Saturday, June 04, 2011
Britain's culture war on toffs and chavs
Today’s liberal smart set hates the posh and the poor, seeing both as blasts from a best-forgotten past
So who are the most put-upon, derided people in modern British society? Screenwriter Julian Fellowes, of Downton Abbey fame, believes it is posh folk. He caused a ripple of controversy this week when he claimed that ‘poshism’, alleged discrimination against toffs, is rife in the twenty-first century. Hating posh blokes is the ‘last acceptable prejudice’, he said. Others have countered that in fact it’s the white working classes, sometimes sneeringly referred to as ‘chavs’, who bear the brunt of opinion-formers’ opprobrium. Polly Toynbee of the Guardian says ‘chav’ is ‘the vile word at the heart of fractured Britain’, an expression of ‘venomous class hatred’.
In fact, the most striking thing today is the extent to which both toffs and chavs have become objects of ridicule amongst the smart set. Mocking so-called toffs and sneering against so-called chavs are now the favoured pastimes of the political and media elites. The privately educated foxhunting brigade who cover themselves in Barbour might be a million metaphorical miles away from the young men and women who live on inner-city council estates and have a penchant for tracksuits and bling. But what both these sections of society share in common is an attachment to what we might call ‘Old England’, to traditional values, and that makes them immediately suspect in the eyes of an influential commentariat that fancies itself as pomo, uber-cosmopolitan and so over the past.
Of course it is crazy to claim, as Fellowes does, that posh people face actual discrimination. That’s as fictional as Downton Abbey. It remains pretty easy for well-educated, well-connected people to get highly prized jobs in politics and the media, as confirmed by the number of former Eton boys in the current government and the predominance of hereditary journalists in the media. But it is true that it is acceptable today, if not de rigueur, to look down (up?) one’s nose at those who were born into privilege. In a frightening flashback to the idea that people are defined by the circumstances of their birth, that who we are is determined by a mish-mash of pater’s sperm and how we were schooled, many commentators now expose a politician’s or celebrity’s privileged background as a way of calling into question their true motivations and presenting them as suspect.
So Labour Party activists and supporters who campaigned against the Tory candidate Edward Timpson in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election in 2008 vilified him as a ‘toff’, as if that were enough to rubbish his political beliefs. David Cameron’s government is frequently written off as an ‘extension of the Bullingdon Club’ – an exclusive dining club at Oxford University – as if a man’s student antics define him for the rest of his life. (God, I hope that isn’t true.) Having had a nanny, having attended Eton, having once worn a top hat and tails – all those things are now held up as instant indicators of an individual’s true and inescapable inner self. It is meant to sound radical – bash the rich! – but in truth it eerily echoes the equally fatalistic and hopefully outdated notion that being born poor makes you feckless or being born black makes you uncouth.
Fashionable toff-bashing, now widely indulged in the liberal media and by Labour Party hacks, likes to present itself as an edgy class war against unfair privilege and the alleged dominance of the Eton set over political life. In reality, it is a highly individuated campaign rather than a political battle, motivated more by the politics of envy and resentment for the rich than by anything resembling a principled position on wealth creation or distribution. Where class warriors of old not only attacked the wealthy but also put forward an alternative vision for how the world should be run, today’s farcical toff-haters simply lambast the dress sense, eating habits and old-fashioned attitudes of the pearl-wearing set. In the recent complaints about the ‘sharp-elbowed’ sons and daughters of toffs getting internships ahead of the sons and daughters of the middle classes, we can glimpse the personal bitterness that drives modern-day posh-bashing.
Yet the cultural elite can just as easily turn its intellectual guns away from toffs and on to ‘chavs’. Polly Tonybee’s column this week on the ‘class hate’ that fuels the use of that c-word was written in response to a tweet by Baronnes Hussein-Ece, a Lib Dem peer who sits on the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which said: ‘Help. Trapped in a queue in chav land.’ Yet the Guardian is not in a good position to attack chav-bashing. Its writers have slated white working-class communities for being ‘paranoid, suspicious, mistrustful, misogynist and racist’, have described football fans as ‘knuckle-dragging cretins’, and have lamented the state of ‘ugly, thick white Britain’.
In the spat over whether toffs or chavs are most hated by the modern-day great and the good, some have sought to depict the demonisation of chavs as a sport played exclusively by poshos – by princes William and Harry, who have dressed up as chavs, or by newspapers like the Telegraph with their alleged ‘war on single mums’. In truth, those old-style, right-wing prejudices, particularly against single mothers, have far less cultural purchase today than they did in the past.
Now, attacks on the white working classes, on so-called chavs, are far more likely to come from liberal commentators or from the Labour left than from right-leaning snobs. From New Labour’s war on cheap booze and junk food to the Guardian’s attacks on the knuckle-dragging paranoiacs on council estates to the development of intrusive ‘early intervention’ policies aimed at preventing the children of the poor from turning into maniacs, it is clear that the idea that there are feral bits of Britain that need re-education or rescue is now propagated more enthusiastically by liberals than by conservatives.
In short, it is the same people who bash toffs who also attack chavs: what we might call the opinion-forming classes, the influential cultural elite. This section of society heaps disdain on both the man in the pub and the man in the country pile; both the chav with the dangerous dog and the toff with the hunting hounds; both the footie fan who waves the St George Cross and the posho who insists on saluting the Union flag.
They have a cultural revulsion for the values of both the privileged and the working classes, seeing both as old-fashioned, too nationalistic, and too attached to land and pride and beer and other things that are so 1910. So toffs are widely described as being ‘stuck in the past’ and the Guardian lays into the ‘social conservatism’ of white working-class communities. A cultural elite that fancies itself as being detached from tradition, which is embarrassed by the old imperial outlook, and which considers itself more European than British, snobbishly looks upon both toffs and chavs as blasts from a best-forgotten past. ‘If the past was so great, then why does all the pooled knowledge available to us from Britain’s social and economic history suggest that it was, in fact, shit?’, said the opening to a casually disdainful Guardian article on the need to ‘bury working-class conservatism’.
It is important to note that it is not a genuine progressive cosmopolitanism that drives the cultural elite’s disdain for the old workers and the old rulers of British society; it is not a real and meaningful desire to redefine what Britain stands for or what values it should embrace that motors their attack on the two great classes of old. Rather it is their own lack of conviction, their own dearth of any principled or positive vision for society, which makes them lash out against anyone who still seems to believe in something and who even waves flags (eurgh) to express that belief.
When Tony Blair declared war on ‘the forces of conservatism’ in 1999 (when, post-Kosovo but pre-Iraq, he was still the messiah of the chattering classes), he said his ‘forces of change… don’t respect tradition and don’t stop at national boundaries’. It was the Blair set’s inability to outline a new vision for Britain that led them to become increasingly intolerant of the old ones, leading to assaults both on foxhunting toffs and flag-waving football followers, all of whom were seen as ‘forces of conservatism’ by a cultural elite that is almost nihilistic in its lack of belief and its lack of attachment to a set of clear values.
In many ways, of course, the rise of toff-hatred and chav-attacks speaks to the very real, objective decline of two major classes: the old conservative ruling class and the powerful working class. As a result of some sweeping historic shifts over the past 20 years, the old-style ruling class has been robbed of its raison d’être and has seen its values derided and denigrated, while the working class has become sidelined, elbowed off the public stage by the decline of progressive left-wing politics and increasingly treated as a blob of people in need of help rather than as a class of people that can do things for itself.
And into the vacuum left by the demise of the old right and the old left, assuming political and intellectual influence almost by default, come the value-lite middle classes, the modern-day cultural elite, who are spectacularly intolerant of both the well-spoken class above them and the chippy class beneath them.
The Smurfs are 'anti-Semitic and racist'
The Smurfs, the cuddly blue comic strip creatures loved by generations of children, are anti-Semitic and racist, treating blacks like moronic primates, a new book claims.
The claims by Antoine Buéno, 33, a lecturer at Paris' prestigious Sciences Po political sciences school, have been branded a "disgrace" that "soils the legends of our childhood" by an army of Smurf lovers.
Under the guise of a "critical and political analysis of Smurf society", Mr Buéno's 'Little Blue Book' ruthlessly deconstructs the world of Smurfs (Schtroumpfs in French).
