Douglas Murray is a British author, journalist, and political commentator. He is the founder of the Centre for Social Cohesion and is the associate director of the Henry Jackson Society and associate editor of the influential British political and cultural magazine The Spectator. Murray writes for a number of publications, including Standpoint, The Wall Street Journal and The Spectator. He is the author of Neoconservatism: Why We Need It (2005), Bloody Sunday: Truths, Lies and the Saville Inquiry (2011) about the Bloody Sunday Inquiry and The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam (2017).
Douglas Murray sat down with The Young IPA Podcast on his recent tour of Australia with Think Inc for a wide ranging discussion on free speech, identity politics, Europe and the growing gap between the political elites and the public.
James Bolt – We are now joined for the first time by Associate Editor of The Spectator Magazine, and author of the new book The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, and Islam, Douglas Murray, welcome to the show.
Douglas Murray – Great pleasure to be with you.
JB – You’re in Australia on a bit of an all-star speaking tour – Maajid Nawaz, Brett and Eric Weinstein, Sam Harris and a lot of other really interesting speakers. What have your impressions of the tour been, and the impressions of Australia?
DM – Well, it’s too early to tell and I’ve slept too little to have very distinct impressions so far, but it’s been great. I did a day-long conference on Sunday with Bret and Eric Weinstein, and Maajid Nawaz, my fellow Brit, and also Sam Harris.
That was a terrific event, and then as of tonight here in Melbourne I’m starting a set of four engagements with Dr. Cornell West, called “The Polarized Tour.” We’ll see how polarizing or otherwise it is, but that starts tonight in Melbourne, and then Sydney tomorrow, and then Auckland and then Brisbane. So I’m going to see a bit of your country I hope.
JB – Yeah, hopefully. Many IPA members have seen you in Sydney, they’ve heard what you’ve said, and there’s been a recurring theme of how politicians can’t say anything meaningful anymore with the way that political discourse is at the moment. How do you arrive at that conclusion?
DM – Well, firstly, I arrive at that conclusion from observation and just listening. With years as a writer and a journalist, I’ve been on many shows with politicians, many stages with many politicians, and I’ve just noticed that up close, as well as in the general political and media sphere, it seems to have become impossible for politicians to talk.
They don’t air an idea. They’re increasingly wary about airing a view, and I’ve been thinking for a while about why this might be. One of the views I’ve come to is just there’s something about the age of social media that’s meant that it’s too dangerous to think aloud now, or to try things out.
And in fact, a step down from that, it’s become dangerous for people in politics to say what they think. That’s because you’re not speaking to a room full of people now. You’re speaking to the world. At any moment, you could be shamed. And as we know from books like Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – it can happen to an individual from the public.
You can just at any moment be broadcasting to the entire population of the planet. Your error will be known by everyone. This has caused this restriction of discussion, and there’s one other thing I should add, which is the nature of the media in recent years has been that the public can put up with shorter and shorter time spans.
You’ll go on a discussion if you’re a politician or a pundit, and you’ll be with someone else and you’ll get a total of four minutes between you of airtime. The idea about that was that the public can’t cope with anything longer.
Well, that’s not true. And the success of podcasts, this one and many others, is showing that actually we can, as a public, cope with long form conversation, and we want it. We want meaningful discussion of ideas, we don’t want soundbite culture, or not only soundbite culture.
JB – Yeah, like three hour podcasts with Joe Rogan. People stick around for every second.
DM – Joe Rogan is the marathon runner of podcasting. But my gosh it flies by. He’s so good at it, it’s so interesting. I can think of no mainstream media figure who could run a conversation with one guest that could go for two or three hours.
Peter Gregory – Jordan Peterson of course, with whatever he’s got, 40 million followers, regularly puts out two hour videos. That’s another really good example. Back to the politicians not being able to say anything meaningful, John Roskam and Simon Breheny were at your event and it really struck them that there’s this crazy situation where politicians don’t say the truth or don’t tell the truth. They know they’re not telling the truth and the people listening know they’re not telling the truth. Do you think this led to Trump and populism and Brexit? Do you think those two things are linked?
DM – I think there is a link to what is going on in politics. I personally reject the term populism. I think it’s the wrong term for this. I think populism has become the pejorative term that a lot of people use for things they just don’t like. When the public are wrong, they’re populists. When Hillary Clinton talks about the power of Wall Street, she’s not a populist. Donald Trump talks about the power of Wall Street, he is a populist.
