Douglas Murray’s new book on social justice warriorism and identity politics

December 16, 2019 • 10:00 am

Douglas Murray is only 40 years old, but has already established himself as a neoconservative intellectual and author.  Because of his political views—he’s anti-immigration, a critic of Islam, and a supporter of Brexit—he’s despised by many on the British and American Left, although his SJW credibility is marginally increased because he’s also gay.  I haven’t read any of his previous works, but I am reading his latest book: The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race, and Identity, which was published in mid-September but already has 182 reviews on Amazon and a 4.8-star rating (out of 5). It was hard to get, too, as there are several people who have already requested it at the University of Chicago Library, and I have but a week to read it.

Click on the screenshot to see the book on Amazon:

Since the book is a critique of social justice warriorism and the authoritarian Left, I would have expected a lower rating, but perhaps this suggests a political climate in America against the excesses of the Left: a climate you don’t see on Twitter (or at least I don’t).  And, like me, Murray applauds the motivations of SJW-ism but decries its methods. His main plaint is that the “movement” is hypocritical, confused, and self-contradictory, and has many of the hallmarks of a religion: a religion built on the lacuna left when Marxism waned (Murray is an atheist).

I haven’t seen many reviews of the book, though the Guardian, predictably, calls it a “rightwing diatribe”.  And while that review is correct in saying that Murray leans too heavily on anecdotes to support his argument, it also tries to defend the indefensible, to wit:

The acclaimed gender theorist Judith Butler is held up as a malignant fraud who hides behind the complexity of her prose. The entire venture of social science is deemed corrupted by its insidious fixation on oppression. Murray turns to recent hoax articles that were published in the academic journal Cogent Social Sciences (a prank that he describes as “one of the most beautiful things to happen in recent years”) as evidence that social and cultural theory is all a sham.

Well, Butler deserves contempt and ridicule for the opacity of her prose, and she may well be a fraud, though an influential one. (She may well mean what she says, but how can you understand what she says when she writes so dreadfully?) And the Guardian is just wrong about where the hoax articles, written by James Lindsay, Peter Boghossian, and Helen Pluckrose, were published. The first of them, the famous “conceptual penis” article by Lindsay and Boghossian, was published in Cogent Social Science, but then the trio had seven other articles published or accepted after that—all in different journals.

But let’s look at what Murray says about those “grievance studies” articles. We’ve already seen them applauded by Andrew Doyle, the leftist creator of the über-woke Titania McGrath, as “attempts to improve the field” (social sciences). But as we know, academics got really upset when these papers were published or accepted, and they’ve tried to get Boghossian fired for dishonesty.  I interpret this not as an attempt of these people to police their fields, but to defend the dreadful spate of papers in “X studies” journals, papers that I’ve often highlighted on this site. Despite Boghossian, Pluckrose, and Lindsay’s aims, it’s clear that their efforts, while highlighting the dreck that passes for scholarship in many of these fields, won’t succeed in damaging those fields. For the academics inhabiting them are simply too invested in their careers and in their ideologies. What you see in the backlash is simply the anger of multiple rulers whose nakedness has been exposed.

But here’s what Murray says about this on pp. 62-63 of his book (I’ve used a screenshot from Google Books to save time):

I pretty much agree with that analysis, and although the APA’s discussion of masculinity is but one example, Murray gives others throughout the book showing how SJW-ism has spilled into mainstream culture, including the New York Times. (I was intrigued by Murray’s contention that this kind of stuff doesn’t really qualify as news, but is both virtue-flaunting and intended to be a slap in the face of the reader, implying, “Take that, bigot!”).

Again, it’s not the goals of identity politics and SJW-ism that are bad, for they’re good: they aim to eliminate bigotry and discrimination against gays, minorities, women, and other people who have traditionally been deemed second-class citizens—or not human at all. It’s not the goals, but the tactics, which Murray sees as being likely to backfire. If you accuse men of “toxic masculinity”, he argues, then men will at some point strike back. Ditto for those who indict “whiteness.” Now I’m not sure about these backlashes, but in my view the excesses of identify politics not only endanger the Left’s chance of gaining or holding power, but also attack some of the virtues long held by the Left, like pure egalitarianism and freedom of speech.

I’m only 85 pages into a 256-page book, but already know that I can recommend it to readers, even those who will reject its arguments. For how can you defend identity politics and intersectionality without knowing the best arguments against them? (Murray divides his book into four sections, dealing with gays, women, race, and transsexual people.) And since Murray is gay, I found his take homosexuality quite absorbing.

Finally, the book is extremely well written, a pleasure to read, even when you disagree with its ideas. Murray is no Judith Butler, thank Ceiling Cat.

As I said, I haven’t read anything else that Murray has written save the 85 pages of this book, so save your breath if you’re going to fulminate about other stuff he’s written, or about his politics in general. I am just judging what I’ve read so far.

88 thoughts on “Douglas Murray’s new book on social justice warriorism and identity politics

  1. I agree it is an impressive and important book. I think its importance can be seen in the level of vitriol in the attacks that’ “reviewers” have given. He writes well and has a knack of making complicated things easier to understand and is able to bring complex, invisible problems into view. This is a worrisome talent if you don’t agree with him.😉

  2. Again, it’s not the goals of identity politics and SJW-ism that are bad, for they’re good: they aim to eliminate bigotry and discrimination against gays, minorities, women, and other people who have traditionally been deemed second-class citizens—or not human at all.

