DON’T ASK A POLICEMAN

IMG_20211001_0001As someone who can now perhaps be regarded as the founding mother of modern cancel culture, Mary Whitehouse cast her net far and wide in the 1970s after springing to prominence as the high priestess of provincial opposition to the Swinging 60s. If what was known as The Establishment did its utmost to stem the tide of permissiveness and moral decay by using its in-bred influence to target pop aristocracy with drug busts that promised prison sentences, Whitehouse represented the middle-class, conservative voice of sanity for the W.I. backbone of traditional Great British values centred around deference, the Church of England and the Queen. Once established as a household name with clout, Whitehouse tackled pornography, X certificate cinema, the theatre, gay rights et al; anything she perceived as a threat to her worldview fell under her outraged gaze and she embarked on a fresh campaign to ban it. Either allied with fellow moral crusaders like Lord Longford and Malcolm Muggeridge under the Festival of Light banner or working as head of her National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association, Mary Whitehouse’s ravenous appetite for stamping out liberal decadence eventually meant her disapproval became a badge of honour for those she pursued. One of the UK’s leading ‘girlie magazines’ was even amusingly named after her.

However, Mary Whitehouse’s first love was always the BBC. It’s interesting that the Whitehouse torch has today been picked up by the other side, so that the demographic she would have viewed as the enemy 50 years ago is now the one upholding her traditions; yet at the height of her powers, the Beeb – and particularly its television output – was at the vanguard of Britain’s Cultural Revolution. Yes, she was especially infuriated by the ‘Wednesday Play’ brand of gritty, groundbreaking drama, but she also found what she regarded as the increasing coarseness of sitcoms objectionable. ‘Till Death Us Do Part’ was a favourite target, though a memorable episode responded to her criticisms by making Alf Garnett a self-confessed supporter of the Whitehouse mission. By the early 70s, she even had a go at programmes produced for a family audience that could count the majority of the country’s children amongst their viewers. ‘Doctor Who’ attracted her attention during this period, though Whitehouse was not alone in feeling the show was taking the fear factor too far.

‘Terror of the Autons’ was a 1971 adventure for the Timelord in his Earth-exiled incarnation of Jon Pertwee. This story dealt with the invasion plans of an alien intelligence and centred on its ability to control plastic; it was able to breathe life into shop window mannequins as well as manufacturing ‘Autons’, humanoid figures it could animate to pose as the real thing. The scene that landed the series in hot water concerned two policemen the Doctor and his sidekick Jo had accepted a lift from; when the Doc became suspicious, he reached out to one of the coppers and ripped the rubber mask from his face to reveal the blank, featureless countenance of an Auton! The memorable scene that followed on a classic quarry location involved the fake policemen taking pot-shots at our heroes, emphasising nobody could be trusted in this scary new landscape, not even the humble Bobby on the beat. Mary Whitehouse was suitably outraged that the bedrock of her orderly society was being presented as a potential threat to the nation’s children, but the police authorities were equally furious that their attempts at convincing kids a policeman was the one grownup stranger they could trust were being undone.

Marianne Faithfull once reflected that the drugs bust she and the Stones were subjected to in 1967 trashed her naive faith in the police as the ultimate paragons of fair play, the line she’d been fed since childhood; but within a decade the dubious activities of coppers higher up the food chain had become headline news with exposures of across-the-board corruption at Scotland Yard. That a TV show such as ‘Doctor Who’ should even tap into this, albeit accidentally, is interesting, yet the slow erosion of trust in the police force that was once a given has never really gone away. If anything, it has continued apace with a succession of highly-publicised scandals, each one serving to erode that trust even further. The past decade has lifted the lid on the kind of corruption that often makes the bent bastards operating at the Yard in the 70s seem rather quaint by comparison, and the Met has remained the standard bearer, whether via its incestuous relationship with News International or its appalling collusion with the likes of the repugnant Carl Beech and its practice of fitting up innocent men as paedos. Credible and true indeed.

Even if we put the laughably desperate ‘Woke’ leanings of the force to one side for a moment and ignore the LGBTXYZ Cars, the way in which the police freely interpreted lockdown restrictions last year stretched the lingering vestiges of trust on the part of the public to breaking point; this as much as anything else successfully persuaded the masses that if the boys in blue are policing by anybody’s consent, it is not that of the masses but the powers-that-be. Sticking to the nation’s premier force and its illustrious track record, we can see that under the disastrous stewardship of Cressida Dick the Met has plumbed new depths of unaccountability. Calls for the Met’s head to quit are something many have been demanding for a long time – and for reasons other than the activities of Wayne Couzens taking place on her watch; yet the publicising of one especially rotten apple is more than enough for that demand to be renewed.

The murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer was shocking enough, but the revelation that he abused his position of trust, enticing his victim by flashing his warrant card and staging a mock arrest on the grounds of breaking Covid restrictions in order to carry out his sickening crime, has tarnished the force’s reputation even further. Had Wayne Couzens been an ordinary member of the public his crime would be reprehensible enough, but that he should have been a member of a profession that still bases its reputation upon trust somehow adds a grotesque layer onto his vile actions. One could argue his rare punishment of a whole life sentence was reached because of this, for it’s doubtful a young woman walking down a quiet street alone would have voluntarily consented to depart with a complete stranger had he not played upon the inherited belief in the probity of the police. Of course, the politicisation of this particular murder in a way that has heaped shame upon all of those who have indulged in such shameless exploitation hasn’t helped, yet some of the shit that has hit the fan in the wake of it beggars belief.

Cressida Dick now apparently recommends any woman stopped by a lone plain-clothes policeman should hail a passing bus (should one happen to be passing) on the off-chance he should be a rapist in disguise. If this is the case, how the hell can anyone in a vulnerable position be expected to trust a stranger whose warrant card is no longer a guarantee of safe passage? The stories that have emerged since the sentencing of Wayne Couzens suggest he was a career predator with questionable behaviour that triggered few warning signs as he was transferred around Home Counties forces with no vetting system in place. According to some sources, he had even been nicknamed ‘The Rapist’, which is unnervingly reminiscent of how Peter Sutcliffe had been nicknamed ‘The Ripper’ by co-workers at the haulage firm he was employed by long before he was finally outed as the real deal. But, again, the fact Couzens was a serving police officer utterly undermines any remaining trust in the institution even further. And if the police cannot be trusted, who can be? Maybe, in her own roundabout way, Mary Whitehouse was asking the same question half-a-century ago. Sadly ironic innit.

© The Editor

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UP THE JUNCTION

Regardless of where one stood on the issue, it still wasn’t a great look. Almost 40 years ago, TV news bulletins were awash with images of women being heavily manhandled by police as the former set up camp outside the Greenham Common airbase, protesting against the arrival of US cruise missiles on UK soil. In many respects, the scenario itself was a familiar one, following in a violent tradition that had characterised the old decade and would continue uninterrupted into the new. We’d seen it at Saltley Gate in 1972, in the streets surrounding the Grunwick building in 1977, and whenever the National Front and the Anti-Nazi League found themselves marching in the same neighbourhood; we’d also shortly see it on the picket lines of Yorkshire pits. And that’s not even mentioning the riot that erupted at the 1976 Notting Hill Carnival or the incendiary wave of civil unrest that characterised the summer of 1981 in numerous cities across the country.

An army of coppers clashing with an army of strikers/demonstrators was so commonplace a fixture of British life in the 70s and 80s that it was probably more of a story if a strike or demonstration passed off with no arrests and no punch-up with the police. Of course, these explosive occasions were almost exclusively all-male affairs, where even if truncheons were only in the hands of one side, it was still a fair fight in terms of physical prowess. What made Greenham Common different was the simple fact that the majority of the protestors were women – and shrinking violets or not, it still didn’t send out a very positive message to see a big brute of a bobby reacting to women in the same way he would to rowdy football hooligans on a Saturday afternoon. Bras hadn’t been burned for that.

With changes to the law and the decline of trade union clout, industrial disputes are rare these days; rarer still are industrial disputes that spark the kind of physical clashes with the forces of law and order that once seemed part and parcel of strike action. Demonstrations, on the other hand, are still potential powder kegs, even if the police approach to them can be maddeningly inconsistent. The boys in blue didn’t appear too perturbed when Extinction Rebellion brought central London to a standstill in 2019, and their submissive response to BLM last summer was a nauseating spectacle that was rewarded with an outburst of vicious thuggery towards the police that made it look as though the authorities had lost all control of the streets to the mob. Since then, there’s been no further knee-taking, though there remain suspicions that some causes are regarded more favourably by the police authorities than others.

After the anarchy of summer 2020, there has been a notable clamping down on public gatherings of any kind, with lockdown rules and restrictions tightened to prevent any repeat of the ugly incidents in London and Bristol. Whenever there’s been a further attempt to stage the kind of protest the police didn’t initially have a problem with last year, the police have responded in a way that has inevitably led to accusations of a two-tier policing system – i.e. you can break lockdown rules if you’re carrying a BLM banner, but you can’t if you’re breaking lockdown rules by protesting against lockdown rules. When half-a-dozen people are unable to get together for a private family event in the privacy of their own homes, perhaps it’s no great surprise that a public gathering of hundreds in a public space – even if masks are being worn and social distancing is being observed as best as possible – is something destined to end in aggro. Lockdown legislation has effectively outlawed public gatherings, so any proposed event is a no-go; and if we accept that, then the reasons for staging one are immaterial. They ain’t allowed.

