WHEN it comes to neo-Marxist inspired cancel culture, rationality and reason fly out of the window to be replaced by politically correct ideology and cant. The most recent example involves the British Library condemning a number of eminent authors and poets for supposed links to slavery.
Those under attack include George Orwell, Ted Hughes, Oscar Wilde and Lord Byron. While none is directly linked to the evil practice, their apparent sin is that in the far distant past an unknown relative was involved.
This latest campaign to rid the British Library of what is condemned as structural racism and white supremacism is part of a larger strategy associated with the death of George Floyd and the global rise of the communist-inspired Black Lives Matter movement.
As argued by the library’s chief executive Roly Keating: ‘The killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement are the biggest challenge to the complacency of organisations, institutions and ways of doing things that we’re likely to see in our lifetimes . . . this is a wake-up call for the library’s leadership that it’s not enough. Our duty at this moment is to show humility, to listen, to learn and then to enact change.’
Significantly, cultural-Left activists committed to critical theory and postmodernism refuse to apply the same critical analysis to their own writers and authors. The fact that Karl Marx was racist and misogynist is rarely mentioned and his sins are never used to question his work’s value.
Similarly Paul de Man, one of the leading advocates of postmodern literary theory where the author is dead and the text is deconstructed in terms of power relationships, is given a free pass notwithstanding his many essays being anti-Semitic.
Much like original sin, where every new generation is tainted by past misdeeds, Woke activists such as Keating believe the collective guilt associated with the slave trade can never be expunged, with anyone remotely connected especially targeted for condemnation.
The fact writers such as Orwell and Wilde bear no responsibility is ignored and seen as irrelevant. Much like the purges and show trials in Stalin’s Russia, all that is needed to prove guilt is to be named. Emotion replaces reason and guilt by accusation replaces the assumption of innocence.
Even worse is that writers such as Orwell and Hughes are no longer judged according to the literary value of their works; instead, they are judged through a politically correct prism involving race, ethnicity, gender and class where everything is interpreted in terms of power relationships.
The British Library is not alone in championing identity politics and virtue signalling. The BBC is also a bastion of political correctness, best illustrated by David Sedgwick’s recent book The Fake News Factory. Examples include opposing Brexit, agreeing that the Kremlin was behind President Trump’s 2016 victory and refusing to acknowledge the dangers of identity politics and cultural relativism.
Universities, once committed to what T S Eliot described as ‘the preservation of learning, for the pursuit of truth, and in so far as men are capable of it, the attainment of wisdom’, have also been subverted by neo-Marxist inspired critical theory and postmodernism.
Students are taught that Western civilisation is riven with European supremacism, and subjects such as history, literature, mathematics and philosophy must be de-colonised and scourged of whiteness. Even science is not immune with one university department arguing ‘UK science is inherently white . . . and a fundamental contributor to European imperialism’.
At University College London radicalised Black, Asian and minority ethnic students (BAME) campaign to rid the curriculum of whiteness as what they are forced to study is imposed by a ‘White, Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy’ guilty of being the ‘primary vehicle of domination for the British Empire and its legacies’.
In both the UK and Australia there are multiple examples of cancel culture spreading like an infectious disease. Whether banning Coon Cheese and Eskimo Pies because of racism and cultural appropriation, condemning an episode of Fawlty Towers for offending Germans or no-platforming Germaine Greer for arguing against transgenderism, the thought police are ever vigilant.
As a result, a restrictive and inflexible form of groupthink and mind control is being forced on individuals, institutions and society in general. Essential liberties such as freedom of conscience and freedom of expression are denied and the dystopian world of Big Brother depicted in George Orwell’s 1984 is no longer fiction.
It is a totalitarian, soulless world where, as noted by the American feminist Camille Paglia, ‘we are plunged once again into an ethical chaos where intolerance masquerades as tolerance and where individual liberty is crushed by the tyranny of the group’.