The same thought can be aired by different people and it’s interpreted in a different way. Emmanuel Macron, in France, didn’t run in any normal party structure. He created his own movement, it wasn’t really even a party. He had people to run for election after he got the presidency. On any normal term, this would be described as populism, but it isn’t, because Mr. Macron appears to be within the certain acceptable of politics, “acceptable.”
I don’t accept the populism term but yes, what there is going on is that you can’t stop us, the public, from thinking. You can stop us from being able to say things sometimes, you can dampen the amount of speech, unfortunately. You can dampen the amount of speech, but you can’t stop people thinking. What I think is that the Brexit vote for instance showed that despite decades of the public being told one thing, they instinctively came out, and they said, “No, we have another view of our own and we’re going to assert our opportunity to voice that.”
I do think there is something going on, and obviously Donald Trump is the ultimate demonstration that the way in which this breaks out might be in just people who can say the most outlandish things, ending up winning.
JB – Yeah, or Jeremy Corbyn in the UK can say outlandish things, but there’s a level of earnestness to it, that people listen to.
DM – Yes, that might be the case. Corbyn’s a different creature. I mean, you could argue he’s a stopped clock that can be right once every 24 hours. I mean, he’s been in politics for almost 40 years and I mean, he’s made absolutely no impact in politics in decades of sitting on the back benches with no piece of legislation to his name, with no meaningful achievements in politics.
The most incurious, as well as ineffective politician you could imagine, and then he becomes the Labour Party leader. It was all sorts of things that caused that to happen.
But the thing with Corbyn is that there’s lots of stuff about Corbyn that is meaningless challenges. Things you don’t have to worry about. The thing you really have to worry about with him as with all opponents is – where might he be right? Where might he be onto something?
It’s almost impossible to locate anything which Jeremy Corbyn is right on, but here’s one thing he is on to, which is – particularly among young people – they don’t just want these bureaucratic politicians who speak this same boring ‘politicese’ language. They don’t want it. Jeremy Corbyn comes with the claim that he’s going to make the world fairer and nicer and cuddlier, and in every way better. And we’re all going to become better people. Now, I think he’s not going to achieve that in one legislative term or more.
JB – Yeah. There’s no way Peter and I are becoming better people.
DM – No. I mean, you’d really have to work on you two, obviously.
JB – It’s at least five pieces of legislation.
DM – But the point is that he, to give him credit, he tries to speak to depths, and that’s something I think the right-of -entre politicians should be thinking about as well. We don’t just want politicians who when asked about anything meaningful, reply with blandishments and bureaucratic detail. For all of his faults, Jeremy Corbyn tries to speak to depths, albeit in his case, answering with shallows.
JB – We’ll move on. We mentioned Joe Rogan before. Now, you’ve been on the Joe Rogan podcast and one of the things you guys talked about which I found really interesting was that there was a video between you and Sam Harris that got taken down from YouTube after a community complaint under the idea that it might have been hate speech. Now, obviously it wasn’t hate speech, but it was something to do with identity politics. What is the effect that identity politics is having? As someone who’s had something taken off YouTube.
DM – Oh, a lot more than that, before I answer your question. I mean, Joe Rogan’s podcast where we discussed Sam Harris and my discussion making somebody get a tick against them in community guidelines meant that that podcast was Joe Rogan’s first podcast which had been demonetized by YouTube.
Demonetization isn’t the same thing as silencing, but it’s a very clear slap on the wrist. And if it’s a content provider who didn’t have resources behind them or much success, this is a way to quietly silence people. There’s a lot of that. I’m not myself on Facebook, but I occasionally get reports from readers for instance, I wrote a little while ago about a case of a young woman who was barred from entering the UK because the previous time she had set up a stall with leaflets saying, “Allah is gay.”
Whatever your thoughts on this, this is an outrageous infringement of free speech. People shouldn’t be barred from countries for effectively blasphemy reasons, and I wrote a piece in The Spectator in the UK, starting with a line, “Is Allah gay?” I said, “I think it’s highly unlikely that if such a being as Allah exists that he would be solely gay. He’d probably be bi-curious or something.” Gender fluid, probably.
But I said this and I started getting reports from readers that they had been suspended from Facebook, some cases for months, for reposting this article. This stuff really worries me, because I’m lucky. I have a voice. I have outlets and so on, but I think that the impact on members of the public who just want to share. I mean, it’s not like this is crazy content. It’s mainstream stuff.
The idea that this gets described by the social media companies as being really troublesome stuff, I’m sorry, but these people have more power than they know how to safely deal with. This is very troubling. As for the content of your question, which was, you’ll have to remind me now.
JB – Just the effect that identity politics is having.
