INTERVIEW - Mathieu Bock-Côté sees in an amendment passed last Tuesday by the Assembly an additional step towards a North American-inspired multiculturalism that is fatal to freedom of expression. He warns us of an "Orwellian drift" that he is already seeing in his own country.
He is the most French of Quebec intellectuals. Mathieu Bock-Côté scrutinizes with a mixture of admiration and fear our country. And wonders about its future. Will France keep its culture of debate? Staying the homeland of dissenting words and ideas? Or will she submit to what the sociologist calls the "new diversity diet". New regime marked by a politically correct fussy which, according to him, would impose a font of language and thought.
LE FIGARO - LREM deputies voted an amendment to Article 1 of the bill of moralisation of political life providing for a "supplementary mandatory penalty of ineligibility" in the event of a breach of probity. Probity would involve "acts of discrimination, insult or public defamation, incitement to racial hatred, sexism or sexual orientation," the amendment says. What does it inspire you?
Mathieu BOCK-CÔTÉ - You will allow me and forgive me for being frank: I am frightened. And I weigh my words. Of course, everyone agrees to condemn racism, sexism or homophobia. I would add that our societies are particularly tolerant and have much less to reproach themselves for than we want to believe. But the problem appears quickly: it is that of the definition. What are these concepts referring to? We are faced with a perhaps unprecedented attempt to exclude not only from the field of political legitimacy, but even from mere legality, discourse and ideas that conflict with dominant ideology. This amendment needs to be placed in a broader context to understand its significance: we are facing an ideological offensive that is far more brutal than it seems.
Take the example of racism. We have seen how, in recent years, racism and the defense of the nation have been amalgamated. For the diversified left and those who submit to its ideological prescriptions, a patriotic historical and rooted was nothing but a form of racism made up and sophisticated. Those who wanted to contain massive immigration were accused of racism. Those who said there was a connection between immigration and insecurity were also accused of racism. Similarly for those who confessed the anxiety of a dissolution of the fatherland. This assimilation of the concern for national identity to a form of racism is one of the major trends of the ideological history of recent decades. It will be understood, racism is accused of those who do not comply with the ideology diversitaire. What fate will be reserved for those who confess, in an articulated or clumsy way, such worries?
Take the example of the marriage for all debate. It is not a question of returning to the substance of the debate but of the way in which it has been conducted. For a large part of the supporters of same-sex marriage, those who basically opposed it were homophobic. They did not imagine other reasons for their engagement. As always, among the progressives, there are the intolerant and the virtuous. Two philosophies did not clash: there was on one side the shadow, and on the other the light. Should we understand that in the minds of our new crusaders of ideological virtue, those who marched with the strike for all should be ineligible? Let us ask the question differently: will it simply be necessary to proscribe juridically the moral and social conservatism of political life?
Let us also take the case of the theory of gender and its derivatives, such as the transgender ideology, which claims to abolish the reference to the masculine and the feminine in public life, and which is emerging everywhere in the Western world. It is to bend to his injunctions, for example, that the London Underground will stop saying Ladies and Gentleman to turn to a bland "hello everyone". Anyone who opposes this ideology frontally or even subtly can be accused at any time of sexism or transphobia, as is already the case in North America. Will it also prohibit political life to those who will one day be convicted? Will it be necessary to criminalize, sooner or later, those who continue to believe that human nature is gendered?
"This amendment creates a climate of serious ideological intimidation, it marks another step in the ideological suffocation of public debate."
It is not yesterday that we are witnessing a pathologization of conservatism, reduced to a series of phobias or bad passions. He has long been struck by a hint of illegitimacy. There is a kind of fundamentalism of modernity that does not tolerate everything that comes from the imagination of finitude and otherness. It is not yesterday that we are witnessing its demonization: it is presented as a regressive force containing the natural movement of modernity towards emancipation. In a way, now, we hear it penalized. It will be excluded for good from the city. It is a form of postmodern ostracism. Let's say the essential: this amendment creates a climate of serious ideological intimidation, it marks another step in the ideological suffocation of the public debate. And do not doubt the zeal of the victim lobbies who patrol the public space to distribute ideological contraventions. I will be told that the amendment does not go so far: I will say that it is going in that direction.
