Violent leftwingers are the alt-right’s useful idiots

Melanie Phillips

Published in the Times 15/8/17

It is a caricature of what happened in Charlottesville to call Trump and his supporters racists

President Trump has been on the defensive over his remarks about the disturbances in Charlottesville, Virginia, at the weekend. Clashes between fascist types and their opponents over the city’s removal of confederate monuments turned deadly when a presumed white supremacist drove a car into the counter-demonstrators, killing one person and injuring many others.

In response, Trump condemned the “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides”. His failure until yesterday to single out the white supremacists for censure has provoked a storm of criticism, not least from Republicans.

Trump’s response was indeed inadequate. Much more worrying, though, was what actually happened. For this was not, as widely portrayed, a clash between fascists and anti-fascists. It was between two groups each of which perpetrate hatred and intolerance, stand against freedom and seek to impose their views of society and human nature by force.

The “unite the right” demonstration brought on to the streets neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other racist extremists. The sight of them marching with swastika flags and flaming torches was stomach-turning. But ranged against them were the “Antifa”, self-designated anti-fascists who are anything but. They have a record of unprovoked violence, rioting and thuggery. Their Black Lives Matter offshoot includes racists who incite violence against white people.

Since Trump’s ascendancy, there have been repeated outbreaks of violence, mostly perpetrated by Antifa against ordinary Republicans and other conservatives, either at pro-Trump rallies or on other public platforms. These people have been either stopped from speaking or physically attacked by Antifa and other left-wing demonstrators.

In June the House Republican whip, Steve Scalise, was shot and almost killed by a Bernie Sanders-supporting Democrat who opened fire on a group of Republicans at a baseball practice. A New Jersey Democratic party activist, James Devine, posted on his Facebook page that he had “little sympathy” for Scalise because he opposed gun restriction policies. Another Democratic party official in Nebraska was fired after saying he was “glad” that Scalise had been shot.

The real target is mainstream American values and culture

The Democratic establishment dismisses such people as mavericks with no significance for the left-wing causes they support. Yet a double standard operates against President Trump, who is held to be personally defined by the unacceptable nature of a tiny minority of his supporters.

The fact that the former Ku Klux Klan “grand wizard” David Duke, who was at Charlottesville, claims to support Trump’s agenda (that is, when he’s not in the next breath condemning him) is being used to smear Trump himself as a white supremacist.

It is grotesque to equate Trump’s pledge to “make America great again”, which was endorsed by the 63 million Americans who voted for him, with the bigotry of white supremacism. The former is driven by people wanting to uphold core American values they deeply cherish and share with each other. The latter is driven by loathing of racial and ethnic groups deemed to be inferior.

In last year’s presidential campaign Hillary Clinton was endorsed by Will Quigg, “grand dragon” of the Ku Klux Klan’s California chapter. He claimed she had a “hidden agenda” and that if elected she would come out for gun ownership and sealing America’s borders. Quigg’s support of Clinton was rightly dismissed as either mischief-making or barking mad. Yet when such people support Trump, this is held to define him.

There are various possible reasons why initially Trump didn’t specifically condemn the far right in Charlottesville. He may resent being bullied into stating what he considers should be obvious: that he thinks such people are vicious extremists. He may believe that both warring sides had unconscionable agendas.

Whatever his reason, his generalised remarks were ill-judged. As US president, he inescapably delineates the contours of what is socially acceptable and what is beyond the pale. He should therefore have specifically denounced white supremacism as having no place in American society. At the same time, he should have specifically condemned the hatemongering ideology of left-wing identity politics.

Such a response was not just morally but politically necessary. For the left’s real target is not the far right but mainstream conservatives who want to uphold American values and culture: the people who brought Trump to power. Defending national identity, however, is denounced by western progressives as white racism.

The result is an unholy alliance between the left and the far right. A white supremacist called Richard Spencer invented the blanket term “alt-right” to associate his ilk with conservatives seeking merely to defend American identity and core values. Through this tactic, Spencer intended to boost the far right and simultaneously smear and thus destroy regular conservatives.

The left has seized upon this smear with unbridled joy, routinely using the “alt-right” term to try to destroy the national identity agenda by bracketing it with white supremacism. The result is a powerful boost for the far right. From deserved obscurity, they suddenly find the left are transmitting their every utterance to the world. The phrase “useful idiots” comes inescapably to mind.

Charlottesville was but the latest front in what has become America’s cultural civil war. It won’t, alas, be the last.

Corbynites don’t see this as real democracy

 

Labour’s leader and shadow chancellor believe the people’s will is expressed on the street and shopfloor more than parliament

‘Is democracy working? It didn’t work if you were a family
living on the 20th floor of Grenfell Tower. Those families, those individuals, 79 so far and there will be more, were murdered by political decisions taken over recent decades”.

You know those police dramas, where the detective stares at a clue for ages before suddenly realising he was looking in the wrong place and missing the real story? I experienced just such a moment while pondering John McDonnell’s remarks at Glastonbury.

At first, like everyone else, I thought the most important part of his statement came at the end, with his use of the term “murder”. And then it came to me. The most important part of what he said was at the beginning.

The shadow chancellor didn’t question if austerity is working. Or if capitalism is working. Or if the government is working. His attack instead is on democracy. The deaths, the “murders”, happened because democracy isn’t working. This, I think, is the key to understanding his approach and that of Jeremy Corbyn.

Let’s begin at 12.15 on Thursday April 11, 1974, an important moment in the history of modern socialism. Sir Anthony Part, permanent secretary of the department of industry, has come to see his secretary of state, Tony Benn, relatively recently appointed to his post. In his diary, Benn records his version of their exchange. Part “hummed and hawed a bit and then said, ‘Minister, do you really intend to go ahead with your National Enterprise Board, public ownership and planning agreements?’.”