DM – Well, it’s making us mad, isn’t it? It’s making us mad. It worries me immensely, because you can see the examples of the insanity all around. I mean, this country’s got as good a dose of that as anyone. The real problem about it is that it’s fragmenting people. You can feel it. I think it’s going to make people retreat into tribes of all sorts of kinds.
Because the thing about identity politics is that people can play it back at you. It’s quite hard to see how to avoid it. You can’t just have one group having identity politics. At some point, I think this could get very, very nasty indeed.
It’s something I’ve been thinking of writing about a lot recently. I want people to stop this but it’s not enough to just point out the absurdities. You’ve got to provide the answers.
PG – You’ve said I think the idea of, in reference to America, rather than different groups of society are looking out for their own interests, we’ve lost sight of this idea, and I’ll quote you, “I think the idea is looking out for each other. That’s surely the point of the republic and that point seems to have been lost.” Is that something that’s possible to get back? If it is, how do we do that?
DM – I think it is, although the obvious ways in which we could get it back are all unpalatable. I mean, the obvious way to have more civic pride is war. I mean, Britain, America, and to some extent Australia, have been running off the moral gains of World War 2 for a very long time now, and I think they’ve diminished. They’ve fallen off. Jonathan Haidt has mentioned this, among others, in his research.
It’s not obvious how you create it in peacetime. One of the things you can do, I think, is to point people to the dangers of where they’re going. I do think you need to deconstruct the deconstructionists. You need to take it apart, and let me put it this way.
The identity politics people and the intersectionalists who come from this have got this idea that if you line everyone up, society will fit in like a beautiful piece of LEGO or something. You’ll get the gays and the women and black people and people of other racial minorities, and people of other sexual minorities and so on, and the whole thing will just beautifully meld like that.
I think there’s already a massive amount of evidence, witness the so-called turf wars between trans-exclusionary radical feminists and other branches of feminism. If you’re wishing them well, you’d be really worried at this point. But they’re coming in like every other thing at this kind of angle.
This thing isn’t going to happen. It’s coming in like this, and it’s just causing and is going to cause the most ungodly mess for years. I mean, you can see in the corners of the debate the pain that’s already existing, and it’s just going to get worse, because it just doesn’t work. It doesn’t work.
There are too many internal contradictions among other things. The internal contradictions are everywhere, are so visible. Starting from who’s your leader? Who appoints the leader of this community? Who’s the authority? We have this in the UK with like every other country, with so-called representatives of various groups.
I really resent this because I think your representatives are only the people who are representatives because they’ve been voted for. When people say to me, “Who are the Muslim leaders?” I say, “Well, it’s the Muslims who’ve elected as MEPs or members who are members of parliament, in the Upper House and the House of Commons.”
Those would be the people. Why would self-appointed council of backwards people, like we have in the UK, Muslim Council of Britain and other things, why should those people be regarded as being leaders? Nobody voted for them. That thing goes with every other movement. Self-professed leaders who have no qualities of leadership, not least because they have no followers.
JB – Yeah, so you talk about how there’s people without a platform right now who are feeling the brunt of identity politics because they don’t want to speak. And you talked about how you yourself, you have a platform, Joe Rogan has a platform – even if he gets one video demonetized, it’s okay. But do you feel like there are people out there that are going to take, any word that you say, any word that Joe Rogan says, maybe even in this interview, and they’re just going to use one particular quote, go nuts with it, and have you shut down through that? Is there an element of self-censorship of even the big players in the media right now that identity politics is starting to affect?
DM – Well actually on Sunday, with Sam Harris, I was discussing some of this. Because I think it’s hard not to self-censor in some way in this era. Because let me put it this way. Everyone who’s a writer or speaker, thinker, public figure in any way, you train yourself or you’re trained to learn to write and speak in such a fashion that an honest person cannot honestly misrepresent you, that what you said is faithfully understood by decent people, acting in a decent manner.
The era of social media, among other things, has caused something different to happen, which is that many people are now having to write and think and speak in a manner that ensures that a dishonest critic cannot dishonestly misrepresent you. There’s a problem with this, which is it’s not possible to do that. It’s not possible.
It’s not possible for me to use a word we’ve all agreed on the meaning of, and for somebody else to either say the word means something else, or – and this is a very common one – it’s not the words you say, it’s what we think’s behind the words. You hear that all the time at the moment, in every direction.
JB – The dog whistle element.
