Today’s Guardian editorial sings the praises of that “radical literary magazine,” The London Review of Books:
So essential to Britain’s intellectual life... The editorial care taken is a cause for wonder and cheer.
The LRB is also praised for,
The standard it keeps up.
Those who diverge from the Guardian’s definition of standards may feel less enthusiastic. Let’s not forget the LRB’s default anti-Israel bias, perhaps best summarised by the magazine’s editor, Mary-Kay Wilmers, who told the Sunday Times: “I’m unambiguously hostile to Israel because it’s a mendacious state.” There’s also the LRB’s history of excusing Islamic terrorism with wild inversions of reality. As, for instance, when Charles Glass fawned over the “uncompromising programme” of Hizballah and its “intelligent” use of “car bombs, ambushes, small rockets and suicide bombers.” It’s always heartening to see literary intellectuals being titillated by random savagery and casually disregarding the openly genocidal statements of Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah. I suspect readers of the LRB will be studiously unaware that in 2003 Hizballah’s TV channel broadcast a 30-part “history” series based on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. But then this is the kind of “intellectual life” that sees fit to publish a breezy hagiography of – wait for it - Robert Mugabe.
We’ve seen such things before, not least in the Guardian itself, and in such elevated organs as the New Left Review. As when the Marxist art critic Julian Stallabrass pondered the “spectacle” of terrorism and seemed more than a little aroused by the “vanguard politics” of “Islamic revolutionaries” who “harden themselves againstmundane sentiment.” According to Mr Stallabrass, “the 9/11 attacks did no more than return to the US a taste of the force it has wielded across the globe.” A view shared by the Cambridge historian and LRB regular Mary Beard, who described the events of that morning as a “predictable outcome of US actions,” while putting the words terrorist and terrorism in ironic quotation marks. Ms Beard also pondered the feeling that “America had it coming” and likened jihadist terrorism to “extraordinary acts of bravery.” The Guardian’s then comment editor Seumas Milne also framed terrorism in quotation marks and said with eerie confidence, “Americans simply don’t get it.” This, on September 13, while human dust was still, quite literally, settling on Manhattan.
Time for another selection of Classic Sentences from the Guardian. Or rather the Guardian’s Sunday sister paper, the Observer. Until recently, I had thought the Observer’s commentary wasn’t quite as obnoxiously self-loathing as the material that swillsallbutdaily through the piping of the Guardian. Sadly, it seems I was mistaken:
Fewer British babies would mean a fairer planet.
So barks the headline of AlexRenton’s latest exercise in ecological hair-tearing. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. It’s just another overexcited sub-editor and not representative of an otherwise measured and sober article. However, the first line reads,
The worst thing that you or I can do for the planet is to have children.
One less British child would permit some 30 women in sub-Saharan Africa to have a baby and still leave the planet a cleaner place.
Why not start cutting population everywhere? Are condoms not the greenest technology of all?
Inevitably, we veer tantalisingly close to China’s state reproduction policy:
It was certainly the most successful governmental attempt to preserve the world’s resources so far.
And there’s this little gem.
A cull of Australians or Americans would be at least 60 times as productive as one of Bangladeshis.
So several candidates there – from, lest we forget, a progressive and liberal newspaper.
Deciding not to have a child because of their estimated annual CO2 production is a particularly wretched parental calculus and suggests either pathological self-disgust or pretensions thereof. I suspect Alex Renton measures his moral and intellectual sophistication by the extent to which he loathes his own culture, and by extension himself. That, or he pretends such for the benefit of other, likeminded souls. Happily, he’s found a cause well suited to the cultivation of such feelings. Less happily, he presumes to share his leanings with others, coercively if necessary:
Could children perhaps become part of an adult’s personal carbon allowance? Could you offer rewards: have one child only and you may fly to Florida once a year?
Readers may feel inclined to assist Mr Renton in his totalitarian urges by gnawing off his testicles and tossing them on a fire. And then doing the same to any male children he may recklessly have sired. For Gaia, of course.
Just 8 km in diameter, Saturn’s moon Daphnis casts its shadow. The tiny moon’s gravity creates waves in Saturn’s A ring that extend above the plane to a height of 1.5 km. Image taken by Cassini in visible light on June 26, at a distance of approximately 823,000 km from Daphnis.
