O tribunal da opinião pública é sobre justiça do populacho e reputação como vingança

Bruce Schneider

Recentemente, Elon Musk [Um bilionário empreendedor e filantrópico sul-africano] e o The New York Times foram ao Twitter e à Internet para discutir dados –  e suas queixas –  por causa de um test-drive e uma avaliação de carro que falharam. Enquanto isso, um funcionário da [cadeia de restaurantes] Applebee coloca uma petição no portal Change.org para recuperar o emprego que perdeu por ter postado online uma conta sem gorjeta de um cliente clérigo. Um funcionário desenvolvedor da rede de academias Web Fitness SF, por não ter sido pago com rapidez suficiente, reescreveu a página da empresa a fim de expor a sua reclamação. Todos esses ‘casos’ estão buscando seus julgamentos no tribunal da opinião pública. O tribunal da opinião pública tem um registro completo; nem mesmo os estabelecimentos de tijolo e cimento são imunes.

Cada vez mais indivíduos –  e empresas –  estão contornando inteiramente o processo tradicional legal, na esperança de obter uma audiência mais favorável perante o grande público. Todos os dias nós temos que interagir com milhares de estranhos, que vão das pessoas com quem cruzamos na rua e pessoas que manipulam o nosso alimento, às pessoas com quem mantemos relações comerciais de curto prazo. Muito embora a maioria de nós não seja capaz de proteger os nossos interesses pela força física, todos podemos ter confiança ao lidar com esses estranhos, porque –  pelo menos em parte – confiamos que o sistema jurídico intervirá em nosso nome, na eventualidade de algum problema. Às vezes, esse problema envolve pessoas que violam as regras da sociedade, e, os tribunais criminais lidam com elas; quando o problema é um desacordo entre duas partes, os tribunais civis irão fazer isso. Os tribunais são um sistema antigo de justiça, e a sociedade moderna não pode funcionar sem eles.

O que importa no sistema judicial tradicional são os fatos e as leis. Os tribunais são supostamente imparciais e justos na distribuição de sua justiça, e as sociedades florescem com base na medida em que se aproximam desse ideal. Quando os tribunais são injustos –  quando os juízes podem ser subornados, quando os poderosos são tratados melhor, quando os advogados mais caros produzem resultados mais favoráveis ​​–  a sociedade é prejudicada. Tornamo-nos mais medrosos e menos capazes de confiar uns nos outros. Ficamos menos dispostos a entrar em acordo com estranhos, e, dedicamos mais esforços para proteger os nossos, porque não acreditamos que o sistema existe para nos apoiar.

O tribunal da opinião pública é um sistema alternativo de justiça. É muito diferente do sistema judicial tradicional: esse tribunal é baseado em reputação, vingança, humilhação pública e nos caprichos da massa. Ter uma boa história é mais importante do que ter a lei do seu lado. Ser um oprimido simpático é mais importante do que ser justo. Os fatos são importantes, mas não existem padrões de avaliar precisão. A velocidade da internet agrava isso; uma boa história se espalha mais rápido que um monte de fatos.

Esse tribunal oferece justiça de reputação. Os argumentos são medidos em relação à reputação. Se uma parte fizer uma reclamação contra outra que parece ser plausível, com base em ambas as reputações, é provável que essa reclamação seja recebida favoravelmente. Se alguém fizer uma afirmação que colida com a reputação das partes, é provável que não seja recebida. A reputação é, obviamente, uma mercadoria, e a perda de reputação é a penalidade que esse tribunal impõe. Nesse sentido, ele recompensa menos frequentemente a parte lesada e mais frequentemente causa vingança ou retribuição. E embora essas perdas possam ser brutais, os efeitos geralmente duram pouco.

O tribunal da opinião pública tem limitações significativas. Funciona melhor para a vingança e a justiça do que para resolução de disputas. Ele pode punir uma empresa por demitir injustamente um de seus funcionários ou por mentir no test-drive de um automóvel, mas é menos eficaz em desvendar um litígio complicado sobre patentes ou em um processo de falência.

De muitas maneiras, esse é um retorno a uma noção medieval de 'fama' ou reputação. De outras maneiras, é como a justiça da massa: às vezes benigna e benéfica, às vezes terrível (pense na Revolução Francesa). O julgamento pela opinião pública não é novo; você se lembra do Rodney King e do O. J. Simpson?

A mídia de massa tem permitido esse sistema há séculos. Mas a internet, e, em particular as mídias sociais, mudaram a forma como estão sendo usadas. Agora, ele está sendo usado de maneira mais deliberada e frequente, por entidades cada vez mais poderosas, como mecanismo de retificação. Talvez porque seja considerado mais eficiente ou talvez porque uma das partes sinta que pode obter uma audiência mais favorável neste novo tribunal, mas está sendo usado em vez de ações judiciais. Ao invés dos shows dos figurantes (as partes) dos processos judiciais reais, o tribunal da opinião pública está se transformando em um sistema alternativo de resolução de disputas e de justiça.

Parte dessa tendência se deve ao fato de a internet facilitar muito o processo perante a corte da opinião pública. Costumava ser sobre uma parte injuriada persuadir um meio de comunicação tradicional a divulgar o seu caso; agora a parte injuriada pode levar o seu caso diretamente ao povo. E, embora ainda seja uma surpresa quando alguns casos se tornam virais, enquanto outros perduram na obscuridade, é simplesmente mais eficaz apresentar seu caso no Facebook ou no Twitter.

Outra razão é que o sistema judicial tradicional é cada vez mais visto como injusto. Hoje, o dinheiro pode comprar justiça: não subornando diretamente os juízes, mas contratando advogados melhores e forçando o outro lado a gastar mais dinheiro do que as suas posses permitem. Sabemos que os tribunais tratam os ricos e os pobres de maneira diferente, que as empresas podem se safar de crimes que os indivíduos não podem, e, que os poderosos podem fazer lobby para obter as leis e regulamentos específicos que desejam –  independentemente de quaisquer noções de justiça.

Empresas inteligentes já se prepararam para as batalhas no tribunal da opinião pública. Eles contrataram especialistas em direcionamentos políticos. Eles contrataram empresas para monitorar o Facebook, Twitter e outros locais da Internet onde essas batalhas se originam. Eles já têm em vigor estratégias de resposta e planos de comunicação. Eles reconheceram que, embora esse tribunal seja muito diferente do sistema jurídico tradicional, dinheiro e poder contam, e, que existem maneiras de alterar os resultados a seu favor: por exemplo, falsos movimentos de base podem ser tão eficazes na Internet quanto no mundo offline.

Está na hora de reconhecermos o tribunal da opinião pública pelo que ele é –  um sistema de justiça alternativo habilitado pelas multidões. Precisamos começar a discutir os seus méritos e as suas falhas; precisamos entender quando o mesmo resulta em justiça e como pode ser manipulado pelos poderosos. Também precisamos ter uma conversa franca sobre as falhas do sistema de justiça tradicional, e, porque as pessoas estão motivadas a levar suas queixas ao público. Apesar da existência de empresas de relações públicas que funcionam 24 horas, e de planos de resposta a incidentes, este é um tribunal em que empresas e governos estão em uma inerente desvantagem. E, como os fracos continuarão correndo na frente dos poderosos, os que estão no poder preferirão usar os mecanismos mais tradicionais do governo: a polícia, os tribunais e as leis.

