We hear a lot of analysis of recent and forthcoming elections: which disappointed voters chose Trump in November, why Macron’s policies appeal to France, is Merkel leader of the free world, and so on. Even with pollsters misjudging majorities, it still sounds fairly scientific.
There’s something curious beneath the surface though. The weird pieties of our age – “3rd wave” feminism, “diversity” (not being racist), “gender”-is-different-from-biological-sex, Islam is peaceful – are driving debates in strange directions.
A woman has a serious chance of becoming president of France this weekend, but she won’t because she’s not left wing. (Actually nationalism is left wing, but never mind…) Feminism and being left wing go together, you see, so Margaret Thatcher or Theresa May cannot please followers of the complex new religion. This French woman’s opponent, a man leading an obviously fake movement funded by hidden backers, is clearly preferable because he’s more left wing than Le Pen and knows clever financial things. Macron’s extra bonus – he married a woman two decades older than him who was his schoolteacher. So romantic and mature and refreshing! Such a relief from those vile creepy old rich men who marry (Boo! Hiss!) good-looking women still young enough to bear children.
Doctrine here says France must vote for the helicoptered-in male candidate because the woman candidate is racist, nothing is worse than being racist, and anyway the male candidate married someone twice his age, so he’s deep.
Mr Obama won office with a slogan lacking a main verb (Yes we can what?) while rightly criticising Mr Bush’s dreadful 10-trillion-dollar national debt. Yet although he doubled that debt to 20 trillion in just eight years, did as much bombing of other countries as Bush, and (it’s now emerging) committed violations of national-intelligence law that rival Watergate, he’s still a good guy missed by newspapers and TV stations everywhere. If you say this is because he had a dignified yet soothing demeanour, is tall and good-looking, and has brown skin, this counts as terrible racism. On top of the emotional tragedy of losing their half-African diversity figurehead, the American left’s blood boils at his replacement: a rich white Anglo-German president of legendary litigiousness and crafty business practice, who brashly dismisses the left-wing pieties. Trump’s very existence particularly riles feminists.
He enrages them in three related ways.
1) The Donald isn’t embarrassed about doing things like touching women’s bottoms or kissing them without prior permission, which are now of course dastardly crimes of ‘harassment’ except that…..
2) …he claimed many women don’t consider it harassment if the man is rich or famous, and…
3) …unforgivably, he seems to prove point (2) about the hypocrisy behind feminism by having a strikingly elegant, leggy wife substantially younger than him. Very anti-Macron.
Donald Trump’s habit of marrying attractive women means he now has attractive children – one of whom seems to be advising him on foreign policy. Infuriatingly, she is so groomed and enhanced that she makes even left-wing women younger than her look dowdy.
The Trumpster’s breezy lack of interest in whether either his wife or his daughter has a Ph.D in quantum chemistry like Mrs Merkel or publishes peer-reviewed law papers like Mrs Obama makes him “superficial”, “patriarchal”, “sexist”, and an all-round sleazy cad. On the other hand, his clever, hard-headed campaign manager cannot be called a Mannequin Airhead, so she must be attacked in other ways.
Behind all this is the growth of an entire academic discipline about “gender” and similar subjects creating job security for activists and prestigious bases from which they can agitate. Tell these people the grammatical term “gender” was first misused like this in 1955 by a sex-change surgeon called John Money to make his work seem more profound, and they seethe. They seem to genuinely think that “gender-studies” books and academic papers are real books and articles rather than an elaborate 6-decade practical joke, which is the impression many outsiders have of this new “field”.
When people assert they are “lesbians trapped in a man’s body” or that they “identify as tri-gender” the fascinating thing is that fewer people laugh nowadays. A Swedish student body recently said having sex with dead people should be legalised, and a group of Yale students are currently going on a “symbolic” hunger strike where they call themselves hunger strikers but they still eat food. As many people have said before me, these are the acts of a new religion. A significant portion of the liberal left now sound like brainwashed victims of mind-control cults.
No coincidence then that they’ve learned a few things from Islamic cults. One thing they’ve learned is that laughter isn’t so powerful after all. If you have simpletons bigoted enough to kill people who laugh at your beliefs, it turns out you can scare people into not mocking you.
And once the natural laughter reaction stops, many people then begin to actually take your pompous emperor’s-new-clothes beliefs seriously. This trick has worked elsewhere than just Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China. By stages of this ratchet you can make a free society unfree. This week in online debate a Muslim activist – I’m sure a decent and likeable in person – told me that linguistic text analysis “proves” only the Qur’an is the authentic word of God. No wonder so many devout Moslems demand any society they live in, even as guests, must legislate against reasoned discussion.
Once, a leader like Turkish president Erdogan demanding prosecution of a German comedian would have meant he’d lost the argument. Now it means they’ve worked out the argument doesn’t matter. Once we cheered someone who would call Erdogan the “wankerer from Ankara”. Now the kind of people who say that “Brexit makes them wish they had never been born” (seen online today) condemn Boris Johnson for writing that ditty. They speak about Johnson with the kind of hatred and venom you’d imagine foreign dictators deserve rather than the people mocking them.
Trump’s other evil crime was to defeat Hillary Clinton, long expected to become the first woman US president. Hillary’s glorious election was going to vindicate the life stories of millions of American career ladies of a certain age.
These are the louder feminists: women insistently not regretting they didn’t marry younger and have more children – no, they’re winners, they proved a beautiful point by becoming lawyers or accountants. (No need to prove that point by becoming tunnel engineers or factory machinists of course.) Many feminist women find that they’ve become that successful lawyer. Yet they are also divorced and exhausted. Mysteriously, now they’re in their late 30s they struggle to attract the high-status men they so deserve.
Whose fault is this? Why, men’s of course!
If only vulgar plutocrats like Trump could follow Emmanuel Macron’s example, displaying dignified gravitas by pursuing older women like them!
If only men would listen more respectfully to wise earth mothers like Angela Merkel! (The onetime quantum chemist whose migrant blunder in 2015 singlehandedly signed the EU’s death warrant.)
Plus the bad, unfeminist women. If only those Slavic painted Jezebels would stop taking their clothes off, showing rich Western men twice their age their youthful charms! Stealing those rich men away from the mature Western feminists who are entitled to them!
These are the confused passions, fixations, “principles”, churning the democratic saucepan. Was Candidate X once rude about transsexuals? Does Candidate Y slate Israeli Zionism with sufficient vigour? Has she, he, or it uttered enough progressive pieties about women’s rights?
These overlapping cults of zealots now influence democratic elections. Western politics is becoming religious again.
Mark Griffith is a financial trader who keeps a weblog at http://www.otherlanguages.org
You’re quite right about the quasi-religious tone adopted by the left and on the unwritten but powerful heresy laws which now surround and stifle debate. But these developments have deep roots, starting with the crime of “Holocaust denial”. Years ago, the David Irvings of this world could offer their poisonous nonsense to a public robust enough to deride it without official sanction. Then it was made illegal. What’s the problem? Who would want to defend a man like that or a message of that kind? But as well as opening the door to a whole raft of legislation which concerns utterance and opinion; in addition to opening the way to “thought crime”, such a law has tilted debate in such a way as to extenuate the genocidal brutalities of Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao. And yet, if it is even suggested that Hitler’s evil – although the very worst of humanity – is indeed paralleled by the evils of communism, the heretic is accused of “relativizing” the Nazi death camps, when this is in fact what the left is up to with regard to its own dark history. Stalin was bad, they grudgingly admit, but Hitler was worse. This strange convention has been absorbed by almost all the leading figures in the arts, culture and academe. I lately read a most interesting short history of Germany by one James Hawes. At the end of a moving chapter concerning the darkest stretch of German history, he spoils it by trotting out the official mantra, with a glib reference to the “crimes” of the great communist butchers. Crimes? Is that all they are? Does he really know what they did? Is he really aware of the hells over which they presided? And they are merely “criminals” whilst Hitler is Satanic? Are they not all – all – equally Satanic? Well – perhaps they are – but it can only be genuinely settled in discussion; and putting such a point in discussion – even doubtfully – is now all but impossible.