[Warning folks – this is a long piece. You might want to grap a cuppa or something stronger (whilst it’s still legal) and strap in]
Month on month, the influence and reach of Islamists on University campuses in the UK appears to grow unfettered. There is a flipside to this subject however, in the form of the student left’s collusion. Outsiders watch in amazement as the supposedly hard core politically correct student body gives a free pass to women and gay hating and Jew baiting Islamists who appear free to spread their obnoxious poison without harassment.
The fact is though, that despite its suffocating monopoly on speech, the new student left is a spineless and sorry affair. Where once it had a direct link to unionised labour, genuinely campaigning for the national commonweal and the worker now it has contempt for the former and routinely belittles the latter.
My direct experience of left wing activist groups over the last two decades has demonstrated both a perpetual cowardice in the face of implacable opposition and an apparently endless capacity for screwing up even the most basic practicalities.
When I first took an interest in politics in the nineties, student activists on campus initially seemed quite exciting to be around. Always up to something – a lot of which involved shouting. I joined a couple of demonstrations and I admit the frisson of being part of a large angry crowd was fun. As was heckling a few unlucky politicians who mistakenly decided to address the student’s union on one issue or other. I can certainly see why freshers are quickly drawn into the shouty politics mob every year without fail.
However, the shine soon wore off. Six months in and I noticed that precisely zero had been achieved. Group meetings mainly consisted in circlejerks of incessant whining to the rest of the echo chamber. When there wasn’t a Tory or capitalist figure to hate on, inevitably the groups would fracture into multiple Judean People’s Fronts. And when it came to “doing something” it always resulted in either more shouting, or harassing uninterested students with leaflets and petitions.
I also soon noticed the reactions of other students with better things to do. Where the student left exercised its greatest power – in small groups disrupting otherwise civilised meetings – I’d see other students shaking or ducking their heads and wishing the gobby coffee shop revolutionaries would just disappear. The left wing groups on campus were, effectively, proto-chuggers – after encountering them for the first few times, everyone learned to avoid (and hate) them when running a gauntlet across public thoroughfares on campus.
Following this dalliance I maintained a solid interest in politics, however I moved on to more grown up activities such as attending local council meetings, lobbying and writing to officials and helping out on single issue campaigns that attracted people from across the political spectrum. I did not spend a great deal of time with the student left again until 2003 when the UK anti-war movement was rapidly approaching its peak.
Back in 2003…
Imagine my surprise then, years later, to find that these same kinds of people (albeit with different faces) were doing the exact same things and even shouting the exact same slogans. Best of all, even with several intervening years, they had successfully achieved the sum total of bugger all. It is around this time that I began to suspect that the primary function of student politics was to manufacture a new generation of Useful Idiots with each fresh intake. Aside from entering adult politics, or occasionally annoying other students, there was still little damage they could do at this time. However, that was soon to change.
The Coalition operations in Afghanistan were already in full swing at this point and Iraq was about to be invaded. I attended every national anti-war protest and almost every local action in objection to this. It was the first time I had seen large numbers of brown faces at any major UK demonstration. Groups such as the historically illiterate MAC (‘Muslims Against Crusades’) were prominent. Their banners often outnumbered those of the Socialist Workers Party and affiliated groups.
This was, I think, when the British left truly fell in love with the Islamists. To be fair to the left at that time even I, a right winger who baulked at the MAC banners, was generally happy to march alongside them in common cause. It would be sometime yet before the extremists coddled amongst them would be heard of. And by that time the marriage of convenience between the British left and the Islamists had become a full on steamy love-in of nauseating proportions from which there was apparently no turning back.
Because of the initial massive cross-partisan expressions of discontent with Labour’s wars, especially Iraq, I think the left could not believe their luck. They mistook a shared view on a cluster of closely intertwined issues – war, civil liberties, the rule of law and so on – to be a broad base of support for some kind of left resurgence. Instead of correctly regarding the events of that year in civil protest as a convergence around particular concerns, they saw it as their own ranks swelling like the sea at high tide.
As the war in Iraq ground on, the ‘Stop the War Coalition’ began steadily alienating many people, myself included. As it increasingly became an obvious front for the SWP, local anti-war meetings on and off campus also morphed into re-education seminars. Gone was the exclusive focus on a needless war in the Middle East and attendant attacks at home on civil liberties. Attendees were now expected to at least pay lip service to the rest of the SWP’s laundry list including “supporting Palestine” and “fighting globalisation”. After a year of very active participation, including giving up our own time and money, my friends and myself dropped out of the anti-war movement as did swathes of others. Many of whom were people who had never before protested and, tellingly, would never do so again. Several of my friends and acquaintances told me they just could not bear to be associated with the Usual Suspect of gobby career activists, no matter how strongly they felt about Iraq.
The Muslim contingent, however, remained.
