Author Archive

March 29, 2015

Sweden’s feminist foreign minister hammered for confronting Saudi Arabia

Special Representative of the Secretary-

From the Spectator

If the cries of ‘Je suis Charlie’ were sincere, the western world would be convulsed with worry and anger about the Wallström affair. It has all the ingredients for a clash-of-civilisations confrontation.

A few weeks ago Margot Wallström, the Swedish foreign minister, denounced the subjugation of women in Saudi Arabia. As the theocratic kingdom prevents women from travelling, conducting official business or marrying without the permission of male guardians, and as girls can be forced into child marriages where they are effectively raped by old men, she was telling no more than the truth. Wallström went on to condemn the Saudi courts for ordering that Raif Badawi receive ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes for setting up a website that championed secularism and free speech. These were ‘mediaeval methods’, she said, and a ‘cruel attempt to silence modern forms of expression’. And once again, who can argue with that?

The backlash followed the pattern set by Rushdie, the Danish cartoons and Hebdo. Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador and stopped issuing visas to Swedish businessmen. The United Arab Emirates joined it. The Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, which represents 56 Muslim-majority states, accused Sweden of failing to respect the world’s ‘rich and varied ethical standards’ — standards so rich and varied, apparently, they include the flogging of bloggers and encouragement of paedophiles. Meanwhile, the Gulf Co-operation Council condemned her ‘unaccept-able interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’, and I wouldn’t bet against anti-Swedish riots following soon.

Yet there is no ‘Wallström affair’. Outside Sweden, the western media has barely covered the story, and Sweden’s EU allies have shown no inclination whatsoever to support her. A small Scandinavian nation faces sanctions, accusations of Islamophobia and maybe worse to come, and everyone stays silent. As so often, the scandal is that there isn’t a scandal.

March 28, 2015

Political correctness devours its own children

Women Against Pornography

From Standpoint Magazine April 2015

FOR YEARS a few of us have warned that modern “liberals” would live to regret abandoning the principle that you should only censor speech when it incited violence. We would enjoy our vindication if the unravelling of progressive assumptions was not so extraordinarily menacing.

Political correctness is eating itself. It is abandoning its children, and declaring them illegitimate. It is shouting down activists who once subscribed to its doctrines and turning its guns on its own. Women are suffering the most, as they always do. “Radical feminist” is now an insult on many campuses. Fall into that pariah category, and your opponents will ban you if they can and scream you down if they cannot.

It is tempting to say “serves you right” or “I told you so” to the feminists on the receiving end of the new intolerance. But you will not understand how Western societies have become so tongue-tied and hypocritical unless you understand the human desires behind the feminists’ original urge to suppress, which now lie behind their enemies’ desire to suppress them.

March 17, 2015

Why Islamism’s apologists must make Jihadi John a victim

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From the Spectator 27 February 2015

 

Islamic State allows its adherents to be both cultists and psychopaths: an L. Ron Hubbard and a Fred West rolled into one. The reasons why young men want to travel across the world to fight its wars and lend a hand to the murder of its victims ought to be brutally and boringly obvious.

Psychopaths are always less complicated, less rewarding, less interesting than their victims. They’re not hard to explain. Where is the difficulty about Abelaziz Kuwan , for instance?

March 17, 2015

In defence of Hilary Mantel

 Generics
Playing his cards close to his chest: Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell in the BBC adaptation of “Wolf Hall” (Giles Keyte/BBC/Company Productions)From Standpoint March 2015

The phenomenal, and to all who loved her early work, overdue success of Hilary Mantel, and the BBC’s superb dramatisation of her Tudor novels, have left pundits scrambling to stuff her art into pigeonholes.Catholic critics, including the Editor of this magazine in the Sunday Times, refight the Reformation by accusing her of producing a modern version of the old patriotic Protestant history; a fictionalised verion of Our Island Story. And it is true that Mantel’s Thomas More is a twisted sadomasochist who tortures and executes Protestants, rather than the exemplary Renaissance humanist of Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons. But then no honest writer or historian can follow Bolt’s airbrushing of More’s heretic-hunting, and Mantel, for all her inventive gifts, is a stickler for historical accuracy.

Her Cromwell is not quite a hero.

March 16, 2015

If ‘incorrect’ English is what’s widely understood, how can it be wrong?

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Spectator 7 March 2015

Accidence Will Happen: The Non-Pedantic Guide to English Usage Oliver Kamm

Weidenfeld, pp.301, £12.99, ISBN: 9780297871934

In a cheeringly Dickensian fashion, the names of our supposed experts on grammar imply they want to bind writers (Lynne Truss); send them awry (Kingsley Amis); besmirch their prose (H.W. Fowler); deafen them with moos (Simon Heffer); or snort at their legitimate constructions (John Humphrys).

At first glance, Oliver Kamm appears happy to keep them company. A leader-writer for the Times and its resident authority on style, Kamm is the most small ‘c’ conservative man I know. If he has ever left home without cleaning his shoes — and I doubt that he has — he would have realised his mistake before reaching the end of his road, and rushed back to apply the polish. Instead of joining the pedants, however, Kamm batters them. Accidence Will Happen is a joyous and joyously liberating assault on ‘rules’ of grammar which are little more than a hodgepodge of contradictory superstitions.

March 16, 2015

Why there’s no point in voting Tory to stop Ukip

Newspapers that tell you how to vote are asking for trouble. I still meet readers with harsh words to say about the recommendation of the editorials of the Guardian and Observer that they should vote Liberal Democrat at the last election. (Those who followed it are the most scathing.)

So it is with a stammer in my voice and fear in my eyes that I say that, in theory, some of you should vote Tory in May. Hold on! Put that pitchfork down. I just said “in theory”. My point is that liberal or leftwing readers in Kent and Essex could, in theory, consider tactically voting Conservative to stop Ukip winning.

March 16, 2015

How liberal Britain betrays ex-Muslims

Spectator 28 February 2015

A few days ago Imtiaz, a solar engineer; Aliya, a campaigner for secular education; Sohail, a gay Somali in his twenties; and Sara, a bright student, went to Queen Mary University of London in the East End and made an astonishingly brave stand.

Astonishing because they volunteered to step forward to the front line after the Islamist murders of satirists and Jews in Paris and Copenhagen. Before an audience and in front of cameras, they explained why they had left Islam

 

March 16, 2015

Putin is no longer just a post-modern dicator

attackSpectator 7 February Speaking this weekend, Francois Hollande said, ‘If we don’t find a lasting peace agreement, we know perfectly well what the scenario will be. It has a name, it’s called war.’ The day before, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former head of Nato, said that Russia was likely to intervene in the Baltic states to test NATO’s shaky commitment to collective defence. ‘This is not about Ukraine. Putin wants to restore Russia to its former position as a great power.’ As telling as anything leaders are saying are the films Russian reporters have been broadcasting – I must warn you that there are age controls on these links for reasons that will become obvious.

March 16, 2015

The BBC drives out the journalists who exposed Savile

bbcObserver 8 March 2015

 

Nobody from John Humphrys in the morning to Evan Davis at night dares mention a scandal at the BBC. It undermines their reporting of every abuse whistleblowers reveal. It reinforces the dirty common sense of British life that you must keep your head down if you want to keep your job.

The scandal is simply this: the BBC is forcing out or demoting the journalists who exposed Jimmy Savile as a voracious abuser of girls. As Meirion Jones put it to me: “There is a small group of powerful people at the BBC who think it would have been better if the truth about Savile had never come out. And they aim to punish the reporters who revealed it.”

March 16, 2015

Super-jails are the inhumane mark of ignorant politicians

Hands of a prisoner, Brixton jail

From the Observer 21 February 2015

The dishonesty of official crime policy cuts two ways. The authorities are treating men, women and, to their disgrace, children with deliberate cruelty. They are stuffing them into ever larger “super-prisons”, run by negligent private punishment corporations and dominated by criminal gangs. You cannot rehabilitate offenders in these anonymous warehouses, and the state’s promise to prisoners that it will try to divert them from a life of crime is nothing more than a pious lie.

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