Why hasn’t Labour had a female leader?

As of yesterday, it is certain that, for the second time in history, the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom will be a woman. What’s more, it is certain that, for the second time in history, the woman in question will be a Conservative. It is true that having a female Prime Minister is not in and of itself beneficial to women: Andrea Leadsom wants to scrap maternity pay for employees of the smallest businesses and Theresa May has been criticised for ‘allowing state-sanctioned abuse of women‘ at a detention centre. However, those of us on the left must ask why the Labour Party has been unable to elect a female leader in over 100 years of its history.

The most obvious reason for this is in the origins of the party. Labour grew out of industrial trade unionism and remained largely wedded to this until the 1980s. Granted, the party’s leaders were rarely drawn from this stock, but it cannot be denied that working-class industrial communities made up the primary constituency of the party during this period, and this was reflected in the policy priorities and internal demographics of the Labour Party. Startlingly, it was not until 1987 that Labour managed to elect over 20 female MPs – up from a low of 10 in 1983. It is undeniable that the culture of industrial trade unionism was inherently patriarchal and conservative in its nature, as was the makeup of many of the communities represented by this movement.

This is not to say that everyone who was part of the labour movement before the 90s was some kind of sexist brute, or that Labour didn’t achieve some great things for women – such as the Equal Pay Act. However, it is true that this masculine atmosphere both deterred and impeded women in seeking to rise up higher in the party. It is one of the most established social facts that people are more likely to choose someone who is similar to them when hiring or picking successors, so it is no surprise that male-dominated CLPs returned a male-dominated selection of MPs, who in turn choose a male-dominated top team.

However, there is a second, more subtle reason for Labour’s historical inability to elect a female leader. We are collectivists and idealists, whereas the Tories are individualists and pragmatists. In themselves, there is nothing wrong with collectivism or idealism, but they have the downside of creating a cultish tribalism. Desires for innovation and concerns about how the party operates are often brushed aside with calls for ‘solidarity’ and ‘unity’. This has become very apparent in recent weeks with the so-called ‘Labour Coup’, but any feminist. LGBT or race activist on the left will be able to recount how they have been told how their concerns are secondary to ‘the struggle’ and raising them is at best divisive and at worst subversive. This is the stifling conservatism that so often comes out of collectivism.

The reason this makes it even harder for a woman to be elected leader of Labour is that collective movements always need a strong central figure to unify around. You don’t need me to tell you that the attributes people desire in a strong leader – determined, authoritative, rational – are seen as masculine whereas ‘weak’ traits are seen as feminine. Because of these deeply ingrained attitudes, men have a huge headstart when it comes to being elected to represent the aims of a collective, and then the tribal mindset makes it even more difficult for a woman to challenge them – as we have seen with the torrents of violent and misogynistic verbal abuse directed at female MPs.

In contrast, the Tories worship the individual, and therefore when someone appears who has the ruthlessness and will to force their ideas through, they get to the top. There’s no question that misogynistic attitudes are more prevalent on the right than the left, but when a Thatcher or a May comes along, the Tories know who’s going to best prosecute their interests.

There will always be excuses for why Labour has not elected a woman, but excuses is all they are. You cannot seriously look at our most recent three leaders and conclude that they were all ‘the best person for the job’ at the time. Likewise, you cannot pretend that someone with the moral and intellectual weight of Yvette Cooper was a weaker candidate than Andy Burnham and deserved to come third. The fact is Labour is built on a masculine culture, and our collectivist methods in pursuing dogmatic idealism lend themselves to a tribal politics where who can shout the loudest and impose themselves upon others wins.

This is not to say that the Labour Party has not achieved excellent things for men and women, nor that its roots somehow invalidate them. Likewise, it is not saying that we are the only political party with a ‘woman problem’. What it is saying, though, is that it’s time we recognise the obstacles that hold us back from being a party where women have as good a shot as reaching the time as men. I’m damned if I know quite how we do this, but I do know that, out of the 5 people who I think could lead us to victory at the next election, 3 of them are women, and we have a better array of female talent on our benches than ever before. Electing a female leader won’t end our problems, but it would give the signal to our members that it is possible, and that there is another way of doing politics. It’s high time we did so.

 

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Notes on Mad Max: Fury Road

Last weekend I finally got around to seeing Mad Max: Fury Road – about six months later than everyone else. I realise this means this is hardly a contemporary review, but I want to add my reflections on the film regardless.

