X Close

Liberalism didn’t protect Salman Rushdie He was a victim of its mutation into identity politics

'If Rushdie hasn’t quite lived up to the hopes invested in him, his liberal critics have even less to recommend them.' (Cindy Ord/Getty Images for PEN America)

'If Rushdie hasn’t quite lived up to the hopes invested in him, his liberal critics have even less to recommend them.' (Cindy Ord/Getty Images for PEN America)


April 22, 2024   8 mins

Why did he do it? Hadi Matar, 24 — dim, lugubrious, incel-y — had by his own admission “read, like, two pages” of The Satanic Verses. Judging by his slacker patter, one wonders whether he fully understood them. Yet there he was, “a squat missile” — as Rushdie describes him in Knife, his new memoir — charging at the elderly novelist like a crazed villain in a crude slasher flick. It was the last thing Rushdie saw through his right eye before Matar stabbed him — not once, not twice, but 15 times.

“Was it performance art?” Rushdie wondered. Or a case of magical-realist memory? It had been, in August 2022, 33 years since Ayatollah Khomeini’s call to kill Rushdie, well beyond the bounds of Matar’s lifetime. Or a hair-raising exercise in irony? Rushdie was at the Chautauqua Institution, in upstate New York, to talk about “writer safety”. Matar’s own mutterings suggest nothing quite so sophisticated. The picture that emerges from his interview with New York Post is that of a bumbling Four Lions type completely out of his depth. What of his politics? “I respect the Ayatollah. I think he’s a great person.” And Rushdie? “I don’t think he’s a very good person.” Why? “He’s someone who attacked Islam. He attacked their beliefs, the belief systems.” Their beliefs? It doesn’t sound like Matar cared much for them himself.

Matar evidently isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer (Rushdie missed a trick there). I suppose he would react to a subordinate clause in much the same way as a deer would to headlights. Schooled in sunny California before settling in suburban New Jersey, Matar’s locutions are to me yet another reminder of how the American education system is failing its citizens. He grew up in a comfortable $700,000, four-bed home with his twin sisters and mother, and saw no reason to earn a living until a few months before the botched assassination, when he took up a gig at Marshalls, America’s version of Poundland. For most of his late teens and early 20s, Matar led an inverted life, “sleeping during the day”, and, at night, “playing video games, watching Netflix, stuff like that”. The Italians would have called him a bamboccione, the quintessential man-child, eking out a lumpen existence in his mum’s basement.

He was, in short, hardly an unreconstructed, ideologically driven Islamist. He had no contact with the Revolutionary Guard. Nor was he of Iranian heritage. His parents were in fact from Yaroun in southern Lebanon — Hezbollah heartland. His mother, who has since disowned her son, wanted nothing to do with that world, to which his father returned after their divorce. In 2018, the young Matar visited him in Yaroun, where he developed a heightened awareness of his cerebral shortcomings. Indeed, he chafed at this on his return. “He was angry that I did not introduce him to Islam from a young age,” his mother would later say to the Daily Mail.

Still, the Koran and Hadiths were not for him. He instead sought identification with a couple of Hezbollah militant apparatchiks, two of whose names he fused to adopt the nom de guerre Hassan Mughniyeh, the alias under which he arrived at Chautauqua. In Knife, Rushdie recounts a doctor’s remark: “You’re lucky that the man who attacked you had no idea how to kill a man with a knife,” as clueless about murder as he was about Rushdie’s oeuvre or Islam. Clearly, his motivations were less theological and more political. Notice how he has nothing to say about the sharia or the actual beliefs of Muslims. Rushdie’s sin rather seems to be that he “attacked their beliefs”. This is not the language of Islamists, but rather the impeccably liberal — if you like “Western,” even “woke” — language of minority rights and safe spaces, of hate speech and minoritarian victimhood.

