Progressive Authoritarianism & the Death of Debate
‘The arrogance of Western cultural supremacism, it was argued, was the status quo now in need of vigorous radical assault. A commitment to universalism was replaced by the fetishisation of difference and specificity; a belief in egalitarianism gave way to demands for exceptionalism and double-standards (only this time favouring the ‘oppressed’); and the language of emancipation and liberty was replaced by a cult of victimhood, self-pity, and a brooding, masochistic solipsism. “We have nothing to lose but our chains” was drowned out by the resentful injunction “Listen to my suffering”.
In academia, the humanities began a process of decline as the demands of rigorous and fair-minded scholarship gave way to the requirements of a stultifying and increasingly censorious political correctness. The pursuit of objective truth and knowledge fell before endlessly competing claims from subjective ‘lived experiences’ and ‘narratives’, and international solidarity fell before a grotesque cultural relativism, itself informed by a neurotic culture of self-lacerating guilt. The lexicon of political activism – originally developed to identify irrational judgements made about people based on their unalterable characteristics – assumed a metaphysical dimension. Racism, misogyny, and homophobia were no longer alterable matters of law, belief, and practice – they became immovable structural toxins, against which not even the most broad-minded liberal could be reliably immunised, and to which well-intentioned people were often subject without their knowledge.’