Forget if you can the appalling sight of a policemen kneeling on another man’s neck, forget if you can the deaths of people defending their shops from rioters. Forget if you can the wanton destruction and violence of the last few days and stand back a little and see what else is happening in the penumbra of the Black Lives Matter protests.
What you can see out there is a combination of the narrowing of minds and the cowardice of our leaders. Sadly it is present here in the UK as it is in its native state, the United States.
What we have seen is growth in the number of people removed from their positions for doing nothing more than questioning the prevailing orthodoxies, hard not to do when the orthodoxies are in a state of constant flux.
The first example of this that came to my attention is that of Martin Shipton. Shipton is an old sparring partner of mine, and the only thing I think we share is the air which we breath. He is the leading political journalist in Wales, and sees life largely through a leftist, progressive pro-EU perspective. He has been fired from his role as the Chairman of the judges of the Welsh book of the year. How his ability to judge a literary prize can be affected by his views on the street protests I do not know, but, with a concerted campaign of the perennially outraged he has been asked to stand down (read fired).
What he had done is instructive. He is not a chap to mince his words. But even so this was all pretty mild by his standards. He merely queried whether having a demonstration in Cardiff was relevant to an incident in the USA, and more importantly how when the country is on a strict lockdown mass gatherings for something outside the UKs competence could be justified. The disease, he said, had taken “many more lives than the Minneapolis police.”
“I just don’t see what value there is in holding a demo in front of Cardiff Castle about the murder of a black man in Minneapolis,” he tweeted.
For this and his robust defence of his comment caused Literature Wales, the publicly-funded, or shall we say taxpayer-funded, charity that hosts the awards to demand his head on a virtual spike.
Literature Wales tweeted in response to a sew of cross party criticism “Today – and always – we stand in solidarity against white supremacy, racial inequality, and police violence.” Martin hadn’t questioned that one iota.
Interestingly at the demonstration a Labour (socialist) City Councillor of Asian heritage, Ali Ahmed was forced off stage after he questioned the relevance of the event, pointing out that racism though extant, was not such a huge problem in Cardiff and stating that all lives matter, which of course they do.
But Martin is not the only example, far from it. On the Isle of Man, (that constitutionally odd island between the UK and the Republic of Ireland and home of the world’s oldest parliament the Tynwald, founded in the 8th Century) Stu Peters a radio host on the island station was taken off air – his crime?
Well here is the transcript, but he was questioning the concept of “White Privilege” that catch all moral argument that strips individuals of agency and makes the possession of a white heritage some sort of original sin, inescapable and a sense of supposed perennial guilt.
This is what was said,
“SP: OK, I think that what happened to George Floyd is despicable. I think that what that police officer did is probably criminal but we’ve got to wait until the courts decide that. But I think that what that man did is that he murdered George Floyd and I think that’s awful. I can understand to a point why people, I can understand very clearly why people in America are protesting about it. I can understand why Black Lives Matter – an American organisation – is protesting about it. But what I can’t understand is why people around the rest of the world are protesting, and specifically in the Isle of Man, why would you have a protest outside of Tynwald about it?
Caller: OK, so, when you’re saying “all lives matter” that first of all is just derogatory and ridiculous…
SP: No, it’s not derogatory.
Caller: For all lives – listen – for all lives to matter we have to raise the people of all creed, colours, religions to the level that white people’s privilege allows them to be. For all lives to matter, black and other…
SP: I’ve had no more privilege in my life than you have Jordan.
Caller: Excuse me?
SP: I’ve had no more privilege in my life than you have. I’m a white man, you’re a black man you say.
Caller: If you believe that then you’re already – this is exactly what white privilege is. I’m not saying that you haven’t, like, endured anything in your life. But you have automatically – the system is built for you to win already. I have to go through everything in my daily life, and I have to go through these things that you don’t see so you don’t think they exist. Or, I kind of believe that you’re an intellectual man to a degree. You’re either extremely ignorant or extremely – I don’t know what you are, but I’m not talking with you any longer…
You get the drift, into utter intolerance of another’s position. Rather than defend their host the radio station removed him from the air.
The problem doesn’t stop on our side of the Atlantic, in America Professor Gordon Klein of UCLA’s Anderson School of Management has been the subject of an 18,000 strong petition to remove his tenure after requests that final exams be cancelled were rejected via this message,
“Thanks for your suggestion in your email below that I give black students special treatment, given the tragedy in Minnesota,” Klein reportedly said in an email to a student who requested a final exam reprieve. “Do you know the names of the classmates that are black? How can I identify them since we’ve been having online classes only? Are there any students that may be of mixed parentage, such as half black-half Asian? What do you suggest I do with respect to them? A full concession or just half?”
As he later pointed out,
“Life deals all of us challenges and I have no doubt that many of you are facing some now. In a perfectly fair world, I would be able to take these individual factors into account and perhaps modify the terms in our course syllabus, but my understanding of university rules is that, with rare exceptions, I should not.”
One of his colleagues however responded to the bullying differently,
“In lieu of your final paper, I would like everyone to submit a 1 page reflection (double or single spaced). I just want you to respond to these two simple questions: ‘What do I make about what is going on in the nation right now?’ and ‘How am I doing right now?’
One has to wonder if as a society western liberal democracies have finally given up on the enlightenment values that created them and sustained them, and instead we are retreating into some form of neo-medievalism, where facts and evidence have no meaning, whereas feelings, rage and an intense feeling of conceit are our main societal lodestars.
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