To watch the video, click here.
Peter Robison: We are asked to agree to things which we cannot believe. Douglas Murray author of "The Madness Of Crowds" on Uncommon Knowledge now. Welcome to Uncommon Knowledge. I'm Peter Robinson. Associate editor of the London Spectator, Douglas Murray is the author of a number of books, including "The Strange Death of Europe," which appeared in 2017. His most recent book published last year, "The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race, and Identity." Douglas, welcome. You're where right now?
Douglas Murray: I'm actually hold up in an apartment in central Europe, in Budapest. And last time we met, of course we met in Fiesole, I think--
Peter Robison: Yes, exactly.
Douglas Murray: In the hills about Florence. So I'm as approximate or nearer there than I think you are.
Peter Robison: Oh, very much so.
Douglas Murray: I'm sorry we can't reconvene in Florence.
Peter Robison: Life, isn't over yet. We'll do it again. But how long were you in this country writing columns for The Spectator from the United States for a month or so?
Douglas Murray: Yes, I was in the States for five weeks up until the election and just until shortly afterwards touring around your country,
Peter Robison: Right, well, we'll come back to your tour of this country in a moment. First, The Madness of Crowds, the argument. I'm quoting the book now Douglas, "The interpretation of the world "through the lens of social justice, "identity group politics and intersectionalism "is probably the most audacious and comprehensive efforts "since the end of the Cold War "at creating a new ideology." Explain that.
Douglas Murray: Yes, I'm sure all of your viewers and listeners have observed that in the last few decades, the last few years in particular, sped up, there's been a new attempt to basically institute a new form of ethic. I've been trying to work out for some years what that is exactly. How you prove you're a good person in the society that we find ourselves in. The desire to prove yourself to be a good person doesn't disappear. That desire to be thought well of by your peers doesn't disappear even if religion does. I believe that what we've come to call intersectionality identity politics rights acquisitions have basically become the new form of religion in our societies. It's a pretty audacious land grab but it fills a void. I write about the void in The Strange Death of Europe. I write about the void left by the retreat of faith, whatever view you take of that. But the void is being filled, has been filled. I think it's been filled unsatisfactorily, I think reprehensively in many ways, but it's something to do. And for a lot of young Americans, young people in the West in general, it is a particularly Western thing. You don't find this in China, you don't find it in Russia or much of it in Eastern Europe. But in the West it has given people something to do a purpose in life, a great crusade to be a part of, and it's given them meaning.
Peter Robison: You mentioned or examine four instances in particular of identity politics. You do this at book length. This is a video conversation. So we have the problem of compressing an ox to the size of a bull in on cube. Women's rights. Again, I'm quoting The Madness of Crowds. "Women's rights had been steadily accumulating "throughout the 20th century. "They appeared to be arriving at some sort of settlement. "Then just as the train appeared to be reaching "the desired destination, "it went crashing off the tracks," close quote. Explain that. And this is the case you mentioned that we'll come to this, but you mentioned in each instance, the question of rights seem to be getting some place, some place generally agreed upon, and then--
Douglas Murray: Yes, that's all right. Well take feminism, like all of the cases I wrote about and has a perfectly reasonable indeed, almost impossible to disagree with foundational basis, which is we would like to make sure that no woman is ever held back from attaining what she can achieve in her life and decided to do by dent of the fact that she happens to be a woman. Feminism starts from that standpoint of equality, equal rights for women, equal opportunities for women, the right to make their own choices. This exists through first second, wave feminism. Second wave feminism, there's a bit of a problem as man-hating or misandry starts to creep in. They're already beaten in second wave feminism saying things like we don't need men and that goes on in the '70s, but it's kind of fringe. By third and now fourth wave feminism, this just exacerbates beyond any reasonability to the stage we're now at where fourth wave feminism actually clearly is not seeking consensus. As a new book out in France has been making a fair amount of noise that says at the opening how much the author, the female author loves hating men and how much she loves making them feel terrible and has contempt for them. This isn't a movement at this stage seeking to find agreement or compromise or any kind of equitable arrangements between the sexes. It isn't seeking to make sure that women aren't held back from achievements. It's seeking to try to carry out an act of historic revenge, which the perpetrators believe will, in some way make up for what they perceive correctly, as it turns out, to have been lesser opportunities in the past for women. It's a common thing in all of these rights claims at the moment. There seems to be, if this is equality, and this was a situation in the past, that various points say for women, the desire of these groups seems to be, let's go way past equality. Let's make men feel awful. Let's talk about them in horrible terms. And then maybe at some point it'll come back like this. And I think these people are woefully misguided if they've given it even that much thought. They want to carry out acts of revenge. That's why we have a tax on masculinity as well as men. Masculinity is the problem, never femininity. Only masculinity. They say the masculinity always goes wrong and so on and so forth. And this is a concerted campaign. It doesn't seek for equality, it seeks revenge.
Peter Robison: Civil Rights, The Madness of Crowds again, "The Civil Rights movement in America," again, the pattern, "The Civil Rights movement in America "looked like it was moving "towards some sort of hoped for resolution. "But yet again, near the point of victory, "everything went sour."
Douglas Murray: Yes, would we ever have expected, I think, even if we've spoken a few years ago, that in our lifetimes, every bookshop in America would be filled with this moral effluence from people pretending that they're anti-racist, simply spewing racism out into the American public system. Spewing out hatred of people because of their skin color. Generalizing exactly the sin that people were meant to be guilty of some years ago, but generalizing with abandon about everyone who's white, saying that white history is only one thing, that white people are only one thing, that white people can't be differentiated or any moral differences made, but are all guilty and equally reprehensible and need to be beaten up upon. This is once again, I'm thinking of Ibram Kendi, I'm thinking of Ta-Nehisi Coates, I'm thinking of Robin D'Angelo, I'm thinking of the growing list of race hucksters of all different races who have decided to make themselves rich and famous by attacking a racial group by dint of their racial origin. They seem to think that this again is if there has been inequality in the past, and once again there has, the way to get to equality is not to settle at equal, but to go to better, that black people are better, more virtuous, more morally wise than white people, have a better history, indeed have no sin in their own history and on and on, so that at some point it'll come to this lovely point of equality. Again, I don't know if they've really thought it through all that much. They're certainly wanting to behave like the fourth wave feminists in the tone of vengeance. My own suspicion once again, is that what happens at the end of this race baiting is not that we swing back to something like equality.
