How opposite-think took over our politics
The most vicious people in public life think of themselves as kind.
We live in a time of opposite-think, a topsy-turvy era in which truths become distorted and inverted. Words refer to the reverse of what they once did, and most things are no longer what they seem. Ours is a woke epoch in which women can have penises and being colourblind is racist. In which ‘diversity’ is now code for ‘uniformity’, and ‘inclusivity’ means being inclusive only of people who agree with you. Uttering obvious untruths is now commonplace. Upending reality has been normalised.
At least that’s what I argued on spiked this time last year. So, 12 months on, how have matters transpired? Have we since started to return to normality? Or have we sunk further into the mendacious, fantastical quagmire?
Recent newspaper headlines suggest that opposite-think is here to stay. At the weekend, it was reported that employees at Monzo, the online bank, used an internal forum to mock a man who had questioned the firm’s transgender policies. The policies were announced in November to coincide with transgender-awareness week. They included describing maternity leave as ‘primary-caregiver leave’, having gender-neutral lavatories and urging staff to declare their pronouns.
On LinkedIn, a gay marketing professional not employed by Monzo voiced his disagreement with these policies. ‘I’m not sure this feels like an inclusive place for LGB [lesbian, gay and bisexual] colleagues / women who don’t subscribe to gender ideology’, he wrote. He then noticed that a number of Monzo staff had been looking at his LinkedIn profile. So he made a subject-access request to find out what data the bank held on him. This was when he saw what was said about him on Monzo’s internal forum.
One Monzo employee described the man as a ‘horrible TERF’ – a slur thrown at those who believe in biological sex, short for ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’. Another staff member named the man’s employer and then added: ‘Bet their culture is really fantastic if this is the person leading it.’ One more concluded: ‘I see he used the old “women’s rights are under threat” chestnut.’
This episode shows opposite-think at work on two levels. Firstly, we have Monzo flaunting its adherence to a now dominant trans ideology. In its denial of biology, this ideology is intrinsically opposed to reality itself. Secondly, there is the irony of the intolerant, self-righteous anger of those who think of themselves as ‘progressive’. A spokesperson for Monzo responded to the reports: ‘We pride ourselves on having an inclusive and diverse culture.’ Presumably, this was meant to deflect from the obnoxious comments made by those Monzo employees. Of course, these days it is precisely those who say they believe in ‘inclusivity and diversity’ who are the most vile. Their sense of moral superiority gives them licence to behave as they please. It’s the ‘inclusive’ who are invariably the most eager to exclude.
This is the mentality of the ‘Be Kind’ smart set, whose sanctimonious slogan gives them free rein to Be Nasty. As Brendan O’Neill noted earlier this week, the trans-activist branch of the Be Kind contingent has spent the past week raging at children’s author Judy Blume because she had the temerity to express solidarity with JK Rowling. The behaviour of radical trans activists, both online and in the flesh, is getting ever more poisonous and confrontational – all because, they protest, they are the real victims. It’s classic cry-bully opposite-think.
Not a week goes by without more evidence of unreality and delusion becoming the norm. Last week, Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe said we must trust the judgement of children who say that they are a different sex from the one they were born as. Children already half-inhabit a fantasy domain, and that’s the beauty of childhood. But that shouldn’t be confused with the real, adult world.
Alas, many adults themselves now dwell in their own realm of fantasy and make-believe. No wonder opposite-think pervades elite thinking. Free speech is for fascists; censorship is the means to awaken minds. Non-racism is racist; to oppose racial identitarians like Black Lives Matter is proof of racism. Silence is violence. The list goes on. As Heather Mac Donald explained on spiked last week, in the US racism is seen as more endemic wherever there is the least evidence of it – such as in progressive universities.
Opposite-think rules because the woke codes that govern us are based on falsehoods. You only have to place these rules side-by-side to expose this. For instance, the woke believe that there is no such thing as biological sex, but they believe very much that race is real. In reality, the reverse is true. Male and female are real immutable categories, and the boundaries between the two can’t be breached. Black and white are mutable categories, and the boundaries between the two can and do blend. We are on a spectrum when it comes to skin pigmentation. We are not when it comes to sex.
Wokery is a cult with an internal logic of its own. It bears scant relation to the external world. When people try to legitimise these fantasies, falsehoods and lies, we end up taking flight into the netherworld.
A class war garbed in green
While radical environmentalists have been hitting the headlines in the UK for spoiling the World Snooker Championship, their kindred spirits in Germany have also been facing criticism – from the mainstream Green Party, which is currently in coalition government.
Higher-ups in the German Greens have criticised members of Germany’s equivalent of Extinction Rebellion – Last Generation (Letzte Generation) – for indulging in ‘self-righteous’ activism and for irritating the public with their street blockades. Irene Mihalic, a senior Green politician, also accused Last Generation activists of being ‘elitist’ and ‘alienating the public via actions that make an already tough daily routine even more difficult’.
This is a significant development. In the realm of progressive politics, the issue of class has almost vanished in recent years. For people of a woke disposition, class is usually invisible – obsessed as they are with race and gender.
At last, we see recognition among environmentalists that class matters. Maybe, just maybe, we will soon see the realisation among some greens that for the poor struggling to pay energy bills, the costly pursuit of Net Zero is a terrifying prospect. I won’t hold my breath.
Leave Hamlet alone
Hamlet is a misogynist, just like notorious influencer Andrew Tate, an Oxford professor is planning to argue in a forthcoming BBC Radio 4 series. According to Professor Emma Smith, the presenter of Taking Issue With Shakespeare, Hamlet displays the kind of ‘toxic masculinity’ we now associate with ‘alpha male’ Tate.
It’s no surprise to hear this sort of interpretation these days. The woke have long been ruining and plundering Shakespeare for their own ends. But I would have thought Hamlet is the opposite of a self-assertive, self-confident, alpha-male leader.
Instead, Hamlet epitomises the ambivalence and ambiguity of youth. He’s an impetuous avenger, then a moody, rueful philosopher. He is a mystery to himself. He’s harrowed with fear and wonder at life, sensing his time out of joint. He is bewildered by his own love for Ophelia. Yes, he retains, throughout his woes and worries, an appetite for smutty jokes. But that doesn’t make him an exemplar of ‘toxic masculinity’.
These woke reinterpretations of Shakespeare are just getting silly.
Patrick West is a spiked columnist. His latest book, Get Over Yourself: Nietzsche For Our Times, is published by Societas.