Anyone raised on a Cold War TV diet of ‘Callan’, ‘The Sandbaggers’, or ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ will have realised early on that one easily identifiable hallmark of the ideological conflict that distinguished Us from Them was the concept of a free press or at least the freedom to express an opinion contrary to the consensus of the ruling class without fear of State censure. Viewing the wrong side of the Iron Curtain from afar, we in the West became accustomed to the consequences facing those from the East who dared to veer from the party line. As a precursor to Vlad’s unique liquidation policy, the likes of exiled Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was silenced as a critique of his country’s Communist government on the streets of London in 1978, when a poisoned umbrella tip applied to his leg in a bus queue curtailed his broadcasts on the BBC World Service as well as his life. That was an extreme example of the punishment dished out to rebel journalists from totalitarian regimes; if they were lucky, they might get off with a show trial and an indeterminate sentence in a Gulag. Yes, that was one way in which we could draw a clear line between Us and Them. That didn’t happen here.
What’s often forgotten in all this, however, is the clever way in which the powers-that-be of the Eastern Bloc justified their harsh treatment of ‘dissidents’ to their own people. They didn’t just remove prominent figures from the streets and offer no explanation for their abrupt disappearance; they went to the trouble of providing a reason they imagined would suffice, albeit of a kind not dissimilar to how China justifies the mass arrest and imprisonment of Uyghur Muslims in effective concentration camps today; the CCP brands those prisoners undergoing re-education as ‘Radical Islamists’, just as anyone questioning the wisdom of Moscow-sponsored administrations was branded an enemy of the State and a threat to national security back in the day.
Over here, any foolhardy souls contravening the Official Secrets Act could always face severe penalties, but so touchy were the security services during this period that the odd journalist would be plunged into hot water should they say certain things out loud. An infamous 1976 feature in ‘Time Out’ titled ‘The Eavesdroppers’ committed the cardinal sin of actually naming GCHQ at a time when even the existence of MI5 and MI6 was publicly denied; penned by British-based American journalist Mark Hosenball and Brit Duncan Campbell, the furore that followed saw both threatened with deportation on national security grounds, though only Hosenball was successfully forced to leave the country as a result of the article; Campbell instead suffered life under MI5 surveillance. During the Cold War, the ideological battle-lines were clearly drawn between East and West, but the ideological differences of the 21st century are less geographical and tend to share the same uneasy soil.
A Conservative commentator mainly active online – as are many in these days of increasingly partisan current affairs reporting within the MSM – Darren Grimes is not the most obvious candidate that springs to mind whenever one thinks of libertine radicals; but news was announced yesterday that our proudest bastion of fair-play policing, the Met, is investigating Mr Grimes on the grounds of ‘stirring up racial hatred’. I thought they got down on their knees before those guilty of such an offence? I must be mistaken. Anyway, this accusation stems from an infamous interview Grimes conducted with the reliably cantankerous and combative historian David Starkey at the height of BLM protests during the summer.
Already well-known for his outspoken opinions that perhaps often only seem so because everyone else in the public eye is either coached within an inch of their media lives or is mindful of damaging their career prospects, Starkey delights in provoking hostile responses, though even he may have come to regret some of the things said in the Grimes interview – albeit not as much as a star-struck Grimes may now be for not reining Starkey in a little and failing to challenge him once. Starkey’s punishment was to lose academic posts at Canterbury Christ Church University and Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge as well as his publishing contract with HarperCollins, whereas Grimes – who didn’t actually say anything ‘contentious’ during the interview – is now being summoned under caution by the Met to answer for his heinous crimes.
There are far more subtle ways and means of making a valid point about these troubled times than the glib, clumsy approach Starkey chose to take, but it would seem Grimes is more at fault for daring to air the interview warts-and-all. The official Scotland Yard statement reads, ‘On July 4 the Metropolitan Police Service was passed an allegation from Durham Police of a public order offence relating to a social media video posted on June 30. The matter is currently being investigated.’ Grimes’ response? ‘At a time when many in our country are facing uncertainty and financial hardship,’ he said, ‘I cannot imagine a more contemptible way for the Metropolitan Police to abuse taxpayers’ money and the trust of citizen than by investigating this vexatious claim.’
What makes Grimes more vulnerable than he would have been way back when old-school ‘libertines’ invoked the ire of the establishment during the Cold War is that the battle-lines now aren’t between East and West or young and old or even left and right, but between those indoctrinated in the unforgiving segregationist dogma of Identity Politics – which our leading institutions are all completely in thrall to – and those who adhere to the archaic rule of everyone being equal in the eyes of the law. Under normal circumstances, the likes of reactionary posh-boy journo Toby Young would hardly be portrayed as a radical voice, but it’s a measure of how far we’ve moved from genuine fair-play that someone such as Young heads an undoubtedly necessary organisation like the Free Speech Union to intervene on Grimes’ behalf; as Young pointed out, are similar Met investigations being carried out into the Sky News presenter whose interview with rapper Wiley produced several anti-Semitic comments around the same time as the Starkey confrontation that proved so incendiary?
Of course, the establishment has always promoted the interests of the few over the many – usually because the establishment tends to comprise several similar groups sharing the same worldview, usually at odds with that of the many. We merely have a different set of ideological dos and don’ts governing that establishment in 2020 to the ones we had 40 or 50 years ago, and everything from airing common-sense truisms to outright provocation aimed at the establishment’s cherished value system is guaranteed to prompt reprisals in the current climate. It helps the establishment that the divisive polarisation of the culture wars means Darren Grimes will elicit little sympathy or support from those on the other side who, though they may regard themselves as opposed to any form of State censorship, will be extremely flexible if only ‘the enemy’ ever feels the full force of the establishment. But it doesn’t matter where your political allegiances are situated in a scenario such as this; assuming only the Darren Grimes’s of this world are liable for a Met investigation is a naive ostrich approach to what is a worrying and serious threat to free speech in this country. Think they’ll stop at him if they succeed? Dream on – and don’t forget to wear a mask while you do…forever.
© The Editor
2 thoughts on “FAIR-PLAY FOR TODAY”
Of course, there can be no connection whatsoever with the fact that Darren Grimes had high-profile links with the Brexit Leave campaign . . . . . Remain losers never die, never forget, never accept democracy, never allow freedom – and they never will.
I was only thinking earlier today of the song ‘Standing on the corner, watching all the girls go by’, particularly the line, “Brother, you can’t go to jail for what you’re thinking” – how quickly the world can change for the worse if we do nothing to stop it.
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Ah, yes – I’d forgotten to mention that (or, to be fair, I ran out of room); I know he also took on – and defeated – the Electoral Commission. He appears to have made the wrong kind of enemies; bit of a bugger if they’re powerful ones.
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