J.K. Rowling Lets Ideology Cloud her Judgement

On the night of Friday, July 28, 2017, J.K. Rowling tweeted up a storm about Trump.

Again.

Rowling has an admirable affinity for those less fortunate, weaker and less privileged than herself. She is able to empathise due to her own straitened circumstances earlier in her life.

While this is surely a laudable attitude to have towards the world, it can take a turn for the worse when this outlook of compassion is projected through an overly ideological lens onto the world.

Compassion, by the way, doesn’t make you harmless, especially when something close to you is threatened. Just look at a mother grizzly bear; full of compassion yes, but for her cubs. Try getting between her and her offspring and you’ll be writing letters of regret to your severed leg.

This weaponising of compassion is precisely what happened with Rowling’s tweets about Trump.

 

What she says about Trump’s characterological defects are grounded in a mountain of evidence. Following another damning week for the Trump presidency, where he decided to tweet abuse at his AG Jeff Sessions, whine about Republicans’ intransigence and flexible spines, and complain about everything else, Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal reflected the feelings of an increasing number by describing him thus:

The president’s primary problem as a leader is not that he is impetuous, brash or naive. It’s not that he is inexperienced, crude, an outsider. It is that he is weak and sniveling. It is that he undermines himself almost daily by ignoring traditional norms and forms of American masculinity.

He’s not strong and self-controlled, not cool and tough, not low-key and determined; he’s whiny, weepy and self-pitying. He throws himself, sobbing, on the body politic. He’s a drama queen. It was once said, sarcastically, of George H.W. Bush that he reminded everyone of her first husband. Trump must remind people of their first wife. Actually his wife, Melania, is tougher than he is with her stoicism and grace, her self-discipline and desire to show the world respect by presenting herself with dignity.

None of what Rowling said about TRump’s flaws, manifestly obvious to all but his most devoted adherents, is controversial or new. We know about his flaws, if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. We’ve known them for a long time.

Where Rowling is at fault is using an edited version of the clip of Trump meeting those children. This clip shows him ignoring the disabled child’s hand. That’s another fail on Trump’s part.

However, if she hadn’t allowed herself to be blinded by her own politics, which incidentally is something that happens to all of us in this increasingly political age, Rowling would have either posted the whole clip of the event, or she would have corrected her claims about Trump’s attitudes towards disabled people after yet another example of his apparent disdain for them.

This clip clearly shows Trump greeting the wheelchair bound boy.

I can only surmise that facts like this get in the way of Rowling’s feelings about the mistreatment of the weak and vulnerable. Again, while admirable, when this compassion is subordinate to a political worldview diametrically opposed to that of the President of the USA and all those who support him. then it can act as a hindrance to a more clear-sighted view of reality, of course always taking into account one’s own biases and limitations congruent with one’s view of the world.

To reiterate, I am not denying Trump’s many and overwhelmingly manifest faults.

However, if we are to have any chance at an attempt of mending the ever worsening divide between political and cultural camps in the US, Britain and the rest of the western world today, we must refrain from launching into ideologically informed tirades that serve only to reinforce one’s perceptions of those on the opposing side.

This only serves to drive us further apart and destroys any chance of some sort of rapprochement between the factions in what is becoming an increasingly threatening political atmosphere, on both sides.

As an author who has touched millions through the power of her articulated speech in her books, Rowling would do well to remember the responsibility to use her linguistic power wisely, and for the good, for the affirmation of truth as a means of mitigating suffering in the world, not as a means to score points.

Rowling has the platform and the ability to do this. It is to be hoped that she can remember this in the midst of our present turmoil.

As it is to be hoped that we can too.

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The Summer of Love: How Hippies Changed the World (or how they tried to tear it down) – Thoughts

The Summer of Love: How Hippies Changed the World (or how they tried to tear it down) – Thoughts

 

The so-called ‘Summer of Love’ was born in the sun-drenched streets of San Francisco, centred around the Haight-Ashbury area in the summer of 1967, as portrayed in the BBC documentary The Summer of Love: How Hippies Changed the World. The three tribes of hippy, the Naturist, the Truth-Seeker and the Political were drawn there by the promise of freedom. The freedom that is, to do whatever one pleased, whenever one wanted, in whatever way one saw fit depending on the inspiration drawn from their drug-addled minds.

The climate in America at this time was ripe for a revolution. America had been struggling to reconcile its basic principles of the equality of man imbued with a sacred dignity as instantiated in its founding with the relativist approach to race that it had also instantiated at the beginning. The results of this cancerous relativism at the heart of American society and the struggle to end it by obtaining the final equality of rights to their fellow Americans is what Martin Luther King Jr. and his fellow civil rights campaigners were striving for, against heavy opposition and a less than cooperative federal government.

The impact of all this is movingly portrayed in Shelby Steele’s book Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarised Our Country. An interesting aspect of the book is when he recounts his realisation that the violent revolutionaries like the Black Panthers were following a course of action that would ultimately do far more harm than good, and instead of helping to bring equality of opportunity and equal rights would only serve to divide America even more than it already was, as they wanted to tear down the system, not reform it. The trouble with this is that it never ends well, and nearly always involves appalling violence along the way. What may start out as a wish to change society for the better – and the civil rights movement of Martin Luther King Jr. was forcing through changes that needed to happen – ends up with society teetering on the edge of chaos.

In its own way, the hippy movement, while it started out based on a naive understanding of human nature and society, and how it could be made better, dissolved into self-satisfied, self-indulgent moral bankruptcy, and went down the same path of revolutionary violence. If there was one single, fundamental difference between the approaches of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Panthers and hippies, it was that King wanted reformation, and the Black Panthers and the hippies wanted a revolution.

The Hippies

The Naturists

The influences on the various hippy subcultures that came together in this period of orgiastic hedonism were varied and stretched back into the period before the war, before 1900 even, crossing over one ocean to Europe and another to Asia. From Europe, a big influence on the naturist component of the hippy movement was the 19th-century German phenomenon of the ‘nature boys’, who wandered around the Black Forest, living off nature’s bounty and moving with the seasons.

