Black Lives Matter is much to be feared

In 1976, in The Totalitarian Temptation, Jean-François Revel

condemned the Western intelligentsia’s faiblesse, which was at the same time dishonest, posturing, stupid, and evil, for Stalinist-style dictatorships.

Dalrymple writes:

One might have thought that with the downfall of the Soviet Union, the totalitarian temptation had been exorcised. This was a superficial view. The temptation balkanised and was repatriated. Totalitarianism had been shown to be inherently absurd, intellectually nugatory, and catastrophic in practice. This was not sufficient to destroy its attractions, a least for those who desire a complete solution to all life’s little problems such as how to live and what to live for. A solution in the mind is worth a thousand disasters.

It takes, he says,

a certain level of education to feel the temptations of totalitarianism: they do not occur to the illiterate but only to the intelligentsia. The latter has increased in size with the expansion of attendance at institutions of tertiary instruction.

We do not yet live, Dalrymple points out,

under a Soviet-type tyranny in which every university thesis, on no matter how arcane a subject, is obliged to quote Lenin. It is still possible, though not at all easy, to live as a scholar in our societies outside the university system.

But

it does not require the tyranny of the complete police state to obtain a high degree of intellectual conformity. Young academics of my acquaintance tell me that they are afraid to speak their minds, not because they would fear for their lives, but fear for their promotion. This is very far from the Millian ideal of freedom of thought and speech.

It is not merely that they must keep their mouths shut and not say what they think;

it is that they must positively subscribe to things that they believe to be bad or false. This is a mark of totalitarianism. They must subscribe to doctrines they believe absurd, for example by describing in job applications their future efforts to promote diversity, so-called. By making the expression of untruth the condition of employment, probity is destroyed in advance. Those who lack it are easier to control.

Increasingly, social movements

do not allow any neutrality with regard to the causes that they promote. Non-adherence is no different from enmity and derogation is evil: if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem. In vain might you argue that your interest is elsewhere, in the taxonomy of grasshoppers or in the biochemistry of acorns or in the bibliography of Pope: there is one subject that trumps all others, and on it only one opinion is permissible. You must pass a test of loyalty.

Dalrymple says that the success of Black Lives Matter in cowing so large a part of the intelligentsia

is in a way admirable, a model of political organisation, though one much to be feared. By claiming that silence is violence, it has made hand-wringing (to avoid its anathema) the mark, and almost the whole, of virtue. It has successfully reversed King’s goal, such that the colour of a man’s skin is once again more important than the content of his character, and it has made respectable that most Stalino-Maoist of notions, that people should be promoted and rewarded according to their social (in this case, racial) origins. Anyone who disagrees is an enemy of the people, the word people being used in a severely technical sense, to mean the arbiters of the allocation of rewards.

The obvious incompatibility of this with freedom

should not blind us to its popularity with the very large number of people who have been trained in the various branches of Resentment Studies. Totalitarianism offers career prospects to those of apparatchik disposition and abilities, while appealing to the resentment of at least a portion of the population and its joy in the humiliation of those who were previously more fortunately placed than themselves.

Dalrymple notes that it is now many years that power rather than liberty has been

the cynosure of all teaching of political philosophy in universities, the latter being regarded as a veil or smokescreen for the maldistribution of the former. The only question worth asking is Lenin’s, ‘Who, whom?’ All else is persiflage. The stage is set for social conflict that can be adjudicated only by a class of all-powerful philosopher-kings.

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