The Whitewash – A Review of ‘War on the West’ by Douglas Murray
To begin, it’s worth saying I owe something of a debt to Douglas Murray. He brought me to many of the positions I hold today, and while my overall impression of ‘War on the West’ was disinterest, it is only upon looking back at my own political journey I’m beginning to understand why I felt that way.
‘War on the West’ follows ‘The Madness of Crowds’ and the ‘Strange Death of Europe’ as Murray’s third book discussing the state of political affairs in the Western world. Murray’s thesis is best laid out by Murray himself:
“People began to talk of “equality”, but they did not seem to care about equal rights. They talked of “anti-racism”, but they appeared deeply racist. They spoke of “justice” but they seemed to mean revenge.”
Herein lies the problem with ‘War on the West’, and why I moved away from Murray in my own life: there is no examination of what equality is to mean, what anti-racism is to look like, or what kind of justice is to be enacted, if any. The primary objection Murray has to the armies waging a war on the West is that their vision is not a classically liberal one. Explicitly antagonising white people with terms like ‘white fragility’, ‘white tears’, or ‘white privilege’ is bad because it racialises things Murray believes to have been deracialised by the Civil Rights Movement and other changes that occurred between the 1950’s to early 2000s. In his previous work, Murray uses an analogy of a train of equality pulling into the station, only to careen off down the tracks at a greater speed than ever before without allowing its passengers to get off. Throughout Murray’s work is an unexamined liberalism, that at best, is only ever criticised for being too pure. Liberalism, by its nature, criticises social orders for creating barriers for individuals. The many freedoms the West has provided have always come at the expense of the social orders liberalism eroded. Freedom for women came with the erosion of a patriarchal social order, and took with it the benefits such a system provided – such as the ability to raise a family on one income, a high degree of social trust, and a defined relationship between the sexes. It was inevitable that liberalism would eventually critique itself, and many of the authors Murray cites, from Kendi to DiAngelo, often build on those drawing on Herbert Marcuse and Theodore Adorno. The former was given money by the Rockefeller Foundation, and even worked for what would become the CIA. In many ways, it was Western liberalism with its free flow of capital and revolving door between the academy and influential roles of state that enabled these theories to promulgate.
In his interview with the Telegraph promoting the book, Murray states:
“As long as people are armed with the right facts and the right arguments, I just don’t see how the cultural revolutionaries can win. I don’t know about you, but I’m not spending the rest of my life cringing and being told I’m guilty of things I never did. Not doing it, not guilty.”
This really begs the question of how exactly we got to this position to begin with. What’s most striking about ‘War on the West’ is that it does read almost like a recap of a war. Battlefields are specified, different players and their decisions are named, and Lord knows there are a huge number of casualties in the culture wars Murray describes. But, were the people who permitted things to reach this stage simply incapable of posing arguments against it? In one chapter, Murray notes that claims that America is founded upon stolen land are self-refuting because the many tribes of America stole the land from one another. Are we to believe Americans are so ignorant of their own history that this argument has never been made? Murray himself notes in the conclusion that outlets such as MSNBC and the New York Times will deny that Critical Race Theory is taught in schools, but acknowledge that it exists when forced. There are no arguments that can be used against such a thing.
Left out of ‘War on the West’ is any truly systemic analysis of the problem. The aforementioned New York Times moved to a paywall model in 2011, and from that point forward, the focus on things like ‘racism’, ‘sexism’, ‘homophobia’, and ‘transphobia’ increased many times over. Around this time, legacy media was dying slowly. So newspapers moved from selling papers to many people to selling stories to a niche audience. The niche audience of the New York Times is the kind of cosmopolitan liberal who is very interested in niche identitarian trends, and in pitching themselves as radical while at the heart of the very system they claim to dislike. Despite this being a veritable War on the West, according to Murray, the emergency powers of war are never called upon. There are no calls to take decisive action to halt or prevent these systemic changes that led to this point. And in the conclusion, he defends the same economic system of capitalism that gave the New York Times its power, and forced it to change its business model to appeal to a niche audience of people hostile to Western people.
