Friday, November 26

So is Sally Rooney a racist? Only if you choose to confuse fiction with reality | Nick cohen

SSocial media did not create informants and liars. The wicked have always fabricated denunciations and the literal minded have always mistaken nuance for sin. The web is simply supercharging one of those sad moments in history where deliberate ignorance and active malice are rewarded rather than despised.

In optimistic times, one can almost sympathize with character killers. On Normal people, Sally Rooney makes her female lead think, “cruelty hurts not only the victim, but also the perpetrator, and perhaps more deeply and permanently.” The victim can overcome it. The abuser must always live with the knowledge that he is a bully.

Rooney posted Normal people in 2018, when the culture of cancellation was turning from a sideshow into a fiery inquisitorial movement. If its perpetrators are “more deeply and more permanently hurt” than its targets, pain does not slow down the delivery of half-truths and outright falsehoods for a moment.

Rooney offers an example of how resentment dresses in the robes of virtue. Because he has published a new novel, he has moved into the line of sight of rich world commentators. With so much competition, how can an attention seeker stand out? Today, there is a ready answer: suggest that your target is racist. Even when the accusation is demonstrably false, levels of fear in the “progressive” west are such that publishers and readers will find all kinds of excuses to bite their tongues.

the Sydney morning herald, whose ethical code Boasting that he has “no desire to cheat” and “no interest in gratifying through relentless abuse,” he ran a lengthy attack on Rooney. Her commentator, Jessie Tu, spends an age bragging about how brave she is for defying the consensus that Rooney is an interesting writer and then announcing: “Normal people It should be called White People because, in Rooney’s world, people like me don’t exist. In the book, Asians are mentioned only as tourists who obstruct museum paths in Italy. “I don’t know why we bother with Venice, it’s full of Asians taking pictures of everything,” complains one of the male characters. “

I was reading the novel when the piece appeared and I encountered the anti-Asian sentiments. They come from a hateful man, Jamie. Rooney portrays him as a sadistic and spoiled rich kid. His casual racism is entirely of character. The simplest of the stupid mistakes a critic can make is to confuse an author with her characters. the HeraldThe critic does just that. I kept reading and wondered if anything more than ordinary stupidity was on display. In the book, Jamie is instantly reprimanded. A man who has lunch with him says, “God forbid you have to meet an Asian person … it’s a bit racist what you just said about Asians.”

The apparent malice here is in the apparent assumption that an author is his characters, along with an omission of inconvenient evidence from the text. The accusation of racism is allowed to remain so that the book can be portrayed as the story of “two healthy, beautiful, white heterosexual people reflecting on how difficult it is to be white, healthy, and straight” (which is not true). t true either).

Every now and then when I try to talk about progressive witch hunts, I come across the answer that I should focus my energies on the evil actors with real power on the right. I do, and I accept that it is true that in England, but not in Nicola Sturgeon’s Scotland, authoritarian conservatives have more power than their progressive counterparts, and they use it to purge the BBC and government bodies of any dissenting voice.

However, this is not a huge reprimand. It should be able to oppose the worst of the left and the right simultaneously. To argue that he is justified in his selective ethics because he is the moral equivalent of Boris Johnson is no argument.

In either case, the power’s damage capacity is relative. It depends on where you are. In most liberal cultural industries, the fear of public embarrassment on the part of progressives is far greater than the fear of state punishment. It’s one thing if the shame is justified, but what happens when the allegations are false?

These are questions almost impossible to answer today. Human resources departments and law enforcement would never give investigators access to their files who wanted to separate true complaints from false ones. However, the open archives of 20th century dictatorial states provide clues to the consequences of allowing denunciation to flourish without regard for the truth.

Historians who investigated the archives of the Gestapo In Nazi Germany, it was estimated that personal malice motivated 40% of complaints to the secret police: wives who wanted their husbands to leave to be with their lovers (and vice versa) and workers who took office politics to the extreme. You hear faint echoes of this today. At highly competitive publishing market, public political outrage can provide a cover for defeating rivals or simply for literary jealousy. In a delightful case in the United States, an author who canceled his contemporaries for appropriating gay themes had to withdraw his own book when he was accused of appropriating Serbian mass murders of Balkan Muslims and using them as a backdrop for a cute love story.

In the UK, many authors have noted the silence of literary organizations, made up of lesser cultural bureaucrats. They are intended to defend writers without fear or favor, but they have failed to condemn the waves of death and rape threats directed at JK Rowling.

The investigation of Communist East Germany, covering the 44 years from Hitler’s fall in 1945 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, is equally suggestive. Historian Hedwig Richter wrote about how East Germans Informed each other, without being asked and when they did not have the legal obligation to expose. Their accusations gave them hope that the state would look at them with kindness and they could “avoid potential problems and misunderstandings in the future.” That impulse to please is the least dramatic but most enduring danger in the heresy hunts of the left (and right). Scared people accompany them for fear of being condemned as heretics if they don’t. The result is a culture that appears self-assured on the surface but is sterile and conformist at heart. You don’t have to look far to find it. It is all around you.

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