DM – Yeah, the dog whistle. And the counter to which is you’ve got to be the dog to hear the whistle. But these sort of voluntary dogs that crop up all across our media, who claim to have the power of hearing for this, they’re everywhere. This is incredibly dangerous, because I could attribute all sorts of motives to people that their words don’t reveal, but I don’t, because I think it’s dishonest and you can’t have any form of communication across political or other lines if that’s the game you’re going to play.
I think we have to fight against this very, very hard. That was one of the greatest things that Elizabeth I said – the observation of not being willing to look into the heart of human beings, not claiming that you can see into the hearts of people. Because first of all, you can’t. Secondly, that way lies hell, because everyone can play that game.
I can claim that all my critics are guided by some horrible bigotry, but I wouldn’t because I don’t think it’s true, and I don’t want to claim it for short term political gain. I think it’d be an incredibly dishonest thing to do. I think that among other things, one of the ways you get out of that is to do something which Roger Kimball of The New Criterion in New York pointed out – that the only way to undo some of this is for there to be an equal societal punishment for somebody erroneously making a claim as there should be for the person against whom such a claim is accurate.
So, for instance, if somebody is actually shown to be a racist, , you can see it from their words and their actions and so on, then that person will rightfully suffer societal shame. But the people who for short term political benefit of their own or for career advancement make such claims that, when they’re wrong, should equally suffer consequences from that.
In the same way that if you ran around the city, claiming that for everyone you disliked you had evidence that they were a paedophile. If it turned out that you had no such evidence and you were simply saying it because you didn’t like the people in question, you would and should suffer serious societal stigma for lying, for telling untruths, for poisoning your society with untruths. I think we have to find some way to do that.
JB – I think there would be about five accounts left on Twitter once we went through and removed all the people that erroneously make those claims.
DM – Yes, it would probably shut Twitter down.
JB – Yeah, I think they’d have to completely restructure their financial plan. They love those kind of mobs. Next question. You talked about how you’re about to write on this and you’re thinking about how do we solve it. Apart from going back at them, are there any other ways you think we can start to peel back against identity politics?
DB – Well, one thing is something which De Tocqueville is very helpful on, among others, is the nature of face-to-face interaction in the democracy, and again I don’t want to harp on about social media, but that’s obviously part of the problem. I’m here part of this week talking with Dr. Cornell West. We have many, many disagreements on all sorts of areas, and I have fleshed some of them out, but I also hope we’ll do so in a civilized manner, because I have significant respect for him and we seem to have got on quite well so far. I hope those aren’t famous last words.
But in a way, it’s an example of what I want to show people we should be doing. Because you see, it’s very easy to be brave and rude at a million miles distance. It’s harder to actually interact with people face-to-face. In particular if you disagree with them. We have entered this famous echo chamber problem, and I can see, I mean I don’t engage on social media for partly precisely this reason, but I can see that I look sometimes at what people do, and I look at adults, significant people, people who used to be serious, who are on Twitter just … Let me give you a very quick example.
Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former communications chief. Very brilliant communications chief you could say. He was tweeting last week against a man who’s a UKIP donor and Alastair Campbell was tweeting about this guy’s moobs. He was saying, “Oh, his moobs. They’re probably Russian moobs. Moobskis.” But there he was doing this, and 24 hours later, he was on the same platform talking about the fact there’s too little respect in public dialogue and discourse.
You think, “What? You’ve either got your moobskis rant or you’ve got the call for respect and dialogue, but you can’t have both,” you thought. Now, why does he have both? Probably because he’s on this platform where, like these other people, they forget they’re speaking to the world. They disgrace themselves.
We’ve got to be able to atone this idea of there being a form of private language, like a joke, a private joke, things you’d say to your mates you wouldn’t say on Twitter, a lot of people have come a cropper for forgetting that. But this is why the issue of face-to-face interaction is so important, because there are some people – I may have many, many enemies in my life, and I’m sure will make many more in the years ahead, and I’m very proud of some of them. Some of them have been very good enemies. People like Julian Assange and Tariq Ramadan.
PG – I was going to ask who your favourite was.
DM – They’re all in prison, I have to say.
JB – Yeah, so don’t get on your bad side.
DM – It’s very striking. They’re all in detention, or awaiting trial. But you make enemies because there are some things that are points of absolute contention which you cannot agree on. You can have that out as civilly as you can, but there are things that are very, very important to assert, and that you’re going to make opponents in.
But by and large, one of my feelings about face-to-face interactions with people is that it’s much harder to dislike people. It’s much harder to be really vicious to people if you’re sitting in front of people. The things that people say on Twitter about people’s private lives, you would never say to somebody’s face, and quite right, too.
