OPINION PEACE

One unexpected side-effect of the past twelve months has been a personal chart system for famous (and not-so-famous) names as they climb up, drop down and come straight in ‘with a bullet’ re my estimation of them. I guess living so much of one’s life in the frenzied parallel universe of cyberspace – where every minor tremor is sold as a major earthquake – has inevitably provoked people into making more public statements on current affairs than they normally would, if only because in some cases there’s less company to express an opinion to in private. It’s been revealing to read the reactions to news stories that have burned brightly for 48 online hours from those who normally never venture from their fields of expertise; by doing so, they’ve often given away thoughts that ordinary circumstances would perhaps have kept hidden from the wider world; and, in the process, their chart positions have altered accordingly. Yes, there have been plenty of non-movers – I knew Piers Morgan was an arse pre-Covid and he’ll remain one post-Covid, so he’s stayed more or less where he was; yet, at the same time, there have been several notable reversals.

Although I’ve never had any great craving to revisit it since, I nevertheless used to watch ‘Little Britain’ back in the day, and I winced when David Walliams and Matt Lucas apologised for making people laugh 20 years ago, begging forgiveness from those to whom forgiveness is an alien concept; as a consequence, they plummeted down the charts quicker than a Christmas No.1 in January. Less dramatic but equally disappointing capitulations to the BLM orthodoxy from those I’d hitherto respected as attractive social media presences led to a further reshuffling of the top 20. No, I don’t have to agree with everything someone thinks or believes; I’m grownup enough to handle the fact that a few people I like have Woke leanings where some issues are concerned, just as I can be friends with people who support Manchester United or who are incurable Remainers; it doesn’t change my overall impression of them as a person unless it becomes their sole raison d’être. The problem when more hours are lived online than off is that certain beliefs can then assert themselves as defining characteristics and not just opinions that are said aloud once or twice before being put to one side. And the mood of the moment is, of course, to be utterly defined by the checklist of the consensus.

Encouragingly, this chart hasn’t simply been one in which all names are dropping down – there have been some impressive climbers too, none more so than Neil Oliver. A likeable character fronting many TV documentaries I’ve enjoyed over the years, Oliver is an energetic, enthusiastic historian making the past come alive, someone who infuses each television outing with a passionate zest for his subject that belies his age as much as the flowing hair he admirably refuses to cut. Before the pandemic, I only knew what Neil Oliver’s opinions were on Robert the Bruce or the Vikings; I had no idea what he thought about anything else. Unlike Gary Lineker, however, the current situation has enabled Neil Oliver to show he is even more articulate, intelligent and erudite when it comes to subjects outside of his usual comfort zone. In weekly dispatches posted on Talk Radio’s YT channel, Oliver has revealed himself to be something of an oracle for our times, a rare voice of measured sanity in a stormy sea of misinformation and illiberal hysteria, someone who won’t be cowed by the pressure to conform just because not doing so could threaten his career.

A good deal of what Oliver says in these chats used to be called common sense, and common sense coming from a charming, charismatic and enlightened individual. But Oliver’s common sense appears even more striking and refreshing because of the context in which it has publically emerged. This context is a time when our sacred NHS is issuing ‘gender neutral’ guidelines to midwives advising them to use terms such as ‘human milk’, ‘chest-feeding’ and ‘people who are pregnant’ lest it should be implied that only ‘biological women’ can give birth, a time when a school in Sussex has dropped Churchill and JK Rowling as house names because the former was ‘a figure who promoted racism’ and the latter does not ‘represent the school’s core values’. Just in case you’ve forgotten, the shocking Tweet that turned the ‘Harry Potter’ author into the contemporary emodiment of the evil Sir Winston helped defeat read: ‘People who menstruate – I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?’ Rowling was responding to the kind of nonsensical, ‘Alice in Wonderland’-like distortion of language prevalent in the silly new guidelines for midwives, a journey into fantasy biology and rebranding of female terminology to accommodate the illogical demands of Trans-activists. What a bloody bigot.

The cynical and opportunistic adoption of Woke dogma by corporations and institutions who are pitching themselves against the vast majority of people who reject the divisive lunacy of the ideology is something that was well under way before the pandemic. The unique circumstances of the past year have merely exacerbated factors that were already bubbling away on campus and online, elevating them into the mainstream because the public were suddenly locked-out of the public space. These corporations and institutions are naturally backing what they believe to be the right horse because they see it as a means of survival when so many have gone to the wall; it’s nothing more than desperate self-preservation, and anyone who believes these bastions of the capitalist creed have undergone a social conversion is as deluded as some of the pronouncements they’ve been issuing. But, hey, place a population under house arrest for twelve months and it’s inevitable that madness will ensue.

As with many, Neil Oliver suspects he’s become afflicted with a strain of agoraphobia after a year of forced confinement. Ashamed he felt relief at not having to travel down to London from his Scottish home for a recent TV appearance, Oliver was evidently taken aback at how someone who in a normal year can find himself in an airport three or four times a week could be intimidated by the thought of making such a journey after a year out of action. ‘It’s a bit like when somebody’s suddenly confined to bed,’ he says, ‘and their muscles atrophy and dissolve away much quicker than you might have expected, and there’s bedsores and all the rest of it.’ He shrewdly opines how easy it is to slip into such a mindset when cut off from routine interaction with the world and one’s fellow man for an extended period, and makes the salient point that coming out of isolation has the potential to be a harder task than being isolated. The speediness with which the population has been institutionalised by hibernation is, he points out, something that won’t necessarily be mirrored by the time it will take for it to readjust to normality again.

Since last March, I’ve found it quite unnerving watching the rest of the world exhibit characteristics I myself have been blighted by for decades. I’m someone who, if not careful, can quickly slide into a semi-agoraphobic state if I go several weeks with no discernible social activity. If I establish a regular outlet for that, I usually improve and become more comfortable with the idea; if I slip out of the habit, however, the prospect of venturing farther afield from these four walls takes on scary dimensions that render any outing a challenge on a par with scaling Everest. Therefore, having continuous social isolation imposed upon me has placed me in a situation whereby I yearn for a return to normality whilst simultaneously fearing what that might entail. To have a public figure like Neil Oliver expressing these sentiments when so many others are going with whatever flow will keep their heads above water – even if that means sacrificing the respect and admiration of those who won’t – is at least one welcome development, one more small mercy.

© The Editor

9 thoughts on “OPINION PEACE

  1. I too was pleasantly surprised when Neil Oliver, a potential model for any disconnected academic tosser, proved that he had voice of his own and the balls to use it. Respect to that man.

    I only hope that the same fate doesn’t await him as befell David Bellamy before him, a man who, as soon as he questioned the fashionable orthodoxy of climate change, was dumped by the broadcasters faster than the EU can screw up a few vaccine orders.

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    1. Ah, yes, I’d forgotten what happened to poor old David Bellamy. He certainly received glowing tributes online once he’d passed away, probably many (no doubt) from those who never returned his calls for the last decade or so of his life.

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      1. Always thought Monbiot’s campaign against Bellamy amounted to bullying, pure and simple.

        That said, I could mount a reasonable argument that the right invented cancel culture. Remember the campaign against the Dixie Chicks, the ludicrous ‘freedom fries’ nonsense, and the attempts to get Billy Connolly off the airwaves for an admittedly bad taste unfunny joke about the unfortunate Ken Bigley?

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      2. Yeah, it was always the province of the Right in the past while it was the Left that was the advocate of free speech. The likes of Mary Whitehouse and her endless campaigns to ban anything remotely ‘outrageous’ seems to be being played out all over again but with positions swapped round. Only, this cancel culture is like Mary Whitehouse on steroids.

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  2. I see D*sney has jettisoned an “undesirable” this week by firing Gina Carano from the cast of “The Mandalorian” for her “abhorrent” social media posts… shades of the old Hollywood blacklist methinks… though to be fair she doesn’t seem too concerned since The Daily Wire has already snapped her up for a movie project of their own…

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    1. Yes, on paper she fulfilled the apparent demand for a strong, positive female role model, but fatally had ‘the wrong opinions’, which just goes to show that’s all that actually matters. The way in which the point she was trying to make in her tweet was twisted and misrepresented as a means of justifying her cancellation was so blatant that it has hopefully exposed the sham of ‘social justice’ to many who’d chosen not to look too closely before. The more who stand up to this McCarthy-like bullying, the better; and, as you say, she’s now shown it’s possible to do so and carry on with her career. More power to her.

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      1. I’m inclined to think you are both massively over-egging the pudding on this one.

        Among other howlers, she absurdly and offensively compared the treatment of conservatives in the US to Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe. I can understand why Lucasfilm wouldn’t want anyone that stupid being associated with them, or why her former talent agency wouldn’t want to represent someone so stupid. If she had left it at merely not caving to pressure to BLM supporters, I’d have been a lot more sympathetic.

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      2. I could see the point she was trying to make and, yes, she could have perhaps put it better; but I think the fact others employed by Lucasfilm/Disney had used even less eloquence in evoking Nazi comparisons when referring to Republicans and are still in a job stank of hypocrisy. Then again, didn’t surprise me.

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      3. Don’t get me wrong, the “Trump is worse than Hitler” comparisons are equally absurd. This is a guy who, almost uniquely of any modern president, has started new no wars and wound down ones previous presidents started. There are other aspects to his conduct while in office that are lamentable, but, no, he’s no Hitler. He’s not even Mussolini. He’s not as bad as Blair, Bush I or II, Clinton or even Saintly Obama in terms of bodycount. As for the notorious wall, I have always thought that nation states are fully entitled to protect their borders. That probably makes me a racist in today’s world.

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