His stark conclusions are that the blue men created in 1958 by Belgian artist Peyo, real name Thierry Culliford, represent an "archetype of totalitarian society imbued with Stalinism and Nazism".
The author backs up his claims of racism by citing Peyo's first work – The Black Smurfs in French but translated as The Purple Smurfs in the English version for reasons of political correctness. In the story, a Smurf gets stung by a black fly that turns his skin jet black, drives him insane and deprives him of speech. Soon the entire village has changed colour.
Mr Buéno said the story was clearly racist, as when the Smurfs turn black, "they are reduced to the state of primitives who get around by jumping and crying: 'Gnap! Gnap!'" "They lose all trace of intelligence and become completely moronic," said Mr Buéno, also a speech writer for François Bayrou, the leader of the centrist Modem party. "It's roughly the way Africans were viewed by white colonisers in the 19th century."
Mr Buéno also contends that The Smurfs' arch-enemy, the wizard Gargamel, comes across as a classic anti-Semitic caricature of a money-grabbing Jew, the book claims. "Gargamel is ugly, dirty, with a hooked nose (who) is fascinated by gold".
Papa Smurf, the village's aged white-bearded leader, meanwhile, is portrayed as a dictatorial gerontocrat wielding absolute power and whose red hat and trousers are a nod to Stalin, while Smurfette, the only blonde female created by Gargamel to wreck havoc among his enemies is a misogynistic take on Aryan woman.
The book has sparked a deluge of fury on the internet from Smurf aficionados. "What a disgrace to soil the legends of our childhood," wrote Bibouille on the "Schtroumpfmania" website.
Another, called Anastasia wrote: "It's not hard to find anti-Semitism in Shakespeare or Balzac." The author's arguments spring "from his own obsessions ... the hooked nose of a wizard is neither Jewish nor Goy, it's a traditional for wizards," she wrote.
Such has been the outrage, the author said he feared for his physical safety and insisted he meant no harm. "I love the Smurfs," he wrote on Nouvelobs website. "I just wanted to explain with this book that popular works teach us lot about the society we come from. I am not accusing Peyo of racism himself, otherwise you can well imagine (his heirs) would have attacked me.
"However, I believe his work (like many others) carries and concentrates a certain number of stereotypes particular to a given society and era."
Others before him had come to similar conclusions, he said, citing an American critic who claimed Smurf was short for "Small Men Under Red Forces".
He said his work was serious but tongue-in-cheek, adding that his critics appeared to lack "the slightest ounce of humour ".
Thierry Culliford, son of Peyo and current head of Studio Peyo, said the accusations were "between the grotesque and the not serious".
The row comes at an unfortunate time for Hollywood producers, as the big budget film Smurfs is due for release in the US in August.
The Smurfs are not the only comic strip to come under attack for racism. A Congolese resident of Belgium is seeking to ban the book Tintin in the Congo over claims it is it "racist and xenophobic". His case reaches court in September.
Amnesty’s anti-Israel pogrom
Human rights group helps create a climate that sanctions the murder of Israelis
Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (1977) for shining a spotlight on political prisoners, Amnesty International claims to be the “conscience of the world.” This July marks the 50th anniversary of the London-based human rights group, yet Amnesty’s emblem has been degraded and is now the symbol of an ideology estranged from the glorious history of Western human rights.
In fact, Amnesty today constitutes one of the scariest faces of the new anti-Semitism, in the form of its assault on the Jewish people's right to live as an equal member of the family of nations. Amnesty just hosted in London an event titled: “Complicity in Oppression: Do the Media Aid Israel?”
Organized by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, this anti-Israel conference featured Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper.
In 2007, Atwan declared that he would dance “in Trafalgar Square if Iran attacked Israel” and in 2008 he said that the terrorist attack on the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva in Jerusalem, where eight Israeli students were murdered, “was justified.”
The event was cosponsored by the Middle East Monitor Online, run by Daud Abdullah, a signatory of the Istanbul Declaration which states that it is the obligation of the “Islamic Nation” to “carry on jihad and Resistance” against Israel.