In my opinion, behind this amendment, there is the great ideological fear of progressives in recent years. They thought they had lost the battle of ideas. They believed France was submerged by a reactionary conservative wave that they equated precisely with a rise of racism, xenophobia, sexism and homophobia. They said to themselves: never again. They want to regain control of the public debate by translating into the language of intolerance the philosophy that contradicts theirs. It is now a matter of legally locking the public space against the misleading.
LE FIGARO. - In France, racism is not an opinion, but a crime ...
Mathieu BOCK-COTÉ. - What you need to know is that anti-racist sociology is constantly expanding its definition of racism. It instrumentalizes the noble concept of anti-racism for purposes that are not.
I give two examples.
For her, or at least those who oppose positive discrimination would be guilty, without necessarily realizing it, of universalist racism, which would crush difference and diversity. Let us translate: Republicanism is racist without knowing it, and those who support it endorse, without necessarily realizing it, however, a racist system. They would participate in the perpetuation of a form of systemic racism.
Conversely, those who would argue that a particular cultural community or religion is less well integrated than others in the nation will be accused of differentialist racism because they would thus centralize communities and hierarchize implicitly or explicitly between different cultures and civilizations. Thus, an analysis on the question will not be judged according to its relevance, but disqualified because it is in advance assimilated to racism.
I note, by the way, that the only uninhibited activists in favor of racial segregation find themselves in the far-left anticolonial, which rehabilitates it in its defense of non-mixed spaces, as if it became legitimate when it concerns victim minorities. But this racism, apparently, is respectable and finds on the left its militant defenders ...
We have witnessed, in a few decades, an exceptional extension of the field of racism: it must be brought back and cease amalgam. Basically, either you favor multiculturalism in one of its variants, or you are racist. Multiculturalism or barbarism? We will be allowed to refuse this alternative. And to refuse it vigorously.
Today there is a task of mental hygiene: it is necessary to define all these words which occupy an immense place in public life and especially, to know how to resist those who use them to make reign a new moral order of which they want to be the passionate guardians and police. One must be wary of those who track down ulterior motives and who, above all, dream of charging you with crime-thought.
LE FIGARO. - Does this recall the politically correct North American? In what?
Mathieu BOCK-COTÉ. - Politically correct is no longer a North American specificity for a long time. But if we define it as an inhibitory device that serves to socially proscribe criticism of the diversionary ideology, we will see that it imposes itself in the manner of a new moral order, and that we find in its serve well fanatics. They behave like policemen of language: they track down the words that would testify to a persistence of the old world, before the revelation diversitaire. Those who do not embrace the ideology of diversity must know that there will be a high price to pay for dissent. They will be treated as outcasts, as outcasts. They will stick to them a dirty label which they will not be able to divest. Populist, reactionary, extreme right: the terms are numerous to designate to the public vindicte a personality insubordinate to the new moral order. Therefore, whoever shows up in public life with this label is disqualified in advance: it is a warning addressed to all his fellow citizens to remind them to be wary of this character. It is an infrequent: it will be invited, strictly speaking, only to serve as a foil. He may be given the floor, but it will be to say that he conceals his true thoughts by multiplying the ruses of language. So our contemporaries are silent. They understand that if they want a career in the university, in the media or in politics, they have an interest in keeping quiet and doing good public prayers and not addressing certain issues. Diversity is a wealth, and those who will flatten this assertion will simply no longer have the right to quote. In France, the function of political correctness is to morally disqualify those who do not celebrate globally what might be called the neo-eighteous society. With this amendment, the country goes one step further towards the politically correct by codifying it legally, or if one prefers, by judiciarizing it: henceforth, it will explicitly model the law.
Is freedom of expression a sacred right in the United States protected by the constitution? What about Canada?
Mathieu BOCK-COTÉ. - We are upside down. To put it quickly, freedom of expression is legally well-defined here, but public life is crushed by a form of ideological diversity that makes impossible debates similar to those found in France. In other words, the control of dissident speech is exercised in us less by law than by social control. A politician who clearly opposes multiculturalism, which is also part of the Canadian constitution, would see his career explode. We have the right to say many things, but nobody says anything - we must nevertheless take into account the Quebec exception, where public speech is freer, at least as regards the question of identity. I note, however, that in recent years there have been attempts to criminalize political correctness. Conversely, in France, freedom of expression is subject to a thousand constraints that seem insane to me, but the culture of the debate remains lively, which is not surprising insofar as it is inscribed in the history of the country and in the collective psychology.
