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A brave guide through the modern moral minefield


The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity by Douglas Murray; Bloomsbury Continuum 

IN the opening scene of King Lear, the soon-to-be-mad king demands that his daughters contort reality to fit his desired world view. ‘Which of you shall we say doth love us most?’ Lear asks. While the first two daughters declare they love their father more than eye-sight and liberty itself, it is only Cordelia who tells some hard truths at great personal expense. Douglas Murray demonstrated in The Strange Death of Europe just such a reputation for clarity and truth. In his latest book ­– The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity – Murray tackles the ill-thought-through philosophy of social justice warriors which has likewise led to madness and terror.

Murray’s genealogy of descent is divided into four main chapters: Gay, Women, Race, and Trans. He intersperses these with musings on Marxism, technology and forgiveness. For those au fait with the culture wars, Murray documents much that is familiar.

Let’s start with Gay. Among other things, Murray attempts to show the reader the speed at which being gay went from what he calls a software issue – something not innate – to a hardware issue. This analogy runs throughout each chapter. It works as a neat framing device because it allows Murray to repeat the stupid things people say without further comment. For example, once we know that Stonewall, Britain’s largest gay rights organisation, was against gay marriage only a decade ago, or that the world’s leading psychiatrists and psychologists still don’t know what determines sexuality, we can at least try to understand why gay conversion therapists want to, in their view, help people. Murray contrasts this with the easier course of action: inviting them for an interview just to shout ‘Shut up, you old bigot,’ à la Piers Morgan.

Or we can simply laugh at Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan, who voted against gay marriage in 2013, supported it in 2014, then another year later, in 2015, said that homophobic views were evidence of potential extremism and fundamentally un-British. As Murray points out, if we had the guts to talk about the potential evolutionary origins of homophobia (which biologists won’t do in public for fear of career annihilation), we might be better equipped to deal with it. Instead we bury our heads so they aren’t lopped off, like Professor Tim Hunt’s. 

In chapter two, Women, the lunacy is ramped up a notch. A central argument Murray makes is that modern feminism has ushered in an era of hard moral boundaries where there is considerable ambiguity. There’s Christian Grey and women’s rape fantasies blowing up the box office, but there are also entire industries devoted to women fooling or enticing men in, how shall we put it, perhaps the oddest of ways. Take stick-on nipples. The manufacturer of one product assures women:

‘Freezing Nips are the WMDS of nipple erectors . . . They are potent. They are lethal. They’ll cut through glass, steel, Teflon, you name it . . . you’ll want them on under your tightest sweater for the hottest cold look in the game.’

Or how about a push-up bra for your labia, ladies, to accentuate that camel toe at the gym? I won’t include the link to that one – Google at your peril. We all know what these products are designed to do, and Murray points out the awkwardness of a #MeToo movement which simultaneously demands we believe all women whilst immersed in a deeply sexualised culture. Entire industries tell women to be as sexy as they can, yet social movements say don’t sexualise women, there are clear rules. But there aren’t. As Jordan Peterson has pointed out, we don’t even allow ourselves to ask the right questions about men and women in the workplace

The pretence that an HR department can solve everything with a hugging manual is ludicrous and dangerous. 

Murray also builds on the work of Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff who, in The Coddling of The American Mind, detail the catastrophising element of social justice culture. Which is to say, despite living in the free-est of times, modern feminists describe the present day as if the end is nigh. People such as Laurie Penny, who tweets that ‘men are trash’, or Ezra Klein, who defends the hashtag ‘Kill All Men’. As Murray writes, this would ‘have been an over-zealous way to call for female suffrage when women did not have the vote’.

Elsewhere, private and public companies vie to promote women and minorities for their latest press release or to amend a gender pay gap which doesn’t exist, all while leaving the working class behind. As Murray states, ‘fast-tracked diversity may promote the people who were nearest to their destination already’. Class mobility has never been lower.

Perhaps the peak craziness comes in chapter three, Race. It’s here that we see how far the rabbit hole goes, with academics who talk about ‘colour-blind racism’ and the idea that truth is a construct of the Euro-West. This goes some way to explaining why woke students aren’t interested in debate. Debate is literally a racist construct. The study of whiteness and white privilege is slowly mainstreamed into humanities departments and public discourse (students aren’t students for ever, after all). The self-flagellating Professor Robin DiAngelo, who specialises in ‘whiteness studies’, lectures that to see people as individuals, rather than by the colour of their skin, is ‘dangerous’. Apologies to Martin Luther King on a postcard, please.

In the final chapter, Trans, Murray conducts a judicious and rather moving account of the transgender movement, its issues, and unfortunate contradictions. This chapter should not be crudely summarised, but read carefully with all the caveats Murray provides. Indeed, one of the perennial questions lying under the surface of Murray’s investigation comes to the fore: how much are we willing to make others suffer for our inability to have difficult conversations and strive for the truth? Should male-to-female athletes be allowed to beat biological women, when endocrinologists advise us that they retain a considerable physical advantage? What about the 2018 case of Karen White, a man who is a convicted rapist, but who now identifies as a woman? He asked to be put in a women’s prison and sexually assaulted four female inmates. What about the UK’s 700 per cent rise in child referrals to gender experts in five years? Should we worry about an NHS which lubricates the transition period without much resistance, considering we almost know nothing about what trans is?

What Murray has done here, in his own words, is attempt to clear a minefield for others to pass through. His critics will, as per their script, not read his book and catastrophise further; they will say he opens the door to the truth being used by evil people; people who wish to forcibly convert gays or build a movement based on genetic racial differences. Yet Murray shows us that the inherent contradictions of the social justice movements are maddening and, potentially, self-defeating. He believes that the truth can set us free. I hope, unlike Cordelia, he makes it through alive.

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Matt Archer
Matt Archer
Matt Archer teaches philosophy, theology, psychology, sociology, and politics. He’s a freelance writer and tweets as @mattarcher91.

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