The first thing I am going to talk about is one of the most striking things about the film: its diversity. I remember seeing headlines such as ‘Fury Road finest feminist film for decades’ when it came out, and assumed it was an Onion or Daily Mash headline. For those of you who’ve had the privilege of watching the original Mad Max films, you will know that, while they are not sexist, they are hardly a meditation on gender; they consist of Mel Gibson beasting it around Australia on a motorbike doing in men dressed in S&M gear. Therefore, I expected the latest instalment to be basically more of the same, but with better CGI. Well, how wrong could I be?

Fury Road is possibly the best film I have seen for representing women as actual, interesting, rounded human beings. The writing team resisted the temptation of making Furiosa a cliché ‘strong woman’ badass character, which nearly always ends up with the woman just taking on the quasi-comic, overblown masculine traits of every action movie hero. Likewise, they resisted turning Max into some useless bumbling sidekick overshadowed by his female superior – another trope that often appears when people try to write a ‘strong female’ focused drama. No, Furiosa was indeed super badass and cool, more than able to fight, survive etc, but she also exhibited genuine tenderness, rage and longing just like any human in her situation was. Possibly the most moving and relatable, not to mention excellently acted, scenes in the film was when she returns to what she thinks is home only to discover that ‘home’ has become a barren, inhospitable quagmire that her party had already driven through. Similarly, Max is not a cliché, all-action hero, but a man haunted by his past who is also seeking redemption. Also, perhaps most importantly, neither Max nor Furiosa would have survived without each other. All-in-all, gender representation and equality is done excellently in this film, avoiding tropes and cliché in favour of actual believable and well-balanced characters.

The other thing that stood out for me was how excellently shot the film was. The Director, George Miller, has stated that we wanted the film to be ‘as colourful as possible’ and the art direction to be ‘as beautiful as possible’ and his vision was certainly realised. His reasoning was that he felt that all post-apocalyptic films went for a drab, colourless vision of the world to convey the horror of the post-apocalypse. Miller’s vision, in contrast, presents with a world that looks almost biblical. Indeed, I am sure that the feeling of mythical pre-history is no accident. The dusty masses clamouring for the ‘water of life’ at the start of the film, the huge dust storm and Furiosa being stolen from the ‘green place’ to roam the wasteland all have a distinctly Christian myth feel to them. This also ties in perfectly with the theme of redemption that runs through the film. (By the way, did anyone else notice that guy with distinctly neanderthal features at the end?)

The last subject I would like to talk about is what was, in my view, the central theme of the film: power. Fury Road is set years after civilisation as we know it, and as such humanity has returned to a ‘state of nature’, if you will. Far from Locke’s or Rousseau’s conception of this time, life in Fury Road is very much a Hobbesian affair – nasty, brutish and short. It is quite easy to see the film as being a meditation on patriarchy, or simply anarchy, but this misses the point that actually ‘evil’ in this film is always simply a manifestation of absolute power. Immortan Joe was clearly a respected, charismatic and powerful warlord in his day, and used this to build up an army of slaves and warriors. With these, he managed to subjugate neighbouring communities and created a monopoly over our most vital resource: water. After securing his domination, he was able to take any women he wanted as his property and cement himself as a god-king amongst his citizens – the similarities between Joe addressing the dusty crowds below and the Pope the crowds in St. Peter’s Square seemed to me quite intentional. This story of absolute power securing privilege and leading to despotism is almost entirely reflective of human history before the great social advances of the 18th-19th centuries, and is an unsettling reminder of the fragility of human society.

So there we have it. Fury Road is an excellent film which is beautifully shot, gripping and actually surprisingly thoughtful. The actors put in a great performance all-round, but Charlize Theron steals the show as Imperator Furiosa. (Also, I was more than thrown when I realised that Nux the ‘warboy’ is played by Nicholas Hoult, a star of my favourite film.) There is plenty of excess in the costumes and the quasi-comic grotesque nature of Fury Road (I confess, the guitarist playing thrash metal on a huge truck almost ruined for me), but it still manages to be a thoroughly watchable film, and, arguably, a film with quite a left-wing bent.

8/10

Social media, postmodernity, Foucault and Marxism

This is going to be a bit of a long one, as it’s an essay I wrote for university which I just got back. Apologies for the more academic and analytical tone. I should add I would have liked to expand on some of the more inflammatory points, and these are too generalising and need a bit more nuance. However, this is pretty difficult to do with a 1,500 word limit and I can’t be bothered to rewrite this essay again.

