Brendan O’Neill

Justin Trudeau is a fool but we should still forgive him

Justin Trudeau is a fool but we should still forgive him
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If you live by the sword of wokeness, you might die by it too. Justin Trudeau is about to find this out. The painfully right-on PM of Canada, this undisputed master of the virtue-signal, this morally unassailable possessor of Pride socks and correct opinions on everything, looks set to be cancelled, to use woke parlance. His crime? He’s done brownface and blackface in the past.

Yes, Mr Trudeau committed the gravest crime in the woke lobby’s very substantial statute book. He painted his face brown. Time magazine published the evidence. It was at a party in 2001 at the West Point Grey Academy in Vancouver, a posh school where Trudeau was teaching. He doesn’t even have the excuse of having been a dumb teenager — he was 29 at the time. There he is, this son of privilege, dolled up in a turban and a robe with skin-darkening make-up on his face, neck and hands. He really put effort into his brownface. Two other incidents of him ‘blacking up’ have now emerged.

The criticism has come thick and fast and it is brimming with Schadenfreude. Trudeau has been the high priest of PC for years now, so it’s understandable that anti-PC people are loving his potential fall from grace. Trudeau-bashing is trending on social media, His opposition in Canada, the Conservative party, has damned his ‘open mockery and racism’. It couldn’t have come at a worse time — the Canadian elections are just five weeks away. Oh dear. Trudeau no doubt planned to virtue-signal and photo-op his way to electoral success, but now he’ll spend the entire campaign batting away questions about his past racist antics.

Let’s be honest: it’s all quite amusing. Trudeau is the poster boy of woke correctness. The right-on set fawns over him like 12-year-old girls going nuts for Harry Styles. He shakes his booty at Gay Pride parades, he’s a feminist, he does photo ops with refugees.

And then there are his socks. OMG his socks. He’s a master of ‘sock diplomacy’, said the New York Times. No, really, it did. He wore Gay Pride socks in Ottawa. He wore ‘Eid Mubarak socks’ to the Pride march in Toronto. He wore Nato socks to a Nato meeting. ‘Rarely have a man’s ankles said so much’, said one of his woke worshippers. This man is such a living, breathing virtue-signal that even his socks say: ‘I’m a really good person!’

Trudeau isn’t a politician in a traditional sense. He’s a tweet made flesh. He’s a symbol. He’s a barometer of correct thinking. And now the barometer is broken. And how! Brownface on Justin Trudeau? It’s like finding out Mary Whitehouse liked orgies.

Trudeau is apologising effusively for his past crimes against PC. He has declared that he is ‘pissed off’ with himself, which is a bit weird. ‘I’m really sorry’, he is pleading. No doubt this self-flagellation will continue for ages. There’ll be ‘I’m sorry’ socks before you know it.

The thing is, Trudeau himself, and also the kind of media outlets that uncritically adore him — BuzzFeed, HuffPost, liberal broadsheets, Twitter — bear a great deal of responsibility for the crazily unforgiving climate that Trudeau is now falling victim to.

They made this woke world, this world in which anyone who tells an off-colour joke or ‘culturally appropriates’ clothing or music can be CANCELLED with no questions asked. PC is as stringent and intolerant as any of the authoritarianisms of the 20th century. This is the thing about cults of moral and political purity: no one is ever pure enough. Everyone will fall foul eventually. Utter the wrong word, put on the wrong hat, crack the wrong joke and, boom, you’re over. Your transgression will never be forgotten. It will come out, it will be used against you.

So let those of us who are anti-woke and open-minded be generous to Trudeau. Let us offer him a way out of his predicament. Let’s say about him what we say about all the other people who have fallen victim to the mad cult of offence archeology where we are constantly scouring people’s pasts for evidence of speech crimes and cultural screw-ups. Let’s tell him it’s cool. We don’t care what you did in 2001 or at any other time in the distant past. It was 18 years ago, it was at a party, it was dumb behaviour. Dressing up as an Arab or a minstrel is not the end of the world. Just don’t do it again, OK? We will not condemn you on the basis of a costume.

There. That isn’t so hard, is it? Let us now hope that Trudeau and the woke brigade that once celebrated him will extend the same liberal forgiveness to others who are found to have done something bad or silly or drunken in the past. Which, let’s be honest, is all of us. 

Written byBrendan O’Neill

Brendan O’Neill is Spiked's chief politics writer

Topics in this articleSociety