Oh, So Now You’re A Liberal? Part 2 – Maajid Nawaz Calls Out The Illiberal British Left

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Maajid Nawaz warns about the rise of the “Control Left”, an authoritarian tendency which has left liberalism and liberal values far behind

Recently, this blog took to task those on the authoritarian Left who have reacted to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump by falsely draping themselves in the clothes of liberalism and hysterically mourning an idealised liberal past which they did as much as anybody else to knife in the back.

In that piece, I made the point that people who only weeks ago could be found arguing for greater censorship, the expansion of “hate crime” legislation, trigger warnings, safe spaces, higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco, national ID cards, longer pre-trial detention periods and even more intrusive government surveillance have absolutely no business calling themselves “liberal”.

Though the authoritarian Right are by no means innocent in this regard, it must be acknowledged that most of the recent assaults on liberty and liberalism have come from the Left, in America as well as Britain.

Picking up on this thread, Maajid Nawaz hits the nail on the head on his LBC talk radio show yesterday:

I suspect that the most vocal elements of the Left – and I don’t mean every single person who sympathises with left-wing views, let me make that very clear, I’m talking about the organised left, the most vocal elements of our Left, and the Left in the form of Momentum who have taken over the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn – my view is that that Left, today’s Left, today’s active, organised Left is no longer liberal.

What do I mean by that? Well let’s look at a few things that I don’t consider to be liberal. Let’s look at censorship, let’s look at being “post-factual”, let’s look at violence being seen as an option, let’s look at prioritising group identity over individual rights. None of these four traits are liberal.

Censorship is not liberal, so when today’s organised Left begins organising in campuses and across colleges across the nation, across the world, and says things like “you cannot say that here, this is a safe space, we will exclude you from speaking because your views offend us”, when they choose to take offence, when they become more sensitive, and so sensitive in fact that they want to shut debate down simply because they don’t like what somebody is saying, that’s not a liberal approach. A liberal will always prioritise free speech over offence.

What about being post-factual? Well I remember – and I hope many of you remember – at the beginning of this year, the way in which mass sex attacks were reported in the German city of Cologne. And what was known then as the liberal press actively conspired to cover up that news. Facts were known and they were not reported because they didn’t want to be accused of being racist. The German state television station had to come out and openly apologise, days later, when they realised that this story was not one that they could cover up. So being post-factual is also not being liberal.

What about considering violence as an option? When you have the Shadow Chancellor of the UK Labour Party, John McDonnell, being caught on video saying that it’s okay to riot, it’s okay to destroy property and to ruin people’s lives and their private property, that’s not liberal. That may be anarchist, it may be revolutionary hard-left socialist, as John McTernan suggested, but it isn’t liberal.

When people are prioritising group identity over individual rights, saying things like “kill all white men”, saying things like “black people can’t be racist because racism is about power and only white men have power” – Diane Abbott says that. Well I’m sorry Diane Abbott MP, go and walk into any council estate and speak to a white working class lad and try and have a rational, reasonable conversation with that young white working class lad and tell him that he has more power than you, and that’s why you can’t be racist towards him. Complete and utter rubbish. But when group identity is prioritised over individual rights in that way, when leftist activists think it’s okay to say “kill all white men” and that that’s somehow an empowering statement, when they think it’s okay to be racist to all white people as a group, and think somehow that’s what it means to be progressive, erasing the individual, stereotyping entire groups, that is not liberal.

So I have taken the view that this behaviour – censorship on the organised Left, post-factual behaviour, violence being seen as an option and prioritising group identity over individual rights, that isn’t liberal. And like the alt-right has emerged, we’ve now got this new group – it’s called the Control Left. They want to control our lives, control what we think, control how we behave, control how we even feel. And control what we think. That is not liberal. That is the Control Left.

So my message to you, Control Left, is stop telling us you are liberal. My message to the press: stop describing them as the liberal Left, they are no longer liberal. Call them for what they are – Control Left.

A devastating excoriation of the modern Left. And while I’m not sure that Nawaz’s preferred phrase “the Control Left” will catch on, it does describe quite plainly their new strategy of bringing about change not through persuasion but by coercion and force.

Maajid Nawaz has cause to be particularly aware of the new illiberalism gripping the Left, having recently been singled out by the fabled Southern Poverty Law Center in America for supposedly promoting anti-Islamic extremism, a ludicrous accusation given that Nawaz is himself a Muslim. (Nawaz’s real sin was to call for moderate Islam to take more responsibility for its violent, fundamentalist offshoots at a time when much of the Left is furiously pretending that “there is nothing Islamic about ISIS”).

