The likes of Nick Sandmann, Dave Chappelle, Todd Phillips and now Douglas Murray have either been vocal in their dislike or active in pushing back against the ever present 'cancel culture' which has poisoned public discourse. For their efforts, some have sought to demonise them to such a degree that it's seemingly impossible to have a proper conversation or debate around some of the most sensitive issues of the day.
Murray, of course, is no stranger to this. His appearance at the Belfast Book Festival a few years ago saw calls for the event to be cancelled. Even the person scheduled to interview him was subjected to variations on the phrase "how dare you give a platform to someone like Murray."
So it's not a surprise that, having addressed the immigration debate in The Strange Death of Europe (a book I was unable to finish due to its smug tone), he chooses to address various issues that dominate the modern world such as LGBTQIA, Marxism, race, feminism and trans, all of which get their own chapters.
It's an intriguing concept but, truthfully, there's very little that hasn't been discussed before on these issues (such as the oddity of second wave feminists like Julie Bindel and Germaine Greer being vilified for not holding the "correct" views on transgender people) and a lot of the tales about US colleges have already been discussed in books like Claire Fox's I Find That Offensive, which renders the book with less gravitas than expected. And like The Strange Death of Europe there is an element of smugness that runs through the anecdote telling, although not to the same degree as before.
Where the book does work is when Murray offers up an alternative viewpoint to the one he's discussing, showing his willingness to consider all angles before arriving at his own opinion. For example, he cites Conundrum by Jan Morris as an example of a concise viewpoint and description of gender dysphoria and transitioning that it is impossible to read it and dismiss the notion that transgender identity does not exist.
Another example is when he discusses the so called 'gay conversion' types. After viewing their documentary, Murray makes it clear that he find them a harmless and odd bunch very much on the wrong side of the argument in this day and age. However, when considering the vast scorn and frenzy driven by the gay press, Murray admits that he's:
... aware of the thrill that can occur when the boot is on the other foot, I feel a reluctance to treat them in victory as some of their ideological confrères might have treated me if we had met before, in different circumstances. The manner in which people and movements behave at the point of victory can be the most revealing thing about them. Do you allow arguments that worked for you to work for others?
It's a telling thought, and an uncomfortable one for those who were once considered minorities but who now wield significant power themselves.
As a succinct reference point for those who want to read a conservative take on these issues, The Madness of Crowds does the job, just about. For someone looking an introduction to the culture wars, this tome hits the mark and will help provoke a few arguments as well.
Douglas Murray, 2019, The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity. Bloomsbury ISBN-13: 978-1472959959
⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland.