This is a brave new world for the uncontrolled and inexplicably self-confident forces of belligerent American secularism.
by Conrad Black
As the coronavirus crisis unfolds and the 2016 election and post-electoral scandals ooze into the open, God is affronted and false gods disintegrate. The discussion over the opening of churches is generally presented as a public health issue, coupled with a First Amendment freedom of religion argument. But, in many cases, it is an outright assault on the practice of religion generally.
Compared to other advanced Western democracies, the United States is a country that practices religion. But the media, academia, and conventional wisdom embedded in the contemporary ethos of America’s governing elites is, estimating very roughly, one-quarter religious communicants or sympathizers, one-quarter agnostic, one-quarter atheist, and one-quarter anti-theist. All of these groups, of course, are entitled to have and to express their opinions—but they are not entitled to impose their opinions on others.
What Is “Essential”?
At the beginning of the coronavirus national shutdown in March, an argument was made that as religious congregations are frequently quite large and generally the congregants are physically close together, there was a legitimate public health claim to suspend services in all houses of worship. This was a legally vulnerable endeavor from the beginning because of the First Amendment prohibition on infringement of free exercise of religion, and because the criterion for essential services was arbitrarily decided by secular leaders.
Liquor stores and gun stores were deemed to be essential even though houses of worship, judged to be essential by a large part of the population, were not so deemed by officials. Practically all of the religious denominations gamely went along in the time of crisis and offered virtual services over the internet.
But as data accumulated revealing that the risk of this virus was minimal to all but those with challenged immune systems, especially the elderly, it was clear that religious congregations, composed almost entirely of relatively purposeful and responsible people, would only pose a hazard to elderly congregants, and that these could normally be relied upon to be prudent about their own health and in any case to take responsibility for their own actions.
There was thus no public health reason to attempt to continue the ban on religious services after it became clear that such measures were unnecessarily restrictive. The United States reached this point of public awareness by the middle of April and what has happened since has been harassment of religious practice by secular authorities masquerading as defenders of public health.
Our Anti-Theist Elites
It is impossible to be precise about the motives of individual governors and mayors diligently hiding behind masks of concern for public health. But it safely may be assumed that in some cases—such as the egregious Democratic governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, who advocates infanticide and a semi-permanent lockdown—that a dislike for any acknowledgment of the possible existence of a divine intelligence or any spiritual forces active in human life partially informs the authoritarian regime he has inflicted upon his fellow Virginians.
Though most of the influential founders of the institutions of American government were not diligent adherents to particular religious sects and had a somewhat “Age of Reason” perspective, they were concerned in the First Amendment to assure that one religious group did not oppress other religious groups. This was the burden of President Washington’s famous addresses to the Roman Catholics of Maryland and to the congregation of the Newport synagogue, that whatever oppressions they or their ancestors faced in the old world would not be replicated in the United States of America.
In general, the United States has been faithful to Washington’s pledge and it would be an exaggeration to imply that it has departed from it in the last couple of months. But what American society is facing now was an unforeseen problem: today the anti-theists, a coalition of materialists, pagans, and both world-weary and militant cynics is tentatively seeking to suppress the practice of or indulgence of any religion. The United States has been a tolerant rather than a pious country, and this is what is under threat.
Jefferson was a deist of very diluted faith in anything other than the wonders of the world. Franklin was more or less of a good-humored agnostic. Though his funeral train in 1790 was followed by every clergyman in Philadelphia, he did not have a religious funeral. Even the much-celebrated but rather desiccated Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes apologetically stated that he was a Unitarian because in the Boston of his youth, “You had to be something religiously, and Unitarian was the least you could be.”
Of course, Jefferson, Franklin, and Holmes did not try to prevent those who wished to practice a religion from doing so. This is a brave new world for the uncontrolled and inexplicably self-confident forces of belligerent American secularism.
The Gods That Failed
There is no acceptable argument for seeking to prevent people from practicing a religion. It is an impulse that man has had since his earliest days, and is prompted by an awareness of the inability of the human mind to grasp the notions of how things began and what their physical and temporal extent might be, and how miraculous events and spiritual insights can be assimilated into any concept of cosmic order.
There is the further complication that once any notion of supernatural, otherworldly, spiritual, or miraculous forces are dispensed with, a vacuum is created which is filled at best by vacuous imposters but more often and more infamously by people elevating themselves to the stature of gods and celebrating themselves in impressive but often repulsive pagan festivals. This tradition can be traced from the mists of antiquity to giants of classical history such as Alexander the Great and Julius and Augustus Caesar who raised themselves to the status of gods. Their festivals were replicated by Robespierre, Hitler, and Stalin, but modern anti-theistic self-elevated deities have naturally magnified the oppressions of the ancient world with the application of what Winston Churchill described, in reference to the Third Reich as tyranny “made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.”
Even an absurd state governor like Northam is not in any sense reminiscent of any of the individuals just mentioned. But if the militant atheists of the American media-academic complex who have practically taken over the Democratic Party are any more overt in their ambitions, they will be confronted by the great majority of Americans who either practice a religion or acknowledge that people have a right to do so.
Those who aggressively despise religion in America are going to have to resign themselves to its imperishability or erupt from their fetid closet and acknowledge what their true aims are, and take their chances with the pluralistic system that they have deviously attempted to manipulate.
As this subplot unfolds, America’s most recent secular demigod, Barack Obama, is every day exposed as an empty legend crumbling into sawdust. He is not the idealist hailed in 2008 seeking American brotherhood and a Socratic state with less materialism and greater intellectual elevation. He is a failed and corrupt president whose principal achievements were a thoroughly inadequate reform to the healthcare system, insane and unconstitutional commitment to ecological fantasies, and an almost catastrophic attempt to appease America’s enemies, particularly the demented theocracy of Iran.
As false gods fail, the believers in a real God persevere.
I have always been a man of action, but almost 30 years ago I added memory loss to my list of virtues. I lived in Whitley Bay back then, and my parents owned a fine black Labrador unimaginatively named Ben who, like so many of his breed, was so stupid (or cunning) that he affected confusion whilst he broke wind. In between eating and farting his life was bliss and until senility later unleashed a passion for attacking poodles, he was an incredibly clubbable canine and I always stepped out with pride when taking him for his constitutional. Most of the time it was uneventful but one day, whilst taking him for a walk to a local quarry, an unlikely looking jogger sauntered towards me, sweating profusely and vaguely distressed. This was not Islington, and he did not look like a man who bought organic tofu or fair trade coffee. The mind took some time to process it all but seconds later the mystery was cleared up. An overweight police officer rounded the corner in hot ( if lumbering) pursuit shrieking at me to trip him up. I hesitated initially and as if to emphasise the gravity of the situation the panting officer added ‘for fucks sake’ and ‘armed robber’ to his exhortations. I didn’t yet have a humanities degree and formed a vague idea that a choice was thrust upon me. I didn’t disappoint. Lying in til midday as a teenage parasite at my parent’s expense steeled me for the challenge and I promptly raced after the miscreant with stern resolve. I fled only from dishonour and soon the unequal contest was over. I would readily have disarmed him, but my heavy footsteps were enough in the event to demoralise the exhausted morlock, and after running him into a side street he tamely surrendered to the (by now teeming) horde of Northumbria constabulary’s finest. He instinctively knew what was coming and starting simpering to his captors as they promptly laid on him the heavy hand of the law. All in all, I saw quite a few punches landed on him and they were all combined with those self-satisfied commentaries rough men are wont to utter when dispensing rough justice (one of them rhymes with ‘runt’)
Ben, witless and excited as always, made friends with the officers and in the ultimate coup de grace lifted his leg on the hapless felon. A careless act but a civilisational metaphor worth savouring. Soaked in a golden shower and with reddened eyes the yob who had held up our local off license was carted off whilst uniformed men huddled round Ben with childlike elation. It was a deeply moving if comical sight and I thought it was justice served, if a tad roughly. Of heroic endeavours little remained for me bar a little tact. When a tattooed sergeant came round the next morning to take a statement we knowingly skated over the uncomfortable sequel to the arrest. I must have been in shock as I couldn’t remember the officers assaulting him and was in any case too excited at the prospect of the Threshers voucher (it never came) that had been promised by the shop manager. It never taxed my conscience then and I haven’t lost much sleep since. North Tyneside was a rough place (full of vulpine strides and garish tracksuits ) in the nineties and when fighting a counter insurgency, you have to occasionally ‘light them up’ .They were guarding us whilst I slept (not that well it should be said, we were burgled twice) and one should not be too squeamish about the means if you will the end. It’s what cops are supposed to do, at least some of the time, and looking back I feel an incredible sense of nostalgia for seeing honest men do their job as citizens in uniform. They did what all of us in a moment’s honest reflection thought they should do. Marx was right, the police are the higher lumpen proletariat- they were never supposed to be ‘representative’ , as not everyone can bear the dirty hands that come with it. The object of their attention may not have deserved it but Dreyfus he wasn’t. He had it coming. Most of us know this instinctively which is why in Britain, even reactionaries like me don’t like them up close and personal. A certain obnoxiousness goes with the territory and this used to be to their credit. Palmerston said women of the night were necessary so that ladies wouldn’t be plagued by undesirable suitors - we at least should expect some men to land a punch on degenerates even if we’re to prim to do so ourselves. The police for their part are entitled to the odd memory lapse on our part if civilisation is in peril. At that time, I thought discretion was valour. Looking at their lazy sense of arrogant entitlement now I can guarantee my recall would have been total.
The self-important officiousness of the British police has come on leaps and bounds since the desecration of that miserly liquor store, and they have conducted themselves during this phoney war with an ill-mannered efficiency they could not put to use on real criminals. Whilst the metropolitan police can still act with elan when a machete wielding jihadi needs to be briskly martyred ( I have friendly acquaintances in the Met who did their obligatory community engagement and ‘problem solving’ before rushing back to real police work and exempt them from the following remarks) much of its rank and file has been ominously diverted into ‘partnership’ roles, like the ones at my local authority who wear their backsides out mentoring young offenders and ‘breaking down barriers ‘ with the ‘community’. Their efforts are greeted with sullen sniggers by the kids, but they at least are spared having their fragile linguistic skills further harmed by an audience with their superiors. To that mighty end a whole cadre of senior police officers has sprung up and they reserve their best efforts for the pointless liaison and ‘community cohesion’ meetings where Chief Inspectors wage unrelenting war against the English language. (‘Impactive’ is a favourite, if all else fails ‘resilience ‘is a word which will meet any occasion). Of the police officers who are crippled by back problems as severe as those endured by benefits claimants in Liverpool and parked in front of local authority computers running ‘checks’ the less said the better. They’re punctual at least - they come in when no one is about and leave when we arrive( we are never that early) They still have a bit of an aura as us civilians tend to subconsciously assume the lethargy conceals dormant energies but anyone like me, a past master at developing IT problems to escape the listless boredom of a working day can see the pointlessness of it all. And yet Rome burns.
Much of it isn’t their fault.
Americans will doubtless be shocked that in the UK the police have to notify their similarly ineffectual counterparts in the local authority every time they use a taser but even in less politically febrile parts of the country much of their time is in any case wasted trying to court a popularity they can never really expect. No one really likes them - that’s why I felt obliged to lie for them as a feckless youth - it’s the least I could do for men who live in internal exile. Now I cannot even pity them for that. They are the most egregiously parasitic and sloth like arm of the public sector and most of their mythical ‘resource shortages’ stem from a deliberate (and convenient) politicisation of their role. They already have bewildering discretion on what they prosecute and routinely ignore a raft of serious criminal offences but when people are sighted walking dogs in picturesque wildernesses, senior police officers have gone the extra mile despatching drones in the process to film the evil and drip feeding their tepid efforts to a media who now at least can see no end to their virtue. The feckless poor did after all unleash Brexit and penance is required. Doubtless we deserve it- the police will always operate more effectively with a clear moral compass, but when ( and I choose only the most familiar example) they’re forced into interminable meetings with sanctimonious councillors and council bureaucrats at every passing whim it’s hardly a surprise they venture into an Englishman’s castle and interrogate him on thought crimes. Harry Miller dared to suggest that men weren’t women and post a transgender joke. He was warned for his troubles to ‘check his thinking’ by a police officer in Humberside who would doubtless have struggled to form words other than ‘impactive’ and ‘prejudice’. A lot of it about and it is beyond my powers to forget it. As to those fine officers in Whitley Bay I hope their pensions are fat and their retirements happy.
Note- Upon returning home in 1993 during a campus reprieve I was met with eerie silence and discovered Ben had vanished. My ageing parents had tired of walking him and given him to a farmer. The noble and entirely useless beast (he patiently witnessed the burglaries) passed on his senile affections to another loving family and died peacefully a year later. Those of you with flatulent canines in your care will recognise the tell-tale look of guilt on his face. The felon pleaded guilty in court to armed robbery and the public spirited actions of a member of the public were praised in Newcastle Crown court. The commendation by the Chief Constable of Northumbria Police was used as a character reference in a job application for a caravan cleaning job and I am no longer able to sport this garland of quiet heroism.
Mahmoud Abbas has for years threatened repeatedly to cut off security coordination with Israel, and even to rip up entirely the Oslo Accords. He’s huffed and puffed, but until now, he’s never followed through. Now he has finally gone and done it. He’s decided to punish Israel in advance for its plan to extend its sovereignty over both the Jordan Valley and Jewish settlements throughout the West Bank. In a speech in Ramallah on May 18, Abbas declared that “the Palestine Liberation Organization and the State of Palestine are absolved, as of today, of all agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments.” Not just the Oslo Accords with Israel, but “all agreements” with the Jewish state. And not just with Israel, but also with the Americans.
This time, he is following through. He has already instructed the Palestinian forces to end all security coordination with the Israelis. P.A. police who had been stationed in the East Jerusalem satellite towns of Azzariyah, Abu Dis, Biddu and Beit Ichsa, after getting special permission from Israel to be there as part of the effort to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, have been removed. The Palestinian security forces have ceased to coordinate – even to talk – with the Israelis. Ending all such security coordination with Israel in the West Bank will only benefit Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and others determined not just to destroy Israel, but also the P.A. Abbas doesn’t care. What’s more, to show his fury with the Trump Administration, for that proposed Deal of the Century which would have given the Palestinians a state of their own and $50 billion in aid, he’s also ending “all ties” to the Americans, including the C.I.A.
What does this mean? The security cooperation with Israel has been vital for the survival in power of Abbas and his entourage, whose corruption has made them ever less popular in the West Bank. They well remember that Hamas came to power in Gaza through elections. In the West Bank, as Mahmoud Abbas himself admitted in a speech at the U.N. General Assembly in September 2019, Hamas would defeat Fatah were elections to be held. The Hamas threat in the West Bank has been held in check because Israel and the P.A. have so extensively cooperated on intelligence. If that now ends, Israel, the P.A., and even Jordan – which also fears a Hamas takeover in what are now the P.A.-run parts of the West Bank — will suffer.
The Israelis have had valuable information given to them about Hamas and other groups, such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The Shin Bet even cracked an Al Qaeda cell in Jerusalem with help from the Palestinians. The P.A. has also been helpful in helping the Israelis locate terrorists on the run in the West Bank. In return, Israeli intelligence has helped the P.A. to foil Hamas operations in the West Bank, including several assassination plots against Abbas himself. Israel has shared information with the P.A. about Hamas operatives and activities outside the West Bank, in Gaza and even in Europe.
Now that Abbas has declared such security coordination at an end, the P.A. will no longer supply information to Israel about terrorists in the West Bank, both those who are planning attacks and those who, having committed their murders, have been hiding in the West Bank. No doubt Israel will suffer. But so will the P.A,, which will have a much more difficult time keeping track of its enemies, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and even Al Qaeda operatives. The P.A. has in the past used such coordination with Israel to suppress not just terrorist groups, but also political dissent in the West Bank. Israel has helped in this effort, deeming the P.A. the least bad of possible alternatives. But with Abbas cutting off all ties, such continued coordination will be impossible.
By ending all agreements with Israel, Abbas has created other problems for the P.A. Right now more than half of the P.A.’s revenues, roughly $50 million a month, come from the taxes that Israel collects on Palestinian imports and then transfers to the P.A. If the Oslo Accords and all other agreements with Israel are “ripped up” by Abbas, Israel will certainly not be willing to transfer the taxes it collects on imports to the P.A. How will the P.A. survive if those payments – half of its revenues – come to an end? Or what if Israel, retaliating for Abbas throwing overboard all agreements with the Jewish state, simply halts all imports to, and exports from, the P.A. territories?
Another result of Abbas’ declaring all agreements with Israel invalid will be a steep rise in unemployment for Palestinians in the West Bank. About 85,000 West Bank Palestinians now have work permits for Israel, while another 30,000 have permits allowing them to work in the settlements. These Palestinians are paid at least twice as much as they earn working in the P.A.-run territories. That money helps keep the P.A.’s economy afloat. If Abbas insists on cutting all ties, Israel is unlikely to allow such an arrangement to continue; it’s one more example – just like his recent refusal to accept humanitarian aid from the UAE because the Etihad plane carrying that aid landed in Israel — of Mahmoud Abbas cutting off his nose to spite his face.
A COUNCIL boss said a street gathering for Eid prayers was seen as ‘a serious breach of the national lockdown’.
Footage circulating on social media shows dozens of men gathering to pray in the Whalley Range area of Blackburn on Sunday, the last day of Ramadan.
It is understood that more than one such meeting took place, with one group of worshippers choosing to gather close to St Michael’s Street.
In doing so, the groups decided to go against repeated advice issued by both the council and police urging those celebrating Eid to do so inside their own home this year as the country battles to fight off the threat of Covid-19.
Blackburn with Darwen council bosses have now confirmed that no permission was given for the gathering, with the lead for adult services Sayeed Osman saying he was ‘very disappointed’ to learn the street prayers had taken place.
“We have contacted all mosques in Blackburn with Darwen to reiterate that all places of worship remain closed and congregational prayers are not allowed, in line with government guidance.”
However it is understood that most Eid celebrations took place inside homes over the weekend, with Blackburn with Darwen police taking to Facebook at the time to thank the Muslim community for their cooperation.
A spokesman for the force said: “We have spoken to the organiser to remind him of the Government guidance.
“This is a proportionate response in line with the stance we have adopted throughout with all our communities around engaging, explaining and encouraging before taking any enforcement action.
Abdul Hamid Qureshi, former chairman of Lancashire Council of Mosques, added that anyone found to be breaking lockdown rules needed to be taken to task. He himself spent a week in hospital in April after contracting the coronavirus.
He said: “Lancashire Council of Mosques has been one of the leading organisations in the country when it comes to issuing advice and support within the Muslim community throughout the outbreak - they have led the way. “However when you see that some people have adopted such an extreme approach it is hugely disappointing. . . a very negative thing to have done. “The risk they are bringing to not only themselves but other people is what I find the hardest to understand.
Universities have become Cesspools of Political Correctness
Canada is a relatively tolerant and civilized place, but you would not guess that from the publications being put out by the University of Toronto.
by Conrad Black
This column is written for all those who feel oppressed by political correctness in Canada. It is prompted by my wife Barbara giving me the magazines sent to alumni of University College (UC) at the University of Toronto and by the University of Toronto itself, each quarter. I receive a sprinkling of information from the universities where I graduated (Carleton, Laval and McGill) and from some that kindly gave me honorary degrees, but I have never seen anything like this.
The college alumni magazine identifies three contributors of whom one describes herself as “a peace and love hippie with a dream of doing a meditation retreat at Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village Monastery in southern France,” and the second is the former associate director of UC’s “centre for sexual diversity studies.” The piece of the incoming principal of the college focused on the widespread need for attention to “students struggling with mental health problems” and celebrated his college’s “iconicity … of diversity and inclusion.” He also dwelt upon the “uncomfortable iconicity” in referring to a creek that once flowed through the campus but is now entirely subterranean. “We need … to include Indigenous teachings, learners and scholars in our midst.… The river still cleanses this area and its ancient powers continue to flow despite attempts to submerge its force.” The principal of such a well-known university college should have a clearer idea of legitimate subjects of iconization.
There was a tribute to my dear friend of more than 40 years, Supreme Court Justice Rosie Abella, winner of an award named after another old friend, the late Rose Wolfe (a former chancellor of U of T), both delightful women. Rosie referred to her belief as an under-graduate in “the perfectibility of the human condition, in progressive change, in excellence, in the symbiosis of reason and equity.” What she really meant and how she has amiably enacted it, is her fervent belief in practically every left-wing cause that does not oppress human rights: redistribution of money from people who had earned it to people who had not, reduction of the influence and status of individuals in favour of institutions purporting faithfully to enhance the welfare of the majority and a river of concessions and preferments to organized labour. By all means give Rosie an award, but not for elegiacal nonsense about the perfectibility of man through democratic Marxism. Next came a piece about a photographer who specialized in portraits of LGBTQ writers who “capture what’s essential.” (They were good photographs.) Then came the inevitable confession and repentance of Canada’s “ugly legacy of occupation and forced assimilation by settlers trying to extinguish the culture, rights and humanity of Indigenous peoples,” and the obligatory demonization of the residential schools system.
Fortified by this bracing sorbet of monochromatic lamentation on the evils of most Canadians and of the country that pays for all this, I prorupted on into the University Magazine. As if in prearranged sequence, it began with, “The white man has stepped everywhere across this land without seeing the people and how they have been injured or incapacitated by his exploits. They have also taken our children and removed them from their communities for generations until they are no longer connected to their family and community.… The white man could not keep to himself, he had to have more land, more gold, more fur.” I have written about the true history of the colonization of North America by technologically superior European states many times; the falsification of history cited above incites the question of who these people imagine are paying to circulate their opinions on glossy magazines to the descendants of the people whose right to be here they are disputing.
The next section was a series of alumni who had been battling various types of oppression. One more time: an apologist for the recent illegal native obstruction of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline explained that, “Canada is actually not Canada because the original nations on this land never gave up the right to govern themselves.” What is required is “a fundamental rethink and reimagining of what Canada is as a country.” There was a historian specializing in African-Canadian studies, with no hint of the fact that virtually all African-Canadians were liberated slaves (including those that Gov. Guy Carleton refused to hand back to Washington , a slaveowner, in 1783), or refugees from slavery, including 40,000 American slaves who fled the U.S. in the 30 years before the Civil War, as well as such American anti-slavery advocates as John Brown, Harriet Tubman and Josiah Henson, the model for Uncle Tom in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous novel.
The people featured are apparently champions of good causes, but the alumna who directs a climate science centre at a Texas University and regularly asks, “Is it too late to save the earth?” before answering that that all depends on how quickly fossil fuels can be discarded (which is not about to happen in Texas), incites some doubt. Instead of activism, the focus in climate matters should be on research, since there is no reliable consensus on whether whatever is happening is outside the normal climate cycle, is or is not anthropogenic, could or could not be beneficial, or what its extent might be. As in other subjects, it is generally wise to know what is happening before militating about what is to be done.
The drenchingly predictable article on “fake news” referred to Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election although the authors of the interference remain unknown and the extent of it was insignificant. Naturally there is not a word about the three-year malicious fiction that the current president had colluded with the Russian government to influence the election. The absence of coverage of the greatest constitutional scandal in U.S. history and the closest that country has ever come to a putsch is the most egregious fake news of all.