How was this "politically correct" born? What are the consequences for public debate?
Mathieu BOCK-COTÉ. - This is one of the results of the transformation of the radical left initiated in the wake of the Radical Sixties. It will become institutionalized really in the 1980s, in the American university. We know the story of the conversion of the radical left, from socialism to multiculturalism and from economic issues to societal issues. The class struggle was fading away from the cultural war, and the battle for language mastery will become vital, which is not surprising if we remember Orwell's reflections on newspeak. The one who masters the language will master the collective consciousness and some feelings will simply become inexpressible by being censored.
But let us return to the history of the politically correct: in the North American universities, one wanted to open oneself to the minority words, which implied, in the spirit of the radical left, to debunk the great figures of the Western civilization, gathered in the detestable category of dead white men. In other words, culture was no longer culture, but knowledge ensuring the hegemony of dominants over the dominated: we wanted to build ideological counter-knowledge specific to dominated or marginalized groups. It is a very Bourdieu logic. The humanities were the inaugural ground of this battle. It would now be the historical turn of the minorities (and more exactly, those who claim to speak on their behalf, this nuance is essential) and it is they who should define, from their felt, the boundaries of the dicible in public life. It is they who should define what they perceive as "racism", "sexism", "homophobia". And we should all submit to this new morality. We even invite the "majority" to be silent in the name of elementary decency. We remain here in the logic of postmarxism: the new identity minorities out of the margins of Western civilization are supposed to embody a new revolutionary subject diversified.
But we have forgotten that there may be a victimist fundamentalism and a minority fanaticism, which has poured into the uninhibited hatred of the white man, considered universal bastard of the history of the world. Western society is subject to an ideological process that never stops. I just told you this: these notions are constantly spreading and all that belongs to the society before the diversified revelation will end up in the waste of yesterday's world, of which it must not remain any more traces. And it is increasingly difficult to stand up to this delusion. At the very least, it will require a lot of civic courage.
And at this moment, the North American university, which remains the institutional factory of the politically correct, is made very far in this delirium: we know the concept of cultural appropriation which is to forbid cultural crossings to the extent that they would allow the white man to plunder the cultural symbols of the victim-minorities. Yesterday we used to sing miscegenation, and we now boast of the ethnic integrity of victim minorities. We also want to increase the safe spaces, which allow victim minorities to turn the university into a sealed space against speech that conflicts with their world view. It is on this basis that lobbies claiming to represent victim-minorities have repeatedly called for censorship of such a speech or event. For these lobbies, freedom of expression does not deserve much praise because it would be used in the service of the dominant social forces. They recognize no value in themselves and believe it is necessary to transgress the demands of liberal civility, which allowed different perspectives to fight peacefully through democratic debate. These lobbies are animated by a logic of civil war.
What is terrible is that the logic of political correctness contaminates the whole public debate. It comes from the extreme left but comes to redefine more generally the terms of the political debate. All come to submit little by little to its requirements. Political correctness leads to a frightening impoverishment of intellectual and political life. Prohibited themes multiply: democracy empties essential stakes that should be subject to popular sovereignty to the extent that we want to see behind it only the tyranny of the majority. Many large sections of the population are psychiatrized by accusing them of a thousand phobias. The people are presented as a mass intoxicated by nasty prejudices and stereotypes: it would be necessary to re-educate them to purge them from the old world who would still act in them.
There are more and more specialists in the ideological process. They patrol the public space in search of slippage - this term is speaking to the extent that it tells us that public deliberation must be done in a well-marked corridor and that it is not allowed to leave.
I would add one thing: the guards of the politically correct are not satisfied with a moderate rallying to theses that they advance: they require enthusiasm. One must manifest ostentatiously one's adherence to the new diversity regime by speaking one's language. Many militant journalists also pose as inquisitors: they want to make confess to politicians or intellectuals their bad thoughts. They test them on the subject of the day by looking for the fault, wanting to provoke the declaration which will make scandal. They want to prove that deep inside themselves, they are horrible reactionaries.
LE FIGARO. - Is it the corollary of multiculturalism?