Even a liberal and a non-Zionist like writer Salman Rushdie has accused Amnesty of “moral bankruptcy,” because the organization is serving as an effective weapon in the hands of human rights’ most dedicated enemies.
Amnesty has played an important role in the portrayal of Israel as the epitome of human rights violator. In 2002, the UK group falsely accused Israel of committing “war crimes” in Jenin: This was a myth and a mockery of international law, but the legend of the rubble and corpses buried with it is still used to assail Israel and the Jews.
Indeed, Amnesty’s reports have formed the political and legal infrastructure for producing the blood libel of Israel as an illegal settler “entity.” Among other things, Amnesty has asked the Obama Administration to “immediately suspend military aid to Israel."
'Zionism is apartheid'
Amnesty’s fatwa on Israel’s “apartheid wall” and “apartheid roads” has been one of the most repugnant propagandistic manipulations ever suffered by the Jewish State. Contemporary anti-Semitism finds expression not only in the “Zionism is Racism” indictment, but the further indictment of Israel as “an apartheid state," Amnesty’s euphemism for justifying Israel’s destruction.
The “Zionism is apartheid” ideology is used to justify Islamic terrorism and the efforts to deny Israelis the basic human right of self-defense against being ripped apart in bombings on buses and in restaurants. In Amnesty’s immoral doublespeak, protecting Israelis from suicide attacks and slaughter has become “apartheid.” The group has been generous in promoting the books of anti-Israeli firebrands such as Ben White’s “Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner's Guide.
Amnesty’s “soft war” against the Jews has been crucial in the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, where 3,000 NGOs convinced the United Nations to condemn Israeli “racism.” Well-known NGOs such as Amnesty International and Save the Children attached their names to the conference. A few weeks later, the Second Intifada broke out.
hese NGOs will soon have another opportunity to showcase their Jew-hatred: The United Nations will hold “Durban III” in New York, just a few days after the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Amnesty’s played a prominent role at the UN Human Rights Council, where Israel has become a pariah state while major human rights violators enjoy exculpatory immunity, and at the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions, where Israel became the first ever state to face a country-specific indictment. Recently, the head of Finland’s branch of Amnesty International, Frank Johansson, called Israel “a scum state.”
In 2006, the year of the Second Lebanon War, Amnesty produced more documents against Israel than on the genocide in Darfur. The group also played a major role in turning Mordechai Vanunu, the Dimona plant’s technician who offered Israel’s nuclear secrets to the highest bidder all over the globe, into a hero.
Amnesty is crucial in biased reports against Israel submitted at the UN, like the discredited Goldstone Report, and in the campaigns for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against the Jewish State in European courts. Amnesty also plays a role in the ongoing legal indictments against Israeli politicians and the country’s military.
In the Middle Ages, the “mystery plays” that portrayed the Jews as the killers of Jesus helped fuel the pogroms. Today, with its verdicts portraying Israelis as “war criminals,” Amnesty is staging a contemporary mystery play: the Israeli Jew, legally and humanitarianly sentenced to death.
U.S. Navy too politically correct for ‘old salts’
The U.S. Navy is sailing into politically correct waters, sometimes at a speed too fast for the Obama administration to keep up. Whether it is policies on gays and women, or naming ships after social activists, the Navy is charting a course that has some “old salts” worried. “It’s pretty dire,” said John Howland, a 1964 U.S. Naval Academy graduate who manages a web site on naval issues called USNA-At-Large.
“We’re back to ‘H.M.S. Pinafore,’ ” he added, a reference to the comic opera about English shipboard life. “The leadership of the military is pretty much politically correct kind of stuff. You like to think that we’re approaching hitting bottom, but these people are not through with us yet.”
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, a Democrat and former Mississippi governor, has embraced assigning women to the cramp underwater quarters of submarines, including enlisted females on attack subs. The first female officers are due to report aboard larger ballistic missile submarines this fall.
In addition, Mr. Mabus has left open the possibility of putting women in the decidedly all-male and physically challenging world of Navy SEALs, like the ones who killed Osama bin laden.
“It’s my notion that women should have the same opportunities as men in the Navy,” Mr. Mabus told the Navy Times, an independent newspaper. “The only reason I’m being a little hesitant for the SEALs is some of the physical things you’ve got to go through to be a SEAL.”