Peter Robison: Gay rights, the third of the four, again, I'm quoting you Douglas. "A decade ago almost nobody was supportive of gay marriage, "even gay rights groups weren't in favor of it' "A few years down the road and it, gay marriage, "has been made into a foundational value "of modern liberalism." How did this happen? Same kind of pattern.
Douglas Murray: Same pattern, same pattern. Gays by the way, this is the one I'm sort of crampon on the mountain of social justice that I can claim to have ownership of. Gays haven't been very good in victory actually, I think. Having got all of the equal rights in a society like my own, like the United Kingdom and in the US, for instance not expressing the tolerance to others that we sought ourselves when seeking equal rights have gone into, for instance, a strange vengefulness against the religious having attained for instance, equal marriage rights in state civil terms. Berate churches, principally churches, of course, they tend to lay off the mosques on this one. But lay into the churches that will not change their teachings about homosexuality because of what is a very recent moral shift, I think a desirable moral shift, but a moral shift in Western, again, Western liberal societies. And there's something else there, which is that once again, we have this strange oddity, but at the point of victory. And again, with the gay campaign is as with others, we're dealing with relatively small, but very noisy groups of people who have the cultural dominance. They, I mean, I'm thinking of pathetic legacy gay publications, the pathetic figures who hold themselves out as gay leaders, basically people who've not got any better job to do, and wouldn't be employable in any other sector, who hold themselves out at this point as carrying out a sort of act of revenge. They do it on the churches, they do it on religious freedom, but they also do it in another way, which is, and I give examples of this. I mean, this I'm in agreement with Bret Easton Ellis. I might not ordinarily be in arch agreement with, but Bret Easton Ellis gave the example of the interpretation by certain modern gay activists as gay as being not equal or the same as, but slightly better than. And I say in The Madness of crowds, we've got that in our culture at the moment. We have this sort of strange thing that to be heterosexual is to be rather disappointing. Rather bland. Shame you have nothing to say for yourself unlike the magical fairy dust pixie gay people who sprinkle fabulousness and wondrousness everywhere they go and liven up and otherwise benighted heterosexual world. This is once again, really the language of better, not of equal.
Peter Robison: The last of the four groups that you examine, the trans movement. Again, The Madness of Crowds. "Then finally, we all stumbled, baffled, "into the most uncharted territory of all. "This was the claim that there lived among us "a considerable number of people "who were in the wrong bodies," close quote. All right, the three we've discussed, gay rights, women's rights, Civil Rights, in one form or another, these have been around for decades. The notion of trans well, I guess, well, you tell me how the correct, give me a brief history lesson. Jan Morris, the transsexual writer, great writer, in my judgment, just died the other day at the age of 94. And Jen Morris, nay, so to speak James Morris was transitioned in the '70s was that right?
Douglas Murray: '70s, yeah, '70s.
Peter Robison: In other words, so, long time ago. At the same time, this notion of trans rights seems to have emerged the day before yesterday.
Douglas Murray: Yes, well, as I say in The Madness of Crowds I'm very, very, on all of these issues. I'm interested in getting to the truth. I'm interested in getting to what's really going on. And I read and I research and I interview people as widely as I can to try to work out what's going on. The trans one I do last because it's the newest in a way and the most interesting and the one we know least about. And the one, as I say, as a result, we should be most humble about. People should be very humble about... If knowledge of trans was a hundred percent, what we know about it currently is a decimal point percentage. We don't know very much about trans and we should be humble about that. Certainly before, for instance, making medical experiments on kids, of the kind going on in the US and which I write about it at some length in The Madness of Crowds. I say that for my readings and my interviews with people much more, there are several things you can say. One is most societies in history have some kind of complex between the sex is like issue that goes on. We have it in Greek legend, we have it in all sorts of societies around the world, from Samoa to India, all sorts of places have it. And have different understandings of what it is. In some societies that's sort of the gay bit. There's sort of also cross dressing things. Everyone knows that the sexual fetishes around things like transvestism, and this has all been something which has existed in societies. It's not been very much looked at for all sorts of reasons, but it's relatively recently, and I write about Jan Morris, who I hugely admired, and whose book "Conundrum" is one of the books that persuaded me, her book about the transition from being female, is one of the books that persuaded me that one should take morally seriously a claim that is being made, which is that some people really do feel that they are born in the wrong body. But as I say in the Madness of Crowds, I try and do in that chapter, if you slice along what is happening in this, it is a long way from that to, for instance, and as a result, there is no such thing as sex. As in, there's no such thing as chromosomes. Chromosomes are a performative thing, or now non binaries, as in which is that one day you're feeling kind of a bit masculine the next you're a bit feminine, or today, if you were feeling her an hour ago and for lunch you're him. These all wildly new claims. And because society has been nervous, very nervous about exploring any of this. We've just washed stuff through, washed it through. And I've interviewed people who, for instance, I mean, are gay, and were persuaded instead when they were young, that they must be trans and started taking life changing drugs and now their entire life is altered, aren't able to have children, all sorts of things. And I'm I'm horrified by the fact that in the name of simply trying to all get along, this very, very interesting issue has been just washed through, brush it though, get it through. And what's more, now you're a transphob in the same way that you're a homophob, a racist, a misogynist and elsewhere. These are the excommunicating terms of the new religion.
Peter Robison: Douglas, another couple of final points in your argument. And again, it's a big expensive book with examples and interviews and essays within essays, so to speak. I want everyone to understand that, that we're talking about a large and careful argument here that we're reducing, but there's no choice. One of the striking aspects across all four of these groups is the speed with which it all arose. You've discussed that already, but the Madness of Crowds quote, "The unbelievable speed of this process "has been principally caused "by the fact that a handful of businesses in Silicon Valley, "notably Google, Twitter, and Facebook "now have the power, not just to direct "what most people in the world know, think and say, "but have a business model "which has accurately been described as relying on finding," and this is within your quotation, a quotation, "'Customers ready to pay "'to modify someone else's behavior.'" Close quote. Explain all of that.
