Brixton: the depressing symbol of Britain's multicultural failure
By Sathnam Sanghera
The other day I went to the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton and, waiting for a friend to turn up, killed time reading a South London newspaper, which featured a piece about activists marking the tenth anniversary of the Brixton nail bomb and their campaign to stop the BNP winning seats in the European election next month. It contained the following quote from Roger Lewis, of the Lambeth branch of the trade union Unison, who lives in Brixton and heard the 1999 bomb, planted by the far-right fanatic David Copeland, explode: “The BNP are bully boys, trying to affront all minorities, and want to break up all communities. But we weren't divided ten years ago and we won't be divided now.”
As a former resident of Brixton, who covered the aftermath of the explosion as a junior reporter, there was a time I would have seconded Lewis's comments about the indomitable nature of Brixton's community spirit. I drifted into the area after college, but grew to love its edginess and Benetton-advert racial diversity so much that I ended up staying eight years. It seemed life-affirming that so many people from so many different classes, professions and races could live together in a place that was for decades a byword for violent racial distress.
But I realise now I was confusing coexistence with integration. Looking back, not only were my eight years there marked by a retrospectively bewildering number of terrifying incidents, such as the two times I was mugged on my doorstep, the one time a potential flatmate was mugged on the way to inspect my flat, the several times police officers suggested I move out (“If you saw what I see, you'd get out”), the one time I went to throw away rubbish and discovered a vagrant copulating with a local prostitute in the refuse area, the bombing, the mini-riot, the numerous anti-terrorism raids, the stabbings, kneecappings and murders, but also a complete failure to make friends with any local residents. Far from being a symbol of multicultural success, Brixton is an illustration of the opposite: that if you stick lots of people from different backgrounds in one place, they will have nothing to do with one another. Go there on a Saturday and you'll find white people shopping at Tesco for groceries while black people get what they need from the market; black kids hanging out in McDonald's while white kids queue up outside the Academy; with other drinking, eating and dancing venues dividing along racial lines, too.
The last flat I lived in, for instance, was in a part of Lambeth that I described to friends as “Brixton” if I wanted to be precise and impress them with my ethnic credentials, “North Clapham” if I wanted to reassure them with my suburbanism, or “Stockwell” if I wanted to alert them to the most convenient Tube station, there was a pub at one end of the street in which I didn't once see a black person, right opposite an Ethiopian restaurant in which I didn't once see a white person. Being of an intermediate shade, I felt unwelcome in both and spent most of my time in the pub at the other end of the street, which was frequented almost entirely by young professionals.
This kind of social segmentation in London isn't a new development. In 2001, researchers at the University of East London found that, several decades after professionals started moving into London areas such as Hackney, Battersea and Islington, they still tended to socialise with each other. And Brixton was one of the London areas singled out by the research as being popular with the middle classes who claim to be fans of ethnic diversity but mingle only minimally. But the problem is getting worse the more gentrified and “regenerated” Brixton becomes.
Indeed, many of the “regeneration” projects in the area have essentially been exercises in racial cleansing, with previously black areas and establishments being turned white. The former Atlantic, which used to be a black pub, a gathering place for first-generation Jamaicans and younger Brixtonians, was closed down more than a decade ago as part of an attempt to transform the image of the area, and reopened as The Dogstar, now one of several smart venues frequented mainly by white kids.
Near my old flat, when it came for a black nightclub, the J-Bar, to have its licence renewed, the residents living in my block successfully objected. Then there's the Ritzy cinema - possibly the best in London, rebuilt as part of a £4.5 million regeneration project but, despite being one of the main buildings in the spiritual homeland of Britain's black community, the typical customer is about as black as your average member of the Women's Institute.
Does this matter? Not a huge amount. Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, was right when he recently remarked that Britain is “the best place in Europe to live if you are not white”. But it's depressing that groups in Britain's most diverse city still avoid one another and annoying that so many politicians and liberal journalists, among whom I must count myself, hold Brixton up as an illustration of multicultural success when it is no such thing.
I ended up getting a taxi back to North London the other night - in itself a newsworthy event as research published last year revealed Brixton is the worst place in London to hail one (it takes an average of ten minutes for a black cab to go by, compared with five minutes in the City and West End) and ended up in a conversation with the cabbie on the subject. It was interesting that when I originally moved to Brixton drivers would normally remark something along the lines of “bit rough, isn't it?” and I would respond with “it's up and coming, actually”, but this time the driver remarked “it's up and coming, isn't it?” and for the first time I couldn't bring myself to agree.
Israel and antisemitism
Israel's role as the Jewish homeland, when Jewish civilisation was nearly wiped out by the Holocaust, gives it a special place in the estimation of those who love and admire Jewish culture. It is an inherent part of Israel's purpose and identity, which is little remarked in mainstream media because there is an understandable focus on covering the occupied Palestinian territories rather than the life inside Israel.
But it is the central reality for those motivated by anti-Semitism. And the evidence is strong that anti-Semitism is once more a growing force in the world. Anti-Semitism has a long, shameful and astoundingly resilient history in Western civilisation. You can make a case that Western anti-Semitism predates Christianity because of Jewish resistance to ancient Rome. In a sense, the world owes monotheism to the Jews.
But classical Western anti-Semitism begins with the view of the Jews as the people who rejected Jesus, and indeed were responsible for his death, thus being guilty of deicide.
This Christian hostility to Jews was not present among the first Christians but took some centuries to develop fully. Many of the finest Christian thinkers struggled to work out their religion's relationship to the Jews. Were the Jews at best the chosen people who rejected Christ? Were the Jews no longer the chosen people, with that mantle transferring to Christians who accepted Christ's incarnation as the messiah? The greatest of the early church fathers, St Augustine, in the fourth century titled one of his last works Sermons Against the Jews.
Through the Crusaders to the Spanish Inquisition and beyond, the persecution of Jews, to varying degrees of intensity, was a factor of Western life, culminating in Hitler's Final Solution. It was not until the Second Vatican Council that the Catholic Church issued its definitive instruction: "True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ (cf John 19.6); still, what happened in his passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the holy scriptures."
That was a welcome statement by Vatican II but a culture cannot easily eradicate something as ingrained as Western anti-Semitism, even after the horror of the Holocaust and the clarity of modern church teaching.
What can be surprising to the modern consciousness is how pervasive anti-Semitism was in Western culture, and not very long ago. Recently I spent a summer holiday self-indulgently reading Victorian literature. I made my first direct acquaintance with the works of Charles Dickens. Consider this description of Fagin from Oliver Twist:
Standing over them, with a toasting-fork in his hand, was a very old, shrivelled Jew, whose villainous-looking and repulsive face was obscured by a quantity of matted red hair.
Dickens was a writer of genius and a man of prodigious moral and political imagination. Yet throughout Oliver Twist Fagin is almost always referred to as "the Jew" and presented as the embodiment of moral depravity and manipulation, whose only interest is money and whose chief activity is the corruption of the young.
I also read Maise Ward's biography of G.K. Chesterton, who straddled Victorian and later periods in English letters. Ward's biography is the only serious study of Chesterton to be written before the Holocaust. She airily admits and dismisses Chesterton's relatively mild anti-Semitism, unlike later sympathetic biographers who hide it or explain it away. Chesterton was a man suffused with decency and gentleness, and the greatest English proponent of the Catholic vision, yet he was also a kind of mildly anti-Semitic Zionist who believed Jews could not live well in a Christian kingdom such as England and therefore should all go and live in Palestine.
What has this to do with today?
Apart from the deicide charge, the most powerful elements of classical Western anti-Semitism were the contentions that Jews wielded vast and malign "money power", manipulated politics for their own benefit, corrupted, generally in some sexual way, the morals of Western societies, were disloyal to the nations they lived in and, later, were behind the rise of international communism.
This resulted in an operational double standard towards Jews. Any crime, and many harmless actions, by an individual Jew tended to be seen as part of a Jewish conspiracy. And Jews were held to standards no one else was held to.
There are clear echoes of this in modern attitudes to Israel. In 1975 the UN passed an infamous resolution equating Zionism with racism. More than 15 years later this was rescinded. Now, Israel is frequently called an apartheid state. The foundational basis of Israel is argued to be illegitimate.
But this, surely, is remarkable. Nobody declares Saudi Arabia an illegitimate state because it has no democracy or human rights, and its doctrinaire Wahhabi Sunni establishment rules over a marginalised Shia minority. Nobody declares Turkey an illegitimate state because it has a disgruntled Kurdish minority, some of whom certainly aspire to statehood. Even North Korea, the most extreme Stalinist gulag on earth, is constantly reassured that the West accepts not only the legitimacy of its state, but does not even seek regime change. Only the legitimacy of Israel is routinely questioned: a special standard for the Jewish state.
Similarly, a malign Zionist or Jewish influence in the media is frequently asserted, even though the Western media is full of criticism of Israel.
Increasingly, anti-Israel demonstrations in the West include direct references to Jews as well as to the state of Israel. Even in a peaceful society such as Australia, the Jewish community routinely has to take security precautions at religious, educational and social functions that no other religious community has to. In Jewish suburbs in London, the graffiti could not be more direct: "Kill the Jews". British novelist Howard Jacobson has written of how he now feels uncomfortable as a Jew in Britain. He has written of "the slow seepage of familiar, anti-Semitic calumnies into the conversation".
Every American Jew who supported the US intervention in Iraq was suspected, without evidence, of doing so because of consideration for Israel, thus reviving the old canard that Jews cannot be loyal citizens of the states they live in because of their over-arching loyalty to Israel.
Even where hostility is directed specifically at Israel rather than at Jews, when this hostility is extreme and beyond reason, it affects the social atmosphere for Jews. As Jacobson comments, there is "a deranged revulsion, intemperate and unconcealed, which nothing Israel itself has done could justify or explain were it 10 times the barbaric apartheid state it figures as in the English imagination".
However, even as classical anti-Semitism has had to make its reappearance in the West in mostly disguised form, it is raging without any disguise at all across the Arab world. The examples are limitless but let me offer just a few. The government-aligned Al-Gomhuria newspaper in Egypt published a cartoon of a serpent strangling Uncle Sam. The caption read: "The Jews taking over the world".
An Egyptian cleric, Ahmad Abd al-Salam, on Al-Nas TV, said: "I want you to imagine the Jews sitting around a table, conspiring how to corrupt the Muslims ... The Jews conspire how to infect the food of Muslims with cancer."
Also on Al-Nas TV, another Egyptian cleric, Safwat Higazi, revealed the wholly fictitious scoop that the female figure in the Starbucks logo was really Queen Esther of the Jews.
Throughout the Arab world, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious tzarist forgery, figure in popular culture. The Iranian Government, famously, sponsors conferences in which the sole purpose is to deny that the Holocaust took place.
Throughout Gaza and the West Bank an extravagant anti-Semitism is a central part of the Palestinian discourse. Anyone who doubts this should Google the Hamas charter, where they will learn that even Rotary and Lions clubs are part of the worldwide Jewish conspiracy.
One of the most telling examples of this Arab anti-Semitism is provided in Martin Indyk's brilliant new book, Innocent Abroad (Simon & Schuster, 494pp, $49.95 hardback). Although focused predominantly on the '90s Middle East peace process, when Bill Clinton was US president and Indyk one of his senior advisers, it is one of the best recent books on the modern Middle East, with a compelling narrative, shrewd insider accounts, engaging personal insights and a sense of the broad sweep of history.
But for the purposes of this analysis, a meeting Indyk describes in 1998 between Clinton and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is most instructive. This was at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Indyk writes:
Abdullah leaned across the table and explained to Clinton in a hushed voice that he had information that Monica Lewinsky was Jewish and part of a Mossad plot to bring the president down because of his efforts to help the Palestinians. He told the president that he intended to share this intelligence with senators he would meet after lunch in an effort to help forestall his impeachment.
This anecdote echoes one of a generation earlier told in Henry Kissinger's memoir, in which Kissinger holds a formal meeting with a Saudi ruler who tells him the world is beset by a global communist conspiracy, which is a mere part of the broader global Jewish conspiracy.
The Indyk and Kissinger anecdotes, each astonishing in its way, confirm the pervasiveness of Arab anti-Semitism and that it is not wholly a construct of Arab regimes for internal political purposes but is to some extent genuinely believed in Arab societies.
Nonetheless it would be wrong to underestimate the benefits that anti-Semitism can provide Arab regimes. Israel is the licensed grievance for these societies. By theologising the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and presenting it as a case of Western and specifically Jewish persecution of an Arab minority, Arab regimes, even those allied with the US, can offer an outlet to anger on the street and attempt to channel both Islamist and pan-Arab sentiments in a direction that does not challenge their rule.
This exploitation of anti-Semitism fits a broader political narrative of the Arab world. A few years ago a committee of Arab intellectuals working under the auspices of the UN produced a devastating indictment of the Arab encounter with modernisation. Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis recounts and updates some of their most shocking findings in the March-April 2009 issue of Foreign Affairs. Here are a few of the depressing highlights. In the previous quarter century, real per capita gross domestic product has fallen in the Arab world. Combined Arab GDP in 2000 was less than that of Spain. One-fifth the number of books are translated every year into Arabic as are translated into Greek in Greece. Between 1980 and 2000, Egypt registered 77 patents in the US, South Korea 16,328. And so on.
