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Don’t kid yourselves, this isn’t 1968

Paris in 1968

June 8, 2020 - 9:26am

Today’s disturbances in the United States have drawn parallels with the French protests of 1968, generally seen as the start of a great cultural shift in social mores. It was the year of the sexual and cultural revolution when the baby-boomers came of age, and the conservative cultural dominance of the American, French and British elites were swept aside (although in each case in a slightly different way).

Both 1968 and 2020 were led by middle-class graduates from the higher echelons of society, yet the differences between the two are also significant. The demands of the soixante-huitards were quite controversial, although the door was opening to them; racial attitudes were still antediluvian and sexual promiscuity was still frowned upon. Big business, the civil service and the military were overwhelmingly conservative, while even academia was mixed, and almost a third of British professors voted Tory.

In contrast the 2020 protests, and the Great Awokening of which they are part of, have almost universal establishment approval. Aside from the demented president, almost all elite institutions in the US support the protesters; theatres were providing help to demonstrators even as the protests turned to riots, while big businesses are falling over themselves to get behind BLM. Everything from the Wellcome Trust to National Public Radio have lined up to show support.

The only institution not in favour is the police.

Perhaps most bizarrely, even health officials overturned their own advice about demonstrations in the middle of a deadly pandemic because racism is a “public health crisis”. When Star Wars actor John Boyega bravely declares that “I don’t know if I’m going to have a career after this” because of his support for BLM, he can’t honestly think he’ll be blacklisted in Hollywood for voicing approval for something universally supported by America’s elite?

In contrast a number of people have lost their jobs just in the past few days for daring to question this progressive orthodoxy. As Scott Alexander wrote of the Great Awokening, the student protests in American universities like Yale, Missouri and Evergreen were not young people protesting against society’s norms or values. They were demanding that society adopts more of its norms, more stringently, and punishes people who disobey them.

They’re not saying ‘Down with Stalin!’ They’re saying ‘we need two Stalins! No, 50 Stalins!’

Anti-racism is not just the norm in polite American society, it’s a religion. The reason that we obsess over the idea of American racism is not because the country is more racist than other parts of the world, such as India, China or the Middle East, but because it’s obsessively less racist.

If you espouse conventional anti-racism, like Ta-Nehisi Coates, you get paid $41,500 to speak for 40 minutes and showered with plaudits and approval. In contrast, perhaps the most interesting critic of mainstream thinking, Steve Sailer, is relegated to a hugely obscure blog and has to beg readers to keep him going; many mainstream conservatives read Sailer, but they don’t dare to reveal the fact. If an actor admitted to it, he genuinely wouldn’t have a career.

Those who proclaim the high-status beliefs are naturally afforded privileges that the rest of us could only dream of. During the 2015 Yale protests one of the students was seen screaming at her professor in a way that, in any society previously, would have seen her thrown out for causing scandal, whatever her connections.

In contrast, question this new orthodoxy in the politest way and you’ll lose your job. Perhaps the most bizarre example of the privileges brought about by following the new state religion is that, while the dhimmis can’t even attend their grandparent’s funeral for public health reasons, totally different rules apply when true believers wish to gather in their tens of thousands.


Ed West’s book Tory Boy is published by Constable

edwest

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Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
4 years ago

Speaking as an ex-Leftie who has kinda been left in the centre that used to be the left (and which would now no doubt render me a Nazi, a fascist, a TERF or otherwise heretical), it seems to me that the left has always considered itself ‘anti-establishment’ and it was, once. But the left has *become* the new establishment – or more, a new religion. Unfortunately going by its track record, it won’t stop there and pat itself on the back, job done, it will keep going, applying its heresies until we are ALL insufficiently pure heretics. Look at JK Rowling today – darling of the left has crossed the line into heresy and watch the internet torches and pitchforks mobs go. The far left scares me far more than the far right because at least the far right is clear in its aims and we can all agree they are repugnant, even those on the right would agree – but the left thinks it’s different and morally pure – but it’s not. It’s Orwellian in its desire for totalitarian state and thought control – and that is far more dangerous in my opinion, for all of us.

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
4 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Calls to mind the old CS Lewis quote:

“Of all the tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under the omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber barons cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
4 years ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

Yes, with one big adjustment. The robber-barons have become the moral busybodies.

Samuel Gee
Samuel Gee
4 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

I am in a similar position but chafe against the idea that what we refer to as the left is actually left wing. They’re not very interested in things like wages and policies to make and keep them higher versus ROC. Not much interested in industrial policy or strategic planning. Seem fully signed up to a free market in labour and capital. Not much interested in investment in real skills (see industrial policy) preferring cheap labour to automation, in-work training, better management. All the things that working people want to see for them and their children to have real prospects for decent family, community and national life: Good education, well paid secure jobs sufficient for a decent family life and a good pension. All a bit boring for them really.

wendajones
wendajones
4 years ago

Fortunately I haven’t got a job to lose as I’m retired, but to me the way demonstrations have been mindlessly “committed” world wide has been incomprehensible, how sympathetic I absolutely am to the cause. If the demonstrations had been quiet, peaceful and with social distancing it would have been easier to condone them. As it is, it feels like a kick in the teeth for those who are self isolating, have lost near and dear, cannot hold funerals with all mourners present, care/medical workers who are doing all they can to save lives. (And I consider myself a radical person but sorry – there are limits.)

