Tuesday, February 08, 2011
How Britain's so-called liberals have stifled free speech and become the very censors they should abhor
There is an old tradition of newspapers publishing fanciful or outrageous items on April Fool’s Day and inviting readers to spot them. The trouble is that nowadays there are unbelievable stories in almost every issue which would qualify. Amazingly — and depressingly — they are true.
Yesterday’s Mail reported that a health watchdog has had its funding withdrawn by Wiltshire Council after its chairwoman used the phrase ‘jungle drums’ to describe gossip. Anna Farquhar had noted that talk about NHS changes was spreading within the health service, remarking: ‘You cannot help the jungle drums.’
Sitting as a member of the general public in the local scout hut where the meeting took place was Sonia Carr. She objected strongly to the phrase ‘jungle drums’, regarding it as racist.
Mrs Farquhar immediately apologised for any offence caused, but Mrs Carr, a member of the Wiltshire Racial Equality Council, was unsatisfied, and submitted a complaint to Wiltshire Council, which launched an inquiry costing tens of thousands of pounds.
Six months later the council — which, believe it or not, is Tory — has produced a ten-page report upholding Mrs Carr’s complaint.
Mrs Farquhar and fellow members of her independent watchdog have been banned from council meetings and premises as though they were common criminals rather than people trying to improve their local health service. The council has also withdrawn funding that covered the group’s administrative costs.
It can’t be true, can it? I’m afraid it is. It may sound like a parody or send-up or an elaborate and not very good joke, but this is a fairly normal event in modern Britain — so relatively unexceptional that most of the media have chosen to ignore it.
Thousands of pounds have been wasted, and the peace of mind of a decent woman and her group shattered, all because a silly woman and a nincompoop council took offence at the term ‘jungle drums’.
There is, of course, nothing remotely racist about it. In the pre-telegraph age, jungle drums served as a very good method in parts of Africa and elsewhere of communicating messages over a long distance. That’s a fact.
The phrase does not make us think badly of Africans, nor does it diminish them or anyone else in our eyes. It serves as an effective metaphor for the rapid and sometimes mysterious way in which gossip is transmitted.
Though on one level the story is farcical, at a deeper level it is disturbing. One of the greatest threats to all of us in life is stupid people who are unaware of their limitations.
They can cause a great deal of damage. When their stupidity receives the backing of the law and the support of one of the institutions of the State — which is what Wiltshire Council is — it assumes a threatening, even sinister quality.
How did supposedly liberal people turn into petty tyrants? I believe that is what Mrs Carr, and many other people who regard themselves as enlightened, have become.
The intellectual history of the past 250 years has been one of increasing freedom of expression in politics, religion and literature. In the past 50 years that process has accelerated, so that it seemed there was practically nothing that could not be said or written.
Except when it offended the sensibilities of people who proclaim their liberalism but seek to censor others who say things they deem offensive. Even merely to hold views that diverge from the new orthodoxy on issues such as global warming or religion or traditional morality is to risk at best ridicule, at worst censure and contempt.
In short, the bigots who bear down on dissent have shifted from the Right or the portals of the old Establishment to the liberal Left and the new Establishment.
Of course, not all liberals are intolerant, any more than all members of the old Establishment were. But when we consider what we can or cannot say or write, we no longer think of the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Lord Chamberlain, but of the politically correct brigade who may declare — as in the case of ‘jungle drums’ — the mildest and most inoffensive thought out of bounds.
Am I resting too much on the slender shoulders of Sonia Carr and Wiltshire Council? I wish I were.
Yesterday’s Mail also carried a story about Dr Hans-Christian Raabe, a Christian GP, who has been fired as a government adviser on drugs for having expressed ‘embarrassing’ views about homosexuality.
It turns out that Dr Raabe and several colleagues wrote a scientific paper six years ago in which they concluded that there was a ‘disproportionately greater number of homosexuals among paedophiles’.
Now I actually think he may be wrong, but equally I should have thought that his views on homosexuality had very little, if anything, to do with his competence to serve as a drugs adviser. But in the unreasoning, bigoted society in which we live he is simply deemed unsuitable.
Naturally, no one bothers to inquire whether there might be a scintilla of truth in what he wrote about paedophilia. The point is that it offends against what the politically correct crew believe has to be true.
The two cases are admittedly different in several respects but my point is that there is a new liberal tyranny which seeks to shut down debate and dissent. So-called liberals exhibit the very narrow mindedness they used to abhor, and an absence of that broadness of mind that was once the very essence of liberalism.
One phrase used by John Thomson, deputy leader of Wiltshire Council, particularly struck me. He said: ‘The law makes it clear that what matters is not the intention of the person who uses the phrase but whether anybody is offended by it.’ If this is true, we really are on the path to censorship by the ignorant. Anyone can be offended by anything.
Under some new law, or for all I know under an existing law, the Sonia Carrs of this world may object to the word ‘blackboard’ and, who knows, we may sooner or later be forbidden to order ‘black coffee’.
In literature, Kipling’s Jungle Book will be proscribed on the grounds that it is racist and demeaning. The whole of Kipling will surely have to be banned, along with books by Dickens and the novelist Wilkie Collins that are judged anti-Semitic.
And what about Shakespeare’s Othello? That must be outlawed because it portrays a black man as a murderer — implying, in the minds of the very stupid, racial stereotyping.
When journalists wonder whether they too will one day be subject to censorship for expressing unfashionable views, I tend to chuckle to myself.
But who would have dreamt even ten years ago that an upstanding 70-year-old woman, declared by her friends to be untainted by racism, who was trying to serve her community, could be humiliated and stigmatised purely for using the innocuous phrase ‘jungle drums’?
Every day I read or hear some mild remark that offends me. I can always take issue, of course. There is nothing wrong with good old-fashioned argument. But tolerant and broad-minded people do not run off to the law and try to get someone banned.
This kind of inverted McCarthyism is the action of bigots and tyrants — of people who want us all to hold their views and who will not tolerate dissent.
The world they are shaping is monochrome and rather frightening. It is the very opposite of what liberalism was supposed to be but, alas, it is what so-called liberalism has become.
Token sentence for vicious British female
A judge has blasted ladette drinking culture and lax licensing laws after a mother was blinded by a stiletto shoe in a horrifying attack.
Joanne Brown, 34, was left blind in one eye and scarred for life after she was attacked while enjoying a night out. Amy Leigh Smith, 17, pushed her to the floor while dancing on a ‘raised platform’ in a nightclub before stamping twice on her face - using her heel as a weapon.
Yesterday Judge Ian Trigger told Smith: ‘Our towns and city centres are becoming for decent law abiding people no go areas. ‘And the sole reason for that is the consumption by young people - women as well as men - of excessive quantities of alcohol.’ He told her: ‘Society is becoming increasingly fed up with the boorish and drunken antics of people such as yourself.’
Judge Trigger also lambasted the licensing laws which allow alcohol to be served in nightclubs up until dawn. He said the nightclub where the assault took place - the Pada Lounge in Wigan - was open at weekends until 6am. He said: ‘It beggars belief why the local authority permit places such as that to remain open until an hour of the day when people are starting to get up.’
Judge Trigger hit out after sentencing Smith to 33 months behind bars for the terrifying attack in the nightclub.
Liverpool Crown Court heard Brown, a mother-of-one, had been out for a meal with friends in May 2009 before going on to the nightclub. Graham Pickavance, prosecuting, said she had gone over to a friend who was on a raised dance floor to take her away from an argument. But as she turned to leave she was pushed over by Smith who then stamped on her face twice with her stiletto shoe.
Mr Pickavance said: ‘She came round in a small room with blood pouring down her face. She was taken to hospital because of the severity of bleeding to her eye.’ ‘There were at least two stamps on Joanne Brown’s head with her high heel shoes and that caused the optic nerve to snap which resulted in her being blinded.’
The court heard Miss Brown had to undergo three operations and has been left with a lazy eye and a scarred lip. The jury was told the assault had devastated the mother-of-one’s life and left her suffering from severe panic attacks.
Before the attack she had been working as a support worker and had real hopes of beginning a promising career. She said: ‘The person who did the assault on me has not only destroyed me as a person but has also taken my dreams away. ‘I had plans of moving to work with the Prison Service but this will never happen now as a result of my loss of sight.’
Smith was later picked out in an identity parade and pleaded guilty to assault on the first day of her trial in January.
Catherine Rimmer, defending, said: ‘She is horrified by her behaviour on this night. Going out and getting intoxicated is not something she did very often. She shouldn’t have drunk the alcohol that she did.’
Judge Trigger told her: ‘You over indulged in excessive alcohol and the consequences were almost inevitable. ‘You were in Pada Lounge during the early hours of that morning and were behaving in a drunken and boorish manner pushing people on a raised dance floor.
‘Because of some imagined slight you, wearing heels, approached her and stamped with one of those high heeled feet not once but twice on the prone and defenceless victim. It was on act which had horrendous consequences which will be with her for the rest of her life.'
Smith, who is now more than seven months pregnant, will have her baby behind bars.
Prominent Australian conservative politician wants Australian way of life for immigrants too
Australians must be vigilant about the threat from ethnic hatreds, and migrants should accept our way of life, says former premier Jeff Kennett.
As Europe debates whether multiculturalism has failed, Mr Kennett said Victoria had avoided the sort of "shocking experiences" in places like Britain, but there was no room for complacency. "You do have to make sure that you don't allow the issues of countries overseas to become imported here," he said. "People make the choice to come to Australia and have to accept our way of life."
Mr Kennett was responding to controversial comments by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who at the weekend dubbed multiculturalism a failure in the UK and linked it to the rise of Islamic extremism. "Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream," Mr Cameron said.
Mr Kennett said society should be vigilant about growing ethnic enclaves, but the trend in Melbourne was for migrant groups to spread out as they grew richer.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the PM emphatically supported multicultural policies and did not believe they had failed in Australia. Asked if Mr Cameron's speech was inflammatory and likely to cause division, the spokesman said: "The United Kingdom's policy decisions are a matter for the United Kingdom."
