The woke are gaslighting us into surrender Trevor Phillips in The Times 30.11.20
The original article is here.
In Gaslight, the 1944 film adaptation of Patrick Hamilton’s classic play, a young opera singer is driven slowly mad by her scheming older husband, bent on taking possession of jewels bequeathed by her aunt. Footsteps in the attic, the mysterious disappearances of valuable objects, the repeated, inexplicable flickering of the lights lead the young woman to fear that she is losing her mind. In a luminous, Oscar-winning performance, Ingrid Bergman is transformed from an accomplished, vivacious star to a timid, cowering shadow of a woman.
Today, millennials are taking their revenge and gaslighting the grown-ups. In every institution, those in authority are wilting under their j’accuse. Not even the humble full stop is safe. According to the Countdown presenter Susie Dent, replying to a young friend who has acquired a new job with the single word “Great.” might indicate resentment at her success; the proper degree of enthusiasm requires an exclamation mark, as in “Great!” (or possibly a clapping-hands emoji).
Dismayingly, those allegedly responsible for the education of young minds are caving under the pressure and abandoning principle for the quiet life. Cambridge University is proposing a change in statutes that would require staff to display respect for the views of all colleagues — inter alia misogynists, fascists, Islamists, homophobes, flat-Earthers, climate change deniers, racists and antisemites. Despite a spirited campaign led by a minority academic, Arif Ahmed, the five men and one woman who occupy the most senior roles in the university — all white — appear to have been manipulated into overturning centuries of dedication to freedom of thought and tolerance under the guise of compassion for minorities. Maybe when they read the “woke” bible White Fragility, they took the title as an instruction to deliver rather than a warning to avoid.
The defenestration of the veteran Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore marks the latest surrender. A letter signed by 338 colleagues declared the paper’s offices no longer a safe space for trans people, after Moore wrote a column reminding readers that trans women are trans women and not women. Until recently, power of dismissal lay in the hands of editors rather than on the keyboards of software developers, engineers and “customer optimisers”. So far, no senior person at the paper or at its owner, the Scott Trust, has owned up to leaning on Moore to leave but in an impassioned online essay the writer accused her former employers of “cowardice” and being swept along in “witch-burning”.
Some of those in authority claim that they are listening to the voices of “the kids”; actually I would say what they are hearing is their own whimpering under fire. Instead of defending progressive diversity our elites are becoming the enthusiastic enforcers of a Stalinist conformity. The woke affect concern for the vulnerable but in fact display contempt rather than compassion. Last week’s Universities UK report on racial harassment boasts that it was compiled with the support of “members drawn exclusively from Black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups to ensure due prominence was given to the voices of those with lived experience of racial harassment”. It drips with condescension towards people of colour, implying that we are utterly incapable of uttering a coherent sentence in the presence of our white masters.
The successful gaslighting of the grown-ups is a triumph for the narcissism of hurt feelings. Most wokery rests on unsubstantiated fears of “offence”. In the US, the adoption of the neologism “Latinx” has spread through the elite crowd in yet another genuflection to the noisy claque of trans activists who would like to erase women from every language. Yet a poll in August showed that only 3 per cent of people in America’s diverse, Hispanic heritage population use the term.
Grown-up spines might be stiffened by a viewing of Gaslight and Bergman’s chilling revenge on her tormentor, using his own tactics to condemn him to the rope. In an ironic reversal, the authorities at Eton College are being taken to task by their own pupils. Hundreds have signed a petition contesting what they say is a ruling by the headmaster that “anything that can be deemed ‘hostile’ by any single member of one of the school’s designated minority groups will be censored”. They make a cast-iron case for the principles of natural justice. I agree; even the most militant feminist or anti-racist should baulk at trial by a jury of one. It is bizarre to find the most entitled “kids” in our nation admonishing the adults for losing the plot but, increasingly, the tide is turning.
In the few brief years when progressives had power we tried to use it to protect the vulnerable. The woke claim to be doing the same. But in fact they wield power not as a shield but as a scourge. They demand obedience from the unorthodox and silence from the insubordinate. Fear of being denounced as sexist, racist, Islamophobic or transphobic is destroying freedoms so many have worked so long and hard to achieve. I find it hard to blame the millennials for falling for the nonsense of wokery. They are too young to recall the stifling white, middle-class, patriarchal orthodoxy that Britain began to leave behind half a century ago. But there is no excuse for the grown-ups in the room to capitulate to what they must know is the return of grey, repressive, mindless conformity.