Charterhouse

Nick Thomas: What’s behind the new censorship?

Today’s youngsters are more suggestible and less sceptical than their parents were (Getty)

Whenever some noxious, malign social fashion starts grabbing headlines on a daily basis and elicits loud harrumphing at the breakfast tables of the shires, it is a good idea to take a leaf out of Cicero’s book and politely inquire “Cui bono?” To whose benefit? Who stands to gain from this nonsense? That way you might be able to deduce who’s really behind it.

Thirty years ago, give or take, Western society was lashed by the storm of political correctness, a term as offensive to any thinking person as Objectively Funny or Organised Spontaneity, a contradiction in terms because politics is by nature contingent, a rolling process of debate and compromise. It was mostly about outlawing traditional campus foreplay and witty social observation in stand-up comedy, with a bit of environmentalism thrown in. But the thrust of it was that thinking about ethical issues was no longer necessary, because it had been done for us, and all we had to do was recite the resulting nostrums.

So, cui bono? Power-hungry lefty nerds who were too thick to win an argument, or get a clever joke, was the answer. It was irritating while it lasted, but it was seen off by common sense and mass jeering from the normal kids, and we thought we’d seen the end of it.

Alas, we were wrong. Here it is again, more complex and insidious than before, and now it doesn’t even have a name. The technique this time is not just to inculcate young people with facile, doe-eyed opinions, but to prevent them from encountering all others, or indeed anything, including the nasty bits of Shakespeare or medicine or case law, that might be momentarily upsetting to them. A new generation of lefty nerds is doing the hard graft, of course, and they have dusted off the “no platform” tool, though their forebears did not have the licence to indulge their instinctive red anti-Semitism the way these youngsters can.

But actually there’s nothing counter-revolutionary about many of the things we can no longer say from a university stage. For example, I doubt that Uncle Joe would have been especially outraged by the notion that novelists sometimes create characters not of their own sex, class or ethnicity, and put crudely caricatured words in their mouths for narrative effect, let alone by some Kremlin toady throwing a Brazilian-themed fancy dress party in his honour. And yet any defence of such “cultural appropriation” is currently a one-way ticket to student union ostracism. And don’t even mention any of the snowflakes’ current sacred cows whom Stalin would have regarded as subversive sexual deviants, and happily had shot.

But it’s not just psychosexual dysphoria, and, more damagingly, its fashionable affectation, that must benefit from liberalism stripped of moral caution; everybody must be whatever they like by self-definition, and anyone who says otherwise is a fascist. In fact, you’re probably a fascist if you insist that people know what “fascist” means before they start calling other people fascists.

So there’s something more sinister even than thuggish, brick-headed Marxism going on here, which means, of course, that there always was. It’s just that the young of today are far more suggestible, less sceptical than their parents were, removed as they can be at will from reality, not just by booze and drugs and television, but also by a whole new world of social media in which the existential perspective is destroyed by the abolition of distance.

The purpose behind this vile flood of no platforming, safe space-fencing, cultural fratricide is not to impose some particular alien ideology upon us, but simply to ensure that we will be clueless and useless in the face of our enemies, whoever they are, incapable of argument, let alone resistance. The goal is destruction, the lefties, for once, merely the useful idiots.

And the combined assault on argument, imagination and expression seems surgically targeted at Christian society, which arose through the infusion of civil Europe with the idea of the logos, the spoken word of God, the divine imagination expressed in Creation. To deny us imagination, expression and argument is to shut us down as individuals within the community of our faith tradition. It is to negate Christendom.

Too many among our political and intellectual leaders would rather watch Western civilisation crash around their ears than admit that the Judaeo-Christian story is essential to its identity and survival. Yet the West has many enemies, so diverse as to be incapable of organised conspiracy against it. Christendom has only one. So, cui bono? Wake up, and smell the brimstone.

Nick Thomas is a freelance writer based in Amsterdam. He was a weekly columnist for the Herald for 16 years