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Since the launching of Facebook in 2004, social media has played an increasingly important role in society and many of our lives. More than ever before, we wilfully put ourselves under the scrutiny of our contemporaries and even strangers as a means of forming and promoting ourselves. Some have heralded this as a great step forward in the “democratisation” of news and narratives and of allowing individuals to flourish. However, whilst I acknowledge there are indeed positives in social media, I intend to argue that it has in fact created a more atomised, self-absorbed and panoptic society which, far from encouraging other viewpoints, often leads to a highly-rigid, intolerant social world dominated by status groups and societal norms.

To start with, arguably one of the greatest phenomena of social media, and in my view its greatest achievement, is its power to “democratise” news. As David Harvey argues in A Brief History of Neoliberalism, western media is dominated by (predominately white and male) wealthy elites who use their power to push their own agendas; i.e. ‘All 247 of the supposedly independent editors of [Murdoch’s] newspapers worldwide supported the US invasion of Iraq.’ To say the majority of western media have pushed a view of the world which is both culturally and militarily nationalist while excluding other viewpoints and obfuscating the truth is an understatement. The contrasting effect social media can have was illustrated perfectly this year with two major events, both domestic and international: the Ferguson riots and the Gaza conflict.

In both instances, Twitter users used hashtags to report events on the ground that were not shown by national news broadcasters. The rioting in Ferguson and heavy police response catapulted the discussion about civil rights back to the forefront of US home affairs while the shocking images and tweets showing the fear and despair of Gaza residents showed the world a new side to the conflict often not-covered by Western media.

This “democratisation” idea has been taken further by some. Turner states that media has experienced a ‘Demotic turn [due] to the increasing visibility of the “ordinary person” as they have turned themselves into media content through celebrity culture, reality TV shows etc.’ Taking this further, he argues ‘the media has perhaps [shifted] from a ‘broadcaster of cultural identities’ to ‘a translator or even author of identities’. We can read this as illustrating the postmodern idea of our world now being shaped by a ‘multiplicity of narratives’, which was particularly built on by Lyotard in The Postmodern Condition.

Social media forms yet another facet of postmodernism being, ‘an incredulity towards metanarratives’. It is often claimed that social media has breathed new life into social movements such as feminism. The highly successful ‘Everyday Sexism’ campaign and hashtags like #yesallwomen are held up as evidence of this. However, while in some ways liberating it, the fact anyone can now voice their own opinions and declare them to be representative of feminism is beginning to do massive harm to the movement. Sadie Smith laments how what she calls the ‘online wimmin mob’ ‘don’t seem to like feminism … there’s not much evidence they like women very much either’. Going on to say, ‘‘Check your privilege!’ has become the rallying cry of the Mob when faced with a woman with whom they disagree.’ In her words, you cannot join ‘a club that they seem to believe they have seized control of’.

In my experience, this is the case of all social movements on Twitter. One of the main features of postmodernity is the rise of identity politics. Every community from feminists to trans-rights activists, to far-right racists scream, ‘White male privilege!’, ‘cis privilege!’, ‘Liberal metropolitan elite!’ in what is often little more than a naked attempt to shut down debate. In doing so, these groups frequently tarnish the movements they claim to represent, and have formed themselves into highly-rigid Weberian status groups.

Weber defined the status group as ‘a plurality of persons, who, within a larger group, successfully claim … a special social esteem’. They form based on characteristics common to their members (gender, race etc.). Social media has facilitated the formation of these groups around identities. According to Weber, ‘status groups must possess a common and distinctive style of life. This entails a shared language …’ Amongst social media status groups, language is monopolised and offence claimed by people either not using the terms they define or other status groups using them. For example, take this tweet after the suicide of transgender teenager, Leelah Alcorn, regarding the subsequent #TransLivesMatter campaign: ‘Can’t help but feel the #TransLivesMatter hashtag appropriates from Black activism in some kind of way … Given that Leela was white.’ Social media has changed the way deviant social movements operate by increasingly removing the idea of solidarity and instead placing the utmost importance on how people identify themselves against the ‘other’, as if  being in this group itself is an achievement.  Furthermore, integral enlightenment ideals of freedom of speech and expression are being eroded by online status groups who gain instrumental power by monopolising the means of debate.

This brings me onto my major point. Social media is so powerful as a means of regulation and conformity because it functions as a perfect example of Foucault’s ‘panopticism’. Foucault based this idea on Bentham’s ‘Panopticon’, where the inmates in a circular prison are constantly under surveillance from a central tower whilst being shut off from other felons. Foucault applied this to society itself, stating, ‘He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power’. By using social media, ‘people are incited constantly to work on themselves under a public gaze’. Sauter views this as a positive, linking it to ‘age-old practices of self-writing’ and saying ‘online self-writing can be framed as a means for people to navigate a path for right and wrong conduct in the context of increasingly complex social realities’. I disagree. The self-writings of old thinkers were a means to discover the self; in contrast when we use social media we conform to societal pressures and norms and modify how we portray ourselves accordingly. This bolsters a shallow, consumerist society where we are judged on our interests, pursuits and, most importantly, our looks. Concepts of gender and beauty standards are reinforced through putting ourselves under the constant gaze of others.

Gutman claims ‘Rousseau wrote “to create a self … in the face of a hostile social order”’ Some may argue that social media facilitates this through online communities, but as I have already argued, these communities become highly restrictive and panoptic themselves, leading even deviants from the norm simply to conform to a new orthodoxy. Often this orthodoxy is even less forgiving than mainstream norms, as deviant groups perceive themselves as being under threat and consequently form very strong social bonds and rules. Crucially, the space–time compression inherent in postmodernity finalises the panopticon; not only our present actions are under surveillance, but what we published in the past can also be viewed, and even just one retweet of a tweet reaches a ‘mean audience of 1000’. Effectively, anything public we do can be seen at anytime, anywhere by anyone. This exerts enormous pressure to self-regulate, and we have seen careers destroyed and resignations of senior public officials as a result of them not conforming.

All this creates a climate where the self is not enriched, but marketed. Marx argued that ‘the bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production … and with them the relations of society … [there is] a need of a constantly expanding market’. This is what has happened. We are living in ‘an age of advertisement’ … where we are advertising … ourselves (and our self-commodification).’ There are paid ‘personal branding’ gurus, LinkedIn encourages us to list our ‘skills’ to better sell ourselves on the labour market, we accumulate friends and followers as we would accumulate wealth and advertise this as a means of showing status. Businesses pay to advertise their products between updates from friends and family. As Harvey argued, neo-liberalism encourages ‘the commodification of everything’. This chimes with the idea that post-modernism is not a phenomenon in itself, but rather capitalism moving on from the commodification of products to the commodification of culture.

In my view, social media has not so much changed society, as amplified characteristics of postmodernity. While it has a power to do good by democratising news, postmodern traits of identity politics, the subsequent breaking of social solidarities and rampant individualism are intensified. A panoptic society where deviation is severely punished and the very foundations of the enlightenment thought are shaken is created. This is not liberation, but the movement of capitalism – which feeds off individualisation, increased competition and solidarity being destroyed – into our social world and culture. Finally, not only has our culture been commoditized, but we are increasingly moving towards the commodification of our very selves in this new, consumerist world. Perhaps we really are, in Marx’s words, ‘resolving personal worth into exchange value’.

What the Cathy Newman mosque fiasco tells us about the left and social media mobs

After overwhelmingly negative stories about Islam and South Asians recently, with the Paris shootings, ISIS and the Rotherham scandal, many mosques in the UK chose to host a ‘Visit my mosque’ open day, where people could come and look around their local mosque. This is a nice idea, aimed at increasing understanding and promoting the decent majority of Muslims. Sadly, things did not go according to plan. Channel 4 journalist and Telegraph columnist, Cathy Newman, tweeted to a horrified audience that she had been ‘ushered out’ of a mosque in Streatham, despite being ‘respectfully dressed’. Naturally, and quite rightly if this were true, people were outraged, and there were articles in The Daily Mail, Telegraph etc.

However, people quickly began to raise doubts about Cathy’s version of events. It soon transpired that in fact she had gone to a mosque which was not taking part in the open day, and she was meant to go to one 15 minutes away where her film crew were waiting. Okay, a mix-up perhaps, no big deal. Except yesterday CCTV footage emerged completely contradicting Cathy’s version of events. She had not been ushered out at all, but rather directed by a Muslim man away from the mosque after entering and removing her shoes. According to him, he was directing her to a neighbouring church, confused that she should be coming here to pray. She then leaves the mosque alone with no further confrontation.

Oh dear, Cathy. To make things worse, the mosque then received numerous threats of violence, including death threats, the first since they opened in 1978, according to spokesman, Aslam Ijaz. In addition, determined to shoehorn in ‘the patriarchy’ somewhere, Cathy had claimed she thought the mosque was ‘men-only’. But in fact it transpires the mosque was one of ‘the first in the area’ to have sections for both men and women. Obviously researching doesn’t matter to Cathy, as we all know she can ‘smell the sexism a mile off’ even when it’s not there, so it makes perfect sense to her to just put it down to misogyny in order to further her agenda.

