From the desk of Sean Gabb
In England, one of those weeks has just ended that define an entire period. This is no consolation for those who have suffered, and who may yet suffer worse. But I have no doubt that it is worth describing what has happened and trying to explain what it means.
Let me begin with the facts.
First, it was reported on the 3rd February 2009 that Carol Thatcher, daughter of Margaret Thatcher, had been dismissed from her job as a BBC presenter for having called a black tennis player a golliwog. She did not say this on air, but during a private conversation. Even so, the BBC defended its decision on the grounds that any language of a "racist nature" was "wholly unacceptable".
Second, demands are rising at the moment for Jeremy Clarkson, another presenter at the BBC, to be dismissed for having called the Prime Minister a "one-eyed Scottish idiot who keeps telling us everything's fine". Various Scotch politicians and spokesmen for the blind let up an immediate chorus of horror that has resulted in a conditional apology from Mr Clarkson, but may not save his career.
Third, it was reported on the 2nd February 2009 that the comedian and Labour Party supporter Jo Brand was being investigated by the police for allegedly inciting criminal acts against her political opponents. While presenting a BBC television programme on the 16th January 2009, she rejoiced that the membership list of the British National Party had been stolen and published on the Internet. Her exact words were: "Hurrah! Now we know who to send the poo to". The natural meaning of her words was that it would be a fine idea to look up members of this party and send excrement to them through the post. The British National Party put in an immediate complaint, using the hate speech laws made during the past generation. According to a BBC spokesman, "We do not comment on police matters. However, we believe the audience would have understood the satirical nature of the remarks". It is relevant to note that Mrs Brand was present when Carol Thatcher made her "golliwog" remarks, and may have had a hand in denouncing her.
Fourth, In The Times on the 6th February, someone called Matthew Syed wrote how personally oppressed he felt by words like "golliwog", and how good it was that "society" was taking a stand against them. Two pages later, someone called Frank Skinner defended the employers in the north of England who prefer to employ foreigners on the grounds that foreigners are "better looking" and "less trouble". The possibility that he has broken one of our hate speech laws will probably never be considered.
This is a gathering of facts that occurred or were made public during one week. But if we relax the time limit, similar facts pour in beyond counting. There was, for example, the pillorying last month of one of the Queen's grandsons for calling someone a "Paki". Or, to give myself as an example, there was my BBC debate of the 16th February 2004 with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, an Asian immigrant who seems incapable of seeing any issue except in terms of white racism. During this debate, I asked her: "Yasmin, are you saying that the white majority in this country is so seething with hatred and discontent that it is only restrained by law from rising up and tearing all the ethnic minorities to pieces?" Her answer was "Yes". It is possible she did not understand my question. It is possible she would have clarified or retracted her answer had the debate been allowed to continue. Sadly for her, the BBC immediately switched off my microphone and threw me into the street. Mrs Brown was allowed to continue uninterrupted to till the end of the programme. The hundreds of complaints received by the BBC and the Commission for Racial Equality were all either ignored or dismissed with the assurance that nothing untoward had taken place in the studio. I accept that Mrs Brown might not have meant what she said. Had I made such a comment about Asians or blacks, however, I might have been facing a long stretch in prison.
But let me return to the most recent facts. The most obvious reason why these broadly similar incidents are being treated so differently is that Jo Brand and Frank Skinner are members of the new ruling class that formally took power in 1997. They can vilify their opponents as freely as Dr Goebbels did his. Any of the hate speech laws that might – objectively read – moderate their language will be regarded as nullities. The police had no choice but to investigate Mrs Brand for her alleged offence committed live on television before several million people. But they made it clear that no charges would result. According to a police spokesman, "The chances of this going further are very remote. The idea that the BNP are claiming they are the victim of a race offence is mildly amusing, to say the least". It may be amusing. The statement itself is interesting, though, as a formal admission that law in this country now means whatever the executive finds convenient.
Carol Thatcher and Jeremy Clarkson are not members of the ruling class. They have no such immunity. Mr Clarkson may get away with his act of hate speech because he is popular and clever, and because the main object of his contempt is only the Prime Minister. Miss Thatcher may not be allowed to get away with her act. She used a word that borders on the illegal. And she is the daughter of Margaret Thatcher. She is the daughter, that is, of the woman elected and re-elected three times on the promise that she would make the British State smaller and stop it from being made the vehicle for a totalitarian revolution by stealth. Of course, she broke her promises. She did nothing to stop the takeover of the state administration by politically correct totalitarians. But there was a while when the people who actually won the cultural revolution in this country thought they would lose. They looked at her rhetoric. They noted the millions of votes she piled up in her second and third general elections. And they trembled. As said, they won. Mrs Thatcher herself is too old to suffer more than endless blackening at the hands of the victors who now comprise the ruling class. But they still tremble at the thought of how her shadow darkened their 1980s. And if they can do nothing to her now, her daughter can be ruined, and that will now be tried with every chance of success.
It might be argued that what Miss Thatcher and Mr Clarkson said was offensive, and that they are in trouble because we have a much greater regard for politeness than used to be the case. Perhaps it is offensive to say that a black man looks like a golliwog. Perhaps it is offensive to imply that Scotchmen are idiots or that people with defective sight also have defective judgement. It might be. But it might also be offensive to millions of people that the BBC – which is funded by a compulsory levy on everyone who can receive television signals – broadcasts a continual stream of nudity and obscene language; and that it pays the biggest salary in its history to Jonathan Ross, whose only public talent is for foul-mouthed buffoonery. The British ruling class – especially through the BBC, its main propaganda outreach – has a highly selective view of what is offensive...[.]
Full story http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/3789