When Benn, who regarded himself as the author of these policies, responded “Of course”, Part pressed him on whether he was serious. Because if he was, he could count on a massive confrontation with business, a campaign of resistance. And with that, Part tabled a paper suggesting ways in which his policy might be relaxed.

The encounter took its place in the left’s mythology as Benn cited it in many speeches over the coming decades. It symbolised the way in which a socialist programme would be resisted by the establishment, by the institutions that controlled the system. Jeremy Corbyn, who regarded Tony Benn as his intellectual father and was one of his closest political friends, will have heard the tale many times.

The programme that Part, acting “simply as a mouthpiece for the CBI”, was attempting to obstruct was one that Benn regarded as truly democratic. At its core was control of industry by the people who work in it and the direction of strategic investment by the state, acting on behalf of the working class. The real expression of democratic will was not through parliament and the government but on the shopfloor and on the street.

The Bennite idea was to borrow to invest in the shares of strategic industries. The government would then use this ownership, and other laws, to conclude planning agreements between the state, the unions and management. These agreements would direct investment, and meanwhile government would assist those workers who wished to take over their companies, some of whom would simply occupy their workplaces.

The Bennites also advanced the notion of industrial democracy, going beyond the German model of participation on supervisory boards, insisting instead that executive boards should have more than 50 per cent worker representation.

Democracy is not parliament voting on laws after an election every few years, it is control by working people of their own lives, of the means of production, of the management of their workplaces and of the capital invested in businesses. It is always democratic to insist upon these rights, even if it involves breaking laws made by parliament.

So when John McDonnell calls on a million people to rise in protest on the streets and force Mrs May out of office, he regards it as baffling that anyone should suggest this is undemocratic. Because the demand by protesters that the establishment should yield power can never be undemocratic. And the idea that a government that controls central institutions and governs in the interests of capital can ever be truly democratic he regards as laughable.

It is wrong to argue that he wants violence. Violence is what he thinks the controllers of the state and capital use in order to enforce their domination. What he wants is a surrender to democratic ideas and forces, without anyone having to
use violence.

I don’t think this is a caricature of his position. It is not intended as such. It is an attempt to understand and explain the things that he and Jeremy Corbyn say and believe.

The support Mr Corbyn shows for people like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, his appearances hosting phone-ins on Iranian state television, or his dealings with Hamas and Hezbollah are much easier to understand when it is recognised that he doesn’t see Britain as a real democracy. The voices of protest and resistance are what he regards as really democratic.

This grassroots socialism was the brainchild of intellectuals of the New Left, people like Ralph Miliband and Robin Blackburn who linked up with Corbyn and Benn in the 1990s through the Independent Left Corresponding Society. It replaced the centralisation of orthodox communism — which they saw as leading to Stalinism — with a pluralistic society of street-level democracy.

What Labour is building now through a mass party and social media should be seen as much more than a formidable election machine. The New Left has always believed that the party should “pre-figure” the society it is trying to create. So the anarchism and equality of social media and the enthusiasm of crowds enjoying rock festivals is a model for the sort of society Jeremy Corbyn wants to create.

I can’t pretend that I see this as anything other than hopelessly naive. I believe it will impoverish us all, the vulnerable most of all. I think it will be more tyrannical than democratic. I think it would collapse in lawless chaos. But I also accept it as a powerful and radical idea that deserves to be explained and debated. And if Mr McDonnell and Mr Corbyn would rather not, we must demand that they do.

To consider Jeremy Corbyn’s challenge as being merely on the levels of spending or corporation tax is to miss the point entirely. As Mr Corbyn put it when speaking to his constituency party: “Our job is not
to reform capitalism, it’s to overthrow it.”

If we are going to have a big public argument about Corbynism let’s at least ensure it’s on the right topic.

Let’s stop treating the young as political sages

Clare Foges

We should be challenging the naive, unaffordable views of many under-25s, not kowtowing to them

‘Respect your youngers,” tweeted the pop star Lily Allen after the shock election result driven by a high youth turnout. But have we come to respect the youngers and their opinions too much?

Recent years have involved increasing youth worship in politics. Come election time, TV producers fall over themselves to put together panels of young people to offer up vacuities about “choosing hope over fear” and other quotes they may have spotted on Instagram. Grey-beard presenters nod deferentially at every complaint offered up by youthful contributors, however inane or ill-informed (the passion of youth requires no substantiation). Millennial mouthpieces on social media rouse the tribe with talk of reclaiming their future and how dreadfully they have been let down by older generations.

Then there are the politicians engaging in something akin to dad dancing; loosening the tie to get down with the kids. Ed Miliband making a midnight visit to be interviewed by Russell Brand, Corbyn shooting the breeze with a grime artist, Theresa May grimacing her way through a Snapchat interview. You’ve got to engage with the young, see, however unstatesmanlike the process.

And since Thursday people have been falling over themselves to congratulate the younger among us for doing their democratic duty; a five-minute detour to the polling station given the same weight as going over the top at Ypres. Young people posted selfies taken after the event and wore stickers saying “I voted!” Should they get lollipops too?

Yes, an increase in turnout at any age is to be welcomed. Only 43 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds voted in 2015. Although we are yet to see the hard data, the “youthquake” this time was doubtless real. And, of course, many people born post-1990 are spectacularly well-informed, public-spirited, energetic and the rest. Yet what is galling is the veneration of youthful opinion regardless of the sense it makes; this growing idea that being under 25 confers some special sagacity that the rest of us might benefit from. A generation reared to revere the words “empowerment” and “respect” is demanding that they are empowered and their views respected.