A pesquisadora de mídia social Danah Boyd acertou quando escreveu aqui na Wired: “Em uma sociedade em rede, quem de nós decide onde estão os limites morais? Essa não é uma pergunta fácil e está na raiz de como nós, como sociedade, conceituamos a justiça”‘. Não é uma pergunta fácil, mas é a pergunta principal. As questões morais e éticas que cercam o tribunal da opinião pública são aquelas reais, que a sociedade terá que enfrentar nas próximas décadas.

                                                                                                                     

Artigo publicado na revista Wired, seção Opinião, 26 de fevereiro, 2013. Bruce Schneier é um tecnólogo de segurança. O seu último livro é Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust Society Needs to Survive. (Mentirosos e outliers: como criar a confiança que a sociedade precisa para sobreviver). Tradução de JPO.

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Once upon a time… ‘capitalism’

Fernando R. Genovés

 

  1. Never say ‘always’ or ‘capitalism’

So far, I have used phrases like ‘money’ or ‘fortune’, when I might as well have said ‘capital’. But I will not do that, because they are not synonymous and ‘capital’ is subject to a very particular political and ideological doctrinaire. In this essay, I use certain words that, save for lapse or error, I do not use, even though I mention and quote them. Just as the concept ‘socialism’ derives from the voice ‘social’, ‘capitalism’ comes from ‘capital’, a term already used since the 12th century, in commercial activity.

Tom G. Palmer, in the introduction to the book The morality of capitalism: what your professors won’t tell you (© 2011, Students For Liberty y Atlas Economic Research Foundation. Jameson Books, Inc.; La moralidad del capitalismo, 2013, Chile, Fundación para el Progreso), puts the term in its context.

The word ‘capitalism’ started to be used in the 19th century, generally in a derogatory sense: for example, when the French socialist Louis Blanc defined the term as “the appropriation of capital by some to the detriment of others”. Karl Marx used the phrase “capitalist mode of production”, and it was his fervent follower, Werner Sombart, who popularized the term ‘capitalism’ in his influential 1912 book Der Moderne Kapitalismus.

In turn, the concept of ‘socialism’ was established in opposition to that of ‘capitalism’, highlighting the social versus the capital, one as an alternative to the other; a system designed to replace another system. The haul has been taken very seriously by those who promote this antithesis, even affecting dozens of countries, and millions of people, until today; in most cases, except those versed in the dialectical materialism, without understanding the background of the alleged contradiction. ‘The final struggle’ covers all fronts, starting with language, since the enemies of freedom are the ones who find, wield and elevate these concepts, among many others, that make up the doctrine of ‘anti-capitalism’.

Tell me how you speak and I will tell you who you are. Express yourself as Comrade X and you will end up looking like Comrade X, being a companion of language: the first step to joining the club of ‘fellow travellers’ (poputchik). Be careful, therefore, in the use of language that creates dependency and favours the extension of the beliefs associated with them. George Orwell pointed out with penetrating acumen that the first battle that totalitarianism must win in order to impose itself on the world, is the battle of language.

‘Socialism’ comes from the word ‘social’. What is magical and enchanting about ‘social’ that dazzles almost everyone equally? For me, this ‘social’ means, after all, nothing but ‘expensive’, ‘onerous’ and ‘tax’, an ‘added value that all citizens end up paying.

The exaltation of ‘social’ is, in short, very expensive. It weaves (‘social fabric’) a profound animosity and an aggressive resentment against the individual and liberty which ends up crushing them. Such sentiments undoubtedly stem from a stage that is earlier than the political one:

The hatred of liberalism does not come from any other source. Because liberalism, before being a more or less political issue, is a radical idea about life: it is to believe that each human being must be free to fulfil his individual and non-transferable destiny. José Ortega y Gasset, ‘Socialización del hombre’.

Over time, the feelings associated with those words, the connotation they carry, their impact on people, have not changed substantially. Perhaps only people who have experienced the ‘socialist’ system are vaccinated against this scourge. Although not in its entirety. In today’s Russia, to cite a case, sympathy for the communist system and the Soviet Union’s past remains alive in a significant part of the population, from those who knew it and those who received information about it. Not even the fall of the Berlin Wall and the revelation of the horrors of such a criminal and inhuman system failed to bury ‘socialism’. If anything, it was just the opposite.

Shortly after the announcement of the ‘end of history’(Francis Fukuyama) and the global triumph of ‘capitalism’, and, especially, after the economic crisis unleashed in the summer of 2007, ‘socialism’ gained a public notoriety, rising from its ashes. Disguised as ‘social democracy’ (the social always placed at the forefront) until then, a softened version of ‘socialism’ that did not question the ‘capitalist’ economic and social order, in our day, the parties and supporters of true ‘socialism’ launched themselves into a struggle without territory and with their faces exposed, without bothering to put on the makeup of propaganda and action, thus showing their true inhuman face.

 

  1. It’s only words

Openly revolutionary proclamations, the plea to overthrow ‘capitalism’ and to take the definitive step forward, make up the dominant discourse anywhere on the planet. The ‘socialist’ ideology reigns not only in the media, in schools and universities – ‘the world of culture’ as a whole –  but everywhere.

As opinion polls reveal, among the young population, the spectrum of ‘socialism’ gains attachment and predilection against the reality of ‘capitalism’. ‘Anti-capitalist’ groups have become strong on the streets, where they mobilize and demonstrate shamelessly (though often with masked faces) at the slightest opportunity. Against which ‘capitalism’ do they fight...?

About 40% of the economic activity in the United States of America (USA) passes through the hands and the control of the government, which has grown in power and influence in a nation that, since its foundation, has understood and defended the value of the private over the public, the value of freedom, the subjection of political power emanating from the respective states and, above all, from Washington, the country’s capital. Federal spending per capita increased 191% between 1960 and 2018, from $ 4,300 to $ 12,545. What happened to the American way of life?

The People’s Republic of China, thanks to a peculiar combination, in practice, of a ‘capitalist’ economy, under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, has managed to establish itself as the first world economy, a rank that the USA held until the last century. As an economic, social and political model, the USA has progressively turned to the system that dominates in Europe. But which one?  ‘Social democrat’? ‘State capitalism’? ‘Social capitalism’? Like Europe or like China?

At the present moment, it is only from the false propaganda against freedom, or from a shameless cynicism, or pure ignorance, that one can say that ‘capitalism’ is the dominant model of society in the world: “if by ‘capitalism’ is understood as a system competence based on the free disposition of private property” (Friedrich A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, 1944). Or what remains of the free and open market society, supported on private property, the division of powers and the minimum state, where the values ​​of individualism, enterprise and personal responsibility prevail. In short, from the society of owners.

Here is the heart of the matter, a crucial issue. Well, its purpose can hardly be understood (regardless of the author’s ability to communicate and his explaining expertise) – the transition from the society of owners to the community of managers – using terms that distort and confuse things rather than elucidating them, or that denote a non-existent reality, reflecting a situation in which words and actions do not coincide, in which language is not so much used to communicate as to persuade.

