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Spare us the virtue-signalling hypocrisy

Footballers who take the knee are participating not in the fight against racism, but in BLM’s double standards

When England’s footballers have taken the knee at their recent Euros matches to demonstrate that racism should not be tolerated in the sport, most fans supported them with cheers, but a minority responded with jeers.

Former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has commented that he is against all forms of racism and supports anything that will eradicate it, but also said he was unsure how much longer players should continue to kneel. Great British Breakfast host Inaya Folarin Iman has said that, while most ordinary people won’t care, the act has increasingly become a way to express your intellectual and moral superiority and that they’re effectively waging a culture war against the fans.

Sanctimonious genuflection to the virtue of anti-racism is, for some players, political propaganda and for others an act of contrition. In either case the object of the act is vague.

For the kneeling footballers who count themselves as victims, it is curious that they are not pointing to any specific act of racism or responding to any particular event. And since racism is probably the biggest taboo in this country, if not the Western world, it beggars belief to claim (simultaneously) that it is lurking around every corner.

As Swedish sociologist Goran Adamson argues in his book, Masochistic Nationalism: Multicultural Self-Hatred and the Infatuation with the Exotic, “Structural racism is not a scientific concept but a moral one. It is used only by masochist nationalists in academia and politics to flog their own backs and announce their virtue … Structural racism was never supported by hard data.”

For white footballers who kneel to signal contrition; their guilt is collective

Moreover, when fans jeer kneeling players for their performative virtue signalling, the latter are turned into martyrs, and appear as victims of actual racism (merely because some people who are not racists take offense to being accused of racism). Thus, there is sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy by which white fans are put into a double bind: either they must silently participate in public penance for sins they have not personally committed or be branded “racist” for protesting their innocence; in either case they will be stigmatised as bigots.

For white footballers who kneel to signal contrition, they are not asking for forgiveness for a particular act of racism that they have personally committed; their guilt is collective. As such, they request forgiveness for someone else’s crime(s). The underlying assumption is that an individual’s guilt somehow contaminates other members of his/her ethnic group. The logic is that individuals are tokens, or representatives of the entire group to which they happen to belong. During the civil rights era there was a name for this: “racism”.

Whereas the “victim” taking the knee becomes a martyr, the self-proclaimed penitent’s genuflection signals his shame. This is not the kind of shame that one wants to hide, as though one were embarrassed. Rather, this is a type of shame that he craves, and wishes to express and to make public. Shame becomes his trophy.

Collective guilt abolishes the individual’s agency, which is the cornerstone of ethics in liberal democracies. This is not an accident. Liberal democracy is exactly what the BLM’s groupthink ideology targets for destruction. Blaming entire groups for the crimes of single individuals within them is exactly what “racists” are constantly accused of doing, but it is also the cornerstone of honour-based cultures.

BLM’s ideology trades in constant double standards and applies no principle consistently

Western Europeans who judge whole groups based on individual members of the group are rightly scolded for blaming “Muslims” every time an individual Islamist terrorist commits a bombing or stabbing. And yet the woke left also expect Western Europeans to respect the honour-based cultures that treat an individual’s transgression against normative community customs as a slight against the entire family or community — a logic that implicates the entire community in the perpetrator’s shame.

BLM’s ideology trades in constant double standards and applies no principle consistently. The hypocrisy among the Great Awokening’s propagandists is truly colossal. That said, I would not ban athletes kneeling (or any) form of public performance art. As a liberal, I believe it is vital that all views can be aired in a free society. Equally, all views should be subjected to public scrutiny, criticism, satire or commentary.

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