by Ed West
Friday, 26
June 2020

Welcome to the Age of Unreality

Black lives matter protesters stand outside a burning building. Credit: Getty

It’s hard to believe but June 2020 is still not over yet. To me, it’s felt like the first time in my adult life that I’m living through history; strangely, even 9/11 and its aftermath didn’t feel quite so portentous, nor the whole Brexit saga.

But the major emotion I feel is one of unreality, not helped by the fact that I’ve met a total of about five adults over the past three months. It feels unreal, and rather like I’m living in one of these medieval periods of crisis when everyone started whipping themselves or spontaneously dancing.

Although I’m a pessimist, I never would have expected the institutional response to the Black Lives Matters protest as it happened; on the one side, support, on the other, cowered silence. It felt, again, unreal, a black pill moment.

After weeks of being careful and avoiding social contact, and very soon after the outrage about Dominic Cummings because he wanted his child looked after by relatives if he got sick, thousands were allowed and even encouraged to congregate in our major cities. Almost no one objected. I’m sure some Left-of-centre commentators criticised the protests on health grounds; on my Twitter feed I could see only Sunny Hundal taking the principled and authentically liberal stand that, even if the cause was worthy, it was a risk. Maybe there are others, and I just didn’t notice them.

Even among medical professionals, hundreds in the US publicly stated that racism was a public health issue even more dangerous than the coronavirus. Only a few weeks earlier lockdown sceptics were mocked for their failure to conceptualise how a virus was a different sort of threat.

Everyone laughed then. But again, now there was largely silence because it all comes down to who’s side you are on. Science, as we now all know, is trumped by faith.

It’s not just that I think the other side are wrong on this issue; it feels like we’re inhabiting two entirely separate realities now. In the American Tablet Jacob Siegel wrote that:

The reason we cannot argue about certain things is because they have already been proven true and the truth they have established is such a significant moral advance—like ending child sacrifice—that to question the rational basis on which the truth rests is to risk eroding a foundation of the moral progress that separates us from encroaching barbarism.
- Jacob Siegel, The Tablet

When someone says it’s okay to risk further spreading a deadly disease “because racism is a bigger issue” I feel like there is nothing left to argue anymore. If you believe that inequality of outcomes is a priori proof of racism, and that racism is this learned prejudice that can be eradicated, you will do whatever it takes, and anyone who disagrees with you is a barbarian.

You will seek to remove those people from public life, clear them out of institutions, and do everything to stop their ideas being transmitted.

And this has been what’s happening, gradually until in 2020 suddenly; all the developing trends of the past few years suddenly accelerated, in particular the decline of the idea that there is some neutral ‘truth’ we all share. There has always been a disconnect between what I hear on Radio 4 on the one hand, and what I see on my Right-leaning Twitter feed, but over June 2020 they have been describing two completely different realities. On the one hand, sad laments of our guilt and ‘largely peaceful’ protests about injustice; on the other, footage of a near-warzone.

So far we’ve been lucky in that there were no super-spreader events at the BLM protests. But I fear that in the long term, black pill June will prove fatal to a shared idea of truth, one that admittedly had underlying conditions.


  • June 27, 2020
    A society of equals is a childish dream; a society where everyone has equal rights and opportunities and considered equally by the law is possible but "equality" in the current debate is much more. If you consider the social history of this country many white tribes and social classes did not have... Read more

  • June 27, 2020
    Just registered twith UnHerd and it is heartening to read articles such as this that generate actual dicussion rathar than 'bleets'. A lot of the words used in the article and discussion are new to me but I get the overall gist of the discussion and very much agree with "The majority of people in... Read more

  • June 27, 2020
    I am reposting this comment because its relevant here. I like this article and am desperate to get this type of debate on mainstream television. It seems like this odd crowd mixture of anarchic, angry, all rights not responsibilities woke young and not so young, left liberal intelligentsia will... Read more

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