‘Capitalism’ is a concept that, no matter how many virtues its strict meaning contains (and which are not few) and how much its genuine meaning is explained, its meaning and value are inevitably associated with bad vibes and negative feelings. ‘Socialism’, on the contrary, sounds good, the ‘social’ thing. ‘Progressivism’, in turn, evokes a horizon and an ideal of progress. Who is the brave individual willing to condemn ‘the social’ and ‘progress’?

All men were made for one another: either then teach them better or bear with them. Marcus Aurellius, Meditations

Okay, but who has the patience to explain to others each and every one of the words they use, in order not to be misinterpreted, or to continue to increase and reinforce, more than the language chain, the chained language?

One day, I asked a person with whom I have the confidence to speak, and who knows how to tie shoelaces, about why she voted for the Socialist Party in all elections, and she answered me, seriously and without a hint of a joke, that it was because she is very ‘social ‘and’ sociable ‘, and enjoys being with people rather than being alone ...

And communism? I think that the only correct thing in communism is the name, namely: the perverse recreation of a world in which everything is common, that is, ordinary, public, current, vulgar, miser and miserable, inferior, low and bad. Yes, I will continue to use that term from now on. It adjusts to reality.

Neither ‘capitalism’ nor ‘socialism’ or ‘progressivism’. What are we left with then?

 

  1. Capitalists socialists and socialist capitalists

There are ‘capitalist socialists’. And there are also ‘Castroists’, ‘Chavists’ and ‘Anarco-syndicalists’, a ‘truly existing socialism’ and another pending to exist: the pending revolution, an expression coined by Trotskyists, those communists who are not ‘socialists’ from the First International, but from the Fourth, and rather less, Stalinists. In other words, it’s a helter-skelter.

There is ‘liberalism’ by itself, ‘classic liberalism’, ‘neoliberalism’, and ‘anarcho-capitalism’, ‘capitalism with a human face’ and hard face capitalism (‘capitalism of friends and minions’), ‘state capitalism’, ‘humanist capitalism’, ‘social capitalism’, ‘liberal capitalism’, among many other varieties to choose from in a free market ...

And, ouch, there are ‘socialist-capitalists’, with or without the party card, both at individual and corporate levels. At the present time, a notable amount of commercial advertising and corporate (private) communications has made its speech from the official doctrine of the enemies of freedom and private property. This opportunistic and petty conduct has been around for a long time and is increasing. We are at a point (with no return?) when it has become hard to differentiate it from the script of advertising and of propaganda with ideological content. More than ‘politically correct’, they are corrective: dairy industries encourage animalism; organizations which are dependent on banks invest in proclamations about revolution, the ‘social commitment’ and the pedagogy that is socializing and inclusive; manufacturers of alcoholic beverage teach public morality; energy companies follow the mainstream with speeches on ecologism and feminism; companies that sell masculine shaving products insult men by spitting ‘toxic masculinity’ slogans into their faces (such as growing a moustache, a goatee or sideburns).

All of this comes to mind or not. The revolution and the world are upside down. Advertising conveys publicly what the company intends to sell: yesteryear, products and services; the current year, and also, formulas and slogans accompanied by ideological signs, not neutral, but ‘anti-capitalist’.

On August 23, 2011, the Europa Press news agency released the following story:

“Several of France’s biggest fortunes and top entrepreneurs, including L’Oréal’s billionaire heiress Liliane Bettencourt, and CEOs of multinationals like Veolia, Danone, Total or Société Générale, have signed a proposal in which they ask the government to establish an ‘exceptional contribution’ imposed to the highest incomes, as a way to collaborate in the ‘solidarity effort’ necessary to support the economic future of the Gallic country.

 ”We, presidents and directors of companies, men and women in business, financial agents, professionals or shareholders, call for the establishment of a special contribution that will affect the most favoured French taxpayers”, explains an open letter published by the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur.

“We are aware that we have fully benefited from a French model and a European environment to which we are committed and want to help to preserve”, points out the open letter, signed by sixteen of the biggest fortunes and the main entrepreneurs in the Gallic country.

“This contribution is not a solution in itself, and therefore must be part of a broader effort of reform, both in terms of expenditure and revenue”, the promoters of the proposal recognize.

Likewise, the signatories of the letter emphasized that “at a time when the deficit in public accounts and the prospects for the worsening of the State’s debt threaten the future of France and Europe, at a time when the government asks us all for a solidarity effort, it seems necessary to contribute”.”

Guilt complex, self-immolation, flogging, opportunism, abandoning oneself, renouncing that which is yours and corresponds to you, reach the peoples of the West at levels close to the greatest of all the delusions. The engaged republicanism of rich people with complexes is manifested on the Parisian catwalk, as we have seen. What a strange way to contribute ‘socially’, this appealing to coercion! Wouldn’t it be enough to create jobs and wealth through business enterprises? What a curious way to generate publicity! Thus, Benetton’s postmodern fashion and its old multi-coloured messages, demagogic and multiculturalist, are announced.

Yet, the main question is: if these ‘capitalists’ and ‘socialists’ want to contribute and donate money to society, why don’t they hand it over to the state? Why don’t they make voluntary donations? Why don’t they promote private philanthropy? Why don’t they help charitable organizations financially? Why don’t they resort to free enterprise instead of demanding that everyone is compelled to partake with their socializing republican faith and their forced detachment? Why don’t they seek a more honest tax consultant or manager when making decisions? Perhaps they believe that all rich people are like them...

There are many individuals (the majority) whose fortune was made through good enterprises, such as industriousness, taking risks, investing their savings, mortgaging their properties, respecting free competition, without cheating, without frauds or lies, and without flattering the powerful and politicians. And without playing to the gallery. Why should the taxpayers, rich or poor, pay for the republican preachers à la Mitterrand or à la Robespierre?

Echoing a piece of news that runs through Europe and the entire planet, on June 25, 2019, the Spanish newspaper El Mundo published an article entitled “US billionaires ask for ‘a tax on wealth’ for ethical reasons”. The entry point: “The plan exempts the first $ 50 million in assets from tax, but provides for a 2% fortune tax of more than 50 million, and raises the rate to 3% for those over 1,000 million”. Among the generous billionaires, the article cites Abigail Disney, heir to the Disney empire, and George Soros. Is Mr. Soros a ‘capitalist’ or a ‘socialist’? And Michael Bloomberg? And Bill Gates? And most of the ‘world of culture and entertainment’ in Hollywood, New York or Paris?

So, ‘capitalism’? Yes or no?

