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Cancel culture rarely survives a plague Ideological mania can become too costly to maintain

Accusations were normally directed at old, eccentric, unpopular women. Photo: Getty

Accusations were normally directed at old, eccentric, unpopular women. Photo: Getty


January 27, 2021   5 mins

I am standing at the window of an old coaching inn, the Mistley Thorn, overlooking the moonlit River Stour, in lovely, rural north Essex. The mid-winter night is eerily silent, apart from the cries of waterbirds, flitting across the darkened sky, like tiny, frightened ghosts.

More than most places, this feels like a lost piece of England, divorced from modernity. And yet, if I am right, this view, this building, this part of East Anglia, with its peculiar and traumatic history, has something important to tell us about the future of our society. Specifically, the future of Wokeness and Cancel Culture.

The link is the man who once owned Mistley Thorn, and shared this prospect: Matthew Hopkins, the notorious “Witchfinder General”. But to understand how and why Hopkins’ career, especially its sudden end, is so relevant to us now, we need to go back in time. To the origin of his craft — witch-finding.

For many decades, England was largely immune to the witch-hunts of mainland Europe, which began around the late 14th century, in southern France. For a long while these burnings and lynchings, even on the Continent, remained quite sporadic. Popes disapproved; sceptics scoffed; monarchs disliked the mayhem. Then things changed.

In 1484, at the request of the Dominican inquisitor, Jacob Sprenger, Pope Innocent VIII issued the bull Summis Desiderantes, encouraging the punishment of sorcery. A few years later, in the German city of Speyer, the same Jacob Sprenger published his infamous Malleus Maleficarum.

Known in English as “The Hammer of Witches”, the book is a detailed guide for would-be witch-slayers. It is also drenched with misogyny, and utterly obsessed with the bizarre behaviour of alleged witches: it describes women coupling with demons, feasting on babies, or even lying with Satan himself. The Devil, apparently, is cold, dark, and heavy, and possessed of a long and icy penis.

Crucially, for the future of witch-finding, the Malleus also recommends the use of torture to extract confession, especially the strappado. In the strappado the victim’s hands are, firstly, tied behind the back. Then the body is lifted off the ground, by the cuffed hands; sometimes weights are hung from the legs. The result is extreme pain, dislocated shoulders, and, after a few hours, probable death. Despite or because of its maniacal cruelty, the Malleus was an early modern bestseller — it was reprinted 12 times by 1520. It was, also, eagerly taken up by courts and prosecutors.

And thus, the powder was lit. By the mid-16th century witch hunts, and witch trials, were a common spectacle. In 1562 in Wiesensteig, in Baden-WĂŒrttemberg, 67 witches were torched at the stake. Over in Fulda, 250 died. In Wurtzburg, maybe 900. And in Trier, in 1581, up to 1,000 — perhaps the biggest mass execution in peacetime Europe.

If the Holy Roman Empire remained the epicentre of the witch craze, it was not alone. Like a terrible pestilence, the mania spread south, to the Basque Country and Italy, and also hopped over the Rhine, reinfecting France. It went east into Russia, and drove north into Finland, Sweden and Norway. Via Denmark it reached Scotland, with the North Berwick Witch Trials of 1590, which were notable for the use of elaborate torture, such as the “pilliwinks” — enormous thumbscrews for crushing hands and feet.

Yet still, England remained largely immune, apart from a few stray examples, like the Pendle witch trials in Lancashire, which killed nine in 1612. But then came Matthew Hopkins.

Born in 1620 in Suffolk, the son of a Puritan clergyman, by his early 20s Hopkins had moved to Manningtree, on the Stour. With a small inheritance he bought the nearby Mistley Inn (now the Thorn), and there, in slightly obscure circumstances, he began his witch-hunting. Accompanied by another hunter, John Stearne, Hopkins’ technique was simple enough. Starting in his own neighbourhood, he sought out rumours of sorcery, usually (but not always) directed at old, eccentric, unpopular women.

After that came the “discovery”, i.e. the torture. The accused could be kept awake — walked around a room — for days on end, until she confessed. She (and 90% were “she”) might be stripped naked and closely examined, in the search for odd moles or vaginal polyps, seen as signs of demonic suckling, or devilish sex. Hopkins had surely read the Malleus; he was pruriently obsessed with the idea that women were bedded by Lucifer.