Matar has given his grievance an adventitious, exotic colouring, but the truth is that his sense of wounded entitlement is of a piece with the general hostility to free speech we see around us in the West. There is, no doubt, something deeply illiberal about this declension of liberalism — with its stress on silencing those cruel children of the Enlightenment, with their unfeeling, universalising, secularising ways — but I suspect its votaries aren’t over-bothered by the contradiction. Contrary to what critics of wokery think, this isn’t a new development. As Faisal Devji has argued, much the same was true of the original controversy around The Satanic Verses. Rushdie’s critics, then as now, were not Islamist fundamentalists but woke — avant la lettre — Western Muslims. As Devji put it, their grievance turned more on “secular hurt than sin”.

Indeed, Rushdie’s book was burned in Bradford and Bolton and banned in Delhi long before it was noticed in the Muslim world. Khomeini was late to the party. Then again, his fatwa against Rushdie (properly speaking, a hukm since fatwas are juridical pronouncements made by religious authorities to clarify points of Islamic law, whereas hukms are ordered by government figures in a purely secular capacity) had more to do with his geopolitical wooing of Sunnis invested in the Prophet (the Shias by contrast revere Imam Ali more) in the wake of the First Gulf War than “Islamist” outrage. Meanwhile, British Muslims were using the thoroughly modern language of blasphemy — ironically a concept of Christian vintage. In the Muslim world, as Sadakat Kadri reminds us in Heaven on Earth: A Journey Through Sharia Law, “prosecutions for blasphemy” have been “extremely infrequent in the historical record”. Indeed, in their last 1,400 years of existence, Muslim societies have for the better part done without them. It is no accident that the first time blasphemy rears its head in the Muslim world is in Eighties Pakistan, under the Islamicising rule of General Zia-ul-Haq; Bradford, and Yorkshire more generally, boasts a significant Pakistani Muslim population.

The very first year of Zia’s rule — 1978 — saw the release of a hagiobiopic celebrating the carpenter Ilm-ud-Din, widely regarded as South Asia’s first modern blasphemy murderer. Hung aged 20 in 1929 for killing a Hindu publisher who brought out a book apparently blaspheming the Prophet, Ilm-ud-Din languished in relative posthumous obscurity until Zia passed a slate of blasphemy laws. These days, Ilm-ud-Din is revered as a martyr, as I recently learnt at his Lahore shrine. This was the milieu that bred resentment, not the real theological dispute at heart of Rushdie’s novel — the titular “Satanic verses”. Of doubtful historicity, in this narrative of early Islam, Muhammad proclaims a revelation demanding the adoption of three polytheistic deities, but later recants as having been of “Satanic suggestion”. But it was not this, nor the two other prosaic but blasphemous details in Rushdie’s novel (that the Prophet Abraham was called a bastard, and that his wives were depicted as prostitutes) that mobilised Yorkshire’s Muslims.

What they really wanted was to have their country’s blasphemy laws extended to Muslims as well; at the time, they only covered Anglican beliefs. It was, in short, a very British demand. The debate has since died down, if only because blasphemy laws were abolished in 2008 in England and Wales, and in 2024 Scotland, where they were replaced by a hate crime law that is, by all accounts, as ecumenical as it is Orwellian (the lineage is telling: hate crime laws are, properly speaking, the blasphemy laws of today). Across the pond, too, it is the new lexicon of hate speech that has animated the most sustained assaults on the First Amendment — some of it with good reason (in a world of swastikas and fasces, it would be churlish to be a free speech absolutist), some of it patently not. Hadi Matar only represents the more extreme, extrajudicial end of the hate speech spectrum. But distrust of the marketplace of ideas is a common enough reflex in our time.

The current obsession with hate speech and cancel culture owes to two developments. The first is the retrenchment of the authoritarian state, the second the retrenchment of the church in the West. Both effectively passed the business of policing opinions from the hands of Big Brother-style governments and God’s earthly mediators to crusading individuals. This is just as John Stuart Mill predicted would transpire in the age of democracy. “Society can and does execute its own mandates,” he wrote, by imposing conformity on the non-conforming — or the “eccentric” as Mill called them. And the cancelling of “eccentricity” isn’t a singularly Left-wing phenomenon. Take the cancelling of Palestinian novelists, artists, and musicians on both sides of the Atlantic since the war. Or, for that matter, the Kulturkampf playing out in American universities. One study has revealed that out of 1,080 attempts made to cancel academics since 2000, just over half — 52% — were made by the Left. The rest were the work of Right-wing snowflakes.