Gerald gwarcuri
Gerald gwarcuri
4 years ago
Reply to  wendajones

Since you seem sincere, please, in twenty five words or less, describe “the cause”. Because many of us looking on are having a real hard time discerning what “the cause” is. Eliminate bad cops? I’m with you. Eliminate the phantom called “systemic racism”? You’ve lost me. Blame everything on “white people”? That seems racist on the face of it. Change human hearts to remove the scourge of individual bigotry and prejudice? Yes. But it’s a bit of a Utopian goal, not likely brought about by protests, and certainly not riots. Or political movements. Saints and secular saviors have been trying to find the cure for human sin for millennia. It persists, even in the face of slogans.

You might want to supplement your explanation with some well-documented background facts. There seem to be so few put forward in the present strife. Just emotion. Oh, also, you might want to peruse Rene Girard’s excellent book on human motivation, titled “I See Satan Fall Like Lightning”, followed by Douglas Murray’s “The Madness of Crowds; Race, Gender and Identity”.

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
4 years ago

So the President is the one senior figure to oppose these riots – and he’s the demented one?

Sacred Baloney
Sacred Baloney
4 years ago

Boyega is simply virtue signalling and victimhood mongering. If Hollywood blacklisted the woke, all the Hollywood activists and radicals would be out of a job. More than half of Hollywood would be gone. They are not.

“They’re not saying ‘Down with Stalin!’ They’re saying ‘we need two Stalins! No 50 Stalins!'” — Exactly. They are saying, we were the Stalins of academia, and we want to now be the Stalins of the institutions, and then the state.

Sacred Baloney
Sacred Baloney
4 years ago

“Anti-racism is not just the norm in polite American society, it’s a religion. ” — Exactly and well said! As an ex-Muslim I have seen a hundred parallels between Islamism and the new woke religion. Both are counter-enlightenment, both passionately indoctrinate children with their puritanical moral vanities, and both want to take over the state. Disbelievers, heretics, non-submitters and blasphemers are harshly punished. Nobody can criticize BLM, despite all the violence they have committed recently, including the call for killing whites.

ANTIFA is just the Shariah police of his new woke religion. We are sliding back to the dark ages, with religious wars and inquisitions. We need a new enlightenment to combat this new god-less supposedly atheist religion which is in cahoots with Islamism, despite their superficial contradictions.

naomimoan
naomimoan
4 years ago

Thank you for expressing this so eloquently. I am one of the questioners and am finding that I’m betwixted between wanting to be openly expressive about my questions, or remain silent to keep the peace. Does one really need to choose a ‘side’ or a ‘wing’?

Janet Inglis
Janet Inglis
4 years ago

Those demonstrating in the 60s grew older, more wealthy, had families, gained experience and a good many more of them retained their radical ideals than generations past.
It’s one of the jobs of youth to shake things up and force society and institutions to change.
Then they grow up and enjoy the compromises they have driven society to make. Or not.
Some of the richest, most successful radicals from the 60s in the world today have become more radical and use the wealth and influence they gained as they matured to fund and direct the changes they demand, without compromise.
Check out the extremely wealthy drivers of the trans movement, for example. Men like Martine Rothblatt and Jennifer Pritzker who have been instrumental in orchestrating the current intolerance of human biology. Their views have not been tempered by decades of experience and exposure to reality. They now have the wealth and influence to force unwanted change from a position of power. They are no longer railing against the establishment.
They are the establishment.

Gandydancer x
Gandydancer x
3 years ago

“Aside from the demented president…”

When the looting started in Minneapolis Dementia Joe’s staff popped up to announce that they had gotten together to donate to a fund to bail out the looters. When has Trump or anyone associated with him done anything like that nuts?

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
4 years ago

Good stuff, but I disagree with the USA being less racist than other places. It’s still far more segregated than the UK ever was. Ralph Leonard wrote about the black middle class on Unherd last week: there not only isn’t a black middle class here, the concept is unthinkable.
The USA is obsessed with race, in a way we haven’t been, until now.

Gerald gwarcuri
Gerald gwarcuri
4 years ago
Reply to  Dave Weeden

The concept of a black middle class is “unthinkable”? Facts, please. That premise is unsupported, and undoubtedly unsupportable. It is an opinion. It assumes facts not only not in evidence, but practically unobtainable.

Yes, the commentariat, media, academia, “activists”, anarchists, and leftist politicians In the U.S. are obsessed with race. And, for the last fifty years, they have only been making things worse – much worse. What you see blasted into our consciousness 24/7 by the media is a caricature of race relations in America. A useful one to those mentioned above.

Yes, we have racists in America. Of all stripes. But unless you have traveled abroad widely, you have no clue as to what real racism looks like.

Try reading Shelby Steele’s remarks on current conditions for black Americans in this post from today: https://pjmedia.com/news-an

Samuel Gee
Samuel Gee
4 years ago
Reply to  Dave Weeden

The USA? Big place. There’s a black middle class in the USA.(in either British or American parlance take your pick on the definition) Booker T Washington and WEB DuBois were slugging this argument about whether the black middle class (talented tenth) should push for integration or push for a separate black elite. Over a century ago.

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
4 years ago
Reply to  Samuel Gee

Yes, true enough. I just don’t think we’re similar, because we don’t have the same history of segregation, as Matthew Sweet’s piece makes clear.
It *could* be because, until recently, there have been too few black people in the UK to form a distinct class, but I think it’s more because we haven’t overlaid our class system with a racial caste system.