Meet Donald Trump, Special Snowflake

Donald Trump’s reputation as a brave warrior against political correctness is a big fat lie – he has always been happy to use free speech-busting, SJW tactics to attack and silence his critics

In a move which perfectly illustrates the yawning chasm between the “two Americas”, the cast of hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” saw fit to deliver a rather patronising end-of-show lecture on equality, diversity and tolerance to vice president-elect Mike Pence, who was sitting in the audience.

Telling the audience that there was “nothing to boo” (many of them seemed to disagree, and heartily booed Mike Pence when he first took his seat in the theatre and again when the cast addressed him as he was leaving), cast member Brandon Victor Dixon said:

Vice-president elect Pence, we welcome you and we truly thank you for joining us at Hamilton: An American Musical. We really do.

We, sir, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents — or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir.

But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us.

We truly thank you for sharing this show — this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men, women of different colors, creeds, and orientations.

It is actually not a bad speech, and was certainly delivered with an eloquence and dignity which has been largely missing from both sides of this dismal presidential election.

One can take issue with the idea that people need to be constantly nurtured by successive presidential administrations and “protected” by government, but Donald Trump has said enough inflammatory and offensive things on his path to the White House that nobody can say that all of the trepidation is unjustified, or that some people are not in legitimate need of reassurance – either because of things that the president-elect himself has said, or by irresponsible scaremongering by those opposed to Donald Trump.

And yes, one could also rightly point out that it doesn’t say much for America’s social cohesion and inclusivity when the producer of Hamilton: An American Musical could authorise such a speech in the sure knowledge that the words addressed to Mike Pence would speak for every single one of the cast and crew (as they almost certainly did). How many Trump voters or conservatives in general work in musical theatre, or dare to admit their political preferences if they do?

As Brandon Victor Dixon boasted, there was indeed every kind of diversity standing on that stage at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York. Every kind of diversity apart from intellectual and political diversity.

But of more interest than the cast’s speech itself, though, is the response it provoked from president-elect Donald Trump, who now seems to have been given back full control of his Twitter account after anxious aides confiscated his devices in the closing days of the campaign to prevent any final day gaffes or Twitter wars.

Trump clearly did not take kindly to seeing his future vice president lectured on American values by a cast of musical theatre actors, and fired off this angry tweet:

And then this one, when the rage had still not subsided eight minutes later:

The theatre must always be a safe and special place? Really? I can think of at least one American president in history who had a decidedly unpleasant experience in a theatre, 151 years ago. And during his pivotal and historic presidency, Abraham Lincoln withstood insults and diatribes far worse than anything ever levelled at Donald Trump, and did so with infinitely more grace.

But mark what we are witnessing here: Donald Trump, slayer of political correctness, fighter of censorship, champion of free speech and supposed scourge of the Identity Politics Left, now using exactly the same language of grievance and victimhood to portray himself as a victim in a bid for the moral high ground.

Jonah Goldberg warned months ago that while Donald Trump is quite happy to profit from being seen as an anti-PC warrior, he is also ruthless in using PC tactics himself when he feels under attack:

This idea that Donald Trump is against political correctness is just a fiction. He’s against being held accountable to people to political correctness for himself but he is delighted to use the exact same bullying tropes of political correctness against other people. He’s done it against me when he tried to get me fired from National Review, saying I was insulting to women and that I have to apologise or resign or be fired because I was so insulting to women. What did I do that was so insulting to women? I said that Donald Trump is staying up late into the night like a teenage girl, tweeting. Which was A, accurate, and B, accurate.

During the primaries when Jeb Bush had a completely understandable and forgivable gaffe about women’s health issues, for weeks Donald Trump was talking about how horrible Jeb Bush was on women’s issues, playing these politically correct cards. He’s a nearest weapon to hand arguer in all things because he does have no philosophy, he has no intellectual grounding whatsoever.

And again here:

Nor is he the enemy of political correctness they make him out to be. Trump is perfectly happy to invoke and deploy PC arguments and standards against his opponents, he just wants to be immune from their sting himself.

