Magazine article The Spectator

You Can Keep Your Identity Politics

Magazine article The Spectator

You Can Keep Your Identity Politics

Article excerpt

Multiculturalism is in crisis. By that I don't just mean that political correctness has 'gone mad', as the Daily Mail likes to put it: the British public worked that out long ago, and merely shrugs when it learns (for example) that the Lake District National Park is to abolish its guided walks because they attract insufficient numbers of black people. 'Political correctness' is shorthand for the etiquette and working practices of the most influential ideology of our age: multiculturalism, or 'identity polities'. And that ideology is falling apart.

This collapse is not evidence of multiculturalism's weakening hold on public life. On the contrary, it has been produced by the willingness of one institution after another - universities, schools, hospitals, the police, the Civil Service, multinational corporations, the Church, the BBC - to surrender to the demands of identity politics in a painfully self-abasing manner. Multiculturalism has captured the engine room of British society. And, having done so, it is wreaking havoc everywhere, especially in race relations.

Last week, the Guardian devoted two pages to a symposium on Islam, race and British identity under the heading 'The elephants in the room'. 'We didn't end up with a shopping list or any clear-cut answers,' reported Madeleine Bunting. 'But perhaps the event could help to kick-start a much needed debate.' In reality, the debate is already raging. And the elephant that the Guardian has only just noticed is the fact that so many natural supporters of identity politics are abandoning it. Young people, members of ethnic minorities and the radical Left are all lining up to give multiculturalism a good kicking.

The assault is coming from so many directions that it is difficult to know where to start. In America, perhaps. To be more precise, outside the Capitol building ten days ago, when John Forbes Kerry was not sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. He has identity politics to thank for that. The Democrats have fragmented into what Arthur Schlesinger, the first liberal critic of multiculturalism, called 'a quarrelsome spatter of enclaves, ghettos, tribes'. Although most of the tribes turned out for Kerry, one of them let him down. While the professors of America drove early to the polls on 2 November, crazed with Bushhatred, their slacker students did not - at least, not in the proportions that Michael Moore had promised. Some even had the temerity to vote Republican, if only because they were sick of lectures from diversity police and bulimic celebrities.

'I hate conservatives, but I really hate liberals,' says Matt Stone, co-creator with Trey Parker of the cable cartoon series South Park. The show's globular infants never miss an opportunity to ridicule multicultural sentimentality about Native American wisdom and the rainforest. When they mock their mincing gay teacher, they are shipped off to a 'Death Camp of Tolerance' where they are forced at gunpoint to produce non-sexist artefacts. Other characters include a pro-choice activist who wants to abort her eight-year-old son and a menagerie of preachy Hollywood stars; in Stone and Parker's new film Team America, Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn are (literally) the puppets of North Korea.

Andrew Sullivan coined the term 'South Park Republican' to describe young Americans who, while adept at rolling a spliff and completely at ease in the company of gays and blacks, ignore politically correct taboos. Ironically, they find it easier to do so thanks to the diversification of culture that created identity politics in the first place. The rise of cable television channels (especially Fox), independent publishers and the Internet has broken the liberals' stranglehold on the media. In the 'blogosphere' there are no diversity police to ban the cracking of un-PC jokes directed at minorities and those who suck up to them.

Technology has expanded the range of political opinions, including conservative ones, available to young opinion-formers. …

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