Laurie Penny, Gaslighter

Laurie Penny

According to Laurie Penny, conservatives are the true enemies of free speech and the illiberal student activists who beat them up, ‘no platform’ their speakers and disrupt their events are merely questioning the establishment

As they stagger on under the “leadership” of Theresa May, this Conservative government continues to cast about aimlessly for some kind of raison d’être, a justification for showing up for work in the morning which sounds marginally more noble than “because daytime TV sucks”.

And so it came to pass that the unremarkable minister for universities, Jo Johnson, decided to jump on the increasingly popular right-wing bandwagon of bashing identity politics, demanding that universities uphold a commitment to free speech and promise not to use no-platforming or safe spaces to suppress the exchange of ideas on pain of being fined or even deregistered as an institution by the Office for Students.

This is all incredibly boring. Jo Johnson was head of the Downing Street Policy Unit from 2013-2015 under David Cameron, right at the time when illiberal identity politics zealots were cementing their power. If Johnson had a burning desire to protect free speech, he could have persuaded Cameron to take up the cause. He did not do so. It is also curious that he now wants to become a crusader for free speech when working for an authoritarian prime minister whose every instinct points the opposite way, toward more regulation and censorship. In short, this whole thing is a PR stunt by a rudderless Tory Party chasing headlines rather than following an ideological compass.

But all this is only to be expected. More noteworthy is the response to Johnson’s posturing by identity politics priestess Laurie Penny, who took to the New Statesman to claim not just that conservatives are exaggerating the threat to free speech but that it is entirely a figment of their imagination.

Penny’s article begins dishonestly, and then gets worse:

The nonsensical consensus amongst the centre-right that today’s students are a bunch of censorious cry-babies plays well with the base, so Johnson Minor has jumped on the rickety bandwagon barreling down the road to the palace of convenient fictions, where a delicate banquet of delusion will be served to those whose cash and status protect them from ever having to hear their opinions questioned by a bunch of rowdy kids.

Conservatives seeking protection from having their opinions questioned? This is an interesting inversion. Rather than trying to minimise the issue and argue that the threat to free speech on campus has perhaps been blown out of proportion and is perhaps not as bad as portrayed, Laurie Penny insists – rather shamelessly – that the problem does not exist at all, that it is all a figment of our imagination.

Penny must be a secret neo-conservative fan girl because this is a consummate Karl Rove strategy, whereby she shamelessly accuses her opponents of the identity politics Left’s own glaring flaws. Where is the lengthy list of prominent left-wing speakers who have been banned from college campuses by conservatives? Where are the left-wing professors who fear for their job security if they question conservative ideas? Where are the left-wing students expelled or suspended from college because they made conservatives feel “unsafe” and contributed to a hostile, non-inclusive atmosphere? They don’t exist.

The problem is not that crusty old establishment figures are upset that brave, radical students are questioning their judgment. The problem is that these illiberal students do not merely question ideas, they actively suppress them on the grounds that they amount to dangerous “hate speech” with the power to wound or even kill. Yet through immense self-deception, Penny is able to cast actions which deliberately prevent speech from taking place as mere protest:

This is a non-controversy, and it’s unbelievable that otherwise intelligent commentators are taking it seriously. “No-platforming” is just another word for student protest – the practice of opposing invited speakers with bigoted views is a time-honoured one. The cooked-up row over “student censorship” is led by the sort of trembly-whiskered outrage-merchants for whom “censorship” means “making me feel bad about holding certain views”.

But protesting an idea and infringing on the rights of another person to express that idea are two very different things. One could excuse any act of violent oppression using Penny’s logic. “But lynching is just another word for protest”, said the Klansman to the sheriff as he was caught red-handed tying a noose. “I believe that black men are a menacing sexual threat to white women. Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, I sincerely believe that it is and on that basis you have no right to stop me stringing up DeShawn over here for making my wife stare at him lustfully”.

And so it is with the SJWs. They sincerely believe that words are violence (or at least some of them do – I can’t help but think the smarter ones know full well that words are not deadly, but pretend that they are as justification for censoring unwanted ideas) and on that basis they claim the right to “protest” by shutting down the offensive speech, preventing it from taking place or exacting severe physical, financial or bureaucratic consequences for the speaker who dares to persist.

Laurie Penny continues:

There is, I ought to say, a rhetorical difference here that causes some confusion. Today’s students are simply more likely to use the language of empathy and trauma in their politics. They’re more likely, initially, to say “this book about how women aren’t really human might make some of us feel unsafe” than they are to say “this book is bullshit”. They’re more likely to say “you’re doing harm” than they are to say “fuck you”.

This is partly because a lot of today’s young radicals come from demographics for whom it’s far more dangerous to say “fuck you”. They are young women, young queer people, young people of colour. Their way of questioning authority is simply less actively aggressive. Today’s angry young people are more likely to show you their scars than their fists. That might be passive-aggressive, but it’s not politically unsound.

This is nonsense. Today’s SJWs and Antifa (the movement’s Faith Militant) are equally happy inflicting scars as they are flaunting their own to garner sympathy. It doesn’t take long to dig up both high-profile and more obscure cases where the pseudo-victimhood of supposedly marginalised and oppressed groups morphed suddenly into violent aggression on campus.

Witness student Bonita Tindle pushing and shoving a white male student who had the temerity to wear his hair in dreadlocks. Witness the recent incident at University of California – Santa Cruz, in which protesters shut down a meeting of the College Republicans and one protester claimed that she literally felt unsafe meeting in a library which was previously used by college Republicans. Witness the aggression of Jerelyn Luther getting hysterical about Halloween costumes. Witness Black Lives Matter shutting down an ACLU free speech event at William and Mary College, holding up banners declaring that speech kills. Note, too, the rising trend of outraged leftists demanding that speakers and publishers of wrongthink retract their “harmful” ideas and articles rather than going to the effort of disproving them. The Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics is causing many on the Left to forget how to argue at all.

Laurie Penny dismisses the current ideological focus on “harm” as a mere difference in rhetoric compared to previous generations, which is blatantly false. If you think a prominent idea is “bullshit” and evidently false then you generally relish the opportunity to publicly tear it down and discredit its proponents. But the SJWs do not do this. All too often, they don’t even attempt to engage with the substance because they claim that even hearing contrary thoughts expressed will do them physical and emotional harm.

There is hardly a shortage of literature and academic research on the rise of victimhood culture and learned fragility/unresilience. One thinks particularly of the paper “Microagression and Moral Cultures” by Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning, which discussed the difference between dignity, honour and victimhood cultures, or Jonathan Haidt’s development of these ideas.

Laurie Penny is doing a fantastic job of telling often well-meaning leftists exactly what they want to hear. She seeks to assuage any doubts that some wavering souls may feel about their movement’s snarling illiberalism by waving away any concerns as the desperate squeaking of a racist, misogynist old guard who are simply upset at the loss of their hegemony. After all, it is much easier to dismiss concern as the self-interest of oppressive powers rather than reflect on the ideological oppression they themselves are inflicting in the name of social justice.

But in telling conservatives that persistent, concrete efforts by the Left to paint their ideas as intolerably extremist and forbid their expression on campus are merely imagined, Penny is actively gaslighting. She is engaging in that coercive, manipulative behaviour more common to spousal abusers by portraying her opponents as crazy and flat-out denying observable reality in order to delegitimise conservative concerns about free speech suppression.

That Laurie Penny feels able to lie and deceive so freely in the pages of the New Statesman shows just how strong the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics has become. Adherents to this illiberal, censorious cult no longer fear being discredited or held to account for their lies. So complete is their control over academia and so cowed and enslaved are the media and many politicians that people like Laurie Penny can now create their own reality and demand that others accept it as real.

If a conservative were to insist that capitalism was completely flawless or deny that poverty exists, they would be laughed out of town and rightly lose all credibility. Yet Laurie Penny can use her exalted perch in the New Statesman to deny that things we can all see taking place on Western university campuses are even happening at all, yet still be taken seriously the next time she spouts off on TV.

That’s the protective power of the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics at work.

That’s how close conservatives and defenders of free speech are to losing this war.

 

Gaslighting definition - Dr Robin Stern

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Donald Trump Victory Reaction: Laurie Penny Doesn’t Get It

laurie-penny

Donald Trump supporters got their man elected to the White House in part by following the Social Justice Warrior playbook. Leftists should beware, because anybody can play their tawdry game of division and victimhood

Left wing identity politics cultists are reacting to Donald Trump’s victory by doing what they always do – basking in tremulous victimhood – without realising that insisting on dividing the country into separate distinct victim groups is what provoked and inspired the white working class minority group to come together to elect Trump in the first place.

Just take a look at Laurie Penny, who can currently be found leading British SJWs to their safe space in the aftermath of Trump’s victory:

No Laurie, you wrote this – as always – for the primary purpose of self-aggrandisement and promotion. But that’s fine. Your audience is primarily a group of infantilised permanent victims who like to be told that an external authority figure is going to care for them, so you will be doing yourself no harm with the old readership.

