How the hippies became the elites

Wilfred Reilly on why the lies of bourgeois activists came to dominate political discourse.


Topics Identity Politics USA

Reality is under threat. Through the looking glass of identity politics, men can be women, Jews are white supremacists and racial discrimination can be a tool for equality – so long as it’s branded as ‘affirmative action’. As Wilfred Reilly explains in his new book, Lies My Liberal Teacher Told Me, political discourse has come to be dominated by an alarming number of false, and often contradictory, ideas. The received wisdom of the elites has become almost entirely disconnected from what is actually, empirically true or logical.

Reilly returned to The Brendan O’Neill Show last week to discuss how such bizarre beliefs came to rule the intellectual roost. What follows is an edited extract from the conversation. Listen to the full thing here.

Brendan O’Neill: To what extent do you think political consensus today is forged at an emotional level?

Wilfred Reilly: I think that most consensus is forged on nothing more than emotion. What’s more, I think that the people who know what’s actually going on need to stand up more often and say: ‘No, I’m aware of reality.’ This has become necessary regarding hundreds of different issues.

The Palestinian claim that Israel is committing a ‘genocide’ in Gaza, for instance, needs to be challenged. There is not a conscious attempt to wipe out the people of Gaza. We are not witnessing another Rwandan genocide. Israel and Hamas have been fighting for the better part of a year. Even the UN has admitted that the constantly reported casualty figures provided by Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry are unreliable. Overall, the adjusted number of casualties comes to around 25,000 – half of which are women and children – out of a total Gazan population of two million.

Beyond the numbers, we have to remember that genocides are targeted at a specific ethnic group, rather than the citizens of a particular region or land. You could try to argue that Israel is attempting a form of ethnic cleansing, except for the fact that the people of Gaza are still there. This is a bloody war, but not a genocidal one.

It has to be said that, in any military conflict, we are going to see horrifying images and videos of death. People need to be willing to be called an asshole for pointing out these obvious things, not least because there has to be a shared idea of reality in order for conversations about these issues to even take place. In the absence of that shared idea, we’re seeing more empathy-driven conversations, which only leads to an emotional consensus.

An emotional consensus is almost always established in professional, upper-middle-class circles. A small group of activists will use emotion and empathy to establish a beachhead. This was particularly the case with gender ideology, as activists used annual conferences by bodies like the American Medical Association to enforce their fringe positions. They also used small, controlled spaces to dismiss those who challenged them as the biggest jackasses in the world. Basically, an emotional consensus is built by empathic, whining activists who force organisations to accommodate them, and then use those organisations to impose their ideas on to the rest of the world. It’s a very hard loop to break.

O’Neill: Where did this type of emotional consensus-building come from?

Reilly: It began with the hippie movement of the 1960s, which in many ways was an anti-human, anti-natalist force – especially when it comes to the hippies’ environmental activism. Books like The Monkey Wrench Gang, which inspired countless radical environmentalists, romanticised small, organic farming and hunting – the exact things that human beings spent thousands of years trying to escape.

It is very important to understand that fringe ideas regarding sex, environmentalism and other issues became a part of mainstream culture – and part of the emotional consensus – because the hippies who advocated for them were rich kids. After all, a movement needs a chronicler to be remembered. The reason why all the working-class movements in US history, from disco to professional fishing, did not lead to romanticised, golden-summer books was because there were no people to write them.

For the hippies, it was the opposite. It’s considered very rude to bring this up, but most of these so-called radicals moved into places like Wall Street in the 1980s and became ‘yuppies’ (young urban professionals). Within a matter of decades, the people behind the radical ideas of the hippie movement became the leading class in society. This has led to that incredibly bizarre phenomenon we see today, where the people who scream online that they are brave, feminist rebels are almost always upper-class women with complete financial stability. It’s why those scrawling #BlackLivesMatter all over social media are almost always white.

The hippies who engaged in this slumming-style radicalism, often imitating genuinely radical groups, brought their views into mainstream society. This has had a damaging effect. It’s why crazy ideas like polyamory are becoming ‘cool’. These attitudes are supposed to be casual personal tastes, not subjects that I should come across in the New York Times business section. All of this is downstream of the hippie movement.

Wilfred Reilly was talking to Brendan O’Neill on The Brendan O’Neill Show. Listen to the full conversation here:

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Melanie Phillips and Brendan O’Neill – live and in conversation


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Topics Identity Politics USA


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