And now, perhaps, people will start to realise that the man they just elected to the White House is not actually for free speech and against censorship and thin-skinned intolerance in principle, but only when those behaviours stand in his way or threaten to make him look foolish.

In this way and so many others (like the laughable idea that he is a conservative, and that his miraculous Damascene conversion from being a stereotypical wealthy New York liberal is in any way sincere), Donald Trump has conned his way to the White House. And as we have seen, his impulsive nature means that President Trump will inevitably react to events before his aides can restrain him or urge him to rise above minor slights and insults to portray a presidential calmness. Therefore, it will not be long until Trump is exposed as the thin-skinned, criticism averse, dissent silencing authoritarian that he is.

Inauguration Day itself will be one of the first big challenges – there are plans afoot for millions of protesters to descend on Washington D.C. and numerous other cities to voice their opposition to the supposed Trump agenda. Will Trump be seen tweeting responses and insults to the protesters from the presidential platform now being built on the steps of the Capitol, as he watches the inauguration festivities taking place? Will he demand that the National Mall be made a “safe space” free of political dissent as he and Melania take the limousine drive down to the inauguration site?

For those who have so far been willing to overlook them, Donald Trump’s grave character defects were always going to be exposed by events. And now it seems that we didn’t even have to wait until he placed his hand on the Bible and gave the oath before the portrayal of Trump as a happy warrior against censorship was exposed as a sham.

This probably will not bother Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters just now. While the president-elect demands safe spaces for himself, he at least continues to throw rhetorical bombs at all of the “right” people to keep his base happy. But one day that will change.

In a couple of years, when Donald Trump’s political agenda is quite possibly mired in gridlock and the Republican Party faces a difficult set of midterm elections, some of those Trump supporters, unhappy with the slow delivery of Trump’s promised land of milk and honey, may wish to register their anger at the president. And if they do so, the president will attack them too, just as he attacked the hated SJWs and college snowflakes and identity politics zealots during the campaign. But it will not feel so good when the president is demanding a safe space free from the criticism of his own one-time supporters.

Funny. I wonder how many Trump voters realised that they were electing the biggest and most precious snowflake of them all to the most powerful job in the world.

 

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Jonah Goldberg On Conservatism In The Age of Donald Trump

Jonah Goldberg says it best when describing the existential danger facing American conservatism in the Age of Trump.

On Trump’s unearned reputation as a happy warrior against political correctness:

This is just flatly not true. I also don’t believe it is true that Trump is appealing to minorities based upon their status as citizens, it’s not in his rhetoric, it’s not what he says; nor do I think he gives a rat’s patoot about the Constitution, which he thinks has twelve articles. He is just making it up as he goes along, riding a populist wave.

[..] This idea that Donald Trump is against political correctness is just a fiction. He’s against being held accountable to people to political correctness for himself but he is delighted to use the exact same bullying tropes of political correctness against other people. He’s done it against me when he tried to get me fired from National Review, saying I was insulting to women and that I have to apologise or resign or be fired because I was so insulting to women. What did I do that was so insulting to women? I said that Donald Trump is staying up late into the night like a teenage girl, tweeting. Which was A, accurate, and B, accurate.

During the primaries when Jeb Bush had a completely understandable and forgivable gaffe about women’s health issues, for weeks Donald Trump was talking about how horrible Jeb Bush was on women’s issues, playing these politically correct cards. He’s a nearest weapon to hand arguer in all things because he does have no philosophy, he has no intellectual grounding whatsoever, and I understand saying “well, we don’t need any more intellectuals, what did intellectuals get us, look at Woodrow Wilson, look at Barack Obama”, I get all that.

But Donald Trump is not a practitioner or a believer in American exceptionalism. He’s rejected the term outright, explicitly, more than once, nor does he represent what we mean by American exceptionalism. His core values, as he says over and over again, are strength and winning. Getting him to talk about the Constitution is like getting my daughter to eat brussel sprouts. I mean, she’ll do it, but it’s not a pretty picture and she tries to get it over with as quickly as possible.

