Is Wokeness moving Brits to the right?

November 5, 2021 • 10:45 am

. . . or so claims Allison Pearson in her Torygraph column below (click on screenshot). Granted, the paper leans right and, according to Pearson’s biography, so does she. But right-wing Americans warned us long before Tuesday’s elections that Wokery was playing into their hands, especially through the nature of their campaigns (viz., Youngkin in Virginia). It behooves us to pay attention.

And so we have the Tory version of James Carville, telling us about a British backlash against wokeness, which of course is just as prevalent in that country as in the U.S.

Pearson recounts several instances of people withholding donations from places like Oxford, Imperial College, and the University of Edinburgh as a way of expressing disapproval of cancellation campaigns. Some of this apparently works; Pearson notes that when Oxford was considering taking down the bust of Cecil Rhodes, charitable donations “collapsed”. As Pearson notes, ” Former students, who thought that a college dating back to 1326 should have the guts to stand up for its history, disinherited Oriel. Rhodes wobbled, but he did not fall. Instead, the college established new scholarships for African students using his fortune to enhance the future, not obliterate the past.

Just two notes, as you can read her piece for yourself—it’s free. Pearson addresses the opprobrium descending on the University of Edinburgh when it renamed Hume Tower:

Dozens of donors have cancelled financial gifts to the University of Edinburgh since it renamed the David Hume Tower over the philosopher’s comments on race more than 250 years ago. The presiding genius of the Scottish Enlightenment, Hume held views which now look either radical and laudably ahead of their time or discordantly ugly. An opponent of slavery, he helped his patron Lord Hertford buy a slave plantation. Guess what, human beings were as complicated and flawed back then as they are now. Edinburgh said it had to act to protect student “sensitivities”. Many alumni disagree. “Hume was cancelled in life by the Scottish universities for failing to fall in line with the religious tenets of his day,” wrote one, “so I admire him in death for having the same effect on the grandees of this new [woke] religion.”

Renaming Hume Tower is a supreme act of stupidity.

And, as I reported before, both Imperial College and Western Washington University are in the process of cancelling the great biologist and educator Thomas Henry Huxley (see here and here).  That’s absolutely unconscionable if you know Huxley’s history (see Nick Matzke’s piece here). Pearson gives a quote that shows that, at least in one area, his thinking was well ahead of his time):

I suspect that graduates of Imperial College London will have a similar reaction on hearing that a building named after Thomas Henry Huxley, the great biologist and anthropologist who determined that birds descended from dinosaurs, is set to be renamed. A report by the university’s chillingly named “independent history group” has recommended that the name Huxley be excised because of his beliefs about human intelligence. The group cites Huxley’s essay of 1865, “Emancipation — Black and White”, which it says “espouses a racial hierarchy of intelligence, a belief system of ‘scientific racism’, legacies of which are still felt today”.

You have to hand it to old Huxley. He cunningly hid his racism by being a leading voice in the movement for the abolition of slavery. Yes, some of his observations make us recoil today. But, yesterday, I looked up that self-same “offensive” essay, and here is a very different sort of paragraph: “We find girls naturally timid, prone to dependence, born conservatives; and we teach them that independence is unladylike; that blind faith is the right frame of mind; and that whatever we may be permitted, and indeed encouraged, to do to our brother, our sister is to be left to the tyranny of authority and tradition. With few insignificant exceptions, girls have been educated either to be drudges, or toys, beneath man, or a sort of angels above him… The possibility that the ideal of womanhood lies neither in the fair saint, nor in the fair sinner; that the female type of character is neither better nor worse than the male; that women are meant neither to be men’s guides nor their playthings, but their comrades, their fellows and their equals, so far as nature puts no bar to that equality, does not seem to have entered into the minds of those who have had the conduct of the education of girls.”

Over 150 years later, I feel almost tearful with gratitude coming across an establishment figure like Thomas Henry Huxley making the case, with such fierce logic and unrepentant eloquence, for my sex to receive the same education as the male. Do you think the Imperial College London’s independent history group weigh Huxley’s remarkable early feminism in its judgment to strip his name from a beloved building?

