Thursday, April 11, 2013
Weaned on the Beeb's hatred, no wonder the young rejoice at her death
Because the BBC had a series of run-ins with Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, and is hardly well disposed towards the Tory-led Coalition, I had expected it to pour buckets of cold water over the memory of the Iron Lady.
To begin with, I was pleasantly surprised. The tone of BBC News 24 on Monday afternoon was slightly awed, even reverential, as is befitting when any great figure dies. Some of the newscasters even wore a black tie. A picture of Margaret Thatcher was shown as silence was observed.
Of course, as was only right and proper, lots of people who did not at all admire Lady Thatcher were interviewed, such as Labour leader Ed Miliband and former Labour deputy leader Roy Hattersley, but they were almost always measured, respectful and reasonable.
Thank God for the BBC, I began to murmur to myself. For all its faults, the Corporation knows how to behave on these occasions. It is capable of setting aside its prejudices, and rising above party politics.
But as the evening wore on, and the new day dawned, I began to change my mind. In many of the television and radio news bulletins, it seemed that Margaret Thatcher was on trial, and the case for the prosecution was subtly gathering force.
Again and again we were shown the same footage of 1990 poll tax riots, and familiar pictures of police grappling with miners during the 1984-85 miners’ strike. The clear message was: This is how it was under Thatcherism. Words such as ‘divisive’, ‘polarised’ and ‘out of touch’ began to be bandied about freely by BBC journalists describing the events of the 1980s. Charges were made against her which weren’t explained or placed in context.
For example, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was interviewed stating that Lady Thatcher had inflicted ‘great hurt’ on Northern Ireland. Now that Mr Adams represents himself as a democratic politician it is right he should have his say. But shouldn’t the BBC have mentioned that at the time of the Brighton bombing in 1984, which very nearly killed Margaret Thatcher, and did kill five others, the judgmental and seemingly virtuous Mr Adams was leader of the IRA’s Army Council?
Equally, Lady Thatcher’s opposition to sanctions against ‘apartheid South Africa’ was repeatedly cited by BBC television news, and her isolation among Commonwealth countries over the issue dwelt on.
What was not mentioned, at any rate while I was watching, is that she opposed sanctions largely because she believed they would harm black people most, though the BBC did grudgingly concede that she wasn’t in favour of apartheid.
Nor did the Corporation recall that after he was let out of prison in 1990, Nelson Mandela, the leader of the African National Congress, visited No 10 to thank Margaret Thatcher for her part in securing his release. These caveats should have been entered. Why weren’t they? I suggest the reason is that they do not accord with the Corporation’s historically distorted depiction of her as an inflexible extremist.
And then, of course, there were countless interviews of people who claimed they or their families had been victims of Lady Thatcher’s allegedly draconian economic policies which supposedly ‘decimated’ British manufacturing. The similar (or sometimes worse) experiences of other advanced economies were not mentioned.
I don’t deny she was a ‘divisive’ figure – not in the sense of intending to divide people, and deliberately setting them against one another, but because she sometimes had this effect. It is therefore perfectly reasonable to interview people who believe they suffered as a result.
But on such a massive scale so soon after her death? It was when I was listening to the BBC World Service in the early hours of yesterday morning, and heard a disgruntled Welshman having a swipe at her over the Falklands War, that I decided I’d had enough, and the BBC was being unfair.
If anything, radio was worse than television, despite the repeated use of TV footage implying that the 1980s were one continuous riot. On Radio Five yesterday, I heard a young woman being interviewed who had taken part in a celebration of Margaret Thatcher’s death in Brixton.
Although she admitted she knew virtually nothing about Lady Thatcher’s record as Prime Minister, and was relying almost wholly on what her Liverpudlian parents had told her, this ridiculous person was taken seriously.
Perhaps the nadir of radio coverage came yesterday evening when the BBC World Service unearthed someone called Mark, who had been promoting a song, Ding, Dong, The Witch Is Dead, taken from the film Wizard Of Oz. This was not simply unfair. It was in appallingly bad taste to give airtime to someone capable of pushing such a song about a woman who had died the previous day. Let him sing it in his bath, if he must, but this poison should have been kept off the airwaves.