We now need many more people to summon the courage and willingness to tell truth to power exhibited by Maajid Nawaz. It’s all very well having dyed-in-the-wool conservative, libertarian or conservatarian journalists and bloggers such as myself ranting on about the many ways that the modern Left has left liberalism behind. But we can only carry the message so far – since it is we who are most often the targets of this censorship and identity politics, it is too easy for the Control Left to accuse us of acting in our own self-interest rather than the national interest.

Therefore it is vital that more left-wing liberals like Maajid Nawaz stand up and call out these authoritarian tendencies, declaring “not in my name” to the censorship, bullying and control freakery of the modern Left. This is in their interest as much as anyone else’s – with the election of Donald Trump in America, we have seen that peddling a constant diet of authoritarian identity politics eventually provokes a similar identity politics backlash among those groups not marked out for special favour by the Left.

So for the country’s sake as much as their own, those on the Left must learn to renounce authoritarianism and seek to achieve their political agenda through persuasion rather than coercion. To continue on their present course is to plant the seeds of their own destruction, as well as ours.

 

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Oh, So Now You’re A Liberal?

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The vote for Brexit and Donald Trump’s presidential election victory seems to have wrongly convinced an entire army of snarling, leftist authoritarians that they are actually the virtuous defenders of liberalism

Is anybody else getting mighty sick of the constant parade of left-wing, Big Government-supporting authoritarians suddenly rushing to cloak themselves in the veil of “liberalism” as they struggle to process what they see as successive defeats in the EU referendum and the US presidential election?

I can’t think of a word that has been more overused by pundits since everybody got together a couple of years ago and decided that the related N-word (neoliberalism) was this season’s hottest fashion statement, and started accusing everybody whose views they dislike of being an Evil Neoliberal, as though it were some devastatingly intellectual insult.

Here’s the FT, weeping into their cornflakes about the supposed death-throes of liberalism:

Mr Trump’s victory, coming after the Brexit referendum vote in Britain, looks like another grievous blow to the liberal international order. Mr Trump must decide, by his actions and words, whether he intends to contribute to the great unravelling, at incalculable cost to the west.

And the Independent:

Democracy is changing, and not for the better, but those who believe in liberal values, tolerance and protecting the environment can learn from this setback and fight back.

The Independent, of course, promotes liberal tolerance through its courteous and magnanimous treatment of those who dare to dissent from its positions on social issues, climate change and global governance.

Here’s the Spectator:

In her concession speech, Clinton said her goal had been ‘breaking down all the barriers that hold any American back from achieving their dreams‘. This is the dream of liberalism, which seeks freedom from any social or economic constraint. Elites like Clinton feel confident that they can navigate a deregulated society in which class, gender, and race are all fluid. They support deregulated markets as well, confident that free trade and open borders will serve their own interests in the near term and the whole country’s in the longer term.

Freedom from any social constraint? Only if one happens to agree with the elite.

And the Spectator again, covering itself in even more glory:

The challenge to liberalism is still seen as an argument to be won rather than an irreversible sea-change. But, if anything, the scale of the problem has been understated. The core tenets of liberalism are freedom and equality, ideas that are under siege.

Oh, and let’s not forget the prime minister herself, Theresa May, speaking at the Lord Mayor’s banquet on Monday evening:

Change is in the air. And when people demand change, it is the job of politicians to respond.

But it’s also the job of all those in positions of influence and power – politicians, business leaders and others – to understand the drivers of that demand too.

And I think that if we take a step back and look at the world around us, one of the most important drivers becomes clear – the forces of liberalism and globalisation which have held sway in Britain, America and across the Western world for years have left too many people behind.

Let’s be clear: those forces have had – and continue to have – an overwhelmingly positive impact on our world.

It really has come to something quite strange when Theresa May – a flinty eyed authoritarian who gives me pause any time I check a book out of the library, lest her government use my borrowing history as a pretext for throwing me in jail next week – seeks to wrap herself in the mantle of small-L liberalism.

But now everyone seems to be at it, suddenly claiming that they are terribly “liberal” while the people they dislike are not. Politicians and pundits who only months ago could be found calling for people to be banned from entering the country due to their political beliefs are now rending their garments at the election of a man who suggested that people should be banned because of their religious ones. And in so doing, they declare themselves to be the defenders of liberalism, while utterly oblivious to the irony of it all.

People who wanted to usher in national ID cards, strengthen the surveillance state, extend pre-charge detention, ban UKIP voters from fostering or adopting children, throw people in jail for their Facebook and Twitter posts, arrest people for singing the wrong songs at a football match, ban advertisements for being offensive, hike taxes even higher on cigarettes or alcohol or ban them altogether, levy regressive taxes on soft drinks, erect safe spaces on university campuses, slap trigger warnings on academic syllabuses, shame or punish people for the Halloween costumes that they choose to wear, get people fired from their jobs for holding or expressing the wrong opinion, strangle religious freedom and force people to violate their faiths by positively affirming the actions and lifestyle choices of others – these people are suddenly all over the airwaves, lamenting that it is actually those Evil Brexiteers and Donald Trump supporters who have supposedly brought our previously-idyllic liberal age crashing down in flames.

Well sorry, but this pious, self-aggrandising argument is complete baloney. I can’t speak for Donald Trump supporters, not being one myself, but I am very adamant that my vote for Brexit was a liberal vote for strong, globally-engaged nation state democracy. I and millions of others voted to leave the European Union because it sought to impose a degree of supranational government upon us which far outweighs the limited extent to which most Britons consider themselves European and consent to such governance. I did so because I judged that my inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are to this day best defended by a strong nation state with a reinvigorated national democracy, and not a remote supranational union with some of the superficial trappings – but none of the spirit – of democratic accountability. Voting for Brexit was perhaps the most profoundly liberal thing I have done on my thirty-three years on this good Earth.

And yet now I am supposed to sit back while every two-bit authoritarian with a newspaper column publishes tedious identikit dirges alleging that I, a staunch libertarian conservative, am supposedly at the vanguard of a dystopian new illiberal movement sweeping across the world and shrouding humanity in darkness and uncertainty? Hell no.

If liberalism is so great – and by and large, it is – then it would be nice if some of liberalism’s new fair-weather friends tried to remember the ideology’s core principles once they have finished weeping about Trump and Brexit and turned their attention back to more mundane political events. Perhaps they might care to remember the term they so glibly appropriated next time they call for something they disagree with to be banned, or for somebody who offends them to be punished by the criminal justice system. What do you think are the chances that this will happen?

After a week of this incessant, tedious refrain about the “death of liberalism” from the commentariat, I have just about had enough of my liberalism being culturally appropriated by the snarlingly authoritarian Regressive Left. It is only in the reflection of Donald Trump or Nigel Farage’s wildest rhetoric that their own paternalistic, control-freakish, coercive instincts can be even semi-plausibly pitched as being remotely liberal, and those of us with long memories and functioning brains know these pearl-clutchers for what they really are – persistent, deadly enemies to true liberalism.

 

Postscript: In this excellent piece, Pete North slaps down the idea that the West is somehow turning its back on liberalism, drawing a crucial distinction between genuine small-L liberalism which is as popular as ever and its decadent, identity politics and victimhood culture-infused cousin which has indeed been rejected by the electorate.

Money quote:

In a liberal society we appreciate that we all have our distinctions and limitations and we recognise that nobody should endure discrimination or punishment for those facets which cannot be changed. Gender, sexual preference, skin colour. But it goes further than that. We try to open doors for people os that people can break out of predetermined roles and destinies. That to me is social progress, where nobody is limited by class and physical attributes.

But when liberals begin to attack the very foundation of our morality and our values and seek to replace them with an ultra-permissive, anything goes morality we lose any kind of cohesion and moral authority. Moral relativism takes hold to such an extent that we can no longer defend those things we value.

What the left have done is to identify all social norms as inherently evil – which has given rise to the cult of the self which in turn has spawned the now toxic brand of feminism we see on the internet and the perverse social justice movement which processes everything through the prism of identity. It centres around a certain narcissism whereby individual rights become entitlements on the basis of one’s sense of victimhood. From this is born the right not to be offended or triggered – and with that goes the death of free speech. Opposition is inherently oppression it seems.

And this is why the culture war of the last decade goes so heavily with what is happening on a more visible level in politics. In what is now seen as a backlash against political correctness, there is something more seismic happening.

And North’s conclusion:

But then this tyranny of what is laughingly known as progressivism is on borrowed time. It always was a moral and intellectual perversion and it was always a minority view. How it came to be one of the most powerful ideas of a century is for the historians but now it seems the majority have finally lost patience and stood up to the left. In this we are not turning our backs on liberalism. We are merely putting an end to the gradual erosion of those, dare I say it, traditional values on which our modern and open society is built. I think this is what makes Theresa May, herself a church and shires Conservative, the right lady at the right time.

