With the Archbishop of Canterbury urging ecclesiastical iconoclasm with a vim not seen since the days of Thomas Cranmer, one could almost think the culture war’s excesses had lost their ability to shock. Yet last week produced two examples so blatant, so deranged and so shameless as to astonish even the most cynical observer.
First, Cambridge University’s defence of Dr Priyamvada Gopal, a lecturer in postcolonial literature who sparked a (not unreasonable) public backlash after tweeting that “White lives don’t matter. As white lives”. Amid calls for her dismissal, Cambridge released a supportive message, apparently condemning “cancel culture” in all its forms:
2020欧洲杯体育投注开户“The university defends the right of its academics to express their own lawful opinions which others might find controversial and deplores in the strongest terms abuse and personal attacks”.
Noble sentiments indeed, but it also happens to be a lie – and one so barefaced that it would almost be funny if it weren’t so tragic.
Under a “progressive” new vice chancellor, Cambridge has led the way in appeasing the outrage mob. It has singularly failed to defend conservative academics such as the sociologist Noah Carl – summarily dismissed after an open letter from faculty members accused him of racism. It took university authorities just 48 hours to rescind Jordan Peterson’s visiting fellowship, while the students’ union claimed his “work and views” were “not representative of the student body”. Curiouser and curiouser. In claiming to value free speech (but only for certain opinions) Cambridge is guilty both of double standards, and double-think.
Similar sleight of mind can be seen in the tragicomical conduct of Booker Prize organisers, who sacked their long-time patroness Baroness Nicholson as honorary vice-president for the “crimes” of voting against gay marriage in 2013, believing in biological sex and “misgendering” someone on Twitter. An equally Orwellian statement followed:
2020欧洲杯体育投注开户“We deplore racism, homophobia and transphobia, and do not discriminate on any grounds. Literature is open, plural and questioning. We believe every author’s work should be approached by readers in the same spirit.”
No satire could match this delicious declaration of support for openness and plurality of opinion, while sacking someone people disagreed with. Like adults who wear Crocs in public, they seem to have forgotten that we can see them.
2020欧洲杯体育投注开户The double-think is as unsurprising as it is flagrant. Once-niche “critical theory” has infiltrated contemporary discourse, with its rejection of logic, reason and objective reality. And revolutionaries always become what they claim to abhor, like the French radicals who repressed formal religion and ended up worshipping an amorphous Cult of Reason, and replaced the judiciary with “people’s courts”. Today, we are similarly discovering what atrocities may be committed under the guise of the Rights of Man.
Dominating every major wing of cultural life, small wonder that the Left feels so comfortable in its exquisite hypocrisies. Influential appointments have the ring of a cosy, quasi-incestuous club, a conveyor belt of Left-wing opinion linking Guardian editorships, heads of Oxbridge colleges, public health quangocrats and more. Readers may recall the popular game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”, in which film buffs challenge each other to find the shortest path between an arbitrary actor and the prolific Bacon. A colleague suggests a version for the quangocracy; “Six Degrees of Shami Chakrabarti”.
2020欧洲杯体育投注开户For how long can this state of affairs continue? Being obliged to parrot propaganda and declare the sky is pink to retain your livelihood is emotionally draining. Neither is it healthy for our institutions to be so consistently out of step with public opinion, overseen by a detached cultural elite that is only occasionally roused from its perch by a disobliging election or referendum result. Few of us wish to inhabit a monoculture, and the quality of artistic output is already suffering; take the Booker Prize’s own deterioration in the literary landscape.
Worst of all, it will destroy genuine progress. In liberal California, presumably to pave the way for “affirmative action” measures, the legislature has just voted to strike anti-discrimination commitments from its constitution – a development that should terrify all thinking people. Britain is never far behind America and already ours is a topsy-turvy world, in which bullies feign victimhood, discrimination masquerades as social justice and “feminist” activists use the mantle of progressivism to hound women with impunity. Truly, we are through the looking glass now.