Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Left’s ‘civilising’ impulse driving us all to the brink of savagery

’A grand canyon has opened up in our world, the fissure, the crack grows wider every day, neither side can hear a word that the other shrieks, nor do they want to,’ Steven Fry said in a debate last year.

“When it does happen, the effect is sudden, deep and lasting. It takes a long time to understand what has taken place. You enter a period of mourning, trying to come to terms with the difference between the child you expected and longed for, and the reality that you now face. But like so many things to do with the human spirit, there is resilience you didn’t know you had. You feel such strong bonds of love, and such desire to protect this beautiful little creature.”

In his new book, For the Record, released this week, David Cameron recounts the birth, the short life and the death of his son Ivan, who was born with a rare neurological disorder that left him severely disabled.

The former British prime minister writes honestly about caring for a beautiful but helpless baby who was drenched in sweat daily after suffering up to 20 violent fits, unable to eat, or ever talk, or walk. In the end, the little boy who arrived into this world to the sounds of Barry White in the operating theatre died at the age of six from massive organ failure.

Within moments of extracts from the book being released, The Guardian labelled Cameron as man who knew only “privileged pain”. Cameron’s miserable time at boarding school, for example, was waved off as something that comes “with an assurance that only important people can suffer that way”. The newspaper then took aim at his experience with the British health system and caring for a severely disabled son was somehow different. Because Cameron is posh.

This wasn’t a half-baked comment by a half-tanked commentator in a communist rag. It wasn’t an anonymous tweet from a crank. Like editorials at other newspapers, this was probably discussed, tossed around in an editorial conference, then written up, subedited and re-read by more editors. Why didn’t someone along the way say, “Stop, this is wrong.”

The Guardian has since apologised. But some apologies don’t count as much as others. Not when words and actions are carefully considered, with lashings of contempt behind them.

When did we get so nasty? Why are some people so certain in their bile? Why would highly educated editors use political differences with Cameron to diminish his pain because of his “privilege”?

Last year, Stephen Fry joined with Jordan Peterson in a debate to argue that political correctness is not progress. Fry, a gentle man, challenged his two opposing interlocutors — radio host Michael Eric Dyson and blogger-author Michelle Goldberg — with a killer question: So, how’s it working out for you?

When the Munk Debate, held in Toronto twice yearly, quickly drifted into the morass of identity politics and never escaped, Fry asked the same question of people who share his left-liberal politics: So, how’s that working out for you? That being the ugly maelstrom of identity politics.

The other side didn’t answer. They repeated their arguments, their words fell flat, weighed down with unyielding certainty. Fry had made his point.

The left’s affiliation with identity politics is not going well. It has produced “this strange paradox in which the liberals are illiberal in their demand for liberality”, Fry said, adding: “They are exclusive in their demand for inclusivity, they are homogenous in their demand for heterogeneity, they are somehow un-diverse in their call for diversity, you can be diverse but not diverse in your opinions.”

Before we destroy ourselves, Fry implored both sides of politics to reject “rage, resentment, hostility, intolerance, above all, this with-us-or-against-us certainty”.

The evening descended into accusations back and forth. It is hard to recall what the other three said beyond a rambling performance by the blogger, the preachy Dyson labelling Peterson a “mean, mad white man”, and Peterson wasting time by taking the bait.

Fry’s ideas, his questions and observations have stayed with me. His mind is nimble, curious, generous, uncertain. He cited Bertrand Russell in the hope his wisdom might hover over the evening: “One of the painful things of our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.” Fry concluded: “Let doubt ­prevail.”

We live in a dangerous age of blinding certainty about our own moral superiority. In an increasingly secular society, politics has become infused with an unyielding morality that is driving a new sectarianism. Rich against poor, black against white, one creed against another, men against women, feminism is cracking up under the pressure from the transgender movement. These are not fringe skirmishes. Mainstream politics, and media, are the battlegrounds.

As Fry said: “A grand canyon has opened up in our world, the fissure, the crack grows wider every day, neither side can hear a word that the other shrieks, nor do they want to.”

That is how a group of well-educated journalists decided that describing Cameron’s pain, during the short life and death of his little boy, as “privileged” would likely suit the tenor of our times.

The Guardian deserves the public shellacking it received. It points to more and more people saying enough is enough, time to mend tensions between groups, not to throw more fuel on the fire.

During the Munk Debate, Fry pointed to ordinary people “in the enormous space in between both sides” trying to get on with their lives, “alternately baffled, bored and betrayed by horrible noises and explosions that echo all around”.

Fry admitted he is “ a lefty, a soft lefty, a liberal of the most hand-wringing, milksop, milquetoast variety … I’ve been on marches but I’ve never quite dared wave placards or banners”.

He is a social justice warrior because he doesn’t like social injustice. But he is manning the barricade against his side’s descent into illiberalism.

He said that as much as he loathes the “piety, self-righteousness, heresy-hunting, denunciation, shaming, assertion without evidence, accusation, inquisition censoring” of his side, his basic objection is that he doesn’t think political correctness works.

“Let’s be empirical about this,” he said to those on the opposing team. “The reason that Trump and Brexit in Britain and all kinds of nativists all over Europe are succeeding is not the triumph of the right. It’s the catastrophic failure of the left. It’s our fault.

“My point is not that I’ve turned to the right or anything like that or that I’m nice and fluffy and want everybody to be decent. I’m saying: F..k political correctness. Resist. Fight. If you have a point of view, fight it in a proper manner, using democracy as it should be, not channels of education or language. At the moment you are recruiting sergeants for the right, by annoying and upsetting instead of … persuading.”

More than a year later, the horrible noise of unyielding politics, masquerading as moral certainty, continues. Last weekend, The New York Times tried to slander a US Supreme Court judge, knowing it had no evidence. In a piece drawn from a new book about Brett Kavanaugh, the newspaper ran new allegations of sexual misconduct during the judge’s time at Yale, promoted with a tweet about having a “penis thrust in your face”. The paper did not report two essential facts that destroyed the story — the female student declined to be interviewed and denied any memory of the alleged misconduct.

What has happened to fair reporting, solid evidence and the presumption of innocence — a bulwark against the state, the powerful, the corrupt and the incompetent? The New York Times posted an “editor’s note” correcting the story. But the damage was done. A little note won’t correct the modern propensity to smear people with different views in an attempt to censor their contributions, to shut them up.

An Australian incident

Last week, indigenous woman Jacinta Price was shouted down at a public event in Coffs Harbour on the NSW mid-north coast.  Price advocates personal respons­ibility, empowerment through real solutions rather than token gestures and confected cultural allegories. She says “welcome to country” routines are a “modern construct”.

Local ABC presenter Fiona Poole described Price as “someone who has cosied up with the right side of politics”. As Chris Kenny detailed this week, another ABC reporter, Claire Lindsay, quoted from a media release put out by the Gumbaynggirr community that declared Price as “unwelcome” because she spread “racist vitriol, vilifies and ridicules Aboriginal people and cultures”. The local ABC station did not invite Price to put her views against these wild allegations. It admitted it was wrong not to, but only after Kenny and Price raised objections.

The left’s project to civilise is horribly uncivil. Sections of the media act as mouthpieces, deriding a posh white man’s pain, smearing a conservative judge with unsubstantiated claims of sexual abuse, carrying the can for those trying to censor an indigenous woman for not toeing the orthodox indigenous line.

More than rank incivility, the left’s project to civilise is killing curiosity. The blind certainty holds us back, drags us down. It is also contagious, both sides in a dead-end race to the bottom.

Fry said it was a pity the debate was not a shining example of “how people of all different kinds of political outlooks can speak with humour, and wit and a lightness of touch”. He drew from GK Chesterton: “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.”

Fry said: “We should take ourselves a little bit more lightly — not to be too earnest, too pompous, too serious, and not to be too certain.”

Blind certainty is behind the propensity to smear, to shame, to censor. It will kill progress unless more people with beautiful minds, people such as Fry — driven from their political homes by illiberal madness — steer their own side to a more liberal and a more civil world.


Eating meat is a crime against humanity and could be banned, says QC as he calls for new offence of 'ecocide'

A leading barrister [trial lawyer] says eating meat could become illegal, because it is so bad for the environment.

Michael Mansfield, the Left-wing lawyer known as ‘Moneybags Mansfield’ for his huge earnings from high-profile cases, is expected to call for a crime of ‘ecocide’ today.

Mr Mansfield, a self-styled ‘radical lawyer’ who has represented the victims of the Grenfell Tower and Hillsborough disasters, will speak at the launch of a vegan campaign at the Labour Party conference in Brighton today.

Vegan charity Viva! publicised part of his speech last night.

Mr Mansfield will say: ‘I think when we look at the damage eating meat is doing to the planet, it is not preposterous to think that one day it will become illegal.

‘There are plenty of things that were once commonplace that are now illegal, such as smoking inside.’

The 77-year-old will make the comments as part of a panel debating the effects of livestock farming on climate change, at the launch of Viva!’s Vegan Now project.

He is also expected to call for legislation to criminalise the destruction of nature, which he compares to a ‘crime against humanity’.

