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INTERVIEW – Mathieu Bock-Côté sees in an amendment adopted last Tuesday by the Assembly an additional step towards a multiculturalism inspired by North America, which is disastrous for freedom of expression. He warns us against an "Orwellian drift" that he already observes in his own country.

He is the most French of Quebec intellectuals. Mathieu Bock-Côté scrutinizes our country with a mixture of admiration and fear. And wonders about its future. Will France keep its culture of debate? Remain the homeland of dissident words and ideas? Or will she submit to what the sociologist calls the “new diversity regime”. New regime marked by a fussy political correctness which, according to him, would impose a police of language and thought.

LE FIGARO – LREM deputies voted for an amendment to article 1 of the bill of moralization of political life providing for a "compulsory additional penalty of ineligibility" in the event of breach of probity. Probity would imply “acts of discrimination, insult or public defamation, incitement to racial, sexist or sexual orientation hatred” specifies the amendment. What inspires you?

Mathieu BOCK-COTE – You will allow me and forgive me for being frank: I am appalled. And I weigh my words. Obviously, everyone agrees to condemn racism, sexism or homophobia. I would add that our societies are particularly tolerant and have much less to reproach themselves with than we would like to believe. But the problem quickly appears: it is that of the definition. What do these concepts refer to? We are faced with a perhaps unprecedented attempt to exclude not only from the field of political legitimacy, but even from mere legality, speeches and ideas that contradict the dominant ideology. This amendment must be placed in a broader context to understand its meaning: we are faced with a much more brutal ideological offensive than it seems.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”Mathieu BOCK-CÔTÉ” link=”” color=”#993300″ class=”” size=””]“We will have understood it, we accuse of racism those who do not comply with the diverse ideology.”[/perfectpullquote]

Take the example of racism. We have seen to what extent, in recent years, we have amalgamated racism and the defense of the nation. For the diverse left and those who submit to its ideological prescriptions, a historical and entrenched patriotism was nothing but a form of disguised and sophisticated racism. Those who wanted to contain mass immigration were accused of racism. Those who asserted that there was a link between immigration and insecurity were also accused of racism. The same for those who confessed the anguish of a dissolution of the fatherland. This assimilation of the concern for national identity to a form of racism is one of the strong tendencies of the ideological history of the last decades. It will be understood, we accuse of racism those who do not comply with the diverse ideology. What fate will be reserved for those who confess, in an articulate or clumsy way, such concerns?

Let us take the example of the debate on marriage for all as well. It is not a question of returning to the substance of the debate but to the way in which it was conducted. For a significant portion of same-sex marriage supporters, those who opposed it, fundamentally, were homophobic. They couldn't imagine any other reasons for their engagement. As always, among progressives, there are the intolerant and the virtuous. Two philosophies did not clash: there was shadow on one side and light on the other. Are we to understand that in the minds of our new crusaders of ideological virtue, those who marched with the strike for all should be ineligible? Let us put the question another way: should moral and social conservatism simply be legally prohibited from political life?

Let us also take the case of gender theory and its derivatives, such as transgender ideology, which claims to abolish reference to masculine and feminine in public life, and which is emerging almost everywhere in the Western world. It is to comply with its injunctions, for example, that the London Underground will stop saying Ladies and Gentleman to turn to a bland “hello everyone”. Anyone who opposes frontally – or even subtly – this ideology can be accused at any time of sexism or transphobia, as is already the case in North America. Should we also prohibit political life to those who will one day be found guilty? Should we criminalize sooner or later those who continue to believe that human nature is gendered?

[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”#993300″ class=”” size=””]“This amendment creates a climate of serious ideological intimidation, it marks one more step in the ideological stifling of public debate.”[/perfectpullquote]

It is not new that we are witnessing a pathologization of conservatism, reduced to a series of phobias or evil passions. He has long been struck with a suspicion of illegitimacy. There is a form of fundamentalism in modernity that does not tolerate anything that comes under the imagination of finitude and otherness. It is not new either that we are witnessing its demonization: it is presented as a regressive force containing the natural movement of modernity towards emancipation. In a way, now, we intend to penalize it. We'll kick him out of the city for good. It is a form of postmodern ostracism. Let's say the essential: this amendment creates a climate of serious ideological intimidation, it marks one more stage in the ideological stifling of public debate. And let's not doubt the zeal of the victim lobbies who patrol the public space to distribute ideological fines. I will be told that the amendment does not go that far: I will reply that it goes in that direction.

