Born in communist Czechoslovakia, Dalibor Rohac is unsettled by the continued displays of the symbols of communism by people on the political left. In view of the millions of victims of communist regimes, he finds it difficult to understand the surviving taste for the hammer and sickle, Che Guevara t-shirts and the like. Rohac mentions some possible explanations for this: that few people grasp the magnitude of the crimes of communism; that, whereas totalitarian fascism was always a poisonous idea, communism may be seen as a good idea that went wrong... A good idea gone wrong as may be, communism didn’t just go wrong in some minor or insignificant detail, but on a vast scale, and the manner in which it went wrong wasn’t only the manner of what one calls a ‘mistake’… No one with a genuine attachment to humane ideals should want to be associated with, much less bear upon their person, the iconography in question. It should have been completely discredited.
At the same time, for my part I do not find it so difficult to understand why this hasn’t happened. It hasn’t happened, because the left is far from having rid itself of those tendencies towards apologia for dictatorship and disregard for human rights that prevailed in the mid-20th century… Moreover, we are not talking here, as is sometimes alleged, of only a small fraction of the left - the far left: unreconstructed Stalinists, the SWP and its penumbra, and so forth. They form, to be sure, a core region of the anti-democratic indulgence I mean. But it also has a large hinterland among well-meaning ‘liberals’… The regrettable fact of the matter is that too much of the left still gives anti-capitalism and/or equality priority over the norms of democracy, liberty and human rights; and this is why the iconography tainted by the deaths of millions of innocent people is still seen as being cool where it no longer should be.
Unsurprisingly, I differ from Norm on one point, a point I think of as quite important. Communism – Marxism and its variants – was never a good idea. It is, and always was, a monstrous idea, a license for coercion, atrocity and horror - predictably so. And not coincidentally, it was conceived by, and has since entranced, some very unpleasant people.
I’m currently being sued... by Dr Michael Mann, the eminent global warm-monger, for mocking his increasingly discredited climate-change “hockey stick.” So Dr Mann has sued for what his complaint to the court called “defamation of a Nobel prize recipient.” In fact, Dr Mann is not a “Nobel prize recipient.” But, as Donna LaFramboise recently pointed out, he has spent many years passing himself off as one. The nearest he got to a Nobel was as one of several thousand contributors to one of various reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which in 2007 shared a Nobel Peace Prize. So Dr Mann is a Nobel laureate in the same sense that my mother is: She’s Belgian, and Belgium is in the European Union, and the European Union was collectively awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year. My mum does not claim to be a Nobel prize winner, but Dr Mann did, on an industrial scale, including in his publicist’s bio, his book jackets and his website — until, in the wake of his false complaint, the Nobel Institute in Oslo declared that he was not a Nobel laureate at all. In that sense, Dr Mann is, indeed, a fraud. It is a fascinating legal question whether a man guilty of serial misrepresentation can, in fact, be defamed.
“We must increase our debt limit so that we can pay our bills.” As Tyler Durden notes, this is the “most disturbing sentence uttered during the debt ceiling debate/government shut down.” […] There are around 72 million American children under the age of 18. If you do the maths, assuming they are on the hook for our debts, that means that currently each American child is around $236,000 in debt. Since only around one-half of Americans are federal income taxpayers, it would be more accurate to say that each future taxpayer owes $472,000. If two of them get married, they owe just short of $1 million, with more debt being piled up every day and with interest costs sure to increase. These numbers can be sliced and diced in various ways, but any way you look at it, it is insane that those in Washington who wanted to blow past the statutory debt limit without hesitation so that we can “pay our bills” are hailed as responsible. Here is a hint: if you have to borrow money to pay your bills, you aren’t paying your bills.
Readers who followed this recent thread on Margaret Thatcher and her critics may enjoy Martin Durkin’s documentary, available on 4oD here, Margaret: Death of a Revolutionary. Durkin’s film not only offers a useful history lesson, it’s also a nimble shredding of quite a few leftist myths. Its highlights include contributions from Madsen Pirie, who really ought to be on TV more often, and some comically disingenuous squirming by Mary Warnock and Neil Kinnock. During the Kinnock interviews, pay close attention to Durkin’s right eyebrow. A lot can be said with an eyebrow.