Earlier this month, Mr. Mabus riled some conservatives by reaching out to Hispanics and naming a supply ship after union activist Cesar Chavez, who served in the Navy.
“Mabus is an unequivocal disaster,” Mr. Howland said. “He’s done nothing but the straight social engineering play book. Women on submarines is a looming disaster that is sure to come. He’s done the ship naming things.”
Mr. Mabus defended his selection. “His service was difficult, because Cesar Chavez faced a segregated Navy, but that challenge like others he faced in his life, helped forge the leader he became,” he said at the naming ceremony in San Diego May 18.
“His example blazed a path for subsequent generations. His example will live through this ship. He will continue to inspire young Americans to do what is right.”
Mr. Chavez was a champion of better working conditions for farm laborers. He enlisted in the Navy in 1946 at age 17. He later called it “the worst two years of my life,” according to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, who saw action in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine officer, believes Mr. Mabus made a political decision. “This decision shows the direction the Navy is heading,” said Mr. Hunter. “Naming a ship after Cesar Chavez goes right along with other recent decisions by the Navy that appear to be more about making a political statement than upholding the Navys history and tradition.”
Last week, Mr. Hunter introduced legislation directing the Navy to name the next available ship after Marine Corps Sgt. Rafael Peralta. Sgt. Peralta was killed when he fell on a grenade during combat in Fallujah, Iraq, and was awarded the Navy Cross.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Mabus did not return a reporter’s phone messages.
The Chavez was the second Lewis-and-Clark class cargo ship that Mr. Mabus named after a civil rights leader. In 2009, Mr. Mabus announced a ship would be named after Medgar Evers, the Mississippi civil rights activist who was shot and killed in the drive way of his home in 1963. Mr. Evers had no professional connection to the Navy. He served two years of combat in Europe in World War II and was honorably discharged an Army sergeant.
Before the Chavez and Evers namings, most of the other 12 Lewis-and-Clark ships were named after Navy pioneers. They include retired admiral and astronaut Alan Shepard and Arctic explorer Adm. Robert E. Peary. One ship is named the USS Carl Brashear, after the Navy’s first black master diver.
There are four exceptions: the explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who were commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson; their guide, Sacajawea; aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart; Dr. Charles Drew, who developed a system of life-saving blood banks during World War II.
There have been other events this year that some sailors view as politically correct. In January, the Navy fired the popular commander of a U.S. aircraft carrier for producing a raunchy shipboard video. Some sailors came to Capt. Owen Honors’ defense, saying he was the victim of a “PC Navy” for an internally produced morale builder.
The Navy chaplain’s office went overboard by announcing it would allow same-sex marriages on naval facilities, a policy at odds with the Obama administration. The White House had told Congress such unions would not be allowed because federal law defines marriage as one man and one women. Under pressure from lawmakers, the Navy retracted the policy.
The Navy’s perceived “PC” tilt comes as troops are experiencing the biggest social change since blacks were integrated into the ranks in 1948.
The four branches have launched an extensive indoctrination campaign, both in the states and in war zones, to prepare troops for open gays by the end of the year. Homosexuals now serve under a policy called “don’t ask, don’t tell” that requires them to keep their sexuality private.
An outside commission set up by Democrats when they ran the House has recommended the Pentagon end its ban on women serving in direct ground combat units such as the infantry, tank corps and Special Operations Forces.
There has been dissension in the ranks. Sailors are circulating online a spoof uniform patch in protest. The patch is of a coffin holding a carrier jets landing tailhookwith the inscription: “1911-2011: It was a good ride.” The decidedly unofficial patch says, “No cursing. No call signs. No tradition.”
Adm. J.C. Harvey, the commander of U.S. Fleet Forces and the man who fired Capt. Honors, posted his actions on his own blog page and allowed sailors to comment by name or anonymously. Some supported the admiral; some did not. “What a horrendous end to so many that gave their lives to their country and to the Navy,” said one anonymous sailor.
“Why have we turned into a ‘no defect’ Navy and think it is appropriate to go back years and punish those who were doing their best to maintain morale and keep their personnel focused on serving and protecting their country?”
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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