A chapter on the “Dictionary of Canadian Biography,” an admirable work of scholarship, comes perilously close to justifying imputations of racist bigotry to former prime minister John A. Macdonald. He gave Native-Canadians the right to vote and had many allies in the Native community, including Poundmaker and Crowfoot, and the revisionist descriptions of the chief founder of this country as a quasi-genocidist are an abominable injustice that has no place in a respectable university. The interesting article on the university’s dental museum was the only part of either publication that wasn’t stiflingly politically correct.
These magazines are for the alumni, and should not focus exclusively on agitators, even for good causes. The publications of a university that celebrates the iconicity of diversity and inclusion should air the inconvenient facts that the Indigenous people did not occupy or govern Canada. Canada’s Native policy has failed, but not out of malice or stinginess, and the Natives are not blameless. As for the climate, diversity would require mention of dissenting views, or at least acknowledgement that many countries around the world continue to expand their fossil fuel usage.
Canada is a relatively tolerant and civilized place, but you would not guess that from these offerings. Jordan Peterson is right that anything calling itself “studies” is not a real academic subject. Most of this allegedly iconic activity is not productive work and is really just a pseudo-academic workfare measure to defer unemployment that is hideously expensive, of doubtful utility and encourages its beneficiaries to bite the system that indulges it like an ungrateful viper.
Former French Culture Minister: Arabic is “A National Treasure” (Part 3)
by Hugh Fitzgerald
In the view of Jack Lang, former French Minister of Culture and currently the president of the Institut du Monde Arabe, the French apparently have a duty (where this duty has come from is unclear) to allow into their midst still more millions of those who are taught to despise them – Muslims being, in the Qur’an, the “best of peoples,” while non-Muslims are “the most vile of created beings.” Why? Where does this duty to allow into your country people whose faith inculcates hatred for their hosts come from? Jack Lang doesn’t justify or explain this, because he can’t. He merely insists, without more.
The Institute of the Arab World, which Jack Lang heads, is very well endowed. The Institute is housed in a building that cost $250 million when it was built between 1981 and 1987; in today’s dollars that would be half-a-billion dollars. At the time, it was the most expensive building in France in modern times. Lang is, unsurprisingly, a great promoter of the Arab, and Muslim, presence in France. And he describes those who beg to differ with his celebration of the Arabs, Islam, and the Arabic language, in France, people such as the combative Eric Zemmour, as being “merchants of fear or hatred,” people who “cling” – note the implied losing-battle desperation in that word – to a “stunted conception of what France should be.”
Mr Lang said the study and recognition of the Arab world and cultures is more necessary than ever.
Jack Lang has it wrong. What the West – what the entire world of Unbelievers – needs to study and understand is not the Arabic language, but the fanatical faith – Islam — that its speakers embrace. The peoples of the West have done quite enough pretending that Arabic is the language of a “great civilization” in order to keep a “dialogue” going with the Arabs. But what “great civilization,” comparable to those of Europe, India, or China, have the Arabs produced? What masterpieces of art, when all paintings, and all statues of living creatures, are haram? What rich musical tradition could the Arabs possibly present, when Islam forbids all instrumental music? What is the heritage of Arab philosophy – can you name a single Arab philosopher of significance, aside from Ibn Arabi? How much of Arabic poetry consists of panegyrics of a ruler who is also a patron, or denunciations of those who, powerful and rich, deny the poet adequate support? And why is so much Arabic literature tendentious political propaganda, such as the works of the late Palestinian writer Mahmoud Darwish?
But if the Institute of the Arab World were being created today, he [Jack Lang] believes there would be calls for it to be named the Institute of the Muslim World, given that a majority of Muslims are not Arabs.
Does that mean that Lang is undercutting his own promotion of Arabic, by recognizing that most Muslims are not Arabs, and many speak Farsi, Urdu, Bengali, Bahasa? Should Farsi and Urdu, Bengali and Bahasa, also be offered in French schools, or should all Muslims, including non-Arabs, have the option only to learn Arabic?
“The Arabic language and cultures cannot be reduced to Islam,” he [Lang] says.
If so, it is not for want of trying by Muslim Arabs. They are uninterested in Arab culture in the period that preceded the arrival of Islam. They call that period the Jahiliyya, or Time of Ignorance. Arabic is so identified with Islam that there is practically no cultural space left for Arabic-without-Islam. And Islam cannot be separated from the language in which the Qur’an was sent down, over 23 years, to an Arab, and in his language.
What Lang wants to make you believe is that there is a rich tradition of literary works in Arabic having nothing to do with Islam. But what are the names of these works, and who are their authors? Look high and look low, but you won’t find, in all of Arabic-language literature, more than a handful whose writings “cannot be reduced to Islam.”
“In a secular framework, such as advocated by republican law, what better way to transmit elements of culture than through learning the language? It is through language learning that we discover the multiple aspects of a civilisation.”
We come back to the main point with which we began. In the schools, the time for learning languages is limited. Choices have to be made. If the schools offer, and promote, Arabic, that will mean fewer students in French schools will be studying English, a language far more useful, in the sciences and the humanities, in business, sport, and entertainment, than Arabic. Jack Lang would apparently deny that possibility to Muslim pupils, on whom family pressure to study Arabic would be intense.
The IMA [Institut du Monde Arabe] has already acted on Mr Lang’s commitment to Arabic, having run courses for all ages and levels for more than 20 years and more recently offering an internationally recognised certificate, so far allowing 500 students to sit for qualifying exams in France and other countries, including the UAE.
Mr Lang is not among them.
“Sadly, I speak only a little Arabic, not well enough to hold a proper conversation,” he said.
So Jack Lang himself, even though he is the president of the Instiut du Monde Arabe, can’t be bothered to spend the time to study Arabic, not even that small amount one would need to carry on a conversation. If he knows so little Arabic, how can he comment on the splendors of the language itself? How does he know, for example, how well Arabic accommodates scientific terminology? Or has in its lexicon acquired sufficient philosophical terms to discuss modern — i.e., Western – philosophy? He is singing the praises of a language that he admits he hardly knows.
There is a word for this, but it’s not in Arabic: chutzpah. It is chutzpah for Lang to praise and promote a language he does not know. It is chutzpah for him to declare that one of the most advanced cultures in the world, that of the French and their “perfected civilization” (as Chamfort called it), owe to the Arabic language, that soi-disant “treasure of France,” so very much. For according to the shameless Jack Lang, “Arabic has enabled French culture to open to mathematics history, medicine.”
The Arabs who pay Lang’s salary must be quite pleased with his performance. He deserves – he’s earned – his fat salary from the Institut du Monde Arabe. And the latest news from France confirms his value: President Macron issued a decree on May 2, stating that beginning in the fall of 2020, Arabic would be offered in French schools, starting in the first grade and continuing right through to university. At least it will not, for now, be mandatory. But with this option, some Muslim students who will study Arabic in school, pushed to do so by their parents, will not have the possibility of studying English, which is far more important than Arabic to their job prospects.
According to Macron’s plan, the language study in France will be offered in collaboration with the government of Tunisia. Who will be monitoring these teachers of Arabic, making sure they do not manage to include Islamic propaganda in what are supposed to be purely language lessons?
Questions, questions. One thing is certain: this expanded teaching of Arabic in French schools will replace the study of English among Muslim students, those who can least afford to go without studying English; the result will be a pedagogical mess. And unless closely monitored, such teaching may not be limited to the Arabic language, but become a vehicle for indoctrination in Islam. Jack Lang is not concerned. He knows Arabic is a “treasure of France,” without which the French would have had a hard time opening to “mathematics, history, and medicine.” Jack Lang’s paymasters must be very proud.
‘A Corbyn victory is a victory for working men everywhere’. - Letter to the Guardian newspaper November 2018
‘The man’s a twat’ - Caretaker at Sunderland Leisure Centre December 2019, when consulted on voting intentions.
Nowadays everyone saw the disaster coming, and as the Labour party picks off its scabs there is no shortage of accumulated retrospective wisdom on the Corbyn delusion. Were it merely a tactical error, hastily repented, it would scarcely matter. Michael Foot after all led the party to a similarly catastrophic electoral performance in 1983 and for snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory Neil Kinnock, the grinning redhead permanently off balance and stumbling from one avoidable gaffe to the next, could probably compete in this hall of shame. Corbyn however is a more sinister individual – and his flaws would not matter as much were they not in some profound sense rooted in the left’s declining moral health. Of this downward slide much ink has been spilled of late and it is to the credit of Tom Bower that his biography of Corbyn connects the personal and the political perfectly, and nowhere more so than in his portrait of the hollow man himself. Reading Dangerous Extremist one gets the impression of a cypher, devoid of any substance beyond the kind of resentments that are wont to animate any commonplace man, and minus even the shallower virtues. Blair may have been a charlatan but this is a recognisably human type and in some measure the vacuity of the political creed even amplified his qualities as a man. Corbyn by contrast comes across as no more than an embodied grievance and in the book there is plenty of unedifying material to confirm the diagnosis. In a party famous for producing very clever leaders – one thinks instantly of Michael Foot and Harold Wilson - Corbyn, even on the most generous interpretation, emerges as an embarrassing lightweight, flunking out of North London polytechnic after an aborted stab at a Trade Unions degree and displaying nothing in his hinterland that suggests this lack of achievement was the result of a pedagogic injustice. Blair’s lack of reading as we saw attracted a wide arc of fire and he clearly fell well short of the exacting standards set by Roy Jenkins, but with Corbyn even the unflattering epithet of charlatan aims a little too high. Blair at least had a superficial understanding of deeper ethical concepts – without it he would have been unable to muse so ostentatiously on the categorical imperative - Corbyn by contrast showed little grasp even having read Marx’s more accessible essays and having stumbled on a creed through thinly disguised resentments rather than ratiocination he never had to wrestle with the obvious errors. For him there were no axioms just felt needs, and throughout his political career he has combined these luxuriating sentiments with a startling lack of intellectual or practical felicity.
Eric Hoffer in his penetrating critique of the appeal of mass movements noted the type well. Amongst those who could not find release in productive labour, the appeal of some ill-bred socialism would be irresistible and Corbyn whose life has been consumed by relentless episodes of student agitprop is an abject example of where it all leads. All in all, few subjects are better suited to the genre of pathography. In the 70s when he came of age there were nevertheless plentiful diversions for someone of his ilk. After a comfortable middle class childhood in the shires, his first contact with the adult world was a gap volunteer year in Jamaica, where, equipped with one of the worst academic resumes any half man could sport, he reduced himself to a quivering ineffectual wreck in a forlorn attempt to plant wisdom in impressionable minds. Kingston College, to Corbyn’s horror was not receptive to white guilt and overflowing with students turned out in pressed khaki intent on learning under the forbidding glare of inspiring Latin achievements mottos. Fortis cadere cedere Non Protest translates as The Brave May Fall but Never Yield, Corbyn never quite made the mark and after fleeing from unruly children the ill fated ‘Beard man’ appears to have consumed himself in the predictable middle class vocation of gritty tourism. Whether he actually took part in protest marches in Chile is beside the point, his interest in revolutionary Marxism and slum missionary work was clearly set and the facts are less important than what they reveal about his ambitions as a man. When he returned to his parents at the age of twenty his mental furniture was to all intents and purposes fully formed and his whole life has been marked by the same vuoyeristic psychology he put to work in the colonies. He needed to pay his way all the same. Fortunately for him, the world of salaried activism was one of the few growth industries in Britain at the time. The disappointments nevertheless mounted with each contact with reality. His first paid outing was as a ‘research assistant’ in the National Union of Tailor and garment Worker’s union in Hoxton and it is fitting that his first failures should have been wrought from a predominantly Jewish workforce.
