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What Is The Point Of Theresa May?

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Right now, Britain needs a leader, not a placeholder – Theresa May needs to step up and set some ambitious national goals, or else be swept aside to make room for a real conservative leader

David Mellor doesn’t know what Theresa May stands for. And as Christopher Hope writes in the Telegraph, Mellor has good reason to be confused:

Theresa May is proving as Prime Minister that she is no Margaret Thatcher, a former Thatcherite minister has said, because she is not “seizing the initiative”.

David Mellor, who served under Baroness Thatcher for three years, said “the description of Theresa May as the new Margaret Thatcher is as wide of the mark as it could possibly be”.

Mr Mellor urged Mrs May to call a general election next year and win a larger House of Commons majority. The Tories have a consistently strong polling lead over Labour.

Mr Mellor was a minister in Lady Thatcher’s last government in four departments from 1987 to her resignation in November 1990.

He said Mrs May had shown herself “infirm of purpose”, most recently over the Christmas strikes at post offices, Southern Rail and Heathrow airport, where action will take place later this week.

He told Sky News’ Murnaghan: “When I was a minister for four years she treated me with even more disrespect than my mother did, but Margaret Thatcher knew what she wanted do and did it.

“I don’t think Theresa May knows what she wants to do. Her advisers appear to be the ones that create the headlines. I think she is sitting there and she is infirm of purpose, and she needs to seize the initiative.

“The main initiative she needs to seize is to have an election and get herself a mandate.”

This blog has never joined the calls for an early general election, not least because the laudable idea of having fixed term parliaments is rather undermined if we suspend the rule on the first occasion it becomes politically inconvenient. But if triggering a general election is what it takes to force Theresa May to really think about what kind of prime minister she wants to be (and hopefully give the British people a clue as well) then maybe we should just get on with it. Because right now Britain is idling in neutral at a time when we should be setting a firm course and all striving to pull in the same direction.

The underlying problem is that having succeeded to the office of prime minister unexpectedly in the most turbulent of times (in the wake of David Cameron’s resignation and Andrea Leadsom’s surprise departure from the following Conservative Party leadership contest), Theresa May evidently took office without ever having clearly thought about what it is that she wanted to achieve through her leadership of Britain (the recent Sunday Times interview is heavy on temperament and almost completely lacking in vision).

And it shows. Mellor cites Theresa May’s supposed “infirmity of purpose” when it comes to things like tackling the strikes on Southern Rail, but those are side issues. More troubling than May’s failure to get tough with striking railway workers is the fact that she used her first party conference speech as prime minister to declare war not on Labour and the vested interests of the Left, but on the libertarian Right.

What’s worrying is that Theresa May’s government has passed the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, dynamite for privacy and civil liberties, and is still toying with the idea of enforcing section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act and Part 2 of the Leveson Report, further curtailing freedom of the press. It is not just that we do not know enough about Theresa May’s agenda for Britain – what little we do no should give small government conservatives everywhere cause for concern.

Contrast this to the last great transformative Conservative prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who had four years behind her as Leader of the Opposition in which to solidify her worldview and flesh it out with policy (notably from the Stepping Stones Report and Centre for Policy Studies think tank) before taking office. By the time Thatcher entered 10 Downing Street in May 1979, she had not only diagnosed Britain’s ailments but formed a fairly clear idea of how she intended to tackle them, even though the road ahead was inevitably marked by missteps and challenges.

Theresa May appears to have no such plan. If she has a burning ambition to change Britain from an X type of country to a Y type of country then she is keeping her cards very close to her chest, for there is no evidence of such a goal. All we have is her reputation of flinty-eyed authoritarianism and aversion to publicity, earned during six years at the Home Office, a grammar school fetish and some woolly words about focusing her government’s attention on helping the JAMs (people who are Just About Managing).

The danger, therefore, is that with Brexit on her plate, a populist rebellion afoot in the country and challenges abroad, Theresa May’s government will become so preoccupied with fighting fires and engaging in daily damage control that the big picture vision never emerges at all. Mellor is right to say that most of the useful tidbits of information about the government’s intentions have come not from the prime minister but from public spats between rival cabinet members. And who can be surprised that such turf wars are underway when there is no clear drumbeat emanating from Number 10?

Of course, Theresa May is by no means the first politician to reach 10 Downing Street without a plan for what to do in government. Gordon Brown famously spent so long plotting his own ascension and the downfall of Tony Blair that he cut a uniquely uninspired and uninspiring figure among world leaders, at least until the global financial crisis breathed some fire into his belly (even if his “solution” was hiking the top income tax rate up to an immoral 50 percent).

There are times when a bland and uninspiring individual, a technocrat, is the right leader for the moment – primarily when times are good and the key imperative is not to rock the boat. This scenario does not describe Britain in 2016. Brexit may be foremost of our challenges, but there are others, too. And from Theresa May’s cautious and unambitious start in office, it is difficult to see how she – and we – are to best confront them.

 

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Donald Trump’s Inexcusable Loyalists Deserve To Be Betrayed As He Chooses His Cabinet

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Donald Trump loyalists betrayed conservatism by supporting the president-elect during the campaign; if they are now betrayed by Trump and frozen out of his administration it will be sweet justice

As Donald Trump’s cabinet takes shape, some of those who sacrificed the most reputationally and ideologically to get on board the Trump train are angry that the president-elect is giving consideration to other people who refused to campaign with him, even those who may not have voted for him.

Sarah Palin (who, to be fair, didn’t have much of a reputation to sacrifice) has now belatedly rediscovered her commitment to small government after apparently finding out that there will be no place for her in the Trump administration. In response to this slight, Palin took to the newspapers accusing Donald Trump of promoting “crony capitalism” for offering incentives to business to keep production in the United States.

That’s not quite what she was saying a month ago when she was praising and supporting Trump, and it is slightly jarring to see her pivot effortlessly back to Tea Party talking points having previously embraced Trump so strongly.