If the likes of Hadi Matar are more visible in this intolerant landscape, it is for two reasons. The first — the obvious — is the act itself. Knifing novelists is both unusual and unhinged, so newsworthy on at least two counts. The second is his chosen idiom. That he plumped for Islam tells us more about the poverty of 21st-century radicalism than anything else. Time was such energies were channelled into avowedly progressive causes. Think the Weather Underground, Brigate Rosse, the Baader Meinhof Group. These days, a young chap itching for the violent overthrow of the ruling dispensation isn’t exactly spoilt for choice. To some migrant youths, or more accurately some youths of migrant extraction, the attraction of Islam isn’t feasibly resisted. It helps that their communities are often the only pious holdouts in an increasingly godless world: West Africans and South Asians in Britain; Maghrebis in France. For French orientalist Olivier Roy, what we have witnessed since the end of the Cold War, then, is the “Islamicisation of radicalism”, and not, as it were, the radicalisation of Islam.

Rushdie, poor chap, has fallen victim to the zeitgeist. His efforts to fight so valiantly against it are, of course, nothing short of heroic. Now, more so than ever, he has become the metonym for free speech. Yet one wonders how justified this honour is. “Language was my knife,” he observes in Knife, “the knife I could use to fight back.” A great sentiment, surely, though in the paragraph that follows Rushdie lets on that he’s unsure of its efficacy: “but was that just a consoling lie I was telling myself?”

“Now, more so than ever, he has become the metonym for free speech.”

The “intimate encounter” with Matar prompts some tormented reflection: “Why didn’t I fight? Why didn’t I run? I just stood there like a piñata and let him smash me.” These are questions that ought to have dogged him much sooner. In 1990, far from being a martyr for free speech, Rushdie rushed to apologise to Khomeini, loudly affirming his Muslim faith. Later, he went as far to implore his publisher, Viking, to halt the publication of The Satanic Verses in paperback. It’s only because none of this cut any ice with the Iranians that Rushdie returned to free speech. It was left to others to take one for the team. The following year, Rushdie’s Japanese translator was stabbed to death in Tsukuba; his Italian translator, too, was stabbed in Milan, though he survived. Rushdie meanwhile got to make jokes about “fatwa sex” on Curb Your Enthusiasm, as he set about accruing a bevy of spouses, as if a male Zsa Zsa Gabor.

If Rushdie hasn’t quite lived up to the hopes invested in him, his liberal critics have even less to recommend them. Indeed, compared to them, Rushdie shines like a beacon of moral clarity. Liberal uneasiness with free speech is proverbial. The Royal Society of Literature, for instance, refused point blank to condemn Matar. Here’s Bernardine Evaristo, its president: “the society cannot take sides in writers’ controversies and issues, but must remain impartial”. Rushdie spelled it out with greater clarity: “Just wondering if the Royal Society of Literature is ‘impartial’ about attempted murder?”

It would be too simple to pin down liberal equivocation to a generational quirk — that the young are woke and spineless, whereas the old are unwoke and tough as nails. Not so. Just a cursory glance at the roll call of Rushdie’s detractors at the time of The Satanic Verses should disabuse us of such notions. John Le CarrĂ© in the Guardian: “I don’t think it is given to any of us to be impertinent to great religions with impunity.” Jimmy Carter in the New York Times: Rushdie’s book was “a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Hugh Trevor-Roper in the Independent: “I would not shed a tear if some British Muslims, deploring his manners, should waylay him in a dark street and seek to improve them. If that should cause him thereafter to control his pen, society would benefit, and literature would not suffer.” George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury: “we must be more tolerant of Muslim anger.”

None of them, it hardly needs saying, were Islamists. Yet they were, on balance, more sympathetic to Rushdie’s “Islamist” detractors than to Rushdie himself. Perhaps there is nothing “Islamist” about the Rushdie-hating Islamists in the first place. Perhaps this was never really a battle between Western liberalism and intolerant Islam, but rather between — as Rushdie puts it in Knife — “those with a sense of humour and those without one”. And the latter, it must be said, are a homegrown menace.


Pratinav Anil is the author of two bleak assessments of 20th-century Indian history. He teaches at St Edmund Hall, Oxford.

pratinavanil

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

31 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ex Nihilo
Ex Nihilo
1 month ago

Western radical secularists have vanquished Christianity but, as they dance contemptuously upon its grave, the swords of Islam draw nearer. Shall we all rally around the flag of moral relativism to meet the challenge?

“…not with a bang but a whimper.”

John Tyler
John Tyler
1 month ago
Reply to  Ex Nihilo

I suspect a lot of radical secularists will regret their foolishness just before their heads hit the ground.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
1 month ago
Reply to  John Tyler

Aa opposed to trying to falsely convince themselves that a “creator god’ exists? Do you realise how ridiculous that would be, based on your perceived threat?

You’re entitled to your beliefs, but don’t malign those who’ve grown out of them just because your version of god isn’t holding the line against a different version.

Basil Schmitt
Basil Schmitt
1 month ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Interesting comment, exposes the Liberal treatment of religion. “You’re entitled to your beliefs, but the adults in the room know better”.

At the end of the day, if we’re only schizophrenic chimpanzees in some rock, your stupid make-believe ideology of Liberalism or whatever is no more “mature” than any other, because what that terms denotes has no real meaning here.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 month ago
Reply to  Basil Schmitt

Indeed. I wonder how people who claim to cherish logic and reason above ‘superstition’ can seriously not see the contradiction of their own philosophy. Materialism is a philosophy that endorses the notion of humans as one insignificant species of animal that just so happened to evolve on this blue rock floating through space, but all that is based on the conclusions and collective wisdom of said insignificant animals. It’s self-referential, and I’ve never yet heard a materialist or a secularist or a humanist come up with a good explanation of why creatures that evolved to survive by hunting mammoths and gathering fruit could also tease truth from falsehood and uncover the secrets of the universe with unfailing accuracy. As things stand, the conclusions of materialist philosophy tend to call the competence and abilities of the philosophers themselves into serious question.
Religion at least attempts to resolve the difficulty by acknowledging and appealing to some higher power or level of truth and authority. Materialism doesn’t attempt to resolve it at all. It basically admits the monkeys are running the zoo and suggests the people looking for a zookeeper or some set of rules that wasn’t invented by a bunch of monkeys are just being silly. I’m apt to question why listening to whichever group of monkeys happens to be in charge this week is the more sensible approach? Seems like not having a higher authority to appeal to would be awfully convenient to whoever happens to be in charge at the moment. Seems like without some idea of God or a higher power, whoever is standing on top of the mountain gets to play God instead. Believing in God requires faith. Believing that I don’t want a bunch of rich and powerful people playing god requires nothing but plain old self-interest.

Ex Nihilo
Ex Nihilo
1 month ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

I am agnostic, not Christian, and have no “version of god”. Having undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral science degrees, I’ve spent my career in applied science with a consummate secular orientation. I hold many secular viewpoints but also recognize its limitations and failures and recognize the practical potential for spiritual concepts to ameliorate some of the ills of humanity. To me that equates with being more broad minded than sneering skeptics like you.

Secularism has culturally become a religion unto itself and has deliberately destroyed salutary cultural traditions without adequately replacing them with anything that answers the needs of the vast swaths of humanity. Having “outgrown” the Christianity that you mock it is now the responsibility of secularism as the dominant and prevailing cultural hegemon to respond to the real, not perceived, threat of radical Islam. But it won’t. Secular humanism answers nicely to the needs of the intelligent and privileged but not nearly as well for the poor and undereducated masses who seek an outlet for their fear, anger, and alienation. Consequently, I predict that it will fail to protect Western culture from the superstitious violence of radical Islam.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
1 month ago