Douglas Murray: That's right. Well, this is a great phenomenon of our time where people log on to their social media accounts in the morning to find that day's hate speech or hate figure and try to destroy them, usually for saying something that everybody has said until the day before yesterday. So many examples of it now. The JK Rowling, the Harry Potter author is one rather notable one. There are some people who seem to think their full-time job is trying to defenestrate straight the Harry Potter author for wrong think, when actual fact she's just said perfectly sensible things, none of which could be remotely described as transphobic by anyone reasonable. But it's all part of this new religion, is that you need practices, religions need practices, and they need, as I say, ways to demonstrate that you're good. I remember it was some years ago saying to some atheist friends, it was a prominent atheist, it's a problem, isn't it? This thing that atheists don't get together and sort of think, and stop like once a week. They don't just get to turn off their Blackberries and read Marcus Aurelius or something. And this is a big disadvantage. And these atheist friends said me well, yeah, it isn't a disadvantage. The social justice activists got around this problem by congregating 24/7 online to worship the latest claim, the latest unproven and unprovable claim, to make an unprovable and unproven assertions and to try to find heretics. And that's how they show that they're good people. And all of these things have intermingled. This is one of the interesting things, they've all intermingled so that remaining legacy gay publications, campaign for BLM. By the way, that favor isn't always returned, but we might drop that for another time. The feminists and the social justice activists, it's all wrapped up. But one of the points that I try to bring out in the Madness of Crowds is one of the reasons why people shouldn't fall into this it's not just that it's a horrible, retributive and unforgiving religion, which doesn't actually have any redemption for the individual or the society. It is that even by its own standards, and I read all the foundational texts of this movement, and I thought I was gonna find some interesting and deep, challenging intellectual thought in them. I didn't. I found only assertions made by the founders of the social circles--
Peter Robison: So, I wanna take that point. You being you have read things that I confess, I have no intention of reading. And you proved it a few moments ago by talking about, you actually know the distinctions between first wave, second wave, third wave, and fourth wave feminism. You've gone into it. You've read these so-called foundational texts and there's nothing there.
Douglas Murray: There is a slight thing there. What is there is this. It is an attempt to, I'm not gonna steal man. It's an attempt to this is intersectional. It's an attempt to say the world has unfairnesses in it. It has inequalities in it. There are some people who are more advantaged in their lives than others. All that is true. Now any religion could tell you that. Indeed, any non-religious person, any just observer of the world could tell you that. The intersection must however say all of these inequalities and inequities are interlinked. So they're like a great system of interlinking. They get some of this for Marxism by the way. And they get some of it from folklore. But they, again, I had to read, but they say is the whole thing is interlinked. And to address one of these things, you must address them all. So you can't just for instance, advocate for women's rights. You must advocate for the rights of black women because black women have an extra layer of oppression which they have to come out of. And you see, that's how we end up with the magical unicorn figure of our day, which is the black trans woman, because the black trans woman, the great unicorn of the era which everyone is in search of is the most oppressed bit in this. And if we could only make sure that the black trans woman does not exist in very large numbers, I should stress, but that the black trans woman must always be as free as possible means that if you unlocked that you would unlock all of the others and all the women would be free, and all the black people would be free, and all of the trans black people would be free, and therefore everyone else would be free by extension. That's something like the claim that they make, that they're not, I'm not being self aggrandizing here, but I think I've just explained it in a simpler and much clearer manner than they actually do, because what they tend to do is get knotted up in their own argument, but that's basically the claim that they're making. Now I say, that's not going to work for lots of reasons.
Peter Robison: Can I quote you to yourself? "Identity politics is a system "making demands that are impossible "toward ends that are unachievable." Close quote. So you make these strong claim, not only that this is a mess in practice, but that it cannot work in principle. Correct?
Douglas Murray: Yes, that's right. That's one of the reasons why I'm so confident that anyone who wants to pull this thing apart is gonna win this one. It's not gonna work. Let me give the obvious example. This on its own terms, it doesn't work because for instance, gay rights and trans rights are clearly in contention if not in total opposition. For instance, the trans lobby says, a young girl who's got tomboyish tendencies and likes to play with the boys more than the girls and likes to be a bit boyish, she might have her hair short, is not a tomboy. That has been a thing throughout history, but is actually a boy in a girl's body and must be helped and assisted to change her body. In a way, which by the way, they always talk about frivolously. And I can tell you from, again, having to look at this, there's no straightforward process. So that's just one example, and--
Peter Robison: The gay answer to that would be--
Douglas Murray: The gay answer to that would be, well, first of all, it's very likely that that tomboyish goes is gonna grow up to be a perfectly happy heterosexual woman. It's also possible that tomboyish girl may grow up to be a perfectly happy lesbian. It's quite unlikely actually given the number of tomboyish girls around that all tomboys, or even a large proportion of tomboys, are actually men who need to be transitioned from female bodies into male bodies. You can play the same exercise with vaguely effeminate or slightly girlish boys. So a lot of gay people have been wondering about and worrying about this increasingly. All the smart gays have been worrying about this for some time. They've been noticing actually that doesn't quite work clearly. We've been told something that's not true, and then we've been told something that could easily have affected our younger selves. Let's take the other example where there's a messy, messy intersection, the messy intersection of women and trans. By the way, I should just quickly say, whenever I write about this, and I speak about this, whenever we were able to speak in public and meet in groups of more than four, I often raise these questions, and I get very little pushback, but I noticed the pushback that women who speak about what I'm speaking about here on the trans get. It was a very strange thing that the number of feminists and women who are not feminists, who have noticed that trans treads significantly against women's rights. Now, that's why JK Rowling and many other feminists, indeed mainly left-wing feminists, I'm thinking of people like Judy Bentonville, Julie Burchill, Susan Moore, all distinguished writers of an older generation, Jermaine Greer, weren't willing to bow to the trends. Why, because they said, hang on a minute? The thing that trans is saying among other things says something about the nature of womanhood, which is precisely what we, as feminists were trying to leave behind. We were trying to leave behind the idea that women have to behave a certain way and look a certain way and act a certain way. So how come now this group is coming along saying, I am used to be a man, but now I'm a woman and I have to be the following way. But let's take it to the other extent of that, of course, which is the one of, you've got to say, I'm a woman even if I was born a man, even if I've got all the attributes of a man still including the physical attributes between my legs, even if that is the case and I say I'm a woman, you've got to say I'm a woman. Well, a lot of women are saying no to hell with that. I can't agree with that. I'm not going along with that. And there are all of the examples of women's safe spaces of female prisons, of female changing rooms, and much more, which our era has been driving itself mad over.