But nothing has made the Trump loyalists as angry as the gnawing possibility that Donald Trump might pick Mitt Romney to be his Secretary of State over his dedicated henchman Rudy Giuliani, one of the only people to publicly defend Trump after the leaked ‘p*ssygate’ recordings made the news. Why should Rudy be overlooked, the thinking goes, when he did everything for Trump while Mitt Romney looked on distastefully from the sidelines?

The Trump loyalists deserve absolutely no sympathy in this regard – though Jonah Goldberg does an excellent job of summarising their predicament in this week’s G-file:

Consider the following thought experiment. A very rich guy makes you an offer: “If you eat this bowl of sh**, I will grant you a wish.” You think about it for a minute or two, and then you grab a wooden spoon and start to dig in, when the rich guy says, “Hold on. You’ve got to do it publicly.”

Well, you figure, “What’s the difference? Once I get my wish it will be worth it.” So, you head on over to a television studio with your plastic bib and your spoon, and you tuck into the steaming bowl like Mikey in the old Life cereal commercials.

Then the rich guy says, “Sorry, one more thing: I can only give you a coupon for your wish. But, I promise to honor it once I get the job of genie. Just keep eating.”

What to do? You’ve already acquired a reputation for coprophagia and no one else is offering wish-coupons, so you stick it out. Besides, you’re not alone. A bunch of other folks have been promised similar coupons and you’ve formed a tightknit group. You spend a lot of time talking about how smart you are for agreeing to this arrangement. You fantasize about what you’ll do with your wishes and how sorry the naysayers will be.

Then, the rich guy gets the job of genie. Woo-hoo!

Naturally, you want to redeem your coupon. But all of a sudden, the rich guy starts playing coy. He’s honoring the coupon for some people, but not you. That would be fine — one coupon at a time and all. But then you learn that the genie-elect is giving out coupons to people who didn’t partake of the fecal feast. Uh oh.

And then you see news reports that the big man is not only giving out wishes to people who never earned a coupon, but he’s considering granting a wish to the foremost guy who criticized the big man and tried to keep him from being able to grant wishes at all!

Okay, this getting belabored. But you get the point. If Trump remains the loyalist, Gingrich, Huckabee et al. have golden tickets. The last thing they want is Willie Wonka Trump letting just anybody into the chocolate factory.

This blog finds it very hard to generate sympathy for those big-name American conservatives who so comprehensively sold out their own ideology and their own party to Donald Trump.

If the likes of Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin now find themselves betrayed and left out of the Trump administration they helped to inflict on America, it is still nothing compared to the betrayal of conservatism that they committed by throwing the principles of freedom and small government out the window to worship at the feet of a thin-skinned, constitutionally illiterate big government authoritarian.

May their time in the wilderness be long and full of regrets.

 

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The Left Compare Conservatives To ISIS, Warning Of The ‘Radicalisation Of Young White Men’

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This is the week when leftist cowards, unwilling or unable to counter opposing ideas with a compelling vision of their own, decided to smear conservatives by comparing the expression of conservative ideas to the radicalisation activities of ISIS

Update: See footnote at bottom for reaction to news that the anonymous Guardian article cited here was in fact a satirical piece designed to lampoon left-wing SJW attitudes

It all seems to be quite co-ordinated.

One anonymously-written article published in the pages of Britain’s leftist press, bashing conservative commentators and describing them as a “gateway drug” to full-blown racism, might be generously seen as an isolated if highly offensive smear. The existence of two such articles strains credulity. But with three such articles across two publications, I think it is safe to say we are looking at the British Left’s new official position on the rising popularity of conservative (or at least anti-statist) ideas.

First came this hysterical effort in the Guardian*, in which an anonymous pinch-faced, wobbly-lipped “white male” social justice warrior described how he had been temporarily led astray by the siren song of the online alt-right, only to realise that he was being indoctrinated into a “cult” and pull back from the brink at the last minute.

(* This article turned out to be a brilliant spoof by the excellent anti-SJW provocateur Godfrey Elfwick, something which was not known when I wrote this piece. The fact that the Guardian’ editorial team did not realise and published the article in earnest only goes to highlight that the establishment Left have swallowed the denialist myth that anybody who disagrees with their worldview must have been “radicalised” by the evil forces of conservatism – thus proving my point about the Left’s intellectual decline.)

The Guardian Man’s tremulous confession:

I am a happily married, young white man. I grew up in a happy, Conservative household. I’ve spent my entire life – save the last four months – as a progressive liberal. All of my friends are very liberal or left-leaning centrists. I have always voted Liberal Democrat or Green. I voted remain in the referendum. The thought of racism in any form has always been abhorrent to me. When leave won, I was devastated.

Because wanting Britain to leave a failing, antidemocratic, supranational political union can only be motivated by racism, naturally.

I was curious as to the motives of leave voters. Surely they were not all racist, bigoted or hateful? I watched some debates on YouTube. Obvious points of concern about terrorism were brought up. A leaver cited Sam Harris as a source. I looked him up: this “intellectual, free-thinker” was very critical of Islam. Naturally my liberal kneejerk reaction was to be shocked, but I listened to his concerns and some of his debates.

This, I think, is where YouTube’s “suggested videos” can lead you down a rabbit hole. Moving on from Harris, I unlocked the Pandora’s box of “It’s not racist to criticise Islam!” content. Eventually I was introduced, by YouTube algorithms, to Milo Yiannopoulos and various “anti-SJW” videos (SJW, or social justice warrior, is a pejorative directed at progressives). They were shocking at first, but always presented as innocuous criticism from people claiming to be liberals themselves, or centrists, sometimes “just a regular conservative” – but never, ever identifying as the dreaded “alt-right”.

So apparently it is a “rabbit hole” when watching one conservative-leaning YouTube video leads to the suggestion of others, but Guardian Man’s inevitable constant feed of prancing, left-wing virtue signallers is entirely healthy? Righty-ho. Left-wing ideological bubbles are good and virtuous, right-wing ones are dangerous and evil, got it.

Before long, Guardian Man had hit rock bottom:

At the same time, the anti-SJW stuff also moved on to anti-feminism, men’s rights activists – all that stuff. I followed a lot of these people on Twitter, but never shared any of it. I just passively consumed it, because, deep down, I knew I was ashamed of what I was doing. I’d started to roll my eyes when my friends talked about liberal, progressive things. What was wrong with them? Did they not understand what being a real liberal was? All my friends were just SJWs. They didn’t know that free speech was under threat and that politically correct culture and censorship were the true problem.

On one occasion I even, I am ashamed to admit, very diplomatically expressed negative sentiments on Islam to my wife. Nothing “overtly racist”, just some of the “innocuous” type of things the YouTubers had presented: “Islam isn’t compatible with western civilisation.”

She was taken aback: “Isn’t that a bit … rightwing?”

I justified it: “Well, I’m more a left-leaning centrist. PC culture has gone too far, we should be able to discuss these things without shutting down the conversation by calling people racist, or bigots.”

The indoctrination was complete.

At present, Guardian Man can be found tightening his cilice and loudly flagellating himself for having dared for even one moment to consider points of view which run contrary to the leftist One True Faith. With the tortured mind of an actual criminal, he is trying to find a way to apologise to his wife for having subjected her to such salty language and non-conforming ideas:

I haven’t yet told my wife that this happened, and I honestly don’t know how to. I need to apologise for what I said and tell her that I certainly don’t believe it. It is going to be a tough conversation and I’m not looking forward to it. I didn’t think this could happen to me. But it did and it will haunt me for a long time to come.

And offers his wise conclusion:

It hit me like a ton of bricks. Online radicalisation of young white men. It’s here, it’s serious, and I was lucky to be able to snap out of it when I did. And if it can get somebody like me to swallow it – a lifelong liberal – I can’t imagine the damage it is doing overall.

It seemed so subtle – at no point did I think my casual and growing Islamophobia was genuine racism. The good news for me is that my journey toward the alt-right was mercifully brief: I never wanted to harm or abuse anybody verbally, it was all very low level – a creeping fear and bigotry that I won’t let infest me again. But I suspect you could, if you don’t catch it quickly, be guided into a much more overt and sinister hatred.

And there it is – the official soft rollout of the term “radicalisation of young white men”. Expect every leftist commentator in the country to be using it multiple times in every piece by the end of next week, with Owen Jones, Paul Mason, Laurie Penny and Polly Toynbee all vying with one another to take primary ownership of the slur.

Writing in the Spectator, Douglas Murray – while outraged that his own name was not flagged as part of the “slippery sliding slope” to racism – calls out the Guardian for seeing radicalisation where it does not exist and denying it where it does:

At least at long last the Guardian has published something acknowledging the possibility of ‘online radicalisation’.  When they’re not busy running puff pieces for Muslim radicals or joint-letters defending Muslim radicals by other Muslim radicals, the Guardian tends to pretend no such thing exists.  Only now do they admit it does because – as their correspondent ‘Anonymous’ shows – ‘online radicalisation’ occurs among ‘young white men.’

This – it should be remembered – is a paper that complains solemnly about ‘post-truth politics’ as though they haven’t been practising it for years.  The Guardian has spent years denying the reality of Islamist terror.  The only mentions such terror does get is in the news pages, when Paris, London, Brussels or any other city suffers a major Islamist attack.  Of course the paper tries to demonstrate that these things only happened because the attackers were the victims of racism, sexism, homophobia, low self-esteem, government austerity or all of the above.  But the ‘I’ word does occasionally slip through because even the Guardian finds it has to report some of the news some of the time.  The comments pages, on the other hand, are filled with people who doggedly deny that any such terrorism or extremism exists.  Indeed its comment pages tend to be filled with people who, like ‘Anonymous’, stared at themselves in the mirror, realised they had become arseholes but chose to enjoy the view.

So here we are, with the Guardian pretending that Sam Harris – a man who has never called for anyone to be Jihad-ed, killed or oppressed and who is about the sanest, sweetest and most thoughtful person you could imagine (really a Buddhist, but with a bigger brain) is in fact a horrible hate preacher and gateway drug.

While Murray’s conclusion is bang on the money:

Let me tell you what is actually going on here.  Someone at the Guardian – perhaps everyone at the Guardian – has it in for Sam Harris.  So they have decided to publish an ‘Anonymous’ hit-job in order to try to smear him and damage him as much as possible.  That is all.  It tells us nothing, except that the state of the left is so incredibly poor that in 2016 Britain’s only remaining lefty newspaper is willing to publish an ‘Anonymous’ hit-job on an actual liberal to try to help save itself from going bust.

One marvels at the intellectual insecurity it must take  for leftist commentators to be so incapable of rebutting opposing arguments and so lacking in confidence in the persuasiveness of one’s own position that the best strategy now available to them is to warn the public not to listen to other points of view lest entertaining conservative ideas sets them on the path to becoming Hitler.

Guardian Man’s article was swiftly followed up by a piece in the New Statesman, in which a supposed Jeremy Corbyn supporter “confessed” to watching YouTube videos and media appearances by conservatives and alt-right stars and (pass the smelling salts) furtively enjoying them.

Alex Shattock writes:

As a Jeremy Corbyn supporter, former public sector worker and all-round lefty, I have a confession to make. I am a little bit in love with Milo Yiannopoulos, highly-paid internet troll and alt right poster boy.

Well, everyone has a guilty pleasure.

Out of context, it is difficult to see how anyone could enjoy listening to the person making these arguments, let alone be persuaded by them. But as Abi Wilkinson has pointed out,  alt right arguments like the ones above are gaining ground online, and contributing to the radicalization of young white men. How is this happening?

And there’s that phrase again, gradually being forced into our collective consciousness as though saying it often enough will make it a real thing.

A lot of the alt right’s appeal has to do with the delivery mechanism of their ideas: colourful entertainers who are a bit outrageous and disarmingly self-effacing. This is why, despite myself, I like listening to Yiannopoulos. He jokes, exaggerates, pushes the boundaries. It is all to provoke a reaction, get online attention, and rack up the view count. It works. One of his recent videos, “BBC tries to ambush Milo,” has over a million views.  Like his right-wing bedfellows, he is genuinely entertaining to watch.

Contrast the polished media performers of the right with left. When I get my daily fix of social-liberal political news, there is a deadly serious style of debate that turns people off straight away. Whenever Nigel Farage or Yiannopoulos appear on a Sky News debate with a dour-looking lefty academic, they’ve already won.

Really? As a holder of more right-wing (or at least classically liberal) opinions, I often chafe at the fact that the people they wheel out to defend “my side” of the argument on television are grotesque caricatures, while the people found to defend the centre-left status quo are inevitably the well-manicured picture of reasonableness.

And I’m not alone in this thinking. As a friend of Pete North’s memorably mimicked the BBC’s EU referendum coverage:

And now on BBC Radio 4, to talk to us about the EU, we have Professor Claus van der Reasoning, an expert on the European Union and a jolly good chap. Professor van der Reasoning is the Clegg Professor of Europe at the European Institute of Europe and has absolutely no axe to grind.

Here to give the anti-European perspective is Sir Henry Bigot MP, a foam-flecked lunatic who hates and little else, and was once reported by the Guardian to have felched David Duke while singing Horst Wessel Lied. He may experience technical issues.

Welcome both of you to this balanced programme that represents both sides of the argument.

That pretty much sums up every single Brexiteer vs Remainer clash on the broadcast news in the weeks and months leading up to referendum day. If Shattock thinks that the British political Right is brimming over with so many winning, articulate spokespeople that it constitutes an advantage over the Left then he is living in a parallel universe – one in which nobody from UKIP exists, for a start.

Not that Shattock is wrong about everything:

Boris Johnson, another master of the art, wrote in this magazine a couple of years ago that “lefties…are much more likely to think that right-wingers are genuinely evil.”  At times, we certainly give that impression. Now, I’m not saying there has never been a Tory activist who has, on a misty moonlit night in East Surrey, sacrificed a newborn to hasten the awakening of Azathoth. But if we stop assuming they all do that, the tone of our arguments will change accordingly, and Tory voters would feel less patronised.

A more self-effacing and less self-righteous approach can work wonders for public engagement, as Ed Balls seems to have discovered on the dance floor.  Whether or not this means giving Sunday Politics interviews in spandex is the way forward for Labour, I’m not sure. But our current Foreign Secretary is a prime example of how not taking yourself too seriously can go down well with the public.

Well, quite. It’s funny how people switch off and stop listening when you scream continually in their faces about how evil they are and how enlightened you are.

Shattock then indulges in some unbridled sanctimony:

But we also need to learn from the things the alt right commentators don’t say. At the heart of their appeal is the fact that, behind the jokes, their arguments are bracingly simple.

This is a huge advantage when it comes to persuading people. Instead of debating policy in detail in the national media, we should take a leaf from their book and go on the offence, attacking individual opponents and saying why they are unfit to govern as people, not flag-carriers. When Tony Blair called John Major “weak, weak, weak”, that was more effective than a hundred policy explanations. Where they are needed, our policy arguments need to be short, sharp and self-explanatory, or they are no good at all.

Admittedly, it is far easier for the right to make simple arguments than the left. On the left we are naturally more inclined to nuanced positions and complex explanations, and tend to look down on simple generalisations (try explaining to yourself why political correctness is important, in one sentence, with no commas). This intellectualism can too easily be used against us in debates. It was, quite literally, impossible for Ed Miliband to say that Labour overspent in government, because it would have been intellectually dishonest and a gross oversimplification.

What Shattock calls the “nuance” of left-wing arguments, many on the right might describe as woolly, hand-wringing moral relativism and a craven refusal to acknowledge basic truths and realities. But sure, if believing in a maximalist approach to free speech and civil liberties makes right-wingers “simplistic” then we shall wear the insult as a badge of honour. Rather that than sell out our freedoms one by one under the false guise of “tolerance”.

More:

This is, unfortunately, the world we live in now. Johnson, Farage, Yiannopoulos and, of course, Donald Trump, are all pioneers of post-truth politics. If we’re going to win, we have to fight them on their terms. If you think the strategy of “we go high when they go low” worked out well for Hillary Clinton, then you’ve been inhaling the same thing her husband didn’t. It is no longer good enough, if it ever was, to have sensible, rational economic arguments, and naïvely hope the truth will emerge from our public debates. That is just not where we are at in 2016.

Nowadays, if you want people to listen, you have to mock, exaggerate, cajole, put on a show. In our post-truth world, when it comes to persuading people you’re right, presentation is 90 per cent of what matters. The truth alone is no longer going to cut it.

Let’s ignore the free shot we could take at the ludicrous assertion that the British Left have at any point in their history “gone high” in terms of their political rhetoric, or that “post-truth politics” was somehow pioneered by Evil Brexiteers while those honourable, upstanding Remainers clung nobly to the trusty shield of truth. This blog and others have debunked that fatuous assertion more times than I care to remember.

And newsflash: better “presentation” by future witty young leftist YouTube stars will not solve the fundamental problem that the Left’s message is deeply unappealing to millions of decent people who are by no means racist, sexist or prejudiced, but who simply want to live their lives free from overbearing, hectoring, leftist moral guardians. Owen Jones has a YouTube channel with 82,000 subscribers. He might have many more, if only his output did not consist of finger-wagging screeds accusing his fellow citizens of being evil, heartless racists.

Look: this isn’t complicated. The reason that conservatives have increasingly fled to new media, starting with talk radio in 90s America all the way up to YouTube today (and yes, sometimes including fake news, though the Left are also guilty of consuming such propaganda) is because the mainstream media unapologetically persists with a left-leaning bias. Doubt it? Note the way that American newspapers and television networks all speak about “undocumented” rather than “illegal ” immigration now, under pressure from the social justice wing to avoid calling lawbreaking by its proper name. Or the way that British media peddle the idea that Brexiteers are anti-immigration (and therefore racist) as opposed to anti-uncontrolled immigration.

In a thousand small ways (and a few egregiously large ones), the mainstream media in Britain and America has taken a clear position, usually against those with conservative or classically liberal beliefs. And pumping out a one-sided product day after day is a surefire way to force your viewers and listeners to go elsewhere, often ending up in the arms of the likes of Milo Yiannopoulos, Mike Cernovich or even Alex Jones and the InfoWars crowd.