In my opinion, behind this amendment, there is the great ideological fear of progressives in recent years. They thought they had lost the battle of ideas. They believed France was overwhelmed by a reactionary conservative wave that they rightly equated with a rise in racism, xenophobia, sexism and homophobia. They said to themselves: never again. They want to regain control of public debate by translating into the language of intolerance the philosophy that contradicts their own. It is now a question of legally locking the public space against the evil-thinking.

LE FIGARO. – In France, racism is not an opinion, but a crime…

Mathieu BOCK-COTE. – What you need to know is that anti-racist sociology is constantly expanding its definition of racism. It exploits the noble concept of anti-racism for ends that are not.

I give two examples.

For her, or at least, those who oppose positive discrimination would be guilty, without necessarily realizing it, of universalist racism, which would crush difference and diversity. Let's translate: republicanism is racist without knowing it, and those who support it endorse, without necessarily realizing it, however, a racist system. They would participate in the perpetuation of a form of systemic racism.

Conversely, those who would argue that a particular cultural community or religion integrates less well than others with the nation will be accused of differentialist racism because they would thus essentialize communities and implicitly or explicitly prioritize between different cultures and civilizations. Thus, an analysis on the question will not be judged according to its relevance, but disqualified because it is in advance equated with racism.

I note, by the way, that the only uninhibited militants in favor of racial segregation are to be found in the anti-colonial extreme left, which rehabilitates it in its defense of single-sex spaces, as if it were becoming legitimate when it concerns victimized minorities. But this racism, apparently, is respectable and finds its militant defenders on the left...

We have witnessed, in a few decades, an exceptional extension of the field of racism: we must make it ebb and stop the amalgams. Basically, either you are in favor of multiculturalism in one of its variants, or you are racist. Multiculturalism or barbarism? We will be allowed to refuse this alternative. And to refuse it vigorously.

Today there is a task of mental hygiene: it is necessary to define all these words which occupy an immense place in public life and above all, to know how to resist those who use them to bring about a new moral order of which they want to be the passionate guards and policemen. You have to be wary of those who track ulterior motives and who, above all, dream of indicting you for a thought-crime.

LE FIGARO. – Is it reminiscent of North American political correctness? In what?

[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”Mathieu Bock-Coté” link=”” color=”#993300″ class=”” size=””]“Populist, reactionary, far-right: there are many terms to designate a personality who is insubordinate to the new moral order for public vindictiveness.”[/perfectpullquote]

Mathieu BOCK-COTE. – Political correctness has long ceased to be a North American specificity. But as long as we define it as an inhibiting device that serves to socially proscribe the critique of the diversity ideology, we will find that it imposes itself in the manner of a new moral order, and that we find at its service fanatics well. They behave like police officers of language: they hunt down the words which would testify to a persistence of the old world, before the diversifying revelation. Those who do not embrace diversity ideology should know that there will be a high price to pay for dissent. They will be treated like outcasts, like pariahs. They will be given a dirty label which they will no longer be able to get rid of. Populist, reactionary, extreme right: there are many terms to designate for public condemnation a personality rebellious to the new moral order. Therefore, anyone who presents himself in public life with this label is disqualified in advance: it is a warning addressed to all his fellow citizens to remind them to beware of this character. It is infrequent: one will invite it, with the rigor, only to be used as foil. He may be given the floor, but it will be to say that he conceals his true thoughts by multiplying the tricks of language. So our contemporaries are silent. They understand that if they want to pursue a career in academia, in the media, or in politics, they had better shut up and say the right public prayers and not address certain issues. Diversity is a richness, and those who flatten this statement will simply no longer have citizenship. In France, the function of political correctness is to morally disqualify those who do not globally celebrate what could be called the neo-sixties eightard society. With this amendment, the country is taking another step towards political correctness by codifying it legally, or if you prefer, by making it judicial: from now on, it will explicitly model the law.

Yet freedom of speech is a sacred right in the United States protected by the constitution? What about in Canada?

Mathieu BOCK-COTE. – We are upside down. To put it briefly, freedom of expression is legally well defined here, but public life is crushed by a form of diverse ideological consensus which makes debates similar to those found in France impossible. In other words, the control of dissident speech is exercised here less by law than by social control. A politician who clearly opposes multiculturalism, which is also enshrined in the Canadian constitution, would see his career explode. We have the right to say many things, but no one says anything – we must nevertheless take into account the exception in Quebec, where public speech is freer, at least as far as the question of identity is concerned. I note, that said, that in recent years, we have witnessed attempts to judicialize political correctness. Conversely, in France, freedom of expression is subject to a thousand constraints which seem insane to me, but the culture of debate remains strong, which is not surprising insofar as it is inscribed in the history of the country and in the community psychology.

