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Nobody will win the Culture Wars Today's 'cancel culture' debates are designed to fail

Don't bring a dictionary (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Don't bring a dictionary (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)


April 7, 2021   5 mins

Is “cancel culture” real? Is Britain “institutionally racist”? These arguments, and many like them — about privilege, about “wokeness”, about whether trans women are women — never seem to end; they occupy some huge part of our national conversation.

And all the while, it feels like we’re arguing about something real, something that we could eventually resolve. But they’re not. All of these “culture war” debates are set up to fail: they turn on taking some phrase that sounds like it means something concrete, then change its definition so that we can never pin down an actual point of disagreement. 

It’s as though we’ve decided to argue at length over whether, say, tables are real — only for one participant in the debate to define a “table” as “a glowing green icosahedron, 30 metres on each side, levitating mysteriously above the Bay of Biscay”, and then explain why there is “zero evidence” tables exist. 

The recent row about the Sewell report into institutional racism in Britain is a case in point. A lot has been written wisely about it already, but I want to talk about words.

When used in normal conversation, the word “racism” usually means something like “prejudice against other races”. The first definition of racism in the Collins English Dictionary, for example, is: “The belief that races have distinct cultural characteristics determined by hereditary factors and that this endows some races with intrinsic superiority over others.”

Dictionaries are meant to reflect how language is actually used, and I think this definition broadly does: a person gets called racist if they believe that other races are inferior to their own. It seems to me there’s a bit more to it — you might not have to think in terms of “superiority” and “inferiority” in order to, say, stereotype Chinese people as inscrutable or Jewish people as greedy. I suspect a lot of English-speakers would include that behaviour in the definition of “racism”. Still, though, in common usage, the word “racism” is mainly about attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. 

But in its formal use, it’s not so clear. Following the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, three definitions of “institutional racism” were collated. The third one, from the Commission for Racial Equality, holds: “If racist consequences accrue to institutional laws, customs or practices, that institution is racist whether or not the individuals maintaining those practices have racial intentions.” 

Notice that this is completely different from Collins’s definition. There need be no intent whatsoever. If a law, custom or practice has racist consequences, then the institution which employs that law, custom or practice is institutionally racist.

In practice, it is completely incompatible with its normal use; you can’t use it about people at all. You couldn’t say “John is racist” — it would be meaningless, like saying “John has consequences which are negative for ethnic minorities”. In fact, it means that actions with any differences in outcome between ethnic groups become axiomatically racist. If it happens to be the case that tobacconists are disproportionately run by a particular ethnic minority, and if a law banning cigarette advertising hurts the sales from those tobacconists, then the legal system, by this definition, would be institutionally racist.

The Sewell report uses the first definition of the three I mentioned above, taken from the Macpherson inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence. The Macpherson definition is not as straightforwardly about consequences as the CRE definition, but it refers to a failure to “provide an appropriate and professional service” to people because of their ethnic origin, and says that this can be due to “unwitting prejudice” and “thoughtlessness” as well as active racial discrimination. 

The problem is that the word “racism” has too many meanings; it is a “suitcase word”, to borrow AI theorist Marvin Minsky’s term. You can pack a lot of things into it. That isn’t to say that the formal “institutional racism” definition is invalid. It’s simply that it’s so different from our usual definition of the word “racism” that using the same word is actively confusing.

That means that when we argue over it, we’re not arguing over a stable, mutually agreed thing. Is Britain racist? Well, obviously, there are disproportionate negative outcomes for several ethnic minorities, and by the CRE definition, that is axiomatically racist. But it’s not obvious (although it’s a hard thing to measure) that a majority of British people, or even British white people, hold racist views under a more colloquial definition. (It’s also worth noting that racist views have been becoming less common, which is a good thing.)

As Ian Leslie says, one of the key requirements for a productive argument is that the participants agree about what it is they’re arguing over. In this case, people who think it is can point at one definition; people who think it isn’t can use another. Even if they agreed to use the colloquial one, it’s still a movable feast: how many racist people does it take to make a racist country? One? Half of them? All of them?

The “racism” debate is, of course, far from the only place where this is a problem. We’re constantly arguing over whether “cancel culture” is real. But what is “cancel culture”? Is it the “phenomenon of promoting the ‘cancelling’ of people, brands and even shows and movies due to what some consider to be offensive or problematic remarks or ideologies,” as according to the New York Post. Or is it a “a mob mentality, a series of mass movements seeking to end the careers of public figures whose thoughts or opinions deviate from a new set of left-wing norms,” as offered by the New Statesman?

These are totally different things. The first describes individual incidents: if someone “promotes the ‘cancelling’” of someone, then that is an instance of cancel culture, and thus cancel culture is real. The second suggests that if one person is cancelled, that won’t meet the definition, but some unspecified larger number might. 

It means that you can switch effortlessly between the two, or — rather — argue about totally different things and feel like you’re arguing something real. Obviously, some people are “cancelled”, insofar as they lose their jobs as a result of social media outrage. The “phenomenon” is real. But is that enough to meet the “mob mentality/mass movement” definition? In the end, there’s nothing solid there to argue about: there’s no stable or universally agreed definition for any of these things. You can define the phrase however you like, and then argue about the definitions, and carry on doing that forever. No one will ever win. 

If I say that cancel culture is real, that tells you that I’m probably on one side of some big debate or other; if I say it’s not, that tells you I’m probably on the other. But it doesn’t tell you whether I think that, say, a given percentage of academics really have to censor their political views for fear of losing their jobs. All these concepts are so murky that it doesn’t tell you very much about my beliefs. It’s all mood affiliation and tribalism. 

How can we get around this? One way is to talk without using these highly charged, badly defined terms. “Taboo your words”: rather than ask “Is Britain a racist country?”, ask “Do ethnic minorities have worse outcomes than white people?” (Yes.) Or “Are black people less likely to be hired than equivalently qualified white people?” (Yes.) Rather than saying “Is cancel culture real?”, ask “How many people lose their jobs over social media outrage?” (Some, although I have no idea how widespread a problem it is.) Then you avoid the slippery definitions and vague mood-affiliation and can talk about real things.

Alternatively, you can simply define things however you want, and argue about them forever, in the great unending online row. But it won’t get us anywhere. The culture war rows will go on forever, because there is no right answer: we can simply change what we’re talking about, whenever we want. It’s a forever war; until we learn to say what we actually mean, there is no way out. 


Tom Chivers is a science writer. His second book, How to Read Numbers, is out now.

TomChivers

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J Bryant
J Bryant
3 years ago

I agree with everything Tom Chivers wrote in this article. He does, however, seem unwilling, at least within the confines of this article, to reach the obvious conclusion: The leftists promoting cancel culture, and the ideology that supports it, have no interest in debating anyone, seeking common ground, or reaching some sort of mutual agreement. Cancel culture is nothing more than a means to a political end.
Accuse someone of racism, for example, and if it turns out that person’s behavior doesn’t quite meet the standard definition of racism, then change the definition. In fact, the more amorphous the definition, the better. You can fit anything into an infinitely large empty space.
Applying logic to the far left is a fool’s errand of the most naĂŻve, and self-defeating, sort.

Mark Preston
Mark Preston
3 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Changing definitions of words is a way of weaponising language so it can be used against your opponent and the less clearly defined the better. Bit like the Soviets using terms like ‘counter revolutionary’ to describe their opponents.
You will never to get them to clearly define terms in the attempt to engage with them in serious debate because they are not interested in debating their enemies – they simply wish to grind them into the dirt beneath their boots.

Natalija Svobodné
Natalija Svobodné
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Preston

Very much so the subtle shift of meaning between saying equal Human rights regardless of your sex, race, creed, Instead of Rights because of your sex, race creed.
And all the definitions of words
Racism once meant derogatory views because of another person’s ethnicity. Now it means “derogatory views + “position of power”, meaning only privileged white people can be racist…!
Radical Progressives Call Math, science and logic a Racist Tools…
https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/math-professor-claims-equation-2-2-4-reeks-of-white-supremacist-patriarchy

Last edited 3 years ago by Natalija Svobodné
Martin Price
Martin Price
3 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Am I the only one to find the naivety shown in some of Tom’s writing a little unbelievable?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Price

I seem to remember him as a Guardian writer, so if true, there is an alternate reality case to be made.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Price

Racism is against a person’s race.However if a person’s family has lived in another continent from their ethnic origins for centuries in what way would they identify with this original country? In America after the civil war ,freed slaves were encouraged to go back to the new African country called Liberia-few did. In Britain Caribbean people etc have chosen ( or their relatives chose ) to try their luck in a new country. In Britain various commentators seem to be conflating the two countries experiences to create something that makes life worse for the average person.Who wants to employ a young person who they fear might suddenly accuse the firm of racism?

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
3 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

“In fact, the more amorphous the definition, the better. You can fit anything into an infinitely large empty space”. The term “white supremacy” for example.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I think, if you really do agree with Tom, shouldn’t you define what you mean by hard left, leftists, cancel culture and racism?

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

What are your definitions?

Last edited 3 years ago by Andrew Raiment
Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Raiment

I wasn’t the one using the terms so I’m not sure why I would have to define them.

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

See above

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Raiment

The standard definition, ‘You are Racist, I am Not.’

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Sealioning A subtle form of trolling involving “bad-faith” questions. You disingenuously frame your conversation as a sincere request to be enlightened, placing the burden of educating you entirely on the other party.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Raiment

Sorry you think that’s what I’m doing. It’s not. Without definitions we’ll end up in the circular conversation Tom refers to in the article where debate goes nowhere because we haven’t even agreed what we’re debating about.

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

It is what you are doing.

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

So do we take the established definitions of racism and white supremacy or the Critical Race Theory one, which I suspect J Bryant is referring to within his argument.

Last edited 3 years ago by Andrew Raiment
Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Raiment

I wouldn’t want to ‘suspect’ anything. That’s how you end up talking at cross purposes.
Is your interpretation that by ‘standard’ racism J Bryant meant the traditional definition and by changed definition one of the definitions of institutional racism around in UK since at least the MacPherson report in 1999 and talked about in Critical Race Theory since at least the 1970’s?
As Tom pointed out, it makes no sense to accuse an individual of institutional racism. By definition it is institutional. You could have people who the ‘standard’ definition of racism applies to operating within an institutionally racist system or group and there could be people operating within it who do not meet the ‘standard’ definition of racist.
If we want to debate the various meanings and definitions of institutional racism and whether it exists then we can do that. But until we understand what we are discussing and defined the terms we can’t without people confusing accusations of individual racism with institutional racism. People understandably then become upset as they think they are being accused of being racist when they aren’t.

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

I’m not looking to get in a lengthy discussion but personally I think the terms institutional/structural/systemic racism are deeply unhelpful and divisive. My position on the whole is close to that of Sunder Katwala, who I find to be a thoughtful and insightful commentator on this subject.

Last edited 3 years ago by Andrew Raiment
David Brown
David Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Raiment

‘The third [definition of “institutional racism”], from the Commission for Racial Equality, holds: “If racist consequences accrue to institutional laws, customs or practices, that institution is racist whether or not the individuals maintaining those practices have racial intentions.”’
If you start looking at outcomes, rather than inputs and intentions, you’re perilously close to declaring sickle cell anaemia a racist disease.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  David Brown

Except a disease isn’t an institution (even if it has consequences). More helpful would be to engage in a conversation about the actual definition and whether people believe it to be a valid concept.
Saying that, Cystic Fibrosis in the USA affects 66% of the number of people that sickle cell anaemia affects yet receives 7 to 11 times the research funding per patient that sickle cell receives. I’m not saying that is due to institutional racism within the clinical research industry. However, it’s possible that the discrepancy in funding could be linked to historical reasons for diseases that primarily affect white people being allocated more resources as they are considered more important ( unconsciously) by those with the power to allocate resources (Universities, Insurers, Government or State agencies, Charities, private individuals etc.) because those people with the power were, or are, white. This could just be because their social circle of friends and family includes more people with Cystic Fibrosis than Sickle Cell. It doesn’t mean they are racist. The concept of institutional racism offers one framework in which that discrepancy could be analysed.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Raiment

Indeed. Nevertheless, they do appear as accusations or assertions and so it is helpful, in my opinion, to understand the grounds for how they are used.
I was listening to a podcast of James Lindsay that was dealing with the term racism as used by critical race theorists. He claims that racism (and I would argue ‘power’) as they define it is the default assumption of social reality – it is omnipresent and as such in all social interactions and hence it is the job of the activists to interpret any interaction such that racism can be made manifest.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

‘Systemic racism’ is the secular version of the devil which has spawned a generation of ‘witch-hunters’ determined to stamp it out wherever they find it. It’s a form of bible-thumping for the narrow-minded.

Last edited 3 years ago by Brian Dorsley
Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Maybe they like being upset, or upsetting others. It would be so dreary to start discussing racism rationally, or without accusing people of various crimes and failings. In keyfabe, someone has to be the villain. Avoiding clear definitions helps.