Interestingly, Jonah Goldberg seems to broadly agree with my assessment of the first presidential debate, awarding Hillary Clinton the win, but not by a massive degree:

I thought Trump lost the debate, but not overwhelmingly. He was clearly the winner of the first 30 minutes or so, and if he’d stayed that guy for the full 90 it would have been a hugely consequential rout. But then, Hillary implemented “Bait Trump Protocol Alpha-1,” when she brought up how he got his start with a $14 million loan from his father. (She got the details wrong, but it doesn’t matter. When you’re baiting fish or Trumpzilla, the lure doesn’t have to be real, it just has to be shiny. In fact, getting the bait just slightly wrong makes it even more irresistible, because we all have a natural instinct to correct falsehoods aimed at us, and Trump more than most.)

So Trump bit the shiny thing, and for the rest of the night, plodding, dull Hillary Clinton led Trump around the stage like a matador with a red cape. And, four days later, Trump is still charging around like an enraged bull. At first I thought Clinton’s use of Alicia Machado was odd. There are so many Trump victims out there, why use one with such a weird past? But that’s what was so brilliant about it. If Machado were a nun, it’d be harder for Trump to attack. But Trump thinks he can win this one on the merits and so he won’t let go of it. He didn’t learn the lesson of his feud with the Khan family: The only way to win such fights is to not engage in them at all. The debate wasn’t a disaster but how he handled the post-debate spin was, and continues to be.

If Trump could stay on message, if he could be a disciplined candidate, I think he’d be ten points ahead by now. But realistically, this is no different from saying if he could control anything metal with his mind, he would be Magneto.

In the immediate aftermath of the debate (at 4AM UK Time, with no opportunity for reflection or benchmarking against the reaction of others) I wrote:

Clinton did become more effective during the final 30 minutes, which her campaign will be very relieved about. And did she manage to rile Donald Trump? Yes – but no more than the country is used to seeing after his tussles with Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz.

[..] My gut says that this was a victory for Hillary Clinton on points, but a score draw in terms of public reception. Time will soon tell.

All but the most extreme Trump partisans have indeed admitted a Clinton victory on points, substance and tone. And once again, Donald Trump is crowdsourcing advice for how he should tackle the upcoming second debate at Washington University in St. Louis – advice which he will surely reject again, whether it comes from his army of supporters or his despairing, demoralised campaign team.

American conservatives who have chosen to collaborate with Donald Trump have hitched their wagon to the wrong train – in victory or defeat, he will lead them nowhere good.

 

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Latest Front In The Social Justice War: Censoring Beloved Children’s Books

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We must resist the insidious rewriting of beloved classics to make them retroactively conform to today’s social attitudes and dogmas

This blog has been (justifiably) quite hard on Ariane Sherine, the Spectator’s latest affirmative action hire, expressing exasperation with her wide-eyed surprise that Ukippers and pro-Brexit folks don’t immediately lynch every single Asian person they come across and suggesting (ahem) that she represents everything that is wrong with the closed shop of Westminster political journalism.

But credit where credit is due – her latest piece in The Spectator identifies a real and insidious issue, and Sherine even manages to come down on the right side of it.

That issue: the censorship and rewriting of beloved children’s literature to make the texts conform to with the current dogma that young people must not be exposed to old-fashioned turns of phrase, ideas or even names which jar with today’s coddling, infantilising and achingly PC culture.

Sherine writes:

Six years ago, the publishers Hachette took the well-meaning yet preposterous step of making ‘sensitive text revisions’ to Enid Blyton’s classic Famous Five books. So ‘tinker’ was changed to ‘traveller’, ‘mother and father’ to ‘mum and dad’ and ‘awful swotter’ to ‘bookworm’. The suggestion that tomboy George needed ‘a good spanking’ became ‘a good talking to’, while girly Anne’s assertion, ‘You see, I do like pretty frocks — and I love my dolls — and you can’t do that if you’re a boy’ had its final clause removed, rendering the sentence throwaway rather than poignant. Unsurprisingly, given that all the charm had been stripped out of them, the revised editions flopped, and last weekend it was reported that Hachette were reverting to the originals. The publishers conceded that the updates had proved ‘very unpopular’.