Corbyn was gripped by the spectacle at first, here was inner city misery worthy of his virtue and he later romanticised his experience as a heroic one pursuing the feral and predatory rich through Companies House records after they cheated workers of their wages. By the recollections of his boss it was all a fantasy. He barely had a single contact with the workers, and even if he did he would have found the root causes of poverty prosaic. As his boss Alec Smith noted, the clothing industry was a tough business in the 70s and the poverty of the workers owed more to hard trading conditions than unscrupulous employers. Textiles was a Victorian industry in the process of being outsourced to the far east, and if the huckstering Shylocks Corbyn conjured up in his imagination were so thin on the ground that they needed to be invented, the workers, with their aspirations towards suburban respectability, would have been an even greater anti-climax. When he actually found a shtetl revolutionary in the shape of Mick Mindel he would have found to his horror that as a delegate to the World Jewish Congress he was also a Zionist (of the employers need I even mention that like so many Jewish businessmen, they were impeccably left wing in any case).
As Mindel tactfully noted he ‘didn’t have a chance to shine’ but in his next opening as a researcher at Associated Engineering Workers Union he fared little better. Fired for his inadequate research skills and constant diversions on anti-Vietnam marches he managed to hold water as a NUPE official even if he needed reminding that being permanently scruffy and ill-kempt is frowned upon by the respectable working class. Here, sartorial faux pas aside, he was able to prove his worth with council workers used to holding the public to ransom. As a researcher his academic skills found him wanting, as an official tasked with recruiting and organising members he was a natural. Here his meagre intellectual talents were no handicap and the results were impressive. Along with the day job Corbyn soon became the driving force behind his local Labour party branch in the London borough of Haringey and its membership swelled ominously with Trotskyite cranks, whose agendas were fired more by the pursuit of global justice than the tawdry materialism of the local poor. Unless that is they happened to be his members. Given the sheer size of local authority payrolls in the 70s this was no small matter and when he was elected as a local councillor he combined the roles of union rep and councillor with a flagrant disregard for any conflict of interest. Notorious for running the worst council services in the country the housing department’s payroll nevertheless doubled, and when they went on strike for a 40% pay rise he joined the picket lines in a flash. L’etat cest moi he might have said
It is a revealing conceit and speaks volumes about the venal rent seeking practised by public sector unions in those days (the borough’s chief executive reported him to the Director for Public Prosecutions who cleared him wrongdoing and settled on the lesser verdict of gross incompetence).
It had to be paid for and whilst it flew the red flag from its council offices Haringey harried the phantom rich with diminishing returns, leaving local residents in one of the poorest London boroughs to pay the price in exhorbitant taxes. In the eighties the self-styled People’s Republic of Haringey was a byword for profligate inefficiency, and the only beneficiaries were the apparatchiks who fattened themselves on the spiralling payrolls. Unsurprisingly for a later admirer of Hugo Chavez the fraud that he managed to overlook was prodigious, and not all the cost had even the barest of Keynesian pump priming excuses. Of the 4500 employees, two were anti-nuclear officers and God only knows how much public money was wasted on twining Haringey with the ill-starred Communist satellite Grenada. All of this, contra the image of Corbyn a as genial English eccentric indulging lost causes with naïve idealism, was done with a steely sense of purpose, even if in Machiavellian style he did it behind the scenes. Corbyn was never council leader but this barely mattered when he had his own orgburo to manipulate sinecures. The purges of moderate Labour members on the local party during his chairmanship were brilliantly orchestrated, and carried off with an air of menace which belies his pacifist reputation. Corbyn has always sought the West’s disarmament but he has been conspicuously silent about the sins of its enemies. Throughout his career there was barely a riot or a terrorist outrage which he could not contextualise as the silent rage of the oppressed. Lukewarm in his condemnation of the Broadwater Farm riots (a policeman was hacked to death and almost decapitated by rioters) he was conspicuously silent with each atrocity carried out by the IRA against British citizens. When the IRA bombed Warrington and murdered two children he was nowhere to be heard, when the SAS shot 8 IRA terrorists attacking an RUC station in 1987 he reached high pitched eloquence in his condemnation of British imperialism. Of the terrorism wrought by states on their citizens he was similarly diffident. Animated by American sanctions against Nicaragua and Cuba, he was silent on the sins of North Korea and he did not hesitate to migrate his loyalties even to otherwise ideologically uncongenial causes if they served his hatred of Britain. When the Argentinian junta invaded the Falklands Islands even erstwhile Trots like Christopher Hitchens found a silver lining in Thatcher - Corbyn by contrast put his full weight behind General Galtieri and drew a moral equivalence which left many in the Labour party speechless. Youthful indiscretions? Corbyn was in ripe middle age when he embraced these wretched causes and given how morally repugnant they were it is as well to consider the private persons who suffered for them.
For someone who is so observant of private dignity in the abstract (Corbyn opened one campaign speech in 2019 by delivering his preferred pronouns) his dealings with women leave something to be said for. Of his first wife’s parliamentary ambitions he was conspicuously indifferent and one can only assume he harboured jealous spite when she was selected for a safe Labour seat before him. As for the legitimate expectations she might have had for a post-adolescent lifestyle he spared barely a thought. A telling anecdote from his early years. Returning home from one of Auden’s long boring meetings to an empty food cupboard, Corbyn opened a tin of beans and drank them cold from the can brandishing the accomplishment as a heroic rebuke to middle class manners. They lived in squalor but it was self-inflicted and the overall impression one gains is less of a stoic revolutionary than of a petulant adolescent. For all the victories of militant feminist levelling women are less good at it than men and it is not surprising he got through a few wives. With his first, fellow ideologue Jane Chapman the problems came early and they shine a revealing light on his cramped world view. Finally relenting on her desire to take a holiday he set off on a camping holiday which took him across the iron Curtain on a Czech motorbike. In Czechoslovakia it broke down and in revealing naiveté he wasted two days looking for someone to fix it. A little imagination would have spared him the detour. The bike had been built for the decadent west and good sense would have told him no mechanic would ever had ever encountered such a triumphant feat of engineering. As a metaphor for the clash of capitalism and communism it is brilliantly apt, and it is telling that when his wife sought to broaden her mind with the cultural gems that even communism could not destroy he sulked like an infant. In Prague he avoided the glories of Hradcany castle. Passing through Austria he was unimpressed by the Ringstrasse – dismissing it as ‘capitalist’. He passed up the palace of Schonbrunn in Vienna; ‘too royal’. These are revealing deficiencies in taste and they have stayed with him. Later, on a tour of the Commons showcasing the nation’s great deeds and eminent men he dismissed it all as phoney. ‘Phoney’?
No one with any pretensions to culture would even talk like this. It is not radical – it is infantile and in these petulant episodes one gets an inner measure of the kind of man who would sympathise with the nihilism of modern terrorist movements. It is not always obvious when one is intent on looking indulgently at his mannerisms. Overall the impression one gets from Bower’s Corbyn, with his homilies on manhole covers, cycling routes and allotment vegetables is not that of a zealot, but a man driven by fanatical mediocrity and raging political correctness. Anyone with memories of the GLC years when Corbyn, Livingstone and Red Ted Knight were municipal chieftains will remember the Black Lesbian self-defence classes and the Nuclear Free zones and much of it, if beyond parody, was harmless enough. Yet ideas do have consequences, and often create real life victims
The colonisation of Islington’s children’s services by paedophiles is a sensitive subject that Corbyn has managed to evade in a career he alleges has been marked by media conspiracies but given the ease with which daylight might have entered on this sorry saga he seems to have been well served by them. When Margaret Hodge presided as a docile stooge over this bankrupt empire as council leader in Islington between 1982 and 1992 there is no doubt that Corbyn, as the local MP, did his best to look away particularly given so many of the staff implicated were NUPE members. The safeguarding errors were grave and to any reasonable mind the consequences were predictable. The local authority had relaxed background checks on residential care home staff on the basis that they might give a licence to homophobia and scores of children suffered at the hands of sexual predators, particularly on the council’s Elthorne state where a child brothel was run for years by staff employed by the council. Compared with the breath-taking seriousness with which fantasy paedophile rings involving Tory ministers and (wait for it) an eminent member of the Board of Deputies were treated it is remarkable how feeble the post-mortem has been ]and at some level at least the failure looks a political one. Harriet Harman who in her later years resurrected an uninspired political career as stand in leader of the Labour Party had supported the Paedophile Information Exchange as a lawyer for the National Council of Civil Liberties and during the eighties this insanity had reached appoint where the Home Office was allowing these perverts to brief council social workers on the placement of vulnerable child with known sex offenders to protect their rights as gay men. In 1992, after unsuccessfully lobbying Margaret Hodge, irate social workers cornered Corbyn in his offices and brought it to his attention. To judge by Bower’s account he was shocked, and one assumes like any fractionally decent man he was, but by his own damming admission he had heard similar complaints before and not devoted a fraction of the time he devoted to conveniently global crusades. It is a symptomatic failure and it made for a stillborn political career. By 2015 it had run its course and he had little to show for it. Running a London borough into bankruptcy is at least an achievement of some sorts, as an MP all he could do is indulge in the shallow foreign policy obsessed posturing that saw him nicknamed the MP for Antarctica North.
Six months before his unlikely and unexpected (perhaps unwanted) elevation to Labour leader, Corbyn was addressing a parliamentary meeting on “Human Rights and Security in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” Ever solicitous to the needs of immigrants in this constituency Corbyn had twice visited the benighted country and become “increasingly concerned.” “The horrors of the Congo,” he gravely intoned, are not new. As the sympathetic journalist Andy Beckett noted, "There was a sense, rare in Westminster, of politics being about life-or-death questions that extended across continents and centuries. But Corbyn’s entire audience consisted of a Conservative junior minister, a Democratic Unionist party MP, and four other people, two of whom chatted while he was speaking. Corbyn carried on, seemingly quite unfazed; in early 2015, as for much of his political life, promoting apparently lost causes before tiny audiences was what he did.”
