December 7, 2019

The Anti-Woke

“The Madness of Crowds is a polemic against political correctness, which is not to say that its author is a fascist beast. Douglas Murray is a firm supporter of the rights of gay people, non-whites and women; it is just that he feels that they have now been largely achieved, leaving their advocates on university campuses with time on their hands to bully, censor, guilt-trip and generally kick up a fuss about exceedingly little. We have declined from the heroic period of Martin Luther King, he argues, to people who claim you can’t eat Thai food unless you are Thai, feminists who refer to men as trash and black activists who see whiteness as a form of disease.

Almost all of Murray’s examples are drawn from the United States, a society in which going over the top is a venerable tradition. There have indeed been excesses perpetrated in the name of identity politics, but Murray’s case would be a lot more convincing if he said rather more than he does about its momentous gains. As it stands, his book is equivalent to a history of conservatism which views it almost entirely through the lens of upper-class louts smashing up Oxford restaurants.

In any case, the narrative Murray has to deliver is seriously awry. “The revolution is over”, he announces, speaking of the struggle for women’s and minority rights, which is unlikely to ring very true in rape crisis centres or the Black Lives Matter movement. All the major battles for equality are now behind us, he claims, which those living on the south side of Chicago seem not to have acknowledged. There are also football crowds who appear obtusely unaware that racism is on the wane. In any case, we are told, identity politics is plagued with internal conflicts. Gay men and gay women have very little time for each other, while “queers” (as opposed to more conventional gay people) are wreckers intent on tearing down the social order, and most or even all heterosexuals are genuinely unnerved by gay people. In fact, they will always find them “strange and potentially threatening”. Perhaps Murray has never heard of Madonna.”

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