    There is obviously a semantic element here, “bigotry” and “discrimination” are undefined. Yet I am not aware of any mainstream person in politics or anywhere else who proposes “gays, minorities, and women” should be afforded second-class citizenship.

    The problem here, as is always the problem of radical egalitarianism, is what to do when you have triumphed. The worker’s revolution has succeeded, NEIP is in place and working toward the benefit of the Soviet Union, how do you maintain unity and cohesion? You have manufacture enemies and plots against the Revolution.

    In the American context, you have a 14th Amendment, you have the 1964 Civil Rights Act, you even have positive discrimination and a number of features that went beyond the intent of the 1964 Act (which Hubert Humphreys claimed would cause him to eat it). So how do you maintain unity and cohesion? You manufacture enemies and plots. Why are there so many hate hoaxes? Why are people being defined as enemies based only on their race, sex, sexual orientation, or mild heterodoxy to progressive ideals.

    Individuals are capable of private evil, but if you want to get a collective to engage in evil, you need to sanctify it with something viewed as “good”. Of course the objectives of Social Justice are good. At the same time, they are largely accomplished to the extent they are socially feasible. And so the need for enemies and plots leads the movement to greater and greater extremes.

    1. “Yet I am not aware of any mainstream person in politics or anywhere else who proposes “gays, minorities, and women” should be afforded second-class citizenship.”

      Not so very long ago, the President of the United States (Bush 1) appears to have stated that in his opinion, atheists did not deserve to be citizens.

      A few years ago, a high-ranking member of the British Labour party, John McDonnell, proposed in writing that British citizens who served in the Israeli Defense Force should lose their British citizenship.

      And now, of course, we have President Trump trying to block Muslims from certain countries from immigration to the US.

      1. And a scant four years ago this nation was in turmoil over the issue whether gay people should be allowed to marry. Indeed, even after SCOTUS ostensibly legalized same-sex marriage, a number of politicians in deep red states encouraged open defiance of the Court’s decision. Now, as to whether these politicians qualify as “mainstream” in KD’s view, well there’s a “semantic element” at issue there, too, in that that term is even less clearly defined than are “bigotry” and “discrimination.”

        Moreover, with the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy (the swing vote and author of the majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges), same-sex marriage still may not be out of the woods. Plus, there remains, the question whether gay folk getting married should be entitled to purchase a celebratory cake from bakeries that are otherwise open as businesses of public accommodation.

        And as for the second-class stature of women, we might want to consult the distaff half of the populations of the states that have recently enacted de facto bans on abortion and even on some forms of birth control.

        1. I’m glad to see someone standing up for the constitutional right of Americans to obtain wedding cakes and the constitutional obligation of others to provide them. I’ll support an addition to the Bill of Rights as soon as it’s proposed. Perhaps a Department of Baked Goods or cabinet position would be sufficient.

          Conflicts like these are exactly why there should be no anti-discrimination laws telling private businesses whom they must serve. It violates the essential consensual element of commerce. Governments are different of course. They should be required to treat all citizens equally.

          On abortion, I wonder what Ken would tell majority female South Carolina if they believe they voted second class citizenship for themselves or if they would disagree with the interpretation offered above? Actually, I don’t really wonder.

  3. I enjoyed the book, although it was a bit superficial being aimed at a mass audience (as I suppose the author hoped!) His previous book is actually more disturbing. I could choose my words and leave the impression I am disturbed by Murray’s position, but the matter is important so I shan’t. The Strange Death of Europe is downright depressing and I had difficulty finishing it. One has the sense from his book of a conspiracy to flood the continent with immigrants who don’t wish to assimilate. I am an immigrant and I think it incumbent to fit in as best you can to a country that agrees to let you in. You might even think of yourself an ambassador or representative of your birth country and wouldn’t want to make a poor impression. He tells of a different story. The book is NOT a racist diatribe or anything like that. A mixture of misadventure and malice (Blair wanting to rub the Tories’ noses in diversity) has led to a difficult situation. Immigration is needed for economic growth if the native population won’t keep up the birth rate. But then you change the country and end up in ludicrous positions like Theresa May ( a woman to whom ludicrousness seems to come naturally) when she denied Asia Bibi asylum on the grounds it would cause unrest in certain portions of the population. We know exactly what she didn’t say, and we hate her cowardice.

    1. I too found the Strange Death of Europe to be incredibly difficult to finish. Reading it left me hoping for some new cohesive movement on the left which would have the size and moral coherence to challenge the intersectional social justice positions.

      1. I should think that the challenger to the intersectional left is what one might call the ‘old gaurd’ left. We still have the coherence of argument and the numbers to challenge them.
        Trouble is, victory against revolutionaries is hard and we are generally past child bearing age.

  4. “Now I’m not sure about these backlashes…”

    You might say tRump is in power in part because he exemplifies the backlash for his base.

  5. I am not sure we can say that the goal of the SJW is “eliminate bigotry and discrimination against gays, minorities, women, and other people who have traditionally been deemed second-class citizens”. One way this could be achieved is by a color-blind society. But we have been told repeatedly that that, in itself, is racist. It seems to me that behind the Social Justice movement is not a desire for equality, but a desire for domination; a Marxian class-revolution, if you will, where the social class is now not economic, but racial or gender-based (or whatever). It’s not about tearing down walls, but about who goes up against them.