Last week’s election revealed the judgment of many young voters to be as we might expect of those with relatively limited experience: hopelessly naive. They turned out in their droves for a man who became a kind of millennials’ prophet; promising to lead them out of the badlands of austerity and towards a future where everything is nicer, cheaper, or indeed free. They voted for a man who would have endangered our economy, the whisper of whose name can send the pound on a swan-dive.

There is no wisdom here, no great lesson to be learnt; just the insight that many young people rather like being offered free stuff and ask few questions about how, ultimately, that stuff is funded. It has been suggested that the great turnout of the youth vote is an argument for lowering the voting age to 16. Given who they voted for en masse, I would say it’s an argument for raising it to at least 21.

This is not to suggest that the young have no cause to desire real change. It’s true that many have it hard: qualifications that don’t get you anywhere, work that is tenuous, homes that are impossible to afford. Serious action on these fronts would be welcome, within the constraints of our debt-laden public purse.

Yet the passionate sense of grievance among many young people — that theirs is a generation uniquely betrayed by the generations above — should not simply be “listened to” as though it were true; it must be robustly challenged. The phrase “intergenerational unfairness” has a lot to answer for, conjuring up a picture of the baby boomers and Generation Xers scrabbling up the ladder of opportunity and booting those below in the face. It hasn’t happened like that. Those older generations simply took whatever chances were on offer, from £50,000 family homes to university grants, and this does not make them the deniers of opportunity for young people today.

What should be challenged too is the youthful expectation of a free lunch. For instance, many 18 to 24-year-olds — reared on the language of rights — believe it their right to receive a free university education, as Corbyn exploited so successfully. What must be communicated to young people is not congratulations for backing wish-list politics but the reality that public resources are finite.

Wishing for a better world is nothing to be derided, and there is always something appealing about youthful enthusiasm. As Churchill reputedly said; “If you are not a liberal at 25 you have no heart.” But when it comes to the way we run our country, we have a duty not to kowtow to youthful dreaming but to confront some of the myths that underpin it. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Socialism is a proven disaster. These might not make for inspiring Facebook posts but they have the virtue of being the truth.

published in the Times 12/6/17

What’s bad for white women is bad for all women

Louise Casey

I have spent the past year touring the country conducting a review into integration and opportunity in our most isolated communities. I have heard numerous personal accounts that have brought home to me the disadvantage still being suffered by some people, including those in white working-class communities.

But the inequality suffered by so many black and minority ethnic women has really stood out for me and this has been particularly apparent in some Muslim communities. I think it is time we talked about this in a more open and honest way.

From the outset I want to say that no culture or religion can ever excuse violence and oppression against women, but my review has caused me to reflect on whether we – myself included – have been as active in promoting opportunity and as vigilant and robust in calling out sexism, taking on patriarchy and standing up to misogyny in some minority communities, as we would have been for white women or girls.

Not because we thought that white women were more worthy of help, but because we thought we were less qualified to comment on cultures we didn’t understand. To be blunt, I wonder if our abhorrence of racism and fear of being called racist, along with our desire not to cause offence, has sometimes got in the way of our feminism.

Analysis of 2011 census data produced for my report shows that 44 per cent and 36 per cent of women born in Bangladesh and Pakistan but living in the UK were unable to speak English well or at all, compared to 20 per cent and 13 per cent of Bangladesh and Pakistan-born men.

And while 20 per cent of all British Pakistani and Bangladeshi men were economically inactive in 2015, the rate for British Pakistani and Bangladeshi women was nearly three times higher, at 57 per cent.

Not only are all those figures too high, they are shockingly gender unequal. Not enough of us have spoken out against this unfairness and/or supported those Muslim women, many who have been courageously fighting these battles and whose voices have not always been heard.

We should not think that this is a problem that affects only older women who arrived in Britain 30 or 40 years ago, as 44 per cent of non-UK born Pakistani and Bangladeshi women aged 16 to 24 are currently unemployed or inactive and not in full time education.

Some ongoing patterns of inter-cousin marriage and a custom of bringing in brides from “back home” have meant young women are continually arriving into patriarchal Muslim communities with a lack of English, a lack of education and a reliance on their husband for their income and immigration status.

This first generation in every generation can have knock-on effects in their ability to understand even basic legal rights, to access health or domestic abuse services freely, as well as for their children who may not speak English in the home and are less well prepared for school as a result.

I fear that we have been too afraid to talk about a lot of this, along with other issues of violence and abuse including female genital mutilation, forced marriage and so-called honour-based crimes, or the worrying prevalence of male-dominated Biraderi (meaning brotherhood) politics that has taken a hold in some councils and parts of our political parties and system.

We worry about lacking the understanding and confidence to confront such problems, unless laws are clearly contravened. It is more difficult to challenge or act on behaviours that fall into grey areas along this spectrum – where one person’s arranged marriage is another’s forced marriage; or where one person’s religious conservatism is another’s homophobia.

Those of us who regard ourselves as progressives rightly don’t want to be racist and hold back from calling out wrongdoing for what it is.

But the best case explanation for what happened in Rotherham is a lesson here too.

By failing to confront known child sexual exploitation because the majority of perpetrators were Pakistani-heritage men, for fear of upsetting race relations in the town, the council and police only made things worse: for the young women and girls who suffered the most appalling abuse and for race relations as well.

So I hope more resources can now go back into English language and domestic abuse services.

But we also have to be honest about abuse, discrimination and disadvantage wherever it occurs. If we wouldn’t stand for it with white women, we shouldn’t stand for it with any women.

