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Pankaj Mishra: "Everyone who doesn’t agree with him is furious" (©Windham-Campbell Literature Prize)


What is a racist? Like many people, I had thought it was someone who believed a particular race (generally their own) to be innately superior to all (or some) others. But since almost everyone has now designated the new American President to be a racist, I am left wondering.

The central justification for labelling Donald Trump “a racist” is something he said on the campaign trail. In one typically free-wheeling speech he claimed that Mexico was not sending its “best” people to America: “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re [their?] rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” It is hard to transcribe Trump speeches accurately. But I think it would require an especially hostile attitude towards the speaker to ignore the fact that they are evidently meant to contain an element of humour and do not assert that all Mexicans are rapists.

Nevertheless, this has become the main evidence for the prosecution. And if few people want to investigate the validity of the charge it is because so many people benefit from making it. Recently, this advantage has been pressed by almost every famous actor and actress and by the Speaker of the House of Commons. But does nobody care about the currency devaluation they are engaging in?  Were someone to come along — in America or elsewhere — who actually held the racial views of Joseph Goebbels or Eugene Terreblanche, how might anyone signal this fact, the word having been used up on Donald Trump?

***

Language devaluation aside, I must admit that I am slightly enjoying this new era. BBC Radio 3 invited me on to a discussion with, among others, Pankaj Mishra, who was publicising his new book The Age of Anger.  Though I say so myself, throughout the whole discussion the only person who didn’t seem remotely angry was me. By contrast, it was evident that Mishra himself is a very angry man: indeed, I would say, a sort of zealot. So it caused me some amusement that he should have written a book which — in an effort to deride all views he does not share — insists that everyone who doesn’t agree with him is furious. Even off-air, Mishra continued his ranting, insisting, for example, that there is now a “serial groper” in the White House. Even were this true, it would seem to me to be an improvement (so far, at least) on the behaviour of the last President to be accused of sexual impropriety, suggesting that there are specific, as well as general, improvements going on at present.

***

Shortly after the Trump administration’s temporary travel ban on seven unstable states caused fury in civilised society, Chatham House carried out a poll of 10,000 people in 10 European states. The public were invited to agree or disagree with a statement far beyond the ambition of the Trump order, viz: “All further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped.” A majority of the public in eight out of the ten countries agreed with the statement. In Britain “only” 47 per cent of the public wanted to stop all future Muslim migration.

Two things struck me. First, majority opinion across Europe had ended up being sterner than me on this subject. For a long time my own feelings have been that we need to reduce levels of immigration into Europe dramatically, especially from Muslim-majority societies. But I do not think that the number should be precisely “zero”. Nevertheless, I now accept that the public are less liberal than me on this issue. Second, one of the people who unveiled the poll was the politics professor and TV pundit Matthew Goodwin, who used to berate me publicly for pieces of mine in Standpoint on these very subjects. My articles back then were, among other things, a vain effort to avert the growing disconnect between the public and their representatives on the issues of Islam and immigration. Goodwin is one of those who, in his own little gatekeeperish way, should take a bow for helping to make matters worse than they needed to be across Europe.

***

Which brings me back to Goebbels, or at least to his former secretary, Brunhilde Pomsel, who recently died at the age of 106. Reading the obituaries, I was particularly struck by Pomsel’s recent observation about the people who today claim that they would have done more for the “poor, persecuted Jews”. “I really believe that they sincerely mean it,” she said.  “But they wouldn’t have done it either.” I suppose that from Hollywood to Holyrood, people do think that they are fighting the Nazis at present. But they’re not. They’re fighting the people. And just calling them Nazis.  Which isn’t quite the same thing.

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Anonymous62
March 14th, 2017
4:03 AM
Hey Tedz - Obama's half brother has recently posted the Kenyan birth certificate of the former president. Kind of puts your little (as in very tiny) leftist rant in perspective, doesn't it. Don't worry, I'm sure your "fellow travelers" will continue to lap up your embellishments..

