VEERING OFF-SCRIPT

Kemi BadenochOne of the few plus points when Donald Trump was elected US President in 2016 was at the least the opportunity to watch the ‘Progressive Left’ that controls cultural output in the West embark on a highly entertaining four-year meltdown as it struggled to come to terms with the fact the plebs didn’t do as they were told and vote for their candidate. Since then, of course, most of the Progressive Left’s toxic philosophies have been imported into the UK, so one wonders what entertainment we might be in for should the Conservative Party choose to elect a black woman to succeed Boris Johnson. After all, the Woke wing are as set in their blinkered ways as the mega-computer that malfunctioned in the typically prescient episode of ‘The Prisoner’ warning of the dumbing-down of education titled ‘The General’, when No.6 simply punches the question ‘Why?’ into the machine and it blows a permanent fuse. The patronising expectation is that people of colour are supposed to think the way the Identity Politics police tell them to, so how does that explain Kemi Badenoch?

The former Minister for Women and Equalities is undoubtedly the sole intriguing contender in a rather tired and jaded list of runners and riders competing to replace Boris at No.10 – and not just because she’s something of an unknown to the majority of people outside of her Saffron Walden constituency. She launched her campaign early with an impressive piece in the Times a few days ago, and by hitting out at the cancelling culture of Identity Politics and the overreach of the State, she instantly connected with many way beyond the narrow confines of the Tory Shires whose favour she already seems to have won by standing a close second behind Penny Mordaunt in the poll amongst Party members on ConservativeHome. Unlike some of her fellow contenders who see no shame in being a ‘continuity candidate’ (surely the last thing the country needs), Badenoch looks forward whilst shrewdly avoiding alienating those members who still believe in the soon-to-be-ex-PM by describing Boris as ‘a symptom of the problems we face, not the cause of them’. She added that ‘What’s missing is an intellectual grasp of what is required to run the country in an era of increased polarisation, protectionism and populism amplified by social media’.

Badenoch made a key point when she wrote of how her vision of governing Britain ‘can achieve things despite entrenched opposition from a cultural establishment that will not accept the world has moved on from Blairism.’ Rishi Sunak, the bookies’ favourite, launched his own campaign in a slick manner all-too reminiscent of Blair, and the billionaire smoothie exuded an insincerity that wouldn’t make anyone looking to pick up a second-hand motor part with their pennies. He reminds me so much of a slippery estate agent and the argument that he has Cabinet experience due to his largely ineffective spell as Chancellor isn’t a good enough reason to make him PM. Badenoch has Cabinet experience too, and that’s more than either David Cameron or St Tony himself could boast when they took office. Okay, so she might have received the backing of Michael Gove, but we shouldn’t hold that against her. Anyway, a reminder of what she’s up against came via ‘working-class barrister’ and noted fox-killer Jolyon Maugham, who asked in a sneering tweet if the Tories would dare elect a ‘brown person’ as PM. Considering half of the four great offices of state have been occupied by ‘brown people’ during Boris’s tenure and his Cabinet has been the most racially diverse in history, why wouldn’t they?

Three of the contenders in this race – Kemi Badenoch, Suella Braverman and Sajid Javid – are in interracial marriages, further disrupting the narrative; and if you push the narrative that anyone non-white is an oppressed victim, then any person of colour who contradicts it by tearing up the rule book and transcending such restrictive boundaries by not acknowledging their place is fair game to be called an Uncle Tom, or – as was the case with the black Supreme Court judge who helped overturn the Roe Vs Wade ruling in the US – an ‘uppity ni****’, as he was labelled by an activist on Twitter. It’s like inserting the word ‘white’ into one’s description of a detested individual – and even the most otherwise seemingly sane people now do it – as though their whiteness is the cause of everything you hate about them, as though without that they’d be OK; therefore, for a person of colour to cross the Rubicon and see beyond colour is asking for it.

How will the Identitarian storm-troopers of the Left react if the next PM is a black woman and one with the ‘wrong opinions’ who has voiced the feelings of millions by saying out loud that people are sick and tired of being told what they can and can’t say? Badenoch already roused the Identitarian ire when she announced the ending of the disastrous ‘gender neutral’ toilet experiment in all new public buildings, so expect a storm.

When any prominent person of colour veers off-script, the Progressive reaction is the point at which virulent ‘antiracism’ merely exposes itself as straightforward racism. Minorities who have the wrong opinions and white people who aren’t prepared to self-flagellate in public as penance for their Original Sin – perfectly fine to apply racism to them, of course. Activists want the races to be educated separately in the US – Jim Crow, anyone? – and their segregationist ‘antiracism’ naturally extends to frowning upon the coming together of races by marriage. Someone calling herself ‘Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu’ tweeted in response to the news that Badenoch was running, ‘Her power grabbing ambition is rooted in discrediting & delegitimizing antiracism efforts, denying systematic racism’ – the bread & butter of race-baiting activism, of course – ‘whitewashing British Empire & enabling White supremacy against black people. She can crawl back into her mother.’

What we are seeing now is a long-overdue backlash against this kind of thinking, which has been allowed to run riot across all our institutions for far too long; and the backlash is not some far-right extremist movement; it’s ordinary, apolitical people of all colours and all genders who are sick to the back teeth of this Soviet-style mind control, weary of the constant policing of their speech. Take early noughties one-hit wonder Macy Gray, who aired a ‘controversial’ opinion on the trans issue, received the predictable vomit of online abuse and hatred and then hastily retracted her opinion and begged forgiveness as she claimed to be on ‘a learning curve’ (reminiscent of Keith Lemon a couple of years ago); she should never have apologised and bowed before our cultural Politburo in this way, for forgiveness and redemption are not elements of the religion – you give them the proverbial inch and they take more miles than The Proclaimers have ever walked. But we see this happening time and time again and people have had enough. Whether or not a long shot like Kemi Badenoch can arrest this by becoming PM is in the lap of the Conservative membership; but at the moment she seems like the only fresh apple in a fairly rotten barrel.

MICHAEL BARRATT (1928-2022)

Michael Barratt94 is certainly what used to be referred to as ‘a good innings’, and that’s the age that avuncular pair of safe childhood hands Michael Barratt made it to before exiting the stage a couple of days ago. As the anchor of ‘Nationwide’ for eight years, right from its beginning in 1969, gruff-voiced Barratt was the Harold Wilson lookalike who linked the country at teatime from his desk at Lime Grove, routinely swivelling around on his chair to face one of the monitor screens behind him and conducting a down-the-line interview with BBC studios from Bristol to Birmingham and from Norwich to Newcastle; vicars jumping over eggs, skateboarding ducks and beer-drinking snails were amongst the many regional attractions to receive national coverage and lead to the inevitable parodies on comedy shows such as ‘Not the Nine O’Clock News’. Barratt wasn’t beyond sending himself up either, making a couple of memorable cameos in episodes of ‘The Goodies’ at the height of his status as a much-loved fixture of the television furniture in the 1970s. So ubiquitous was he in the middle of the decade that as a child I was even convinced it was him and not Lenny Bruce to be found with all the other famous faces on the cover of ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. Part of me still wishes it was.