But Hachette isn’t the only culprit. Earli­­­er this year, I bought my five-year-old daughter one of the Blyton titles I had enjoyed most as a child, The Magic Faraway Tree. I read it aloud to her, expecting to feel warmly nostalgic, but I merely felt baffled and irritated to discover that the publishers, Egmont, had also made several unnecessary changes. The names Fanny and Dick had been changed to Frannie and Rick. At first, I thought this was a misguided effort to avoid schoolchildren giggling at unintentional innuendo, but then I found that the names Jo and Bessie had also been pointlessly updated to Joe and Beth.

Joe and Beth? It wasn’t enough for Hachette to butcher beloved Enid Blyton characters, they really had to turn them into preening, insufferable hipsters too? No, this is too much.

Sherine continues:

Decisions to amend old, politically incorrect texts are based on a myth: that children are malleable, delicate creatures. Let’s eradicate anything remotely contentious! But anyone with a child over five knows that to edit the past is to insult both their intelligence and their resilience. My little girl is astute, tough and robust, and gleefully recounts gruesome fairy tales she has heard from friends. A colleague’s young sons delight in reading Old Testament stories of massacres and murders in their 1960s version of the Bible. These parables won’t turn our children into serial killers, and nor will Blyton’s unreconstructed slant on the world adversely influence their characters. I spent ages five to 12 engrossed in Blyton’s novels, and am yet to be branded sexist, racist or classist.

She’s lucky; I myself have been accused of the holy trifecta (sexism, racism and classism) despite being a mixed race person from pretty humble socio-economic background, primarily because I fail to spout the “correct” progressive left wing opinions on social justice, affirmative action and redistribution – but I don’t hold my avid readership of The Five Find-Outers to blame.

But Sherine is absolutely right, children are resilient creatures. In fact, children are the the epitome of anti-fragility – that precious quality of actually becoming stronger and more durable the more they are challenged and stretched in their thinking. And yet we seem determined to beat this precious quality out of our young people today, and we do so with such zeal that by the time they leave school for university many young adults are quivering wrecks, convinced that any exposure to conflicting ideas or any feedback less than warmly affirming will somehow gravely injure them and even “invalidate” their carefully-constructed “identities”.

More:

In fact, older books’ anachronisms can prompt useful conversations about changing attitudes towards race, sex, sexuality and class. The comedy writer Nathaniel Tapley recently encouraged his young son Thomas to read the 1967 children’s book Lion Adventure by Willard Price, remembering the boys’ adventure series as being rip-roaring fun. When his son asked: ‘Daddy, what does, “This is black man’s country’ mean?”’ they went on to discuss how differently people think about race these days, and whether or not people should live together.

[..] Children should not be patronised or mollycoddled — they should be free to read all about the amusingly quaint ideas, thoughts, words and names from the olden days, however sexist, unpalatable or wrong these may be considered now. They can learn from the past — but only if it remains uncensored.

This is a really important point. I was born in 1982, and some of the things I read in Enid Blyton books seemed strange or jarring to modern sensibilities even then. Did this in any way detract from my enjoyment of the books? No. Did it cause me to absorb the 1940s attitudes toward race and gender contained within? No. Did it prompt a conversation or two with my mother about why things were different, or why characters talked a certain way? Probably, yes. And from those discussions I learned and grew, as will young children today if they are given the chance to read the unadulterated, uncensored Enid Blyton.

This doesn’t just apply to children’s literature, of course. In 2011, a pinch-faced, hectoring Social Justice edition of Huckleberry Finn was released, in which the racist term “nigger” was replaced with the more emollient “slave”. This in turn was in response to numerous schools dropping the American classic from their curriculum because the PC zealots in charge preferred to pander to the imagined fragility of their students rather than read and teach through the awkwardness to understand the time and context in which the book was written.

