Thursday, December 10, 2009
Rap music, goat curry and why crying racism won't help us beat black crime
Rod Liddle is what Americans might call a 'shock jock'. He's a journalist who has cornered the market in boorish controversy. In normal circumstances, his inflammatory comments are best taken with a large pinch of salt. But his latest outburst, delivered on his online blog, has caused particular offence.
Responding to a news story about two black youths who conspired to push a pregnant woman into a canal as part of a failed murder plot, he wrote that 'the overwhelming majority of street crime, knife crime, gun crime, robbery and crimes of sexual violence in London is carried out by young men from the African-Caribbean community.'
In return for all this crime, says Liddle, the black community has given Britain 'rap music, goat curry and a far more vibrant and diverse understanding of cultures which were once alien to us. For which, many thanks'. (Sarcasm is one of Liddle's trademarks).
Even by his own standards, these comments have created a firestorm of controversy, inciting outrage and accusations of racism from all quarters. Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney, has compared him to fascist leader Oswald Mosley, while Bonnie Greer, the playwright who appeared on Question Time with Nick Griffin recently, said: 'My response would be to say that the overwhelming majority of paedophiles, murderers, warmongers and football hooligans are white males and all we got in return was beans on toast and Top Gear.'
The whole furore has descended into name-calling and crude accusations. Which is a sadness, because behind the overblown rhetoric from both sides there are some profound issues at stake - not least of which is freedom of speech.
We live in a free country and journalists should be able to write what they like, within reason. You may not admire Mr Liddle's style of writing, nor agree with his views, but that does not mean that he should be sacked from the magazine for which he writes, as some have suggested. It is his job to provoke. And that is exactly what he has done.
But beyond that most precious civil liberty lies a more uncomfortable truth, for the fact is that in his own clumsy way, Liddle has touched on a very real problem - the disproportionate number of young black men who commit crime. Ministry of Justice figures for 2007/2008 show that while only 2.2 per cent of Britons aged ten or above are black, 14 per cent of criminal cases tried in a crown court involve black suspects. For some crimes, the figures are even more alarming. One controversial report conducted by Scotland Yard last year found that more than half of teen knife crime offences in the capital involve black suspects. Small wonder, then, that two years ago the Commons home affairs committee warned of a 'serious crisis' among Britain's young community.
It's no use howling 'racism', this is a real problem confronting our society - and despite her politically correct posturing, Diane Abbott knows it. On her blog, Abbott writes: 'Sadly 80 per cent of gun crime in London is "black on black", often involving boys in their teens. As a black woman and the mother of a teenage son, this is frightening and wholly unacceptable.' So frightening and unacceptable, indeed, that despite her hard-Left credentials, she chose to send her children to a fee-paying school, rather than to a local state secondary. In her own words, 'too many black boys were unsuccessful within inner-city state schools'.
Why is it acceptable for Ms Abbot to raise such issues, but not Mr Liddle? Yes, he may have expressed his views in rather inflammatory terms, but he has touched on a vital issue: Why do so many young black men in our cities turn to crime?
This is more than just about race and underachievement. It concerns culture and the direction of modern Britain. When people from the West Indies first came to Britain in the late Forties, they were as law-abiding, and often as well-educated, as the indigenous population. What happened to this immigrant community is a snapshot of what happened to Britain in the intervening decades, although the situation is much worse among some of the new immigrants.
First of all, there has been a spectacular increase in family breakdown. The traditional British family in many parts of the country simply doesn't exist. This has been noticed by organisations such as the Centre For Social Justice. In a study they published in 2007, the organisation observed that crime has a direct correlation with family breakdown - 70 per cent of young offenders are from lone-parent families. Yet for many years these observations have been derided by a liberal media, too privileged to care about something which seems so alien to them.
Secondly, an almost deliberate assault on education in the past few decades has created a terrible situation. Our schools, particularly those in the inner city, have lost many of the characteristics which made British education famous throughout the world. The abolition of grammar schools in the Sixties made the problem worse. Children from less privileged backgrounds were even less likely to find a ladder up the social scale, and so social mobility in Britain declined.
Thirdly, a bloated welfare system ensured that there was no real incentive for people to get out of their situation. Together, these three factors create a toxic cocktail which has enabled a large class to be created which has no real stake in the country. And unfortunately, a large proportion of this class - often called the 'underclass' - is from the immigrant population who came to Britain in the Fifties to better their lives. Indeed, they have affected the Afro-Caribbean community more than any other.
The ultimate irony is that the Britain in which those West Indian immigrants had aspired to live has changed beyond recognition. And their children and grandchildren are the ones worst affected.
Ultimately, though, it is foolish to view this kind of social breakdown exclusively through the prism of race. It is true that young Afro-Caribbean males in the larger cities have a particular problem, but the issue is one which confronts the whole country. Ignorance and violence are a blight across the nation, from multi-racial London to less diverse places such as Newcastle and Sunderland. Any inhabitant will say how these towns have become more frightening places to live. Any person in any town in Britain will tell the same story about how it is no longer safe to go out at night. This is not just a 'black problem', it is a national one.
I would suggest that these problems, and particularly those of the Afro-Caribbean community in our cities, stem from the fact that this breakdown has largely been ignored by the political class. The chattering classes and their friends in government abolished grammar schools, refused to support the idea of the family, expanded the welfare state and fostered chaotic immigration policies.
Through flawed ideology and a failure to promote traditional values, the Left made the situation for all those at the bottom of the heap far worse - whatever the colour of their skin. As Liddle himself has said: 'There is an important argument to be had about crime levels in London, Manchester and Birmingham which are down to culture.'
Neither his boorishness nor the knee-jerk reactions of the anti-racist mob really help that debate. There is a need to have a national discussion about how to solve a serious problem. We should be able to have that discussion in a rational, mature way.
The ultimate British "elf n safety" madness
Sell you a sandwich? Sorry, you might choke, says train steward
Chris Haynes had gone to the buffet car after the crew announced that everyone on board would get a free soft drink as compensation for the train breaking down. After suffering the long delay and a lengthy queue to be served, Mr Haynes was understandably hungry. He saw some egg sandwiches on sale behind the bar that looked appetising, but when the 58-year-old came to order he was astonished to be told he couldn't buy one.
Mr Haynes explained that he was not trying to get a free meal and was happy to pay, but the steward again told him that he could not sell him a sandwich. Recalling the bizarre exchange yesterday, Mr Haynes said: 'When I asked the man why not he said it was for health and safety reasons. 'I told him I didn't understand how health and safety came into selling a hungry stranded passenger an egg sandwich on a broken-down train.'
Mr Haynes said that when he asked for an explanation a second time, the steward replied: 'Don't you see? If the train has to be evacuated you could choke to death on the sandwich.' Mr Haynes, a bar manager himself, said: 'I've never, ever heard anything so ludicrous in my life. There was a queue of people behind me and they all looked shocked.'
The grandfather, who is about to emigrate to New Zealand to run a tour company, said he was astonished by the steward's reaction to his simple request. 'First Great Western were quite happy to give out free drinks but weren't prepared to sell egg sandwiches for health and safety reasons,' he added.
Mr Haynes had been travelling back to London from a day at Newbury-Racecourse in Berkshire when his packed evening train came to a standstill less than half way into the journey. First Great Western run a special service to Newbury Racecourse on race days. The train last Saturday, carrying racegoers from the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury Races, eventually arrived at Paddington Station two and a quarter hours late. 'Everything was going well until we broke down somewhere around Reading,' Mr Haynes said.
A spokesman for First Great Western said yesterday that she was not aware of the incident. She added: 'It is not our policy to refuse to serve customers on these grounds.'
Foster kids treated to 'slapstick orgasm', swearing in Christmas play
KIWI foster kids got a big serve of swearing and sex talk in a risque Christmas play put on by the country's child protection agency. New Zealand's Child, Youth and Family service is batting off criticism after arranging a theatre performance that gave 130 Wellington foster children more than just a little Christmas cheer.
The free festive play, performed mostly to kids under 10, contained the use of the "f" word and one character spoke of losing her virginity and mimed a slapstick orgasm. "She loses her virginity. She shuddered and he lifted her higher, higher," the children heard.
The theatre group, Downstage Theatre, defended the criticism, saying it left the adult themes in as it did not want to be condescending to children.
Child Youth and Family's deputy chief executive Ray Smith, who took his child to the play, admitted to being a little shocked but supported the performance. "Yes, there were small sections of the show that took us all a little by surprise," Mr Smith said. "However, when seen in context, they did not detract in any way from what was a truly amazing and spectacular show for the kids in our care."
Hatred blinds Australia's Leftist academics to reality
The election prophecies of the Canberra psephologist Malcolm Mackerras are really just harmless entertainment. Last week he predicted that the Greens candidate Clive Hamilton would defeat the Liberal Kelly O'Dwyer in the byelection for the Melbourne seat of Higgins on Saturday, and prophesied that Liberal Paul Fletcher would be forced to preferences in Bradfield on the north shore.