Of course not. The Inquisition seeks villains to burn retrospectively at the stake not human beings with the full complement of vices and virtues. They should christen Imperial’s Huxley building the Pol Pot Year Zero building, in memory of the cultural vandals who took him down, and be done with it. Come to that, how long will the college be allowed to call itself Imperial? Bit insensitive, isn’t it?

Now that is good writing, and appropriately snarky.

Pearson is warning about the effect of Wokeness on financial support of Universities, but this could hold for politics, too. Right now the UK has a Tory prime minister whom I don’t like at all, but if UK Wokeness keeps up, the Tories may continue to reign.  Here’s her ending:

The self-righteous young mob thinks it can get universities to grovel with the threat of being cancelled. My generation is learning to beat them at that game: we just cancel the direct debit.

And it could work with votes and politics as well.

h/t: Paul

34 thoughts on “Is Wokeness moving Brits to the right?

  1. Brexit was the great act of insane, illogical self-harm by the right in Britain; it looks as if wokery is shaping up to be the parallel act of self-harm by the British left.

    1. The parallel act of self harm that mirrored Brexit was the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party. That did far more harm to the left than Wokeism has. Admittedly Corbyn has gone and Wokeism is still very much in evidence so there is still time for Wokeism to catch up.

  2. I often disagree with Pearson’s take on things (she was an anti-masker and advocated letting Covid-19 infections spread amongst school children to achieve herd immunity), but she is on the right side of the issues in this post. And yes, some good writing in the extracts cited by our host.

  3. Brexit was the great act of ordinary people wresting back democratic control from faceless bureaucrats. It looks as if it needs another great act by ordinary people to reverse illogical self-harm by the woke left.

    It’s another viewpoint, at least. And in other news the number of people paying the BBC license fee is falling year on year, although not yet resulting in a de-woking of the BBC.

    1. The Beeb is slowly getting less Woke: 1) it stuck to its guns about the recent online article concerning lesbians being coerced into sex by transwomen, despite many complaints from the usual suspects; 2) it commissioned the 10-part Nolan Investigates podcast series looking into corporate capture of the BBC and other important public bodies by the LGBT+ lobby group Stonewall (and this afternoon’s BBC Radio 4 programme Feedback criticised the BBC’s failure to provide an interviewee during the series – I opted for a member of the production team to read out my own very minor contribution); and 3) Woman’s Hour had a lengthy interview with gender-critical feminist Professor Kathleen Stock. So hopefully things are moving in a positive direction.

    2. Hear, hear!

      Some anti-woke rationalists don’t see a contradiction in classifying all Brexiteers as knuckle-draggers. We the people (I love saying that…) wanted London to be in charge, that’s it. I’s too bad Boris has the helm, but that will pass.

      The BBC is digging it’s grave and the bosses don´t seem to care. Soon the woke brigade will be left with the Guardian. The two organisations are becoming undistinguishable anyway.

      1. “We the people (I love saying that…) wanted London to be in charge, that’s it.” – No wonder the Scots and Northern Irish, who voted Remain, are so unhappy…

        1. They could leave the union if they wish. But here in Scotland we don’t want to do that – most of us anyway. So I guess we the people from this united kingdom, collectively, have to accept the wish of the majority, no? Democracy sucks sometimes.

      2. I’m in the people. I was fully aware that our government already was in charge. I’m afraid you bought a lie.

        On the other hand, I hear we could have Angela Merkel on a free transfer soon. Do you think she’d run this country better or worse than the bunch of incompetent venal corrupt arseholes we have at the moment?

    3. Brexit was the great act of ordinary people wresting back democratic control from faceless bureaucrats

      That’s a joke right? Brexit has not reduced bureaucracy one jot. In fact, ask people trying to export or import stuff with Europe if they bureaucracy has reduce but be prepared to be laughed at in the face.