But left-wing versions of these shows do already exist. Look at The Young Turks in America, a very successful left-wing YouTube channel founded by Cenk Uygur, a former MSNBC host. There may be fewer such outlets on the Left than the Right, but that is largely because the Left can fall back on nearly all of the television news media to give them succour and reflect their views. When you control the mainstream media it is unreasonable to expect to dominate the counterculture, too.

Here in Britain, there is a dearth of good online commentary altogether because the mainstream media (including the Guardian, the New Statesman and the Spectator) all stubbornly refuse to engage with the blogosphere, jealously horde readers for themselves and throttle the limited independent political blogosphere in the crib. Want more fun, humorous political commentators? Well, maybe try acknowledging them when they publish things or try to make a name for themselves instead of studiously ignoring them and insisting on recruiting from the same old predictable, nepotistic “talent” pool.

And finally, here is Abi Wilkinson, peddling the same idea that white young men are being “radicalised” in the same manner as brainwashed ISIS recruits:

When we fret about young people leaving western countries and going to fight with Isis, it’s common to focus on the role of the internet in their political radicalisation. It’s time we discussed the radicalisation of angry, young white men in a similar way. The manosphere gave us Elliot Rodger. He was a regular on the forum “PUAhate” – populated by bitter men who had tried the techniques advocated by so-called “pick-up artists” to attract women and failed.

Reading through the posting history of individual aliases, it’s possible to chart their progress from vague dissatisfaction, and desire for social status and sexual success, to full-blown adherence to a cohesive ideology of white supremacy and misogyny. Neofascists treat these websites as recruitment grounds. They find angry, frustrated young men and groom them in their own image. Yet there’s no Prevent equivalent to try to stamp this out.

How many neo-nazi terror plots were thwarted in Britain this year, Abi? How many men’s rights massacres were narrowly averted by MI5? When young, disaffected and unassimilated Muslims radicalise, they have an unfortunate tendency of skulking away to Syria to join ISIS, plotting murderous attacks on the streets of Britain or at least turning a blind eye when others do so. When young white men watch too many YouTube videos from the “manosphere”, they become insufferable, obnoxious clowns. Where is the equivalence?

A counter-extremism strategy which aims to prevent the commissioning of terrorist attacks and physical violence is potentially justifiable. A “Prevent” scheme designed to stop young white males from thinking or expressing certain nonviolent thoughts on the internet is several steps further down the road to tyranny. Perhaps that’s why even Theresa May’s droolingly authoritarian government hasn’t suggested re-education camps for those who .

Whether these articles are anonymous or penned by star columnists, all of them reflect an insidious new effort by the British Left – which increasingly seems morally adrift and intellectually dead, utterly unable to counter conservatism with intelligent ideas of their own – to instead portray conservative thinking as a sign of intrinsic disorder, an unnatural and dangerous state of thinking which can only be brought around by foul play and manipulation.

That’s why we now see prominent left-wing publications like the Guardian and the New Statesman talking with a straight face about the “radicalisation” of young white men. Having spent much of the past decade fervently denying that radicalisation of young British Muslims is a problem, they are now screeching that the real danger is radicalised young white men. Somebody who marinates 24/7 in a stream of jihadist propaganda and lives as part of a community which exists in parallel to the rest of British society rather than fully assimilating is apparently A-OK. But beware the young white male gamer who watches one too many Milo videos and might one day be tempted – shock, horror – to say something triggering in a university lecture or public place.

This is offensive beyond measure, putting the legitimate (if sometimes juvenile) political views of young conservative media watchers – and in reality both the viewers and the media outlets span a wide spectrum, and should not be lumped together like this for the purposes of demonisation – on a par with the murderous ideology of fundamentalist Islamism. There is simply no comparison. While lone right-wing extremists have always existed and continue to lurk in the margins of society, the terrorist threat they pose is nothing compared to the threat currently posed by radical Islam. I see what the leftists are trying to do with this snide new comparison, and they need to stop.

The PC credo of many leftists may make them exquisitely uncomfortable criticising Islam without commensurate criticism of other, more “privileged” groups, so one can understand why left-wing commentators are starting to seize on this narrative of “white male radicalisation” because it allows them to defray criticism of one of their most favoured victim groups and suggest that radicalisation is problem throughout British society, and not just within Islam. Unfortunately, it is a massive overreach – the evidence simply does not back it up. If Abi Wilkinson has documentary proof of the “slippery slope” from watching alt-right YouTube stars to committing politically-inspired murder then I will hear her out. Until then, she should stop peddling misinformation.

But more than anything, the fact that we are now being peddled the myth that young white men are somehow being indoctrinated by flashy right-wing shock jocks reveals the extent of the Left’s intellectual decline. At this point it is utterly inconceivable to them that somebody might embrace patriotic, civic nationalist, anti-PC and pro-free speech positions held by the alt-right and popular right unless they were brainwashed or “radicalised” into doing so. They simply cannot understand why anybody would spurn their infantilising, identity politics-ridden world view unless a Big Bad Man is grooming them for an evil terrorist purpose.

That is how far the modern British (and American) Left have drifted from the people, and many of their own former voters. Furious with an electorate that does not respond warmly to their exacting Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, leftists are now lashing out, accusing anybody who refuses to support their dodgy candidates and tired old policies of not only being unreasonable, but actually having succumbed to Evil Tory radicalisation.

Back in the real world, ordinary people will sit back and watch the Left throwing this tantrum, accusing people who reject leftist orthodoxy of having been “radicalised”, and conclude that the Left, not the Right, represents the dangerous and intolerant cult in modern politics. And they would be absolutely right to do so.

In between their screaming tantrums, left-wing commentators in Britain and America might consider pausing to consider just how much reputational and intellectual harm this total war against conservatism is inflicting on their own movement.

