Tales From The Safe Space, Part 56 – ‘Compassionate’ Leftist Professors Bully Their Students

Professors are now free to bully and harass their students with impunity on American college campuses, but don’t worry – it is all done in the name of social justice

Things are getting seriously out of hand on the American college campus.

Watch this video, which depicts several professors – professors! – at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, circling around a conservative student who was recruiting for her campus chapter of Turning Point USA (TPUSA), a national conservative student organisation, taunting and insulting her.

Addressing TPUSA chapter president Katie Mullen, one graduate teaching assistant screams “Neo-fascist Becky right here! Becky the neo-fascist right here. Wants to destroy public schools, public universities, hates DACA kids” while stalking around holding a sign declaring “Just say no to neo-fascism!”.

Other professors and teaching assistants then join in a chant of “No KKK, no NRA” (because a white supremacist movement and an organisation set up to defend the Second Amendment are clearly comparably sinful).

The first professor – a middle aged white woman – then paces around shouting “Fight white nationalism! Fight white supremacy!”, yards from the TPUSA stall.

Campus reform reports:

Mullen told Campus Reform that a university administrator eventually came out and told her she could not table because she was in a free speech zone. Campus police were called, however, and after assessing the situation they informed Mullen that she had the right to stay and table.

“I was honestly shocked and scared. I was there for a couple hours and had no real issues but a couple debates,” Mullen told Campus Reform. “They came with posters screaming profanities at me and people passing by.”

“I didn’t even engage, but I kept tabling as I wasn’t going to let them silence me,” she continued, but conceded that after a while, “I got overwhelmed and scared and started to cry,” at which point the professors “screamed [that] I was crying for attention.”

“It shocks me that these are professors that are supposed to teach and support students and they were bullying me,” she remarked.

And what was Katie Mullen’s crime? Simply recruiting for her lawful university society and handing out literature with slogans such as “Socialism Sucks!”. And for this transgression against the new illiberal order on campus, these professors, these supposed custodians and mentors of young minds, felt it appropriate to bully Mullen to the point where she started to cry.

Watch this video and then tell me that the social justice and identity politics movement is one based on love and tolerance.

No, this is evil. There is no other word, and following a recent wake-up call I have resolved not to mince my words any more. These professors are behaving in an evil fashion, and their hearts are clearly filled with something dark and malicious, not something benevolent and empathetic.

Note the professor shouting about white supremacy. She is doing what all white members of the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics are required to do to remain part of the movement – namely debase herself, publicly acknowledge her own supposed white privilege and be seen to be agitating against all forms of oppression at all times.

Elliot Kaufman made this point in the National Review, with reference to the ACLU’s recent craven capitulation before the idol of identity politics:

But that may be what it takes to be a good “ally,” the term the Left has developed for white supporters of social-justice movements. Their job is to subordinate themselves to non-white “marginalized peoples,” and help those peoples to be heard. As Mia McKenzie, a queer Black feminist who founded the popular website Black Girl Dangerous, has written, the key to being a good ally is to “shut up and listen.”

Almost every article about how to be an ally begins with some version of this advice. Ben & Jerry’s created a list of eight steps. The first two are “It’s not about you” and “We must listen up.” This reflects the ideology of the identity-politics Left: Who you are, and where that places you on the hierarchy of victims, determines the merit accorded to your views.

These movements will take what help they can get, but whiteness can never escape from the doghouse. It will always be suspect. White allies, many in the movement worry, will always be insufficiently invested in the cause because of their whiteness. For them social justice can be a game, whereas for truly marginalized “people of color,” it is real-life. It is for this reason that white leftists are constantly being “called out” for stepping out of line or “crowding out marginalized voices” with their own — that is, for claiming to know better than people who are more oppressed.

The only way to prove oneself as an ally is to demonstrate absolute devotion and selflessness; for an ally, Dhimmitude will always be the name of the game. And the best way to demonstrate that is to defer to “marginalized” social-justice warriors even when it makes no sense to do so.

And now the desperate quest to retain one’s place within the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics is leading professors to publicly bully and shame their own students in an hysterical attempt to prove their woke bona fides.