It is a vision of almost senilic impotence and self-parody. Problems were everywhere constructive solutions nowhere. Small wonder he was considering retirement to the country and taking up bee keeping. Of the staples of constituency politics everywhere else; bins, dog shit and local housing conditions he could summon nothing. By the account of Bower the only local issue that really enthused he was sponsoring immigration applications and the obsession for seeking out global injustices was the flipside of a blatant disgust with his own country. Standing with solemn expression at the cenotaph is an easy ritual to pull off well for a national politician, and historically the annual Remembrance Day commemorations have been as emotionally comforting for the left and right. There lie real working class heroes and patriots to boot– the loss is bipartisan, the emotion to any feeling person should be visceral even if he watches it on a TV screen. Corbyn dressed like a tramp and couldn’t even manage a dignified bow when he laid his wreath, even dragging out the infamy by keeping tabloids in suspense over whether he would wear a poppy. What does it say about a man’s view of his country that respect for so many young lives cut short could jostle for a place in his thoughts? Compare that shabby sight with his simpering self-abasement at a Hamas rally or his dignified grief at an Irish terrorist’s funeral. The contrast is painful and telling
In normal times the influence of such a man would be limited but after the Labour Party jettisoned their messiah new vistas opened up. Maligned as he was by individuals who affected a retrospective disdain for his shallow spin doctoring, Blair was at least a winner and the key to his success was a neutering of the activists who had turned the Labour party into a toxic brand. Few working class members had the time a middle class zealot could devote to local party meetings and during its electoral drought there were hordes of well-heeled Marxists ready at the drop of a hat to swarm thinly attended meetings and burden the national party with all the cornucopia of infantile leftism. The disconnect this led to with ordinary working class priorities were glaring but it brought the hard Left to within an inch of power in the eighties. Belatedly sanity was restored with a right wing purge and after the dust settled Blair was able to reap the rewards. Party conferences in these days were dreary affairs and increasingly bare of the kind of tank topped bearded freaks who salivated on resolutions attacking Western imperialism and eulogising Irish hunger strikers. It was all achingly platitudinous but three general election victories seemed worth the price. When the last New Labour domino went down to defeat however the ludicrous Ed Miliband realised he was above it all and rediscovered the disastrous virtues of party democracy. Beholden to the thuggish Len McCluskey of the Unite Union he transferred responsibility for electing the leader from MPs to party members, and as party membership soared with Trotskyites the party moved inexorably to the left. The lamentably incompetent Miliband duly lost the election and soon the ultimate prize was in sight. As the candidate of the left Corbyn was never a natural choice. His closest political allies Livingstone and John McDonnell knew his limitations only too well but after McDonnell ruled himself out and Dianne Abbott failed to get enough nominations he was the only credible nominee. The moderates soon dug their own grave. With disastrous magnanimity he was seconded by right wing Labour MPs eager to ‘create a debate’. No one seriously saw him winning and they soon rued their excess of generosity. Corbyn trounced a weak field and after his coronation it was all back to the future. It started with a return to democratic centralism. Mandatory reselection, a goldmine for Trots seeking to replace right wing labour MPs was soon back on the agenda and the creation of the shadowy Momentum movement (led inevitably by an ageing Jewish leftie) offered a backdoor route into the party for communists that Neil Kinnock had firmly closed. For all its electoral woes the Labour party as Corbynites proudly boast is the largest centre Left party in Europe, all courtesy of the horde of snob Bolsheviks (tellingly Islington’s membership was predominantly drawn from homeowners rather than council estates and this in one of the most expensive boroughs in the UK) given a new form of outdoor relief in what was once one of the least incendiary democratic socialist parties so the continent. Meanwhile MPs were held hostage by swollen branch memberships fixated on the usual obsessions. In the old Militant fiefdom of Liverpool the party membership following Corbyn’s election had soared from 500 to 2700, and as the entryists took over the party most of the branch party’s business was squarely focused on the evils of Zionism and Israel. The abuse hurled at the Jewish MP Louise Elman was almost hysterically vicious and whatever credibility Corbyn might have had as a scourge of the socialism of fools was soon wiped out by his performance over the infamous Ockerman mural. In 2012 a tawdry piece of art had sprung up with council approval in the East London borough of Tower Hamlets. Grandly named Freedom for Humanity it featured bankers and with hooked noses playing a monopoly game on the backs of the poor, with a symbol of a freemason pyramid rising behind them. As an anti-Semitic trope it was picture perfect and enough even for the corrupt Islamist Mayor Luftur Rahman to think twice. The mural was taken down. Corbyn stumbling into the furore saw it as a moment to strike a blow for freedom of speech comparing it with Diego Viera’s famous mural in Detroit and declaring him in ‘good company’. When the tweet emerged in 2015 an explanation was demanded Corbyn feigned not to notice the lurid imagery and dug himself further into a hole by saying British ‘Zionists’ didn’t understand British culture:
So, clearly two problems. One is that they don’t want to study history, and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony.
It is a striking statement. Talking about black people having lived in the county ‘probably all their lives, and not understanding English irony’ would be a career ending moment for anyone inhabiting the humourless and starched political landscape of even the mushy Guardian reading Left, and anyone with a weak foothold in reality probably knows the Black Hundreds haven’t been harrying Jews into Stepney for a while, but this kind of edgy talk went down well with the new members, and Ellman received little help from Jewish MPs like Kaufman whose fervent anti-Zionism earned him a pass. Besides his endorsements of Hezbollah as ‘our friends’ and shared platforms with Holocaust deniers, it might have been mild but the flippant tone spoke to his hierarchy of victimhood. The conferences meanwhile descended into adolescent left wing theatre, its 2019 gathering voting, in a resolution which must have warmed Corbyn’s heart to rip up immigration controls and give foreign nationals the right to vote. Much has come to pass since these halcyon days but whether it can dislodge this cancer is now doubtful and given the speed with which Corbyn has returned to the streets it is questionable whether it is even a priority. Soon after he resigned Corbyn was back into his comfort zone talking ominously about leading ‘the resistance’, as if he were a shabby Jan Hus bent on immolating himself for high principle, and truth be told it is a much easier role to play for someone of his modest talents than dirtying your hands with real adult politics. Perhaps he wishes Johnson is a fascist (he is actually just an upper class prat) – his whole adult life has been a costume drama for this part and is it after all a rebuke to say it has accomplished nothing? No more ineffectual politician could ever be imagined but he is pure and his agitated and diffuse moral sermons clearly appealed to the ennui ridden middle class who flocked to his pulpit. Corbyn signalled virtue before it was compulsory and he aimed low.
Only passive victims stirred his idealism and this says much about the soft bigotry of low expectations. It is surely men of Corbyn’s stamp Churchill had in mind when he dismissed socialism as the philosophy of failure and the creed of despair. When whole nations decline to this stature it is never pretty. Irish republicanism, his chief crusade after Palestine is victim porn of the nth degree, and its ghastly ululating matriarchs wailing at terrorist funerals were doubtless as edifying for him as any he had attended in Tunis. It was bloody nevertheless and what is most repellent is the decision to cheer from the side-lines. Gerry Fitt, a Catholic with unassailable peace building credentials in Northern Ireland had the moral courage to abandon the purity of his principles for a happier Northern Ireland. A nationalist by instinct he abandoned the quest of dragging unionists kicking and screaming into a new fatherland for the sake of peace, Corbyn only supported a peace of surrender imposed by Republican semtex and like John McDonnell he was brave enough to hurl abuse at moderate nationalists who signed the Good Friday Agreement from the safety of genteel London suburbs. Fitt suffered silently under threat of assassination by men who detonated bombs in shopping centres and churches, Corbyn played out his petty psychodrama to a captive chattering class audiences and once he had finished liberating violent Celts the same bogey men kept coming back again and again. Lumpen capitalist tailors, imperialist Zionists, the Jews were everywhere and it is telling when he belatedly adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism amid mounting outrage he stalled for an eternity before relenting on the addition of his own pondering ‘But’
‘it cannot be considered racist to treat Israel like any other state or assess its standard against the standards of international law. Nor should it be regarded as anti-Semitic to describe Israel, its policies, or the circumstances around its foundation a s racist because of their discriminatory impact, or to support another settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’
It must have hurt, and if he might once have deserved the benefit of the doubt even the most charitable observer must now concede all the evidence of an ancient prejudice is in. Political Jewry in Britain is tame affair, and unlike its American counterpart remarkably unwilling to cause a scene. This time the Board of Deputies spoke openly of the cancer of anti-Semitism in a major national party and openly endorsed Johnson’s Tories during the election. It is an unprecedented rebuke and the stubborn failure to recant shows there is something emotionally comforting to a man of limited intellect. Corbyn’s immature penchant for cartoonish pantomime villains is relevant here and recall August Bebel’s adage about anti-Semitism being the socialism of fools. Sophisticated Marxists usually swerve the bright colours and hold their desperate cults aloft with incomprehensible abstractions. Stupid people prefer the warm particulars – they cannot hate abstractions and, when hack journalists conjure up a world of Wall Street conspiracies, it is hardly a surprise the dots get connected. And what pits of depravity in our sub literate times cannot be summoned by rootless cosmopolitans and well-fed Jews?
There is unfortunately a constituency for this kind of thing and it is a mob prejudice which is difficult to pin on white proletarians (it is worth bearing in mind the role of the student mob in driving the anti-Zionist agenda). When he started his political career areas like Hoxton, and Shoreditch home to the sweated Jewish tailors he tried to cut his teeth on were brimming with hard earned poverty. By the end of the eighties they were already swamped with obnoxious yuppies and much the same could be said of Islington North, where Corby’s seat includes prim Highbury and the notoriously affluent and politically correct N1 postcode. Barring the cash poor elderly who never made it out to their ghastly seaside retirement homes nothing even approximating a cockney is to be seen, and the area, piously multicultural and trendily affluent, has little place for their concerns. Of this social cleansing much has already been said but it was worth remembering the Labour party’s strength in the capital now owes more to bohemians than workers. In 1983 the Tories starting eating into the soon to become famous C2 social class bracket (skilled manual) and in 2019 the Tories even managed to win out amongst those earning less than 20,000 a year. Throughout his career as an MP however Corbyn’s vote has increased with each election and however much he may pose as a champion of the dispossessed it is clear that gentrification, not the ever increasing immiseration of the proletariat is the driving force.
The significance of the white privilege obsession in all this should not be understated. The bobo class is fixated on it but its sins never quite rest on their shoulders and even when they attempt some tact it’s clear who’s in their sights. The etiquette of race is a class marker par excellence and it allows someone with progressive airs to engage in the kind of poor baiting that you would never dream of unless you could transfer all your affections to a more picturesque victim class.
The psychological motive is pressing and it shows itself in small details. The importance of nannies for the north London middle class is a given just as it is for their kindred in New England. Not so long ago she would have been home-grown or at a push Irish and this inevitably creates an uncomfortable class consciousness. Any honest parent who outsources their maternal instinct to a stranger would probably admit part of them will always resent her and it is an awkward status anxiety which the British upper classes bore more stoically than today’s well-heeled liberals. Better to keep them exotic if you need one. This is a ‘lurking detail’ but it wipes the floor with anything Walter Benjamin came up with. Who would not want to soften it with the haughtiness of compassion and multicultural navel gazing?
Is socialism then nothing but the false consciousness of idle privilege? It certainly looks like it, and it is difficult to see how it can be run out of the Labour Party. McDonnell, a shrewder and openly thuggish communist was clear there was no turning back. Trotskyites are notoriously difficult to dislodge. They compensate for in organisational strength and sheer determination what they lack in electoral appeal (where alas is the moderation that is a fire?)and what will the party have gained in any case if they are submerged beneath a wave of better mannered middle class members. Minus the violent menace the tastes are largely the same and is it in any case not a major achievement to get a third of the population to vote for it. It is not enough for power but it is rather a large taboo broken nevertheless.
The United States and the World Trade Organization
by Michael Curtis
Alone together, beyond the crowd, we’re not too proud to cling together, we're strong as long as we’re together.
The most urgent problem today is the international fight against the pandemic, Covid-19 and the search for a vaccine to overcome the deadly virus, and for funds to develop its manufacture. The issue has become controversial because of the delay by China in not informing the world of the outbreak of the virus, and the role of the World Health Organization, WHO, in helping China conceal information about the existence and threat of the pandemic.
The WHO is supposedly a non-political body whose mission is to coordinate international efforts against epidemics and provide guidance for health care. But the question has arisen of whether it has been corrupted by China’s political influence. In view of this, the Trump Administration is calling for reform, and for reduction of the U.S. funding of the organization.
A less dramatic issue, but one causing similar dissatisfaction as an international body possibly limiting U.S. sovereignty, concerns the World Trade Organization, WTO, whose mission is to coordinate efforts for managing the rules of international trade. The WTO, like the WHO, is the subject of attack by the U.S. which contents that bilateral policies are more helpful for American trade than a multilateral organization. The two organizations, the WHO and the WTO, have been acutely affected by the pandemic, which has changed political and economic trends.
Both bodies have an inherent problem, the balance between individual states, many interested in economic protectionism and national security, and a globalized world with international institutions. Inherent in this is the tension between the desirability of international governance, on the thesis that it is in the interests of all states to act collectively, and the assertion and challenge of nationalism which is increasing.
