The right may hold power, but it’s the hard left that’s making the culture laws we must live by – and they’re riddled with double standards
By Zoe Strimpel, TELEGRAPH UK
For years now, those made uneasy by the bullying, intellectually dishonest and manipulative tendencies of the illiberal and identity-obsessed left have been sneered at for raising their concerns.
Stop snivelling about free speech, they are told. You’re just part of a right-wing conspiracy, manipulating reality to wreak evil on oppressed minorities, they are told. And what are you complaining about anyway? Conservatives hold high political office. As the headline on the most recent offering from slippery social justice warrior-in-chief Owen Jones whined: ‘The right are in power everywhere, but they can’t stop playing the victim.’
That’s certainly not how I, or a growing number of shocked bystanders of diverse political stripes, see things. Yes, the right holds formal power in a handful of civilised nations: the UK, the US, Australia, Israel. It does have political power.
But it’s not ‘playing the victim’. It’s rather that when it comes to influence over culture and our everyday lives, it’s the unelected hard left that increasingly wields the weaponry, and it’s chilling. The elected parties make actual laws, but it is the illiberal left now making all the other laws; those we increasingly must live by if we want to work, express ourselves in public and private, and keep our friends.
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the ascendancy of the mass anti-racism movement, the grip on what we are allowed to say and think has tightened still further. It all finally became too much for a wide range of intellectuals and personages – many of whom were once standard-bearers of the left – resulting in an open letter to Harper’s Magazine last week denouncing the ‘vogue for public shaming and ostracism’ engulfing the public sphere and institutional culture. Signatories included JK Rowling, Margaret Atwood, Martin Amis and Steven Pinker.
The backlash was immediate, and predictable, with signatories mocked for being privileged cry-babies, and worse, for leveraging it all for personal gain.<
But I was particularly interested by another high-profile analysis of the tyrannical groupthink at the pinnacle of supposedly liberal society. For this one showed with clarity the black heart of anti-Semitism that beats in plain sight amid all the virtue signalling.
Bari Weiss, the 36-year old author of How To Fight Anti-Semitism, announced her resignation from the New York Times where, to the paper’s credit, she had been hired in 2017 to bring in diversity of opinion as an op-ed editor and writer.
The open letter in which she described her reasons for leaving was forceful, clear and plain-speaking. “My own forays into Wrongthink have made me the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views,” she wrote.
Notably, that bullying often took the form of brazen anti-Semitism: “They have called me a Nazi and a racist,” Weiss wrote. “I have learned to brush off comments about how I’m ‘writing about the Jews again”.
Weiss’s letter highlighted a now-familiar irony: not only does anti-Semitism not count in the new reckoning of racial harms, but Jews are seen as the enemy. She noted that colleagues could “publicly smear me as a liar and a bigot on Twitter with no fear that harassing me will be met with appropriate action. [It never is].” Indeed: cancel culture never applies to anti-Semitism.
The responses to Weiss’s letter made me feel even queasier. Writing in Forbes, Dani Di Placido was just one writer who managed to distort the real outrages Weiss had elucidated, and mock her reasons for resigning: “Bari Weiss, famous for trying to silence professors during her college years… recently quit her position at the New York Times because of perceived harassment and the supposed self-censorship of the newspaper, apparently the fault of Twitter.” The jibe about silencing professors is a reference to Weiss’s involvement in calling out the social and intellectual bullying she experienced and observed, as a pro-Israel undergraduate, by pro-Palestinian professors at Columbia University, where she studied. Di Placido’s sneer about silencing professors just offers another example of how the left now operates: when a Jew calls out flagrant anti-Semitism, that Jew is accused of ‘silencing’ criticism about Israel. This is a mendacious trick.
Di Placido continued, implying that Weiss was duplicitous, with greedy ulterior motives for resigning: “Whatever your opinion of Weiss, she’s likely to land on her feet; there’s a very lucrative market out there for opinionated people who loudly claim to have been ‘cancelled.’” This is gaslighting plain and simple, and it is vile.
In the UK, of course, the idea that those who call out anti-Semitism are conspiring for personal gain against the true warriors of truth and justice (the PC mob) gained significant ground under Jeremy Corbyn. And even though he’s gone, the idea persists. Last week saw his allies throwing tantrums as Labour seemed set to apologise to anti-Semitism whistleblowers for the harassment and bullying they faced under the former leader. Corbyn’s hangers-on still think the whistleblowers’ evidence of anti-Jewish culture under the dear leader, revealed in a Panorama programme last year, was just a cynical attempt to smear the party, rather than the sign of a party gone rotten to the core.
The illiberal left, obsessed with policing thought, speech, art and expression, insists it wants justice for the oppressed. It is a grotesque irony that this campaign requires treating Jews just like our persecutors always have: liars who – no matter what we say or what happens to us – are always on the side of manipulation and greed. A culture that allows this kind of thinking about Jews to flourish, or that tolerates the kind of double standards experienced by Bari Weiss, is a culture that needs a reboot – fast.