A fascist in a hurry: The continuing horror of Douglas Murray

A clever man is dangerous, a man who thinks he’s cleverer than he is? He’s a weapon.

Ernst Röhm was not educated, but he was effective… until he wasn’t. The co-founder of the Sturmabeteilung — the Storm Battalion aka the brown shirts — he was one of Hitler’s most loyal followers and until the SS moved in The Night of the Long Knives, was the human manifestation of the Nazi Party’s violent will. He was executed after refusing to take the ‘honourable’ offer of picking up the Browning pistol placed in front of him so he could do the job himself. Röhm was 46 and the year was 1934.

I can hear Douglas Murray’s upper-class sneer in my head already:

“Oh, he’s calling me a Naaaa-ziiiiii, typical ad hominem attack from a left positively out of ideas.”

Get out of my head ghostly apparition. I don’t think Murray’s a Nazi as such. I think he’s a fascist though, in thought, word and deed.

I make the comparison to Röhm only for this reason: While not a streetfighter in the literal sense, Murray throws himself into fights almost constantly in service of the wider culture war that the milieu of politicians, grifters, think-tanks and far-right operators that he exists within is so committed to.

Barely a day goes by without him appearing in a YouTube video or publishing a comment piece with The Spectator, Unherd, or The Daily Telegraph, that furthers his vision that the United Kingdom is suffering some kind of ‘siege by wokeists’ and that the ‘right-thinking people of this land’ must stand up against such inequities.

I despise Douglas Murray. I am not, as he is so wont to do, going to dress my dislike up in a cloak of intellectualism. I think he gives succour to racists. I think he is no different to Farage or even Tommy Robinson. He is a nasty, snide little racist, but he doesn't have the minerals to honestly express those views. Instead, he must funnel them through a distorted reading of history and fragments of his expensive education, providing an ‘intellectual’ cover for a far more down and dirty thesis — paraphrased: “Immigration is bad. Whites are under attack and ‘something must be done’.”

I am five years younger than Murray. Like him, I went to an elite university. In my case, Cambridge. In his case, Oxford. But Murray was a phenom from practically day one, publishing a lauded biography of Oscar Wilde’s love Lord Alfred Douglas at the age of 19 while he was still an undergraduate. I was… not.

Murray has continued to publish well-reviewed books ever since while drifting from work as a biographer into his current role as the intellectual leading light of the new British right, delivering polemics with titles such as The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam and The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity. These books become bestsellers, buoyed by heavy coverage on right-wing radio and in the broadsheet press, and it is undeniable that Murray is a successful polemicist and one whose words reach far beyond his large Twitter following or the readers of The Spectator or the execrable UnHerd.

Murray was a leading voice in the confected Rule Britannia/Proms controversy but has spent most of the past few weeks focused on one of his older hobby horses — the ‘threat’ of immigration. It’s a topic, along with Islam — which he despises viscerally — that he has returned to time and time again, speaking on it, appearing in debates on it, and penning column after column about his ‘reasonable’ belief that there are simply too many damn immigrants.

I think Douglas Murray is so dangerous because he is a smooth-talking phrasemaker. Producers book him because he never fails to give good quote. He is confident and comfortable. He seems respectable. He doesn’t articulate his distaste — despite his own sexuality — for campaigning by LBGT+ people, hatred of Muslims, and utter disgust with immigration in an ‘uncouth’ way. His bigotry comes with a fetching bow wrapped around it. And when it comes to critics, Murray punches back. He is a master of the bemused reply, framing those who attack him as simply hysterical — in both senses of the word: laughable but also emotionally unstable.

Consider his answer to a Politics Joe question on Black Lives Matter protests:

“A video of somebody being killed is inevitably much harder, more unpleasant, much more visceral than reading in your morning paper that something terrible has happened… my own view is that at a certain point in the lockdown, people were looking for a reason to break — this isn’t to ignore any of the legitimacy of parts of the Black Lives Matter Protest — but rather to say you could feel it:

We had been constrained in our houses for months… there was a certainly a moment in this that people were looking for a cause that trumped Covid to justify breaking lockdown… here’s the biggest problem with the BLM protests, they are essentially running against an invisible opposition…

There is a genius in the movement… The justification of the movement is: yes, there are cases in America where black people have been killed in highly questionable circumstances by the police.

Now, I say questionable because some of the circumstances in which this movement has found its raison d’etre have actually proved not to be what they were presented as. I’m thinking of the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, where the claim was that the man who was shot had his hands in the air. Then, at the subsequent trial, it emerged that he had lunged for the police officer’s gun. That makes the circumstances different. But, by that time, the movement had already got another martyr.”

So there you have Murray’s main technique perfectly summed up: He affects to being reasonable while working hard to undermine the entire premise of things he does not like and to do that he is willing to make the murder of a black man into an unfortunate occurrence. He argues constantly that when black people or Muslims are oppressed or killed it’s ‘cock-up rather than conspiracy’.

While preaching intolerance, Murray claims he is very tolerant and Britain is very tolerant with him. He is nothing of the sort. Murray, who is so fond of harking back to the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, for his rhetoric and those thinkers and politicians he quotes, is the very model of Roosevelt’s suggestion to “speak softly and carry a big stick” but Murray speaks softly and carries a copy of The Bell Curve.

At the start of this newsletter, I compared Murray to Ernst Röhm and that was cheap — Murray can’t complain as expensively cheap is his entire debating style — but in truth, he’s more comparable to the British-born German philosopher Houston Stewart Chamberlain, who married Wagner’s daughter and pushed a series of elaborate theories about the world before settling on racist and specifically antisemitic rhetoric in defence and support of the Nazi regime.

Read this quote:

The English press is the most insufferably arrogant, generally ignorant, the most passionately one-sided and narrow-minded in its judgments that I know; it is the universal bully, always laying down the law for everybody, always speaking as if it were umpire of the universe, always abusing everybody all round and putting party spirit in all its judgments, envenoming thus the most peaceful discussions. It is this and this only which has made England hated all the world over…

It’s by Chamberlain but it could just as well be a quote from Murray. Here’s an actual quote from one of Murray’s columns:

This is how it goes in Europe now. Everything barely worth saying will be said endlessly. And the only things that are worth saying won’t be said. What are those things? Among other things the fact that we are living with the consequences of an immigration and ‘integration’ fantasy which should have been abandoned years ago. Instead our governments have kept pretending that the weakening of Europe’s external borders and the erosion of its internal borders happening at the same time as one of the largest population replacement exercises in history could have no tangible effects on our continent’s future. They pretend that Britain will always be Britain, France will always be France, Sweden will always be Sweden and Belgium will always be Belgium.

The next time you read Murray in a newspaper or see him on TV being ever-so-polite, listen to what he’s saying, not his oh-so-reasonable tone. He’s speaking softly in the service of others who will arrive carrying a big stick.

PS. He’s not nearly as clever as he thinks he is: