Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Starkey backed in furore over 'whites and black culture' claim
David Starkey was defended against accusations of racism yesterday after the outspoken TV historian said white youths involved in last week’s riots were imitating black gang culture.
A string of critics queued up to lambast Dr Starkey, who quoted Enoch Powell in a Newsnight debate and said white youths were adopting a ‘violent, destructive, nihilistic gangster culture’.
But other commentators rallied to Dr Starkey’s support, saying his arguments about gang culture were ‘indisputable’.
The row erupted after the historian spoke on Friday night opposite broadcaster Dreda Say Mitchell and left-wing author Owen Jones, who wrote Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class.
Dr Starkey said: ‘I think what this week has shown is that profound changes have happened. There has been a profound cultural change. I have just been re-reading Enoch Powell.
‘His prophecy was absolutely right in one sense: the Tiber didn’t foam with blood, but flames lambent wrapped around Tottenham, wrapped around Clapham.
‘What has happened is that the substantial section of the chavs that you wrote about have become black. The whites have become black. A particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic gangster culture has become the fashion.
‘Black and white, boy and girl operate in this language together. This language, which is wholly false, which is this Jamaican patois that has intruded in England. ‘This is why so many of us have this sense of literally a foreign country.’
But author and commentator Toby Young defended Dr Starkey against charges of racism. He pointed out that Dr Starkey was not criticising black culture in general but a ‘particular form of black culture, the violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture associated with Jamaican gangs and American rap music’.
He added: ‘Had he been talking about these qualities as if they were synonymous with African-Caribbean culture per se, or condemning that culture in its totality, then he would have been guilty of racism. But he wasn’t. ‘He was quite specifically condemning a sub-culture associated with a small minority of people of African-Caribbean heritage. (Admittedly, he could have made this clearer.)
‘Rather than being racist, he was merely trotting out the conventional wisdom of the hour, namely, that gang culture is to blame for the riots. In addition, Starkey wasn’t linking this sub-culture to people of just one skin colour, but condemning working-class white people – chavs, as he put it – who embraced it as well.’
Conservative writer James Delingpole blogged: ‘The cultural point he is making is indisputable. ‘Listen to how many white kids (and Asian kids) choose to speak in black street patois; note the extent to which hip-hop and grime garage and their offshoots have penetrated the white mainstream; check out how many white kids like to roll like pimps or perps with their Calvins pulled up to their midriffs and their jean waistbands sagging below their buttocks. ‘Is anyone seriously going to try to make the case that this isn’t black culture in excelsis?’
A spokesman for Channel 4, for whom Dr Starkey made the Monarchy series, said: ‘We have nothing scheduled with David Starkey. ‘But we wouldn’t comment on this as Mr Starkey made his remarks during an interview with the BBC and not Channel 4.’
London riots: Metropolitan Police is more service provider than a force
Destroyed by political correctness
By retired senior police officer and crisis management specialist Peter Power
Back when I joined the force, every officer had to commit to memory the words of Sir Richard Mayne, the founder of the Metropolitan Police.
"The primary object of an efficient police," he said, "is the prevention of crime: the next that of detection and punishment of offenders if crime is committed.
"To these ends, all the efforts of police must be directed. The protection of life and property, the preservation of public tranquillity, and the absence of crime, will alone prove whether those efforts have been successful."
Judged by those standards, the quality of policing when things started to go wrong last week has, despite exceptional courage and dedication on the front line, fallen grievously short. So what went wrong?
Twenty years ago, I was involved both at the sharp end, confronting rioters, and then in trying to analyse what had happened and come up with new ideas on strategies and tactics.
This was a period when the police were moving – or rather drifting – from the cosy but unrealistic image of Dixon of Dock Green, towards a more answerable, but more politically correct, culture, initiated first by Lord Scarman in his report into the Brixton riots.
Many of Scarman's recommendations were sensible – yet their effect has been to turn a force into a service, leaders into managers, and criminals into customers.
To give just one example, Scarman insisted on the need for more regular liaison meetings between police and community. Those who want to indulge in wide-scale looting obviously have no interest in a cosy chat with the local coppers; so instead, a curious mix of enthusiastic but ineffective community representatives turned up.
During my time in Brixton, the chairman was the local vicar, presiding over attendees from such disparate groups as the Association of Jewish Ex Servicemen. Quite how that was to defuse future rioting, no one was really sure.
On one issue, Scarman did come down on the police's side, clearing the Met of "institutional racism". But in 1999, Sir William Macpherson conducted another major review, following the murder of Stephen Lawrence, and came to the opposite conclusion.
Among a series of sweeping changes, he set up "performance indicators" to monitor the future handling of racial incidents, and how satisfied different ethnic groups were with police behaviour.
The intention was noble – but the result of such constant self-criticism, and of other causes célèbres, such as the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005 and the death of Ian Tomlinson in 2009, was a dispirited police force, dominated by a politically correct culture that all but extinguished the last flickering light of any esprit de corps. It had truly stopped being a force, preferring instead to now be a 'service provider'.
The consequence of such changes is that managers are promoted above inspirational leaders, and that the force is crippled by a devotion to community consent in a country that has become a patchwork of discrete and often intolerant communities. As P.J. Waddington says in his book 'The Strong Arm of the Law': "The legitimacy of the police in Britain has traditionally been founded not upon conformity to popular wishes, but upon impartiality." No senior police officer, fearing the heavy hand of the Macpherson thought police, would dare agree today.
This mentality helps explain what happened at the start of events last week - noting the streets were only recovered by the police when they at last returned to being a force.
The injuries sustained by many officers show that we have plenty of men and women prepared to be truly brave when needed. But it's not surprising that the officers in charge thought it safer to wait for orders from the top, rather than use their discretion to act swiftly to protect people and property. Many otherwise very competent and dedicated senior officers are hamstrung by the widely held doctrine that any use of force is only the very last resort – not an ideal philosophy to apply when confronting a riot.
Even when force is eventually resorted to, it has to be "reasonable". But what does that mean in such a context? How many blows of a truncheon can an exhausted constable, who might have spent the last few hours fearing for his safety, land on a rioter who refuses to obey his commands? One? Two? Three? What is the requisite level of disobedience or provocation before force can be applied? Should the officer have to issue a ticket inviting the culprit to complain?
The effective absence of police from the streets in the hours after that tragic shooting in Tottenham, and the spreading message that they took no interest, served to compound the view – held by many within the feral underbelly of our cities – that the police have become enfeebled and fearful of confrontation. Small wonder that a few months ago, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary discovered that fewer than 60 per cent of police services had properly tested their mobilisation plans for scenarios like this.
Worse, the legacy of the past week may yet be more damaging than the initial impact.
Not only will the middle classes feel they are no longer protected, but the temptation towards vigilantism based on geographic or faith communities will only exacerbate the problems already faced by the police. As for the officers themselves, the perception of a lack of support from government, threats to their pay, and a clutch of other fears, had already provoked widespread pessimism; in a recent poll of 42,000 personnel, 98 per cent admitted that their morale was low. That is hardly a recipe for the stability and security that the nation craves.
Defending the right to be anonymous online
We should be able to use the web as we want, even if those who hide their identities sometimes act childishly.
Ladyada, Doctor Popular, Grrlscientist and thousands of others with daft monikers were not happy pseudonyms last week. No sooner had they happily signed up and into Google’s fancy-dan new social networking tool, Google+, than they quickly found themselves in violation of Google+’s community standards procedures and promptly had their Google accounts suspended. Their violation? They had not used their real, offline names. And for this particular tool, you have to use your real, offline names, or at least ‘the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you’. Surely a lot of people known as ‘Dickhead’ will be signing up, then?
Google are not waging a war against internet anonymity alone, however. Facebook marketing director Randi Zuckerberg – yes, she is Facebook founder Mark’s sister – also called for an end to online anonymity so as to make people ‘behave a lot better’. ‘I think anonymity on the internet has to go away’, said Zuckerberg: ‘I think people hide behind anonymity and they feel like they can say whatever they want behind closed doors.’ It was a remark strongly reminiscent of Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s 2009 retort to criticisms of his company from privacy campaigners: ‘If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know’, Schmidt said, ‘maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place’.
Where Google and Facebook are keen to go – a fully transparent, non-anonymous internet – Western governments have already been busy blazing a trail. Back in May, French president Nicolas Sarkozy was talking of ‘civilising’ the internet. ‘The universe that you represent’, he told digital leaders at the e-G8 forum, ‘is not a parallel universe which is free of rules of law or ethics or of any of the fundamental principles that must govern and do govern the social lives of our democratic states. Don’t forget that behind the anonymous internet user there is a real citizen living in a real society and a real culture and a nation to which he or she belongs, with its laws and its rules.’ In the UK, the anonymous, twittered smashing of a legal injunction that had been preventing the identity of philandering footballer Ryan Giggs from being revealed prompted similar governmental concerns about online lawlessness. UK culture, sport and media secretary Jeremy Hunt declared: ‘we need to get into a situation where regulation and legislation is up to speed with changes in technology’.