How did this "political correctness" come about? What are the consequences for public debate?

Mathieu BOCK-COTE. – This is one of the results of the mutation of the radical left that followed the Radical Sixties. It will really become institutionalized in the 1980s, in the American university. We know the story of the conversion of the radical left, from socialism to multiculturalism and from economic issues to societal issues. The class struggle was giving way to the culture war, and the battle for the mastery of language will become vital, which is not surprising if one remembers Orwell's reflections on Newspeak. He who masters the language will master the collective consciousness and certain feelings will simply become inexpressible by dint of being censored.

But let's go back to the history of political correctness: in North American universities, we wanted to open up to minority words, which implied, in the spirit of the radical left, to unbolt the great figures of Western civilization, lumped together in the loathsome category of dead white men. In other words, culture was no longer culture, but knowledge ensuring the hegemony of the dominant over the dominated: we wanted to constitute ideological counter-knowledge specific to dominated or marginalized groups. It is a very Bourdieusian logic. The humanities were the inaugural terrain of this battle. It would now be the historical turn of minorities (and more exactly, of those who claim to speak in their name, this nuance is essential) and it is they who should define, based on their feelings, the boundaries of what can be said in public life. They are the ones who should define what they perceive as "racism", "sexism", "homophobia". And we should all submit to this new morality. We even invite the "majority" to be silent in the name of elementary decency. We remain here in the logic of post-Marxism: the new identity minorities emerging from the margins of Western civilization are supposed to embody a new diversified revolutionary subject.

But we forgot that there can be a victim fundamentalism and a minority fanaticism, which poured into the uninhibited hatred of the white man, considered universal bastard of the history of the world. Western society is subject to an ideological process that never stops. I was just telling you: these notions are constantly expanding and everything that relates to society before the diverse revelation will end up in the waste of yesterday's world, of which there should not be any traces left. And it is increasingly difficult to stand up to this delirium. At the very least, it will require a great deal of civic courage.

And at the moment, the North American university, which remains the institutional fabric of political correctness, has gone very far in this delirium: we know the concept of cultural appropriation which consists in proscribing cultural crossings insofar as they would allow the white man to plunder the cultural symbols of the victimized minorities. Yesterday we sang about interbreeding, now we praise the ethnic integrity of victimized minorities. We also want to multiply the safe spaces there, which allow the victimized minorities to transform the university into a space impermeable against the speeches which come into contradiction with their vision of the world. It is on this basis that lobbies precisely claiming to represent minority-victims have repeatedly called for censorship of such speech or such event. For these lobbies, freedom of expression does not deserve too much praise because it would be exploited in the service of the dominant social forces. They do not recognize any value in it and believe it necessary to transgress the requirements of liberal civility, which allowed different perspectives to peacefully confront each other through democratic debate. These lobbies are driven by a logic of civil war.

What is terrible is that the logic of political correctness contaminates the whole of public debate. It comes from the extreme left but comes to redefine more generally the terms of the political debate. All come to submit little by little to his demands. Political correctness leads to a frightening impoverishment of intellectual and political life. The prohibited themes are multiplying: democracy is emptying itself of the essential issues which should be subject to popular sovereignty insofar as we only want to see behind it the tyranny of the majority. Large sections of the population are psychiatrized by accusing them of a thousand phobias. The people are presented as a mass intoxicated by ugly prejudices and stereotypes: it would consequently be necessary to re-educate them to purge them of the part of the old world which would still act in them.

There are more and more specialists in the ideological process. They patrol the public space in search of slippages – this term is telling insofar as it tells us that public deliberation must take place in a well-marked corridor and that it is not allowed to leave it.

I would add one thing: the guardians of political correctness are not content with a moderate rallying to the theses they put forward: they demand enthusiasm. You have to ostentatiously demonstrate your support for the new diversity regime by speaking its language. Many militant journalists also pose as inquisitors: they want to make politicians or intellectuals confess their bad thoughts. They test them on the subject of the day by looking for the fault, by wanting to provoke the statement that will cause a scandal. They want to prove that deep down they are horrible reactionaries.

LE FIGARO. – Is it the corollary of multiculturalism?

