Last week was the week the woke movement started to collapse under the weight of “its own absurdity”, says Janet Daley in The Sunday Telegraph. First, Oxford University, after endless agonising about endowments from benefactors with connections to the slave trade, admitted accepting a bequest from the Mosley family, “which has never renounced its support for the fascist genocide that occurred within living memory”. From henceforth there will even be a chair in the family’s name – a Mosley Professor of Biophysics. This is like a German university creating a chair named after Goebbels. So a great institution is happy to accept funds from the fortune of a known fascist and racist while repudiating connections with figures whose families may have profited years ago from “a trade that was widely accepted at the time”.
But it’s last week’s silly story that did most damage. The president of the Cambridge Union, Keir Bradwell, decided to blacklist historian Andrew Graham-Dixon from future appearances after he’d given a “robust and witty condemnation of the Nazi view of art” that included a Hitler impersonation (before, ridiculously, withdrawing the ban). John Cleese, who has himself impersonated Hitler, immediately self-cancelled a forthcoming visit. Let us hope that what follows is “an avalanche” of such self-cancellations. It’s our capacity for mockery that explains why British life is not torn asunder by culture wars in the way US life often is. In other countries “these kinds of conflicts end with tanks, guillotines and clouds of tear gas”. Not here. We deal with these matters differently: not with guns, but with laughter.