This idealised form of civilisational sentimentality, of course, had its roots in Rousseau’s view of man as burdened down by civilisation and only able to be truly free and truly moral in a state of nature. This view of human history is romantic because it is pure wishful thinking; tribal humanity was an extremely violent social organisation, and hunter-gatherer societies today, in South America for example, can still be extremely violent.

This emphasis on the communion between body and nature found its way, along with the ‘nature boys’, to California, with various groups choosing to live out in the California countryside, and moving around according to the seasons. They became somewhat of an object of fascination, particularly to the left-leaning group of actors and artists known as the Diggers, who looked to them for inspiration in their quest to feel closer to nature and the self-knowledge apparently inherent in it.

After a period of time, however, some members of the ‘nature boys’ tribe tired of life near the built up centres of human habitation and, following the crackdown on certain more radical members of the hippy community by law enforcement, decided to literally head for the hills. The hippies who went back to nature founded communes out in the wilds where they could be as close to nature as possible. Everything would be free (including each other’s bodies), everything would be shared (including children), and everyone would be equal (except the women weren’t and were often little more than female cattle to be used by the male bulls when they so desired).

An interesting note on which to conclude this section is that the commune movement, and the hippie movement more generally, had a profound influence on the development of Silicon Valley, in particular, future tech giants like Steve Jobs. The ethos of the commune translated itself into the realm of cyberspace, the most obvious example being the internet, where everything is free, can be shared, and everyone can be equal.

Except when it isn’t, like when not everyone was free or equal in the communes, and when only a tiny proportion of people win hugely from the otherwise totally Darwinian wilds of the internet. See, some people tend to just end up more equal than others in a state of nature.

The Truth Seekers

The Truth-Seekers were closely aligned with the Naturists but went further in their attempt to discover the true nature of humanity and to try and build a common consciousness that would bring people together on a higher plain and would enable the human race to leave behind all the evils that they saw as manifested in modern society, which was a hopelessly oppressive, violent, exploitative and bigoted structure thought up and kept by those in power in order to crush the souls and break the backs of the many. Or some such pretentious rubbish.

The Truth-Seekers attempted to reach this state of enlightenment through the use of LSD and other hallucinogens. Aldous Huxley was a big inspiration in their quest towards a higher understanding and state of being, with his “The Doors of Perception” filling the role of the Truth-Seekers’ Bible on what acid and other mind expanding drugs had the potential to bring about. Cary Grant lent the acid trip an edge of glamour along with the note of respectability brought by Aldous Huxley, although his claims that his 100+ trips led him to see himself as a giant penis launching itself from earth neatly characterises the moral emptiness at the base of the movement. Aleister Crowley meanwhile, in his search for new experiences and the true nature of things, engaged in witchcraft, Satanic rituals and free love (which devolved into “all women are free and fair game”), demonstrating that for more than a few people the whole thing was a gateway to enjoy a hedonistic lifestyle in service to a nothingness that was fronted by an empty, vacant smile and even emptier, vacant words that said little and meant less.

Having said all that, drugs like LSD, DMT and Psilocybin have been shown to induce truly spiritual experiences, as shown in the trials at Johns Hopkins University, and should, therefore, be researched much more thoroughly and carefully so that we can possibly stumble some way towards answering some of the most fundamental questions about humanity’s need for some sort of spiritual belief, and how and why this might have come about .

However, in service to a dangerously naive system of ideas based on little understanding (or willful misunderstanding) of how the world works and of how human nature manifests itself, LSD turned what was something touted as the next stage of human societal evolution into what was effectively a middle-class freakshow of young people off their minds on drugs, wallowing in syrupy sentimentality and foolish notions of the universal applicability of love to drive forward a revolutionary bulldozer through the society that allowed them to pursue their foolishly naive dreams in the first place. The fact that so many who experimented in this way at the time now resemble mad-eyed, burnt out shells perhaps suggests that the experience wasn’t as beneficial as it was claimed.

The Politicals

The last group of people present in San Francisco during this fervent period of cultural foment were the Politicals, the tribe of left-wing radicals, now known as the New Left who had incubated on college campuses, in particular at Berkeley. These were people who were heavily invested in left-wing ideas and theories, who wanted to change the system, mostly by burning the whole structure of society down and starting again. They saw the other two elements of the nascent hippy movement as possible allies in their attempts to change the world. By revolution, if they had to.

Just how revolutionary were the hippies and those they influenced and inspired? A Gallup poll in 1970 found that 44% of college students felt that violence was justified in order to bring about social change, 40% thought revolution was needed in the US, while 1.7 million saw themselves as revolutionaries. 20% of respondents had a favourable opinion of the Soviet Union as opposed to 1.9% in 1956 and 4% in 1980. Philip Roth’s American Pastoral captures the mood these radicals, this progeny of the politicals, referencing a quote from Weatherman  John Jacobs: “We are against everything that is good and decent in honky America. We will loot and burn and destroy. We are the incubation of your mothers’ nightmares”. They certainly were.

The Politicals’ guru was Professor Herbert Marcuse, the most famous member of the Frankfurt School of Marxist philosophy, aka Critical Theory, whose members had fled Hitler’s rise to power and found refuge in America. Marcuse was teaching at the University of California, San Diego at the time of the formation of the hippy movement. Marcuse influenced many radical scholars and activists, such as Norman O. Brown, Angela Davis, Captain Charles Moore, Kathy Acker, Abbie Hoffman, Rudi Dutschke, and Robert M. Young.

In his 1965 essay “Repressive Tolerance”, Marcuse claimed capitalist democracies can have totalitarian characteristics. The argument Marcuse put forward was that genuine tolerance does not allow support for repression because to do so would ensure that marginalised voices would be kept silent. He characterises tolerance of what he sees as repressive speech (anything not left-wing) as ‘inauthentic’. Instead, Marcuse advocated a kind of tolerance that was intolerant of right-wing political movements which he saw as inherently totalitarian (never mind the horror that was the result of the implementation of Marxism in the Soviet Union):

“Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left.