The sad part of this is that there will inevitably be a tiny minority who think we are going back to the old days where rampant and open homophobia is acceptable and we will no doubt see an unfortunate spike in racist incidents. But it is a typical left wing lie to say that mainstream society has suddenly become intolerant and racist. That trick might have worked for the last twenty years but the election of Trump tells you that the majority no longer care what you call them. The more offensive to the left the better.

And it is so telling that across the USA we now see the left spitting venom. We now see the true face of the “tolerant” left in all its bile. We can see that it was never about advancing a better society for all. It was about the minority wielding power over the majority – to impose a twisted morality on society without its consent – from the United Nations to the local primary school.

I repeat: genuine, small-L liberalism has not been rejected by the people, and is only under marginally more serious threat from ignorant authoritarians like Donald Trump than it has been over the past decades from highly learned progressives who sought to impose their “progressive” worldview on an uncertain population while actively criminalising dissent.

Those weeping most loudly today about the supposed death of liberalism have often themselves done as much as anyone to damage liberalism themselves through their decidedly illiberal and intolerant past behaviour.

 

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The New Statesman Is Preaching Hatred And Fear Of Conservatives

Jo Cox Tolerance

Be tolerant and respect the sincerely held political views of other people. Unless those people happen to be Tory Scum…

Apparently, as we seek to move on from the EU referendum in the post Jo Cox era, we are all supposed to be more civil to one another and focus on what unites us rather than what divides us.

We know this, because the New Statesman high-mindedly told us so:

I believe the horrific killing of Jo Cox is a moment for this New Generation of us to speak more openly about what has gone wrong and how we must, collectively, tackle it. Fundamentally, I believe we must see this as a moment in our history to re-covenant our respect as a society for politics done well. Democracy can ultimately only be as good as the society it represents. We must all learn once again to value free speech and civilised debate, led by open, accessible and accountable Parliamentarians. We must pledge ourselves to continuing the fight for freedom, for tolerance and for understanding between individuals, nations and peoples. We must ensure that love, hope and understanding will always triumph over hate, fear and despair.

We must reject the politics of alarmist language, personal attacks and fear.

A noble sentiment which surely we can all take to heart – it should certainly be possible for all of us to watch our rhetoric in the heat of debate, as none of us benefit from the current toxic political climate.

So why, then, is the New Statesman now actively trying to whip its readership into a quivering fear at the prospect of Andrea Leadsom winning the Conservative Party leadership contest and becoming prime minister?

Having apparently forgotten their own edict to respect people with different political views, the New Statesman instead lists nine reasons why its readers should be terrified – yes, terrified, that emotion which would be more appropriate if masked intruders had just smashed down their front doors – by this relatively unknown politician.

From “9 reasons you should be truly terrified of Andrea Leadsom becoming prime minister“:

With polls suggesting Andrea Leadsom will be one of the two Tory leadership candidates put to a vote of the members, it’s only natural to be curious about what this potential prime minister believes.

Luckily, she’s been busily keeping a blog for the last decade.

It turns out she has strong views on babies’ brains, and thinks she may have discovered the secret to preventing a repeat of the riots which plagued London in 2011.

So far they seem to be trying harder to make Leadsom seem ridiculous than terrifying.

There then follows a list of generally banal and uninteresting statements which Leadsom has made, or policy positions which she has taken, including:

1. Gay couples to the back of the adoption queue

Back in 2009, Leadsom used an adoption case – in which the two children of a heroin addict were given to a GAY couple (!?!?) – to question just when enough is enough when it comes to gay rights. “And if that weren’t enough, the two strangers are a gay couple, who have been selected ahead of several heterosexual couples.”

and

2. Watch out for those single parents

In 2006, she wrote that “the child of a single parent family is 70 per cent more likely (than the child of a two-parent family) to have problems at school, and even to become a drug addict or a criminal.”

and

3. And that anti-marriage media

“The self indulgence and carelessness of non-committed adult relationships is proving fatal to the next generation,” she wrote in 2008.

and

5. Those baby-brained rioters

“I explained how secure attachment or parental love literally hard wires the baby’s brain,” Leadsom wrote in 2012.

and

6. No money for wind farms

“I completely welcome the announcement from the European Commission made recently regarding the possibility of ending all subsidies for winds farms,” she wrote in 2014.

and, particularly ludicrously

8. Those US presidents getting invites before us

“How can France be hosting the 65th anniversary of the Normandy landings with Sarkozy and Obama (neither of them a twinkle in their father’s eye in 1945) in attendance, and yet the Queen of Britain, Canada, and Australia (who was not only alive, but who also served in the war) was not invited until two weeks ago?”

