Tyranny of the minorities: We live in an age of mob rule by minorities

ONE of the great lines in 20th century films comes from Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War satire Dr Strangelove. The scene is a nuclear missile control bunker. With World War III imminent, two men scuffle until their boss, played by Peter Sellers, cries: ‘Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here. This is the war room!’

Er, what is a war room for if not fighting?

That gag came to mind this week when our so-called liberal Left went into convulsions of illiberality after author Lionel Shriver mocked the latest diversity madness. Writing in The Spectator, Ms Shriver poked fun at box-ticking, multi-cultural political correctness at publisher Penguin Random House, which is planning to commission authors on the basis of racial, gender and other quotas.

 George C. Scott is shown in an Air Force uniform during the the filming of Dr Strangelove 

At Oxford and Cambridge, there are calls for statues of historic benefactors to be torn down. Pictured, a gender neutral toilet sign in New York

At Oxford and Cambridge, there are calls for statues of historic benefactors to be torn down. Pictured, a gender neutral toilet sign in New York

Such sacrilege proved a timebomb. Tick, tock, tick, tock — KABOOM! Bien pensants, when they heard accounts of Ms Shriver’s article, exploded. They were furious.

As Dr Strangelove might put it: ‘We can’t allow diverging views about diversity!’

No we can’t! At our universities, which are meant to be bastions of free thought, guest speakers are barred for fear they might so much as question Left-wing dogma. This happens to even such distinguished liberals as Germaine Greer and Peter Tatchell.

The forces of political correctness impose their unyielding views everywhere.

At Oxford and Cambridge, there are calls for statues of historic benefactors to be torn down because they do not comply with fashionable modern positions on minority rights. At Newcastle University, meanwhile, the students’ union demanded sanitary bins in men’s loos so as not to upset any students ‘with a range of genders’.

Supposedly apolitical charities try to thrust correctness down the gullets of their staff. The National Trust instructs country house guides to wear gay pride badges. The RNLI sacks long-serving lifeboatmen for using tea mugs with risque images of women.

Theatre companies are left in no doubt that they will not be given Arts Council subsidies unless they cast a number of ‘non-traditional’ actors — i.e., women playing Shakespearean kings or Afro-Caribbeans as English Regency fops.

Firms ban employees wearing crosses in case they offend non-Christians or atheists (but it’s fine to wear a burka).

Elsewhere, a popular fun run is told it should no longer ask runners to declare if they are men or women (campaigners insist that ‘non-binary’ athletes might take mortal offence).

The Armed Forces are pressured to spend precious funds on almost totally unnecessary gender-neutral lavatories.

Cake decorators are told they must accept commissions from gay couples, and that fool the Mayor of London removes the male and female symbols from pedestrian signals in order to conform with the latest hare-brained theories about gender.

We live in an age of the minority mob. An odd expression, I know. Mob rule used to be an assertion of power through violence by the great unwashed, be it in the French Revolution or America’s racist deep south, when it lynched individuals.

It has been replaced by the no less illogical (and hardly less chilling) hysteria of a knot of activists who weaponise minority rights — they seem particularly obsessed with lavatories — and wield them as a political threat against the majority. More often than not, these agitators themselves are not part of the minorities that have allegedly been offended. They belong instead to a class of professional busybodies who seize on the minorities game for their own ends.

‘Diversity’ is now a booming employment sector and it offers hefty salaries. More insidiously, others exploit it for political ends and furtherance of their own ambitions.

The Twittersphere is full of these self-appointed stewards of indignation who see it as their job to police the media and shout down anyone who dissents from received opinion.

Their strategy is to expunge divergence of views and crush resistance to their creed of racial and sexual egalitarianism. Freedom of expression is something only they can enjoy.

Lionel Shriver was swiftly condemned this week by people who pretty clearly had not read her article and were interested only in hurting her. They called her a neo-colonialist, a relic of ‘status quo bias’ and a supporter of ‘ingrained, insidious racism’. In short she was convicted of being a very nasty person (#human garbage, as they say online).

A gang of new writers from Penguin was organised into signing a denunciation of her and she was sacked from a literary awards judging panel run by a feminist magazine. Its editor was honest enough to admit that she was not distancing herself from Ms Shriver on account of her actual article. She was sacking her on account of the kerfuffle the article had caused.

The BBC and Left-wing media outlets such as the Guardian promptly piled into the melee, gleefully reporting these barbs against Ms Shriver. Someone was criticising quotas for minorities? Outrageous! Let’s authenticate her critics — and whip up further rage —by organising a phone-in or holding a studio debate on Radio 4’s Today programme!

It is worth looking at Ms Shriver’s article to see what she actually wrote. She began by noting that Penguin Random House had come up with a ‘company-wide goal’ that its authors must ‘reflect UK society by 2025’. Penguin announced: ‘We want our authors and new colleagues to reflect the UK population taking into account ethnicity, gender, sexuality, social mobility and disability.’

Such things would be more important, it said, than the matter of whether or not a prospective employee had been to university.

