The Left's redwashing of the First World War
I often point out that it was Tirpitz and his rapidly expanding "Kriegsmarine" (navy) that drew Britain into WWI so I am pleased to see the same point below. The battle of Jutland showed that the British fears were well-founded. Admiral Scheer and the Hochseeflotte ran rings around the huge British fleet -- JR
As Richard Holmes once wrote: “The Western Front smoulders darkly in the middle of Britain’s national consciousness, like some exhausted volcano whose once-deadly lava still marks our landscape.”
The centenary of the start of the Great War approaches, and the Government has already announced plans to commemorate the event in which close to a million Britons lost their lives. The think-tank British Future has also called for special events, such as the closing of shops and flags flying at half-mast, which I think is something we should all get behind.
Why is it important we commemorate the war? Out of respect for the men who died, of course, and to help us appreciate that we are free because of them. But these moments of collective national mourning are also important events in an atomised society, and give us a sense of togetherness and the sacred (and because this was a war in which troops from all over the Empire fought for Britain, it’s something that the children of immigrants are part of too). They are certainly not for glorifying war.
Not everyone is so keen on the idea, of course, and this has much to do with the argument still raging over the justness of the war. Seumas Milne of the Guardian is horrified:
This wasn't a war of self-defence, let alone liberation from tyranny. As the late Eric Hobsbawm sets out in his Age of Empire, it was the cataclysmic product of an escalating struggle for colonial possessions, markets, resources and industrial power between the dominant European empires, Britain and France, and the rising imperial power of Germany seeking its “place in the sun”. In that clash of empires, Europe devoured its children – and many of its captive peoples with them.
Every generation sees the past through its own eyes, obviously, and the current view of the First World War was shaped first by the anti-war plays of the early 1930s and then by the 1960s, by the works of AJP Taylor and Alan Clark and by popular culture such as Joan Littlewood’s 1963 production of Oh! What a Lovely War! (and Richard Attenborough 1969 film).
In more recent times, Blackadder Goes Forth has helped to cement the idea of “a war which would have been a damn sight simpler if we'd just stayed in England and shot 50,000 of our men a week”.
But Hobsbawm's and Milne’s view says more about late 20th century Leftist anti-imperialism than the actual lead-up to the Great War, which in the West had little to do with empire. Britain was dragged into this conflict not because of imperialism or capitalism but fears over Germany’s navy, which threatened the British Isles. As many an imperial people have found, the British will sacrifice their safety and wellbeing if it suits them, but they will not compromise the security of the home islands.
The paranoia that began to overcome the British public in the first years of last century reflected a genuine fear of German invasion, with books such as Erskine Childers’s Riddle of the Sands, Walter Wood’s The Enemy in our Midst, Captain Curtis’s When England Slept and William Le Queux’s The Invasion of 1910. There was also the Zeppelin hysteria, with German airships being seen by credulous members of the public all over the British Isles.
The British did not go to war over some sausage factory in Tanganyika.
Neither is it fair to claim that it was an unjust war. Such is the unambiguous evil of the German regime of the second war that it’s largely forgotten that Germany in 1914 was a militaristic Right-wing dictatorship led by a monarch of unsound mind. The German military command bore most of the responsibility for starting the conflict; in contrast almost no one in Britain wanted a war, and the Liberal Party agonised as events pushed the country into helping France (especially as the French had moved their Navy on British assurances). Germany’s regime made it clear it intended to invade Belgium – how could any country interested in its own safety allow a neighbour to be occupied by the region’s strongest power?
An interesting counter-factual is what might have happened had Wilhelm’s father Kaiser Frederick III lived longer. This “Barbarossa of German liberalism” planned to reduce the monarch’s power and turn Germany into a British-style parliamentary democracy, and it seems unlikely that a social democrat-dominated Germany would have followed such an aggressive, undiplomatic European policy.
As it is 900,000 British soldiers were slaughtered, which remains a tragedy incomprehensible to us, but while we can criticise the Army’s conduct of the war, to suggest that all those men were killed for “colonial powers and markets” is to redwash British history.
Rowan Atkinson: we must be allowed to insult each other
Rowan Atkinson has launched a campaign for a change in the law that bans "insulting words and behaviour".
The Blackadder and Mr Bean star attacked the "creeping culture of censoriousness" which has resulted in the arrest of a Christian preacher, a critic of Scientology and even a student making a joke, it was reported.
He criticised the "new intolerance" as he called for part of it the Public Order Act to be repealed, saying it was having a "chilling effect on free expression and free protest".
Mr Atkinson said: "The clear problem of the outlawing of insult is that too many things can be interpreted as such. Criticism, ridicule, sarcasm, merely stating an alternative point of view to the orthodoxy, can be interpreted as insult."
Police and prosecutors are accused of being over-zealous in their interpretation of Section 5 of the Act, which outlaws threatening, abusive and insulting words or behaviour, the Daily Mail reported.
What constitutes "insulting" is not clear. It has resulted in a string of controversial arrests.
They include a 16-year-old boy being held for peacefully holding a placard reading "Scientology is a dangerous cult", and gay rights campaigners from the group Outrage! detained when they protested against Islamic fundamentalist group Hizb ut-Tahrir over its stance on gays, Jews and women.
Mr Atkinson said he hoped the repeal of Section 5 would pave the way for a move to "rewind the culture of censoriousness" and take on the "outrage industry - self-appointed arbiters of the public good encouraging outrage to which the police feel under terrible pressure to react".
