By Ben Pensant
In 2007 Islamophobic Blairite Nick Cohen published What’s Left?, a libellous attack on liberal values that took the bizarre step of using facts and evidence to characterise modern left-wingers as anti-Western apologists-for-terror (as if these were bad things). From Chomsky and Pilger to Galloway and Livingstone, the book smeared liberal voices by repeating things they’d said and done, a tactic that would become all too familiar post-Jezza. It was a hatchet-job, basically, and a text-book example of what happens when progressives commit the cardinal sin of doubting their faultless ideology.
But one of the main criticisms of the book – apart from the fact it was written by a self-hating warmonger – was that the malaise Cohen described existed only on the far-left fringes and was unlikely to influence mainstream opinion. Which was true back then, as the left were yet to realise the way to keep their ideals relevant was not via charismatic, centrist politicians with broad appeal but drab men in duffel coats fond of eating mung-beans and praising terrorists. Even with Labour in power it was clear that the way forward was to turn them into a fearsome protest party with no clear policies, a leader with the worst approval rating since approval ratings began and a belief that repeatedly putting Diane Abbott on telly will secure votes through her wit, charm and unfettered fuck-wittery.
Happily, a decade on we find ourselves in a gloriously regressive climate: the BBC pay gushing tribute to murderous dictators; newspapers are forced to apologise for calling Islamic honour killings Islamic; and mainstream left-wingers spend the fortnight since Trump’s inauguration honouring folk whose favoured methods of debate include punching people, smashing up property and throwing bricks at coppers.
That’s right: violence is no longer the preserve of hard-as-nails activists like Aaron Bastani – it’s gone mainstream. Because while the left have long been in favour of censoring people they disagree with, they’re now cool with punching them too. And it shows no sign of changing, as this week alone has seen everyone from UFC champions to gay Breitbart editors feel the righteous wrath of the regressives.
Highlights caught on camera include: a brave SJW trying to set a Trump supporter’s hair on fire; a Trump supporter knocked unconscious at Portland International Airport; a Trump supporter pepper sprayed while being interviewed at Berkeley; and my personal favourite, the brave man who punched reporter Sheila Gunn before being defended by female accomplices who warned Gunn to leave before things ‘escalate’. These incidents are nothing special of course – the far-right have been using force against opponents for years. But the difference is that while moderate right wing voices condemn extremism and violence, we on the mainstream left think nothing of defending and encouraging it.
Because as has been repeatedly pointed out by scores of intelligent journalists and Mona Eltahawy, when that protester punched Neo-Nazi arsehole Richard Spencer the other week, he wasn’t just striking a blow against fascism: he was striking a blow for everyone who would rather silence bad ideas than debate them. Because only a coward would try to expose a Nazi by using solid arguments to tear apart his ugly ideology on camera. No, far better to stick it to a Nazi by adopting the tactics of the Nazi.
As ever, first out of the traps to laud the sucker-puncher was Graham ‘One Man Godwins’ Linehan. As a fan of Hamas and Hugo Chavez OMG is totally cool with violence and fascism, just as long as the people behaving violently and fascistic aren’t white or western. Predictably, trolls suggested it was hypocritical for someone who earns a living speaking freely to support using violence to stop people speaking freely. But OMG was having none of it and I’m certain he’d happily to take a knee-capping should any radicalised priest take offence at the blatant Catholiphobia of Father Ted kicking Bishop Brennan up the arse.
He also evoked the Dunkirk spirit by comparing people who disagreed with him to Nazi collaborators, shutting up one nuisance by posting that picture of Captain America punching Hitler that SJWs have been gleefully circulating in lieu of an argument for the last fortnight. Which was perceived as a masterstroke among the historically-illiterate, despite the fact that the Nazis we fought in WW2 were a tiny bit more dangerous than a gang of idiot racists sitting in their mother’s basements wearing Pepe the Frog pyjamas, calling people ‘cucks’ on 4Chan and dreaming about getting spit-roasted by Milo and Ann Coulter. But the principle is identical, hence the spectacle of middle-class comedy writers mentioning young men who gave their lives and limbs for the good of humanity in the same breath as a student who punched someone in the street then ran away like a schoolgirl.
