Book BurningA painfully prescient quote from Salman Rushdie appeared on Twitter yesterday – ‘The moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.’ I’ve no idea how old this quote is, but it’s reasonable to assume it was written in the long shadow cast by the fatwa of 1989. Since that groundbreaking moment of intolerance on the part of an entire State, intolerance towards freedom of both thought and speech, whereby any individual expressing an opinion deemed ‘wrong’ is fair game to be brought to heel by whatever means are at their opponents’ disposal, has filtered down to the masses, facilitated and fuelled by the ubiquitous social media that didn’t exist when Rushdie wrote ‘The Satanic Verses’ in 1988. Previously, a novelist in the West faced potential censure from publishers or book stores if they penned a work regarded as ‘controversial’, yet having a price placed on their head by the Islamic Mafiosi running Iran was a new development; just as the 1570 declaration of Pope Pius V that Queen Elizabeth I was a ‘heretic’ gave the green light to radical Catholics of the 16th century, the edict issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini five months after the publication of Rushdie’s novel not only placed the writer’s life in peril, it legitimised violent reprisals on the part of any mental fundamentalist if they felt their outrage was justifiable.

Amongst numerous other atrocities committed over the past two or three decades, the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ massacre of 2015 can be traced back to the 1989 fatwa, providing yet one more extreme example of how the offended believe they are entitled to exact revenge to ease their offence. At the other end of the scale, Hollywood bigwig Will Smith felt similarly entitled to stroll up to comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars in the middle of his routine and sock him on the jaw simply because he didn’t like what the comic was saying about his missus. In comparison to the serious attempt on Salman Rushdie’s life at an event in New York State yesterday, Smith’s petulant punch seems trivial, yet both he and the lunatic who stabbed Rushdie and left him in a critical condition felt their actions were justified because they’d been offended. Where that leaves either a vulnerable novelist or a comedian when alone on stage, self-censoring their freedom of expression for fear an audience member might take offence at something they say and then leap onstage wielding a weapon or a fist, is worrying when a belief in one’s own self-righteous entitlement has spread from the ivory towers of a hardline Islamic regime to any disgruntled member of the public. An unpleasant precedent has been set.

It may be a blink in the eye of the elephantine memories of Radical Islamists – after all, that has a vintage of centuries – but 33 years have now passed since the Ayatollah delivered his death sentence on Salman Rushdie in absentia; therefore, the understandable security precautions that were taken in the early days of the author’s exile from polite society have been largely relaxed since. A famous story emanating from those days concerns a visit from celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, who was cooking a meal for Rushdie when said foodstuff ‘exploded’ in the oven, causing Rushdie to dive under the sofa in a manner reminiscent of citizens sheltering from the Blitz. It’s no wonder he was jumpy. Various people associated with his most notorious novel have met far worse fates in the last 30-odd years, and Rushdie naturally figured he was through the worst; he even parodied his situation on an episode of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’, when Larry David sought advice as he went into hiding following his announcement he intended to produce a musical based on the fatwa. Unfortunately, that joke isn’t funny anymore.

The Iranian Government has distanced itself from the Ayatollah’s decree since around 1998, though so far-reaching was the initial proclamation that the growth of Radical Islamist networks and various terrorist collectives this century has meant the message has never really gone away; there was even a bounty of $3 million offered by an Iranian religious foundation in 2012, meaning Rushdie has continued to exercise a degree of caution when it comes to public speaking. It’s interesting that the provocative burning of books on British streets in certain cities with a large Muslim population first became a regular sight in the wake of the furore surrounding ‘The Satanic Verses’, as did the appearance of those openly advocating the assassination of Rushdie on British television without being challenged – including the otherwise moderate Muslim convert Yusuf Islam, AKA singer Cat Stevens; these stunts went unpunished by police reluctant to be accused of racism.

One might say the inaction of authorities then has left a devastating legacy in the UK since; everything from the terrorist cells responsible for appalling carnage in London and Manchester in the 2010s to turning a blind eye to the insidious ‘grooming gangs’ in Rochdale to the teacher in Batley whose school was besieged by the local Muslim Gestapo in 2020 and remains in hiding due to a glaring absence of support from teaching unions – there’s a direct connection stretching all the way back to failure to act in 1989. Even the response of some of Rushdie’s fellow creative artists at the time saw the debut of the kind of gutless self-preservation that has subsequently become a hallmark of the artistic fraternity during the age of ‘cancel culture’, with even fewer prepared to stand up and be counted when the online hounds are unleashed to silence any artist who has dared to venture an opinion contrary to the consensus. Silence is compliance when one of your own is under threat; and the misguided solidarity shown towards a terrorist organisation like Hamas by the far-left in the West merely because their arch-enemy is Israel – remember ‘Queers for Palestine’? – is another risible strain of this; I’m just wondering how the Pride flag-waving zealots will react when the next World Cup is held in a Middle Eastern autocracy where freedom of expression is effectively outlawed – ‘Queers for Qatar’?

According to police, Salman Rushdie was poised to speak at the large outdoor amphitheatre at the Chautauqua Institution in New York State on the ironic topic of artistic freedom when a man ran on stage and stabbed him in the neck and torso; the attacker was swiftly – if belatedly – apprehended by security and Rushdie was rushed to hospital by helicopter. He is currently on a ventilator after surgery, with the author’s spokesperson telling the press that ‘Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.’ The culprit was arrested and is apparently sympathetic to the Iranian Government; if the attack was fatwa-influenced, the Iranian Government he’s seemingly sympathetic to must be the one of 1989, but Radical Islamists tend to live in the past so perhaps that’s no great revelation. I suppose the fact Salman Rushdie was one of the first artists to be exposed to the unhinged wrath of extreme opponents to the foundation stone of Western democracies means this grotesque attack coming at a time when everyone is susceptible to assault if they dare to speak their mind gives it the grim feel of a full circle being reached.

Voltaire’s famous quote on freedom of speech tends to be exhumed for paraphrasing yet again at moments such as this, even if many who spout about freedom of speech don’t necessarily live by Voltaire’s words; for far too many today, free speech is fine as long as it chimes with one’s own opinions; when it doesn’t, it’s deserving of censure, either by organising an online campaign of vile trolldom or going one further, as the head-case who attacked Rushdie did. If hate crime exists at all, surely something like this is the most barbaric example of it, not misgendering some delicate non-binary nitwit on Twitter. As a human being suffering such a brutal attack, one hopes Salman Rushdie survives it; as an increasingly-rare artist advocating freedom of thought, speech and expression, it’s absolutely vital he does.

© The Editor





Haters‘It’s not censorship when a private company decides to remove you from their platform. You don’t have an inalienable right to a Twitter account.’ So spoke the social media account of one Gary McGuiggin from a position of smug detachment in June 2020. A year or so later, in response to the 24-hour deletion of the YouTube account of ‘progressive’ left-leaning online news outlet Novara Media, the same account declared, ‘Whether or not you agree with what we publish, it shouldn’t be the whim of giant tech companies to delete us overnight with no explanation.’ Fancy that. It’s apparently okay if Talk Radio’s YT channel vanishes in the blink of an eye for daring to question the Covid consensus or if a former US President is permanently censored, what with cancel culture being a figment of the right-wing imagination and all that; but Voltaire’s oft-quoted line re freedom of speech is evoked yet again now that those for whom empathy only comes into play when their own platform is abruptly removed have felt the full force of that which they have long been in denial of. Yes, the incredible revelation that big tech is a tad too big for its boots has finally hit the left and we all have to erupt in collective outrage at the news. Pity we didn’t do so when supposedly ‘right’-leaning outlets were receiving the same treatment for months.

Not unlike the way in which Rad Fem tactics have now been turned on Rad Fems themselves via the Trans lobby, the sudden utilisation of cancel culture against those who foolishly imagined they were immune from its toxic touch has been a lamentable but sadly necessary act, if only to make the previously-unaffected aware that nobody is ring-fenced once a series of illiberal victories have been achieved. Amazing as it may seem, the news that giving an inch means a mile or more might be taken by those for whom compromise and capitulation is never enough has opened the blind eyes of the chattering-classes now that the realisation has dawned that tossing them a few token right-wing scraps won’t satisfy the ravenous appetites of the serial censors. Once they’ve acquired a taste for it, they won’t settle for crumbs.

Of course, anyone with any knowledge of the past will know this has all happened before. The McCarthy witch-hunts of 1950s America had begun with rooting out reds under the bed and eventually descended upon the unimpeachable reputation of FDR, trashing the legacy of a revered President as those falling under the spotlight of the fanatics they’d supported belatedly came to realise that nothing was ever enough for them. It shouldn’t take the overnight disappearance of a prominent pro-Corbyn, ultra-Woke mouthpiece before those who had been content to observe the muting of opposing voices decide this kind of thing is bad news; but it would appear it has to happen to them before they realise it’s not a good idea to silence freedom of speech in a democratic society. Fine if the speech being censured is speech that doesn’t chime with your own ideology, but apply the same principles to yours and it’s suddenly out of order. Well, tough titty, mate. It’s not advisable either way. But perhaps yesterday’s events re Novara Media can serve as a contemporary cultural equivalent of the decisive moment in 1975’s ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ when Davros pleads with his creations to have pity just before they exterminate him.

The fact that an established comedian such as Dave Chappelle over in the States has roused the ire of frothing-at-the-mouth Trans activists simply for daring to tell a few jokes should have been a warning sign in itself; footage of protests outside Netflix HQ in which the mental mob included a screeching harpy repeatedly screaming ‘Repent, muthaf***er!’ at an opposing voice should have been enough to convince anybody with half-a-brain that these people are pseudo-religious zealots that can never be appeased. The reaction to Chappelle’s recent Netflix special has been predictably disproportionate, for as far as I know the comedian himself didn’t spare anyone from his latest routine – just as predecessors such as Dave Allen, Billy Connolly, George Carling or Lenny Bruce never did; that’s comedy for you. That the only ‘persecuted minority’ to take umbrage at Chappelle’s act should have been the Trans lobby is interesting, considering this particular lobby has the whole of the corporate Western world on its side, not to mention every non-corporate institution (see LGBTXYZ Cars in the British Police Force, let alone ‘rainbow’ zebra crossings); that’s some persecution. Chappelle himself, a prominent black celebrity in the States, has even been accused of ‘white privilege’ by these purveyors of the insane dogma that characterises the most fanatical fanatics, and surely that tells you all you need to know about where we are – a world in which even august medical institutions like the Lancet can’t bring themselves to use the word ‘women’ in their literature just in case they might offend the self-appointed spokespeople of a few chicks with dicks.

As has been pointed out in recent posts, past groups pooling resources to stem the tide of ‘liberal’ progress tended to emanate from the middle-aged and the conservative right, whether religious Republicans across the Atlantic or suburban Tories over here. They were traditionally seen as upholders of authoritarian opposition, eagerly sponsoring the relentless pursuance of The Rolling Stones for their recreational drug use in the 1960s or cancelling every date on the first nationwide Sex Pistols tour ten years later. Their antipathy towards the changing of the guard was generally rooted in the increasing insecurity of their own fixed worldview, seeing power slipping away from their grip as everything they’d complacently held dear since the triumph over fascist forces in the 1940s was gradually deconstructed by war babies keen to build their own society from the uninspiring ashes they’d inherited. Back then, powerful opposition groups controlled the press, the mass media and every organisation with any clout in the country – just like their inheritors do in 2021, something that brings the victim mentality so beloved of the 21st century Puritans into question.

Today’s equivalents are less easier to define in quite the same way as one could define those of the 60s and 70s; what were once seen as positive and radical organisations such as Stonewall have now become far more reactionary than their predecessors. Most have evolved into an illogical establishment prioritising and elevating favourite minorities over a far wider demographic, inadvertently re-establishing all the barriers that had been torn down in the lengthy fight for gay rights, just as so-called ‘anti-racist’ groups in the US appear determined to revive racial segregation. Challenge any of them and you will feel the full force of those who are making a living from division and want to retain the current status quo as strongly as the elderly ladies and gentlemen did when they sought to crush the ungrateful yobs of half-a-century ago. Funnily enough, their predecessors also coloured their hair, albeit preferring a blue rinse to the pink shades favoured today; but I digress.

That the baton of authoritarian censorship should have been passed from right to left over the past decade hasn’t sat easy with those of us who would once have regarded themselves as left-leaning in the belief that one side was more conducive to freedom of expression than the other. But as the Labour Party carries on screaming for the reintroduction of the most severe pandemic restrictions and its leader thinks it wrong to state the biological fact that women have cervixes and men posing as women don’t, it’s no wonder the Party is being deserted by the masses and now only speaks for a narrow, metropolitan minority that won’t tolerate the questioning of its dubious wisdom. That one of its most vocal online mouthpieces should now have fallen to the same censorious (and previously-tolerated) practices of big tech that has already wielded its power over mouthpieces from ‘the other side’ has maybe – finally – awoken the left to the dangers of selective free speech. We can but hope.

