Sandi Toksvig, Gender Martyr

Sandi Toksvig - Womens Equality Party - Gender Pay Gap - QI - Stephen Fry

 

It is a far, far better thing that she does…

High drama in Britain, as vaguely-known personality Sandi Toksvig reveals – at a meeting of the Women’s Equality Party – that she is not being paid the same as her predecessor, the much more widely known Stephen Fry, to host a television quiz show.

From ITV News:

QI host Sandi Toksvig has revealed she is paid 40% of what the programme’s former host Stephen Fry used to earn for his work on the comedy panel show.

The 60-year-old took over from Fry in October 2016 and her third series as host is set to begin on Monday.

Toksvig was asked a question about her QI salary by an audience member at the Women’s Equality Party conference, where she gave a speech on feminist economics.

She said: “I have recently discovered I get 40% of what Stephen used to get. And I get the same pay as Alan Davies, who is not the host.

“I temper this with the fact that I love the show and I’m the first woman to host such a show.”

What a long-suffering, patient martyr Toksvig is, bravely accepting her lower salary and taking stoic comfort in the fact that at least the evil patriarchal conspiracy allowed her to host the show in the first place.

Naturally, cue lots of outrage from the usual voices on social media:

 

No, there was a “huge gasp” in the room as hundreds of assembled idiots tried to grapple with the fiendishly complex idea that Sandi Toksvig’s market value is not the same as Stephen Fry’s.

Like him or not, Stephen Fry has led a long and varied career as an author, actor, television presenter, and radio host. He played a character in one of the recent Hobbit movies, because presumably the film’s producers thought that his unique characteristics and talents would make their project more successful.

Sandi Toksvig is a supposed comedian and writer too, but her public profile is nowhere near as large. While Stephen Fry’s reach transcends the narrow London-centric intelligentsia, Toksvig largely leans into this niche, her gig on QI notwithstanding. Unlike Fry, Sandi Toksvig was not invited to be in the Hobbit movie because nobody outside Britain would know who she is.

And this latest confected outrage is the entire problem with artificial, upper-middle class moralistic projects like the Women’s Equality Party. In the age of identity politics, when being able to portray oneself as the victim of historic and present injustices confers an enormous degree of power on those with the education and articulateness to wield it, moaning that one is not being paid as much as one’s far more famous predecessor and suggesting that the reason is rooted in gender rather than talent is very lucrative. But it is also intellectually lazy and shamefully exploitative of those contemporary struggles for justice and equality which are actually worthy of attention and support.

Those who gasped when Sandi Toksvig announced a fact as banal and unsurprising as me announcing that I do not command the same fee as Martha Argerich for a Kennedy Center piano recital are engaged in campaign which has less to do with equality and justice and more to do with assuaging middle-class boredom. It feels good to imagine that despite being a well-off person living in a rich country during the age of universal suffrage (and a minimal gender pay gap, once the appropriate variables are factored in rather than disingenuously ignored), one still happens to be one of life’s great victims; that despite being the kind of person who can easily spend the money and time traipsing from the leafy Home Counties into London to spend a weekend commiserating their shared misfortunes with other wealthy white fourth-wave feminists, you are actually engaged in a life-or-death struggle for dignity and freedom.

It might feel good, but that doesn’t make it true.

Remember, too, that these are the brand of feminists who are apparently willing to die on a hill defending Sandi Toksvig’s right to be paid as much as Stephen Fry, but who also furiously protest, hashtag and campaign to eliminate the jobs of less economically privileged women whose line of work does not meet with their fastidious approval. Ask the Formula 1 grid girls or the walk-on women in darts whether Sandi Toksvig’s overbearing, maternalistic brand of feminism has worked well for them.

But then of course this movement was never intended to work for the benefit of all women – just to cement the power and influence of those well-versed in its highly specific nomenclature and its cynical, myopically-focused agenda.

 

Sandi Toksvig WEP

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Is Brexit Sexist?

Remainer paints EU flag on her face - European Union - Brexit

When anti-Brexit hysteria and identity politics collide…

As the question of Britain’s future relationship with the European Union is folded ever more deeply into our ongoing culture war, it continues to be the establishment centre-left – that bipartisan group who broadly support the status quo of the past two decades and viscerally hate the very idea of Brexit – who continue to acquit themselves the worse in public debate.

The country already has very low expectations when it comes to mainstream Brexiteers, both within government and without. Whether it is the increasingly Alex Jones-style populism of Nigel Farage, the polished and carefree ignorance of Jacob Rees-Mogg, the unhinged provocation (and potentially illegal activity) of Leave.EU or the most proudly obnoxious Brexit supporters on social media, few people think of the Brexit movement as one characterised by profound intelligence or abiding statesmanship. That may be unfair on the more earnest, thoughtful Brexiteers – such as those of the Leave Alliance, with whom I stand – but it is undeniably the case, and few of us now waste time trying to challenge the abiding impression given off by our movement, particularly in the face of a fundamentally uncurious media who have no interest in looking beyond their preset narrative.