A while ago, on the subject of identity politics and competitive victimhood, I wrote:
Any claim to moral agency is surrendered to those members of a favoured group who happen to be shouting loudest. Thus, injustice is defined, unilaterally, by feelings, or claims of feelings - and by the leverage they provide. Phobias, prejudice and oppression become whatever the Designated Victim Group or its representative says they are. And the basis for apology, compensation and flattery becomes whatever the Designated Victim Group says it is. The practical result of this is egomaniacal license and the politics of role-play.
Elliott is keen on verbal watchfulness. She believes that racism is in the eye of the beholder and therefore one needs to be ever-sensitive to the possibility of giving offence. “Perception is everything,” she says. “If someone perceives something as racist then I am responsible for not saying that thing.”
Note Elliott’s disregard for context, motive or objective criteria. “Perception is everything,” says she. By which she means the perception, or misperception, of one party only. This is the premise of Elliott’s crusade – to provide moral correction for all pale-skinned people. The particulars of an exchange and who did what to whom are all but immaterial; what matters is which party belongs to the Designated Victim Group, as defined by Jane Elliott and others in the trade. Clearly, moral logic isn’t Elliott’s strong suit; hers is the realm of pantomime and emotional bullying. As Elliott’s own publicity material makes clear, she “does not intellectualise… she uses participants’ own emotions to make them feel discomfort, guilt, shame, embarrassment and humiliation.” And there’s the rub. Once rendered suitably emotional and distressed, her subjects can be re-educated so much more easily. Want to see how? Elliott’s 1996 workshop documentary Blue Eyed can be viewed here. The fun starts around the 2:00 mark with the guy and his name tag. And pay close attention to the exchange around 5:40, before the “exercise” begins.
We’ve seen this unhinged and pernicious nonsense before of course, not least from Peggy McIntosh and her “invisible knapsacks of privilege,” and Shakti Butler, who tells unsuspecting students that, “the term [racist] applies to all white people living in the United States.” Like McIntosh and Butler, Elliott’s formulation of guilt is presumptive, unilateral and based on a conviction that “white ignorance is the problem.” (A problem that “we white folks have now managed to export… all over the world.”) Thus, guilt is framed as a collective phenomenon and effectively a function of a person’s pigmentation. So no racism there, clearly. Bearing in mind how “perception is everything” and what that entails, it seems unlikely that realistic argument will be encouraged or looked on kindly. And those who happen to have pale skin and are unfortunate enough to fall within Elliott’s influence may not wish to be held hostage by every passing opportunist or liar with a grudge.
Sceptical readers may wonder if Elliott reveals more than she intends when telling her captive audiences that “a new reality is going to be created,” that they have “no power, absolutely no power,” and that her title, “bitch,” stands for “Being In Total Control, Honey.” And some readers may question the credibility and motives of an “educator” who tells students that, “white people invented racism.” Transcending such vices is of course impossible, except through Ms Elliott and her tender ministrations. Being as she is the self-appointed gatekeeper of redemption through guilt.
Readers may recall a recent post on the wisdom of Margaret Jamison, a guru of sorts to a small circle of admirers. Ms Jamison is a lesbian feminist who defines rape as “all penile intercourse” on grounds that, “there is something wrong with this notion that a woman’s ‘consent’ is what separates a rapist from a non-rapist.” When not insisting that “all heterosex is rape,” Jamison’s thoughts turn a little too readily to the subject of harming children: “I believe male infanticide to be a better option than the current circumstances. I think it’s better than what we’ve got.”
Ms Jamison’s latest declarations concern a matter of some delicacy. It begins in the usual, rather grandiose way:
What I want more than anything is for women to achieve a state of being that is untainted. I especially want us to free ourselves from male rule and influence, for us to be unaltered in ways that are modeled on maleness.
Then it gets a little coy.
The reliance of women on various man-made implements to mediate their relations with other women, whether psychological constructs or manufactured goods, is an adulteration of the female.
Ms Jamison is very big on The Unargued Assertion and she likes to pile ‘em high. I’m not quite sure what the psychological constructs in question might be, but in case it isn’t clear, those “manufactured goods” include strap-ons, dildos and other such devices:
Femaleness cannot be enhanced by maleness, only denied, suppressed, and degraded, lessened. The master’s tools inhabit our minds and the realm of our physical lives… And I don’t think that a tool forged by males or in their likeness is any less male when wielded by women.
