After Cologne, Feminism is Dead
If German history in general is short on laughs (even Schopenhauer’s explanation of the psychology of humour in The World As Will and Representation is unrelentingly miserable) the period 1933 to 1945 is emphatically joyless. Though one of the few tragi-comic chapters in the horror story of Nazism concerns a strange little organization called the Association of German National Jews. They were a pro-National Socialist Jewish group whose membership not only welcomed Hitler’s accession but actively promoted the self-eradication of Jewish identity and its absorption into the new, heroic, master-culture represented by the Nazis (it was said of them, tongue only partly in cheek, that their motto was “down with us”). In 1935, predictably and forcibly, the group was disbanded. Whereas Stalin had his useful idiots, for Hitler there could be no useful Jews.
With the above in mind, Marx needs revision. History repeats itself: First as farce, then as tragedy. No longer the unofficial motto of a handful of obscure pre-war self-hating Jews, Down With Us has latterly been adopted (or so it seems) as an official article of policy by the German government itself. Here is a country whose improvident approach to Near Eastern immigration these past few months is quite literally threatening its future as a liberal, progressive, democratically-viable European nation-state. It wouldn’t take an especially imaginative political cartoonist to show Frau Merkel as Frankenstein- throwing levers and blowing fuses as she botches an attempt to graft a million (and counting) Muslim refugees onto the body politic of an increasingly mutilated society. In politics as in cheap Gothic literature, such experiments breed monsters.
Some of us are old enough to remember when refugees consisted almost entirely (and by definition) of the most vulnerable members of any given country in crisis: Women, children, the elderly, and so forth. Today, on the other hand, most of the Muslims arriving in Europe from the Near East seem to be young men of fighting age: Young men whose views regarding Jews, gays, and of course women are completely at odds with Europe’s liberal tradition as it’s evolved these past few centuries; a liberal tradition which Germany, for obvious reasons, has sought to reify in its approach to domestic and international affairs ever since the end of the war. But thanks in no small measure to mass Muslim immigration, antisemitism in its most predatory incarnation is once again the norm on German streets, while misogyny is more or less accepted, even expected. It is to choke on the irony of it all. In the name of a long-cherished tradition of tolerance, Germany is becoming savagely intolerant: Totally unsafe for Jews who dare to display their Judaism in public, and increasingly unsafe for women who dare even to go out in public at all after nightfall (or use a swimming pool; or attend a carnival; or do pretty much anything short of redacting their identity behind a hijab and never leaving the house again).
The details of what exactly went on in Cologne and other German cities on New Year’s Eve 2015 are too horrible and by now too well-known to merit repetition. What deserves to be iterated and reiterated by way of a cautionary tale is the story of the shameful reaction of the German authorities (both local and national) to an unprecedented outbreak of mass sexual truancy among highly organized sections of the migrant community: A reaction which went through textbook stages of denial, cover-up, and, eventually, victim-blaming (in the immediate aftermath of the assaults, the [female] Mayor of Cologne sprang into action with a set of guidelines for women on how best to behave in public so as not to inflame the migrant libido). Lie back and think of multiculturalism, German women were effectively being told.
Then came the equally wearily predictable warnings of what we were to understand was the real problem here: Not Muslim misogyny, but Islamophobia. Ralf Jaeger, Minister of the Interior for North Rhine-Westphalia, famously drew moral symmetry between the sexual assaults and the reaction of the commentariat: “What happens on right-wing platforms and in chatrooms is at least as awful as the acts of those assaulting the women” he said. And this wasn’t just a German issue. We now know that law-enforcement authorities throughout Europe have been conniving for some time in similarly clumsy attempts to neutralize news of the scale of the violence (particularly sexual violence against women) at large within certain sections of newly-arrived migrant communities. Across Europe, citizens are being asked by their own governments to accept that complicity in a conspiracy of silence is the highest form of tolerance. Fortunately, most people aren’t buying into it. Sadly, however, some people are: And, oddly enough, not a few of them are women.
