December 19, 2015
Antiracism is a perfect cause for those with free-floating outrage because it puts them automatically on the side of the angels without any need personally to sacrifice anything. You have only to accuse others of it to feel virtuous yourself. There is no defense against the accusation: The very attempt at a defense demonstrates the truth of it. As a consequence of this, it is a rhetorical weapon of enormous power that can be wielded against anybody who opposes your views. It reduces them to silence.
I once used the accusation myself in a most unscrupulous way, just to see its effect. About twenty years ago I was in the company of right-thinking people (that is to say, people who thought differently from me), among whom was an eminent human rights lawyer of impeccably internationalist outlook. She was speaking with characteristic self-righteousness about a case in which someone’s newly discovered human rights had been infringed. It was shortly after the Rwandan genocide had taken place and, fed up by her moral complacency, I accused her of racism. How could she concern herself with this case, I demanded to know, when half a million people or more had just been slaughtered and the perpetrators were unpunished (as at that time they still were)? Was it because she was racist and did not consider that all those lost lives were important because they were black?
It was a preposterous thing to say, of course, completely unjust and without any foundation, and I knew it. What interested me, however, was the panic on the face of the lawyer as I accused her. It was as if I had accused St. Simeon Stylites of harboring secret sexual desires and proclivities on top of his pillar, particularly at night. She was rattled, not because what I said had any truth in it, but because it was difficult or impossible to demonstrate to the assembled company that there was none. They might therefore have thought, because there is no smoke without fire, that she was indeed not entirely free of racism. For a moment”but, of course, not for long”she feared for her auto-sanctity.
I have not used the rhetorical trick since, but something similar might be usefully employed against the detractors of Bill Leak. They are the racists, because they refuse to believe that Indians may have different interests and opinions.