Both the left and the right are accusing each other of ‘fascism’, which means I suppose that the word is changing its meaning.
I rather resent this bifurcation into left and right. Many of us put our politics together from a palette of positions. You can be ecologically committed and worried about climate change without being convinced by the dogma attached to global warming interests. You can be in favour of state intervention in one area, and free market Darwinian economics in another.
But the real test of political allegiance for me has become the freedom of speech- or rather the threat to it. And the threat to it comes mainly from the political and cultural left.
So I have taken some delight in the travels and adventures of a half English/half Greek character called Milos Iannopolous. Milos has a mission in the world to puncture both political correctness (the comfort blanket of the Left) and the intellectual idolatry that goes with it. Why idolatry? Because people become enraged at his even questioning dogmatic assumptions that the cultural voices of our age have been pushing relentlessly for decades.
He has been touring the USA and talking to sell out audiences. He is hugely popular. But his talks are targeted by protesters. At the University of California in Berkeley, masked rioters took to the campus. They set the campus on fire, and closed the lecture down. They beat up some of the people who had come to listen.
There was no fire or physical thuggery in Canterbury. Simon Langton’s was the school he was educated at and from which he was expelled. But he was closed down just the same. 220 pupils had signed up to listen to him. Another kind of thuggery silenced him. This time, the Department of Education’s anti-extremism unit had the lecture cancelled.
His critics say, rightly, that he is outrageous in some of his claims he makes and are frustrated that they can’t tell if he is exaggerating for effect, being ironical or being sincere. He certainly uses hyperbole to great effect.
He accurately uses the financial statistics against embedded feminism to prove that there is no wage gap. There is an earnings gap, which is presented as a wage gap. But nobody bothers to point out that there is virtually no discrimination in wages between men and women (which would be illegal in most western countries anyway) and that the gender gap in the total wage bill is due to other reasons. Some women prefer to put their motherhood experiences before their career for certain periods of their life. Some women have a more sensible work life balance than many men choose.
He infuriates his own gay lobby by challenging many of the key claims the media make on their behalf. He insists he was not born gay, but that it was a cultural choice he made. He rouses their fury by saying that he now partly regrets it and if there was a way to be free of it, he would choose to be free. He laments that as a gay man he can never have a child as an expression of the love with the partner that he wants to give articulation to, as straight lovers can. He thinks that there is a deep human diminishment to being gay as a result.
In a wonderful video (discoverable on Youtube) a BBC journalist asks him if he a racist and ‘white supremacist’. White supremacy has, if you had not noticed, become the most recent currency of leftish insult. It’s based on the fact that even ’Nazi’ is losing some of its power to shock, since it is wheeled out at every opportunity.
But ‘white supremacist’ is nice and fresh and a terrifying accusation for those afraid of being cast as cultural heretics and consigned to outer social darkness. His reply was, “Darling, all my boyfriends are black, and I think anyway you are mixing up race and culture which is a piece of ignorance as a BBC journalist you should be ashamed of”.
He is excoriating on the alliance made between the left, the gay lobby and Islam. He asks which part of the Islamic execution of homosexuals (commanded by the Koran) put into practice currently by throwing Iranian gays to their deaths from tall buildings, Western activists don’t get?
He leaves us with a challenge. Is fascism the beating up of opponents; the burning of property; the closing down of public lectures by intimidation; the cancellation of speaking engagements by the state?
Or is it irritating hyperbole, teasing exaggeration, the verbal overturning of fondly held but under-examined cultural dogmas?
If it’s the former, then you may need to look out for fascism by turning your attention more to the left, rather than where it came from eighty years ago- the right. It now comes from the cultural and progressive ideologues; the engines of political correctness and pseudo-equality.
It’s said that generals are always fighting the last war. The enemy to our freedom of speech and thought today is coming from a different direction.