Emmanuel Macron secured a second term as president of France in the election of 25th April this year. In the last days of campaigning, he claimed that his rival Marine le Pen’s far-right party, Rassemblement National, “lives off fear and anger to create resentment… It says excluding parts of society is the answer.” He also claimed their plans to prioritise French nationals’ rights and opportunities over those of immigrants “abandons the founding texts of Europe that protect individuals, human rights and freedoms.”
In the United Kingdom, our Right-wingers make similar capital from division, but, surprisingly, we can level the same accusations at our own Social Justice activists, the supposedly most left-wing members of our society who should stand for justice, equality, and respect for all.
What’s worse, our left-wing activists are turning their vitriol on the general public, accusing them of complicity. It’s an attempt to galvanise and recruit us, and it seems to have worked very well, as millions of well-meaning liberals (and we are all liberals of one sort or another) scramble to re-affirm their credentials and virtue-signal themselves out of danger, by accusing others further down the moral pecking order.
Many people take offense, of course, as Robin DiAngelo has chronicled in her 2019 Book White Fragility(London: Penguin). They feel misunderstood and badly treated, even betrayed, and this can push some of them further to the right, which can appear (Dear God!) more forgiving, more flexible, more reasonable, at least towards them. Witness the cases of Lionel Shriver who has moved from writing for the Left-wing Guardian to the very Right-wing Spectator, and Kathleen Stock, who has moved from The University of Sussex to The Right-leaning University of Austin.
This doesn’t seem to bother the leaders and theorists of the Social Justice movements. Their coercive recruitment drives have been successful enough to bear some wastage. They think they have goaded these apostates into revealing the true colours they had kept hidden from us, (for reasons that are not explained) and that we’re better off without them.
We aren’t. Without moderating, questioning voices among our own ranks, our movements just become more doctrinaire, inflexible and extreme, more misled.
In truth, conflict benefits both the fundamentalist Left and Right. As in warfare, the real difference is between the combatants and non-combatants. The zealots are co-operating to establish a market-place where they can hustle and barter with each other for our support, likes, admiration and loyalty over the tops of our heads. We are the docile cattle in the cattle-market of ideas, not the buyers and sellers. The activists and extremists are colluding with each other. They are the ones who are complicit.