Last year I published The Madness Of Crowds, which looked at many of the most divisive issues of our time – relations between men and women, for example, LBGT and, perhaps most controversially, the issue of race.
I tried to warn about the wild ideologues who want to weaponise identity politics so as to radically alter our society and sever our connection with the past. I tried to alert people to what was driving these ideologues, what they wanted and how serious they really are. Because, although most of us still refuse to recognise it, we are living through a unique period of mass derangement. Both in the private and public spheres, people are behaving in ways that are increasingly irrational, feverish, herd-like and unpleasant.
When the Covid-19 crisis hit earlier this year, I thought for a time that the crazed culture wars would cease along with much else in national life. For once we all had real worries to contend with, not imaginary ones. But ever since the terrible killing of George Floyd – an unarmed black man – by a white police officer in the US, the radical activists have redoubled their efforts to persuade us that Britain and all other Western democracies are racist and intolerant societies.
Far from bringing us a welcome pause, the events of recent months have only hastened our descent to madness and today, looking at the terrible events both here and in America, I can see that the threats facing us are more dangerous than even I’d anticipated.
DOUGLAS MURRAY: The threats facing us are more dangerous than even I’d anticipated. Almost everyone has been cowed. Some of our most prestigious institutions are having nervous breakdowns as they are told to account for their institutional ‘privilege’ (pictured: BLM protest in London in solidarity for the illegal kill of George Floyd, June 3, 2020)
Almost everyone has been cowed. Some of our most prestigious institutions are having nervous breakdowns as they are told to account for their institutional ‘privilege’.
Vast corporations from Facebook and Disney to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream have donated funds to Black Lives Matter and their associated causes – a campaign group that is by its own admission Marxist and anti-capitalist, and which yet has somehow persuaded professional footballers to emblazon its name on their shirts. Our university system has almost completely fallen to the intimidation.
Yet one of the most sinister developments that I’ve observed in the past year has been less immediately obvious – and has attracted no news footage – and that is the way that the most committed of the woke warriors are putting the very youngest and most vulnerable in their sights.
It is quite damaging enough that selfish teaching unions have been obstructing pupils’ return to the classroom. But what some of those children will be taught as they finally make it back to school is more scandalous still.
For parts of the curriculum have been colonised by activists who seek to fill children’s heads with ideas that are not just disagreeable, but provably wrong and, for the young people in question, deeply disorientating. And nowhere is that clearer than when it comes to a trans agenda that has gained so much official credence it is even supported by the Government. Ministers have endorsed and funded groups making the most confusing claims about trans issues and have promoted ideas that are wildly untrue.
This propaganda is now being pumped into our schools, starting with the claim that ‘biological sex’ (whether you were born a boy or a girl) can be replaced with ‘gender’, a thing that the activists say you can choose. And they claim that there are many dozens of these genders, which is stupid as well as sinister.
One of the loudest voices in the field is the gay rights group Stonewall, which has become the go-to expert for the Government and swathes of the education sector.
Stonewall describes the bare basics of biology in its new guide for primary schools. It says: ‘Everyone has a gender identity. This is the gender that someone feels they are. This might be the same as the gender they were given as a baby, but it might not. They might feel like they are a different gender, or they might not feel like a boy or a girl.’
Stonewall claims that ‘Gender identity is a person’s innate sense of their own gender, whether male, female or something else (see non-binary below), which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth.’ It goes on to say: ‘When they are born, babies are labelled as a boy or a girl. When some people get older, they realise that the label they were given was wrong.’
DOUGLAS MURRAY: Ever since the terrible killing of George Floyd – an unarmed black man – by a white police officer in the US, the radical activists have redoubled their efforts to persuade us that Britain and all other Western democracies are racist and intolerant societies (pictured: the statue of Edward Colston pulled from its plinth in Bristol, June 7, 2020)
How is a child meant to feel on being told this? In the past 12 months, I have repeatedly heard from parents whose children have come home from school confused and even crying. They have been told although they are a boy or girl today, they might be of the opposite sex (sorry, ‘gender’) tomorrow.
Being young is hard enough without having this disorientating untruth handed to them too. Or being offered one of the ‘approved’ books, such as ‘Are You A Boy Or A Girl?’ – aimed at pre-schoolers to seven-year-olds and which ‘seeks to break down outdated gender stereotypes’ – as part of their reading.
And then there is the sinister way in which teachers have hidden facts about their pupils from the child’s parents.