Mathieu BOCK-COTE. – Multiculturalism is crossed by a strong authoritarian temptation – to put it mildly. It is disputed – no one seriously believes it has popular support anymore. He must then silence his opponents. He does this by demonizing them. Those who report bad news about him are accused of spreading hatred. Information that does not corroborate soothing stories about living together will be treated at best as a news item that does not deserve significant attention, at worst as an undesirable fact that would above all reveal the regressive psychology of the person who bears witness to it. Moreover, we see this with the repeated lawsuits against Eric Zemmour: We can think what we want of his ideas, but what is certain is that he is being prosecuted for what will be called ideological crimes. He doesn't see the world as we would like him to see it, so we work hard to bring him down. And we say to ourselves that once we get rid of this character, no one will come to disturb the idyllic description of the diverse society. We want to set an example with him. I also note that Zemmour is not alone in this situation: Georges Bensoussan and Pascal Bruckner have also tasted the charms of legal persecution. I forget. These were odious trials.

But we can also want to go further. In Quebec, in 2008, a prominent academic proposed to the government to give certain authorities responsible for regulating media life the power to temporarily suspend the publication of newspapers offering a negative representation of diversity.

All this to say that multiculturalism, to be maintained, must demonize and now penalize those who put it on trial.

But it must be seen that multiculturalism does not mix well with freedom of expression, insofar as the cohabitation between different communities presupposes a form of generalized censorship where everyone refrains from judging the traditions and customs of others. This is called living together: it is a gross fraud. We see it when certain communities want to enshrine their conception of blasphemy in the law, or at least when they want to oblige society as a whole to respect their moral prohibitions, as we have seen in the case of the cartoons. I say certain communities: we should speak, more exactly, of the radicals who take a community hostage by claiming to speak in its name.

The genius of modernity is the right to examine and question any belief, without having to submit to its guardians who would force us to respect it. It is the believers who must accept that people do not believe the same thing as them and give themselves the right to mock their deepest convictions, without this quarrel degenerating into violence. We are asked to respect the sensitivity of each other, as if there were a right not to be offended and a right of veto granted to each community so that it can define the way in which it is represented.

LE FIGARO. – Can this type of provision also be used by Islamists to prohibit any criticism of Islam?

Mathieu BOCK-COTE. – Naturally. This is the whole meaning of the dispute over Islamophobia: it is a question of transforming into a hateful and socially toxic pathology the simple criticism of a religion or the simple observation of its very difficult inclusion in the political and cultural parameters of the western civilization.

Islamists excel in turning the logic of human rights against the Western world to advance ethno-religious claims. In the same way, they will know how to use these new provisions to present as so many hate speech the speeches which seek to contain and repress their influence, in particular by criticizing the strategy of identity exhibitionism based in large part on the promotion of the Islamic veil. in public space. We will try to pass off any criticism of Islamism that is the slightest bit strong as a form of racial or religious hatred deserving legal and political sanction. Incidentally, in 2015-2016, Quebec came very close to adopting a law that would have penalized criticism of religions in general and Islam in particular. It was supported by a paragovernmental institution officially dedicated to the defense and promotion of human rights. We can see to what extent today this movement has turned against the ideals it claims to serve.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”Mathieu Bock-Coté” link=”” color=”#993300″ class=”” size=””]“But Islamism is not Islam, will you tell me? It's true. But it should be permissible to criticize Islam too, both in its theological core and in its various cultural varieties, just as it is possible to criticize any other religion.”[/perfectpullquote]

But Islamism is not Islam, will you tell me? It's true. But it should be permissible to criticize Islam too, both in its theological core and in its various cultural varieties, just as it is possible to criticize any other religion. As far as I know, abrasive criticism, mockery, humour, polemics, also belong to the register of freedom of expression in a liberal democracy. It is to be feared that in a society increasingly patrolled by the media by progressive right-thinking, criticism of Islam will simply become unimaginable.

Multiculturalism as a political religion by Mathieu Bock-Côté, Éditions du Cerf, 2016, 367 p., €24
Multiculturalism as a political religion by Mathieu Bock-Côté, Éditions du Cerf, 2016, 367 p., €24

We come back to basics: the restoration of liberal democracy today requires the restoration of maximum freedom of expression, which would no longer be held under the tutelage and surveillance of the lobbies that participate in the world of politically correct. The amendment we are talking about proposes exactly the opposite. It is very worrying.






Source: © Le Figaro Premium – Bock-Côté: “France is taking another step towards American-style political correctness”


  • Albert Myara
    Posted August 2 9h16 0Likes

    What a luminous and penetrating analysis of the ravages caused by the phenomena of “political correctness” and multiculturalism, whose frightening leaden screed has descended on our so-called “open and advanced” societies! How many decades of intellectual disintegration and moral decadence will it take to open the eyes of entire generations poisoned by this neo-Stalinism of thought and speech?!

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