If the response of European governments to the continent-wide crisis figureheaded by Cologne was by turns disappointing and disgusting, the response of the feminist left was soul-crushingly depressing- a thesaurus of hypocrisies which went beyond self-parody, untethered itself from rational thought, and proceeded to float around the comment pages and the Twitter feeds like a rogue blimp.
It might seem invidious to draw attention to the unintentionally hysterical (in both senses of the term) remarks of just one feminist commentator when there are so many others to choose from, but there was something about the events in Cologne that seemed to send Laurie Penny stark raving mad. From her Harvard redoubt- with the depth and breadth of the Atlantic Ocean between her and reality- the true, ideological nature of the crisis facing Europe suddenly became terribly clear. In a New Statesman piece with the urgent title “After Cologne We Can’t Let The Bigots Steal Feminism”, we learned from Laurie that the whole sorry situation wasn’t about the myopic stupidity of governments importing (and importing wholesale) a hyper-masculine, misogynistic, patriarchal, unassimilable culture into Europe; instead it was about “the theft of feminist rhetoric by imperialism and racism.”
Laurie also reminded those of us who thought we were appalled by events in Cologne that we’re not really appalled by events in Cologne: We’re only pretending to be appalled by events in Cologne so that we can indulge in a spot of good old-fashioned Muslim-bashing. “White supremacist patriarchy only concerns itself with women’s safety when rape and sexual assault can be pinned on cultural outsiders” she thundered, while also speculating (in curiously feverish language) that not a few white people who claim to be opposed to Islamic sexual violence are secretly turned on by the idea of savage brown men doing unspeakable things to helpless white women. To be fair, and in the same article, Laurie graciously concludes (doubtless after long and hard consideration) that rape is never excusable — not even when the perpetrators “are really angry and disenfranchised” (which sounds a bit like an excuse to me).
We could go on. We could mention Deborah Orr in the Guardian, who somehow managed to link events in Cologne to the historical failings of European (and British) criminal justice systems; or Gaby Hinsliff (also, coincidentally enough, in the Guardian) who contrasted the “expensive smartphones” of the assaulted German women with the miserable lives of “young male migrants…scraping by at the bottom of Europe’s social and economic food chain” (query: what’s the Arabic for “with that iPhone she was asking for it”?). Suffice to say that to endure the Krakatoa-like eruption of cognitive dissonance from the feminist left in the aftermath of the obscenity of Cologne was to have a whole new dimension of unpleasantness added to what was an already thoroughly unpleasant ordeal: A bit like being hectored by One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’s Nurse Ratched during a particularly difficult colonoscopy. We really could have done without it.
As a general point, it really is astonishing the extent to which the feminist left (in fact, the left in general) is prepared to veto entire chapters of its own otherwise Inquisitorially-enforced ideology in the interests of maintaining 100% solidarity with Islam — the most ruthlessly misogynistic force in the world today. The same people who see and hear rape culture literally everywhere (on University campuses, in wolf-whistles, on saucy t-shirts worn by rocket scientists, etc) somehow suddenly can’t see or hear it at all when it involves feral mobs of migrants assaulting women en masse in public in major European cities. Amid a miasma of double standards and self-contradictory froth, what’s clear is that the left is only opposed to evils like misogyny, homophobia, and racism inasmuch as they can be bundled into a knout and wielded without mercy to give white, western, man a damn good thrashing.
Ever since the rise of Islamism in place of Communism as the chief ideological antipode of western values, the left has sunk lower and lower into moral insolvency in its pathological urge to aid, abet, and excuse the actions of the enemies of tolerance. Until recently, the more recklessly optimistic among us thought there might be a turning point. Perhaps after Paris January 2015, or after Paris November 2015, or after Cologne, or after [insert any given Islamist transgression against basic decency here]… perhaps then we would witness some sort of renaissance of sanity, a resurrection of reason, when the left would rediscover its social justice-based roots and surprise us with outright condemnation of the horror, with no plea of mitigation.
We must now accept that this turning point will never come; indeed, that for the European liberal left in general, and for the feminist left in particular, a point of no return has been reached. Axiom: After Cologne, feminism is dead. Europe must now focus on the more important issue of women’s rights.