Surely, no government can be expected to foster its own subversion, but in a democracy such a right is vested in the people (i.e. in the majority of the people). This means that the ways should not be blocked on which a subversive majority could develop, and if they are blocked by organized repression and indoctrination, their reopening may require apparently undemocratic means. They would include the withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly from groups and movements which promote aggressive policies, armament, chauvinism, discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, or which oppose the extension of public services, social security, medical care, etc.”

Along with his concept of repressive tolerance, Marcuse brought to American left-wing radicals the idea that the way to bring about the revolution that would overthrow the oppressive bourgeoisie was to apply Marxist philosophy to the realm of culture, a realm more important, more fundamental to human life than politics. He no longer believed that the working class was the tool that would cause the collapse of the ‘affluent society’, and instead looked to certain marginalised communities to act as the revolutionary vanguard for what was ultimately the doctrine of equality of outcome. In this case, the students of Berkeley were like empty vessels, waiting to be filled by the seductive elixir of Marcuse’s utopian ideals. The fact that these ideals would breed an empty nihilism wasn’t apparent, and if it had been it would’ve been too late; by that point, the students were caught, hook, line and sinker.

He placed great emphasis on complete personal liberation for the mind and body and a breaking down of traditional structures and mores like the family. This was in his view a tool of oppression and an incubator for right-wing totalitarianism that was used by the oppressive political right to keep their grip on power. Marcuse, like his post-modern counterparts Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, wanted to dissolve the social structures that glued society together and provided a separate ‘realm of value’ away from the state by questioning the value of everything to the point where nothing had any inherent, objective moral value and everything was morally and culturally relative. The fact that this absolute relativism is a self-defeating proposition shows how bankrupt the whole intellectual background to the hippy movement was.

The Results

And what was the result of all this? The ‘Summer of Love’, led by those who sincerely believed that they were the ones who would drive a fundamental, societally-altering change in American social and political culture, descended into a welter of protest and violence in order to speed the revolution along. All that achieved only a sense of bitter estrangement between those who supported the cause of the various militant organisations that grew out of the hippy movement, like the Weather Underground, and the rest of society who were horrified at what was happening on the west coast and at how it spread to places like Chicago where the clashes between the protesters and police led to the deployment of the National Guard.

The bombing campaigns carried out by groups like the Weather Underground lasted from July 1969 to April 1985. As Bryan Burrough writes in his book Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence on the violence perpetrated by the radical-Left in the 1970’s, during a period of 18 months in 1971 and 1972, 2,500 bombings were reported in the US by the FBI. That was almost 5 a day.

The rhetoric of destruction that came from many of the intellectuals who inspired the New Left movement played into and fed the worst and darkest emotions in the human hearts of those not old or experienced enough to know better; resentment, bitterness, envy, anger at what many saw as the most violent political system ever created. And what does one do against something or someone who perpetrates violence against you? You destroy it. Apparently, history wasn’t the strong point of the hippies and their fellow activists, otherwise they might have proceeded with more circumspection.

And this is the point; it is better to reform society, through its culture and institutions, rather than burn it to the ground. Those who are determined to subvert or destroy society’s institutions fail to realise that the most likely outcome in destroying these institutions – that either guarantee equality under the law or have the potential to do so after reformation – is a form of oppression and domination far worse than the one they opposed in the first place.

The remedy to injustices like those that the civil rights movement campaigned against is not to blow apart the established order and impose some new, ill-thought out and ill-planned socio-political order by coercive force, as the more extreme elements of the hippy movement ended up doing, cheered on by their less militant brethren. Mao was wrong; power doesn’t come from the barrel of a gun. Stable political power and a stable and prosperous society that all can enjoy are grounded in the healthy relationships and feelings towards one another that mitigate the more destructive passions we all bear within ourselves.

These relationships, between us and God, us and our country, and between one another, provide the basis for a civic partnership that allows citizens to work together to raise up one another’s best interests. The disputes that are an inevitable part of living in a large social unit are thus easier to resolve with as little conflict as possible.

The hippy movement and the different strains of the New Left ideology that birthed along with it brought none of these things. Instead it brought a shallow self-righteousness that all too easily brought the ugly aspects of human nature to the surface; the  oppressive (and some of those attitudes were indeed oppressive and repressive) values of their parents were removed, but the vacuum was instead filled with a vacuous self-regarding yearning for participation in a revolution which many did not fully understand, let alone what the consequences of their actions might entail.

If there was a maxim that might best respond to the hippy movement and other revolutionary movements in the West, it might be something like “reformation, not revolution; cultural innovation, not cultural immolation”.

The hippy movement started out in the naive belief that love could conquer everything and that all that the West needed to do was give up on its oppressive past, socio-political structures and cultural mores and just jump into the whole caring, sharing, free love society that would release people from their humdrum existences. The fact is, none of the hippies’ forays into decadent hedonism would have been possible if not for the fact that the rest of the country, and indeed the West, still clung to the ways of doing things that meant these people could afford to do nothing and waste away in a muddy field trying to connect to the earth-spirit.

In some ways, the hippy movement was one of the most selfish cultural movements in modern human history, and when it didn’t get what it wanted, it lashed out like a spoilt child. It’s just a pity that their temper tantrums cost lives. We are still dealing with their legacy today, and because the revolution always eats itself, we now have the phenomenon of the modern university campus.

Aren’t we lucky?

 

 

Was Trump’s Warsaw Speech really that controversial?

Was Trump’s Warsaw Speech really that controversial?

Donald Trump made his first major foreign speech on Thursday, July 6, at the memorial to the Warsaw Uprising in Warsaw, Poland. He was surprisingly clear, coherent, and projected conviction and belief in the words he uttered.