JB – Yeah, especially the moobs comment. This is my armchair psychiatrist side but I think it’s just in the action of tweeting something you’re only seeing a phone. You don’t see the person’s face screw up when they read it, whereas like if you’re face-to-face and you say, “you’re a racist”, you do.
DM – Right. I had an example of this recently when I bumped into somebody at an event who I’d never met, who used to be at a piss poor publication. He said, “Oh yeah, yeah. You threatened to sue me once.” I said, “I don’t threaten to sue people very often.” He was very jolly about it, it was disgusting. I said, “Oh, what was it over?” He told me, and I’d forgotten about the incident, and I said, “Well, you published an untruth and then you had to unpublish it, didn’t you? And correct and apologize.”
He was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sorry about that.” That’s not uncommon. There’s a frivolity with some people who think, “I’ll just go out there and say crazy stuff about people and just get some attention and so on.” I look to this guy and I just thought, “What a contemptible figure you have to be to think that’s a decent way to operate.”
I thought, “My gosh, if I’d run a piece making some disgusting and untrue and libellous accusation against you, I bet I’d slink away if I saw you,” you know? But there’s a shamelessness with some people.
PG – All right, let’s change track slightly. You’ve written the book The Strange Death of Europe where you talk a lot about culture in Europe. You talk about how people in Europe find it difficult to, in some circumstances, even admit that they have a culture. Or if they do admit that it’s a European culture, that it’s a negative thing. Why is that?
DM – Well, Australia’s connected to that isn’t it? Very connected to that. I’ve seen that already in my time here. I’m a great advocate of self-criticism as an individual and for societies, I think self-critical societies are a very good thing. Much better than the opposite. But self-criticism has to be fair to yourself as well. It can’t be masochistic. It really shouldn’t be masochistic. It really shouldn’t be.
Apart from anything else, because you end up producing people who think that because you’re in a self-critical society, the worst things that are said about your society are true, and therefore, the other societies who are not self-critical who you don’t hear things from, you can give a pass to. I worry about this all the time about coverage of Russia, for instance.
I think there’s a branch of conservatism in particular which is far too uncritical of Russia. We live in this messy, diverse and pluralistic and democratic societies, and you can hear all sorts of stuff about us. Then there are these countries which don’t have to have those messy things like elections.
It’s too easy for some people to fall into a form of quasi admiration. I think same thing with China. I just think we should avoid the worst tendencies of this. I suppose it comes down to that central thing. It came up in the discussion in Sydney on Sunday – I’m all for people feeling that where there are remaining inequalities because of historical events, I’m all for people trying to work out how to deal with that.
I’m not for self-annihilation as the answer. For instance, I don’t think an obvious solution to ongoing racial issues in the US isfor some kind of tithe to be taken from everyone who’s white, or of European descent in America, and distributed among the black population, as Ta-Nehisi Coates and others have recently argued.
I think there’s a new type of hell you’re going to create if you go down that route. I’m all for answers, but this sort of thing that’s going on, and you hear it here as well, it’s going to tell some people they are uniquely guilty, and my view is that no people on Earth have ever been entirely guilty, and no people on Earth have ever been entirely innocent.
In any case, we get back to this central conundrum which I address a bit in one chapter of the book, which is how do you solve it? What are your suggestions for solving this? How do you expiate it?
There’s something which I didn’t actually end up putting in the book, but which Nietzsche is very good on, which is what happens in societies which effectively have the structure of Christianity, but lack the belief. One of the things that you can get from that, and I think this is the case in Australia, I think it is the case in my own country, and across much of Europe, is you get into the problem of guilt with no potential possibility for redemption, ever. No means of redemption.
Germany is the obvious example. This is living memory. What is your attitude to be to young Germans who themselves have never done anything, and whose parents may not have done anything, and whose grandparents may? What is your answer in a country of 80 million people, most of whom are descended from the generation of that war? It’s not clear to me, but I know that there is a lot of damage that you could do if you kept telling Germans that whereas generally we don’t believe people are responsible for the sins of their fathers, they should be.
Because it suggests among other things, for instance, that there’s something in the DNA, something of the blood in Germany, that every now and then terms them genocidal. That’s a Nazi idea, that there are historical traits within people that erupt like that. I don’t like this deterministic view. You can almost say it’s Calvinistic.
JB – Yeah, that feeds onto the next one. You talk about how they look for ways to make up for past guilt, and one of the ways that you mention in the book is through this race to have the most inclusive immigration policy. Especially in Germany. Is that why you see Germany being the most open in terms of immigration?
