A warning against woke and a call to defend the West

The greatest strengths of Douglas Murray’s The War on the West are his refutation of anti-western myths and exposure of the extreme and often ridiculous levels to which the ‘woke’ anti-racist obsession can go.

The ruins of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. (Image: Patrick | macpukpro/Unsplash.com)

Since the worldwide riots and protests following the death of George Floyd in 2020, the concerted attack on western culture and traditions, going on for many years among our elites, has taken on a new ferocity and now manifests itself in all areas of life from politics to religion, the arts to business. Douglas Murray’s The War on the West represents a worthy attempt to combat these attacks and restore a degree of sanity to the modern West.

At the forefront of the attack on the West is the ideology known as Critical Race Theory (CRT). CRT has its origins in American academia and developed from the 1970s onwards. It essentially interprets everything in the world through the lens of race. It is tellingly described by two of its leading supporters, Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic in the following terms:

…a collection of activists and scholars interested in studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism and power. The movement considers many of the same issues that conventional civil rights and ethnic studies discourses take up, but places them in a broader perspective that includes economics, history, context, group and self-interest, and even feelings and the unconscious. Unlike traditional civil rights, which embraces incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law.

Academics who support CRT call themselves academics ‘with an activist dimension’. In other words, they are proudly biased. Central to CRT is a belief in the collective guilt of white people. Murray states:

The claim is that white people are in their totality of prejudice, specifically racism, from birth. That racism is interwoven so deeply into white-majority societies that the white people in those societies do not even realize that they live in racist societies. Asking for proof was proof of racism…even the concept of aspiring to be “color-blind” when it comes to issues of race is itself deeply racist.

If there is an individual who exemplifies this thinking, it is the academic Ibram X. Kendi. Kendi has even produced a book titled Antiracist Baby, a nine-step plan for turning babies into professional anti-racists. Kendi’s most well-known book is How to Be an Antiracist. However, as Murray notes, Kendi’s definition of racism is apparently anything he doesn’t like, while antiracism is whatever he does like. As Murray writes:

There are no areas of neutral in Kendi’s color chart. There are only white supremacists and white nationalists and then white people who agree with him. Similarly, there are black people who agree with him and black people who do not. Those black people who do not go along with everything proposed by him are also racists.

Inevitably, among the black people that Kendi denounces as racist is the conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

This thinking of Kendi and others like him is at the core of the war being waged against the West. Murray sees this war as rooted in Marxist and anti-colonialist ideology. He traces the roots of the anti-western philosophy to thinkers including Jean-Paul Sartre, Franz Fanon, Edward Said and Michel Foucault. Strangely, he does not mention the Frankfurt School and its influence within American universities.

Busting myths

The greatest strengths of Murray’s work are his refutation of anti-western myths and exposure of the extreme and often ridiculous levels to which the ‘woke’ anti-racist obsession can go.

One of the most commonly heard anti-western statements is that the European nations practiced slavery, a crime for which they must continue to do penance hundreds of years after its abolition. But the West is also unique in having abolished slavery and sought its abolition in other parts of the world. Murray says:

…the forgotten history of slavery…is not the history of what the West got wrong but the history of what the West got right. While the history of slavery in the West is obsessively pored over, and demands for reparations naturally flow from it, the history of the rest of the world is ignored… The Ottoman Empire continued it even longer. Still today in Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East, black people are referred to as Abid’ (plural Abeed’)…which literally means “slave.” Being “black” and being a slave still means the same thing to millions of people in the region… Slavery persists today, in countries including Mauritania, Ghana and South Sudan.

Murray further demolishes the notion of ‘white privilege’ by citing the historian Michael Taylor, who found that the life expectancy for slaves in Guyana was twice that of an English industrial worker in Lancashire or Yorkshire. On the question of reparations for slavery, Murray notes that the British navy paid a massive reparation with 1,500 men dying in Britain’s efforts to end slavery in the mid-19th century. Between 1808 and 1860, Britain’s West Africa Squadron captured 1600 slave ships and freed 150,000 Africans.

Murray provides countless examples of the attack on western culture, which goes to the very deepest levels. The moral legitimacy of great cathedrals and works of art has been questioned because of alleged links to slavery or colonialism. London’s Globe Theatre is seeking to ‘de-colonise’ Shakespeare, while the Tate Britain, one of London’s leading art galleries, has permanently closed its Rex Whistler restaurant due to imagery in the Whistler mural that covers the walls being perceived as racist.

Even botanic gardens have been targeted, with Britain’s most well-known botanic garden, Kew Gardens, being branded as colonialist and racist. A Kew botanist stated that ‘We shouldn’t forget that plants were central to the running of the British empire’. Kew released a podcast titled ‘Dirt on Our Hands: Overcoming Botany’s Hidden Legacy of Inequality’ in which BBC broadcaster James Wong claimed to expose how the ‘the seemingly democratic and wholesome world of plants’ masked a hidden world of inequality and racism. Wong claimed that British gardening has ‘racism baked into its DNA’. This illustrates the farcical level to which ‘woke’ political correctness has been taken.

Defending the West … and being white

One of Murray’s most powerful responses to anti-white, anti-western ideology is discussed in the context of a discussion between conservative commentator Christopher Rufo and Marc Lamont Hill of the Black News Channel. Lamont Hill asked Rufo, ‘What do you like about being white’? Though Lamont Hill had no trouble talking about what he liked about being black, the question posed to Rufo was in Murray’s words ‘an unbelievably dangerous, potentially career-ending, land mine.’ Rufo fumbled and failed to give a satisfactory answer to the question. Murray attempts to give an answer on behalf of Rufo. This measured response is worth highlighting:

…The good things about being white include being born into a tradition that has given the world a disproportionate number… of the things that the world currently benefits from…They include almost every medical advancement… almost every scientific development that the world now benefits from… White people founded most of the world’s oldest and longest-established educational institutions…  Almost alone among any peoples it was white people who… took an interest in other cultures beyond their own, and not only learned from these cultures but revived some of them… It is western people who developed the principle of representative government… developed the principles and practice of political liberty, of freedom of thought… of freedom of speech… All this is before you even get onto the cultural achievements that the West has gifted to the world.

We might also mention here the spread of Christian faith and values to the far corners of the world.

One major aspect that is missing in Murray’s indictment of the attack on the West is any discussion of the role of marriage and the family. The attempt to undermine and redefine marriage has been central to those forces attacking the West. The restoration of traditional marriage and support for the family must surely be central to any attempt to defend the western legacy. This is a serious omission from Murray’s work.

Overall, however, this is an enjoyable book which highlights well the extent to which woke cultural neo-Marxist forces have undermined western culture.

The War on the West: How to Prevail in the Age of Unreason 
By Douglas Murray
HarperCollins, 2022
Hardback, 320 pages


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About Piers Shepherd 9 Articles
Piers Shepherd is a freelance writer based in London, England. He has had articles published in the Catholic Herald, Christian Order and the Catholic Medical Quarterly among others. He obtained an MA in Theology and Christian Ministry from the Franciscan University of Steubenville and currently works as a researcher for a trust defending traditional marriage and family in the UK.

19 Comments

  1. I think Douglas Murray is a very bright, well-spoken defender of just about everything in Western culture – except homosexuality. That’s my reservation with him. He might have a conversation with Milo.

  2. There is a reason Mr. Murray doesn’t focus on traditional marriage and I am sure Mr. Shepherd knows what it is. So just like Mr. Murray’s book being quite helpful in many respects but containing a glaring lacunae, so this otherwise good review goes pretend blind itself in the second to last paragraph.