Peter Robison: Could I ask you just to comment on one, again, the argument you're making now arises from literature and interviews and so forth that somebody like me just hasn't read and can get confused by very quickly. But here's something that makes it into the mainstream news. I think they're uncomfortable about with it so maybe we've seen the last of these stories. But a man who transitions into becoming a woman and then insists on competing against women in tennis, track, you name it, now, that's a moment where the argument, the conflict between these different views actually emerges into public in a way in which even a chump like me can say, wait a minute, something very odd is going on here. Can you comment on that one example?
Douglas Murray: Yeah, the sports are a very good one. Joe Rogan was was one of the early people on this because Joe Rogan does mixed martial arts. And he noticed that there was something a bit off because mixed martial arts, I'm not very interested in it, but I quite like to hear about it. As I understand it involves just getting into the ring and beating the hell out of your opponent.
Peter Robison: Roughly, I think that's correct.
Douglas Murray: Yeah, I think I've got the rules.
Peter Robison: Few rules.
Douglas Murray: And Joe was one of the people who noticed that when you had somebody born a man competing as a woman, they almost always very successfully beat the hell out of the woman. And that's because of all sorts of things, which even if you're on transitioning drugs are not going to change. Size of limb--
Douglas Murray: Muscle mass and on and on.
Douglas Murray: So, yeah, it's very interesting, but I write about the sports one a bit because it is one of the places one notices. Another one one notices is, again, one of the things we were told wouldn't be an issue many years ago, which was a female prisons. We had a case in the UK, by the way where all these trans activists, all these right on LGBTQI people, all said, what are you doing talking about trans people and women's prisons? Trans women are women shut up bigot. And then we had a case, one famous case of a guy who said he was a woman and went into a woman's prison, he'd been done for rape before, he still had a penis, and he went into a women's prison and raped a load of women. Now only trans people said, no, that's not the sort of thing that's gonna happen. That'll never happen. Trans women are women. Shut up bigot. These people have stretched all of our patience quite long enough by making that unprovable claims and making assertions that keep proving to be wrong. But by the way, if I may say something, one of the problems in this is, it's also all made our race so much stupider, which is what I mind. I think that the moment you allow the injection of stupidities and irrationalities and unprovable, unassertable things into your society, you waste everybody's time, and you make it the case as it is at the moment. That at the most advantageous point in human history, some of the best minds of our time are spending their time talking about lavatory arrangements. To hell with these people for wasting our time like this. And I think that the energy of our time should be better spent elsewhere. It is only because of these intersectionalists and these people with their crazed ideas that we are wasting our time on these issues.
Peter Robison: Douglas, let me read you two quotations. One is from The Madness of Crowds and another I'll come to in a moment. It's a quotation that came to my mind when I was reading The Madness of Crowds. And then you tell me whether I'm being intendentious by putting these two quotations together, or whether in one way or another they fit. Here's the first quotation and it's you, The Madness of Crowds. "While the endless contradictions fabrications and fantasies "within identity politics are visible to all, "identifying them is not just discouraged, "but literally policed. "So we are asked to agree to things which we cannot believe." Close quote. Now here's the second quotation, and this comes from Natan Sharansky, now a prominent parliamentarian in Israel, but a Refusenik in the old Soviet Union who did time in prison. This is Natan Sharansky, quote, "I was a loyal Soviet citizen until the age of 20. "What it meant to be a loyal Soviet citizen "was to say what you were supposed to say, "to read what you were permitted to read, "to vote the way you were told to vote, "and at the same time to know that it was all a lie."
Douglas Murray: Yes, yes. I've had the privilege of meeting Sharansky a couple of times. He's a great moral hero of mine. Yes, there is something in this. I have like all of us spend a certain amount of time in recent years, thinking about totalitarianism and of particularly evils of communist totalitarianism and the way in which lies were expected of the citizenry and why that was. And I think it was a Soldier Knutson who I first became aware of this through. But other writers have written about it. Anthony Daniels, a British writer writes something named "Theodore Dalrymple" as you know, also identified this in his book on the wildest shores of marks in 1989. He said, he often wondered why it was the communist system demanded that people said things and agreed to things which they knew weren't true. And he came to the conclusion as Sharansky. So it's another, that it was precisely that this was the way to demoralize people. Now I believe that there is no grand plot, but that the people at the moment who have been trying to make everybody agree to these ridiculous claims, just shut up and say trans women are women and there's no difference. Just shut up and say all of these things in the case of America at the moment, just stick for don't hurt me BLM sign in your window and make the crowd and mob pass. All of these things are designed to demoralize people at some level, but you're meant to just go along with it because it will make you a more cringing, and therefore more pliable human being for whatever is to come next. And that's why I think now, as at every other point in history, it's the duty of anyone who fits themselves and can speak up to say, no, I'm not agreeing to whatever you make me say today. I'm my own person. I will not imbibe lies and I will not spew them out either. And that's why I encourage as many people as possible to do that. But we undoubtedly in the modern West live in countries now where we are asked to imbibe and spew lies if we work for governmental organizations, for non-governmental organizations, increasingly for what used to be serious corporate entities, and almost every sector of public-private life. And I think this is sinister. I think it should be stopped now. And I'd like to see other people increasingly start to do so.
Peter Robison: So there as The Madness of Crowds came out what, something like 18 months ago, we were hoping we could get together long before this, but in any event. So it's been out for awhile.
Douglas Murray: The updated edition has only come out in the last month. Yeah.