I don’t quite know what went through the minds of the SWP and StWC leadership. There were clear points of agreement with the Muslim activists – on Palestine and Israel in particular. And the SWP’s narrative of imperialism dovetailed perfectly with the Muslim narrative of “Crusades” (however astonishingly stupid this was in the historical context). Yet there was no hiding the differential treatment of women, the hostility to gays and jews and the authoritarian theocratic as opposed to (supposedly) consensus politics of organisation beloved by the student left. In spite of this, the alliance deepened and widened.
I suppose the sight of doubling meeting attendance and demonstrations was too intoxicating to resist. Especially when it brought in excitable fresh blood recruits who were just as quick to denounce the “evils” of “the West” and “Capitalism” at the weekly mutual masturbation session. The Comrades’ vision of smashing the system violently had just taken a major step forward. Rejoice!
A new media landscape
A parallel phenomenon was emerging at this time that was to give the student left an even larger boost than their newfound Muslim allies: the increasing prevalence of mobile technology and the beginnings of social media. Every man and his dog was scrambling to set up their own activist website or blog and the appearance of camera phones yielded instant material for outrage that could be conveniently uploaded as soon as the activists had returned home.
Such newfound capabilities were lionised in popular books such as Howard Rheingold’s Smart Mobs, published at the time. The voyage from media capture to mass outrage is even shorter now in 2015 thanks to much more powerful networking technologies. Even back in 2003 however, the chain was short enough to suddenly allow the student left to attach a huge wrecking ball. And it was in this period when the pattern we are painfully familiar with now was set into a nice cookie-cutter shape.
Prior to these technological advances, public meetings despite being public were nevertheless still relatively private affairs. At least on the national scale. The transformation that occurred post ‘Web 2.0’ and mass ownership of camera phones was described by technology law expert, Daniel Solove as a move from ‘private public’ to ‘public public’. Those of you who were not adults at the time will not have witnessed this transformation, so bear with me whilst I relate this change. It is important.
Public meetings in their hundreds and thousands would occur across the nation every week – in student unions, council chambers, cafes. Controversial statements would have been made at most of them at some point (I certainly remember a few). You would never have known about them however unless a mainstream journalist had been present, whether for local or national news outlets. The mainstream media were the gatekeepers. To know what had been said in a meeting most of the time required relying on someone’s word. And that usually meant relying on an old-school journalist.
In contrast, despite their burgeoning presence on the web, activists were struggling with the epistemological burden of building trust. Even though ‘Indymedia’ had been active since 1999, few outside the dedicated activist community were willing to trust it as a news source. Cheap, concealable recording and communication devices effectively leapfrogged that problem.
Now every single misstep or out of context remark, could be recorded and transmitted into the ether for posterity. Our poor dears in the student left suddenly “discovered” that the wider British public, political and business figures did not conform to their bubble wrapped world view. Every ism you could think of was suddenly made available in tidy soundbite outrage-porn segments. Fascists, racists, homophobes, the whole lot were suddenly everywhere. Moral panics metastasized up and down the nervous system of the British activist body politic.
This development would have been unwelcome enough as it was, but combined with the ever improving networking technologies also handed the student left the means to actively monitor and control it. The Age of Offendotrons had begun.
Being a public speaker in Britain prior to 2003, whilst still sometimes arduous, was generally not a fast track route to ending one’s career – in any industry. The worst to contend with was the occasional heckler, or if you were on campus, nutters shouting SWP slogans at you and then walking out. Unless a mainstream journalist was present (and they would usually identify themselves), public speeches and discussions could be fairly frank and free without fear of any off colour, accidental or ill thought out remarks leaving the chamber. Even on campus, the worst one could expect is rumours circulating or testimony that someone had said something that made someone else cross in the student press. No one took the student press seriously. At least until everything was recordable, that is.
Fast forward to today and careers can be ended, insanely, with but a single tweet or a sentence captured on grainy mobile video. The resulting chilling of free speech and frank and full discussion has been greater by an order of magnitude than any imposition on our civil liberties by the unwelcome proboscis of the state. The latter an ever larger, Pinocchio like nose being stuck in via surveillance and policing of protests, that ironically these same activists would passionately campaign against.
The era of the soundbite was put on steroids by this new, to use Yochai Benkler’s phrase, ‘Attention backbone’ of mobile recording and communications. Everyone and everything with the slightest political veneer, (and now in 2015, almost everything culturally associated c.f. Gamergate), became bland, boring, monotonous, predictable, even utterly risible in deference to platitudes. The student comrades had at last found the sling with which to attack the Goliaths of both national politics and the general public. And once they had been laid low, the left could quite easily keep them there.
This has resulted in the most useless and yet most dangerous political generation ever known. Almost every single political act or spoken word now dances around the avoidance of Wrongthink. Wrongthink that is, as determined by spotty know nothing idiots on university campuses promulgating half-baked idiocy from their equally hard-of-thinking sociology lecturers.
It used to be the case that if the ‘swappies’ (SWP students) as we affectionately called them on campus objected to something I did or said, I could simply tell them to f**k off and that would be the end of that. If they wanted to escalate the aggression, again it was a simple matter to gather a few friends together and they’d scatter quickly. The amount of force, or influence that could be brought to bear was equalised in short order when needed.