I don’t agree with Trump on everything and believe that his personal conduct leaves much to be desired and does not give due respect and reverence to the office he holds. However, the reaction to this speech was disproportionate to what was actually said and reveals the ulterior motives of those making the point.

After the usual diplomatic flim-flam thanking the Polish dignitaries and saying how much he loved to be in Poland, a country placed at the centre of the European continent and witness to some of its defining historical moments, trials and tribulations, he got down to his speech. It was a long one, and the transcript is available here.

Trump however gave a realistic picture of the threats facing the Western world today. He talked about a variety of geopolitical security issues, from radical Islamist terrorism, to cybersecurity issues, to a commitment to Article 5 of NATO, to Russian meddling in the Ukraine.

Of course, because he didn’t spout the same platitudes about ‘hope and change’ and say everything would be fine if we just hold hands and sing ‘Imagine’. That led the predictable circles in the media to weep and wail about how dark it was, how lacking in hope, how deprived of optimistic visions of the future.

They proclaimed that he had regressed to his ‘American Carnage’ rhetoric seen in his inauguration speech. Sorry, the world isn’t a pretty place and there are people who would be quite happy to see the West enfeebled, in retreat and in eventual ruin. Facing up to that, with a degree of honest realism, is now beyond the pale. Maybe that’s why we’re in such bad shape.

After this, Trump really plunged into the heart of his message. And of course, the commentary classes went crazy. The New Republic and Vox.com called it an ‘alt-right’ speech based in xenophobic nativism speckled with a dusting of white grievance. (Compare Trump’s speech with that of Kennedy in 1961)

Eric Foner of Columbia University said on BBC’s Newsnight that Trump’s speech repeated the idea that Trump was espousing white nationalism and alt-right xenophobic nativism. According to him, saying that Europe and the West are based on Judeo-Christian values is basically white pride.

I’m sure those who also subscribe to Judeo-Christian values who aren’t white, like Middle Eastern Coptic Christians and Israelis are thrilled at this incredibly solipsistic and narcissistic display of privilege on the part of some well-to-do academic. 

He also implied that James Burnham, an ex-Trotskyist turned conservative writer was far-right because of the popularity of some of his works among Trump supporters. Finally, he claimed that Trump’s warnings about ‘creeping bureaucracy’ were redolent with far-right panic over the deep-state.

Maybe if he’d actually listened properly, or read the speech, Foner might have realised that Trump was warning against the weight of big government on individual liberty, so casting those who aim for smaller government as also beyond the pale. Messiah College History Professor John Fea tweeted “The West will never be broken.’ We will defend ‘civilization.’ Trump’s speech in Poland has [Steve] Bannon written all over it.“

These are just several examples of the reaction among the commentary class, who basically broke Trump’s speech down to their old stand-by of “fascism!” They don’t realise that their overuse of hyperbolic language concerning Trump’s rhetoric is simply turning people off to their white noise levels of hysteria and angst regarding some opinions they don’t agree with from a man they can’t control, who speaks his mind (often to the worse rather than better) and who doesn’t need them anymore, who doesn’t need their benediction as a member of their club.

They fail to realise that by continuing with their screeching about the impending fascist takeover, about Trump stirring up violence against journalists by tweeting a meme, about Trump supporters being the most violent (Antifa, anyone?), about the whole right of politics being beyond the pale of political and civil society, that they are driving the polarisation of America, and of the wider West. Leaders like Roosevelt and Reagan would now be beyond the pale for making very similar points. I mean Churchill even talked about defending “Christian civilisation” before the Battle of Britain. The horror.

Meanwhile, Trump explicitly said that new arrivals would be welcome and that those who would not be welcome are those who would wish to do us harm and destroy us. In other words, Islamist terrorists. That doesn’t sound tyrannical to me, that sounds like prudent control of a nation’s borders.

If and when something comes along that really is tyrannical in nature, what then? No-one will listen to them, because they will have worn out their tactics of offense, and their quivers will be empty should the situation arise where there really is a risk of something truly totalitarian in nature.

The fact that Trump’s focus on family, freedom, country and God, on the ideas brought to fruition at great sacrifice over millennia that made the West great, such as individual liberty, property rights, freedom of speech, equality before the law, all of which allow these people to have and express the opinions they do, and also the fact that that nation states have a right to be sovereign and have defined and defended borders, all of that is inherently bigoted and all that can be said is that defending these values and ideas is a sign of inherent bigotry.

The alternative is apparently to oppose these values because they are now Trump’s values, so even worse than they already were due to their growth in a part of the world that has never done anything good and has only got to where it is by oppressing everyone else. If you’re a liberal and you support Western civilisation that is built on the aforementioned values, then you’re a white nationalist. Even if you’re a person of colour.

Even if you’re a Never Trumper like Bill Kristol, who also commended the speech or George W. Bush’s speechwriter who called it one of the best presidential speeches given abroad in his lifetime.

Standing up for Western values does not make one alt-right, and to say it does only drives us further apart, cutting us further off from one another and inflaming the each side’s view of the other, risking further violence seen on the ideological extremes.

There can be serious questions about Trump himself, and rightly so. But the fact that Trump said that Poland and the West could be saved, and could go into the future with its head held high if we rediscover our roots and values, who we are, and from that draw the will to survive and prosper, isn’t and shouldn’t be controversial.

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars

Political Peter Pans: The Millennial Generation and Fairy Tale Politics

Political Peter Pans: The Millennial Generation and Fairy Tale Politics

 

In the most recent edition of the Spectator, Lara Prendergast penned a column describing how the millennial generation’s political views have been moulded by the world of Harry Potter. Having seen how my generation has evolved politically, how they vote, how they approach political life in the way it intersects (sorry) with culture, the depiction of the millennials as the Potter Politicals is apt.

