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The Fashion for Racism Apologies
Why intelligent people believe and spread lies about race
Over the last few days, yet more voices have been added to the chorus of people who wish to paint Britain as an intolerant, racist hellhole. At this stage, the grievance grift is so widespread that I usually ignore new people jumping on this most lucrative bandwagon but this week the calibre of the culprits gave me food for thought.
Speaking at the Hay Literary Festival, actor Stephen Fry said that Britons are “deluding themselves into thinking we’re a tolerant society”. He also confessed that he was shocked and embarrassed to realise he was “part of the problem as a decent progressive person”.
Whatever his political views, I hold Stephen Fry in extremely high regard. A fiercely intelligent, creative genius, Fry is arguably one of the most significant British cultural figures of my lifetime. Extremely funny, fantastically articulate and incredibly perceptive, Fry is no fool.
Which begs the question, why do so many otherwise impressive people fall for the false narrative about our country and, even worse, regurgitate it uncritically to their large audiences?
Thomas Sowell, the great American economist, historian and social theorist once said that there are three questions that destroy most progressive arguments:
It is the first and third of these that are particularly relevant here. When some suggest that Britain is an intolerant country, the first thing I always want to know is what are they comparing it to? According to the Guardian, study after study continues to show that British people are the MOST welcoming of immigrants in Europe.
If we are the most tolerant Europeans, which other major countries have a better record of tolerance and respect for minorities?
Is it China, where this was a mainstream TV advert? A Chinese girl tricks a black man into swallowing a detergent tablet and stuffs him into a washing machine. The happy ending? He comes out Chinese.
India? A country which still has a caste system?
Brazil? Argentina? The rest of Latin America? Where your socio-economic status is directly correlated to how white people perceive you to be?
Malaysia, where the practice of Bumiputera legally privileges some ethnic groups over others in education, business and housing?
Japan, a country with a long history of supremacist attitudes?
Maybe Stephen Fry believes my birthplace of Russia is more tolerant? A country where he would be considered a second class citizen and risk physical assault every time he stepped outside as a gay man? Where people with dark skin are regularly stopped by the police for random document checks and frequently mistreated? Where a song titled “They Killed a Negro” was a popular hit?
I recommend watching the video to get the full experience of the visuals but if you’re short on time the song’s opening lines are:
“A dead snake does not hiss
A dead bird does not chirp
A dead negro does not play basketball
La La La La La La”
The reason I include these awful examples is to ram home the point – you had no idea about most of them. People in the West who haven’t lived abroad are blissfully unaware of how EXTREMELY tolerant our societies are by comparison with all the others.
Of course, when contrasted with the utopia which all of these self-identified “decent progressives” imagine, we are the worst bigots to have ever lived. By comparison with that utopia we are also the poorest, least educated, most malnourished, unfree and technologically backward. This is, of course, an absurd way of evaluating our society but for most people ideology trumps reason.
(As an aside, this idea that we should always compare ourselves with some imagined perfect world is another aspect of progressive thinking that Sowell has written about extensively. It rests on a faith-based belief in the infinite perfectibility of man. For some reason it never occurs to these deeply imperfect people that not all problems can be fully solved because it’s deeply imperfect people – us – that cause them.
This is why, taken to its logical conclusion, progressivism believes in abolishing prisons and the police. According to this worldview, there are no criminals, i.e. people who knowingly break the law in order to benefit from doing so, only people who have been “failed by the system”.)
So while I do think it’s important we continue to improve the way we treat each other, to pretend we are anything but the most tolerant people in the history of humanity is absurd.
Which brings us neatly onto Thomas Sowell’s third question:
What hard evidence do you have?
The answer is clearly “none”, so why then do intelligent, well-meaning people like Stephen Fry buy into and spread these baseless claims about their country?
The only answer I have is the same unsatisfactory explanation one must reach for when attempting to explain why we happily buy jeans with holes in them or consider certain items of clothing cool, then hopelessly outdated, then cool again within the space of a few decades: fashion.
Self-flagellating about our intolerance is simply in vogue among our liberal “elites”. They have as much interest in the evidence on race as they do in data on whether jeans with knee slits are good for preserving body heat. And so, I’m afraid, these meaningless lamentations1 will continue to be the grift that keeps on giving for some time.
Note that even people who claim they are “part of the problem” like Fry never resign from anything, return their “ill-gotten” millions or do anything to actually atone for their “sins”. The purpose of acknowledging they’re part of the problem is not to make amends - it is to signal to others that by failing to repent you are morally impure and deeply suspect.