Peter Robison: All right. Here's my point. I have notes here on, there's a chapter in effect on what is to be done. And if I may say so, correct me if I'm wrong about this, but what is to be done strikes me as a little tepid. We might ask more regularly, I'm quoting you. "We might ask more regularly and more assiduously "'Compared to what?'" That is to say trans, gay, all of this, our societies are bad compared to what? To Islamic societies? Compared to the treatment you've received, that's your point. And another point you say, can the spirit of generosity be extended anymore? You seem quite a lot, your line has hardened. On the evidence of the way you put it just now, to hell with these people for wasting our time, your line has hardened since you wrote that book.
Douglas Murray: Well, it's hardened because everything I've described has got a lot worse and a lot more vociferous, most obviously on the race issue. Everything I've feared and wrote about that seems to have got worse. And the roadmap I chart appears to have got even more precarious than it was when I was charting it. You're right in a way. I certainly feel particularly on that one, that I'm more and more intolerant of the hucksterism and extremism and the racism of the new anti-racists. But I just add to, and as I say that all of the trends of forcing this through corporate levels and much more has gotten just infinitely worse. When I was writing The Madness of Crowds, that was the one that shocked me most. I thought, I know NGOs will do this, I know that the governmental organizations, but Fortune 500 companies all doing this crap, I mean, wow. And I have all of the explanations for why that is, but that was the one that shocked me. It's got infinitely worse in the years since the first edition came out. But here's the other thing, the reason why those suggestions I make at the end are what you would describe as slightly tempered--
Peter Robison: Comparison. I feel dreadful for it. It's a wonderful book in a hundred ways. But all right.
Douglas Murray: Yeah, we'll take it all off. I wanted to try to give answers that were deep, general and did not require as it were a PhD in intersectionality to address. Because it's my belief that, and it's why I wrote the book really, I want people to get round it, out of it, over it, through it, as fast as possible. I don't want us caught on this crap. I don't want us stuck on it. And it's my belief that if we can identify the fundamental errors and indeed injustices in this system, it's better than for instance, having the best possible shoot down quote of Kimberly Crenshaw or Peggy McIntosh to apply to this, because then we're gonna spend all our time talking about this and we're not gonna read any of it. We're not gonna read Sharansky or socialists, and we're not gonna read any of the classics. We're gonna spend all of our time trying to read different papers associated with this gunk and we're not gonna get on with our lives. The reason I address these at the very basic level, like what's the place for forgiveness in this? Or just ask what they're comparing it to is because I think these are shortcuts. I think these are the other things I suggest are just shortcuts for people, particularly young people to know that they've got a way through when this stuff comes at them. I want when somebody is in their office and they're told that they're going to have a race awareness training thing and the white people are all going to be told how awful they are, I want them not to have to argue back on racial grounds. I don't want them to have to imbibe all of the unreadable, if very well selling books of the current race hucksters, but I do want them to know what sort of thing they can say to the people telling them to educate themselves who are always and everywhere less educated than the people that telling that to.
Peter Robison: All right. This brings us to your five weeks in this country. All right, and the unavoidable topic here is Donald J. Trump who has faults, you may have noticed. To what extent, and yet here he ended up getting something like 9 million more votes this time around than he got four years ago. To what extent is the phenomenon of Donald Trump and the notion that for all his faults of comportment and, I won't list them, 48% of the country voted for him, to what extent did they do so, because he's talking back to this stuff. People look at him. They understand there's something in the discourse now that's poisonous, and after them, and one way or another, you look across the landscape of political figures, Republican and democratic, and you say, wait a minute, that man is talking back. At least he's doing that. Does that strike you as... In other words, has your argument in one way or another worked its way right into the center of American politics?
Douglas Murray: I think so, because I agree, this is obviously one of the things on the line. That's the classic example to give is you're an unemployed steelworker somewhere in central America, and then on top of everything else, you've got to be told every day in the media that you've got white privilege. Really? Really? You have a child with a woman, you separate. She gets most access to the child and you get to see your child every other weekend, say for half an hour. And you're told you've got male privilege. There's a lot of unpleasantness that's been allowed to run on unaddressed in recent years. And a lot of unforgivingeness that has been allowed to run against people because of characteristics over which they have no say. We would have called this out a long time ago if the victims had been gay, if the victims had been women, if the victims had been black, or only black, and instead we have this note of vengeance, that I think a lot of people have picked up on. And I think it's definitely one of the things that propelled Donald Trump. Of course, some people say, and this is a perfectly good argument, historians will, of course argue over this, that in some ways, Donald Trump made all of this worse because once his opponents realized that he was opposed to that, they doubled down made even more crazy claims simply in order to enrage Trump and his supporters. there might be something in that. But in America, it's not like the race issue has got better in the last 10 years. The polls I sight The Madness of Crowds show the number of Americans who think that race relations are worse now. And that, it's always got to be remembered, was happening in the Obama years as well. Black Lives Matter began when president Obama was in office. They were getting away with making their claims about America when Obama was in office. They've been able to double down them and make much crazier claims since Trump's been in office. But yes, this is by the way, there's a specific set of American culture wars which have sadly spilled out and polluted the whole Western world. It's a shame to me because I admire America for all sorts of reasons, and I've always loved it. But on this, you've exported some of your worst viruses and made them go global. And in particular, I'm thinking of the American race problem, the interpretation of the American race problem which obviously is now an interpretation which has been exported elsewhere, often to countries that simply don't have it. The famous example I always give is of Britain, which has had some of our own race problems, but we haven't had the dialogue and dialectic that's been going on in America until America imported it recently. I wrote a piece in the New York post last month saying, thanks for that America. That's one export we could have done without.
Peter Robison: A longish quotation here. So you were in this country for five weeks. You reported from Portland, you went downtown and spent time with the demonstrators, and you watched the way the police responded to the demonstrators and said that you thought that police demonstrated remarkable patience. Then you were in the District of Columbia, downtown Washington on the eve of the election, and you note that it's boarded up and nearly empty. This is a longish quotation, but, well, let me just read it and ask you. You begin by mentioning a nature documentary that you watched at some point in which an elephant was to you mysteriously, it permitted itself to be brought down by a pack of little, smaller creatures. Everything's smaller than an elephant, but by a pack of predators, and you couldn't work out as it was happening on the film, why the elephant didn't just shake them off or kick the first one or trample on the first one and move on. "America is not being brought low by one beast, "but by a whole pack of them. "These predators include, but are not limited to ignorance, "educational failure, radical indoctrination, "pandemic, poverty, narcissism, boredom, "the disappearance of the adults, "the belief that law enforcement is the enemy and much more. "Why America didn't throw off the first attacker "and keep on moving is a question I cannot shake."
