Tuesday 17 March 2015

Ain't I a Lefty?

Late to the party, but like I care. Tim Lott wrote about being castigated as a lefty because he doesn't toe the party line on a number of issues. This sees him denounced, defamed, and condemned to the Lubyanka. Well, he did admit he quite liked Spiked.

The big sticking point however, is this. Permit me to quote Tim at length:
I believe the jury is still out about whether gender identity is entirely constructed. I question whether the gender pay gap in Britain is as large as is sometimes suggested, and wonder whether it may have as much to do with the way it is calculated and with the choices women make after having children as it does with patriarchy or prejudice (although the government could do more to close the gap by funding childcare better). There is huge work to do to liberate women from the very real yoke of patriarchy. But I would venture – checking my privilege – that this is not a crisis in Britain in way it is in the developing world.
Fair enough, Tim has doubts about accepted lefty wisdom when it comes to gender divisions. Surely though the point is not to carry on with doubts but to take the trouble to investigate the issues further. I know it's a rarity in politics generally, but I usually find it helpful to get to know a subject matter before pronouncing on it. That's not a particularly left or right wing course of action, but it's the correct thing to do. What doesn't help Tim's case is the flimsy character of the positions he's built up to write oh-so-controversial words about.

It is not orthodoxy that gender identity is socially constructed. I believe it is and I think the bulk of evidence in this direction is overwhelming, but there are plenty who do not including quite a few feminists. On gender pay gaps, the evidence is there for all to see, irrespective of whether one thinks it's large or not. And it is a nonsense to suggest that feminists aren't aware that caring responsibilities attached to motherhood affect earnings, nor that women in rich, Western societies as a rule are better off than those living in mediaeval hellholes like Saudi Arabia. With a little bit of digging Tim could have found this easily out if he thought it an issue important enough.

Tim then goes on to moan about 'assumption creep': the idea of you have sorted views on one or a range of issues, you'll be sound on everything else. Well, in my experience no one expects this, except perhaps inside the SWP and annoying practitioners of performative piety - you know who you are - on the internet.

And this is the biggest problem with Tim's piece. I don't know what Tim does. He could be a hyper active trade union militant, a volunteer with the Kurdish YPG, the leader of a noisy and radical residents' association, or just a quiet activist doing his bit here and there. I suspect he's not any of these because he would have written about them otherwise. All that matters here is a certain presentation of left self à la Goffman in a world where all that matters are identity markers. Sounds a bit like Twitter, Facebook, or, for the really radical, Urban 75

If that is what "being left" now means, Tim or whoever wants that label are welcome to it.


David Timoney said...

I'm surprised you bothered. The title of Lott's article was enough to indicate that this was just the same tired old tripe that Nick Cohen has been pushing since it all went tits-up in Iraq.

Sure enough, Lott then proceeds to hold up Cohen, Christopher Hitchens, David Aaronovich, Julie Burchill and Julie Bindel as victims "for daring to voice opinions of their own that do not fit the overarching narrative". It seems to have escaped his notice that these are (like him) powerful people with extensive media access.

This is just standard Guardian crocodile tears: the grand traditions of the left have been undermined by gobby women, ethnics and anti-liberals who would deny free speech to me and my sensitive, thoughtful mates.

Tim Lott is no more of the "left" than Vince Cable, and insisting that he'd abolish public schools (which just means removing their tax-breaks because anything else would be illiberal, right?) doesn't constitute a "concern for social justice" so much as the smug preening of a middle-class Londoner who managed to get his kid into "a mainstream church school that has a high level of discipline and work ethic" (link).

Anonymous said...

“Surely though the point is not to carry on with doubts but to take the trouble to investigate the issues further. I know it's a rarity in politics generally, but I usually find it helpful to get to know a subject matter before pronouncing on it”

The problem with this is that the accusation is the lefty perception of gender pay is based on inadequate data and inadequate assumptions, and inadequate models, so the lefties didn’t take the trouble to investigate the issue properly and other lefty’s leap onto gender pay issues, proclaim it as a fact, without bothering to question how the assumptions were arrived at.

I see a trend among the left where they have stopped critically analysing things, stopped questioning and simply become ideologues.

This is a shame because lefties could once upon a time be relied upon to at least, on occasions, care about the truth. Now the truth is a thing to be manipulated.

I consider myself firmly on the left and have severe reservations about the gender pay issue and how it is constructed. I think the data is being made to fit the message and not the other way round. At best, it requires some serious investigation, so yes, someone needs to do that.

Speedy said...

I'd like you to explain to me why I experience cognitive dissonance here - my "Left" values have never changed, yet it seems that those of the people around me have.

I am a secular socialist who sees class/ power as basically what it is all about, equality for all and religion as the opium of the masses (which is not to say I am an atheist).

I stick pretty consistently to these values I inculcated during the Eighties. Yet I am often dismissed as a right winger by people who in my opinion are right wingers themselves - or at east supporting the bourgeois agenda.

I'm not trolling when I say I'd appreciate an explanation - "has the world changed, or have I?"