Penny writes:

The people have spoken. That does not mean all the other people have to shut up.

No, it doesn’t. But when the whiny, petulant tone of the “other people” (together with their hair trigger sensitivity to often non-existent oppression) is what partially feeds phenomena like the election of Donald Trump then it might not be such a terrible idea to pipe down for a few days and engage in some genuine introspection. And I do mean real introspection, not just obsessing about their “pain” and exalting in their “vulnerability”.

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Today, all over America, black, brown and Muslim children are too frightened to go to school.

And whose fault is that? Who took Donald Trump’s careless and often offensive statements and whipped them up in the public imagination to make it seem as though he were the devil himself, that black or brown kids are somehow under imminent threat, not only when he is president but even now when he is president-elect? Who made people so frightened?

Trump didn’t do that. His supporters didn’t do that. Hysterical leftist SJWs did that, because they thought that it would motivate their base. If they have now traumatised themselves (and their children) through swallowing their own propaganda then really they have only themselves to blame.

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When they told liberals and journalists and policymakers and anyone with the cheek to suggest that maybe immigrants weren’t the problem that we weren’t listening to “ordinary people”, they meant we weren’t listening to white people.

Oh come on, Laurie. This is that insidious little trick that leftists always play, and which enrages and pushes away centrist and right-wing voters even more. Nobody but genuine racists (of which there are thankfully few) object to immigrants. But many people object to uncontrolled immigration. In their quest to undermine national borders and the nation state, the Left have for a long time conflated these two things, the better to shame and silence people who dare to stand up for enforcing immigration law. And until recently it has worked.

But as with all cheap, disingenuous little con tricks, eventually the luck runs out. And so it has in Britain with the Brexit vote, and seemingly in America, with the Trump vote. People with legitimate concerns about immigration (not immigrants) are not racist, and are sick to the back teeth of being told by privileged, coddled leftist agitators that they are ignorant, hate-filled xenophobes.

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The time for complacency is long gone. So too is the time for cowing to the hurt feelings of those who were willing to fire at the elite directly through the stomachs of their neighbours. Every effort has been made to sympathise with their distress at perceived loss of privilege that is felt, wrongly, as prejudice.

Every effort? Really? Laurie Penny has clearly blinded herself to the number of rants about the “dumb hicks” and “white trash” who supported and voted for Trump, now and before the election. And all of those SJW campus protests she supports are hardly brimming over with sympathy for the white working classes, that’s for sure.

Today, hundreds of millions of people in America and around the world have woken up afraid — for themselves, for their children, for the future of a planet where an authoritarian psychopath has his hands on the nuclear codes and the fate of a burning world waiting on his pleasure. Those people are being told that they are sore losers. That they should shut up and accept it. That their fear is somehow funny. Laughing at the pain of the most vulnerable. Squealing with glee when the bully lands a blow. That’s the world millions of notionally decent human beings voted for, and don’t tell me for a second they didn’t know what they were buying.

You know what, I’m going to come out and say it. When grown adults have been infantilised to the extent that they host “cry ins” at their university campuses or post weepy video tantrums online, then yes, it is a little bit funny.

Nobody (that I am aware of) is laughing at the legitimate fears of, say, American Muslims who are rightly alarmed at the intemperate language and unconstitutional proposals raised by candidate Donald Trump. But when privileged university students suddenly start acting as though they are being hunted down by death squads simply because an election goes against them then they do open themselves to some degree of ridicule.

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Fighting for tolerance, justice and dignity for women, queer people and people of colour is not frivolous and or vain. Who decided that it was?

Who decided that only those who place fear over faith in their fellow human beings are real, legitimate citizens whose voices matter? That’s not a rhetorical question. I want to know. Give me names.

Nobody. Nobody decided that. Fighting for egalitarianism is a noble thing to do. Wallowing in victimhood culture, continually emphasising one’s vulnerability over one’s strength and seeking to police the language and public discourse to actively shame anybody who questions the latest dogma, on the other hand, is every bit as authoritarian (or “fascistic”, to use Penny’s hyperbolic language) as anything that Donald Trump has ever said.

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I am done listening to my liberal friends contort themselves to take into account the notional opinions of the “white working class”. What does that even mean? How did we come to the craven consensus that the “white working class” is a homogenous mass of blustering bigots who must be pandered to as one might pander to a toddler having a tantrum at the edge of a cliff? A great many white people who are far from wealthy take issue with that particular patronising strain of self-scourgery on the left. A great many non-wealthy white people manage not to blame all their problems on feminazis, immigrants and their black and brown neighbours. Those people are real Americans, too.