One only has to see how the millennials view the world to see how much they’ve been influenced by the world of Harry Potter and his fellow wizarding denizens. They view it with a similar Manichaean lens, with the world divided into comforting black and white, good and evil, nasty and nice. Ergo, Labour under Corbyn is nice and the Tories under May are nasty.

This worldview helps explain why millennials are so committed to rooting out social injustice and inequality wherever they find it, believing that they are like Dumbledore’s Army, bravely resisting and fighting back against the oppression and victimisation practised by those who don’t conform to their way of thinking, in Britain and in America.

The irony is that in their own way, the millennials have become as intolerant of dissident voices and opinions as those they view as bigoted; Theresa May is now viewed as Dolores Umbrage by many. But then again, if we are to use the Potterverse as a metaphor for real life, Umbrage would better describe the campus censors, who go around college campuses castigating and policing those who hold different opinions to themselves and thereby creating an environment that is no longer conducive to free thought and enquiry, and which actively seeks to kill it off if it deviates from the accepted Left-wing narrative due to words now being elevated to the same level as actions; words are now violence, hence unsafe, hence the need for ideological safe spaces.

I suspect that J.K. Rowling wouldn’t be happy to hear of her creation being co-opted by someone who doesn’t exactly share her worldview or the worldview she portrayed in her books. Another example of this is given by anti-Islamist extremist campaigner Maajid Nawaz. He calls the unwillingness to name the ideology of Islamist extremism due to fear of giving offence the “Voldemort Effect” because Islamism becomes the ideology that must not be named due to the fact that it admits that Jihadi terrorism has something to do with Islam. Not naming the ideology only increases the levels of hysteria around it, as it did in the books regarding Voldemort.

Apparently, when Nawaz told Rowling of his use of one of her literary devices in passing she wasn’t overly pleased. One suspects that’s because she’s in the “nothing to do with Islam” crowd, and is uncomfortable with her creation that displays an extremely fixed view of what good and evil is being used in this way, which suggests she falls into the trap, as Nick Cohen puts its, of being unable to comprehend that even brown-skinned people can behave in fascistic ways rather than always being the victims.

Given her own political views, it is hard not to see the bad guys in Harry Potter as magical right-wing and conservative caricatures, with all the emphasis on blood (racial) purity, purging the Muggles (unclean, not of the race), excessive order and hierarchy (tools of oppression designed). It’s a neat trick and serves only to reinforce the “us and them” narrative between those on the political Left and Right.

The real problem with how Harry Potter has influenced the political worldview of my generation is that it displays a lack of realism in how they view reality. Everything is black and white, good and evil, and can be solved by make-believe, wishful thinking and magical actions. The faith (and it is almost a sort of religious faith) placed in Jeremy Corbyn (and Bernie Sanders), now seen as some sort of Dumbledore, to deliver on his promises to bring about fairness and equality rests on the naive belief that socialism, a morally and economically bankrupt ideology, works or is even a good idea. The fact that socialism is tied with Nazism for the most murderous ideology in the history of mankind seems to have passed many millennials by.

This faith in magical thinking, displayed by the application of the Potterverse to real world politics, and the belief in the power of bankrupt ideologies to act as a sort of redemptive moral force together with a government that acts like a replacement parent, arguably displays the real political immaturity of these political Peter Pans. Their reliance on fairy tale political beliefs shows that they haven’t come to terms with the fact that life, both socially and politically, involves trade-offs between bad and less bad options. There is never a solution that will make all the problems vanish in a puff of smoke, and some people will always be disappointed.

The goal of politics should be instead to provide a basis that allows the full flowering of the individual as a sacrosanct being of inherent value, and whose prerogative in life it is to pursue life, liberty and happiness to the best of their ability. And yet this worldview does not mean that we should view society as made up of atomised economic widgets. Community, a sense of belonging and deep-seated love and affection, of oikophilia as Roger Scruton puts it, for those around you, whether it be your family, neighbours, village, town, city or nation, is also vital.

However, there is a difference between communitarianism and collectivism. Communitarianism revolves around a degree of freedom of association and choice, whereas collectivism, as instantiated in the most recent wave of Left-wing group identity politics, removes this freedom to choose. In collectivist identity politics, everyone is divided up by their basic biological, racial or sexual characteristics, and must associate and behave accordingly with a pre-defined group. Being part of a community means that while you are part of a bigger whole, there is room for manoeuvre in how you conduct your life; in a collectivist identity group, there is no room and everyone must behave in accordance with their in-group.

The Potterverse has, I would argue, helped feed into the mentality that has given rise to the “us and them” phenomenon present in Left-wing identitarianism that is rampant on campuses today, and which punishes those who stray from the narrative. It has further helped divide people by playing into the resistance narrative currently on display in America, and to a lesser extent in Britain. It has also fostered and played into an unrealistic view of the world, where problems can be solved by magical thinking and sweeping programmes designed to end inequality and bring fairness. The fact that the policies millennials favour will bring neither and will only serve to grow inequality and unfairness doesn’t seem to be on their radar.

The political Peter Pans of the millennial generation need to leave behind their fantasies about life and politics and the warm embrace of the comforting world of childish dreams. They need to abandon their longing for magical solutions to their problems, and they need to start thinking about ways in which they can find solutions to their own issues. If they cannot sort their own lives out, maybe they should have the humility that comes with maturity to realise that they’re not prepared to sort the rest of the world out, either.

 

Freedom of expression is for everyone in a democracy

 

Following the far-right terrorist attack at the Finsbury Mosque at 00:21 am on Monday, June 19, Tommy Robinson went on Twitter to say how he felt about the attack. Once again he put his foot in it by appearing to suggest that those outside the mosque who were run-over, while not directly responsible for their injuries, were nevertheless tangentially responsible as the mosque had a long history of creating and sheltering extremists and that a reprisal of this sort was just waiting to happen following the recent Islamist attacks in Manchester and on London Bridge.