 

Update: The first anonymous Guardian article cited in this blog post turned out to be a brilliant spoof by the excellent anti-SJW provocateur Godfrey Elfwick, something which was not known when I first wrote this piece. The fact that the Guardian’ editorial team did not realise and published the article in earnest only goes to highlight that the establishment Left have swallowed the denialist myth that anybody who disagrees with their worldview must have been “radicalised” by the evil forces of conservatism – thus proving my point about the Left’s intellectual decline.

 

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Top Image: Wikimedia Commons

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Identity Politics Gave Us President Trump; More Identity Politics Will Not Make Things Better

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Identity politics cultists created Donald Trump, President-Elect Edition, and from much of their subsequent complaining they haven’t learned a single thing from their mistake

Blogger and polemicist Phil Hendren is in unsparing mood as he takes the identity politics Left to task for their role in provoking the alleged “whitelash” which confounded the opinion polls and made Donald Trump president-elect of the United States last Tuesday.

Hendren’s critique is worth quoting at length, as he writes:

Of course, the political earthquakes have been followed in each case with a sentimental reaction that is both odd and downright scarier than the actual earthquake. This has been coupled with a lack of self-awareness by the losing side.

Be it Brexit or Trump we’ve seen knee-jerk reactions that ponder upon whether democracy is such a great idea after all. Amazingly we have idiots screaming about fascism whilst simultaneously suggesting that something be done about the pesky plebs that voted one way or the other.

They moan about bigotry whilst suggesting that the franchise be removed from certain people who are not suitably intelligent or are too old to be trusted with a vote - call me old-fashioned but that is bigotry right there.

You listen to analysts who say they are “just reporting the data” that tell you Trump scored well with “white males without a college degree”. Has there ever been a more obvious coded dog whistle for “stupid white trash”?

The same thing happened in Britain after the Brexit vote. People started arguing that it was those with less education that voted Leave, the implication being that the stupid unenlightened were to blame.

It astounds me that, as the hand-wringing goes on, there persists, even in defeat, a complete and total contempt for some part of the electorate by the chattering class and the elite.

Don’t they get it? Do they really not see that it is precisely that attitude toward the great unwashed that has caused them to lose? Don’t they also realise that they’re witnessing the ultimate end game of their own orthodoxies?

For the past 20 years, the dominant orthodoxy in the West has revolved around the politics of Identity. We’ve been constantly reminded that humanity should be pigeonholed into groups based on race, gender, sexuality or the Other.

The elephant in the room of this orthodoxy has been the marginalisation of the considered dominant social identity, be it so-called ‘cis-gender’ (essentially a pejorative for someone who’s gender identity is in line with their biology) ; heterosexuals; or good old whitey - aka ‘the oppressor’.

Is it any wonder that these groups have reacted by taking on the clothes of Identity Politics themselves? Anyone that claims to be shocked or disgusted by this development is, to put it as bluntly as I can, a fucking idiot.

If you constantly dehumanise people by making them the sum of arbitrary labels, and then you push the view that each of these groups is structurally disadvantaged by the oppressor then you inevitably structurally disadvantage the oppressor who begins to feel, rightly or wrongly, oppressed.

It isn’t fucking rocket science.

The vote for Brexit and the vote for Trump do not represent some sort of uprising of white supremacy, or the normalisation of misogyny and racism. They represent the inevitable consequence of this misanthropic orthodoxy that has infected the chattering class, the Academy and the elites.

Did I vote for Brexit? No, I was a reluctant (and regretful) Remainer. Would I have voted for Trump? Hell no. He’s an illiberal social authoritarian that supports ridiculous left wing protectionism, but I get why people did.

Until the elite and chattering “enlightened” class begin to realise that they’ve created this. That they are to blame for it, these political earthquakes will keep on coming.

My emphasis in bold.

As an anti-Trump conservative watching the reaction to Trump’s election with amazement and concern, I am absolutely stunned by the lack of introspection and self-awareness displayed by much of the Left.

As this blog has already noted, Donald Trump supporters propelled their man to the White House largely by following the proven playbook of the leftist Social Justice Warriors, and they were able to do so because of the pervasive victimhood culture which has been nurtured and aggravated in America by a succession of cynical politicians and activists.

As Hendren rightly notes, if you atomise society into “separate but equal” identity groups based on race, gender or sexuality, you inevitably spark an arms race of perceived oppression and claims of vulnerability which far exceed the actual real oppression which may still exist. Grievance group is pitched against grievance group in the battle of public sympathy, with only one constant – that “cisgender” white men are always portrayed at the top of the Hierarchy of Oppression, always cast as the villains – whether they live in a New York condominium with gold-plated elevators or an Appalachian trailer park on the outskirts of a town being ravaged by crystal meth and heroin addiction.

I’ve warned about this before, in the context of the oppressive climate faced by young conservatives on college campuses, pointing out that it will not be long before those with conservative views tire of being bullied, censored and portrayed as “hateful” by the social justice mob which the tacit consent of spineless university administrators, and begin to use the same language of vulnerability and victimhood to elicit public sympathy for their own plight. Conservatives see other “identity groups” taking this approach and winning their battles to silence criticism and elevate themselves to a privileged, untouchable position on campus, and already we signs of some harried conservatives adopting the same approach.

So it is outside the university campus too, in wider society. Many millions of decent, non-racist and non-sexist people, often (but not exclusively) white, have been told increasingly stridently that questioning open borders or very recent new norms around gender identity and sexuality is tantamount to “hate” – that they are, in fact, bigots. Leftist identity politics cultists have increasingly deployed the nuclear option accusations of racism, sexism and homophobia against anybody who displays the slightest hesitation in embracing their worldview, leaving no way to distinguish and flag genuinely racist, sexist or homophobic opinions or actions when they occur.

And now we face the worst-case scenario, a white working class which sees other minority groups claiming vulnerability and oppression to demand sympathy and claim perks, and which has decided to think of itself as an oppressed minority group too. A very large, very powerful minority group, as it turns out.

We even get an eerily prescient prophecy that this will come to pass in a 2008 essay by Mark Schmitt in Prospect Magazine, written six months prior to the election of Barack Obama in his battle against John McCain.