Ms Shriver proceeded to cite a questionnaire sent to Penguin authors about gender, sexuality and ethnicity. What had this to do with their writing ability? She concluded that Penguin was ‘drunk on virtue’ and no longer regarded its raison d’etre the ‘acquisition and dissemination of good books’.

‘Rather, the organisation aims to mirror the percentages of minorities in the UK population with statistical precision. Thus, literary excellence will be secondary to ticking all those ethnicity, gender, disability and sexual preference boxes.

‘We can safely infer from that email that if an agent submits a manuscript written by a gay transgender Caribbean who dropped out of school at seven and powers round town on a mobility scooter, it will be published, whether or not said manuscipt is an incoherent, tedious, meandering and insensible pile of mixed- paper recycling.’

In any sane country, Lionel Shriver’s article would be acclaimed as common sense. She was putting a meritocratic case — ie, people should be judged on their ability and talents. And who can really argue with meritocracy?

When we board an aeroplane, do we worry what sexuality or ethnicity the pilot has? No. We merely hope she or he knows how to operate the controls.

When we visit a dental practice, do we demand the medical professionals reflect the UK population’s minority profiles? I am more interested in their ability to drill and fill.

For the egalitarian commissars, higher considerations apply. For them, talent and ability come second to quotas of race, gender and sexual inclination.

This is because they want to broadcast that they are morally superior beings who support minorities. The politicians among them hope that, by appealing to those who identify themselves as minorities, they will win votes. This is called identity politics, but really it is the politics of the lunatic asylum.

There is a profoundly worrying problem with this tyranny of the minorities. By insisting every minority has preferential rights, you end up denying the majority their rights.

Imagine that you are applying for a job. You have all the qualifications and the necessary experience. But, as per that memorandum from Penguin Random House, you do not help the company ‘to reflect the UK population’.

Apologies, say your prospective employers, we can’t give you the job as another candidate has a disability/sexual preference/skin colour we haven’t yet ticked off our staff lists. We’d have loved to hire you, we really would, but our diversity policy means we need a one-legged Latino goat-fancier.

Diversity is supposed to stop discrimination. But what is this if it is not discrimination? Diversity is supposed to provide greater opportunities for people no matter their colour, creed, sexuality, gender, ethnicity or inside leg measurement. A reasonable onlooker will say ‘but we should encourage minorities’. Of course we should. But Penguin’s appalling policy will achieve the very opposite, for it will force the company to recruit a mirror image of the population.

The entirely noble idea of diversity thus becomes an inflexible rod. It becomes a menace. This will not make the majority feel more kindly towards minorities. It will ignite resentment. And how exactly does it comply with equality laws which forbid treating people differently according to ethnicity, race, sexuality or disability?

A few months ago, I had an experience like Ms Shriver’s when I criticised the Royal Shakespeare Company for what I felt was some clumsy, minority-quotas casting in a Restoration comedy. I asked if the RSC was being leaned on by the Arts Council (which places inordinate store by its diversity policies). Did it fear that unless it cast black actors in historically white roles it might not be given such big dollops of public cash?

Like Lionel Shriver, I did not suggest that minorities were creatively less gifted than anyone else. Not in the slightest. I merely questioned the wisdom and morality of putting political correctness before raw merit. For this, I was swiftly and repeatedly maligned and misrepresented. Whoomph!

The RSC denounced me as a racist and numerous blowhards in the subsidised theatre world pretty much compared me to Satan. Behind the scenes, senior theatre practitioners told me they completely agreed with me — but feared that if they said so in public, their careers would be damaged.

In medieval Spain, the Inquisition caused terror by chasing down anyone who uttered public heresy (i.e. questioned Roman Catholic dogma). The Inquisition itself was small, but it was brutally effective at snuffing out dissent. With fire and torture, it came down hard on a few prominent free-thinkers and that was enough to create widespread repression.

Spain’s population saw the way so-called heretics had been pulled limb-from-limb and it thought ‘crumbs, we’d better do what we are told’.

In medieval days torture was physical — men were boiled, put on the rack, or subjected to the Pear of Anguish, the Judas Cradle or the Saw, brutal instruments which concentrated pain on the most sensitive areas of the anatomy.

In more recent times, political regimes such as Mao’s China and Hendrik Verwoerd’s South Africa have suppressed dissent. I remember, as a child holidaying in Sixties Spain, being told never to utter out loud the name of the country’s fascist dictator, General Franco. ‘It’s just safer not to say it,’ said my mother.

Maybe someone should have given similar advice to Lionel Shriver. Maybe someone should have said: ‘Don’t mock diversity — it’ll only land you in the most frightful trouble’.

Under this tyranny of the minorities, that may be what you should do for an easy life. But the thing about tyrannies is that they are ruled, ultimately, by bullies. The way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them, as Lionel Shriver has done with such brave clarity.

British public life is not like Dr Strangelove’s war room. It is a place where the lively conflict of views should be welcomed as an essential part of a flourishing democracy. Freedom of expression has been fought for with blood over the centuries and is vital for liberal, civilised behaviour. No minority mob should ever be allowed to destroy that.


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