Demonization is not the answer


I have  been increasingly concerned for the state of free speech in this country and in the States. At every turn we witness resignations, purges, denunciations, firings, exclusions, bannings and condemnations for the slightest deviation from particular policy lines in every medium of communication.

Not to put to fine a point on it, the heretical expressions concern any attempt to qualify the general guilt of white people for their various actual, historical, real or imagined sins, including especially any attempt to explain why the complaining group ought to tone it down, think another way, or mollify its criticism. I say usually the target is white people. In this exercize of demonization, I would submit that the actual race of the complained-against party is largely irrelevant. If North American society were composed mostly of Japanese people, the rhetoric would be anti-Japanese. Whatever is normal, straight, traditional, reasoned, moderate, and which assigns praise or blame wholly or partly on the basis of the complaining group’s own behaviours, cultures, and manners, is forbidden.

The announcement that Jonathan Kay, editor until yesterday of the Walrus, had felt forced to resign his position because he had come to the defence of free speech in the pages of the National Post, is but this week’s leading example.

There will be more of such events. They seem to be numbered in the dozens a month.  A micro-eruption in an unread art magazine leads to the resignation of a person coming to his defence in a wider-circulation politics and arts magazine. Why? Why was Jonathan Kay’s continuing editorship felt to be untenable?

Amidst the lunacy the article by Conor Friedersdorf in the Atlantic magazine comes as a breath of fresh air. Friedersdorf tries to explain why the political Left is in general, losing the battle (even as it seems to me they are everywhere triumphant).

He cites Andrew Sullivan at one point:

“Among many liberals, there is an understandable impulse to raise the drawbridge, to deny certain ideas access to respectable conversation, to prevent certain concepts from being ‘normalized,’” Sullivan wrote, anticipating the objection. “But the normalization has already occurred — thanks, largely, to voters across the West — and willfully blinding ourselves to the most potent political movement of the moment will not make it go away. Our job in these circumstances is not to condescend but to engage — or forfeit the politics of the moment (and the future) to reaction.”

I saw this once on CBC TV, when during the usual political talking heads round-up,  the NDP spokesman said “we shouldn’t even be debating this!”, when discussing the topic was precisely what needed to happen. The urge to ban speech they do not like is overwhelming them, and generating a deep-rooted repugnance among the sane.

I confess I am getting closer and closer to the contemplation of political actions to oppose the tide of leftist oppression, including: federal government defunding of large parts of illiberal higher education, or the shutting down on entire departments of literature, sociology, women’s studies, and the like. But I digress too soon from analysis to recommendation.

That a serious politician will soon make such proposals is foreseeable; that they will be implemented is conceivable, if the survival of liberal democracy seems to be at stake.

From Friedersdorf again, this time quoting Phoebe Maltz Bovy:

Trumpism isn’t about weaving poor and working-class white men back into discussions of socioeconomic inequality. It’s about declaring whiteness and maleness forms of marginalization.

At last we get to the essence of the matter. The modern form of Leftist discourse – I use the word ‘discourse’ to describe shouting through megaphones- is to place the honest and hard-working people who make the country a success and seek to place them permanently in the wrong by reason of their sex, their race, and their class.

This is racist, sexist, classist and – a lesser sin – utterly snobbish. It is to judge people on the colour of skin rather than the content of character. Making people permanently wrong on these bases is designed to achieve futility and heartache.  Why do it?

I confess I do not know. And I also confess I am less and less concerned with understanding the Left’s psychosis and more and more concerned with how we are going to fight it. I am worried that I am seeking less and less to understand and more and more to have some heads cracked and some people fired.

The range of what is allowed to be said has been shrinking since I left university in the 1970s, but the shrinkage seems to be accelerating.

We in the West badly need glasnost and perestroika, openness and restructuring.