God knows what foreign listeners to the often admirable BBC World Service will have thought when they heard a just deceased great stateswoman being referred to in this way. I don’t suppose it could happen in any other country on earth.
Nor can I remember any major political figure being so treated by the BBC so soon after his or her demise.
You may say Margaret Thatcher was unusual in being so divisive, and so is bound to be dealt with in an unusual way. But every statesman who has ever lived made lots of mistakes.
When Winston Churchill died, the BBC could have chosen to make much of his many cock-ups, and the evidence of his extremism: his controversial involvement in the bloody Sidney Street siege in 1911; the disastrous Gallipoli expedition, which he proposed in the First World War; his return to the Gold Standard when Chancellor; and his reactionary opposition to Indian Home Rule in the 1930s.
But the BBC rightly dwelt on his wartime achievement (itself not without blemishes) and left it to historians to write about his failings. That is the natural, humane and sensible thing to do when a great figure dies. So it should have been with Margaret Thatcher.
For all her faults and errors, it is widely agreed, even by people such as Tony Blair, that she managed to save Britain from economic calamity. That is a wonderful thing to have done.
She would not have received such treatment from the BBC had she been of the Left. No, the shortcomings of Leftists are usually indulged. On a much smaller scale, when the ex-Marxist historian and former sympathiser of Stalin, Eric Hobsbawm, died, the BBC kindly drew a curtain over his support for a totalitarian regime.
My submission is that an intelligent young person knowing little or nothing about the 1980s, who watched and listened to as much BBC coverage as I have, would come away with the false impression that she was a destructive leader who did more harm than good.
I would like to tell this young person that she won three elections, two of them with very large majorities, and that she achieved some great things, not least of which were liberating many working-class people in Britain, and helping to destroy Soviet communism. This democratically elected leader was not such a divisive and polarising person as the BBC pretends.
But that is how it often represented her when she was Prime Minister. The BBC hated her in life. The evidence of the past couple of days is that it still hates her in death.
British Labour Party eminence shoots at a footballing fascist - and scores an own goal
By Peter Hitchens
I should have thought fascism had a lot in common with football. Both like huge mass rallies in ugly, grandiose buildings, in which the enraptured mob chants gormless, unpleasant slogans and sings unpleasant songs.
Both have personality cults. Both involve the worship of strutting, violent, dishonest and selfish people. Both are almost wholly masculine in a boozy, sweaty, muscle-bound way that sometimes makes me wonder if Germaine Greer doesn’t have a point about men.
The enthusiasts of both are, among other things, very boring conversationalists, if you don’t happen to share their passion.
Common goals: A recent football match between West Ham and Chelsea where West Ham fans threw a Hot Dog thrown at Chelsea's John Terry
Common goals: A recent football match between West Ham and Chelsea where West Ham fans threw a Hot Dog thrown at Chelsea's John Terry
Both demand the adulation of youth and strength, and both require a great deal of very bad acting, shouting, posturing, eye-rolling and fake injuries or at least fake grievances. Both are based on an angry intolerance of rivals and both spill rapidly into serious violence, given half a chance.
So the only surprise about the revelation that Paolo Di Canio once said he was a fascist is the honesty involved. Mind you, why did it take so long for it to come out? Wasn’t poor old Swindon important enough for anyone to care that its football team was run by a man who liked giving straight-arm salutes?
But here comes the really funny bit: the resignation of the supposed political giant David Miliband from his posts at Sunderland Football Club, because he couldn’t bear to be linked with this totalitarian monster.
Now, I know from personal experience that the supposedly brilliant Mr Miliband isn’t that clued up about life (he survived some years as Foreign Secretary without even knowing that this country had conferred a knighthood on Robert Mugabe). But there’s something else here that needs to be remembered. In October 2012, a man called Eric Hobsbawm died. Professor Hobsbawm was at least as fine a historian as Mr Di Canio is a footballer.
But, alas, he was a lifelong supporter of communism, an unapologetic defender of the Soviet Union in the days of purges, mass murder and the slave camps of the Gulag. I’ve no doubt he gave the occasional clenched fist salute in his time, but I’ve seen no pictures.
Soon after his death, the other Miliband issued a statement saying that Hobsbawm was ‘a man passionate about his politics and a great friend of my family’. So did the young David Miliband stalk righteously from the room when this grisly old Stalinist apologist came round for comradely tea and buns, as I believe he did quite often?
Of course not. Mr Miliband only objects to one sort of violent, murderous political creed. The other sort is fine by him. The British Left-wing elite has hopeless double standards about dictators, and for some reason always gets away with it.
What do you think would happen if the Nazi Horst Wessel Song were sung at the funeral of a Tory politician? Yet the Internationale, the anthem of world communism, was sung at the Edinburgh funeral of Labour’s Robin Cook in 2005, and nobody fussed. It was played at the memorial service of Tony Benn’s wife Caroline in 2001 (and one very senior Labour apparatchik was heard to sigh: ‘Great to hear language we aren’t allowed to use any longer’).
The same suspect song was played at the Glasgow obsequies of another Labour Minister, Donald Dewar, in 2000, and the congregation joined in. They knew the words.
The excuse was offered: ‘It’s a grand tune, whatever you think of the politics.’ The Hitlerite Horst Wessel Song also has a fine tune, but I doubt the Edinburgh or Glasgow mourners would have stood by and let it be sung.
As far as I am concerned, anyone who is prepared to apologise for either fascism or communism should be a pariah, in football, politics or anywhere else. But you cannot scorn the one and be soft on the other.
‘God Is Great, Hang the Atheist Bloggers!’: Hundreds of Thousands Rally in Bangladesh for Anti-Blasphemy Laws
No free speech in Islam
Hundreds of thousands of hardline Islamists rallied in Bangladesh’s capital on Saturday to demand authorities enact anti-blasphemy laws punishing bloggers and those believed to have insulted Islam.
“God is great – hang the atheist bloggers!” some chanted, according to the Agence France-Presse and Al Jazeera.
“I’ve come here to fight for Islam. We won’t allow any bloggers to blaspheme our religion and our beloved Prophet Mohammed,” Shahidul Islam, an imam who reportedly walked 20km to be at the rally, said.
International reports indicate the bloggers have been stirring controversy by seeking punishment for Islamist leaders found guilty of war crimes during the nation’s 1971 independence war against Pakistan. Bangladesh says as many as 3 million people were killed and 200,000 women raped by Pakistani troops and local collaborators during the horrific war.
The bloggers also want a ban on Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamic party, for campaigning against Bangladesh’s independence more than four decades ago. But they deny the allegation that they are atheists.
“Wrong information has been spread out by some of the activists,” Shakil Ahmed of Ekattor television in Bangladesh told Al Jazeera.
The Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam, which helped organize the rally, listed listed 13 demands of the government and the nation’s people.
They include putting “absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah” in the nation’s constitution, which is largely secular, and passing a law providing for capital punishment for maligning Allah, Islam and its prophet Muhammad.
They also want to declare the minority Ahmadiya sect living in the country non-Muslims and banning “all foreign culture, including free mixing of men and women.”
Al Jazeera sources say the government is unlikely to accommodate all the protesters’ requests — though four online writers were arrested on charges of hurting religious sentiment last week — but the economy will take a hit no matter what.
As is, a blogger or online commenter can reportedly face up to ten years in jail for writing determined to be defamatory to Islam.
Social conservatism in Germany
Kristina Schroder could one day be her generation's Angela Merkel. After all, the 35-year old conservative is Germany's youngest female minister.
But for many German women, this powerful politician is a very bad mother. Last year, Schroder gave birth to her firstborn, Lotte Marie. She returned to her day job as family minister 10 weeks later, to find that some Germans thought she had done the wrong thing.