I don’t get what is so hard about this. The answer is simple. What is referred to as “Liberalism” these days is nothing more than a malicious imposter wearing the skin of old philosophies and covered with the trappings and rituals of an old order. Care to guess who slowly killed it? Even many on these very pages and comment sections who whine about the demise of the Classical Liberalism they knew demonstrate how little they care about its ideals. Let’s take a short trip down memory lane to see how we got here.
First is how easily self-righteous people gave away their liberty. “Maybe if I give the government more and more control over my liberty we can eliminate all the negative consequences inherent in allowing people freedom… Oh, no! My government is now violating rights that I care about and I can’t do anything about it! How did this happen? I just wanted to create a perfect society where nothing bad ever happens!” It turns out trading liberty for security and getting neither does not work out that well in the long run.
Next, what about that whole moral and engaged citizenry thing? Yeah, well guess what? Somewhere along the line the idea of morality was replaced with “just do whatever you feel” and engaged citizens were replaced by power hungry and unaccountable technocrats who were supposed to have all the wisdom and answers. Oops! They actually turned out to be some of the stupidest and most irresponsible people on the planet. Things like religion, culture, and tradition as well as an independent press helped keep society grounded and cohesive. Those things are being actively and intentionally torn apart.
Democracy? Representative government? What are those? This modern “Liberalism” has made it clear how little your voice matters in things like war, immigration, or economic policy. Also, we have this little thing where modern Democracy fetishists think that voting over whether you should keep your rights is a great idea. This very idea is something that would cause all the old European Liberal philosophers to roll in their grave and the American ones to want to crawl out of theirs in search of a sword, rifle, and powder horn.
Finally, we get to equal protection under the law. You know that thing that got wrecked right about the time some idiots those that putting their fingers on the scales of justice in the name of “social justice”? Bad idea. It felt like we had almost addressed the biggest flaw in the history of Western Civilization and started living by “all men are created equal”. Then our societies decided to sprint in the opposite direction. Even worse, the law itself is now regarded as a weapon to be abused in the pursuit of power instead of a framework holding society together.
“Liberalism” has no desire to protect Salman Rushdie because the facsimile wearing its face does not care about Rushdie or even any of its supposed values. Even worse, many of those decrying the state of modern “Liberalism” do not care about Rushdie or any liberal values either.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Great comment. I find little to disagree with.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

A rather dark, nihilistic take. Unfortunately, I think you’re more correct than not.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

‘Things like religion, culture, and tradition as well as an independent press helped keep society grounded and cohesive.’

Ye olde Commie Terry Eagleton makes just this point in his mini-tome ‘The meaning of life’. How all these elements fed into and supported each other. But now all the links have been broken, the individual elements can no longer take the strain and we have this sense of collapse. People then chase all manner of nonsense as a substitute.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
1 month ago

Click on the link and you find that the study Mr Anil cites does not say that “the rest [of campus cancellations] were the work of Right-wing snowflakes”. The figure he quotes is that 52% of cancellations come from “the political right of the scholar” (my underline) which does not mean that they are Right-wing,

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
1 month ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

When Stalin cancelled Trotsky, which one was the right-winger?

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
24 days ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

Thank you – in fact, the report that the author relies upon fails to support his point in another way, too. Namely, the vast majority of the ‘right wing cancellations’ that are documented are in fact complaints by students and parents about left-wing professors discriminating against right-wing students in their classrooms. Right-wing professors discriminating against left-wing students is simply not a thing.
Pretending there is a moral equivalence on free speech issues between the left and the right betrays the author’s underlying sympathies. “A pox on both your houses” is the refuge these days of the lefty who is terrified to realize that his leftism has eaten itself, calling into doubt his years of allegiance.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
1 month ago

Royal Soc of Lit – ‘Here’s Bernardine Evaristo, its president: “the society cannot take sides in writers’ controversies and issues, but must remain impartial”. Rushdie spelled it out with greater clarity: “Just wondering if the Royal Society of Literature is ‘impartial’ about attempted murder?”

If that’s a genuine quote and not taken out of context, that’s truly shocking.

D Glover
D Glover
1 month ago

That’s just what I was thinking. If the Royal Society of Literature doesn’t want to take sides between a writer and his silencer then what’s its point?

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
1 month ago
Reply to  D Glover

Another DEI hire, I expect. If he’d been a ‘woman of colour’, we’d have all been expected to man the barricades.

But it’s just some male Muslim on Muslim shit (see Whoopi Goldberg ‘s Holocaust ‘white on white shit’ comment) so it’s not really my prob (also it’s cultural appropriation).

