In the aftermath of the tragic death of George Floyd justified moral outrage has descended into wanton acts of violence, looting, and vandalism. Cities across the United States are on fire and people are fearful for their livelihoods as thugs threaten to steal and burn.
On social media, however, one dominant narrative and ideology is hegemonic. A particular intersectional interpretation of American politics and race relations has filtered from obscure and far-left textbooks onto the social media posts of millions of users of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These posts uncritically state as a matter of fact that the US police force is institutionally racist, that the social contract has broken down and that there can be no peace until there is ‘justice’. Indeed, it is alleged that the whole of society is plagued by the virus of ‘white supremacy’. Countless posts demand that white people ‘educate themselves’ and uncritically support the BlackLivesMatter movement. Books are recommended, twitter threads shared, and people are urged to donate to multiple groups and funds which will aid the social justice movement and those who have been arrested in the protests.
The hysterical obsession with events in America amongst Britons is rather strange. While one example of police brutality in Minneapolis has compelled people to litter their social media with ideological rants about the endemic nature of ‘white privilege’ and violence against black people, the complete absence of any consideration of tragedy and injustice outside the English speaking world is palpable. People will accuse me of ‘whataboutery’, yet at the same time assert ‘silence is complicity’. If silence is complicity, then the woke community is guilty of ignoring the lives of the children of Yemen, starving and afraid in a regional war not of their making. Police forces in corrupt regimes across the world, furthermore, make the US police look like the girl guides in comparison. State torture, extrajudicial killings, kidnapping, and ethnic violence is the norm in numerous countries across Africa and Asia. It is ironic that the alleged paragons of ideological anti-racist purity are guilty of such Anglocentric bias.
This demonstrates the point that we are witnessing an egregious and insincere moment of moral exhibitionism. This is about conformity, not consistency. In the outrage culture that plagues modern western societies, people have learnt to adapt to the intense pressure that zealous activists exert, lest they fall ill of the latest thought crime. The crime today is to be silent. It is not enough to silently agree, or not to want to get caught up in the minefield that is social justice politics. Countless posts are shaming people into submission. In a recent viral post, those who share innocent photos of themselves unrelated to events in America have been 'called out' for insensitivity.
In all actions, therefore, you are a suspect. A culture of surveillance has engulfed all social interactions. Insufficient zeal and ideological support are complicity – your name will be recorded on a list. If this is not sinister, I do not know what is.
One cannot but reach for Orwell’s 1984, and read the description of the Two Minutes Hate: 'a hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness ... seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current '. Today is ‘blackout Tuesday’ and social media posts unrelated to racial justice in America will not be tolerated. Indeed, even posts in support are not necessarily enough. Threads explain that people will undoubtably ‘make mistakes’ and that in doing so they should admit their misdemeanours and keep ‘educating themselves’. This is a form of original sin, and deeply disturbing. A superficial and ideological understanding of the history of race relations and crime in America is justifying a nasty strain in our politics. Phrases like ‘weaponised whiteness’, the ‘psychosis of whiteness’, and ‘white fragility’ are being used to shame people into silence and surrender. These terms are disturbing and intolerant, heralding a turn in our politics which is worrying and hateful.
Those shaming and scaring innocent people into sheepish acceptance of American intersectional ideology are naive at best and Orwellian bigots at worst. It would be interesting to know how many completely support this ideology and how many, anxious and afraid, feel compelled to conform. British politics is very different to America and we should all resist the temptation to import the rage of American racial politics into Britain.
Today we are all living in Airstrip One, and the ideology of 'white privilege' is the new ingsoc.