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MADHOUSE OF CARDS

AlexMost of us are now familiar with the shameless tactic of ‘playing the race card’, which is usually employed by those who’ve painted themselves into a corner and lack both the intelligence and the decency to formulate a coherent argument that will stand up and warrant examination. I suppose the first time the race card was played to great effect was during the trial of OJ Simpson back in the 90s, when an odds-on guilty verdict was masterfully reversed by Simpson’s legal team as they tapped into the ongoing racial tensions in the US and made the whole spectacle about race. It worked, and ever since then the race card has been produced routinely by some non-white public figures as a means of silencing any questioning of their actions as well offering a sense of security that prevents opposing points of view when making public statements. Just the other day a black actress in the Netflix bodice-ripper, ‘Bridgerton’, made a ludicrous claim in a magazine interview which came across as a desperate attempt to place the multicultural Regency fantasy of the series within an authentic historical context.

According to Adjoa Andoh (the actress), 50% of Nelson’s navy was African and 20,000 black people were living in the centre of London in the early 19th century. She states this as fact, yet offers no evidence of her claims. Most of us fortunate to have learnt our British history before it was warped by Woke revisionism know this is simply untrue, yet nobody would dare dispute the actress’s imaginative fallacy, for to do so would immediately result in one being labelled racist; therefore, she is free to spout such guff knowing she is immune to criticism or questioning. The increasing misuse and abuse of the word ‘racist’ outside of its correct context and using it as a casual insult to put the brakes on debate does nobody any favours other than perhaps actual racists. It serves to bracket any genuine racism alongside a ridiculous list of imaginary racist crimes, diminishing the effectiveness of the word in outing the real guilty parties and breeding cynicism towards the word itself and towards accusations of racism rooted in fact. When everything is racist, nothing is racist.

Having seen the deplorable playing of the race card and how successful it can enable some to get away with murder (well, it certainly did OJ Simpson), those unable to pull it out of the hat on account of being white have found another one they can play – the mental health card. Again, when the amoral use the phrase ‘mental health’ as an excuse they imagine will elicit sympathy and deflect closer scrutiny of whatever crime they have committed, they do so at the expense of those who are genuine sufferers of mental health conditions. It’s almost reached the stage when we anticipate ‘mental health’ being pushed forward as a get-out-of-jail card whenever anyone is exposed as a crook, and we begin to suspect everyone with mental health issues of being a charlatan, employing the phrase in the same way a drafted soldier in a time of war might pretend to be mad in order to be relocated from the frontline. However, none of this would be remotely effective without the support of the more disreputable members of the psychiatric profession, those Gods among men whose unimpeachable wisdom in the court of Law ranks even higher than the authority of the Judge.

In a recent and typically thought-provoking ‘Triggernometry’ interview, the former prison psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple summarily rubbished some of the oft-quoted ‘facts’ when it comes to the mental health of many currently being detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure and exposed them for what they are. ‘You read…that seventy percent of prisoners have some sort of psychological problem,’ he said. ‘I believe that’s a whole load of hokum. That is an excuse for the failure to deal with the relatively few raving lunatics in prison, which the NHS is incapable of dealing with because it’s so incompetent.’ He cited the decimation of the state psychiatric hospital network as leaving no option but to put those with serious mental conditions behind bars, and if a stat claiming 70% of 80,000 people is to be believed, it’s no wonder the task of adequately caring for them seems an impossible one that nobody would expect any government capable of resolving.

Theodore Dalrymple also criticised the methods of diagnosing mental health in the context of it providing a reason for criminal behaviour. ‘Their whole process of diagnosis is so lax,’ he said of his fellow professionals; when confronted by further stats claiming a high proportion of convicted criminals have educational needs such as dyslexia and so on, he recalled his own experience of dealing with prisoners and said that ‘(most) were not deficient in intelligence; they could understand everything perfectly well.’ Playing the mental health card is the default position of many unscrupulous psychiatrists hired as experts by defence teams to secure a violent villain a cushier sentence than his crime otherwise warrants; and blaming mental health for a crime suggests it was the condition that committed the crime rather than the criminal; it implies he or she can be cured, thus winning far earlier parole than the recognition of an incurably evil nature ever would.

Deprived of the Ludovico Technique to guarantee a model citizen upon release, the role of the prison psychiatrist can be pivotal in swinging it, and the do-gooder naivety of many parole boards confronted by a well-behaved criminal with the psychiatric stamp of approval is testament to how mental health can be abused. Most are unaware of the way in which the mental health card is a useful tool for the canny crook to cut short his sentence because they’re not paying attention until the predictable headline when said wrong ‘un inevitably reoffends once released. The public figure playing it when caught out, however, we know of from the moment his or her illicit activities are revealed via Fleet Street. Only this week we’ve seen backbench Tory MP David Warburton react to being exposed as an alleged coke-snorting, serial sexual harasser by playing the mental health card, checking-in to a private psychiatric hospital, apparently suffering from ‘severe shock and stress’.

Warburton has had the Conservative whip withdrawn as an investigation into the allegations levelled against him is pending; misconduct complaints stem from three separate women and, according to the Sunday Times, these include two former aides. The fact that Warburton employed his wife in Parliament in a ‘human resources’ role didn’t exactly fill the complainants with confidence that their allegations would be investigated or taken seriously; Mrs Warburton is still able to work as her husband’s Communications Officer and Parliamentary Assistant, despite the change in the rules forbidding MPs elected from 2017 onwards to employ family members, because he himself was elected in 2015. As some of Mr Warburton’s colleagues blame his behaviour on a ‘mid-life crisis’, the MP is safely cocooned from the publicity at his mental health retreat and the new Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, the Parliamentary watchdog set up to deal with allegations of harassment, is looking into the story.

We’ve already witnessed how several athletes have recently been showered in nauseating praise for their ‘bravery’ at failing in their chosen field and then invariably playing the mental health card in the knowledge that failure attributed to mental health issues will be celebrated more than sporting success in some quarters. As with the other examples referenced, falling back on mental health as a catch-all term to excuse deficiencies that bear little relation to authentic mental health conditions that millions of people are genuinely afflicted by devalues the term; it also risks provoking scepticism whenever anyone suffers for real rather than cynically playing the card. Celebrities wearing mental health as a fashion accessory doesn’t help much either, but this is the society we find ourselves in, a society in which selective ring-fencing can neutralise a multitude of sins.

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REWRITE AT TIFFANY’S

Audrey HepburnTaking a break from all online activity for several days can be a bit of a gamble. Hell, how was I to know the head of the Met would be belatedly pushed before she jumped in my absence, thus leaving this here blog bereft of a swift post-mortem on a useless individual who will henceforth be sailing off into the sunset on a handsome retirement package as well as the inevitable seat in the Lords as Baroness Dick of Head within a year? Mind you, it could’ve been worse; it could’ve been Boris, and I would therefore have been denied an instant obituary to line up alongside those of David Cameron and Theresa May. Whilst the PM is doing his best to keep a low profile following his schoolboy-apologising-to-the-headmaster grilling in the Commons last week, Fleet Street’s ongoing fascination with the woman who currently has ownership of his balls shows no sign of abating, though ‘Carrie Antoinette’ (I can’t claim credit for that one, alas) has a limited shelf-life that simply serves to keep the saga running whilst the Tories decide whether or not any suitable replacements are prepared to trigger a leadership contest.