DM – Yes. I was speaking the other week at a conference with an Austrian scientist, and at one point he asked me about this and he said, “Why do you think they did it?” I said, “It was because of the war.” He said, “Which war?” I said, “The Second World War.” He burst out laughing.
I realized it was one of those things that was so obvious that he just hadn’t thought this recently. It’s not like big events like that are just going to go away in 70 years. As I say, I’m not for eternal and constant guilt. I think we have to find ways for a means of redemption. I think that the 2015 decisions of Angela Merkel, and the weird energy underneath it in Germany definitely had this quasi-orgiastic pleasure in the sight of people trying to come into Germany rather than get out. Breaking through the borders to get into Germany rather than breaking through the borders to get out.
I can understand it, of course, who couldn’t understand that? But there are many paradoxes and oddities about this, but not the least of them is the rising antisemitism issue in Germany now, because of the rising migration and particularly the Muslim immigration into Germany, means that a German minister a few months ago had to say, “We don’t want more antisemites in Germany.”
Pretty good policy to have that, it would seem. It’s not as we know been historically country that’s lacked in antisemites. The mass importation of more would not be an obvious Germany policy strategy, but there are things like that that happen, which can be completely clearly foretold as I did. I said this would happen.
You can foretell these things and you can act on them, if you only have the conversation about them. But we just have not allowed ourselves to have the conversation. I said this on Australian television last night. I don’t know what Australia’s policies should be on immigration. I’m not clear on it. I’ve got some ideas. I’ve certainly got a lot of ideas of what you shouldn’t do, and I think some of the things which your governments have done in recent years have been very wise, particularly deciding that the difference between legal and illegal immigration matters.
But all I really know is that you, like the rest of us, have to be able to have a much deeper conversation about this. You can have that because of infrastructure concerns – too swift a growth of population, and not having the structure as a society to deal with it this fast. You could have it on financial terms, you could have it on welfare state terms, you could have it on identity terms.
But basically the conversation here seems to me like everywhere else. On one side, this debate is just massively restricted because of allegations that are frivolously made.
PG – You mentioned since you got here, that you’ve noticed manifestations of the guilt that you talked about in Europe in Australia. You did point out Australia in particular as a place that suffered from this guilt over the culture. Just want to explain that a little bit and talk through what you’ve noticed and what your thoughts are on that?
DM – Well, a little bit of this came up the other day, because of the thanking of the tribes on whose land the venue was. There was an interesting question about this, offered to the host who’s a local. Somebody said, “What was the reason for that?”
He said, “Well, I think at this stage it’s such a common practice, that I think it’s a pointed thing not to do it.” Which I thought was fascinating. I hadn’t realized that that had become the default, as it were. Aspects of that seem healthy enough. But you can’t treat groups of people as if they’re lesser.
I said to a friend the other day, something you notice doesn’t happen, or at least I think doesn’t happen so much anymore, is people talking about classes of people as if they are indeed like homogenous entities.
If somebody said to me, “I think the aristocracy are just great,” I’d say, “But, who are you talking about? Who?” I can think of some aristocrats who are terrific. Enormous philanthropists, and brilliant businessmen, and have done all sorts of good. I can think of many who are dullards and dimwits and selfish and stupid, and much more.
If somebody said to me, “I love the working class,” I’d be like, “Who? Who are you talking about?” It’s madness to talk about groups of people in this way. It should be the same in other areas as well. If somebody said, “I just love gay people,” I’d be like, “Why? Why particularly? Who? You can’t think of anyone who’s gay who’s not great?”
It’s just crazy to do this. Yet, there is this thing that is returning about this within racial and group identity. “I love X group” or, “X group is better in some way than this other group.” I don’t know. It’s early stages of it, but in some way I just have this fear that race is back. In a way that it can be stopped from getting ugly, I really do think that. But it just seems to be on the agenda in a way that it didn’t used to be when I was growing up, in a very diverse and pluralistic part of London.
I think it’s back because there is an over-push by some minorities which is causing a counter-push to begin. It’s not going to be answered and it just has to be thought about and trodden in very, very carefully.
JB – If I could back to when you said how people are just trying to not to have the debate about immigration, and I think that’s especially true in Europe. And then poll after poll, as you cite in the book, shows that immigration is a serious concern for a lot of people. And the political class just wants to talk about anything but.
Whatever someone’s view on immigration may be, I think it’s extremely interesting that you have such an incredibly divisive issue in the public and they want to talk about it, but they’re not hearing it from the political class. Why is the political class running so far away from this?