Alternatively, the witch could be “swum” — tied to a chair and thrown into water. If she floated she was a witch, and she was sent to the assizes. If she sank (and sometimes drowned) she was innocent. The surreal theory underlying the torment was that witches were resistant to water, because it was used in baptism.

Emboldened by his success at revealing all this sorcery, and enjoying the fame and money, Hopkins expanded activities, hiring help along the way. He rode to Aldeburgh, Ipswich, Stowmarket and Bury St Edmunds, rooting out witches everywhere — sometimes dragging them out of taverns by the hair. The truly unlucky ended up thrust into a barrel of pitch, to be burned alive.

By 1646, the 26-year-old Hopkins was at the peak of his powers: feared, revered, wealthy. Yet, in 1647, he abruptly “retired”, and a few months later he was dead, of tuberculosis. Stearne lamely tried to continue the witch-finding work, but without much luck. The craze was over.

So what happened — how did it all begin and end so suddenly? To understand this, we have to know what was occurring in England at the time, and how it echoes our own troubled times of Wokeness and “Cancellation”.

As now, England was then horribly divided: not by Brexit, or culture wars, but by actual Civil War. As now, England back then was menaced, everywhere, by a tenacious and nasty plague (many of Hopkins’ victims died of the disease, before they got to trial). In the midst of this violence, and turbulence, England had somehow tipped into a fearful psychosis, a brief, hallucinatory age when people could be denounced, tormented, and often executed — i.e. totally cancelled — for the most minor things. For muttering. For owning cats. For having a rival farmer with a grudge.

In a further echo of the madder aspects of modern Cancellation, some people — including judges — joined in the denunciations, even when they clearly disbelieved them, simply for fear of being accused of witchcraft themselves, if they stayed silent. Compare this with the mobs on Twitter, or the more extreme BLM protests, where, if you don’t join in, or express support, you must be suspect.

But what does this tell us of the future of our own witch-hunts? Here there is an unexpected but provocative new perspective.

It is generally assumed that the Hopkins witch-craze fizzled out because common sense prevailed. But modern historians, such as Malcolm Gaskill (author of Witchfinders), believe this is only partly true. A more immediate cause was that witch-hunting was simply too damn expensive.

For example, when Hopkins went to King’s Lynn, to prick the witches, he got £16 for his work — an enormous sum at the time. Moreover, all his many helpers had to be housed, fed and paid. Likewise, when Hopkins sent the witches for trial, assizes had to be held, judges summoned: these huge trials could nearly bankrupt a town. And, as for a barrel of pitch, to burn a witch, that might cost a man’s annual salary.

At a time of plague, war and enormous debt, these costs could not be sustained. So they weren’t. And my sense is that the same will likely happen to the similar extremes of wokeness. Pretty soon the UK will be trillions in debt. Can we afford tens of thousands of diversity officers and various related posts? Possibly not. Likewise, when plague is ravaging a country, sacking and cancelling useful people for saying a wrong word on social media might seem needlessly wasteful.

When I wake the next morning, in Mistley, it is cold but sunny, so I take a short stroll by the Stour, to a Georgian folly: the Mistley Towers. It is widely believed that Hopkins is buried here, under these riverside pillars.

Standing on the frosty grass, I listen again to the endless, rolling calls of the waterbirds. Local folklore claims they are the voices of the women Hopkins sent to the gallows, forever decrying the man who lies beneath my feet. And maybe he hears them. Maybe he turns in his unmarked grave, even now, as he sees history so strangely repeated.


Sean Thomas is a journalist and novelist, based in London. He writes thrillers under the name S K Tremayne

thomasknox

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Auberon Linx
Auberon Linx
3 years ago

While cancel culture is real enough, it affects only a small proportion of the population. The author points out that it is wasteful to sack and cancel useful people. The keyword here is “useful”, and I don’t think many of the cancelled people meet that criterion. They are mostly journalists, think tankers, social “science” academics with “wrong” views and so on (there are exceptions to be sure, immunologist Tim Hunt being a notable example). Cancellations are best viewed as ruthless in-group competition for limited positions and funds in fields where achievement cannot be objectively measured. The cancellers are doing it to increase their own profile, and to eliminate potential rivals (often their own colleagues).
While from an individual standpoint it is regrettable that people caught on the wrong side of the culture war stand to lose gainful employment, it is stretching it to say that the costs to the society at large are high. What is more, these unjust practices might even intensify with further dwindling of the available resources, as self-promotion and getting rid of competitors become ever more important. I do not think we will be seeing an end to the cancel culture just yet.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Auberon Linx

I agree. Cancel culture hasn’t even started. Just look at the accelerating and horrifying nature of all that is happening in the US, which is moving towards something closer to Stalin’s Russia.

