Tag Archives: identity politics

Donald Trump, the Identity Candidate

Watching the past four years unfold in western politics has been like watching a train wreck in ultra-slow motion. It’s been painfully obvious where all this is leading, and equally painful that the people who created the wreck were – and still are – utterly oblivious to what they were doing. President Donald Trump (and Brexit, come to that) could have been avoided, in theory.

I fully woke up to the sickness on the political left in 2012. My awakening had been coming for many years – I can look all the way back to the 1980s, and see the sickness there – the signs were there for all to see; but as the working class gradually abandoned the left, so the left gradually abandoned the working class. As progressive class politics died, regressive identity politics filled the void.

I’ve witnessed so many signs of this growing problem. I vividly remember one moment: a huge anti-Apartheid march and rally in Hyde Park, circa 1989. This was a moment in British history when, for the first time, gay men could openly hold hands and kiss in public. It was a warm summer day; I was sitting on the grass with my young son. And nearby, a gay man was viciously assaulted by a young black man for daring to kiss his partner in public. Marchers were confused; surely blacks and gays are both oppressed groups? Why would they turn against each other, at an anti-Apartheid rally of all places? Perhaps the black man had been programmed by the white supremacist state to hate other minorities? Here was the white, middle-class identity-obsessed left in action, unable to see the simple truth: a bigot (colour irrelevant) had assaulted a man for being gay. They couldn’t see the black man as aggressor, because they could only understand black people in one role: victim. They couldn’t see that a black bigot is every bit as responsible for his actions as a white bigot. They couldn’t deal with the bigot, because he was black. They couldn’t see beyond skin colour. Here was an early sign of something that is today rampant: left-wing racism.

But 2012 seems to be a particular turning point. At that moment, it became generally acceptable – for the first time in generations – to openly express bigotry. New, racist ideas suddenly became fashionable: among the most dangerous was that black people were incapable of being racist: only whites were afforded this right. Although I’d been involved in the anti-racism movement since 1979, I had never before heard such a divisive idea. Racial bigotry had never been tolerated on the left, by anyone, or towards anyone. And yet now, for the first time, the left was creating a racial hierarchy, and assigning different rules of behaviour to different people based on nothing more than their skin colour. The most fundamental value of the civil rights era, racial equality, was under sustained assault by white, middle-class people masquerading as liberals.

Although this superficially looked like an attack on white people, it wasn’t. It was an assault on that most hated of all groups: the working class. The mostly white, middle-class new left – which had long ago been rooted in the industrial labour movement – had declared class war. Even the anti-racism movement joined the fight against the working class. I had been heavily involved in countering the anti-Islamic propaganda of the English Defence League, but I became uneasy with the people who I thought were on my side. As I recount in my book, Porn Panic!

[Many] EDL supporters apparently joined simply for a social life. Coaches were chartered from working-class towns and estates to take supporters to each protest. Thanks to the wonder of Twitter, one could see them on their way to demonstrations, boasting about how many cans of beer they were bringing, how many lines of mephedrone or cocaine they had consumed on the way. Here were young, white, working-class people finding a rare opportunity to assemble and feel pride in their own beleaguered identities: hatred of the white working-class is, after all, the last acceptable prejudice. And online, I began to feel uneasy about my own Twitter followers. I saw middle-class student leftists mocking working-class people for their poor spelling rather than their racist views, telling them they were scum; those EDL supporters who tried to explain why they were uneasy about immigration were told they were racists, and blocked. Many of those I spoke to were clearly not racists, though they had absorbed lies about Muslims that needed to be countered. How were we to defuse the EDL if we refused to speak to them?

Twin narratives – feminism and black nationalism – declared identity war, and the left became apologists for an outpouring of bigotry from these two groups. For feminists, “patriarchy” (i.e. men) was to blame for everything. For black nationalists, “white supremacy” (i.e. white people) was the cause of all evil. In practise, the two narratives borrowed heavily from each other. Feminists would silence men by accusing them of “mansplaining”; and then black racists would attack people for “whitesplaining”. Ultimately, the identity fascists united around a belief that white men were the greatest evil in the universe – and their class bigotry was hidden beneath this veil.