This attachment to a liberal historiography, in which individuals are given The Arguments and Make The Case, with spontaneous and emergent bottom-up change coming about as a consequence blinds Murray to the economic and legal realities that influence and shape this War on the West. Multiple universities are stated as battlegrounds for this war, but there is not a single mention of the fact universities are public authorities under the Equality Act (2010). That they have an ‘equalities duty’ to publish routine equalities reports, and must legally keep permanent members of staff dedicated to pushing this anti-Western message.
The only law Murray appears to mention in this vein is the Civil Right Act, which he defends as an example of the kind of good equality that he desires. Yet it was the Civil Rights Act which created the Civil Rights Commission, which in 1973 wrote to the Civil Service Commission and had them drop the standards for algebra in order to allow them to hire more non-white civil servants. Similar acts can be found in the UK. The Race Relations Act of 1973 (which performed the same anti-discrimination function as the Civil Rights Act he praises) created the Commission for Racial Equality. Today, the Race Relations Act has been assimilated into the aforementioned Equalities Act, and the Commission for Racial Equality has become the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which forces compliance with the Equalities Duty. There is a clear through-line from the civil rights legislation both in the USA and the UK, to the situation we are in now. The back of ‘War on the West’ reads as follows:
“The anti-Western revisionists have been out in force in recent years. It is high time we revise them in turn …”
Fundamentally however, there isn’t much of a revision of dominant left-wing narratives within ‘War on the West’ at all. Instead, it seeks to remind leftists that their own heroes, from Marx, to Foucault are also not spotless figures. This can only go one of two ways: either they ignore this, and nothing changes, or they recognise this, and move away from those figures, and as a consequence have doubled down on their principles of removing any and all unsavoury figures from public life. Regardless, none of this is at all revisionary, nor does it fundamentally challenge the values and beliefs of the cultural revolutionaries. A truly revisionist view of things would challenge the dominant understanding of things like the Civil Rights Movement, which was not (as Murray describes) people ‘making the case’ for rights, that the American public was so blown away by that they accepted and endorsed. Academic studies like that done on Rosedale show the side of desegregation that was forced upon people, and came at the cost of schools, neighbourhoods, communities and lives. Rosedale was a segregated community, but desegregation and the tensions that came with it made it difficult for authorities to maintain peace. The result was that many of the former residents who didn’t move out of their homes, found themselves the victims of racial violence by those who moved into the area, and had no regard for the police, who stopped policing the area out of fear of creating tensions. When Brown v. The Board of Education ended the desegregation of schools in America, and people protested, the national guard was sent in to disperse the crowd at gunpoint.
All of these changes were not the natural unfolding of human progress. They came today as they did in the civil rights movement, through force. Eisenhower and the national guard did not make the case for desegregation in light of Brown, they imposed it down the barrel of a gun. Whether that was right or wrong is irrelevant, that fact alone disproves the notion Murray insists upon in his recent public life – that the train of equality was chugging along gently, and only recently got out of hand. Equality is not a train chugging along set tracks, it is an amorphous blob that seeks to desacralise everything and dissolve all boundaries between all things. It does not progress in one direction alone, like a train, but expands in all directions and infects all things, including our supposedly right wing public figures.
In light of this, I still see some utility in Douglas Murray. Challenging double standards and hypocrisy is a cheap tactic which ultimately will not defeat those Murray opposes. Yet it is often the first chink in the armour for many people. I know I first came to move away from liberal beliefs because I found them to be contradictory, it was only in time I rooted out my own inherently liberal views, and ultimately moved to the political views and positions I hold now. In this respect, Murray is useful – he can confirm people’s suspicions about the modern left, and give them comfort that there is a public figure who opposes these things. It’s incumbent upon people with more bravery and introspection to take that one step further, and marry it with a systemic analysis of the situation, and propose and action a plan to undo these things and institute something new in its place.
To be Anti-Refugee is to be Pragmatic: A response to Mike Bevan (Britmonkey)
A recent article written by the YouTuber Britmonkey (Mike Bevan) discusses the case in favour of increasing the number of refugees. I would like to preface this response by saying that his article is clearly well researched, sourced, and written. I find myself somewhat sympathetic to his line of arguments, but at the same time completely opposed to his conclusions and recommendations. In the current scenario we face as a nation, it is a wholly pragmatic and reasonable opinion to be against the idea of increasing the numbers of refugees taken into Great Britain. In this article, I would like to go through his arguments and make the case as to why I, and so many others, would disagree with him; my article is written in good faith, and I look forward to his reply (if he chooses to make one).
Britmonkey’s opening remarks around clarifying what he means by a refugee come across as extraordinarily reasonable when compared to most pro-refugee pundits. It is true that many of the people claiming asylum in Britain are not genuine refugees, but instead are economic migrants. The fact of the matter is, however, that the British state continues to treat these people as refugees. Despite the bluster and talk of the ‘tough on crime’ Tories, virtually none of those entering this country illegally are deported home – those who are, are done so at vast expense to the taxpayer. Despite this, the British pro-refugee charity cabal still continues to act as though the Royal Navy is going out into the channel and sinking boats by the dozen, whilst the home secretary dines on the flesh of those who managed to slip past a fictional iron barrier to Great Britain. My question to Britmonkey is this, if we are to take people on face value, how on earth are we supposed to determine who is and isn’t a genuine refugee? If we are to start a process of filtering the two groups, who will be allowed to determine who is and isn’t a genuine refugee? (A task which the current British state seems woefully incompetent at, at the current time) and what qualities will be used to determine who is and isn’t legitimate?
Britmonkey goes on to argue that we should be seeking to allow considerably more people from Hong Kong, Ukraine, Iran etc to gain access to Britain. Clarifying that he himself understands handing out 21 million visas to all the stateless peoples of the world would be insane and impossible, he does not deliberate on what exactly the number should be. The government allowed in 89,000 Ukrainians, 21,000 Afghans, and 76,000 HK residents last year (and have handed out close to 150,000 BNO visas total for HK citizens). We have therefore already taken in 186,000 refugees last year at a minimum and could potentially be taking close to another 80,000 more if all BNO visa holders decided to make the move. This is an eye watering number and blows the 4,000 French refugee figure of 1792 he cited out of the water. Coupled with the fact that current migration to Britain last year hit half a million – this is already almost completely unsustainable, how does he expect us to take in more?
Britmonkey goes on to discuss Britain’s immigration policy in the Victorian era and points out that there were no immigration restrictions at all at that time – this is certainly true, but what he does not mention, however, is that immigration to Britain between 1800 to 1945 (a 145-year period) was just shy of 2.4 million, an average of a measly 16,500 a year. As mentioned previously, Britain took in half a million people last year alone, how can he claim it is fair to equate those two groups? It is totally unreasonable, therefore, to use this line of argument. The world is more connected than ever, and whilst those borders were open, the Victorians did not have the technological ability to bring in the scale we do now. I wonder if the British public in the 1800’s would have been as willing to keep their country borderless if they had access to jet planes, huge passenger ships, and a large tunnel running under the English Channel? I doubt they would.
The article continues with an appeal to British right wingers who have delusions of contemporary British prestige. Britmonkey states that Victorian was so committed to free asylum, that they were willing to cause international incidents to maintain it. Much as I lament to be reminded of it, Britain is not in the same position as it was in the 1800’s. We are not the most powerful nation on earth anymore, we do not have fleets of ironclad greyhounds patrolling the high seas. We have a failing service economy and a second-class Navy (and armed forces in general) that would struggle to function without the support of NATO. Britain should be bold on the world stage, but we should also accept the fact that we are not in a position to bully or blindside foreign powers anymore for the sake of refugees – as Britmonkey suggests we are.