Clem Alford
Clem Alford
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

How about this scenario. A Brit who does Spanish flamenco dancing to such a high level they become top in their field and even accepted as such in Spain and flamenco circles but is not invited to perform on the BBC or some other platform because they are not an authentic ethno Spanish. Would that be classified as institutional racism or just racism?

Gerry Quinn
Gerry Quinn
3 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Well, the sub-head does say: “Today’s ‘cancel culture’ debates are designed to fail”…

Adam Huntley
Adam Huntley
3 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

A statement sent to me on Linkedin recently were the words “You can be a “good white person” and still be racist”, repeated 22 times. One person responded with “what’s a “good white person” anyway?” A fair question I thought. It was met with the author’s (chilling) response “not the kind that tries to derail this conversation”.
This kind of post is all too familiar to anyone on social media. But there is an obvious point. If your definition of “racist” is going to include simple, everyday mistakes then, literally by definition a good “anything” person can be racist. There’s nothing controversial about it; it’s a simple matter of logic. If you can’t establish the terms of the conversation, how can you even have a conversation? Except that we all know the author does not mean simple every day mistakes. In which case what does she mean?

Natalija Svobodné
Natalija Svobodné
3 years ago
Reply to  Adam Huntley

Well we all know that the essence of identity politics is to dehumanise a person. people are not seen as individuals but a members of groups. assigning characteristics merely by their appearance or “group membership”, Not their individual character.
For all the talk of diversity – we know they are not after people that think for themselves or have different opinions.
To value independence and self-reliance the right of the individual to freedom and self-realisation! To possess individual characteristics as opposed to traditional or popular mass opinions, thought and behaviours. Is the very last thing they want.
This is not about humanism or equal rights. They want followers, ones who can no longer think. (due to breaking science, logic and a crippling ideology that breaks universalism) In short they want real identity-less slaves. A monoculture of equality.
A free society is never equal an equal society is never free.
A society ought to attempt to promote individuality as it is a prerequisite for creativity and diversity! A social outlook that emphasises the worth of the individual, through their own actions and achievements. 
Governments that take the concept of individuality away in policy. Should be looked long and hard at! Because it is those policies that have given us the greatest freedoms and protections as citizens and humans.
Radical Progressives Call Math, science and logic a Racist Tools

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/math-professor-claims-equation-2-2-4-reeks-of-white-supremacist-patriarchy

Last edited 3 years ago by Natalija Svobodné
Stephen Crossley
Stephen Crossley
3 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

 The (current) title of Tom’s article is “Nobody will win the culture wars”. The (current) subtitle is “Today’s cancel culture debates are designed to fail”. Naughty Tom has fooled us with a linguistic sleight of hand here as the two titles refer to very distinct phenomena while appearing superficially to agree with each other. Hence I can disagree with the first while agreeing wholeheartedly with the second.
The title refers to a real sequence of events which could be characterised as a backlash by the “silent majority” against decades of woke infiltration of the institutions and legislative processes. Certain brave individuals including Nick Buckley, Harry Miller and Sarah Phillimore are currently engaged in taking a stand against this tide and may or may not be successful in either slowing or halting the juggernaut.
These are actual events taking place in real time. Hence it is eminently possible for one side to win, lose or draw.
The subtitle refers to DEBATES about cancel culture, chiefly within the chattering classes, which are designed to fail because they are mainly undertaken in bad faith by commentators with a vested interest in obscuring what is really going on in order to defend their world view at all costs. The use of shifting language definitions is standard practise by bad faith actors usually designed to draw the conversation towards the use of a ”gotcha” word such as racism, misogyny or transphobia which will immediately out the opponent as beyond the pale and end the debate. Job done.
I am most interested in who wins the culture war but have zero interest in bad faith debates on the subject.  

J Bryant
J Bryant
3 years ago

A very interesting response. I feel we are, however, forced to at least take a position on what to do about the often bad faith debates that surround the culture war, even if we recognize that the debates themselves are typically an exercise in futility.
These debates are sterile but they’re an attempt to control the narrative and that is one factor that will determine who wins the culture wars. I’m not sure we can ignore them.

Stephen Crossley
Stephen Crossley
3 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I agree wholeheartedly with both of your posts. Where I can I try to raise awareness of individuals (as above) who are fighting this war on our behalf and encourage others to support organisations such as the Free Speech Union which helps fund these vital legal challenges. On most topics there will always be a mixture of good and bad faith views expressed and I will generally respond to both as, like you, I feel a responsibility to add balance to the narrative. Cancel culture is different. It brooks no opposition, allows no good faith debate and is the 21st century version of the Salem witch trials. Thank you for speaking up against it.  

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
3 years ago

Thanks for pointing out the obvious. In this modern world we are in the newspeak zone where dialectical debate becomes impossible. By misappropriation of language we are constraining thought.

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

You are correct. That’s why sexism has now been redefined as “systemic” sexism– in order to shield feminists from having the term applied to their own misandrist rhetoric. Apparently only men can be “sexist” under this definition.

Because femi ists are fighting double standards, doncha’ know.

jonathan carter-meggs
jonathan carter-meggs
3 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Spot on – in a power play if you can set the rules then you will win. Better still if you can keep changing the rules as required. We lost the narrative when we gave credence to identity politics by entertaining it as a serious idea.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I disagree with everything Chivers says here.

The judge ruling on obscenity said he could not define it, but knew it when he saw it.

This is a valid attitude, definitions of words, and thus concepts, are not 3 + 3 = 6.

The single time he backs from his thesis that ‘everything is relative’ is when he says (Yes) qualified Black people get hired less than equally qualified White people. I think he is behind the times and is being as bad as every example he uses, much positive discrimination is used by HR. Does he believe this is true at the BBC? At Oxbridge?

““a glowing green icosahedron, 30 metres on each side, levitating mysteriously above the Bay of Biscay”,” add ‘That is caused by White Privilege’ and no one could argue against its existence, or be canceled, although apparently canceled is meaningless….

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

No, the judge who could not define pornography but who “knew it when he saw it” did not have a “valid” attitude. What he had was a subjective belief based on feelings inculcated by certain cultural mores that he could neither defend nor explain. Such attitudes are the basis for most irrational prejudice.

Alison Houston
Alison Houston
3 years ago

Instead of asking questions that achieve the answer you wish to achieve, use the old test, turn the question the other way round and wonder would anyone ask it, what would the answer be, how would I respond to the question and the answer.

Yesterday the only female, black bishop dismissed the racism report on the basis that there are not BAME people in all the top positions and walks of life in this country. But if she had asked should there be white people in all the top positions in the countries making up the continents of Africa or Asia or South America, would she have answered yes to her own question?