Elsewhere, social media was awash with more people whose jobs involve free speech advocating violence to curb free speech. Guardian columnist and professional Corbynite Abi Wilkinson took a leaf out of her direct action-loving big sister Owen Jones’ book and tweeted ‘Spencer Sucker Puncher 2020′ before bragging about how she and her chums had a good chortle watching the assault footage in the pub. A celebratory night by all accounts, and unconfirmed reports allege that Abi and her gang of tearaways were later ejected from the pub for carrying fake IDs, leaving chewing gum under tables and being reduced to fits of giggles by the condom machine in the ladies’.
Some may find it odd that someone who’s written at length about fascism, the extreme-right and silencing opponents would now support the use of fascistic, extreme-right tactics to silence opponents. But if Abi’s in favour of violence against people who support murderous, authoritarian ideologies that’s up to her. And I’m sure she’ll be happy to be reminded of this if anyone ever gives Diane ‘Mao did more good than harm’ Abbott a bloody good hiding.
Similarly, American firebrand Dan Arel penned an overblown article intellectualising his commitment to violence, which basically amounted to ‘If you punch a Nazi, it’s self defence’. But not before taking to Twitter to accuse anyone who disagreed of enabling white supremacy. Unconcerned that the sucker-puncher had engendered sympathy for an actual white supremacist as opposed to pretend ones on the internet, Dan brilliantly countered claims that condoning violence was somewhat illiberal: ‘I’m not a liberal. I’m a socialist’.
Indeed, and when he says ‘socialist’ he’s not on about the kind, caring, collectivist sort that only exist in the minds of people who’ve never read any history. No, he means he’s an actual socialist, in all its authoritarian, anti-democratic, seizing-power-by-force-and-silencing-opposing-views splendour.
To illustrate this, when it was pointed out that Dan had previously claimed ‘violence is for the ignorant’, ‘resorting to violence is a sign of the weak and uneducated’ and ‘if you need violence to enforce your ideas, your ideas are worthless’ he responded by calmly ignoring the point and calling his opponent a ‘fucking racist apologist’. He then countered more charges of hypocrisy by accusing people of ‘normalising white nationalism’ and shedding ‘fucking tears over a Nazi’, before justifying punching Spencer because he is ‘a literal fucking Nazi you fucking moron’.
Proving categorically that Arel was correct when he said Nazis can’t be defeated with words. Especially not words that sound like they were scribbled by a huffy teenage eco-warrior who’s just discovered Rage Against The Machine and dropped a tin of ethically correct dog-food on his foot.
In a similar vein, non-binary agit-girl Laurie Penny took to Twitter to condemn the police for having the nerve to protect members of the public from privileged berks in V-For-Vendetta masks: ‘Police are massively overreacting. Constant teargas and flashbangs’. I dunno, you can’t even throw bricks and smash up property without getting hassled by the pigs these days. Ignoring the fact that crying, starting riots and punching people because a bad man won an election is practically the dictionary definition of ‘overreacting’, Laurie followed up these despatches with her take on Trump’s vile inauguration address:
‘This is a terrifying speech. The biggest cheer came when he pledged to wipe out ‘Islamic’ terrorism’. It’s comforting to know that the left’s love affair with terrorism has become so passionate they’re now terrified it might end. I’m sure the tourists who hid under sun-loungers while their loved ones were being massacred on a beach in Tunisia would agree that the only thing scarier is a speech from a President pledging to stop it happening again. Let’s just hope none of the music fans who played dead under piles of corpses in the Bataclan heard Trump’s foul words – having a gig disrupted by gun-wielding Islamists is frightening enough but to hear thousands of Americans applaud talk of destroying the ideology that made it happen is shit-your-pants-tastic.
Predictably, a gang of ‘lizard-brained’ Islamophobes took Laurie to task but she deflected the criticism by ignoring most of it. She eventually retorted that anyone who thought she supported Islamic terrorism had ‘misread’ her and the reason she found the speech so scary was because ‘Islamic terrorism was framed as the enemy rather than terrorism in general’. Which can’t be stressed enough, especially when you consider all those reports we hear about radical Anglicans planting bombs, politicised Calvinists shooting up nightclubs and rabid scientologists establishing mediaeval hellholes where children and homosexuals are raped and murdered.
Of course, Laurie and other regressive leftists tend not to acknowledge Islamic terrorism at all (much like Islamic misogyny, Islamic homophobia, Islamic racism or indeed Islamic-anything that might force them to accept that the religion they avoid criticising isn’t too keen on people like them). Hence why the first reaction to any terror attack is to condemn the people who’ve been attacked, as demonstrated by Laurie’s infamous ‘Je ne suis pas Charlie’ tweet, in which she refused to show solidarity with murdered journalists on the grounds that their magazine was waacist.
It’s a measure of how principled Laurie is that she had the confidence to make such comments, despite the fact she’s clearly never read Charlie Hebdo and wouldn’t know real racism if it smashed her designer specs and threw her through Starbucks window. Unlike the oppressed, subjugated, Women’s March co-organiser Linda Sarsour who sadly knows plenty about real-life violence. Indeed, she pre-empted the current liberal thirst for inflicting physical pain back in 2011 when she said of FGM survivor Ayaan Hirsi Ali: ‘She’s askin 4 an a$$ whippin’. I wish I could take their vaginas away – they don’t deserve to be women’.
Echoing her admiration for Sharia Law and Saudi Arabia, it’s clear this modern feminist icon is happy to promote violence against women who’ve experienced more actual oppression than she could shake a giant pink fanny at. And this principled fusion of liberal values and reactionary religion has inspired feminists worldwide, as seen in Hocus Pocus star Kathy Najimy’s plea for women attending the march to wear hijabs in solidarity with their ‘about-to-be disenfranchised Muslim sisters’ who choose to wear them. No word on the millions of already-disenfranchised Muslim sisters who are forced to wear them, of course. But lets just hope Kathy’s LGBT friends followed her lead and showed solidarity with Iranian gays by turning up to the march wearing nooses.
Which would be another fine example of how the fringe beliefs Cohen described have come to dominate left-wing thinking in the present. And what a glorious present it is. Or at least it was, until Trump. Which means now more than ever we need the left to spread the mantra that violence is acceptable and free speech for people with repugnant views is not okay. Okay?
Because there’s never been a better time for art students, civil servants and small coffee-shop owners to unleash their inner fascists and go around chinning people. And as luck would have it, fatalities and brain injuries from single punches are rising rapidly, making the chances of killing a Nazi excitingly realistic. As Dan Arel points out, it’s our duty to punch Nazis and if this means somebody ending up in a morgue then tough titty. That assaulting someone is a rather dangerous criminal act is of no concern to people who live in a middle-class bubble where folk only get ‘bopped’ on the telly.
Because if the only people in danger of dying or spending the rest of their lives in a coma are white supremacists then what’s the problem? And before anyone pipes up, I can assure them the chances of mistaken identity are practically zero. I mean, come on, since when have lefties ever wrongly accused anyone of being a Nazi? And should this liberal-approved savagery result in demos and protests becoming synonymous with life-threatening injuries? Well, they started it. You can’t expect the left to care about the physical and social effects of violence when there are pronouns and Sun-headlines to worry about.
So I hereby urge Abi, OMG and Laurie to utilise the street-fighting skills they honed over years of discussing Chomsky in the BBC canteen and visit Newcastle on a Saturday night to tour the clubs telling everyone what ignorant white supremacists they are for voting Leave. I promise you’ll get the reception you deserve. All together now…
Fight! Fight! Fight!