The author then goes on to contradict himself. He seems almost happy that the ‘noble’ anarchist refugees that we took in in the 1850s were convicted of planning a terror attack against the French government (justifying it by saying that British politicians at the time were okay with it because it harmed France), and then goes on to say that he is not suggesting we do the same today – explaining that we should instead use these examples to forge a new policy on what a political refugee is. This is a hypocrisy. Either Britain was wrong to take in anarchist terrorists in the 1850s, or it is right that we take in potential terrorists today. He seems unbothered to apply Victorian logic when it suits the argument, but refuses to again when it might hinder it.
Britmonkey talks briefly about how we are helping to hinder the efforts of anti-western powers by taking in their dissidents and allowing them to continue their activism campaigns. I do not believe that this is true. Firstly, the news cycle and the public zeitgeist are much faster now than in the 1800’s, we talk about issues for days instead of decades now. Unfortunately for those poor and threatened people of Hong Kong, most of the world has either forgotten about their plight or simply doesn’t care anymore – despite the efforts of their active dissidents abroad online. Secondly, I would argue that taking in the most threatened dissidents hinders any attempt at resistance. Much in the same way that evaporation has a cooling effect on water by removing its hottest and most energetic molecules first, allowing exiles to leave freely seems to only cool down dissent and remove the troublemakers – essentially pulling the thorn out of the tyrannical despot’s side for them. This is of course conjecture, but perhaps the reason we no longer see much dissent in HK and other places like it is because a lot of their most vociferous activists have left?
In regard to crime, I hope that his statistics on low crime levels in Germany post the 2014 refugee crisis are true. I would argue that Germany is an exceptional case example, given the high levels of historic Turkish immigration to Germany have left them to more easily to accommodate Islamic immigrants (again, I appreciate that this is merely conjecture on my part so take that with a pinch of salt and remember that I hope he is correct). In comparison, I could also just as easily point to Sweden, which has seen a dramatic increase in homicides since 2011 (from 81 in 2011 to 113 in 2021).
I think Britmonkey handles the next section of his argument well. He recognises the fact that, throughout most of history, the exiles and refugees who came to Britain were of western European decent and would not struggle as much to integrate into British culture. The English, French, and German languages all come from similar roots, Western Europeans are generally Catholic or Protestant, and (so as not to be a coward and dodge the elephant in the room) all of these people are Northern European Caucasians and look very similar. With the exception of Ukrainians, the same cannot be said of most of the modern refugees that he talks about. I am not using this as an excuse for those who seek to attack people based on their race, I am merely pointing out that peoples of remarkably different backgrounds do often struggle to integrate without direct intervention. This is a trope that been seen throughout all of history.
In terms of his next point that the average refugee stays for less than 10 years, I have no quarrel with this statistic. All I would say, however, is that that same article he cites in his article also concedes that the numbers on this statistic change every year. We also have not yet had time to adjust the numbers to better reflect the current type of refugee that comes here. Indeed, it is very likely that the vast majority of Ukrainians will return to Ukraine once the war is ended, but it would be foolish to apply the same logic to those from Hong Kong and Afghanistan (unless Xi Jinping succumbs to a mysterious change of heart (or death); or the Taliban simply decides to ‘give in’ to the protestors respectively (both seemingly very unlikely scenarios within the next 10 years)).
In conclusion, whilst I appreciate that Britmonkey is not advocating that we let the world in, and he is not falsely equating economic migrants with genuine refugees, I still think that his argument is flawed. Whilst I strongly agree with his view that we should attempt to be altruistic and remain a beacon of liberty in the world, I think it is unpragmatic to assert that we have the state capacity or ability to take in more refugees than we currently do. We are no longer the wealthiest country on the planet, we can’t even build enough new houses to match our own population growth (quick sidenote, the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 should be abolished), and we already do take in a considerable number of genuine political refugees every single year.
I hope that Mike Bevan will read this article, and I sincerely look forward to his reply if he chooses to make one.