So far, we’ve seen a pretty shameful story, but what is most interesting is the reaction, or rather lack of reaction, of Twitter. Usually the site is the watering hole of liberals’ own brand of bigotry and groupthink, with keyboard warriors determined to root out the merest intimation of perceived misogyny or racism and subject its perpetrator to public shame and disgrace; there was no such reaction in this case. There were some tweets from, mainly Islamic, individuals, who were rightly very insulted at these lies which unjustly fuelled anti-Islamic sentiments, but a quick analysis shows that tweets containing #CathyNewmanLies and #CathyResign were over 230,000 fewer in number than those with ‘Cardiff’, the bottom trend at the time. They reached a pitiful 3,500 approx in total.

I don’t know the figures for outrages caused by the scientist who embodied everything that is wrong with men by wearing a shirt, Dapper Laughs or even Benedict Cumberbatch after his ‘coloured’ remarks, but I’m pretty sure they were far higher than this. So why has Cathy gotten away so lightly?

Very simple. She fits the criteria that ‘liberals’ like. She is (ostensibly) on the ‘left’, she’s an ‘outspoken’ feminist, female and middle-class. She can therefore do no wrong. Excuses such as ‘it was a misunderstanding’ or ‘we need to hear her side of the story’ which would have you lumped in with the worst of humanity if you tried to apply them to a right-winger, a man who has been declared misogynistic or even Katie Hopkins are lavishly used to try and absolve her of any guilt. The left has effectively closed ranks because Cathy is ‘like us’.

Sadly, there are issues minority women face that are criminally ignored by white feminists. However, Cathy has chosen to ignore them completely, and instead manufacture outrage as part of her war against ‘the patriarchy’. Well, I’m afraid she has chosen the wrong battleground here to fight this issue, and has only further exposed the problems of much of the modern feminist movement and left in doing so.

My reservations about No More Page 3

Last week, The Sun pulled off the troll of the century by strongly insinuating that they were pulling Page 3, to the delight of feminist campaigners – and social conservatives – and then announcing the whole thing was a lie and the bare breasts were staying. So, top marks/lad points/whatever to whoever thought of that stunt, but it has thrown the whole Page 3 issue into the public eye again.

Personally, I think that on balance Page 3 should be pulled. I realise there is the argument that it’s a woman’s choice and she should be able to bare her torso if she wants, but to me this is just a replay of the classic argument between liberalism and conservatism – i.e. should we focus on what’s best for the individual or the collective. Well, I’m a socialist, and I believe that, whilst it may be the case Jodie Marsh may feel empowered by getting them out, ultimately the cost of objectification to the female gender as a whole is too large. Disagree if you want, but as I say, I’m no liberal.

However, if you really want to focus on the negative effects of objectification, the No More Page 3 campaigners really are wasting their efforts here. While it may have been the case that in the 1970s Page 3 was something gawped at by young boys and old men alike, nowadays paper circulation is so much lower, and anyone seeking some tasty objectification can simply go on their smartphone and search ‘Young slut rammed by two huge cocks’ etc. It just is not the case that Page 3 is a major influence on the lives of people or our culture.

If you want to be concerned about objectification, look no further than the music industry. Watch practically any music video of a woman who is meant to be successful and who actually is a role a model for young girls and you can guarantee they’ll be gyrating on all fours in next-to-nothing with plenty of shots of their cleavage and arse while they sing about ‘Their man not wanting to have sex with them unless they have a large backside’ as plenty of, presumably straight, women around them simulate sex acts on each other. Don’t try and tell me that’s empowering; it’s something out of a Game of Thrones-esque brothel.

But it gets more confusing. When Miley Cyrus and Iggy Azalea tried to emulate such artists, they were broadly condemned for ‘appropriating black culture’, and denounced as try-hard racists. So white girls can’t try and get that booty and twerk. But then Meghan Trainor comes up with ‘All About That Bass’ and shames women for being slim and not having that booty as well. On top of all this, we have magazines talking about the importance of being an empowered businesswoman, while then trying to convince women the best way to achieve this is by buying these shoes, this makeup, this lifestyle.

Admittedly, there has also been a trend towards sexualising men in music, but not in the same objectifying way and only in certain genres. This is ultimately a facet of our image-obsessed, consumer society. But I cannot help feel that all too often it is women caught up in this confusing, vicious world of pressure, beauty standards and self-hate.