“Yes to capitalism, but limited to its role. It is needed that the value system is kept open so that nobody succeeds at the expense of the defeat of the rest”. Pascal Bruckner, in the essay The misery of prosperity: the religion of the market and its enemies (Misère de la prosperité: La religion marchande et ses ennemis; 2002) states that when one says ‘yes to capitalism’, but a ‘yes’ that is immediately demoted by a ‘but’, what he is really trying to say is ‘no’. Or something that amounts to the same: yes, but no... Bruckner is a French writer and philosopher, who is generally reasonable and perceptive, but an intellectual nevertheless, in spite of himself. When choosing between nation (politics) and market (economy) he opts for the ‘value system’ that the political nation contains, ahead of the market, which has no motherland, and which only serves interests and answers the call of money: it offers prosperity in exchange for generating misery. And that can’t be. Bruckner does not in any way advocate a ‘socialist’ solution to the situation, but neither he wishes to join the game (stock market, companies, profits, money...) of ‘capitalism’. Let it take its course...

So ‘socialism’? Yes or no?

It is probably preferable to call ‘collectivism’ the methods that can be used for a wide variety of purposes and to consider socialism as a species of this genus. Friedrich A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, 1944.

 

  1. This false glamour

Is the aversion to ‘capitalism’ and the ‘popularity’ of socialism a product of people’s conviction or the effect of glamour?

In a public act held years in Madrid some ago, in defence of the democratization of Cuba, and with the notable presence of artists and intellectuals from the ‘political left’ (the included and the inclusive), the writer Mario Vargas Llosa, spokesman for the meeting, declared: “We have to remove this false glamour from the Cuban dictatorship”. Bravo! Although it is not known whether the Peruvian-born Spanish writer is a ‘capitalist’ or a ‘socialist’.

If there is anything that explains the survival of the criminal Castroist regime, it is, above any other considerations, the material and ‘moral’ support it receives from ‘socialists of all parties’ (F. A. Hayek) on a planetary scale. In other words, the help and the backing from those who flaunt the red. The same goes for other bastions of the progressivist ‘unhappy consciousness’ (Hegel). Together with Gaza, Venezuela, North Korea and a few other strongholds, although very emblematic of ‘resistance’, the ‘political left’ maintains its particular doctrinal stronghold in small territories sacrificed for the ‘Cause’; the larger territories under the communist rule, such as China, are already defending themselves alone. The Che Guevara photo, the Palestinian scarf, or the sickle and hammer, still serve as signs and countersigns to identify the saint (the righteous); and far from being displayed discretely in democracies, but rather with pride, ostentation and insolence.

Today, the Nazi swastika is prudently illegal, and Holocaust denial is generally condemned in the public sphere. The same is not true of the left-wing totalitarian signs and slogans, as well as the denial of  9/11.

Nevertheless, the red is anger, mummy, what is it that the red has... It has a glamor. A false glamour that fascinates both the ones who wear it and the others, because it has a license to act with impunity and because it is becoming. What about the uninhibited behaviour of the former, and the sensitivity and complacency of the latter, we must ask.

The ‘political left’ has long since abandoned the ‘workers struggle’ and the ‘liberation of the proletariat’ (in fact, workers other than civil servants, generally vote for political parties on the centre-right). But, they did not renounce the ‘class struggle’: what has changed are the classes and the meaning of struggle.

Consequently, the ‘Revolution’ has been reduced, in the first instance, to the ‘cultural revolution’, an attack that has more counterculture and anti-culture than culture itself. Contemporary society, the ‘society of the spectacle’(Guy Débord) and of scandals, feeds on indignation and theatrical representation, poise and the cult of image, exhibitionism and selfies, cosmetics and makeup, sentimentalism and empathy (a cheating buzzword, on special offer); on intoxication (fake news, agitprop, manipulation) and enchantment. Society, now globalized and media-savvy, has become somewhat idiotic by the media and the advertising industry. Such a society acquires the appearance of a complex group, but in reality is very simple, vulnerable, malleable, and easily dominated, driven and controlled. All that is needed is to remove the low passions from its members, by activating simple stimulus-response mechanisms, offering what it wants (after prescribing the wants), with flattery and entertainment.

Society, or collectivity, do not contain ideas as such, that is, those which are clear and well thought out. It contains only platitudes and exists from those platitudes. With this, I do not mean that they are false ideas, they could be magnificent ideas [note the philosopher’s irony]; what I’m saying is that, although the established opinions or topics are valid, such possible distinct qualities do not act; what acts is simply the mechanical pressure exerted over all individuals, their soulless coercion. It is not without interest that, in the most ordinary language, they are called ‘the leading opinions’. José Ortega and Gasset, Man and people (1949-50)

Perhaps the task of breaking the spell of the enchanted ones does not depend as much on the so-called ‘battle of ideas’ as it does on removing the colour and the sweetness from the discourse of enchanting illusions. Removing its makeup is an effective way to disarm it.

 

  1. Laboratories and observatories in universities: what places!

The world war that is being waged in defence of liberty is part of a long fight, one which never ends. Just as wealth needs to be created, liberty must be earned on a daily basis. Since the war in defence of liberty is not, strictly speaking, an ideological war, I came to the conviction that it also would not be correct to conceive it in terms of the ‘battle of ideas’, as we believed for some time, that is: the activation of an action-reaction mechanism in which an action on one side causes a reaction on the other side, in a process that grows in violence, at the crossroads of indignations and trickery, like a duel of forces. All because he who doesn’t move doesn’t appear on the photo. Behold here, precisely, the mother of all battles: the image. It is usually won by the whoever hits harder, wears out less, and dominates with greater cunning the apparatus of (emotional) intelligence, communication and appearance, publicity and propaganda.

In the perspective of the sociologist Max Weber, the development of humanity has gone through different phases, in which a general and universal direction, especially verifiable in Western society, complying with these two main elements: the growth of rationalization, together with the process of disenchantment of population; and the gradual withdrawal of sacred and magical beliefs when interpreting and conforming to reality. The derivation of all this is not, as one could infer, the triumph of rationality, but the extension of nihilism.

Unlike what the 18th century Enlightenment and its intellectual heirs imagined, contemporary mass society, did not grow in rational thought and critical spirit, as a result of the universalization of literacy and education, of reading books and the greater budgetary injection into the culture. Such a myth, such an enchantment, and such a fraud, have not yet been fully unmasked; it shows momentum and validity, but not the truth. The opposite has happened. The dream of ‘Reason’ has led to the establishment of a morbid and accommodating society, friendly to the simple, the fast and the instantaneous, and distanced from both conviction and responsibility. And this which I point out applies to crowds, ‘elites’ and managers, without distinction.

Millions of diploma-holders, graduates, and PhDs have emerged from universities, and only a select number of them, linked to the areas of science and business, have produced knowledge that is authoritative and practical. It was within their walls that the basic outline of the  Revolution against freedom was forged. Universities are still the hotbeds of generations of academics and intellectuals who try to imitate and replace the traditional temples of myths and oracles. Its departments issue and disseminate the responses and forecasts that serve as a basic general guideline for society’s conduct, not so much directly but through an intermediary mechanism involving the pedagogical and the media-driven work of interpreters and disseminators. Like a laboratory (eventually spread to the entire educational system), they experiment and test processed products to be subsequently propagated on a general scale, through a variety of media and intermediaries. Previously, the governments of  ‘capitalist’ countries were dominated by lawyers; today, they are dominated by university and high school teachers.

