Reading today: the identity politics death grip

The irony of identity politics is that it does not see itself as political; it supposes that we live in a post-political age, that social justice can be managed by the state, and that those who oppose identity politics are the ones “being political.” What speech does attend this post-political age consists in shaming those who do not accept the idea of identity politics—as on our college campuses. In the 1960s, college students across the country fought so that repressed ideas would receive a fair hearing. These days, college students fight to repress all ideas except one: identity politics.

Outstanding piece from City Journal. Link

I’m LGBTQQIAAP+. Gay rights can fuck off and die

Back when I was a young thing, it was ‘LGB’ and that was an end to it. Where did the rest of the alphabet soup come from?

LGB made sense. For all that the different groups within it had different interests, cultures and priorities all three had one positive thing in common – a stance that could be summed up along the lines of ‘We hold that romantic and sexual same-sex relationships are and should be deemed normal and healthy for those who wish to pursue them’. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people all have that in common. Easy.

But now add in the rest of the alphabet soup, and what does the whole group have in common? What statement can be made that unites the interests of a lesbian with a late-transitioning, autogynephilic trans-identified male who is attracted to women, and an asexual person who experiences no sexual attraction to anyone? Yet they all (L, T, A) belong – or so we are told – in the same alphabet soup.

LGB is about same-sex relationships. The remainder don’t even necessarily define themselves in opposition to normative heterosexuality. Heterosexual people can apparently be queer, so you can be straight and in the gang. There’s

even an extra ‘A’ in there for ‘allies’ that , the term used in identity politics for ‘people who belong to bad oppressor groups and are low on the victim hierarchy but still buy into our crazy and want to hang out with us, the victim elect, while constantly apologising for their existence and generally being whiny twats in the hope we’ll give them cookies’. What rights are they campaigning for? Why do they need a letter?

Because it’s not a campaign, it’s a club. And apparently these days you can still be in it even if you’re straight. Just say you’re nonbinary, declare yourself asexual, queer, questioning or an ally and you too can join a trendy gang that gives you permission to perform your virtue and special special difference from the normies, to take a nibble on the victim pie, to whip up Twitterstorms on behalf of whichever victim group is flavour of the month and, in a general way, soak up some of that nice righteousness that comes with being in an oppressed group. Even if you’re not really all that oppressed. (Is Jaden Smith oppressed?)

All very warm and fuzzy, but the upshot of this is that any clear message about gay rights is muffled as fuck. Indeed, once you buy into the idea that the alphabet soup needs to be ‘inclusive’ of the needs of all these people, most of whom have sod all in common and some of whom are actually just straight people who want to feel a bit special, you can’t really, actually, campaign for anything much. And if you try, the reality starts to bite, which is that you’ve created an umbrella group whose members, far from having shared interests, in fact have such mutually contradictory interests in many ways that the only way to be inclusive is for some or all of the letters to STFU.  Campaign for contraception? The asexual non-shaggers get hurt feelings. Campaign for same-sex relationship acceptance? Not only do the bisexuals start complaining about invisibility (seriously, get over yourselves), but trans-identified heterosexual men start asserting that they are in fact also lesbians, so real lesbians should put out more. And then the lesbians get annoyed. (Of course here, we can guess who’s going to win the argument. Spoiler: cis lesbians are ugly and boring and their rights are all cool now yeah. So not the lesbians).

But I digress. What’s happened here is not, in fact, an expansion of the campaign for gay rights – it’s the disintegration of that campaign. It’s like what would happen if you decided in the name of inclusivity to open up the Olympics to competitive sewing, darts, poetry reading, cookery, dance and spelling bees. Suddenly you don’t have an athletics competition any more, you just have a vaguely feelgood sort of village show. (Which, coincidentally, is what’s happened to Pride marches, which used to be protests but are now ‘parades’ and sponsored by every virtue-signalling corporate under the sun, expressing nothing but vague, feelgood sort of general leftism with a side order of mild smugness at being a bit more victimy and self-righteous than those lame cishets). The alphabet soupers have in fact stolen the movement from under gay people, and killed it with inclusivity.

Then, the competing interests of genuine minorities (such as – whisper it – lesbians) suitably stifled, we are finding to our amazement that the loudest voices in the new, happy, inclusive alphabet soup movement are the same group as they are everywhere else: heterosexual men. Or, as they are now known, trans lesbians. Now that it’s impossible to campaign for the full range of self-evidently competing interests supposedly included in the alphabet soup, we have to prioritise someone. Who should we choose? I know – heterosexual men! And as new letters get added, and the original gay people start to protest, just watch as the newer ones, like cuckoos, begin to push them out of the nest.

Identity politics is killing the left. Feminists can turn the tide

The other day I posted about how I thought it was time feminists abandoned their affiliation with the left, seeing as the left has abandoned all but the thinnest pretense of affiliation with feminism.

But on reflection, that seems the wrong way up. To walk feminism away from the left is to identify the left with the faction that has taken it over, namely the jihadis of identitarian ‘social justice’ – to say that yes, this is the left and the whole of the left, and that Owen Jones is right to accuse those who diverge from its catechism of being ‘centrists’ or even – gasp – right-wing. But it’s not true. There are many sensible, thoughtful, idealistic people on the left who don’t buy into the crazy. Who don’t even buy into identity politics, who are still with Martin Luther King rather than Ta-Nehisi Coates, who see this narcissistic, atomising arms race of special pleading for what it is: the graveyard of solidarity and the end of the left as a tool for real change. As, in fact, a capitulation of leftism to radical individualism, a pampered whingefest for those far enough up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to be able to put aside more visceral concerns such as obtaining food, shelter, or safety from violence and focus instead on fine-tuning their exquisitely unique and special identities and the specific oppressions they imagine to obtain from being the uniquely suffering creature they are.

Identity politics could perhaps be characterised as a post-Christian spasm, a 21st century search for meaning in pain. But the competition it engenders between its believers, as they jockey for position as most-oppressed, taking selfies of their own martyrdom, mean that far from being a basis for the kind of solidarity that could change the world, it is deeply inimical to any kind of solidarity. No group must speak for any other; each group fractures ever further into sub-groups, sub-identities; the final result is a universe of lonely sufferers, screaming into the internet void for someone to acknowledge the special intensity of their pain.

It’s hard to effect meaningful political change if no-one can agree on what the change should be, and when everyone is more concerned with their feelings anyway. So instead of left-wing politics you have a thin layer of eternal cultural revolution designed progressively to atomise what’s left of our culture ever further to appease the whingebags. Under that thin layer of revolution lie the same commercial systems and power structures as ever. Pretty shit revolution if you ask me.

I should add at this point that I’m not really in favour of radically transforming anything these days. But if I were a leftist I would be, and in that case I would be getting increasingly concerned about the paralysing effect of identity politics on the ability of idealists to organise, rally others to their cause and effect political change in relation to that cause. As is often the way, feminists have been the canary in the mine, and a growing number of female voices have begun to push back against the stultifying impact of identitarian self-absorption on women’s ability to argue clearly and coherently for those feminist issues (and they are legion) that still need addressing.

The brutality of the vitriol and threats of excommunication feminists have faced from the majority of the left now in thrall to identitarian ideas is a testament to what is at stake here: two mutually exclusive ways of thinking. Identitarian narcissism and class analysis cannot coexist. Where the left has traditionally campaigned based on the power in collective solidarity, identity politics is a movement of radical individualism, whose logical endpoint is a world where each individual identity is defined by its differences from each other identity, and as such class solidarity of any kind is impossible. This is the death of the left. (This is also why the Morning Star is the only periodical that regularly challenges trans ideology – communists sense the danger to their worldview in submitting to it).

As an aside, if you’re reading this as a conservative and thinking great, the left can fuck off and die then, don’t be so complacent. Identitarianism is coming for all the forms of collective identity you hold dear as well. Faith, nation, the family, you name it: the snowflakes want it all to burn on the altar of ‘inclusivity’.

But I digress. Though I’m not really of the left any more it saddens me to watch this tsunami of self-absorption-masquerading-as-radicalism devour, splinter and paralyse a movement that was about social solidarity and transformation for the better. So, as the radical feminists are at the forefront of the fight-back against the apotheosis of SJW madness in the form of transgender rights, I call on them to repudiate identity politics and begin the process of expelling this virus from the left. Take the movement back.

It will mean letting go of the temptation to get into ‘more oppressed than thou’ competitions, fighting the urge to tell people to check their privilege, and ditching the notion that there is any special and mystical about the experience of women that takes precedence over our potential, all of us, to share common humanity. But it also brings a liberatory revival of the ability to talk about human universals, and maybe – just maybe – might offer fresh arguments that can help break the current deadlock between feminism and trans ideology, in favour of something saner, that provides space to be respectful of the distress experienced by trans people without the totalitarian desire to abolish feminism and women, not to mention biology, homosexuality, science and objective fact.

Radical feminists: time to abandon the left

Feminists are wasting their time trying to persuade the left’s revolutionary vanguard not to ostracise them.

Watching a brief Twitter interaction between babyfaced lefty weathervane Owen Jones and Jen Harvey, a gender critical feminist, crystallised this for me.

Jen protests at Owen’s characterisation of ‘transphobia’ as something perpetrated by ‘centrists’:

The splendidly angry Twitter thread that follows asks: how dare you try and purge feminists from the left-wing umbrella for defending our own interests?

It’s a good thread. But she’s wasting her time.

Jones’ claim that ‘centrists’ are ‘transphobic’ is a standard left-wing tactic, designed to push in two directions. Firstly, it speaks to anyone who already knows that ‘transphobia’ is a Bad Thing, to claim the fight against this Bad Thing as quintessentially left-wing; and not just the moderate left but the True Left.

Secondly, it speaks to anyone who has an emotional stake in others continuing to recognise them as part of the Lefty Gang, to let them know if they want to keep their designation as part of the Great Virtuous Tribe of Left Wing Goodies and not be kicked to the kerb as nasty, bigoted centrists, they’d better lay off the transphobia.

So, according to Jones, to be left-wing is to support trans people, and to question trans activism is to renounce membership of the left. If you do that, you might be a centrist, or even (shudder) On The Right.

I see a lot of feminists getting really upset about moves like this, which redefine the legitimate field of operations of radical leftism and demand acquiescence by threatening ostracism. Look, I get it – most feminists see themselves as left-wing, and for most left-wing people (including myself, when I was a lefty) being on the left is an important part of personal identity. Left-wing ideology is all about how the world should be, rather than how it currently is, and it’s frustrating and depressing to try and share one’s vision of a world transformed with people who just tell you exasperatedly ‘but that’s not how the world works’. So lefties tend to band together in groups where they can – to a greater or lesser extent – share visions for how the world ought to be.

The problem with this, though, is that how the world ought to be is a movable feast. As it’s grounded only in hopes, dreams, aspirations, rather than observable reality, there’s nothing to stop my lefty vision diverging from yours. At that point, if these two lefties are to continue feeling part of the same movement, there’s a competition for which vision wins out. It would be nice if this were always conducted as a straight competition for which ideal is the most inspiring, but in practice among radicals the main weapon in the battle of ideas is to accuse your ideological opponent of not really being left-wing, or not left-wing enough. Not pure enough.

Under Stalin the purging of visions of transformation that competed with Uncle Joe’s took a literal and brutal form: arrest, incarceration, execution. Fortunately, at least for the moment, we inhabit a world where Owen Jones has no power to send those he dislikes to the gulag, so he is confined to prattling in the Guardian or on Twitter; but trust me, when he warns his fans off centrism and transphobia thus, the mechanism is the same. If you don’t agree with me, you’re not in my gang. You’re a centrist. A Tory. Excommunicated!

Since the 1960s, the march of progressivism has taken on one cause after another, beginning with racism, sexism and homophobia. On these fronts it has indisputably made the world a better place in some respects: we should all treat one another equally and with equal courtesy. As significant gains have been chalked up on these fronts, new anti-discrimination fronts have opened up, of which the latest is transgender rights. Because progressivism works like the EU’s acquis communautaire, right-thinking leftists are expected to add each new progressive cause to those that preceded it. All must be espoused and vocally supported. And it’s one out, all out: to fail in espousing a single progressive cause celebre is to fail entirely as a leftist. (Outside the proper causes, it’s open season: you can support all the genocidal Soviets and IRA bombers you like. But woe betide you if you put a foot wrong on the progressive causes. Campaign all your life for trafficked women, the welfare state, whatever; if you said a bad thing about trans women once in 1992 we will picket you until you die, then dance on your grave.

The problem radical feminists face right now is that they must either abandon their radical feminism, or be abandoned by the left. Radical feminism holds that gender is not a binary but a hierarchy, one perpetuated by a patriarchal society with the intent of keeping women in a subordinate position. The trans activist position, that gender is a matter of inner feelings and identity, seen from this perspective, is an outrage: if gender is a matter of feelings and individual choice, how can anyone critique the unfair power relations perpetuated by social gender structures? Surely if you’re not comfortable with your designation you should just find an identity that’s more comfortable? Radical feminists argue that it just doesn’t work like that. Identifying as something other than female doesn’t change the fact that I’m female bodied, and being female bodied is where it all begins.

So, radical feminists cannot support the literalists of transgender activism, who put inner gender identity ahead of perceptible physiological materiality and state that to be a woman one must simply identify as one. In circular fashion, when asked to define ‘woman’, the answer is ‘someone who identifies as one’. Thus radical feminists have set themselves against transgenderism, which is the current darling of the left. One out, all out: if you question us on this front, you’re probably a bigot on all the others too. Hell, you might even be a centrist.

A lot of feminists are angry at the injustice  of this, as in the thread I quoted earlier. We campaign all our lives for the world as we think it ought to be, and for the sake of a few men in dresses you want to take our leftist identities from us? Fuck you. But this is a waste of time. Why? Because the progressive ratchet is relentless. What started with obvious injustices such as racism seeks out ever more nebulous forms of injustice and discrimination to attack, and ever more authoritarian means of doing so. The revolutionary vanguard of the social justice movement is leaving a trail of bruised, angry former leftists in its wake – excommunicants barred from belonging for questioning – say – the impact of open-borders immigration on the indigenous working class, or whether a male-bodied individual with a bass voice, a receding hairline and a fully functioning penis can truly be a woman. American standup comic Owen Benjamin recently stated in a podcast ‘I arrived in LA as a left-winger, and I’m leaving it with people calling me a conservative. My political views haven’t changed’.

Radical feminists, the left is moving under you. Has moved under you. Your political views may not have changed, but some of them now disqualify you for membership of the left. The next group to discover this will be LGB activists, from the days when it really was LGB and not today’s alphabet soup. Your choice is simple: give up radical feminism, or give up on the left.

Though of course it’s up to your personal conscience, in my view the radical feminist analysis of gender relations is an important one, so I hope you choose the latter. The upside is that if you do so, you no longer need to feel hurt and angry when people accuse you of things which are only a problem if you want people to see you as a lefty – such as being a transphobic centrist. You also don’t need to be in Owen Jones’ gang any more. What’s not to like?

May’s retail offer disappoints on all levels

Theresa May’s big conference announcement for the day was…wait for it…extra dosh for Help to Buy.

Great. Fantastic. Muted applause.

The announcement disappoints, on so many levels.

Level one: it’s a stupid policy that will make the situation it proposes to ameliorate worse. Why is there a crisis in the first place? Housing prices are too high. What happens when you increase demand (give more young people the means to buy) without increasing supply accordingly? Prices go up. It’s barely even a sticking plaster on an endemic problem that will take a degree of political boldness undetectable in this government.

Level two: it’s weak and calculating, and trying not to look that way. The Tories are in a bind, because no-one young votes Tory. To entice more young voters their way, they need to do something to help more young people become the property-owning middle classes that traditionally vote Tory. That means building enough houses to keep prices stable or encourage them to fall. But on the other hand, housebuilding on that scale will annoy the older people who like the countryside as it is, and who see the rising value of their home as a nest egg. These are people who already reliably vote Tory. So, May must choose whether to protect the interests of the Tories’ core vote or risk alienating this core vote in order to appeal to another demographic that may or may not be swayed by her efforts. She has tried to square this circle, with a policy that will enable more young people to get a toe on the housing ladder, while ignoring the need to increase supply; her policy will thus avoid too much desecration of the sacred Green Belt and continue to drive up house prices, hopefully keeping the core Tory vote on board. Everyone wins, right? Except it’s a stupid policy that just defers the fundamental problem, which is either too few houses or too many people. She must know well that this is the case but lacks the clout, the boldness or perhaps the vision to do more than paper over the cracks and try to keep these competing interests onside.

Level three, and fundamentally, this policy disappoints because it’s such a sad capitulation to the bland, vision-less, tinkering-with-the-dials modern politics of ‘me, me, me’. What will the government do for me? What about my interests? Sod the country, I’m voting for whoever has the best deal for me. Forget having a vision and trying to govern in the national interest. Forget trying to carry the people with you when you do so. Ignore the big questions, fiddle with this tax or that incentive, try and triangulate for as many selfish subsets of the demos as you can isolate.

Whatever what your views on Brexit, it is clear that many people voted Leave knowing full well it was likely to result in an economically bumpy ride but believing that leaving was in the national interest regardless. By and large it was a vote that rejected the selfish nest-feathering insularity of retail politics in favour of a bigger vision. In uncertain times, faced with many competing narratives to explain ever more unpredictable outcomes, the Brexit vote spoke of a people – 52% of them, anyway – looking for a politics that is more about vision than retail offers. Arguably the popularity of Corbyn’s unaffordable promises speaks to the same impulse. But has May sensed the national hunger for vision and boldness in politics? Has she fuck. After her disastrous attempt at grasping nettles in the national interest – the so-called ‘dementia tax’, a genuinely bold and progressive effort to stop kicking the pretty troubling can of elderly care down the road – she has retreated from the big picture into the horse-trading politics of buying off this or that demographic.

What the Conservatives need is a leader with the courage and vision to make a clear case for tackling the country’s vested interests and getting the political consent for this by inspiring political solidarity. In the case of housing that means getting the NIMBYs to accept that they have to choose between keeping their pretty view at the expense of a thriving community, or letting development happen so their children can afford to buy in the area. We need someone who can speak to the whole country and draw out a sense of solidarity, of being willing to compromise so that the country overall can thrive.

The Conservatives were once able to find the kind of language to capture that kind of purpose and collective endeavour. Sadly, though, Mrs May has shrunk from the task in hand and I don’t see any likely successor who strike me as more plausible. So instead we get a shit policy that aims to buy off one group while keeping another pacified. A policy, and a party, that utterly fails to meet the mood of the times but instead harks back to the selfish, narcissistic politics of the ‘End of History’ post-Cold War era. A policy and party that resolutely refuses to acknowledge the fact that history has come roaring back, and that our current elected representatives are painfully, woefully not up to the job of dealing with it.

Feminism vs trans-cis-demi-genderblah: why you should care

Very much enjoyed Sam Harris’podcasted discussion with Douglas Murray on topics ranging from transgenderism to leftist apologism for Islamic terrorists and the migrant crisis. Towards the end he said (I’m paraphrasing slightly) something to the effect that he’d given up on the left and its narcissism of small differences, could not bring himself to care about its internecine battles because sod them, there are more important matters at stake.

I do broadly agree with him that there are more important things going on in the world at present than the debate about whether or not a penis can be female (of course it can’t, you idiot, it’s a penis). Nonetheless, the quarrel between the feminists and the transgenderists is worth paying attention to, even if you’ve reached a general state of exasperation with the entire grievance-mongering, self-flagellating, virtue-signalling, political paralysis-inducing nonsense that is the post-Cold War leftism of identity.