The truth is that the BAME community were appalled by colonialism. They do not want their countries of origin or of the origin of their antecedents full of white people in positions of power. They would not consider themselves racist in wanting to preserve the traditional cultures of black African tribes or Asian groups of different sects and castes. They would be appalled if any English group started demanding that there should be a top job in these lands fr any Tom, Richard or Harry from England who fancied one.

So the question is not about institutional racism in England or racism in England it is about ‘racist’ instincts in the world and the desire to preserve culture and traditions of the historic, native people in their countries of origin and the fear that globalisation and immigration cause in settled people whose antecedents have dwelt and settled and cultivated a land, in a particular way, for centuries.

Richard Lyon
Richard Lyon
3 years ago
Reply to  Alison Houston

Quite. Also, substitute. e.g. “The problem with Jews/Blacks/Homosexuals/Men/Whites”.
Bigotry is bigotry.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Lyon

Bigotry is :
An obstinate or unreasonable attachment to a belief, opinion, or faction; in particular, prejudice against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular group.

Does AH’s comment justify your castigation? Or are you just making a generalisation?

David Brown
David Brown
3 years ago

Did you not see the “Quite.”? RL was agreeing with AH, not critiquing her.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
3 years ago
Reply to  Alison Houston

Agreed,but. Appalled by colonialism? Fuelled by racism and nationalism, rather. Wow, now we can get rid of any white, yellow or brown ethnic minorities and go back to massacring nearby tribes.

Vikram Sharma
Vikram Sharma
3 years ago

The culture war has been won resoundingly. The moment institutions like universities and BBC, multinationals and even public sector agencies bend to the will of a particular ideology, and ordinary people can be criminalised for objecting, then the war has been won. I would call it an overwhelming strategic victory for the left.
voltaire said: if you want to know who rules over you, observe who you are not allowed to criticise.
as to the linguistic sophistry suggested by the author, complex questions do not have either-or yes-no answers. And some questions are too loaded. Perhaps someone should send a survey to the author’s house on the prevalence of gender-based violence in UK and ask him a yes or no question: have you stopped beating your wife?

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

Congratulations on trying to confuse the issue even more. Whilst I agree that sometimes complex questions may not have a simple yes-no answer often they do and its the question that is trying to either confuse or elicit a specific response. People generally seem (in my experience) to be better at making things complex than teasing out the simplicity.

J Bryant
J Bryant
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

The culture war has been won resoundingly. The moment institutions like universities and BBC, multinationals and even public sector agencies bend to the will of a particular ideology, and ordinary people can be criminalised for objecting, then the war has been won. I would call it an overwhelming strategic victory for the left.
I strongly suspect you’re correct. That’s why I’d like to see more articles on UnHerd about how to respond to our current situation, and fewer articles describing the phenomenon of culture wars. We need solutions.
For example, how do we respond to the state of our universities which are largely controlled by the progressive left? Are the universities now a lost cause (in which case, do we somehow try to strip them down and start over), or are there effective ways to reclaim them?
I have the uneasy feeling that the progressive agenda is now here to stay and all that’s left to discuss is how bad will things get.

Vikram Sharma
Vikram Sharma
3 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I entirely agree with you that we need solutions. The worry is that unless reasonable people take reasonable steps to balance the debate, paying attention to public opinion rather than the twitter dements, events may spiral out of control.
Universities are in a bad way. Many in senior positions (observe the recent appointment at Homerton College) at Oxbridge and Russell Group are shamelessly partisan, politically and intellectually.
BBC and Guardian have a Common Purpose. We have to start there, at the BBC to begin with. With an 80 seat majority, this government can afford to risk the wrath of the progressives. The Tories need to loudly, repeatedly and at every juncture reclaim the values of enlightenment and universalism against this poison of tribal identify politics and victimhood.
In the sacred privacy of the ballot box, the majority tells us what they think. The right needs to remember that, rediscover its intellectual nerve and fight back. The rot didn’t happen overnight, it will not improve overnight.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago

“Do ethnic minorities have worse outcomes than white people?” (Yes.)

Ethnicity is not a matter of colour, aka ‘race’. Ethnic minorities in the United Kingdom are: the Scottish, the Welsh, Cornish, Irish, Polish, Indian, Chinese, Russian, French, Danish, Filipino, etc. etc. people, just to name a few of the many. Do ALL of them have worse outcome? Of course not.
Yes, language is important. And so it’s paramount that we stick to using clear exacting language when discussing matters. If you mean “black / muslim individuals with migration background” then say so, and don’t use the “ethnic minorities” term because the meaning is vastly different. Do for example minority-ethnic Chinese people have worse outcomes than white people in the UK (in Europe, in North America)? They don’t. Which blows the whole “white supremacism” bogeyman right outta water, and points in the direction of the collective ineptitude of those minorities who consistently fail to achieve better outcomes than the rest.

Andrea X
Andrea X
3 years ago

In all honesty, I never understood what “ethnic minority” outwith colour means. Likewise, I never truly understood the ethnicity questionnaires that so often you are asked to fill.
Take me as an example: I live in Scotland, but wasn’t born here. My kids have. Assuming I tick “white other” on the questionnaire, what are my kids supposed to tick? “White other” too? But they are indistinguishable from the natives. “White Scottish”? So you are simply asking where you were born.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Good question. In my birth country (Hungary, which is one of the most ethnically diverse nations in Europe – well over 20 ethnic minorities), “ethnic minorities” are those with a distinct own language different from the country’s main language. (And to an extent even those who are descendant of those, even though they don’t speak their language any more.) Various germanic, slavic, Romany, etc. etc. groups – also new additions like the Chinese.
So, presuming you are an English living in Scotland, i’d say you are an ethnic minority in a Scottish context? And your kids too. In a UK context though it gets a tad convoluted…

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago

[redacted]

Last edited 3 years ago by Johannes Kreisler
Alison Houston
Alison Houston
3 years ago

My comment is awaiting approval, I used the famous phrase which includes the names Tom and Harry and in the middle the shortened version of the name Richard. I spelled it in the usual way, with a capital letter, forgetting one is not even allowed to use it in its proper context. But when I pressed the button to post my comment it appeared in the text with a small d and two asterisks in the middle. The algorithm it seems has its own ideas about the proper use of language.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Alison Houston

You terrible blasphemer!
To use the ‘D’ word, whatever next?

Incidentally it seems impossible to upvote you.

Last edited 3 years ago by Charles Stanhope
Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago

“…Incidentally it seems impossible to upvote you…”

Shouldn’t you prefix that with:
“Houston, we have a problem” ?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Off course! Well spotted!