The ‘battle of ideas’ takes place in an environment that is increasingly subject to a unified thought: progressivism, feminism, multiculturalism, post-postmodernism. And its natural space is an area led by professors and ‘expert committees’. Transferring it to the heart of society is especially beneficial to amplify the effect of ‘laboratory terrorism’(Ortega y Gasset) and the social engineering encouraged by those officials of the intelligentsia, who, for the little they apply themselves, they are able to build sections here and there, and the most varied subsections; this procedure also receives the title of ‘university extension’.

The farce begins to operate at the moment when the same concept of ‘ideas’ is applied to designate the creations and recreations emerged from the campus test tubes, which are nothing more than slogans, dogmas, fantasies, mottos, catchphrase and nonsense, which serves only to govern a ‘Frankenstein universe’. From the media to publishers, from film and theatre producers to operatic productions, from bookstores to public spaces, everything that concerns the ‘world of culture’ is considered the property of ‘cultural Marxism’; or perhaps of the enemies of private property (but not to their own property, or to ‘intellectual property’, to dispel and deceive).

The stated objectives do not always object when it comes to joining the list of ‘travel companions’. And here is the beginning of the end of culture, in its classic and restricted sense, to become the apogee of advertising, privilege, repetition, pamphleteering and sixth-sense broadcasting, the dissemination of transgressive messages, of fashion: the kingdom of glamour.

In contemporary society, the key factor in the fall back of the society of owners and liberty does not consist, as Ortega y Gasset stated a century ago, in the ascendancy, the preponderance and the influence of the mass-man, but in the so-called ‘elites’ (term to be added to the list of emptied of meaning and transvalued).

 

  1. Bookstores & Journalism

I could cite in detail several examples of the above. I will focus on two: bookstores and journalism.

Every day, thousands of business and self-employed workers are forced to close their activities, in most cases due to the fiscal hell imposed by Governments. Some voices, in low volume, show their annoyance and disgust for this situation. However, I am not aware of many crowd gathering events demanding its curbing. The announcement of the closing of a bookstore arouses prompt and vociferous solidarity on thousands of people (whether they are true lovers of reading or not), and, in this instance, one could cite dozens of tearful lamentations, appeals to the public to sign letters of protest, to gather in front of the business that has ceased to exist, or to organize fundraisings in aid of the bookseller, who by the political action, is converted into a singular victim and, at the same time, in the ‘hero’ of those who claim to be his defenders, if not his proxies.

Eyes open, for there are here plenty of clarifications, justifications or feelings from each one, regarding the establishments with wall to wall bookshelves full of books (although paper books only; about the electronic book, one only speaks publically to vilify it, and there is no shortage of people who assure that the eBook and Amazon!, are, ultimately, the reason why now have the ‘For Sale’ is now hung at the doors of so many bookstores). Although this topic is relevant, this is not the place to analyse what comes first to the paladins of the paper book, ‘having’ books’ or ‘reading’ books (it suffices to say that anyone who wishes to look good in a photo for the press, would choose to stand in front of a bookcase, rather than in front of the crystal cabinet, the lounge’s showcase). In short: why a bookshop, and why not a millinery? I suppose that it is a consequence of the so-called ‘cultural exception’ also called the glamour. If the blinds in a café are permanently lowered, I am not compelled to check their specialities and how good they are, for instance, if the potato tortilla they serve has onions or not. For this is not the question.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Journalism. I’m touched to hear a young student or an apprentice (if not immobilized by inspection by the Ministry of Labour) who confesses that he has a professional calling to become an industrial engineer, an electrician or a tailor. However, I change stations in my res cogitans when a lad about to finish secondary school states that his dream is to become a journalist, for which, of course, he plans to study journalism (Faculty of Communications; School of Media and Communication, etc.). There are many novice journalists whose biggest illusion is to become another Carl Bernstein or Bob Woodward, or to be an aggressive and borderless reporter, or to be part of the Newsroom of a ‘serious and prestigious’ newspaper such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, or El País.

Cinema, television and the press have crystallized narratives concerning the profession of journalism, describing it as epic and lyric, mythical and legendary, fabulous and fanciful, which, in turn, have dazzled and bewitched thousands of young (and not so young) people. Since I didn’t go to the newspaper archive to look for more data, I’ll put it succinctly: nowadays, the old distinction between the black and white press and the yellow press has disappeared. The surge of cyberspace, digital production, the internet and social networks has caused the press (and the entire galaxy of Gutenberg) to lose a great deal of its sense, although not its significance and function. These new technologies allow one to set up, with little material resources and human capital, a broadcaster for a radio station and even for video-television, a magazine, a newspaper; not to mention the alternative virtual information and communication space that a freelance communicator can achieve with a Patreon account or access to other supporting platforms. I don’t deny that there are many sincere and well-intentioned people behind these initiatives, but I also do not ignore that the purpose of most of them is, in the final analysis, is to be recruited by a ‘conventional’ media vehicle. In the meantime, they reproduce and imitate the pathways established in this ancient craft, by their own motivations and by instinct. Thus, one has to chase the news, capture them, and make the readers follow and believe in them. And finally, how can a work that is carried out in a virtual environment that, by its very own nature, refracts the news rather than reports them, can be taken seriously for its truthfulness and authenticity?

‘Virtual’, according to the RAE (Spanish Royal Academy):

“From Middle Age Latin virtualis, and this from lat. virtus ‘power, faculty’, ‘strength’, ‘virtue’.

  1. adj. That which has virtue to produce an effect, although it does not produce it at present, often in opposition to the real or actual.
  2. adj. Implicit, tacit.
  3. adj. Phys. That has an apparent rather than real existence.”

On the present moment, every newspaper turns yellow sooner or later: those sheets of over-recycled paper, which impregnate the hands with ink and pulp and fosters fungi, and which are dangerous even to be used to wrap anchovies. I am alarmed to hear that someone dies to get a vegetable diary, to devour a cultural supplement or to inhale intensely those musty smells and the essence of lignin. It matters not the justification that these are expressions less close to reality than to metaphors.

Each year, the schools of journalism (or ‘Communication’) license hundreds of graduates who are hungry for paper and for writing striking headlines and reports. Most of these young graduates are quite ignorant in spelling and composition, although they love adjectives and the atmosphere of camaraderie at the newspaper’s newsroom. As if this weren’t enough, their former professors would have familiarized them with the writings of Truman Capote and Noam Chomsky, as well as with the CNN television scripts. I don’t doubt that the progressive generations that have emerged from the educational centres with their diplomas haven’t heard of Azorín, Júlio Camba and Camilo José Cela; and if by chance the name of Francisco Umbral seems familiar to them, it is because he used to appear on television to talk about his latest book.

If today’s newspapers are markedly biased and they print more lies and half-truths than truths that have been fact-checked, why do we deceive ourselves? The bias of the journalistic profession is loudly ‘leftist’, and almost exclusively punctuated with inclusivity progressivism. Ah, journalism! There is no greater dream among trainee journalists (and writers in search of a supplement!) than to write for one of the fetish diaries, above mentioned, or, if that is not possible, to scribble in them. There is nothing comparable to be seen at Café Gijón, in Madrid, in front of an espresso and with newspaper fully opened, to feel awesome, to pass as an intellectual, and to be seen and admired. And what wouldn’t one say about being seen on the veranda (where one can smoke, up to the moment) of Café de Flore in Paris. It’s pure glamour fou.