Note that even if these University of Nebraska-Lincoln professors were correct to harass one of their students to the point of tears simply for holding different political views – and they most certainly were not – their behaviour is still counterproductive, because they are devaluing the definition of “white supremacy” to such an extent that it becomes meaningless.

When tremulous social justice warriors see white supremacy in garden variety conservatism, or even being marked down for bad spelling or grammar, then what word do we have left to describe lynchings, cross-burnings, assaults and discrimination? And when grown adult professors behave as though fascism is returning to the United States, they magnify a serious but containable issue out of all proportion.

But none of these considerations matter to the bully-professors. These leftist academics must now continually prove their allyship by prostrating themselves and persecuting dissenting students in servile and fearful hope that they will win some small scrap of favour from their new masters, the leftist SJW activists – particularly those who claim some exalted position on the hierarchy of victimhood.

And depressingly, the spineless academics are increasingly willing to do so, knowing that the social justice activists will soon come for them unless they taunt and terrify an innocent student and commit other similar acts of public fealty to the movement.

In 56+ posts on the subject of campus censorship in the name of social justice, I have typically reported instances of angry leftist students bullying their professors and university administrators into fearful compliance with their childish demands. But now it seems that some of these professors are turning around and redirecting that bullying right back at students who dare to express heretical, out-of-favour political opinions.

May God help them to see the error of their ways.

 

Katie Mullen - University of Nebraska-Lincoln - Turning Point USA - professors bully campus conservative

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Exhuming McCarthy: Corporate Social Justice And The Google Memo Saga

Google diversity memo - free speech - social justice

A software engineer at Google published an internal memo questioning the current diversity strategy and warning that the company was becoming an ideological echo chamber where dissenters felt intimidated about expressing their views. Google immediately validated these concerns by firing him.

One wonders exactly what Google would have to do before senior executives at the company are forced to admit that their corporate motto, “Don’t Be Evil”, is little more than a bitter joke.

The company has been in the headlines the past few days thanks to a “scandal” precipitated when software engineer James Damore published an internal memo questioning Google’s approach to diversity in the workplace.

Entitled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber”, the memo alleges that “differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership”, before pointing out that a free discussion cannot take place because:

“when it comes to diversity and inclusion, Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence. This silence removes any checks against encroaching extremist and authoritarian policies.”

The memo goes on to consider various non-bias related causes of the gender gap in tech. At all times, James Damore is at pains to emphasise that he is not suggesting that all men or all women share the various traits under discussion, merely that there are indisputably different distributions of preferences and abilities between men and women which might account for some or all of the gender representation gap in the industry. Damore emphasises that “many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions”.

Damore then goes on to propose a number of potential ways to reduce the gender representation gap without relying on methods that could be described as affirmative action, including a genuine embracing of part-time work, rewarding cooperative as well as competitive behaviour and striving to make it more socially acceptable for men to free themselves from expectations of the male gender role:

Feminism has made great progress in freeing women from the female gender role, but men are still very much tied to the male gender role. If we, as a society, allow men to be more “feminine,” then the gender gap will shrink, although probably because men will leave tech and leadership for traditionally “feminine” roles.

Read the whole memo here – it is only ten pages in length, and quite unlike the monstrous manifesto that it has been portrayed as by a hopelessly biased media.

As it happens, I agree with some of Damore’s premises but not his conclusion. I was swayed partly by this article by Josh Barro in Business Insider, which posits that if there are indeed natural gender imbalances in tech because of differences in aptitude and interest, it still behoves corporations to guard against the possibility that hiring managers, expecting that women will be less suited for certain roles, then subconsciously discriminate against female candidates.

Barro explains how this phenomenon might manifest itself:

  • A widespread assumption that “most” of the good job candidates will be men may lead to stereotyping in the hiring process, with hiring managers more likely to assume that men are good candidates and overlook qualified women.

  • Women may self-select out of the field because they internalize the stereotype that it is “for men,” and the stereotype may also make men overconfident in their fitness for the field and more inclined to pursue employment in it.

  • A male majority in the field is likely to be excessively self-reinforcing, as research shows that hiring managers tend to use the qualitative and “culture fit” aspects of hiring to hire candidates who resemble themselves, and most of the hiring managers in a male-dominated field will be men.

  • As seen in several high-profile cases in Silicon Valley, male-dominated management structures may foster cultures of pervasive workplace sexism and harassment that drive women out of the field.

Barro goes on to explain:

The memo misses this entirely, jumping from a claim that gender differences in interests and aptitude “may in part explain” the strong male skew in Google’s engineering groups to a conclusion that specific efforts at Google to recruit and retain women and underrepresented minority candidates are counterproductive and should be ended.

For example, the author complains about “hiring practices which can effectively lower the bar for ‘diversity’ candidates by decreasing the false negative rate.” That is, he’s upset that women candidates get a second look when men don’t.

But this is something you would absolutely want to do to prevent a phenomenon described above: hiring-manager biases and stereotypes leading to a lopsidedness by gender in hiring that exceeds the actual lopsidedness by gender in the qualified candidate pool. It makes sense to be extra certain that women who got screened out were rejected on the basis of qualifications and aptitude, not something else.

These are sound points, some of which I did not stop to fully appreciate when originally penning my response – I’m glad that I waited 24 hours and did some wider reading before hitting “publish” on this.

Of course, there was no such reflection and nuance to be found in the mainstream media, whose reporting might well leave you thinking that Damore had rewritten Mein Kampf for the 21st century and published a bitter screed attacking women, ethnic minorities and LGBT people.

CNN certainly took this hysterical approach:

“Aren’t biologically fit for tech jobs”? CNN should be ashamed of themselves for this blatant misrepresentation, if only they still had the capacity to feel shame. Of course, James Damore actually said no such thing. One can agree or disagree with the various premises and conclusions in the memo, but on the whole it was a thoughtful, measured and articulate reflection on a very topical issue. Rather than firing him, Google should have been proud to employ somebody who raised the issue respectfully with the aim of improving the company.

But apparently the memo has taken a grave psychological toll on Google’s “woke” and sensitive workforce. Now we hear that several female Google employees apparently failed to show up to work the following day because they were too distressed about the contents of the memo.

From NPR:

Another software engineer who used to work for Google, Kelly Ellis, says some women who still work at the company stayed home on Monday because the memo made them “uncomfortable going back to work.”

Seriously? What reason had they to feel uncomfortable? The memo was the creation of one employee – an employee who was publicly chastised by Google’s Head of Diversity, who hinted strongly that the memo “crossed the line” and violated the company’s code of conduct – and who was later fired from his job. It is hardly as though Google had suddenly been invaded by a swarm of alt-right campaigners or men’s rights activists. The corporation is overwhelmingly and publicly set against Damore’s position, to the extent that they excommunicated him for his beliefs.

The only person for whom Google proved to be a hostile work environment here is James Damore. And the only reason for any employee to stay home from work claiming distress was to parade their conspicuous victimhood and revel in their own (largely) imaginary oppression.

When I was eleven years old and in my first year of secondary school, I was queuing for the school tuck shop when some massive neanderthal of an inbred fifth-year kid shoved me out of the line and called me a nigger. And yet somehow I managed to board the school bus and show up to class on time the next day. And I was a child. Now these are intelligent, grown-ass women working for one of the most prestigious firms in the world, and we are supposed to believe that they are so fragile, so wounded by a MEMO of all things that they weren’t able to do their jobs. Again, I ask: are you for real?

This is why I say that social justice is a cancer on society. A cancer. Not just because it suppresses the free speech rights of ideological dissenters and creates a truly chilling atmosphere in which a significant portion of the population is cowed into sullen, fearful silence for fear of losing everything if they dare to express themselves reasonably and honestly. Not just because of that, but also because the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics is turning fully grown adults with jobs, mortgages, credit cards and often kids of their own into little more than oversized, perpetually vulnerable babies. It poisons the body politic and fractures society into separate warring special interest or “victimhood” groups, all jostling for attention, sympathy and affirmative action. Social justice activism is corroding our society from within.

There is no good reason for anyone to be traumatised by the Google memo, even if they disagree with its contents. One can disagree with the either the premises or the conclusion of the memo’s main argument, but it should be possible to have a civil discussion without acting as though real physical or mental harm has been done by the mere expressing of an opinion.

Anybody smart enough to work at Google should be capable of articulating a response to the “offensive” memo if they disagree with it strongly enough. Moreover, they should actively welcome the opportunity to debate these ideas so as to win over more supporters. That’s how social causes have traditionally advanced themselves, often with great success and rapidity.