So, whether it is from digital companies or from national governments, the drive to further regulate internet users’ activities, chiefly by demanding full transparency on pain of losing access, is gathering momentum. This strikes at the very thing that has long drawn the idealising praise of internet evangelists, from its counter-cultural champions in the mid-90s to their cyber-geek successors in the Noughties, namely, internet freedom. The freedom, that is, to interact with others as one chooses, to express oneself as one sees fit, to behave in ways almost unimaginable in the offline world.
And it’s that freedom which is now deemed the problem. Not just for an authoritarian regime such as China’s, but for supposedly liberal democratic ones, too. This is the striking thing about calls for the reining in of the internet. From the vantage point of Western officialdom, the internet, awash with rambunctious, heavily populated social media, has become an image of what a largely unregulated social life might look like. And in the form of twitch-hunts, cyber bullying, let alone the hack-happy likes of Anonymous, it is not an appealing sight; it is a threatening sight. As far as Western authorities are concerned, this is what people are like if they’re let off the state’s increasingly short leash. They are rude and dangerously gossipy, not to mention libellous, and when the mood seizes a portion of them, liable to go lynching quicker than you can say Jan Moir. What is more, because a twitterer or a blogger or hacktivist can be entirely anonymous, too often, they’re unaccountable to the state. Hence the rein-them-in sentiment of government and digital companies alike, one captured best by Randi Zuckerberg’s urge to make people ‘behave a lot better’.
The prospect of companies forcing people to forgo anonymity when using the internet is clearly not something to be applauded if you support people’s freedom to act and speak as they see fit. And the thought of the state finding it even easier to feel a few offline collars simply because of what someone’s said, all in the name of ‘civilising’ the internet, is truly worrying.
Yet, a defence of our freedom, online and offline, does not mean you automatically have to venerate specific manifestations of internet freedom. From the anonymous @superinjunction twitter account responsible for outing Ryan Giggs and countless other naughty celebs, to the website defacing, ‘denial of service’-attacking Anonymous crew, a lot of what passes for the exercise of internet freedom is simultaneously infantile and cowardly. It is as if the online world has become the inverse of its censorious, offline parallel world. The paternalistic, you-can’t-say-that culture that has so permeated our real lives, reducing adults to children uncertain of what they can and can’t say, has generated its reaction online. Here, internet users kick, child-like, against offline authority, saying all the things that they have been told not to.
That some users do so anonymously, writ large in the form of Anonymous, makes sense given the legal repercussions of some of their actions. But more often than not it just reinforces the impression of groups of kids acting up – the virtual equivalent of tippexing a penis on to a teacher’s car. Of course, anonymity has been used by the likes of Ben Franklin and Voltaire so that they could express their views without the British or French state being able to prosecute them. But in the West today, this tactic, a subterfuge rendered historically necessary by the absence of freedom of speech, has been turned into a virtue, an end-in-itself to be rigorously defended.
The ideal of freedom of speech, this freedom above all liberties as John Milton called it, is not realised in today’s censorious, offline climate. But neither is it realised in its infantile online kickback. To defend freedom of speech is to defend the freedom from having to hide your views. That’s the point. You want to be able express yourself, to give vent to your opinion, because what you’re saying matters to you. You want to be able to stand by your utterance, not leave it to its own devices in the twittered, networked parallel world of the internet. One doubts that those spreading gossip about celebrities, and sometimes colleagues, are desperate to stand by their words.
Australia: Small-town Orchid Society told it needs bouncers on door of annual conference
In a case of bureaucracy gone mad, the genteel and ageing members of a flower club were told they needed bouncers on the door for their annual conference. The Bowen Orchid Society had more than 200 people from across the country show up for the event in June. Most of the attendees were of an age where pushing up the daisies was more likely to occur than an assault with a deadly petal.
Bowen Orchid Society member and former president Vince Smith said the group was shocked when they were told liquor licensing laws required them to hire some muscle. "Most of them were like me, old and crippled," Mr Smith said.
Club treasurer Pat Tracey said she spoke with the local police and then contacted liquor licensing. "We had to pick three people from our group to be designated security for the night. We were hardly hellraisers," she said.
The orchid conference organisers were also told they could only sell spirits and beer in cans, no glasses - a condition typical of a major race meet.
Queensland Hotels Association membership consultant Steve Aylward said the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation had adopted "a one-glove-fits-all approach". "(OLGR) doesn't seem to recognise the difference between a Hells Angels' reunion and an orchid show," he said.
OLGR said each application was risk-assessed and considered on a case-by-case basis. Applicants were encouraged to contact the office if they believed further consideration was needed.
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.