WHere, in the past, the left fought the bosses on behalf of the workers, today its strongest voices put pressure on the bosses with the police. If you’re trying to figure out why this section of the left is hated, its bossiness is a big part of the answer. In the popular imagination, “progressives” are people who tell you what to say and how to say it and will demand that your employer fire you if you refuse. The authoritarian left has become the left of the bosses.
Their predecessors had a union mentality. They instinctively sided with the employee against the employer, whether or not they agreed with the employee’s policy. The New Left understands that the real power lies with management in societies like the UK and the US, where unions barely exist in the private sector. Their iconic radical is not a strike leader or feminist agitator but a diversity consultant who convinces HR to pay her to berate staff who cannot fight back.
It is a cliché to say that modern institutions live in fear of the “waking crowd”. I’m sure the fear exists, but it’s hardly debilitating. Progressives pay the corporate elite a compliment by recognizing that the power lies with CEOs. Indeed, they strengthen corporate control by giving managers a new right to regulate political beliefs and minor language flaws.
Bosses should be grateful for the escape progressives offer them from their responsibilities. If an organization is dominated by white people or underpays women, its leaders must be to blame. When the Center for Social Investigation at the University of Oxford found that applicants whose names marked them as members of an ethnic minority were much less likely to receive a positive response from employers than applicants with British names traditional whites, he concluded that the unconscious bias and micro-assaults that diversity consultants are determined to eliminate were irrelevant. What has held back ethnic minorities is the “overt and conscious racism” of people at the top, with the power to hire and fire.
As it is a familiar experience for contacts to confidently tell me that they are afraid to say what they think, while pretending in public that all is well, the duck that cancels culture must be tackled. ‘does not exist.
Last week a demand as UK sports councils have described how athletes and administrators have been reduced to ‘swearing, screaming, crying and worrying’ by the demand that they admit trans competitors with the physical benefits that male puberty confers in women’s sports.
They believed that fair and safe competition would be impossible but “were afraid to say in public what they believed in private”. The researchers spoke of athletes who “had been threatened with sanctions or disciplinary action if they spoke out.” Many were part of sports agencies which took leftist positions and “felt they had no choice but to remain silent in order to keep their jobs”. What kind of twisted progressive politics leaves sportswomen in tears afraid to speak their mind? And what kind of delusional progressive politician believes the public will vote for it?
Cambridge philosopher Arif Ahmed was honored last month by Index on Censorship for confronting its university authorities when it insisted on a clear and liberal definition of free speech. In a secret ballot, Donations gave overwhelming support to his proposals that academics and students should be free to disagree in the strongest terms as long as they “tolerate” each other and do not seek to ban or intimidate their opponents. Before his motion could be debated, however, Ahmed had to persuade 25 academics to support him. He told me that it took six weeks to find colleagues ready to deal with the professional risks that an open endorsement of intellectual freedom would entail.
Fear works. You normalize an idea by scaring your opponents into contradicting you. If all that was attempted was the co-opting of private companies, state bureaucracies, universities, publishing, the arts and the liberal media in a serious campaign against racism and misogyny, most progressives would say that the end justifies the means and moves on. But – and I sure don’t need to say this – when the means include suppressing the debate, you open the door to all kinds of crooks and fanatics. Employees and children are forced to take scientifically worthless implicit bias tests. Progressive institutions are too afraid to defend the material reality of the biological difference between the sexes, without which the theory of evolution, which emphasizes sexual selection, could not exist. Like creationists, they have locked themselves into anti-Darwinian obscurantism. But unlike religious law, they cannot claim that God made them do it.
Institutions and activists feed off each other. Institutions fear denunciations of activists if they do not censor or dismiss. Activists fear the denunciation of more radical activists if they do not push their demands to the extreme. Institutions are not encouraged to resist because organizations that could have tempered their power have fallen silent or have changed sides.
The Union of Universities and Colleges academics advised to vote against the defense of their own intellectual freedom in Cambridge. Its leaders were not afraid of having lost contact with their members by ignoring their recommendations. The authors’ society mission statement says that he “will oppose in the strongest terms any attempt to stifle or control the author’s voice whether through censorship, imprisonment, execution, hate speech or trolling “. Yet when JK Rowling faced waves of murder and threats of rape, its president, Joanne Harris, said that while she does not approve, we should shed a few tears for Rowling. “People with power, money and influence do not experience the same effects of online abuse as those with less power,” she said while decreasing the usual threats of violence for women in public life.
Maintaining progressive consensus goes beyond all other principles. Like I said, fear works, but only if all the institutions play along. Anyone who wants the Tories out has to worry that the Tory Party will soon say that at least they don’t think “women”. Is a bad word and that it will not allow workers to be punished for speaking out of their turn.
No Twitter crowd or human resources manager can monitor voters. In the privacy of the voting booth, no one can hear them screaming.