CANCELLED CULTURE

StatueI stumbled upon an interview on the ‘New Culture Forum’ YT channel the other day – a regular shop window for the kind of voices the MSM has silenced and always an interesting watch; this particular interview was with Nigel Rees, creator and host of Radio 4’s long-running (and now defunct) show, ‘Quote…Unquote’. He spoke at length of the way in which the BBC’s ‘diversity’ agenda had effectively made his position and that of the programme pretty untenable. Demands to have more female guests on the show were gradually adhered to, as were demands to have guests of a more ‘ethnic’ nature; but, of course, this wasn’t enough; there had to be some token disabled guests on – and this is radio, remember, so presumably these had to be disabilities that were discernible in the guest’s voices; that’d rule out someone in a wheelchair, then – unless they had a particularly ‘disabled’ speech pattern. Yes, that’s how bloody ridiculous it is.

In a nutshell, this enlightening interview summed-up the futility of attempting to appease the demands of the SJW crowd and why Woke Utopia can never be achieved. If ‘Quote…Unquote’ reappeared with a panel consisting entirely of disabled black trans-women, it still wouldn’t be enough because whatever compromises one makes can never be enough; someone would still complain to the BBC that there were no panellists in iron lungs, thus causing offence to the iron lung community. If the BBC had any balls remaining, it wouldn’t bow to such demands at all and it would leave producers and presenters to make their own decisions based on the respective merits of the people featuring in their programmes. The problem with the BBC is that, as with so many branches of this country’s institutions, it has been completely colonised by Identity Politics, and Identity Politics is a virus that kills all creativity and genuine diversity of thought and opinion.

The world its proponents inhabit it is a drab, grey, joyless place in need of constant, perpetual cleansing – a world it is their aim to impose upon the rest of us; and by handing the reins of power to such pious fanatics, whether in media, publishing, academia or cinema, all these mediums have been fatally infected and no longer communicate with the masses. Every successful movie franchise has been f***ed-up as a consequence – indeed, every escapist outlet has suffered from this virus, even sport with its knee-taking virtue-signallers whose fatuous concept of social justice doesn’t stretch to spurning the lucrative market of middle-eastern Absolute Monarchies built by slave labour. The BBC has been one of the most vocal supporters of this mindset, a virtual broadcasting branch of the Guardian over the past decade or so; and when a Tory Government seeks to shore up its dwindling popularity by attacking a soft target and hopefully deflecting further attention from its own failings, should the BBC really be surprised that the only folk rallying to its defence are those drawing huge salaries from it?

The likes of Gary Lineker or Nish Kumar speaking up for it as the licence fee’s days are numbered are not the kind of names guaranteed to reverse opinion on a once-beloved institution that has been treating its audience with contempt for years. The corporation’s impartiality on news and current affairs has been exposed as a fallacy during the pandemic, whilst its entertainment has degenerated into similarly biased propaganda for a particular point of view, visible in the risible Jodie Whitaker incarnation of ‘Doctor Who’ or the way in which a one-time staple diet of a dad’s Saturday lunchtime like ‘Football Focus’ will be routinely interrupted by trailers for ‘LGBTXYZ Month’, a subject most football fans probably don’t give a flying f*** about. But the BBC is determined to shoehorn Identity Politics into every platform it possesses, whether the audience wants it or not.

It is this arrogance that has turned the Great British public against the BBC in recent years, and the BBC only has itself to blame. On paper, the cost of the licence fee is good value compared to yer average utility bill, yet bringing up all the things the BBC used to excel at as examples of why it still matters and why its eccentric funding should continue only serves as a reminder of just how much it has declined during the period in which it has sought to broadcast its Woke agenda to a public that didn’t ask for it and doesn’t want it. With Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries announcing the licence fee will effectively be abolished come the next renewal of the BBC’s Royal Charter in 2027, the BBC has responded with threats of cuts, though chances are this means the few good things it still produces that no commercial competitor could do in quite the same way – such as Radio 3, the World Service or BBC4 – will suffer; what it doesn’t mean is that it will address the way in which its ludicrous diversity quota has made its dramas such a box-ticking laughing stock or every documentary an exercise in apology for historical racism/sexism, whether it was there or not.

Any exposure to commercial television or radio stations and their relentless interruptions by ads is enough to cause anyone to run back into the arms of the BBC, and the fact its airwaves remain unpolluted by crass advertising is one of its few saving graces after all the damage it has done to itself. The end of the licence fee and the prospect of alternative funding throws up all kinds of horrific futures, yet none of this would’ve been necessary had the BBC not allowed specific political agendas to infiltrate so much of its output. Yes, it was present – and was regularly cited by its opponents – way back in the days of ‘Play for Today’, but even the archetypal single play centred around left-wing viewpoints was only a small element of a series that had a far wider panorama of the human experience on offer; and the BBC produced ‘Play for Today’ at the same time as it was churning out variety showcases for the likes of those well-known Commie sympathisers Bruce Forsyth, Cilla Black and Noel Edmonds. Even the fact that the ‘Today’ programme could once be edited by someone like Rod Liddle now seems inconceivable, yet we’re going back barely 20 years. That in itself highlights what a broad church the Beeb used to be until relatively recently.

For the majority of its now-century of existence, the BBC was indeed an idiosyncratic and unique oddity in the world of broadcasting, beloved by the British people and celebrated as a force for cultural good. Even when BBC radio had a monopoly, it served listeners well with a staggeringly wide selection of audio delights; Beatles biographer Mark Lewisohn makes a valid point when he credits the vast range of sounds the young John, Paul, George and Ringo were exposed to via BBC radio as playing a pivotal part in their later development as artists who refused to be tied to a single genre of music. And if the 1950s was BBC radio’s ‘golden age’, the 60s and 70s showed how BBC television was able to successfully react to the arrival of ITV by delivering programmes that remain the corporation’s gold standard, a standard it has summarily failed to live up to over the past couple of decades.

Anyone whose formative years were illuminated and enlivened by the best of the BBC will naturally experience mixed emotions when it comes under attack from opportunistic philistines like this deplorable administration running the country; yet, at the same time, anyone who has despaired at the manner in which the Beeb has committed Hara-kiri over and over again in the last 10-20 years will understandably feel the corporation has got what it deserved. This was the sadly inevitable outcome of the way the BBC has alienated the core audience it arrogantly assumed it could always depend upon; and even if the concept of the BBC is still a noble ideal, the reality falls far short. That’s not the fault of yet another loathsome Tory Government with the BBC in its sights, but the BBC itself. Bloody fools.

© The Editor

Website: https://www.johnnymonroe.co.uk/

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FIFTEEN MINUTES MORE

WarholIt was often said of Oscar Wilde that his greatest work of art was himself; he certainly knew how to project a prefabricated image of The Artist to sell to the public and this was a lesson not lost on many who followed him in the succeeding century. Salvador Dali latched onto this with his elaborate moustache and theatrically eccentric persona, and Andy Warhol picked up the gauntlet when he progressed from the superficial environs of the American advertising industry and turned himself into a brand as convincing as a can of Campbell’s soup or a bottle of Coca-Cola. Warhol wasn’t operating in isolation on the Pop Art scene of the 50s and early 60s, though he managed to overtake the pioneering presence of Roy Lichtenstein by upgrading the tactics of Wilde and Dali for the mass-media age; with his trademark toupee, shades and hooped tops, Warhol was transformed into a living logo of himself, as instantly recognisable a product as any of his celebrated silk-screens, and in the process eventually becoming more well-known than his actual work.

As one of the first artists propelled to household name status by discerning that something which had always been regarded as disposable had a relevance that transcended its crassly commercial purpose, Warhol mass-marketed ‘Pop’ by utilising the tricks he’d learnt when working in advertising. He recognised that the billboard, the comic book, television and Hollywood were America’s most culturally potent contributions to 20th century Low Art and imported them into the High Art environment of the gallery. Early on, he even managed the impressive feat of combining his adoration of celebrity with social commentary; his prints of the electric chair or the violent attempts to prevent desegregation in the Deep South were relevant and important observations on the state of the nation on a par with anything from Bob Dylan’s ‘protest’ songbook of the period.

When invited to fill an empty space at New York’s prestigious World’s Fair of 1964, Warhol mischievously decided to decorate it with mug-shots from the FBI’s ‘most wanted’ list, a gesture that went down so badly with the authorities that he was asked to paint over the mural within days of its appearance. Again, however, this seemingly shit-stirring decision to apply advertising techniques to the flipside of the American Dream was in itself an astute comment that a nation forged in bloody insurrection and forever revelling in the romanticised mythology of both the Wild West and 1920s gangsters had already sold its villains like Brillo Pads; those outraged by his ‘most wanted’ mural were probably eagerly consuming ‘Wagon Train’ on TV and feasting on sensationalistic reports of Mafia massacres in their daily papers – yet couldn’t join the dots; all Warhol was doing was reflecting a cracked mirror back at them.

Warhol pursued his association with the cutting edge by sponsoring avant-garde rock band The Velvet Underground in their formative days and adding his brand name to the amusingly decadent Paul Morrissey movies featuring some of the drugged-up drag queens hanging about the Factory, though not long after David Bowie’s initial encounter with him had inspired the line ‘Andy Warhol, silver screen/can’t tell them apart at all’, Warhol no longer had anything left to prove and settled back into the lifestyle of the wealthy celebrity for the rest of his life.

He’d already withdrawn from the public eye to a degree following the assassination attempt by unhinged radical feminist and Factory hanger-on Valerie Solanas in 1968, though even when he had submitted to the interview circuit he’d played the part of the enigmatic artist by famously answering questions with a characteristic ‘err…yeah’ or ‘err…no’, so his mystique was always intact. By the 1980s, he had become known as someone who would attend the opening of an envelope, so ubiquitous was he on the guest list of every notable social event in New York; and there was often the feeling he had been reduced to a fashion accessory when every wannabe model or pop star sought him out for a photo-op in the hope some of his lingering stardust would rub off on them. Andy Warhol died following gallbladder surgery in 1987, with many claiming his fragile frame had never entirely recovered from the bullets Valerie Solanas had pumped into it almost 20 years before.

Reminded of Warhol’s achievements and his ever-alluring public persona via a new documentary series airing on BBC2 this week, I thought the timing interesting, coming as it has just days after the verdict in the trial of four ‘BLM’ protestors who’d participated in the notorious removal of the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol last summer. This quartet of middle-class…erm…radicals with such ‘street’ names as Sage Willoughby and Milo Ponsford are all, naturally, as white as a slice of Sunblest and received an easy ride because they – and it would seem, the justice system – regard themselves as being on ‘the right side of history’. The verdict would appear to imply that as long as one has the correct opinions it’s perfectly fine to indulge in vandalism; not a massive surprise, really; the contrast between police treatment of anti-lockdown protestors and Extinction Rebellion has already highlighted the politicisation of what constitutes a crime, so the verdict was essentially a foregone conclusion.

The brave Woke warriors also received the sponsorship of fellow ‘radical’, the artist Banksy. The eternally anonymous muralist, long the darling of Guardianistas, contributed to the cause by designing a T-shirt that would help pay for their defence. Once more, the inherent conservatism of so-called subversives in the grotesquely wealthy art world evokes images of Rik the People’s Poet from ‘The Young Ones’; yeah, f*** you, ye fascist Tory! It’s hard to imagine any of the current crop of unimaginative careerist charlatans daring to think outside their Identity Politics box and provoke the kind of outrage their YBA predecessors did back in the 90s; they’re so in tune with privileged, establishment thinking that they’re about as dangerous as yer average episode of ‘Call the Midwife’. Andy Warhol may well have progressed into comfortable middle-age once he’d accumulated enough wealth for the son of poverty-stricken East European immigrants to not have to worry about paying the rent ever again; but at least for perhaps the first decade of his career in the public eye he had his finger on a cultural pulse that is now very much deceased.

SIDNEY POITIER (1927-2022)

PoitierMany years ago, I remember seeing an interview with Denzel Washington whereby he spoke frustratingly of being compared in reviews to a young Sidney Poitier; the actor firstly aired his frustration at Poitier’s name being evoked, as though that was the only yardstick reviewers had to measure his own performance by – as though there’d never been any other notable black thespians in Hollywood. Then Washington’s expression suddenly changed, beamed a smile and said something along the lines of ‘On the other hand…yeah, I’ll take that.’ No wonder. For a long time during America’s most turbulent struggle with the racial question, Sidney Poitier was the prominent coloured face on the silver screen; even if some of the most successful movies Poitier appeared in dealt with racial issues, these were all thought-provoking, intelligent examinations of a subject US cinema preferred to avoid.

1958’s ‘The Defiant Ones’ (where he and Tony Curtis play escaped convicts chained to one another), 1967’s ‘To Sir with Love’ (where he plays a Caribbean teacher at a rough East End school), and that same year’s ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ (where his marriage to a white woman tests the strength of her parents’ liberal views) were all critically and commercially successful. Perhaps the role for which Poitier will always be associated was that of black police detective Virgil Tibbs (‘In the Heat of the Night’, also 1967), sent into the Deep South to investigate a murder alongside a racist, redneck cop played by Rod Steiger. Benefitting from the increased broadening of Hollywood’s brushstrokes in the late 60s, ‘In the Heat of the Night’ is one of the first mainstream movies to look this uncomfortable aspect of American life squarely in the eye without shying away, and it remains one of the most brutally honest and less preachy examples of doing so as a consequence. The death of Poitier at the ripe old age of 94 genuinely ends an era, one in which he was a true trailblazer.

© The Editor

Website: https://www.johnnymonroe.co.uk/

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LUNATIC FRINGE BENEFITS

AliceIn case you missed it, last week saw the long-awaited announcement that M&S staff members will henceforth be wearing their preferred gender pronouns on badges (which has no doubt been demanded by all the old ladies who purchase their bloomers at the company’s branches); but at least the relentless imposition of a particular agenda on the public by corporations and institutions without prior consultation has momentarily paused at one of its main offenders. It may still be tediously ticking the diversity boxes with regards to its programming, but the BBC has belatedly pulled out of a questionable commitment to the dubious aims of the increasingly unhinged LGBTXYZ charity Stonewall. Yet should the national broadcaster have even signed-up for a programme run by an organisation which has become a platform for the most fanatical, zealous and nasty of Trans-activists, thus negating any reasoned debate on the issue across the allegedly impartial BBC?

