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This article was written on 21 Jul 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

The ascent of idiocy

Everyone says that we’re into an era of post-fact politics. Normally, I treat what the commentariat say with a limitless amount of disdain, because someone paid for a weekly opinion might have to cast around for something likely to get them re-employed and controversy normally suffices, but in this case, they’re right. What we’re seeing here is the ascent of idiocy, the ascent of what you feel rather than what you know. Much as it pains me to say, the left are just as culpable as the right.

A friend was recently asked to leave an event because she raised her hand, which supposedly had a triggering effect on the man next to her. People at an NUS conference were asked to do jazz hands in case clapping also triggered people. St Jeremy of Corbyn has come out in favour of homeopathy and expressed dismay that some areas of the country are more expensive than others. The trans movement think that ‘feeling like’ a woman is sufficient argument to be a woman, no matter what your chromosomes are. The list goes on and on.

Over on the right, there are just as many examples. Farage made a fact-free case for leaving the European Union based on making people feel like they could go back to an imagined 1950 where men wore hats and ethnic minorities were turned away from boarding houses by signs that said ‘no blacks.’ Over in the US, Trump is enjoying a similar amount of success by pretending that all the progress made in the last fifty years can be reversed by voting for a man with a needlessly complex combover. You can revile this stuff as much as you want, and I do, but it clearly sells.

And the people it sells to, left as well as right, are idiots. On May 10, 1933, over 40,000 people gathered outside the State Opera in Berlin to torch books written by undesirables like Heinrich Mann and Erich Kastner. Goebbels, squeaking away from his bully’s pulpit at the event, talked about committing to the flames ‘the evil spirit of the past’ and then the books were hurled into the flames, as they were at events across Germany, and cheered by the same kinds of people who are cheering now.

People from the trans movement have called for people who disagree to be shot or killed. When the Dixie Chicks spoke out against George Bush, people destroyed their CDs. One bunch of violently stupid hicks used a steamroller, overlooking the fact that CDs are already flat, but there’s precious little else to laugh about. These types of people would easily cheer the burning of any and all literature that disagreed with them or, more to the point, that they had been told disagreed with them, in a big, angry pyre whose flames told them how right they’d always been.

Heinrich Heine’s memorable quote that ‘Where they burn books, at the end they also burn people,’ means that it’s not too far a leap to build a camp for people with dissident views. Maybe the anti-trans people should be kept behind barbed wire, or the people who think patriotism, whether it comes from people like Farage or Trump, is an epic load of balderdash that serves to make people do whatever the ruling classes want. You hate them all so much, these people who have different views, that they belong in some kind of camp. One UKIP councillor said people that voted Remain should all be shot, so it’s really not too much of a leap.

What we now have is an age where the only argument you need is how you feel rather than what the facts are, so these arguments simply can’t be defeated on their own terms. Say it loudly and often, hate repetitively, and someone will have to pay attention to you. Try and refute it with facts and they’ll just jam their fingers in their ears and hold a rally. Nuance takes time and needs to be actively listened to, while bullshit can just be spoken quickly. Your raised hand has triggered me. Why? Because it has. No further explanation is considered necessary, because, in our brave new world, the individual is sovereign.

I know someone who lectures at university. The hideous, lock-step conformity she sees is utterly terrifying. Everyone agrees that people like Germaine Greer should be no-platformed because someone told them that she’s evil and they believe it. They don’t even want to risk hearing her speak, because… well, they don’t know. Perhaps it’s that she’ll upset someone if she does, and if there’s one thing they don’t like, it’s the right kinds of people – defined, remember, as people who agree with them – getting upset. You shouldn’t even be allowed to say dissenting things because someone won’t agree and may be triggered. Maybe they should, in that case, leave. But that doesn’t wash anymore.

I’m not speaking out for intolerance. To me, ‘PC’ simply means making sure that you don’t cause gratuitous offence and, if you do, you apologise. If someone wants me to refer to them as ‘he’ or ‘she,’ then I’ll try and do that, because I’m not an idiot. Equally, I won’t defend someone who is uttering racism or sexism, because it’s vile and divisive, in the same way that someone who puts their head in a fire and gets burned shouldn’t wonder why they’re screaming in pain. But where reason has absented itself and nobody can make an argument other than ‘he or she says so,’ or ‘I feel…’ then society has a huge problem.

Heaven only knows what the answer to this is. Not being stupid and gullible commends itself to me as the most obvious course of action, but when the Vote Leave supporters can hold two conflicting ideas, or more, in their heads and not see the paradox, as is the case with every one of them that I’ve spoken to, all hope is dead an all rude reason fled, as Bill Shakespeare said. We’re heading towards book-burning and we’re also headed towards somewhere that looks a bit too much like Nazi Germany for comfort, propelled by right as well as left. Perhaps it’s too late. I hope not.

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