But whether it is adult literature or beloved children’s classics, publishers have no business vandalising and defacing important artefacts from human civilisation just because they fail to live up to the tremulous, wobbly-lipped standards of the Permanently Offended.

Ariane Sherine is right to be outraged at the censorship of Enid Blyton. We should all be outraged. Because as with everything else connected with social justice, the progressive censors are not really signalling their low approval of these long-dead authors. No, what they are actually doing is signalling their disapproval of us. They are saying that we either are too pathetic and delicate to understand these social and literary anachronisms, or that we simply cannot be trusted to hear racist, sexist or homophobic dialogue in the context of great or beloved works of literature, lest the lumpen masses seek to recreate the 1950s (or the 1850s) in today’s world.

In other words, the progressive censors believe that you are either a perpetual victim or a would-be future racist, sexist or thought criminal. And if there is any ugly sentiment which should be purged from the world, the progressive metro-left’s sneering contempt for ordinary people would rank very high indeed on the list.

 

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Top Image: “The Magic Faraway Tree” by Kerry Darlington

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Lionel Shriver Makes A Bold Defence of Cultural Appropriation

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The purpose of literature and fiction writing is not to serve the grand design of the social justice and identity politics movement – and Lionel Shriver should be commended for standing up for artistic freedom against the new age censors

At a recent speech given at the Brisbane Writers Festival, the author Lionel Shriver makes a passionate and compelling defence of the concept of “cultural appropriation”, standing up to the rabid social justice warriors who would seek to impose a new cultural apartheid and the return of “separate but equal” division between races, cultures, genders and social groups.

From Shriver’s speech, which begins by making reference to college campus scandals over the supposed “cultural appropriation” and “harm” caused by non-Mexican students wearing sombrero hats at tequila parties or Mexican-themed restaurants:

But what does this have to do with writing fiction? The moral of the sombrero scandals is clear: you’re not supposed to try on other people’s hats. Yet that’s what we’re paid to do, isn’t it? Step into other people’s shoes, and try on their hats.

In the latest ethos, which has spun well beyond college campuses in short order, any tradition, any experience, any costume, any way of doing and saying things, that is associated with a minority or disadvantaged group is ring-fenced: look-but-don’t-touch. Those who embrace a vast range of “identities” – ethnicities, nationalities, races, sexual and gender categories, classes of economic under-privilege and disability – are now encouraged to be possessive of their experience and to regard other peoples’ attempts to participate in their lives and traditions, either actively or imaginatively, as a form of theft.

Shriver’s barnstorming speech goes on to list many great works of literature which would be greatly diminished or simply not exist at all were their authors (like many writers today) bullied and pressured to avoid writing about cultural experiences and customs other than their own.

Yet were their authors honouring the new rules against helping yourself to what doesn’t belong to you, we would not have Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano. We wouldn’t have most of Graham Greene’s novels, many of which are set in what for the author were foreign countries, and which therefore have Real Foreigners in them, who speak and act like foreigners, too.

In his masterwork English Passengers, Matthew Kneale would have restrained himself from including chapters written in an Aboriginal’s voice – though these are some of the richest, most compelling passages in that novel. If Dalton Trumbo had been scared off of describing being trapped in a body with no arms, legs, or face because he was not personally disabled – because he had not been through a World War I maiming himself and therefore had no right to “appropriate” the isolation of a paraplegic – we wouldn’t have the haunting 1938 classic, Johnny Got His Gun.

We wouldn’t have Maria McCann’s erotic masterpiece, As Meat Loves Salt – in which a straight woman writes about gay men in the English Civil War. Though the book is nonfiction, it’s worth noting that we also wouldn’t have 1961’s Black Like Me, for which John Howard Griffin committed the now unpardonable sin of “blackface.” Having his skin darkened – Michael Jackson in reverse – Griffin found out what it was like to live as a black man in the segregated American South. He’d be excoriated today, yet that book made a powerful social impact at the time.

(Shriver’s speech was too much for one delicate snowflake. Australian activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied, whose sheltered mind was unable to tolerate hearing of a worldview which didn’t put her own identity on a pedestal, decided to walk out during the speech and then pen a tear-stained, self-involved piece about her feewings for the Guardian, aggrandising her supposed victimhood).