In the wake of the publicity surrounding the murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard and the charging of a serving Met officer with the crime, a vigil for the murdered woman was planned to be held at Clapham Common. The announcement of this was greeted with a polite refusal from the Met, naturally citing Covid restrictions. It was then announced that the vigil wouldn’t be taking place so as to comply with the regulations, but the familiar floral tributes nonetheless began to swamp the Clapham Common bandstand; even the Duchess of Cambridge popped down earlier in the day and the atmosphere appeared to be in keeping with the routine Diana-esque vibe that is now customary when private grief becomes public property. Despite the official cancellation of the vigil, crowds gathered regardless and, as evening fell, the numbers were eventually sufficiently high enough to warrant police reinforcements in order to breakup what was an illegal gathering. What happened next depends, I guess, on which side you stand.

Whilst the term ‘peaceful protest’ has now become a euphemism for the exact opposite following its un-ironic use by the BBC to describe the BLM riot in London last summer, the fact that what was intended to be a genuinely peaceful protest on Clapham Common wasn’t given the official seal of approval is a bloody ridiculous state of affairs. One doesn’t have to support the idea of a gathering of this nature or the motivation behind it to conclude that it should have been allowed to take place. I won’t repeat Voltaire’s catchphrase here, but I think you know where I’m going. Anyone who believes these f***ing restrictions on our movements have reached the absolute limit now should feel the same way about it, whatever one’s position on the dubious morality of those pushing Sarah Everard forward as a posthumous poster-girl for a cause superimposed upon her.

Some say the crowds had been infiltrated by activists hungry for a confrontation with the coppers, knowing that it wouldn’t take much effort to provoke physical tactics on the part of the Met. It’s not too fantastical to surmise that this tragic death has been distastefully politicised in order to give these activists their ‘George Floyd’ moment – and that in itself is a disgraceful exploitation of a horrendous crime. Using the murder of a young woman as fresh ammo in the culture wars is beyond the pale. At the same time, had the police chosen to stand back and let the crowd get on with it – not unlike they did when the mob uprooted a statue in Bristol – then the crowd would have gradually dispersed, having made its point. By clumsily intervening and attempting to break up the gathering, the police gave any activists present precisely what they wanted, but they also would have enraged anyone there who actually turned up to participate in a non-violent vigil, those who have had enough of restrictions that have now been in place for almost a full twelve months. So many people in this country are at breaking point after a year of this, and this was the kind of moment guaranteed to make them snap.

No, it wasn’t a great look at Greenham Common in the early 80s and it’s not a great look in 2021. When the police moved in and began physically removing women from around the Clapham Common bandstand, there was no way they could make that action look anything other than brutal, awful and ugly. The images will linger and, in the same way the death of Sarah Everard has itself been politicised, the events of Saturday evening will be weaponised by all sides in the days and weeks to come; in the process, it will add yet another dispiriting layer to the seemingly endless layers of division that have taken every conceivable form – political, cultural, racial, sexual, ideological – since 2016. What a bloody mess.

© The Editor

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

According to what passes for ‘the Left’ today, cancel culture is merely a figment of the right-wing imagination, a collective conspiracy theory with no grounding in reality. The guardians of the new cultural order – keeping the peace on campus, in the workplace and online – are kind, compassionate, tolerant sorts, preaching love and understanding whilst denouncing hate, whether written down, spoken or simply thought of. And that’s evident in the way they respond to anyone they perceive to be questioning their Utopia. They spread their message through cyberspace like a benign virus that smells of fresh flowers and newborn babies. This makes the wrong see the error of their ways via gentle, sympathetic persuasion; and if the wrong continue to be resistant, they convince the wrong it’s more effective in the long run if they step forward and admit they’re wrong before conversion to the right side of history can begin. After all, the first step to admitting one is an alcoholic is to stand up at an AA meeting and say it out loud.

Mumford & Sons – perhaps the dullest band since sliced Dire Straits – have effectively dispensed with the services of their banjo player Winston Marshall this week, though it helped that he conveniently fell on his sword after some of that gentle online persuasion. His crime was to publicly state how much he admired a recent critical exposé of that cuddly anarchist collective Antifa in a book by journalist Andy Ngo. ‘Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy’ is evidently not deemed to be suitable reading material – I mean, was ‘White Fragility’ out on loan at Marshall’s local library or something? Anyhow, sounding suspiciously like he might harbour the wrong opinions, Marshall did his best to appease the outraged masses (i.e. a few pink-heads on Twitter) by issuing the kind of grovelling public apology that used to be written on a board slung around the neck during the Cultural Revolution. He announced he was taking a break from the band to ‘examine his blind-spots’. I hear the CCP has a decent re-education camp in Xinjiang if you’re interested in some intellectual cleansing, Winston.

