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Discussion paper

Global outrage over the killing of George Floyd by a policeman in America last year has been harnessed by activist groups such as Black Lives Matter to support demands for social and political upheaval that go way beyond making racial equality a reality. This has led to the weaponisation of identity politics across much of the Western world, causing rancour, division and distrust in societies with white majorities and ethnic minorities.

In this paper, UK historian Simon Heffer argues that much of the power of identity politics is to make normally rational people who consider themselves part of an oppressor majority behave in an irrational and self-hating way. They do this in order to distance themselves from appalling behaviour that it would never occur to them to engage in, but also for fear of being seen not to conform and thereby attract public condemnation. The latter is in especially plentiful supply thanks to social media, which itself generally bypasses rationalism and reasoned debate, and whips up hostility against those who do not conform to the ideals or standards dictated by the mob. This threatens freedom of speech and the marketplace of ideas in free and liberal societies.

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CIS Occasional Paper 184