But what exactly is Lionel Shriver’s beef with the modern idea that cultural appropriation is heresy? It seems that what angers her – quite rightly – is the idea that any group, marginalised or not, can be the sole custodians of their traditions, granting or withholding license to “borrow” from their culture like a movie studio scouring YouTube for pirated videos.

According to Shriver, nobody, least of all an artist, should have to approach anyone for “permission” to write from a certain perspective, include a certain character or touch on any cultural tradition:

The author of Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law, Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University who for the record is white, defines cultural appropriation as “taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorised use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.”

What strikes me about that definition is that “without permission” bit. However are we fiction writers to seek “permission” to use a character from another race or culture, or to employ the vernacular of a group to which we don’t belong? Do we set up a stand on the corner and approach passers-by with a clipboard, getting signatures that grant limited rights to employ an Indonesian character in Chapter Twelve, the way political volunteers get a candidate on the ballot?

While Shriver justifiably bristles at the consequences of weaponised identity politics, she does not use her speech to dwell on the reasons for the rise of this hyper self-conscious, self-censoring phenomenon. Fellow author Ian McEwan, on the other hand, is more than happy to point out the root causes of the identity politics resurgence, recently commenting in an interview:

“These children have grown up in an era of peace and plenty, and nothing much to worry about, so into that space comes this sort of resurgence that the campus politics is all about you, not about income inequality, nuclear weapons, climate change, all the other things you think students might address, the fate of your fellow humans, migrants drowning at sea. All of those things that might concern the young are lost to a wish for authority to bless them [..] rather than to challenge authority.”

To which this blog responded:

Doesn’t that just perfectly sum up the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics? A generation of students raised at a time of great material abundance, peace and prosperity arrive at university to find most of the great injustices of the past already slain by previous generations of campaigners. Bereft of purpose but still feeling the strong student urge to embrace a cause, they crank up their sensitivity settings to perceive any slight or inequity, however small or unintentional, to be evidence of the systematic oppression of one or more classes of prescribed victim groups.

McEwan’s last sentence is particularly profound – the idea that today’s young people no longer rail against authority in the way that student activists of old did, but rather make tear-stained appeals to authority figures to intercede on their behalf. This is the victimhood culture, clearly distinct from an honour culture (which would encourage the individual to stand up to minor sleights or “microaggressions” and confront the issue themselves) or a dignity culture (which would only sanction involving authorities in case of grave injury).

Later in her speech, Shriver hits out at the fad of shoehorning various “oppressed group” minorities into television shows in the name of making up some social justice quota, and the growing demand by some critics for the same affirmative action to take place in literature:

My most recent novel The Mandibles was taken to task by one reviewer for addressing an America that is “straight and white”. It happens that this is a multigenerational family saga – about a white family. I wasn’t instinctively inclined to insert a transvestite or bisexual, with issues that might distract from my central subject matter of apocalyptic economics. Yet the implication of this criticism is that we novelists need to plug in representatives of a variety of groups in our cast of characters, as if filling out the entering class of freshmen at a university with strict diversity requirements.

You do indeed see just this brand of tokenism in television. There was a point in the latter 1990s at which suddenly every sitcom and drama in sight had to have a gay or lesbian character or couple. That was good news as a voucher of the success of the gay rights movement, but it still grew a bit tiresome: look at us, our show is so hip, one of the characters is homosexual!

We’re now going through the same fashionable exercise in relation to the transgender characters in series like Transparent and Orange is the New Black.

Fine. But I still would like to reserve the right as a novelist to use only the characters that pertain to my story.

Besides: which is it to be? We have to tend our own gardens, and only write about ourselves or people just like us because we mustn’t pilfer others’ experience, or we have to people our cast like an I’d like to teach the world to sing Coca-Cola advert?

That last question is a good one – how on earth is a fiction author or television screenplay writer possibly to satisfy the competing demands to include more characters from diverse backgrounds yet avoid the unpardonable sin of presuming to write from their vantage point?

No doubt the social justice warriors would decree that fiction writing, so long a solitary pursuit, must now always be a collaborative effort, with a team of character writers standing by to offer their perspectives on a character’s true “voice” and authenticity. Or perhaps the process could be accomplished at the end of writing, by submitting draft novels to an Office of Social Justice Censorship where beady-eyed zealots who claim to speak on behalf of their entire social group go through the manuscript with a red pen, changing the author’s words and ideas to conform to some standard set in secret, behind closed doors.

You can see where the inexorable logic of these shrill demands ultimately leads: nowhere good. We either end up in a world where brilliant authors are too terrified of potential repercussions to ever pick up a pen in the first place, or one ends up with Soviet-style official “approved” art and literature, written to precise specifications in order to best glorify the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics.

As Shriver puts it:

Thus in the world of identity politics, fiction writers better be careful. If we do choose to import representatives of protected groups, special rules apply. If a character happens to be black, they have to be treated with kid gloves, and never be placed in scenes that, taken out of context, might seem disrespectful. But that’s no way to write. The burden is too great, the self-examination paralysing. The natural result of that kind of criticism in the Post is that next time I don’t use any black characters, lest they do or say anything that is short of perfectly admirable and lovely.

[..] Especially for writers from traditionally privileged demographics, the message seems to be that it’s a whole lot safer just to make all your characters from that same demographic, so you can be as hard on them as you care to be, and do with them what you like. Availing yourself of a diverse cast, you are not free; you have inadvertently invited a host of regulations upon your head, as if just having joined the EU. Use different races, ethnicities, and minority gender identities, and you are being watched.

Extra marks for the snide attack on the European Union – brilliant stuff.

As this blog has explained time and again, above all else social justice is not about fairness and equality but rather about power – specifically, the acquisition of power by the beady-eyed authoritarians who wield their weaponised victimhood and competitive tolerance as cudgels, granting them the power to determine what the rest of us can and cannot do or say. Television has already on the verge of falling to this long-running cultural siege, and the clear message coming from “progressive” reviewers in the literary community is that fiction is next.

Lionel Shriver has issued a timely warning to her fellow authors – let us hope that there is sufficient time and willpower to resist the final assault when it comes.

 

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Top Image: Guardian, Daniel Seed

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Who Is To Blame For Donald Trump?

A problem of American conservatism’s own making

In a recent show, Bill Maher took American conservatives to task for daring to suggest that responsibility for the rise Donald Trump rests with liberals.

Money quote:

Is political correctness out of control? Of course it is. I think I might have done some sort of show about that once [Maher was host of “Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher”]. I’ve been telling liberals when they had spinach on their teeth since 1993. I’ve ridiculed them for everything from offensive Halloween costumes to Islamophobia, from the self esteem movement to college campuses forgetting what free speech is. But none of that justifies embracing a dangerous buffoon, simply because his lack of political correctness is cathartic.

Trump is your problem. But somehow the party of personal responsibility doesn’t want to take responsibility for this one. Somewhere along the way, the slogan went from “Make America great again!” to “Look what you made me do!”

Amen to all of this. American leftists do indeed have much to answer for, but the rise of Donald Trump is not a problem primarily of their making.

It was the tri-cornered hat brigade whose admirable devotion to fiscal responsibility only materialised once Barack Obama took office, and then failed to force any meaningful change in Washington despite many of their number being elected to Congress in the 2010 midterms which, who have a case to answer. They were the Great White Hope whose inevitable failure formed the third strike against the political class.

It was not the Democratic Party which fanned the flames of birtherism (and then considered a nominee for president who was born in Canada) and refused to stand up to angry constituents demanding to see a birth certificate. That was all on the Republicans. Donald Trump led that effort, and nearly the entire GOP sat back with a tub of popcorn, thinking that the circus would benefit them politically. And so it did, until their attack dog finally broke the leash and turned on its handlers.