  3. Spoiler Alert:: Douglas Murray’s gay….so..yeah, it’s going to be omitted/neglected.

    This point that Piers makes is key, is **the** issue.
    Until Catholics embrace that the liberalism, child abuse crisis in the Church (as well as society), the pagan false, unGodly ideologies –from a century back all the way to the coming abomination of the Synod — are all tied to LITERAL abomination being introduced into family matters, we will continue to
    circle the drain as a society and a church.

    For those who aren’t discerning, battling for the West comes by speaking up against any of this cultural mess in your circles, your travels. You don’t have to beat down D.C. ; just be active in **your** communities.
    Know your faith.
    Show your faith.
    Stop being cowards.

    “One major aspect that is missing in Murray’s indictment of the attack on the West is any discussion of the role of marriage and the family. The attempt to undermine and redefine marriage has been central to those forces attacking the West. The restoration of traditional marriage and support for the family must surely be central to any attempt to defend the Western legacy. This is a serious omission from Murray’s work.”

    • Yes, Murray is a homosexual and has some other disagreeable personality traits. Donald Trump has been “married” three times, and Marine Le Pen and Giorgia Meloni are not model Christian wives and mothers. But they are defending Western Civilization however imperfectly, unlike the great majority of Catholic bishops and more than a few devout Catholic intellectuals who cannot even bring themselves to oppose Muslim immigration to what was the heartland of Christendom. I’ll take whatever allies I can get, whenever and on whatever issues I can get them. And I am not apologetic about it in the least.

      • I, for one, am not interested in perfect expositors of cultural values I hold dear. I only expect consistency in thinking.

  4. “The restoration of traditional marriage and support for the family must surely be central to any attempt to defend the western legacy. This is a serious omission from Murray’s work” [Piers Shepherd] identifies by inference the effeminization of Western manhood, the trend toward homosexual endorsement. That anthropological redefining which underlies Woke ideology.
    Some are discussing that priority, the restoration of men as men rather than what have become pretentious libertines [and worse] who are really moral cowards. The masculine man the sine qua non for saving the West. Self emasculated they have zero ambition to defend truth.
    If men don’t perceive themselves as masculine in the finest sense, incentive to oppose the sexualization of children, their sexual exploitation by adults, their so called transitioning – disappears. Our Creator created the anthropological and spiritual distinction between male and female for ensuring the integrity of family as the cultural linchpin for morality and rational order.
    As an added note of realistic humor, Oscar Hammerstein II, Sigmund Romberg’s ‘Give me some men who are stout hearted men, who will fight for the rights they adore’ will do well as a fighting song.

    • We might call the last 70 years in Western culture the “Failure of Men being Men”. Men have been intimidated into assuming a passive status in the culture. Men have no bloody idea what it means to be a man. Men have become self-indulgent over-grown babies. I once heard a priest describe a married man with children as an “overgrown frat boy.” This priest didn’t realize just how prophetic he was. Men are so afraid of being castigated by women that they wind up being effectively castrated. If anything, the clergy abuse scandal is as much about the failure of men being fathers to their sons as it is about priestly “fathers” homosexually predating on boys.

    • Father I have the greatest respect for you in fact I always seek your comments. I do take issue though with the idea of men being emasculated. If you look at the culture of the 50s 60s 70s etc you will see men greatly abused their privilege. Keeping women in the home was often motivated by nefarious reasoning. The church contributed to this by elevating the necessity of women being ^pure^ whilst remaining silent about men. The great crime of abortion has more support amongst men than women precisely because they benefit from it. Years ago I read in The Guardian a comment concerning the visit of Pope Benedict to the UK. A man basically said the.pope was no different to a mullah and would be equally barbaric if he had the chance. Rubbish of course, but the image remains of a chauvinistic church. In many cases women have taken the lead not to belittle men but because they had no option. If the west is to be saved it will be by men and women working together and by men I mean men like yourself not fops like ^Milo^

      • My understanding is that Milo has turned away from a life of homosexuality and has returned to the Church. I’m not the diviner of men’s hearts I can only consider what they state about themselves and what their actions suggest.