As is the case during this hysterical, newsworthy-for-24-hours era – whereby one favoured headline has to be pored over relentlessly in sensationalistic, speculative fashion for a day before being hurriedly superseded by the next (lest the viewers’ collective attention span expires) – the mortal remains of Cressida Dick have already been gutted by the MSM to the point whereby any further dissection of them could feel like exhuming Sgt Dixon’s cadaver. At the same time, the tense situation along the Ukrainian border, which was discussed here when it began to boil over a couple of weeks back, is a subject that any rushed analysis of could date within hours; probably best to come back to it when what everyone is expecting to happen actually happens. With this in mind, I’ll momentarily linger on a growing pop cultural trend I noticed has moved on into dubious new areas.

In the face of joyless Puritans permanently on the lookout for something to remove from the history books, some artists have been issuing preemptive strikes. Over the last few months, ‘Brown Sugar’ has been dropped from the Stones’ set-list after half-a-century and Elvis Costello has exercised self-censorship re ‘Oliver’s Army’ before the serial cancellers beat him to it. It’s a sad state of affairs that artists feel they themselves have to act as Ministry of Truth employees for fear that the artless will do it for them without asking, as each apologetic compromise to the unforgiving consensus earns them no stay of execution. After all, there is no concept of redemption in the new religion; once damned, one is damned for eternity. Much better to adopt the stance of Woody Allen’s character in the superb 1976 movie set during the McCarthy era, ‘The Front’; called to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee, Allen declares he doesn’t recognise the authority of the Committee to interrogate him and abruptly exits by telling them to go f*** themselves.

Oh, for a brave soul to do likewise today. Joe Rogan has blotted his copybook somewhat by issuing what amounts to a half-arsed apology, something that will eventually be seen as an unnecessary olive branch held out to those whose only response will be to set fire to it. As has been rightly pointed out over the past week, sexual misconduct allegations will be the next weapon unleashed from the Woke arsenal if accusations of retrospective racism have proven unsuccessful. It’s a familiar contemporary pattern that is as predictable as night following day now; a minor employee will allege Mr Rogan touched her inappropriately ten years ago before too long and the demonisation will be complete. Therefore, the artist doesn’t need to humiliate himself when confronted by the 21st century’s McCarthy militia, for the militia will proceed regardless – and it has been hard at it for a long time.

Whether the removal of gollywogs from Enid Blyton books, the disappearance of Paul McCartney’s cigarette from the front cover of ‘Abbey Road’ or, of course, the ‘Top of the Pops’ revision that tells us Gary Glitter or Jimmy Savile had no part to play in pop culture beyond allegedly abusing underage girls on an industrial scale, ironing out the rough edges of the past is nothing new. A reference to ‘Negro spirituals’ being sung whilst the prisoners of HM Prison Slade dig a trench in ‘Porridge’ was excised when the haphazard dispersal of soil resulted in Fletcher informing Godber that he had no desire to visually resemble said slave labour. A wisecrack typical of Ronnie Barker’s character was removed without once taking into account the audience’s awareness that the programme was produced in the mid-1970s and therefore contains attitudes common to the era, especially from a character born in the 1930s like Norman Stanley Fletcher. To edit old dialogue so that it chimes with contemporary sensibilities is as ridiculous a move as the box-ticking BBC efforts to re-imagine the Britain of the past as some 21st century Islington dinner party vision of a multicultural nation.

Hollywood has set the pace in this revisionism and, not content with producing unwatchable Critical Race Theory lectures masquerading as entertainment (lectures that the cinema-going public mysteriously don’t queue-up to sit through) it has now re-imagined some of its past Identity Politics-free output that people are still drawn to. Disney’s animated masterpiece ‘Fantasia’ has already suffered from this approach, and over the weekend I caught a TV screening of what was once one of my favourite movies, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’. Around half-an-hour in, I began to realise that one notable aspect of the iconic Audrey Hepburn classic was strangely absent. Having watched the film on numerous occasions, I knew it more or less scene-by-scene and I was naturally expecting the appearance of Mickey Rooney’s toe-curling ‘Jap’ neighbour complaining about the noise from Holly Golightly’s apartment – yet he never appeared.

After a while, it dawned on me an entire character played by a box-office star in his own right had strangely vanished from the story. Now, before I go any further, I have to admit ‘Mr Yunioshi’ has always made me wince and I regarded this particular character as the sole weak link in an otherwise perfect film; a competent actor and household name for decades prior to ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, Mickey Rooney was nevertheless responsible for a portrayal of an oriental idiot in the movie that would put Benny Hill to shame, played purely for laughs complete with comedy goofy teeth – even though it’s not remotely amusing. It’s an unfunny, cringe-inducing performance and would be even if ‘yellow-face’ accusations hadn’t permeated the narrative. I confess I often used to skim through his scenes whenever watching it on a VHS tape back in the day, but did I want Hollywood’s PC police intervening and removing him on my outraged behalf? In a word, no; but it’s happened; the version of the film I saw this time round had no Mr Yunioshi in it. Admittedly, it was a superior watch without him, but that’s not the point.

As with those cheering the toppling of statues of unloved figures from the sidelines, once a trend has been set in motion and has been legitimatised as a means of removing a character from the picture, what happens when those with an unquenchable appetite for destruction then turn their attention to someone the cheerleader for anarchy holds dear – as they will do? Granted, few who love the film will mourn the absence of Mickey Rooney from ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, yet this is a dangerous precedent. Are all derogatory references to the colour of the black sheriff in ‘Blazing Saddles’ to be edited out, robbing the movie of a key element of its storyline in the process? Give it time. The list is relatively endless of old movies primed for this treatment, and having seen it done once I don’t doubt I’ll see it done again. A cultural line has been crossed, and nothing is sacred when you give a green light that lets loose the non-creative on the creative, however unfashionable their creative endeavours may now be.

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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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IDENTITY CRISIS

Dana InternationalWhen Richard Nixon famously proclaimed ‘I am not a crook’ in 1973, I’m pretty sure plenty people must have come to the conclusion that he was simply because he’d felt the need to declare his whiter-than-white credentials. Sure, the then-President of the USA’s standing was threatened by a break-in at a certain building in Washington, so he was keen to place considerable distance between himself and those guilty of trespassing on Democratic Party property; but whenever anybody has to over-emphasise something that should be a given, one cannot help but feel they have something to hide. The 21st century social media trend for adding the likes of ‘Anti-fascist’ to bios – as though the individual profiled would immediately be presumed a fascist unless they categorically stated they weren’t – seems to echo Nixon’s proclamation of innocence. Damning insults that were designed to accurately describe and denounce a particular philosophy have been so casually tossed around on the cultural battlefield in recent years that people are now compelled to declare everything they’re not before actually declaring what they are – though the speed with which they do so inevitably provokes suspicion.

The emphasising of specific racial, sexual and gender inheritances or preferences that are prized as defining characteristics when it comes to the Identity Politics worldview are sold as the ultimate non-prejudicial break with a past that supposedly judged people unfairly by placing them in separate, discriminatory groups – though it doesn’t take much of a genius to discern this is merely rearranging the furniture. The Identity Politics crowd bring their own prejudices to the table, and blackball manufacturers are one of the few booming industries at the moment as the list of cancelled parties is expanding by the day. Straight white men – or just white men in general – have been the demographic it’s okay to slate from day one, and straight women of any colour have become added to the death warrant as the insanity has accelerated courtesy of the ‘trans’ debate; a female student suspended from her course at a university in Soviet Scotland a couple of weeks ago – for the heresy of stating women have vaginas rather than penises – underlines yet again how ovaries are no longer security against cancellation.

Anybody with half-a-brain and a cursory knowledge of how these movements eventually descend into cannibalism saw this coming a long time ago, but those who sold their souls in the hope they’d be spared a visit from the Thought Police are now feeling the heat. The past few weeks have seen the Trojan horse of social justice exposed to a little more light and more of its unpleasant underbelly has been mercifully revealed in the process. The deliciously disastrous weekend tweet by a senior SNP official revelling in the UK’s nul points car-crash at the Eurovision by declaring ‘It’s OK, Europe – we hate the United Kingdom too’ lifted the lid once more on the narrow-minded bigotry at the rotten core of extremist Scottish nationalism, reminding us (as if we needed reminding) that, for all its touchy-feely Woke virtue-signalling, the SNP at its heart is no different from any other nasty nationalist movement.

And if evidence were required of the ‘emperor’s new clothes’ factor at play here, one needs to look no further than the issue of race. Anyone of black or ethnic persuasion who rejects the Identity Politics league table of oppression is guaranteed to incur the wrath of those who have a rigid system of oppressed/oppressor in place and don’t like to see it being undermined. As long as ‘People of Colour’ accept their permanent lowly status beneath the iconic white jackboot and don’t attempt to emancipate themselves, they’re worthy of a pat on the head; dare to challenge this regressive state of affairs and they’re fair game for being subjected to ugly racist insults as bad as anything that can be dreamt up at a KKK dinner party.

Just as the Corbynite wing of the Labour Party wants the workers to remain at the bottom of the pile, forever in need of a helping hand from privately-educated middle-class Marxists because it provides the latter with their raison d’être, the Identity Politics obsession with race gives plenty a purpose that makes getting up on a morning meaningful. It’s also stuck in the 18th century, only able to see black people in chains; residency of the moral high ground is dependent upon the preservation of race in a pre-civil rights amber, and any Person of Colour refusing to go along with that can be legitimately called an Uncle Tom or any other antiquated racist epithet – and it’s perfectly fine for someone white to hurl that insult as long as they’re safely residing on ‘the right side of history’. The hypocrisy is hilarious.

The one racial and ethnic group that the Identity Politics crowd have barely bothered to conceal their prejudicial and bigoted hatred towards all along are the Jews. Not only is it fine for those whose favourite buzzword during Trump’s Presidency was ‘literally Hitler’ to revive every ancient stereotype of the Jewish people, but allying themselves with a pseudo-ISIS band of Radical Islamic fanatics like Hamas is deemed to be perfectly acceptable coz Hamas hate Israel – innit. The current wave of blatant anti-Semitism in the West has included pro-Palestine activists driving through Jewish neighbourhoods of London and using megaphones to advocate ‘F**k the Jews! Rape their daughters!’ as well as open assaults on Jewish bystanders at rallies held by those supposedly passionate about ‘social justice’ in numerous European democracies and across the Anglosphere. And amidst this depressing outbreak of ugliness, skewered Woke logic reached comic proportions when a side-splitting banner unfurled at one of the endless protests against recent Israeli retaliatory strikes against Hamas declared ‘Queers for Palestine’. Ever get the feeling these dipsticks haven’t got a f***ing clue as to whose bed they’re jumping into?

Israel, as with South Africa during the Apartheid era, is a favourite bogeyman for the far-left and is back in fashion every time a new generation acquires an appetite for attending demonstrations. The State of Israel itself routinely plays into the hands of its most vocal critics with its often brutal actions, even if one could argue that self-defence sometimes happens to be at the root of such actions; and overlooking the equally brutal assaults by Hamas whilst condemning Israel is like screaming at the Government for deporting illegal immigrants and then suggesting that the Tory daughter of Ugandan-Asian immigrants who just happens to have become the first-ever ‘BAME’ Home Secretary should herself be deported because…oh, hang on a minute. Yes, placing such intense emphasis on race has really resulted in a fairer, more tolerant society, hasn’t it – one where racism has no place whatsoever. Well, we were getting there; and now we’re heading somewhere else altogether.

The worrying precedent set in Scotland a few weeks ago, whereby a Woke mob surrounded a van carrying illegal immigrants and ‘liberated’ the detainees, ended on a fittingly farcical note in that the immigrants were then escorted by their self-congratulatory liberators to the nearest mosque. Only, they were actually Sikhs, not Muslims; well, brown people – easy mistake to make when you’re an ignorant f**kwit too busy patting your perceived oppressed pets to assess the consequences of your crusade. The climax of that ‘rescue’ to me pretty much summed-up the naive, dangerous stupidity of Identity Politics in action, and how easy it would be for its exploitation by less idealistic parties – and I’m not talking about the far-right, who are just as thick. The real danger comes when these airheads have a degree of power – though I suppose seeing the damage done by them at local government level serves as a warning as to where we’d be if they were in charge at national level. But then I look at the alternative at national level and I give up.

© The Editor

UNCLE TOM’S CABIN FEVER

LutherTaking some therapeutic advice from a friend, I’ve recently made the effort to paint my fingers green, though the absence of garden, greenhouse and allotment has been a severe impediment to observing the life cycle from seed onwards. Get to a certain point and individual re-potting is required, something that space restricts and somewhat scuppers; therefore, limiting myself to interior window-box, I purchased compost and shrubs to play daddy to some antirrhinum, which looked exceedingly pretty on the picture that accompanied the tray the baby plants came in. Anyway, the window-box now sits between the previously-mentioned Triffids masquerading as rubber plants on my sun-drenched windowsill, occupying the prime solar spot in the whole flat and having no excuse not to flower into blooms worthy of being picked by Monty Don and Percy Thrower on a day trip to Pepperland.

And then the thought occurred to me that indulging in this pastime might be misconstrued as a racist gesture. After all, what is an urban orchard but an approximation of a rural idyll by the inherently metropolitan? And as we all know, the countryside is racist, meaning those of us not engaged in sexual relations with our siblings or cattle should stay in our lanes. Farms are racist, fields are racist, trees are racist, grass is racist, cows are racist, sheep are racist, sheepdogs are racist, pigs are racist, chickens are racist, flora is racist, fauna is racist, incest is racist, tractors are racist, harvest festivals are racist, digging for victory is racist, growing your own is racist – bloody hell, it must be all that toxic white supremacy flowing through my veins like incurable Original Sin that turned me into a gardening Nazi and I hereby apologise, to take the knee till Kingdom Come and beg for the forgiveness that will never come my bigoted way. Just as well I never pandered to racial stereotypes by voicing an Indian shopkeeper on ‘The Simpsons’ for the best part of 30 years, else then I would be really buggered.

Mind you, could be worse – I could be a prominent British black actor, a trailblazer for mainstream ‘diversity’ who accepted a leading role in a police drama from the nation’s premier TV channel on the basis that here was a character whose skin colour was immaterial to his persona and wasn’t there to be a token negro. Yes, I could be Idris Elba, fresh from playing a glorified drug dealer on US television and coming home to step into shoes previously filled by the likes of Barlow, Regan and Hunt. A cop who just happened to be black, yet wasn’t participating in all the approved ‘black pursuits’ those nice Woke folk running our MSM have decided are authentic traits for People of Colour as we pat them on the head for fulfilling their limited expectations. Yes, shock horror! – Elba played a part that didn’t involve him dealing drugs or fathering children he abandoned or stealing cars or knifing rival gang members or even displaying some of that Caribbean rhythm by treating viewers to the occasional dance to a bit of reggae with a spliff welded to his lip. Maybe Elba’s African heritage had something to do with that, but let’s not let geography get in the way of anti-racist progressive groupthink, eh? He’s clearly an Uncle Tom.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, Idris Elba has played ‘Luther’ on BBC1 screens intermittently from 2010 onwards. I remember I watched the first series, largely attracted by the presence of Ruth Wilson, an actress I have a soft spot for; I thought it was OK, if a bit routine, but wasn’t sufficiently hooked to keep watching thereafter. I’m trying to work out if not keeping watching was racist or if watching in the first place was racist. By sticking with the opening half-dozen episodes, was I guilty of cultural appropriation, intruding upon something not intended for me and displaying an inbuilt strain of white supremacy, being no better than the middle-aged multitudes that tuned in to ‘The Black & White Minstrels’ back in the 60s and 70s? Or by abandoning the series after the first six instalments was I displaying an inbuilt strain of white supremacy by rejecting the time-honoured television role of the maverick police detective if not played by a white actor? Oh, it’s such a bloody conundrum innit; but that’s what you deserve when you fail to see skin colour, sexuality and gender as the sole characteristics that define us.

And now it appears the BBC itself is similarly confused. Despite ‘Luther’ being regarded, up until now, as a feather in its inclusivity cap, the Beeb is suddenly not so sure. Miranda Wayland, the Corporation’s ‘Head of Creative Diversity’ (nice work if you can get it) has aired Biden-like concerns that Luther as a character ain’t black enough. ‘He doesn’t have any black friends,’ she said whilst conscientiously spreading some reggae sauce on her jerk chicken (probably). ‘He doesn’t eat any Caribbean food – this doesn’t feel authentic.’ I never considered Idris Elba might be a self-loathing black man by not adhering to cultural clichés; perhaps he should have insisted ‘Camptown Races’ was the theme tune for ‘Luther’ and perhaps he could have waved his hands about a bit every time he nicked a villain. Heaven forbid his character might have demonstrated skin colour was no impediment to rising up police ranks in the same way Patel and Sunak have shown there’s no colour bar in politics if you refuse to make a career out of playing the oppressed victim because it upholds the ‘institutional racism’ narrative. What a terrible message that must have been to send out to any non-white viewer watching. What unconscious racists we all were in 2010.

Of course, there could well have been a token element to the creation of ‘Luther’ to begin with, but the series seemed to be suggesting something positive amidst the hackneyed diversity factor that was possibly behind its inception. But that’s not enough in 2021, a time when an esteemed television scribe like Russell T Davies puts forward the theory that only gay actors should play gay characters – and does that also mean gay actors can only play gay characters? If so, there’s going to be a hell of a lot of competition for the few gay roles on offer. Surely straight characters shouldn’t be played by gay actors, then, if we are to preserve this line of thinking. But if actors, along with all other creative types, have to stay in their designated lanes, how does that explain the casting of a dark-skinned black woman in the part of Anne Boleyn, which has recently been announced in the case of British actress Jodie Turner-Smith? Are we supposed to view this as progress and spurn historical accuracy because history is racist? I dunno, but I look forward to Mackenzie Crook playing Malcolm X in response, which is surely the logical outcome of a make-believe, myopic cinematic world in which colour is both blind and crystal clear.

I suspect we are rapidly careering towards what Rod Liddle has labelled ‘peak wank’ when it comes to Identity Politics – whether it’s the racism thing or the trans thing. A world in which some genuinely believe Idris Elba is not black enough and that men can menstruate is not a world in which one should expect either common sense or consistency. In its own small, insignificant way, I don’t doubt that – other than lockdown fatigue – one of the main factors as to why satirical videos I posted on YouTube from 2010 to 2018 have received such a dramatic upsurge of enthusiastic views over the past couple of months is that people are sick to the back teeth of all this shit and are relieved to laugh without having to check their thinking beforehand. I didn’t expect this to happen, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised. To quote a comment I received on a video yesterday, ‘You are rapidly becoming the best channel anywhere, exactly what is needed in these questionable times’ – and that was in response to a video I uploaded in 2017. Anyway, I’ve got to go and watch some antirrhinum grow. It’s better for me than watching Rome burn.

© The Editor

GRAVE NEW WORLD

‘Suppose that, for one reason or another, all the propaganda was in the hands of one or very few agencies, you would have an extraordinarily powerful force.’ No, not a contemporary observation on the small handful of corporations that control the flow of information to the western masses in 2020, but a snippet of an interview with the eloquent visionary Aldous Huxley from US TV in 1958. I stumbled upon this 62 year-old gem the other day on YT whilst that very medium was no doubt logging my ‘like’ in order to suggest something else in its vast archive that might appeal to me based on the information already accumulated. Huxley – along with CS Lewis – died the same day as JFK, so only had five years left to live when this interview was filmed; but he referenced ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ in it, a work written by a former pupil of his (Orwell – as Eric Blair – was at Eton when Huxley briefly taught French there at the end of the 1910s).

There’s something of the torch being passed on here; as well as his association with the future George Orwell, Huxley was also friend to a literary giant from a previous generation – DH Lawrence – during the 1920s, though he himself outlived Orwell by more than a decade. He championed ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ upon its publication, but astutely foresaw that governments would eventually rely less on the intimidating threat of terror in the form of physical violence to suppress their rebels, viz. the methods that characterise Orwell’s novel; Huxley envisaged a more sinister development whereby totalitarian regimes rule by consent, having seduced their slaves into inertia with trivial pleasures that persuade them to accept their servitude with a shrug of the shoulders; they might even grow to love it. The brutal tactics of the Nazis and the Soviets would be superseded by a subtle illusion of democratic freedom, utilising the techniques of advertising to convince man his oppression is not oppression at all and is instead being done with the best of intentions for his own long-term good. State-sponsored chemicals would also play their part in this mass deception; and as someone who requested (and received) the administration of LSD on his deathbed, Huxley knew all about the potency of drugs.

Huxley had outlined the principles of this future society in 1932’s ‘Brave New World’, a society he himself described as a ‘negative Utopia’. Prior to the Great War, writers like HG Wells had predicted humanity possessed the capacity to ultimately resolve its outstanding problems and would emerge triumphant in the end; the generation that lived through the carnage of 1914-18 was less optimistic, and the soulless society portrayed in ‘Brave New World’ – which seems to have anticipated so many of the scientific and sociological advances we have subsequently been persuaded are for mankind’s benefit – is a far more dystopian vision of how the state presents its lethal weapons as must-have luxuries to keep the populace in line. Huxley’s prophesies of the direction the world might take in his absence didn’t involve one of the 1960s’ more erudite rock bands taking their name from his chronicle of mescaline use, ‘The Doors of Perception’, but 2020 in particular often feels like a world to which Huxley and Orwell were joint midwives.

When Huxley wrote to Orwell following the publication of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, he said ‘Within the next generation, I believe that the world’s rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient as instruments of government than clubs and prisons’. That said, a combination of the two can be effective. As the curriculum of Britain’s primary schools is gradually immersed in a ‘Janet and John’ version of Critical Race Theory, the indoctrinated grownups recite the oven-ready dogma courtesy of their abundant mouthpieces and the state’s storm troopers turn to Orwell for tips on how to police dissent. Then the spirit of Huxley re-emerges as, following months of clubbing and imprisoning should anyone dare question the wisdom of the programme, we are informed via a media fanfare and crocodile tears from a thoroughly incompetent Health Minister that a wonder drug has arrived to deliver us from evil. It’s not called Soma, the hallucinogenic antidepressant which is a compulsory panacea for the population in ‘Brave New World’, but one of its first ‘volunteers’ was a Mr William Shakespeare. Rumours he was followed by a Miss Austen and a Mr Dickens remain unconfirmed.

As if the first shots of a vaccine wasn’t enough of a Covid-related story to get the MSM excited this week, it’s also been able to indulge in the perennial habit of rounding on one of its own – in this case, Sky’s veteran broadcaster Kay Burley. Most people probably couldn’t care less if Burley celebrated her 60th birthday with a few chums; but perhaps the main reason the event has caused such an uproar and led to a temporary suspension is the fact Burley has been one of the guilty parties in whipping up the hysteria that has accompanied Covid-19 ever since the first lockdown. The same double standards and hypocrisy she relished accusing Dominic Cummings of back in the summer obviously didn’t apply to her restaurant-hopping, tier-breaking birthday bash; yes, it’s yet another case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’. One of television’s prime lockdown cheerleaders and serial demander of ever-tighter restrictions clearly doesn’t believe she should practice what she preaches; now, there’s a surprise.

In a media landscape that seems to require fresh sensation on a daily basis, Kay Burley’s birthday party swiftly usurped the story that opened the week, and that one managed to combine the year’s two favourite subjects. When footballers began the eye-rolling ritual of taking the knee before kick-off a few months ago, the shrewd cultural commentator Douglas Murray suggested one reason they went unchallenged was due to the ceremony being enacted in empty stadiums; he wondered if their narcissistic virtue signalling would be tolerated once fans were allowed back. Well, no – it turns out voluntary submission to a political organisation not exactly overflowing with tolerance itself isn’t actually regarded as being part of the game by those who fork-out for the privilege of watching it. Ah, yes, football fans – the hardcore support that kept the game going during the hooligan decades, when polite society regarded football as being about as cool as cock-fighting or bear-baiting. How refreshing it was to not have them at the ground for once, so the authorities could impose the Woke agenda on sport as well as every other facet of pop culture.

I guess it was unfortunate that Millwall FC – a club with something of a ‘history’ – should be one of the first to let fans back in; the boos that greeted the players’ BLM homage were immediately seized upon by the outraged free-ticket brigade who naturally put the inexplicable opposition to this noble gesture down to racism. What else? Let’s not mention the findings of a recent poll whereby 55% said they believed BLM have increased racial tensions in the UK – and 44% of BAME Brits agreed. No, far easier to stick to the narrative and ignore the fact that taking the knee no more belongs in one of this country’s genuine multiracial success stories than the Nazi salute did when England players were forced to give it in Berlin in 1938. Let’s leave the pat Identitarian lectures to the Vicar of bloody Dibley, eh? Millwall players have already announced they won’t be kneeling before their next fixture; hopefully, the rest will follow suit and this ridiculous charade can leave the field of play. If not, more boos until it does, please – for silence isn’t so much violence as surrender. As Aldous Huxley said, ‘The price of freedom is eternal vigilance’.

© The Editor

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

When the 70th anniversary of the atom bomb falling on Hiroshima came around in 2015, I recall writing about the subject for my previous place of cyber employment, as seemed only right. However, I took a slightly different approach to what remains an emotive moment in history by highlighting my connection to the pilot of the Enola Gay, Col. Paul Tibbets. I’m related to him via the American branch of my mother’s family, though it would take a dedicated genealogist to establish the precise bloodline linking us, for all those who could have provided the details are dead and gone. Suffice to say, being a relative of the man who pressed the button that changed the world in the worst possible way is something I’m never quite sure if I should say out loud or not, particularly when the crimes of one’s ancestors now apparently have to be answered for by their living descendants. Where does Col. Tibbets rank on the Woke scale of irredeemably unspeakable skeletons in the family closet, I wonder? And what kind of penance must I pay when it comes to my trial for crimes against humanity, even if I didn’t personally commit any?

Yes, this North Korean-style retrospective punishment is all the rage now that the keys of the asylum have been placed in the hands of the lunatics. The British Library, repository of the nation’s greatest literary legacies, is just one more institution to have surrendered guardianship of the family silver to those who would just as happily toss it into a furnace as flog it. Even the late Poet Laureate Ted Hughes has been added to the blacklist catalogue compiled in the wake of the Library’s self-flagellating surrender to the Church of BLM. Why? Well, as if enduring endless vitriolic assaults during his lifetime by unhinged radical feminists holding him responsible for the suicide of his first wife Sylvia Plath wasn’t bad enough, we now learn of another blot on the reputation of a man who died in 1998. Yes, Ted Hughes apparently had a distant ancestor who lived over 200 years before his own birth, one with some involvement in ‘colonialism’ back in the days of the British American colonies – and that is enough to condemn him. Funnily enough, Ted Hughes wasn’t born into wealth built on the profits of slavery and probably had no idea he was infected with the Original Sin of white supremacy, which we now thankfully know to be something all inherently evil non-BAME bastards carry. This is how insane it’s become.

The defacing of a Queen Victoria statue in Leeds at the height of the first wave of insanity back in the summer not only exposed the misogyny of the ‘artist’ but also highlighted his/her lack of education, linking Victoria to the slave trade when the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 – one that outlawed slavery throughout the British Empire bar a few outposts administered by the East India Company – was passed four years before Victoria came to the throne. But, hey, let’s not let any facts get in the way of the narrative, eh? And let’s not mention William Wilberforce or that this country led the way on abolitionism for the best part of half-a-century before finally achieving its aim. It’s probably worth mentioning that Britain didn’t invent slavery either and maybe make the point that it was still a highly profitable industry when Britain ended it. What always gets overlooked – one might almost say deliberately – is that before the advent of the more ruthless archetypal imperialists such as Cecil Rhodes, the British Empire was being shaped by the kind of middle-class, paternalistic do-gooders which the contemporary Woke crowd have more in common with than the British Library and its SJW affiliates would ever dare admit.

They would have regarded themselves as liberal, and they had a champion in the imposing figure of William Ewart Gladstone, Liberal with a capital L. The man who served four different terms as British Prime Minister was a passionate advocate of civilising savages with the Bible, a Victorian missionary in all-but name. He believed he was doing God’s work in converting heathen natives both home and abroad to a proper, Christian way of living, and his disciples set off for far-flung corners of the Empire to spread the Gospel. The colonies that had evolved from trading posts rather than claimed by invading armies were well-versed in the mantra of Free Trade, and those who governed the Empire during its middle period were fuelled by well-meaning, evangelical good intentions. As long as the natives were willing to be converted, they could be ruled by benign overlords with their best interests at heart. Secure in their righteous conviction that they were placed on earth to educate the less fortunate and that their selfless benevolence was sanctioned by the Almighty, they genuinely believed their way was the right way; and compared to, say, the Belgian approach to imperial governance, mid-Victorian imperialists were undoubtedly liberal.

Today’s equivalents have no Empire in terms of physical landmass; but they’ve conquered our public institutions and services – the schools, the universities, the medical profession, the police force, the Law – as well as tech companies, the corporate world, the arts, the mainstream media and politics; so, they basically control the majority of information reaching the masses as well as dictating social discourse and mores. I think that’s the nearest thing to an Empire this century can command without a shot being fired in anger. They’re as possessed by the same absolute, unshakable belief in their own moral righteousness as their Victorian forefathers and they also share their crusading mission to convert non-believers. They may have rejected God in Heaven, but they have their joint earthly religions of Identity Politics and Climate Change; they promote Globalisation with the same zealous fervour as the Imperial Victorians promoted Free Trade; and they place great emphasis on racial categorisation, believing one race is superior to the other; indeed, their belief in keeping the skin colours separate is as strong as that practiced and preached by the distant colonials they profess to detest. What a delicious irony.

The artist Grayson Perry once opined ordinary contemporary Brits bear more of a passing resemblance in spirit to the raucous Georgians than the virtuous Victorians; and the parallels between the way in which the Victorians were ashamed of their uncouth historical predecessors and the way in which the Woke cheerleaders look down on the ‘lower orders’ (i.e. Brexit bigots) are glaring. The Victorian lower orders were just as fun-loving and eager to have a good time as both their Georgian ancestors and their present day descendants, but the growing middle classes were controlling the narrative, just as they do today – as well as controlling the soul-destroying industries those beneath them toiled in, just as they do today. The pious propriety of this group and the pressures placed upon people to fall in line with their way of thinking are no different in 2020; and these Victorians had their own ‘cancel culture’ should one of their young women have a child out of wedlock or one of their young men be caught in the arms of another young man; their narrow moral code could destroy an individual with the same callous efficiency as any outraged Twitter troll today.

A key difference is that the Victorian liberals were at least able to channel their fanatical vigour for self-improvement into invention, innovation, and technological progress that did indeed improve millions of lives. The Woke crowd are more interested in destroying than creating; they have the same narcissistic nihilism as the extreme wings of the Reformation, their destructive actions echoing the whitewashing of Saints from church interiors and the tearing down of Catholic icons. They lack both the vision and the compassion of the Victorians at their best, and if that generation of Brits couldn’t keep their Empire together, there’s hope yet that the sun will set on this anti-cultural Woke Empire before long.

© The Editor

PASSION PLAYS

Added to ‘strong language’, ‘adult scenes’, ‘scenes of a sexual nature’ and ‘scenes some may find upsetting’ is a new inclusion in the lengthening list of paternalistic, post-watershed warnings that precipitate the screening of a drama aimed at grown-ups – ‘discriminatory language’. I’ve heard it applied twice this past week, on both occasions before a repeat of a TV play made over 40 years ago. The second time was for ‘A Hole in Babylon’, a 1979 entry in the ‘Play for Today’ strand based upon the true-life Spaghetti House Siege of 1975, in which a trio of black gunmen botched an armed robbery at a Knightsbridge Italian restaurant and spent six days in a cellar with hostages. The play was written by a black wordsmith and the leading cast members were all black. Even viewers back in 1979 would hardly have been expecting ‘Love Thy Neighbour’; but their equivalents today are obviously so sensitive that any authentic terminology from the actual times is guaranteed to send them running to their safe spaces. In fact, the only derogatory word I heard in the play was ‘wop’.

If the play was remade in 2020, every black character in it would be a noble victim rather than the multilayered human beings of 1979, and every white character would be to the right of Nick Griffin; such dramas are, of course, made by people who weren’t even born then and are prone to sweeping assumptions as to the reality of time and place. If today’s TV travels back to the 18th or 19th centuries, the Woke logic increases further as, away from living memory, modern multiracial Britain is transplanted to every period of history as proof we have always had 21st century levels of ‘diversity’ and all white people were just as horrendously racist then as they all evidently are now. The recent BBC2 series ‘Harlots’ is an enjoyable if somewhat soapy saga set in the whorehouses of Georgian London, though the only male characters in it who aren’t sadistic, unpleasant bastards are, of course, black. Virtually every white man in the cast – bar ‘the gay one’ – is a candidate for the worst human being who ever lived.

Of course there were coloured faces in certain British cities several hundred years ago – especially ports; and there were gay folk as well; and a few who pretended to be the opposite sex; and some straight white men who actually wanted a more tolerant and equal society by abolishing slavery and giving women the vote. But the natural ‘otherness’ of the non-white or non-heterosexual minorities made them stand out rather than blend in, and their individual stories are fascinating as a result; yet we don’t get that from historical drama today because it imposes a fantasy ideal on the reality that reduces all characters to bland contemporary caricatures. To rewrite history and present it as a Guardian columnist’s cartoonish impression of 21st century Britain is a profoundly dishonest distortion of history that’s as unrealistic as Raquel Welch being chased by dinosaurs. And that’s just if a drama is set in the past. Set it in the present and each character is even more of a two-dimensional archetype as every black character is there to represent their race, every gay character is there to represent the LGBT community, every woman is…yeah, we get it. Please put the sledgehammer down.

This is why – for all the appeal of a one-off, non-serial drama – it would be a bad idea to revive the likes of ‘Play for Today’ in 2020. It would probably be awful and be everything it was routinely accused of being back in the day. BBC4 recently screened a documentary about the series on account of this year marking its 50th anniversary and has repeated a handful. Taking over from the celebrated, if often controversial, ‘Wednesday Play’ of the 60s, the rebranded strand soon established itself as a showcase for some of the finest TV writers of an era abundant in them, giving many whose only visit to a theatre was to drag the kids to a Christmas pantomime a weekly cutting-edge theatrical production in their very own living rooms. And whilst ‘Play for Today’ gained an unfair critical reputation as being a Socialist Speaker’s Corner, peppered with grim kitchen-sink polemics on the class struggle, it had a far wider range of offerings than that.

Dennis Potter was a regular contributor from the start. His 1974 offering, ‘Joe’s Ark’ is a moving story of a student played by Angharad Rees of ‘Poldark’ fame who returns home to die when she contracts terminal cancer and is jealously guarded by her God-fearing father (played by Freddie Jones); 1979’s ‘Blue Remembered Hills’ has the genius premise of a group of rural WWII children played by an adult cast, and whilst funny is also tragically poignant in its portrayal of how children can be as cruel to each other as adults can; and, lest we forget, there is the infamous ‘Brimstone and Treacle’, produced in 1976 but withdrawn on the eve of transmission and not screened for a decade. This too is rich in black comedy, for all its undoubtedly dark themes as Michael Kitchen plays the Devil in human form infiltrating a repressive suburban household where he essentially f***s the mentally incapacitated daughter of a middle-aged married couple back to life.

If there was a tendency to overdo the subject of working-class life in ‘Play for Today’, so what? At its best – i.e. when the writers actually hailed from the working-class – it did so in a way that was brutally honest, funny and not necessarily about ‘the class struggle’, which was why the audience responded to the truth of it. These plays showed ordinary people dealing with ordinary problems, such as Colin Welland’s marvellous 1973 entry, ‘Kisses at Fifty’, in which Bill Maynard leaves his wife and grownup children to embark on a relationship with a barmaid; or Peter Terson’s ‘The Fishing Party’ from 1972, starring Brian Glover heading a trio of Yorkshire miners on a weekend’s break in Whitby; or Alan Bennett’s 1975 play, ‘Sunset Across the Bay’, a warm, elegiac tale of an ageing couple leaving Leeds for retirement by the seaside. None of these lived up to the stereotype of the series, and neither did Mike Leigh’s unforgettable 1976 outing, ‘Nuts in May’.