Predictably, the Twittersphere sounded like the Twitterpocalypse had come, with scores of people slamming him for his tweets. I am not defending what Robinson said in his tweets, and think that they were poorly worded. I do however defend his right to tweet what he did. Robinson did say in later tweets that he didn’t want this to happen and that he’d been warning about it for years, but the damage had already been done. It made him look worse in many people’s eyes than he did already and confirmed other peoples’ suspicions about him.

Robinson then went in ITV’s Good Morning Britain, ostensibly to defend himself on national TV. However, the “interview” didn’t really turn out the way he might have hoped. What unfolded was extraordinary by any measure, and has caused more controversy than if Robinson had not been invited and just been left with his tweets for company.

He began by saying that there was no such thing as “Islamophobia”. A phobia is an irrational fear, and he said that it wasn’t irrational to fear these things., i.e. Islamist terror. 

To bolster his point, he brought a copy of the Qur’an and said that it incited hatred. He also quoted British Prime Minister William Gladstone on Islam, who said “So long as there is this book there will be no peace in the world”. To be clear, in this interview, he didn’t defame or make racist comments about Muslims. He spoke purely about Islam, a religion, a belief system, a set of ideas, and something that in a supposedly liberal society should be as open to criticism as any other set of ideas.

This was too much for Piers Morgan. He exploded with rage. He demanded of Robinson that he “show some damned respect for people’s religious beliefs” as Robinson held the Qur’an and told him that he was a “complete disgrace”. Morgan then went on to shout, “You’re sounding like a complete lunatic, you’re sounding like a bigoted lunatic. You are an Islamophobe who hates Islam. What you’re doing now is deliberately inflammatory. You’re stirring up hatred. You are abusing people’s religion. You are abusing their faith and you’re being a complete disgrace.”

Right. Just so we’re clear, Britain has not suddenly regressed 400 years and reinstituted a blasphemy law. We are supposedly not in a society where one religion takes precedence over another or even takes precedence over freedom of expression against it. The fact that Piers Morgan appointed himself as a form of religious police cum speech commissar, dictating what can and cannot be said and about which religion, is not a sign of his moral calibre. It is a sign that he had an agenda against Tommy Robinson and used this as a means of shouting him down.

He is also indicative of the wider attitudes of a certain part of British society who will use regressive concepts from a certain community as a way of “protecting” that community. The fact that Morgan will probably do more damage than good by adopting this attitude does not appear to have occurred to him. As an example of this regressive attitude to religion, race and free speech: the way he tried to stop what he saw as an insult to another person’s religious beliefs – which also seems to be equated with skin colour in many instances – smacks of the bigotry of low expectation, almost as if we cannot criticise someone’s religious beliefs in case they get angry or kill people because of it. Doesn’t this arguably show a lack of respect for Muslims’ ability to cope when their faith is under discussion or scrutiny?

If he knew what he was talking about in any way, he would maybe have engaged with Robinson on what he actually said about the Qur’an in a discussion that might have enlightened everyone there. That is the fundamental reason why we have free and open discussions and debates: to learn from each other, particularly when we might be in the wrong. All Piers Morgan did in shouting Robinson down was make himself look stupid and Robinson like even more of a Neanderthal than many people think he is already as he couldn’t actually get any of his points across. If we cannot dissociate beliefs from people, and debate those ideas without believing that we are engaging in bigotry against the people who hold those beliefs, then we as a society are screwed.

The freedom of expression, even that which we find abhorrent, is crucial for a free society, for it is what every other freedom flows from. This is what the staff at Charlie Hebdo believed, and they are now dead because they were seen as blasphemers against Islam for drawing cartoons. Piers Morgan dishonours their memory, and all those secularists, atheists and free speech advocates in Muslim majority countries like Bangladesh who are also suffering the consequences of blasphemy, by effectively arguing that no religious belief system of holy text is above scrutiny, satire or insult.

Added to his attenuated relationship with the ideas of freedom of expression and of the importance of dialogue, Morgan’s attacks on what Robinson did manage to say about the Qur’an arguably proved nothing more than that he was using the opportunity and platform he enjoys to pursue a little moral grandstanding and to act as the noble white knight, thereby portraying himself as the noble warrior for minority rights against a knuckle-dragging neo-Nazi who apparently wanted to “defame” a holy book out of pure spite at non-white people.

Maybe if Morgan had actually read the Qur’an he might realise that not everything in it is peaceful. As with Christianity and Judaism, there are also violent passages in the Qur’an, including instructions to kill the infidel. He was either not aware of this or he was being disingenuous for his own gain. Maybe he also isn’t aware of the doctrine of abrogation, which means that the more violent passages take precedence over the more peaceful passages? Again, I don’t know his mind so cannot say what he knows or does not know in this area for certain.

Not only did Piers Morgan show himself to be ignorant of what the Qur’an actually says, while doing so in a manner that made him look boorish and vaguely silly, his words essentially castigating Robinson for blasphemy against Islam show that his laudable concern for Britain’s Muslims and their feelings of safety after the Finsbury Park mosque attack serves only to neglect and isolate those who are even more vulnerable, namely the dissidents, the outcasts, the converts, the ex-Muslims and the reformers, as well as those non-Muslims in the Middle East at the mercy of various Islamist terrorist organisations who take great pleasure in persecuting and killing those they deem guilty of blaspheming against their own beliefs; Morgan might remember the genocide against the Yazidis or the fact that the Christians of the Middle East have been burnt out of Christianity’s cradle. The Muslim reformers in particular need the support of people like Morgan and those in the media, cultural and political elites if they are to have any chance at succeeding in their quest to reform the religion and somehow negate the more violent aspects of it, while those non-Muslims who have suffered persecution might also appreciate some solidarity should it be forthcoming.

By shouting “blasphemy” at Robinson for daring to speak against the Qur’an, Morgan is also effectively leaving the reformers high and dry, leaving them out in the open, at risk from the bullets and the blades of the blasphemy police from their own religion who would be quite happy to silence these brave people in a much more permanent way if they could. Morgan’s sentiments would basically kill any chance of the reformers succeeding, as the fact that they are trying to innovate and critically evaluate their holy text places them at huge risk of charges of, guess what, blasphemy.

Morgan’s attitude would mean that these people would be even more vulnerable than they already are; a significant number of their own communities already think they’re heretics. If, in the eyes of Western liberals they are also considered heretics, for daring to criticise and scrutinise their religious texts, then the movement for an Islamic reformation is lost, and perhaps our only chance of mitigating or ending the current wave of Islamist terrorist violence would die with it. The grim reality is that that word would likely be more than metaphorical. By doing what he did, Morgan green-lit to an even greater extent than already exists anyone who wishes to take offence at even the mildest criticism of Islam. This exponentially increases the power of those who wish to take the completely subjective concept of offence and use it to silence dissent within their own ranks.

Ultimately, in trying to put down Tommy Robinson with charges of defamation and blasphemy, Piers Morgan betrayed those dissidents and reformers in the Muslim community, leaving them open to further attack, vilification, verbal and physical assault by putting them at even greater risk of the charge of blasphemy and the penalty that comes with it. He also abandoned those non-Muslims who have faced persecution in the Middle East for blaspheming against Islam. In his rush to play the hero and lecture Robinson on how words have consequences, Piers Morgan seems to have forgotten that actions have consequences too, and often far greater.

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars

Finsbury Park Mosque attack sign of a society coming apart

Finsbury Park Mosque attack sign of a society coming apart

 

On the morning of Monday, June 19, at 00:21 am, a white van ploughed into a crowd of worshippers who had exited the Finsbury Park Mosque. 10 people were injured, eight are in hospital with several whose conditions have been described as very serious. One person was killed.

The far-right terrorist, for that, is what we must call him, was held down by members of the congregation while the police were called. The imam protected him from the anger of the crowd so that the police could do their job properly when they arrived. The man reportedly said that he’d done his job, and apparently shouted that he wanted to kill all Muslims.

This attack came just over a year after the murder of the MP Jo Cox by another far-right terrorist. Anniversaries are important for terrorists.  The Manchester bombing came 4 yours after the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in Woolwich.

Last week, Grenfell Tower in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea caught fire and has resulted in the likely deaths of around 79 people. The safety concerns of the residents had been ignored. The workmanship of the refurbishment, hired out to a series of contractors, had been substandard. Now, this blackened tower stands like a tomb, reaching into the sky and berating us for the lack of thought for those at the bottom of society.

The London Bridge attack took place on June 3, and shook the capital and country, already off balance after the attack in Manchester; this was followed by the fire. Now, this. Londoners could be forgiven for feeling like society is seriously fraying at the seams. After the Manchester attacks, there were calls to carry on, as usual, to not allow the terrorists to divide us and to not let it alter our attitudes to each other or to life.

Of course, this didn’t happen, bar some much talked up events where the efforts made by the media to draw attention to their healing and harmonious nature only served to instill in the minds of many people that there are those who are endeavouring to paper over the cracks, encouraging us to dance and sing, and all the while it feels more and more like some black wave is rushing towards us, threatening to drown us, with every attack, every disaster, every instance of political upheaval.

The Finsbury Mosque attack is what happens when the great societal conversation, the dialogue between people from different walks of life, breaks down and is replaced by mistrust, fear and suspicion. The extremists from both ends of the ideological spectrum, whether it is the Islamists, the far-right ethno-nationalists, or indeed the militant far-left, thrive in this polarised environment, as more and more people are driven into their ranks seeking some kind of psychological and spiritual safety.

Al-Quds day saw a march by Hezbollah supporters and other Islamist extremists march through the centre of London. They, of course, blamed the Grenfell fire on the ‘Zionists’. The March saw the flags of Hezbollah and other terror groups flying. This is not a sign of a healthy society.

After the Grenfell fire, there was a protest against the negligence the residents felt at Kensington and Chelsea Council, the local municipal authority. A crowd of angry protesters surged into the council building and tried to make it upstairs but were stopped by police. Later, the protest took to the street, marching through central London, shouting their anger, at the government, at society, at the clear evening sky. There is evidence that many of the protestors were far-Left militants, as evidenced by the signs carried. This is where the majority of the chants for the overthrow of the democratically elected government came from.

The ‘Day of Rage’ protest planned to coincide with the Queen’s Speech this week has been infiltrated by far-Left radicals who will use the grief and anger of the residents of Grenfell and the surrounding area for their own malign political purposes: namely, toppling a government they see as illegitimate despite its having won the General Election. Even the residents have raised concern over these ideologues using their pain for their own gain.

Far-right extremism is on the rise, with the Prevent counter-radicalisation scheme seeing a sharp increase in the number of people being referred for worrying far-right behaviour. ISIS wanted to divide us as a society, to turn us into two armed camps, Muslim v non-Muslim. Last night, they succeeded. They cannot be allowed to succeed again.

Now, more than ever, it is vital that we have those ‘embarrassing’ conversations that Theresa May spoke of in her speech following the London Bridge attack. It is only through dialogue that we can diffuse the brewing tensions that people in London and across the country can feel, even if they do not wish to admit to it. It is far, far better to have combat with words, rather than combat with weapons. It is only if we speak the truth to the best of our ability that we can gain some control over the chaos that threatens to unleash itself on our society.

Robert Putnam, in Bowling Alone, demonstrated that multicultural societies are lower in trust than monocultural societies. People tend to hunker down in their nests and engage with each other less. This is not an option for us, as the last few weeks have proven. We must engage, we must discuss, we must debate, we must argue, we must not let offence at people disagreeing with ideas hold us back.

The only option for our increasingly diverse society is to have an increasingly free and open debate. The alternative is to hunker down even more and allow the cracks to grow and the tension to rise.

That would be the worst thing we could do.

