It’s been a while since I did a Moron-Free Radio Podcast. Meanwhile, I’ve begun a new podcast over at the Sex & Censorship blog (sexandcensorship.org). Here is a recent S&C Podcast, in which I’m interviewed by KMO of C-Realm Radio in Vermont. It’s a long and wide-ranging discussion on sex, censorship, identity politics and the new fascism. If you enjoy, please subscribe to the Sex & Censorship podcast and keep on listening.
My book Porn Panic!, which was published in August by Zero Books, is an unusual book, and has had strong reviews – from those on both sides of the porn debate. The book charts attacks on pornography – in part from a personal perspective – and then takes a big step back to take a broad look at the state of our society today; and concludes that we’re not in a good place, nor moving in a good direction. This is more than a book about pornography: it’s a book about fascism.
It’s no secret that authoritarians will always target sexual libertines, nor that authoritarian states consistently attempt to suppress the sexual urge. This is a lesson that has been learned repeatedly through history; every spike in sexual freedom has eventually been met with a conservative backlash. The pattern is so marked, and so consistent, that it almost seems burned into our DNA. And of course, it is: sex is such a fundamental part of the human psyche that it plays a hidden role in most of our behaviours. Sex is about far more than either reproduction or pleasure. It forms a vital role in our economic and social life; it is probably the most valuable commodity we as humans trade, and it was certainly the first. Sexual freedom offends, because it threatens so many vested interests.
So when, as a tech entrepreneur in the mid-90s, I built some of the earliest Internet porn sites, I was uniquely positioned to watch the backlash unfold. Indeed, I fully expected the backlash, and watched with interest. After all, I live in the UK, a country that has gone through more contortions than almost any other to stop its citizens watching smut. Would our prudish authorities simply roll over as the digital network swept away their carefully assembled powers of censorship? Not a chance.
And similarly, the grassroots backlash was to be expected. What took me by surprise was the nature of the backlash. In a country where religion has withered to a point of virtual irrelevance, a Christian campaign for decency would be simply laughed off. Instead, the anti-sex fury came from my tribe, the political left. A conservative strand of feminism, born in the USA in the 1980s, was at the core of the anti-sex reaction. Its first victims were strippers in east London, who fought back as feminists and trade unionists attempted to put them out of well-paid work and kill a niche culture. One of the strippers, who features in Porn Panic!, referred to herself as the “canary in the coalmine”. She understood like few others that a tsunami was building.
From strip clubs, the movement surged forward, attacking sexual expression in all forms, and then expanding to attack free speech in general. It was a movement of the left that embodied all the worst attributes of the old conservative right: it began to attack concepts of racial and sexual equality that had been the outcome of the liberal revolutions of the 1960s. It was inherently anti-science, preferring to create new facts that suited its ideology. This was a new fascism, and its ideas were entering the mainstream.
So here we go. I’m about to blow my MoronWatch anonymity after 2,325 days on Twitter. There are a number of reasons for this; foremost is that my book was published today, but there are various others. Before I enter into a long and sentimental ramble, I might as well cut to the chase.
My name is Jerry Barnett, and my book, Porn Panic!, was published today by Zero Books. The book is about porn, but really it’s about the politics of sex and censorship, but really it’s about the decline of the progressive left and the rise of a new fascism. In my humble and highly-biased opinion, it’s a unique, timely and important book. I wrote it based on my experiences over the past years, including my six years of online “work” as MoronWatch.
Besides rambling on social media, and writing books, I’m a software engineer by background, a tech entrepreneur, a photographer, and (as I’ve repeatedly referenced) a lifelong anti-fascist. I’m also a parent to beautiful kids, an ageing raver and a natural-born rabble-rouser. My Jewish background, my time spent as a racial minority in black communities, and my mixed relationship (my partner is of Nigerian background) are all among the reasons for my hatred of racism and fascism.
MoronWatch has changed substantially in the past six and a bit years, for a variety of interlinked reasons. Some of this is covered in my book, but let’s try to pick it apart a little here. I actually first joined Twitter in 2009, a year before I began moron-watching. Twitter allowed a promiscuity of social contact, breaching walls between strangers in a way that Facebook did not. It allowed for more open and more intelligent discussion (as well as for more shouting and trolling) and I enjoyed it immensely. But I became fascinated that I could read the ramblings of people I didn’t like: Nick Griffin of the British National Party for example. Now I could. On the other hand, following Nick Griffin might cause some of my Twitter friends to raise eyebrows. How to follow such people (and take the piss out of them) anonymously? And so, on 15th April 2010, MoronWatch was born.