The left became obsessed with the idea that sexism and racism were everywhere, based on the flimsiest of evidence. Racism was found where none existed: Twitter storms raged over imaginary problems, such as the alleged under-representation of black people in the 2016 Oscars (actually, it turned out that black people were slightly over-represented, but screaming had taken over from fact).

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A growing, once united movement against police brutality was suddenly hijacked by identity fascists, and became Black Lives Matter; and yet, 76% of police shooting victims were not black. Police brutality affected poor white men as well as poor blacks, but an opportunity to create common cause was lost. In this Kafkaesque nightmare, to suggest that All Lives might Matter became “racist”. And so the anti-racists had become the racists.

Many liberal black commentators tried to speak out against the rising black racism, but were screamed down. Racist language was deployed against black people who refused to accept their victimhood. They were told they were not “pro-black”, or that they were “self-hating”, or (in the UK) they were labelled “coconuts” (an old term of black-on-black abuse, suggesting they are white people in black skin). Morgan Freeman suggested that the way to end racism was to stop talking about it, upsetting those who were revelling in their self-declared oppression. Whoopi Goldberg mocked the “cultural appropriation” idea, again to derision from black people who were using the idea to attack white people for their musical or clothing tastes. And when the actress Raven Symoné decided she no longer wanted to be labelled as African American, she was again attacked by bullies who refused her right to self-determination. Black self-pity was increasingly mocked by black people (such as in this amusing video by the rapper Doc Brown); but identity fascists missed all this, because it didn’t match their deep belief that people are mostly defined by their race or gender. Like all authoritarian movements in history, they rejected individuality for group identity.

And meanwhile, rage grew among some of America’s poorest people, who (in the new left narrative) were dismissed as privileged and entitled, on account of being white. There can be few sights more vile than a wealthy person attacking a poor person for their “privilege”, but this was now becoming normal.

And nobody understood all this better than Donald Trump. His racist and sexist remarks were designed to mock an identity narrative that was (for good reason) becoming widely hated beyond the liberal echo chamber. His “pussy grab” comment was ugly and childish, but the hysterical response to it was laughable, and only bolstered his position. Liberals assumed that no woman would vote for someone who talked in this way, which only underscored how completely out of touch liberals had become. Many women did vote for him, because women didn’t see themselves as the downtrodden victims of patriarchy that feminists had declared them to be. Many Hispanics voted for him, because (to the surprise of identity fascists) people are defined by more than their race and colour. Even a good number of black people voted for him, perhaps sick of being told how black people should behave. And many working class white Democrats who once voted for Barack Obama now voted for Trump. Predictably, liberals are accusing these people of racism or sexism, only underscoring how out of touch they are with reality, and helping to demonstrate why Donald Trump won.

Rather than sit back and wonder why voters didn’t behave as they were told, identity zealots have doubled down, deciding that the Trump victory proves that everybody is sexist and racist. A particularly silly post in (supposedly liberal) Slate attacks white women for betraying “the sisterhood”; demonstration, if any, of the left’s loss of class consciousness.

Trump is a deeply dangerous man, and not because he’s racist or sexist. He is dangerous because he intends to attack free trade and disrupt the world order. He is dangerous because he denies climate change, because he will empower dictators in Russia, China, and other countries. He is dangerous because he will undermine the global shift towards democracy and international law. His election unleashes a new era of nationalism that ends the globalist era of the past four decades.

I warned in a post in June that identity politics was fuelling fascism. We learned the truth of that with Trump’s election, and will continue to learn it as fascists triumph in Europe in the coming years. This will continue until the left rids itself of identity politics and nationalism, and once again learns the lesson of the liberal movements of the 1960s: to treat people as equals, irrespective of race, colour, gender or sexuality.

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Identity Politics is Killing Solidarity and Fuelling Fascism

There was a time when we on the British left owned terms like Unity and Solidarity. The broad left had formed around a single, enormous issue: the obscenity of poverty. Thus, the left once represented the disadvantaged, and the right fought to maintain the old status quo. When fascism last surged in the 1930s, it was the left’s broad base that ensured British fascism was crushed: it alone could unite the mighty industrial working class with immigrants and sympathetic liberals. It was opposition to poverty that united white working class people with the immigrants – Irish, Jewish, Black and Asian – that came to Britain over the past century. Ultimately, this was why the left eventually championed the fight against racism: because it understood that the biggest problems faced by immigrants – bad housing, low pay, state indifference, routine violence – were shared by poor white people, and formed alliances in factories and poor communities that transcended race.

