LABOUR leader Keir Starmer has announced that he is to receive unconscious bias training after criticism of his response to Black Lives Matter. It appears to be the act of a man who takes himself seriously and takes responsibility for his actions. It is in fact the reverse. “It wasn’t me guv. My unconscious made me do it”.

Unconscious bias training reminds me of the bogus argument about freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is a myth, goes the argument, you can’t say anything you want, you can’t scream “FIRE” in a crowded cinema.

The reason the argument is bogus is because the idea of free speech is predicated upon the understanding that we are rational beings who can think before we act, but also that we need time to think. In the case of someone screaming “FIRE” in a cinema, the reality is that we have no time to think, only to act, to run.

Unconscious bias training takes this profoundly limited understanding of people and turns it into a new way to understand racism. Helped by the confusion about what the scourge of racism is and why the problem still exists, unconscious bias experts have discovered that racism is no longer about what we think, our understanding of an issue, our politics or even what we do, it is something buried deep inside ourselves, so much so that we don’t even know it exists.

This outlook, which is at the heart of the “politics of behaviour” is profoundly degrading in its Pavlovian presumptions about people. We no longer act, we behave. We don’t think, we react. We are determined beings, more like dogs than thinking humans. Train the dog’s unconscious and hey presto….

But why stop at racism? Perhaps we should be trained to think correctly about many other issues, should we scrap election campaigns and have mass training sessions instead?

It used to be authoritarian countries like the Soviet Union which would use psychological techniques to find the kind of “wrong-think” we find here. Western nations, in theory at least, prided themselves on the defence of freedom of conscience. Today, we seem unable to even protect freedom of the unconscious.

In the past there were also experts and elites who thought that certain groups of people were not fully human, who thought that some people lacked the capacity for rational thought, who treated human beings more like animals than thinking people. They were called racists.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.