        • Alice, your basic premise is correct. Restoration of a Christian culture must be the joint effort of men and women. Chauvinism has been a Church issue now leaning somewhat inordinately toward feminization.
          And there are men who are men [my comment was a generalization], as well as women who are able and necessary participants. Christ’s words One Flesh has a cooperation extension beyond the sacrament of marriage.

  5. I notice that R.J. Snell (editor, Public Discourse) refers to natural marriage. I seem to remember reading Maggie Gallagher saying that she knew the battle was lost when they referred to traditional marriage. Like it or not, the word “traditional” in the popular mind means stuffy, old-fashioned, stuck in the past, not with-it. Words matter.

  6. As other commenters have already pointed out, the fact that Murray is a homosexual (and even a bit belligerent at times in this regard) accounts at least in large part for his silence regarding any defense of traditional marriage in his book.

    The book is indeed quite good overall, but there are a few other things in his book that one can also criticize as being off the mark, and that includes promoting the ongoing myth of what can be called the “excellence of the Enlightenment,” which continues to push the false notion that the Enlightenment is the great bulwark/historical development against so-called extremes of religion, and that science and logic and reason only began to assert itself and gain more influence during the Enlightenment in opposition to Church oppression and a falsely alleged anti-science/anti-reason mentality. Honest historians recognize that many things attributed to the Enlightenment were actually discovered and championed many years earlier, and for the Church in particular, this includes the works of many Saints like Augustine and Aquinas, and the entire scholastic movement that promoted (and still promotes) the use of reason, logic, and science way before the so-called Enlightenment era.

    Another scholar I continue to recommend as a warrior in defense of objective reality and most Western values is former liberal/now more libertarian Dr. James Lindsay. Like Murray, Lindsay also drinks the Kool-aid regarding the Enlightenment, but beyond that, he continues to expose the malevolent agenda of the anti-West wokies and so-called “social justice warriors” hell-bent on destroying Western culture. Moreover, Lindsay also provides lots of advice on how to counteract the evil that emanates from people like Ibram Kendi, Robin DiAngelo, Klaus Schwab, and many, many other yahoos who enjoy way too much popularity and influence today.

    Three books by Lindsay I highly recommend are the following”

    “Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity — and Why This Harms Everybody.” This is written with Helen Pluckrose. 2020.

    “Race Marxism — The Truth About Critical Race Theory and Practice.” 2022. As mentioned in another comment, this book goes into more detail and provides more advice on how to fight the nonsense than Dr. Feser’s much shorter “All One in Christ.”

    “The Marxification of Education: Paulo Freire’s Critical Marxism and the Theft of Education.” 2022. Just released a few days ago, this provides the historical roots of what we see afflicting education today.

    Lindsay’s website “New Discourses” is also a good place to gain many more insights and solid advice to help good people stand up against the ongoing “woke” destruction poisoning the Western world. Before signing off here, I once more hasten to add that I am not affiliated with Lindsay in any way, nor am I being paid to promote his work. I simply find the vast majority of what he is doing of immense value, and I support his work as a most valued ally in the struggles of our time against the principalities and powers.

  7. Re marriage or matrimony – I’ve reread the article by Msgr. Pope and some of the (many) comments. I think there is some merit in the church’s use of the term Matrimony. However, most people won’t grasp the difference, although some will be motivated to investigate the meaning of the word. I note one comment to the Pope article that says the LGB lobby will just plead exclusion and hijack the word. (Aside: With the current widespread proficiency in Latin, that won’t be hard to do). The term natural marriage is, I think, more difficult to misread.

  8. Let’s call a spade a spade. It’s amazing how anti-anti-racism has evolved into anti-wokeness. It’s the same movement rooted in, though out of a sense of civility not openly acknowledged, white supremacy aiming at the perpetuation of white power and privilege. This book under review and this review itself feel challenged by Critical Race Theory has responded with the Great Replacement Theory.

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