Sunday, February 17, 2013
Town torn over celebrations of Enid Blyton's 'racist' work
Blyton will still be delighting children long after the nonentities criticizing her are dead. She was not a social critic. She just wrote as a person of her times -- times that were not as hypersensitive as Leftist do-gooders have made them today
Enid Blyton's home town is split over a planned festival to celebrate her books, with some locals claiming they are racist and offensive.
Organisers are planning a week of activities honouring the writer who died in 1968, aged 71, and want to erect a plaque where her house once stood.
But critics are opposing the move to honour the woman who became famous for her Noddy and Famous Five books.
Many of her 600 books have, since her death, been branded as racist or sexist and have had to be updated.
The golliwog owner of the Toytown garage in her Noddy Books has been replaced by a "Mr Sparks," while her work The Three Golliwogs is now The Three Bold Pixies.
The festival is being held in June in Beaconsfield, Bucks to mark the 75th anniversary since she moved to the town.
One opponent is architect Anthony Mealing, 63, who has described some of Blyton's work as "racist and offensive."
He is campaigning to stop the festival going ahead. He said: "My grandmother, Annie Grigg, taught at a school near here where they had rather racist Enid Blyton stories issued free by the author to all the pupils in the 1950s.
"The moral of one of the stories is: Don't leave any money around if there are any black children about as they will steal it. "She was anti-semitic and very racist. People don't believe me because she is too high an icon, but she was."
Mr Mealing, from High Wycombe, said he did not want to see a plaque erected. He urged residents: "Research the subject as you might find things you did not expect."
Mr Mealing's view was criticised on the internet, with one resident writing: "Enid Blyton was a fantastic story writer who deserves her place in history.
She should be celebrated." But a supporter of Mr Mealing wrote: "For years there have been persistent rumours, based on recollections by some now elderly folk, that Enid B wasn't a very nice lady.
"One of her daughters also had a lot to say, criticising her too. Two TV documentaries about her also cast doubt about her character." Former librarian Kari Dorme, the coordinator of the festival being organised by the Beaconsfield Society, says Blyton's original works should be accepted for the time in which they were written.
She said: "In the early 1990's, some of her publishers made certain text changes - mostly to bring her stories into line with modern thought and sensitivities, particularly with regard to what some construed as snobbish, racist or sexist attitudes.
"Even names were modernised. You have to accept them in the time in which they were written, which was at least 60 years ago.
"Her books still sell at the rate of six to seven million copies a year, in more than 40 languages. Enid Blyton is a marvellous story teller -- a real page turner.
"I feel that recognition should be given to the great contribution that she has made to children's literacy."
Blyton first moved to a house in the town called Green Hedges with her husband, Major Hugh Pollock.
The author, who later divorced and remarried, spent most of her life there until she moved into a London nursing home, where she died.
The house was demolished in the early 1970s and the site is now called Blyton Close.
I resigned for linking Nazism to Socialism... but it's true
Rachel Frosh resigned earlier this week for linking Nazism to Socialism, but here she makes the case that it remains very much a valid view. Rachel Frosh has been a doctor in the NHS for over 20 years. Until her resignation, Frosh was also the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner in Hertfordshire
I have been frustrated in the last two days that I have not been fully able to answer the press and Twitter enquiries about that retweet – where I retweeted someone else’s link to Nazism and Socialism.
I am conscious that the Police and Crime Commissioner needs to have constructive working relations with local politicians of all parties. Working for him has made it difficult to answer the questions about why I retweeted the comment in the first place. So I have therefore resigned – because he needs to get on with his job, and I want to answer these questions, and also be able to comment on national political issues.
So, my full answer is this:
First of all, I don’t remember retweeting it, and I do believe most Labour politicians to be honourable decent people who do not have any truck with the politics of hate. The modern Labour party bears no resemblance to the BNP or similar parties.
However, there is an accepted mainstream view that the origins of Nazism lie in Socialism, or that they have common roots. Nobel Prize winning economist Friedrich Hayek described this his book “The Road to Serfdom”. Even the Wikipedia entry says on the topic “Hayek challenged the general view among British academics that fascism was a capitalist reaction against socialism, instead arguing that fascism and socialism had common roots in central economic planning and the power of the state over the individual.”
The subtitle of the 1976 edition of The Road to Serfdom, is “A Classic Warning Against the Dangers to Freedom Inherent in Social Planning.” Hayek argued that socialism undermines human liberty and, if pursued far enough, must result in tyranny.
Other articles on the roots of Nazism and Hayek’s commentary are here, here, here and more on Hayek himself here.
This matters because in recent years we have seen some electoral gains by the BNP, even winning two European parliamentary seats. It is important to understand why, to prevent it from happening again. Commentators state that most BNP votes come from disaffected Labour supporters, not from other parties. It is important to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.
Others such as Iain Dale argue that the BNP is a left wing fascist party. His full comments on it in 2009 were:
"In a Tweet earlier this morning Plaid Cymru AM Bethan Jenkins described a comment by Michael Rock., chairman of Conservative Future, that the BNP is “left wing”, as a “disgrace”. I looked up Rock’s comments and can’t really see how any sane person could disagree with them.
"The consistent miss-labelling of extremist parties is very damaging to liberal democracy, as it creates false tensions and misaligns people with causes they do not understand fully. I’ve yet to meet a Tory who believes in clamping down on free-trade and the nationalisation of private companies. The BNP are both racist and fascist: all fascist parties have left wing tendencies as they predominantly believe in nationalisation, collectivism and forbid free expression, which makes fascism the very antipathy of right-of-centre politics."
I can understand why those on the left don’t wish to be branded in the same political mindset as the BNP. Now they know how those of us on the right feel. But the fact remains that BNP beliefs DO have more in common with Socialism than with Conservatism – centralised command control, trade tariffs, state owned businesses … I could go on. I struggle to think of a single issue which joins the BNP and mainstream conservatism. The Nazis were called National Socialists for a reason. Fascism is invariably described as a creed of the right. It isn’t. As with the BNP, fascism has far more in common with the left, at least in political theoretical terms.
I say this not to whip us some “you’re more fascist than me” type argument between left and right, but merely to explain to Bethan Jenkins why I am bemused by her disgust."
Iain Dale has a point.
My considered view is that the origins of Nazism do lie in traditional socialism, and when the BNP do well, it is with disaffected Labour voters.
That does not mean that people in the Labour party or any other mainstream party have views that are in any way akin to the BNP or other racist parties. They should be placed apart from other parties on the spectrum – but it is still important to understand the origins of any support they have, or used to have to ensure such parties never gain power again.
Yes to free trade with the US – no to all the other EU guff
An EU trade deal with America would demonstrate the pointless nature of European bureaucracy
No wonder the British economy is struggling. Aggregated figures released yesterday by the European Commission show that even the mighty German economy contracted by more than ours in the final quarter of last year, with the eurozone as a whole down 0.6 per cent on the previous quarter.
Desperate for initiatives that might provide growth and jobs, European politicians are prepared to clutch at anything. The prospect of a “game-changing” trade pact with the US is one such straw. Anyone would think they’d found the Holy Grail, to judge by the squeals of delight emanating from the EU’s high command. “Together we will form the largest trade zone in the world,” trumpeted José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission. “It is a boost to our economies that doesn’t cost a cent of taxpayer money.” That there might actually be opportunities for growth that don’t involve hosing the economy down with vast amounts of public money seems to have come as a revelation to Mr Barroso, but let’s not be churlish.
Free trade with the US is a goal Britain has long championed, and with the breakdown of more global, multilateral trade liberalisation talks, this seems a very welcome second best. To see the EU finally back the cause with such enthusiasm is indeed a breakthrough. From an inward-looking, defensive approach to the challenges of globalisation, Europe seems finally ready to embrace the 21st century.
Yet even assuming the talks are successful, don’t expect anything transformational. The European Commission estimates that agreement “could” bring an overall increase in EU GDP of 0.5 per cent a year by 2027. This is plainly not to be sneezed at, but it is hardly going to revolutionise Europe’s prospects, still less is it going to lift either continent out of the present economic funk.
As it happens, the sort of full-frontal trade barriers immortalised by the notorious Smoot-Hawley tariffs of the inter-war years don’t exist any more – at least between Europe and the US. Today’s protectionism takes subtler forms; it’s mainly in discriminatory regulation and state subsidy. To get genuine free trade, you need common regulation and either an end to subsidies for agriculture and industry or at least a shared framework for them. Understandably this has proved hard to achieve – or as Simon Evenett, Professor of International Trade at the University of St Gallen in Switzerland, puts it: “There has never been much appetite from business for bearing the costs of switching to a rival set of rules.”
What gives some reason to suppose the talks might succeed this time is that both sides have broadly agreed to park the more sensitive issues. Agriculture, traditionally one of the big sticking points, will essentially be ignored, and the two have agreed to learn to live with each other’s regulatory regimes, so that they become interchangeable. The benefits from such a limited degree of trade liberalisation are probably pretty marginal in the short term, but if the two jurisdictions can find ways of harmonising future business regulation, which is the intention, then in the long run there is plainly a bigger prize to be had.
In any case, a free-trade pact with the US seems at last to be within Europe’s reach, and two cheers for that. This in turn raises some interesting questions about the European Union. If it is possible to have free trade with the US without the paraphernalia of common government, or even completely harmonised rules and regulations, why do we need all this guff in order to have a functioning internal market in Europe? Or is it the case that without the clout that Europe gains from negotiating collectively on behalf of its 27 member states, it wouldn’t be possible to reach a mutually beneficial agreement with the US? You can read it either way.
Whatever the answers, this seems to be a case of putting the cart before the horse, for the EU is still struggling to achieve a functioning single market across key service and utility sectors – energy, finance and so on – even within its borders, let alone with the US. Part of the problem Britain has with Europe is that the rules seem to conspire to exploit UK weaknesses in traded goods, where the internal market reigns supreme, while denying it the opportunity to play to its strengths in services, where the single market still doesn’t really exist.
By far the largest part of Britain’s seemingly permanent current account deficit is with Europe. In fact, we enjoy a very substantial current account surplus with the US, so on the face of it, it would suit Britain better to cosy up to the US than to Europe, despite the latter’s proximity.
The more you look at what Britain actually gets out of Europe, the harder it is to justify continued participation. It’s more fear of European retribution that keeps us from pulling out than any measurable economic dividend.
Mr Cameron will have to make substantial progress over the next couple of years in genuinely opening up Europe to British business if he is to convince us of the merits of staying in. None the less, it would be the ultimate irony if, through Europe, we achieved trade liberalisation with America only to go sailing off in the other direction as far as the EU is concerned.
Free trade is an end in itself, and a highly desirable one that mutually benefits everyone who honestly engages in it. It’s only a shame that Europe seems determined to make it into so much more.
Free speech problems in Australia
Part of an opinion article by Richard Ackland is reproduced below in the interests of full and fair public discussion. Ackland is a Left-leaning Australian lawyer and the article below reflects the ambivalence many Leftists feel about hate-speech laws. They fear that such laws could ensnare them in the heat of political disagreements. But Ackland appears to think that some expansion of such law is needed and that the conservative impulse to get such laws expunged is wrong.
His argument against the conservative case put by Tony Abbott is however both "ad hominem" and misleading. The matter Abbott went to court over was a libel case -- in response to false and scurrilous allegations published about himself and a woman not his wife. It was not a case brought under anti-discrimination law.
Libel has always been recognized as not protected free speech in the USA despite their first amendment protections of speech so Ackland's apparent conflation of libellous speech with free speech is tendentious and misleading. He would seem simply to be making a snide point motivated by a need to discredit conservatives rather than by any intention of making fair comparisons. It is unworthy of Mr Ackland
Travelling on public transport can be traumatic. Particularly if you're the ABC newsreader Jeremy Fernandez with his young daughter on a Sydney bus, subjected to the racist rantings of an unhinged banshee. A French woman singing on a Melbourne bus was subjected to a similar tirade, but in that case it seemed to be more of a mob onslaught.
The law says people are not supposed to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate because of someone's race, colour or ethnic origin - in public, of course; at home you can pretty much be as vile as you like.
The previous attorney-general, Nicola Roxon, had been howled down because she suggested in an "exposure draft" of a new anti-discrimination bill that those terms should apply across the board in all cases of discrimination by means of "unfavourable treatment".
Free-speech champion Tony Abbott has promised to repeal this part of the Racial Discrimination Act in its current form.
The new Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, says he'll be agonising over getting the balance right between free speech and "protecting the community".
The ABC chairman, James Spigelman, said in a speech in December to the Human Rights Commission that words such as "offend" and "insult" go too far, that they impinge on freedom of speech in ways that words like "humiliate" and "intimidate" do not.
Presumably he means the free speech protection goes a notch higher if the basic requirements of anti-discrimination protections are at the humiliation and intimidation end of the nastiness spectrum.
We're playing here with the English language and the distinctions are not always visible. In every case the line between insult and humiliation may not be clear. But Spigelman is surely right when he says, "there is no right not be offended".
The long-serving Melbourne media lawyer Peter Bartlett recently said in an interview that "the present anti-discrimination legislation we've got is a significant problem for the media". He told the Gazette of Law & Journalism (interest disclosure: publisher is moi) that he's had to deal with discrimination complaints claiming that articles on paedophilia vilify all Catholics.
A newspaper report about a Turkish man's run-in with police has prompted a complaint that all Turks are vilified.
The Australian Financial Review had complaints from Italians in Melbourne over a drawing by Michael Fitzjames of the map of Italy which he called Berlusconia with the major cities given names like Necappi, Ponzi, Pestilenti, Spivi and so on.
It went on an on and cost the paper an enormous amount of time, energy and money. Interestingly, this case was brought under Victorian legislation, which deals with hatred and serious contempt - not offence or insult. Even at that higher standard, it still took ages to reach settlement.
Bartlett said: "Some of these complaints are ludicrous. There are more and more of them. Regulatory authorities are not looking at them and saying 'This clearly has no merit and should be dismissed.' It is very frustrating."
It's probably an unreasonable expectation that the number of ludicrous complaints will drop off if the law gets rid of "offend and insult" and just sticks with "humiliate and intimidate". Maybe, the Italians, Turks or Catholics will feel the humiliation rather than the offence.
While Abbott has pledged to get rid of "offensive" he, in his own defamation case with Peter Costello and their wives against Random House over the Bob Ellis's book Goodbye Jerusalem, was happy to be compensated for an even lower level of grief - "hurt feelings".
Hurt feelings are enough for Abbott to go running to the law but he won't allow anyone to seek a remedy for being offended or insulted.
In his free speech address last August he thought that the ancient common law offences of "incitement and causing fear" should be enough grounds for a racial vilification case.
It's not certain but he seemed to be saying that racial vilification should be left to common law, which means unelected judges.
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, 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.