Why America’s social justice narratives always crash and burn

21 October 2021

7:00 AM

21 October 2021

7:00 AM

The wonderful thing about woke narratives is that you only have to wait a while until they collapse. The core of Donald Trump’s appeal in 2016, we were told by the media, was that white supremacists and various gammons saw a chance to reverse racial progress. The results of 2020 showed that, in fact, black and Latino support for Trump had increased over those four years, while Biden won by increasing his white male vote. The ‘racial reckoning’ in the wake of George Floyd’s murder was proof, we were told, that we needed to ‘defund the police’. Only months later, the Democratic primary for New York City’s mayoral election was won by a black former cop, Eric Adams, who promised to increase police funding and had more support among African Americans and Latinos than upscale whites.

Last year every major media organisation ran story after story about how white supremacists, inspired by Trump’s rhetoric on the ‘China virus’, were inflicting random violence against Asian Americans. As video after video and local news story after local news story showed that the attacks were largely by young black men or deranged homeless people, the establishment media started to run articles about ‘multiracial whiteness’ to cover their posteriors. While racial justice figures insisted critical race theory (CRT) was only being taught in a few law schools, teachers leaked secondary and even primary school curricula showing precisely the concepts of CRT in action. The CRT scholars moved seamlessly to the argument that, sure, it’s there — and should be taught.

Unlike in Britain, where there is a strong debate about trans questions, especially the treatment of children with gender dysphoria, the woke media in the US will not print a word about it, and when they do, describe it as function of hateful transphobia and nothing else. But last week we found out, in fact, that medical treatment of gender dysphoric kids was ‘sloppy, sloppy healthcare’, without sufficient attention to kids’ overall mental health, and that many children who have been put on puberty blockers, followed by cross sex hormones, will never experience an orgasm as an adult. Who told us this? Two transgender surgeons who are pre-eminent practitioners of trans surgery — on the board of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health — no less.

We were also told it was an absurd idea that some people might abuse trans-inclusive provisions that allow trans women with male genitalia to be in intimate spaces with other women. And then a sex offender showed up in a spa in Los Angeles. First the media argued that nothing had happened, and that transphobes were making it up. Then they ran defensive pieces reluctantly copping to the truth. A second case is unfolding in Virginia, with a rape in a school girls’ toilet. We don’t know all the facts yet, but it has a similar dynamic. Has any movement ever crashed and burned more quickly than the social justice revolution? Yet it powers on strong, sustained by the unfalsifiable, its increasing passion commensurate to the debunking that happens every day.


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This article is an extract from Andrew Sullivan’s Spectator Diary, which appears in the forthcoming issue of the magazine.

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