Thursday, October 12, 2006

Inquisitions and crusades

This article by Christopher Orlet is about the treatment of the French teacher, Robert Redeker, first by the Islamists offended by his characterisation of Muhammad as a "mass-murderer of Jews" and then by the French establishment terrified of another rampage in the banlieues. It is the response of the Western elites that worries Mr Orlet, their speed in bending the knee, their barely suppressed anger at those who will not be silent and persist in bringing up unpleasant subjects. He looks back.

The West went through a similar crisis a few years ago during the height of the Feminist Inquisition and Politically Correct Crusade, which matched the worst excesses of McCarthyism for the sheer dread it imposed upon the hearts and minds of Americans. Ironically, it was worst in the press and academia, where untenured professors -- almost all upstanding liberals -- lived in constant fear of being reported to the PC police for gazing wantonly at a young coed, or making an off-color joke.
His point is to contrast the consequences then and now (loss of job vs loss of life). But surely there's a more important point. The methods of those with Right on their side differ markedly in degree, but not in type. I well remember at university the Feminist counter to an opposing point of view was shouting, name-calling and, often, violence. They became the Thought Police of the age and were free to interpret any utterance and condemn any person on that person's perceived adherence to the new orthodoxy. They had quickly acquired Victim status, erected it into a millennial creed and dismissed all of history as either a fabrication of the oppressor or as one long crime.

The anger has receded, but the virus has mutated into the various gender and cultural studies, and the cultural relativism that plagues us today. The institutions that ought to be our first defence against hogwash are either so infected or so weakened by past lost battles that they are a danger themselves to the society they were built to serve. Orlet is right. We have been through this before. Each time the shout goes up for liberation and freedom from oppression. Each time we come out weakened and less able to confront the next onslaught.

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