From the Spectator website, 21 April 2015
I spoke at a Guardian debate on free speech before an audience of students at King’s College London last night. I’ve argued with racists and Putinists in my time and – to put it as mildly as I can – these little bastions of academia were up there with them in their contempt for basic freedoms.
Contempt is perhaps not quite the right word. Most simply did not understand what freedom was, and could not grasp the need for universal human rights. They could not see themselves as others saw them, or understand that by giving up on basic principles, because they are difficult to live with, they had left themselves naked before their enemies.
From the Observer 12 April, 2015
If there were ever a good time to have a nervous breakdown, now would appear to be it. Thanks to the Liberal Democrats, the treatment of mental illness is an election issue for the first time in British or, as far as I can see, world history. Say what you will about the Liberals, and I have said much, but this is an achievement.
Meanwhile, the health service, the bureaucracy and the “serious” media show their respect for mental illness by enforcing speech codes that would make a Victorian clergyman blink. You should never use words that have become insults even if they were not originally insults or are not always used as insults now – “cretin”, “simple”, “cripple”, for instance. You should never say that someone is “suffering” from autism or schizophrenia – even if they are. On no account should you describe someone as “mentally ill”. You must refer to “people with mental health problems” instead. By extension, mental health patients are no longer “patients”, but the “users” or “consumers” of health services.
From the Observer 4 April 2015
NOTHING is more dishonest than David Cameron’s slogan that a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for “competence over chaos”. Nothing is more disreputable than the failure of our allegedly ferocious 24/7 media to examine it.
Cameron’s decision to hold a referendum on Europe in 2017, should the Tories win, will bring political, constitutional and economic chaos, which will continue into the 2020s. I suspect he is bailing out because he knows it all too well.
His announcement that he won’t serve a third term is little more than a confession that Britain might soon be ruled by a prime minister chosen by Tory party members rather than the voters. Cameron has given everyone who wants to succeed him permission to begin campaigning as soon as his hollow victory is assured. Boris Johnson, Theresa May, George Osborne and ambitious Tories whose faces you will struggle to recognise, grasp that the only way to win over a greying, nationalist party membership is to demand ever more concessions from the European Union or complete withdrawal.
From the Spectator 27 March 2015
One of the many delusions of the Right is the myth of conservative robustness. Conservatives don’t play the victim card, they say. They tell it like it is, and don’t care who knows it. They stand on their own two feet, and take it on the chin. They have guts and backbone too.
It’s easy to mock the anatomical clichés, but middle-class leftists should worry. Millions of people are about to vote for Ukip, in part because they resent a modern version of Victorian prudery that has stopped robust debate, and allowed sharp-eared heresy hunters to patrol the nation’s language.
If fellow citizens are prejudiced, then there is indeed a case for fighting them. But most people resent political correctness, not because they want to criminalise homosexuality or send women back to the kitchen, but because of the trickery that comes with it.
From Standpoint April 2015
If you want to see the future of online news and entertainment, look at the Mail and see a future neither the Mail nor its enemies want.
If Labour is not in power after the general election, you will hear many leftists blaming the Mail for their defeat. For more than a century, they say, it has pumped out thuggish attacks against every prominent liberal and leftist, and injected its particular venom—a paranoid poison—into wider debate. To its conservative readers, by contrast, the Mail is their shield against a world that would ignore their wishes, take their money and laugh at their convictions.
But it won’t be either a thug or a shield for much longer.
Read the rest of this entry »
From the Observer 29 March 2015
Being a racist is like being a snob. You are always on patrol; always noticing differences others ignore. Nigel Farage’s enemies accuse him of being obsessed with race. I assumed Farage would use this campaign autobiography to refute them. Instead he obsesses for England.
He tells the standard inspirational story of triumph over adversity, physical as well as political. Farage recalls how cancer left him with a Hitlerian deficiency, when it took away one of his testicles. The NHS misdiagnosed his condition and allowed one testicle – the left, he tells us – to become “as large as a lemon and rock hard”. I am not sure I needed to know that. But three decades after the event Farage still wants the reader to know that the blundering physician was “an Indian doctor”. When he calls on a neurosurgeon, Farage again feels the need to dwell on his physician’s immigration status. This time he tells us he was treated by “an Indian migrant who grew up in Slough”, although Farage does not mind over-much because the doctor turned Read the rest of this entry »
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.