What if the oppressed are not virtuous?

Nick Cohen said yesterday “I told you so you fucking fools.” He did, yes. Today his article on identity politics appeared at Standpoint.

Everyone everywhere apologises to everyone else. Everyone demands the banning of everyone else. Societies where citizens bite their tongues and retract honestly-meant statements are neither particularly free nor particularly happy. And I don’t think our one will last.

Well racism can be honestly-meant, as can antisemitism. Some statements merit retraction. But I take Nick to mean that there’s a limit you fucking fools, and I agree with him there.

He points out the (absurd) absence of class in most identity check lists, and that an ex-miner with black lung disease is not obviously more privileged than say Sheryl Sandberg or Robert Mugabe. And then there’s the issue of specifics.

There is a distinction between believing in the value of anti-racism, say, or women’s rights, and defending a marginalised group regardless of what those who purport to speak for it say or do. Bertrand Russell’s “fallacy of the superior virtue of the oppressed” floors you if you cannot grasp it.

This is a real issue. I think much of the friction at the corner between feminism and trans activism is because of the tragic accident that a lot of Twitter trans activists happen to be assholes. It’s not because they’re trans, it’s because they’re assholes. You can be a disabled black lesbian and be a narcissistic bullying shit. In a way it’s a form of disprivilege to be a shit, but it’s also an oppression of all of us who encounter the shit.

What if the oppressed are not virtuous? What if a favoured group is the victim of racism one moment but sexist and homophobic the next? What if the rainbow coalition isn’t a coalition at all, but a collection of people of wildly different interests? What happens, in other words, when the colours of the rainbow clash?

The refusal to stick to principle and be against racism whoever the racist is, or be in favour of women’s rights regardless of whether the woman is white, brown or black, accounts for the hysteria on today’s middle-class Left. Feminists are banned as “whorephobes” or “transphobes”. Liberal Asians are derided as “house Muslims” and “native informants”. Jews are baited as “Zios”. Gay men are told they no longer suffer from the right kind of oppression.

Lesbians are hassled about the “cotton ceiling.”

There was a channel 4 program recently that discussed the popularity of reactionary views on women, gay rights, free speech and secularism among British Muslims, and ended with my friend Elham Manea.

This programme would not have been broadcast until recently because of fears of encouraging white racism. It is not an entirely disreputable way to think, even though it contradicts the journalistic duty to tell it like it is. I have good Muslim friends who are thoroughly secular but fear that any discussion of religious fanaticism will just encourage their white enemies.

Against them Channel 4 gave us Elham Manea, a Swiss Yemeni academic who put the case against turning a blind eye better than I ever could. She did not think it politically correct to tolerate cultures where husbands could tell wives, “If you don’t behave in a way that suits me, I will simply get another woman. If you get sick, I will get another woman. If you can’t have children, I’ll get another woman.” Or to allow sharia courts which have a “Taliban” interpretation of Islam to impose their verdicts on British citizens.

It is a sign of how corrupt our culture has become that it thinks it “liberal” to tolerate the oppression that shocks Manea and to denounce her and men and women like her as “Islamophobes”. The day will come when that corruption will sink it. Let us hope it is soon.

The past couple of days may have brought it a little closer.

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