in this country – secularisation, changing social norms and the increasing criminalisation of traditional beliefs and speech all play a part. The blame cannot be laid at the foot of any one single cause.

But deliberately scorning and misunderstanding half the country while effectively turning the church into a therapy group for devastated middle-class Remainers certainly will not help matters.

Now is not the time for garment-rending and tedious songs of lament. Now is the time for the church to put down the smelling salts, roll up its sleeves and redouble its outreach and ministry to Brexit Britain.

 

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Brexit Catastrophisation Watch, Part 9 – Another Song For Europe

The long-awaited follow-up single is finally here…

Madeleina Kay, an almost Vera Lynn-like character among disappointed Remainers, has released another classic ode to the EU, following up on her first hit, “All I Want For Christmas Is EU“.

This one is an adaptation of the Elvis Presley classic “Can’t Help Falling in Love”, re-engineered as a tearful plea from a contrite Britain for the European Union to take us back.

The immortal lyrics:

Wise men say
Only fools Vote Leave
‘Cause I can’t help falling in love with EU
Shall we stay
Would it be a sin
If we can’t help falling in love with EU?

Every Remainer knows
It’s a catastrophe
But Brexit rest assured
It’s not meant to be

Take my hand
Accept this apology
‘Cause I can’t help falling in love with EU

As the Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony has been co-opted to serve as the European Union’s anthem, let this effort – sung here with the sweet innocence of a child – become the EU equivalent of Parry’s “Jerusalem”, etched into the hearts of every European citizen and fondly sung on all those many euro-patriotic occasions which we have in common across the continent, and which are so important to us all.

Deep breath.

Think about the European Union for a moment. Think about what the EU actually is, how it was founded, how it deliberately grew by stealth, its deliberate corrosion of member state democracy and the impact that the outsourcing of government to a supra-national level has had on political engagement across an entire continent.

Think about the harm that the EU’s protectionist trade policies have wrought on developing nations without and on economic competitiveness within.

Think about the way that this hulking relic from the post-war era, totally lacking in popular legitimacy and unable to meet the challenges of the 21st century without inevitably making them immeasurably worse, grinds ever-onward towards its pre-ordained federalist destination, deaf to all opposition.

Then imagine writing not one, but two love songs to that organisation.

Just think about it for a moment.

The more I see of Kay’s output, the more I am starting to suspect that she may actually be a cunning Brexiteer, trolling the pro-EU Brexit-deniers from deep behind enemy lines.

If so, then she is doing an absolutely masterful job.

 

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Donald Trump Victory Reaction: The American Left Struggles To Regain Perspective

american_soldiers_recover_the_dead_after_d-day

Rather than following through on their much-publicised threats to leave the country in the event of a Clinton defeat, Donald Trump’s most vehement left-wing opponents are now making plans to stay in America and become completely insufferable instead

There is something to admire in Michael Krikorian’s instruction to his readers to rediscover their courage, stand and fight against the incoming Trump administration for what they believe in, delivered in his latest LA Times Op-Ed.

I particularly like the acknowledgement – largely missing among the mass hysteria – that America has indeed been through “far worse” before, and survived:

No one’s moving anywhere. My friends Dahlia and Chris aren’t going to Mexico, and Alexis is not going to Copenhagen. My gal Nancy’s not permanently packing up and moving to Umbria, and Duke is not moving to Thailand with his cousin Jake.

And you?  You aren’t going wherever the heck you say you are moving to now that Donald Trump is going to be president of the United States of America.

What we all do is this: We stay and fight.

First, we wait and see. Even Hillary Clinton said Wednesday, “We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead.”

But if we don’t like what happens, we fight it. We take to the streets and rekindle memories of the anti-Vietnam War protests and civil rights marches. We don’t run and hide. We don’t abandon America.

This is all good. Yes, there will likely be much that is objectionable about the coming Trump presidency, for conservatives and libertarians too, as well as those on the Left. But there is no need to sit under a coffee table and cry like you are five years old and still scared of monsters or fireworks or loud noises. Rediscover some backbone and composure. We are all adults here.

But then just as Krikorian is on a roll of common sense, he goes on to remark:

I feel, strangely, not what I thought I would “the morning after.” I’m more patriotic than I was yesterday. More in love with my country than I have since, I guess, Sept. 11, 2001.

Oh dear. A tacit suggestion that the outcome of this election is the worst thing to befall America since 9/11. To be fair, Krikorian does temper that comparison with this observation:

Yesterday, a guy I know from the streets showed me a knife he had in his waistband. A killing knife. It made me think of “Saving Private Ryan”and a brutal, achingly sad scene:  room-to-room fighting, a German soldier slowly pushing a killing knife into the chest of an American soldier.

When I went home, I Netflix’d “Saving Private Ryan” with the intention of forwarding to that scene, but instead I started watching from the beginning. The first 25 or so minutes show the first wave of Allied forces landing on the beach at Normandy, D-Day, 1944. It’s one of the most powerful  movie sequences ever filmed, and it ends with a panorama of bloody corpses washed along by the tide.

What happened Tuesday doesn’t compare to those days. Everyone walking around like it’s the end of civilization now that Trump is in? It’s not. We’ve  been through far worse. A perceived threat is not as bad as a punch in the face.

So the election of Donald Trump is traumatic enough that it provokes the same resurgence of shock-induced patriotism as 9/11, but bearable enough that watching thousands of British, American and allied soldiers being mown down by machine gun fire on French beaches in Saving Private Ryan puts things back into perspective. Okay, got it.

Do these people ever stop to listen to themselves? Do they ever pause to wonder how those who do not share the same political views are likely to react when they openly declare “I consider you getting your way in a national election to be the worst man-made disaster to befall this country since 9/11”, or “the temporary prevalence of your worldview reduced me to the brink of despair, until I watched a man being bayonetted to death and realised that things could be worse”?

I shouldn’t snipe. Krikorian’s is one of vanishingly few voices from the American Left to tentatively suggest that America still has a future and that the end of the world was in fact likely not set in motion on November 8. And by and large, Krikorian is counselling against hysteria and self-pity, which is an admirable thing to do.

But when some of the coolest heads on the American Left are reacting to Hillary Clinton’s defeat at the hands of Donald Trump by counting themselves fortunate not to be storming the beaches on D-Day then it seems we still have some way to go before the two Americas are in a position to talk to one another respectfully or productively.

 

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Donald Trump Victory Reaction: Nicholas Kristof Compares Surviving President Trump To Suffering From Mental Illness

donald-trump-election-victory-protest-your-vote-was-a-hate-crime-banner

No, processing Donald Trump’s election victory is not like recovering from addiction

One of the more painful aspects of Donald Trump’s shock election victory, for me, has been having to watch journalists and commentators whom I have previously respected gradually lose all sense of perspective and become almost offensively hysterical in their overwrought catastrophisation of the election result.

This blog was also very much against a Trump victory, but much of the mainstream media commentary seems to have descended into a nationwide, mutually-reinforcing panic attack, like a group of young kids watching a scary movie at a sleepover and then seizing on every nighttime creak or rustle to convince one another that they are being haunted by the monster from the television.

Godwin’s Law is now being proved with such regularity – by supposedly serious journalists writing above the line, and not just the online commentators beneath it – that cataloguing individual instances of Donald Trump victory catastrophisation has become pointless.

And we are not just talking about the more sensationalist, web-based outlets here. One expects little better from the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed or the likes of Everyday Feminism. But now even the New York Times has fallen victim to the great national hysteria – star columnist Nicholas Kristof can presently be found comparing the forthcoming suffering of American leftists under the incoming Trump administration to the pain of people suffering from addiction and mental illness.

I’m not joking – Kristof has just published a column in which he outlines his own patented “twelve-step program” for coming to terms with a Donald Trump presidency.

Kristof begins:

Traumatized by the election results, many Americans are asking: What now? Here are steps that any of us can take that can make a difference at the margins. Onward!

Traumatised? Really? Isn’t that a word that might be better reserved for veterans who watched their friends killed in action or had their own limbs blown off by IEDs, or the victims of sexual assault and other violent crime? Do we really want to extend that term to encompass the tears and frustration of Hillary Clinton supporters as Donald Trump made a mockery of the opinion polls and won a four-year term as US president?

Some highlights from the Kristof 12-steps:

2. I WILL try to do small things in my own life, recognizing that they are inadequate but at least a start: I will sign up on the Council on American-Islamic Relations website, volunteering to fight Islamophobia. I’ll call a local mosque to offer support, or join an interfaith event. I will sign up for an “accompany my neighbor” list if one exists for my area, to be an escort for anyone who is now in fear.

Because in the blink of an eye and before Trump has even taken office, America has become such a seethingly dangerous place that minorities can no longer walk the streets unaccompanied? Has Nicholas Kristof given absolutely zero thought to how this alarmist, apocalyptic language might be contributing (or indeed be the largest contributor) to the fear which he describes?

3. I WILL avoid demonizing people who don’t agree with me about this election, recognizing that it’s as wrong to stereotype Trump supporters as anybody else. I will avoid Hitler metaphors, recognizing that they stop conversations and rarely persuade. I’ll remind myself that no side has a monopoly on truth and that many Trump supporters are good people who want the best for the country. The left already has gotten into trouble for condescending to working-class people, and insulting all Trump supporters as racists simply magnifies that problem.

Credit where it’s due. Kristof manages something close to magnanimity here, but his call for fellow progressives upset at the election to avoid demonising Donald Trump supporters would be all the more convincing if it didn’t come in the middle of a hysterical article comparing a Trump presidency to living with serious mental illness.

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5. I WILL support groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center that fight hate groups, and back the center’s petition calling on Donald Trump to disavow bigotry. Depending on my interests, I’ll support an immigration rights group, the A.C.L.U. or Planned Parenthood. And I’ll subscribe to a newspaper as one way of resisting efforts to squelch the news media or preside over a post-fact landscape — and also to encourage journalists to be watchdogs, not lap dogs.