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago

Par for the course for Evaristo, the Guardianista’s Guardianista.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

It is a real quote from the Royal Society of Literature’s leader; however the reason she isn’t interested in defending Rushdie is because he isn’t of subsaharan origin.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
1 month ago

I just hope the international community finally wakes up to 4 decades of the Iranian threat and puts together a plan to remove that regime now.
Dirty diplomatic dealings will doubtlessly be involved once again in terms of bypassing the UN, but being that Israel and most of the Gulf States are on a similar page it might be possible to find a novel approach improving on the debacle of 2003 in Iraq.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

will that effort work as well as previous plans that removed Saddam and Qaddafi from power? Will it turn out better than the last time the US imposed regime change on Iran, back in the 50s when a democratically elected govt was overthrown and the Shah was installed? Iran is not a problem that the West can solve; that has to come from the rest of the Muslim world.

Martin Layfield
Martin Layfield
1 month ago

Rushdie is an early example of the multiculturalists finding out that their actions and beliefs may have…. unforseen consequences…..and then expecting and demanding helpfrom the supposedly irredeemable whitey they spent their careers demonising to protect them from the demons they helped unleash.

So many cases of left-liberals doing this.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

Gosh, reading this you wonder how Islam ever got such a bad rap. Turns out it was the secularists all along.

Nathan Ngumi
Nathan Ngumi
1 month ago

The stabbing of Salman Rushdie was unfortunate. But he was not the first speaker at a public event to not react while a would-be assassin suddenly rushed towards him menacingly.
Famously, Malcolm X had just began speaking on stage to a group in a ballroom on the day of his assassination in New York when he spied his assassins get up and walk towards him after a convenient distraction had been created that enticed nearly everyone in the audience to turn and look back. The quartet when near the stage then pulled out their guns and started blasting at him. Screams and smoke immediately filled the ballroom as attendees scampered for safety.
Even stand-up comics like Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock have been attacked in the recent past while on stage. Why do speaking event organizers not invest more in visible security measure like in music concerts so as to deter such?

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
1 month ago

“…it is the new lexicon of hate speech that has animated the most sustained assaults on the First Amendment — some of it with good reason (in a world of swastikas and fasces, it would be churlish to be a free speech absolutist)”
It is in precisely THAT world that it is most important to be a free speech absolutist.

Gregory Toews
Gregory Toews
1 month ago

Snowflakes to the left, snowflakes to the right. Into the valley of postmodernism rode the modernist.
I suspect that if Anil were writing of Joseph Stalin he’d accuse him of using communistic ideals as a tool for gaining power, as opposed to using power to serve communistic ideals. Anil probably disagrees with most of what Tom Holland says in Dominion.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago

Liberalism barely exists. Has the author not noticed how that ostensible part of the left has taken on a much harder edge, first as progressive and now as full-blown authoritarian with the legal crackdowns on free speech to prove it? The measure in Scotland may be an outlier in terms of its scope but it’s becoming common in terms of intent. The is a rush across the Western world to silence inconvenient voices, to shush those whose words might offend others as if there is some divine right to never having a moment of upset.
Few things are more cringeworthy than the normalization of the term “hate speech.” There is no such thing just as there are no ‘hate’ crimes. There is only speech and there are only crimes. This attempt to politicize and criminalize thought is not serving us well.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

The bio of the attacker is troubling because it describes so many young men. The lack of a coherent motive suggests that they may be so un-moored they can be diverted easily into brutality. Campus riots for Hamas make more sense given this phenomenon. Governments premised on free speech etc. Will struggle to address such deep rooted social pathology. More optimistically, the passions of youth may fade as their lack of rational basis becomes clear to middle age.

Nanda Kishor das
Nanda Kishor das
1 month ago

This is the second article today I literally can’t read
 I just don’t have a clue what he’s saying.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

I thought I was the only one. Much of the prose is unreadable. I think he passes off this as being very clever.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago

in a world of swastikas and fasces, it would be churlish to be a free speech absolutist
What an absurd thing to write!

Michael Lipkin
Michael Lipkin
1 month ago

Oh to be free from the burden of freedom