DM – Somebody involved in politics some time ago made a really interesting observation to me that I hadn’t thought of before. They said to me, “There’s something you’ve got fundamentally wrong, Douglas.” I’m always quite interested to hear that.
I was persuaded by their argument. This person said to me, “Look, you think because you’re motivated by a search for truth,” or at least an interest, I’d put it no more, in truth. “You think that that’s what’s motivating other people too. But a lot of people are not motivated by that, or end up not being motivated for that.”
This person said, “In politics, you may go into it motivated by that, but particularly the higher up you go, there is this issue of effectively cost-benefit analysis.”
When I thought about this, I thought this just rang really true. Take some of the issues I have written about a lot, like immigration, like for instance, Islam. If you know that one side of this spectrum can lead to total career death, the end of your job, the end of your reputation, let alone if it also means the actual threat of death, actual violence against you, or at least a serious restriction in your ability to move. And on the other hand, if you got it wrong, at worse, I’ll write a piece being critical of you. A couple of other people will call you out.
Whichever side is true or whichever side is false, what do you think the motivation is more towards? This is an explanation for a lot of things that go on. In order to correct that, because it’s important to have answers, you have to in some way rebalance that. There has to be a reward for telling the truth.
And concomitantly, there has to be some greater punishment for lying or for telling lies. Or, and this is perhaps more pertinent, there should be some kind of downside to not wishing to pursue truth in the public square. Politics has never been a bloodless game. I mean, metaphorically speaking, sometimes literally. It’s never been totally clean.
It’s always going to attract a certain type of psychopath. It just is. The late Auberon Waugh used to say that anyone who said they wanted to be in politics should be prevented from being in politics by virtue of the ambition.
PG – That’s what we told Former Deputy Executive James Paterson before he got into politics.
JB – He didn’t listen to us then. Won’t listen to us now.
DM – One can’t be halcyon days about it, but you can push things a bit better in one direction in this. I think the direction I would like to see things move in is some reward for taking risks. Or at least less punishment for taking risks.
There’s a woman called Sarah Champion, who’s the Labour MP for Rotherham, which is the place where 1,500 girls were raped by minority ethnic gangs of Muslim men – an issue which has been happening in many, many other cities across the UK, and is a source of unbelievable angst and pain, as well as just nightmarish horror for thousands of young girls.
When Sarah Champion said 10 years after this had all been found out by an official inquiry, she’s a Labor MP and was in the Shadow Cabinet, when she said, “Look, we’ve got to address this question,” she got fired from the Shadow Cabinet. This is only last year.
That’s outrageous. She didn’t say anything beyond the facts, she didn’t exaggerate anything, she didn’t start bashing minorities in general. She was very specific. Very specific about a unimaginable thing that had happened in her own constituency, and if an MP cannot talk about something like that, who the hell can? She lost her position in the party for that.
Now, that’s got to be wrong. That’s got to be wrong. I’m not a supporter of the Labour Party, certainly not under Jeremy Corbyn, but any healthy political party cannot operate like that.
JB – Because it also tells every other politician that if they see anything like that, just don’t bring it up.
DM – Yeah, absolutely. Again concomitantly, we’ve got to find a way to make sure the people who did are respected for that. There was an MP, she’s now sadly retired from politics, a Labour MP called Ann Cryer, who my gosh, there’s an admirable person.
She was onto this when nobody else was. She really, really tried to raise the alarm on this, and people didn’t want to listen. She was called every type of slur. She had to be protected by the police at one period, but there is an admirable person.
JB – Bringing it back to the tour that you’re on now, so you’re with Bret and Eric Weinstein, Sam Harris, Maajid Nawaz. The Intellectual Dark Web. That to me is really interesting, the way that speakers such as yourself, all those guys, and then you can add in Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan, et cetera. You can reach anyone anywhere at anytime, on any device that they want. Are you seeing this as the start of a counter revolution to the identity politics ways? New ideas that are out there.
DM – Something is changing. Something is changing. There’s several obvious signs to me. One is that thing of the long form discussion, as you were saying, the long podcasts. It turns out we can cope with more than three minutes of speaking. We don’t have to have this dumbed down media, we don’t have to have people treating us all like kids. We can cope with ideas. We can cope with nuance.
I think that’s one sign that’s persuaded me. Another thing I have to say is not just the attractiveness of live events these days, which people weren’t foreseeing that 10 or 15 years ago. But also, the demographic. I did an event a few weeks ago in Dublin and then one in London with Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris, and we had about 10,000 people at each event. They were in, well, basically in rock stadiums.
JB – Yeah, The O2 arena I think it was. Yeah, that’s a big one.