That would be the same Southern Poverty Law Center which has utterly capitulated to ideological leftist Islamism-deniers, and which has the nerve to place tireless fighters against extremism such as Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali on a list of supposed anti-Muslim bigots, in a desperate bid to placate and appeal to goodness knows who.

The ACLU of course does some vital work defending civil liberties, but it too has started to crumble under pressure from the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, and is now just as zealous about protecting non-existent positive “human rights” as defending genuine civil liberties and Constitutional protections. One can still make an argument for joining the ACLU in an attempt to change it from within (it is less far gone than, say, the UK’s Liberty) but somehow I don’t think that this is what Kristof has in mind.

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7. I WON’T let it slide if a friend makes degrading comments about a minority or women. Even if it’s over Thanksgiving dinner, I’ll push back and say something like: “Come on! You really think that?!” Similarly, I may not be able to prevent a sexual predator from reaching the White House, but at events I attend, I may be able to prevent a sexual predator from assaulting a drunken partygoer.

8. I WILL resist dwelling in an echo chamber. I will follow smart people on Twitter or Facebook with whom I disagree. I will also try to enlarge my social circle to include people with different views, recognizing that diversity is a wonderful thing — and that if I know only Clinton supporters, then I don’t have a clue about America.

Again, credit where credit is due. We should all have the courage to take a stand where we see overt racism or sexism occurring in front of us. Confronting these bad ideas and exposing them to the unforgiving light of public ridicule is one of the best means of defeating them. But Kristof has clearly attended one “rape culture” seminar too many, and would have us all patrol every party we attend with a pocket breathalyser, pouncing on amorous couples to ensure that no alcohol has been consumed and that the appropriate consent forms have been signed.

It is also laudable that Kristof encourages people to look beyond their own ideological echo chamber and acknowledge the legitimacy and fundamental decency of those Americans who hold sincere political differences. However, one gets the feeling that this “step” might be the stumbling block for many leftists, just as some recovering addicts pause when confronted with Steps 8 and 9 (making amends to those they have harmed). It does not come naturally to many people to expand their social circles to incorporate those with different viewpoints and values – indeed, many people assiduously prune their social circles to achieve the precise opposite in the quest for ideological homogeneity.

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11. I WILL take on sexism and misogyny, which in forms like domestic violence, sexual assault and sex trafficking affect women and girls across the country. Even today, Republicans and Democrats should be able to work together to get funding for women’s shelters or to prosecute pimps.

Even today? What is that supposed to mean? That however bad Donald Trump and Republicans may be, with the right outreach it may just still be possible to convince these heartless conservatives that sex slavery, rape and domestic violence are bad things? Well, I should hope so. This wouldn’t even need saying, were it not for the fact that many people who read Kristof’s column have been fed a steady diet of propaganda suggesting that Donald Trump is about to make his own unreconstructed attitude towards women compulsory for all men in the country.

And finally:

12. I WILL not lose hope. I will keep reminding myself that politics zigs and zags, and that I can do more than shout in the wind. I can fight for my values even between elections, and even at the micro level I can mitigate the damage to my neighbors and attempt to heal a social fabric that has been rent.

“A social fabric that has been rent” – a nicely passive way of describing the division in America, as though the Kristof-reading American Left had absolutely nothing to do with the rending of America’s social fabric.

Look: the offensive thing here is not necessarily the content of Kristof’s article or the sentiments he expresses. As I have acknowledged, many of the points are actually very laudable calls for all of us to be better, more engaged citizens – something that this blog heartily approves of, and has long called for. What is really offensive is the fact that Kristof felt it in any way appropriate to compare the disappointment of losing an election with the torment of addiction, that he packaged this collection of decent advice and condescension in the guise of a 12-step program.

Imagine for a moment that Nicholas Kristof had written an article encouraging disappointed Clinton supporters to view the next four years as a painful course of chemotherapy. Imagine the outrage which would rightly be prompted by comparing the pain of electoral defeat with the ravages of cancer. But when it comes to addiction and mental health, apparently everything is fair game. It is perfectly acceptable for wealthy, pampered Manhattanites to compare their suffering to that of people suffering from mental illness.

Or imagine that the positions were reversed and a right-wing columnist had compared the suffering of conservatives under a Clinton administration to people trying to recover from addiction. Again, that columnist would immediately be hauled over the coals by the perpetually outraged Left.

This is another one of those occasions where the decadent metro-left grants itself a waiver from the outrage and opprobrium it would rain down on anybody of more conservative persuasion who dared to do the same thing. It’s fine for Nicholas Kristof to talk about processing a Democratic electoral defeat as though it is in any way similar to working through mental health issues, because he does it for the Greater Good of the leftist cause, but heaven forfend that anybody else speak too casually about a “traditionally marginalised group”.

Do these people have any conception of how hysterical and arrogant they sound?

Go back to Step 3 and do it right this time. Because this is NOT how America will knit back together after the election. Nicholas Kristof should be heartily ashamed of himself.

 

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