  6. To worry about “social justice warriorism and the authoritarian left” while right wing populism is tearing apart liberal democracies worldwide is ludicrous. It’s a bit like complaining that your beer is getting warm during a forest fire. When people like Murray direct the attention there — no matter how pertinent the specific points may be — in the grand scheme of things they are doing the business of the far right.

    1. A nice example of whataboutery: we have to ignore the excesses of the Left and pay 100% of our attention to the excesses of the Right. But there are tons of people who are doing the latter. I suppose you say that Murray should just shut up?

      I disagree; there is plenty of room for tweaking our own side. Or do you think this website should spend all its time calling out Trump and his minions.

      And no, Murray is not doing the business of the far right. They may like some of what he says in this book, but if you think that we should never criticize leftism because it “does the business of the far right”, then go tell it to Nick Cohen, or anybody else who’s called out the anti-Semitism of Labour. Yes, and I suppose I’m playing into the hands of the Right as well by indicting Corbyn and his cronies for anti-Semitism. Best to shut up, I guess. . . .

      1. “A nice example of whataboutery: we have to ignore the excesses of the Left and pay 100% of our attention to the excesses of the Right.”

        I don’t believe the writer told you to ‘pay 100% of (your) attention to the excesses of the right’. That’s a strawman, and you’d say so if anyone else had used that argument. It’s perfectly possible to pay something vaguely like a similar amount of attention to the excesses of both sides.
        (I’m saying it’s possible, note, not that you should, in case I’m accused again of telling you what to write, and subsequently told to ‘go and read the Huffington Post’, or variations thereupon.)

        And it’s not a crazy reaction on the part of reasonable liberals to look at a liberal-left website and be puzzled at the fact that it spends the overwhelming majority of its political energies on criticising its own side, all while the liberal world burns due to a full frontal attack from a populist right that is only occasionally mentioned.

        This is not unreasonable, or loony left or indicative of being an SJW or a snowflake.
        It’s simple human bafflement. It doesn’t make that person rude for pointing it out and it doesn’t require the immediate pile-on. I don’t think the OP was impolite – in fact there seems to simply be no way of raising this point without being lashed out at.

        It may be hard to believe but I like this site a great deal. I don’t come here for no reason and I respect you too. I’ve been coming here since 2011. But this person has a point.

        1. OTOH, you could argue that if everybody spent more time criticising the excesses of their own “side” then the world would be a much better place.

          Of course, anti-west westerners like Corbyn probably think that this is indeed what they are doing.

          1. Believe me, I’ve spent a depressing amount of time over the last week dealing with delusional Corbynite holdouts, convinced that something, anything – the BBC, the papers, the weather, too many leaves on the track – denied them a surefire victory. I’m fine with criticising my own side and I spend plenty of time doing so.

    2. No, they are positively not doing the business of the far right. On the contrary, the ridiculous intersectional victimhood cult of the Woke cabal does that.
      The left must clean its own house, and people like Murray (I do not even know whether he’s lefty or not, which is immaterial here) help there.

    3. “Doing the business of the far right . . . ”

      As I recall, a lot of communist-sympathizers used to say that about George Orwell and Arthur Koestler when they criticized Stalin.
      In any case, ignoring the sins of your own side is a bad tactic, for both moral and pragmatic reasons.

    4. One of the scary strategies of the SJWs is to exaggerate numbers and influence of the far right. That is the “everyone I don’t like is Hitler” business, which is a bit of an exaggeration.
      But they also generate right wingers, by polarizing people who would otherwise not get involved. I have told this one before, but I was in town when Trump gave a speech during the previous campaign. As people left the auditorium, there was a bunch of people outside, spitting on them and yelling obscenities as they tried to get back to their cars or hotels. These were not robed Klan members, but seemed to be mostly retired people on vacation in the mountains, who took the opportunity to see a famous person for free. To me, it seemed completely insane that people could be spat upon for listening to a speech by a mainstream political candidate. Or attacked for showing the American flag in public.

      If the right wing were as much of a problem as they are made out to be, I think we would notice. The mosques in places like Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxfordshire and Bristol are still standing, even after the grooming gangs were exposed. In fact, there is always a backlash expected whenever some terror attack occurs, but mostly people just build makeshift shrines.

      That is not to deny the existence of right-wing violence. It exists as it always has. But I am not sure it is “tearing apart liberal democracies worldwide”. If anything, the rise of nationalism might be a response to left wing excess, in the form of open borders advocacy, AntiFa violence, and Extinction Rebellion histrionics.

      1. To me, Trump’s rhetoric is inflammatory . How he has to diminish anyone that disagrees with him by making some childish name for them brings out hate IMO. Politics has always been a dirty business but the Trump lovers I know hate liberals. My own viewpoint is if policies work for the greater good, I am for them but demonization is bad no matter your side or views. Many of Trump supporters hated Obama especially if he wore a tan suit.😀

      2. So you dispute the representations made by Trump-appointed FBI Director Christopher Wray regarding the threat posed in the US by white-supremacist domestic violence?

        1. From the linked video-

          “I think the greatest threat to the homeland is the homegrown violent extremist…which is jihadist-inspired violence. That does not mean, by any stretch of the imagination that we don’t take domestic terrorism, including hate crime committed on behalf of some sort of White supremacist ideology, extremely seriously.”
          “We define Domestic Terrorism to refer to a broader array of threats ranging from anarchist extremism to different kinds of racially motivated violent extremism,to different kinds of environmental extremism, etc.”

          So yes, I agree that violent extremism, including White supremacist motivated violence, should be taken seriously. I also agree with him that it is not the greatest threat we face.

          1. Director Wray says (beginning at about the six-minute mark) that there were last year approximately equal numbers of arrests for international terrorism (including the homegrown variety) and for domestic terrorism, most of which was motivated by some form of white-supremacist ideology.

            I think you underplayed this latter threat in your initial comment, Max, and that the danger presented by white-supremacist violence far outstrips anything posed by “open borders advocacy, AntiFa violence, and Extinction Rebellion histrionics.”

            1. I spent some time last night thinking about this issue, and I want to revise my stated view.
              I think there is a big potential for at least nationalist violence becoming a serious problem, especially in Europe. I just don’t think we are at that threshold yet, and much farther away from it in the US.

              What I mean by that is that, just as an example, the various grooming gang scandals are unpleasant and maddening, but do not themselves present a threat to civil order. But if the population as a whole were to lose faith in the ability of the justice system to protect their children from such outrages, civil disorder could ensue. Of course fringe elements start reacting long before the general population, and might serve as a catalyst. In that respect, Tommy Robinson might be a bigger threat to public order than the gangs themselves.

              I am not sure that such a movement would need to be White-supremacist, except that most of the nations at risk are White majority, and the perceived threats do not seem to be. In India something related is playing out, and whiteness does not seem to be a factor at all.

              But expected future threats are not the same as current dangers. If you walk the streets of Brooklyn in Kippah, you subject yourself to elevated risk of assault. But the individual or group that is most likely to assault you because of your perceived religion are not White supremacists. They are much more likely to be young Black men or Muslims.

              I can only argue from what I read or from my own perspective. I split my time between the ranch in Colorado and our summer place in the deep south (The Colorado place is now snowed in an inaccessible). One might expect that I would witness Klan meetings and hear whisperings about night riders and such. On the contrary. I held an informal survey among my son’s millennial friends about their experiences with White supremacy. Most of them told me that they had never heard a White person use the “N-word”. That does not preclude the existence of racist individuals or even racist violence. But people with such beliefs are not finding comfort and support from the general population here. My military training taught me that any insurgency needs support from the general citizenry to be at all effective. In that respect, any sort of organized White-supremacy movement would be shunned even in the deep south, so poses little risk of growing in power. At least under current conditions. Some catalyst event could change that, of course.

              1. Inaccessible by road, and very prone to lose power during the winter. You can stay there through the winter, and I have, when I was much younger. But it is just not worth it if you have any choice at all.
                It is not like we don’t have tractors and plows, even a bulldozer. The dozer is right now frozen to the ground, and if you tried to move it, it would drive right off the tracks.
                I had to go up there last month to pick up some things that had been left behind, and I felt like Amundsen. In the winter, the winds are often excessive, and the blowing snow can really build up quickly.

              2. Understand. We had an off-the-grid place in the mountains with a long driveway, but it was off of a Colorado state highway, and thus accessible year round. The biggest problem was when the snow plows would make a big wall at the entrance to the driveway. It would take a lot of shoveling to get through. Thankfully when the wall got above 4 feet, the Highway Department would come by with a front loader to clear it out. What took them 5 minutes would have taken me 5 hours.

              3. We are nowhere near paved or maintained roads, and the main house is a very long way from the gate. Also, no cell reception.
                So if you can get to the house, there is no guarantee that you will get to leave. It was a fine experience for my wife and I when we were young, spending our time snuggling around the wood stove, reading books and playing card games by lamp light.

                But it is paradise in the summer.

  7. If you want an anti-left, anti-SJW rhetorician you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better one.
    But considering his wonderfully righteous speeches about the spineless Islamic apologism of the left, it’s been depressing to see him engage in exactly the same kind of pathetic sidestepping and cowardly issue-dodging when it comes to the far-right, Trump, white identity politics, etc.

    He has immediately reverted to hypocritical, tribalist type, and started making the same kind of excuses for Trump, for Tommy Robinson, for the far-right, that the worst of the left made for Islamist extremists.

    This is what separates him from Hitch. Hitch would not have allowed such a blindspot to develop in the first place.

    1. I’d be interested to see links to the sins you accuse Murray of. I haven’t read his new book yet, but I’ve seen him interviewed many times on Youtube.

      I don’t recognise your characterisation of him. Happy to be corrected, though.

      1. When asked about them he has repeatedly called anti-immigration organisations like Pegida and the EDL a ‘secondary problem’, saying that ‘once immigration is sorted out they will disappear’. When Trump comes up he chuckles affectionately and when far-right terrorism comes up he changes the subject or blames it on immigration.

        He has repeatedly defended the EDL, a political group which doesn’t really have any American equivalents, but is synonymous with absolutely virulent racism and skinhead fuckwittery.

        I concede that he’s a brilliant writer, and for a while there I was convinced of his sincerity and principles. Now I am less convinced.

        1. This is the context of ‘secondary issue’:

          “The problem — as I said in 2015 — is that any challenge Robinson presents is all a secondary issue. The primary issue is that for years the British state allowed gangs of men to rape thousands of young girls across Britain. For years the police, politicians, Crown Prosecution Service, and every other arm of the state ostensibly dedicated to protecting these girls failed them. As a number of government inquires have concluded, they turned their face away from these girls because they were terrified of the accusations of racism that would come their way if they did address them. They decided it wasn’t worth the aggravation.”

          Here Murray is criticising the alacrity with which Robinson’s crimes were pursued compared to the raping of many, often underage, young women by ‘Asian’ gangs. For ‘Asian’ read gangs of primarily Pakistani muslim men.

          For those interested in deciding for themselves here is his 2018 article in National Review:

          1. Yes, and I consider that to be dishonest. He has been repeatedly asked what he thinks of the threat from the far-right, and his response has been to simply dismiss it, as he does in your quote, as a secondary issue. As though it’s simply impossible to address two things at once, and as though the real responsibility for the recrudescence of the extremely racist British far-right can be placed upon a gang of Asian men who were rapists.

            It’s the same thing the left did with extremist Muslims: to denude them of any real responsibility for their actions, as though they’re animals to whom the normal rules of decency don’t apply.

            1. If Murray dismisses the far-right in the UK it is because it poses very little threat.

              Where are the mass rallies or mainstream support? They don’t exist.

              Meanwhile, as this site and others demonstrate, extreme Woke is all over the place.

              1. “Extreme woke is all over the place, as demonstrated by this site”

                No, that hasn’t been demonstrated. And the fact that you equate people arguing over pronouns and being obnoxious pricks on Twitter…with white supremacists and nationalist racism suggests you don’t really have a particularly balanced view of this.

                And of course there are mass rallies. That’s what the EDL does. That’s what Murray was responding to with his sophistry.

    2. “He has immediately reverted to hypocritical, tribalist type, and started making the same kind of excuses for Trump, for Tommy Robinson, for the far-right, that the worst of the left made for Islamist extremists.”

      Can you point me to some examples of this? I’d like to read some to form an overall assessment of him.

      1. I can quote you from the first google result that came up, an interview between him and Roger Scruton:

        “Trump’s critics have a point, I suppose, but these are the people who deconstructed the very notion of truth for years.”

        These are precisely the same oily elisions that the left used about Islam – ie. ‘sure, extremists are wrong to do what they do, but given American foreign policy…what did they expect?’

        He has said the following about Islam: “conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board” and “all immigration into Europe from Muslim countries must stop” for which he was subsequently pushed into a sort-of apology.

        As for his repeated excuse-making for the EDL, calling them ‘understandable grass-roots
        responses to Islamic immigration’, that can be googled quite easily. Most of these remarks can be found in videos, understandably since he doesn’t want to put down his less palatable views on paper.

        Again, the rhetorical approach w/r/t the EDL is precisely as slippery as the far-left’s approach to Islam – there would be some rhetorical clearing of the throat, ‘obviously, I don’t agree with everything they say’, that kind of thing, then a flowery description of this far-right organisation as somehow pushed into a corner.

        There are multiple videos of his views on the EDL(one of which is amusingly titled ‘what did you expect?’, which is almost satirical in the way it echoes the anti-war left’s attitude to Islamic attacks on western soil).

        Like I said, he’s a brilliant orator, but he’s compromised by his constant instinct to make excuses for and downplay the far-right.

  8. I am glad that Professor Coyne has made a distinction between identity politics as a legitimate means for groups to attempt to secure certain ends they deem desirable and the actual tactics they use in the process. This is unusual. What we usually see is the right wing condemning the existence of identity groups, per se. In the United States there is an attempt to associate identity politics with being vaguely anti-American. Unfortunately, some liberals have fallen for the scam.

    The tactics of certain people in certain groups can be foolish to say the least and counterproductive. But, virtually every person belongs to one or more identity groups in various categories, which includes such entities as race, ethnicity, political party, profession, nationalism, religion or even sports team. Each of these groups within a category compete against other groups for power, prestige, wealth, political and social rights etc. This it totally natural and is inherent in human nature. However, right wingers have been rather successful in perpetuating the blatant falsehood that the emergence in the last decade or so of a more aggressive activism by certain minority groups is somehow bad and should be condemned and, most importantly, since many of these groups associate themselves, if somewhat loosely, with the Democratic Party then the Party itself should be rejected and its candidates defeated at the ballot box. Not surprisingly, we rarely hear a peep of criticism against the largest and most toxic identity group – white supporters of Trumpism. Right wingers would have us believe that minority identity groups care only to benefit themselves without caring for the needs of the nation as a whole. Conversely, they argue implicitly that the good white folks are concerned with the whole, not just themselves. Being excellent snake oil salesmen, all too many people have fallen for this pure crap.

    So, among the words or phrases I would like to see disappear is identity politics, which is universally practiced because it is totally natural and has become a tool of right wing propaganda. It is perfect fine to criticize the methods used by a group or the goals of the group itself, e.g., Nazis, in an attempt to achieve its ends. But to say that identity politics should not exist or is inherently bad is the product of ignorance, delusion, or a nefarious political strategy. It is a term that does nothing to promote rational political discourse.