The first few days of the Olympics have been accompanied by a clutch of articles about how British patriotism has been rehabilitated, the Union flag reclaimed and so forth. Really? Reclaimed from whom? Other than in the imagination of a tiny metropolitan elite, when was it ever ceded? […] Watching the women’s race at Hampton Court, we were caught in torrential rain. Among the spectators were dozens of orange-shirted Dutchmen, accompanied by a brass band, which played on impressively through the downpour. When the water eventually slackened, the Hollanders struck up Rule Britannia, delighting the natives: true patriots, of course, approve of the national pride of other peoples. The idea that loving your country means scorning someone else’s is downright silly.
Perhaps someone should tell Billy Bragg, who informed Guardian readers that “our imperial instincts” prevent us “relating to our neighbours as equals.” “The English,” wrote Bragg, “are in danger of becoming an insular people, jealously guarding the right to make our own laws.” Mr Bragg - who once told listeners of Radio 4 that he had “learned all of his politics from pop music” - went on to claim that English sports fans dislike their national teams losing because of a “hangover from an imperial past.” More prosaic explanations were not entertained.
I’m trying to make the point that, after 11 years of looking at college censorship, this is starting to have a negative effect on the way our country talks with itself. I think it harms our ability and inclination to debate if the one institution that’s supposed to be making us deeper, more honest, harder thinkers is actually saying “And if you disagree, kind of shut up.”
When it comes to discipline, apparently schools need racial quotas. I kid you not:
The state’s board of education established a policy demanding that each racial or ethnic group receive roughly proportional levels of school penalties, regardless of the behaviour by members of each group… “What this means is that whites and Asians will get suspended for things that blacks don’t get suspended for.”
The homicide rate among males between the ages of 14 and 17 is nearly ten times higher for blacks than for whites and Hispanics combined. Such data make no impact on the Obama administration and its orbiting advocates, who apparently believe that the lack of self-control and socialisation that results in this disproportionate criminal violence does not manifest itself in classroom comportment as well.
Dallas was the last Western show allowed during the nightmarish 1980s because President Nicolae Ceausescu thought it showcased all that was wrong with capitalism. In fact, the show provided a luxuriant alternative to a communism that was forcing people to wait more than a decade to buy the most rattletrap communist-produced cars… After the dictator and his wife were shot on Christmas Eve 1989, the pilot episode of Dallas - with a previously censored sex scene spliced back in - was one of the first foreign shows broadcast on liberated Romanian TV.
The Guild of Evil recently started watching some reruns of Dallas, ironically at first. Now the mix of schemes, shoulder pads and ginormous hair is a regular treat. And I’ll thank you not to judge me.
The details of which remain somewhat vague. We do, however, learn that David Cameron finds the corporation’s modest austerity “delicious,” which of course makes him A Very Bad Man.
Is he in hock to Rupert Murdoch?
Bad men with dastardly motives. That must be it. Only a fiend would stand in the way of the Beeb and its subsidised tumescence. All good people know that the state’s statist broadcaster is entitled to your earnings, being as it is wise, impartial and utterly benign. [The aforementioned tumescence is illustrated rather nicely by rjmadden in the comments.]
The BBC's ability to compete as a world-class programme maker stands in grave doubt.
There isn’t, then, a market for heavily-branded world-class programming? Is voluntary subscription not an option?
Of course, continuing spasms of introversion, such as the pending journalists’ strike over pensions, don’t help.
Strikes that were scheduled to coincide with the Conservative Party conference with a view to depriving it of air time, thus saving the public from any ideological waywardness.
But there is nothing delicious about their predicament, nor about the real losses of freedom and resource involved.
The licence fee isn’t a tax, to be turned on or off like some Whitehall tap. It is a contract between viewer and corporation.
Contracts are generally entered into voluntarily. If I want to watch Sky, I enter into a contract by choice. I choose a package that suits me and am free to change my mind. In contrast, the BBC license fee isn’t a contract in any meaningful sense. I cannot choose the programming I have to pay for and, short of renouncing television altogether, I cannot opt out. For most of us, the license fee is a condition of television ownership and has to be paid irrespective of personal preference. It is, in effect, a tax.