Saul D
Saul D
3 years ago

Racism means different things in different countries, but increasingly we are using the American version, which frequently is not so directly relevant or easily applicable outside the US.
Historical Black Americans in the US are non-immigrants, and they have suffered long-standing injustice due to segregation and abuse from American institutions and systems of law. They form a unified group because of their historical roots. But they are not an immigrant community and shouldn’t be confused with immigration. Those groups that are immigrants have generally faired better than the historical Black Americans in the ‘melting pot’ of American society.
In Europe, race is a much more confused picture. ‘Black’ is a poor categorisation to use as it attempts to straddle many different peoples and ethnicities from across the former European colonies. Nigerians, Kenyans, South Africans, West Indians are diverse and different ethnicities to historical Black American. Similarly Asian communities from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh bring great diversity and differences in background and outlook. There is no historic cohesiveness in these groups other than their immigrant status. By contrast, in Europe long-standing issues about identity have always been about different ‘white’ groups in competition with each other – English versus the Scots, or the French vs the Germans. Black/White characterisation is far too simplistic.
As a result the application of American views of race always fit badly in a European context. The American view is like a children’s colouring book, compared to the complexity of ethnicity in Europe. For instance, the US equates slavery with white overlords, where in Europe the class system gives a much more insightful analysis. Miners and shoemakers didn’t own slaves, but had to put their own children to work in the nascent factories of the industrial revolution. Class supremacy, not race supremacy, dominates – as plays out in the books of Jane Austin and ‘marrying up’. Slavery was something done in foreign lands, by foreigners and heathens, or by the wealthy and speculators for the upper classes ‘over there’. It wasn’t permitted in England. And as ideas about class and the ‘divine right of kings’ were overturned and equality increased, it was the ‘woke’ British that targeted slavery for abolition – not allowed in Britain, not allowed in the British Empire – although yet more complex and more challenging than this one line, or cartoon narratives would allow.

Natalija Svobodné
Natalija Svobodné
3 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

Slavery wasn’t removed in England until very late in its history (until then you had indentured slaves belonging to lords, serfs, colliers etc) But yes, the British came to the conclusion ahead of all other nations that slavery was wrong.
 “British that targeted slavery for abolition –” They also stopped it outside of their empire through blockades and political pressure with the help of other western nations.
ï»ż
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_abolition_of_slavery_and_serfdom
Well worth a look – “The real history of slavery” A non Eurocentric view – but viewed as a worldwide phenomena.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWrfjUzYvPo

Last edited 3 years ago by Natalija Svobodné
William Harvey
William Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

I whole heartedly agree with your identification of the root cause of the “racism” problem as being the use of the US definition and context. That context doesn’t apply elsewhere because the historical contexts are completely different.

It seems to me that America has yet to settle the outcome of its defining moment…the Civil War. The undercurrents of that conflict are still running through American culture. The war that ended slavery in the USA did not end discrimination in the slave states.
America is still fighting that war and it looks to me as if its not likely to end any time soon.
I think the reason for that is because there is now a “racism” industry and those folks make a good living from dividing people by “race”.

Even having a president and supreme court justice of African descent hasn’t stopped the growth of the “racism” industry. America will never fix its “race” problem. There is too much money to be made from it.

In fact its such a good business that they are now trying their hardest to export it to other countries. Itll be interesting to see how that goes when they try to export it into China

Kat L
Kat L
2 years ago
Reply to  William Harvey

‘The war that ended slavery in the USA did not end discrimination in the slave states.’ i’m really baffled by this sentence. they are not being discriminated against; in fact the reverse is happening and has been so for at least 30 years. i agree with your point that the undercurrents are still there, but imo it highlights the fact that the war wasn’t fought on the ground over slavery but the south trying to leave the union. the politicians may have used leaving as a subterfuge to stop slave holding states from expanding, but your average union soldier would not have killed or risked being killed by other anglos to free slaves. a lot of them deserted after the proclamation and there was rioting and carnage in new york over conscription. it’s a complicated mix which slavery is a part of but by no means the only issue. it’s a great observation about the money making aspect and i have to sadly agree that it probably won’t ever be fixed, even if reparations were paid.

Andrea X
Andrea X
3 years ago

You say,
“Do ethnic minorities have worse outcomes than white people?” (Yes.) ”
But isn’t this the problem? Having one big blob of ethnic minorities, while different ethnicity have different outcomes.
Have I misread something?

Last edited 3 years ago by Andrea X
Mark Preston
Mark Preston
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

“Do ethnic minorities have worse outcomes than white people?” (Yes.) ”” Last I head those of a Chinese origin were doing quite well which makes the claim a load of hogwash Some minority groups do poorly and that could be down to low IQ but we’ll never go there will we?

Steve Dean
Steve Dean
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Preston

I think you just helped the author make his point…

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Preston

Recommended bed time reading should include this work by the late late Professor Hans Eysenck :

Eysenck, H. (1971). Race, Intelligence and Education. (London: Maurice Temple Smith)

William Harvey
William Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Preston

I will go there

Individuals may have low IQ but you cannot apply that same logic to some illusory grouping of humans based on an inherited characteristic, such as eye colour or type of hair.

If you want to suggest that some immutable inherited characteristics reduces measurable intelligence, then you need to have a valid universal metric to measure against. You also need to determine how much of the characteristic is required to reduce intelligence. You have to show CAUSATION not just CORRELATION.

For example, say we propose having blonde hair makes you less intelligent. How “blonde” do you need to be for it to have an influence on IQ. Would the same proposition on hair colour and intelligence also mean that people with really dark hair are more intelligent. ?

Exchange any immutable inherited characteristic for hair colour and you end up down the same blind alley. This is because IQ is not determined by hair, skin or eye colour…no more than it is by size of feet or anything else.

Last edited 3 years ago by William Harvey
Jamie Farrell
Jamie Farrell
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Andrea. I think that your reply, and that of many others in this thread which fixate on Tom’s suggested question “do ethnic minorities have worse outcomes than white people? (Yes)”, is accurate but also misses Tom’s core point.

I would say you are right to say that Tom’s proposed question is still problematic for precisely the reason you state.

But I think Tom would heartily agree. The point I think he is trying to make is that it’s a better question than the even fuzzier, opaque, vague ones being asked currently in society.

Hence, it moves the debate clearly in the right direction (if your/our goal is to actually pinpoint the real issue).

The power of posing a slightly more refined question is clear in this thread in that it makes it easy to critique and improve upon without too much effort.

It also has a secondary benefit in that it also serves to smoke out those on the non woke side of the argument who may actually be true racists as they won’t take well either to the question becoming more refined. For clarity I am not suggesting you fall into this bracket Andrea.

So, I think Tom is making a strong point in his article, the point of which is that we should applaud and build upon any move in the direction of truth rather than fixate on its imperfection.

Andrea X
Andrea X
3 years ago
Reply to  Jamie Farrell

Thank you, Jamie.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Jamie Farrell

… and this is the essential reason that the term BAME should be banished from the public sphere – and no “journalist” or commentator continuing to use the term should get their content aired.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Barton
Andrea X
Andrea X
3 years ago
Reply to  Jamie Farrell

I have reread the article and I see what you mean. Still the ending is jarring, isn’t it.
What I don’t get at all is the differentiation on cancel culture. I cannot really see what his point is there.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago
Reply to  Jamie Farrell

It’s not the question that’s the problem, it’s Tom’s answer.

John Sansome
John Sansome
3 years ago

The word ‘racist’ has been found to be a potent weapon in the arsenal of the aggressive and intolerant left. When fired, it has been found to reduce its target to meek compliance or touchy defensiveness. Regardless of the fact that Britain is, by any measure, low in the rankings of countries which discriminate, either institutionally or by individuals, on the basis of race, the British public is being fed a subtle propaganda – the idea that they are unwitting participants in the division of society and need to be re-educated. This re-education is relentlessly pursued through the educational and broadcasting institutions, as well as in all forms of advertising, where overrepresentation of minorities is now a given. Surely it is the obsession with identity and labelling which is the real cause of division, creating a society where the permanently offended can relish their new power and the well-intentioned majority are reduced to guilt and confusion, afraid to speak for fear that a word or phrase from the pre-woke era might pass their lips and betray them.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago

I wish Tom good luck with his linguistic technique and it might result in a few conversations. But the abuse of language is deliberate; a rhetorical device intended to prevent discussion so the technique’s effectiveness is likely to be limited. We are in desperate need of a new political lexicon:
“The biggest problem of our age is the lack of a suitable political lexicon.” … “There are no perfect solutions to social problems. But there are better solutions than those on offer currently. Before they can be considered though, a suitable political lexicon for our age is needed, without which, it isn’t even possible to discuss the problems. ”
https://www.physicaleconomics.org/soft-totalitarianism

Last edited 3 years ago by Jonathan Ellman
Alison Houston
Alison Houston
3 years ago

“One way is to talk without using these highly charged, badly defined terms. “Taboo your words”: rather than ask “Is Britain a racist country?”, ask “Do ethnic minorities have worse outcomes than white people?” (Yes.) Or “Are black people less likely to be hired than equivalently qualified white people?” (Yes.)”

Rather than asking questions that achieve the answer you wish to achieve, use the old test, turn the question the other way round and wonder would anyone ask it, what would the answer be, how would I respond to the question and the answer.

Yesterday the only female, black bishop dismissed the racism report on the basis that there are not BAME people in all the top positions and walks of life in this country. But if she had asked should there be white people in all the top positions in the countries making up the continents of Africa or Asia or South America, would she have answered yes to her own question?

The truth is that the BAME community were appalled by colonialism. They do not want their countries of origin or of the origin of their antecedents full of white people in positions of power. They would not consider themselves racist in wanting to preserve the traditional cultures of black African tribes or Asian groups of different sects and castes. They would be appalled if any English group started demanding that there should be a top job in these lands fr any Tom, Richard or Harry from England who fancied one.

So the question is not about institutional racism in England or racism in England it is about ‘racist’ instincts in the world and the desire to preserve culture and traditions of the historic, native people in their countries of origin and the fear that globalisation and immigration cause in settled people whose antecedents have dwelt and settled and cultivated a land, in a particular way, for centuries.

Last edited 3 years ago by Alison Houston
Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Alison Houston

In your last two paragraphs you seem to be equating colonialism with immigration or globalisation. I think that illustrates the point Tom is making. Unless you define what you mean by those terms it is impossible to understand your point. By immigration do you mean mass immigration (if so how do you define mass), people who speak different languages from the majority, any immigration at all, immigration from other continents, immigration by people of different religions from the settled people with antecedents who have dwelt, settled and cultivated a particular place for centuries (incidentally, how many centuries?)

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

I think it is quite clear by the context that by “¡mm¡grat¡on” Al¡son meant “mass ¡mm¡gration from su.bsah.ar.an Afr¡ca + MENA”, which is an unmitigated d¡saster for any country afflicted by it. ‘Global¡sat¡on” is the driving force behind it. Unlike colon¡sation – which was both bad & good to varying extents -, th¡rd world mass ¡mm¡gration and global¡sation are emphatically bad. So i wouldn’t be equating them with colon¡sation – nor do i think Al¡son Houston did.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago

Isn’t it funny how the word “su.bsah.ar.an” is on the censored list, along with b-u-t-t, b-l-o-o-d-y, and a good many more perfectly innocuous everyday words. How is one supposed to describe the incident when one cuts one’s finger while trying to fix the rainwater-collecting vessel in the garden?

K X
K X
3 years ago

I couldn’t recommend the work of James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose highly enough in the context of getting to grips with the issues this article raises.
In Cynical Theories, they trace the roots of ‘wokeness’ to 1960s postmodernists such as Derrida and Lyotard, who were pre-occupied with language and how it can be manipulated. Everyone involved in this discussion would benefit from reading it.

William Gladstone
William Gladstone
3 years ago

So basically you want objective measurable definitions that everybody understood and helped to you know make effective policy and resolve issues so in general people were happier, like we used to have. Instead what you have now as you say is subjective definitions e.g. hate crimes or whatever that easy allow you to intimidate people if you don’t like what they say or do or whatever. These are the new left wing norms as you put it.
This

“Do ethnic minorities have worse outcomes than white people?” (Yes.) Or “Are black people less likely to be hired than equivalently qualified white people?” (Yes.)

By the way does not help to make your case. For example I believe the report said people of Indian Heritage or Chinese heritage are paid more than “white” people on average. White working class boys do worst in getting higher education and therefore clearly saying yes to are outcomes better? is just selective nonsense and almost as bad as the totally subjective lived experience argument.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago

Do ethnic minorities have worse outcomes than white people?” (Yes.) Or “Are black people less likely to be hired than equivalently qualified white people?” (Yes.)
It’s a good start, though. You would then need to dig deeper into what is meant by outcomes or ethnic minorities or which ethnic minorities. I think as a methodology it helps move away from the subjective definitions (which are used as much by right/conservative commentators as by left/liberal ones) and into a realm where debate can reasonably take place without the intimidation you mention being felt or dealt out.

Andrew Best
Andrew Best
3 years ago

How can you agree on the meaning of words with the left who hate you?
Poor
Working class
English
White
Middle aged
straight
Voted leave
At what point will I come to any agreement with the opposite side when in their hearts they despise me, my country and my culture?

