Saturday, November 27, 2004


Even by the grisly standards of ritual killing, it was shocking. On 2 November in Amsterdam the Dutch iconoclast and film-maker Theo van Gogh was dragged from his bicycle in broad daylight and murdered. His killer, a bearded Dutch-born Islamic radical of Moroccan descent, shot him six times and, as he pleaded for his life, slit his throat through the spinal column with a butcher's knife, almost decapitating him. The assassin then impaled a five-page declaration of `holy war' into van Gogh's chest.....

At least, though, the Left in the Netherlands has seen that there is a clash between liberal democracy and cultural relativism; that some cultures are simply not compatible with Western traditions of freedom and tolerance; and that the old distinction between evil right-wingers and cuddly left-wingers no longer makes sense. It is one thing to turn a Christian church into a mosque, quite another to get radical Islam to accept liberal democracy. Outside the Netherlands, however, the Left has yet to learn these lessons.

Van Gogh himself was a child of the Left. He did not discriminate when he decided whom to offend. He had deeply upset Christian and Jewish groups, who made written complaints about him. His mistake, however, was to offend Muslim sensibilities. His ten-minute film Submission showed actresses depicting real Muslim women speaking of their experience of domestic violence, including forced marriage and rape by relatives. The women were shown nearly naked, with their skin covered with Koranic verses which endorse domestic violence, such as `And those [wives] you fear may be rebellious admonish, banish them to their couches, and beat them.' (It is because of verses like this that Ken Livingstone's mate, the homophobic, terrorist-supporting cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, endorses wife-beating.) Van Gogh made the film with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somalian woman who sought asylum in the Netherlands to escape a forced marriage and who is now a Liberal MP and a fierce critic of her former religion. She received death threats for denouncing Mohammed as a `pervert in the modern sense' because he married a six-year-old girl, Aisha, when he was 53.

True to his polemicist style, van Gogh said lots of objectionable things about Muslims, such as calling extremists `goatfuckers'. But that doesn't excuse the Guardian pigeonholing him as a `loudmouth racist' as a way of avoiding thinking about the complexities of the issue. He was a lifelong socialist, from a leading left-wing family. A journalist friend of his told me at his funeral: `He was left-wing, but he had his eyes open. He started seeing these dark developments in society, and surprised himself by having right-wing thoughts.' A staunch Dutch feminist who knew him told me that his work standing up for women oppressed by religion had inspired her to dedicate her life to it.

Van Gogh was a friend of Pim Fortuyn, the populist politician murdered two years ago for offences against Islam. The hate-mongering Left demonised Fortuyn as a far-right racist, but he was no such thing. On the contrary, he was a flamboyant left-wing homosexual sociology professor who firmly opposed racism and had many black followers. But he started campaigning against Muslim immigration and denounced Islam as `backwards' when homosexual teachers were sacked in the Netherlands because Muslim parents didn't want their children taught by gays. He was outraged that decades of campaigning for gay rights was going backwards, and that everyone was too frightened to speak out.

What angered them all - van Gogh, Hirsi Ali and Fortuyn - is the way the intolerant left-wing hegemony of political correctness was strangling free speech and democracy - not just causing the problems in the first place, but trying to destroy those who discuss them. At his funeral, van Gogh's mother, Anneke, lambasted the `politically correct thought-police' while his sister spoke about his `aversion to violence and crimes against democracy'.


New Labour is back to its favourite pastime: bullying the working classes

British do-gooders are tireless in their search for new ways to dictate to people

New Labour wishes to market `good health' as a desirable commodity to its feckless and stupid subject people, but government ministers are having a tough time of it. A white paper to tackle obesity is in preparation and the big idea is that food will be labelled under the traffic lights system: green means it's good for you; orange is sort of LibDem fare - neither good nor bad, sort of neutral food; and red means if you eat it you'll end up swathed in rolls of purulent blubber, unable to rise from your sofa even when Ainsley Harriot appears on the television.

I don't think this will work. I have the horrible feeling that people will make straight for the red lights, thinking, in their childish error, that the stuff will taste better. The Today programme sent a reporter to a supermarket in Newcastle and vox-popped a bunch of Geordie monkeys as they paid for their purchases. One woman described the contents of her trolley for the benefit of the Today listeners (most of whom are resident in places like Tring and Tunbridge Wells and may have had difficulty deciphering the dialect): `I've got crisps, chips, sweets and pop,' she said cheerfully.... `You see,' the woman continued, `I don't really agree with healthy eating. I don't like healthy food. I like unhealthy food.'

That's the problem. It doesn't matter how often you tell these morons; they are still regrettably possessed by this thing `free will', which no government has ever attempted to market to the electorate as a desirable commodity. Soon New Labour will have recourse to compulsion instead of mere advice. It is already planning to do this with smoking: cigarettes are to be banned from all places where food is served, which means that you won't be allowed to smoke in an estimated 90 per cent of public houses, for example. And so we will all crowd into the remaining 10 per cent and chain-smoke like laboratory beagles, until it's banned in those redoubts as well.

What New Labour needs is a popular and responsible role-model for the populace, someone to whom that dissolute Geordie woman can aspire, a paragon of virtue and healthy living who can be exploited on poster campaigns and in television public-health advertisements. The immediately obvious answer is Adolf Hitler, who retains an enormous popularity and affection among British people. As modern-day German politicians repeatedly chide us, scarcely a day goes by without Adolf being featured in some television documentary, drama or comedy series, or in newspaper articles and books. We cannot get enough of Hitler. And he was an ascetic chap, Adolf. He banned smoking throughout his delightful Berchtesgaden retreat - a revolutionary act in the 1930s - and as a committed vegetarian ate only the healthiest of foods. He did not drink alcohol and, as a bonus for New Labour, was also opposed to fox-hunting and in favour of a united Europe, of course. A nationwide poster campaign showing the Fuehrer looking very healthy and happy while his jubilant troops occupied the Saarland or routed the hapless Poles would, I'm sure, have an immediate effect upon even our dumbest citizens. How about this for a catchphrase: `Give yourself some Lebensraum on just 400 calories per day'? .....

So we have a government determined to force its old constituency, the working class, to adopt the lifestyle patterns of its new constituency, the metropolitan middle class. And it will have recourse to bullying and, when push comes to shove, compulsion to ensure it achieves the desired end.

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