 

  1. The ‘battle of ideas’ and the war of glamour

I do not deny the need for a battle of ideas at the time one has to confront, neutralize and apprehend the intellectual and emotional pressure of the ‘leading opinions’ in contemporary society. I point out that they should concentrate, if anything, on the place where they came from: universities, cultural centres and other learning meshes. And this is a most optimistic assumption, since it is common knowledge that unorthodox speakers and attendees have been habitually barred from debates or similar events held in universities, colleges, or alumni reunions. And therefore, with such Bulgarian-style unanimity, there can be little debate. The events where the unorthodox are invited to speak are frequently busted, boycotted or simply cancelled by those who consider themselves to be the absolute owners of the temples of knowledge. In this reserved area, the expression ‘battle of ideas’ does have a restricted and literal meaning. If the disrupters actions were socially repudiated or seen as ‘malicious’, they would not do them. But what commonly happens is the opposite (and I would go on to say that causing outrage it is the main purpose of the gathering) for they use their cell phone’s video camera to record their actions so that they can be posted on social media and on YouTube.

I argue that exporting the ‘battle of ideas’ is useless and even futile, and immediately a crystal clear aphorism comes to mind:

Affection cannot be suppressed or suppressed, except by means of an opposite affection and stronger than that to be suppressed. Baruch de Spinoza, Ethics, Part IV. Proposition VII

Passions do not recede in the face of reasons. A condition, such as sadness, can only be counteracted when joy grows in an individual, with the result that the later displaces the former. It is a frivolous belief (and a tautology) that a person comes to reason by virtue of reasons, when he is possessed, intoxicated or under the effect of a bewitchment, of which, he is not normally, aware, or when hope and fear dominate him... Or, when living in an illusion is beneficial.

I suggest that it is better to free the individual from flag-bearers, addictive habits, secured trust, blind or imposed obedience; to provide the individual with an antidote that cleanses his mind of toxic contents, his mouth of impure words, and his behaviour of bad actions. In short, that he develops a taste for freedom rather than submission, that he substitutes the ‘pleasure principle’ and the merengue of glamour for the ‘reality principle’ (Sigmund Freud), the sense of responsibility, and decency. If he can accept these and these suit him...

Under the cloak of the orthodox doctrine and the political correctness, the individual feels protected from contradictions, changes in government and in opinion, in whims, and in cultural fashions. Outside, it is certainly very cold and one would be exposed to the elements. Inside, it smells like a manager, but it’s protected and warm. That’s it then...

Fresh air and a yawn in the wind can be more curative for an asthmatic or someone who happens to be chocked by slogans than a revealing statistic or an argument intertwined with certainty and good sense. To get an individual who is intoxicated with manifestos and who acts according to a pre-established script, to experience embarrassment or shame when caught in the act, is more effective than poking fun of the fool (who would reinforce his foolish conduct out of spite). I guarantee that it is more effective to stop spreading (or retweeting) other people ’s nonsense and personal outbursts than to stay put accompanying the colleague’s anger at the ruffian, as well as the sermons of YouTuber influencers, those knights and major-generals in the ‘battle of ideas’.

Considering that the servile behaviour, the following of the current, and being the spokesman of one’s master, makes the meat of the flock rather than heroes, is more likely to be irritating and embarrassing to the individual touched by the spell, than by way of multiple points and counterpoints regarding his delusional state. I reckon that seeing the growth of self-esteem and dignity does more good to a person than seeing him sweating while justifying evil.

He who just chases of glamour appears so very faced, but that’s because glamour has countless profiles.

 

  1. About the lightness of being and the ‘progressivist’ look

I do not bring to these pages a magic potion or a balm that cures everything, because I am neither a magician nor an alchemist, or even a bedside doctor. Nevertheless, the malady which I identify is insidious.

It turns out that a noted majority of citizens have tacitly placed themselves on the left bank of politics; what this means is: placing equality ahead of freedom; the public ahead of the private; collectivism ahead of individualism; emotional solidarity ahead of rational egoism; the redistribution of wealth ahead of personal enrichment; government action ahead of private initiatives; people complain about taxes, but do not believe to be fair the objective of eliminating them; they consider the [Spanish] supremacist social security and its ruinous pyramidal systems of pension to be more than acceptable (most Spaniards considers them to be among the best in the world), without even knowing or having any interest on personal capitalization funds (Individual Retirement Accounts; the so-called Austrian backpack), which are a fairer and more feasible alternative.

In reality, the interest and the concern for physical appearance and to look cool to others in terms of beliefs and committed postulates, evolve amid the citizenry at the same level as to those establishments dedicated to beauty and wellbeing, such as nail bars, gyms that offer classes in fitness, Pilates, yoga, and dance (Zumba, salsa, and reggaeton), tattoo parlours, and the various social media interventions. We could say that these share a similar trend. Public opinion moves irremediably to the pace of the fads and of the collective forces, but it causes dismay to see the ease and speed with which the basic (traditional) foundations of society are shaken, which shows that they were neither safe nor properly assumed.

Regarding the General Elections that were held in Spain in 2019, the majority of Spaniards voted for the candidacies of the ‘political left’, with several million votes going to the communist group Unidas-Podemos, whose ideological and financial ties connect it to Chavist Venezuela and Islamist Iran. As a result, a ‘social-communist’ coalition government has emerged, which threatens (and it is already working on it) to dismantle the society of owners. From these data, one should not conclude that those who voted and brought such an executive to power in Spain, are all communists.

Regardless of the government’s action in different socialist offices, the Spanish Socialist Party of Workers (PSOE) maintains, throughout the national territory, an electoral terrain that does not drop below 25% of voters. It also doesn’t seem reasonable to deduce from these figures that the vast majority of Spaniards want for Spain a model of life like that of the Soviets or the Castroist Cuba.

People move in a political trend as someone who is passionate about youth fashion, without realizing that the ‘travel guides’ offers certain adventure trips that are one way only. The return to sanity and to a well-ordered society will be slow, expensive and very painful.

 

  1. When propaganda is a bargain

Someone has said that the bewildered social masses form this amorphous magma called ‘the silent majority’. However, strictly speaking, rather ‘silent’, one could describe it as a ventriloquist, for the simple fact that it speaks (or pretends to speak) but says very little; it chatters and babbles, viscerally, in falsetto, or through the mouth of others. It is only a small proportion of this population, strategically positioned, that agitates and makes noise, although sufficiently enough to mark the agenda and the territory, to point out the rites and the routes which the others simply follow. It is an absurd thing, I insist, to infer from it all that millions of Spaniards follow the ‘communist’ precepts and the ‘progressivist’ protocols knowingly, and with conviction and principles, out of loyalty to the Marxist-Leninist legacy. What they do is to follow the current.