Meanwhile, Labour’s Ivan Lewis tells Guardian readers,
Labour will stand up for the BBC, make no mistake.
A favour that will doubtless be reciprocated at public expense.
By the mid-1970s, Britain was widely regarded - choose your favourite cliché - as the Sick Man of Europe, an economic basket case, ungovernable... In  the year before Thatcher came to power, Britain, upon whose empire the sun never set, endured the Winter of Discontent. Labour unrest shut down public services, paralysing the nation for months on end… Rubbish was piled high on the streets of Britain that winter, and so, at one point, were human corpses. The Soviet trade minister told his British counterpart, “We don’t want to increase our trade with you. Your goods are unreliable, you’re always on strike, you never deliver.” This was what had become of the world’s greatest trading power.
From Claire Berlinski’s “There Is No Alternative”: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters, which I’m halfway through reading and enjoying quite a lot. It’s a brisk and witty reminder of what was at stake and how socialism can lead to extraordinary selfishness. It also has plenty of revealing incidental nuggets, as when Berlinski notes the feelings of some of Thatcher’s loftier enemies:
When asked why intellectuals loathed her so, the theatre producer Jonathan Miller replied that it was “self-evident” – they were nauseated by her “odious suburban gentility.” The philosopher Mary Warnock deplored Thatcher’s “neat, well-groomed clothes and hair, packaged together in a way that’s not exactly vulgar, just low,” embodying “the worst of the lower-middle class.” This filled Warnock with “a kind of rage.”
Claire Berlinksi is interviewed by National Review’s Peter Robinson, again in 5 parts:
Glenn Reynolds also interviews Berlinksi here. (Registration required.)
Related: Tory! Tory! Tory! An excellent 2006 miniseries tracing the history and context of Thatcherism, the miseries it involved and the much greater miseries it avoided. Well worth viewing in full. The three episodes are embedded below in six parts:
Escaping gas, high drama and The Great Symbolic Bench.
“The wind was so strong that the mission would have failed immediately, the bench would be blown off the iceberg in no time. Around 8 in the evening we gave up... I started to feel that my project was gaining a different, and maybe stronger, meaning... And maybe the bench was an excuse and didn’t need to be left out on the ice at all.”
James Bond is insufficiently emasculated, unlike Theo Hobson.
It seems to me that a huge part of Bond’s appeal, as a character and a franchise, is precisely the rejection of many PC assumptions and their petty, emasculating tenor. Unlike many Guardian writers, Bond isn’t prone to disabling fits of quasi-Marxist handwringing. And nor is his boss, ‘M’, played by a pleasingly firm Judy Dench - hardly a “flimsy thing who needs hard male mastery.”
On Bidisha’s Planet Diversity all science fiction will be made to conform.
The claim that the world of science fiction is inordinately populated by “homophobic white male straight writers” and “woman-hating racists” – none of whom are named - sits uneasily with the author’s admission that science fiction fandom is noted for its breadth and inclusivity and a propensity for discussing “sex, race, whatever.” Nor is it entirely consonant with her own extended list of suitably inclusive authors. Indeed, so extensive is this list, and so numerous are the writers and characters unfairly omitted from it, one might suppose the author of this article is intent on disproving her own premise.
Mandatory lesbianism and the politics of shoes. A video history of radical feminism.
“It was a fantastic bit of graffiti and everybody had it up on their walls. And then we found out that a man had done the graffiti. We were just like, ‘Right, that’s it.’ We were basically going to go round and brick his house ‘til we found out he lived with women and children [laughs] … then of course we couldn’t do it, yeah.”
Meet Jane Elliott: “diversity” pioneer and Witchfinder General for the modern age.
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.
Toynbee’s Guardian salary, for years a subject of speculation, was eventually revealed as £106,000 - excluding royalties, advances, media fees, etc. Presumably Polly feels her own financial rewards are not at all “extravagant” or “unjust,” or a likely cause of public outrage. It seems, then, that Ms Toynbee only dislikes the wrong kind of rich people, which is to say rich people whose politics and backgrounds may differ from her own.