Racism was never a one-way street. Tension and violence grew in high-immigration communities because of mistrust and misunderstanding on both sides. Mass immigration – then, as now – benefited the economy as a whole, but placed a disproportionate burden on poor communities. People who complained about rapid, disconcerting change in their neighbourhoods were not uniformly attacked as “racists”; instead, the left sought to find common ground and build unity. The Notting Hill Carnival is one of the lasting testaments to this approach: it was a community creation designed to bring white and black people together in the wake of race riots.

But the Labour Movement, the foundation of the old left, effectively collapsed during the 1980s and 90s for a variety of reasons. The left dwindled, and found new power bases: no longer in factories or council estates; instead in academia and the public sector. It lost touch with working class people, and lost interest in poverty. It instead adopted identity politics, dividing people by race, gender, sexuality just as it once united people across these lines. It became whiter and more middle-class, and gradually came to represent the interests of white, middle-class people above all others. Step by step, from the 80s onward, the left took on the attitudes of the old fascist movements, seeking to divide society into isolated, opposing groups of people.

None of this mattered much, until a new surge in left-wing support followed the 2008 financial crash. My initial excitement at the left-wing resurgence turned into disgust as I saw what the left had now become.

I first noticed the shift via my involvement in sexual freedom causes. The old Christian right had died along with Mary Whitehouse. Now, a new conservative movement surfaced, this time based around the remnants of the old feminist movement. The new attackers of sexual freedom came from the organs of the new-left: universities, trade unions, local authorities and the Labour Party. This new left had lost all interest in tackling poverty and disadvantage, because they had no experience or understanding of it. Instead, they declared gender, skin colour and sexuality to be the true marks of oppression. So, porn and other sexual expression came under attack, not because it was “ungodly” but because it was deemed to “oppress women”. Thieves had stolen the language of the (now defunct) progressive left and used it to advance fascist agendas.

So we saw the grotesque sight of middle-class “left-wing” people declaring themselves to be “oppressed” (for reason of possessing a vagina or extra melanin in their skin), and attacking poor white communities as “privileged”. The new-left had restarted the class war, but this time was firmly on the other side.

So when Edie Lamort, a stripper-activist (who I interviewed some time back), declared herself some years ago to be the “canary in the coalmine”, she was very prescient. The attacks on her and her comrades, by fascists in left-wing clothing, were indeed an early sign of a broad attack on liberal values from the political left.

The pus-filled boil of identity politics, quietly swelling since the 80s, really only burst within the past couple of years. And now, the identity fascists are dismantling all remnants of cross-community solidarity as rapidly as possible. Every progressive movement of recent years is collapsing as identity politics moves in. Among the most spectacular examples has been the undermining of the campaign against police violence in the United States. A few years ago, thanks to smartphones and social media, and campaigns such as Copblock, a bright light was shone for the first time on the astonishing violence of US policing. Although there was clearly a strong racial element, police violence was meted out across all communities. If there was a particular “identity” group at the receiving end, it was overwhelmingly poor, young men, of all races.

But to make it a “male issue” would have been foolish and divisive. A Martin Luther King character, should one exist today, would identify a common cause and an opportunity for cross-community solidarity; but this is not the liberal 60s, and there appears to be no room for uniting characters like MLK today. Instead, the issue was seized by black nationalists. The hashtag #filmthepolice gave way to #blacklivesmatter. In a remarkable reversal of logic, black nationalists – backed by identity fascists – declared #alllivesmatter to be a “racist” sentiment. Never mind that numerically, the single biggest identity group to be shot by police was white men; or that, proportionately the greatest sufferers were native American men. The issue was now owned by the 24% of victims who were black, and the other 76% were excluded (Source: The Counted). This marked the high watermark of the campaign against police violence: it had been killed by sectarianism. If there ever was a signal to white working class people that nobody cares for them, here it was.

Now, when a 12 year old (white) girl was shot dead by police, there would be no community mobilisation, no public outcry. After all, what hashtag does one use in such a case? #Alllivesmatter was already deemed racist, and #whitelivesmatter would be even worse. So, the girl’s name never made it into the public consciousness: Ciara Meyer RIP: killed by police, forgotten by identity politics.