© The Editor




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


It’s oddly disorientating, this new-improved isolation; it possesses all the components of the self-imposed isolation I’m more than familiar with, yet because it’s been enforced by a higher power, the options ordinarily available when the compulsion to break free overcomes me have been taken away. Ah, yes, but as long as you look like you’ve just stepped out of an operating theatre, you can still go shopping and the experience will be even more fun-packed than it used to be! And if you’re unable to do that, you can engage in faux-socialising via the Zoom ‘community’ from your very own front room; alas, this innovation overlooks the fact that what made socialising a refreshing alternative to the norm was that it forced you out of your very own front room. I engage with people online every day, but I don’t mistake that for socialising any more than I mistake masturbation for sexual intercourse.

Okay, so having the choice to venture beyond the four walls might not always have been fully capitalised upon by yours truly, but it was nice to have that choice, all the same. So what if I didn’t make the most of it? It was a curious comfort to know those myriad options were there should I ever need them; and now they’re not. Anyway, as someone whose home-space has doubled-up as workplace for years, it’s no surprise that work has constituted the majority of my time since the outside world lost its (admittedly limited) attractions; but even the workaholic needs rehab every few hours, and mine has provided this here blog with numerous intervals from the madness. And I return to one of those intervals today.

I thought I’d exhausted every viewing experience available on the shelf as a means of escaping the solitary confinement of these happy days, yet lo and behold, I last week unearthed a series I’d only watched the once, and that was the best part of five or six years ago. As a long-time lover of the works of Dennis Potter, the hours of off-air VHS recordings of his finest moments I used to own haven’t been properly replaced on DVD yet. I have the original 1976 BBC production of ‘Brimstone and Treacle’ (the one that went unseen for a decade), but that is one of his numerous one-off plays; Potter gradually enhanced his reputation as television’s most gifted dramatist via the episodic series he produced in the second half of his career, reaching a peak of both popularity and artistic excellence with the likes of ‘Pennies from Heaven’ and ‘The Singing Detective’. But these later examples of his uniquely imaginative and innovative storytelling techniques were possible because he’d proven himself capable of the serial format several years before.

In 1971, after contributing some of the finest and most original one-off plays to the ‘Wednesday Play’ and ‘Play for Today’ strands, Dennis Potter wrote his first series for the BBC, the six-part ‘Casanova’. The name of the infamous 18th century Venetian libertine has subsequently become a noun describing a certain type of man whose fondness for the fairer sex takes that other name-cum-noun that denotes the passionate lover – Romeo – to a somewhat more salacious level. Casanova would have ravished and robbed Juliet of her virtue in the same time it took Romeo to recite his speech to her when she was up on that balcony; and that’s the difference. The actual genuine historical figure who bestowed his name upon future men seeking to emulate his specialised skill lived to the ripe old age of 73, spending his autumn years in retirement from the ladies and penning his memoirs. This book, ‘Story of My Life’, salvaged Giacomo Casanova from the posthumous obscurity awaiting all those who were neither highborn nor artistic during his lifetime; published in the 1820s, a good couple of decades after Casanova’s death, the book serves as an authentic historical snapshot of the times in which Casanova’s life was lived, though most English language versions of the memoirs were bowdlerised and poorly-translated.

The first truly faithful English edition of the text appeared as late as 1966 and found its way onto Dennis Potter’s desk when he was a book reviewer for the Times. Intrigued by the potential of dramatising the exploits of such a fascinating, unconventional character, Potter decided to adapt Casanova’s adventures for television, though it took a good five years after the book’s publication before television censorship had relaxed enough for him to get away with it. Rather than writing a straightforward TV ‘biopic’, Potter instead took the bare bones and key events of Casanova’s life and created his own unique take on the man, giving himself considerable artistic licence as he made Casanova the personification of Potter’s own struggle with the conflict between the sacred and the profane. Themes that went on to become familiar Potter tropes are explored in greater depth here for the first time; in this respect, it doesn’t really matter that the author plays fast and loose with the truth; in the ambiguous character of Casanova, he has the perfect vehicle for his recurring concerns.

It was a brave choice to cast the 45-year-old Frank Finlay as the lead character in the series, though as Potter’s adaptation avoids portraying Casanova in his formative fornicating years and instead focuses on the events that led to his imprisonment on charges of affront and common decency at the age of 30, the casting is revealed as quite inspired. The narrative also carries us through to Casanova’s old age and a 45-year-old can better portray an elderly man than, say, a 25-year-old; Finlay convinces as the old, ailing Casanova as much as the arrogant, younger Casanova in the prime of his time as Europe’s master seducer – and his obsessive craving for seduction is clearly painted as something of an illness, a realisation that dawns upon him when his wrecked body can no longer serve its motivating force.

Bar a shot of Finlay’s bare bottom in the first episode, what flesh we glimpse in this series is generally restricted to naked breasts – and lots of them. But there are just as many heaving bosoms constrained within tight bodices as there are fully exposed boobs; and the former is a far more tantalisingly erotic sight than the latter. We tend to get the build-up to sex, but stop short of excessive ‘sex scenes’ as such. If anything, the clever way that Casanova’s bedchamber activities are presented conveys their hedonistic joy far more effectively by being sparing; yes, there’s the opportunity to be more explicit than had previously been the case on TV, but the editing is first-rate as it cuts from flashback to present day and back again. There’s nothing as remotely exploitative of the looser moral climate in ‘Casanova’ as there tended to be in some of the Hollywood movies of the period.

Naturally, Mary Whitehouse got a tad hot under the collar, but the fact the character was gaoled courtesy of accusations that she in turn then levelled against the BBC was an irony no doubt not lost on Potter. Indeed, watching the series fifty years on, the double standards of morality that governed the Church of Rome in the 18th century aren’t a million miles away from those that govern our very own century’s Church of Woke – and a figure like Giacomo Casanova would probably meet the same fate today as he met then. Dennis Potter’s ‘Casanova’ may not be spoken of in the same breath as some of his later, more celebrated works, but it was an important step towards them; and it holds up as an enjoyable and occasionally moving portrait of a debauched life in which any form of deeper, long-term meaning is sacrificed for momentary gratification. It is pointless to use the law to punish a man such as Casanova, for the only real victim when the serial seducing ends is Casanova himself.

© The Editor


Sod it. If it’s in your hands, it’s out of theirs. Any archive that is embodied in a physical object rather than floating around the cyber ether is free from editing, tampering, censoring and deleting. Any attempts on the part of streaming services to deny viewers vintage TV in order to protect the oversensitive from being triggered are ultimately futile because it’s already all out there. The Pandora’s Box of the televisual past was opened a long time ago and released into the homes of millions when its curators realised they could recoup an income from it – firstly via VHS, then the DVD and its Blu-ray sibling. And while there may have been a push to proclaim as passé the physical format over the last couple of years, the streaming salesmen are not unlike the record companies of 25-30 years back, the ones that misjudged the value of vinyl when urging punters to buy their albums all over again on CD. It’s in their interests that you subscribe and submit, even though everybody I know who accesses the likes of Netflix does so illicitly and consequently never pays a penny, which is quite funny.

As a format for storing favourite films or TV shows, for my money the DVD is the finest ever conceived – and one that will probably now never be superseded. VHS tape was great in its day, but the DVD is undoubtedly superior. The streaming spiel is that we now have a format-free version of what we might otherwise have had on DVD, but on our phones or PCs and therefore not taking up ‘valuable’ storage space; this is bullshit. We don’t own it just because we can access it online anymore than we own any book we could borrow from a library – whereas we do own the ones we have at home. There’s a difference. Librarians can remove from the shelves any of the books we require their permission to loan, just as broadcasters and streaming services can remove ‘Fawlty Towers’, ‘Little Britain’, ‘The League of Gentlemen’ or ‘Gone With the Wind’. But if we have them as a physical object, they’re ours to access for life.

Therefore, this seems an apt moment to indulge in one of my periodical forays into viewing habits that serve as a pleasant diversion from a world containing nothing that anyone with sanity intact would want to embrace. The series under today’s spotlight isn’t ‘problematic’ as far as I can tell, though it ran from 1972 to 1974, so I suppose that means it must be racist, I guess. Well, it features three white people as its lead characters, so that’s not a good sign, is it? And only one of them is a woman, which is clearly misogynistic. And they’re all straight, which obviously suggests it’s a very homophobic series. And occasionally actors who do not belong to an ethnically diverse demographic are adopting middle-eastern accents whilst looking like they’ve overslept on the sun-bed, thus being guilty of both ‘blacking-up’ and of stereotyping anyone not white as inherently villainous, which is unquestionably racist and serves to reinforce negative, colonialist perceptions of minorities. Maybe the actors were hired on merit rather than because they fulfilled a quota? Funnily enough, I’m not talking about ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ or ‘Mind Your Language’, but ‘The Protectors’.

‘The Protectors’ was perhaps the last in the run of relentlessly entertaining, escapist adventure series produced by Lew Grade’s ITC from the mid-60s to the mid-70s. These shows – ‘The Saint’, ‘Man in a Suitcase’, ‘The Champions’, ‘Department S’, ‘The Persuaders’, ‘Jason King’ – adhered to a joyously familiar formula in which the lead characters were never short of money for the finest clothes, cars, food, drink, beautiful women and flash pads; they were usually begrudgingly employed by some secret organisation loosely affiliated to government-sponsored espionage – organisations that clearly regarded playboy dilettantes as the ideal employees in the tradition of the gentleman spy, the amateur who saves the world in his spare time. Shot on glossy colour film in order to sell them to the US networks when British TV was still primarily broadcasting in monochrome, all of these series still look visually impressive today and retain their surreal charm.

‘The Protectors’ followed a familiar ITC pattern when seeking American backing, that of giving a leading role to an American actor, in this case the Man from UNCLE himself, Robert Vaughn. He plays the London-based Harry Rule, a man who shares his luxury apartment with a sexy Chinese ‘girl servant’ and an Irish Wolfhound; he’s a member of the mysterious Protectors organisation, which is portrayed as international by having the two other stars of the show working out of Italy and France. Eye candy for the guys is provided by the beautiful and elegant Nyree Dawn Porter as the Contessa di Contini, the exotic English widow of an Italian millionaire (who clearly had nobody else to bequeath his fortune to), whilst eye candy for the girls comes in the suave shape of young Paul Buchet, played by Tony Anholt. All three are effortlessly affluent and can handle themselves in a fight – which is handy, because they get into a lot of fights, albeit fights of the Wild West saloon school.

Surprisingly, ‘The Protectors’ was conceived and co-produced by Gerry Anderson – surprisingly because it lacks the science fiction/fantasy hallmarks that characterise his TV CV. Sandwiched between his first non-puppet series, ‘UFO’, and his final regular television outing, ‘Space 1999’, ‘The Protectors’ is something of an aberration in the Anderson canon, but fits neatly into the ITC pantheon. Money was clearly spent on the series, as location filming, rather than relying on stock footage and back projection, is a key element of its appeal. Although there are an abundance of stories set along the Mediterranean and about half-a-dozen shot in Venice, various European cities feature and the actors are unmistakably there rather than on the ITC back-lot. Viewing it today, it’s refreshing how distinctively different and authentically European – in an old-fashioned sense of the word – these locations look to a modern eye dulled by identikit streets colonised by the same corporate chain-stores the world over. To a British public making its first tentative forays to the Continent via package tours in the early 70s, it must have served as a useful travelogue.

Unusually for an ITC series, ‘The Protectors’ eschews the standard 50-minute format and crams everything into 25-minute episodes. To some degree, this time limit comes at the expense of character development, leaving the three leads as rather blank canvases who have little breathing space to grow as people before the quick-fire plot drags them into action. On the plus side, there’s no padding and no messing about; everything has to be resolved within an extremely narrow frame. However, one could say this might make the series appealing to a contemporary audience accustomed to the fast-paced MTV editing of TV drama today; if you like your adventures diluted into a show that will nicely span your evening meal, ‘The Protectors’ could well be the TV dinner side-order for you.

Guest stars who did the ITC rounds feature throughout – Patrick Mower, Derren Nesbitt, Patrick Troughton, Anton Rodgers, Peter Bowles, Ian Hendry, Michael Gough, Stephanie Beacham, Kate O’Mara – and there are a few surprising cameos from an adolescent Peter Firth, Manfred Mann’s Paul Jones (looking more like a Doobie Brother), and even Eartha Kitt. The enjoyably formulaic plotlines are penned by the usual roster of ITC wordsmiths and, like all ITC shows, it had a great theme tune – in this case, ‘Avenues and Alleyways’, sung by Tony Christie in true melodramatic style. As a slice of vintage escapism, it’s glorious hokum with flamboyant threads to match and a plethora of Zapata moustaches and dodgy ‘foreign’ accents on the part of the villains. There are no attempts at ‘Scandi-Noir’ angst or inserting ‘issues’ into the stories with a sledgehammer. No, it’s actually nothing more than innocent, undemanding fun. Remember that? ‘The Protectors’ now is what it was then, not what 2020 has imposed upon it.

© The Editor


It’s easy to forget now, but there was a time in the middle of the 1980s when all the artistic gains made in the name of 60s and 70s libertinism seemed in peril; we were on the cusp of a potential rewind back to the censorious era of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office and the Hays Code. Channel 4, which has made its early 80s name as a fearless purveyor of ‘anything goes in the name of Art’, was a frontrunner in this sudden and abrupt reversal of attitudes when it introduced its red triangle season of films circa 1986. These were movies that nowadays wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) provoke outrage, but at the time appeared shocking even by the easygoing standards of a TV station that had promoted the brief usage of an expletive such as ‘frigging’ in a primetime soap opera (‘Brookside’). The fact that characters on soaps are generally the only people in Britain who never swear was something ‘Brookside’ momentarily challenged until it became as blandly unrealistic as the rest of them.

Channel 4’s red triangle season featured TV premieres for the likes of Derek Jarman’s Romanesque gay fantasy, ‘Sebastiane’, as well as Dennis Hopper’s ‘Out of the Blue’; for those who weren’t around, the red triangle in question would be a permanent fixture in the top left of the TV screen whilst the movie aired, which allegedly served as an early warning system for the unsuspecting viewer who might switch over from something less contentious on ITV or BBC1. Most of the films screened as part of the short-lived season weren’t that different in content from what had already been shown on Channel 4 – it had premiered the infamous Sex Pistols movie, ‘The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle’, in 1985, for example; but the bizarre season can be seen in retrospect as a concession to the great moral backlash of the late Thatcher era, which also included Clause 28.

Back then, most of us watching thought that such unnecessary caution would be redundant by the time we reached the twenty-first century; we didn’t bank on our contemporaries raising children with so many layers of cotton wool wrapped around them that coming into contact with the classics by the time they reached university age would necessitate a revival of the same red triangle approach that Channel 4 had pioneered in the middle of the 80s. Lo and behold, however, the loathsome ‘trigger warnings’ have now even crept upon the works of one of England’s most revered wordsmiths like the kneejerk reorganization of the BBFC rules and regulations in the wake of the ‘Video Nasty’ moral panic of 35 years ago.

Apparently, students at Cambridge have been warned that certain masterpieces penned by an obscure playwright, name of William Shakespeare, might upset them; yes, the English lecture timetables have been marked with trigger warnings that take the shape of Ye Olde red triangle with accompanying exclamation marks. One play in particular has been singled out as specifically gory – and to be honest, it does read like the plot of an archetypal 80s Video Nasty in that a major female character is raped and then has her arms amputated by her rapists as well as having her tongue cut out.

Admittedly, ‘Titus Andronicus’ is a bit of a gore-fest, though is also one of the Bard’s most invigorating works, one in which the sibling perpetrators of the crime in question receive their just desserts by being baked in a pie that is then eaten by their mother. Elizabethan audiences were seemingly less squeamish than their equivalents 400 years later, perhaps because they didn’t question the eye-for-an-eye morality that was just as evident in the nursery rhymes they’d been raised on.

In defence, Cambridge University has claimed that such warnings are ‘at the lecturer’s own discretion’ and ‘not a faculty-wide policy’, though at the same time the esteemed academic establishment has admitted that ‘Any session containing material that could be deemed upsetting (and is not obvious from the title) is now marked with a symbol’. A representative from Derby University, Professor Dennis Hayes, commented ‘Once you get a few trigger warnings, lecturers will stop presenting anything that is controversial…gradually, there is no critical discussion.’ Critical discussion, for centuries a hallmark of university life, is now something to be avoided for fear of contaminating safe spaces. The impression given that universities today are akin to nurseries for mollycoddled adolescents who shirk from anything that contradicts the world as presented to them in infancy is hard to shake off when confronted by such ludicrous censorship; and if Shakespeare is fair game for the no-platform treatment, we really are f**ked.

The kind of guidelines familiar on the sleeves of DVDs now apparently apply to plays as well; if a sensitive seventeen-year-old objects to the content of something written by Shakespeare – and even the fastidious middle-aged Festival of Light brigade let the Bard off in the licentious 70s – chances are others will feel the need to be protected from centuries-old content that is hardly comparable to the kind of ‘adult’ material they’ve probably routinely scanned online. That ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ has been removed from some US school syllabuses on account of it being ‘uncomfortable’ is a classic example of illiterate idiots taking over the asylum; as some wag on Twitter pointed out in relation to the ‘uncomfortable’ factor in Harper Lee’s modern classic, ‘that’s the point’; but if even Shakespeare is targeted in this revisionist facelift, anybody seeking to say something about the here and now has no chance.

What that says about the world we live in, a world wherein British policemen are sent out wearing nail varnish to virtue-signal their stance against modern slavery when they’re in a better position to stamp out the practice than the rest of us, is profoundly depressing. But this be 2017 in the septic isle.

© The Editor


Better watch what you say in your comments today – disagree with me and I’ll be on the Hate Crime Hotline to PC PC; I’ll have you done for Petuniaphobia, and going by the new guidelines outlined by the Old Bill and their comrades-in-compassion the Clown Prosecution Service, anything can be interpreted as online abuse. Much as some find ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’ the funniest thing since sliced Del Boys whilst others would rather be trapped in a lift with Kelvin McKenzie than watch it, definitions of what constitutes a cyber Hate Crime are subjective. Latest statistics reveal the CPS successfully prosecuted over 15,000 ‘Hate Crime incidents’ in 2015-16, though the Hate Crime category is so wide-ranging that it can encompass everything from a long-running vicious vendetta in which death threats are regularly tossed about to the guy who made a joke YT video whereby he manipulated his girlfriend’s dog into making a Hitler salute.

The latter not only highlights the ludicrousness of criminalising comedy (see Paul Gascoigne), but also seems to tie-in with the concerted clampdown on free speech that is well in advance of us on the other side of the Atlantic. An intended free speech rally in Boston at the weekend was gatecrashed by thousands of so-called ‘anti-fascist’ protestors, including the masked left-wing anarchists who go by the name of Antifa; following the heaven-sent Twitter comments of Mr President in response to the trouble in Charlottesville the week before, I wonder if the Donald pointed out that the violence this time round emanated not from both sides, but just the one – i.e. the anti-fascists?

Amongst numerous tasteless tactics in evidence was hijacking the death of Heather Heyer – the one fatality of the drive-in at Charlottesville; the protestors half-inched her image in the same way some here exploited the murder of Jo Cox for their own loathsome ends last year. Now the ‘movement’ has its first martyr, and even the picture of Heyer which was worn like a piece of corporate protest merchandise had a distinct look of the airbrushed Che Guevara photo that was de rigueur for late 60s student bedsits. Whatever she may have been in life, Heather Heyer has now been immortalised as a brand name for the Alt Left. Her family must be so proud.

The rally itself was intended to be unashamedly conservative with a small ‘c’, though everyone attending was naturally labelled ‘white supremacist/KKK/racist’ etc. If you’re not with us, you’re against us; there’s no moderate middle ground in this New World Order. And the world that existed before it actually didn’t exist at all; remove all physical traces of it and it never happened; get Google in on the act and cyberspace follows suit. Simple Ministry of Truth principles apply today. The intolerant McCarthyism of the SJWs has already polluted US campuses and rendered them uncomfortably reminiscent of Chinese universities during the Cultural Revolution, and this mindset has now spilled over into so many facets of American life that anyone daring to lift their head above the PC parapet is shot down in a way that would constitute a Hate Crime were it the other way round.

Back in Blighty, a naive notion of equality whereby cultural, racial and sexual differences are deemed an unnecessary weapon of division is the mantra of the moment, whereas the accompanying word is ‘fluidity’. Schools now generate the fallacy that we’re all the same – something that extends to the school sports day, whereby everyone who competes receives equal billing. Of course, the quality of education a child receives still being dependent on whether or not its parents can afford to pay for the best makes a mockery of this philosophy; and outlawing competition amongst pupils hardly prepares them for the world beyond the playground when it remains a crucial element of the rat-race. Parents that have repeatedly told their offspring how special they are have had such praise reinforced by teachers, yet the insulated Telly Tubby Land these pampered potentates are eventually released from is hardly the ideal training camp for the absence of gormless optimism that awaits them.

As recent as four or five years ago, I would’ve regarded myself as very much on the left, and while I’m a long way from the right (I remain contemptuous of IDS and Gideon), I do feel somewhat stranded at the moment – a bit like one of those athletes in the Olympics who fly under no flag. Politically, I’m stateless. The humourless, censorious finger-wagging serial banners that have taken control of the left are to me no different from the Whitehouse/Muggeridge/Longford collective that once operated from a similar standpoint on the right. It matters not to me which side of the political divide these attitudes inhabit; they go against so many of my core beliefs, and if it is the left that currently exercise these restrictions of freedom of thought and speech, f**k ‘em. I reserve the right to criticise whoever I want to, whichever party of whichever colour they represent. And I can do that without resorting to name-calling Hate Crime.

One of the unfortunate offshoots of being told what one cannot think or say is that it creates a vacuum for rational and sensible debate, one that is then filled by the egotistical gobshites and professional contrarians who love the sound of their own voices – the kind that don’t possess the intelligence or humour of a Christopher Hitchens. As these are then perceived as the only ones who express an alternative opinion to the consensus, anyone who harbours an alternative is inevitably lumped in with them. I detest Hopkins as much as I detest Abbott, so where do I go? I may have voted Lib Dem at the last two General Elections, but that was for a decent constituency MP rather than any party allegiance, and Old Mother Cable carping on about a rerun of the EU Referendum is about as relevant to me today as calling for a repeal of the Corn Laws.

Equality cuts both ways; it doesn’t mean usurping those who kept minorities oppressed and then oppressing the usurped. It should mean everyone – whatever their political persuasion – being on a level playing field and all voices being heard. But, politically, it doesn’t work that way anymore than the Tsar being ultimately superseded by Stalin meant the Romanov’s palaces were burned to the ground and the ruling class of Bolsheviks set up home in a community of garden sheds. The aphrodisiac of power is as appealing to those who don’t have it as those reluctant to let it go; and I’ll still be out in the wilderness whichever side grabs it. In 2017, however, I think the wilderness is the most interesting place to be.

© The Editor


It says a lot about ‘terrorism fatigue’ that the latest atrocity – 14 dead in Barcelona to date – is something I’m struggling to write about without being overwhelmed by déjà-vu. Spain hasn’t experienced this kind of attack since the appalling Madrid bombings of 2004, but Blighty hadn’t undergone anything on the scale of 7/7 until Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge in our ‘Spring of Discontent’ earlier this year. By the time the third of these casual massacres came around, the media clichés were becoming familiar enough to induce the kind of reaction that dilutes the brutality of the slaughter and renders it almost on a par with all the other eye-rolling headlines that newspaper proprietors concoct to arrest falling sales figures.

The censorship of the gruesome reality is part of the game. There was an almighty storm on Twitter last night in which some thought it vital to show images from Barcelona whereas others regarded doing so as insulting to the people who lost their lives. Key to their recruitment policy, ISIS don’t spare the gory details in screening the aftermath of allied bombing raids on innocents abroad; seeing pictures that news outlets prefer not to show us has an impact that the Jihadi mindset responds to with a sense of vindication for their own retaliatory actions. What, one wonders, would the response in the west be were our broadcasters to practice a similarly uncompromising disregard for the editor’s scissors in the wake of another terrorist incident? Perhaps their very worry as to what response it might inspire is significant.

Whereas television news initially picked up the fearless baton from cinema newsreels and broadcasted the grim warts-and-all facts in vision from the 60s through to the 80s, recent trends have seen oversensitive censoring that leaves the reality to the viewers’ imaginations. Footage of Nazi death-camps may not have emerged until six years of conflict were already reaching their climax, but the horrific sight solidified hatred of the Germans for a generation and offered further justification for the Second World War, even if it was hardly still needed by 1945. Programmes this week marking the 70th anniversary of the partition of India have screened archive film of the bloodbaths in the wake of the British exit from the Subcontinent, yet it’s almost as though the grim images being in monochrome and from so long ago means they’re permissible in a historical context – akin to a false admission that this kind of brutality is something the civilised world left behind more than half-a-century ago.

Hearing of one more massacre on European soil and being denied the evidence transforms mass murder into an abstract concept and distances it further from the gut reaction images naturally provoke. When the world was shown the 1982 butchery at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut, Israeli troops absolving themselves of responsibility led to impassioned demonstrations in Tel Aviv that spilled over into Israel’s parliament; merely hearing of what had happened probably wouldn’t have inspired the same level of outrage as seeing the images did.

But seeing the hideous truth of precisely what it is Jihadists are capable of would tarnish the fatuous script Theresa May recited with routine precision last night – the whole ‘standing with…’ speech, which has no doubt already been accompanied by complementary appropriation of the Barcelona FC badge as a makeshift profile picture on social media. The pat sentiment of this speech, echoed across Europe in the respective languages of all the other leaders who recycled it, says nothing about the issue and fails to address it because to address it would leave the harmonious Utopian narrative in tatters. Jeremy Corbyn’s dismissal of Sarah Champion for having the nerve to say a fact out loud is symptomatic of this brush-it-under-the-carpet and don’t-frighten-the-children attitude which is fine for an ostrich but won’t prevent another atrocity in another European city before the year is out.

Unrelated on the surface, though sharing the same spirit, are the increasingly fanatical demands by the Puritan militants to remove public monuments to long-dead American heroes whose philosophies are out of kilter with contemporary mores (no surprise when most have been deceased for over a century). Confederate generals are the current target, though one enlightened online idiot apparently advocated the blowing-up of Mount Rushmore yesterday. Considering the first handful of US Presidents were slave-owners and that the White House itself was built by slave labour – something Obama at least acknowledged with a refreshing absence of froth in his mouth – means any rewriting of American history on this level will require the removal of a good deal more than a statue of Robert E Lee from the landscape.

The Taliban or ISIS destroying ancient antiquities and Islamic iconography that they find offensive or insulting to their twisted take on the faith is no different from what is being allowed to take place in America at the moment; to condemn one and condone the other is hypocrisy of the highest order. These are not the symbolic gestures of revolutionary rebellions emanating from a subjugated populace breaking the chains of totalitarian bondage, but the product of those indoctrinated in the ideology of fanaticism. Whether on an American campus, in a Middle Eastern Jihadi training camp, or inside English churches under the reign of Edward VI, it matters not; the motivation is the same, and it is this unswerving tunnel vision that drives the greatest threats to freedom of thought, speech and living we are confronted by in 2017.

© The Editor


There’s a news report by the late ITN reporter Michael Nicholson from the 1967/70 Biafran War in which an enemy is captured by Nigerian Government forces and then shot dead on camera as a brutal demonstration of the army’s authority. Nicholson himself retrospectively reflected that the whole ugly spectacle was set up to ‘impress’ him and the western media, but it was hardly unique in an era when television news viewed itself as a vehicle for showing the world as it really was, warts and all. Around the same time, there was the even more infamous clip in a similar vein from Vietnam in which a bound prisoner is approached by a military man and is promptly shot point-blank in the temple; the blood gushes from the side of his head as his instantly limp body collapses to the ground, a gruesome fountain that was replayed on TV news around the globe.

Both these notorious examples of reportage from the frontline of ongoing conflicts belong to a less squeamish age that is now almost inconceivable to imagine being beamed into the nation’s living rooms. Were TV news today to exhibit the same kind of content as it did forty, fifty years ago, each bulletin would require an announcement beforehand of the sort that now even accompanies bloody ‘Coronation Street’ on occasion.

As a child, I was often more anxious when the news began that I would be if a horror film was about to be screened. One might presume the 1970s was somehow a more violent place than the 2010s if archive news broadcasts were used as a guide; in some respects, it was, though on a street level, if you like. The wider world was no more and no less violent than it is in 2017, but the violence wasn’t as remote – it was there in the playground and the classroom and it was there on the telly.

There was probably a greater awareness of violence then thanks to the less censorious approach of our broadcasters. If one thinks of the world’s trouble-spots forty-five years ago – Rhodesia, Vietnam, Uganda, Northern Ireland – the violence there was graphically portrayed on television because the viewpoint appeared to be that to not show it would simply reduce TV news to radio news. This could have been a natural progression from what radio had done during the Second World War, when listeners were dependent upon their imaginations to visualise the horrors of Belsen as so memorably described by Richard Dimbleby when the camp was liberated by Allied forces. TV news enabled the sights to be seen, however horrible. It was deemed a necessary evil if the public were to understand the unpleasant realities of war and its aftermath.

There appeared to be a conscious sea-change in television at some point in the 1990s – disturbing footage from the Gulf War that depicted the charred corpses of soldiers only appeared after the war was won, for example. The official demarcation line of the 9.00 watershed was extended when it came to conflict so that even post-watershed news bulletins avoided anything that might give their viewers nightmares. As late as 1982, the piles of bodies in the horrific massacres at the Sabra and Shatila camps in Lebanon were shown on the TV news; the thinking seemed to be that these needed to be seen if the true appalling nature of the crime could be digested. Within a decade, it was difficult to envisage this kind of candid broadcasting.

The ‘don’t have nightmares’ catchphrase made famous by Nick Ross on ‘Crimewatch’ was taken up as an approach to television news from the 90s onwards, with the no-holds-barred presentation that had previously distinguished TV from radio abandoned in favour of an airbrushed picture of man’s inhumanity to man that meant nobody had to be exposed to it if they switched the news on. Of course, wall-to-wall massacres and murders are not something many would look forward to seeing, but by visually censoring the actual events being reported on, viewers are given a lopsided impression of such incidents that is akin to an adult placing their hands over a child’s eyes if a pair of tits appear in a movie the family is watching together. If something horrible has happened, the viewer should have the sense to know that tuning in to the news means they’re going to see it.