Douglas Murray: Yes, I wrote that in The Spectator after I think leaving Portland and then Seattle. These are immiserated cities in your country. These are very sad, sad places to visit. America should be ashamed of them. Americans should be ashamed of them. To have businesses attacked nightly as is going on still in these places, I spoke with one owner of a restaurant who just opened a restaurant, but because there were photos of first responders on the walls, people had fired live rounds of ammunitions through the windows of his new business. He happened to be black by the way, this very noble, very brave, very good American businessman. He happened to be black, but they didn't detain themselves on that. I thought there, I thought in Portland, I thought in Seattle, I thought in California, I just thought these are cities where the stupid have taken over and where the ignorant have taken over and the adults have evacuated the terrain. Literally in Portland there was a Merrill fight then going on between Ted Wheeler, the mayor who was so weak, who is so weak and emasculated, but he actually had the Antifa activists at his own apartment block and moved. He had only one person competing against him at the election, which he, I say, fortunately, fortunately won. And that was a female far left wing activist who actually supports Antifa. So that was the choice for the residents of that city. It's a miserable place. It has no history anymore. All the statues are down, everything's barricaded up, most of the shops are closed, the homeless wander round by the thousands, living on the streets, pitching up on people's property. And I say in that piece, one of the things I can't shake is the fact that part of this has to do with permitting people to get away with lies about the American past. I'm afraid that your country, that America suffers from a particular brand of what I describe as parochial internationalists. People who think they know so much about the world, but have barely ever watched further than their own navels. People who have all sorts of theories, but have never been anywhere. Who have all sorts of claims about the horror of the society they've grown up in and know nothing about history. And you have to know nothing about history to think that growing up in America in the early 21st century and the late 20th is to being born into this benighted land. They have no perspective on anything. They've been educated appallingly. They've been put into debt whilst being educated appallingly. And the hope always was that these people would go out into the world and find that the world didn't need them and they'd retrain and become better and more useful moral beings. But it turns out that they graduated into a world where there were faked up jobs for them in corporations and in organizations that did need to push and pump this stuff back around and around so the effluence just went round and round in American society and was never cleaned. And yes, it's an American problem, which any friend of America, any American citizen ought to apply themselves to. And it horrifies me that what's instead happening is exactly what my name's sake, but not relative Charles Murray described in "Coming Apart," which is that effectively, I see that American society is increasingly this society with ever fewer ladders, but completely covered with snakes. That the board is rigged in a way which people sense and worries them deeply. And I would like to see this addressed.
Peter Robison: Douglas, from the United States to Europe, I have to ask for an update essentially on your previous book, The Strange Death of Europe, which we did discuss, what was that 14 months ago, last time we saw each other. And the argument is that Europe is, was permitting itself to be overwhelmed by an alien culture, which took the form principally of the immigration to Europe of hundreds of thousands. In one year, Angela Merkel permitted a million into Germany, Islamic immigrants, and contained within them a number of radical Muslims. France and the United Kingdom. In France this past autumn an Islamic radical beheaded a French elementary school teacher for instructing his students in freedom of speech and showing some of the famous Charlie Hebdo cartoons, which caused an uproar several years ago. Warned the students beforehand what he was going to do, but he showed these as an illustration of freedom of speech. President Macron has responded. He gave a televised address from the Elysee he recalled the French ambassador from Turkey, he called for the expulsion of Turkey from the European Union, he doubled French forces at the border, he reasserted the secular value, secular, but distinctively Western values of the French Republic. And Douglas Murray notes that he has done this so far without a word of support from Angela Merkel of Germany, or the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. And you write simply, "Where our France's friends and allies?" Close quote. So I read this and I think to myself, what does Douglas make of this? On the one hand silence from Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel. On the other hand, the President of the Republic is standing up to this. Is Europe groping towards some sort of resistance? Self-defense? What do you make of this?
Douglas Murray: It just went very quick. At the end there. It's the customs union, that Macron asked Turkey--
Peter Robison: I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
Douglas Murray: Mercifully partly because of French influence the attacks of--
Peter Robison: They've only been applied. Sorry. Thank you for the correction.
Douglas Murray: No, no I'm enormously infused by President Macron and his stance. I have actually no problem in praising him and his government and their reaction to this. I think by the way, sorry to continue about this American note, but I do think that what has happened that has been misunderstood about France is not just from the Islamic world, but from the American left. Let me just explain very quick. It's true that President Erdogan, an old time enemy of mine has been trying once again, when a very common hucksterish way that he has to try to be the carrier of the world's Muslims by lying about France. He's not a stupid man. I wish he was just a stupid man, but he's an opportunist and he's very wily opportunist. And he saw the opportunity to pretend that Macron was insulting all Muslims. He knows that's not the case. But Erdogan would like to be the leader of the world's Muslims so he pretended so. The same thing with Imran Khan, the former Playboy and cricketer, who now poses as some stern faced Muller and--
Peter Robison: Erdogan is the President of Turkey and Imran Khan is the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Douglas Murray: Pakistan, and Imran Khan has been all separating the French for daring to be secular and to assert their principles in the way they have. Both of these men know what they're doing. They're just trying to make sure that their benighted populations with, particularly Imran Khan's case, live in a miserable situation in the main, and in an economy he cannot improve, will be implicated partly by that political leaders pretending that they are leading the world's Muslims against the terrible infidel secularists of France. So that's going on from parts of the Muslim world. The American left, I'm particularly thinking of the New York Times, but there's a London equivalent of the Financial Times, so lied about the French Republic that Mr. Macron had to pick up the phone to the New York Times and correct their lies, and write to the Financial Times and correct their lies. Over the weekend just before we're speaking, a journalist from the Washington Post, a journalist from the Wall Street Journal and a journalist from The Guardian spread completely defamatory claims about what the French state is doing all over social media. They claimed for instance, that Macron has a new built identity cards to identify Muslim children and segregate them off in some way. It's a total lie pumped around by the Wall Street journalists, by the Washington Post journalists, by Al Jazeera. Of course, of course, because if you take the Schilling of the Free State of Qatar then of course you have the right to lecture the French people on their rights. These lies have been pumped around about the Republic, but there is something very interesting going on here. You see, one of the fears some of us have had on the right in recent years might be boiled down to this. What if the enlightenment didn't go as deep or as wide as we had hoped? What if the enlightenment didn't go as deep or as wide as we'd hoped? Now, I'd say that America in particular, in recent years has been a demonstration that that fear may be vindicated. But in France, the principles of the enlightenment and particularly of secularism are very, very deeply dug. The left and the right are in agreement on them and will defend them. It's the American left that doesn't understand this. It's the elements of the British left that do not understand this. It's these people who think that an assertion of secularism that treats people exactly the same, whatever their religious background is in some ways, to use one of the crop terms of the era, Islamophobic. So it's not the French though that are at fault. I think that France is making an extraordinarily important defense of its values, and in doing so, it's actually defending one of the most important values of the whole of the West.