As for the thousands of diversity managers etc, of course we can’t afford them. We never could, just as we could never afford at least 50% of what the preternaturally useless and self-serving state does. Nor was there any need to even try and afford it, because these are non-jobs for people who would be worthless in any context requiring them to deliver value or productivity,
.
But ever more resources will be extracted from us in order to keep these people in the luxury to which they believe they are entitled, and ever more money will be borrowed and printed on their behalf. Thus the diversity managers etc will remain while the productive are crucified to pay for them. This is the world we live in.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Very Much Agree; but how long will it remain the world we live in?

Economic policy has been so crazy for so long, that I believe a total collapse of the economy is coming soon – and would have come even without the extra spur of all the Chinese WuFlu lockdowns.

By total collapse I mean the banks closing their doors (overwhelmed by debt); the stock market flatlining; the currencies themselves hyper-inflated into extinction (by everyone being forced to recognise that governments so hopelessly indebted have issued meaningless money).

It will be a worldwide phenomenon. (All of China’s economy is an elaborate Ponzi-pyramid.)

When there is literally no money of any kind, possibly humankind will go berserk and ravage and destroy itself. But at any rate there will be no more funds for all the useless unproductive members of society.

Their jigs at least will come to an abrupt and complete end.

Nor – if there are survivors – will there be the smallest appetite for Unsound Money, borrowing against the future, or otherwise doing the things necessary to create (a) an ever-expanding Farewell State, (b) giant bureaucracies and endless quangocracy.

People will one and all be seared as by a cruel huge branding-iron with Terror at the thought of Funny Money. Anyone proposing to print it or borrow it will be left a few scraps of bones and clothing in a puddle on the ground.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

The entire modern world economy is an elaborate ponzi-pyramid and always has been. It’s always been based on myth – that pieces of paper, coins, bits in a computer – are actually worth something. We may lose faith in that myth but another will replace it. The tricky part will be managing the transition.

Zach Thornton
Zach Thornton
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Money is a myth and what it represents is trust. Trust that someone will reward or pay you back. It is the most pervasive myth that humans currently believe in being universal across civilsations and cultures. A collapse in the system would surely spell disaster on a biblical scale. Perhaps, a greater system will emerge from the ashes akin to how the destruction of the Mongol invasions laid the foundations for a stable empire and trade across Eurasia. No one would want to live through such destructive transformations.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Zach Thornton

Yes, Yuval Noah Hari has made this point about money being our most potent myth. Doubtless he is correct. However, we have evolved societal and business structures around that myth which ensure that the most damaging and useless activities attract the largest amounts of money. Alongside, this we have created structures which ensure that without money, you are nothing, or considered as nothing.

Money is now the only God, more or less worldwide. It has infected and distorted the minds of the political class, which has been entirely captured by the finance/corporate class. So much so that most governments now spit on their on their own working class.

Zach Thornton
Zach Thornton
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Agreed. How we begin to work towards something better is another matter.

Eloise Burke
Eloise Burke
3 years ago
Reply to  Zach Thornton

Money is a myth, but it’s not worthless. We must have some medium of exchange – something we agree on. Apples? clam shells? Barter is simply too clumsy – unworkable. Whatever it is, whatever we all agree on, we can all suddenly stop agreeing on, and then we’ve got to start over – find some other way of keeping track.

I need somebody to explain the causes of the sudden stop. I never understood exactly why inflation happened – why Germany in the forties and Venezuela today? Are there other causes for the sudden stop? How does it work?

Anna Borsey
Anna Borsey
3 years ago
Reply to  Eloise Burke

It was not in the 1940’s that Germany suffered a devastating inflation. It was during the 1920’s, as a result of Germany losing the Great War, WWI. The Treaty of Versailles, signed in May 1919, crippled Germany by saddling it with an enormous war debt, compensation, or reparation, for the damage their army and their politicians had wreaked during WWI.