MoronWatch was unusual – possibly unique – in that I only followed people I didn’t agree with, never people I did. I began by following Nick Griffin, a variety of other right-wingers, religious fundamentalists and some propagators of superstition such as homeopaths and astrologers. It’s worth pausing for a moment to note just how stupid the zeitgeist has become in such a short time: by the standards of today’s purveyors of anti-science bullshit – natural remedies for cancer, chemtrails and a million conspiracy theories about everything – homeopaths and astrologers seem positively quaint and harmless.
MoronWatch was also unique for another reason. From the start, I aimed to tease and mock, but not to bully. I followed people with stupid views, and interacted with them, rather than block them. I tried to open discussions and change minds. As a result, I developed a broad audience, religious and atheist, moron and non-moron. Although many people that I followed blocked me, many more followed back, and many of these got the joke.
Without consciously planning it this way, MoronWatch became a hub of Twitter discussion, debate and entertainment unlike any other. I only realised how unusual this was when an academic study – into online climate change debate – named my MoronWatch account as one of a tiny handful worldwide that was widely followed by both climate change believers and sceptics. Of course, as readers will know, I believe strongly in the danger of man made climate change, and have often attacked sceptics; but the fact was, I was among the rare few that didn’t just preach to the converted in their cosy little echo chambers (indeed, I blogged on the danger of online echo chambers).
The early speed of growth in my followers took me by surprise. A thousand, two thousand, ten thousand, twenty thousand followers within a couple of years. I turned my attention to the rise of the new far-right, especially the English Defence League, which I saw as a genuine threat.
After a few months of being an exclusively Twitter character, I began blogging as MoronWatch, and created the obligatory Facebook presence. My early articles tried to replicate my Twitter persona, but flippant piss-taking and use of the word “moron” didn’t work so well in long form as it did in 140-character tweets, and my blog identity slowly evolved in a new, more serious, direction, attracting a new audience.
But slowly my worldview began to shift, for a number of reasons. This was my first engagement with left-wing politics since my activist days, which began in the late-70s and had fizzled out by the early-90s. But I soon began to see that the left was no longer as I remembered it. Some of the slogans remained the same, but the movement was a different animal entirely, and the world, too, had changed enormously.
I experienced little moments of awakening which came with increasing frequency. A young man – an ex-EDL member – told me that he had joined the group because of hostility that he and his friends had experienced from Asian immigrants in his northern town. He had quickly left the group once the its racist nature became apparent; and yet his experience of the political left – which should have been reaching out to people like him – was of anti-racist protesters who turned up to march in his town, and joined some Asian youth in pillorying and attacking young white men. The anti-racists, instead of trying to bridge divides in working class communities, had effectively declared class war on communities that were struggling with the effects of the mass immigration. I noted that the left was turning against its original base: white working class people. I predicted that this would benefit the nationalist right. Today, Brexit, Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen prove me right.
Meanwhile, I was earnestly informed that, under new “theories” of the left, brown people could not be racist. The left was abandoning its old, core beliefs of equality, unity and solidarity and replaced them with an imagined hierarchy of “oppressions” that looked remarkably like the racist hierarchies of the old, white supremacist right. People were being judged by the colour of their skin, not the content of their minds. We had gone through the looking glass.
The new left had, I was learning, largely abandoned class politics for a bigoted set of ideologies known as identity politics. Now people were being arbitrarily graded by race, sex and sexuality. Unity had given way to arbitrary division. Now, non-white people, women, homosexuals, trans people and other groups were deemed to be “oppressed”, whether they themselves felt oppressed or not, and regardless of their actual life experiences. Bit by bit, I awoke to the reactionary and divisive nature of many on the new left. My reaction to this was horror. I could find humour in the reactionary right, but could not view the intellectual and political decline of the left with anything but sorrow and anger.
Meanwhile, I had become involved in free speech and sexual freedom activism. Through this, I encountered new activist communities, and again was surprised to find that anti-sex and anti-free speech conservatism, once associated with the right, was now deeply embedded in the movements of the left, from the Labour Party to trade unions, the feminist and anti-racism movements.
My writing began to shift, acknowledging that, if I was to “watch morons”, I had to be true to myself and point out stupidity everywhere, including (no – especially) in my own tribe. In January 2012, I wrote a piece on reactionary feminism, Feminists or Fascists? In July of that year, I more broadly critiqued the left for the first time, with a blog post: I Never Left The Left – The Left Left Me. The title of the last piece summed up my feeling then, and now: I could no longer associate myself with a political left that had broadly adopted conservative, bigoted attitudes; and worst of all, had become deeply rigid and unintelligent in its thinking. The intelligent commentators in politics were increasingly to be found on the centre-right and libertarian-right than the left. I set out to explore the idea of left-wing libertarianism, and wrote a well-received post on Right-wing vs Left-wing Libertarianism. I saw self-obsessed, self-pitying middle-class ‘liberals’ appropriating oppression from the poor.
I began to turn my attention towards new ‘morons’ to watch. The Guardian, a paper I’d loyally read for many years, had become involved in propagating anti-sex moral panics, and had adopted much of the worst bigotry of identity politics. I wrote pieces including an analysis of The Guardian’s Sexual Hang-ups, and another in response to a deeply racist article about pornography in Africa. Via the Guardian, I discovered the ludicrous new-left idea of “cultural appropriation”, and again was horrified that racist and divisive ideology was now being propagated by ‘liberals’.
My anger with the left was not just borne of a feeling of tribal betrayal. I saw a dangerous rise in fascist attitudes that were becoming standard in many left-wing circles. As a veteran anti-fascism campaigner, this horrified me, and increasingly absorbed my attention. There appeared to be little critique of the new-left from commentators of the left. I felt a detailed commentary was needed. In January 2013, to escape British winter and London distractions, I took a cheap laptop to Gambia and began to write Porn Panic!
My personal life changed too: my son was born in Spring of 2013 and my daughter early this year; between babies and writing, the time I’d had for social media evaporated, and MoronWatch became a quieter online presence.
Porn Panic! is my attempt to coherently tie together the various trends I’ve documented over the years, from reactionary, anti-sex feminism to racism and authoritarianism across the political spectrum, and to growing attacks on free speech by the British Establishment. I quote George Orwell more than once in the book; surely he remains one of the most visionary commentators of the 20th century. In particular, Animal Farm, his satire on the Soviet Union, in which the revolutionaries and the establishment blur into each other until they are one and the same: “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which”. Depressingly, Orwell seems more relevant today than ever.
We are in a new era, in which the left-right divide appears to mean little. Instead, the liberal values of the Enlightenment – liberty, equality, reason – are under fierce attack from extremes of both left and right. Fascism is with us, in numerous guises. To quote from Porn Panic!:
“Fascism again stalks the West, in both recognisable forms and new ones. In France, draconian restrictions on speech and assembly have followed the Paris shootings of November 2015; in Poland and Denmark, the far-right has gained unprecedented ground in elections. Meanwhile in America, Donald Trump clownishly suggests that as President, he might: “… go see Bill Gates [and talk to him about] closing that Internet up in some way. People will say ‘Oh freedom of speech,’ these are foolish people. We have a lot of foolish people.”
And sadly, Trump’s comments closely match some from the British left who have chosen to shout FREEZEPEACH at people on social media who dare suggest that censorship might not be a good thing.”
I hope that MoronWatch followers will enjoy reading Porn Panic! I’m especially pleased that it was recognised and published by Zero Books, a left-wing publisher. Today, far more than in 2013, there is fast-growing recognition on the left that it has deep, even existential problems. And today, as I’ve warned for some years, the rise of a new fascism is undeniable. Some of the book’s ideas will be familiar to regular blog readers, but much of it is new.
Journalists and bloggers can contact me for review copies and to request interviews: firstname.lastname@example.org
So, it’s one of the most important days in modern British history; what happens today in the UK could significantly change British, European, even world history. For what it’s worth, I voted Remain. I have not seen a single worthwhile argument from any section of the Leave camp.
According to the polls and the markets, Remain is the favourite; but I suspect the markets are being over-optimistic, and the polls are almost certainly wrong. This referendum offers an option that no general election does: the burn-everything option. This will draw out people who don’t normally vote: arsonists, nihilists, misanthropes, and general wankers who never before had the chance to destroy something with a vote. Pollsters have no idea how many of these people there are, or how likely they are to admit to their voting intentions. After all, Tory voters are notoriously shy to admit their intentions… surely Leave voters will be at least as much? We’ll find out later today. And we won’t even need an exit poll: the markets will get there first.
The referendum has given many people the chance to be complete fuckwits, and so of course, they have delivered in spades. Here are just a few of my favourite referendum morons.