And please, don’t tell me it’s empowering. If it really is, why didn’t Nina Simone or Aretha Franklin feel the need to show how much of a driven, individual woman they were by getting their tits out and singing about how much they love performing oral sex on men. Or Joni Mitchell, Dusty Springfield, Joan Baez, Ella Fitzgerald, heck, even Agnetha Faltskog. This has nothing to do with empowerment, and everything to do with the next stage of post-modern capitalism, commodifying culture through a patriarchal gaze. So yes, get rid of Page 3, but for god’s sake, don’t let yourself believe that by silencing ‘Chloe, 22, from Gravesend’ you will silence this new, ever-growing objectification.

Finally shown outrage about attacks on free speech? Good. Now do something about it

If you saw the news today and were part of the 98% who is not a fundamentalist zealot or part of the grotesque section of the left which hates free speech to the point of failing to defend the slaughter of innocents for their ‘racism’, you were outraged and sickened by the appalling shootings in Paris. You probably wrote ‘je suis Charlie’ somewhere, possibly only to have some moron say ‘so u side with raysists!?’ Good. Now, how about acting on this principle rather than keeping to meaningless platitudes?

These last few years in the UK were, and I do not say this lightly, abysmal for the principle of freedom of speech, expression and fundamental enlightenment values. Universities segregated audiences by gender at the request of hardline Islamic speakers, an atheist society at Reading was banned and the one at the LSE censured for creating ‘an offensive environment’ *howls of derisive laughter, Bruce*

But it’s not just religion crushing long-held freedoms, oh no! A debate on abortion at Oxford was shut down because it was being debated by two men. Note: this was not a debate on whether it should be legal, but on what our abortion levels say about our national culture. Note: universities are the centre of intellectual culture in which debate is an integral feature. But what the hell does that matter? Abortion is an issue which, apparently, solely concerns women so men discussing it must be an example of ‘the patriarchy’ and we have to get rid of it. Oh, I forgot to mention, if this wasn’t bad enough one of the women responsible then took to The Independent to boast about her ‘achievement’.

But there’s more tasty examples of our hard-won freedoms being eroded, in even more alarming fashion. The UEA students union managed to ban a UKIP candidate from speaking as some students felt ‘intimidated and degraded’. So much so that apparently this warranted not allowing the man to speak at all.

What has to take the biscuit for me, however, is Goldsmiths banning the Socialist Workers Party, and its associated society, outright from its campus. Not a person, not an event, the entire society from its campus. What awful crime must have they committed to deserve this censure? Well erm, nothing actually. Their crime was that the leadership of the SWP are alleged to have covered up a rape scandal two years ago. As far as I know, all those involved have now resigned from the SWP. But this doesn’t matter. Apparently, purely by being associated with a party whose ex-leaders are alleged to have covered up rape created an ‘unsafe environment’ for women at the university, so the society had to be dissolved. To complete this dystopian horror, the jubilant victors rushed out and burnt all the SWP literature they could find outside the university in true Third Reich style, presumably to provide us with a handy parallel for the new fascism.

Sitting here and reading this back, it barely seems real that intelligent people could so quickly not only allow, but embrace the destruction of freedom in this country. But we have allowed this to happen through a creeping tide of so-called political correctness and cultural sensitivities. We have reached a state where someone need only whisper ‘I’m offended’, ‘patriarchy’, ‘I feel unsafe’ and everyone rushes to lynch the new enemy.

Possibly the saddest thing is that these used to be movements that were, for the most part, genuinely noble in their aims. But now all too often they are a simply a vehicle for the shutting down of viewpoints they disagree with.

And here’s the real kicker. I am a white, straight man who does not have the privilege of being able to shout about feeling unsafe when people disagree with me, have them all sent away and return to my dream world where I am the sole owner of objective truth. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. If I need the safety net of being able to shout ‘offence!’ when my opinions face the slightest bit of intellectual scrutiny, chances are they’re pretty flawed and weak in the first place. By denying myself the right to reasoned debate I would deny myself the opportunity to form my views and hone them against different views. I would deny myself the possibility of growing as an individual in a world of diverse characters and beliefs. But you know what I would really deny myself? The equality of being treated like a normal human being with reason and agency. This is the true aim of any group searching for equality. Anyone arguing otherwise simply wants their group to be eternal victims who can never be treated as equal players in the world. They hate fundamental human values, and they hate the groups they claim to represent. So, if you really are outraged by the Charlie Hebdo massacre, let’s make 2015 the year we reject these siren voices of faux equality.