This is not the case when it comes to the Remain camp, however. From the beginning, EU apologists and campaigners against Brexit have sought to trade on their reputation as cool-headed, fact-based, reason-driven pragmatists who alone are untouched by base motivations such as nationalism or political tribalism. While Brexiteers may be gammon-faced nostalgics or barely concealed racists, goes this narrative, Remainers think with their heads, not their hearts. They take a broader, more strategic view of affairs. They certainly do not need to resort to rhetorical trickery or emotional manipulation in order to win support for their cause.

After a two-year public meltdown on the part of Britain’s political, academic and cultural elite, I think we can finally disabuse ourselves of these unhelpful stereotypes – because it turns out that in their sorrow and rage, Remainers have quickly caught up with the worst traits of the worst Brexiteers, often exceeding them in both passion and delusion. Whether it is intellectual pin-ups such as the eminent Professor A C Grayling peddling risible conspiracy theories or establishment fossils such as Andrew Adonis attempting to save the country from Brexit with their trusty swords of sanctimony and shields of superiority, not only has the Remain camp failed to learn a single lesson from their 2016 referendum defeat; worse, they have decided to double down on all of the political tactics, talking points and personality traits which led them to defeat in the first place.

Since June 2016, Remainers have replaced arrogance with an even more supercharged arrogance that they and only they could have correctly weighed up all the important variables worth considering and found in favour of the EU. They have replaced intellectual and cultural contempt for their opponents with an even deeper, uglier form of largely class-based hatred which they espouse with ever-decreasing shame, particularly the racist and classist term “gammon” which they use to describe white working class Brexit supporters. They have replaced a naive total faith in supranationalism with an even more derisively hostile attitude toward the nation state and any continuing relevance it may have for the good governance of human society.

But worse than all of that, Remainers have become the very caricature which they attempted to make of Brexiteers. It was long claimed that Brexiteers won the referendum by painting a dishonestly simplistic view of the world and proposing glib, simplistically local solutions to global challenges. Now it is Remainers who promote a falsely simplistic worldview where supranationalism solves everything and nations with very different cultures, priorities and national interests hold hands beneath a rainbow and joyfully hand their worries over to a benevolent continental technocracy. No longer do Remainers grudgingly admit that the EU needs reform; now it is a perfect and noble institution with greater claims to democratic legitimacy than the British government itself. Now it is Remainers who peddle simplistic and misleading slogans such as the idea that Brexit means “going it alone” and “trying to resurrect Empire 2.0”, that supporting Brexit means rejecting the very concepts of friendship and cooperation among individuals, groups and nations.

This much became inevitable when Brexit was folded into the larger culture war. At that point, reinforcing the dogmas and credos of one’s own tribe (whichever it may be) became more important than meaningful discussion or attempting to empathise with the other side. Acceptance by and membership of one’s own tribe became contingent on adopting a pure and uncompromising position rather than engaging in introspection or admitting doubt, with dissenters either shamed into silence, bullied into conformity or else simply left out of a prestige media narrative which sought to pitch the good and the right (Remainers) versus the stupid and malevolent (eurosceptics).

This is a problem afflicting both sides. For example, in the past this blog has often found common cause with Brendan O’Neill and other writers at Spiked magazine on matters of liberty and democracy, but that publication’s uncompromising take on Brexiteffectively asserting that anything less than a total severing of every link with the EU and single market, be they related to political union or not, represents some kind of betrayal of the people – is an extreme stance which I cannot and do not share. Unfortunately, the culture war lens applied to Brexit by the likes of Spiked has become the prevailing view among Brexiteers, to the extent that pragmatists favouring a compromise form of Brexit are now regarded with suspicion at best, and as traitors to the cause at worst.

But this pathology affects the Continuity Remain side of the debate just as badly, and often worse, since they are able to use their public platforms and reputations to give their tribal anti-Brexit behaviour an undeserved veneer of serious thought and respectability. There was a time when prominent Remainers could be found admitting through clenched teeth that “of COURSE the EU needs reform”, before quickly changing the subject with an impatient wave of the hand. Now, this is increasingly rare. Mention any of the EU’s once commonly accepted and lamented democratic flaws, for example, and Remainers are far more likely to shoot back with an irrelevant wisecrack stating that the existence of the House of Lords or our First Past The Post (FPTP) electoral system invalidates any criticism of Brussels (thus totally skirting the EU’s glaring lack of a demos coherent enough to justify the institutions established in their name).

In other words, just when Remainers need to show contrition and understanding if they are to have any hope whatsoever of persuading Leave voters to change their minds, many are instead doubling down and insisting on the EU’s relative perfection. Their rage and political tribalism blind them to the politically astute path of action.

