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The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity Hardcover – September 17, 2019
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From the Publisher
"Simply brilliant. Reading it to the end, I felt as though I’d just drawn my first full breath in years. At a moment of collective madness, there is nothing more refreshing--or, indeed, provocative--than sanity." - Sam Harris, author of five New York Times bestsellers and host of the Making Sense podcast
"Superb" - Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine
"A really important, endlessly readable, well-written work." - Madeleine Kerns, National Review
"Murray cuts through the doubt-sowing incoherence of social-justice babble to say ― eloquently ― what 95 per cent of us believe, but have been made fearful to say aloud. Read it." - Barbara Kay, National Post
"From the silly to the tragic, Murray covers the range of identititarian pathology without ever losing his cool. The result is a book that is less a political war cry than a map and compass to a strange world of shifting topographies and endless inconsistencies." - Abe Greenwald, Commentary
"Whether one agrees with him or not, Douglas Murray is one of the most important public intellectuals today." - Bernard-Henri Lévy
"[A] profound meditation … The Strange Death of Europe can be a warning inspiring statesmanship, not―as the author himself expects―a eulogy for the old continent." - The American Conservative, on The Strange Death of Europe
"Timely … Murray takes a stance that few dare to … With violence erupting in Europe and America's new anti-immigration policies, this audacious work will find its readers." - Kirkus Reviews, on The Strange Death of Europe
"An enthralling account of the rise of Islamism in Europe. It’s beautifully written and cogently argued." - Christina Hoff Sommers, Politico, on The Strange Death of Europe
"Excellent and disturbing." - Michael Barone, Washington Examiner, on The Strange Death of Europe
"[A] powerful new book." - National Review, on The Strange Death of Europe
"Murray’s clear and humane exposition of the seismic changes and the abject failure of political elites to face up to them gives those not willfully blind an opportunity to see." - American Thinker, on The Strange Death of Europe
"Fascinating, brilliant, beautifully argued and deeply disturbing." - Elliot Abrams, CFR.org, on The Strange Death of Europe
"A fiery, lucid, and essential polemic." - Commentary, on The Strange Death of Europe
"Lively … Murray’s book is informed by actual reporting across the Continent, and a quality of writing that manages to be spritely and elegiac at the same time. Murray’s is also a truly liberal intellect, in that he is free from the power that taboo exerts over the European problem, but he doesn’t betray the slightest hint of atavism or mean-spiritedness." - National Review, on The Strange Death of Europe
"[A] startling, well-argued polemic." - The Federalist, on The Strange Death of Europe
"Douglas Murray has written what is probably the most important book of the last 50 years." - Townhall.com, on The Strange Death of Europe
About the Author
Douglas Murray is an author and journalist based in Britain. His latest book, The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam, was published by Bloomsbury Continuum in May 2017. It spent almost 20 weeks on the Sunday Times bestseller list and was a No. 1 bestseller in non-fiction. It has subsequently been published in more than 20 languages worldwide and has been read and cited by politicians around the world. The Evening Standard described it as, 'By far the most compelling political book of the year.'
Murray has been a contributor to the Spectator since 2000 and has been Associate Editor at the magazine since 2012. He has also written regularly for numerous other outlets including the Wall Street Journal, The Times, The Sunday Times, the Sun, Evening Standard and the New Criterion. He is a regular contributor to National Review and has been a columnist for Standpoint magazine since its founding.
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"We are going through a great crowd derangement. In public and in private, both online and off, people are behaving in ways that are increasingly irrational, feverish, herd-like and simply unpleasant. The daily news cycle is filled with the consequences. Yet while we see the symptoms everywhere, we do not see the causes."
Murray is a rational man, an Enlightenment man. He points out the absurdities and internal contradictions in the arguments. At the same time he points out the very reasons why his logical approach is bound to fail. The winning arguments are emotional. While presenting themselves as rational, they are at the core profoundly irrational.
Progressivism, being "woke," or being a cultural Marxist is a religion to which adherents cling as doggedly as they once did to Christianity and now due to Islam. Murray writes:
"The explanations for our existence that used to be provided by religion went first, falling away from the nineteenth century onwards. Then over the last century the secular hopes held out by all political ideologies began to follow in religion’s wake. In the latter part of the twentieth century we entered the postmodern era. An era which defined itself, and was defined, by its suspicion towards all grand narratives. However, as all schoolchildren learn, nature abhors a vacuum, and into the postmodern vacuum new ideas began to creep, with the intention of providing explanations and meanings of their own."
That is it in a nutshell. People need some kind of religion to give meaning to their lives. In the absence of a spiritual religion, they have invented the secular religion of social justice. They defend their positions with a fanaticism, an intolerant hatred characteristic of religion rather than the balanced dialog of scientific inquiry.
The common theme concerning gays, women, racial minorities and transsexuals is that members of these groups have been treated unfairly, systematically held back by society. The term "social justice" encapsulates the idea that all members of society are entitled to experience equal outcomes. And, of course, they do not. Equality is never observed, and cannot reasonably be achieved in any sphere. SJWs will never want for causes to champion.
Every virulent religion needs its Satan, golem, or similar object of hatred. SJWs demonize the affluent straight white male as the epitome of everything that is wrong with society. Murray fails to measure up only on the "straight" criterion. Looking from the inside, he can assess the absurdity of the gay arguments. There are strong parallels in the other three.
The book is extraordinarily rich in examples. Murray has done his homework, and he has an extremely good memory for the silly things that have taken place within his lifetime. Some of his recurrent themes are:
1. The incredible swiftness with which standards change. He cites gay marriage as something that went from being beyond the pale to beyond question in the course of a decade or so. The acceptance of transsexuals was similarly rapid: Caitlin Jenner appeared on the scene about 2013.
2. The fierce arguments with regard to nature versus nurture, which Murray calls hardware versus software. There are strong political reasons to argue that gays are born that way – it is in no way a lifestyle choice. On the other hand, transsexuals decide that they are born in the wrong body. It is forbidden for a white person such as Rachel Dolezal to call herself black, but for a black to call themselves white is no problem.
3. Politics is related to the nature versus nurture argument. Peter Thiel is not allowed to be gay because he is conservative. Ditto Kayne West and blackness.
4. The Marxist notion of dialectic. Whereas internal contradictions would doom a rational argument, Marxism treats them as a part of the process of working toward the truth. Murray has quite a lengthy section on the extremely intelligent irrationality of Michael Foucault, whom he says is the most cited social scientist of all time, whose most obvious genius was in the ability to write things in such an obscure way that his many contradictions were not glaringly obvious.
5. The closer we come to the expressed goals of non-discrimination, the more virulent the arguments become. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan observed decades ago, "claims of human rights violations happen in exactly inverse proportion to the numbers of human rights violations in a country."
6. The impersonality of social media exacerbates the problem. Murray has a wonderful essay on the quality of forgiveness. The need to be able to, for instance, forgive Justin Trudeau for his blackface incident or Donald Trump for something indiscreet he might have said to Billy Bush in an interview years ago. He observes that it is all political. A person with the right politics can be forgiven for inexcusable behavior. A person with the wrong politics receives no mercy.
These changing currents mean that people can be put on the wrong side of history very quickly. The Internet has a long memory. At the time TV host Joy Reid opposed gay marriage, she was in a majority. The majority shifted but her soundbites had been captured for posterity. It took a lot of explaining. She is lucky to still have a broadcasting job; being a black woman no doubt helps. Likewise, to the delight of conservatives, Justin Trudeau's blackface for the Banana Boat song. Second wave feminists who argue that male to female transsexuals should not be allowed to compete in women's sports are in the same boat.
People are different. Murray attempts to deflect criticism by assuming the pose of a reporter, describing what has happened to other people. For instance:
"Research into IQ and genetics is among much competition probably the most dangerous and cordoned-off subject of all. When Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein published The Bell Curve in 1994 they were believed to be setting off precisely this landmine. Even though few of their critics read the book, criticisms of its investigation into the hereditary aspect of genetics were widely attacked. A few publications realized that the subject was of such significance that it had to at least be discussed. But in the main the reaction to The Bell Curve was to try to shut it and its author down (‘author’ because Herrnstein had the misfortune, or luck, to die shortly before the book’s publication). Almost all publications that reviewed the book noted that its findings were ‘explosive’. But most critics decided to do a very specific job with those explosive findings. That was to cover them with as much soil as could be found and then pat it down as tightly as possible. One extreme, but not uncommon, piece about the book by a fellow academic was headlined ‘Academic Nazism’ and claimed that the book was ‘A vehicle of Nazi propaganda, wrapped in a cover of pseudoscientific respectability, an academic version of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf’. Not just any old Mein Kampf, but Adolf Hitler’s one.