I want to stress that feminists and those who have campaigned for women’s equality and against racism and discrimination down the years are not the enemy here.

They are, in so many ways, heroes who deserve our gratitude and respect. But I hope that the next wave of our fight for women’s equality is one that reaches far into all communities and not just those that we are most comfortable criticising.

By uniting around our common values in a way that allows for and celebrates our differences but also guarantees our fundamental rights, we can start to provide a route map through the difficulties as well as the opportunities of our increasingly diverse nation.

And, by unlocking the potential of all women, we can tackle both the gender and race inequalities that still persist in this country and that all progressives, of whatever political persuasion, should want to end.

This article is based on a chapter Dame Louise Casey wrote for the report A Sense of Belonging: Building a More Socially Integrated Society, published by the Fabian Society and Bright Blue, in partnership with The Challenge.

The left is creating a new kind of apartheid – Mat Ridley

Matt Ridley (published in the Times 28/11/16)

The student union at King’s College London will field a team in University Challenge that contains at least 50 per cent “self-defining women, trans or non-binary students”. The only bad thing Ken Livingstone could bring himself to say about the brutal dictator Fidel Castro was that “initially he wasn’t very good on lesbian and gay rights”. The first page of Hillary Clinton’s campaign website (still up) has links to “African Americans for Hillary, Latinos for Hillary, Asian Americans and Pacific islanders for Hillary, Women for Hillary, Millennials for Hillary”, but none to “men for Hillary”, let alone “white people for Hillary”.

Since when did the left insist on judging people by — to paraphrase Martin Luther King — the colour of their skin rather than the content of their character? The left once admirably championed the right of black people, women and gays to be treated the same as white, straight men. With only slightly less justification, it then moved on to pushing affirmative action to redress past prejudice. Now it has gone further, insisting everybody is defined by his or her identity and certain victim identities must be favoured.

Given the history of such stereotyping, it is baffling that politicians on the left cannot see where this leads. The prime exponents of identity politics in the past were the advocates of apartheid, of antisemitism, and of treating women as the legal chattels of men. “We are sleepwalking our way to segregation,” Trevor Phillips says.

Identity politics is thus very old-fashioned. Christina Hoff Sommers, author of Who Stole Feminism, says equality feminism — fair treatment, respect and dignity — is being eclipsed in universities by a Victorian “fainting couch feminism”, which views women as “fragile flowers who require safe spaces, trigger warnings and special protection from micro-invalidations”. Sure enough, when she said this at Oberlin College, Ohio, 35 students and a “therapy dog” sought refuge in a safe room.

It is just bad biology to focus on race, sex or sexual orientation as if they mattered most about people. We’ve known for decades — and Marxist biologists such as Dick Lewontin used to insist on this point — that the genetic differences between two human beings of the same race are maybe ten times as great as the average genetic difference between two races. Race really is skin deep. Sex goes deeper, for sure, because of developmental pathways, but still the individual differences between men and men, or women and women, or gays and gays, are far more salient than any similarities.

The Republican sweep in the American election cannot be blamed solely on the culture wars, but they surely played a part. Take the “bathroom wars” that broke out during the early stages of the campaign. North Carolina’s legislature heavy-handedly required citizens to use toilets that corresponded to their birth gender. The Obama administration heavy-handedly reacted by insisting that every school district in the country should do no such thing or lose its federal funding. This was a gift to conservatives: “Should a grown man pretending to be a woman be allowed to use . . . the same restroom used by your daughter? Your wife?,” asked Senator Ted Cruz.

White men played the identity card at the American ballot box

There is little doubt that to some extent white men played the identity card at the ballot box in reaction to the identity politics of the left. In a much-discussed essay for The New York Times after the election, Mark Lilla of Columbia University mused that Hillary Clinton’s tendency to “slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, LGBT and women voters at every stop” was a mistake: “If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them.”

He argues that “the fixation on diversity in our schools and the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life . . . By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good.” As many students woke up to discover on November 9, identity politics is “expressive, not persuasive”.

Last week, in an unbearably symbolic move, Hampshire College in Massachusetts removed the American flag — a symbol of unity if ever there was one — from campus in order to make students feel safer. The university president said the removal would “enable us to instead focus our efforts on racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and behaviours”. There are such attitudes in America, for sure, but I am willing to bet they are not at their worst at Hampshire College, Massachusetts.

The one group that is increasingly excluded from campuses, with never a peep of complaint from activists, is conservatives. Data from the Higher Education Research Institute show the ratio of left-wing professors to right-wing professors went from 2:1 in 1995 to 6:1 today. The “1” is usually in something such as engineering and keeps his or her head down. Fashionable joke: what’s the opposite of diversity? University.

This is not a smug, anti-American argument. British universities are hurtling down the same divisive path. Feminists including Germaine Greer, Julie Bindel and Kate Smurthwaite have been “no-platformed” at British universities, along with speakers for Ukip and Israel, but not Islamic State. Universities are becoming like Victorian aunts, brooking no criticism of religion, treating women as delicate flowers and turning up their noses at Jews.

The government is conducting an “independent” review into Britain’s sharia courts, which effectively allow women to be treated differently if they are Muslim. The review is chaired by a Muslim and advised by two imams. And far too many government forms still insist on knowing whether the applicant is (I have taken the list from the Office for National Statistics guidance): “Gypsy or Irish Traveller, White and Black Caribbean, White and Black African, White and Asian, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, African, Caribbean, Arab, or any other ethnic group”. So bleeding what?

The left has vacated the moral high ground on which it won so many fine battles to treat human beings equally. The right must occupy that ground and stand for universal human values and equal treatment for all.

