According to Fergus Finlay, writing in The Irish Examiner, many ‘attention seeking’ journalists are getting the ‘woke’ phenomenon all wrong. Basically it’s a great force for awareness raising and we should not be unduly disturbed by the odd bit of ‘silliness’ when some of the overly woke push political correctness too far.  For someone who has been opining across every media platform for decades, accusing other commentators of ‘attention seeking’ is a bit too obvious a double standard to pass without remark.

He can’t understand how any of them could reasonably claim, as Sunday Times columnist, Larissa Nolan did, that wokism is ‘ a merciless world of zero tolerance, grievance seeking, cancellations,…… and most disturbingly of all, pleasure through punishment of others’. Complete fantasy or complete fabrication to Finlay’s thinking. Sure, hasn’t he himself been mouthing off for years without experiencing any such reactions.

It looks like Finlay spends his life in a hermetically sealed cultural bubble. Most people of Fergus Finlay’s thinking who took the time to peer over their ideological bunkers would find it very hard indeed to deny the truth of Larissa Nolan’assertions. It is possible of course there are some who would hold out whatever the evidence.  After all, one person’s idea of a concentration camp could be another’s idea of an education and training centre as any Chinese official will tell you. One person’s idea of free speech can be another’s idea of indictable hate speech, one person’s ‘peaceful protest’ can be another’s idea of anarchy let loose and so on. Still Fergus Finlay would need to be very deep in denial or delusion to consider some of the things that have happened in the name of woke ideology to be either fully justified or just a bit of harmless silliness.

it is hard to know where to start or what examples to offer Finlay and his fellow travellers. Perhaps journalism might be as good a place as any. The single most controversial woke cause by far at this moment is transgenderism.  It has given self-identified transwomen, with male genitalia and hormones, the freedom and the right to enter women’s and girls’ washrooms with impunity. They can compete in women’s sport and like New Zealand weightlifter, Laurel Hubbard, take a gold medal home. They can win Woman of the Year awards as Caitlyn Jenner did. They have the right, to be placed in womens’ prisons, even when their crime is sexual assault against women, as happened in the case of Karen Black in the UK who was later transferred to a mens’ prison for reasons too obvious to cite.  Those same rights and entitlements are acknowledged under Irish law which allows self-identiification in a process that is simpler and apparently speedier than getting a driving licence. Fair and square Fergus Finlay?

The fact is many women journalists and writers beg to differ and have indeed gone on to suffer the ‘cancellations and punishments’ that Larissa Nolan cites. Juilie Bindel, Germaine Greer and JK Rowling head the list of feminist writers who have suffered in no small measure for the stands they took.  JK Rowling also defended the right of other women, not so powerful as herself, to express their views. In fact the catalyst for her ‘outing’ was not the issue itself but what she saw as the gross unfairness of the dismissal of tax consultant Maya Forstater for daring to say that transwomen were not the same as actual women and should not be treated as such.  Whatever one thinks on the issue itself is not material here. What is material is the suppression, under severe sanction, of the right to dissent. That is the real horror of wokism.

It has entered academia with just the same venom. A woman with well established feminist and socialist credentials, Professor Selina Todd of Oxford was given protection after threats from transgender activists and no-platformed in the university where she holds a chair in modern history for raising similar questions about trasgenderism. Jordan Peterson who holds, among other woke heresies, that the intact family offers children the best start in life and should be promoted as an idea, was dis-invited to take up a fellowship post in Cambridge University.  The reason the university gave was that, ‘Cambridge is an inclusive environment and we expect all our staff to uphold our principles’. I am sure Fergus Finlay is on board with that. But what would he say to the same university’s response some time later to the provocative comments of associate professor, Priamyada Gopal who controversially tweeted, ‘ white lives don’t matter’. Pressed for action, the university issued a statement defending ‘ the right of its academics to express their own lawful opinions which others might find controversial’.  Gopal re-tweeted her tweet and got rewarded with a full professorship in the university’s school of English. The word ‘lawful’ is interesting. To date I think it is lawful to say that the nuclear family offers children the best outcomes, that research supports it. However, it may hover over the borders of lawful under emerging hate laws. It could conceivably fail some notional inclusivity and diversity test.

Trinity College is no stranger to no-platforming, dis-inviting, cancel culture either. Even Professor Richard Dawkins whose book, The God Delusion, was so well received by the woke community fell foul of the liberal Dublin university because of certain views he expressed on transgenderism, which as a biologist he should be allowed have an opinion on one would expect, and because it came to light that his dismissal of religion applied to Islamic faith as well as Christianity. So that was no longer okay. Atheism had to line up with the affirmation of religious minorities, somehow.

But for Fergus Finlay, assuming he knows what goes on in the greater world, this might be at very worst a bit ‘silly and nutty’. Nothing for attention seeking journalists to get in a flap about. The odd one losing her or his livelihood and suffering online harassment. It wouldn’t occur to him that many more are muzzled by what they see happen to the prominent examples? He might not say so but could he possibly think that that was the whole point of making  such examples? And it seems to be working. The forced consensus is oppressive, palpably guarded and underspoken.

It is ‘the gun toting militias’ we need to worry about according to Finlay. They are ‘in a different league’ altogether to the mostly well meaning, pacifist advocates of wokism. No one is advocating complacency about rightist extremism but at the moment the threat to the social and political fabric is from the ‘peaceful’ protests of BLM and Antifa over the summer of 2020 in America that caused, according to preliminary insurance estimates, 1.2 billion dollars of damage to peoples’ properties and businesses. It also claimed  at least 25 lives of people of all ethnicities.  Kamala Harris, Vice President in waiting, was one of a number of prominent Democrats who contributed to a bail fund for those charged with arson and looting.

Did anyone notice that the ‘deplorables’ did not take to the streets after the election of Joe Biden?  No one shouted or walked behind banners that declared, ‘ Not My President’. When the early results indicated a Trump victory, journalists covering the story from Washington noticed huddled black clad figures gathering in doorways. They were not ‘gun toting militias’. When the streets of some US cities were being stormed by BLM and others last summer a New York Times columnist, James Bennet, lost his job for suggesting it was time to send federal troops to protect America’s cities.  Yet, another journalist to fall under the wheels of wokism. Fergus Finlay seems to be as woke as a hungry fox at midnight but as oblivious to the world outside his ideological cave as a hibernating bear.