"The criticism of The Bell Curve demonstrated why almost nobody wanted to go over the evidence that suggests that intelligence test scores vary with ethnic group and that just as some groups score higher on intelligence tests, others must score lower. This of course is not to say that everybody in such groups does. As Murray and Herrnstein were at pains to point out repeatedly, the differences within racial groups were larger than the differences between them. Yet those who have surveyed the academic literature on IQ differentials across racial groups appreciate better than anyone that the literature in the area is – as Jordan Peterson has said – ‘an ethical nightmare’. And it was a nightmare which almost everybody seemed very keen to steer clear of."
Motherhood is atopic feminists find extraordinarily difficult to grapple with. Women should be equal to men, but only women can bear children. Raising children properly demands most of a woman's time and energy. Evolutionary psychologists will go even further. Sarah Blaffer Hrdy writes in Mothers and Others that a major evolutionary advantage of the human species was that a mother was able to enlist others in the tribe – grandmothers, aunts, older daughters – to help raise her children. Tecumseh Fitch repeats the theme, emphasizing the importance of spoken language, in The Evolution of Language .
As a result of feminism, not only did these alloparents disappear, but mothers themselves feel obliged to divide time between work and children. The disappearance of ethnic homogeneity in Western societies means that parents themselves may be of different ethnic backgrounds, whatever alloparents there are are probably of yet different ethnicity, and the schools that socialize the children devalue their ethnic background, discourage them from having children, and strongly discourage propagating their culture. The issues that occupy Murray are strongly eroding all Western societies.
Murray's focus is on the individual – struggles among individuals for recognition and power within society. He does not address the implications of all of the struggles on society as a whole. There can be no doubt that each of the social movements he discusses – the normalization of gays, women's equality in society in the workplace, and gender fluidity represented by transsexuals – impacts the society's ability to reproduce itself. Gays, feminists and transsexuals will in no way carry on the society. They will have very few children, a significantly smaller percentage of which will be their biological children, and they will not raise them with anything like traditional values. Perversely, it is the more intelligent members of society who are attracted to these lifestyles. See The Intelligence Paradox: Why the Intelligent Choice Isn't Always the Smart One . As Edward Dutton and Michael Woodley of Menie write in At Our Wits End - Why We're Becoming Less Intelligent and What it Means for the Future , the result is that society is getting dumber. Quickly.
Give Murray credit for being brave enough to challenge political correctness to the degree that he does. He praises Stephen Pinker, whose 2002 book The Blank Slate ventured as close to the truth as a Harvard intellectual can get without being stoned to death. However, people who know Murray have told me that even he is not brave enough to venture into any deep discussion of human biodiversity and its implications for intelligence. It is for you, the reader, to decide whether Murray is being cowardly or merely displaying common sense. I fear that in today's environment the latter is closer to the truth, and we have to be grateful for the courage he has displayed in publishing this book. It is without a doubt a five-star effort.
I offer Murray's table of contents as the first comment below.
Unfortunately it's mostly the latter category in which the book shines. There are many anecdotes of unequivocally terrible behavior by leftist mobs, and in that sense my bias is indeed confirmed. But regarding the former category I found it very lacking. There was very little psychological or historical analysis of how the social justice movement arrived at its present state of affairs, and only a shallow analysis of how the situation is currently. Most of the analysis that's there is simplistic, and will be more than familiar to anyone who thinks critically themselves, or follows someone like Sam Harris who thinks in the same space. Some (and admittedly a small minority) of the analysis seems to be on sketchy ground or outright wrong, e.g. where Murray claims that identity status is primary, and is all that protects moderate conservative blacks, say, from backlash by the rabid Twitter mobs. But the left eats their own more thoroughly than that. Identity status is obviously important to the mob, but adherence to the orthodoxy seems to be more important, which is why some white people are celebrated leaders in the community, and why the Twitter mob has gone after blacks (upon whom they cast the tragically-racist label of "Uncle Tom") and other minorities who dare to disagree with the dogma of the day.
In the end, this book will satisfy those who haven't already put some thought into these issues, those who haven't kept abreast of the SJW atrocities which this book spends a good deal of time recapping, and those who want to engage in self-satisfied confirmation bias. But for those looking for a deeper analysis, you'll get some tracings of Foucalt and Marxism up through the present, and some points about how the foundations of the trans movement subtly clash with the foundations of the feminist movement, but little more than that. If you find yourself wondering "what made the social justice movement a particularly contagious mind-virus" or "why did it explode precisely when it did" or "what factors besides post-modernism in academia make this attractive to highly educated people? Why is the movement mostly white people? Why is it mostly female?" or "what is the measurable impact of this movement on its stated goals, e.g. racism -- is it positive or negative?", then you'll find this book overly simplistic.
Top international reviews
It reminded me of the old adage ‘What does the slave most want?’ When many shout ‘Freedom’, the real answer is ‘To Be the MASTER’.
In his chapter on Gay, he distinguishes between those that wanted to be accepted into society on an equal footing, and those who wanted to change the culture. That is, to engage in social engineering and even in being considered, not just different, but ‘better’ than their heterosexual counterparts.
Likewise, in his chapter on women, he demonstrates the contradiction inherent in current feminist thinking. Namely, being considered desirable and sexy, whilst also being seen as the victim of the male patriarchy. If women are powerless and victims of toxic masculinity, are they not also wielding a sexual power over men? Once again, Murray returns to the theme that many feminists see women as ‘better than men’ and quotes Christine Lagarde’s assertion ‘if it had been Lehman Sisters rather than Lehman Brothers, the world might look a lot different today’.
This is sending out confusing and contradictory messages, making people deranged as they cannot grasp the new rules of engagement. Yesterday’s accepted norms have been replaced by today’s, as if yesterday’s never existed. The only way this is possible is by denial of what was, in a cult-like chant of ‘what is today is what always was and always shall be’. A madness of crowds in relation to truth and facts where truth is subjective and facts are disregarded.
Relationships become ever more difficult, as social mores change by the day. This is in keeping with Marxist ideology, which thrives on contractions or ‘the dialectic’. The old joke of ‘if it weren’t for double standards, the left would have no standards at all’ came to mind. That is, reason has given way to a naïve ideologically-driven maelstrom, which few know how to navigate and even less know what the destination will look like.
Douglas Murray is considered ‘the wrong sort of gay’ because of his conservative opinion. Germaine Greer is no longer a ‘feminist’ because she does not simply accept that a Trans man is the same as a woman. Kanye West is not black because he likes Trump etc, etc.
In his gentle-yet-controversial style, Douglas Murray points out the divisive narratives that threaten-more reasonable dialogue. This puts individuals in impossible situations. Either, dare to say your individual truth and risk being shunned by the group, or join in with whatever groupthink is the flavour of today and betray your own real thoughts.
So, what’s really going on? ‘The Madness of Crowds’ gets to the heart of the matter right at the beginning. It is all about replacing traditional religions with a new religion, a new metaphysics. This religion comes with a set of rules that divides the world into the ‘privileged’ and the ‘oppressed’. The aim is to restructure the world into some sort of Utopia where all social injustices are made good. If this all sounds too good to be true, it is because it is. In the perpetual race for victimhood status, the intersectional groups will end up turning on one another. There is also a growing backlash from the majority groups and this has been seen both in the UK and the USA.
Douglas Murray ends with a plea that we depoliticise our lives. That we ‘retain an interest in politics but not to rely on it as a source of meaning’. I guess that means returning to an age where love, not power, determined our relationships with one another.
But, if like me, you are disillusioned with the current state of identity politics and are looking for a thoughtful analysis to provide some insights, this aint it.
The sections of the book are Gay , Women, Race and Trans. Murray patiently dissects the inconsistencies , contradictions , harmful outcomes and bizarre injustices which are a consequence of the woke revolution now dominating the western world.
His central theme is that many of the causes which were manifestly unjustly treated in former times have now been substantially resolved , but the today's advocates will not settle for the new parities and continue to make ever excessive demands which are changing once noble objectives into grotesque distortions.
The tone of the book is calm and accommodating and Murray necessarily pulls his punches to some extent although he does not weaken his arguments by doing so.
Needless to say this is a book for the converted , but if you are weary of being shouted at by 'activists' who believe that they exist on a higher moral plane than you then this book will provide a couple of hours of decent therapy.
A brilliant guide to understanding the post-truth world of intersectionality and legal fiat. He gives us some hope that we can overcome the madness that is destroying our post-everything society.
Just one egregious example : to fail to highlight the grossly abusive the bahaviour of men like Harvey Weinstein when discussing the Me Too movement shows the paucity of both serious analysis and simple humanity which characterizes this tendentious and unilluminating tome. An extreme , distorted and grossly overrated piece of neopopulist rhetoric.
After watching Douglas Murray’s many debates on YouTube I’ve always admired his ability to calmly and cogently dismantle the left’s arguments like cheap flat pack furniture. After addressing the Issue of immigration, identity and Islam in ‘The Strange Death if Europe’, he doesn’t disappoint this time by addressing cultural Marxism and identity politics issues in, ‘The Madness if Crowds’.
It’s no surprise that someone writing for the Guardian described this book as a “right wing diatribe” since it comprehensively dissects everything they hold dear, slither by slither. What else would a publication who argues that homosexuals are oppressed in the U.K. but remains silent on issue of them being executed in Iran think?
Anyone who has enjoyed Douglas Murray’s books and wish there were more should read ‘Neoconservatism and Why we Need It’ which is a hugely underrated book. If, like most of us, you’ve been wondering how and why political correctness seems to be ascending to new heights on what seems like a daily basis then this is a book for you.
Edit: this book is even more relevant in light of the recent BLM ‘largely peaceful protests’. If you’re wondering why the BLM movement doesn’t seem to actually be anything about black lives this is the book for you.
Gender race and identity are the key concerns and each is taken in turn, while gradually and convincingly allowing what underlies so many of these new and often strident attitudes to emerge as the new social philosophy, a set of fanatically held beliefs as uncompromising as Boris Johnson.
Other reviews have identified the key arguments that Murray presents. There is no gain in rehearsing them here. What is at stake is a perversion of liberalism, one that is not only at its most extreme comically absurd – no movement can surely be so immune to humour as victim, identity politics – but far more disturbingly is so often menacing in its bigotry and in such conduct as public shaming. As Murray tellingly points out new dogmas are replacing the old. A notable example that he uses is the increasing insistence the having sex with other males is by no means enough to earn recognition as a gay; it is only by subscribing to a political mandate that is consistent with the right to one’s sexual identity. Probably the most worrying area is that which involves transsexuality and most particularly its perils for the young - often the very young. Murray devotes a good deal of space to the medical processes that children have been and are being subjected to. That these may be relatively few makes the issue no less alarming. But on a much wider front children are through the educational system being actively encouraged to question their gender. For many of us this is frightening.
There is nothing over-dramatic in Murray’s style. He maintains throughout a measured tone, but at the same time we are left in no doubt at the end of the book, that through agencies such as social media, the public education system and the media, that behind the sanctified words of “sexist”,” homophobic”, “misogynist”, “racist” et al, there lies bigotry, hypocrisy, unresolvable paradoxes and the sanctimonious.
This is a scholarly book, though it is not that lucidly written. Nonetheless, what it has to say is as important as any other issue that we face.
He also illustrates how fighting is the cultural Marxist objective, rather than resolution. He ask why intersex or motherhood is not addressed by those who fight about 'transgenderism' or feminism.
Finally he ask why cultural Marxists do not demand scientific studies to reveal answers , preferring 'politically correct' ones, some examples of this are very revealing.
Tested the Google searches for 'black couples', 'asian couples', 'white couples', and European art, and got the same results as he did: White and European are full of non-white and non-European , the search engines are distorted for political correctness, and cannot be trusted. 30,000 people are employed at Google to give you fake, 'correct your thoughts.
I am just sorry I spent money on it.
After reading Murrays brilliant Book, The Strange Death of Europe, I really was not prepared for the disappointment I felt reading The Madness of Crowds. It seems egocentric and not well argued, which was such a surprise, because I have heard countless interviews and talks by Murray and I did consider mig self a fan.
The fact that he just dismisses "mansplaining" as an issue at all, shows that even great men can be wrong.
Most women have been "mansplained" most of their lives from they were little girls dealing with boys, as teenagers and as grown women, so it must be a topic Murray knows nothing about, or have completely ignored in his self-obsession.
As a Jungian analyst I have delt with countless well educated women, who has told me how they have been forced to work dubble hard, to be even recognized as capacities. And how often has women not heard from their men, that it might be their hormones speaking, when there was an argument?
The book is generalizing, what is not really generalized in the degree Murray is postulating.
"Simply brilliant. Reading it to the end, I felt as though I'd just drawn my first full breath in years. At a moment of collective madness, there is nothing more refreshing - or, indeed, provocative - than sanity".
This is exactly my feeling as well after reading "The Madness of Crowds". Douglas Murray manages to analyze and draw very well supported lessons from the world of 2019 and he puts everything into perspective that makes so much sense that it is not without sadness that you ask yourself why you don't have the same discussion in media and politics? Just the question if we are really in the worst of times right now or if we are pushed into believing this is one that you need to ask yourself.
Recommended reading for everyone who wants to understand the times we are living in.