Oh, I do like that - The master’s tools. Very good.
Given the all-pervasive nature of The Crushing Patriarchy and its Symbols of Dominion™ - and given the obligation of all women to shun such indecencies - this can create problems of an intimate nature. Penetration is patriarchal degradation, see? Even when the penetrator in question is a lady. So what’s a girl to do? Are fingers and tongues okay? Will scissoring suffice?
I see the Guardian has wheeled out Linda Bellos, another high priestess of identity politics, to air her umbrage at Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson. Clarkson, we’re told, “makes a living by being gratuitously offensive.” Unlike the elevated Ms Bellos, who makes a living by, among other things, being gratuitously offended. And saying things like this:
Where, for instance, is the disabled community on our screens – either as drivers or presenters? When have we had the feature on Top Gear about cars and motoring for disabled drivers? You’ll have noticed from the supermarket car park that there are a few around. But, apparently, Jeremy Clarkson hasn’t.
As Tim Worstall notes, Ms Bellos might have fared better if she’d done a little research and actually watched the programme she presumes to criticise. In fact, Top Gear has addressed issues of disability on at least three occasions, including, in season 2, a search for the fastest disabled driver in Britain. Fans of the series may also recall a race involving hastily customised double decker cars, during which a driver’s artificial arm became detached from his person while still gripping the wheel.
Given Top Gear’s popularity outside of Guardian circles, it’s no great surprise the series has disabled fans. And it’s perhaps worth noting that Clarkson is a founder of the Help for Heroes charity which raises funds for those injured and disabled during military service. The Guardian actually mentioned the charity and its advertising earlier this year, prompting a reader to complain,
There are only two people who are not white in that commercial... possibly three, there’s someone totally covered in a wet suit.
Ms Bellos will doubtless be pleased to find others airing a worldview very similar to her own. And it’s always good to see moral one-upmanship and complaints of “the same sad old stereotypes” coming from a woman who abandoned her own children to live in a separatist lesbian commune.
One of the GDR’s greatest achievements was the creation of a more egalitarian society… Pay differentials between different groups of employees were minimal so that even top managers or government ministers were hardly wealthy in Western terms... This lack of large wealth differentials and class privilege made for a more cohesive and balanced society. For some, such egalitarianism was not amenable and the lure of higher salaries and business opportunities in the West remained strong. This led to a steady haemorrhaging of skilled workers and professionals before the wall was built in 1961. The GDR was a society largely free of existential fears.
Here’s a product with no pressing need to exist. Wine… for gay men:
Spanish UO! Wines is a line of three wines created with homosexual men in mind, and its descriptions, packaging and website imagery were all tailored accordingly. UO! Ánima Blanca, for example, is a Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo blend featuring earth tones and “wisps of flowers and fruit – the perfect accompaniment to a gathering of friends on a hot day, whether the heat comes from within or without.”
It smells of ripe, dark fruits, fragrant, a steamy jungle… Taste it. Raise the glass to your lips and you’ll notice deep and balanced flavours, they are sumptuous, you can almost chew on them, they fill you.
Artist Tracey Emin has said she is thinking of leaving the UK in protest about being overtaxed. In a Sunday Timesinterview she said she was “very seriously considering leaving Britain,” adding: “I’m simply not willing to pay tax at 50%.” The government’s 50p tax rate for incomes of more than £150,000 will be introduced in April. Referring to the new tax, she said: “I reckon it would mean me paying about 65p in every pound with tax, National Insurance and so on.”
What’s interesting is that Ms Emin couches her objection in terms of philistinism:
Emin said the Labour government had no understanding for the arts. “At least in France their politicians have always understood the importance of culture and they have traditionally helped out artists with subsidy and some tax advantages.”
Typically unassuming, she appears to be suggesting that artists, and people who peddle tat masquerading as art, warrant some special dispensation. One not available to less elevated beings. The esteemed ambassador of the arts and creator of such mighty works as My Bed and Everyone I Have Ever Slept With could have been a little more to the point. She might, for instance, have argued that, “paying about 65p in every pound with tax” is objectionable - some would say immoral – artist or not. Readers may also note that while Ms Emin objects to her own indecent tax bill she also feels that artists should be subsidised by the government. Which generally entails subsidy by the taxpayer.