"I got a lot of hate mail," Schroder told a German newspaper last year. "[People wrote] wishing they hoped I missed my daughter's first steps or her first laugh."
Even today, old cultural attitudes on motherhood persist among a significant number of Germans. Schroder complains she was labelled a "Rabenmutter", a raven mother. The insult describes selfish career women, who flit off to work soon after birth, leaving babies squawking in the nest.
One of those whom Schroder offended was Eva Herman, once Germany's favourite newsreader and now a best-selling author on motherhood. In a public letter to Schroder, Herman accused the minister of being more interested in doing what she enjoyed (her job) than in caring for her newborn.
"If Ms Schroder had made the same decision as I did, she would have given up her job and looked after her baby," Herman told Daily Life. "That would have been best, she would have been a role model for thousands and thousands of women."
For German feminists, stories like Schroder's show just how present old-fashioned ideas on men and women are here. Take a closer look at sleek economic superpower Germany, they say, and you'll find a country run by men, for men.
Statistics show that career woman Schroder is an exception in Germany. Merkel, who is likely to win a term in September, may tower over German politics. But as a woman in a leading role, she is still a unique phenomenon in Germany.
For example, few of her peers have made it to the top of German business. Just 4 per cent of German companies have a woman on their boards, a recent study by think tank DIW Berlin found. It's just the latest study of its kind. Three years ago, a McKinsey study on equality placed Germany equal last among 11 major economies, due to its low number of female managers.
And German bosses aren't concerned about statistics like those, complain businesswomen. In 2011, then Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackermann said he would welcome more women on his board. Because women make company boards "more colourful" and "beautiful", he said.
"When Ackermann made those comments ... the uproar came from America, because that's just not PC any more," says businesswoman Monika Schulz-Strelow. "In large part the view [from German business] is that women have their place, but they aren't equal business partners."
For that reason, German feminists and Brussels bureaucrats are fighting for a female manager quota at public companies. But Angela Merkel has reportedly vetoed Europe's attempts to have a quota introduced.
Instead, her government has passed a law offering payments for parents to stay home and mind their under-threes. Feminists call that payment a "stove" bonus, designed to put women back in the kitchen.
Indeed, Merkel, say confidants, may be the world's most powerful woman, but she's not a fighter for women's rights.
"In the eight years since she's been in government, [Merkel] has hardly ever said anything about women's issues," says Merkel biographer Margaret Heckel.
Despite that, Merkel's nickname among men in her party is Mutti ("Mummy"). Her biographer says Merkel may have attracted that nickname because she wears the suit pants among German conservatives.
"Merkel has had her way in the party. She's the unquestionable number one and all the men who have tried to stop that from happening have failed," Heckel says.
But Merkel's supremacy in Berlin and Brussels hasn't helped other female pollies, complain MPs.
As politicians, "women are still judged on their appearance much more than men", says Silvana Koch-Mehrin, a European MP for the Free Democrats, a minor party in Merkel's coalition government.
A leader of Koch-Mehrin's party, Rainer Bruderle, inadvertently started a big debate over sexism in Germany two months ago. Bruderle, 67, caused what Germans call a "shitstorm" in cyberspace by reportedly taking a 29-year old female journalist's hand and telling her that she'd look great in a dirndl, a traditional blue-and-white-checked low-cut Bavarian dress.
After the journalist published her article recounting Bruderle's remarks, thousands took to Twitter to denounce sexist experiences they'd suffered.
Meanwhile other top leaders in Bruderle's party attacked Stern, the magazine that published the story on sexual harassment, for printing trivialities and "twisted journalism".
"Unfortunately, the debate has become about what it's like to be accused of sexual harassment as a man," says Nicole von Horst, one of the instigators of Germany's Twitter anti-sexist movement.
Still, for many feminists, any debate over sexism in Germany is taboo breaking. Because, they argue, Germany is a conservative society, one that clings to old behaviour and habits. And to dated concepts like "raven mother".
"If the attitude that something is good, that it's worth keeping just because it's been around for a long time, then: Hell yeah! Germany is old-fashioned," says von Horst.
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.