The Leave Camp
Obviously, first prize goes to this shower of lying wankers, led by Farage, Johnson and Gove, with support from every far-right party in Europe. While it’s become fashionable to say “both camps are being dishonest”, the Leavers are several orders of magnitude worse. They started out with a complete lie: that leaving would save £350m per week. And when they were bored of that, they just started banging the xenophobia drum. Meanwhile, their only answer to predictions of disaster was “Surely you don’t expect me to believe that… PROJECT FEAR na na na!”
By Tory standards, Cameron is a pretty centrist, liberal and internationalist character. Much as I hate there being a Tory government, we should take note that the Tory right is enraged by Cameron – he’s clearly doing something right. But promising a referendum was the ultimate in political twattishness, and done for the dumbest of tactical reasons: an attempt to pull the electoral rug from under UKIP. Instead, Cameron validated Farage; worse than that, he created the first opportunity in modern British history for nationalists, xenophobes and racists of all stripes to rally under a single banner.
This silly term for left-brexit was coined by columnist Owen Jones. Less than a year ago, Jones was flying the flag for Brexit for predictably stupid reasons, and said: “Without a prominent Left Out campaign, Ukip could displace Labour right across northern England. That would be the real vindication of Ukippery.” He then undertook a magnificent U-turn, declaring his former beliefs to be disastrous, and is still writing Guardian columns on how important it is to stay in the EU. Jones’ views on any subject appear to be entirely derived from the last 10 tweets he looked at, so he’s an important indicator of how the new-left is thinking. Generally, the Lexit case is: “The EU supports neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is bad. M’kay?”, coupled with an insane belief that Britain is likely to become socialist if we turn our backs on Europe. Lexiteers get confused because fascists are on the Leave side, while big business is on the Remain side, and both fascists and big business are evil, m’kay? And their thinking doesn’t appear to go deeper than that.
While overt Lexiteers are hard to find, there are many on the left who are pro-Brexit (because neoliberalism, m’kay?) but have decided to stay quiet about it or pretend to be in the Remain camp while subtly undermining the campaign. This is clearly true of the pro-Corbyn Momentum group within Labour, which wankerishly announced in March that it wouldn’t be campaigning on either side. Corbyn himself has campaigned for Remain in, at best, a half-hearted way. And this, to me, is unforgivable: Labour’s message has been so weakened and confused that Labour voters are unsure what the official Labour position is. Doubtless, the pro-EU Labour majority is quietly seething, and rightly so: Corbyn’s ambivalence has no doubt boosted the Leave campaign, though by how much is anyone’s guess. It is widely predicted that the Tories will collapse into civil war after the referendum: I predict Labour will too.
Spiked! is a strange and interesting online publication. It’s a cult-like grouping run by ex-far-lefties, and headed by Brendan O’Neill. While it appears to be broadly liberal, and makes a strong and intelligent defence of free speech, Spiked! and O’Neill often flirt with libertarian-right and even far-right language. It has taken a strongly anti-EU campaigning stance, and has the chutzpah to peddle nationalist isolationism as internationalism, using Marxist-type language to sell right-wing ideology. The campaign is well crafted, and plays an anti-Establishment card that could equally have been lifted from Lexiteers or the fascist right.
Waaah I’m Not Your Friend Any More!
I’ve blogged previously about morons who delete people on social media for holding viewpoints they disagree with. This isn’t just annoying, but is dangerously dividing society into echo chambers, and building tension between angry groups that refuse to talk to each other: this way lies hate and violence. In my observation, the left is worse at this, but that might be because I have a lot more left-wing friends than right-wing ones. Those morons who deleted friends in 2015 for voting Tory are now threatening to delete their friends who vote Leave. This does nothing to help the Remain campaign, but helps people feel better about themselves by pretending everyone in the world agrees with them.
Yes, the nationalist authoritarian US presidential candidate flies into town today, totally coincidentally, expressing support for the Leave campaign. The collapse of the EU would of course be useful if one is planning to carve the world up between cooperating dictatorships in the US and Russia: or Oceania and Eurasia as the new federations might be known.
And on that cheerful note, I’ll leave you to contemplate the coming downfall of western society.
In the recent Austrian Presidential Election, a far-right candidate – Norbert Hofer – came within a hair’s breadth of winning the Presidency. This moment represented just the latest evidence of a rise in populist and nationalistic attitudes that have arisen in the past decade across Europe, and arguably, worldwide. Some celebrated that the winning candidate was a left-wing independent, but that was small consolation indeed: the fact that the combined anti-fascist vote barely topped 50% is the frightening new reality in much of Europe.
My anti-fascist activism dates back almost four decades; I thought I had a stronger handle on the nature of fascism than most people. But, like most people alive today, I hadn’t really witnessed the phenomenon in the flesh. I had been taught that fascism was an exclusively right-wing political phenomenon; but it isn’t strictly right-wing, nor especially political. Fascism is a cultural force that unites many disparate conservative strands of society. It is, above all, a backlash against liberal values, most of all those of Liberty, Equality and Reason. It is generally kept at bay by the fact that usually, such groupings have little in common with each other.
Politics has become increasingly polarised as activists abandon the centre for the left and right poles. But in most cases, this does not mean a rise in diversity of opinion: in fact, once you strip away differences in presentation, left and right are often found in agreement with each other, and especially on the issues that most matter. Most of all, nationalism is soaring.
The EU is a remarkable internationalist institution, and its greatest achievement has been to diminish the importance of the borders between 28 European countries that have long histories of enmity and bloodshed. Borders are a natural response to external threats – whether real or imagined, but they also provide obstacles to the movement of people, goods, services and money. The erosion of Europe’s borders has been one of the greatest liberal triumphs in human history, granting unprecedented liberty to 500 million people, and creating an unprecedented Peace on the world’s most fractious continent.
Amidst such dramatic change, there have been inevitable losers as well as winners: low-skilled workers, in particular, have seen their incomes somewhat eroded since Poles and others from eastern Europe gained access to the British labour market a decade ago (two people told me at the time that their incomes had noticeably and rapidly fallen: one a bricklayer, the other a prostitute).
But EU winners easily outnumber the losers. For example, thanks to the EU, unemployed people have been able to flee southern Europe since the financial crash, and reduce pressure on those countries, which would otherwise see even higher unemployment and social problems. And this has been to the benefit of the economically stronger countries: this is easily visible here on London’s skyline, where a flood of incoming building workers is helping remedy the housing shortage. When many or most of them eventually return to eastern and southern Europe, the new housing stock will remain, a lasting legacy.
Yet the prevailing sentiments on both left and right are increasingly nationalistic. The right’s hostility is primarily directed at the people moving across borders. The Tory-led Brexit campaign, now led by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, has become overtly anti-immigration in recent days. Meanwhile, the pro-Brexit left makes friendlier noises towards immigrants, but attacks free trade instead. But the free labour market can’t function without free movement of people, and mass migration would stall without trade across borders. Furthermore, thanks to digital technology, small businesses are able to trade across borders as easily as big ones (in fact, the EU’s single market has simplified that). So the left’s hostility to “neoliberalism” and the right’s brutish anti-immigration messages both end up attacking the same thing: open borders. And they find the same ultimate solution: stronger borders, with all the policing, cost and state intrusion that those require.
There are few moments, in practise, that could neatly unite nationalists across the spectrum, but the EU Referendum is one, and so it marks a uniquely dangerous moment for Britain and Europe. The vote on 23rd June will unite anti-immigration rightists with protectionist leftists. And for good measure, it will unite both of those camps with every vandalistic misanthrope in the country: we all enjoy the chance to smash stuff, just for fun, and here’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to smash the biggest thing ever. Some people, whatever their political leanings, will be voting Brexit, for the same reason that some people kick ants’ nests.
We’ve been told endlessly that Brexit will damage the economy, and doubtless it will, to some extent. But the political ramifications are far more significant, longer-lasting and unpredictable. A rise in anti-British sentiment would inevitably follow: can anyone imagine that a likely outflow of Spanish, Italian and French workers would not be met by expulsions of British workers and residents from those countries? Do we expect foreign electorates to be more accommodating than we are prepared to be? (Just as I was preparing to publish this post, the Spanish PM was reported to have threatened the right of two million British ex-pats to live in Spain).
This is nationalism: a race to the bottom. Will Europe cut off its nose to spite its face? If 1914 and 1939 are anything to go by, then yes, without a doubt. In the frenzy of nationalism, Europe will happily cut off its own face and then set fire to it (apologies for the trampled metaphor).
America’s great nationalist hope, Donald Trump, has clearly indicated his relish for Brexit. He (and this is not coincidental) plans to fly in to the UK the day after the referendum, and (if we vote Leave) will doubtless be delighted to gloat about Europe’s pending break-up, adding fear and uncertainty to Europe’s wounds. Brexit would inevitably be followed by copycat stupidity from other EU nations; the EU as we know it may well unravel, millions of people could be forced back into their home countries, economies may stall or nosedive, and the longer term political and economic consequences are impossible to guess.
It’s hard to sell anyone the status quo, especially at a time of anti-everything cynicism, but that’s what a Remain vote represents. 70 years of peace has been a pretty big prize, but few people alive today understand the significance of that. To understand what Europe did to itself (and the rest of the world) in the 1940s, I recommend reading All Hell Broke Loose by Max Hastings. If people understood the real, almost unbelievable horrors of WWII, would we really take even a small step back in that direction?
This is what the Brexit crowd call “Project Fear”. But we have the right to be frightened, and we should be frightened. They can’t say what would happen to our economy, our continent or our way of life post-Brexit. For that reason alone, we should Remain in the EU.
As things stand today, Donald Trump looks set to become the Republican candidate. I have to confess, I dismissed this possibility until fairly late last year. When Twitter and Facebook followers suggested I updated my Bush avatar to a Trump one, I rejected the suggestion on the basis that by now, we’d barely remember who Trump was. I’ve now remedied my mistake.
Trump has played his hand perfectly, and rallied a strong base consisting primarily of white, working class voters. He boasts of self-funding his campaign, and this is kinda true; but in reality, his campaign has been ultra-cheap, thanks to endless free publicity from those who hate and fear him. While I generally enjoy sharing stories about crazy right-wing politicians doing crazy shit, I’ve backed off in Trump’s case, because that’s what he wants us to do. He delights in being called a fascist, a Nazi or a new Hitler: that’s exactly how his PR campaign works. It’s not that most of his supporters actually want to elect a new Hitler: it’s that they delight in watching shrieking middle-class “liberals” predict the end of the world every time Trump does something deliberately Nazi-like.
The left has run out of language with which to make Trump look bad. If shouting “FASCISM!” 99 times didn’t work, it’s unlikely a hundredth will make any difference. Trump cleverly got the fascist accusations out of the way early. Now he can do anything he wants, and his supporters recognise it for what it is: he’s taking the piss out of the politically-correct left, and they love it. He dangles left-wing activists like puppets. He says or does something outrageous, they respond, his supporters roar their appreciation. Donald Trump could appear at a rally in Nazi uniform and a Hitler moustache, and his supporters would laugh and cheer, because they get the joke.
I’ve predicted all this repeatedly, ever since (perhaps 5 years ago) I found I could no longer stomach what the left has become. Identity politics is fascism distilled and made palatable for a new era. The new left has demanded that language be policed in order that no “oppressed” group be offended in any way. It has insisted in labelling successful, middle-class black people oppressed, while telling poor white people they are privileged. No wonder Trump’s support comes from the latter group. They hate the sneering, privileged elitists who have insisted on calling them privileged, and who can blame them?
So it’s the new left, not the right, that’s responsible for reintroducing fascist methods into modern politics. Identity politics and political correctness are not progressive, liberal or democratic ideas. They are ideas for dividing people by race and gender; for creating false definitions of privilege and oppression; for destroying equality and solidarity, which were the keystones of the old left. Trump is surfing a tsunami created by the collapse of liberal values. Political correctness created taboos that The Donald has taken the greatest pleasure in demolishing.
But while his opponents have protested over his populist grandstanding, they have largely ignored the really dangerous part of his message: nationalism. While most commentators have focused on his more outrageous outbursts, they have ignored his core message, which is an anti-free trade one. And here is the true menace in modern politics: Trump’s attitudes to free trade are shared by Bernie Sanders, and by Jeremy Corbyn. A recent Guardian article pointed out that some Sanders supporters would rather vote for Trump than Clinton, quoting one supporter: “Bernie and Trump agree a lot on healthcare, Iraq war, campaign finance and trade. I really want to move on to something new, new ideas from outside the box. Maybe Donald Trump can provide that.”
How can the left stop a populist menace from rising to power when they often agree with him on the important issues?
Defence of free trade has been left to the centre-ground; but this is shrinking as politics becomes more polarised. Meanwhile, the extremes are growing stronger. People object when I compare the rise of Corbyn and Sanders to that of Trump, Farage and Le Pen, but they shouldn’t. On this most vital of issues, they are all on the same side.
The huge fact of the past couple of decades is this: between 1990 and 2010, almost a billion people were lifted out of poverty. This era has been mankind’s greatest, but in times of rapid change, there are losers as well as winners. In this case, the losers have been the lowest-skilled workers in America, Europe and Japan. And it is exactly these people who flock to Trump and UKIP, just as exactly these people flocked to Hitler and Mussolini. Free trade is, understandably, a dirty word to those workers who have seen manufacturing shift to poorer countries; naturally, they want things back as they were, even though that can never happen. But it is the intellectual bankruptcy of the left that is making way for the rise of the populist right.
The progressive left – to which I’ve pledged allegiance for most of the past four decades – is on its deathbed. We remaining progressives need to help it on its way, because it has become the lubricant for the rise of a new fascist era. Those who still think politics is divided into left and right fail to understand what is going on; and those on the left who refuse to attack Donald Trump’s anti-free trade message will be the ones who bring him to power. He probably won’t ban Muslims, or build a Mexican wall, or deport millions of illegal immigrants; but he will try to introduce a new era of protectionism and nation-vs-nation disunity. And we know how that tends to end up.
From the late-70s till the early-90s, there must have been few major anti-racism protests or festivals in London that I didn’t attend. One of the last, and certainly the craziest, was a 1993 march against a BNP bookshop which had opened in Welling, and was suspected to be a closet party HQ. This was my only experience of being baton-charged by mounted police, and it was an experience I’d rather not repeat.
The anti-racism movement of that generation was a successor to the great liberation movements of the postwar era: anti-colonialism and civil rights. Just as those movements liberated colonies and established equal rights, so our movement helped make organised British racism and anti-Semitism unacceptable, and led to the UK being one of the world’s least racially segregated nations: today, over 6% of British infants are racially mixed. The extent of our victory is demonstrated by the fact that the anti-Muslim English Defence League pushed forward its black and Asian members as spokespeople; even the far-right has had to become politically correct in tune with the new Britain.
Predictably, as organised racism collapsed, the political and academic establishment belatedly noticed the problem, it became fashionable to be ‘anti-racist’, and huge resources were dedicated to fighting yesterday’s battles. Much of this happened in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence murder in 1993, following which Central government, councils and other funding sources increasingly found budgets for ‘diversity’.
This meant that there was money in being ‘racially oppressed’, but none in being happily integrated. The Racism Industry was born, and the spoils went to those who were most insistent that they were racially disadvantaged. Diversity Managers appeared in organisations across the public, and then the private sector. No Diversity Manager would ever declare the ‘glass ceiling’ shattered – that would put them out of work. It was in their interests to find sexism and racism wherever they looked.
Likewise, politicians, especially Labour ones, appointed race advisers; but they invariably selected individuals who claimed to see racism everywhere. Black people who pointed out that racism was steeply declining (and there were many) – or that racism was simply not the biggest problem faced by black people – would make for unsuitable race advisers. So politicians surrounded themselves with a handful of angry black voices, and made policy decisions based on the views of an unrepresentative minority.
And of course, since there was money to be made in being an angry black person, many popped up to compete for the new jobs. Ironically, therefore, the more oppressed a person claimed to be, the more money they could earn from the new politics. Britain’s angriest black man, Lee Jasper, made a good living as an adviser of doom and gloom to the Livingstone mayoralty.
In all this, as so many other things, Brits were merely copying a business model invented in America. The magnificent civil rights movement, having won so much by the early 70s, was swiftly taken over by self-publicists. From Al Sharpton to Black Lives Matter, the people claiming to be most oppressed were those who understood the power of the racism dollar (this shift from genuine activism to business was beautifully captured in the modern classic book The Bonfire of the Vanities).
All of this victimhood has repelled black people from the left, just as it has repelled white working class people who are increasingly told they are ‘privileged’. The left has become wealthier and whiter while ironically claiming to see racism everywhere. In fact, it can often be noted that the more politically correct people are, the less likely they are to have non-white friends to gently point out that the angry shouting is not representative of most black people. Those white people with least personal contact with non-whites are those most likely to believe and propagate the stories emanating from racism industry pundits. A parade of well-meaning but misinformed white commentators, eager to correct non-existent inequalities, jump on race industry campaigns.
Ironically, it was my black friends who saved me from jumping on board with the racism industry. The message that black children are held back by ‘the system’ compared to their white peers is a destructive and frustrating one for black parents trying to get their kids to study hard. Most black people, while being fully aware of the reality of racism, have little time for the activists who peddle the myth that black people are being materially held back by it. As I have blogged, the success of African immigrants (who actually outperform whites by many measures) gives the lie to the idea that skin colour is a cause of failure. When it comes to economic success, the black British community doesn’t have a collective problem, though sections of it (primarily working class communities originating in the Caribbean) clearly do.