Of greater concern are the byelection predictions of some social science academics who are employed to teach politics to fee-paying students at taxpayer-subsidised universities. Both O'Dwyer and Fletcher increased the total Liberal vote, after the distribution of preferences, over that which was obtained in the 2007 election.
Labor did not run candidates and the Greens were not able to match the combined anti-Liberal vote of two years ago. Yet some academics predicted not only a dismal showing for the new Liberal leader, Tony Abbott, in his first electoral test but also the demise of his party.
In a bizarre article in The Australian on Friday, Robert Manne, a politics professor at La Trobe University, canvassed not only a victory for his friend Hamilton but also "the destruction of the Liberal Party" this week. Manne acknowledged some of his views were "fantasy" but it was difficult to work out what part of his article was fantasy and what was academic analysis. Most teachers would fail a paper like this if it were presented as a university essay.
Manne also made his position clear on the Liberals, referring to the party's "troglodyte-denialist wing" and Abbott as the "troglodyte-in-chief". Such language seems acceptable in the La Trobe University politics department.
Judith Brett, Manne's professional colleague, did not throw the switch to fantasy or engage in labelling. Even so, her analysis was very similar to Manne's. Writing in the Herald on Saturday, she said that "the Liberals risk becoming a down-market protest party of angry old men in the outer suburbs". She also said the Liberals were "the natural party of the big end of town and of the big producer groups".
In fact, big business and the big producer groups are willing to co-operate with whichever party is in government. The core of the Coalition's support turns on medium to small business, farmers and middle-income earners.
According to O'Dwyer, the Liberals gained votes in such suburbs as Carnegie and Murrumbeena, which are not the high socio-economic parts of Higgins, where she received strong support from young married women. So much for Brett's analysis. Or perhaps fantasy is a better word.
Manne and Brett are not alone. Brian Costar, a professor of political science at Swinburne University, said he expected Higgins would go to preferences. And Paul Strangio, a member of the Monash University politics department, wrote in The Age that "Abbott's leadership will need emotional intelligence - a quality in short supply in the Liberal Party in recent times".
Manne, Brett, Costar and Strangio are all left-of-centre or leftist academics who comment on the Liberal Party as part of their professional career. A reading of their analyses this week reveals the pitfalls of projection. Manne, Brett, Costar and Strangio dislike Abbott's social conservatism and his rejection of the Rudd Government's emissions trading scheme. They made the familiar error of projecting their views on to the voters in Higgins and Bradfield.
There is also an unpleasant double standard here involving Tony Abbott's Catholicism. On Friday Manne wrote that "very many Australians will not vote for a Catholic party leader whose religious convictions fashion their politics". Manne was the chairman of The Monthly when it ran Rudd's essay on the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 2006, and enthusiastically endorsed Rudd's religious convictions at the time. The views of Rudd and Abbott on social issues are not far apart. Yet it seems, according to Manne, Rudd's religious convictions are acceptable while Abbott's are not.
Come to think of it, the fantasy surrounding last Saturday's byelections has not been confined to academics. This year, the Radio National program Breakfast has been giving publicity to Fiona Patten's new Australian Sex Party. As recently as last Friday it was suggested on Breakfast that the party could win a seat in the Senate. Not on Saturday's vote it couldn't. Patten scored 3.3 per cent of the primary vote, finishing behind the Democratic Labor Party candidate John Mulholland. This is a breakaway from the original DLP, which was formally wound up three decades ago.
Few would expect that Abbott could lead the Coalition to victory in next year's election. His task will become more difficult following the decision of Malcolm Turnbull to adopt the stance taken by such former Liberal leaders as John Gorton, Malcolm Fraser and John Hewson and become a public critic of the party he once led.
Turnbull's announcement that he would cross the floor and support Labor's emissions trading scheme is a blow to the Coalition. But it does not overturn the fact that, based on last week's Liberal Party secret ballot, 75 per cent of Coalition parliamentarians support Abbott's approach on climate change.
The Liberal vote at the weekend indicates that Abbott is capable of at least stabilising the Coalition vote at the level of the 2007 election and perhaps increasing it somewhat. Moreover, Abbott's approach may attract support among the lower socio-economic groups who elected Robert Menzies in 1949, Fraser in 1975 and John Howard in 1996. This is a fact that the left-of-centre academy has invariably been slow to appreciate.
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.
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