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars

Upon a Windswept Shore: The Falklands War 35 Years On

Upon a Windswept Shore: The Falklands War 35 Years On

It was 35 years ago. Margaret Thatcher was in power, but only precariously so. The country was fractious, and the economy was still struggling to emerge from the subterranean depths it had plunged to in the 1970’s. A war on the far side of the world was fought and won, against all the odds, and showed the world that Britain would not sit idly by as its sovereign territory was invaded by a belligerent dictatorship.

The first signs of trouble came on March 31, 1982, when news came of Argentinian naval vessels fast approaching the few rocky and windblown islands at the bottom of the world, 8,000 miles away from the UK. The islands were home at the time to around 1,500 people who considered themselves British.

This move by the Argentines came at a bad time. Britain was still weak after the disaster of the 1970’s when even the USSR didn’t want to buy our goods because they were so poorly made. As a result of this, the armed forces, and particularly the navy, had faced budget cuts and was untested since the 1950’s. A victory was not inevitable or even looked possible. The task before Thatcher’s government and the armed forces, in purely logistical terms, let alone in military capability, was immense.

Thatcher had to wage a two-front campaign, both within her own cabinet in order to determine Britain’s response, and also against America, whose interests in the region ran counter to Britain’s. If she had made a mess of either situation, the circumstances would have been extremely severe. However, the way Thatcher managed the crisis mirrors the performance of the soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought; they rose to the task, drew a line in the sand and refused to accede to the thuggish behaviour of a dictatorial totalitarian regime.

The cabinet and members of the Foreign Office were already resigned to defeat, showing the prevailing idea from the 70’s of Britain being a nation in decline and that they were just there to manage it. Admiral and First Sea Lord Henry Leach forced his way into the meeting in the House of Commons in his full uniform, showing that at times like this symbols of authority such as this are needed to galvanise people into action. He was emphatic: “I can put together a task force of destroyers, landing craft, support vessels… It can be ready to leave in 48 hours.”

This forthright plan of action was the spark that lit Thatcher’s will to action, kindling in her a belief that it could be done. Despite the instability within her inner circle following the invasion, Thatcher assembled a team that served her well during the crisis.

America, as mentioned, had interests counter to Britain’s in the area. There was a lack of clarity surrounding the situation from Washington, and Secretary of State Alexander Haig did not help matters with his poorly handled attempts of trying to persuade Thatcher to sue for peace on terms that she saw as ‘conditional surrender’. The Americans in this instance were not helpful to Britain, and in reality only served to make a difficult and worrying situation more challenging than it already was. Francis Pym, Thatcher’s Foreign Secretary, made matters worse by siding with Haig. Luckily, the rest of the cabinet sided with Thatcher, but it was another obstacle that she could have done without.

The House of Commons voted in approval of the formation of the task force on April 3, with Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse in command. The task force consisted of several groups, the largest focused around the aircraft carriers HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible. In mid-April, the task force left for the Falklands, along with a large number of tankers and cargo ships to supply the fleet while it operated far across the oceans. In total, 127 ships served in the task force. This included 43 warships, 22 Royal Fleet Auxiliaries, as well as 62 merchant vessels.

The first clash came at sea, with the sinking of the ARA General Belgrano by the HMS Conqueror, followed by the retaliatory sinking of the HMS Sheffield by an Exocet missile fired from an Argentine jet. So far, 323 Argentine dead, 20 British. On May 21, 4,000 British troops were landed on the Falklands at San Carlos Water on the north-west Coast of East Falkland by amphibious craft. Over the following week, the ships supporting the landing were hard hit by Argentine air force fighters. HMS Ardent (May 22), Antelope (May 24) and Coventry (May 25) were sunk, along with MV Atlantic Conveyor.

Brigadier Julian Thompson advanced his men south, in his plan to secure the western side of the island before moving on Port Stanley to the east. On May 27-28, Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Jones led 600 men and soundly defeated over 1,000 Argentines around Darwin and Goose Green, forcing them to surrender. Jones was killed leading a critical charge from the front and later received the Victoria Cross posthumously. A few days after, British commandos defeated Argentine commandos on Mount Kent. In early June, another 5,000 British troops arrived to reinforce the men already in the fight, with command shifting Major General Jeremy Moore. While some of these troops were disembarking at Bluff Cove and Fitzroy, their transports, RFA Sir Tristram and RFA Sir Galahad, were attacked, leaving 56 killed.

After reinforcing his position, Moore launched the assault on Port Stanley. British troops launched coordinated assaults on the high ground surrounding the town on the night of June 11. After hard fighting, they succeeded captured their objectives. The attacks continued two nights later, and the British took the town’s last natural lines of defence at Wireless Ridge and Mount Tumbledown. Surrounded on land and blockaded at sea, the Argentine commander, General Mario Menéndez, realising the hopelessness of the situation surrendered his 9,800 men on June 14, effectively bringing an end to the conflict.

The Falkland Islands are harsh outcrops in the southern Atlantic. There wasn’t much there back then, apart from sheep and some people. That wasn’t the point. The point was that these islands were British; their people were British and wished to remain so. And indeed, still do, by around 99%.

The war showed that Britain was not in a state of managed decline if only it had the will and the spirit to fight for something more. It was able to protect its own when others with malevolence in their hearts wished to do us and ours harm. The war showed that Britain was prepared to fight for this and that some two-bit dictator wouldn’t succeed in his vain attempt at gaining military glory.

On those rocky outcrops far away in the cold southern ocean, Britain refused to back down and fought back. Her troops acquitted themselves admirably and with great courage, showing that they were a force to be reckoned with. In ordering the creation of the task force and the retaking of the Falklands, Margaret Thatcher showed that she also had the strength of character and spirit to choose the way of war, despite the difficulties, despite the risks, despite the self-defeating apathy of those around her. She did it because it was the right thing to do.

Whether Britain could do the same today, 35 years on, with the diminished state our armed forces are in, and the lack of leadership from all political parties is another thing entirely.

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars