Belfast Telegraph

Rory McIlroy was right to play golf with Trump - Liberal attacks on him are simply par for the course

Like Kate Bush before him, the four-times major winner was savaged for simply behaving normally, writes Gail Walker

Rory McIlroy is getting it in the neck again. This time it's not from Irish nationalists or Ulster unionists who want him to be 'their' pet project for the next five or ten years. Remember the clamour over which country he would opt to represent in the Rio Olympics? As it turned out, of course, Rory chose not to pitch up in Brazil at all - and incurred the wrath of other lobby groups who regarded that choice as offensive and demeaning to amateur sport. And, as it turned out, the golf title, like the tennis, ended up safely in the arms of millionaire professionals in any case.

But this time, Rory has offended the sensibilities of righteous people on a worldwide scale. This time, the bigotry is global. McIlroy's offence was to play a round of golf with the President of the United States - the latest candidate for demonisation among the liberal elites still reeling from Brexit, the US election in November and, more recently, the kicking administered by the working class to Labour at the Copeland by-election in Cumbria last week.

While blaming everyone for the failure of their message, except themselves and their overblown moralising, liberals in Britain and the US just seem to add scapegoats to the pyre. McIlroy is the latest. Astonishingly, a media backlash against him saw Rory accused of being a 'bigot', a 'fascist' and of committing the hideous thought crime of 'normalising' Donald Trump.

You see, the edict has come down from the 'nice' people. The people who still think they are moral arbitrators. Donald Trump is to be ostracised.

And woe betide anyone who breaks that law. To quote one critic: "There's a white nationalist running the White House. Any normalising of that is appeasement pure and simple."

Appeasement? By playing a round of golf?

But it is weird that while we are in no way to 'appease' the democratically elected President of the United States, there is no equivalent opprobrium attached to associating with Xi Jinping, the leader of China, for example, where human rights abuses happen every day, according to Amnesty. Yet Commons Speaker John Bercow welcomed our blood-soaked Chinese pal in 2015 - but not President Trump in 2017.

The double standards abound.

Rory, of course, defended himself ably: "I don't agree with everything my friends or family say or do, but I still play golf with them. Last week I was invited to play golf with the President of the United States. Whether you respect the person who holds that position or not, you respect the office that he holds.

"That wasn't an endorsement or a political statement of any kind. It was, quite simply, a round of golf. Golf was our common ground, nothing else."

Spoken like a normal person.

Though it is equally true that, had Rory been a diehard Trump fan and financial backer, he would still be within his rights to play golf with the President or even sleep with him, if he so chose, without being hounded by the dark forces of bitter disappointment which have followed Hillary Clinton's spectacular and historic collapse at the polls across America. It would be his right because the US is a democratic country and people are entitled to vote for whoever they like without being treated like 'deplorables', to use that offensive word which probably cost Clinton - and Obama - the election.

The same applies in Britain. Kate Bush was attacked for her opinion that Theresa May was "wonderful" in a Canadian magazine interview, and that she was "the best thing that's happened" to the UK for a long time. The legendary singer-songwriter was savagely rounded upon by the Twitter elite - 'hounds of hate', you might say - simply for expressing admiration for a woman at the top of her game and only two years older than she is herself. That's just normal. Normal just like Rory.

But in the liberal madhouse, being normal is an offence. Hence the outpouring of bile towards those who voted to leave the EU and towards the 62 million who voted for Trump. Now even towards the burghers of Copeland. They are at best 'stupid' or 'ill-educated'. At worst, they are 'bigoted', 'homophobic', 'racist', 'Islamophobic', 'fascist' and morally retarded.

But what the McIlroy saga has done is deliver a reminder to us at home. In our own poisonous way, Trumpism (like being pro-Brexit and anti-Scots independence) has become a shorthand for one side of our old divide; just as Clintonism and Remainism and Pro-Indy is short for another. One bad, one good, of course. You can work out yourself which cartoon is which.

This would be amusing, except that it has given rise to a whole new form of bullying and intimidation in Northern Ireland. Just ask around in your workplace what the prevailing views are on Trump, for example. Or, if you are not comfortable with that - and you won't be! - try Brexit as a theme. It might be more than your job is worth.

There were already reports prior to the EU referendum of city centre stores handing down voting advice to employees. There are reports now of a culture of silence and issue-dodging among people who happened to vote the wrong way in that referendum and who - simply - think the 'wrong' way about the outcome of the US election.

Being evil is tough in NI. When the 'norm' is Hillary and Meryl and Barack and Chuck - and by extension Jeremy and Nicola - being Trump and May means you are abnormal, an aberration, and have a whole raft of other bad associations attached to them - anti-equality, anti-women, anti-poor, anti-orphans, anti-dalmatians, pro-Cruella de Vil. Again, you can work out your own extensions to our local politics.

The pernicious aspect of this game is precisely how these are used to shut down freedom of speech in the workplace and to give permission to cyber bullying. They are, in short, proxies for good, old-fashioned sectarian harassment. We always find a way - even as police officers narrowly escape with their lives from terrorist attacks - to exercise our moral superiority over others.

It's depressing, though not surprising, that so few golf colleagues - and in the golf establishment even here -stepped forward in defence of McIlroy.

Of course, he shouldn't have to defend himself. With the President, the Pope and Tiger Woods, Rory is the most famous man on earth. In future, he should be somewhat terser in dealing with the new digital bullies.

Two words should cover it.

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