    My argument here is general. I am not familiar with Murray and cannot comment on whether he is typical of right wingers.

    1. “But, virtually every person belongs to one or more identity groups in various categories, which includes such entities as race, ethnicity, political party, profession, nationalism, religion or even sports team. Each of these groups within a category compete against other groups for power, prestige, wealth, political and social rights etc.”
      It does not seem obvious to me that all te groups that you mention are competing against ecah other for power, wealth etc.. It probably depends quite a bit on what you mean byv “compete” but, if used in the most common fashion, I do not think that for example lawyers and teachers are in any real sort of competition.

  9. His [Murray’s] main plaint is that the “movement” is hypocritical, confused, and self-contradictory …

    True enough, though the same plaint can be lodged against neoconservatism — the Yank version of which was thoroughly discredited by our interminable misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  10. The dependably fatuous Terry Eagleton reviewed Murray’s book for The Times Literary Supplement. He admitted there were some excesses from the left but claimed these were confined to America and a result of the country’s Puritan past! Evidently Eagleton has been spending most of his time outside the UK, perhaps on some tropical island reserved for overpaid professors.

    1. We should mail Eagleton a shoehorn so that he can extricate his cranium from his posterior region! That guy is such a fool.

  11. For me, and I may be completely wrong about this, but no matter what stupid things the woke left does or advocates, the real issue is who has power. That seems to me to be leaning right and has been for some time.

    The woke left aggravates that trend but even without it, it seems the US and other countries have been trending right. For better or worse depending on your views. The abortion backlash, little to no change in gun laws, gay marriage, and gays and transgender people in the military are hot button issues for both left and right. The backlash against kneeling for the national anthem to me shows the general US population is not much in the mood for these things no matter the woke left in colleges and Hollywood.

    1. I also predict a Trump victory in 2020 barring a big dip in the economy or some drastic revelation in his finances and/or tax returns.

      Again, I may be completely wrong but I think people who poll that they won’t vote for him will (even if they say they didn’t). His personality is appalling but I think many people who voted against him last time will vote for him this time precisely because so many pundits predicted the sky would fall and it hasn’t (at least not yet).

      I hope I am totally wrong!

      1. …because so many pundits predicted the sky would fall and it hasn’t…

        I guess it depends on who you ask. For middle/upper class white males, sure, they haven’t really been harmed under Trump or any other POTUS for that matter. But if you ask the Dreamers, refugee children who are languishing in cages and camps, parents whose children have been taken from them, the LGBTQ community, women who want reproductive freedom, citizens of Puerto Rico, anyone who cares about the environment, poor people in general, especially poor minorities…I think you get my point. There are millions in Trump’s America who would tell you the sky is certainly falling.

          1. I should have added that this ONE court decision might be enough to deliver Wisconsin–and a second term–to the Mango Mussolini.

            1. Yeah, I heard about that judge’s decision. Walker’s legacy (he appointed the judge) is still wreaking havoc…much like Trump’s legacy will.

              The Dems are organizing against this though. They were able to acquire a list of everyone on the purge list and they are notifying each one to make sure they are registered. Those that were purged can still register in time for 2020.

              Point taken regarding many of the people suffering under Trump can’t vote.

    2. You are absolutely correct. The issue is power and the right has it and the “woke generation” does not. Due to the nature of the American political system, the right has controlled much of American life before Trump. Two words symbolize it: Mitch McConnell. Democratic control of the House of Representatives has at least stopped bad legislation of passing, but of course Trump is running amok and McConnell’s Senate is confirming right wing judges that will shape the American future for decades to come. Young woke folk may someday gain power (this is far from a certainty), but for the immediate decades ahead Trumpism will haunt the land. Joe Biden seems to think that the country will go back to normal after Trump is gone. It amazes me to think that he has seemed to forgotten what took place when he was V.P. and Mitch McConnell blocked any liberal legislation. Has Biden forgotten Merrick Garland? Trump has irrevocably changed America. It is unlikely it will revert back to even the not so good old days of Obama. Maybe in a few decades American democracy can be restored, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

      1. If the GOP acquit him, and if they suffer no negative consequences for doing so, then you’re in deep shit.

        I just don’t see how a country could allow its president to try and extort a foreign country to rig his own re-election, and then continue to function normally after that point.
        It feels instinctively like something priceless and intangible will be broken if that happens, some kind of unconscious societal belief that criminality like this will always catch up with you. The kind of precious thing that separates functioning democracies from authoritarianisms. Or maybe I’m being overly pessimistic.

        1. You’re not being overly pessimistic.

          I switched my reg to Dem in ’16 just to vote for Bernie in the primary, because I could see the Hillary shitshow a mile away. And now the Dems seem poised to do it all over again. Instead of nominating an electable Klobuchar or Buttigieg (or even Bloomberg), they seem to want to test the risk/reward limits of someone like Warren.

          But then, we’re talking Dems here–the people who are so incompetent that they can’t even figure out gerrymandering, let alone how it’s been used, and will continue to be used, to fuck them…and us.

          Even the centrist candidates have serious weaknesses. One example only: people worry about Mayor Pete because he’s gay. But there probably aren’t three people in the U.S. who would vote for him except for that–those who are that bigoted are probably already Trumputos who would never vote for ANY Dem. His problem is that polling says he has no support among blacks. Not that they would support the Mango Mussolini, but if they just stay home, it amounts to the same thing.