DM – The O2 arena in London. The more striking thing of this is it’s young people predominately. It’s young people who are very smart, very engaged, very diverse. It’s not, as the press keep wanting to claim, the alt-right. In fact, the other day in Sydney Eric Weinstein, who coined the term Intellectual Dark Web, said near the beginning of the first event to the audience, “shout out if you’re here from the alt-right.” Silence. “Shout out now if you’re a woman.” Yay. “Shout out now if you’re left of centre.” Yay from the crowd, okay?
Why did he do it? Because as he said, you’ll bet your bottom dollar there will be a journalist there, or usually not there, who will say, “gateway drugs to alt-right: Douglas Murray, Bret Weinstein,” et cetera, et cetera. “Sam Harris, notorious far right wing fundamentalist yesterday had a rally in Sydney.”
JB – Exactly. They’ll take the fact that no one said it’s alt-right, it’s like, “Well, gateway drug.”
DM – Yes. “But at the at the end of the day they’ve all risen up as one with their Tiki torches”. It’s pathetic this, and of course it’s a way to not deal with the issue. This reminds me of quite a lot of things going on at the moment, but one obvious one that very much irritates me – I don’t talk about Brexit or Trump very much mainly because the rest of the world is talking about them – but one thing that is worth pointing out about both of these phenomenon is look at the wasted opportunity of their opponents in the last couple of years.
If you were an opponent of Brexit, you could have spent the last two years helping your country to get out of the European Union in a really good way that was beneficial for everyone. Because we’ve got to leave, because we voted to leave. You could respect the mandate. It’s not at all obvious to me that the best use of your time for two years is to pretend that because of four Russian bots on Twitter the British people were tricked into voting to leave the European Union, which is an unbothersome organization with no downsides and only upside and how could we be so mad?
It seems to me to be an awful waste of everyone’s time, that. If in America, you were a democratic who just cannot believe that Hillary Clinton lost the election because she was such an attractive candidate, such a fresh face in politics. If that was your view, then the last 18 months you could have really worked out what went wrong. Why did the most ever spent on an election to deliver a candidate to the White House fail so badly that they lost to Donald Trump?
What are the things you’re not speaking about which he spoke to, and got the necessary thousands, tens of thousands – it wasn’t a big margin of people – to come over and vote for him? You could have spent the time working that out. What have you got instead? This magnificent waste of time thinking that the whole thing was stolen. Now, I don’t know what they’ll find in terms of investigation, it just seems unwise not to accept the mandate and to not be trying to regroup and work out what you need to do.
I think it’s the same way with the criticisms that Jordan and I and others get. Stop trying to pretend that we’re trying to do something we’re not. Consider the fact that we might be onto something, or at least not onto nothing. People aren’t turning out and absorbing this content because they’re mad, or because they’re bigots.
It’s because there are a set of really, really big things that need to be addressed and you can’t just shut us all up. You can’t just tell us not to think. You can’t pretend that there’s no difference between chromosomes and just make us all agree with it, or that there’s no difference between men and women, or that the most important characteristic of people is their gender identity or their sexual identity.
Then, you can’t tell people that they’re terrible because of the colour of their skin, and a whole load of other stuff. You can’t just do that and not expect people to want to have a more honest conversation about that.
Now, there was a time until quite recently when you could lie and get away with it.
I hope to God, I don’t think it’s possible anymore. I said this to Bret Weinstein. Even 15 years ago, if a left-wing campus in America decided to smear somebody, and pretend that they’re something they’re not, they could have got away with it. But today, people can find out for themselves. They can find out, “Actually, this is a Bernie Sanders supporting Democrat who they’re trying to pretend is some kind of alt-right Neo-Nazi?”
This is not rare. The New York Times has tried it repeatedly. The New York Times has done a number of attempts to take this thing out, and people can see for themselves. They try to pretend that Jordan’s use of the term enforced monogamy, which is a term that’s been used in The New York Times before because it’s a noted term that had some noted meaning and agreed upon meaning, that actual fact his use of this term means that Jordan Peterson wants to get Incels and force women to have sex with them.
When anyone can at any time go and see what he was talking about and find out for themselves. I don’t know where this all goes. But I think it’s an attempt to stop us getting this out or misrepresenting what we’re saying, and I think they shouldn’t, because among other things, they are missing an opportunity to listen to something that perhaps they should listen to.
JB – Douglas Murray, the book is The Strange Death of Europe. Go out and buy a copy now. Thank you so much for joining us on the show.
DM – It’s been a great pleasure. Thank you.