EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES

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

POLES APART?

PolesOne of the few British TV dramas of recent years that portrayed working-class characters neither as idle benefits-scroungers or comedy losers was Jimmy McGovern’s ‘The Street’, which ended a three-series run in 2009. One episode centred upon a ranting racist played by Joseph Mawle, who brilliantly exhibited the ignorance of the man whose vitriol’s relentless flow requires the absence of facts to maintain its propulsion. Reflecting contemporary Britain, Mawle’s character reserved his most vociferous ire for Poles, often falling back on hand-me-down World War II myths and legends of a selective nature whilst letting rip. This tendency to conjure up the Churchillian spirit of Britain standing alone whilst conveniently overlooking the crucial role Polish airmen played during the Battle of Britain is and remains a classic bigot’s tactic when justification is needed for each outburst.

The allies Britain could count upon during the Second World War for the whole duration doesn’t constitute the lengthiest of lists; and lest we forget, one of them was the country whose invasion forced Chamberlain’s hand in September 1939. The geographical vulnerability of the Polish Corridor dividing East and West Prussia was bound to make Poland the next Nazi conquest in the summer of 1939; and wracked with the guilt of having abandoned Czechoslovakia in the wake of the Munich Agreement, it was plain to the British Government that any further ‘annexation’ on the part of Hitler would inevitably lead to first an ultimatum and then war.

Polish fighter pilots comprised the highest number of non-native airmen on the side of the Allies in the Battle of Britain. The often-overlooked strength-in-depth of the Empire certainly helped on all British fronts – air, sea and land – before America entered the war; but the RAF’s Polish contingent was priceless to the eventual outcome of 1940’s key conflict. Polish troops were present at the later Allied campaigns in North Africa and Italy, and Polish contributions were also essential when it came to the cracking of the Enigma code. It was fitting that Poland’s government-in-exile was based in London, for it seems to be pretty indisputable that Poland was this country’s most invaluable European ally in our darkest hour.

After 1945, the surrender of Poland to the Soviet Union as one of the unavoidable concessions the Allies made to Stalin to ensure his participation in the defeat of Germany appears a poor way of thanking the country for six years of constant support and assistance; but Poland wasn’t alone when the boundaries of the Iron Curtain were drawn; and, to be fair, the Allies didn’t really have much choice. The ruthless suppression of rebellions in Hungary and Czechoslovakia by the USSR in 1956 and 1968 respectively didn’t prevent the admirable resistance of the Polish trade union Solidarity to Soviet dominance in the 70s, however. The charismatic Lech Walesa became the figurehead for this resistance, imprisoned for his troubles, though ultimately the hero of the resistance when martial law was imposed in 1981; he was eventually rewarded for his efforts by becoming the first democratically-elected Polish President in 1990, following the collapse of the old Soviet Bloc.

In the decades following the Second World War, the vast majority of immigration into the UK was drawn from former imperial colonies, particularly the Indian Subcontinent and the West Indies. Old loyalties to the Commonwealth were more evident than wartime alliances. Citizens from former European allies were far smaller in number up until the change in the constitution of the European Union in the 90s, when Eastern Europeans began to breach Britannia’s borders in sizeable numbers for the first time.

The figures released this week revealing that the largest immigrant population in the UK is now Polish I suppose consist of various caveats. Poles now apparently outnumber Asians, though do we include second or third generation members of the Asian population as ‘immigrants’ – or do we only include those who have arrived here in the last five to ten years? Nobody today, for example, would refer to, say, those of West Indian descent as ‘immigrants’, so successfully has Britain’s black population been absorbed into the social fabric of the nation, not to mention becoming the most high visibility other halves in interracial relationships; and those of us who were at urban schools in the 70s and 80s have grown up accustomed to black and Asian faces being as integral to the nation as white ones. So, we’re presumably talking ‘immigration’ in terms of the past decade.

A headline doesn’t explain all, though it’s not the business of the likes of the Daily Mail to do so; a paper that ran with a 1934 headline proclaiming ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts!’ can’t necessarily be trusted to dispense facts that contradict the prejudices of both editor and readership. And how many of that readership rely on Poles for home repairs and au pairs, one wonders?

As ever, one’s personal perspective is derived from one’s own experience. The non-white British population of my neighbourhood is predominantly Asian, though all of the Asians I come into contact with speak in broad local accents, suggesting a British lineage stretching back a good thirty or forty years, which makes them no more ‘immigrants’ than me. My mother lives in another part of town, and her nearest high-street has apparently been colonised by Poles, which seems to have the effect of making her feel like a stranger in her own city; I do make the point, however, that were it not for the Poles who have taken over the shops, those shops would most likely be closed and the high-street relatively derelict. Asian enterprise saved the corner-shop in the 70s, after all; and enterprise can transcend ghettoisation in a generation. These things take time.

If the appalling mob-murder of Polish man Arkadiusz Jozwik in Harlow is proven to be attributable to the excuse of a post-Brexit Hate Crime, it would seem a little historical perspective is worth bearing in mind before we forget who we are and how we got here.

© The Editor

ALL YOU NEED IS HATE

FFPerhaps it was only when time-travelling 21st Century DI Sam Tyler was confronted by racism in 1973 and expressed his opinion that he suspected a ‘Hate Crime’ that the ludicrousness of the term seemed more blatant than ever. ‘As opposed to an I-really-love-you crime?’ asked his guv’nor in response. Okay, so DCI Gene Hunt in the celebrated BBC drama ‘Life on Mars’ may not have been the most sympathetic or sensitive of characters, but the notion of a separate category for a criminal act based solely on ‘hate’ is a contentious one that deserves to be questioned. At the time ‘Life on Mars’ was set, there were certainly plenty of retrospective Hate Crimes being committed on British streets; the daily murders by both sides of the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland could be considered so – using today’s definition, anyway.

The impression sometimes given is that Hate Crime was hatched as a catch-all umbrella label to Hoover-up lots of little offences and assemble them all in a neat package that could also encompass other ‘offences’ not already catered for by the law. Many of the actions by individuals that fall under the Hate Crime banner would once have been dismissed as little more than playground-level name-calling; it’s a definition open to abuse like few others. It’s as though officers arriving at the scene of a crime who may be bemused by the evident absence of a motive pull the Hate Crime card out of a hat because it not only makes their job so much easier; it also pleases those who demand recognition as Victims.

There are numerous subdivisions that are encompassed by the Hate Crime tag. These include racially motivated violence, transphobic violence, violence against LGBT people, violence against men, violence against women, violence against people with disabilities and so forth – all of which are horrible, but all of which are virtually identical and unpleasant crimes committed by one human being against another. Should they not simply be considered age-old acts of violence full stop? Why do they require their own little label that immediately puts them in a ‘special category’?

The need to categorise everything and everyone so that every item of information on a database can be referenced and cross-referenced to see which box it belongs in has been extended from data to people; and people are utterly complicit in this. The desire to be a ‘joiner’ and belong to an officially recognised Community seems to have superseded religious definitions in many cases as a means of self-identification, and would appear to fulfil a deep need to be a member of a crowd in a world that has been shorn of its older certainties. The advent of Hate Crime could be considered a symptom of this need.

Actively promoted by pressure groups and self-proclaimed minorities seeking a pigeonhole to comfortably slot into, Hate Crime is not only redefining genuine crimes and grouping them with incidents that should barely register as such, but it appears to be a term that is being applied to any manner of minor insults, an extension of the PC Police in monitoring free speech. The whole ‘you can’t say that’ argument has been given one hell of a boost with the inception of Hate Crime.

Nowhere is this more obvious than online, where the anonymity a fake identity provides apparently gives the troll carte-blanche to say whatever he or she likes and receive no comeback. Hate Mail existed long before email, let alone Twitter, so it’s nothing new. Technology has merely facilitated a faster means of sending abuse than it used to take when posting a letter, just as it has enabled messages of a more benign nature to reach the recipient in an instant. For those who live online and can barely survive a minute without gazing at their Smartphone, any abusive text or message is bound to have a greater impact, as this is impinging upon the central hub of their existence.

The Metropolitan Police Force is clearly taking the concerns of online obsessives into account by setting up a new unit to tackle the problem for the princely sum of £1.7m. A spokesman for the pilot project claimed there was ‘no place for hate in London’ and also used that awful term ‘zero tolerance’, which always sounds too uncomfortably reminiscent of old phrases such as ‘short, sharp shock’ or even the inappropriate application of the word ‘Tsar’ to anyone heading such a taskforce.

It is the vagueness of Hate Crime as a description and how easily it can be attached to an opinion that contradicts the current consensus that makes it such a problematic term. Any police involvement in a dispute between one individual and a Community (especially an online one) always seems an unnecessary intervention, something that grown adults should be able to deal with on their own and not go crying to the Boys in Blue about. After all, they have enough issues of their own making to deal with, such as murdering former Premier League footballers by applying 50,000 volts to them simply because they resisted being restrained. That might not be a Hate Crime, but it’s pretty bloody hateful. RIP Dalian Atkinson.

© The Editor