Now, it seems, the scourge of mass shootings in the US is going the same way. While only a couple of years ago, every shooting was met with horror, and renewed calls for gun controls, now the campaign has been targeted, divided and sunk by identity politics. A steady stream of mass killings – driven by easy access to guns, however much the gun lobby denied it – was punctuated a year ago by the killing of nine people in Charleston, South Carolina. Like many such mass killings, the shooter was an angry/crazy/hateful (take your pick) white man. Unlike most others, the targets were exclusively black.

Dylan Roof, the shooter, was no doubt motivated by racist views: but statistically, the event was an outlier. It makes no sense to declare a single atrocity, carried out by a single person, to be representative of anything but the views of that person. Racial violence has, in fact, tumbled a long, long way since the days of the lynch mob. But identity politics (which previously had no interest in the long succession of mass shootings) now awoke, and declared the issue a black-owned one.

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And with the recent mass-shooting in a gay club in Orlando, the divisiveness reaches a whole new level. This time, identity fascists of the right blame “Islam”, while those of the left are determined to blame “Homophobia”. But neither explanation is matched by a genuine trend: neither Islamist nor homophobic atrocities are regular enough events to be anything but outliers. Homophobia may still be commonplace, but is almost certainly at its lowest level in US history. The same old explanation holds true for this mass shooting as for all the hundreds of others: an angry/crazy/hateful individual managed to get hold of military-style weaponry.

Identity politics is really the politics of the self. The identity warrior’s deepest instinct is: “How can I make this all about MEEEE?” Thus, the ever-vapid commentator Owen Jones walked out of a Sky News dicussion on the Orlando shooting, ostensibly because the other commentators were refusing to acknowledge homophobia. But in reality, Jones had finally found an American massacre that he, as a gay man, could associate himself with, and so become outraged about. Never mind that, as a British person, the chance he will ever encounter a mass shooting is close to zero. Never mind that many of the dead were undocumented Latino migrants rather than middle-class British journalists. Jones’ sexuality is the hook with which he can claim a stake in the misery of strangers, far away.

And here is the real tragedy of identity politics: solidarity is dying. While, only a few years ago, we could all unite to express shock at the killing of a black person by a racist, or a gay person by a homophobe, or a Jew by an anti-semite, now this is quietly breaking down. Now, every atrocity is an identity atrocity, and so every atrocity fosters further anger and division, while not so long ago we could unite in our common humanity against the tiny minority that commit vile acts of hate.

Identity politics is the politics of self-pity. If I were to choose this route, I could assert my Jewishness: henceforth, I could declare any anti-semitic attack to be all about MEEE. But I choose not to be defined by my Jewish heritage, however much self-pity it could allow me to wallow in. My children are Nigerian-Jewish; should they revel only in the victimhood of Jews and Nigerians? Should my daughter declare herself a Judeo-Nigerian Feminist, and add gender self-pity to black and semitic self-pity? We are in a race to the bottom: when we selectively ignore horror, because we don’t identify with the identity of the victims, we are losing our humanity.

Is it surprising, therefore, that poor whites would now also choose to unite around their racial identity? Is the rise of Donald Trump or of Nigel Farage so surprising in this climate? This new ascent of the fascist right was clearly preempted and driven by the rise of fascist politics on the left. We have no chance of resisting the rise of of the far-right in Europe and America if we adopt fascist methods and ideas ourselves. We need to rediscover the solidarity of the old left: we must stand shoulder to shoulder with those who suffer, however much – or little – they resemble ourselves.

It’s About Censorship, Not Sexism

A year ago, the hideous ISP filters came into force. Although they had been sold as “porn filters”, they ended up blocking all sorts of things that had nothing to do with porn, from drug and self-harm information to nudity, even in non-sexual contexts. Initially, there was a spike of public outrage, but quickly the issue fell into the swamp of identity politics. On discovering that various gay and trans sites were blocked, the outrage became about homophobia and transphobia. ISPs moved to quickly unblock sites that had been identified by the press, and the media lost interest. The filters remained in place, and still today, up to 20% of sites are blocked by them. What could have become a broad-based movement for free speech fizzled out.

