The Corner

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Hate Isn’t Something You’re Against

(Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

At the weekend there was a gay pride march in Waltham Forest. This is one of those parts of East London that is generally termed ‘diverse’— that glorious catch-all, problem-covering-over, term.

Anyhow — the citizens of Waltham Forest didn’t all react well to the march. Among those who objected was a Muslim woman, who was wearing full face covering and who started shouting at the gays. At one man in particular (bedecked in a rainbow-flag) the woman kept shouting ‘Shame on you, you despicable people.’

Video of this incident soon came out online and inadvertently highlighted two interesting lies of the modern multicultural state. The first emerged when someone — presumably one of the other pride marchers — at one point shouted back at the angry Muslim woman, ‘That’s what the racists and fascists say about you’. You have to give it to the rainbow coalition believers that they’ll sustain their catechism even when they’re staring the problem right in the niqab. I don’t know how many ‘racists and fascists’ there are in Britain. Of the latter in particular it is impossible to think of anyone – and certainly nobody in any kind of position – who is a fascist. True there is a segment of the left which has decided that everybody up to and including our new prime minister is a fascist. But generally speaking there is a dearth of these types in Britain. And a happier country we are for the fact. But in order to march to the beat of the era it is necessary to pretend that the country is absolutely choc-a-bloc with fascists. If we do not pretend that then it is hard to know what to do when you are wearing a rainbow flag yet being berated by the part of the diversity flag that seems to have got away. You might actually have to make a judgement, after all, mightn’t you.

The other telling response to the incident is all the people who have decided to go down the ‘hate’ angle. This has been the main reaction online. ‘We must unite against all forms of hate’ is the mantra of the day. And that means there must be consequences. So from the local Labour MP to a Muslim Baroness in the House of Lords there have been calls to find the woman who did the shouting and prosecute her. I see at least two obvious problems with that idea: one practical, the other moral. To the practical one I might just say, ‘Good luck with that.’ What exactly do people think are the chances of picking out this woman in a police line-up? Perhaps a lot of women in full face coverings could be got in a row and each invited to shout some anti-gay remarks at the man in the video. A sort of niqabi open-mic session. And then perhaps our man in the rainbow flag can pick out the voice he thinks closest to that of the screaming harridan he met in Waltham Forest at the weekend.

But the bigger problem is the moral one. I’m no fan of people shouting offensive remarks at anyone, but I don’t see that there should be a police man-hunt for the woman. And I’m not sure anyone else really does either. Except that all of this is part of the absolutely central ‘anti-hate’ narrative which has been the main response since the video emerged online.

One day — the riff goes — we might have to counter hate when it comes from a woman in a niqab shouting anti-gay abuse. But the next day it might just as easily come from a fascist (who knows, perhaps even a gay fascist) who is shouting at a niqabi woman. Only by always opposing this amorphous yet conquerable force — ‘hate’ — can we all be sure to live in the diverse, rainbow society that we all want to live in.

For the time being this is the acceptable narrative. And I don’t see anyone in authority budging on it anytime soon. Which is a shame. Because for my own part I can’t see how this will work. On occasions I entertain the crazy idea that we may never completely manage to expunge all ‘hate’ from the human heart. Let alone create a society where nobody feels any hate for anyone else. Do the brave ‘anti-hate’ people themselves believe that we will arrive at this state? Or do they just have to keep saying so? I don’t know. But what I do know is that they would be perfectly in their rights not to believe it. ‘Hate’ is not just a thing you can be against. It’s like being against ‘death’ or ‘love.’ It’s a human thing. The more interesting question is ‘What are the ideas we are against and which are the ideas we are for?’ In contemporary Britain — as with most other western diversity-obsessed societies — nobody wants to answer that question in any depth because we suspect that something might have to give. Perhaps it’ll be the gay rights march. Or perhaps it will be the niqabi woman. I don’t know. But I do know that, since it’s the question people want to talk about least, one of the only ways people ever will confront it is when they see it playing out at its starkest. As it did on the streets of London at the weekend.

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