Being a member of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions scheme may have won plenty Woke Brownie points in the social justice citadel of Broadcasting House, but the objectives of Stonewall can hardly be said to be reflective of the BBC’s dwindling (not to say ageing) audience. The appalling report that recently appeared on the BBC News website on how some young lesbians are being pressurised and bullied into having sexual relations with Trans-women for fear of being ostracised by pro-Trans social media hounds was a shocking eye-opener, not to say a surprising story to emerge from a news outlet so seemingly in thrall to the LGBTXYZ agenda over the past few years. Yet, perhaps its mere appearance was a positive sign, an indication of a conscious step back from a wholly biased campaigning role which isn’t something a publicly-funded broadcaster should be committing itself to.

The Diversity Champions programme is one of the many ways in which Stonewall has bought itself a foothold in several public institutions, influencing policy and effectively ring-fencing itself from criticism. By signing up to the scheme, the Beeb was required to pay the charity for ‘advice on creating inclusive workplaces’, a line straight out of the satirical BBC comedy series of a few years back, ‘W1A’. The fact that Ofcom and several government departments have already withdrawn from promoting this scheme perhaps made it easier for the BBC to pull out; naturally, however, this hasn’t prevented the predictable backlash from the usual suspects. The industry union, BECTU, reacted to the announcement by saying the decision would be ‘incredibly damaging to the morale of the LGBT workforce and will negatively impact the BBC’s ability to attract talent in the future.’ A strange choice of wording, there; surely talent is secondary when it comes to hiring new faces at the BBC?

What counts over talent at the BBC is the colour of one’s skin or one’s sexual preference or one’s gender, even though none should have the slightest bearing on one’s ability to do the job. If only talent were the main priority when it came to recruitment, perhaps more of the Corporation’s output would be worth watching because hiring would have been done on the basis of merit rather than any tokenistic quotas that require fulfilling. Mind you, the Beeb isn’t unique; English Touring Opera’s decision to make half of its orchestral players redundant solely because they’re not ‘ethnic’ enough is a case in point. Being denied employment due to the colour of one’s skin – didn’t that used to be called racial discrimination? And here’s me thinking all that had long since been outlawed.

Imagine a football team being put together based not on the abilities of the players, but because they ticked boxes unconnected to that ability; an insane proposition, but no more insane than an orchestra recruiting musicians on the same grounds. Perhaps even without throwing its lot in with Stonewall, the BBC remains entirely at home in an entertainment industry that can essentially draw-up a McCarthy-like blacklist of writers, directors, performers and artists with the ‘wrong opinions’ and/or ‘identity’ and continue to hire and promote mediocrities whose qualification for their positions is utterly unrelated to ability.

Still, the BBC would do well to be a tad more selective when it comes to ideological bedfellows. Stonewall has hardly covered itself in glory of late, losing many of its long-time supporters to newer organisations formed out of frustration with the direction Stonewall has been moving in – organisations such as the LGB Alliance, which Stonewall (and the Labour Party) has all-but labelled a far-right extremist anti-Trans ‘hate’ group. But charities need to be careful in adopting holier-than-thou stances. Recent exposés of the way some major charities are run – from Kids Company to the sexual exploitation of the natives by Oxfam employees to the revelation of the Aspinall Foundation (the wildlife conservation charity of which the PM’s missus is an employee) paying £150,000 in ‘interior design services’ to its chairman’s wife in 2020, has shown that many groups beginning with good intentions have morphed into organisations extolling all the immoral virtues of big business.

Perhaps it’s no surprise Stonewall has deviated so far from its original intention; when men can marry men and women can marry women and the age of consent is the same whichever way you bend, an organisation built to fight battles that have all been won has had to seek out – or invent – new battles to validate its existence. However, throwing its lot in with the Trans lobby – and its most bonkers fringes – has undoubtedly damaged the brand. Lest we forget, this is a charity that in prioritising one tiny minority provoked the split that led to the formulation of the LGB Alliance, which has provided a refuge for those now-marginalised within gay circles, especially lesbians. Whilst there is undoubtedly a touch of the Judean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judea about this on the surface, some of the LGB Alliance’s statements on the kind of extreme policies pursued by Stonewall – the kind that alienate outsiders and can foster latent homophobia – sound pretty sensible and are far closer to what Stonewall used to represent before it went a bit mad.

The LGB Alliance is more in line with majority thinking in that it opposes some of the more fruitcake theories that are being bedded into the workplace environment and (more worryingly) in that gender identity social engineering lab, the classroom. The Scottish Government thinks it’s okay for children to decide what gender they are and parents don’t have to be consulted at all; similarly, they believe a biological man suddenly declaring he’s a woman without going through all that troublesome, time-consuming surgery (a process that indicates genuine commitment to the cause) has to now be recognised as a woman in law, giving him a free pass into the private spaces of actual women – and young girls, in the case of changing rooms. There’s now even a small movement emanating from (perhaps inevitably) California which demands the ‘negative’ term paedophilia be replaced with MAPs – Minor-Attracted People. ‘South Park’ beat them to it 20 years ago in an episode featuring NAMBLA, the North American Man/Boy Love Association. Whenever ‘liberalism’ gets to the point it’s at right now, it always ends up back at the Paedophile Information Exchange.

At the moment, one could very easily conclude the West is a society sliding into decadence as its achievements are fashionably trashed and its institutions infiltrated by an Alice in Wonderland design for life in which (as someone once famously said) 2+2=5. Logic be damned as we reach the point that historically characterises the death throes of that society. When female crime figures soar because male villains in drag are listed as women and the further education system is so f***ed-up that female students struggling to cope with the financial demands of university are being offered courses in ‘sex work’ to make ends meet, we say no more because to do so is to be denounced as a bigot. But this isn’t just madness – this is M&S madness.

© The Editor

Website: https://www.johnnymonroe.co.uk/

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REAPIN’ & SOWIN’

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

Website: https://www.johnnymonroe.co.uk/

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LIFE’S A GAS

GaslightWith its recurring habit of remaking foreign films – albeit usually ones produced in a foreign language – Hollywood sometimes attempts to eliminate all traces of the original movie for fear it will steal the remake’s thunder. In 1944 MGM was so determined its version of Patrick Hamilton’s stage play ‘Gaslight’ would be regarded as the motion picture version that it attempted to erase the existing prints of the 1940 British adaptation, even wanting to incinerate the negative. Happily, it didn’t succeed and the first film survives as a wonderfully atmospheric example of old-school British cinema shot entirely on a studio set that cleverly recreates a middle-class Victorian street; it reimagines a London square in the late 19th century with the same aesthetic inventiveness as David Lean reimagined the city’s slums in his take on ‘Oliver Twist’. The film stars Anton Walbrook as a sadistic controlling husband convincing his emotionally fragile wife she’s losing her mind, and is an enjoyable melodrama that nevertheless has some genuinely dark moments. Memorably claustrophobic as the virtually imprisoned wife played by Diana Wyngard becomes riddled with doubts about her sanity, it appears to be the source of a term now routinely used online, gaslighting.

The term gaslighting is recognised in psychiatry as an occasional symptom of interpersonal relationships – particular married ones – when one partner seeks to cover their extramarital tracks by infusing their other half with doubt over the alleged infidelity of the guilty party. Mind games between couples have long been familiar to relationship counsellors, but it took until the 1980s and 90s before gaslighting was acknowledged as a potent tool of psychological abuse, dependent upon an unequal power dynamic in which one partner holds the emotional upper hand and therefore has the strength to exacerbate the vulnerability of the other. The dramatic potential of gaslighting has also seen it become a staple storyline of soap operas, bringing the practice to a larger audience – such as in the abusive marriage of Helen Archer to the domineering Rob Tichener in ‘The Archers’ back in 2016.