Mathieu BOCK-COTÉ. - Multiculturalism is crossed by a strong authoritarian temptation - to say the least. It is disputed - no one seriously believes that he has a popular membership. He must then silence his opponents. He does it by demonizing them. Those who report bad news about it are accused of spreading hatred. Information that does not corroborate lenient narratives about living together will be best treated as a news item not deserving of significant attention, at worst as an undesirable fact that would reveal especially the regressive psychology of the one who testifies to it. Moreover, we see it with repeated lawsuits against Eric ZemmourWe will think what we want about his ideas, but what is certain is that he is being prosecuted for what will be called ideological crimes. He does not see the world as we would like him to see it so we work hard to make him fall. And we say to ourselves that once we get rid of this character, no one will disturb the idyllic description of the diverse society. We want to make an example with him. I also note that Zemmour is not alone in this situation: Georges Bensoussan and Pascal Bruckner have also tasted the charms of legal persecution. I forget it. It was an odious trial.
But we can also want to go further. In Quebec, in 2008, a prominent academic proposed to the government to give certain authorities to regulate the media life the power to suspend for a time the publication of newspapers proposing a negative representation of diversity.
All this to say that multiculturalism, in order to maintain itself, must demonize and now penalize those who try it.
But we must see that multiculturalism does not get along well with freedom of expression, insofar as the cohabitation between different communities presupposes a form of general censorship where everyone is forbidden to judge the traditions and customs of others. This is called living together: it is a gross fraud. We see it when certain communities want to make their conception of blasphemy part of the law, or at least, when they want to force society as a whole to respect their moral prohibitions, as we have seen in the cartoons affair. I say certain communities: it would be necessary to speak, more exactly, of the radicals who take hostage a community while pretending to speak on its behalf.
The genius of modernity is the right to examine and question any belief, without having to submit to its guardians who would force us to respect it. It is the believers who must accept that people do not believe the same thing as themselves and they have the right to make fun of their deepest convictions, without this quarrel degenerating into violence. We are asked to respect each other's sensitivity, as if there is a right not to be upset and a veto right granted to each community so that it can define the way in which it is represented.
LE FIGARO. - Can this type of provision also be used by Islamists to ban any criticism of Islam?
Mathieu BOCK-COTÉ. - Naturally. This is all the meaning of the quarrel of Islamophobia: it is a question of transforming into a pathology hateful and socially toxic the simple criticism of a religion or the simple observation of its very difficult inscription in the political and cultural parameters of religion. Western civilization.
Islamists excel at turning the logic of human rights against the Western world to advance ethnoreligious claims. In the same way, they will be able to use these new provisions to present as hate speech discourses that seek to contain and repress their influence, including criticizing the strategy of identity exhibitionism based largely on the promotion of the Islamic veil in the public space. We will seek to pass any criticism a bit muscular of Islamism for a form of racial or religious hatred deserving legal and political sanction. By the way, in 2015-2016, Quebec passed very close to passing a law that would have penalized the criticism of religions in general and Islam in particular. It was supported by a parastatal institution officially dedicated to the defense and promotion of human rights. We can see how far today this movement has turned against the ideals it claims to serve.
"But Islamism is not Islam, will you say? That is true. But it should be allowed to criticize Islam too, both in its theological core and in its different cultural varieties, just as it is possible to criticize any other religion. "
But Islamism is not Islam, will you say? That is true. But it should be allowed to criticize Islam too, both in its theological core and in its different cultural varieties, just as it is possible to criticize any other religion. As far as I know, abrasive criticism, mockery, humor, controversy also belong to the register of freedom of expression in liberal democracy. It is to be feared that in a society more and more patrolled by progressive good thinking, the criticism of Islam simply becomes unimaginable.
We come back to the basics: the restoration of liberal democracy today means restoring maximum freedom of expression, which would no longer be held under the tutelage and supervision of the lobbies that participate in the world of democracy. politically correct. The amendment we are talking about proposes exactly the opposite. This is very disturbing.
Source: © Le Figaro Premium - Bock-Côté: "France goes one step closer to the American politically correct"
What a luminous and penetrating analysis of the ravages caused by the phenomena of "politically correct" and multiculturalism whose scary lead screech has fallen on our so-called "open and advanced" societies! How many decades of intellectual disintegration and moral decadence will it take to steal the eyes of entire generations poisoned by this neo-Stalinism of thought and speech?