Hysterical Lefties Really Need to Grow Up – Libby Purves

Libby Purves (The Times 27/6/2016

As the culturati weep into their lattes while demonising the poor, old and insecure, the carry-on has been beyond parody

It has been a particularly grim couple of days for a soft-left newsaholic like me with a tenderness for the arts world. To quote one performing artist’s tweet — “Ashamed. Terrified. Shocked. Horrified”. Indeed: but it was not the actual vote that shocked, life having taught me that democracy has rough patches. It was the online squawk of reaction by my timeline, my tribe: cultural icons, colleagues, friends. If they feel “let down, betrayed, distressed” by the result, so did I by the mass response of the liberal media and arts sector to this vote against a 43-year-old administrative arrangement.

These are directors, actors, critics, cultural titans, intelligent lefties. Yet the carry-on was beyond parody: anguished bunker-mentality tinged with patronising, generalising hauteur about those who voted Leave. There had been nonsense from that general direction in the days before, alarm calls like panicked parakeets about how Brexit meant turning your back on Beethoven, Picasso and foreign cooking. This reached its apogee with the telly critic AA Gill decrying fuddy-duddy Britain as opposed to “the Renaissance, the rococo, the Romantics, the impressionists, gothic, baroque, neoclassicism, realism, expressionism, futurism, fauvism, cubism, dada, surrealism, postmodernism and kitsch”. He concluded that the only people thinking of Brexit were “old, philistine scared gits” (Mr Gill is 62 tomorrow. There’s a lot of down-wid-da- kidzery in all this).

On Friday an endlessly repeated Financial Times contribution mourned “the lost opportunities, friendships, marriages and experiences we will be denied”, as if nobody ever had a foreign friend before Directive 2004/38/EC. Some were just upset: “In shock . . . the blackest of news . . . spent most of yesterday crying, couldn’t get out of bed” . . . “In a hotel room watching this s**t I feel very alone, Texting people I love telling them we’ll be OK” . . . “Angry and betrayed”.

The model Alexa Chung was one of many who tweeted a broken-heart emoji; JK Rowling mourned, “I don’t think I’ve ever wanted magic more”. Jim Al-Khalili, fine science communicator, sniffed, “Presumably as an immigrant I should hand my job back to whoever it is I took it from. A victory for xenophobia.”

So shock and sadness turned to blame. “Will find it hard today — walking up the street knowing over half of people responsible for causing a load of misery” . . . “How about every person who voted Leave be required to find a European & apologise to their face?”. The tremendous director Rupert Goold “can’t live with . . . the ugly face of this country’s spite”. Mini-celebs piled in: Richard Bacon with “So chippy. So economically illiterate”, though the renta-presenter might not be one’s economist of choice. Actually, plenty of the righteous tweeters seem vague on economics: one mid-rant expressing surprise that the governor of the Bank of England sounded “American”. Clearly not a keen business-page reader. Many re-tweeted the same few racist posters, as if BNP viciousness was brand new.

Fair enough to despise politicians: Laurie Penny howls at “angry-looking whey-faced men in suits”, and they would be equally free to retaliate about Instagrammed cappuccino-chicks who couldn’t run a whelk stall. Bashing Farage, Johnson, Gove and Duncan Smith is routine politics. The really shameful thing is for those who purport to be socialist humanitarians to demonise 17½ million people: patronising them as stupidly “deceived”, or writing them off as racist, bigoted, malicious or just old: what Penny calls “the frightened, parochial lizard-brain of Britain”. Thank God for Peter Tatchell, a grown-up, swimming against the tide with: “The left must listen to Brexit supporters & their concerns. Very wrong to dismiss them all as racists & xenophophobes”.

Right on, Peter. They too have hearts and needs and fears and families, and at least they turned out, more than at any election for 24 years. Note that only 35 per cent of the 18 to 24-year-olds now being soppily mourned as “disinherited” even voted. Of under-35s it was still only 58 per cent. If youth was betrayed, as the indignant claim, they helped to do it. Straw polling at Glastonbury revealed that affording £232 a head doesn’t necessarily mean bothering to book a postal vote.

Respect voters, channel Chesterton: “Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget/For we are the people of England, that never have spoken yet”. OK, they may have spoken wrong and plunged us into difficulties. But it is not fair to blame them more than the arrogant, incompetent Brussels institutions and the decades when governments neglected inequality. Of course, there is racism to be fought. Yes, there was some disgusting campaigning by Farage. Yet that is no excuse for polishing your liberal credentials by making bogeymen of the poor, the old, the frightened and the insecure. They voted. Listen, engage, help.

Rotherham Grooming Scandal – Courageous statement from within the Pakistani Community

The link below is to an excellent article by Mohammed Shafiq. It is refreshingly honest and points towards the type of analysis and action that is required on this issue. Analysis that is still, unbelievably, virtually impossible to have amongst thoughtful people due to the utter paralysis of our politically correct culture.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3466549/My-cousins-Rotherham-child-abusers-Asian-men-share-twisted-view-white-girls-brave-personal-denunciation-British-Pakistani-community-defend-grooming-gangs.html

BREXIT?? – great article by Janice Turner!

The following article beautifully articulates the class divide at the heart of the primary Brexit issue – that of free movement of labour. I have sat at a number of such dinners with family and friends!!!

Confessions of a lonely, left-wing Brexiteer

Janice Turner

Janice Turner

 

Dinner party liberals are appalled that I’m in bed with Galloway, Farage and white-van racists. They need to get out more

My husband has a new party game. When friends come round, he solicits their views on the EU referendum. Naturally being bien pensant London liberals, they express horror about the ghastly prospect of Brexit, and the even ghastlier Little England swivel-eyed, provincial, tattooed, white-van racists who support it. Then my husband turns to me with a wink: “And so, Janice, what do you think?”

It’s lonely being a left-wing Brexiteer. It’s like declaring at dinner in Le Gavroche that you hate bloody foreign food. I might retreat to a nunnery until July. Anything to avoid middle class high-horsing about threats to prosperity, human rights and national security, when really they mean threats to my second home in Puglia, to my Czech nanny (who, unlike a British girl, will also clean the house) and of reimposed duty-free limits on Bordeaux. David Cameron dog-whistled these folk this week when he warned of an end to budget flights. First they came for our mini-breaks . . .

What is this sudden passion for the EU? It is like football fans crying, “I love Fifa”. Such affection for a gargantuan, unaccountable, self-serving bureaucracy, synonymous with progressive, internationalist, bigger-together unity, yet as capable of taxing Google or stopping Russia annexing Ukraine as Nick Clegg in a Benetton sweater.

For my Europhile friends, the current arrangement is all win. I often wish the English working class had an exotic restaurant cuisine or made handicrafts which looked fetching against Farrow & Ball walls. Maybe then the middle class would find them charming, rather than the only group it dares treat as Untermensch. A Labour-voting Mr Fairtrade Coffee Bean jokes to me about shipping his Polish builders up to revamp his country residence because local tradesmen are more expensive and lazy. Some commentators dream of amputating the inconvenient Ukip-voting north or visit seaside backwaters to mock poorer compatriots for their weight and dress-sense. Companies don’t want to train these people: cheaper to buy some energetic graduate Poles. Why don’t they hurry up and die out.

Left social liberals and right neo-liberals alike see themselves as global citizens, cruising smoothly above crude national boundaries, with no more fealty to a Croydon builder than the bloke from Bucharest who undercut him. The former because it would be “racist” to care, the latter because they love cheap labour. But freedom of movement — which, let’s not kid ourselves, is the throbbing heart of the EU issue — doesn’t benefit everyone equally. If, for example, Romanian citizens who earn four or five times less than British workers are allowed unfettered access to our jobs market, people lose out. But who cares: they’re already poor.

In Ben Judah’s startling book This Is London, he describes the British builders who once earned £15 an hour but, after waves of migration, are down to £7. He notes the minimum wage is a fiction when Romanian labourers stand outside Wickes in Barking at 6am beating each other down to get a day’s work, just like dockers in the pre-unionised 1930s.

In broken northern industrial towns, companies such as Next, Sports Direct and Amazon, not content with an already cheap local workforce, prefer to recruit migrants via employment agencies because they have fewer rights. They, along with Lincolnshire’s agricultural towns, will vote overwhelmingly to leave the EU, and not because they are stupid. A 2015 Bank of England study showed net migration has driven down pay for the lowest paid. Across the economy, although employment is high, wages have stagnated because the pool of labour is almost infinite.

Moreover these voters have experienced huge and rapid changes in their streets and GP surgeries and their kids’ schools. These are not global but rooted citizens. Their identity, once attached to a job — being a miner, a steelworker — is now defined only by place. Islington lawyers and Shoreditch dotcom millionaires will not, like the people of Hexthorpe, in my home town of Doncaster, have 500 Slovak Roma move into their village in the space of months, bringing every kind of social problem from fly-tipping to knife fights. The well-off transcend community so care nothing for cohesion. They remain untouched by culture clash, overcrowding or fights for limited resources. Yet they condemn those affected — if they dare to complain — as bigots.

And it would aid the Europhiles’ case if they declared how Britain is supposed to plan for limitless migration. Alarm about our rapid population growth is always wafted away as Malthusian angst or — once again — racism. But we will need 880,000 more school places by 2023, 113,000 in London alone. As for housing, the ONS reckons we need an extra 68,000 homes a year just to accommodate net migration assumptions. Is that okay? How will Europhiles tackle this? And can we at least discuss — honestly for once — if this is the society we want.

Only two things make me hesitate from voting Out. The “Britain will turn into a neo-liberal hellhole” argument that the EU is the last bastion of workers’ rights. Not that it helps those on zero-hours contracts now, nor did it stop the troika asset-stripping Greece. At least the Tories are our neo-liberals: we can — if we had an opposition — vote them out.

Then there are my fellow Brexiteers. What a horror show! George Galloway and Nigel Farage shaking hands like the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Head-bangers Priti Patel and Chris Grayling. Slippery Boris. While the In camp has . . . Emma Thompson. But I can’t be the only leftie for Out. Join me. Brazen the dinner party rows. Let’s make a badge.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali – A Voice That Should Be Heard

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I have been following the work of Ayaan Hirsi Ali for over a decade. She has been writing about Islam and the rise of Islamic Extremism extremely eloquently and forcefully since 9/11. The excellent collection of essays ‘The Caged Virgin – An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam’ 2006 and her autobiography ‘Infidel – My Life’ 2007 has recently been joined by her searing analysis of Islam, extremism and the western misunderstanding of it: ‘Heretic – Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now’ 2015.

She is one of a growing number of modern, rational commentators on these issues that, crucially, have a muslim background and heritage and as such have immensely more traction in the muslim world than the numerous analysts from the West. It is crucial that she, and others such as  Maajid Nawaz here in the UK, are given support and visibility from the media and political class to increase the profile of the modern muslim worldview. It is wonderful that she has an occasional column in the Sunday Times and her latest article is reproduced below. She has thrown her weight behind David Cameron’s unfolding rhetoric on the issue but, like many of us, is awaiting with bated breath to see whether the follow through on policy has any real substance and is able to stand up to what will be a withering campaign of moral outrage from the postmodern/left wing intelligentsia.