But now this is apparently too much of a burden. Now the regressive Left is unwilling to do the hard work of argument and persuasion, preferring instead to push the “fast forward” button and speed ahead to an imagined time when everybody agrees with their social justice dogma. And since this ideological consensus does not yet exist (and God willing never will), the Left must instead artificially enforce it by clamping down on contrary opinions and making dissenters feel so fearful that they simply cease to express themselves.

David French makes this very point in the National Review:

The primary victims of this new culture of groupthink are social conservatives and other dissenters from identity politics. In field after field and company after company, conservatives understand that the price of their employment is silence. Double standards abound, and companies intentionally try to keep work environments “safe” from disagreement. Radical sexual and racial politics are given free rein. Disagree — and lose your job.

It takes a person of rare constitution and moral courage to speak up. And that’s precisely how the far Left likes it. After all, what value is there in disagreement? They’ve figured out that elusive path to racial, gender, and sexual justice, and disagreement only distracts. It does worse than distract. It wounds.

But take heart, conservatives. It’s not all bleak. After all, the government is highly unlikely to persecute you for your speech. And if you want to succeed in cutting-edge businesses or enjoy equal opportunity in the academy, you do have one good option. You can shut your mouth.

You can shut your mouth. Which is precisely what the social justice brigade wants to happen – we have recently seen reports that various employees at Google are maintaining personal “blacklists” of other staff with whom they will refuse to work or consider for promotion because they have supposedly failed to publicly embrace the diversity agenda with sufficient enthusiasm.

One such boastful threat reads:

“While Google appears to be doing very little to quell the hostile voices that exists inside the company, I want those hostile voices to know:

I will never, ever hire hire/transfer you onto my team. Ever. I don’t care if you are perfect fit of technically excellent or whatever

I will actively not work with you, even to the point where your team or product is impacted by this decision. I’ll communicate why to your manager if it comes up.”

“You’re being blacklisted by people at companies outside of Google. You might not have been aware of this, but people know, people talk. There are always social consequences.”

And it’s not just Google. I logged in to LinkedIn the other day to check my notifications and was immediately barraged with tens of status updates from various connections working at a variety of large corporations, bragging about all of the amazing things that their firms are doing to celebrate Pride month. Now from a personal perspective I have no problem with that. But if I was a social conservative who takes seriously the responsibility to treat everybody with respect but feels unable to endorse certain social movements for religious reasons, I would be very nervous right now.

Why? Because more and more, employees are exhorted to make explicit their “allyship” of various designated identity groups, or otherwise endorse the aims of the broader social justice movement. We saw this in Britain last week with the National Trust furore, where volunteers were prohibited from serving in customer-facing roles unless they agreed to wear Pride ribbons (eventually the National Trust backed down under public pressure).

The bar has been moved. Mere tolerance is no longer sufficient – increasingly we must be seen to actively affirm and celebrate every lifestyle choice, gender identity or dubious fad which falls under the auspices of the social justice movement.

This is incredibly dangerous. The idea of our employers becoming auxiliary parents to us is as insidious as the idea that the state should play this role in our lives. In fact, the current moves by many corporations to enlist their employees as agents of social change on top of their day to day responsibilities is incredibly paternalistic, almost like something out of the early Industrial Revolution, when benevolent (or not so benevolent) industrialists housed their factory workers, provided for their basic welfare but also carefully regulated their leisure activities and social lives to uphold moral standards.

As I wrote yesterday:

Whereas a decade ago one could reliably find leftists railing against the power of corporations and the supposedly unfair, coercive power balance between employer and employee, now those very same leftists are screeching that big corporations are not doing enough to indoctrinate their employees with the new social justice dogma.

Of course, vesting corporations with such power is in fact highly dangerous and quite likely unconstitutional, particularly when lawsuits start to emerge where employees allege that their employer has pressured them to violate their own conscience when it comes to matters outside the workplace.

If this trend continues, we will soon reach a point where social conservatives, social justice agnostics and anybody else who fails to actively affirm progressive dogma becomes as unwelcome in the corporate world as those suspected of communist sympathies were in 1950s Hollywood. That is the direction in which we are headed.