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
3 years ago

The point of cancel culture is to not have a debate, which they would lose. It’s not just the people who lose their jobs, or suffer business losses, who suffer. Many choose to remain quiet and avoid debate altogether for fear of the consequences.Or when called out, they issue a groveling apology then resign anyway. That is how cancel culture wins.
Many on the right are beginning to recognize that they can’t win this way. The only way to defeat cancel culture is by fighting back. Trump calling out fake news, Piers Morgan refusing to apologize, Gina Carano making her own films with The Daily Caller. Georgia refusing to back down on their election integrity law. We have the arguments to win the debate, but first we have to ensure there is a debate.

Last edited 3 years ago by Bryan Dale
John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

I wonder if you’d mind explaining how a law against allowing people in hours-long lineups to vote, because there are too few polli g places, mostly in black districts, maintains the integrity of voting laws?

steve eaton
steve eaton
3 years ago
Reply to  John Jones

Start by reading the law. You have no idea of what you are talking about. Just one example based on your comment. The Georgia law actually mandates that on election day polling places are to be open from 7am to 7pm and that anyone who is in line at 7pm must be allowed to vote.
The part the Marxists find most objectionable is that the law puts in place a requirement that some proof of identity is needed to vote. The point of which is to make it more difficult to cheat, which of course threatens their ability to win elections.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago

Super piece, murky waters, with direct hooks into the twisting of language (deliberate or unintentional) and less obvious but pervasive like the air you breathe, individual choice. Why do I say individual choice? To illustrate with the vaccine refuseniks, because the fashion of the day is to claim that individuals who don’t want to take vaccines and also simultaneously belong to groups who have been more affected by the pandemic are in fact nothing to do with the individual choices of the people affected but that their choices are the result of systemic oppression. And both the progressive left and the conspiracy right are doing this.Worldwide facts of other effects in other places are simply bypassed – if the facts don’t fit, ignore them.

A whole bunch of older books explore the link – Nineteen Eighty-Four, A Clockwork Orange and The Trial, come instantly to mind. It’s telling that I cannot off-hand think of any *new books* that explore the same space with anywhere near the same subtlety and depth, which could mean one of several things: authors have all simultaneously lost interest in exploring this space because after all truths have now been revealed so what more could there be to say? Or authors are deliberately skirting the topics because they don’t want to become victims of the Rage Machines, or some massive ‘elites vs the rest’ conspiracy is underway and ‘they’ have ‘won’ control over language (QAnon take a bow), or that not fully understood aggregate effects of the widespread use of algorithmic technologies are taking place and the ‘culture wars’ are a mere side effect of larger currents underway, or that some parties who understand perfectly what is happening are deliberately using technologies to push their agendas to gain political and racial control over people (The Guardian and BLM please take a bow).

One thing I can see coming: the culture wars thing is next heading for a bunch of vicious (and meaningless) showdowns over faux genetics, while actual geneticists look on in horror and wonder at how the complexities of their field are being chewed up and spat out by a whole bunch of people who wouldn’t know Adenine from their Arse. I suspect most will keep well away and any who are stupid enough to engage with the mob will get torn apart limb from limb.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

If I say that cancel culture is real, that tells you that I’m probably on one side of some big debate or other; if I say it’s not, that tells you I’m probably on the other. 
This is demonstrably false. There have been plenty of people on the left who’ve decried cancel culture, and it’s not secret that this originates on the left. If you say it’s real, all that it tells me is that you are aware of the obvious. If you say it’s not, then I can ignore while also keeping an eye on you since your behavior hints at instability.

David Waring
David Waring
3 years ago

Just love the fact I found this piece under an article about European women being raped by Muslims.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

It’s a forever war; until we learn to say what we actually mean, there is no way out. 
The author sees a bug; the wokerati see a feature.

K X
K X
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Precisely

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago

Most modern debates about wokeness were never meant to be resolved, because the proponents of politically correct views are not interested in resolving them. These debates are really rhetorical weapons to satisfy the emotional needs of the woke as part of their virtue signaling.Therefore, resolving the issue would end the emotional catharsis that is the unconscious motivation for performative wokeness. The outrage machine must be constantly stoked.

Richard Lyon
Richard Lyon
3 years ago

While this essay evaluates the way language is corrupted to advance racist identity political objectives, a revealing (and amusingly absurd) example comes to us via the corruption of language due to feminist activism. In all major dictionaries, the definion and examples of the use of the word “sexism” – stereotyping on the basis of gender – is now sexist. e.g. Oxford/Apple (my emphasis):

sexism(noun): Prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex. ‘sexism in language is an offensive reminder of the way culture sees women

For an excellent essay on how the woke advance their cause by corrupting the meaning of our language, do read Pieper, J. (1970) Abuse of language, abuse of power.

Last edited 3 years ago by Richard Lyon
Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Lyon

Discrimination against women – like much of what the trans community wants?

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
“Do ethnic minorities have worse outcomes than white people?” (Yes.) Or “Are black people less likely to be hired than equivalently qualified white people?” (Yes.) 

I presume the “(Yes)” is your answer to the question. If so it appears that you have discounted the report otherwise the answer would be (Some).

Natalija Svobodné
Natalija Svobodné
3 years ago

Human rights have been perverted and weaponised. Anti-racism teaches the belief that “The white race is bad/immoral, black race is good/moral” (*51:18 clip attached) A Penn State university lecture.
Jonathan Haidt: The Three Terrible Ideas Weakening Gen Z and Damaging Universities and Democracies https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5IGyHNvr7E
On further inspection group identities prove to be anything but human rights based.
Dehumanize: where people are not seen as individuals but a members of groups. assigning characteristics merely by their appearance, not their individual character.
Racism – to denigrate another person because of their race.
Apartheid: a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race.
The understanding that unpleasant feelings are part of the human experience, that suffering is universal. We are connected not only by the joys in our lives, but in our struggles, heartaches, and fears. Those commonalities bind us all.
A society ought to attempt to promote individuality as it is a prerequisite for creativity and diversity! A social outlook that emphasises the moral worth of the individual, through their own actions. To value independence and self-reliance the right of the individual to freedom and self-realisation! To possess individual characteristics as opposed to traditional or popular mass opinions, thought and behaviours.
Anti-racism is not the way to equality.