So, no more of this nonsense. I’m done. I am done pretending that the good intentions of white patriarchy are more important than the consequences enacted on the bodies of others. Good intentions aren’t the issue here.

But of course Laurie Penny is never done. She would have no career if she were to actually stop giving her hysterical, preening, finger-wagging lectures to the rest of us, flaunting her conspicuous compassion before the world to earn social currency with with her fellow identity politics cultists.

And that’s the real rub here. The Left have practised and weaponised identity politics as a vote-winning tool (as well as a tool of censorship) for years. At some point it was inevitable that the white working class (and if Laurie Penny feels entitled to speak on behalf of “people of colour” as an homogeneous bloc then she can have no complaints about discussing the “white working class”) would start to adopt the same techniques, as a matter of political survival, in order to try to ensure the continued representation of their interests.

Laurie Penny and her fellow SJWs literally wrote the blueprint which Trump supporters followed to get their man into the White House. And still she does not see it. Still she rages at the white working class, howls at their “ignorance” and “bigotry”, seeks to invalidate them altogether (to use a beloved SJW term) and does everything in her power to make them feel under siege and justified in their decision to vote for Trump. Truly, the intellect is not very strong with this one.

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I know I do, although I haven’t yet. But be ready to reach out to them tomorrow, because the fight against despair continues, and alliances matter, and so does basic self-care. We need to be serious. I need to be serious, and I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry that the time for witty barbs about the President Elect, his hands, his hair and the howling ideological void of opportunistic narcissism behind his megalomaniac clown-mask is over, because inappropriate as those witty barbs are right now, they will probably be actively illegal before long.

I’m sorry, which group of people is it that tries to suppress free speech and make the giving of offence a disciplinary matter at universities and a “hate crime” in the real world? Because it’s not the majority of Trumpists, that’s for sure.

And as for “basic self care”? Yes, please do keep on showering. I know that SJWs think that Hitler has just been elected US president, but we should all strive not to let ourselves go completely.

 

Safe Space Notice - 2

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Exploiting LGBT People On Gay Mountain

Belgium Russia Gay Rights

 

Though it has been depressing to witness the extent to which homophobia and violence against LGBT people remain so widespread in Russia as the Winter Olympics take place, it has been commensurately heartening to see the outpouring of support from so many other countries for Russia’s beleaguered gay population.

Artists, celebrities, politicians, ordinary citizens and fellow sports people have all registered their solidarity with the LGBT community and spoken out against discrimination and Russia’s strict laws against ‘homosexual propaganda’.

This is good – Russia continues its regrettable backward slide from nascent democracy into a corrupt authoritarianism, and as the IOC saw fit to make Sochi the winning bid for the Winter Olympics it is only right that the rest of the world ensures that the event does not descend into a mere forum for pro-Putin glorification.

But as the swell of voices raised in protest at Russia’s treatment of the LGBT population grows, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that many of those people throwing stones are living in enormous glass houses of their own – and that while it is great to revel in being less homophobic than Russia, this achievement alone is not much of an accolade.

As Laurie Penny writes in the Guardian, being less homophobic than Russia is no great feat of tolerance – the bar set by Russia can be cleared by almost anyone:

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with expressing support for LGBT people in Russia, who are facing grotesque discrimination. But being less homophobic than Russia is not necessarily something other countries should give themselves a medal for. A lot of things are less homophobic than Russia.

Queer activists call this sort of thing “pinkwashing” – playing up the gay-friendly branding of a state or corporation to make it seem more liberal than it actually is. Britain likes to think of itself as a tolerant place, but the Border Agency has been accused of almost “systematic homophobia” by the gay rights group Stonewall. Leaked Home Office documents show bisexual asylum seekers being asked degrading questions during hours of interrogation by Home Office officials – questions that included: “What is it about men’s backsides that attracts you?”

This is just one of several examples given by Penny, who points out the less-than-stellar track records of various other supposedly enlightened western countries – even the Canadians.

All too often, a generally increasing acceptance of homosexuality and LGBT people within the general population is not met with an equal acceptance in national bureaucracies and institutions. This is certainly true in Britain, as Penny points out, but is just as true in the United States, where condemnation about Russia’s awful treatment of the gays has been vociferous, but also seemingly ignorant of the many cultural and legal barriers to the full acceptance of gay rights that remain in America.