Schmitt suggests:

That leaves Republicans with a single alternative, one that’s embodied in the slogan of McCain’s first general-election advertisement: “The American President Americans Are Waiting For.” It’s the politics of identity–not necessarily racial or ethnic identity but identity as an American. The blog FiveThirtyEight.com, which has been gathering all sorts of data relevant to the Electoral College vote, recently noted a fascinating demographic fact: About 7 percent of people refuse to answer the Census questions about ethnic origin and instead write in “American.” Those defiant Americans are overwhelmingly found in the states and counties that turned away from the Democratic Party in 2000 and 2004–the Appalachian belt running from West Virginia through Kentucky, Tennessee, and southern Ohio–which are also the counties where Barack Obama has done worst in the primaries.

David Frum calls explicitly for this brand of identity politics, declaring that while the Republican Party’s issue positions have evolved over the years, “there is one thing that has never changed: Republicans have always been the party of American democratic nationhood,” whereas Democrats “attract those who felt themselves in some way marginal to the American experience: … intellectuals, Catholics, Jews, blacks, feminists, gays–people who identify with the ‘pluribus’ in the nation’s motto, ‘e pluribus unum.'” In case it’s not clear, in Frum’s Latin, “pluribus” means “parasites,” and he tells us helpfully, “As the nation weakens, Democrats grow stronger.”

In Frum’s book, this ugly bit of identity politics is carefully nestled within thousands of words about policy. And this is how the code is supposed to work. The GOP’s attack on “liberals” was always an attack on people not quite like “Americans”–secular, cosmopolitan, educated, egalitarian.

[..]

Traditionally, the phrase “identity politics” has referred to the Democratic coalition’s caucuses, interest groups, and competitive claims of wrongs to be righted and rights to be granted. Identity politics on the left, according to this very conventional wisdom, opened the door to an alternative politics of national identity on the right. And yet in 2008, the Democratic presidential nomination battle between an African American and a woman has not exacerbated left identity politics but brought it to a peaceful close. Obama is not Jesse Jackson; Hillary Clinton is not former Rep. Pat Schroeder. He chose to campaign on national reconciliation, she on bread-and-butter economics and her expertise on military affairs. Whereas McCain–a man whose known positions on the war and on the economy are deeply unpopular, whose other positions are endlessly shifting, whose party and ideology are rejected–is recast entirely in terms of his biography, his honor, his character, his American-ness.

This year the Republican argument is reduced to its barest essence: Americans versus “pluribus,” unprotected by the politeness of issues or safer symbolism. Hence McCain’s slogan, the politics of the flag pin, the e-mails charging that Obama doesn’t salute the flag, and the attempt to associate him with the anti-American politics of 1968, when he was 7 years old. This, then, may be the ultimate high-stakes gamble for the party of confident risk-takers: Accept that everything else–ideas, competence, governance–is gone, and instead of trying to reconstruct it, as the books recommend, bet everything on the bare essentials of Republican identity politics, “The American President Americans Are Waiting For.”

“The American President Americans Are Waiting For”. “Make America Great Again”. Schmitt wasn’t too far off in his prediction of the winning message, albeit eight years later than originally planned.

Read the whole article if you have time – the foreshadowing is quite spooky.

This is in significant part why Donald Trump will be taking the presidential oath of office on 20th January 2017 – because the American Left succeeded in shattering American society into a fractured group of warring special interests and victim groups, claiming nearly all of them for its own side but leaving the largest – the white working class – to the Trump-led Republicans.

And still they don’t see it. Still they rail against the ignorant, inbred hicks with their backward, racist ways. Still they treat the plurality of Americans who voted for Donald Trump as stupid, unwitting enablers of fascism (at best) or actively hateful “deplorables” at worst, unaware that every further such comment only serves to prove to the white working class that they are indeed under attack, and that they were right to band together and vote based partly (even largely) on the solidarity of identity.

At some point, somebody fairly prominent on the American Left is going to have to wake up, reach this conclusion and then have the courage to stick their head above the parapet and urge their fellow travellers to stop their destructive course of action. With their hysterical anti-Trump rhetoric, the American Left not only obscure Donald Trump’s many real and tangible flaws, they actively feed the monster which they fear the most.

Now that the populist Right are catching up with the new rules of the game, playing the identity politics card is turning into something approaching Mutual Assured Destruction. Sure, you can do it, but pandering to the politics of identity is now all but guaranteed to provoke an equal and opposite reaction from those being singled out as oppressors. And whoever wins on any given day, the country is left more divided, more bitter and less able to knit back together with goodwill when it comes time to govern.

The American Left needs to step back from this madness. Now.

 

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Reluctant Conservatives For Hillary

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Conservatives who feel forced to vote for Hillary Clinton are not “With Her”. They are putting country before party, and ahead of their own political preferences

I don’t always agree with David Frum, but his latest piece in The Atlantic, advancing the conservative case for choosing Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in this most depressing of presidential elections, is well worth a read.

Frum is under no illusions that a Clinton presidency will do anything to promote or further conservative ideals. He is wide eyed in his acknowledgement of Clinton’s character flaws and ethical shortcomings. But he recognises that by voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016, we stand the best chance of ensuring that the Republic does not become immeasurably worse off before conservatives have an opportunity to regain the White House in 2020. In other words, he believes that Clinton will do little good, but Trump could do existential harm.

Frum’s conclusion is worth quoting at length:

I have no illusions about Hillary Clinton. I expect policies that will seem to me at best counter-productive, at worst actively harmful. America needs more private-market competition in healthcare, not less; lighter regulation of enterprise, not heavier; reduced immigration, not expanded; lower taxes, not higher. On almost every domestic issue, I stand on one side; she stands on the other. I do not imagine that she will meet me, or those who think like me, anywhere within a country mile of half-way.

But she is a patriot. She will uphold the sovereignty and independence of the United States. She will defend allies. She will execute the laws with reasonable impartiality. She may bend some rules for her own and her supporters’ advantage. She will not outright defy legality altogether. Above all, she can govern herself; the first indispensable qualification for governing others.

