Seriously, what are they good for?
Sitting on the fence is morally reprehensible in a time where neo-Nazis are on one side looming over marginalised people on the other. This isn’t about both sides when one side wants the other dead. Liberalism was what brought this mess in the first place.
We were told that by giving platforms to idiot racists that they’d look ludicrous and rights would be secured. It’s what liberals calmly said before Nick Griffin was invited onto Question Time. While Griffin did look ridiculous and the BNP imploded, we also now have a culture where BNP policies (such as leaving the EU to “take back control”) are mainstream.
Liberalism pandered to the right, wanting to hear all sides because it thought reason would win out when centuries of history tell us that in fact, racism, queerphobia and misogyny are the rulers of all our times. What trying to placate the right by listening to “legitimate concerns” around immigration achieved was having a referendum based on hysteria about migrant numbers. Hate crimes have exploded since Brexit. What are liberals going to do about it?
UKIP stepped up as the presentable face of the BNP. They wore good suits, managed their scandals as just being “not PC” rather than being seen as brawling thugs. They stood for ordinary people – you know, insecure, mediocre white allocishets. The BBC invited them on their shows constantly, and by comparison, the Greens (who actually had an MP while UKIP didn’t throughout most of their time as fringe parties), were barely ever mentioned. The slide to the right has been over a decade in the making.
Every time a liberal says “I disagree with the far right but I’ll defend to the death their right to speak” a neo-Nazi gets a platform to recruit even more people to an ideology of hate. People don’t have the right to incite hatred. Whoever made up “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” was a bloody fool. It is because of transphobic abuse – verbal, physical and systematic – that around 40% of trans people are at risk of suicide. Words do hurt. Words can inspire movements of hate. It’s why there’s such a backlash to trans rights in particular right now. We got here because Trump and Farage were very convincing to huge numbers of people, and it was a mistake to ever have let them try to sell their messages at all.
Liberals focus on talk and philosophical positions because their lives aren’t the ones up for debate. Trans people, people of colour, disabled people are dealing with the very real effects of austerity and of the rise of neo-Nazis. How on Earth can middle class Oxbridge educated white liberals even begin to understand what that is like?
“Liberals focus on talk and philosophy because it isn’t their lives that are up for debate”
How many liberals have been exposed as useless when it came to Harvey Weinstein? Damon didn’t know, but then he did know about Paltrow, but he didn’t really know so he couldn’t do anything. Democrats in the US, including Obama, had an idea of Trump’s alleged connections with Russia but didn’t do anything because they were worried about looking bad during an election cycle. Liberals knew the fears over immigration were unfounded but they still insisted we had to listen to concerns. Time and again, liberalism, in every form and in every situation, has been shown to be empty words.
Where has the real solidarity been? Where is the real action?
While liberals pontificate over their own morality, marginalised people are in the line of fire from the rising “alt right” movement. This isn’t a time for careful consideration but a time for action. We must clearly oppose neo-Nazism at every single turn. No, they don’t have a right to preach hate and to take torches and shout “blood and soil”. It wasn’t by being nice and considerate to Nazis that we won World War II, but it was pandering to concerns from racists and xenophobes that brought that entire event (and saw us do nothing over the Holocaust) in the first place.
Liberalism might be a wonderful theory but when it amounts to discussions, while fires rage at the hands of racists, it is useless. Liberals need to be clear who’s side they’re on. Their silence tacitly lends support to the far right. If that’s what they want, then they should stop hiding behind their need to seem nice and just say it. Right now, they’re the gatekeepers of progress.