Peter Robison: Douglas, I don't wanna go off on a tangent with this. Just occurs to me and I don't know when we'll get a chance to speak again. So let me ask it. The French values of the enlightenment dug in and supported, and you just made a riveting point by the right and the left in France. I am not an expert on France, not by any means. I'm the most casual observer France you can imagine sitting here in California, but it's my impression that if you look across the sweep of Europe, perhaps with the exception of Poland, in France, the Roman Catholic Church is still alive in some basic way, still a force in the culture of France, still attractive. Remarkably enough to young people, has in the Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, a remarkably articulate spokesman. He was a medical doctor before becoming a priest. Is France demonstrating that the enlightenment, I'll just put it this way, that the enlightenment of the church, of course, I'm talking specifically in this case about the Roman Catholic Church, but there is some open it there's openness within the enlightenment properly understood to a renewal of faith, which may be one way out of the struggle here. Is France demonstrating such a thing?
Douglas Murray: I think it is. It's always been a contention of course. Of one of the sort of Burkian critiques of the enlightenment project in France was not just the awfulness and horrors of its origin, which are impossible to ignore, but that it didn't leave a space for faith in the way that we now I think can see that it has. And that in actual fact, the church in France, you could say, as you've just partly outlined, benefits precisely from not having that established position, that for instance, the church of England does. In other words, we see as ever in the history of Christianity, that the more that it can be slightly on the outside, the more it is capable of prospering. One of the great paradoxes of Christian history, but I think there's something else as well here, which is that what has happened in France has been a unity caused by the opposition. And the opposition here, once again, to stress the point that Macron has made, we're not talking about all Muslims, but we are talking about the Islamists. The Islamists have been very, very assiduous in their choice of targets in recent years. And what we've seen in recent months is a replay of what we saw over the year of 2015. The year of 2015, you remember, it begins with the massacre of staff of Shirley Abdor Magazine, and it finishes with the massacre, the decapitation of a priest whilst he is saying mass at an altar of his church in Lyon. Now that is an attack on the total character, history, belief of the Republic. What we saw in October, November this year was a very short replay of that. Starts with this 18 year old Chechen going with a meat cleaver to the capita to school teacher for teaching secular values to his students, and only a few weeks later, a man who had just recently arrived in September from Tunisia via the Island of Lampedusa in Italy, which I reported from at the height of the crisis and said at the time, this is your soft underbelly. You've got to get this in order. They never did. They never bothered to properly sort it out, and they still haven't. But in late October, it's a young man who has just arrived through Lampedusa from Tunisia, who goes to the church in Nice, the church of Notre-Dame in Nice and decapitates and murders three worshipers as they're leaving church. So this is the same pattern. Everything from the secular value to the right to worship religiously and freely if you're a Christian in France. now I put it to you like this. If this had happened in America, you would have your idiots, of course you would. But if your most prominent secularists and atheists in America were murdered one week, and then two weeks later, there was a massacre of worshipers at the cathedral in Washington or St. Patrick's or St. Thomas on Fifth Avenue, we might see some people in America wise up to this, and realize that us in Europe, I say us wisely. Those of us in Europe who have been raising alarms on this are not motivated by bigotry, but by a realistic estimation of a threat that we live with now daily. Nobody lives with it more than the French, and I think that it is absolutely despicable that an element of the radical American left who have made their way like a bacillus into the center of the news organizations of America are defaming the French Republic as a whole for having the right to object when everyone from their secularists to their worshipers at church are the target of the Islamists. So this is, as I say, an error of interpretation. The error is not the French republics. The French Republic deserves the solidarity and support of all people who believe in freedom.
Peter Robison: The United Kingdom. Since we last spoke, when we last spoke, the United Kingdom was dominated as it was for month after month after month by the simple question, how do we get out of this mess? We voted to leave the European Union, now we can't sort out how to do so. Well, there's been an election. The Tories have a majority of 80, they've passed the necessary legislation to leave the European Union that will happen at the end of this year, under terms that remain to be finalized, but it's going to happen. So that's done. One impulse and plenty of people said it was a racist impulse, but one impulse behind the decision to leave Europe surely was to recapture control of Britain's own borders. To decide for itself who may enter the country and under what terms. And then as I say, since you and I spoke, there's been an election, the Tories who backed Brexit won a large majority in comments. Good news, correct?
Douglas Murray: Yes, absolutely.
Peter Robison: Unambiguously?
Douglas Murray: Well I have a lot of criticisms of the Johnson administration, which has proven itself to be wet, instinctively leftist in all sorts of ways, and that sort of, well, just the conservative party always lets you down. The conservative party always let's it's voters down. Without getting into that, the--
Peter Robison: By the way, again, I observed the United Kingdom just slightly more closely than I observed France. So I have another thought here that may strike you as just ridiculous. But is it possible that Boris Johnson had one job, really one job, and that was to see-through Brexit. Now that it's done, he has already become yesterday's man.
