15 January 2022

The rise of the ‘Culture Control Left’ is an affront to the rule of law

By Marc Glendening

Imagine just for a moment that improbably members of the English Defence League had just been acquitted by a north London jury of desecrating the tomb of Karl Marx in Highgate cemetery. How do you think the Metropolitan Police would have responded? Hopefully, and almost certainly, they would have condemned both the verdict and those who had carried out this act of criminal damage.

They might, and should, also have gone on to say that they would continue to pursue anybody who did this type of thing again. Furthermore, they would be putting in place special security measures to protect the tomb. The Met, in this hypothetical situation, would have been confirming their politically impartial position as upholders of the rule of law and property rights.

Compare our hypothetical scenario to what Andy Bennett, the Superintendent of Somerset of and Avon Police, said about the acquittal of the ‘Colston Four’ in Bristol. Slave trader Edward Colston, Bennett said, was a ‘historical figure that’s caused the black community quite a lot of angst over the last couple of years…I do understand why it’s happened, it’s very symbolic.’

Revealingly he went on to say:

‘You might wonder why we didn’t intervene and why we just allowed people to put it in the docks – we made a tactical decision, to stop people from doing the act may have caused further disorder and we decided the safest thing to do, in terms of our policing tactics, was to allow it to take place.’

What we are seeing with the selective enforcement of policing and application of the law in numerous instances is the emergence of a semi-official state ideology, one that is closely aligned to what can be described as the ‘Culture Control Left’ (CCL).

This includes a very broad range of groups, of which Black Lives Matter is a core constituent. It’s not just protestors though. Police officers, including the Chief Constable of Kent, Alan Pughsley, have ostentatiously taken the knee in front of BLM demonstrators to show that they too believe Britain is a ‘structurally’ racist society. Mr Pughsley said he wanted to demonstrate ‘humility’ in front of BLM protesters by doing so.

Likewise, when Extinction Rebellion, together with their offshoot, Insulate Britain, have caused illegal disruption, the police have far too often refused to intervene on behalf of commuters and business owners.

While BLM and XR may appear to be extreme manifestations of neo-left activism and thinking – both openly dismiss the notion of liberal democracy – the Culture Control Left now has the support of an army of effective ‘fellow travellers’ within both officialdom and politics. When XR in 2020 blockaded newspaper printing plants to stop the distribution of national newspapers they disapproved of, Labour politicians Dianne Abbott and Dawn Butler tweeted their support for this thuggish attack on freedom of speech. Likewise, Labour MPs Richard Burgon and Zarah Sultana have expressed their pleasure at the non-conviction of the Colston Four (as has well-known Independent MP Jeremy Corbyn).

What is beginning to emerge is the creation of a wide authoritarian coalition that, in the name of equality, prioritise the unequal treatment of individuals. The CCL and their fellow travellers are engaged therefore in classic ‘double-think’ and ‘double-speak’. Group-based transfers of power, by definition, require that some categories of people get awarded privileges and others have their rights compromised.

As a result, measures designed allegedly to suppress the ultra-Orwellian concept of ‘hate speech’ are applied asymmetrically: it’s OK, quite rightly, to be able to articulate Critical Race Theory, to call for extremely unpleasant things to be directed against Tories, TERFs, the capitalist class, men or Piers Morgan, but if your views are beyond the cultural pale, a different standard of law might be applied. Just ask the thousands of people who have been placed on police Non Crime Hate Incident databases (which have no legal foundation) for simply articulating gender critical views.

The Metropolitan Police’s Online Hate Crime Hub confirms that force’s commitment to the politics of inequality when it states that victims of crime ‘should not be treated the same [emphasis mine]…the police service must deliver a service which recognises the different experiences, perceptions and needs of a diverse society’.

And the law itself now enshrines the identity-politics paradigm. The Equality Act 2010 and the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 have established additional rights for those with ‘protected characteristics’. There are harsher penalties for those who commit crimes against people with those characteristics than those without. Some victims, it seems, are more equal than others.

Simply put, groups such as XR and BLM have effectively awarded themselves the right to use force to infringe others’ rights. They are taking to the next level a mindset that has started to be put in place more conventionally by the British state. The two sometimes come together when those charged with enforcing the law decide to only apply it on a highly selective basis and turn a blind eye to the activities of the CCL hardcore.

The first stage in fighting this challenge to liberal values is clearing the conceptual fog that hangs over this part of the culture war. That means labelling and exposing the coalition that is incrementally removing our cultural and political liberties. The old-style authoritarians of the twentieth century at least had the good grace to clearly identify themselves and to take ownership of the anti-liberal creeds they espoused. The postmodern nature of the CCL means that this now falls to those of us who believe in political liberty, (regardless of our other differences of opinion).

Only by doing this, will the silent majority who adhere to the values of free speech and equality under the law, become fully aware of what’s happening and resist the erosion of our basic liberties.

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Marc Glendening is Head of Cultural Affairs at the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.