Leigh and his then-wife Alison Steadman returned to collaborate the following year on a ‘Play for Today’ production that continues to irk some critics whilst remaining hugely popular with audiences, ‘Abigail’s Party’. Anybody who grew-up in an aspirational working-class neighbourhood in the 1970s immediately got the joke. ‘Abigail’s Party’ is the upwardly-mobile working-classes spreading their wings and winning promotion to the lower middle-classes by aping the mores and mannerisms of what they see as their social betters; they’re the generation who would soon have a champion in Margaret Thatcher. However, the left-leaning middle-classes are the ones who regard ‘Abigail’s Party’ as a sneering assault on their mythical, romantic image of the oppressed working-class, those noble savages who are fine as long as they know their place and – to use a ghastly modern term – ‘stay in their lane’.

Even a good decade into its run, ‘Play for Today’ could still deliver some unexpectedly original goods, such as the time-travelling oddity starring Peter Firth, ‘The Flipside of Dominick Hide’; there was also the memorable ‘Billy’ trilogy, starring James Ellis and a young Kenneth Branagh – hardly the only drama of the era set in Northern Ireland, but one of the very few in which the Troubles were not the reason for being there. By the time the curtain finally came down on ‘Play for Today’ in 1984, the single play – which had been a mainstay of TV schedules since the medium’s earliest days – was seen as a spent force and has rarely reappeared since. Given the box-ticking, ideological agenda that has effectively turned home-grown TV drama into little more than the ‘model plays’ of the Cultural Revolution, perhaps it’s just as well.

© The Editor

FAIR-PLAY FOR TODAY

Anyone raised on a Cold War TV diet of ‘Callan’, ‘The Sandbaggers’, or ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ will have realised early on that one easily identifiable hallmark of the ideological conflict that distinguished Us from Them was the concept of a free press or at least the freedom to express an opinion contrary to the consensus of the ruling class without fear of State censure. Viewing the wrong side of the Iron Curtain from afar, we in the West became accustomed to the consequences facing those from the East who dared to veer from the party line. As a precursor to Vlad’s unique liquidation policy, the likes of exiled Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was silenced as a critique of his country’s Communist government on the streets of London in 1978, when a poisoned umbrella tip applied to his leg in a bus queue curtailed his broadcasts on the BBC World Service as well as his life. That was an extreme example of the punishment dished out to rebel journalists from totalitarian regimes; if they were lucky, they might get off with a show trial and an indeterminate sentence in a Gulag. Yes, that was one way in which we could draw a clear line between Us and Them. That didn’t happen here.

What’s often forgotten in all this, however, is the clever way in which the powers-that-be of the Eastern Bloc justified their harsh treatment of ‘dissidents’ to their own people. They didn’t just remove prominent figures from the streets and offer no explanation for their abrupt disappearance; they went to the trouble of providing a reason they imagined would suffice, albeit of a kind not dissimilar to how China justifies the mass arrest and imprisonment of Uyghur Muslims in effective concentration camps today; the CCP brands those prisoners undergoing re-education as ‘Radical Islamists’, just as anyone questioning the wisdom of Moscow-sponsored administrations was branded an enemy of the State and a threat to national security back in the day.

Over here, any foolhardy souls contravening the Official Secrets Act could always face severe penalties, but so touchy were the security services during this period that the odd journalist would be plunged into hot water should they say certain things out loud. An infamous 1976 feature in ‘Time Out’ titled ‘The Eavesdroppers’ committed the cardinal sin of actually naming GCHQ at a time when even the existence of MI5 and MI6 was publicly denied; penned by British-based American journalist Mark Hosenball and Brit Duncan Campbell, the furore that followed saw both threatened with deportation on national security grounds, though only Hosenball was successfully forced to leave the country as a result of the article; Campbell instead suffered life under MI5 surveillance. During the Cold War, the ideological battle-lines were clearly drawn between East and West, but the ideological differences of the 21st century are less geographical and tend to share the same uneasy soil.

A Conservative commentator mainly active online – as are many in these days of increasingly partisan current affairs reporting within the MSM – Darren Grimes is not the most obvious candidate that springs to mind whenever one thinks of libertine radicals; but news was announced yesterday that our proudest bastion of fair-play policing, the Met, is investigating Mr Grimes on the grounds of ‘stirring up racial hatred’. I thought they got down on their knees before those guilty of such an offence? I must be mistaken. Anyway, this accusation stems from an infamous interview Grimes conducted with the reliably cantankerous and combative historian David Starkey at the height of BLM protests during the summer.

Already well-known for his outspoken opinions that perhaps often only seem so because everyone else in the public eye is either coached within an inch of their media lives or is mindful of damaging their career prospects, Starkey delights in provoking hostile responses, though even he may have come to regret some of the things said in the Grimes interview – albeit not as much as a star-struck Grimes may now be for not reining Starkey in a little and failing to challenge him once. Starkey’s punishment was to lose academic posts at Canterbury Christ Church University and Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge as well as his publishing contract with HarperCollins, whereas Grimes – who didn’t actually say anything ‘contentious’ during the interview – is now being summoned under caution by the Met to answer for his heinous crimes.

There are far more subtle ways and means of making a valid point about these troubled times than the glib, clumsy approach Starkey chose to take, but it would seem Grimes is more at fault for daring to air the interview warts-and-all. The official Scotland Yard statement reads, ‘On July 4 the Metropolitan Police Service was passed an allegation from Durham Police of a public order offence relating to a social media video posted on June 30. The matter is currently being investigated.’ Grimes’ response? ‘At a time when many in our country are facing uncertainty and financial hardship,’ he said, ‘I cannot imagine a more contemptible way for the Metropolitan Police to abuse taxpayers’ money and the trust of citizen than by investigating this vexatious claim.’

What makes Grimes more vulnerable than he would have been way back when old-school ‘libertines’ invoked the ire of the establishment during the Cold War is that the battle-lines now aren’t between East and West or young and old or even left and right, but between those indoctrinated in the unforgiving segregationist dogma of Identity Politics – which our leading institutions are all completely in thrall to – and those who adhere to the archaic rule of everyone being equal in the eyes of the law. Under normal circumstances, the likes of reactionary posh-boy journo Toby Young would hardly be portrayed as a radical voice, but it’s a measure of how far we’ve moved from genuine fair-play that someone such as Young heads an undoubtedly necessary organisation like the Free Speech Union to intervene on Grimes’ behalf; as Young pointed out, are similar Met investigations being carried out into the Sky News presenter whose interview with rapper Wiley produced several anti-Semitic comments around the same time as the Starkey confrontation that proved so incendiary?

Of course, the establishment has always promoted the interests of the few over the many – usually because the establishment tends to comprise several similar groups sharing the same worldview, usually at odds with that of the many. We merely have a different set of ideological dos and don’ts governing that establishment in 2020 to the ones we had 40 or 50 years ago, and everything from airing common-sense truisms to outright provocation aimed at the establishment’s cherished value system is guaranteed to prompt reprisals in the current climate. It helps the establishment that the divisive polarisation of the culture wars means Darren Grimes will elicit little sympathy or support from those on the other side who, though they may regard themselves as opposed to any form of State censorship, will be extremely flexible if only ‘the enemy’ ever feels the full force of the establishment. But it doesn’t matter where your political allegiances are situated in a scenario such as this; assuming only the Darren Grimes’s of this world are liable for a Met investigation is a naive ostrich approach to what is a worrying and serious threat to free speech in this country. Think they’ll stop at him if they succeed? Dream on – and don’t forget to wear a mask while you do…forever.

© The Editor