The recent outrage over the lack of black nominees at the Oscars is a typical racism industry product. The angriest black voices are those that get most often repeated across the media – social and mass. These voices are amplified by white ‘liberal’ commentators. And black people who dare challenge the idea that they are oppressed are dismissed as ‘self-hating’, ‘Uncle Toms’, and the standard parade of other insults created by the racism industry to silence black people who choose not to be victims.
So once the shouting and boycotts were over (and racism industry had counted its winnings), it turned out that black people are actually not under-represented in the Oscars at all.
So nominations and awards for black people are pretty much in line with the black American population overall. In fact, in terms of awards won, black people are slightly over-represented. Meanwhile Latinos and Asians are seriously under-represented; but there was no civil rights movement for Asians, so there is no Asian racism industry. There are no Asian boycotts of the Oscars because there are no funding mechanisms to reward Asian people who might call for a boycott.
Are the Oscars therefore racist against Asians and Latinos? No. The fact is that different demographics experience success in different industries, for various historical, social and economic reasons. Asians are hugely over-represented in technology. Does this mean the tech industry really, really loves Asians? And nobody would take seriously a white boycott of the hip-hop industry, where white performers are massively under-represented.
Again and again, statistics like these undermine the claims of ‘systemic racism’ and ‘oppression’ that have, strangely, become increasingly common as the worst signs of true racism have evaporated. This is why the racism industry relies on anecdote rather than statistics: always an indicator of something to hide.
Those people who genuinely anti-racist must realise that the racism industry is hugely racist itself, and is exacerbating racial tensions. This is quite deliberate. What better way to prop up such an industry than create more racism? Labelling whites ‘privileged’, regardless of their economic status, is deeply and deliberately provocative, and designed to push working class white people into the arms of the far-right. Fascist street protests are almost guaranteed to push frightened politicians into increasing racism industry funding.
The greatest losses from left-wing thought in the past decades have been the core concepts of class-consciousness and solidarity. Martin Luther King, the greatest figure of the civil rights movement, did not think poor whites were ‘privileged’; he understood that the problems of poor blacks were largely shared with poor whites, and as his thinking evolved, he moved towards opposing poverty for all races, and away from a focus on black community issues. When he was shot dead in 1968, he was involved in discussions for the creation of a “Poor People’s Campaign“. (Notably, Malcolm X also evolved his thought in the same direction, and he was shot dead in 1965 by members of the early racism industry).
To unite Americans across the racial divide would truly have shaken America’s power structures. But the great thinkers of the 1960s gave way to self-serving bigots, determined to do the exact opposite: to reinforce racial barriers and destroy attempts at class solidarity.
Black Lives Matter is an illustration of how the racism industry, and the new left, are stoking up racial division rather than reducing it. In the past I would regularly post news of police shootings on social media, until I began to realise that news of white deaths was being ignored, and black deaths amplified, in order to create the (false) idea that most shootings were racial in intent. While we can recite the names of black police victims – Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland – no white victims have been popularised. There appears to be almost a fear of sharing news of white deaths, and so they are not discussed. Yet 578 white people (more than half the total) were killed by US police last year. Can you name any of them?
If he were alive today, Martin Luther King would have sought to unite grieving families under a single banner, regardless of their race. Instead, the very name of the campaign is designed to exclude grieving white, Latino and Asian widows and children from the pity-fest.
Self-serving morons tend to copy self-serving morons; so it is that a new petition on change.org is labelling the Brit Awards racist because only 5 out of 53 nominations (9.4%) have gone to black people. It is unclear whether the petitioner uses ‘black’ to mean ‘non-white’ in general. Only about 4% of the UK population is black and the entire non-white population is 11% – the Brit Awards are hardly unrepresentative of the British population.
Yes, the Brits celebrate shitty mainstream music, and (in my humble opinion), black and urban artists are far more creative at the cutting edge of music. I personally avoid dance and live music that isn’t black-dominated. But there isn’t racism here, just a dull music mainstream that is slow to catch up with underground music trends.
The racism industry will die when the new left accepts the dishonest nature of the ‘systemic racism’ narrative. Until then, the left will continue to be a force of racial division, rather than – as it once was – of unity.