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Culture wars

An “extremist tail wagging the mainstream dog”

Black Lives Matter protesters in London in 2016. Daniel Leal/AFP/Getty

The SNP’s spectacular fall from grace is a prime example of how “institutional capture” can wreck political movements, says Trevor Phillips in The Times. Its collapse was triggered in large part by a “tiny band of fanatics” insisting that “anyone can decide that they are a woman just because they feel like it”. They’re not the only ones with an “extremist tail wagging the mainstream dog”. The Tory brand was “comprehensively wrecked” by a fringe group for whom “no version of Brexit could ever be pure enough”. Keir Starmer still can’t say what a woman is for fear of offending ultra-liberal young party members.

Radicals achieve their political takeovers by three broad means. First, they purport to speak for whole groups of people “without much justification”: think how the Bolsheviks said they were the “voice of the entire proletariat”, or Black Lives Matter groups claim to speak for all black people. Second, there’s the ruthless exploitation by these groups of “personal guilt” through ideas like “white privilege”, which touch “the tender parts of the conscience” for white liberals. Finally, they unapologetically “deploy the half-truth”. Take the row over the Benin Bronzes and alleged British imperial ransacking – last week, it was revealed that the manillas from which they were sculpted actually came from Europe. We must wake up to the dangers of letting these “loudmouth minorities” go unchallenged. It took 70 years to unwind the capture of the Russian state by a “tiny group of Bolsheviks” – and three decades later, the world is still “paying the price in blood and treasure”.