On Monday, a new law came into place, extending DVD censorship controls on to Internet videos. None of this was new or unexpected. The censorship rules which have caused so much outrage this week have been in place for many years.

The new law – which I explained on this blog – is probably the greatest attack on free expression that the UK has seen since the BBFC was empowered, in 1984, to censor all video works before they could be released. One of the BBFC’s first policy decisions was to ban all explicit sex on video. And so, the UK became one of the few democratic countries whose population was banned from legally buying porn on DVD, until this rule was eventually challenged by the porn industry in 2000. Forced to accept explicit sex acts, the BBFC (along with the police and CPS) clung to as much power as possible, and still refused to approve many, many “niche” sex acts on DVD.

By mid-decade, this barely mattered any more. Broadband Internet connections made DVD increasingly redundant, and likewise the BBFC, which saw its revenues steadily fall. Pete Johnson, a BBFC manager, tried to reverse this decline by introducing the BBFC Online scheme in 2007. But this had no statutory backing, and never took off.

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In 2010, Johnson moved from the BBFC to head a new regulator, ATVOD, and (via a complex use/misuse of EU law), was empowered to implement regulations for VoD sites. His first – and only significant – action was to implement onerous age-verification requirements for UK porn sites: rules that were not implemented anywhere else in Europe. As a result, many businesses (including my own) closed, and others (such as Playboy’s UK operation) moved overseas, shedding jobs in the UK.

The new law adds power to ATVOD’s existing regulations, and for the first time, enforces the BBFC’s R18 rules online. This year’s fashion among the new-left has been to label everything sexist: toys are sexist, and computer games are sexist, and that comedian is sexist, and he’s sexist, and you’re sexist, and that tree is sexist… and so of course, by cherry-picking BBFC rules, the new law was also deemed to be sexist. Not a huge step towards Chinese-style Internet censorship that will harm everybody’s right to access information. Sexist.

So yes, it’s true (as well as ludicrous) that female ejaculation – aka squirting – is one of the many acts now banned, and easy to assume this is sexism (since, of course, male ejaculation is still allowed to be seen). In fact, within the BBFC’s reasoning process – which makes sense within its own, screwed-up logic – this makes perfect sense. The powers-that-be have deemed urination in a sexual context to be unacceptable, and since the evidence as to the nature of squirting is still far from conclusive, they have also banned that. Commentators have also complained that gagging on cocks is still approved; but in fact, the BBFC will cut such scenes if they are deemed to be “potentially life-threatening”. And they will allow similar acts to be carried out by a woman with a strap-on. And the ban on face-sitting isn’t an attempt by The Patriarchy to attack female domination, any more than the ban on strangulation of female models is an attack on male domination. The rules may be extremely stupid, but they’re not sexist.

Although the most immediate casualties of the law will be fetish sites, it’s not especially about targeting fetish either – that just happens to be the first thing in the way of the bulldozer. As already mentioned, the BBFC tried as hard to ban “vanilla” sex as it did to ban kink. It’s just that it lost that particular battle in court.

So what is this about? As the name of our campaign suggests, it’s about both Sex and Censorship. It’s odd that almost nobody noticed what actually happened on Monday: well over 99% of the world’s websites are now technically illegal here in the UK. Not because of the R18 thing, but the other part: the one requiring sites to validate a visitor’s age before they’re allowed to see any naughty bit.

There are multiple interests here: anti-sex moralists (of both religious and feminist varieties) who are truly outraged by sex, and want it all banned; vested interests that stand to earn money and power from censorship (ATVOD and the BBFC, for example); and authoritarian interests that are looking to find excuses to block online content. In the latter case, porn is just one of a number of excuses, as are terrorism and copyright theft. Those familiar with Orwell will recognise that the British state, liberal on the surface, is deeply authoritarian beneath.

This week’s public outrage is an opportunity to build the movement for free expression to a new level, and it would be a shame if certain “It’s all about meeeee!” narratives were allowed to distract from that.

The new law is actually a means to an end, not an end in itself. A process that began (suitably) in 1984 is still rolling along. If you would like to support as we build the case against censorship, please join our list or even send a donation, large or small. Next year is going to be “interesting” for the UK, and not in a good way.