(The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity by Douglas Murray) (2019)
Murray’s enjoyable book is a start. A comprehensive book on the madness of crowds would comprise a 100-volume set, and require Edmund Burke as co-author. Why, this book doesn’t even analyse the French Revolution! Instead, the author takes to task those modern curios, identity and ‘intersectionality’, explains how the current thinking is to ‘unlock these oppressions’ after which something will happen (but what that is, no one is sure – modern Marxists being like the dog who chases the stick – once gathered, what next?) The work is largely impressionistic but then, we are dealing with the so-called social sciences.
Murray’s focus is the gridiron of modern identity – Gays, Femininity, Race and Transsexuals. While much of the discussion and the many illuminating cases he offers seem part of a long historical thread, some new wrinkles are posited; the End-of-History resurgence of Marxism and its mission to turn the post-neo-mercantilist world into a toxic, irrational confusion; and social media noise, with its concomitant rushes to judgment and rejection of forgiveness. (Incidentally, Murray correctly notes that rushes to judgment, coupled with the lack of clemency, when proven wrong, never evoke an apology, even and perhaps especially if once widely held and supported; only silence. So it is possible that climate-doom sceptics, and maybe Cardinal Pell, will await amends in vain.)
Murray identifies a new strain of an ancient social phenomenon. It is not that we are being fed some new ‘ism,’ but rather we are invited (putting it mildly) to accept black is white as a matter of fact as well as faith; “we are being not just asked, but expected, to radically alter our lives and societies on the basis of claims that our instincts all tell us cannot possibly be true.’’ Old hat notions and nostrums of objective truth are replaced by a new existentialist paradigm, because truth is a ‘construct’ of the ‘Euro-West,’ as students at Claremont McKenna College in the U.S. put it. And we suffer “ever fiercer campaigns and ever more niche demands.’’
Whilst some on the left side of the spectrum might scoff at Murray’s sense that “something strange and vaguely retributive is in the air,” you don’t have to be a contented, ‘privileged’ white male to catch the strong whiff of leftist payback. Murray cites plenty of evidence that identity has become the new weapon in the power struggle, with ‘class’ transmogrifying to ‘privilege.’ And in an interlude entitled ‘The Marxist Foundations,’ he uncovers the fraudulent and hypocritical theory underlying these new trends. Perhaps cruelly, he quotes gobbledygook from gender or race ‘theorists’ to show how their impenetrable verbiage is, at a certain level, fraud. And he draws a comparison between the pile-on against a white actor trying to defend “coloured actors’’ when he should – for shame! – have said ‘’actors of colour,’’ as against people (using phrases such as ‘cancel white people’ or ‘kill all men’) let off the hook because they come from the woke end of the spectrum.
Even more interesting are the examples where collisions occur at the oppression intersection. Just as claims of human rights violations happen in inverse proportion to the number of human rights violations, there is an increasing number of examples of intersectionality, like an alligator, eating its own. The female academics and journalists vilified and hunted-down for daring to suggest that cutting one’s dick off doesn’t let you say ‘I Am Woman,’ or at least say it and be taken seriously. The gay businessman sent back to the closet for supporting Donald Trump. The progressive white lecturer run-off campus for not observing an enforced ‘day of absence.’ The aim of ‘problematizing whiteness.’ The religious fervour with which any expressed, tiny doubt, that a 12-year old wishing to transition may just be going through a phase, is denounced as ‘hate speech.’ The extraordinary bias against straight white people of Google’s ‘Machine Learning Fairness’. Karen White, a convicted rapist who identifies as a woman, being transferred to a women’s prison despite not having gender re-assignment surgery, where he sexually assaulted 4 female inmates. The dismissal of Thomas Sowell’s book ‘’Intellectuals and Society’’ as offering opinions that are “easy for a rich white man to say.” People identifying as things they don’t seem to possibly be.
Whilst modern anger has its place, given the various iniquities of humankind to date, its forms of expression are invariably unhelpful. And as Murray shows, the certainty, the ferocity, the virulence, the sanctimoniousness, the aggression of the promulgation of these novel and angry delusions, and the catastrophic claims made in defence of them, are destructive and probably intentionally so. If let pass with the casual attitude we have hitherto taken to attacks on freedom of thought and expression, or even Covid-19, the results could be fatal.