The Secretary-General of the WTO, Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, announced on May 14, 2020 that “for personal reasons” he would resign his position on August 31, 2020 after seven years in office and a year before his term runs out. The WTO, a body of 164 members responsible for overseeing the rules of international trade, has three months to choose a new chief, which is done by consensus. Of the previous six heads of WTO, three have come from Europe, and one each from Thailand, New Zealand and Brazil. Azevedo’s successor will take office at a time when the WTO is struggling to reform, to be able to deal with global trade issues, and help rebuild the global economy.
At present it is not clear that the two leading powers, U.S. and China, can agree on a candidate or on the role to be played by the individual selected, at this moment when the global economy and trade is in a low growth state, and continuing to decline. Will the new person be one eager to be a leader and command the trade agenda, or an individual willing to work in a more subordinate fashion, in accordance with policies of the more influential states? Critical though the U.S. is of the organization, it has said it will participate in the process of selecting a new director. It should do so in an attempt to influence the role of the global body, rather than withdraw, as it has the right to do every five years.
The new Secretary -General will face a host of issues; managerial problems over geographic representation, but more important ones to reconcile the increasing number of trade disputes, and above all help resolve the acrimony between the U.S. and China. His most formidable task is to formulate policies to deal with the accusations of trade abuses by China and help prevent any recreating of a cold war between the two leading countries.
The WTO, the successor to GATT, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, was founded in 1994 with stated objectives: strengthen the world economy, lead to more trade, limit barriers such as quotas and subsidies, increase investment, employment, income growth, throughout the world, and to help governments resist protectionist pressures. Its decisions are reached by consensus and are binding, and are theoretically non-discriminatory.
However, WTO has not lived up to expectations. It has not been responsible for any major international accord since the trade facilitation agreement of 2013 that aimed at reducing border delays and costs, nor played any significant role in solving the trade dispute between the U.S. and China. At a time when output in the world’s developed economies has sharply declined, and uncertainty about the future is delaying investment and decisions, the WTO task has now become more difficult for a number of reasons.
Of these difficulties six can be mentioned. The impact of Covid-19 has led to more than 100 trade barriers being imposed, which has resulted in international imports and exports being at the lowest level in a four years decline. Trade has deteriorated because of the imposition by many countries of export restrictions on items thought essential or desirable at the present time. The U.S. withdrew from a leadership role without China or the EU replacing it. China’s increasing nationalism and authoritarianism, now shown in its bellicose attitude to Hong Kong. Populist movements with nationalist overtones appear in a number of countries including the UK with Brexit. Above all, the emphasis of the Trump Administration on bilateral, rather than multilateral, arrangements that it argues will change trade in favor of U.S. exports.
Both U.S. Democrats and Republicans are concerned with the challenge presented by China’s non-market economic system. When China joined the WTO in 2001 it agreed to act to remove trade barriers , and to open markets to foreign companies and their exports. But the trade relationship with the U.S. is not fair, reciprocal, or balanced. China has not complied with WTO rules which call for market-oriented policies. A result is distortion of major sectors of the global economy including steel and aluminum, and telecommunications. China has blocked some parts of its economy, especially service sectors, from foreign competition. The Chinese government and the Communist Party and state-owned companies have subsidized domestic industries, and used low wage labor, thus making foreign competition difficult. Problems remain on issues such as intellectual property, transfers of technology, access to service markets, subsidies, and cybersecurity.
In addition, the WTO has been criticized for misusing in many ways the process, by its Appellate Body, to resolve trade disputes. Supposedly a forum for discussion and negotiation, the Body has increased its power and exceeded its authority by issuing what amount to judicial decisions on trade disputes between members.
Politicians in the U.S. have criticized at least five other matters: the designation of China as a developing country, thus allowing it to meet different trade targets; the inaccurate reporting of the amount of state subsidies to businesses; the problem for the U.S. of the supply chains of some key U.S. industries being based in China; the fact that some of the states have environmental and labor protections, as well as restrictions on imports; other states allow unfair labor practices .
The U.S. has accused China of unfair trade policies and practices. In return, the U.S. has imposed substantial tariffs, about $370 billion on goods from China which has agreed to increase its purchase of goods and serviced from the U.S. The U.S. has also entered into agreements with Mexico and Canada (USMCA), and made two separate agreements with Japan, taken action against France for its unfair digital services tax, and got the right to impose countermeasures on $7.5 billion of goods from the EU because of the EU’s subsidies to Airbus.
There are of course other trade disputes, such as those between Russia and Ukraine, and between Qatar and Bahrain, UAE, and Saudi Arabia, and the policy of Japan limiting high tech exporting to South Korea. Germany is blocking takeovers of makers of vaccines, and medicines, and on May 20, 2020 stated it had new powers to veto hostile foreign take-over bids for health companies, to ensure continuous supply of essential products during the threat of Covid-19.
Nevertheless, the central issue for the WTO is the need to recognize and overcome an unfair global system, and abuses of it by China, in order to foster an open economy, to prevent protectionist trends and avoid nontariff measures.
The latest official U.S. report states that, in spite of criticisms, the WTO still has the potential to play an instrumental role in trade relations. The U.S. therefore should stay in the organization and try to reform to it and achieve a trade balance. The Chinese Ambassador to the WTO has acknowledged that China is a major beneficiary of the multilateral trading system. The incoming Secretary-General must seek to create a balance while addressing the changes in technology and in the global trading system at a moment when the combined GDP of the members of WTO has fallen, and when there is uncertainty of how Covid-19 will change the world and trading trends. It is wise for the U.S. to remain in the organization and accept the fact that the WTO does not undermine its sovereignty.
Muslim mosques in Turkey will be reopening from tomorrow, Friday, the day of the fall of Constantinople (Istanbul), with the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate declaring that he will make the morning Muslim prayer in the square between Hagia Sophia and the Sultanahmet Mosque, protothema.gr reports.
“The time has come for May 29, the day that symbolizes the conquest, with Allah’s will for us to conquer those Muslim mosques that are symbols of conquest,” said Ali Erbas, head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, referring to the anniversary of the fall of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453 which is on Friday 29 May. This date is celebrated as the day of “Conquest” (Fethiye) for Muslim Turks.
The Friday prayer planned for May 29 was to be a celebration of the defeat not only of the pandemic but also the Byzantines.There are other signs that the Erdogan government has its crosshairs on Hagia Sophia. Erbas pointed to the public square next to Hagia Sophia as the location for the first Friday prayer celebrating the opening of the mosques. This is precisely the area where thousands gather annually for morning prayers to demand the reconversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque on the anniversary of Istanbul’s conquest.
A few weeks prior to Erbas’ statement, Erdogan’s communications chief, Fahrettin Altun, tweeted alarming comments alongside a photo of Hagia Sophia: “We miss her! But a bit more patience. We will accomplish this together…” Turkish Twitter timeline went haywire following this posting. Many users interpreted it to be an announcement that Hagia Sophia would be open to Islamic worship soon
There is a deeper significance to the Turkish government’s juxtaposing of Hagia Sophia and the post-pandemic opening of mosques. Amongst those who demand Hagia Sophia’s conversion, there is a belief that all the hardships Turkey is facing, from the economic downturn to terrorist attacks, is caused by Hagia Sophia’s current status. They believe that these problems exist because the founding president of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, converted Hagia Sophia into a museum, breaking the stipulation in Mehmet II’s 1453 endowment deed that forbids the building to serve any other purpose than a mosque. For them, reconverting Hagia Sophia into a mosque would provide the magical solution to all of Turkey’s problems, even those caused by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
Harrow Central Mosque's plan to broadcast call to prayer faces 18,000-strong petition
Another attempt to extend the call to prayer across our cities. This one is cunning; it also encourages churches to ring their bells (knowing that the churches are currently closed and bell-ringing suspended) ostensibly to raise morale and spiritual awareness during the current pandemic. From the Harrow Times
Harrow's main mosque wants to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer (adhan) across town from loudspeakers on its roof, but the plan is already dividing opinions.
Harrow Central Mosque has lodged a planning application with Harrow Council to vary the conditions of its licence which says it can't broadcast music or amplified sound, so it can broadcast the call to prayer at 6pm every Friday. It's also calling on churches across Harrow to ring their bells at the allocated time. It's part of a "Call to Prayer" campaign set up by fundraiser Rehana Choudry which is asking people of all faiths to reflect on their lives during the coronavirus pandemic at 6pm each Friday.
But a petition - so far signed by 17,442 people on change.org - has been set up by residents opposed to the call to prayer broadcast.
Opponents of the plan for the mosque at 34 Station Road have urged people to write to Harrow Council saying that noise should not be imposed on the town without people having a choice to hear it, and that faith is a personal practice and must not be forced on others.
The opponents also say there's a multi-cultural population in the area which doesn't want to be "subjected" to prayer.
According to Muslim website 5 Pillarz this is "a deluge of complaints".
A proposal to broadcast the adhan from Harrow Central Mosque in north London has been met with a deluge of complaints by local residents.
But the proposal has attracted hundreds of comments on the council’s website, the vast majority of them complaining about the plan on the grounds of noise, traffic and disruption. Some comments were even clearly Islamophobic in nature.
One objector said: “This is noise pollution and forcing non-Muslims to listen to something they can’t understand. This should not be approved. All religions are allowed to practice but without disruption to others.”
Another said: “It is out of character for the community. Already the area is a no-go area on Fridays due to traffic congestion in the area.”
Yet another said: “We are senior Hindu ladies. It is against our religion to hear the Muslim call to prayer. We are elderly and disturbed by this. We are very worried. This Harrow is a multicultural place. Will you also let the temples broadcast their messages? We are offended and object.” So it isn't just nasty white racists then???
Meanwhile, Harrow Mosque has released a statement saying that the adhan application is temporary in nature and relates to the pandemic alone and that they are not seeking to secure a permanent broadcast. Nah - of course not.
A Harrow Council spokesperson confirmed it will hold a consultation on the application before assessing it against current local and national planning policies.
I have a long memory. I remember the violence from mosque worshippers against both demonstrators concerned that it was being built at all and the police. Here. Here. And here.
I read Charles Murray’s Human Diversity in France, a country whose motto is “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” All three of these terms are contentious both in their meaning and practical application, but none more so than Equality.
It must be immediately obvious to anyone who walks down a street that humans are not equal in the sense that they are physically indistinguishable, and it would take little more investigation to realise that they are not psychologically or characterologically identical either. But how do the differences between them arise, what importance are we to attach to them, and what, if anything, should be done about them?
In his acknowledgments, Mr. Murray modestly refrains from thanking many people by name who helped him in writing his book because “I am a controversial figure” and “The last thing a geneticist or neuroscientist working on a college campus needs is to be thanked publicly by me.” (So much for modern academia’s attachment to intellectual freedom.) This intense controversy surrounding Mr. Murray comes from the fact that he has long been a proponent of the importance of genetic factors in human destiny. He has been taken to mean that, against the human genome, government policy struggles in vain, though he is not quite as pessimistic as this might suggest. If we are to overcome many of our political and social impasses, it will be by something akin to a religious revival (or, more properly, a philosophical revolution) among the intellectual upper classes that takes full cognizance of the genetic differences to be found in the human race. Such recognition of difference would temper the desire to offer false and utopian remedies that, when they fail as they inevitably do, can only increase bitterness and resentment.
According to modern orthodoxy, all differences between groups in wealth and power (the two measures that are widely believed to be the summum bonum of human existence) necessarily arise by the exercise of privilege and illicit influence, and are therefore inherently unjust. In a fully just global dispensation, there would be pygmy heavyweight boxing champions of the world and, no doubt, mentally deficient winners of the Nobel Prize for physics.