Today however, even if I had no political affiliation whatsoever, I could – within minutes – find myself part of a nation-wide witch-hunt. I’ll be “linked” to whatever my accusers personal bête noir was at the time, through whatever specious means they could find and my images, name and more could be transmitted to every drone of the new left Orthodoxy. I would be subject to what internet philosopher Jaron Lanier calls “crushing network effects”. All for telling someone to Foxtrot Oscar. In pre-Offendotron times I also would not care who I was aiming this expletive at, and would not need to. Today I would find out later that they were part of one victim group or other and whether I knew this or not, I would instantly become an “-ist” or a “-phobe”.
Everything – everything – in normal human social behaviour now becomes subject to the student left’s sense of outrage and offence. Combine this with the narcissism made possible by more recent social media technologies such as Facebook and Twitter and political action now boils down to simple posturing, saying the expected things and waiting for the baa-baa-baahs of approval from your comrade herd.
But where the student left have successfully managed to (temporarily, I hope) suppress majority opinions and views from mainstream arenas, they have done a far worse thing to themselves. They are now busy killing themselves with their own sword. Blessed few of them can see this, though.
Enter the Islamophobia
The creation of “Islamophobia” as a phenomenon, along with several smaller, but no less vicious, progeny (think “climate deniers” etc) have acted as additional thick ropes with which to strangle free speech and debate. With current communications and social media technologies, our Offendotron Overlords have never had so many wicked weapons with which to torture, prod and compel us.
It is now clear to everyone who is not a card carrying clown dancer of the student left that the latter have made a grievous error in judgement in allying with the increasingly reactionary and nasty elements of the Muslim community in Britain. Whilst the Omertà continues in left wing circles, commentary on this relationship has thankfully become increasingly robust and open in recent years outside of the student bubble.
Amusingly, the idiot left are trapped by their speech codes and internal contradictions on this one. Any deviancy from the Orthodoxy that their Muslim allies are anything but wonderful, fluffy and downtrodden is immediately punishable as “Islamophobia”. The directive of ‘physician, heal thyself’ in this instance is impossible to even articulate – it would be doubleplusbad Wrongthink punishable by excoriation and exile. If you’re in any doubt over this, just look at the treatment of ex-Muslim, atheist and anti-sharia groups and individuals by our dear student darlings, many of whom nevertheless identify themselves as explicitly left leaning.
Operating like a ratchet to the comrades’ already existing speech codes, “Islamophobia” has cemented the doomed conjugal bliss of the Islamist-Left alliance. And I’m not sorry to inform these fools that when the inevitable messy divorce occurs, it will be the Islamists who walk away with the house, the car and the dog, not the Useful Idiots. Our career craptivists are on course to be cursed for the next generation or more.
They have been flouncing around on facebook or twitter singing ‘Look at Me! Look at Me! See how right-on I am!’ Meanwhile the Islamists have achieved steady progress with an entryist agenda across institutions and political groupings in the UK through using the student left and their censorious agenda as a convenient host. Most of the more established political and governmental entities will likely survive the inevitable excision as more and more suspect relationships are brought to light. However, the student left and their pathetic crews represented in wider society by the likes of the SWP, “Hope not Hate”, UAF and so on will be left dried up and worthless husks. The backlash is likely to be severe and quite possibly nasty, but the Useful Idiots will have no one to blame but themselves. It will be Socialist Seppuku.
In many ways it is a shame that it came to this. Back in 2003 and before then, there were many elements of the left I was happy to work with in matters of common interest. But then, over a decade ago there were still a substantial minority of the ‘old left’ knocking around who genuinely cared about the material conditions of the working families, poor and vulnerable. I used to like those people. I still do. Most of them have been expunged or converted since though, in favour of the Speech Acts Stasi.
The tiny number who still remain now write scathingly of their (ex?) comrades. Nick Cohen certainly has the number of those who are nominally his fellow travellers on the left:
“I have seen half my generation of leftists waste their lives and everyone else’s time in petty and priggish disputes about language. They do it because it’s easy, and struggles for real change are hard. They do it because correct form identifies social class and confirms your membership of a privileged group, as surely for the middle-class left as the upper-class right.”
Nick cuts a lonely, confused figure. He’s set to become even lonelier as the student left collapses under its ultra-dense idiocy and is swallowed whole by its planet sized hypocrisy.
If I shed a tear at all, it will be for the good people I used to know of the old left who were sold out and stomped on by their “comrades”. As for the others, they have my eternal contempt.
In the meantime, for the rest of us in the sane portion of the population we have a job of work and a serious fight ahead of us. Take comfort however, friends, in the fact that what appears to be a giant dam now will inevitably crumble with all the fissures already wrought through it. We’ll look back on the then crumbled gargantuan evolutionary roadblock that was the new and student left, along with their Western hating Islamist bedfellows, as just a series of speedbumps on our way to a better society than these cowards, appeasers, bullies and fools would or could have wanted for us.