One of the most disturbing features of current discourse is the increasing level on both sides of the political aisle of utter irrationality and loss of any sense of proportion. This seems to be manifesting itself in particular over three issues.
On Britain’s departure from the EU, the Remainers seemed to lose the plot from the referendum result onwards. They have consistently stated that, as a result of Brexit, the British economy would collapse. Today, faced with evidence that the economy is in fact doing quite well they state the economy has now collapsed. It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to Britain. Oh, and don’t forget also that, according to No 10’s wine supplier among others, we’re all going to starve to death.
This hysteria over Brexit is matched, if not exceeded, by the wild, indeed maniacal, exaggerations, distortions and misrepresentations of the words and deeds of President Donald Trump. It is being stated as established fact, for example, that he has admitted assaulting women, that he colluded with Russia and that so far he has achieved absolutely nothing whatsoever.
These claims are all untrue. In his infamous (and revolting) remarks about grabbing women, he was in fact boasting that women were throwing themselves at him; there is still not one shred of evidence that he or his campaign team had inappropriate ties with Russia; and his record of achievements so far, including stimulating the economy, rolling back regulations and tackling illegal immigration, exceeds that of many if not all his predecessors in their first year of office.
The third issue, after Brexit and Trump Derangement Syndromes, is Islamism. For large swathes of the left, any claim that Islamist extremism and terrorism are rooted in any problematic features of Islamic religion and culture is regarded as evidence of bigotry and “Islamophobia”.
This general denial of reason has now spread to the left’s opponents.
Some of Trump’s supporters won’t hear a word against him. Those who can’t stand his Twitterhoea and lament his inability to take criticism, carelessness with factual accuracy or crudity and petulance, are slammed as flakes and ludicrously bracketed with never-Trumpers as helping try to unseat the President through malice and lies.
For such supporters, it seems impossible to support Trump over some issues but not others — to believe he may stand for some important even crucial things but at the same time be a flawed character. Those who believe he is nothing but good are the mirror image of those who believe he is nothing but bad. Both fly in the face of reality.
Among some anti-Islamists a similar derangement has taken hold. Such people will not countenance any suggestion that not all Muslims are dangerous extremists. Yet millions of Muslims worldwide do not support the Islamist jihadi agenda; Muslims are in fact the most numerous victims of jihadi violence, and although there are still too few of them Islamic reformers are increasing in number and volume. Yet the hysterics within the anti-Islamist cause absurdly denounce anyone who says such things as a liberal appeaser of Islamic extremism.
These are the mirror image of those who falsely say Islamism extremism has nothing to do with Islam.
I myself was accused of being just such a liberal appeaser when I criticised Trump for retweeting the Britain First videos.
What is one to make of all this vituperative irrationality?
On the left, the iron-clad belief that its adherents stand for virtue itself means they can’t accept there can be any validity whatsoever in a contrary world view. Since in their minds this stands in opposition to virtue, it must automatically be evil. That’s why any criticism of Islam, which offends against the unchallengeable creed of multiculturalism, must be denounced as Islamophobia.
I suspect that the hysteria results from the fact that millions of people nevertheless subscribe to this non-leftist view of the world, which has led to the emergence of Brexit and President Trump. To the left it’s unthinkable that so many can support such a position, and even more unthinkable that they should have achieved political power. For the left, this goes against nature itself and simply cannot be allowed to occur. Hence their ever more desperate and ludicrous contortions.
Amongst their opponents, I would suggest a different dynamic is at work. The causes they support which are most fundamental to the defence of western civilisation are linked in their supporters’ minds by a common theme. This is that the real issue is not the world’s most evil and dangerous people but those who are even worse — people who appease and empower them through their own weakness of character and lack of courage when faced by the superior and malign forces who control the culture.
That deep suspicion of human weakness means a tendency to jump on any deviation from the anti-leftists’ essential proposition — Trump’s agenda is crucial, Islam is dangerous — as evidence of backsliding or betrayal. Consequently, they cannot deal with nuance or complexity: they can’t conceive that Trump’s agenda may be crucial and he may have serious flaws, Islam may be dangerous and millions of Muslims live in ways which aren’t dangerous at all; and so on.
This also explains why these who support Brexit may be apoplectic about their Remainer opponents but have not fallen victim to a parallel derangement. Remainers aren’t accused of a character deficiency in appeasing the unconscionable. They’re merely accused of being wrong.
Brexit supporters certainly fear and suspect betrayal, but not by their own side. Some anti-Islamists and pro-Trumpers, however, are showing disturbing signs of eating their own. Both they and the left think the world is constructed on binary lines. This fundamental lack of realism makes such people on both sides dangerous.
Despite its different characteristics, the derangement now on display across the political board suggests inescapably a culture that has disastrously slipped its moorings.