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Wild Youth’s witch-burning of Ian Banham

When I was assigned, at yesterday’s editorial meeting, the task of writing about the decision by Irish Eurovision entry “Wild Youth” to dispense with the services of their choreographer over some tweets he had sent, I confess I emitted something of a sigh.

There really is not much to say: Either you think this person is a man – as their former choreographer clearly did, along with most people with two working eyes – or you think that saying this person is a man is transphobic hate speech, as the band themselves clearly do.

That disagreement should be remarkable enough. But add to it the fact that taking the view that the person in the photograph above is a man is not only considered disagreement, but offensive enough to get you sacked? Well, we’re through the looking glass.

Note, if you will, the “apology” from the band’s lead singer, Conor O’Donohoe:

“First, I want to apologise with my whole heart to anyone who has been hurt or even had to read such horrible tweets”.

What is he apologising for? He did not author the tweets in question, in the first place. In the second place, nobody “had” to read them – Ian Banham has a mere 1,500 followers on twitter, and probably had many fewer than that before this controversy broke. If anything, the band’s decision has given those tweets a much wider audience: I for one did not even know Ian Banham existed until late on Tuesday evening.

The pleading nature of the apology is notable because of what it reveals about the thought process behind it: The acceptance that Mr. Banham’s views on trans people are not only wrong, but obviously and immediately and unforgivably wrong and offensive. There’s no “why” involved: Saying that the person above is male is just immediately disqualifying, and if you so much as ask why, then your own thinking becomes suspect and dangerous and potentially worthy of cancellation. Thought, in this instance, is the enemy of virtue.

Nor is there any question of mitigation to be considered: The rights to free speech, or freedom of conscience simply do not exist and cannot be weighed, in the face of any disagreement on transgender issues. There is no question of anybody adopting a position along the lines of “we disagree with Mr. Banham, but he has a right to his views”. Simply associating, in any way, with a person with the wrong views is automatically disqualifying, and must be apologised for. Even if, as in this case, you were not even aware of those views.

This is little short of totalitarianism. There’s an old saying that you cannot reason somebody out of a position that they did not reason themselves into in the first place. If an idea is held not because you have thought it through, but because you have internalised it as religious belief, then disagreement is not simply disagreement, but heresy. Sacking Ian Banham is in the same family of decision as the decision to lock up Galileo for claiming that the world was not flat, and not very far removed from holding witch trials. The witches, at least, got a show trial. Banham didn’t even get that.

The obvious question is where this impulse comes from, and why it is so strong in the young in particular. The obvious answer is that it comes from the western education system, and its capture by the most totalitarian ideologues on the progressive left. Just this week, the Department of Education approved a new curriculum which proposes to teach children, as a matter of fact, that gender can be chosen. When something is taught as fact with the authority of the education system, reasoning people out of it becomes nigh on impossible: Imagine trying to tell a college student that they breath hydrogen, not oxygen, and you’d get the same reaction.

This all poses a problem for those of us who still believe in reason. How, in the context of a democracy, can you argue your way to common sense with those whose views cannot be changed by logical argument or scientific fact? The true believers, as in this case, are willing to use methods that go beyond the democratic and veer directly into the totalitarian: Destroying careers, reputations, and lives, in order to impose their views by making overt disagreement a terrifying prospect. The next Ian Banham, for example, will just keep his private views to himself, in order to keep his job. And his silence will in turn hand victory to those who believe that the fellow in the first photograph above is a woman.

The only answer, I think, is that those of us who believe in the opposite view must fight fire with fire. Wild Youth should be ostracised, and boycotted. Until that happens, the tide of this fight will keep flowing in the direction of the only side willing to destroy people to win it.

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