The latest sign that Brexit has fused with our ongoing culture war is the risible claim that Brexit is inherently sexist. We have long been lectured that Brexit is inherently racist, because wanting to control immigration from other majority-white European countries is somehow a sign of white nationalism, but now many Remainers are advancing the idea that Brexit is sexist too.

While the tempo of these claims has increased, the seed was planted before the referendum even took place, with articles such as this in the Guardian, declaring:

If you were feeling waspish, you might conclude that women’s major contribution to the EU debate so far has been to say that more women should contribute to the EU debate. On 27 January, Caroline Lucas of the Greens called out the abundance of “men in grey suits”. On 1 February, Barbara Judge, chair of the Institute of Directors, asked if “women had been sidelined or have chosen to absent themselves from the debate”. On 1 March, Labour’s Mary Creagh warned we should not leave the decision to the “old boys’ club”.

But ever since the Remain campaign lost the EU referendum, despite enjoying every conceivable advantage, the exculpatory narrative has moved on from women’s voices supposedly not being heard enough in the public debate to Brexit causing real, tangible, gender-targeted harm to women.

Professor Juliet Lodge, writing in that bastion of pro-EU groupthink The New European, recently wrote a masterpiece in which she crowed that it is good that the EU makes Brexit nearly impossible for a departing member state, declares Brexit to be immoral, sexist and doomed to defeat by an army of angry women who will supposedly rise up and stop the “nonsense” of a democratically determined secession from the EU.

Money quote:

Let’s get one thing straight. This self indulgent pratting about over Brexit will be stopped. But not by MPs kowtowing to party whips in rapture to the latest autocratic executive power grab. And not because media silence blanks out the protests of citizens, but by women kicking off.

Let’s face it. Brexit is essentially sexist. Those spitting out their dummies need a good slap as my gran would have said, and she would have been only pleased administer. She’d have probably denied them sweets, treats and pocket money until they came to their senses too. Her view would be behave like brats, and get treated accordingly.

The Fawcett Society, in thrall to intersectionality, published a report warning of the specific impact of Brexit upon women back in March this year, based upon the Harriet Harman technique of making dubious predictions about absolutely every possible variable and claiming that any sphere where a particular impact might be felt more by women than men is de facto evidence of sexism.

The report was full of the kind of tenuous nonsense and logical overreaches which now sadly characterise the identity politics Left, and thus we learn that clothing and textile industries being vulnerable to potential trade barriers will disproportionately affect women, though the fact that hits to engineering or aerospace industries might disproportionately impact men is of seemingly no relevance at all.

We also learn that a potential fall in GDP may lead to government cuts, which would impact more greatly on women as they are more likely to work in the public sector and consume public services. Never mind that the inevitability or even desirability of this state of affairs being taken as given by the Fawcett Society and others is itself a sign of a condescening, paternalist attitude towards women, assuming that women are perpetually vulnerable wards of the state – no, we are supposed to take this seriously too.

And from there the report delves into all kinds of Remainer fantasyland predictions about what Brexit “could” do – the Fawcett Society’s most gnawing fear that an economic crisis would lead to draconian rollbacks of employment rights – though at best this fear is tied to one potential governmental response to Brexit rather than being inherent in Brexit itself. Nonetheless, we are firmly told that with Brexit “we risk turning the clock back on gender equality”, because women are incapable of articulating or defending their own interests and require the EU and its hagiographers to do so on their behalf.

CapX effectively rebutted many of the report’s claims in a piece by Madeline Grant:

But relying on potentially faulty forecasts is the least of the report’s crimes. The authors call on the Government to “amend the EU Withdrawal Bill to protect [gender] rights from being weakened”. This is where the report becomes disingenuous. The EU Withdrawal Bill already enshrines all EU rights into UK law. Any alterations made by a future government would have to be approved by Parliament, and so the amendments they propose would be both unnecessary and meaningless.

More broadly, their insistence that, free from the EU, the UK government would choose to scale back gender equality legislation is tenuous. So far, all indicators suggest that the government is moving in the opposite direction, and strengthening these rights. This year, the UK became one of the first countries in the world to require private- and public-sector employers with 250 or more employees to publish their company-wide gender pay gaps.

[..] Historically, the UK, far more than the EU, has led the way when it comes to women’s rights and workplace and family protections. The first Equal Pay Act (championed by the sewing machinists in Dagenham) in 1970, predates our accession to the European Union by several years, as do the Abortion Act (1967), the Divorce Reform Act (1969) and the decision to make the contraceptive pill free on the NHS. FGM has been illegal in Britain since 1985, but the EU only passed legislation addressing it in 2012.

The infamous “tampon tax”, which levies a 5 per cent VAT on sanitary products and contraception, is an EU directive which we have been obliged to impose despite the opposition of government and a majority of MPs. Moreover, the UK’s 52 weeks of statutory maternity leave is considerably more generous than the 14 weeks guaranteed by EU law.