          So no–you’re not overly pessimistic. The Senate will absolutely acquit, the GOP Senators will suffer zero consequences, and a Trump re-election becomes more likely with every passing day, as the Dems do…well, what the hell exactly are they doing?

          1. I’m not so sure that the four Republican senators up for 2020 re-election in purple states — Collins (Maine), Gardner (Colorado), Tillis (NC), and McSally (Arizona) — will suffer no adverse consequences should they vote to acquit Trump. And I think that the two more independent-minded US senators from red states who DON’T have to face reelection this cycle — Romney of Utah and Murkowski of Alaska — would suffer at least some diminution in their stature (particularly Romney who fancies himself as an elder statesman and is on the verge of aging out of his long-cherished desire to be US president and to salvage the GOP from Trumpism) should they vote to acquit.

              1. I harbor no illusions that Trump will be convicted at his senate trial. But if Republicans up for reelection in swing states hitch their wagon to such an unpopular (and obviously guilty) president, it could swing the senate to the Democrats in 2020.

                On the other hand, if senate Dems can convince enough Republicans to join them in voting to convict Trump to get even a simple majority, I think it would deal an even deeper blow to Trump’s reelection chances.

              2. “…it could swing the senate to the Democrats in 2020.”

                Here is my fear: House stays, Dem; Dem Prez is elected, Senate stays GOP.

                What would prevent the Senate from pulling another Merrick Garland? Last time it was only for a year…which was enough. What’s to stop them from rejecting, or even refusing to consider ANY nomination, forever?

              3. @Brujo —

                Unfortunately, nothing. And I wouldn’t put it past Mitch McConnell as senate majority leader for a second.

                We may have entered an era where SCOTUS justices can be confirmed only if the presidency and the US senate are held by the same party.

              4. @Ken Kukec: “…I wouldn’t put it past Mitch McConnell…”

                Which is why I just donated to Amy McGrath’s campaign for the third time–and there’s more on the way where that came from. And I’m getting out my checkbook for Mark Kelly in the AZ contest against McSally as well.

                How I long for the good old days when we libertarians could dismiss any difference between the two main parties as minimal…but those days are long gone.

                But this isn’t about party. This is about sanity.

              5. I give Amy $50/month…among others, but getting rid of McConnell is as important as getting rid of Trump. He’s the most dangerous and ugly politician since McCarthy.

          2. The actual evidence that’s meant to make Pete toxic to the black community is pathetically flimsy. Most of the stuff I hear about him and his record at South Bend is literally made up, and not by the GOP but by Andrew Yang or Bernie or whoever supporters. (The ferocity of the intra-Democratic hatred is incredible.)

            An example: one story I keep hearing is that under Pete, a black boy was killed by the South Bend police. Pete refused to meet with the family and didn’t even bother to ring them upon hearing of the killing.

            After about ten seconds googling you learn that:

            a. the boy committed suicide. There was no police killing.
            b. the only accusations of anything out of the ordinary came from the boy’s family.
            c. the autopsy came back saying it was a suicide.
            d. oh, and a fairly important detail: Pete wasn’t actually mayor of South Bend at the time of the boy’s death.

            I mean…this is what he’s up against. No wonder his figures are low with that demographic.

            1. If Mayor Pete can win the nomination — which, if he is to have any chance at all, will require that he jump ahead of the field by winning the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary (a long shot) — I think he could cure his problem with minorities by making a prudent, ticket-balancing VP pick.

              I’m lookin’ at you Stacey Abrams.

            2. “one story I keep hearing is that under Pete, a black boy was killed by the South Bend police. Pete refused to meet with the family and didn’t even bother to ring them upon hearing of the killing”

              Goggle doesn’t immediately yield this story you keep hearing. Links would be appreciated. As would links to the various refutations you cite.


              1. It’s something I’ve repeatedly heard pushed by anti-Buttigieg types in various comment sections and fora. I also saw scrupulous refutations of the claims by well-intentioned commenters, which made absolutely no difference.

                I get the feeling you could’ve found this out pretty quickly(all I did was google mayor pete boy suicide), but here you are nevertheless:

                As you can see, the claims I’ve heard seem to have mutated from a(still completely rancid) TYT story.

              2. Reply to Saul. I asked for links to his claims. This what I got:

                “It’s something I’ve repeatedly heard pushed by anti-Buttigieg types in various comment sections and fora. I also saw scrupulous refutations of the claims by well-intentioned commenters, which made absolutely no difference.”

                But, I note, still no links, not to the ‘various comment sections and fora’ nor the ‘scrupulous refutations of the claims by well-intentioned commenters’.

                The link he does give (I urge you to click) nowhere suggests the boy was murdered by the police. Rather it suggests the verdict was unjustified or hasty:

                “The coroner declared it suicide on the scene. There was no autopsy.

                In fact, that coroner had no medical training, but was still able to declare that death happened within “seconds.””

                Here is Saul’s claim:

                “c. the autopsy came back saying it was a suicide.”

                I suggest Saul’s claims don’t stand up to scrutiny.

                Meanwhile it does seem to be true (as per the link) that the dead boy’s family asked the mayor for help and was ignored.

                NOTE: I take no stance on the matter. I merely question Saul’s characterisation of it.

