Woke vs anti-Woke: What Priyamvada Gopal and Douglas Murray have in Common

A colourful Twitter beef that caught the eye this summer in the wake of the George Floyd murder at the hands of racist police officers, pitted the esteemed University of Cambridge Professor, Priyamvada Gopal against the right-wing Etonian author Douglas Murray. Gopal has positioned herself as the British liberal establishment’s leading connoisseur for all currents that oppose imperialism and require decolonisation. She published her tomb, Insurgent Empire to rave reviews. While Murray’s bestselling books on immigration and the culture wars has earned him millions of followers. His book, The Strange Death of Europe is one of the leading go-to books for right-wingers on contemporary immigration.

The pithy indictments they fired at each other on Twitter were standard schoolyard barbs. Murray sanctimoniously sneered at Gopal spending time on Twitter as compensation for her lack of academic repertoire, while Gopal predictably retorted that Murray finds it difficult a woman of colour lectures at Cambridge. Their adversarial tweets were not only aimed at each other but also clearly played to their on-line base. Gopal’s to the “woke” generation, Murray’s to the Trumpian/Brexit anti-woke masses. The ‘woke’ term emanated in the United States to help give expression to those who were historically marginalised and enslaved.

However, both authors have one essential thing in common. Both needed to elide crucial events to make the respective thesis in their books credible. Gopal’s distinctive thesis in Insurgent Empire is that were a “distinct minority tradition” in the imperial metropole who have always been present in the history of opposition to the British Empire. Murray on the other hand, in The Strange Death of Europe wants to pin the blame for the migration crises in the Mediterranean Sea in the last decade squarely at the feet of Chancellor Angela Merkel and her policy to allow a million Syrian refugees to settle in German.

For Gopal to make her Insurgent Empire thesis water-tight she needed to throw resistance to British imperialism in Mandate Palestine under a bus. When it came to implementing the 1917 Balfour Declaration there were no mainstream British dissidents opposing the colonisation of Palestine in the inter-war period. Gopal’s thesis partly rests on marginalising the indigenous Palestinian resistance to British imperialism. Both right-wing genocidal imperialists such as Winston Churchill and left-wing socialists such as Michael Foot were totally onboard with Britain’s Zionist project in Palestine. Indeed, one of the characters she identifies as part of Britain’s “distinct minority tradition”, former Labour leader, Ramsay McDonald was a champion of colonialism in Palestine. Gopal had no choice but to whitewash his views on this subject and in effect misrepresent Macdonald in her book.

Turning to Murray, his thesis in Strange Death of Europe stems around Merkel’s decision in August 2015 to allow a million Syrian refugees to enter Germany. Yet he acknowledges that the migration flow had began long before this date. It was a fallout from his fellow Etonian, David Cameron’s lead in military intervening in Libya in 2011. Before the military intervention in Libya, Libya was host to over a million migrant workers from Egypt, over a million from sub-Saharan Africa and 900,000 workers from Tunisia. One could argue that many of these migrants would inevitably travel elsewhere and by any means once Libya was destroyed by Cameron, his western allies and jihadis. Once the intervention was completed in Libya, Cameron led the calls to military intervene in Syria. Jihadis who had fought in Libya under the de facto auspices of NATO began arriving in northern Syria to assist the “revolution” there. It was only natural that Murray, a neo-con warmonger who supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003, would elide Cameron’s role in bringing about the migration crises in the Mediterranean Sea. The war on Iraq was justified on a pack of lies and so was Cameron’s military intervention in Libya.

These wilful and blood-soaked elisions in the respective theses of their books solidifies their arguments. If the authors had included these episodes of British imperial history then their theses would have stood on much shakier grounds. Ultimately, it is these absences which cements their argument.

A further irony is that Gopal has very little to say on contemporary British imperialist foreign policy including the NATO-jihadi destruction of Libya. Actually, her sole contribution to understanding the fallout from the Libya intervention is to denounce anyone who doesn’t share the western pro-interventionist narrative on Libya as “Gaddafist”. On this basis, she aids and abets the NATO-jihadi destruction of Libya. More so, she literally referred to the Lebanese-American journalist, Rania Khalek as a “vile Assadist” for not accepting the western-GCC narrative on the regime-change war in Syria.

Whereas, Libya was once probably the richest country in Africa which also hosted millions of migrant workers who sent remittances back to their families in their countries of origin in Africa and elsewhere, it is now basket case and an epicentre of people trafficking and human slavery. As expected, the further impoverishment and destitution of millions of Africans naturally means nothing to a posh-gobbed, Etonian neo-con like Douglas Murray and unfortunately it also means nothing to an upper-class, loathsome careerist like Professor Gopal.

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