It’s possible the advent of the internet – where the curious can more or less see whatever they want to see – has influenced a greater degree of censorship on television. No severed heads sliced off by ISIS or the bodies of those ploughed down by the recent terrorist take on road-rage have been screened on TV news, but they can easily be located online; I’ve inadvertently stumbled upon the former myself. I didn’t necessarily want to see them, but seeing them did bring home the horror of their reality more than anything broadcast on television. Yet, crucially, the random selection of horrors online has no context in the way it would have on TV news, when the images would be framed within a report that their inclusion would justify. By refusing to countenance screening anything that might provoke nightmares, it feels as if the broadcasters are absolving themselves of any responsibility to the viewers, perhaps fearful of litigation.

Even streakers during prominent sports occasions are now swiftly mixed out of live broadcasts, with the commentator taking it upon himself to act as parent – ‘We’re sure the viewers at home don’t want to see that’ etc. I don’t necessarily want to watch a man’s member flopping about the touch-line of a football pitch, but the decision whether or not to watch should really be mine as an adult. In the 70s and 80s, broadcasters trusted viewers to make that decision and didn’t regard them as permanently offended virgin spinsters.

The ease with which so many take offence today and the aforementioned prospect of litigation could well have led us to this state of affairs re TV news; and for all the talk of news channels operating on a biased agenda that tells us what they want us to hear rather than giving us the whole story, it seems to me that this is most apparent in the censor’s scissors when it comes to anything unpleasant. They could always take a football results approach – ‘If you don’t want to see a severed head, look away now’ – but that won’t happen because John Craven’s pioneering bulletin was effectively the blueprint for the future we’re currently watching on the BBC, ITV and Sky. Don’t have nightmares.

© The Editor


candy-darlingFirst it was Germaine Greer, now it’s Jenni Murray. Their crime? Daring to voice an opinion that contradicts the doctrine of the new order consensus, specifically the clause that declares we must never question the authenticity of men who have undergone gender reassignment surgery and must automatically place them in the same category as women who were born with full female anatomy. And this despite the fact many Trans-Women invite such distinctions. No doubt the po-faced funereal spectre of Professional Northern Trans-Woman Paris Lees will be prompted into one of her regular ‘Channel 4 News’ or ‘Newsnight’ comedy turns in response, hurling the ‘old bigot’ slingshot at the latest target.

The veteran ‘Woman’s Hour’ presenter who has provided the serial offence-takers with a new hate figure is 66 years-old; Germaine Greer is 78. Unlike their hysterical detractors, both women were born into a world that had clearly defined boundaries based on class, race, sexuality and gender; and Greer in particular played a hugely significant part in changing the perceptions of those boundaries where gender was concerned, far greater than her twenty-something critics could ever imagine. She and Murray have been witness to arguably the most revolutionary breaking down of those boundaries that the western world has ever experienced; and it has happened in the space of barely half-a-century.

More than one generation has had to overturn all its inherited beliefs and opinions on society’s so-called ‘minorities’; and this takes the kind of time that those born into a world where the contemporary consensus holds sway have no comprehension of. To use just one personal example, I recall my mother expressing her embarrassment when my deaf granddad (her father) used the word ‘nigger’ loudly in a supermarket, yet she herself still uses the word ‘paki’, which makes me wince every time she says it. That she could find ‘nigger’ unacceptable whilst simultaneously not thinking the same of ‘paki’ highlights how her own inherited beliefs and opinions have changed, albeit not quite reaching the acceptable standard demanded by the speech police.

Expecting the grandparent generation to mirror the approach to what can and can’t be said in either public or private discourse as practiced by their grandchildren is not that different from expecting them to have unnaturally coloured hair, piercings and tattoos. The under-40s blame game from the losing side in the EU Referendum, reserving Remoaner vitriol for pensioners who had the audacity to hold a different point of view, largely based on life experience and a wider knowledge of the lengthy European project rather than ‘racism’, was a telling demonstration of that generation’s narcissistic refusal to accept there are contrary opinions to their own; and this extends into other facets of life in which their inability to respond to these contrary opinions with nothing more than lazy labelling is revealing a worrying absence of emotional maturity.

If a trans-woman wants to be recognised and accepted as a ‘real’ woman, why is there the need for the ‘trans’ prefix? One is either a trans-woman or a woman; one cannot be both, surely? It’s almost as though some want the benefits each can bring – acceptance as belonging to the sisterhood yet also requiring ‘special treatment’ that a natural-born woman is exempt from. Here’s your cake, and you can eat it too! I’ve met a couple of women in my life who were born male, and I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t been told. To me, both resembled middle-aged Avon Ladies and they seemed happy in their skins, which is great; they weren’t declaring to all and sundry that they were spokeswomen for the LGBTRSVPABCXYZ community and demanding to be treated as a Third Sex.

The majority of men who have endured male-to-female surgery do so because they genuinely believe themselves to be women trapped in men’s bodies; therefore, once they re-emerge from hospital, their bodies are finally in-synch with what their heads have always held to be true and they are, to all extents and purposes, now bona-fide women. Yes, they have no menstrual cycle and cannot get pregnant, but other than that, there’s little to distinguish them from women whose bodies were compatible from day one.

I don’t believe the constant carping from militant Trans-Women or those professing to speak on their behalf really has anything to do with gender identity, more another example of the contemporary craving to sign-up to an officially designated minority, to uphold the trend for comfortable pigeonholing and membership of a ‘victimised’ collective that can gather together and share placards.

The original 70s Gay Liberation movement in the US often saw conflicts between those who preferred the traditional masculine male role model and those who revelled in their feminine side; the latter was seen as ‘letting the team down’ by camping it up and aping the flamboyant vanity and cartoon frivolity of girlie girls, thus reinforcing the archaic effeminate stereotype. But there was still room for both in the battle for acceptance. Today, any prominent gay media man, whether Stephen Fry or Peter Tatchell, faces the threat of the no-platform treatment if they dare to say anything that shatters the facade of everyone being in it together. Ridiculously, they can be labelled ‘homophobic’ just as Germaine Greer can be labelled ‘misogynistic’.

Virtually all of the men or women who have been targeted by the speech police in the last couple of years have been over-45 at least, and most were on the frontline of the actual battles that obliterated the old boundaries, something their wet-behind-the-ears opponents have benefitted from. More was achieved by ‘The Female Eunuch’ than mixed-gender lavatories, so it’s time the kiddies cut their predecessors some slack and stopped trying to impose their own rigid framework on generations that were far more fluid and broad-minded when it came to sexuality and whether or not their own predecessors agreed with them.

© The Editor