              3. You seem to have misunderstood almost everything I’ve been saying.

                I didn’t say the link was to the original conspirational claims I have heard in various comment sections. That would be close to impossible since I’m not capable of singling out individual comments for, say YouTube comment sections, what with them often having tens of thousands of separate threads. I could probably find them given a couple of hours to search through, for example, the last two weeks of Jimmy Kimmel videos on politics, but I’m not a masochist and if you believe that conspiracies as ridiculous as that simply don’t get put forward in the cool, calm, measured environs of YT comment sections then I’ll have to live with that.

                You also seemed to dispute the very existence of the story and said you couldn’t even find it. I spent ten seconds, and input four words, and found it immediately, and linked you directly to it. Which to me is odd. So I’m not really sure how eager you are to engage in good faith.

                You also asked for the refutations(of an argument you didn’t even believe existed, which is just weird). I bothered to link you to the original TYT article from which the claims I heard presumably mutated.
                And I also noted the following right after linking to it – “As you can see, the claims I’ve heard seem to have mutated from a(still completely rancid) TYT story.”. I was hoping this would make it clear.

                The TYT story is in the link I gave you. It’s still a smear job, but nowhere does it say that the boy was killed by the police, or that Buttegieg didn’t call his mother after it happened or that Buttegieg was even mayor when it happened. That was exactly my point.

                The sole detail I got wrong was that there was no autopsy – nevertheless, the official report was suicide.

                All in all, if you’ve misunderstood me, fine. But I don’t really think you have. First of all you seemed to claim I’d made the whole thing up, and it couldn’t be found online. Now your angle of attack has shifted. I think you need to make it clear what it is you’re actually saying, otherwise you just seem to be passive aggressively trolling.

              4. Reply to Saul:

                “I’m not really sure how eager you are to engage in good faith.”

                Oops! A resort to the ad hominem. I thought that was frowned upon here. Just as bad, misreporting (or unjustified imputation of intent):

                “You also seemed to dispute the very existence of the story…”

                Nope. I simply asked for links: “Links would be appreciated. As would links to the various refutations you cite.”

                “…and said you couldn’t even find it.”

                I couldn’t when googling ‘Mayor Peter and black boy killed by South Bend police’, which was your characterisation of the story. That, and variations thereof, do lead to hundreds of stories about the shooting of a black man by a white officer.

                Meanwhile, googling ‘mayor pete boy suicide’ yields just three results, all from the same same source, Young Turks. So you are correct that this is ‘flimsy’ evidence against Mayor Pete: almost no one, at least google-wise, is paying any attention to it.

                Finally, so far undiscussed is this claim:

                “Most of the stuff I hear about him [Pete] and his record at South Bend is literally made up, and not by the GOP but by Andrew Yang or Bernie or whoever supporters.”

                “Literally made up” is a strong claim. I would appreciate links to such stuff from Yang or Saunders.

        2. Your pessimism is well placed. The Senate will acquit Trump and as Historian said above, we will be suffering from Trumpism for decades. I do not have any faith in the Democrats pulling off a victory next year. Our Republic is in grave peril and cannot withstand another Trump administration, but that is where we are headed.

            1. The 22nd amendment is pretty clear:

              No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President, when this Article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.

              The “Dems were mean to me” won’t budge those words.

              1. Supreme Court Can Extend Trump’s Term By Up To 3 Years If He’s Acquitted In The Senate

                There’s a little-known precedent on the books that Democrats are trying desperately to have removed before the impeachment trial of President Trump begins. In 1974, as Nixon faced impeachment, the Republican Congress passed a law that would allow his term to be extended if he was acquitted.

                The law was specific to Nixon, and was set to expire in 5 years, but Nixon resigned. The removal of the law, therefore, never happened.

                Turns out this is a hoax. Shame on me!!

        3. So much for the myth of “American Exceptionalism,” or Madeleine Albright’s “Indispensable Nation.” All “American Exceptionalism” is saying is that the individuals composing the big American tribe are better than other flesh-and-blood humans on the planet.

      2. Please don’t make the error of mistaking political power for cultural power.

        Cultural power is overwhelmingly on the left. That’s Murray’s field of interest.

        1. Hmmm…not sure I understand. Isn’t woke “cultural” power being associated with the left politically in this entire discussion. There seems to be a fear that the woke left will gain political power. Frankly, I see the opposite trend as a blowback. Maybe, I am just too dense to understand.

  12. It remains unclear what Murray has to say that wasn’t said years ago, and ever since, by countless others all over the internet. What new perspective does he add?

    Especially “right wing intellectuals” have been remarkably poor in describing the phenomenon and have contributed rather by blowing smoke into the discussion. Their misinformation has made it harder to criticise the so-called “woke”, “social justice”, “cancel culture”, “regressive left” movement.

  13. I finished reading that book a few weeks ago. His prior book on Europe also has that great combination of clarity and extremely elegant prose, without its ever becoming anywhere near purple. All at the service of great insights.

    I recommend the book highly, as I do various interviews with him that you can find easily on youtube.

    For me one of his most stunning insights is his analysis of the importance of contradiction to the new “woke” dispensation.

    In my mind, a contradiction is failure and a bug. He shows them clearly to be features and one of “wokeness’s” critically important methods of its instantiation.

    Interesting, no, that among the most trenchant and sharp critics of current social currents are several gay men.

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