Mr Mansfield will say: ‘We know that the top 3,000 companies in the world are responsible for more than £1.5 trillion worth of damage to the environment, with meat and dairy production high on the list.

'We know that because the UN has told us so. It is time for a new law on ecocide to go alongside genocide and the other crimes against humanity.’


Huge University Holds White Privilege Workshop. Only 9 Students Show Up

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte — home to 30,000 students — held a white privilege workshop last week.

Only nine students showed up.

The event was titled "White Consciousness Conversations for Students," and on the UNC page, organizers said it was for "students only."

"Understanding the meaning and implications of whiteness and engaging in anti-racist practice is crucial in creating racial equity. This space is for all undergraduate and graduate students at UNC Charlotte who are interested in engaging in conversations to assist in their understanding of how racism is perpetuated individually, culturally, and systemically. This space is intended to be group-based, meaning we would love for participants to attend all sessions. Join in conversation with IEE staff as we work toward racial equity," the page said.

By the way, the "IEE" is the Office of Identity, Equity, and Engagement. Yes, UNC has one of those.

"The total number of students in the audience for the first 'White Consciousness Conversation,' held Sept. 10, was nine — but two were students there not as participants but as journalists mainly to observe," the College Fix reported. " One was from The College Fix and another from the Niner Times campus newspaper."

"Of the remaining seven students, five are members of the university's conservative Young Americans for Freedom chapter, who were there more out of curiosity and concern about the nature of the seminar and its taxpayer-funded narrative as opposed to learning about how they allegedly perpetuate racism and inequality as Americans with white skin. Finally, the other two students attended because their professors offered them extra credit to do so, they told The Fix."

UNC Charlotte hosted the same type of event in 2018. In advertisements, only white people were invited. Campus officials were forced to reword the ads.

The two-hour meeting was led by two campus diversity facilitators who spoke on topics such as feminism, white privilege, toxic masculinity and LGBTQ equality, and outlined their own definition of racism, one that claims that while racial discrimination can be targeted at anyone, by anyone, racism itself stems inherently from white people and their “whiteness.”

At the end of the workshop, at least two conservative students said the information presented seemed focused on blaming white people and whiteness for racism.

“I went into the event with an open mind, I wanted to learn what my peers thought about how the concept of whiteness ties into racism, whether or not it is an issue on our campus, and how we, as students, can create change if it was necessary,” YAF member Kelly VonEnde told The College Fix.

Other colleges have held similar events. The University of Rhode Island hosted an event "with speakers discussing topics such as 'White Accountability,' 'Addressing Microaggressions,' and more" in 2018, Campus Reform reported.

This past June, Rutgers University hosted a workshop seeking to dismantle "white organizational culture."

"Throughout the event, attendees will be taught to 'understand what is white United States-ian culture; understand the beliefs and values of white United State-ian culture; recognize characteristics of white United States-ian culture in organizations; begin to explore the impact the culture has on professionals in the field; and learn antidotes to dismantling white organizational culture,'" Campus Reform reported.


Tas council ditches Australia Day events


A council in Tasmania's north will scrap official Australia Day celebrations and move citizenship ceremonies to another date.

Launceston City Council on Thursday voted unanimously for the changes, made in respect of the nation's indigenous people. "(We did this) to be an inclusive council and city where we recognise the Aboriginal community," Mayor Albert van Zetten told AAP.

Citizenship ceremonies won't be performed in the municipality on January 26 and will instead be held the day before.

"We're not stopping anyone from celebrating on the 26th, if that's what they want to do," Mr van Zetten said.

"Yes there will be people who are disappointed and who don't understand.

"I'd just like to remind people, go back and have a look at the history. "Try and understand how you would feel if that was a day your family was on this lovely country and you were invaded and taken over."

The council has also replaced its National Australia Day Awards program with a community awards ceremony, now to be held on January 25.

"The voice of Tasmanian Aborigines are being heard," Graeme Gardner, from the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania, told the ABC.

"What we would want to see is the country collectively change its whole perception of what it is to celebrate Australia and make it a celebration of all history."

But the changes may be overruled by the Morrison government, who earlier this year pledged to introduce legislation making it mandatory for councils to hold citizenship ceremonies on January 26.

Several Victorian councils have been stripped of the power to hold citizenship ceremonies after shunning Australia Day.

Mr van Zetten said the council would follow any directions from the federal government. "They're aware of our position (but) we've got to do what we feel is best, as a council, and that's what we've done," he said.

Launceston is the second Tasmanian council to shift Australia Day events, following the Flinders Island Council in 2013.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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