DO the BBC have to be transported back to late 17th century Salem to understand what a witch-hunt is? Do they have to have the metaphor spelled out for them to understand the iniquity of present-day demonising?
It is somewhat ironic that before Christmas, wittingly or unwittingly they gave this very opportunity to none other than the man currently the subject of calculated calumny and vilification which successfully triggered the disgraceful Conservative Government into sacking him as an adviser.
Just four months ago Sir Roger Scruton used the opportunity of presenting an edition of Radio 4’s Point of View programme to reflect on the witch-hunt culture.
The question had already touched him personally. Having being appointed to an unpaid government position, he found himself accused of ‘every crime in the ledger of political correctness, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism included’.
Listening to it again, I wondered if he imagined that peak hate was yet to come and that a successful campaign to demonise him would lead to his sacking by a Conservative government, and that his story would have eclipsed that of Sir Tim Hunt, the example he began his reflection with? This is how his broadcast began:
Three years ago the distinguished biochemist Sir Tim Hunt, recipient of the Nobel Prize, Fellow of the Royal Society and one of the jewels in the crown of British science, made a casual remark during a speech at a conference of science journalists, which seemed to imply that women and men might not be equally suited to a scientific career. The remark was tweeted, and the mob got to work on it. Very soon Sir Tim found himself forced out of his position as honorary Professor at University College London, reprimanded by the Royal Society, hounded in the press, and subjected to a hate campaign on social media. Eventually he and his wife (a scientist of the same rank as himself) left the country to work in Japan.
Describing how this deplorable episode was but ‘one of many in which a person’s character, career and livelihood have been attacked in punishment for a thought-crime’, he notes that though the social media make matters worse, the problem is rooted in political correctness ‘which both promotes hatred and also excuses it’.
Political correctness might seem like a way of standing up for victims (women, minorities, gays, trans-sexuals and so on) but in fact it is about creating victims: ‘It sets out to repudiate the hierarchies and distinctions embedded in our traditional way of life.’
He could have been analysing his own character assassination at the hands of the New Statesman’s George Eaton that was yet to come. Perhaps it is little wonder he continued to be targeted by the virulent Left, for who is more a threat to them than he – this gentle but brave and deeply reflective man who has so quietly nailed their methods and exposed their underlying mission to tear society down rather than to build it up? Here is his encapsulation of this new army:
They are experts in taking offence, regardless of whether offence has been given. They refrain from addressing the arguments of the one whom they accuse, and when they are offended by a remark they do not hesitate to take it entirely out of context, so as to dress it up as a crime. As judge, prosecutor and jury they are the voice of an unquestionable righteousness. Their goal is to intimidate their opponents, by exposing them to public humiliation. Like the Nazis and communists whose methods they copy, they impose their worldview through fear.
Even more threatening perhaps has been his measured and considered exposé of the trumped up charge of ‘Islamophobia’ – an accusation designed to silence any criticism of or questions about Islam:
It is in this way that the disease of Islamophobia was invented, in order to preclude all discussion of the most important issue facing European societies today. Ordinary people wonder whether the God of Islam permits the crimes that are committed in his name. But they dare not pursue the matter, for fear of attracting the charge of Islamophobia. The question that cannot be asked is like a festering wound, filling the mind with suspicions. And in this way political correctness stirs up fear in the place of reconciliation. By turning doubt about Islam into a thought-crime, it recasts legitimate anxieties as acts of aggression, and lays at the door of Islam’s critics the crimes that are committed in Islam’s name.
When he found himself last November standing in what was to be just the first phase in a storm of hatred he admits that he was tempted to hate in his turn. But instead he was reminded ‘of the beautiful verse in the Koran which says that the servants of the all-compassionate one, when challenged by the ignorant, speak peaceably – qâlou salâman‘.
It means reach for dialogue and argument. This opening of the way to respect is surely the correct response to the emerging witch-hunt culture:
We must speak peaceably, even to our accusers. We must avoid the name-calling, shrug off the ‘isms’ and ‘phobias’ when they are heaped on us, confess to our true faults and robustly deny the invented ones. Most importantly, we should venerate truth, and ignore political correctness, which is not the cure to our conflicts but the ultimate source of them.
It is a hard path to follow.
To work we all need to speak up, all dare to put our heads above the parapet. At TCW we will continue do our best to do so. Next week, in tribute to this sorely tried and peace-loving man whose humanity and words should need no defence, we will be publishing a range of his writing and talks – to spread his understanding and insights into what has gone so disastrously wrong with contemporary culture and politics as widely as possible.