Tedz
February 28th, 2017
9:02 PM
You have to feel sorry for Mr Murray. Having spent years valiantly and often single-handedly arguing that mainstream politicians and media have ignored, or worse pandered to, the threat of Islamist violence and extremism, along comes a major Western leader who’s prepared to say it how it is. And what happens? That leader turns out to be a total s***, whose personality defects (preening, petulant, vindictive, egotistical narcissist) are nicely paired with a breathtakingly enormous capacity for lying - tiny ones, medium ones ones and big, fat disprovable-in-ten-seconds whoppers. What to do? Reach for the book of straw man fallacies and argue that Trump’s opponents are calling him a racist for one campaign speech about Mexican immigrants. This conveniently ignores a mountain of evidence: 1. Implying that the Indiana-born Judge Gonzalo Curiel could not fairly hear the a class action case against Trump University case because of his Mexican heritage. 2. A first-person account of at least one black Trump casino employee in Atlantic City, “When Donald and Ivana came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor”. 3. Trump disparaging his black casino employees as “lazy” in vividly bigoted terms, according to a 1991 book by John O’Donnell, a former president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. 4. His lead role in stoking “birtherism” - a barely hidden form of racial prejudice. And so on. Poor Mr Murray. What a tightrope to walk – staying true to your convictions about the Islamist threat without ending up a fellow traveller with a lying self-obsessed demagogue. Good luck!

MJ Callaghan
February 27th, 2017
3:02 PM
Anonymous almost perfectly represents the people Mr Murray is talking about. Using incorrect and devisive words to describe those who don't deserve them and in the process devaluing those words. Trump may be a immature fool, but before you use the words "racist", "misogynist" and "homophobe" consider actually looking these words up and comparing the actual meaning to the supposed evidence.

AMY BOONE
February 27th, 2017
3:02 PM
Is Douglas Murray the last journalist/public voice that understands how to make, and why to make, distinctions? Anyway, thank God for his voice/views.

Anonymous-2
February 24th, 2017
9:02 PM
Dear Anonymous, it's obvious you know nothing about Trump's supporters. I'm 77, not racists, homophobic, islamophobic, etc.Nor am I a "White supremiscist" I'm also married to a Jew!! I'm tired of the old politics as usual by the do-nothing for the people establishment (Democrat and Republican). And tired of snobs like you looking down your nose at us. So shut up, enjoy the ride!!

Anonymous
February 22nd, 2017
11:02 PM
This is my first experience reading Standpoint, and while I'm enjoying it, I am struck by the glibness with which you approach the subject of how we (in the USA) talk about Trump. Of course there are Nazis and there are nazis in the world. The word applied to Trump is meant to signify a potential totalitarian dictator - absent checks and balances and absent the power base & vacuum in which a totalitarian dictator could take over the USA. It's about character, not about the fact that he isn't a menber of the National Socialist Party in Germany in the thirties. It's also about his friends and supporters, many of whom ARE white supremicists, aka American Nazis. And as for "the people," I assume you mean "the little guy" who is going to have his day, as every dog will, now that Trump is President of a divided nation. That's bullxxxx. He isn't going to do anything for "the little guy." "The little guy," or "the people" who voted for Trump, are the whiners and complainers who have to have a scapegoat because they cannot bear responsibility for their own destinies. They cannot fathom that their voting patterns have landed them in the poor house. They have consistently voted against their own interests - voting for Conservatives (Tory-like creatures) and rich bums (Trump-like emanations) and against the very programs that might help them pull themselves up "by their own bootstraps" if they could afford boots, which they cannot, because they sit around all day complaining about Women, or Mexicans, or Blacks, or Jews (yes, you numbskull, they do hate Jews) or Indians, or Wildlife, or Scientists. For the Trumpists, it's always somebody else's fault. But glib is often entertaining, so thank you for just being, and please carry on.

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