Has Barack Obama been a decidedly left-wing and in some (though by no means all) ways unimpressive president? Yes, he has. But is he a closet Communist, a secret Muslim planning to enforce hardline Islamism on America or a hopelessly incompetent buffoon? Absolutely not. He is a centre-left politician with undeniable skills, twice elected on a centre-left platform and governing according to a centre-left approach. But in their greed to quickly win back power without doing the hard work of making their own pitch to the voters more appealing, too many Republicans were willing to tolerate and sometimes actively participate in the anti-Obama hysteria for short term political gain.

If Democrats shoulder any responsibility for the danger that Donald Trump could soon be elected US president, it is only because they are now on the verge of nominating Hillary Clinton as their favoured successor – again, a highly competent technocrat and somebody with undeniable experience of executive power at the highest levels, but also somebody with no discernible core beliefs or values beyond the “bridges, not walls” buzzwords du jour.

Clinton’s political judgement has at times been…questionable. And she is dogged by a legitimate and troubling email scandal that cannot be dismissed as a mere partisan attack – to the extent that she is currently under investigation by the FBI. And that is to say nothing of the fact that the American political party supposedly the most committed to equal opportunity and social mobility is complicit in making the presidency a family affair. But none of this is remotely comparable to the danger which the Republican Party has unleashed on the country.

The warning signs were all there four years ago – a GOP primary debate stage filled with candidates like Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann, and whose few quasi intellectuals (like Newt Gingrich) were burdened with so much personal baggage that they were non-starters. Mitt Romney was the GOP’s best bet, but as their chosen candidate he was prone to gaffes and clangers (like the 47% remark) which helped ensure he would never reach the Oval Office. But did this generate any serious introspection as the GOP picked through the wreckage of the 2012 presidential election? No.

2015/16 saw a new slate of Republican candidates ranging from the well-meaning but vaguely ridiculous (Ben Carson) to the gormlessly patrician (Jeb Bush) to the empathy-devoid social conservative (Ted Cruz) to the not-quite-ready (Marco Rubio). No Paul Ryan. No promising new blood. The only candidate who fit the typical mould of a viable centre-right Republican candidate (John Kasich) never stood a chance, because he stubbornly refused to deal out sufficient quantities of crazy every time he opened his mouth.

Yes, the Democrats peddle in identity politics and often come down on the wrong side when it comes to favouring political correctness over freedom of speech, religion and behaviour. But it was the Republicans who opted to whip up (and profit from) blind fury about the state of the country instead of articulating a serious, coherent alternative. And in the end they were beaten at their own game. Why vote for the politician who smirks or winks when someone else is making ignorant, bigoted remarks when now you can vote for the real deal?

None of this means that the Democrats are not firmly capable of pushing Trump over the finishing line in November – as this blog has made clear. If their flawed presidential nominee doesn’t self-destruct on the launch pad before election day, the Left’s unbearable condescension toward those who disagree with them (you’ll see it earlier in the Bill Maher video, where he gloats about being the sole custodian of facts and truth) could well do the job.

But the Democrats and other American liberals did not cause this mess. Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for president because there is a gaping void where serious, credible conservative policies which speak to Americans from every social strata (and which do not reek so strongly of elitist self interest) should be.

Or as Bill Maher puts it:

The Tea Party is named after a tax revolt. And TEA stands for Taxed Enough Already. And yet two years after Obama lowered taxes on 95 percent of Americans, 90 percent of tea people believed he’d raised them.

So if you don’t know the first thing about the thing you claim is the most important thing to you, are you bright? And is it my fault for pointing out “No”?

And through that gaping void of ignorance rode the host of The Apprentice, a man with no ideology, no policies and no impulse control, a man who gets into Twitter feuds with D-list celebrities and believes that the globalisation of trade can be reduced to a zero-sum game in which America always “wins”.

Oh, there is lots of blame to be appointed for how we arrived in this position. But as Bill Maher says, the party of personal responsibility should stop behaving like a petulant child – an innocent victim on whom Donald Trump was arbitrarily and unfairly inflicted – and take the lion’s share of responsibility themselves.

 

Donald Trump - school

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