So I will vote for the candidate who rejects my preferences and offends my opinions. (In fact, I already have voted for her.) Previous generations accepted infinitely heavier sacrifices and more dangerous duties to defend democracy. I’ll miss the tax cut I’d get from united Republican government. But there will be other elections, other chances to vote for what I regard as more sensible policies. My party will recover to counter her agenda in Congress, moderate her nominations to the courts, and defeat her bid for re-election in 2020. I look forward to supporting Republican recovery and renewal.

This November, however, I am voting not to advance my wish-list on taxes, entitlements, regulation, and judicial appointments. I am voting to defend Americans’ profoundest shared commitment: a commitment to norms and rules that today protect my rights under a president I don’t favor, and that will tomorrow do the same service for you.

Vote the wrong way in November, and those norms and rules will shudder and shake in a way unequaled since the Union won the Civil War.

I appreciate that Donald Trump is too slovenly and incompetent to qualify as a true dictator. This country is not so broken as to allow a President Trump to arrest opponents or silence the media. Trump is a man without political ideas. Trump’s main interest has been and will continue to be self-enrichment by any means, no matter how crooked. His next interest after that is never to be criticized by anybody for any reason, no matter how justified—maybe most especially when justified. Yet Trump does not need to achieve a dictatorship to subvert democracy. This is the age of “illiberal democracy,” as Fareed Zakaria calls it, and across the world we’ve seen formally elected leaders corrode democratic systems from within. Surely the American system of government is more robust than the Turkish or Hungarian or Polish or Malaysian or Italian systems. But that is not automatically true. It is true because of the active vigilance of freedom-loving citizens who put country first, party second. Not in many decades has that vigilance been required as it is required now.

Your hand may hesitate to put a mark beside the name, Hillary Clinton. You’re not doing it for her. The vote you cast is for the republic and the Constitution.

That is precisely where I find myself (though not quite yet a US citizen, so spared from the pain of having to personally make that call – roll on 2020). I don’t believe that Hillary Clinton stands for any real, fixed political values and I have grave concerns about aspects of her judgement and ethical compass – and so did many Democrats, until the DNC furtively helped to push Clinton over the line in her unnecessarily tough primary battle.

But these concerns pale in comparison to the danger presented by Donald Trump, whose supposed miraculous Damascene conversion to conservatism I do not believe for one moment, whose appalling personal behaviour is the subject of hard evidence rather than partly-conspiratorial conjecture (as it is with Clinton) and whose temperament makes him the absolute worst person to assume the role of Commander in Chief and Chief National Voodoo Doll, a focus for the endless complaints of an entire nation.

Like him or not, Barack Obama has served his terms of office with grace and dignity, even when under withering personal attack. This will not be so under Trump. As comedian Louis CK said in his endorsement of Clinton on the Conan O’Brien show, when Donald Trump is personally attacked everything stops so that Trump can punch back. That is simply not a luxury which the President can afford.

In sizing up Trump’s support, Frum also makes a devastating indictment of modern America:

The lesson Trump has taught is not only that certain Republican dogmas have passed out of date, but that American democracy itself is much more vulnerable than anyone would have believed only 24 months ago. Incredibly, a country that—through wars and depression—so magnificently resisted the authoritarian temptations of the mid-20th century has half-yielded to a more farcical version of that same threat without any of the same excuse. The hungry and houseless Americans of the Great Depression sustained a constitutional republic. How shameful that the Americans of today—so vastly better off in so many ways, despite their undoubted problems—have done so much less well.

How true this is. Now, this blog has every sympathy for many of Donald Trump’s supporters, who feel utterly let down by an American political class which has alternately pandered to them before betraying them, ignored them or held them in open contempt. And while this blog is very much pro free trade and managed immigration, the fact that Americans have not even had a choice when it comes to these issues based on the position of the two main parties is sufficient reason alone for the rise of a populist like Trump, albeit not necessarily a candidate with Donald Trump’s gargantuan personal flaws.

So yes, things are bad, and yes, the political class has not been responsive. But America managed to survive world war and economic depression in the twentieth century without coming this close to electing a dangerous authoritarian. Whatever afflictions the struggling “left behind” class said to make up much of Trump’s support may now be experiencing is nothing compared to the suffering of, say, the Dust Bowl. To react to these present circumstances by reaching for Donald Trump when their ancestors typically bore their tribulations far more stoically is in some way a reflection of American moral decline, which is very worrying indeed.

This blog would have loved to have seen a radical right-wing candidate willing to question failing old mantras about immigration and trade deals and other issues. I may be a #NeverTrump person, but I acknowledge that Trump often raises valid problems which have received scant attention from other politicians. The only miracle is that Trump manages to betray those causes by somehow managing to be an even more imperfect vehicle for his policies than Hillary Clinton is for hers.

There is no sugar-coating that the next four years are going to be depressing and barren of achievements for American conservatives. But as Frum rightly points out, sometimes there are more important things than getting one’s own way in a traditional left-right political dispute. Sometimes the cost of letting the nation drift a little further to the left is less than the cost of handing it over to somebody as unstable as Donald Trump.

After all, Republicans screamed for eight years that President Obama would turn America into a socialist hellhole and usher in the end of the Republic, and it didn’t happen. Hillary Clinton is no more left-wing than Obama, though a cannier and more ruthless political operator, but if America didn’t turn into North Korea on Obama’s watch it is unlikely to do so in four years of a Hillary Clinton presidency.

The people who will vote for Donald Trump on November 8th deserve to have their political views represented by someone better than the thin-skinned egomaniac who gets into Twitter wars with D-list celebrities in the early hours of the morning. Even if one agreed with all of Trump’s policies – many of which are actually profoundly un-conservative and much closer to being nakedly authoritarian – that would be no excuse for electing a man with such huge and concerning personality flaws.

David Frum did the right thing. This most eye-catching of elections has been the most depressing presidential campaign in my lifetime, but at least if Clinton wins we will have a shot at making 2020’s campaign a bit more inspiring, substantive, policy-based and (hopefully) less existentially threatening.

 

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Top Image: Kristopher Harris / Wikimedia Commons

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