In the context of relationships, gaslighting is not always the exclusive province of a blatantly wicked cad like the one played by Anton Walbrook in the aforementioned 1940 movie. It can often be a subconscious tactic used by one half of a partnership without necessarily seeking to reduce their partner to borderline psychosis; but it can inadvertently fuel underlying paranoia and doubts that were already present before the relationship even began. When one’s perception of reality is thrown into instability, the impact upon those with an existing grip on reality that could be described as tenuous – those whose relationship ‘rock’ served as the sole seemingly stable factor in their life – can be disastrous. Trust and faith in the sincerity of what people say and do can be a casualty of this infiltration of endless doubt into every discourse so that nothing is what it initially seems anymore.

If we broaden the scope of the term beyond the therapist’s walls, it can encompass any form of manipulation that persuades the manipulated to doubt their perception of a given situation. A type of gaslighting has long been a psychological weapon of warfare used to trash the certainties of the enemy in the righteousness of their mission, and has also been seized upon by totalitarian regimes as a means of controlling a peacetime population. Moreover, there’s no question gaslighting has been utilised during the pandemic to terrify the global masses into compliance. The flurry of misinformation that has permeated both social and mainstream media over the past couple of years has left many not really knowing who to trust or which path to take – pro-vaccination or anti-vaccination, pro-lockdown or anti-lockdown – so that division is rife and divide and rule is able to follow its familiar route in neutralising the prospect of mass disobedience towards the anti-democratic commandments of democratically-elected governments. One only has to look at the example of Australia to see this at its most extreme.

These lessons in gaslighting’s political effectiveness haven’t been lost on gatecrashers either. BLM have done it too – forcing the colour blind to see colour before everything else in a way their absence of prejudice never did until the relentlessly racist ‘anti-racism’ propaganda seeped deep, aided and abetted by utterly uncritical media reporting and endorsement. The imported idea of British society being some imaginary hybrid of Apartheid-era South Africa and an American Confederate State has no connection to reality for most in this country, but the fallacy is slowly becoming embedded in the public’s psyche, sowing division where it had never been before – and inculcating doubt. ‘Am I racist?’ is a question born of such reprehensible gaslighting. The infiltration of corporations and public bodies by the irredeemably toxic Critical Race Theory via compulsory Unconscious Bias Training, not to mention the transformation of the educational system into glorified CRT indoctrination, is breeding a generation convinced this is fact. When nothing is real, anything is.

The beginning of 2020 through to the end of 2021 has seen a traumatised population primed to be ‘triggered’ by gaslighting tactics on the part of both government and ideological movements such as BLM or Extinction Rebellion, and the policy appears to be working. The people of the Western world are now in an abusive relationship with their respective powers-that-be, coerced victims of the former’s gaslighting so that they now react to every ‘crisis’ with panic, hysteria and fear for their safety; compliance and unquestioning obedience seems the only safe option for many who just want an easy life – and that suits the gaslighters. We’ve gone from lockdowns and attendant coronavirus issues such as masks and vaccines to the imagined injustices exploited by BLM to the ongoing climate change apocalypse to rises in energy bills and taxes as well as the sudden shortage of HGV drivers that has in turn led to petrol shortages and empty supermarket shelves. And each has sparked varying degrees of panic. Job done.

Vaccine passports may have been – for the moment – abandoned as a China-style catch-all means of tracking and tracing the movements of the people 24/7, but evidence of one’s jab or non-jab are nonetheless being used by some businesses and institutions. The prospect of under-staffed professions being further depleted because some employees have the temerity to resist state-sanctioned medical intervention and therefore risk dismissal is a real one; and this is a tactic that hasn’t really been used since the Contagious Diseases Act of 1864. That was legislation designed to protect the armed forces from venereal disease, enabling police to arrest women on the suspicion of being prostitutes (mainly in ports and garrison towns) and giving doctors the right to initiate invasive medical examinations that no suspect had the right to resist; at the end of it, she’d be issued with a card certifying whether or not she was clean or unclean, and this would determine whether or not she’d be accepted back into polite society or would be blacklisted forevermore. Sound familiar?

When one thinks of how conditioned the people have become to receiving orders – remember that bizarre period when orders were effectively issued on a daily basis at SAGE press conferences – it’s no wonder those who remain resistant to them and are stubbornly continuing to think for themselves have been demonised. A pliable population successfully persuaded that they’re no more capable of rational independent judgement than a child is bound to react violently to the obstinacy of those who won’t play ball. The fact a ‘show me your papers’ rule has now been passed (albeit by the narrowest of margins) in the People’s Republic of Wales – opposed by every major party bar freedom-loving Labour – could either be an outrageous aberration or a victory for gaslighting that even those of us who fail to see the sensual appeal of sheep should be concerned about.

© The Editor

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BLACK SEPTEMBER

Rotten ApplesIf the available ingredients are Paul Gambaccini, Larry Elder and 9/11, is there a suitable recipe that can successfully blend them so the end result is a satisfactory soufflé? Such is the dilemma that often faces yours truly when several stories are vying for attention without any inspiring me enough to pen an entire post. If not giving over one post to one story, the task is then to join the dots of apparently unrelated plots and make a valid connection that holds up to scrutiny, regardless of whether or not any common factors jump out and join hands. However, perhaps the one thing these three individual storylines share is the Winegum Telegram itself. Each contains elements of stories that have been covered on here various times over the past six years, whether false allegations, Identity Politics, or reflections on where we are now courtesy of an event that took place two whole decades ago.

As far as Gambo is concerned, there is certainly enough history to warrant a post, though I’ve satirised his self-important pomposity via other online mediums many times; in this particular case, however, a live TV outburst during a down-the-line interview with Victoria Derbyshire on the BBC encompassed other previous topics like the corruption of the Met and the folly of media-driven witch-hunts into ‘historical abuse’. Gambaccini, for all his faults, has become a defiant contradiction to the narrative the BBC has stuck to ever since the Savile scandal almost a decade ago, and seeing him let rip with the enduring anger of a man to whom a criminal wrong was done remains an undoubtedly novel sight on our premier broadcaster. Gambo was invited onto the BBC News Channel to discuss an open letter signed by numerous prestigious parties (including Stephen Lawrence’s mother) who declared themselves victims of the Met’s incompetence and malpractice; the letter in question was a protest at the suggestion Met Commissioner Cressida Dick would have her contract extended for another couple of years. It demanded Boris Johnson curtail Ms Dicks’ role ASAP on the grounds that she has done nothing to alter the corrupt culture within the Met since her promotion.

Ms Derbyshire attempted to uphold the now-redundant BBC pretence of impartiality during the exchange, but something that was once admirable and key to the BBC’s position has been so abused in recent years that it no longer convinces as a tactic. And it prompted an understandably incendiary outburst by Gambo. ‘All throughout the witch-hunt,’ he snarled, ‘the BBC was on the side of the wrongdoers – and this will come out, by the way; don’t think that we are going to go away. We haven’t come for the BBC yet because we’re doing the Met now, but in the years to come – boy, the truth about the BBC complicity in the witch-hunt will be known.’ The fact that this is a former BBC star employee returning to plunge the knife into a corporation that failed to reward loyalty and long service by presuming guilt before innocence is perhaps emblematic of so much that has gone wrong at the Beeb in the last decade or so, and one cannot help but sympathise when Gambo admitted, ‘I’m sorry to have to say negative things about people; this is not why I went into public life.’

Circumstance and unforeseen events have forced the likes of Paul Gambaccini into the place he currently occupies; I’m pretty certain he’d be far happier embedded as the anchor of a long-running show on any of the BBC’s five national radio networks than having to kick his former employer while it’s down, but he no longer has a choice. The climate the Western world currently finds itself inhabiting is one some of us saw coming a long time ago, and we knew it was one in which we’d have to stand up and be counted. Hot on the heels of ‘Exposure’, I’m currently working my way through another of my previous satirical series, ’25 Hour News’, for Patreon uploading. Considering the material is seven years old, it’s nevertheless drawn an enthusiastic response from my subscribers – and one unnerving element of sitting through it again for the first time in a long time is how disturbingly prescient it seems. I saw a genuine TV news story yesterday from Australia that melodramatically reported on a dozen cops pouncing upon a solitary individual seen walking alone in the open air without wearing a mask. If that’s the actual news, then there really is no need for a parody anymore.

Moreover, who would ever have imagined back in a year as relatively recent as 2014 that it would eventually be perfectly permissible for a white activist masquerading as ‘anti-fascist’ to wear a gorilla mask and physically abuse a black politician running for the office of California Governor? That’s what happened this week to Larry Elder, the broadcaster-turned-political candidate who happens to be that most unfathomable breed to the SJW, an African-American Republican. Of course, the outrage that would have greeted this act captured on camera (or Smartphone) had Elder been a Democrat would have made Elder an international household name overnight; the woman in the gorilla mask would be eviscerated by media of both the mainstream and social persuasion and it’d be the lead story on CNN as well as splashed across the front page of the New York Times, held up as yet one more example of America’s systemic racism. As it is, Elder’s political affiliations means the story has been summarily buried by all the media outlets that ordinarily fall over themselves to push the race agenda, which suggests race is not really the issue after all. If it was, then it would be applied to everyone, regardless of where they stand on the ideological spectrum.

The racism inherent in ‘anti’ racism is really laid bare when it comes to how a character like Larry Elder is treated by the left. He refuses to play the oppressed victim card and evidently has the ‘wrong’ opinions; in the skewered logic of the Woke mindset, he’s fair game for racist abuse due to the fact he’s an Uncle Tom, nothing more than a subservient mouthpiece for White Supremacy on account of not sticking to the script whereby everyone has their preordained place. Should Larry Elder become the first black Governor of California, his achievement most likely won’t count in the same way that Margaret Thatcher still doesn’t count to some over here as a glass ceiling-smasher because she came from the wrong side of the divide. One doesn’t have to agree with all his beliefs to hope Elder wins – if only for the fact his victory would shatter the unhealthy omnipotence of the dominant dogma and enable even more people to discern the double standards bullshit at the rotten core of Identity Politics.

And so we ice the cake with some 9/11 topping. It was 20 years ago today? Yes, hard to believe for those of us who were around, I guess; but there it is on the calendar – and we only have to look at current events in Afghanistan to be reminded of its legacy. Amidst the expected TV documentaries which followed a well-trodden path, I did see one which focused on the Presidential perspective, featuring extensive and previously unaired recollections from Dubya and all his key players who are still alive. It was genuinely fascinating to hear how that dramatic day unfolded for the Commander-in-Chief and how his frightened team had so little clue as to what was happening, forced into flying around in circles aboard Air Force One, desperately trying to work out anywhere to land that might be safe. It served as a reminder of just how unprepared America was for 9/11 and how the passing of decades had erased the collective wakeup call of Pearl Harbour; given the diminishing length of attention spans, the sixty years that separated Pearl Harbour and 9/11 has probably been halved so that the impact of 9/11 on the present day will perhaps be gone within ten years from now. Considering how quickly the illiberal nature of certain pandemic policies has been normalised, perhaps we won’t have to wait even that long.

© The Editor

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NURSERY CRIME

Tiger TeaIt’s still August, which means it’s still the silly season. Even if Fleet Street no longer dictates the news narrative, old habits die hard and the annual glut of stories unworthy of attention any other time of the year routinely surface to grab the headlines. Not that they’re particularly worthy of attention now, mind, but I suppose it helps that there’s no shortage of uniquely grim stories competing to catch the eye; at the moment, anything that isn’t taking place at Kabul Airport feels like light relief, and the more ridiculous the story, the more it stands out. In such a climate, I guess Identity Politics and Woke ideology can always be relied upon to serve this function, for silliness seems to be intrinsic to their relentlessly idiotic rhetoric. From the unveiling of LGBT cop cars to the shocking revelations that Extinction Rebellion top brass don’t necessarily practice what they preach, it’s not hard to understand why coverage outstrips relevance, even if all these silly stories add up to a bigger picture that isn’t really very funny at all.

It shouldn’t come as a great surprise, therefore, that this week has seen some wannabe Mary Whitehouse decide that a beloved children’s book should be excised from the pre-school library due to it allegedly being guilty of portraying the female sex in a ‘negative’ light and breeding the next generation of misogynists and rapists in the process. That this claim should be associated with Zero Tolerance, an organisation which apparently has a reputation for good, positive work in helping women deal with domestic violence, perhaps shows the damage that can be done when malignant Wokery infiltrates any institution and proves utterly counterproductive as it comes to define it, holding it up to ridicule and overshadowing all the good work previously achieved. The state of Stonewall is a good example – a unifying force respected for decades and recognised as the go-to charity when it came to gay issues; but its current pollution by the divisive extremes of Trans-activism has opened up a widening schism in the gay community, alienating many high-profile supporters it could previously call upon, including veterans who fought the actual battles that mattered.

Zero Tolerance appears to be taking a similar route by diving into the Gender Identitarian black hole with some of the ludicrous claims it makes about Judith Kerr’s delightful evergreen favourite, ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’. What kind of po-faced party-pooper looks at such a book and comes away from it wondering why the tiger in question is male as opposed to gender-neutral? The charity’s co-director, Rachel Adamson, that’s who. Such books, according to Ms Adamson, ‘aren’t just stories…we know that gender stereotypes are harmful and they reinforce gender inequality, and that gender inequality is the cause of violence against women and girls, such as domestic abuse, rape and sexual harassment.’ Imagine reading a charming slice of innocent, fantastical life like ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ and that’s your main reaction to it. What does that say about you? By attaching such serious issues to such an innocuous book, you instantly negate any proper debate on the subjects – as with calling everything racist tends to neutralise genuine racism when it appears.

Now that this cherished children’s classic is a Rad-Fem target, certain important factors about its genesis have to be conveniently overlooked in order to uphold the unconvincing argument. Judith Kerr was married to the visionary Nigel Kneale, creator of ‘Quatermass’ and the man who wrote both the groundbreaking 1954 BBC TV adaptation of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ that remains a landmark in early British television as well as the equally remarkable 1968 TV play, ‘The Year of the Sex Olympics’; yet she wasn’t merely the great woman behind a great man, but was – like Clara Schumann before her – a great artist in her own right, regardless of her spouse. We clearly have to turn a blind eye to the fact her most celebrated book was a book written by a woman, and a woman who was a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany to boot. But, hey – so what? Why should something that has long been (rightly) regarded as a creative triumph over extreme adversity be spared the revisionist treatment courtesy of those who have never experienced anything remotely comparable to that which Judith Kerr lived through, let alone created such a sublime work of enchanting art? And why should it come as a surprise that giving the artless a mere inch means they will take more miles than even The Proclaimers ever walked?

Of course, we are dealing here – as we always are in cases of art being tossed onto the philistines’ funeral pyre – with people who have no comprehension of the subtle nuances of the best art. They themselves cannot create, nor are they able to appreciate the creations of those who can; they only see everything through the negative, narrow prism of whichever corrosive agenda they’ve decided to attach themselves to. They cannot discern beauty in any manmade creation because it would only underline their own absence of it, not only internally, but in their inability to produce it. Anyone whose response to a work of art is not to ooze admiration and awe but to somehow see its brilliance as highlighting their own inadequacies and mediocrity should never be taken seriously as a critic. It was blatantly evident a long time ago that bestowing credibility upon the creatively clueless when they air their opinion of any art would lead to this kind of scenario; moreover, it was equally evident doing so would bolster their high opinion of themselves and give them the unwarranted confidence to eventually come for everyone and everything if unchallenged.

It is both unwise and futile to concede to their demands, for their craving can never be satisfied, however far one bends over in an attempt to placate them. Works by Enid Blyton and Dr Seuss have already fallen under the revisionist hammer without notable objections, so why should anything else be immune? However, it’s important to be aware that denying serial cancellers the right to cancel means they might just dematerialise before our eyes, for if we dare to challenge everything they surmise to be offensive or problematic and prove them wrong, they then no longer have a reason to exist; this is their purpose in life, to be on permanent look out for anything that supports their argument, especially if produced in the distant past by the conveniently deceased (‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ was published in 1968 and Judith Kerr passed away in 2019). Their lifelong work won’t be complete until we’re all as dead inside as they are, until we’re all incapable of seeing anything without twisting it into an embodiment of evil to slot neatly into the latest category of cultural Year Zero think-checking.

The organisation advocating the censuring of Judith Kerr’s classic suggests children’s libraries should dispense with brilliantly imaginative fairy tales about anthropomorphic big cats who adhere to gender stereotypes and should instead promote recommended stories featuring transgender infants and little boys who want to become mermaids. Perish the thought gender stereotypes should be reinforced in books that point out some women might like to be nurses or secretaries or even stay-at-home mothers! Unsurprisingly, this whole story emanates from a survey conducted north of the border in the Woke wasteland formerly known as Scotland, a ‘gender and diversity audit’ of over 3,000 books in 21 Scottish nurseries; the findings remind me of a booklet circulated during China’s Cultural Revolution, titled ‘Four Hundred Films to be Criticised’. I know I mentioned it just a couple of posts back, but a timely revisit to the ‘Exposure’ series I produced for YT a decade ago has sadly reminded me how much the seeds sowed in the 2010s have been reaped in the 2020s. If I had a crystal ball, I’d smash the bloody thing.

© The Editor

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BATLEY VARIETY CLUBBED

GallowayProbably wrong to call it a standard-bearer, but the yardstick by which all subsequent by-elections have been judged on the grounds of unpleasantness is undoubtedly the unedifying little rumpus that took place in South London way back in February 1983. A Labour seat held by the same sitting member since 1946 (whatever name the constituency went under), Bermondsey came to be regarded as a microcosm of the death of the post-war consensus in British politics when it was suddenly up for grabs via the resignation of Bob Mellish, whose disillusionment with the way his Party was going in the wake of the SDP defection and Labour’s capitulation to the hard-left embodied the familiar recurring crisis in Labour ranks when out of office. Labour nominated a leading light in what Fleet Street used to call ‘the Loony Left’ as its candidate, the openly gay Peter Tatchell, a man who had risen to local prominence as a militant member of the left-wing faction that had taken control of the constituency party; his main opponent in the contest was the Liberal Simon Hughes, a barrister parachuted in when the Liberals smelt blood in a seat that was hardly going to fall into Conservative hands.

The Bermondsey by-election may have marked the public debut of Screaming Lord Sutch and the Monster Raving Loony Party as a regular fixture of 80s political events, but it also highlighted prejudices indicative of the time that seem unimaginable in today’s climate. An undeniable strain of blatant homophobia permeated the promotional material of Tatchell’s opponents, including that of Simon Hughes. Leaflets bearing Tatchell’s home address and telephone number, along with graffiti and numerous reported derogatory remarks made by other candidates on the doorstep, all contributed to an unprecedented smear campaign. Whilst Tatchell’s association with Militant Tendency (the hardcore group of activists serving to make Labour unelectable in the eyes of the electorate) certainly worked against him, it’s impossible to avoid his previous connections to the Gay Liberation Front as not exactly endearing him to many of Bermondsey’s socially-conservative constituents. We may now live in a society in which the rainbow flag is more conspicuous than the Union Jack, but even in a period as relatively recent as the early 80s being gay was still largely regarded as subversive and suspect; and this was even before AIDS ramped up the tabloid paranoia.

In the end, Bermondsey experienced a staggering swing of 44.2% to the Liberals (who had yet to become Democrats) – a result that still stands as the largest swing in a British by-election…ever. Moreover, Simon Hughes also bucked the usual trend by remaining an MP for a seat won in a contentious by-election for the best part of three decades. Many years later, he and Tatchell were reunited on ‘Newsnight’ and, to his credit, Hughes personally apologised to his one-time Labour opponent for some of the dirty tricks used during that notorious campaign; and to his own credit Tatchell accepted the apology without a trace of rancour or bitterness. Both had come a long way since 1983. One would like to think society as a whole has also advanced in the intervening decades, though the Batley & Spen by-election of 2021 has perhaps shown we may well have gone backwards. Being gay is rightly no longer an impediment to being elected an MP, but other prejudices and fresh strains of bigotry have simply superseded the old ones.

With its large Muslim community, there has been considerable pandering by all interested parties to a demographic the Labour Party has long assumed with a degree of complacent arrogance will always lean to the left. Turning a shameful blind eye to the plight of the local teacher still in hiding from hardline Islamist bigots, everyone competing for the constituency instead sought to court the Muslim vote without once challenging the prevalent prejudices within it; what Labour MP Navendu Mishra called ‘dog-whistle racism’ was in full flow during the campaign as routine and deliberately divisive anti-Hindu and anti-Semitic sentiments reflected the Identity Politics agenda all political parties with a stake in the constituency decided to go with. Labour didn’t bank on one of its former sons exploiting dissatisfaction with the current leadership by storming into town and capitalising on the ugly climate with hackneyed pro-Palestine sloganeering, but George Galloway has a track record of this. His performance as Workers Party candidate resulted in him slashing the Labour vote, but also probably did as much damage to the Tories, who undoubtedly fancied their chances with national Labour support in freefall.

The far-right were also present on the hustings by all accounts; stories of Labour workers being pelted with eggs and physically assaulted were abundant throughout a campaign that has seemed as nasty as any since Bermondsey in 1983. Labour’s insistence on sticking to the Identitarian approach – patronising ethnic ‘victims’ and demonising ethnic groups to have transcended such limiting labels through no-nonsense hard work – appeared to pay off in the end, though it’s difficult to see how one can celebrate such a narrow victory when one’s main opponents enjoyed a record swing (for a governing party) of 2.9 and the winning party experienced its lowest-ever majority and lowest-ever percentage of the vote. Labour’s victor was Kim Leadbeater, a political novice whose connection to a tragedy that put the constituency on the map five years ago (she’s Jo Cox’s sister) must have figured as a selling point; but it still didn’t produce anything other than a stay of execution for both Keir Starmer and the Labour Party itself.

