Liberals are the new Maoists.
If in doubt, do listen to my podcast this week with Toby Young. In it Young recounts the truly shocking story of how a vengeful mob of impeccably liberal “progressive” types sought completely to destroy his life and career.
Young’s crime? To have made the occasional joke, mildly edgy observation, or slightly tasteless remark in the course of his long career as a writer, commentator, and user of social media.
The Social Justice Warrior twitchfork mob went through every word he ever wrote since his 80s undergraduate days, line by line, in old magazine articles, on Twitter, in his blogs, in an exercise known as “offence archeology.”
Did they find anything sufficiently offensive to damn him? Of course they did! In a world where everyone is a Witchfinder General, nobody is ever innocent.
I’m more interested in the bigger picture: how it came to be that what used to be known as “style journalism”, “laddish banter” and “being a completely normal middle-aged male” suddenly became a crime punishable by loss of livelihood, ritual humiliation, mass censure; and also, how we’re going to nip this nonsense in the bud before the whole lot of us get sent to the SJW gulag.
Luckily, the writer/philosopher John Gray has come up with at least half an answer in an excellent essay for Unherd called “The Rise of Post-Truth Liberalism” Liberals, he argues, have become the thing that in the 60s they used to accuse right-wing people of being: paranoid, authoritarian, conspiracy-theorising thugs.
He noticed it visiting New York in the aftermath of Trump’s election:
I found myself immersed in a mass psychosis. The city’s intelligentsia was possessed by visions of conspiracy. No one showed any interest in the reasons Trump supporters may have had for voting as they did. Quite a few cited the low intelligence, poor education and retrograde values of the nearly 63 million Americans who voted for him. What was most striking was how many of those with whom I talked flatly rejected the result. The election, they were convinced, had been engineered by a hostile power. It was this malignant influence, not any default of American society, that had upended the political order.
Liberals couldn’t understand then – and they still can’t understand now – that Donald Trump is almost entirely a problem of their own making. They are the reason he won. Not the Russians…
For those who embrace it, a paranoid style of liberalism has some advantages. Relieved from any responsibility for the debacles they have presided over, the liberal elites that have been in power in many western countries for much of the past 30 years can enjoy the sensation of being victims of forces beyond their control. Conspiracy theory implies there is nothing fundamentally wrong with liberal societies, and places the causes of their disorder outside them. No one can reasonably doubt that the Russian state has been intervening in western politics. Yet only minds unhinged from reality can imagine that the decline of liberalism is being masterminded by Vladimir Putin. The principal causes of disorder in liberal societies are in those societies themselves.
But while we can laugh at the lunacy of contemporary liberalism, its derangement has very serious consequences for all of us. Just like Stalin, just like the Stasi, just like Mao, modern liberalism has lost sight of its tolerant past and now increasingly seeks to control the culture by policing and dictating all the things we’re allowed and not allowed to say.
Gray cites an essay by a (liberal) New York Times writer Michiko Kakutani called The Death of Truth, in which she describes the problem without realising that her lot are the problem:
The corruption of language is discussed as if it were a practice unknown among liberals. She tells the reader that soon after taking power in China, Mao launched “a plan of linguistic engineering”, creating “a new political vocabulary in which some words were suppressed; others were injected with new meanings … People were to understand that there were ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’ ways of speaking.”
She omits to note that a similar type of linguistic engineering is underway in America (and western countries) in which deviations from “correct” ways of speaking are severely punished. Nothing is more authentically of our time than the spectacle of people being banished from public discourse for the crime of using forbidden words, and pleading for rehabilitation in humiliating Mao-style internet struggle sessions with their liberal accusers.
This is the context in which we need to understand the attack on Toby Young. It wasn’t about anything he actually said or did but simply about what he represented. In Maoist terms he was, simply, a capitalist running dog lackey – and therefore had to be destroyed.
Some conservatives (I use the term loosely to embrace all the different factions – libertarians, classical liberals, free speechers, etc – the liberal left hates) still don’t get this. I noticed it when I wrote about my (relatively minor) persecution at the hands of a few SJW cry bullies when I went to speak at Cambridge University Conservative Association. One or two readers, who I don’t think were necessarily leftists, tried telling me that well of course it’s what I should have expected when I made one or two mildly tasteless references. In their view I had deserved it.
But if we take that squishy, turn-the-other-cheek position then we’re lost. Which is why in the podcast, you’ll hear me rebuking Young for being a “cuck”. The fact that he has recovered from his monstering with such good humour and resilience is admirable. But his conclusions – that we should show a tolerance and forbearance to the enemy that they would never show to us – are more likely to entrench the problem than solve it.
Take Sarah Jeong, whose racist tweets Young thinks shouldn’t have prevented her from being allowed to join New York Times editorial board because, hey, we all have one or two stupid moments on Twitter.
I agree with the last bit. But these weren’t just odd moments were they? Jeong’s Tweets were consistent with an obvious and unashamed loathing for what she calls “dumbass fucking white people” – borne, no doubt, of her adherence to the current liberal orthodoxy that “white people” really are a form of Untermenschen who deserve to be reviled and punished for their unearned “privilege.”
Jeong said this stuff because she meant it. She said it because it’s what liberals have given themselves permission to think and to feel good and morally superior about thinking. (That’s how deluded they are).
That’s why it’s a disgrace she was invited onto the Times editorial board: not because people should be judged, as Young was, on the basis of one or two remarks, jokes and cruderies – cherry-picked from a lifetime’s career and taken out of context; but because people should definitely be judged on their overall behaviour and intent.
This used to be why you used to go to study liberal arts subjects at university: to train you in the art of critical thinking. Critical thinking, at bottom, is the ability to discern enduring truth and value in a world of dishonesty, fakery, and lies. So when, as I did, you study a work of literature, you’re assessing things like style, tone, context, and biography to assess what an author is trying to achieve and how successfully he has achieved it. When, say, Jonathan Swift writes his A Modest Proposal… is he really proposing that Ireland’s poor make ends meet by selling their children as food for rich people? Or is, there, perhaps some satirical element involved?
Or say the author you were studying was Toby Young, you’d need to be an utter moron – or, maybe, a current Cambridge English literature undergraduate – to conclude that he was anything other than a fundamentally decent person: a bit puerile and laddish and irresponsible at times maybe, but well-intentioned and someone who, furthermore, has really sought to make a difference with his charitable work in the educational sector.
This would still be obvious even if he hadn’t been responsible for setting up various free schools which have given many disadvantaged children a much better education than they’d otherwise have had. It’s just clear from the general tenor of his journalism and commentary that Young isn’t a racist or a eugenicist or poor-hater or any of the other confected crimes he has been accused of. And you really don’t need to have studied at Oxford and Cambridge, as Young has, to see this. It’s just a basic, common sense reading of his work.
Critical thinking really is just applied common sense. But they don’t teach applied common sense at many universities any more, least of all at places like Oxford and Cambridge. If anything, they teach the exact opposite, post-modernism being essentially an inversion of common sense.
Which is why we have such a problem. Post-truth liberals do not operate according to the rulebook of logic and fairness and facts by which the rest of us play. They do not want to play nicely with us or be our friends or engage with our arguments because, as far as they are concerned, we are just verminous prisoners of our wrongthink. That’s why there is no point in adjusting our principles – let alone our language – even slightly in order to soothe them and accommodate them. However careful we are, they will always find some reason to hate us, however obscure or minor or long-buried in our past, because their purpose is to be offended – never to pause and ask themselves whether they are justified in being offended.
With an enemy as malign and vindictive and relentless as the liberal Maoists there can be no middle ground where we can all find happy accommodation. They hate us. This is war. They are the bad guys. So let us never apologise, never weaken, and never take prisoners. It’s not like they ever would with us, eh, Toby?