News & Blog


Identity Politics: Part I

Currently on many a reading wish list may be Douglas Murray’s latest book, ‘The Madness of Crowds’, all about Identity Politics. Speaking in front of a sell-out crowd, Douglas Murray and Lionel Shriver hosted an evening to air some views, to sell some books, and potentially, to offer a way forward.

The evening set off at a brisk pace as the two raised their concerns over a movement that had begun well, and yet had gathered so much momentum, like a train, that it had steamed through the platform and had begun to smash through the buffers at the end of the line. A desire for equality, and therefore victim emancipation, has mutated into a predatory beast, devouring anyone who dares to object. Lionel Shriver recounted many an attack, including in Brisbane in 2016, for airing her belief that authors should be free to invent and there by represent fictional characters based on cultures different from their own. Life felt absurd these days, they said, with ad-hominem attacks coming from left, right and centre, but mostly from the left.

Murray, boiled things down to the confusion of two distinct categories. There are things we don’t know much about, and things we do know a lot about. The problem is, that people have begun to claim certainty about that which is uncertain, and uncertainty about that which is certain. Take for example the issue of gender. What was until very recently seen as certain, male and female; has now been reclassified by some as uncertain. And that which until very recently has been uncertain, transgenderism; has now been reclassified by some as certain.

Coupled with this, is the perception of what is debateable, and what is off limits. For this, Murray uses a digital analogy. There is hardware and there is software. Hardware is off limits to debate, whereas software is debateable. This said, if a person manages to redefine what is hardware and what is software, they can then control what is debateable, and what is not. So, where someone’s gender was seen as a hardware issue and not debated, now it has been redefined it is up for discussion.

Weaponization, was a word that was mentioned a few times, particularly of identity, hence the focus on identity politics. This cautionary warning was about the danger of privileging who you are, over what you can do. Shriver was quick to lament the failure of this approach in the USA, the use of quotas and affirmative action, has led not to a decline in racism and discrimination, but a rise. She cited Harvard University’s downgrading of Asian student’s applications in order to privilege other applicants, as the ugliest example of our time. This ‘woke’ transformation, into a world that focuses on discrimination, and champions liberation, seems then on the surface to have a narrative of progress, and yet Shriver would argue, there is regress beneath the surface.


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