In short; suggesting that EU intervention is required to safeguard these rights is to ignore reality, and shows very little faith in British lawmakers.

Others, including Nina Parker of the #WomenAgainstBrexit movement and the Our Future Our Choice campaign have taken up the same self-debasing arguments, writing in Left Foot Forward:

Equality rights have for too long been second to the interests of business. Trade is not the most impending risk posed in Brexit Britain. It is human rights which should be at the forefront of negotiations.

The Brexit path being taken is very male, very right wing, deeply un-progressive, extremely unrepresentative. if we get a chance to vote on the final deal, we owe it to the memory of the suffragettes too, to use it. And we owe it to ourselves to fight to get that vote and reverse the catastrophic path we are on.

One might have thought that the suffragettes strove to win the very right to influence political decision-making in their country which Remainers are now desperate to continue divesting to a more distant, unaccountable supranational body. But today’s EU-supporting progressives, playing their part in the culture war, instead seem to believe that the goal of women’s suffrage is the right to meekly accept or petition for rights underpinned at a supranational level, through fear and mistrust of the domestic electorate. There seems to be little to support this patronising and fundamentally antidemocratic worldview in the historical literature, but nonetheless this is what we are asked to believe.

And what can one say in response? Identity politics and the culture war have firmly taken hold of Brexit, with the progressive Left (minus a Corbynite subset) co-opting the Remain position and fiercely clinging to that stance. And since the modus operandi of identity politics activists is to identify and exploit any angle or facet of an issue which can be shown to affect designated gender or minority groups, it was inevitable that we would eventually be told that Brexit is a specific assault on women, on ethnic minorities, on gay people or transgender individuals. Because the identity politics Left long ago gave up any concept of unifying shared citizenship, many activists are now only able to communicate in terms of how a particular issue or eventuality will impact specific subgroups with competing and often diverging interests.

The downside for progressive Remain campaigners is that in folding Brexit into the wider culture war and making the issue indistinguishable from all their other intersectionality-soaked grievances, they risk speaking only to themselves. Unfortunately for them, many British people do still acknowledge the idea of a unifying bond connecting all British citizens regardless of race, gender or sexuality, even if those bonds are frayed or even inarticulable at times. Few Leave voters went to the polling booth motivated primarily by thoughts of how Britain’s future relationship with the EU would affect them and their country based on their particular gender, and many are suspicious of Remainer entreaties to view basic matters of democracy and self-determination through the ludicrous prism of their genitalia.

After two years of furious denialism and rage against the EU referendum result, Remainers among the identity politics Left have become world experts in talking amongst themselves and telling one another exactly what they already think and want to hear, with arguments perfectly tailored to their own worldview and niche obsessions. As an act of misguided, unhelpful civic engagement this is depressingly predictable. But as a strategy for overturning Brexit and re-establishing the status quo it is incredibly tone-deaf, short-sighted – and ultimately doomed to failure.

 

EU protest - You Stole Our Future From Us

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‘Vile Misogynist Abuse’ Or Harmless Political Skulduggery?

hatchet

Theresa May is Prime Minister of the United Kingdom – she does not need defending against George Osborne’s non-existent misogyny by an army of sanctimonious professional offence-takers

Until today’s heinous (but thankfully largely unsuccessful) terror attack on the London Underground, much of this week’s political chatter has been dominated by a lengthy profile of George Osborne in Esquire magazine.

The rather gushing article detailed the various ways in which the former Chancellor of the Exchequer was seeking to leverage (or abuse) his position as editor of the Evening Standard to exact political revenge on former colleagues who had previously crossed his path:

At a little after 6.30, nearly every weekday morning, George Osborne — 46 years old, tall, rich, boyish, tieless — takes the bus from Notting Hill in west London, where he lives, to Kensington High Street, where he works, orders his breakfast to take away from Leon, arrives at the marbled and airy headquarters of the London Evening Standard, takes the lift to the second floor, enters his corner office, and sets about destroying his political enemies.

Following this riveting introduction there follows a lengthy and somewhat depressing account of exactly how Osborne came to land the position of Editor despite having no journalistic background, and the new direction in which he is taking the newspaper.

But this is the passage which stirred particular controversy:

Osborne seems to reserve his choicest weapons for Theresa May, the beleaguered prime minister. On his first day as editor, the front page of the Standard announced “Brussels twists knife on Brexit [as] EU chief mocks PM May with her own ‘Strong and Stable’ leadership slogan”. The attacks on May have become only more intense since then. (One clinical sentence in a Standard editorial from 21 June simply read: “Enough of this nonsense.”) Osborne’s animus against May is complicated in origin — personal, political, ideological, tactical — but purely felt. When I met him at the Standard this past spring, he was polite enough about the prime minister. But according to one staffer at the newspaper, Osborne has told more than one person that he will not rest until she “is chopped up in bags in my freezer”.

To any sane person, this is clearly a political threat, not a serious threat of impending physical violence against the prime minister. But one would not get this impression judging by the outrage from many politicians and journalists, who sought to fold Osborne’s case of sour grapes into a broader narrative about online abuse and violence against women.

Labour’s Chris Bryant was quick off the mark, declaring that Osborne was clearly a misogynist, the Huffington Post reported:

During a debate on barriers for women entering Parliament on Wednesday, Labour’s Chris Bryant said he should apologise.

“It’s that kind of language, which I think is misogynistic in its basis, which should be done away with,” he added.

This, of course, conforming to the Left’s new working definition of misogyny, which can basically be described as “any negative statement about a woman, regardless of whether or not it actually concerns her gender, made by somebody we dislike or wish to discredit”.

Even Tory MP Nadine Dorries got in on the act, ranting to a WhatsApp chat for fellow Conservative MPs:

I’m sorry but Osborne’s vile, and I think sexist language towards the PM has now crossed the line. He’s either going the way of James Chapman, or he’s become a security risk.

Yes, Nadine Dorries is literally positing that George Osborne has either become mentally unbalanced or is flirting with the idea of committing an act of political terrorism. Let that sink in for a few moments.

And is anybody else getting sick of the word “vile” being appended to every object of criticism as the default go-to word of condemnation? Can we not have a little more variety in our self-righteous denunciations, at least? George Orwell would surely have a thing or two to say about our rote, unthinking repetition of the same tedious adjective.

Dorries continues:

He would never say these things of a man. Won’t be happy until she’s chopped into bits in a bag in my freezer. Dead woman walking. Living dead. Wants her immediate execution.

This is the kind of hysterical, overwrought language more commonly adopted by the most unhinged of Social Justice Warriors, who see physical harm in the most innocuous of words, not the language of a sober-minded parliamentarian.

No serious person could possibly believe that George Osborne literally wants to kill and dismember Theresa May, or fantasises about her death. This blog has about as low an opinion of George Osborne as it is possible to hold, and even I do not believe that the ex-Chancellor is a full-on psychopath who daydreams about the violent demise of his enemies.

And in fact Nadine Dorries and most of the other people who came scuttling out of the woodwork to declare their outrage also probably do not believe this of George Osborne. They just know that accusations of sexism or violence against women have enormous power to ruin reputations (as they should when such acts are actually committed), and think nothing of levelling such accusations in retaliation against language or behaviour that they dislike. Playing the sexism or racism card is fair game, in other words, when one’s cause is just – even if the evidence to back it up is not there.

And indeed it then becomes immediately clear why Nadine Dorries is actually upset:

He spent ten years undermining her and trying to squash her. He mounted whips operations against her in the chamber when she was Home Sec. I’ve written to Gavin [Williamson, Tory Chief Whip] and said I think his pass for conference should be removed because we would never allow a punter in who had said any of that, for security reasons. I hope some of you feel strongly enough to do the same.

So this has nothing to do with “security reasons” at all – it is just a convenient opportunity, gifted by Osborne’s crass language, to exact political revenge on an opponent (Dorries has had a fractious relationship with the Tory leadership since having the whip temporarily withdrawn after she skipped the country to participate in a reality TV show).

But of course, being honest about the real reasons for her animus toward the former Chancellor would make Dorries look small-minded and petty, so instead she slaps on the faux-outrage like a suit of armour and wades into battle, declaring that Osborne’s schoolyard threats somehow represent a security threat to the prime minister.

There is a very ugly and unseemly trend among an increasing number of MPs to wallow in their own supposed victimhood. Despite occupying one of the most high-status occupations it is possible to hold, one which opens up endless future career opportunities – to say nothing of conferring the ability to shape the course of the nation – a growing number of MPs seem to see themselves as uniquely oppressed and vulnerable.

This trend has greatly picked up since the ghastly murder of Jo Cox last year, an act which was universally condemned but which seems to have provided some more cynical politicians with an excuse to “turn the leaf” on past expenses scandals and abuses of public trust in order to cast themselves as the fearless public heroes and members of the public as little more than a source of menace and danger.

To be clear: Members of Parliament are public servants and have the absolute right to discharge their duties in the full expectation of safety and security. Any legitimate or even ambiguous threats of violence or vulgar verbal or written abuse is reprehensible. But it does not help the effort to crack down on real trolling and abuse of politicians (such as that received by Diane Abbott) when cynical and calculating people falsely conflate the kind of standard political skulduggery which has always been a part of politics with real racial or sexist abuse.