It’s worth keeping an eye on because to my eye it is evidence of some (albeit tiny) green shoots of hope. One of my core frustrations with identity politics, and more broadly with the speech code restrictions it imposes on society in general, is the way it insists on dealing only with the world as it should be. Any inconvenient facts about the world as it actually is are either ignored, denied, explained away or countered with shrill accusations of bigotry.

Remaining with the feminists, for example, this can be seen in the rage that breaks out whenever somebody dares suggest that women who don’t want to get taken advantage of might want to consider not getting falling-down drunk in the company of oversexed men with dubious morals. Of course ‘She was drunk and I was horny and she didn’t say no’ is no excuse for raping an unconscious woman, however she came to be unconscious. But some unpleasant scumbags will take advantage, and the best way to avoid being the victim is not to get shitfaced when surrounded by dodgy pervs. And yet any attempt to point this out is met with furious accusations of ‘rape apology’ and ‘victim blaming’. On the one hand here, we have people who adhere rigidly to a vision of the world as they believe it should be (any sexual contact not preceded by explicit consent is assault) and wish to police all departures from that vision. On the other, we have those who observe the world as it is (most people are okay but there are some predatory toerags out there) and wish to take pragmatic steps to encourage individuals to use their judgement to avoid unpleasant outcomes.

One of the recurring themes of Murray and Harris’ podcast was the bad faith with which the left has attempted to silence or toxify the real and necessary discussion around Islamism and integration of migrants in Western societies. We could see this as another instance of one side insisting only on a discussion of the world as it should be (everyone is nice to everyone regardless of faith; white people are extra nice to brown people because colonialism) meeting and condemning in the shrillest possible terms others’ desire to discuss the world as it is (many Muslims have no desire to integrate in the West; further, some of these think the West is a sink of moral squalor and are willing to blow themselves up in order to combat this iniquitous den of moral filth).

The strange insistence of this type of leftism on denying any narrative but that of the world as the imaginer would like it to be be finds a natural common cause with the genderists. Here, the privileging of wishful thinking over observable reality becomes an individual’s emancipatory right: I am whatever gender I say I am, because no-one else can dictate my identity but me. This sacralisation of solipsism as a human right further demands that any physiological facts that contradict the individual’s self-definition, such as possession of the wrong sex organs, are simply discounted. Because I say I am a woman, my penis is a womanly penis. And because most of the arguing I do about this is on the internet, whether or not I actually have a penis seems, some of the time at least, less relevant. Therefore, I will claim that it is not relevant at all and in fact that mentioning said penis makes you an oppressive bigot.

Returning to the quarrel between the feminists and the genderists, my slender green shoot of hope  grows from the fact that feminism may now be forced to lead the charge against the madness of identity politics. For if genderism is allowed to run riot, feminism stops being possible. I’m not talking about the whiny type of virtue-signalling feminism that tries to get prominent scientists sacked or protein shake adverts banned; I’m talking about the very necessary type of feminism that runs women’s refuges or rape helplines, and campaigns for abortion rights and against FGM. Because the world is still, in quite a few ways, a more difficult place to navigate safely if you’re the owner of tits and a uterus than if you’re the owner of a penis. Most of the pragmatic, grass-roots, truly meaningful feminism aims to address problems that accrue to women because of their physiology. But if the genderists win, and focusing on the physiological aspect of these difficulties is erased because it conflicts between the genderists’ vision of the world as it should be, then feminism becomes conceptually impossible. Thankfully, numerous feminists have woken up to this and are insisting that no, your delicate feelings and desire for me not to rain on your parade does not take priority over certain immutable physiological facts and no, pointing that out doesn’t make me a bigot, it makes your protests deluded and monumentally self-absorbed if not actually mentally ill. Because that’s what we’re talking about: a group of people who wish to rewrite reality in the name of social justice. We need to call this what it is – madness – and pedal rapidly backwards from the conceptual framework that permits this madness to take hold.

I understand the reluctance of many to get involved in the internecine quarrels of the left. Nonetheless I would urge anyone who is concerned about the increasing fragmentation of Western culture, and particularly the inability of our intelligentsia to counter divisive grievance and oppression narratives with observable and accepted facts, to make common cause with those feminists currently in the front line of the fight to save the reality-based community.