Last edited 3 years ago by Natalija Svobodné
C S
C S
3 years ago

The whole unequal outcomes as racist is particularly troubling. Say one group has a higher rate of committing murder, and tends toward in-group murder. Keeping murder illegal is therefore racist, as that group will be overrepresented by those arrested and incarcerated for murder. But legalizing murder would likewise be racist, because that same group would be even more overrepresented among murder victims. Same with child abuse. If a group is overrepresented among people who abuse their children, then laws against child abuse are racist. Legalizing child abuse is equally racist against the same group. And if, child abuse rates actually being the same across groups, but racist social workers only target certain parents with child removal, then the children of the favored racial group of parents are more likely to be abused (as their parents act with impunity). Using disparity as evidence of racism will lead to catch-22s all over the place.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
3 years ago

The simple fact of the matter is there are about 7.8 Billion people on this planet at the moment and they are all different – even identical twins have slight differences. Expecting to achieve equal outcomes from different people is a nonsense. Even equal opportunity is a nonsense. Should I, as a relatively unfit middle aged man, who was never particularly coordinated, have the same opportunity to improve my football skills as a dedicated teenager with real potential talent? No that would be a nonsense.
Racism should be defined as treating people differently on the basis of the colour of their skin. Ie something that is being encouraged by COVID risk assessments where BAME score more risk points and are then restricted in how they can be employed. All the white privilege nonsense is also racist.
To adjust a quote from Martin Luther King, people should be judged on the content of their character not on the colour of their skin.
Whilst there are obvious biological differences between the sexes, which do need to be taken into account in how a leader gets the best out of them, colour of skin is totally irrelevant. It tells you nothing about the person inside the skin. It is like saying a red, black and white car have a race, which one will win? What matters in that case is what is under the bonnet and the skill and experience of the person behind the wheel. We need to stop trying to categorise people by irrelevant factors, particularly in the work place – we should be entirely free to decide with whom we want to socialise, and start seeing people as the individuals they are with their own individual strengths and weaknesses so they can contribute constructively to the team’s task at hand. Diversity of ideas and skills is what makes a winning team. Which rugby team would win a match between a good English premiership team or a team made up from the best 22 prop forwards in the world?

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
3 years ago

The Culture War is a dialectic between moral relativism and moral universalism.

If only moral relativism is to apply, then cultural-socio-economic disparities need to be expected.

If only moral universalism is to apply, then cultural-socio-economic disparities need to be reduced.

Unfortunately, the Woke Left wants moral relativist treatment, especially culturally, but with moral universalist outcomes, especially socio-economic and in such a way that the democratic minority are given preferential treatment for the disadvantages created by cultural disparities. Any resistance to this dynamic by the democratic majority is falsely called institutional racism.

It is false because it is based on an unlevel cultural playing field whereby self segregating cultural communities expect to be rewarded equally for self segregating, usually on the basis of institutionally bigoted/racist attitudes.

It is this unequal dynamic that is at the heart of Woke Culture and one which seeks preferential treatment even if cultural attitudes create low achievement.

This is how the Woke Left have corrupted multiculturalism and why as a national policy, it no longer works unless the goal is a nation of self segregating cultural communities that thrive on hierarchies of worth between one another but each demand equal outcomes.

In this respect, different definitions simply reflect a relativist or an universalist perspective depending on whether the subject is about treatment or outcome.

As such, the dialectic of the culture war will only end if there is a synthesis. That is, a democratic consensus that fuses different aspects of moral relativism and moral universalism in relation to treatment and outcome.

This means ‘low achieving’ self segregating cultural communities, whether based on religion, ethnicity, race, colour, sex, gender or beliefs need to culturally adapt and integrate with the culture of the democratic majority or accept that their self chosen cultural-socio-economic disparity leads to different outcomes simply because they choose to be culturally different.

This choice between integration or fragmentation between minority cultural communities (which includes Woke cultural communities) and the majority cultural community will also include definitions of concepts.

….

Next topic, majoritarianism

Stephen Burrows
Stephen Burrows
3 years ago

Unfortunately, unless you have a theory like ‘Britain is a racist country’ it’s hard to see how you go about deciding what questions to ask. For instance
“Are Muslims underrepresented in the police?”
“Are women underrepresented in STEM?”
“Are the Plymouth Brethren underrepresented in the military?”
Which of these we should investigate, and which we should solve, relies on assumptions about how society operates to know whether they are the result of discrimination by authorities that we need to change, discrimination by the individuals that we would like to change, or discrimination by the individuals that we are happy to live with.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
3 years ago

If the representation were to be purely numerical, then all BAME minorities bar Chinese would be seen to be grossly overrepresented, especially in the media. It has always puzzled me that there was careful over representation of black ethnics in the BBC but not south Asians, East Asians, or Middle Easterns.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago

“It’s as though we’ve decided to argue at length over whether, say, tables are real — only for one participant in the debate to define a “table” as “a glowing green icosahedron, 30 metres on each side, levitating mysteriously above the Bay of Biscay”, and then explain why there is “zero evidence” tables exist.”
Excellent analogy.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
3 years ago

My MO is, as much as is possible, glean a probable meaning of a term or phrase from the context in which it appears. Also, to colour my observation as an interpretation based on that. For instance, the term racism invariably in my experience appears with other terms such as equity and inclusion that are also being promoted or alluded to. This gives me a rough and ready heuristic to treat the use of the term racism and its meaning as having been influenced by a particular ideology and then to lay out what is really meant by it.

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
3 years ago

Imagine a sporting event that involves people heading to a tape in the distance. When all competitors are through the tape the event is over. It’s a metaphor. We aim to reach the endpoint in which there are no longer “disproportionate negative outcomes for several ethnic minorities,” But the people with the tape keep moving further away, adding more steps to be taken. The event will never finish.

Cave Artist
Cave Artist
3 years ago

Racism used to be short form for racial discrimination. It was a legal definition. If you discriminated against someone for employment purposes on the basis of race, it was illegal. It then morphed to be short form for racial prejudice. To pre judge someone on the the basis of race or even nationality also became in some circumstances illegal. Then it became illegal to think this way, if the other person thought you were thinking it, it became a ‘hate crime’. The answer to the question about who will win the culture wars is that the majority will. Would you have it some other way?

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Cave Artist

But the majority won’t win the culture wars. The winners are those who adopt the “right” attitudes to manipulate the current milieu for their own ends. Those people are typically white, rich, well-educated members of the meritocratic elite.

Cave Artist
Cave Artist
3 years ago
Reply to  John Jones

I think they will. That’s why the conservatives won the last election.

alistairgorthy
alistairgorthy
3 years ago

Excellent piece, Tom, with a nuance and subtlety that appears to evade some in this thread; the ones already committed to the annihilation of what they perceive to be their ideological opposites.

Last edited 3 years ago by alistairgorthy
Corrie Mooney
Corrie Mooney
3 years ago

“Do ethnic minorities have worse outcomes than white people?” 
A: Some do, some don’t.