(Note: For a complimentary analysis from another modern muslim it is recommended that the article below should be read in conjunction with the analysis of ISIS posted here)

A few more ingredients and the PM’s recipe for beating Islamism is ready

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Published: 11 October 2015

TWO wonderful things happened last week to advance the cause to which I have dedicated the past 14 years of my life. First, I heard a British Muslim woman — Nadiya Hussain — say these words after winning The Great British Bake Off: “I am never going to put boundaries on myself ever again. I am never going to say, ‘I don’t think I can.’ I can. And I will.”

Then I heard David Cameron say in his party conference speech that he would “confront — and I mean really confront — extremism . . . [a] diseased view of the world [which] has become an epidemic — infecting minds from the mosques of Mogadishu to the bedrooms of Birmingham”.

Two breaths of fresh air. For, make no mistake, if the extremists had their way, a Muslim woman such as Hussain would never be allowed to appear on television and to express herself in the terms she used. Her face would be covered. She would be behind closed doors. She certainly wouldn’t be hugging her fellow competitors and crying for joy. For such behaviour is seen by extremists as bringing dishonour on her family and her faith.

Since 2001 I have followed the spread of this kind of extremism in Europe. I have followed with almost as much concern the lacklustre response of governments to this lethal threat.

Although things seem calm on the surface, when one walks through the streets of big cities such as London, Berlin and Paris one can sense that something is terribly off. There’s a palpable tension. The growth of Muslim populations has been gradual, as has their penetration by extremist organisations. The difficulties of integrating immigrants into European economies and societies have only slowly become apparent. But this year Europe’s political elites feel suddenly overwhelmed by the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants — most of them young Muslim men — when they were already struggling to keep a lid on the rise of extreme right-wing political movements and parties.

Many European voters, and not only on the right of the political spectrum, feel let down by their leaders. This despondency is largely due to the reluctance — in some cases adamant refusal — of leaders to address honestly the challenges of Muslim immigration and integration into the host societies. Platitudes on the benefits of multiculturalism and accusations of xenophobia have done nothing to mitigate what has now become one of the burning issues of our time.

It will probably take some time before we witness a reversal in the spread of Islamic extremism. Yet there is at last a sign of hope that things may change for the better. This sign of hope comes from Britain. Not only do we have a new national heroine in a Muslim woman who refuses to be constrained by antiquated rules designed to make women subservient; we also have, in David Cameron, the first western leader willing to take the risk of tackling Islamic extremism head-on.

Shortly before the election, Cameron called Islamic extremism “a poisonous ideology” that justified “the most sickening barbarism and brutality”, and pledged to come down hard on organisations that “stay just within the law but still spread poisonous hatred”. By contrast Ed Miliband promised to make “Islamophobia” an “aggravated crime” — as if that were the more serious problem.

The fact that Cameron won the general election, even if the issue was not a dominant one in the campaign, suggests that when an establishment leader addresses Islamic extremism with courage and clarity, voters respond favourably.

Five months after his election victory, Cameron and his cabinet appear close to delivering. In his speech to the Tory party conference last week he promised to “tear up the narrative that says Muslims are persecuted and the West deserves what it gets”; to take on extremism “in all its forms, the violent and non-violent”; to tackle segregation; to zoom in on schools that incubate extremism, even shutting them down; and to clamp down on the terrible practices of forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), promising to prosecute those who perpetrate them.

This is the right way to go and I applaud it. But let me now add the principles that Cameron should put at the heart of his strategy.

First, it’s important to give the problem its real name. Islamic extremism concerns specific beliefs, attitudes and behaviours embedded in the political system of Islam. In his speech Cameron did not refer to Islamic extremism as such, even though he discussed extremist madrasahs, the terrorist group Isis and jihad. Yet leading political figures in the United Arab Emirates now publicly refer to “Islamic extremism” as “the most destabilising and dangerous global force since fascism”.

Second, by focusing on the problematic aspects of Islam, one can learn to distinguish between those aspects of Islam that are compatible with a liberal society and those that are not. It is then possible to form genuine partnerships with Muslims who as individuals and as groups have values that are aligned with British values, British laws and British norms.

Third, if the links between Islam and extremism are made clear, one can develop tools to help identify, predict and prevent extremism. Take a Muslim-majority neighbourhood where men and women mix freely and where they have friendly relations with people of other religions or no religion. If one were suddenly to see women veiled from head to toe and men wearing long beards, demanding that the genders be segregated and pushing for a ban on alcohol, one could readily infer that extremist elements were at work there.

Fourth, good civic values need to be inculcated at school. If combating Islamic extremism is our goal, then Muslim children will have to be taught that armed jihad is bad, and why; that sharia as it exists in Saudi Arabia and used to in Afghanistan is unjust; that obeying one book and one man without question is unwise; that the principles of tolerance, freedom, democracy and equality before the law are sacrosanct; and that it is perfectly legitimate for people to have faiths other than Islam or no faith at all.

When Cameron stated in his speech that we should not just be saying what is wrong with forced marriage or FGM, but should also be emphasising what is right about Britain, I took it to mean that he is prepared to have these values inculcated into every single Briton, including Muslims.

The prime minister spoke boldly last week, and we should all welcome his words — especially British Muslims such as Nadiya Hussain who sincerely want to be both Muslim and British.

What is needed now is appropriate follow-through. To tackle this challenge effectively, many years of strong public policy measures will be necessary. Islamic extremism will not disappear spontaneously.