Douglas Murray: He's a risk of that, absolutely. He's got a very short time actually to turn this around. If we leave the EU with or without a deal, I think that's Boris Johnson's job done. He has proven so far to be a very disappointing premiere. The excuses for that are mainly centered around the fact that he got the coronavirus very badly, and then it shook him and that he's taken some time to shake it off. There's considerable public sympathy for that, but I think it runs out at a certain point, if not already. He has proved to be woefully quiet on things like, as I say, when we inherited the American BLM movement in early June, and we started getting statues toppled in the UK as if that had anything to do with us, Johnson wasn't able to speak out for weeks. Boris Johnson has never retreated from comparisons between himself and Winston Churchill, and has indeed by writing about Churchill at book length can maybe be said encouraging of him. When his own personal hero statue was attacked repeatedly, Johnson remained silent. Sorry, I brought it up. There are lots of things like this, which are just, a really good conservative prime minister would never have done. Margaret Thatcher would never have tolerated that for a moment. Wouldn't have said let's keep our head down, particularly not after winning an ATC majority. But all sorts of reasons. Boris Johnson is so far a very, very serious disappointment. And I think the conservative party will be right to get rid of him if he continues along this trajectory. But the ATC majority thing mattered in December because we were stuck in a constitutional crisis in the UK. We were stuck in a position of parliament against the people, of a dead, defunct parliament filled with people who were not willing to see through the result of the 2016 referendum. It was a very ugly period in my country's history, a very ugly period to be in the UK. It was a relief, I think even for some people who voted to remain, simply a relief last December, that at least that we knew where we were going to go and that we were indeed going out. And of course, just one other thought on that is as you know in the United States, the most important thing really is not that who wins an election or who loses, but the election happens and the government acts based upon it. If that fundamental pact breaks down, if the 2016 referendum had just happened and as looked likely, our parliamentarians have refused to do what the public had said. We had a fundamental breakdown in the democratic pact, and once that happened, anything can happen. So I was relieved that we had got to the stage where we would just knew where we were going. And that's not nothing.
Peter Robison: Douglas, last question. And again, if I may, I'm going to pair two quotations. And again, the first is you. Douglas Murray and The Madness of Crowds. "The agenda of identity politics "is now going to be attempted to be rolled out "across the Western world "with unbelievable force, energy and determination, "and all in a spirit of exacting considerable vengeance." Close quote. Here's the second quotation. And this is President Trump speaking in Warsaw in 2017. "The defense of the West "ultimately rests on the will of its people. "The fundamental question of our time "is whether the West has the will to survive. "Do we have enough respect for our citizens "to protect our borders. "Do we have the desire and the courage "to preserve our civilization "in the face of those who subvert and destroy it?" Close quote. You're charming, an erudite and a little dark. Can you cheer us up in answering this last question? Can you give us some grounds for optimism? Does the West, in the face of the threat from Islamism and the madness where suffering within, does the West have the will to survive?
Douglas Murray: Here's one way that I can answer that, which is that we... First of all, I think we should be very wary of looking for the perfect leader to lead us out of problems that we are in. I was very struck the other week in Oregon. I interviewed a policemen who happened to be black, who had spent many decades in the police and was telling me just the roughness of what police in America have been put through in recent months. A very sobering story. He said something very interesting to me at one point. He said, they always talk about the duties of the police, but nobody ever talks about what the duties of the citizenry is. I'm now extrapolating myself. What if the citizens oughtn't to turn out night after night and throw things at public buildings? What if the citizenry oughtn't to treat all law enforcement as some appalling group of reprehensible racists who need to be cleansed from the public square? What is the duty of the citizenry? Now I say this because I've noticed in my life that people always wait for the perfect leader to come along or the perfect figure. They always hope that a combination of Churchill and Roosevelt is going to emerge at the next electoral cycle. And you can hear it in the disappointment, which I shared a little bit off, but that it had to be Donald Trump giving that speech in Warsaw. I can't deny that, although some of it was very much aligned with things I've written, I can't deny that when I heard Donald Trump saying we write symphonies, I thought, yeah. I'm not sure what you do mate. But anyway we're never led by the perfect person, but there's something in the system that persuades us that that's where we'll somehow find redemption or victory and much more. And I'm not persuaded that that is the case. In fact, I think it's probably the worst way to do it. I think the best way to do it is for people to take it upon themselves. And I think we touched on a little of this when we spoke before in the beautiful hills about Florence, which is that the onus, if you value what we have in the West, if you value these freedoms including the freedom of inquiry, freedom of speech, freedom to pursue knowledge and indeed to pursue truth, don't wait for some political leader to give you the right to speak. Don't wait for Donald Trump or Kamala Harris or Joe Biden to permit you to think. Do it yourself. Find your own way. Locate your own route through this era. Don't wait for somebody else to save you from the madness, find a way to stay sane yourself. Don't be one of those people, one of those cringing people who says things, and I come across this all the time, who says things like, well, no one ever told me about that. No. Find out for yourself. And don't blame other people for your ignorance. I was never told about this. No, most people aren't never told about anything. They find things out for themselves and they educate each other. So the great hope I think we have at the moment, and I see this all the time is the fact that the smart, younger people, the smart, younger people, what we used to call the cool kids are not interested in this unpleasant, retributive doctrinal crap that the radical left has pushed on them. The smart kids, the cool ones I might say, are finding that it is much better to live in a realm of knowledge, which includes knowledge which is dangerous and challenging. It's much more interesting to hear a plurality of opinion than to have to chant only one through your life. My experience is that the better people, the smarter people of all backgrounds, it doesn't matter whether they've got degrees or have ever been near a university. Sometimes it's a lot better if they haven't, but the smarter people of every imaginable background are finding a different way through this era. They're the people who are going to save this. It's not reliant on any politician. It probably never was. It was reliant on individuals. It's the case now, just as it always has been in history. And today, the individuals in our society have a better chance than any of our ancestors did to do this with minimal violence, with minimal risk to ourselves, and with maximal potential.
Peter Robison: Douglas Murray, author of "The Strange Death of Europe" and now more recently "The Madness of Crowds." Thank you, Douglas.
Douglas Murray: It's a great pleasure.
Peter Robison: For Uncommon Knowledge, the Hoover Institution and Fox Nation, I'm Peter Robinson.