Speaking at the Westminster launch of the campaign, he added: "The law should not be aiding and abetting the new intolerance."
He was joined by Lord Dear, former chief constable of West Midlands Police, and former shadow home secretary David Davis.
Mr Davis said: "The simple truth is that in a free society, there is no right not to be offended. For centuries, freedom of speech has been a vital part of British life, and repealing this law will reinstate that right."
The campaign has united an unlikely coalition of support including The Christian Institute and The National Secular Society as well as Big Brother Watch, The Freedom Association and The Peter Tatchell Foundation.
Frogmarch to ruin: 'I've lost home and partner and could go broke, says boss who humiliated thief
A Businessman who marched a thieving employee to a police station with a sign around his neck says his actions have left him on the verge of bankruptcy and cost him his relationship and home.
Simon Cremer, 48, frogmarched Mark Gilbert through a town centre after he discovered the sub-contractor had written an £845 company cheque to himself.
Mr Cremer was later arrested for false imprisonment – which carries a maximum life sentence – although the case was dropped.
But his ‘victim’ received only a police caution and went on to launch a civil case against him. Mr Cremer agreed to pay £5,000 in an out-of-court settlement but has been told he has to pay £40,000 solicitors’ fees on top.
The stress of the case led to the collapse of his relationship with long-term partner Karen Boardman, 48, who was recovering from a double mastectomy after developing breast cancer.
The couple sold their home at Little Maplestead, near Halstead in Essex but Miss Boardman, who put up most of the money for the three-bedroom house, was left with negative equity. Mr Cremer said he is now paying her £400 a month to make up the shortfall.
‘I am disgusted at the whole thing. The legal system is wrong,’ flooring company boss Mr Cremer told the Mail yesterday.
‘I don’t think Mr Gilbert should have had the right to sue me. I was the one who was wronged in the first place but it is me who is suffering.
‘Yes, I took him to the police station, I hold my hands up to that. But it has cost me everything.’
Mr Cremer provoked a wave of public support for his actions when he subjected Gilbert to the 350 yard walk of shame through Witham, Essex, in September 2008. Around his neck on a piece of cardboard was the message: ‘THIEF. I stole £845. Am on my way to police station.’
But the decision to make an example of him backfired when he and three colleagues found they were facing a range of charges including false imprisonment. The criminal charges were eventually dropped but Gilbert – who claimed he was only taking wages he was owed – lodged a case for £40,000 damages, saying the embarrassment of being paraded had left him too traumatised to work for two years.
He also claimed he had feared for his life after he was allegedly tied up and bundled into a van before walking the last stretch of the journey to the police station. Mr Cremer, who has two grown-up daughters from a previous relationship, agreed to pay £5,000 compensation but was horrified by the £35,000 legal bill that came with it.
‘A barrister heard about my case and worked on my behalf for free. He got £9,000 taken off the bill in 2009,’ he said. ‘I still couldn’t afford to pay that because business has been tight. Now, after a lot of wrangling, the bill has gone back up to £40,000 because they are charging interest.
‘I had no option but to agree to this last week. They wanted a £10,000 lump sum and £1,000 a month but finally agreed to £5,000 and £500 per month.
‘It will probably bankrupt me, to be honest. What happened didn’t affect my business – every single customer supported me.
‘But the recession hit them and that hit my business. I used to turn over £300-400,000 a year but last year that was down to around £75,000 and my profit is normally 25 per cent of that net.
‘On top of that, my relationship with Karen broke down in May last year. It was getting too tough for her. ‘She was left with negative equity after the house was sold for about £300,000, so I am helping her out.’
Miss Boardman lived in a rented house after selling her home and has now moved in with a new partner.
The GP’s receptionist said: ‘Simon overstepped the mark but he didn’t deserve to lose everything. It’s wrong that a criminal has been able to claim compensation.’
Witham Tory MP Priti Patel said: ‘This case has clearly had a devastating impact upon Mr Cremer and that is just dreadful. Common sense should have prevailed in the way it was handled in terms of the criminal process and civil complaint.’
Gilbert, 43, who moved from Colchester to Bristol, after receiving the caution, was unavailable to comment yesterday.
Woman's $55,000 award for slipping on gumnut overturned by Australian court
The modern doctrine that someone else is always responsible takes a tumble
QUEENSLAND'S highest court has overturned a decision to award an elderly woman $55,000 after she slipped on a gumnut while visiting family.
Florence Agnes Welch was 76 when she fell while walking down the stairs at Tim and Jane Graham's Brisbane home in 2006.
Ms Welch slipped on a gumnut that had fallen onto the step from a nearby tree. Ms Welch, who is Mrs Graham's aunt, sued the couple and NRMA Insurance.
Brisbane District Court judge Bill Everson found in Ms Welch's favour in May, ruling that the Grahams "were negligent in failing to provide and maintain a safe access to the house via the stairs by taking the appropriate steps to ensure that the stairs remained free of gumnuts". He awarded Ms Welch $55,000 in damages.
However, the Grahams took the matter to the Court of Appeal in Brisbane.
In a judgment handed down on Friday, the court overturned the original decision on the grounds that Ms Welch knew about the presence of gumnuts on the steps and that the risk of injury was small as the steps were regularly cleaned.
The court ruled it was impossible to have native Australian trees in suburban surrounds without the possibility of seed pods on walkways.
The court found it was unreasonable to expect homeowners to trim or remove all trees that posed any remote risk.
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. Email me (John Ray) here.