More than being ‘left-wing’, people want to avoid, above all and at all costs, appearing in public as being ‘right-wing’, or being labelled an ‘ultra’ or a ‘fascist’. This avoidance makes them amenable to follow anyone, to shut their mouths and be plucked, in exchange for not feeling excluded from the group, segregated. The sensation of being bundle up and socialized, accompanied, among ‘friends’ and ‘followers’, and being well-regarded, is placed ahead of acting freely, working and earning money. For they realize, with fear and trembling, that it is worse to be alone than unaccompanied, and that the pride of the poor is better than the loneliness and grief of a Mr Scrooge.

It is said and repeated over and over, that the ‘political left’ enjoys a ‘moral superiority’ that makes it secure and impervious on all fronts. Fame comes, in fact, free of charge to the ‘political left’, since it is usually their very opponents in the political arena the ones who repeat this mantra in unison, to the point that they end up believing in it; in good measure, this is an excuse or a pang of evasive guilt disguised as a lament; it explains why it is so difficult to challenge the ‘political left’ and to stop its presumed cultural ‘hegemony’ and social receptivity.

France, in the rustle and bustle of the 1960s. The existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre inspires and signs the ‘Manifesto of the 121 against the Algerian War’, aimed at influencing the public opinion (and the army, in particular), calling for the troops insubordination and defection. The government of General de Gaulle is considering whether or not to arrest the insurgent philosopher. The doubt, however, is soon resolved with this sentence: “One does not put Voltaire in jail”.

We often hear from the right margin that the ‘political left’ is a master in the art of publicity. Such a statement immediately places people, by their personal initiative, in the roles of pupil, listener or trainee. And with the intent of reinforcing such a bold revelation, it is usually added that this art of publicity inspired and served the propaganda machine of Goebbels and the Nazis, in the first half of the unfortunate 20th century (even though, on reality, it was a replica of the methodology previously employed by the Soviet KGB). Here we have a new failed act: the sensitive and fastidious commentator has only just recognized, implicitly, that the communist reference does not offend or scare off in the same way that the Nazi one does. With attitudes as these, the safeguarding and the shielding come cheap for the communist communication and propaganda apparatchik.

                                                                                                                                   

This article was extracted from the book Dinero S.L De la sociedad de proprietaries a la comunidad de gestores (Money Inc. From the society of owners to the community of managers; 2020) by Fernando R. Genovés. Kindle Edition. Translated by JPO.

Fernando R. Genovés (Valencia,  Spain, 1955) is a writer, essayist, literary and film critic. With a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Valencia, Spain, in 1999 he received the Juan Gil-Albert Essay Award. He is the author of numerous articles in magazines such as Libertad Digital, Las Provincias, ABC Cultural, Claves de Razón Práctica, Debats, Revista de Occidente, and El Catoblepas. Dinero S.L De la sociedad de proprietaries a la comunidad de gestores is his latest book. His other books are: Marco Aurelio. Una vida contenida (2012), La ilusión de la empatía (2013), Dos veces bueno. Breviario de aforismos y apuntamientos (2014), El alma de las ciudades. Relatos de viajes y estancias (2015), La riqueza de la libertad. Librepensamientos (2016), Aforo ilimitado. Asientos libres y otras liberalidades (2017), La hora moral. Para una ética del presente (2019).

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Of political identity activism and incivility

Joaquina Pires-O’Brien

Review of the book The Madness of Crowds by Douglas Murray. London, Bloomsbury Continuum, © 2019, 280 pp.

The Maddness of Crowds, reviewCapturing the present objectively is never an easy task, but this is precisely what Douglas Murray does in The Madness of Crowds (2019). He has a proven track record as a serious scholar, in spite of being only forty years young. His first book Bosie: A biography of Lord Alfred Douglas (2000) was published when he was still an undergraduate at Oxford. After that he wrote Neoconservatism (2005), Bloody Sunday: Truths, Lies and the Saville Inquiry (2011), and The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam (2017).

One of the characteristics of our era is the constant presence of groups claiming social oppression and advocating social justice and intersectionality. These groups, now recognized as ‘identity politics groups’, are permanently demanding reparations for offenses in the present as well as in the past.  Reparations for offenses committed in the past are especially problematic even for the most capable ethicists. As for the offenses committed in the present, the problem is that they are often minuscule; they could be something a person said in a private sphere, and from there taken to the public sphere and the ‘court of political correctness’. In 2015, in the United Kingdom, Professor Tim Hunt, a 72-year-old Nobel Prize-winning scientist was forced to quit his honorary professorship at University College London because of a storm of criticism for saying the phrase ‘the trouble with girls` during a brief talk about women in science. Each identity politics group has its own grievances, and although they bicker with one another, they are united by the agenda to impose a new social morality, one which has many traits of religion. However, the new social morality that the identity politics group want to impose in the West clashes with some important values of Western culture such as individualism and freedom of expression. The incivility and unbecoming behaviour in many of their activisms have a disrupting effect upon the peace and security of the community.

In this book, Murray provides an in-depth analysis of the upsurge of groups advocating social justice and intersectionality, concentrated on the four largest ones:  gay, women, race and ‘trans’. Each of these is in a separate chapter, but inserted between the chapters are three ‘interludes’: ‘The Marxist Foundations’, ‘The Impact of Tech’, and ‘On forgiveness’. In his analysis of each group study, gay, women, race and ‘trans’,  Murray adopted the a priori criterion of deciding whether its main descriptor was ‘hardware’ or ‘software’, that is, nature or nurture. Although the criterion of deciding beforehand whether a particular condition or situation is nature or nurture is obviously a way to avoid biases, the author is not harboured from biased charges due to the taboo status of the subject.

Many people in the gay, women, race and ‘trans’ activist groups are ready to label people they dislike as ‘fascist’ but have difficulty in spotting the fascism inside their own communities. Murray himself was labelled a ‘fascist’, albeit incorrectly, for the word ‘fascist’ designates authoritarianism and intolerance. According to its correct definition, the term ‘fascist’ would apply to the leaders of the gay, women, race and trans groups, who ban from their community those members who refuse to accept certain aspects of the group’s agenda. Here are some examples of this banishment: (i) Peter Thiel, excluded from the gay group for supporting the Republican party; Kayne West, Candace Owens and Thomas Sowell, excluded from the black group for not agreeing with its adopted victim mentality;  and Germaine Greer, excluded from the new feminist group for writing that people who were born men could not be classed as women. Many people in the gay, women, race and ‘trans’ groups have difficulty in spotting the fascism inside their communities.

The first chapter, ‘Gay’, describes the politicizing of the gay community and a number of other interrelated issues. In the United States gays are normally left-wing and supporters of the Democratic party. During the American Presidential elections of 2016, Peter Thiel and other known American gays were ostracised from the gay community after they declared their support for Donald Trump. This was covered in a paper by Jim Downs, an associate professor of history at Connecticut College, who asked if an individual should still be considered a member of LGBT even though that individual has disavowed aspects of queer identity. This chapter is followed by the section called ‘Interlude: The Marxist Foundations’, and it is there that one gets to understand how Postmodernism differs from Marxism. One of the most powerful symbols Marxism is the ‘pyramid of the capitalist system’, introduced by Marx, with the working class at the bottom and the capitalist classes on top. Postmodernism has a similar pyramid with the difference that the bottom is occupied by the oppressed and the top by the oppressors. In the postmodern era, the oppressed are minorities such as gays, women, and people of colour, while the oppressors at the top are white males.

The chapter ‘Women’ starts with a discussion on sexual morality. Regarding the way the two sexes threat on one another, there has been a huge change in a very short period of time. Women often objectified themselves and got away with that. One example given happened in the early 1990s, when Drew Barrymore, then 20 years old, performs an impromptu sensual dance which includes flashing her breast to the male presenter of The Late Show, to the delight of the studio audience. Only 25 years later, in October 2017, the whole world watches the scandal around Harvey Weinstein, when a long list of women came forward to accuse him of unwanted sexual advances. ‘Is it possible for morality to have changed so much in such a short period?’ Murray asks. He then raises the subject of women’s dress code in the working place. Many men would perceive as counterintuitive for women to dress sexy in the workplace and accept or adopt a victimhood narrative regarding unwanted male attention. In the topic of feminism, there have been many waves of it, and a huge change in perspective. While the early wave of feminism was about equal rights for women and men, the latest wave of feminism is marked by the wholesale slander of all men, which the author calls ‘misandry’.  Following this chapter is the interlude section called ‘the impact of tech’, which presents the theme under the perspective of Artificial Intelligence (AI) morality.  Silicone Valley techs want to transfer to machines the decision of drawing the line on fairness and morality. This section also points out the end of search engine neutrality as Google’s search results now have to conform to the programmed fairness (machine reading fairness or MFR), and as a result of this, they do not reflect reality. The author suggests that the community of techies in Silicone Valley is left-leaning, and view this ‘falsification of reality’ as a small price to pay for fairness.

The chapter ‘Race’ deals with changes in the meaning of racial-related acts and concepts. The term ‘colour-blindness’, the idea that skin colour should become such an unimportant aspect of a person’s identity that it is possible to ignore it completely, was once recognized as a solution to the problem of racism only to be later identified as part of the problem of racism. This shift in meaning is seeing in the expression ‘colour-blind racism’, coined by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, president of the American Sociological Association. Another term that becomes associated with racism is ‘cultural appropriation’, in spite of the popular saying that ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’. The sinister concept of ‘cultural appropriation’ has been around for several years. Here are two examples. In 2015 at Yale, some students who turned out at a Halloween part party wearing Native American headdress were told off for  ‘cultural appropriation’ because they were not Native Americans. A similar thing happened in 2017 when two Californian persons who were not Mexicans set up a roadside business to sell burritos. There are other concepts whose meaning are just as hard to comprehend, such as  ‘white privilege’ and ‘whiteness’. These terms have served activisms in the United States for years and now they are being used in the UK:

By 2018 hundreds of university lecturers in Britain had to attend workshops where they were told to acknowledge their ‘white privilege’ and recognize how ‘whiteness’ can make them racist even without knowing it.

In the United States, the worse of identity politics of race is found in academia. The demeanour of identity politics activism has turned American universities and colleges into a race-obsessed place. One of the colleges mostly troubled with identity politics activism is the Evergreen State College, in Olympia, Washington. An incident that happened there in 2017 was especially disquieting due to the kind of language the students used to address the College President, George Bridges.  The identity politics of race has fuelled many unnecessary conflicts. However, it must be pointed out that there are many non-whites who are not complicit with its tactics. A review of Thomas Sowell’s Intellectuals and Society (2009) published in the LSE Review of Books had to be corrected a posteriori, by removing the words “easy for a rich white man to say”, when it came to the attention of the editor that Sowell was black.

The section  ‘On Forgiveness’, presented as an interlude after the ‘Race’ chapter, deals with the trend of hunting down people and ruining their lives on the account of minor foibles. People are not perfect just as society is not perfect. Although human foibles are often the result of bias, most of the time there are mitigating circumstances, which is why reason and reasonableness tell us to be forthcoming with forgiveness. In his famous speech in Washington, DC, in 1963, Martin Luther King offered his version of the golden rule, pointing out that there is a right way in which human beings should treat each other.

The last chapter, ‘Trans’, discusses the many issues of trans people and their relationship with society. Of all four groups treated in this book, the trans is the most problematic for involving irreversible changes whose consequences are yet to be discovered. The author shows the quick evolution of the term in the last decades. The term was initially employed to describe people who occasionally dressed like the opposite sex, but now it is used to describe individuals who had submitted themselves to gender reassignment surgery. Now, the first is called ‘transvestitism’ and the second ‘transsexualism’. There are other complications to the theme, like individuals who were born with characteristics of both sexes, now called ‘intersex’ people. There have been many conflicts linked to statements made by journalists and other people in the public eye, and these are likely to continue for a long time.

One of the notions we get from this book is how scarce reason and common sense are becoming in today’s society. Reflecting on the incident with Professor Tim Hunt, Murray goes on to say that we are now living “in a world in which one of the greatest exertions of ‘power’ is constantly exerted – the power to stand in judgment over, and potentially ruin, the life of another human being for reasons which may or may not be sincere”.  Today Western society is booby-trapped to catch the politically incorrect. Any unlucky individual who falls in one such booby-trap will fall prey to the pack of fanatics. Even the minutia of our daily lives is now over-politicized, causing the demise of spontaneity and conversation. The West is in a mess because of this and must find its way out as soon as possible. Learning to forgive and forget could be a step in that direction.

Madness is the opposite of sense.  The word ‘madness’ in the title of this book is a reminder that crowds have no reason or accountability. Only individuals think and can be accountable for their acts. Only individuals understand the juggling act of hearing others and being heard. As Murray correctly pointed out, there is no sense whatsoever in accusing the West of being among the world’s worse place for oppression, for complaints of oppression and human rights violation are only heard in free countries. The West has faults like every other society, but it is also the place where the world’s freest countries concentrate, where people can live their lives the way they wish, provided that they don’t stop others from doing exactly the same. The line between madness and sense is frequently blurred, as when something good is packaged together with something bad. For instance, a community is a good thing, except when its common ground is a bad ideology.

The common ground of contemporary political identity groups is Postmodernism, an ideology akin to Marxism based on the power dynamics of construction and deconstruction. Postmodernism confounds people with the use of the media to fabricate personas and to undermine traditional Western values such as objective truth and morality. Other consequences of Postmodernism are the disregard for science and expertise, and the demise of meritocracy.

Another significant point the author makes is that many people in the West have lost the ability to think for themselves, and because of that, they tend to seek the easier option of sticking to the currently accepted opinion. The well-informed opinion that could lend perspective to the debate, is now labeled ‘wrong politics’. This label has nothing to do with being wrong but with being lesser popular. The endorsement of the most popular opinion at the expense of objectivity is the same as the majority bullying the minority. This applies to identity politics groups and some newspapers and magazines. Allowing the many to bully the few is anathema to classical liberalism. One of the most important problems of the West in the 21st century is for people to reacquire the habit of thinking for themselves. Gaining objective knowledge of political identity groups is a step in that direction. This is an important reason why every person above the age of 16 should read Douglas Murray’s The Madness of Crowds.

                                                                                                                                               

Jo Pires-O’Brien is the editor of PortVitoria.