Britain’s Channel 4 television network apparently decided that the best way to respond to homophobia in Russia would be to make this video – entitled “Gay Mountain” – which has been playing nearly continuously between their scheduled programmes:

 

The song, which begins in the same portentous style as the Russian national anthem, quickly descends into a camp, colourful, musical extravaganza as the (shirtless) singer exhorts “Good luck Gays, on Gay Mountain”. The profound lyrics continue “Mens and all mens / And womens and all womens / Come together tonight, sing with pride”.

One YouTube user, identifying him or herself as IMB2U, commented:

We should all thank the Russian government for bringing everybody together and creating this huge wave of support and love for the LGBT community. Their hateful ignorance has brought on something wonderful.

Something wonderful? Really? Mildly amusing, perhaps. Entertaining and catchy, yes – if your tastes lean that way. But “wonderful” seems to be overdoing it a little.

While the sentiment behind Channel 4’s video – that of solidarity and support – is certainly admirable on the surface, one has to admit that it does absolutely nothing to improve the lot of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people in Russia. Gay Mountain works perfectly at enabling us Brits – enlightened and sophisticated as we supposedly are – to feel good by sneering at the “backward” Russian people, but does absolutely nothing about actually helping the Russian LGBT community.

Laurie Penny also questions the value of these flamboyant gestures of support which do little, if anything, to help people in real need of tangible help and intervention:

Personally I have no problem with media outlets, businesses and individuals making jokes at the expense of homophobes, or hanging out the queer pride flag. It’s a statement of support that’s fun and costs nothing. But the fact that it costs nothing is precisely the problem. As soon as there’s a price tag attached, the foot-shuffling begins. The rainbow flag is supposed to symbolise safety. Hung over a bar, it’s supposed to mean that this is a place of refuge. For western nations to brand themselves in this way while subjecting LGBT people to humiliation and imprisonment at their borders is simply disingenuous.

While western nations flap the rainbow flag defiantly in Russia’s face, actual lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are being harassed and abused at their borders when they arrive seeking safety. Supporting the rights of LGBT people worldwide is to be commended, but if that sentiment is more than pinkwashing, it should be backed up by action at home.

This just about sums it up. Statements of support from any quarters are welcome, but they don’t mean an awful lot when there is nothing to be lost by making them. Channel 4 has no business interests in Russia, the Russian people will not see the Gay Mountain video in any significant numbers, and Channel 4 has no contracts or revenues at stake in that country. In other words, they have absolutely nothing to lose. Contrast this with the behaviour of a western company such as Coca-Cola, which has a direct financial stake in Russia – both through sales of their product and sponsorship of the Sochi Games – and which has been very timid indeed when it comes to condemning the persecution of gay people there.

But what really tarnishes Channel 4’s civil rights musical extravaganza is not the pinkwashed song, but the caption that appears on screen at the very end – the words “Born Risky” superimposed on the gay rainbow flag:

So edgy.
So edgy.

 

What exactly does Channel 4 believe to be “risky”? They risked absolutely nothing, we know that. But we do know that Channel 4 is inordinately proud of the fact that they like to get a rise out of people by setting out to provoke and offend them:

We were set up to experiment, provoke and entertain, and to put our profits into our programmes. You may love us, you may want to punch our lights out, but we make programmes we believe in. We can do this because we were Born Risky. That doesn’t mean “risky” as in naked abseiling, it means creatively risky. Like seeking out undiscovered talent, making films about taboo subjects or championing alternative voices. Born Risky means going where other channels can’t to create something new, alternative and different.

And so the whole campaign is revealed to be not about actually improving the circumstances of gay people in Russia (which we already knew) and not even about believing in or promoting gay rights in general, but rather about product differentiation. It was about burnishing Channel 4’s image as a provocative, edgy television network that likes to push the boat out, defy normal conventions and be a hip alternative to the boring old BBC.

Gay Mountain wasn’t about concern for LGBT people – it was just the next iteration of a very slick, very successful marketing campaign. And that goes rather beyond mere pinkwashing. I’m not sure which colour best represents the soul of a television network which is happy to capitalise on the suffering of foreign LGBT people to show its domestic audience just how cool and trendy it is, but it almost certainly would not be pink.

So by all means, let’s join in another rousing chorus of Gay Mountain. Let us be proud on gay mountain, as the song exhorts us to do. But when the singing is over, let’s not fool ourselves that we have done anything other than disturb the neighbours and make ourselves feel better, comfortably smug in our relative openness and tolerance.

And at least we helped improve the ratings of a certain television network.