But John Roskam, head of the free-market think tank The Institute of Public Affairs, said Mr Cameron's stance was a warning to Western societies to promote their culture. "They have to communicate their values," he said. "People who become citizens of a country have to sign up for those values."
Melbourne's Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart said multiculturalism had succeeded but a big challenge was to ensure people respected each other's right to practise their religion and "be as they are".
Australian Federation of Islamic Councils president Ikebal Patel said Mr Cameron's attack on multiculturalism was simplistic and trivialised the policy.
Leaders are right to confront failures of multiculturalism
Another comment from Australia
British Prime Minister David Cameron is no redneck member of the lunar right. On social issues, his positions tend to be liberal, in the traditional sense of the term. This makes Cameron's speech on radicalisation and Islamic extremism at the Munich Security Conference at the weekend of particular note.
When in opposition, the Conservatives were at times critical of Blair Labour's anti-terrorism legislation. But it seems that in government the Conservatives - now in coalition with the Liberal Democrats - have taken a tough-minded approach to extremism. Cameron has followed German Chancellor Angela Merkel in distancing himself from multiculturalism.
I used to be a strong supporter of multiculturalism and, at times, was critical of John Howard's apparent disdain for the concept. However, on reflection, I am coming to the view that some of Howard's critique was essentially correct and that Cameron and Merkel are saying what needs to be said in Europe.
The concept of multiculturalism worked well enough, provided it was understood that all groups within Western societies supported the system of democratic government and the rule of law that applied equally to all citizens. For the most part, this was the reality of Australian multiculturalism throughout the 1970s, '80s and '90s.
The problem is that, particularly in western Europe, the rise of radical Islam has led to a situation where a small minority of Islamists reject the West while choosing to live within Western societies, where they enjoy economic, political and religious freedoms along with health and social security benefits.
Last October Merkel addressed the youth wing of the Democratic Christian Union at Potsdam. There has been no official release of her speech, but there is no disputing the content. Her message was simple - namely, that what the Germans call "multikulti" has not worked.
Multikulti - meaning that anyone who wanted to come to Germany could do so and that everyone living there could get on with each other - was advocated by the Greens in the 1980s and '90s and enjoyed support from the Social Democrats.
This was an example of leftist utopianism. It led to a situation where little attempt was made to inculcate new settlers with any sense of national pride or patriotism.
Merkel was also critical of German policy in the 1960s, when there was a belief that all guest workers who came to Germany would return to their countries of birth after a few years. This did not happen with the Turks. From the late 1960s Australia began taking Turkish migrants on the understanding they would become Australian citizens. The Turks proved to be successful settlers; in Germany, on the other hand, little attempt has been made to integrate Muslim immigrants into German society.
Merkel recognises German society has a right to expect those who choose to live in it will learn German and adapt to the mores of the German state. She is reported to be critical of forced marriages within some Muslim families.
Germany continues to seek - and attract - immigrants and remains an accepting society in which no radical right-wing movements have emerged, unlike some other western European nations. But Merkel has come to the view that multiculturalism, as practised in Germany, has failed. Thilo Sarrazin, the former governor of the Bundesbank who happens to be a Social Democrat, has reached a similar, if more stridently expressed, opinion.
The British Prime Minister and the German Chancellor do not agree on some issues. Yet both are pragmatic politicians who have reached their assessments on multiculturalism as a result of empirical investigation.
In his address at the weekend, Cameron clearly distinguished between Islamic extremism and Islam; his target is the former, not the latter. He criticised what he terms the "soft left" who "lump all Muslims together, compiling a list of grievances, and argue if only governments addressed these grievances, the terrorism would stop". He pointed out that "many of those found guilty of terrorist offences in the UK and elsewhere have been graduates and often middle class".
Cameron believes that the ''doctrine of state multiculturalism" has led to a weakening of Britain's collective identity. He advocates less "passive tolerance" and a "much more active, muscular liberalism". Like Merkel, he wants to "confront the horrors of forced marriage", the victims of which are girls and young women. And he wants Britain to promote "freedom of speech, freedom of worship, democracy, the rule of law, equal rights regardless of race, sex or sexuality". He also proclaims the need for immigrants to speak the language of their new home.
The policy matters addressed by the leaders of Germany and Britain have already been covered by Christopher Caldwell in Reflections on the Revolution in Europe and Peter Berman in The Flight of the Intellectuals. Caldwell recognises that "Islam is a magnificent religion" but makes the point that "it is in no sense Europe's religion and it is in no sense Europe's culture". Berman is critical of well-regarded intellectuals such as Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash who have criticised the Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose life has been threatened due to her apostasy and her public campaign against Islamist extremism.
Traditionally immigrants have accepted the societies where they have willingly sought to live. This is no longer always the case, with calls for the imposition of sharia and the like.
Cameron and Merkel are correct in criticising multiculturalism and what it has become in western Europe - namely, a focus on what divides democratic societies. In Australia and the US, multiculturalism has not had such a negative effect. But it is reasonable to assume that it might do so one day unless we adopt a muscular approach to the affirmation of democratic rights.
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or 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.