Trigger warning: The following article from our sketch writer contains information about extremist views which some readers may find upsetting and offensive. Those of a sensitive disposition are advised to avoid reading further.
As we increasingly hear talk about our entering into a post-truth world where the consensus about what is reasonable and acceptable behaviour is being challenged and all manner of extremists are exploiting the freedoms provided by our liberal society to spread fake news and whip up support for their intolerance, scaremongering and scapegoating, we find ourselves asking: where has all this come from? Is it just a coincidence that all this is happening now, with the UK turning its back on the international community and going off in a sulk threatening to recreate the British Empire and reassert sovereign claims over Normandy, Australasia and half of Africa, Scotland threatening to retaliate by doing the same in relation to the UK and threatening to institute call to worship of St Nicola twice daily and compulsory wearing of the kilt in all public places, and the Donald seizing control of the White House in a virtual coup and turning the office of the President of the United States into a pantomime of self-parody somewhere between Spitting Image and The Apprentice, with cameo appearances by Nigel Farage as a token gesture to cement the “special relationship”? Or is there something more sinister afoot – a coordinated strategy to undermine the foundations of the established order of western society? I shall argue below that there is indeed a concerted effort and this is taking place under the umbrella of neoiconoclasm.
Now, you may not have heard the phrase “neoiconoclasm” before but that is not to say that you have not been exposed to neiconoclast influence, since it is part of the devious strategy of the practitioners of this pernicious doctrine to cloak themselves in normality and respectability and conceal their true intention, which is to engage, in the name of free speech or in a purported spirit of open discussion, in a sustained attack on the moral foundations of modern society, namely minority rights, multiculturalism, open borders, political correctness, organic vegetables, and zero tolerance for right-wing political views, climate change denial, fox-hunting and all other forms of hate speech. I hope I have by this point persuaded you that what we are looking at here is a serious threat to civilisation as we know it and something we need to be forewarned and forearmed to counter.
So what is neoiconoclasm? And why “neo”? In essence this ideology stands in the same relation to iconoclasm as neoliberalism does to liberalism in that it subverts it by turning it on its head. While liberalism sought to bring justice to society by applying the requisite Whackamole hammer to inequality wherever it rears its ugly head, neoliberalism seeks to reverse that achievement by transferring wealth and power back from the downtrodden to the rich and powerful. Likewise, iconoclasm in its modern usage refers to the dismantling of the unjustified control which churches, religious leaders and conservative thinkers (if that is not an oxymoron) have had over our society and its laws, through a sustained attack on the irrationality and intolerance of the worldview they and their acolytes purvey – an ostensibly good thing. However, neoiconoclasm, as I have intimated, seeks to reverse this trend and turns the argument on its head, by casting the oppressors in the role of victims and portraying the enlightenment and the liberation brought about by the modern left-liberal consensus as some kind of conspiracy perpetrated by so-called cultural Marxists, initiated, they suggest, in the liberal arts departments of universities and spreading out into the school system to undermine the vestiges of the old conservatism which the reactionary forces are fighting a rearguard action to defend.
So how would you identify a neoiconoclast? The main thing you have to look for is the way they approach issues rather than the specific issue or which side of the debate they stand on (or appear to). For example, on the debate about immigration, reasonable people all know without any thought that this is a good thing, since most of the immigrants end up voting Labour, thus demonstrating their moral superiority to the UKIP and Tory voters who typically flee on arrival of the first “foreigner.” The opponents of immigration of course belong to a wide spectrum. Some are overtly racist. These people can be exposed for what they are and hounded out of their positions of authority and/or their jobs. Others take things a step further and engage in hate speech. These people can be dealt with by the police and the courts of law. Others are even more extreme and engage directly in violence. These people we can fight back against through our counter-insurgency movements with baseball bats and grenades.
But the neoiconoclasts are rarely to be found amongst those groups. They are far too clever for that. Rather than making common cause with the anti-immigration lobby, they skulk on the sidelines making cavilling distinctions between a proposal to limit immigration and anti-immigrant sentiment. From their protected silos, they attack the right of the enlightened pro-immigrant side to offer condemnation. While looking and sounding reasonable and appealing to principles of freedom of speech and conscience, they are subversive of the moral consensus which was so hard won on the subject of immigration by suggesting that the dissent whipped up by populist demagogues recently calls it into question. They further resort to sophistry with talk of a “lack of philosophical and moral foundations” for the left-liberal consensus and citing a lack of objective evidence in support, as if a quick look at the kind of scum who oppose us were not more-than-adequate evidence. Further to that, they will probably complain about our pointing this out as being intolerance. In this respect they are particularly insidious and their influence difficult to counter.
I could go on to elaborate on the numerous other arguments used by the neoiconoclasts to corrode the established moral consensus, claiming, for example:
- that the NHS might ever be improved other than by the government spending more money;
- that schools policy might be improved other than by increasing equality of outcome and diverting resources away from the achievers to the underachievers;
- that better relationships with our friends in the EU can be established by any means other than by due recognition of the self-evident moral authority of EU institutions over and against our antiquated Westminster traditions;
- that students will come out of university better prepared to deal with the world by not protecting them from microaggression from unreconstructed old-school professors who are not in tune with the heightened moral conscience of what they disparagingly refer to as the “snowflake” generation.
- that it is not self-evidently the case that allowing people to define their gender in a non-binary way in accordance with their changing disposition would end a long-standing historic injustice the likes of which has not been seen since the end of apartheid in South Africa.
However you have probably by this time, comrades, got the message what these people are about and how concerned we should be about their increasing influence on policy debate.