Brendan O’Neill

The hounding of Leslie Jones: anti-PC gone mad

The hounding of Leslie Jones: anti-PC gone mad
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The alt-right, those anti-PC, bedroom-bound fans of Trump and strangers to sexual intercourse, have finally lost the plot. Consider their hounding of Leslie Jones. Jones is a very funny African-American comedian and the only good thing in the otherwise flat, weird and mirth-free Ghostbusters reboot. Yet for the past 48 hours she has been subjected to vile racist abuse by alt-right tweeters and gamers and other assorted saddos for her part in what they view as the feministic crime of remaking Ghostbusters with a female cast. She has left Twitter. This might mark the moment when the alt-right went full racist, full berserk, full unhinged.

The alt-right angries, convinced the world is one big lefty, feminist plot to ruin your average white dude’s life, have been fuming about the new Ghostbusters for months. It’s a crime against their childhood memories of Bill Murray or something. So it was no surprise that following the movie’s release last week, they went on the attack against its director, Paul Feig, and four female stars (on Twitter, of course, not on the streets — most of these people haven’t seen sunlight since the last time Comic Con was in their local town). They reserved most of their venom for Ms Jones because… well, because she’s black, and it’s hilarious and super un-PC to abuse a black woman, right?

The comments made about Ms Jones have been genuinely nauseating. She has been called the N-word. She has been sent photographs of apes. It’s like something from the 19th century. No one who believes in racial equality and basic human decency could fail to be moved by her pained tweet following two days of relentless racial slurs: ‘I feel like I’m in personal hell. I didn’t do anything to deserve this. It’s just too much. It shouldn’t be like this. So hurt right now.’ For any black person to be subjected to racist abuse is horrific; for it to happen to a woman whose only ‘crime’ was to land a breakthrough role in a female-oriented summer blockbuster is particularly despicable. Ms Jones hits the big time and is instantly bombarded with racist smears — awful.

These attacks on Ms Jones speak to something more than the raucousness of Twitter, which can often be a good thing, certainly to the extent that it allows unheard, eccentric and potty voices to be heard. It speaks, more importantly, to the derailment of the important task of challenging PC. Tragically, for those of us who want to prick PC from a genuinely liberal and pro-autonomy perspective, the anti-PC mantle has in recent months been co-opted by the new right, or the alt-right, as some call them. These lovers of Trump (they call him ‘daddy’) and conspiracy theorists about feminism (whose wicked influence they spy everywhere) have turned being anti-PC from a decent, progressive position into an infantile, pathological, Tourette’s-style desire to scream offensive words out loud, like the seven-year-old who’s just discovered the thrill that comes with saying ‘f**k’.

Their response to new and mad PC rules on how to talk about race and gender is not to criticise them dispassionately, or point out that it’s ironically pretty racist and sexist to suggest black people and women need protection from offensive words; no, it’s to say the offensive words, to say the N-word, as loudly as possible, and ideally to a black person. In the past, serious liberals opposed bans on the right of neo-fascists to march in the streets or distribute their literature by calling for political freedom for all. They didn’t become neo-fascists just to wind up officialdom. Yet bizarrely, that’s what the alt-right does: instead of launching grown-up critiques of the censorship of hate, they embrace hate; they become hateful; they come to personify the hate whose expression is being restricted. People ban Nazis, so they become Nazis. It’s crazy. It’s a temper tantrum, not liberalism.

What is most striking is how much this alt-right shares in common with the lefty SJWs (Social Justice Warriors) it claims to hate. Both are fuelled by the politics of victimhood: SJWs claim a massive culture of misogyny is ruining their lives; alt-righters insist a feminist conspiracy is destroying theirs. Both are mean: peruse the blogs or tweets of any vocal alt-right or SJW and you’ll be struck by their disgust for anyone who disagrees with them. And both are censorious. Don’t be fooled by the alt-right’s freedom-lovin’ postures. They’re just as keen as SJWs to slam and ultimately end culture that offends them, whether it’s Beyonce doing a Black Power dance at the Super Bowl or Ghostbusters with four women in it.

Serious right-wingers and left-wingers should be worried about all this stuff. The alt-right is giving the right a bad name, while SJWs threaten to empty left-wing politics of its love for liberty and its trust in people to govern their own lives without needing official assistance all the time. They’re turning the left-right clash into a spiteful, foul-mouthed, libellous catfight, and people like Ms Jones are being caught in the crossfire in the most disgusting way.