Hot on the heels of such a shocking revelation that the outlaw spirit of rock ‘n’ roll remains alive and kicking, another dramatic act of voluntary cancellation also took place this week. Piers Morgan, the sweaty tomato of breakfast television, stormed off-set during a live broadcast of ‘Good Morning Britain’ and will not be returning. No great loss to yours truly, as I’ve never seen the programme in question beyond snippets that routinely appear on social media; but a man who has turned hypocritical double standards into an art-form by spouting some of the worst lecturing and hectoring pro-lockdown fanaticism whilst simultaneously jetting off to Antigua for a pre-Christmas break is not one it’s easy to warm to. Even his hissy fit had all the appearance of a classic self-important prima donna gesture when replayed endlessly across Twitter in the hours after it happened.

Moron was seemingly incensed by a supine defence of the Duchess of Woke’s latest sob story from one of those endless slimy ‘royal experts’ who pepper television that airs when most people are either at work or still in bed. The co-host of the show wouldn’t back down on his own personal (and less favourable) opinion of Harry’s missus when before the cameras; and, as it turns out, he wouldn’t back down off-camera either – especially when ITV bosses told him to publicly refute everything he’d previously said about the new queen of our hearts. Apparently, in the wake of that exiled actress having played the mental health as well as the race card, one is not allowed to call out her bullshit and one must praise her stunning bravery. Morgan refused to budge, and according to reports, he walked rather than take the Winston Marshall route of apologising when you’ve nothing to apologise for. Lest we forget, an opinion is subjective; it’s both right and wrong, depending where you stand. Airing an opinion is not a crime; neither is refusing to fawn at the feet of a privileged professional victim – yet.

I guess it is quite amusing that a sanctimonious American millionairess has become the current darling of the Guardianistas, perhaps telling you everything you need to know about where the priorities of the so-called Left are situated in 2021. Most of the Grauniad’s journos were probably at school with Prince Harry, anyway. Up the workers and all that. Mind you, it’s no great surprise that the kind of frivolous fodder that excites the chattering classes means jack shit to the wider population; after all, the wider population has more pressing concerns right now. A year of being subjected to the kind of repressive restrictions on civil liberties that would’ve left Erich Honecker thinking ‘Bloody hell, that’s a bit much’ means the majority of the British people are hardly going to be sympathetic to luxury whingeing from the resident of a Californian mansion. But, of course, every Identitarian utterance of Her Royal Wokeness is politicised. Everything from Mr Potato Head to Dr Seuss is politicised now – as is a tragic event that anyone seeking to politicise should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for doing so; but, naturally a) they do and b) they’re not.

When MP Jo Cox was murdered on the eve of the 2016 EU Referendum, the ramifications of the horrible killing continued to ricochet through parliamentary discourse in the worst possible way for several years afterwards, and it was often a way that was hardly respectful to the murdered woman’s memory. Labour MP and long-time opportunistic offender Jess Phillips invoked Jo Cox’s name and the fate that befell her during one of the heated debates leading up the Great Prorogue of 2019, implying that Boris Johnson’s clumsy attempts to shut up the opposition benches in order that he might speak without being drowned out by screams of ‘Tory Scum’ somehow equated with the ‘silencing’ of Jo Cox. And now that her felicitous flirtation with running for her party’s leadership seems extremely distant, Phillips has finally resurfaced to air her much-needed words and wisdom on another murder that has only just resulted in the discovery of a body.

But Phillips is not alone. Baroness Jones, the…er…world famous Green Party Peer has suggested the introduction of a 6pm curfew for men in the light of human remains – apparently those of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, missing for over a week – being found in woodland in Kent. The fact a serving Met officer has been arrested on suspicion of murder has presented some with a gruesome gift; we all know the organisation is institutionally racist, so I guess the appalling (alleged) actions of one employee must mean it’s institutionally sexist as well. What about institutionally f***ing useless? I guess putting police on the streets at night might help generate a greater sense of safety, but it’s surely more important to invest in daytime patrols looking out for pensioners on park benches that need a damn good fining.

Social media has been full of the usual suspects rushing to hijack the murder of someone none of them knew and claiming it for their cause; Sarah Everard is now representative of all violence towards women, something that is as inherent in the male of the species as racism is in anyone with white skin. All those exploiting this tragedy to fit an existing agenda are beneath contempt. Are any of them considering the feelings of Sarah Everard’s loved ones in all this, those who might actually want to grieve in private as the shock sinks in – something that would be greatly helped without her name being used in a game of political pass-the-parcel by despicable parasites who should (but rarely do) know better? Clearly not. Yeah, it’s kind of hard to draw any positives from this one.

© The Editor