the twilight of the phobo-philes
In multicultural Britain, writes Mark Steyn, "if a Muslim says that Islam is opposed to homosexuality, he can be investigated for homophobia; but if a gay says that Islam is opposed to homosexuality, he can be investigated for Islamophobia." Ironically, since neither group can afford to tell the truth about itself, each has cynically exploited the dishonesty of the other:
One can't help noticing the speed and skill with which Muslim lobby groups have mastered the language of victimhood so adroitly used by the gay lobby. If I were the latter, I'd be a little miffed at these Ahmed-come-latelys. "Homophobia" was always absurd: people who are antipathetic to gays are not afraid of them in any real sense. The invention of a phony-baloney "phobia" was a way of casting opposition to their political agenda as a kind of mental illness. On the other hand, "Islamophobia" is not phony or even psychological but very literal -- if you're a Dutch MP or Danish cartoonist in hiding under threat of death, your Islamophobia is highly justified. But Islam's appropriation of the gay lobby's framing of the debate is very artful.
Multiculturalism, at root, is an assault on Christianity, and its enforcement of the norms of "diversity" and "tolerance" displays those Stalinist-style asymmetries we've all come to take for granted. But the enforcers overreached themselves. Having defined intolerance as synonymous with Christianity -- such that they became interchangeable terms -- the rainbow coalitionists found they had no weapon with which to combat hostility trained on them by non-Christians. If Nigerian Muslims bury adultresses alive, we must celebrate the practice as part of the rich tapestry of cultural diversity.
By the same token, the hysterical vocabulary of oppression has bled oppression itself of its shock value, such that this ploy too has turned out to be an autogol. If you call the CDF's letter on the Care of the Homosexual Person a case of gay-bashing, fine. If you call the Instruction on Seminary Admissions an act of violence, great. But then, after some transgressive playwright is found in an alley with his throat sliced through to the spine, you can't blame folks -- the folks you coached -- if they yawn and turn to the baseball scores.
So also with the weaponry of Identity Politics. In the short run, as Steyn suggests, it's a clever ruse to tag your adversaries with a "phobia" -- it puts them in an invidious position from the outset and saves you the trouble of wrestling honestly with their objections. But subverting rationality comes at a cost, a big one: convince your opponents that there are no true differences of opinion, only differences of motive, and you remove their only reason for restraint. Theo van Gogh fans may call to mind Hilaire Belloc's couplet, "The Pacifist":
Pale Ebenezer thought it wrong to fight,
But Roaring Bill (who killed him) thought it right.
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