Now, one can disagree vehemently with one or many of these points. This blog certainly does not share Andrea Leadsom’s reflexive opposition to gay couples adopting children, for example. But sincere political disagreements on social, cultural and economic issues – the full range cited throughout the New Statesman’s tawdry hit piece – should be possible without us becoming physically afraid of one another.

Yet the New Statesman presents these rather pedestrian conservative positions and then exhorts its readers to be “truly terrified” by what they see. The magazine does not encourage them to challenge the validity of Leadsom’s views, much less offer its own point-by-point rebuttal. The fact that Leadsom is wrong is taken for granted, which is bad enough, but worse still is the fact that the New Statesman seeks to provoke an emotional rather than an intellectual reaction.

This is exactly what so many commentators (including that magazine) were telling us we should not be doing in the wake of the murder of Jo Cox MP. Less than a month ago we were being told to respect one another’s opinions and engage in calm, rational dialogue. Yet when it comes to confronting conservatives, many opinion leaders on the Left are more than happy to provoke angry, confrontational responses – whether they take the form of hateful mobs outside the home of Boris Johnson on the morning after the EU referendum or articles instructing people to actively fear conservatives.

This is an exclusively left-wing phenomenon. While there are plenty of nasty, stupid reactionaries on the conservative side, rarely do they treat left-wingers as a physical or emotional threat. The murderer of Jo Cox, to the extent that he was motivated by politics rather than madness, is the great exception to this rule. The Left, by contrast – particularly that part of the Left which has been captured by the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics – are starting to treat anybody who does not agree with and actively validate their ideas as enemies, literal enemies who mean them harm. If this atmosphere persists, how long will it be until some mentally unstable left-winger, taught by the commentariat to believe that political disagreement is akin to an act of harm, lashes out at an opponent with potentially tragic consequences?

One way or another, we are all going to have to coexist on this island – at least, those of us who are not bizarrely reacting to the Brexit vote by flouncing off to independent countries without an NHS will still have to deal with each other. Treating half of the country as actively dangerous people of whom we should be terrified is about the least conducive thing to bringing about that spirit of tolerance, and the New Statesman should be ashamed for its part in feeding this atmosphere of hysteria.

And look at some of the things which the New Statesman wants its readers to be terrified about. Andrea Leadsom celebrated the potential end of subsidies for wind farms – how scary! Leadsom wants to invest in “psychotherapeutic support for families struggling with the earliest relationship with their baby” – why, she’s just like Genghis Khan! She didn’t take kindly to President Barack Obama interfering in our internal EU referendum debate, and dared to say so – what an awful, America-hating isolationist!

The disbelieving hysteria which greeted Ed Miliband’s 2015 general election loss and now the 2016 EU referendum result shows that much of the modern Left is already utterly incapable of empathising with those holding other viewpoints – and in some cases simply cannot conceive of their existence. Time and time again we hear tearful sob stories from disappointed lefties that they don’t understand how they lost, because everyone they know voted the “right” way.

But with tawdry articles such as this, the New Statesman seeks to turn that gulf of incomprehension into a gnawing, corrosive and dangerous fear of conservatives, and of any ideas outside of the insular leftist orthodoxy. And this could potentially be disastrous for our country, not to mention for individual conservatives currently being demonised as terrifying, two-dimensional cartoon bogeymen rather than thinking, decent people who just happen to have a different outlook on life.

So how should we respond to opposing political views in the post Jo Cox era? Here’s a tip for the New Statesman and everyone else in the media:

If your article encourages people to learn more about those opposing views, or presents an intellectually grounded rebuttal of them, then you’re doing it right.

If your article is a smug, self-satisfied and fundamentally uncurious exercise in confirmation bias, designed to delegitimise and vilify the sincerely held political views of others, then you haven’t learned a damn thing.

 

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The Remain Campaign’s Last Stand

Stronger In - Kind Open Inclusive Tolerant Together - EU Referendum

The Remain campaign is so used to loudly claiming the moral high ground and dismissing Brexiteers as backward, nasty reactionaries that even their “positive” closing message is unintentionally insulting toward half the country

Well, that calmer, politer politics didn’t last very long, did it?

On the first day of real campaigning following the murder of Jo Cox MP, the Remain campaign has hit the airwaves with this new meme, now being widely shared on social media.

Displaying a heart shape in the colours of the Union Flag, Britain Stronger in Europe exhort us to:

Remain kind

Remain open

Remain inclusive

Remain tolerant

Remain together

All pleasing words, you might think. But what does it say about those Britons – nearly half the country, according to opinion polls – who think that Britain should leave the European Union. Are they unkind people? Are they closed-minded and closed-hearted? Do they all seek to exclude people? Are they all racist? Apparently the official Remain campaign thinks so.

The image is accompanied on social media by the following message:

This referendum is about the type of country we want to live in.

SHARE this if you believe Britain is at our best when we’re outward-looking, inclusive and we stand together.

Just hammering the point home.

From a purely strategic and tactical viewpoint one can understand why Britain Stronger in Europe went for this approach. After all, almost none of their argument for staying in the EU has been based on the positives of the European Union (beyond woolly platitudes about “cooperation” and “working together”, which a ten year old can work out does not require the intermediation of Brussels). Rather, their argument has been a relentlessly fear-based approach, threatening and even bullying voters to vote Remain on pain of supposed economic disaster compounded by George Osborne’s vindictive “punishment budget”.

But to get Remainers to the polling station on Thursday, the campaign needs to give them something positive to think about, too. Even if it later turns out to be a pile of nonsense, their supporters must be made to think that they are doing something noble in choosing to fearfully stick with the status quo. And in this day and age, even better if they can then broadcast this positive message to others in order to signal their own virtue.

This social media post accomplishes the Remain campaign’s objectives brilliantly. It doesn’t get bogged down in the details of why the European is so great (it isn’t) or necessary (it really isn’t), or even why leaving would be so calamitous (it wouldn’t be). On the contrary, the Union Jack coloured heart and childish font keep things very superficial. It declares to the world that the person liking or sharing the message is a Good, Enlightened and Virtuous Person, unlike those knuckle-dragging, murderous subhumans who dare to believe in Brexit.

Another similar meme is also being shared widely on Facebook, as a play on Nigel Farage’s tired old “I want my country back” theme:

I want my country back, too. The country which celebrated Mo Farah winning at the Olympics, the same one who is proud to call Tom Daly or Mark Foster part of the British Olympic team, the country who cheers for Tanni Grey-Thompson. That, that’s my country. The same country which took Malala Yousafzai to its heart. My country is better for the diverse country it is, from the food available in the supermarket to St Paul’s Carnival & drinking Kenyan coffee with a Jewish bagel to cure a hangover from French wine. My Britain is not filled with hate or extremism. My Britain is not perfect but it isn’t better alone. My Britain is open, inclusive, progressive and an inspiring place to live.

Because of course a post-Brexit Britain would rejoice in none of these things, all of which are only made possible thanks to our membership of the European Union. Quite why Britain’s departure from a supranational political union would mean that Britain would become a country which starts booing its own black athletes, burning down bagel shops or pouring French wine into the sea at Dover harbour is of course never explained. But the Remain campaign don’t need to explain it. This is their own form of “dog-whistle” campaigning. They just have to suggest these these links, and immediately everyone who is preconditioned to equate euroscepticism with xenophobia or racism immediately pricks up their ears and awaits orders.

This is insulting beyond words to half the country who currently favour Brexit, particularly considering the hurried vow everybody took in the wake of the Jo Cox murder to immediately (and rather implausibly) be nice to one another. But one must admire the way that the Remain campaign stuck to the letter (if not the spirit) of their pledge – they managed to grievously insult half the country without using a single negative word, instead simply suggesting that Brexiteers represent the opposite of all these positive values.

Though as one commenter put it on the Britain Stronger in Europe Facebook page:

This idea that only those voting for Remain uphold those values is disgusting. None of us have a monopoly on those things. Remain shouting the loudest about being decent – total and utter hypocrisy #Brexit

But this is literally all they have. The Remain campaign kept the focus relentlessly and myopically on the economic question, wheeling out all of the same experts who told us two decades ago that Britain would wither and perish outside the euro. And the message has not gained sufficient traction to leave Remain confident of victory. So all they have left is to demonise the other side.

They cannot speak too passionately and warmly about the European Union, because the organisation is distrusted or hated – quite rightly – by anybody who remotely cares about democracy or the continued importance of the nation state. They cannot openly commit Britain to the EU’s clearly stated end goal – a common European state – because it would alienate too many people.

So all that is left for Remain is to demonise the other side, either explicitly (as they did before the murder of Jo Cox) or implicitly (as they are doing now, by suggesting that Leave voters are the antithesis of the wonderful, warm qualities listed in the Facebook meme).

And in terms of winning the referendum, it may just work. The relentless fearmongering, the demonising of Brexiteers, the desire of many people to virtue-signal the fact that they hold “open” and “progressive” views and the usual tendency for people to gravitate back towards the perceived status quo at the closing stages of a referendum campaign may push Remain over the line. Possibly quite convincingly.