A majority of 323 was the slimmest of margins for Labour in Batley & Spen last night; Leadbeater’s tally of 13,296 votes gave her a hair’s breadth lead over the Tories at 12,973; Galloway was third with 8,264. Leadbeater could lay claim to 35% of the vote, which is the smallest share of the vote any victorious candidate in the constituency could boast since its creation in the somewhat, ah, ‘memorable’ year of 1983 – down from the 42.7 % Tracy Brabin won it by in 2019. In terms of votes cast, the new Mayor of West Yorkshire & Neverland managed 22,594 at the last General Election, and it’s due to Brabin’s appetite for superficial power that this by-election had to be fought in the first place – and at the worst possible time for Labour. Yes, Galloway’s intervention undeniably enabled Labour to scrape through by the skin of its teeth, but if the Tories hadn’t sat back in the hope the bolshie maverick’s efforts would do all the work for them in the wake of negative publicity courtesy of Matt Hancock, perhaps this ‘Red Wall’ seat would now be added to the long list in blue hands. But the truth is none of them would have been worthy winners, all having played their part in what has been yet one more nadir in recent British political history.

If Batley & Spen had fallen to the Conservative Party – or even the Workers Party – the accusations that could legitimately be levelled at Labour during the by-election campaign would be equally valid. Just as the Bermondsey by-election of 1983 exploited contemporary paranoia over gay issues and militancy on the far-left fringes of the Labour party, this by-election in oh-so sophisticated 2021 has seen similarly bigoted and divisive tactics applied. All played the Identitarian card in one way or another; all deserve condemnation for sinking to lowest common denominator politics. Rather than seeking to genuinely unite – too much like hard work? – all sought to capitalise on divisions already present by widening them just that little bit further. The only unifying element of this ghastly exercise in democracy was the communal pot all the participants pissed in.

© The Editor

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ALL GIRLS TOGETHER

Bernard BresslawAlthough it’s always been intrinsic to the Great British Summer, it’s nonetheless still going to take time getting used to the return of Wimbledon next week after two years’ away. Politicians and media types may well be doing their utmost to convince us things are all-but normal again, but those of us at street level know this is bullshit. The resumption of annual events in the sporting calendar is, I suppose, a good way of projecting the illusion of normality, though it’ll be interesting to survey the composition of Centre Court a fortnight from now to see how many empty seats there are and how many of those filled are filled by punters looking like they’re poised to perform a surgical operation; that’s not normal, and let’s not pretend otherwise. Anyway, after a cancelled 2020, a regular viewer of the drama at the All-England Club such as yours truly will have to reacquaint himself with the stars of the sport now that many of the names that have dominated tennis for the last couple of decades have either hung up their racquets or are nearing game, set & match for good.

Having experienced something of a Golden Age over the last 20 years, the men’s game seems to be in something of an uncertain interregnum at the moment, with no real eye-catching challengers to the ageing triumvirate of titans who aren’t yet being edged off the court in the way they surely should be by now. In the past, when the chaps seemed to be going through the motions, I often turned to the women’s game; it was far more entertaining to tune into the girls during the deadly dull Pete Sampras era, though I’d be hard-pressed to name more than three or four top women players at the moment. Perhaps it’s time to relax the rules a little, to place tennis in line with other sports that have decided possession of a vagina is no longer a prerequisite to compete in women’s events; if one’s testosterone level is low enough, you’re in, luv. An apparently average weightlifter who goes by the name of Laurel Hubbard struggled to shine when competing against his fellow fellers – until he decided to declare himself a lady in 2012 and his/her career suddenly took off; Hubbard has now been selected to represent New Zealand in the forthcoming Tokyo Olympics.

Let’s be honest – it would have to be one of the English-speaking nations to have taken this unprecedented step; after all, only the Anglosphere appears to have bought into this bullshit. Watching the opening moments of the delayed Euro 2020 tournament, what a relief it was to be spared a visual lecture when the Italy and Turkey teams responded to the referee’s whistle by kicking off the game rather than striking a pose implying they were about to ask for each other’s hands in marriage. The mother tongue of Planet Woke is English – sad but true. When the FA proclaimed in no uncertain words that anyone booing the taking of the knee was racist, the participating teams from mainland Europe must have rolled their eyes along with the majority of football fans in this country. The first England fixture at Wembley saw the usual misguided virtue-signalling entered into, yet the fact the Croatia players didn’t follow suit made England’s insistence on slavishly sticking to the pose look even more stupid. And fans booed, of course. Maybe they’d just come to watch some sport as opposed to a party political broadcast.

Anyway, the presence of a ‘Transgender’ athlete in Tokyo will be, I guess, viewed as another victory for the Identitarian crusade as the politicisation of sport continues unimpeded. It’s interesting that the first sport affected by this issue to fall under the global spotlight is one notorious for the less…er…feminine attributes of its participants. Those of us old enough to have memories of Iron Curtain countries participating in Olympic events, when the likes of the GDR entered female athletes so pumped-up with performance-enhancing chemicals that many of them were more masculine than the athletes competing in the male event, won’t be surprised that weightlifting has led the way in the bending of biological qualification. Apparently, the IOC guidelines specify that surgery is not necessary as long as a transgender athlete’s testosterone levels remain below 10 nanomoles per litre for a full year; this doesn’t appear to take into account the standard female levels of testosterone average between 0.3 and 2.4 nanomoles per litre, suggesting there is immediately an advantage for male competitors competing against female ones. And that’s not even mentioning all those aspects of physical male development from puberty, those of height, weight, muscle and bone density – which non-surgery transgender types still carry – that make a man (whether or not he decides he’s now a woman) a far stronger individual than any natural-born woman.

There are many sports whose sex-segregation has always seemed to me like a hangover from another era, ones I often feel should be open for men and women to compete against each other on a level playing field – golf, for example; or snooker; or darts; maybe even Formula One. None of these are exclusively dependent on physical strength, a quality that will always give a man advantage over a woman. If female jockeys can compete against their male counterparts – and win, as was demonstrated at this year’s historic Grand National – I don’t really see why the sexes should be divided in any of the specific sports mentioned. In the more athletic events that emphasise the physical prowess of the participants, however – and the headline-grabbing ones at the Olympic Games tend to be these – women’s sport is in danger of being reduced to a laughing stock. By all accounts, the moving of the goalposts in track & field at high-school level in the US has resulted in a predictable success rate for boys identifying as girls; the actual girls are naturally a bit miffed by this, seeing potential paths to Olympic glory being suddenly blocked by blokes. So much for Girl Power.

New Zealand’s transgender hero (heroine?) Laurel Hubbard is 43-years-old; I suspect he/her wouldn’t have got anywhere near selection for Tokyo in his/her former guise, yet the fact a competitor in their early 40s has got there at the expense of a genuine female weightlifter in her 20s highlights the farcical nature of allowing past-it men to take this backdoor route to the Olympics and depriving women in their prime of the opportunity in the process. Does that seem like a fair example of the Olympian ideal, let alone a triumph for feminism? Of course, weightlifting being an individual – as opposed to team – event means we have yet to see the extreme ludicrousness of this trend, though it’s only a matter of time. I can’t help thinking of the Python sketch in which John Cleese plays a brain-dead, knuckle-head boxer whose big fight comes against a little girl in pigtails (played by Connie Booth); the fight itself basically consists of Cleese repeatedly flooring his hapless opponent with one simple punch over and over again.

When tennis legend Martina Navratilova spoke out against what was happening, she was exposed to the full force of trans-activist trolldom, which just goes to show even someone who arguably did more to raise the level of athletic excellence in women’s sport than anyone before or since – and did a hell of a lot to forward the cause of gay people in sport, lest we forget – is not immune to being shouted down and silenced. A separate transgender category in sport would seem a fair compromise, though would this enable Laurel Hubbard to grab gold? Any TV sports presenter or commentator confronted by the sight of the New Zealander strutting his/her stuff with the weights in Tokyo will probably feel as though they’re commentating on a state funeral, over-mindful of not saying the wrong thing or making light of the sight for fear of being delivered their P45 the following day. So they will have to pretend this is just, like, normal – as will the team covering Wimbledon when greeted by half-empty stands peppered with masked punters sat in isolation from one another. As Jimmy Greaves used to say, it’s a funny old game.

© The Editor

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THE SKELETON KEY

SkeletonThere are many advantages to having one foot in the analogue age and the other in the digital; but perhaps the best is that you come to the latter as a fully-formed adult having avoided growing up in public. At one time, the only individuals whose lives were ‘Truman Show’-like open books from birth were the children of celebrities or those at the front of the queue when it came to Royal Succession; with the advent of social media, the goldfish bowl previously reserved for the unenviable elite has expanded to become a global housing estate. It’s now customary for parents-to-be to post scans of their foetuses, followed by galleries of their newborn cherubs, and then for each stage of the toddler’s evolution to be documented online. The narcissistic assumption that everyone beyond family is as captivated by the process as the parents used to be manifested as an exclusive treat for the luckless physical visitor, condemned to perusing a photo album featuring a thousand-and-one variations on a boring theme. Today, however, the whole world can share in this dubious honour.

And, of course, as junior comes into the world cyber-literate, it is second nature for him or her that every phase of their development will be performed on the cyberspace stage, even when they wrestle a degree of control from mummy and daddy. In this climate, every proclamation, observation and statement that might later lead to personal embarrassment is something that can henceforth be invoked by anyone. By contrast, those born on the preferable side of the digital divide can rest easy in the knowledge that only the few comprising our circle of friends and acquaintances at the time were exposed to any toe-curling embarrassments – and most have probably long since forgotten them. Thoughts expressed in private diaries seen only by the author were secure in their anonymity and, unless captured on video or audio, any such thoughts aired publicly were transient moments as ephemeral as a theatrical production seen by nobody but those present at the performance. The ‘digital generation’ have no such get-out-of-jail card; their equivalent moments are preserved forever.

Anybody with the merest semblance of curiosity about life does not remain rigidly set in stone when it comes to their views and opinions; as you learn and experience more of what life has to offer, one’s perspective on all it can afford alters and adapts to the new surroundings. Therefore, the person I am today is not the person I was as recent as five years ago, let alone twenty-five years ago and certainly not forty-five years ago; in the case of the latter, it would be exceptionally odd if I hadn’t changed, for I’d be the oldest schoolboy in the world. I never trust anybody whose views and opinions freeze around the age of 18 and remain the same thereafter – probably the main reason why I was never convinced by Jeremy Corbyn, who still emits the naive air of a gap-year Marxist (which perhaps explains his appeal to adolescent graduates). I have very little evidence of what I thought and believed at 18, though the fact the archive is so depleted reflects the fact I was the sole curator of it; nobody else was interested enough to keep records and there was no digital platform in existence at the time to preserve the documentation on my behalf. Thank God for that. The memory is enough – and I can keep that to myself.

Okay, so it’s not as if I was a card-carrying member of the National Front or in the Rick Astley Fan Club – my crimes were not so diabolical; but I remember thinking, saying and writing things down at 18 that I couldn’t disagree with more today. Yet, that’s okay; there’s nothing wrong with that – in fact, it’s perfectly natural and normal that I should now be of the opinion that I knew f***-all at 18, because I didn’t whilst simultaneously thinking I knew everything. That is the prerogative of the teenager, and I’m wise enough now to cut him some slack and not condemn him retrospectively. As far as the wider world is concerned, I was born at some point in the early 2010s and whoever I was before that is irrelevant to the person cyberspace knows as Victoria Lucas or Petunia Winegum or Johnny Monroe. It doesn’t matter. It has absolutely no bearing on who I am now unless I choose to pen a post like this, in which I am drawing on my pre-online life to make a point. And even then, none of you knew me before I appeared online, so I could be simply spinning a yarn and taking artistic licence with my own personal history; who’s to know, and what does it really matter? There is no contradictory proof either way, so I remain the curator, director and dictator of my own archive.

It doesn’t seem that long since Jared O’Mara, the Labour MP who’d ousted Nick Clegg at the 2017 General Election, was suspended from the Party when a series of decade-old comments he’d made online resurfaced. These juvenile opinions on everyone from Girls Aloud to gays to Danes and Spaniards were characteristic here-today/gone-tomorrow observations of the cyber-literate millennial unfortunate to have their typical teenage bullshit stored away for a rainy day without them realising it. The cockiness that comes with early adulthood is generally mirrored in the instant reaction to issues or personalities of the day, a reaction that tends to emanate from the gut rather than the head. The 21st century is especially cruel in that it never forgets and rarely takes into account that whatever gut reaction yer average 18-year-old might make at the time doesn’t necessarily mean that remains his or her reaction to the particular topic under discussion for all eternity. And in the unusual instances when it does, one can safely assume that the individual in question has none of that curiosity for life which is essential for growth, maturity and wisdom.

The pious contemporary practice of holding every adult responsible for whatever they said when they were still a work-in-progress adolescent has made the headlines again this past week in the case of England cricketer Ollie Robinson. The 27-year-old vice-captain of Sussex was just days into his international Test career when ‘offensive tweets’ dating from almost ten years ago were dredged-up and have now resulted in Robinson being dropped from the England team after a solitary cap. Robinson was unlucky to be selected for his country smack bang in the middle of British sport’s across-the-board ‘Wokeification’; this is a moment when England football manager Gareth Southgate fails to grasp precisely why genuine football fans are booing the misguided, middle-class governing body’s attempts to uphold the virtue-signalling gestures it could get away with in empty stadiums. Ollie Robinson is being held to account for allegedly ‘racist’ and ‘sexist’ online comments he made back in 2012 and 2013, and one has to wonder what possible relevance they might have to a man in his late 20s who one presumes has changed his perspective a little since he was 19.

Robinson made the customary public apology when the archaic tweets surfaced, and even the Sports Minister Oliver Dowden had accused the ECB of going ‘over the top’ in suspending Robinson for something he said so long ago. But perhaps the most telling example of where we are now came via the comments of the England captain Joe Root. ‘We all have to keep looking to educate ourselves,’ he said, ‘trying to be inclusive as we can, and keep making everyone feel comfortable to play the wonderful sport we have.’ ‘Educate ourselves’ – how fittingly Critical Race Theory; let’s start from the belief that everyone is racist and work our way back from that, eh? Were Ollie Robinson dim enough to stand by whatever he said as a teenager, he’d be deserving of a slap on the wrist; but he’d have to be pretty bloody dim if he did, and it doesn’t seem he is. Not that this matters, though. The assumption appears to be that everyone’s closet is crammed with skeletons, even if we’ve not opened its doors for a decade or more. The fact those skeletons are in there indicates we are all perpetual sinners – for if the evidence is online, it must be true.

© The Editor