The Modern Worldview – ‘the birth of reason’

In the last post it was suggested that a common, inclusive framework of values that would unite us as a society in a shared vision is to be found, not in a notion of ‘British Values’ but in ‘Modern Values’. I would like to outline what I mean by this.

Let us delve in to history for a moment. What is generally known as the modern era, or modernity started in Europe in the mid 18th century. In what has been labelled the Enlightenment era, Europe begun moving from a society where the organizing principles were largely dictated by a traditional worldview (see worldviews), to that informed by a modern worldview. We can refer to a table that those familiar with this blog will have seen before.

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Expanding on what we mean by the traditional worldview, we can see that it is largely a religious worldview where all aspects of life are largely dictated by theocratic dogma. The holy book (the bible) is seen as the sole authority on the three great realms in life: what is good (morality), what is true (the facts about the universe and its history) and what is beautiful/meaningful (how to find joy and purpose in this life). As we can see from the table this can lead to rigid intolerance and dogmatism. We can also note that life at this level revolves around rules and roles.

It was against this backdrop of theocratic dogmatism that the enlightenment arose, and it was indeed a profoundly anti-religious movement. Voltaires rallying cry was ‘Remember the cruelties’, and those cruelties were the intolerant and often savage imposition of the ‘rules’ by the organized religious authorities (the catholic church).

What triggered this revolt against the theocracy? As noted in the chart above the primary trigger for the movement was what has become known as the ‘the birth of reason’.

So what is reason? Reason is the faculty of mind that fundamentally asks – why? It asks what is that reason for that? It is the mind that asks: How do I know the Bible is true?, What is the evidence? It is the mind that seeks coherence and demands rational explanation. It is simply not acceptable that irrational or unreasonable assertions are left to stand.

For example:

  • Q: How do you know the Bible is true
  • A:  It’s true because it’s the word of God
  • Q: How do you know it’s the word of God?
  • A: Because it says so in the Bible.

This circular argument is perfectly adequate to the traditional (pre-rational) mind and no amount of ‘reasoning’ with them will alter that fact, for the simple reason that they do not recognize ‘reasoning’ as a necessary basis for ascertaining truth. The modern (rational) mind utterly rejects the circular argument as incoherent and invalid.

The birth of universal reason and its growth to have organising influence on society led to the birth of democracy (why is it fair that the few have power over the many) and the birth of liberation movements such as abolition, gender equality, and the declaration of universal human rights. The struggle to truly realise the promise of these movements is still being fought of course, the point here is simply that all these developments were triggered by the emergence of universal reason. The rise of science is of course founded on rational enquiry and the demand for evidence to ascertain truth.

(Note: At a deeper psychological level the faculty we are calling reason is at its most fundamental level: the ability to take multiple perspectives, identify with them and then because of that identification be compelled to integrate them into a coherent whole. You can only truly empathise with the oppressed if you can first take their perspective and then identify with it. It is important to understand that it is this cognitive ability to take multiple perspectives and integrate them that  the level of complexity of mind that is the root of both universal human rights and modern science. In Piagetian terms it is the development of formal-operations (abstract, ‘what if’ cognition) as a level of cognitive complexity that transcends and includes the concrete-operations (concrete-literal cognition) that underpins the traditional worldview.

It is often noted that modernity clearly differentiated church and state. This is true but a more useful analysis is that modernity finally differentiated the three major realms of life: the good, the true and the beautiful. As noted above within a traditional society or worldview these three realms were undifferentiated. Theocratic doctrine gave the final word on all these issues. With the rise of modernity these three realms became distinct:

The Good (morality, or the way we life together) is to be determined by consensus and open debate, based on universal consideration of all people as equals (democracy).

The True (facts!) is to be determined by science, rational enquiry, and observable and shareable evidence.

The Beautiful/Meaningful (how to live a good life) is to be left to the individual to decide without interference from any doctrine, either from church or state. All shall be free to decide for themselves what God to worship and what activities to pursue to find meaning in their lives.

This differentiation was a monumental achievement and is the foundation of what we can consider to be ‘Modern Values’.

We can see from this analysis that the values that underpin our modern world are not a list of rules to be obeyed (this would only demand a traditional mind-set) , but are largely the natural value system that unfolds when one has adopted universal reason as an organising principle in one’s own identity.

This has profound implications for education. Everyone is born at square one, whatever type of society one is in. The goal of child-rearing or education has to be to develop as many adult citizens who share (as a minimum!) the worldview of society as a whole. In the case of a modern society this means that the more people that attain a critical thinking, rational and questioning level of cognitive development the better.

It is a tragedy that schools and colleges do not see their ‘raison d’etre’ as challenging and encouraging critical analysis of all the dogmatic, traditional and limited belief systems that children often inherit from their family conditioning. Under the banner of a non-judgemental multi-culturalism (a pathology of the post-modern worldview – a topic for another time!) young people are left embedded in their traditional intellectual silos and taught simply to ‘tolerate’ each other. The mutual understanding and unity that we desperately need to build a resilient society is not found here, it is only in the exploration of universal reason that a modern, unifying and yes – largely secular vision can be found. After all there is no such thing as Christian science or Muslim Science – there is just science. There is no such thing as Christian gender equality and Muslim gender equality – there is simply gender equality.

This post has emphasised the ‘good news’ of modernity. There is of course a ‘bad news’ as all development brings new opportunities and new dangers. The tendency towards scientific reductionism, consumerism and materialism have led to all sorts of traditional backlashes and complications. Untangling these issues is complex and delicate. I have mentioned them simply to acknowledge that I am not trying to present a one sided rosy picture of the modern world, but am emphasising the underlying developmental achievement that is implicit in all our ‘modern’ debates.

 

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