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August 31, 2020

Review of The Madness of Crowds by Douglas Murray

The Madness of Crowds” by Douglas Murray was published nearly a year ago and yet could not be more timely. Like The China Syndrome-Three Mile Island timely. Like, the film industry is finally making great comic-book movies before I die timely. And while it was not exactly the book I thought it was, it was anything but a disappointment.

Rather than being a deep dive into the psychology of mob behavior as I had assumed, The Madness of Crowds is instead a kind of detailed travelogue of the madness that has gripped our current culture, and in the end offers a possible explanation for why people seem to be going nuts all around us.

A handful of examples:

At a panel discussion at Rutgers university on identity politics, Kmele Foster, an African-American libertarian and entrepreneur, was making a purely reasonable defense for free speech when a portion of the crowd turned on him chanting “black lives matter.” At one point, one of the African Americans who had been shouting at him was asked by Foster:

“Do facts matter?”

His response?

“Don’t tell me about facts. I don’t need no facts.”

Well, that certainly does explain a lot!

It is also worth pondering that this excerpt is not from the chapter titled “Crazy Sh*t.” It doesn’t quite make the cut.

What does?

Upon the upcoming release of the movie Black Panther, a senior editor of The Planetary Society named Emily Lackdawalla asked Twitter “When would be the appropriate moment for a white woman such as herself to go to see Black Panther?”

Emily Lackdawalla

Keep in mind that Lackdawalla is a grown woman, a respected individual with a masters degree in planetary geology.

And yet she appears to believe that her skin color holds the power to rob black people of joy by her mere presence.

Infantilizing an entire race is apparently a new way to show them respect. Or perhaps she’s just floating ideas for the next MCU super-villain. Working titles: “Karen the Conqueror” and “Captain Supremacy.” Vote for your favorite in the comments.

In a later chapter Murray recounts the trouble National Geographic got into a few years back for an article it had published with a photo caption of Aboriginal Australians that read:

"South Australian Blackfellows: These savages rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings."

In 1916.

I think we can all agree that that was an awful thing to write. (Besides, Antifa members hold that crown.)

But we can also all agree that it was over 100 years ago.

National Geographic effusively apologized of course for these terrible statements made by people who aren’t them, but in the age of catastrophizing everything, it turns out little has changed.

Eight months after that confession, Vox noticed that the magazine had not learned its lesson after all. Writer Kainaz Amaria wrote a piece about National Geographic’s latest issue that included a cowboy sitting on a horse on an open plain juxtaposed with a photo of a native American protesting in full headdress and other accoutrements and noted that:

“This visual framing — the heroic white savior versus the savage native — is not new to the American imagination or to the magazine.”

We would argue that such visual framing had faded into obscurity from the American imagination quite a long time ago, but apparently not to the imagination of Amaria.

And that says so much more about her than about the rest of us.

It should also probably be noted that the native American protesting chose to dress the way he did of his own accord, perhaps forgetting he should have first sought the permission of Amaria.

These handful of anecdotes can not do justice to an Audible book that clocks in just under 12 hours, but it does give you a flavor, and after a bit you start understanding what Murray really means about the “madness of crowds.” It’s not always a momentary thing, a mob overcome with the emotion of the moment that settles down hours later. He’s also talking about societal madness, movements that endure over years to the point that a well-meaning professional woman feels the need to ask permission to see a movie featuring African Americans or a centuries-old institution feeling the need to start apologizing for statements made by people long dead.

More than that, Murray builds the case that the madness does have a purpose, that purpose being to divide us, to make us believe that life is so intolerable that we must tear it all down and start over.

Murray’s argument rests on the social justice warriors choosing transgender issues as their point of the spear for change. Not transsex or intersex, which are, or can be made to be, actual physical changes, but a movement that requires you to accept someone is of another gender simply because he or she asserts it without any other evidence needed.

As Murray points out, this naturally results in absurdities such as the convicted male rapist insisting he is a transgender women, getting placed in a woman’s prison, and then proceeding to rape four women.

A few additional observations.

Murray narrates the book himself, which is always  welcomed by me if they are any good at it. He is. He is a Brit and has that classic wry delivery you would expect. I could see some people finding it annoying after a bit, but I enjoyed it.

Murray is gay. This should not be important, and maybe some day it won’t be, but his observations regarding the LGBTQ community (namely that there really is no such thing in that the components of the abbreviation don’t really form an actual community) is informed by more personal experience than a straight person could bring to such a subject.

If you are interested in purchasing the book (available in various formats including hard cover, paperback, Audible, and Kindle, please consider using one of our links here (such as this one!). It is an affiliate link (explained towards the bottom of the column on the right) and costs you nothing extra but can help us out.

Of all the books we’ve reviewed this year, this one might be the most urgent. If only by a little.

J.

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August 31, 2020 at 12:23 PM in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink

Comments

This was my first experience with him and I'm very favorably impressed. Just followed him on Twitter in fact!

Posted by: Planet Moron | Aug 31, 2020 3:36:33 PM

I think I'll get this one. I've always liked Douglas Murray.

Posted by: bluebird of bitterness | Aug 31, 2020 2:46:21 PM

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