The curriculums being rolled out repeatedly advise teachers that if a child wants to be known as the opposite sex in school, then there is no need to alert the parents. Yet almost any other issue surrounding a child’s behaviour would be raised with the parents.
But when it comes to trans, it is all about keeping secrets from the parents. For instance the recommended guidance from Stonewall on residential away trips is that ‘trans young people’ should be ‘able to sleep in the room of their self-identified gender’. I wonder if any parent or teacher can spot a potential problem there?
Of course the ‘experts’ on trans are making up all of this as they go along. For instance they claim that a ‘trans child’ can be identified if they ‘consistently, persistently and insistently’ claim to be of the opposite sex. But as the neuroscientist Dr Debra Soh points out in her new book The End Of Gender, there are lots of things that children are persistent and insistent about. And we don’t normally give in to them.
Groups such as Stonewall and others who believe in ‘educating’ a new generation into this bogus belief system think otherwise. Worse, they present all of this as though it is well understood, whereas, in fact, we know very little about transgender issues.
And as I have long pointed out, we should be humble about what we do not know about rather than assertive, dogmatic and wrong.
Adults should be free to do whatever they want with their own bodies. But with children, the adults have a duty to be exceptionally careful. Not least careful about children being fed information that is scary and untrue.
Why, you might ask, should Stonewall, an organisation dedicated to gay rights, be so interested in trans rights? It is a good question.
And one answer lies in the many rights groups that have effectively won their battles already and are now looking for fresh fights – a new purpose.
In no case is this more obvious than in the case of gay rights. When being gay (as I am) was illegal, such groups had plenty of work to do. When people needed to be reassured that gay people were just like everybody else, they helped society become more tolerant. These were big steps forward.
But by the current decade – with gay marriage and full legal equality for gay men and women – the rights groups had a problem. They had never been better funded. Donations from government and private individuals positively poured in. Yet the battle had been won. What to do?
DOUGLAS MURRAY: Being young is hard enough without having this disorientating untruth handed to them too. Or being offered one of the ‘approved’ books, such as ‘Are You A Boy Or A Girl?’ (pictured: book cover) – aimed at pre-schoolers to seven-year-olds and which ‘seeks to break down outdated gender stereotypes’ – as part of their reading
In the case of many gay organisations, the new campaign would be about transgender rights with the strategy being that it would take absolutely the same path as the earlier battle for gay rights, endorsing every trans claim with the same fervour. This is in the same way many anti-racist groups claim the situation for racial equality in Britain in 2020 is as bad or worse than it was in America in the 1960s.
What is driving the madness we have seen over race, sex, sexuality, gender and all the rest?
The symptoms are all around us but we could not – and still do not – see the causes. For more than a quarter of a century, we have been living through a period in which all our grand narratives about our existence have collapsed. Religion went first, falling away from the 19th Century onwards. Then, over the past century, the secular hopes held out by all political ideologies followed. In the latter part of the 20th Century, we entered the post-modern era, defined by its suspicion towards grand narratives.
Nature, however, abhors a vacuum. People in today’s wealthy Western democracies could not simply remain the first people in recorded history to have no explanation for what we are doing here and no story to give life purpose.
The question of what exactly we are meant to do now – other than get rich and have fun – was going to have to be answered by something. The answer that has presented itself in recent years has been to live in a permanent state of outrage; to find meaning by waging constant war against anybody who seems to be on the wrong side of a question to which the answer has only just been altered.
Of course, one of the ironies of the new dogmas is that they are so much like the ones they claim to oppose. In recent weeks there have been an increased number of calls from black activists for ‘black only’ schools and universities. In the name of ‘anti-racism’, these same activists have claimed that spelling, punctuality and grammar (among much else) are ‘white’ inventions and should not be expected of black children.
Doesn’t this sound rather like the words of an old-fashioned racist?
Likewise in the name of LBGT rights, Stonewall and other groups tell children that if a boy is slightly girly or a girl is slightly boyish then they are most likely actually the opposite sex. A claim that sounds like nothing so much as old-fashioned stereotyping about men, women and indeed gay people.
And that is the thing with all these people who are trying to ‘re-educate’ all of us – and in particular the next generation. They pretend they are offering harmony. But they are not. They are offering division. The rest of us – of all backgrounds and types – should stand up and reject their poisonous divisiveness.
A new and expanded edition of The Madness Of Crowds by Douglas Murray, published in paperback by Bloomsbury Continuum, is priced £9.99.