As a matter of mere logic, the presence of 5.5million Jews in Israel cannot be responsible for the economic and political development of hundreds of millions of Arabs. But the Arab mind is presented with a disagreeable conundrum. The Arab world possesses, in its view, the one true religion, the greatest culture and much of the world's oil, yet its societies are impoverished and dysfunctional. How can this be explained? In societies that do not allow searching criticism of ruling regimes, the answer has to come in the form of anti-Arab conspiracies, centred on the West generally, but more specifically on the US, Israel and the Jews.
This Arab anti-Semitism, popular and official, is incidentally a huge obstacle to peace. If Israel is not just a nation like any other but the most visible and offensive manifestation of a giant Western and Jewish conspiracy against Islam and the Arabs, then making peace with it is not honourable but despicable.
The strange transformation of the Left
Kenan Malik sees the novel "Satanic verses" by Rushdie as a turning point
In mid-February 1989, following a violent riot against the book in Pakistan, Iran's supreme leader ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling on all good Muslims to kill Rushdie and his publishers. The most famous writer of the day went into hiding, under police protection.
MUSLIM fury seemed to be driven not by questions of harassment or discrimination or poverty but by a sense of hurt that Rushdie's words had offended their deepest beliefs. Where did such hurt come from and why was it being expressed now? How could a novel create such outrage? Could Muslim anguish be assuaged, and should it be? How did the anger on the streets of Bradford relate to traditional political questions about rights, duties and entitlements? Britain had never asked itself such questions before. Twenty years on, it is still groping for the answers.
The Rushdie affair was a turning point in the relationship between British society and its Muslim communities. It was a turning point for me, too. I was born in India but came to Britain in the 1960s as a five-year-old. My mother came from Tamil Nadu in southern India. She was Hindu. My father's family had moved to India from Burma when the Japanese invaded in 1942. It is through him that I trace my Muslim heritage. Mine was not, however, a particularly religious upbringing. My parents forbade me (and my sisters) from attending religious education classes at school because they did not want us to be force-fed Christianity. But we were not force-fed Islam or Hinduism either. I still barely know the Hindu scriptures and, while I read the Koran in my youth, it was only after the Rushdie affair that I took a serious interest in it.
What shaped my early experiences was not religion but racism. I arrived in Britain just as "Paki-bashing" was becoming a national sport. Paki was the abusive name for any Asian and Paki-bashing was what racists called their pastime of beating up Asians. My main memory of growing up in the '70s was of being involved almost daily in fights with racists and of how normal it seemed to come home with a bloody nose or a black eye.
Like many Asians of my generation, I was drawn towards politics by my experience of racism. I was left-wing and, indeed, joined some far-Left organisations in my 20s. But if it was racism that drew me to politics, it was politics that made me see beyond the narrow confines of racism. I came to learn that there was more to social justice than the injustices done to me and that a person's skin colour, ethnicity or culture was no guide to the validity of their political beliefs. I was introduced to the ideas of the Enlightenment and to concepts of a common humanity and universal rights. Through politics, too, I discovered the writings of Marx and Mill, Kant and Locke, Paine and Condorcet, Frantz Fanon and C.L.R. James.
By the end of the '80s, however, many of my friends had come to see such Enlightenment notions as dangerously naive. The Rushdie affair gave notice not just of a new Islam but also of a new Left. Radicals slowly lost faith in secular universalism and began talking instead about multiculturalism and group rights. They became disenchanted with Enlightenment ideas of rationalism and humanism, and many began to decry the Enlightenment as a Eurocentric project. Where once the Left had argued that everyone should be treated equally, despite their differences, now it pushed the idea that different people should be treated differently because of such differences. During the past two decades many of the ideas of the so-called politics of difference have become mainstream through the policies of multiculturalism. The celebration of difference, respect for pluralism, avowal of identity politics, these have come to be regarded as the hallmarks of a progressive, anti-racist outlook and as the foundation stones of modern liberal democracies.
Yet there is a much darker side to multiculturalism, as the Rushdie affair demonstrated. Multiculturalism has helped foster a more tribal nation and, within Muslim communities, has undermined progressive trends while strengthening the hand of conservative religious leaders. Although it did not create militant Islam, it helped create for it a space within British Muslim communities that had not existed before.