But it has made the job of stitching the nation back together again almost impossible. And each time sanctimonious, preachy little graphics concocted by Britain Stronger in Europe are created and shared, it makes the task that much harder. Because whatever misanthropes, racists and bigots may support Leave, the vast majority of Brexiteers are good, honest decent people. They are patriots who genuinely (and in this blog’s view, quite rightly) believe that they are doing the right thing. And you can’t spend three months loudly questioning half the country’s intelligence, tolerance and moral code and then expect everybody to hold hands like one big happy family.

Given the way that this referendum has been fought by pro-EU forces, a vote to Remain will therefore resolve absolutely nothing. And prissy, sanctimonious little declarations of virtue like Stronger In’s “Remain Together” campaign message are the reason why.

 

Postscript: Mark Wallace also takes exception to Stronger In’s latest advert, in a piece for Conservative Home:

The implication is clear – if you’re someone who is voting Leave, you are supposedly declaring yourself to be unkind, closed, not inclusive, intolerant and in favour of division.

Not only is that entirely in conflict with the weekend’s warm words about a more reasonable and less unpleasant tone in the final days of the referendum campaign, but it is an extraordinary attack on the millions upon millions of voters who are – rightly, in this site’s view – planning to Vote Leave.

It isn’t the first time we’ve heard such dismissive criticisms of those who dare to disagree. Only yesterday, the Prime Minister declared that there is not “a single credible voice” arguing we will gain by leaving the EU, implicitly suggesting several members of his own Cabinet lack credibility. But the content of this particular advert makes it the broadest insult to voters, Party members, MPs and Ministers so far, and the timing makes a mockery of recent promises to raise the tone.

If Stronger In’s management intend to stand by this scurrilous line, will their overseers, Cameron and Osborne, continue to do so as well?

 

European Union - United Kingdom - Britain - Flags

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We Are All Cats Now

No, you are not a cat simply because you “identify” as one. And we should all be wary of where the rise of the Politics of Identity is leading us

When future aliens discover the ruins of human civilisation and wonder what set our demise in motion, they will likely identify the period through which we are now living – the time where we finally became so arrogant that we believed we could bend objective reality to our will, physically becoming something simply because we mentally “identified” as that particular object or state of being. They will say that we sowed the seeds of our destruction when we abandoned reason and put our faith in verbal alchemy.

A story is going viral today (see video above) which would be hilarious if it wasn’t so terrifying. It involves Nano, a twenty year-old woman from Norway who identifies as a cat, having come to this “realisation” when she was sixteen and apparently indulged in her belief by friends, family and psychologists alike.

The Telegraph reports, totally deadpan:

The young woman shows off her cat characteristics by wearing fake ears and an artificial tail. She communicates by meowing.

“I realised I was a cat when I was 16 when doctors and psychologists found out what was “the thing” with me. Under my birth there was a genetic defect,” she explains in the video.

[..] The cat woman wears a pair of pink fluffy paws with which to groom herself, and feels especially like doing so when she is in contact with water.

When asked if she was born as the wrong species, she said: “Yes, born in the wrong species.”

But terrifying it is, because stories like this are no longer so far-fetched, and Nano’s claims are not so unreasonable – at least not according to the insistent logic of modern day identity culture, which makes each one of us the little tin-pot god of our own reality, able to pick up and discard identities as core as gender or even species, in some cases on a whim.

And this is not the first such case. Just last month in Canada, a 52 year old formerly married father of seven revealed to the world that he no longer identified as a man, but rather as a six year old girl called Stefonknee.

The Daily Mail reported at the time:

Stefonknee (pronounced ‘Stef-on-knee’) Wolscht, 52, of Toronto, says she realized she was transgender – rather that simply a cross-dresser – at age 46, and split from her wife, Maria, after she told her husband to ‘stop being trans or leave’.

Now, Stefonknee lives with friends who she calls her ‘adoptive mommy and daddy’ as a six-year-old girl, dressing in children’s clothing and spending her time playing and coloring with her adoptive parents’ grandchildren.

Stefonknee says her ‘adoptive’ family, which consists of an older couple and their children and young grandchildren, are completely accepting of her identifying as a little girl.

She says she’s living as a six-year-old girl because it’s something she could never do when was in grade school.

‘I can’t deny I was married. I can’t deny I have children,’ she says in the video. ‘But I’ve moved forward now and I’ve gone back to being a child. I don’t want to be an adult right now.’

She’s moved forward, so that’s fine, then. Good for Stefonknee. Never mind her abandoned wife or seven young children who are doubtless hurt, confused and humiliated by what their father is doing. Stefonknee just doesn’t have time for all of that adult stuff right now, so she is going to put on a gingham dress and regress to a pre-pubescent age, until she gets tired of that and wants to try something different.

This is pure narcissism, plain and simple. He didn’t want to be an adult anymore, so he clicked his fingers and became a six year old girl instead? How are we to unpack this? Are we to accept his Wolscht’s statement that she is now female, since transgender acceptance is now (rightly, I believe) much more widely accepted and tolerated?

But if we do so – if we accept Wolscht’s statement that she is now female – do we not also then have to accept her insistence that she has also turned the clock back and become six years old again?

Stefonknee Wolscht - Identity Politics

The ludicrous thing here is that Wolscht’s own identity is floating, as she freely admits later in the article:

She says she previously lived as an eight-year-old girl, until the couple’s granddaughter asked her to be the younger sister instead.

‘A year ago I was eight and she was seven. And she said to me: “I want you to be the little sister, so I’ll be nine.” I said: “Well, I don’t mind going to six.” So I’ve been six ever since.’

So according to this jaw-dropping reasoning, our identity is not even fixed and core to ourselves (if unmoored from reality). Now, our identity is a commodity which can be haggled over and traded. And if winning the friendship of a young girl means that a formerly 52 year old man has to downgrade from being an 8 year old to a 6 year old girl, that’s absolutely fine, apparently. Who are we to judge in any of this?

Never mind the callousness of a father of seven doing such a thing to his own children, putting them through this ordeal in pursuit of an identity which he openly admits is free-floating and liable to change again in future anyway. That’s bad enough. But how are we all – individuals, employers (the six year old girl apparently has a job driving a slow plough in winter) or government agencies – supposed to relate to somebody who decides that they “identify” as a different age and gender?

If Stefonknee is really six years old she should be in school, and the local authority should by current laws be hounding her adoptive “parents” to ensure that she is receiving a proper education. But would the identity culture cheerleaders seriously propose sending what was once a 52-year-old man to primary school with young children? Surely, under today’s logic they have to?

Stefonknee has identified as a young girl, and therefore she must be treated like one in every way. Anything less – such as homeschooling – would be discrimination against 6-year-old girls who happen to have the bodies of 52-year-old men. The kind of women who are harmed by a performance of the Vagina Monologues.

Meanwhile, Stefonknee’s employer when she drives the snow plough in winter will need to be hauled before the court and prosecuted for infringing on child labour laws. The courts would probably take a very dim view indeed of any business hiring a young girl to operate heavy machinery, and since justice must be blind, Stefonknee’s carefree decision to become a little girl should put her employer’s livelihood and liberty in grave jeopardy.

It’s easy to laugh at these scenarios, but they are going to come up more and more frequently if – as will inevitably happen when stories like this gain traction – more people are tempted to follow in the dangerous footsteps of Wolscht, or the somewhat less threatening (but no less absurd) paw prints of Nano the Norwegian cat woman.

For what is to say that Nano and Wolscht are not the “new normal”? The people being hounded and “No Platformed” for their old-fashioned views on transgender issues are guilty only of holding thoughts which were incredibly mainstream just a couple of decades ago, yet in that short space of time they have been completely overtaken by received wisdom and the new orthodoxy of intolerant tolerance. What is to say that in thirty years’ time, those who question a person’s ability to discard their entire life and “become” a cat or a young child are considered as bigoted as today’s “transphobic” holdouts?

Nobody can say that this is unlikely to happen. The world has changed so much in just a few decades, and promises to change even more in the coming years. Social attitudes have changed enormously in this time – what is to say that the warm, fuzzy embrace of unquestioning tolerance and affirmation will not expand to embrace people like Nano and Wolscht by 2050?

In 2050, maybe the future version of Eddie Redmayne will be starring in a movie, not just playing a male-to-female transsexual person (how boring that will be by then) but turning in another Oscar-winning performance for his sensitive portrayal of the pioneering early 21st century woman who identified as a cat, or the brave Canadian man who threw away his family in pursuit of his new identity as a pre-pubescent girl.

But that’s fine. Since we seem intent on burying our heads in the sand and denying that there is anything wrong with our new Politics of Identity, by that time our Prime Minister will probably identify as a Beagle, the Home Secretary will be a barn owl except on Tuesdays, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be a goldfish who looks suspiciously like George Osborne’s grown-up kid wearing a wetsuit, Number 11 Downing Street having been converted into a walk-in aquarium in deference to their “mental safety”.

And Nona the Norwegian cat woman will be the very least of our problems.

 

Crazy Cat Lady - The Simpsons

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