The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity
by Douglas Murray
London: Bloomsbury, 2019
We live in a confusing time. Values are changing, traditional worldviews are crumbling, and new religions are replacing the old. But treating these changes with a healthy suspicion has become rather unfashionable. The mainstream media promotes progressivism, and public figures and businesses prefer to stay on the ‘safe side’ in their efforts to avoid controversy and create a positive image. As a result, there is little opposition to the rising tide of left-wing ideology. However, some are still ready and willing to speak out. Douglas Murray, the well-known British journalist and author of many bestselling books — including The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam — is among those willing to take a courageous stand against this ideology
Murray’s most recent book, The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity, is a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand the peculiar nature of our modern political environment. It is a comprehensive analysis of the idea of ‘social justice’ as we understand it today: a world of contradictory theories and assumptions, all gathered under the banner of “fighting oppression.”
Although in the world of those pushing for ‘social justice’ — i.e., the ‘social justice warriors’ — activists worship equality of outcomes, the world they envision is just as hierarchical as the one they seek to replace. And here, ‘victimhood’ is the key. The Madness of Crowds explores their ever-changing ‘laws’ and provides a context in which to better understand it. In doing so, Murray helpfully reminds us that nothing exists in an ideological vacuum. This is a useful insight into the destructive influence of ‘social justice’ concepts such as ‘intersectionality.’
The book is divided into four main chapters — “Gay,” “Women,” “Race,” and “Trans” — each dealing with the issues and claims made by a specific identity group. In doing so, they provide an overview of the ideology and its effects on people’s perception of reality. Murray deliberately separates individual choices from political movements. The former, he explains, are made freely by a person and only concern a part of this person’s private life; the latter are aimed at bending everyone around them to their will.
He illustrates this difference when writing about gay people. He describes two opposing camps. There are gays, on the one hand, who believe they are just regular people with certain sexual preferences — and the fact that their partners are of the same sex has nothing to do with their other interests and views. The other camp, on the other hand, wants — in Murray’s words — “to be recognized as fundamentally different to everyone else and to use that difference to tear down the kind of order that gays are working to get into.”
The same principle applies to all alleged victims of white ‘cis’ patriarchy. Thus, the ‘social justice’ ideology only welcomes and embraces those who blame the system. Thus, people like Peter Thiel, Kanye West, and Candace Owens — despite belonging to one of the allegedly aggrieved identity groups so dear to the ‘social justice’ activists — have been ‘excommunicated’ and are treated like enemies precisely because they do not share the ideology of the left-wing activists.
This may seem surprising at first. But context is everything — and Murray offers his readers an explanation in the book’s three interludes: “The Marxist Foundations,” “The Impact of Tech” and “On Forgiveness.” They invite us to step back and look at the origins of the delusions that have infected our society.
Marxism — with its fondness of collectivism and its calls for revolution — has first set the tone. Countless works by Marxist authors have provided activists with the necessary theoretical ground. Next, big tech and social media companies have blurred the line between the personal and the public. Big tech companies have been shaping people’s minds by filtering information. Violent backlashes against those who dissent have left many public figures afraid of suddenly finding themselves on the “wrong side of history.” People may find their lives and careers ruined in a single day without the possibility for atonement. This has become a problem not just for politicians but for actors, writers, sports stars, and academics bullied by their students.
Despite the topic being rather grim, Murray handles it with easy elegance. His witty remarks about feminist writers, race ideologues, and the LGBT community brighten the prose, and illustrative stories keep the reader’s attention. He is careful to remain factually correct, and he makes an effort to understand the other side. There are, however, instances of strong and unequivocal condemnation. Such is the case of Dr. Olson-Kennedy, medical director of the largest transgender youth clinic in the UK, who routinely issues hormones to children of 12 and finds it praiseworthy for an eight-year-old girl to declare she was really a boy.
There are more and more examples of such insanity every day. What would have been unthinkable only a few years ago is now treated as trivial. Unpleasant, true; but trivial, nevertheless. The Madness of Crowds does an important job of reminding us that these changes are actually not something we should put up with. In fact, the fight for equality does not warrant special treatment of some narrowly defined identity groups. And any campaign against free speech is, in the end, a campaign against individuality.
Murray concludes by noting that while no idea can ever be above reasonable criticism, this does not mean we must tear apart the very foundations of our societies. “Perhaps they will have their way,” Murray writes, in reference to the doubt, confusion, and fragmentation sown by today’s ‘social justice warriors.’ “But anyone interested in preventing that nightmarish scenario should search for solutions.” That is the task before us.