In a recent radio interview, Labor leader Keir Starmer reignited the debate over whether we can talk about ‘women with penises’ or ‘people with cervixes’. Starmer’s dithering and equivocation were a stark reminder of how reality-denying discourse has become accepted and commonplace. Stating obvious untruths is now commonplace. Twisting and reversing reality has been normalized. Either by intention or as a symptom of fuzzy thinking, the opposing discourse now abounds.
In the trans debate, we are used to finding obvious and grotesque examples. Yet beyond this particular problem, reality is distorted in more underhanded and covert ways.
Take the issue of race. Prominent Asian conservatives are demonized as ethnic minority traitors, as are black people who don’t vote or think like black people should. (“You’re not black,” Joe Biden sadly said of black Trump voters.) For their politics, these ethnic minorities are demoted to inauthentic “coconut” status. They are not really black, we are told. They may look like it – but they’re not.
These examples may look like ad hominem slights. But “anti-racists” deploy such contrary thinking with a vengeance. They damn color blindness as an accomplice in maintaining a racist society. As racial activist Ibram X Kendi puts it: “The opposite of racist is not ‘unracist’. It is “anti-racist”. Black Lives Matter echoes this philosophy with the call to arms: “Silence is violence”. In other words, not being racist is now racist.
Wokery is full of opposing thoughts. A key dogma is now the “diversity” creed. But when people talk about “diversity,” they just mean it in terms of skin color or genitals. They do not mean diversity of opinion, to include, for example, those who question the very creed of diversity or other principles of wokery. Such diverse and dissenting voices are not tolerated. ‘Diversity’ is now the code for ‘uniformity’. “Inclusivity” also means including only people who agree with you.
Another key waking belief is that freedom of speech is a dangerous and damaging concept. Apparently, the sole purpose of free speech is to allow white people to consolidate their power and privilege. “We must be protected from hurtful and hegemonic freedom of expression”, say the awakened. And they usually achieve this through censorship and censorship. They think only censorship can force us to be free.
Some might say that these examples of counterfactual thinking and opposing language are just the latest iterations of what Orwell tried to warn us against with Newspeak in One thousand nine hundred and eighty four. After all, most ideologies twist language for their own purposes. But the contemporary phenomenon of Wokism is more nihilistic than most ideologies. It has its roots in postmodernism, which gave philosophical legitimacy to the idea that words have no corresponding relationship to reality, except what officials decide that relationship.
It made wokery such a bizarre, conformist, bigoted ideology. It does not mean anything. He has voodoo qualities. It’s mysterious, absurd and otherworldly. And yet, people feel compelled to submit to it – or at least take an oath to it. It makes otherwise rational, sane people with a straight face say that a woman can have a penis.
The problem of gendered feminism
Women are women and men and men. There is a biological difference. Like many, I have always been wary of the idea that someone’s sex can be changed by cosmetic manipulation, mutilation or by simple whim or utterance. And I have always been sympathetic to those courageous scholars, journalists, and writers who have spoken out against the most egregious excesses and demands of the trans fringe.
But I fear that things are now taking a retrograde turn. Many gender-sensitive feminists tend to fall into misandry. They frame the extreme trans movement not as a Byzantine offshoot of the sexual liberation movement, but as the latest incarnation of age-old male hatred of women. The whole debate is now often framed in terms of predatory men versus vulnerable women in need of protection and separation.
Every discussion of the subject relentlessly hammers home the fact that men and women are biologically different, as if that is what entirely defines us. This binary discourse is simplistic. Do we really need to go back to a mentality in which we think about both genders like this? I am still attached to this old-fashioned principle, beaten over decades, that we are shaped by both nature and nurture.
An act of cultural vandalism, by Mungo Krankenhaus
The nation has been left truly perplexed and bereaved by the government’s decision to privatize Channel 4. It is nothing short of depraved, deplorable and despicable. It’s a cataclysmic move that left me sobbing bitter, hot, angry tears. Not since Julius Caesar burned down the Library of Alexandria in 48 BCE has there been such a wanton and savage act of cultural vandalism. UK is over. RIP Our Channel 4.
It is the television channel that has brought us such incomparable cultural artifacts as Naked attraction, Made in Chelsea, Sun, sea and sale of houses. I cannot think of any act of memory, living or dead, that can match this great monster of horror, wickedness and treachery. What wicked madness! What hypocrisy and what wickedness! In comparison, the Puritans and ISIS were amateurs in the art of desecration.
It is the nursery of fascism. the brilliant Channel 4 News is in the crosshairs of a government relentless on fundamentalism. Not surprisingly, this is happening just as Viktor Orbán is reasserting his dictatorship in Hungary. Have we learned nothing from history? Tyrants love to sell state assets. Especially those with newsletters.
As for Nadine Dorries? Go shame yourself in hell and leave this world, cacodemon! There is your kingdom.
Patrick West is a dope journalist. His latest book, Getting over yourself: Nietzsche for our timeis published by Societas.