As a strange illustration of one of the three supposed laws of dialectical materialism—the interpenetration of opposites—racists and modern anti-racists are united by the importance they ascribe to race, though they are divided by their explanation of why race should be so important. The racists believe that it’s because of biology and the anti-racists believe it’s because of socially-sanctioned racism.
They are united too in their totalitarian (or at least bullying) tendencies, though in this respect the modern anti-racists are now more dangerous, not because they are worse people than the racists, but because racism as a doctrine is mostly, if not entirely, discredited. Racism is truly opposed not by anti-racists, but by non-racists, that is, people who do not judge or behave towards others according to their race.
…As under the totalitarians, positive and public assent to and enthusiasm for certain propositions are required. Failure in this regard is a symptom or sign of being an enemy of the people.
The demonstrations in London (and elsewhere) are illustrative of two contemporary cultural traits. The first is the importance ascribed to opinion as an exclusive, or at least large, component of virtue; the second is the vehemence of expression as the marker of sincerity.
…Actual good conduct, which requires some effort, restraint, and even self-sacrifice, has correspondingly become less important in earning a reputation for goodness. Holding a placard, chanting a slogan, expressing an opinion, is enough.
In short, the more you feel, as measured by the vehemence with which you express it, the better person you are, and the safer from criticism.
It seems, then, that we have entered an era of what might be called moral thuggery. It is, as ever, important not to exaggerate: we do not live in the worst of times, we do not fear the midnight knock on the door if we express a heterodox idea. But there are substantial numbers of people who, in the name of their own moral outrage and sense of righteousness, would like to impose, or at least would not object to the imposition of, a regime in which people did fear that midnight knock. We cannot assume that everyone yearns to let others breathe free.