I was in a drab Victorian semi near the university that housed the Bradford Council of Mosques, waiting to speak to Sher Azam, when suddenly, I heard a familiar voice. "Hello, Kenan, what are you doing here?" It was Hassan, a friend from London whom I had not seen for more than a year. "I'm doing some interviews about Rushdie," I told him. "But what are you doing in this godforsaken place?"
Hassan laughed. "Trying to make it less godforsaken," he said. "I've been up here a few months, helping in the campaign against Rushdie." Then he laughed again when he saw my face. "No need to look so shocked," he said. He had had it with the "white Left". He had, he said, lost his sense of who he was and where he had come from. So he had returned to Bradford to try to rediscover it. And what he had found was a sense of community and a "need to defend our dignity as Muslims, to defend our values and beliefs". He was not going to allow anyone -- "racist or Rushdie" -- to trample over them.
The Hassan I had known in London had been a member of the far-left Socialist Workers Party (as I had been for a while). Apart from Trotskyism, his other indulgences were Southern Comfort, sex and the Arsenal soccer club. We had watched the Specials and the Clash together, smoked dope and argued about football. We had marched together, chucked bricks at the National Front, been arrested. This was what it was like for many Asians growing up in Britain in the '80s. Hassan had been born, as I had, on the subcontinent (in Pakistan) but grew up in Britain. His parents were observant Muslims but, like many of their generation, visited the mosque only whenever the "Friday feeling" gripped them. Hassan had attended mosque as a child and learned the Koran, but by the time he left school God had left him. "There's a hole inside me where God used to be," Rushdie once said. I had never detected any such hole in Hassan. He seemed to have been hewn from secular rock.
But here he was in Bradford, an errand boy to the mullahs, inspired by book-burners, willing to shed blood for a 1000-year-old fable he had never believed in. Unlike Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha, Hassan sported neither horns nor a halo. But his metamorphosis from left-wing wide boy to Islamic militant was no less extraordinary than that of the antiheroes of The Satanic Verses. In that metamorphosis lies the story of the wider changes that were taking place in Britain and other Western nations, changes that made possible not just the Rushdie affair but eventually 9/11 and the London terrorist attacks of July 7, 2005, changes that trace a road from fatwa to jihad.
ANGELS and devils. Myths and monsters. These are at the heart of The Satanic Verses. The struggle of Saladin and Gibreel, with themselves and with each other, is a struggle of the human imagination against the constraints placed on it. One is a devil, the other an angel, yet they continually betray their natures. When Saladin is arrested, Gibreel, the angel, refuses to help him. When the two meet up again in riot-torn east London, Gibreel appears as Azraeel, the most terrible of angels, wreaking fire and destruction. But even as he is hunted down by Gibreel, the demonic Saladin risks his life to save a family trapped in a burning house. What Rushdie wants us to see is that the distinction between devil and angel lies less in their inner selves than in the roles that humans ascribe to them. If religion creates the divine and the satanic in the image of man, secular society makes men in the image of devils and angels. Religious faiths as well as secular societies deploy their angels and demons to justify their otherwise unjustifiable actions, to create boundaries that cannot be transgressed.
"Angels and devils -- who needed them?" Rushdie asks in The Satanic Verses. The answer seems to be those who wish to subdue the human spirit. Gibreel, despite born-again slogans, new beginnings, metamorphoses, has wished to remain, to a large extent, continuous, joined to and arising from the past. Saladin, on the other hand, has shown a willing reinvention, a preferred revolt against history. Angels, in other words, mean constancy while devils rock the boat. Angels are used to maintain tradition while those who bring about unacceptable change -- secularists to a religious faith, immigrants in a secular society -- are demonised.
But change and transformation, Rushdie insists, are what make us human. "Human beings," he observed in an essay, In Good Faith, "understand themselves and shape their futures by arguing and challenging and questioning and saying the unsayable; not by bowing the knee, whether to gods or to men." The Satanic Verses, he has said, is a "work of radical dissent". What does it dissent from? "From the end of debate, of dispute, of dissent," Rushdie answers. Rushdie's sympathy is clearly with the devil.
21st century culture: Political correctness combined with unprecedented personal viciousness
Several teenagers at an elite Sydney girls school are coming to terms with the full magnitude of their public betrayal via the internet. Where to begin? One has had her genitalia discussed in anatomical detail. Another has had her face likened to a koala's. A third has learnt that her circle of friends is not friendly at all: "She thinks she's best friends with lots of people but they actually hate her."
Two year 9 girls at Ascham, who thought they could casually destroy or trash the reputations of other girls in order to advance their own social standing, have left the school in disgrace. So at least some natural justice has been handed out. Thirty-one Ascham girls have been named and dissected in a posting on the social networking site MySpace, an action described by the school's headmistress, Louise Robert-Smith, as a "serious incident of cyber-bullying".
The incident prompted the mother of a girl who left Ascham several years ago, because she was humiliated, to say there has been a culture of bullying at the school for years. "When my daughter was there it was text messaging."
I know about bullying at Ascham. I married an Ascham bully. When my wife was 10, she flicked ink on the tunic of another Ascham girl because she was "slow, unattractive and irritating". When pressed to provide other details of her schoolyard thuggery, my wife could not nominate any. She remains haunted by this single ink-flicking incident. Perhaps she has been rehabilitated.
If even this small outburst can still be vividly recalled years later, one can only imagine how long-lasting and deep will be the wounds inflicted in this latest example of the casual cruelty of adolescence. Ascham was unfortunate to get singled out, because the problem is everywhere and the stakes are so much higher now. The public arena is moving further and further into the private domain.
Today, the ink-splashing incident could have been recorded on a mobile phone, loaded onto Facebook or MySpace, along with a commentary about how retarded and koala-like the girl was. The technology is there, and so is the ill-will. When I asked a friend, the editor of a heavily trafficked beauty site for young women, about the extent of cyber insults from other young women, she replied: "As a blogger, I have been virtually assaulted many times. Women seem to find the anonymity and forums of the internet a thrilling way to be their nastiest, bitchiest, most insincere self, without any form of repercussion or damage to their reputation. It's vicious and disturbing the way they cluster to attack the blogger, or each other."
The clustering was evident last week when the comedienne Gretel Killeen apparently faltered while hosting the Logie Awards. The scorn was both instantaneous and public. She hadn't even left the stage before the social networking site Twitter was alive with people tweeting about Killeen's flubs. Once her blood was in the water, it became a feeding frenzy. This then became a news story. The speed and intensity of cyber-bashing is becoming breathtaking.
Gossip has become even bigger than porn on the internet. Much bigger. Facebook is largely gossip. So are the other big social networking sites. Millions of eyeballs also go to gossip sites like Go Fug Yourself, devoted to fashion and celebrity putdowns. (The terms "fug" and "fugly" are short for f---ing ugly, though the authors pretend it stands for fantastically ugly). Or PerezHilton.com, which bills itself as "Hollywood's most hated website", or The Superficial (Because You're Ugly), or Dlisted (Be Very Afraid), or TMZ.com (Careful Who You're Kissing), or Pink is the New Blog (Everybody's Business Is My Business), or Jezebel (Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women, Without Airbrushing). All have large followings among young women.
These sites can become infectious, and I am referring to disease, when the directors of the Miss USA Pageant put a vicious misogynist like Perez Hilton on the judging panel. Presumably they were thinking about casting a villain, but in Hilton, real name Mario Lavandeira, they chose the worst kind of high camp queen, a failed actor and failed journalist (in 2007 he announced the death of Fidel Castro) who found fame through unrestrained vicious gossip.
One of his specialities is outing allegedly closeted homosexuals. He was at his blackmailing best at the Miss USA Pageant when he asked Miss California, Carrie Prejean, about her views on same-sex marriage. She replied that she did not want to offend anyone, but supported "traditional marriage", and did not think this traduced gay rights (I'm paraphrasing). Ever since, Ms Prejean has been subject to a torrent of invective from Hilton and other zealots screaming for tolerance at the same time they were screaming her down. This, in turn, has rippled out through the mainstream media like a very bad advertisement for gay marriage.
Today, the directors of the Miss California USA pageant have scheduled a press conference to announce whether Ms Prejean will be stripped of her crown for various perceived infractions. Perez Hilton has been busy milking the fight he instigated, claiming credit for Miss California not winning the pageant, and the internet has allowed the infection to spread.
Because the internet is so unfiltered and so vast, it has become a far more accurate reflection of the human condition than the traditional mass media. The self-portrait that has emerged is not flattering. The explosion in productivity, transparency, community and knowledge has been accompanied by largely unfettered pettiness, vituperation and schadenfreude. This is the encompassing public medium of the young. This is their stage and their minefield.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.