“Coupled with these internal crises, the new republic (commonly referred to as the Weimar Republic) was saddled in May of 1919 through the Treaty of Versailles with unprecedented amounts of war debt. Reparations equivalent to half a trillion contemporary US dollars were to be repaid to the victorious Allies. The goods produced in factories, livestock, and raw resources such as coal, iron, grain, and lumber began to be expropriated from Germany as repayment. Throughout this loss of physical and financial resources, the Weimar government continuously printed banknotes with little to back them. This process began to devalue the German currency.

The German economy began to buckle under the weight of these external and internal pressures. As the first repayments were made to the Allies in the early 1920s, the value of the German mark sank drastically, and a period of hyperinflation began. In early 1922, 160 German marks was equivalent to one US dollar. By November of 1923, the currency would depreciate to 4,200,000,000,000 marks to one US dollar.”

https://www.spurlock.illino….

matthewspring
matthewspring
3 years ago
Reply to  Anna Borsey

The great ‘Germany-Was-Saddled-With-Massive-Reparations-in-the-Treaty-of-Versailles’ myth rumbles on! The reparations bill handed to Germany in 1921 (£6.6bn) was largely ‘phoney money’ designed to fool the French and British electorates into thinking that Germany had been punished, as promised. They were never expected to pay more than a third of it. What Germany *was* expected to pay represented 2% of German annual economic output. The problem with reparations was not that they were massive, but that the Germans were simply determined that they weren’t going to pay them. Hyperinflation in 1923-25 was caused by the left-oriented SPD German government deciding to pay the entire population of the Rhineland to go on strike when the French rolled in to seize reparations in kind, in the shape of coal, etc. Overall, the Germans took far more money from the USA in the shape of cheap loans to subsidise public spending in Germany, than ever Germany paid in reparations. Historians talk of the USA paying reparations to Germany! That house of cards collapsed when the Depression suddenly cut off the flow of American money into Germany. And then that oddball with the toothbrush moustashe suddenly became very interesting, having previously been ignored through the 1920s by 98% of Germans. We know how that ended.

Walter Brigham
Walter Brigham
3 years ago
Reply to  Eloise Burke

Printing money, ie money not backed by a real commodity – typically gold or silver. Its value is somewhat arbitrary but its quantity is relatively fixed.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Zach Thornton

Money is a measure of purchasing power and a facilitator of exchange, not a myth. Barter economy is completely impracticable.

Ian Thompson
Ian Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

That transition is in full swing. Called the Great Reset (by the World Economic Forum), it seeks to exact carbon credit (and we are carbon life-forms). The governments of the world just need to get in line, accept their monetary policy as law, and then do some minor policing work for them to ensure the workers play by their manufactured rules. Patent 060606 to reward compliance and punish any disobedience the smart-grid detects. God knows what is happening. Ultimately, the technogods will face consequences. Choose whom you will serve.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Question: If we don’t have thousands of managers, committees, courses on equality, etc, what else are all the graduates going to do? Pick fruit perhaps?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Picking fruit is just one of many things they could be doing. Other productive activities available to them include sweeping the streets, dredging rivers, building stone walls, working in supermarkets, delivering packages – the list is endless.

David Morley
David Morley
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

“Picking fruit is just one of many things they could be doing.”

Hunting witches?

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

Stop that at once.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Well, hey, they could be doing the actual work. A hospital with only a skeleton staff of managers, no committees, etc, could employ more doctors and nurses, invest in more drugs and equipment, treat patients more rapidly and efficiently. A university with only a skeleton staff of managers, no committees, etc, could employ more teachers, have smaller classes, more time actually to devote to teaching each student. Or alternatively it could slash tuition fees.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Yes, it’s partly the result of over-production of graduates.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I don’t know about the UK, but the US has a few million job openings in the skilled trades. Electricians, plumbers, welders, and so forth, all desperately needed and all paid well for their knowledge. It’s the scarcity principle writ large, but those jobs also involve the possibility of breaking a sweat or getting dirty, and who wants that.

Steve Bouchard
Steve Bouchard
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

It would be ironic if a “woke” person needs a plumber and the plumber cancels that person out…..

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

We too have these vacancies but it is difficult and expensive to get the training for them. It has been much cheaper for the government to encourage immigration of these skilled individuals than to provide a cheap and easy pathway for Brits to obtain these skills. That was one of the main drivers of the Brexit vote.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Lots of roads need repairing, old people and sick people need looking after.
Lots of flood defenses need rebuilding.