  4. Respect the conversation itself, even if not your opponent. Hold the conversation in higher esteem than your argument. Your argument will either hold water, or it won’t. A breakdown of the conversation has the potential to create deeper problems than your argument falling apart.

    Cancel culture just creates ‘victory by cancellation’. This is the most hollow of victory.

    Don’t seek to close the conversation down by zero-platforming an individual. Close down their arguments with intelligence and reason.

  5. Well, this life-long liberal, Guardian-subscribing Brit actually took out a trial subscription to The Telegraph last week (unlike The Guardian, their website isn’t free).

    The tipping point was last week, when I also remembered that Susanne Moore was hounded out of the Guardian and now writes for the Telegraph (and I also subscribed to her blog page).

    This was when the Guardian, on reporting about the bullying of Kathleen Stock, gave some weak support to the notion of “academic freedom of speech”, but nowhere mentioned that nothing that Stock has said or written is actually transphobic (and, yes, I have read “Material Girls”, unlike, apparently, many of her detractors). So I decided to look elsewhere for decent reporting on the issue.

    I certainly would never vote for the current Tory government, but I might just refrain from voting at all if the current British left continues to support woke nonsense.

    1. I sympathise. I have voted in every single general and local election since 1974, and always for left/liberal candidates. I don’t think I could ever contemplate voting Tory, but next time round I’m not sure I could vote for any of the others with a clear conscience.

      That’s at general elections. I will still continue to support the Lib Dems locally, because we have a good local councillor and they try to get things done. But the national party is pretty dreadful at the moment.

  6. Some of you may have read me before, whining about the stupid games politicians play, of which the stupidest is “if you’re gonna go that far right, just watch how far left I’m prepared to go to beat you.” Right and left are interchangeable in that example, by the way. In any two party system, you maximise chances of winning by being even a bit more reasonable and less extreme than the crazy candidate. Take the position that keeps your supporters, and steals the least convinced of your opponents. James Carville gets it, the Daily Telegraph gets it, why don’t politicians get it?
    Maybe one does – I read yesterday of a Democrat congresswoman who said words to the effect that ‘people didn’t elect Biden to be FDR, just to be normal and stop the chaos.’ Whether you are driving on ice, or electing governments, introducing positive feedback loops into your left and right excursions does not end well. It ends in a ditch.

  7. Not saying she’s wrong here, but to say she’s “on the right” is a bit like saying Tucker Carlson is “on the right”. They’re both dangerously balmy, with a very relaxed relationship with facts.

  8. “The group cites Huxley’s essay … which it says “espouses a racial hierarchy of intelligence, …”

    OK, but what evidence then available to Huxley showed that such an idea was wrong? Given the evidence he had, wasn’t it a fair position to hold? If so, we shouldn’t fault him for it.

      1. They had very little evidence. Of course, in terms of technological capability, the Europeans were ahead of some of the other peoples they encountered, so it was natural to assume some degree of superiority. But separating out culture, historical contingency factors, genes, etc, was well beyond the understanding of the time.

        1. Maybe, but that doesn’t really answer the question of what evidence they did have, and doesn’t it raise the question of why would we give them a pass if their opinion was based on “very little evidence?”

            1. I don’t know on what basis you have determined this, but in any event do you think it was sufficient to support there being a “fair position to hold?”

              1. They had more technology + they were white, so therefore white people are better? If this is how “they” reasoned it doesn’t seem all that good to me.

              2. I’m not sure “whiteness” per se had anything to do with it. Yes, they felt superior – and in the ways that they measured it then (conquest, military strength, technology, understanding of geography and the sciences, etc.) they were, however much we might not choose to compare different cultures in that way today. Alien invaders with similar technological superiority compared to modern day humans might judge us similarly, of course.

              3. Oops, I meant to add that the aliens would not necessarily put their superiority down to being green, or whatever…

  9. It’s my opinion that some of these removals of statues and name sakes are really just another way to slap another name on something. Remember what the real witch hunts really were back in the day, and that was often a way to take away property and rights from people who were otherwise too powerful to unseat the fair way.

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