It is against this orthodoxy (which in my view is both absurd and pernicious) that Mr. Murray’s book is directed. He marshals an immense amount of evidence to persuade the reader that our genetic inheritance is by far the most important determinant, at least in somewhat meritocratic societies, of our scholastic and economic success. Much of the evidence, being highly technical, will not be easy for the general reader to understand, though the author does not indulge in obscurity for its own sake, as many social scientists used to do. His insistence that there are biologically-determined differences (albeit overlapping ones) in the psychology of men and women will no doubt fail to win him plaudits in certain circles, but I rather doubt whether there are many people who, in their hearts, disagree with him.
Of course, any practical conclusions must be drawn carefully. Let us, for the sake of argument, however, suppose that the characteristics desirable in, or at least necessary to, the CEOs of large companies are more commonly found in men than in women for biological, or indeed for any other reasons. This would certainly not mean that no woman could or should be a CEO. It would, however, mean that a dictate from on high that half of CEOs must be women would be both deleterious to the economy as a whole and unjust to individuals. It might be, for example, that fewer women than men were interested in being CEOs and therefore those who were interested would be placed at an unfair advantage under the dictate. We should never forget that we can’t have positive discrimination without the negative variety also.
The only non-conflictual way to balance our equality with our differences (at least in present circumstances) is to let society find its own solution without a constant sifting of statistics on the assumption that a difference of outcome between groups is ipso facto evidence of foul play. To quote Shakespeare, that way madness lies—or perhaps I should say that way a low-grade and rumbling civil conflict that can never be settled to anyone’s satisfaction lies.
Another likely source of brickbats is the author’s belief that population genetics disproves the orthodox claim that race is a purely social construct with no underlying ontological reality. In fact, whether race is regarded by right-thinking people as a social construction or as an ontological reality largely depends on context. To take only one example, medical journals have no hesitation in drawing attention to the distinctive health indices of blacks in America or of the relative difficulty of treating their hypertension. Sometimes race is a social construct and sometimes race-as-a-social-construct is itself a social construct.
Genetics and Circumstance
I nevertheless feel that there is an extremely important dimension missing from the book, namely that of history. Perhaps I can give a few examples of what I mean from my own country and my own experience.
In the 1950s, there were between 50 and 100 known injecting heroin addicts in the whole of Great Britain. In those days, doctors routinely prescribed heroin free of charge to addicts, so that the true number was probably not very much greater than the known number. Indeed, a government inquiry found that there was absolutely nothing to worry about as far as heroin addiction in Britain was concerned.
Forty years or so later, there were 150,000 injecting heroin addicts in Britain and 150,000 more addicts who did not inject. While I am perfectly prepared to believe that those who became addicts had some slight genetic propensity to addiction compared with non-addicts, I find it difficult to believe that genetic propensity had anything to do with an increase of up to 300,000 in the numbers of addicts. History and changing circumstances are more likely culprits.
As another example, I am perfectly prepared to believe that there is a normal distribution of propensity to crime in the British population (such that a few people will never commit a crime under any circumstances, a few will commit crimes under any circumstances, and most people fall somewhere between these two extremes) and that genetic endowment has a considerable influence on where along this distribution a person falls. But this cannot explain the shift of the distribution itself in the direction of crime, such that in a couple of generations the country has gone from being one of the least to one of the most crime-ridden countries in the Western world.
True, the genotype of the country, so to speak, has changed with massive immigration, but a considerable proportion of the immigrants come from groups with lower rather than higher propensities to crime than the native population, and in any case, the rise in crime began before mass immigration. So while genetics may explain why person a rather than person b commits a crime in any given society, it cannot usually explain why society y is more crime-ridden than society z. This limits the salience of Mr. Murray’s whole approach.
Mr. Murray is confident that new genetic and neuroscientific research (especially the former) will allow mankind finally to understand and thus regulate itself better than heretofore. I am afraid that we have seen such prospectuses before—for example, those of the Marxists, Freudians, and Behaviourists (Mr. Murray pokes fun, justifiably, at the last of these). While it is conceivable that this time it is true, that at last we are on the royal road to self-understanding, I rather doubt it. Our lives are as much a complex mess as ever they were, though at a much higher level of comfort.
The statistical ability of genetic screening to foretell the future of an individual person is interesting but also open to potential abuse, if historical experience is anything to go by. Even the most enthusiastic of geneticists would not claim that genetic endowment determined more than a proportion of an individual’s behaviour in any given circumstances (which themselves are subject to unforeseen and unforeseeable change). There is a danger that authorities, impatient of their inability to mould society as they would like or as they are expected to do, will take probabilities for certainties and go in for a little prophylactic imprisonment, psychosurgery, medication, or any number of other dystopian policies.
Mr. Murray is regarded as an intellectual bogeyman, which is absurd. I think he is sometimes mistaken, but let him who is without mistake shout the first insult. A suitable punishment for the spoilt brats of Middlebury College who treated him so badly would be to read, learn, and inwardly digest the last couple of pages of this book.
In those pages, Mr. Murray points to the deep and deleterious snobbery of the metropolitan, cognitive elites of which he has written, who in general imagine that to be something unlike themselves is a terrible fate. Of this I will give one striking example from the left-liberal British newspaper, the Guardian: a columnist once wrote that underclass girls in Britain got pregnant so young because the only alternative for them to early motherhood was stacking supermarket shelves. This elite-educated columnist thereby implied that stacking supermarket shelves was the summum malum of human existence, overlooking entirely the fact that stacking supermarket shelves is a perfectly honourable and socially useful thing to do, is not unpleasant in itself, may not be the last job the person doing it will have, and is probably suitable for many people of limited abilities.
It is the disdain that hurts, and that is what the modern upper class so successfully communicates to those below them on the social scale. “It is time,” says Mr. Murray, “for America’s elites to try living with inequality of talents,” and to stop pretending that they are tormented by guilt at their own good fortune, which at the same time they do everything possible to preserve.
Democrats in politics and the media, including Obama and Biden, must not escape examination for promoting the ‘Russian collusion’ fiction.
by Conrad Black
The president was perfectly accurate, and for once insusceptible to questions about his good faith, when he expressed surprise at Attorney General William Barr’s comment last week that former president Obama and former vice president Biden, “based on the information that I have,” would not become subjects of a criminal investigation, “whatever their level of involvement” revealed in the examination by special counsel John Durham of the origins of the spurious Trump–Russia investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. The attorney general elaborated that he did not wish to continue or aggravate the mixing of politics with the law and suggested that the best method of adjudicating Mr. Biden’s role in these matters would be by the electorate. As a number of eminent commentators, including Lou Dobbs and Frank Miele, have pointed out, this is not an acceptable treatment of the subject. The attorney general’s desire to separate politics and legal matters is entirely admirable, and since the Watergate trivialities were amplified to consume the Nixon presidency in 1974, the temptation of the party out of the White House to criminalize policy differences has produced a series of dangerous assaults on the constitutional process.
But the attorney general knows perfectly well that the public, when acting as an electoral jury, is not able to judge the legal implications of controversial behavior as they tumble out in the media without some legal context and evaluation of evidence. A political campaign does not facilitate a fair judgment of the issues, and few people could be more aware of that fact than Mr. Barr. All thoughtful observers of American politics applaud the desire that legal questions not be addressed in political and electoral campaigns. Yet the course he outlined last week, of leaving the judgment of Obama’s and Biden’s behavior in the Trump–Russia canard and related outrages to the voters (although Obama will not be facing the voters again), is precisely what he reluctantly returned to public office to discourage. Either the attorney general spoke without prejudice as to whether the Durham investigation moves on to examine the conduct of Obama and Biden, or he was just throwing the Democrats off guard, in the manner that former FBI director James Comey employed when he assured President Trump that he was not a target of the FBI counterintelligence investigation (one of his many total falsehoods).
A criminal investigation into former holders of national office would be a momentous and disturbing development. As one who disputed at every stage (and has continued ever since its sorry completion) the judicial persecution of President Nixon, objected to the Walsh investigation of Iran-Contra and President Reagan and its unjust findings, and opposed the impeachment of President Clinton for the reasons that caused it to end in acquittal, I feel particularly strongly that there should be no criminal investigation and certainly no publicity of such an investigation of President Obama or Vice President Biden if there is any other less disruptive and less potentially abusive method of determining the facts that Barr has many times rightly stated must be ascertained. He wishes to get to the bottom of what seemed to him an unprecedented and unconstitutional assault upon a presidential campaign and a president-elect that continued more than halfway through the first term of the Trump presidency. This will require some examination of what role Obama and Biden played in that skullduggery, without prejudging it.
If Mr. Barr’s comment was tactical, it has been successful, in that the Democratic national political media (about 80 percent of the media) have been offloaded from Barr’s back and have ceased to revile him as a Trump lackey, as that would be unbecoming of the last protector of the threadbare Obama legacy. This cannot have been his purpose, but he may have been addressing only current probabilities. It is inconceivable that there were rogue directors of the FBI, CIA, and NIA, and officials in other senior echelons of government, plotting to frame or mousetrap a three-star general and former intelligence chief and mislead the FISA court with false requests for domestic espionage on a presidential campaign, without anyone consulting or informing President Obama. His role must be investigated, fairly and promptly. If he and Biden were engaged in illegal acts, the country must be enabled to make an informed decision on Election Day. If they were not, the country must know that, and they must not be stigmatized by the almost certain crimes of some of Obama’s appointees.
In the current political atmosphere, the official national Democrats have been almost immobilized; the putative candidate remains notoriously in his home, though he seems to have percolated upwards to the ground floor, where he is regularly interrupted by, as he puts it, “Canadian geese.” (Canada geese spend most of the year in the U.S.) The Biden campaign consists of vocally ignoring the sexual-assault allegations of former staff member Tara Reade and dismissing the entire vast emerging attempted 2016 putsch as a “diversion” from the current president’s own supposed wrongdoing, of which he has inconveniently been completely absolved. The Biden policy positions consist of a steady movement to the left to appease every atomized plaintiff constituency huddled under the broad circus tent of Democratic grievance-pandering and virtue-signaling. The real Democratic campaign is being conducted by the Democratic media, who infest almost all the television news networks except Fox with effectively the same level of partisanship as would be shown if their news programming were acknowledged to be paid political advertisements for the Democratic Party.
And this campaign consists in the continued magnification of any conceivable misstatement of the president’s, the systematic minimization and whitewashing of virtually every aspect of the attempted theft and reversal of the 2016 election, and a campaign of hysteria to perpetuate the lockdown of the economy until Election Day. This is the Democratic strategy: terrorize the country with the specter of a pandemic whose fatality levels have now been reduced by nearly two thirds and continue to decline, and 80 percent of whose victims are above the age of 70. (According to Neil Ferguson of London’s Imperial College of Medicine, initial author of the estimate of over 2 million American coronavirus fatalities, two thirds of those who have died of that virus would have died this year of other causes anyway.) Nothing reduces the sadness of any one of those deaths or minimizes the impact of the coronavirus, but it does make the point that the frenzy of fear generated by the Democratic media propaganda machine to try to promote an artificial economic depression in order to defeat the president they failed to deprive of election four years ago is not justified or honorably motivated.
As I have written here and elsewhere before, the Democratic campaign is a disgrace as odious, if not as riddled with criminal wrongdoing, as their comparable effort four years ago, in which senior Justice Department and intelligence officials were so pleased to be complicit. It must be plumbed to its slimy depths.