Dorothy Slater
Dorothy Slater
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Every January, Jimmy Kimmel and his co-workers at NBC have to participate in a mandatory harassment seminar , which, given the fact that he is working from home, is not possible. However, it was possible to gather his 5 and 2 year old children plus his wife, and put them through the seminar using the exact questions that NBC uses.

This was suppose to be funny ie, “Billy, is it okay to touch Daddy’s nose without permission?”= I was horrified. The two children had no idea what the term harassment even meant but two year old Billy now knows you don’t touch Daddy’s nose without permission.

At least the kids will be prepared for the workplace when they grow up.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I see the diversity managers as modern day political commissars, inserted into every institution.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Just look at the accelerating and horrifying nature of all that is happening in the US, which is moving towards something closer to Stalin’s Russia.
Worse, look at the number of people who actively defend it. We’ve had a former Cabinet Secretary call for a Truth & Reconciliation Commission, numerous members of Congress and the media have called for un-personing anyone associated with the Trump White House and, when possible, conservatives in general. Govt has outsourced the silencing of opposition to third party actors.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

There is an economic theory I have heard, that the longer a country goes without a major war or other massive social disruption, the more it’s economy and society sinks under the weight of corruption.

Productivity collapses as stupid, corrupt people embed themselves and their descendants in ever greater bureaucracy, sucking out money for doing jobs that are at best completely worthless, at worst – like the diversity managers – actively make it harder for those doing real jobs.

I think that explains the current situation in the UK and US better than anything else I have heard.

Eloise Burke
Eloise Burke
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

That makes sense to me. Many people have little value in society, but we can’t just d away with them. Remembering that our species is mean, ugly, and cruel as well as good, noble, and self-sacrificing, it seems a good idea to keep the worthless people occupied in some way – useful if possible, but at least harmless. Music and sports, maybe.

Wulvis Perveravsson
Wulvis Perveravsson
3 years ago
Reply to  Eloise Burke

You have a strange view of the world, if this IS your real view. It would be a pretty joyless place without music and sports; sounds like a world only the Taliban or the Puritans would enjoy.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago

She seems to me to be desribing music and sports as potentially useful and at least harmless. What’s wrong with that?

Ian Thompson
Ian Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

Or “contact tracers”? TSA agents? [Insert govt agency here] employees?

gav.green
gav.green
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

It reminds me of McCarthyism and this great work: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crucible

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
3 years ago
Reply to  Auberon Linx

I’d forgotten that Professor Hunt – a Nobel prizewinner – was an immunologist. He took up a post in Japan after he was cancelled here. I wonder what he might have contributed to our Covid fightback if he was still at UCL.

Ian Thompson
Ian Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

At least he is still alive. Another Nobel prize winner, Dr. Kary Mullis, invented the PCR test, and stated “You cannot use this test to diagnose an infectious disease.” Interestingly, he died in August 2019 (age 74)… or someone didn’t appreciate his scientific rigor: “They don’t want people like me asking them questions.”

Jim Cooper
Jim Cooper
3 years ago
Reply to  Auberon Linx

“It affects a small proportion of the population,”. Is mr Linx sure about this? Obvz you think jordan peterson being cancelled is ok as he’s not “useful” and an anomaly in academe. But surely this is WHY HE IS USEFUL, BECAUSE he challenges the dominance of wokeness on behalf of his millions of followers…

mark96
mark96
3 years ago
Reply to  Auberon Linx

I think you may be underestimating the wider effects. A few high profile heads on spikes will do wonders to keep many less prominent heads down.

Robert G
Robert G
3 years ago
Reply to  mark96

Precisely. You cannot measure the cost to society by considering only the individuals who have been canceled. Everyone is now aware that cancel culture exists and that virtually no one is safe from ruin at the hands of the mob if they say the “wrong” thing. The chilling effect of this culture cannot be overstated. This has created a culture of intense self-censorship, which is exacerbated by overt censorship by media outlets and social media platforms.

Few today are brave or foolish enough to share heterodox opinions. Even if they do, they may only end up being censored. The danger to democracy and human rights is acute and it would be a grave mistake to downplay the seriousness of our predicament.

Auberon Linx
Auberon Linx
3 years ago
Reply to  mark96

I agree with that. I believe that our ability as a society to think and debate freely is being profoundly damaged, and that the harm to the idea of democracy is vast. However, the author of the original article claims that the cancel culture will eventually peter out due to economic costs of sacking useful people. I think that is wrong. There is already huge oversupply in the professions where cancelling is the most prevalent. Thinning out the herds of click-bait journalists, minor celebrities, mediocre academics and so on does not cause economic harm, and is useful for the competitors of the cancelled people. Contrary to the thesis of the article, the actual costs of cancelling are not sufficient to put an end to this practice. He might have a point about the coming cull of the diversity officers and similar positions though.

mark96
mark96
3 years ago
Reply to  Auberon Linx

I agree. The only solution – at least in the short term – is for organisations and legislators to tell the mob to f**k off.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

this is more than cancelling; it’s an attempt to dehumanize and un-person people over differences in political opinion. And since it’s illegal in the US for the govt to silence opponents, govt has outsourced the job to private actors who – oh by the way – enjoy a special carve-out that exempts them from certain liability. But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is how many citizens are on board with this.

Robert G
Robert G
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

And don’t forget that often those private actors themselves cannot be censored thanks to net neutrality laws that disallow ISPs from blocking them.

Ian Thompson
Ian Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Apparently legality is what you can get away with, and we have plenty of people in the US who “rate what they skate”: Criminals like Clapper, Brennan, Comey, Clinton, Feinstein, Holder, Biden all come to mind. And one of them is now our President thanks to an inept judicial system that allowed the disenfranchisement of voters in key states. Well, that WAS facilitated by a private actor… but Dominion was a Chinese shell company (https://thenewamerican.com/

Most of us are NOT on board with this… but goog/face/twit censorship and most of the sell-out MSM won’t let you see that… remember that Americans are your rebellious cousins.

Tom Hawk
Tom Hawk
3 years ago

I work for an accountant who has a sole practice, ie, there is only one qualified staff and me. Yet every year the ICAEW sends out diversity questionnaires and demands we dily waste time and effort filling out pointless forms to satisfy a box ticking nobody why is trying to big themselves up.

The boss gets really irritated by the unnecessary time wasting.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Hawk

Is there a penalty for non-compliance? Otherwise, why not just bin the damn things?

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Failure to plea meant being crushed to death. I think there was an example at Salem.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

Haha! Seriously though, what is the penalty for non-compliance?

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Apparently not, and that is from an exalted one from Do Little & Touch.
So File 13 or WPB.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Hawk

Hopefully you can at least amuse yourselves by filling the forms with disinformation of various kinds.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago

“Can we afford tens of thousands of diversity officers and various related posts?” A equally interesting question, though less pertinent to the issue of Wokeness, might be, can we afford so many managers?

kennethjamesmoore
kennethjamesmoore
3 years ago

01

Last edited 3 years ago by kennethjamesmoore
Andrea X
Andrea X
3 years ago

Absolutely. If you work in anything that resembles government related employment (it could be anything, really), the gap between those who do the work and the myriad of managers above them administering it is mind boggling (and soul destroying).

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Just take a look at the NHS hierarchy; I was in there once it was meetings about meetings about meetings. I never saw anyone get that much done after the meetings other than wait around shuffling paperwork until the next one

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago

I do (did, for now) contract work for a Federal agency, and necessarily attended endless lengthy meetings of mostly management people. I gave the director (a friend, thankfully) one of those glossy “inspirational” posters, but this one read: “Meetings-None of Us is as Dumb as All of Us”. She took it home.

opn
opn
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

A quarter of a century in a large American university taught me to be suspicious of anyone who thought that “doing lunch” constituted work.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago

Rest assured, the manager question is no less pertinent to the issue of wokeness.

Joe Francis
Joe Francis
3 years ago

It’s an interesting take, and I hold out some hope that it may come to pass. I’ve always believed that the whole woke madness came from the material success of western civilization. When you create a level of wealth and comfort unknown anywhere in history, and a society where even the poorest enjoy luxuries which would be mind boggling to our ancestors, and then you combine all that with the fiction of complete personal autonomy, you’re almost guaranteed to create a massive overhang of utterly useless people attempting to extract sunlight from cucumbers.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Francis

1917 Russia and Mao/Red Guard China were not bastions of wealth and comfort…I think that this tendency is indicative of something profoundly dark and dangerous, always lurking, that we must be vigilant in understanding and eliminating. It always becomes a ruthless power.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

it has already become a ruthless power.

Kiran Grimm
Kiran Grimm
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

Agreed. Dangerous because it is so little understood.

Can conventional psychology or political analysis even begin to explain the cold, purposeful cruelty perpetrated by Comrade Duch, the Khmer Rouge torturer in chief? Even loyal party members were routinely denounced as traitors and tortured to death in the unrelenting pursuit of ideological perfection.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

I would think he was a sadistic psychopath, used, encouraged and enabled by the state. That is what is so horrifying, there are always a few psychopaths about but they don’t usually get state backing.
So I suppose it’s whichever ideology is motivating the state to blame, though each human involved is culpable.

Kiran Grimm
Kiran Grimm
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

With respect, this is the reflex reaction often seen when this kind of atrocity is reported. But what exactly is a psychopath?

The case of Comrade Duch is worth studying because he cannot easily be dismissed as a just brutal sadist given the opportunity by Pol Pot to freely indulge his vice. He was a loyal and dedicated party member who was a firm believer in the cause.

The Khmer Rouge believed their purges were an essential process in creating the first true communist state. In their view the USSR, China, Vietnam and even North Korea had all fallen into compromise ““ eradication of the past was needed. Hence their use of the term “Year Zero”.

Worth noting that after the downfall of the Khmer Rouge a disillusioned Comrade Duch turned to Christianity. Opportunistic or genuine? Hard to tell.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

“What exactly is a psychopath ?”

According to the Encyclopaedia of Mental Health,
Psychopathy is defined as a mental disorder consisting of anti-social behaviour, a lack of ability to love or form meaningful relationships, egocentricity, a reduced empathic response.
And from Comprehensive Clinical Psychology,
Personality characteristics include lack of remorse, pathological lying, conning and callousness.

Seems to make sense.

Kiran Grimm
Kiran Grimm
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

The second definition you cite reads like the dictionary definition of a hardened criminal. The first brings to mind a serial killer.

It may be worth mentioning that several of the bravest WW2 fighter pilots, noted for their fearlessness and risk taking in combat, were diagnosed as having psychopathic tendencies. The lack of normal fear seems to have been a key characteristic. Then there are examples of ruthless business executives who are described as psychopathic. In my view the term provides a somewhat generalised description rather than an explanation.

Anyway, I would be interested in your views on the main part of my comment.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

Yes, I’ve heard about the pilots and the business executive’s tendencies, which also makes sense I think, they are the fortunate ones, who find a way to use the flaw in a positive way.

I did’nt know anything about Duch (I can’t cope with that kind of thing in detail) but unlike the pilots and business execs, his psychopathy was put to use for nihilistic, and I would say evil, purposes. In dramatic symbolic language, Satan had him in thrall.

I don’t trust ideologies for the good reason that they seem to open the door for humans to rationalise their worst behaviours, it’s all for the sake of some fantasy better future.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Francis

Indeed. We have a population of young, angry people who have less to be angry about than any other generation. The luxury of debating first-world problems unfortunately does not come with the self-awareness to realize what we’re doing.

Chris Hudson
Chris Hudson
3 years ago

An excellent metaphor… Or is it simile? Note Matthew Hopkins’ age: 26. This was a young man’s campaign. Perhaps our fiercest wokers simply need to grow up, like Communist China’s Red Guards, most of whom probably now look back on the Cultural Revolution in horror.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Hudson

The Wild Lefties who, when I was at Cambridge, sought to disrupt everything, and left the Senate House a mess of disorder and faeces, mostly went on to become workers in insurance, banking in the city, PR for big business &c.

Perhaps that is their single most exasperating trait (of many) – that it usually turns out they wreck very much, driven by something which eventually one could not even call Real Sincerity.

Duncan Hunter
Duncan Hunter
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Hudson

Wouldn’t 26 be rather an advanced age in that era in history? When life was “nasty, brutish and short”.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Duncan Hunter

Not particularly, if you had made it to 20 you had a chance of reaching 50.

Duncan Hunter
Duncan Hunter
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

A demonstrable truism or just pot luck!?

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Duncan Hunter

I have rather conveniently omitted infant mortality, but according to that well known source PlymouthAncestors.org, if you made it to 30, you could “expect to live” till 59.