The rejection of truth in favour of total ideological conformity. Groupthink, paranoia and blacklists. McCarthyism is being exhumed and reanimated before our eyes in the year 2017 – this time not by anti-communists, social conservatives or the religious right, but rather by the so-called progressive Left.

 

 

UPDATE: 9 August, 23:00 BST

Curiously, nobody ever seems to ask why the male to female ratio is so skewed in other professions such as steelworking, mining, forestry or construction, careers which are often less glamorous, more dangerous and entail greater physical labour. It is almost as though gender equality activists tacitly admit that there are in fact differences between men and women which make one or other gender better suited (though by no means exclusively drawn) to certain careers. And if we accept this in the case of physical labour, why not also with mental labour – other than the fact that to even ask the question is now considered heresy?

And why do we only care about diversity in high-status non-manual jobs? Could it possibly be because the world of social justice largely consists of a self-appointed priesthood of middle and upper-middle class people talking exclusively to one another about their First World Problems and busily confirming their own biases, while working class people are too busy trying to get by to worry about whether their employer is sufficiently nurturing of their chosen identity?

 

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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 54 – Mr. Prager’s Opus

Dennis Prager

When a prominent conservative speaker cannot conduct a symphony orchestra without attracting protest from social justice warriors in the arts world, we should take note; the regressive left will not rest until they have driven all conservative thought criminals from the public square

Conservative author and talk radio host Dennis Prager recounts a disturbing tale in the National Review this week.

Some background: for many years, Dennis Prager – a long time classical music aficionado – has conducted various provincial symphony orchestras in the United States, indulging his passion while raising much-needed funds for those orchestras and introducing new people to the world of classical music. As an amateur, Prager has never accepted a fee for conducting; he purely does so out of love of the music and a desire to introduce classical music to a wider audience.

These events actually look really fun – Prager participates only in the first half of the concerts, conducting a symphony and then doing a Leonard Bernstein-style “Young People’s Concert” format where he breaks down the symphony under discussion, revealing the inner workings of the music and interviewing members of the orchestra to get their insights. The second half is then conducted by the orchestra’s usual music director, a kind of 50/50 split between amateur and professional. In short, what’s not to like?

Anyhow, Prager was recently invited by the music director of the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra to perform Haydn’s symphony no. 51 with that ensemble at the iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Prager has a particular affinity for the music of Haydn, as Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra music director Guido Lamell notes:

“On his radio program he often talks about the glories of music. His bumper music that introduced his program every day was a Haydn symphony in F major. He has studied this composer more deeply than anyone I have met. We classical musicians saw then in Dennis and continue to see the greatest and most vocal supporter of classical music on earth.”

Therefore this would seem like the perfect fit – a rarely heard Haydn symphony conducted by someone recognised by other musicians as an expert in the field, performed in a true world-class venue. This invitation must have been a dream come true for the amateur conductor, who called it “one of the great honors of my life”.

And that’s when the story took an ominous turn:

About a month ago, however, a few members of the orchestra, supported by some Santa Monica city officials, decided to lead a campaign to have me disinvited.

As I said, this is a new low for the illiberal Left: It is not enough to prevent conservatives from speaking; it is now necessary to prevent conservatives from appearing even when not speaking. Conservatives should not be even be allowed to make music.

To its great credit, the board of directors of the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra, composed of individuals of all political outlooks, has completely stood by their conductor and his invitation to me.

But the attempt to cancel me continues. It is being organized by three members of the orchestra, each of whom has refused to play that night. Readers will not be surprised to learn that two of the three organizers are college professors. Michael Chwe is a professor of political science at UCLA, and Andrew Apter is a professor of history and director of the African Studies Center at UCLA.

In an open letter to the symphony’s members, the three wrote: “A concert with Dennis Prager would normalize hatred and bigotry. . . . ”

And why?

Examples of my hatred and bigotry include my belief that in giving a child over for adoption, adoption agencies should prefer a married man and woman before singles and before same-sex couples. Another example – my favorite – is my having said that, if there is no God, ethics are subjective, will offend atheist members of the orchestra.

This is insane.

Music is supposed to bring people together, to bridge even bitter differences of opinion. The musicians of Daniel Barenboim’s acclaimed West-Eastern Divan Orchestra – comprised of musicians from countries not always on the best of terms, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Israel – manage to sit down next to one another and perform amazing, transcendental music together. I know – I heard them play Beethoven and Tchaikovsky with great authority at the BBC Proms in London.

And yet three American musicians, including two coddled academics from UCLA, feel unable to perform Haydn with a fellow countryman because of relatively minor political differences, primarily relating to Prager’s social conservatism. Because his presence would allegedly cause them, or various other people for whom they claim to advocate, some grave and irreparable offence.

This reflects so badly on the individuals concerned that there are almost no words to describe it. What wouldn’t the members of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra give if the only point of issue between their respective countries, between Israel and Palestine, was a debate over adoption laws or a philosophical question about whether or not an objective ethical code can exist without God? The ancient grudges, resentments and enmities which divide the Middle East are far greater than those which divide Red and Blue America, and yet it is in the cloistered halls of American pseudo-liberalism where true intolerance can now be found.

More:

Not to be outdone by these professors, a former mayor of Santa Monica and current councilmember, Kevin McKeown, wrote: “I personally will most certainly not be attending a concert featuring a bigoted hate-monger. The judgement (or lack of) shown in inviting Prager may affect future community support for the Symphony.”

This sounds an awful lot like a threat, and a very thinly-veiled one at that. This is worse even than the heckler’s veto, deployed with such success by Social Justice Warriors, Antifa protesters and others to shut down speech or events which they do not want to proceed for ideological reasons. Such thuggery as we have repeatedly seen on university campuses is bad enough, but now we apparently have a serving city councilmember threatening the funding or “community support” of a local symphony orchestra unless that ensemble bends to her will and disinvites a fellow musician.

I take this story quite personally because like Dennis Prager – albeit in a far, far smaller capacity – I too have attempted to support the arts by giving time and financial support to make the amazingly rewarding heritage of classical music more accessible to people who otherwise might not have had the opportunity, or even the idea, to go to an orchestral concert. The thought that one day I might be banned from doing so because of the political beliefs I hold is as unbearable as it is outrageous.

I have a passing familiarity with Mr. Prager’s biography, work and political positions, some of which I agree with and some of which I do not. But that doesn’t matter – there should be no ideological or political test when it comes to participating in the artistic life of one’s community or country.

I wrote on this same subject over three years ago, when Russian maestro and then principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, Valery Gergiev, was facing calls to resign because of his pro-government stance on Ukraine. Music is one thing that we all have in common, one of the best bridge-building tools that we have. If the New York Philharmonic can go on tour to North Korea then a couple of coddled academics from California can swallow their tremulous objections and make music with Mr. Prager for sixty minutes.

I feel tremendous sympathy for Dennis Prager as he attempts to pursue his hobby and give back to society while under assault by the intolerant regressive left. But let us be under no illusion – stories like this will only become more common, not less, until the Right regroups and finally stands up to the Left’s assault on freedom of thought, expression and speech. Today it may be a high-profile talk radio host and author who finds himself being hounded out of his life’s passion by censorious opponents of his politics; tomorrow it could be any of us.

Whether you have written a blog, attended a march, donated to an election campaign, posted something political on social media or expressed yourself in a thousand other ways and mediums, we all leave a trail of evidence in our wake which can later be used to accuse you of thoughtcrime, declare that your renegade opinions represent a threat to the mental or physical safety of others, and ultimately see you excommunicated from whatever it is that you like to do the most – your dream job, your favourite hobby, your book club, your gym. Even your family.

This is where it’s going unless we begin fighting back – not just making snide jokes about SJWs and liberal tears, but actually going out and forcefully making the case for freedom of expression and diversity of political opinion. We need to win the argument or risk being silenced forever in all the ways that matter most.

For the love of music, for the protection of our freedom of expression and as a means of preventing society from fracturing any further into two Americas divided by mutual incomprehension, Mr. Prager’s Opus must be heard.

 

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Left Wing Self-Awareness Award, Part 2

Samuel Hooper - Left Wing Self-Awareness Award - British Politics - Socialists

Jon Ashworth sees the light

More credit where credit is due to Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, who took a break from leading public worship of Our Blessed NHS (genuflect) to encourage Labour activists to see Conservative voters as potential hearts and minds to be changed rather than unconsionable, amoral degenerates.

From the Guardian:

The shadow health secretary has urged Labour to see Conservative voters as the party’s “friends and neighbours and relatives” rather than portraying those who are attracted to Theresa May’s offer as the enemy.

[..] He claimed that while there was no intention by Labour figures to portray Conservative voters in a negative light, the “febrile world of Twitter and social media can sometimes inadvertently convey that”.

Ashworth said his message was to stress: “Those who vote Conservative aren’t our enemies. They are our friends and neighbours and relatives. We need to be convincing them to switch to Labour where we can.

“They are people who live in our communities – we need to be persuading them as well as ensuring that those who voted Labour in past elections are sticking with us again.”

It’s a little bit cheeky of Jon Ashworth to suggest that there has never been any intention by Labour figures to portray Conservative voters in a negative light. The mere fact that prominent Labour politicians and activists choose to argue in such stridently moral terms about left-wing policies being altruistic and right-wing policies being motivated by base self-interest makes a clear implication that Tory voters are morally deficient – there simply is no other inference to be drawn from the rhetoric.

One might also consider the official Labour party leaflets distributed in the recent Copeland by-election, warning that a Conservative victory would literally “cost mums their children”.

The Guardian reported at the time:

A graphic Labour pamphlet warns voters in Copeland that a Tory victory in the by-election will “cost mums their children” in an open letter aimed at highlighting the risks of NHS cuts in the constituency.

The handwritten letter in support of Labour candidate Gillian Troughton, a St John ambulance driver and former hospital doctor, is from local mother Paula Townsley. The leaflet is the second posted through letterboxes by Labour activists to contain dire warnings about the closures of maternity services at West Cumberland hospital.

Accusing conservative voters of aiding and abetting in the death of babies doesn’t seem particularly inadvertent. On the contrary, it sounds like a deliberate attempt to make conservative policies seem not simply misguided and erroneous (as conservatives believe left-wing policies to be) but deeply, profoundly wicked. And presumably this election pamphlet was signed off by somebody with at least some authority within the Labour Party.

That being said, Jon Ashworth’s clear and explicit exhortation to Labour activists encouraging them to see the humanity in conservative voters (rather than Evil Tory vermin to be avoided or exterminated) can only be a good thing.

Not everybody agrees, though. A below-the-line commenter over at LabourList retorts:

What troubles me is the sacrifices in our values we have to make in order to appeal to Tory voters. What aspects of our manifesto would we have to dump? And how would that go down with our core vote?

None! At this point, you don’t have to make any sacrifices to your values. Just stop treating the other side as though they are pantomime villains, and you will be at least 30 percent of the way there. Dare to imagine that your opponent’s conservatism is borne of a legitimate moral framework and a sincere belief in what is best for society and the country, just as you believe that left-wing policies are the panacea. That’s all you have to do at this stage!

When it comes to toxic left-wing activism, it is the grassroots that do 80 percent the damage – on social media and through their coarse and vulgar protests. Jon Ashworth is correct to say that it is not usually Labour MPs themselves who are most responsible for whipping up anti-conservative hatred – or at least they tend not to do so while the cameras are rolling. Therefore Labour politicians have a responsibility to warn their more hot-blooded activists that treating Theresa May’s really very moderate centrist government as some kind of evil Nazi-like regime to be “resisted” is counterproductive and highly offputting to those who vote Conservative in good conscience.

Jon Ashworth’s conversion to the cause is therefore most welcome.

More, please.

 

Jonathan Ashworth - Labour Party - shadow health secretary

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Left Wing Self-Awareness Award, Part 1

Samuel Hooper - Left Wing Self-Awareness Award - British Politics - Socialists

An award to honour the courageous few on the British Left who have come to realise that blindly screaming “Tory Scum!” at half the country might not be the surest path to victory, and who instead risk life and limb (or at least their careers) to propose speaking to conservatives as though they are human beings

Credit where credit is due to Peter Ormerod, who foresees the British Left’s imminent collision with reality on June 8, writing in the Guardian:

It seems many on the liberal left are determined to repeat the mistakes of the 2015 general election, the EU referendum and the US presidential race. There is a widespread failure – perhaps even a refusal – to understand the reasons May and the Conservative party are so popular. Until we try to do so, we will always lose.

We will break this cycle only by condemning less and understanding more. If the appeal of May’s Tory party eludes us, we surely need first to appreciate that we are relatively unusual, and then try and see what all those others see. This is not to say that they are right and we are wrong, or to ditch any of our principles; only that May evidently represents something that huge numbers of people in our country want, and that it is worth our while to analyse that and take it seriously.

Only then can we win back the people whose support we need. This is something the New Labour project, for all its flaws, understood: we must meet people where they are, not where we would like them to be. Only then can we take them with us. It just takes some emotional imagination on our part. And this brings us to the heart of our problem.

For all our supposed touchy-feeliness, many on the liberal left seem to forget that elections are fought not only on the grounds of reason but also on the battlefields of emotion. It should be obvious that responding with snark and hostility to people with whom we disagree just raises defences and entrenches beliefs: after all, we know how we react when we are mocked and insulted. But we should also have learned by now that facts in themselves are often unpersuasive too. If we have not grasped this from experience, then there is plenty of scientific research to make that clear. We can recite statistic after statistic, pointing to failing after failing, and they’ll just bounce off our intended target because Theresa May gives them a sense of confidence that Jeremy Corbyn does not. You can win a hundred arguments and change not a single mind.

This is also good, on the role of the media in influencing public opinion – one of this blog’s pet peeves:

We can believe that these millions of people are wrong, but we cannot say they are stupid. Nor are they all zombies, or all brainwashed, or all unenlightened. And it’s not enough to blame “the media”, either: newspapers are commercial operations and if the public mood changes, the media often changes with it. This was the case in 1997 and continues to be the case today: it is why, say, the political position of the Scottish Sun may differ from that of its English counterpart. It would obviously be naive to underestimate the extent to which some newspapers shape public opinion, but these publications would not exist if they failed to reflect it.

Peter Ormerod’s conclusion? Listen more, judge less. Meet the people where they are, not where the Left would like them to be. Dare to imagine that a political disagreement may be borne not out of a catastrophic moral failure on the part of the other person, but from a legitimate different perspective on life, one worth exploring and understanding if not necessarily accepting.

One can still quibble with parts of Ormerod’s article – despite the general thrust being correct, he still manages to accuse conservative-leaning voters of irrationality in the opening paragraph. But to focus on likely rhetorical slips like this would be churlish, particularly when so few others on the British Left – either among the political leadership, the commentariat or the grassroots – are willing to be so introspective or make such a concession.

Ormerod admits that it will take a “concerted effort” from his ideological colleagues to “lay off the sneering”, and right now I’m just not sure that the appetite is there. Certainly not before the general election on June 8. For better or worse, the two main parties will butt heads on election day more or less screaming their current war cries – “strong and stable leadership!” from the Conservatives, and something about the Evil Tories being worse than Hitler from the Left. The only question remaining is precisely how many voters this petulant strategy will manage to alienate by polling day.

There will then doubtless be a period following Theresa May’s victory – as there was when David Cameron vanquished Ed Miliband in 2015, breaking the hearts of many a Tumblr Milifandom blogger – when the red mist descends even deeper over the British Left. We will hear about how the stupid working classes voted against their own interests for Goebbels to be prime minister, and for the government to wage a deliberate holocaust of the sick, the disabled and the otherwise perpetually “vulnerable” (a term which the British Left have conveniently extended to cover over half the country).

But every such outburst is only a further step taken in the wrong direction; one which must be re-trodden when the fever cools, the temper abates and the Left finally decides that they want to make up with the British people rather than continue to bitterly rage at them.

As things stand, though, every angry leftist outburst on Twitter, every snarky and sanctimonious meme shared on Facebook, every slanderous anti-conservative status proudly shared, every “Tories are vermin” t-shirt proudly worn around the streets of London, every weepy Huffington Post article about how some precious little “citizen of the world” can no longer bear to look at the parents who raised and sacrificed for them simply because they dared to vote for Brexit – all of this must be paid for in a lump.

Peter Ormerod is one of the few to sense the impending crash before it takes place. Perhaps, before long, he will be joined by others.

 

Bankers Toffs And Tory Scum - General Election 2015 - London Protests - Downing Street

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