Graeme Archer is a medical statistician, a former winner of the Orwell Prize for blogging, and was recently a speechwriter for a Cabinet Minister.
OK, so I promise you we’re not doing pop psychology; we’re going to discuss that idiot professor, the Home Secretary, and her hate crime ‘incident’. But I need to take a detour with you first and it is unavoidably personal. In the first two years of secondary school, I was bullied relentlessly. I learned three things.
While bullying is instigated by a ringleader, the vast majority of bystanders live up to their name, and side with the bully; no matter how precious their self-image of I am a good person. Students, teachers, friends who were quite willing to talk with me in one classroom would melt away when it kicked off again.
Secondly, there is nothing you can say or do which will satisfy the bully. Stay aloof; try to engage; attempt to befriend: the bully attacks. Accept the biggest lie that bullied children are told – one that makes me spit with rage – and fight back: the bully attacks. Remember the definition of ‘bystander’, mate! You’re on yer ain.
Final lesson. The reaction of the bullied, to the bullying, is hatred. There is not volume available in the physical universe in which to contain the hatred I felt for my tormentor. I day-dreamed of reading that he’d been run over and killed.
Well, I got over it, but it took luck (University) and the gift of love (which had seemed quite impossible, some sort of myth, at that godforsaken school) before I could re-set the dial towards trust in the intentions of strangers.
That’s enough, now; enough. Now we can begin.
On Thursday evening, scrolling through Twitter, I came across a tweet from a Guardian journalist, in which she derided Michael Gove for the language he’d used to describe an attendant in Trump Tower. Mr Gove had said the man was African American, and was wearing white cotton gloves.
The replies to her tweet brought 1980s Ayrshire back into view. Hundreds of bystanders joined in, to vomit their abuse at Gove. Suddenly many recent phenomena made sense.
What was this, but bullying? And what was Gove’s ‘crime’? He had written a fact: he met someone who was African American and who was wearing white cotton gloves. But it didn’t matter what he said: the bullies had decided he was guilty, guilty of racism. Thus the verbal declension of the modern Left:
- I bravely speak truth to power.
- You’re a bit of a populist.
- He is an out-and-out racist.
Once the bullying starts, it doesn’t matter what the victim says or does, remember? Statements of fact? Truth? But: Everything’s deconstructible man, like, Derrida, right?.
That’s why that physics professor felt his assertion about the Home Secretary was justified. It’s also why Warwick’s professors of history, for God’s sake, put their names to a letter which accused the Prime Minister of being a Nazi:
[At the Conservative conference ] the PM notoriously stigmatized migrants as ‘citizens of nowhere’ … Theresa May’s racist remarks … eerily echo[es] the 1930s in Germany.]
- I dispassionately describe objective reality.
- You are influenced by the Murdoch press.
- She is a Nazi.
And the physicist who reported the Home Secretary for ‘hate crime’, for wanting more British apprenticeships? I prefer Govian logic to Guardian sneering, so let’s indeed be factual. The professor’s a fat idiot, yes. But mostly he’s a bully.
Yet, weirdly, the Home Secretary bears some responsibility for all this. Page 37 of the Home Office’s Action Against Hate report – to which Rudd put her name, just a few months ago – contains the following definitions of hate crimes and/or incidents (I’ve added some emphasis):
“A hate crime is any criminal offence ([and a hate incident is any non-criminal incident]) which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race or perceived race[/religion/sexual orientation/transgender status/disability].“
A charter for bullies. The ratchet – from legitimately ensuring that employers don’t reject candidates due to their ethnicity, to successfully having the Home Secretary’s speech recorded as a hate incident – has been inexorable. And it’s all due to identity politics.
Don’t believe me about the ratchet? Remember the ‘spike’ in xenophobic hate crime – mostly self-reported incidents, just like the professor’s – blamed on Brexit? An LGBTQWhatever pressure group claims that there was also a massive rise in crimes against gay people in the same post-Brexit period.
It takes a particular form of illogic to say that a trend in something that can have nothing to do with Brexit is proof that the disreputable statistics about xenophobia are definitely due to Brexit; but, again, bullies don’t give a toss about how to weigh evidence. Unsurprisingly, depressingly, those Warwick historians agree: “Since bigotry loves company, we should not be surprised that homophobic attacks have increased,” they intone, a failure of inductive reasoning that would shame an undergraduate statistician.
I’m not arguing that hate crime doesn’t exist, or don’t matter; quite the reverse. Ian Baynham was kicked to death, because he was gay. Bijan Ibrahmimi was slaughtered and burned, because he was foreign. Both deaths made me sick.
But so too did the vicious murder of Alan Greaves, who was neither gay nor foreign. When did we decide that the psychopathology of the criminal deserved its own special seat in the witness stand? If savagery against gay people is an aggravated offence by dint of that adjective (‘gay’), then savagery against people who are not gay must be, by stone-cold logic, less of an offence. (I don’t expect Warwick historians to follow such reasoning; never mind.)
Reject this horrific logic, this calculus of suffering, Home Secretary. Hate Crime predicated on specific categories of people is the worst sort of identity politics; it is illogical; it energises – and vindicates – over-privileged academics in love with their own version of ‘truth’. But reject it for one reason more important than any other: for the good society.
I’m nothing special – I’m way more than a bit of a bore. The point of describing my long-forgotten childhood was that third lesson: that the injustice of a system which ignored systematic bullying filled me with hatred.
While government tolerates a system which favours one victim over another on the basis of random categories of identity; when it sponsors definitions of crime that are, literally, evidence-free … then slowly and surely those being bullied – anyone who thinks that stating a fact cannot be racist, for example – might likewise become filled with hatred about the unjust bullying to which they are subjected.
Hatred against whom? I suspect the answer to that question is both obvious, as well as what the middle-class ‘progressives’ – who’ve quite enjoyed their years of virtuous, thoughtcrime bullying – fear the most.