However you are quite correct about the “nasty, brutish and short”. Even the inept King had his head hacked off- would you call that pot luck?

larry tate
larry tate
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Hudson

My perception of the world now that I am an over sixty country gentleman is simply that youth is always a bad age for everyone. My own ideas about how to cope with this natural way of things includes: voting for over fifties only, local and national elected leaders over sixty and journalists and commentators in general only hired once reached the fairly mature age of seventy.

Daniel Björkman
Daniel Björkman
3 years ago

We can hope, but I feel like I’ve heard people saying for the last ten years that the madness must surely be almost over by now. All things eventually end, so eventually they are going to have to be right, but…

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago

I think the soundest wisdom on this was uttered by the German-American economist Rudi Dornbusch who famously remarked ‘In economics, things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then they happen faster than you thought they could’.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
3 years ago

Shame we don’t have a real plague at the moment then.

In the meantime the fanatic red guard larpers will go on making life worse for the rest of us.

Maybe China can engineer a virus that spreads through Twitter.

John Ramsden
John Ramsden
3 years ago

There were hardly any witch trials in England during the reign of Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603) because her mother Anne Boleyn had been accused of witchcraft and of being one. So as a result Queen Elizabeth took a very dim view of this brand of superstition!

Paul Blakemore
Paul Blakemore
3 years ago

Sean Thomas describes Mistley Towers as a ‘Georgian folly’: they are in fact, as English Heritage tells us, ‘porticoed classical towers, which stood at each end of a grandiose but highly unconventional Georgian church, designed by Robert Adam in 1776’.
A ‘barrel of pitch’ may indeed have been expensive, but Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne’s victims were hanged, not burned. The one exception was Mary Lakeland in Ipswich, who was burned for the ‘petty treason’ of having murdered her husband (using witchcraft).
Granta is publishing a wonderful new novel on March 4 called, and telling the story of, The Manningtree Witches.

kennethjamesmoore
kennethjamesmoore
3 years ago

Divide & Conquer; as old as civilisation. Be it either cultural or actual War. More importantly in today’s context ‘Distract’

Every ideology needs a ‘bogey man’ to vilify and focus the dissparate masses upon. Usually those percieved to be in power or against / undermining the ’cause’.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago

And my sense is that the same will likely happen to the similar extremes of wokeness. Pretty soon the UK will be trillions in debt. Can we afford tens of thousands of diversity officers and various related posts?

Or maybe woke ideas will dictate the policy response to this debt?

Likewise, when plague is ravaging a country, sacking and cancelling useful people for saying a wrong word on social media might seem needlessly wasteful.

The Covid pandemic doesn’t seem to have halted cancel culture so far, and if vaccination goes ahead and proves effective any chance of it happening will be gone.

Athena Jones
Athena Jones
3 years ago

BUT WE HAVE NOT HAD A PLAGUE. NOT A REAL ONE ANYWAY.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago

Surely the woke would be on the side of the witches? The Church and State were on the side of the witch-hunters and you’d be hard pushed to find an example of the evils of the patriarchy than hanging women for being a bit different.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago

The surreal theory underlying the torment was that witches were resistant to water, because it was used in baptism.

Thanks for that fact, I had no idea there was a rationale to this practice.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago

By 1646, the 26-year-old Hopkins was at the peak of his powers: feared, revered, wealthy.

How did he become wealthy?

Was he paid by the state or by the Church for his witch-finding? Or did wealthy townsfolk pay him to rid their towns of witches?

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Kreff

(Oh, okay, it’s explained later in the text.)

Frances Frances
Frances Frances
3 years ago

The late Robert Neill wrote several novels which explored belief in witches in England, including “Mist over Pendle” which looked at the witch trials there.

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
3 years ago

Unfortunately the costs for modern-day witch hunters are minimal -usually requiring little more than time spent. Otherwise the analogy is entertaining and informative.

Ian Thompson
Ian Thompson
3 years ago

At risk of raising more concern, modern social media is a cost-effective means to make baseless accusations (since goog/face/twit only censors election “conspiracies”, homeopathic medicine, and vaccine discussions), and when the government is debt-funding the cost using manufactured credit from “banks”, then the witch hunts can be credit-funded until the people run out. The sheeple (future witches) could choose to stand up against the witch-hunters, but they are so busy on social media, video games, and watching Real Housewives “reality shows” , that they don’t really see what is going on beneath their noses, i.e., their families are being tortured and drowned in the sea of COVID isolation and MODeRNA vaccination.