I hate mobs so I feel guilty criticising Clementine Ford. It’s hard, though, to feel sympathy for her. She’s a middle-aged woman who acts like an ill-bred teenager who’s never read a history book, at least one that would broaden her mind. The world could be in flames and she’d be spouting ideological nonsense. To misquote Freud, she suffers from the narcissism of small injustice.
She will change, though, unless she becomes stuck in a permanent state of adolescence. I look back on my fourteen-year-old self in the same way she’ll look back on her current self, with a blush and in the hope that everyone who knew me has forgotten how I once behaved. As I get older, I’ve come to hate all my previous selves. In ten years’ time, I’ll loathe who I am now. So, it’s not from a position of hubris that I’m criticising her. I just wish she’d psychologically enter her thirties. She’d be less irritating than the teenage avatar she currently embodies.
Last month’s failed attempt at trolling where she wished more men would die from coronavirus, and which, according to her supporters, was a joke, is not the subject of this article. “Kill all Men” has long been a fourth-wave feminist slogan that attracts the more idiotic activists of the sisterhood. Its ubiquity among feminists reminds me of Karl Marx. After reading the work of some of his later disciples, Marx said that he was not a Marxist, such was the stupidity of his followers. And in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, Marx said that “history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”. Feminism has progressively become more farcical as each “wave” has become dominant. And Clementine Ford is the most famous Australian example of its intellectual decline.
The article is also not about the transparent stupidity of fourth-wave feminism. It’s about a Facebook post last week from the overly-confident Ms Ford — she has eschewed Twitter since the coronavirus controversy — where she displays all the vices of someone who is sure that she’s right about everything. The post in question is arrogant, uneducated, moralistic, uncharitable, bereft of street-wise common sense, and, worst of all, intellectually dishonest. But Ford continually gets away with this type of uncivilised behaviour, because, unlike intellectuals who loathe the idea of having followers, she can rely on a claque of unthinking feminist girl fans who cheer her every move and who give her unqualified support in the war against the imaginary patriarchy.
I’ll give her a compliment, though. When you’ve dug a hole and you’re sinking below the edge, it’s always a good idea to regain your left-wing bona fides, and, in the process, divert attention from your self-inflicted notoriety by simply attacking Donald Trump. It’s a get–out–of–jail–free card and it works in the same way as calling anyone with whom you disagree a fascist. It has a similar impact on the left-wing mind as people who are good at quiz nights have on those who don’t know the capital of Sweden. You’re viewed as virtuous, edgy and intellectually gifted.
Ford’s method to divert attention from her current situation was to criticise one of Donald Trump’s most controversial tweets. Ford and Trump have something in common. They are both trolls. Trump, though, unlike Ford, is not an ideologue. He is funnier, and there is a reason he communicates through social media – nothing he’s said or done has been reported truthfully by the New York Times or MSNBC. His tweets, for good or ill, bypass a corrupt media and go straight to his supporters. It’s ugly and crude, but it’s a necessary evil if Trump is not to have his every move twisted into a negative by the CNN-type activism that currently passes for factual news reporting.
As for the accusations of Trump being untruthful. Trump thinks out loud, and unlike fanatics, who always have a script in their head to suit every occasion, he gets things wrong. It’s a welcome change, though, to the stage-managed eloquence of most politicians, especially Obama, who wouldn’t speak without a teleprompter; and whose main intellectual insight was a vague hopey-changey philosophy, which was greeted by his uneducated followers with the same enthusiasm the Scholastics experienced when they first read the Neoplatonists; or with the same wonderment that German philosophers felt when they encountered Kant’s Transcendental Idealism.
Trump’s supporters don’t need to believe he is an intellectual and they don’t believe he’s dishonest. They can research what he says and check his actual words against how they are reported by the media. Trump speaks in the no–bullshit style of the working class. Ford, in contrast, like all ideologues, knows the answer before the question has been asked, and she is profoundly more dishonest, in the true sense of the term, than the Machiavellian Trump. She proved this by her lack of objectivity and good faith when she criticised Trump’s tweet about the rioting in Minneapolis. It was a lesson in how not to use Ockham’s Razor.
A sign of intellectual dishonesty is that instead of arguing with what someone says, you psychologise their words to mean the opposite of their stated intention. Ford used the “dog-whistle” strategy to create a straw man and then attacked what wasn’t said. Trump tweeted that “these thugs are dishonouring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen”. After watching a video of the police action in Minneapolis, Trump ordered the Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate how George Floyd died. There was not a scintilla of racism in Trump’s actions or in what he said. Trump also tweeted: “Any difficulty and we will assume control, but when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. Ford said that Trump’s tweet “was a declaration of militarised violence against Black people”. She also said that Trump’s tweet was an invitation to white supremicists in America to “shoot first and fuck the questions later”.
Intellectually honest people read their opponents in the most generous way. They elucidate the best interpretation of what they are about to criticise. Clementine Ford did not do this when she responded to Trump’s tweet. Not only did she interpret Trump in the most partisan way but she also deliberately misinterpreted his intended meaning. Trump said what every other politician does. Force is always used when rioting and looting get out of control. There’s no alternative. And when nothing works to stop the chaos, the democratic state, which has a legitimate monopoly on violence, uses force to stop the lawlessness for the greater good of the community. This is not hard to understand, except if you need to shoehorn the dreadful murder of George Floyd into an ideological agenda. How anyone can read Clementine Ford’s response to Trump with a straight face and think that they’re moral and intelligent is beyond me.
Trump was doing what educated people have known since the time of Sun Tzu in the fifth century BC. Military strategists know that not fighting is better than fighting. To save lives, you psych out your opponents before the battle starts. If your opponents think that you’re bad enough or strong enough they often give up without the need to use violence. This strategy saves both lives and the property that human beings need to survive.
Ronald Reagan averted a third world war by bluffing the Soviet Union and saving possibly tens of millions of lives. Napoleon, Julius Caesar, John F. Kennedy, Churchill, and even Barack Obama have talked tough to avoid conflict. Churchill said that “ to jaw jaw is always better than to war war”. Obama reminded foreign enemies that America had the largest and most lethal military in the world. He wasn’t saying this as a pacifist and to be their friend. He was threatening them with destruction if they attacked American people or their property. Obama was doing exactly what Trump did but on a bigger stage. He was forestalling the need to kill and he was morally correct to do so. And he was using his intelligence to try and avoid a worse outcome, which is exactly what Trump was doing with his tersely-worded tweet.
You can always tell when someone doesn’t read or only reads a narrow, ideologically prescribed literature. Their eloquence is too glib and they sing too easily to the crowd. And they reduce terrible moral conundrums to slogans. As George Orwell said: “Those who ‘abjure’ violence can only do so because others are doing violence on their behalf”. Clementine Ford should stop ventriloquising the words of people she doesn’t agree with into the phantoms of her ideology. If Donald Trump is as bad as she believes, then criticise his words without distorting them into the opposite of their everyday meaning. She should also remember that the threat of force is what keeps her safe at night.
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