If anything, the fact that George Osborne has apparently been telling anybody who will listen at Evening Standard HQ that he wants to politically dismember the prime minister is itself proof that he sees Theresa May as much as a worthy opponent to smite as he would any man. Osborne’s colourful and rather gruesome imagery does not reveal a deep-seated loathing of women, but rather is evidence of real parity of esteem – he doesn’t see any reason why Theresa May should be spared from his ranting and plotting any more than a male politician.

A true feminist would surely approve of this acknowledgement of equality and see George Osborne’s posturing as evidence of social progress. In fact, the only people who might not take this stance are cynical political opportunists who like to use accusations of sexism as weapon, and babyish fourth-wave intersectional feminists who see all words as potentially harmful and any political dissent as a threat to their very personhood.

Why? Because their dispiriting, identity politics-soaked worldview is predicated on the notion that women are in fact not equal, that by virtue of their historic and present oppression they are uniquely vulnerable and in need of perpetual protection against the “harms” which may be inflicted by stray words.

There is real violence, misogyny and hatred in this world. Let us be vociferous in condemning any such incidences wherever they appear. But pretending that the former Chancellor of the Exchequer is one meat cleaver purchase away from dismembering the prime minister of the United Kingdom is risible at face value, as is the notion that his petty political vendetta might encourage anybody else to commit physical violence.

On the other hand, with Halloween around the corner this tedious episode has at least provided some inspiration for a few new costumes which will see all of Britain’s snowflakes running for their safe spaces.

 

George Osborne

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The Heineken ‘Worlds Apart’ Ad: Corporate Social Justice Done Right

Finally, a corporate attempt at social awareness advertising that does not devolve into sanctimonious progressive preaching

It generally doesn’t end well when big corporations decide to prove their right-on, progressive credentials with a slick new TV advertisement.

Only four months ago, Pepsi found itself on the receiving end of a heap of bad PR when their insipid commercial, featuring celebrity with no discernible talent Kylie Jenner, was deemed to be trivialising the Black Lives Matter movement (the gravest sin that it is presently possible to commit).

The Pepsi ad was certainly stupid, but not because it made light of a movement which is by no means as pure of character as it likes to pretend. No, the problem with the Pepsi ad was that it tried to cast the soft drink manufacturer in a positive light by clinging on to the coattails of various protest movements, and casting its brown sugary liquid as the balm that could ease tensions between Generic Oppressed Communities and the police. It was glib and superficial and insulting to everyone who was portrayed in it.

And unfortunately that’s how it is with most ads that try to paint the responsible corporation in a positive light by embracing the latest progressive fad or injunction from the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics. They politicise that which should not be politicised, needlessly sow division over politically contentious issues, waste shareholder money to burnish the reputations of certain executives and generally fail to serve the corporation’s customers. In Britain, Channel 4’s cynical and self-serving “Gay Mountain” ad, timed to coincide with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, is another awful example of tawdry corporate behaviour.

That’s not to say that all such ads are bad – by all means, corporations should wade into social territory when the product and the issue actually have some connection with each other and there is a worthy goal in mind. The #LikeAGirl ad campaign by Always, for example, is actually quite moving and packs a real impact. This Barbie ad isn’t half bad either.

Other social justice ads fall into the grey zone, not terrible but not particularly praiseworthy either – or else just plain confusing. Procter & Gamble’s recent ad “The Talk“, highlighting the fact that African American parents have had to teach their children resilience techniques and shore up their self-esteem in ways that white parents generally have not, makes a valid and moving historical point. But it is never quite clear why Procter & Gamble is the one to be making the ad, other than that they cynically calculated that they can burnish their corporate credentials by conspicuously attaching their brand to the worthy cause of anti-racism.

But best of all recent ads where a large corporation dips its toe into the roiling waters of social issues is this one by Heineken, entitled “Worlds Apart“. What makes it so good? The fact that it does not seek to preach any specific value or social outcome besides the importance of tolerance and mutual respect which is too often missing in public discourse. Rather than shoving a particular social cause down the throats of consumers, the ad dares to suggest that more than one opinion (the progressive one) may have value, and that issues should be discussed rather than dissent shut down.

The ad is shot like a reality show, putting various pairs of strangers with diametrically opposed opinions on various issues – feminism, transgenderism, climate change and so on – in a room together, having them perform various icebreaking tasks including assembling furniture, describing both themselves and their partner using five adjectives and then just talking together about their life experiences. It sounds corny, but it actually works quite well – watch the video at the top of this article.

The final task given to the various pairs of strangers is to assemble a construction out of wooden blocks – which turns out to be a bar (see what they did there?) Having cooperated and bonded with each other while completing various tasks, they each then have to watch a video in which the other person talks to the camera about their opinions of various relevant hot-button issues. It then becomes clear that the feminist was paired with the anti-feminist, the climate change sceptic with the environmentalist, the transgender woman with the man who scorned the idea of transgenderism. Having discovered this truth about their partner, they are then offered a choice – either they can leave and never see each other again, or they can discuss their differences over a beer at the bar they just constructed together.