Former French Culture Minister: Arabic is “A National Treasure” (Part 2)
by Hugh Fitzgerald
Jack Lang, the tireless promoter of Arabic – a language he admits he does not know – in France, insists that Arabic enabled French culture to “open to history.” As Muslims, the Arabs have not been interested in any history but their own, and not even the whole of that history. What matters to them is the history that comes after their acceptance of Islam. Everything that came before Islam is not worth studying; those centuries are to be dismissed as the Time of Ignorance, the Jahiliyya. Of the handful of Arabic-language historians, almost all narrowly concerned themselves with aspects of Islam and Islamic history. The monstrously prolific As-Suyuti, for example, wrote about the “Qur’anic sciences,” and, with his teacher Jalal al-Din, compiled a Qur’anic exegesis, a History of the Caliphs, and a study of the miracles of Muhammad. This is not history in the Western sense, but rather, is a branch of theology, and of religio-political history.
If you research “famous Arab historians” online, you will discover fewer than two dozen names are cited. There is only one listed who lived after 1505 (when As-Suyuti died), and that single “historian,” the Moroccan Mohammed Abu Khubza, who appeared 400 years after the previous entrant, turns out to have been a theologian, Shari’a scholar, and linguist, rather than an historian.
The only Arabic-language historian who made any impression in the Western world was the remarkable Ibn Khaldun (I cannot resist giving his full name: Abdurahman bin Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Al-Hasan bin Jabir bin Muhammad bin Ibrahim bin Abdurahman bin Ibn Khaldun al-Hadrami). Ibn Khaldun was a pioneer in historiography, economics, sociology, and demography. But other than being discussed by Machiavelli, Ibn Khaldun did not become well known in the West until the 19th century, and while he then garnered praise as a “father of sociology,” no one has claimed that he was a significant influence on Western, or French historians. Appreciation of his work has grown in the 20th century, but that is not the same thing as having influence on historians in the past, which is what Jack Lang means when he describes the Arabic language (that is, Arabic-language historians) as having enabled French culture to open to “mathematics history, medicine.” Again it’s a puzzlement: what can Jack Lang possibly mean?
The French had nearly five hundred celebrated historians in the Western tradition to emulate: Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius, Livy, Sallust, Strabo, Priscus, Procopius, Flavius Josephus (a Jewish historian,) Bede, Asser, William of Malmesbury, Saxo Grammaticus, Joinvillle, Foissart – and I’ll stop there. You need only do an online search of “famous historians” for the complete list. And it brings you up to the late 20th century, with Arnaldo Momigliano and Fergus Millar. Or you can search for “famous French historians,” and you will be supplied a list online of hundreds of distinguished names: Voltaire, Michelet, Hippolyte Taine, Tocqueville, right up to the present, with Furet, Veyne, and Ferro. And unlike the case with Ibn Khaldun, the works of all these Western historians were translated and are widely available.
Yet Jack Lang wants the French to think that Arabic has enabled French culture to open to “mathematics history, medicine.”
Did the Arabic language “enable French culture to open to medicine”? Averroes, or Ibn Rushd, did write a textbook on medicine that was used in Europe for several centuries, but only in Latin translation; the Arabic language was not the conduit for that knowledge. Avicenna, or Ibn Sina, wrote among his many works – both Averroes and Avicenna were polymaths — a medical encyclopedia, The Canon of Medicine (Al-Qanun fi’t-Tibb). It was used as the standard medical textbook in the Islamic world and Europe up to the 18th century, again in Latin translation; Arabic was not necessary. French doctors had no need of that “treasure of France,” the Arabic language.
According to The National, a newspaper in the United Arab Emirates:
Mr Lang has urged the French government to “restore to Arabic its place in public education and beyond that, its recognition and dignity in our society.” Mr Lang says a program to extend Arabic needs to be long-term and no longer vulnerable to “electoral transitions and partisan affiliations”.
He told The National that his successors at the education ministry had failed to follow through with the reforms he introduced from 2000 to 2002 to boost the number of Arabic teachers and courses.
“But, he said, even people fueled by “stupid xenophobia,” who resent hearing or seeing unfamiliar languages, should recognise the practical advantages of widening Arabic’s availability in public education.
Is Arabic the language of a rich culture that the French are missing out on? Or is it the language of people who are surpassingly incurious about other cultures and whose own “civilization” is distinctly unimpressive? Does Jack Lang remember the report of Rima Khalef, then the head of the Arab Development Project at the U.N.? She and her staff – all of them Arabs – found that the total number of books translated into Arabic yearly is no more than 330, or one-fifth of the number translated in a small country like Greece. Indeed, the total number of books translated into Arabic during the 1,000 years since the age of Caliph Al-Ma’moun to this day is less than those translated in Spain in one year. Yet Jack Lang presents Arabic as the language that opens out into the world, and that enabled French culture to be open “to mathematics, history, medicine.”
In a furious exchange on the French television channel CNews, Mr Lang was accused by a right-wing writer, Eric Zemmour, of being a “useful idiot” aiding a process of “re-Arabising France in order to re-Islamicise it.”
Eric Zemmour is not a ‘right-wing writer.” He has always been politically on the center, even sometimes on the center-left, but that epithet is slapped on him, as on others, for one reason only: he is an islamocritic.
Mr Lang threatened to leave the studio but retorted: “You are the agent of Islamicisation. You’d leave the teaching of Arab [sic] in the hands of propagandists and manipulators whereas I want language teaching to occur inside the school.”
Jack Lang seems to think that the Arabic language should be taught in the French schools because otherwise, he claims, Arab students will learn it from evil extremists – he calls them “propagandists and manipulators.” But teaching Muslims Arabic in schools will make the Qur’an, in its virulent original version, more readily accessible to those Muslim students. It keeps them rooted in Islam, less able and less inclined to integrate into French society. For non-Muslim pupils, persuaded to study Arabic in school, such language study will for some turn out to be a vehicle for their islamization. These non-Muslim pupils who are learning Arabic, reading verses from the most important Arabic text, that is, the Qur’an, having Arab classmates to emulate (for they will have had a head start in the language) and Muslim Arab teachers who will do their utmost to present Arabic, and Islam, in the most attractive light to their non-Muslim students. Offering Arabic in French schools, from the first grade to university, as President Macron announced on May 2, would also become a vast jobs program in French schools for Muslim Arab teachers. Their increased presence on the faculty will affect the atmospherics of the schools, and inhibit islamocriticism among both teachers and students.
And why should the non-Muslim French students be encouraged to study Arabic as part of the school curriculum? In French schools, students are generally taught only one foreign language. How many would choose Arabic over English, Spanish, or Mandarin, given the greater practical utility of all three and, as well, their rich literary cultures, as compared to the pitiful offerings in Arabic? And how many Arab students in French school, who already know spoken Arabic from their homes, would want to improve their Arabic by studying it in school, rather than studying the language that is far more important for their futures — English?
If Jack Lang were to get his way, the French would be studying en masse La Langue Arabe, Tresor de France (“The Arabic Language, a French Treasure”). Mr Lang describes the language as a “the beautiful unknown.” Few who hear this guttural and aggressive-sounding tongue would agree with Lang’s praise of the language. But he is, let’s not forget, the president of the Institut du monde arabe, and needs to flatter those who pay his fat salary.
Lang may be “critical” of those who reject his extravagant claims for the teaching of Arabic in French schools, but don’t they have a point? They do not want French schools, through the promotion of Arabic study, to be the unwitting vehicles for the spread of Islam. Don’t those he criticizes have it right? Isn’t it impossible to separate the Arabic language and Arab culture from Islam, a faith whose holy book, the Qur’an, was delivered, over 23 years, to an Arab and in his language? Believers are taught that this Qur’an contains all of knowledge. They must ideally read the Qur’an in Arabic; their five daily prayers are to be recited in Arabic. They say those prayers while prostrate and facing Mecca, in western Arabia. They must, if they can afford it, make the hajj – again, to Mecca. Many non-Arab Muslims take Arab names, and some even assume false Arab lineages, connecting them to the tribe of the Prophet. The late Anwar Sheikh offered a lapidary formula: “Islam,” he said, “is the vehicle for Arab supremacism.” And the Arabic language, the language of the Qur’an and hadith, is the vehicle for the spread of Islam.
In flowery terms, he [Jack Lang] says the language has become an object of contrary fixations, “for some discredited, quarantined by merchants of fear or hatred who cling to a stunted conception of what France should be; for others, a vector of rupture.”
If you are French, and take pride in the civilization of France – its art, architecture, literature, music, philosophy, scientific advances, and of course its expressive, rich, and beautiful language – and do not wish to see that culture diluted by the millions of Arab migrants who have managed to settle in France, behind what their faith teaches them to regard as enemy lines, Jack Lang has no time for you. French people in his view are not allowed to be proud of their rich and multifarious culture. If you do so, and if you want France to remain recognizably France, and not begin to resemble Algeria or Morocco, as some neighborhoods in Marseilles and Paris already do, for Lang you are a “merchant of fear or hatred.”
Who are these “merchants of fear or hatred”? Lang consigns to the outer darkness all the supporters of Marine Le Pen, who would like to halt Muslim migration. Le Pen’s supporters are not “merchants of fear or hatred” – the “hatred” to be found today in France is that which the Muslims direct at their non-Muslim hosts and the non-Muslim state. Those who agree with Marine Le Pen are simply unwilling to pretend that “the authentic Islam” has nothing to do with violence; they have seen the steep rise in crimes, especially violent crimes, that are the result of Muslim criminals. Muslims make up 12% of the population, but are 70% of the prisoners in French jails. They have been made well aware of how the Muslims in certain neighborhoods, such as Seine-St. Denis, have created No-Go zones where non-Muslims, including firemen and policemen, are made distinctly non-welcome. At the same time, they see the way that Muslim economic migrants have managed to take full advantage of all the benefits a generous welfare state lavishes upon them: free or highly subsidized housing, free education, free medical care, unemployment benefits (without the need to have previously been employed), family allowances, and more. They see the high levels of Muslim unemployment, and the apparent lack of desire of many Muslims to seek, or train for, gainful employment. They learn, too, of the increasing rates of criminality among Muslims, especially for such violent crimes as rape and murder. That is the information that leads Marine Le Pen, and her supporters, to insist that further Muslim immigration would be folly. But for Jack Lang, if you dare to take note of this data on Muslim immigrants, you are a “merchant of fear or hatred.”
The film of Bill Bryson's book A Walk in the Woods was on British TV last week and prompted me to read my husband's copy. I was interested to read him writing about the rhododenrons of the Appalachian Mountains. We have rhododendrons in English forests but many conservationists consider them to be pests which are smothering native species and are to be contained. These plants came originally from the Himalayas collected by the Victorians for ornamental gardens. I have always rather admired them, but the one I planted in Dagenham over 30 years ago disliked either the soil or the industrial atmosphere from the Ford Works which was still very active then, and it didn't thrive.
But the place I visited recently contained many specimen blooming at their best.
Norway's broadcasting ombudsman has received close to a hundred complaints this week after state broadcaster NRK gave the Muslim Eid celebrations (helmed by the popular journalist Rima Iraki, the former presenter of NRK's Dagsrevyen news programme) the sort of coverage normally given to Christmas.
According to Erik Skarrud, the ombudsman's secretary, the organisation received 93 reports after the broadcast of "The Celebration after the Fast" on Sunday night, of which only a handful were positive.
"Someone called it 'propaganda for Islam' and a large number of them used the same sort of expression. There's probably a text somewhere that people are cutting and pasting from," he told Kampanje magazine. That's right Liberal, sneer at people's valid opinions just because they are not yours and oh, so articulate like you.
Others complained they "did not want to pay for something that could lead to terror".
The controversy prompted Norway's culture minister Abid Raja to write an opinion article, "When can I say 'my Norway'?, on NRK complaining of people's unwillingness to accept Muslim citizens as truly Norwegian.