This really is quite effective. You see the shock on each person’s face as they realise this uncomfortable truth about the stranger with whom they have been working and bonding during the various tasks. You see hints of confusion and almost betrayal on some of their faces as they weigh the competing facts – that they got on well with the person, know them through their brief interactions to be decent, yet that they stand on opposite sides of major social wedge issues. Spoiler alert: they all end up deciding to stay and discuss their differences over a nice cool Heineken.

This is a good ad. Firstly in terms of product promotion, it positions Heineken beer as something over which sane, rational people can discuss their differences like adults. In real life, people do discuss their problems and bond over beer. Unlike the Procter & Gamble ad, there is a valid reason for Heineken to be making this commercial. And what’s more, despite only being a commercial the various interactions feel ten times more real than President Obama’s very real and much-publicised “beer summit” in the wake of the Henry Louis Gates arrest controversy.

But more than that, the ad is good because it doesn’t force a set outcome. It doesn’t end with the transgenderism sceptic acknowledging the error of his ways, confessing his sin and being absolved, or the anti-feminist checking his male privilege. Rather, knowing that their partner is more than the sum of his or her political opinions, the various couples are able to forge bonds of mutual respect and friendship. Like adults used to do in the days before social media turbo-charged identity politics.

So why does Heineken succeed where so many other corporations have failed? Again, it’s those three reasons:

  1. A clear link between the issues at stake (in this case various hot-button social issues) and the product (people often discuss their differences over a beer)
  2. Not forcing a preset outcome, and acknowledging that people can be good despite coming down on different sides of an issue
  3. Not alienating any of their customers by charging in with a preachy, absolutist message

If corporations are going to continue to dip their toes into social issues then we need more ads like this. Right now it feels like society is fraying, sometimes even in danger of coming apart at the seams, fuelled by a toxic blend of identity politics zealots, genuine bigots, people who simply dislike being preached to and those who profit from creating friction between them.

Too many people in positions of authority – politicians, media personalities, self-appointed community leaders – fail to encourage understanding and respectful disagreement, preferring to foment mutual intolerance. Only today I was publicly and ostentatiously defriended by a respected acquaintance, someone who suddenly decided that my relatively mainstream and inoffensive conservatarian opinions were beyond the pale and injurious to their mental safety. It isn’t the first time that this has happened. This is what identity politics and leftist intolerance hath wrought.

Retreating into our respective bubbles will not help knit society back together and weave the strands of a common identity and shared purpose around which we can – and must – all unite. The Heineken “Worlds Apart” ad acknowledges this fact and pitches its product as part of the solution.

It shouldn’t take a beer company to say what so many political and community leaders have so conspicuously failed to say themselves, but that’s just what Heineken have done with this ad. And this puts it head and shoulders above the rest.

 

Heineken - Worlds Apart ad

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Identity Politics Fights Back

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Sensing a growing backlash against their toxic ideology, identity politics cultists are preparing to mount a fightback

Check out this epic rant in the New York Magazine, in which TV producer and playwright Elizabeth Meriwether fumes that even contemplating whether the rise of identity politics may have contributed to political division and a Trump presidency is so dangerous that she needs to seal herself off in a sleeping pod to protect herself from further betrayal by the traitorous “white liberal males” asking the question.

Bear with me…

I’ve decided that the best thing for Democrats to do for the next four years is to stop caring about “identity politics” and focus on the needs of white men all around the country. From now on, as a woman who makes her living and pays taxes in the blue bubble of California, I will shut up and enter a medically-induced coma and only come out when liberal white men ask me to come out. I will develop a special, secret knock that these liberal men can use to wake me up inside my sleeping pod when they deem it safe for me to emerge and start ruining elections again.I hope that other women and minorities will do what I have done. Democrats can either care about income inequality or we can care about “women and minorities,” but we can’t do both. It’s impossible. Just try. Close your eyes right now and try to care about creating jobs, offering debt-free college, redistributing wealth, and protecting the rights of minorities and women. Do you see what I mean? It’s impossible. You either care about class or you care about civil rights. I am being fitted for my sleeping pod as we speak. And, because I am an elite, it’s entirely made from reclaimed wood and the tube that will pump food into my stomach will do so in the form of small tapas-style plates that are meant to be shared. Bon Iver will be playing nonstop, and I will be covered in organic cotton and sprinkled with chia seeds. My rescue dog will be hermetically sealed into my sleeping pod with me, and the whole thing will be plugged into an outlet like an electric self-driving car that also cuts off dicks. I will be allowed out of my sleeping pod if and only if I choose to have sex with a white liberal male. But the terms of this agreement include listening to him monologue about what went wrong in the election and allowing him to prove me wrong with various facts and figures and statistics. I will not be allowed to look any of those statistics up on my phone under any circumstance, although I will be allowed to disagree with him if I quickly concede the point and if I am squeezing my tits together into a pleasing butt-shape.

Way to miss the point. The point of criticising identity politics is not to suggest that we stop trying to fight for genuine egalitarianism and equality of opportunity. The point is that continually dividing Americans and playing off various “victim groups” against one another – and always against “white males”, no matter how desperately poor or marginalised they may themselves be – is actively feeding the toxic political atmosphere which has led to two Americas which can now barely tolerate each other’s presence.

Meriwether then continues her long digression about sex, for no reason other than the fact that people like her seem to have to shoehorn the subject into every political conversation – part of the identity politics cultist’s desperate need to make all politics personal, I suppose.

The diatribe continues:

Finally, talking about protecting the rights of minorities makes white guys feel like we are not talking enough about them — see above when I explained that we can’t care about more than one thing at a time — so it’s better if we all stop seeing ourselves as part of separate groups and start seeing ourselves however white guys want us to see ourselves. That would honestly just make it easier for everyone, and as I said before, is really the only way that Democrats will ever win another election again. The only way to come together as a party and defeat Trump is if we blame women and minorities for everything. This is the end of “identity politics,” by which we mean that this is the end of women and minorities being allowed to talk about issues that white men don’t care about.

Yes. Opposing identity politics means secretly wanting to construct a giant woodchipper, rounding up all the Evil Minorities and dropping them into the machine, one by one. The only possible reason that anyone might oppose the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics is a desperate desire by white males to get their boots back on the face of women and minorities. No other possible reason.

Of course we can care about more than one thing at a time. I don’t know of one serious commentator or criticism of identity politics which has argued otherwise – that identity politics or economic growth, identity politics or national defence, identity politics and healthcare reform are zero-sum games, with only one able to prevail. The problem is not that identity politics crowds out other issues. The problem is that for true believers like Meriwether, identity politics becomes the prism through which every single issue must be considered.

The problem with identity politics is that it empowers a select clerisy (the SJWs and politicians who court them) by encouraging everybody who is not a “white male” to consider themselves peculiarly fragile and vulnerable to physical and mental harm, either from normal everyday encounters or from offensive and unpleasant behaviour which would otherwise be written off in a dignity culture, confronted in an honour culture but which are taken as grounds for public complaint and petitions to higher authorities in our increasingly victimhood culture-oriented society.

The problem with identity politics is that it infantilises fully grown adults and teaches them that they are without agency or responsibility for their own lives and decisions – that anything bad which happens to them is the result of oppression (by the afore-mentioned bogeymen, “white males”) which can only be lifted by enacting a suite of leftist policies and laws which restrict what people can say and how they behave, often in ways which run completely counter to the spirit of the US Constitution. And the feedback loop of self interest ensures that

As regular reader of this blog, AndrewZ, put it in a recent comment on another blog post:

If people from a designated victim group are able to overcome difficulties and succeed by their own efforts then they can’t be as “oppressed” and “marginalised” as the theory demands. Therefore they must be indoctrinated into a mentality of helpless victimhood in order to protect the theory from inconvenient realities.

But if the whole world is divided into victims and oppressors then it becomes immoral for a member of a victim group to be strong and successful, because the theory says that they can only succeed by becoming part of the system of oppression. Equally, a person who does not belong to an official victim group can only make themselves socially respectable by embracing a victim identity.

The problem with identity politics is that it has become so much more than a simple struggle for egalitarianism – a cause which nearly everybody (save the real racists in society) should be able to happily get behind.

Hence we find people like Liz Meriwether – successful screenwriter and TV producer, and oh yes, a wealthy white woman – and taking to the pages of New York Magazine to wail that life is so tough for her that she needs to take to an escape pod for the next four years – not to escape from Donald Trump, but from normally like-minded “white liberal males” who committed the heretical thought of asking whether we really need to consider a person’s race, gender, sexuality, and horoscope before assigning weight to their words and arguments.

This is the corrosive power of identity politics. This is why we need to fight back against it with every ounce of strength we have. Because the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics takes strong, successful, independent adults (and adolescents perfectly capable of becoming strong, successful and independent themselves) and convinces them instead that they are weak, pitiable victims in need of constant rescuing by external authority figures. And the authority figure is inevitably the government, and the government inevitably seeks to protect each one of the victim groups petitioning for redress by further restricting the freedoms of the general public.

Identity politics is cancer. What else to call it, when somebody as outwardly successful as Liz Meriwether can write a nonsensical, stream-of-consciousness rant about she suffers systemic oppression when her white male liberal contemporaries fail to linger long enough while engaging in oral sex with her, and have that piece published with all seriousness in New York Magazine?

Identity politics is cancer. And it needs to be surgically removed from our political discourse, and any remnants blasted with whatever rhetorical equivalents of chemotherapy and radiotherapy we can lay our hands on, lest it return.

 

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