Friday Ephemera
Ignorant Teachers, a New Socialist Ideal

Elsewhere (35)

Anton Howes pays a visit to a London squat:  

I had expected people struggling to get by and occupying someone else’s property as a last resort, but the iPods and laptops suggested otherwise… Given they professed to have reclaimed the place for the people, I tried to explore. However, I was stopped when trying to go upstairs: it was apparently “private.” I complained that this surely contradicted the whole justification for occupation but was told, “If you’re going to be like that, you can fuck off then.”

It seems the slogan “property is theft” has quietly been modified to something a little more honest, if scarcely less stupid:  “Your property is theft. Mine is out of bounds.” 

Heresy Corner on blame, condescension and burning Qur’ans:  

One might as well blame the 9/11 hijackers, or the rioters against the Danish cartoons, without whose actions it would never have occurred to Mr Jones that the Qur’an was a book worth burning. By all means criticise the Qur’an-burning if you disapprove of it on grounds such as respect for religion or for the feelings of believers. But to condemn it on the grounds that it incites violence betrays severe moral confusion.

Of the kind explored at length here and here.

And Quentin Letts casts an eye over Arts Council spending:  

In the past five years, the Arts Council, which has been through six restructurings since 1993, has spent more than £300,000 on public opinion research. In 2009, it spent £100,000 on media monitoring and £107,000 on legal fees (down from £455,000 in 2008). Some £50,000 was blown on office Christmas parties in two years. Christmas cards accounted for another £22,000 in 2009. The spending has been like something out of The Great Gatsby. Arts Council buildings cost £2.7 million a year to rent, while latest figures show an annual administration spend of £48 million. Oh, and 20 staff had ‘diversity’ in their job titles last year, while almost 40 had ‘communication’ on their business cards. All of this money has been spent before a single play, a single concert or a single exhibition was staged.

Arts Council chair and noted Guardianista Liz Forgan has taken great exception to Mr Letts’ piece, in particular his reference to the organisation’s “multicultural nomenklatura of senior lieutenants.” As Guido Fawkes notes, Ms Forgan is now demanding “‘sincere and personal apologies’ to the entire Arts Council board and senior management team for suggesting that they might have been token appointments who won their jobs on anything but open competition.” Which may not be the soundest footing for public umbrage, given that the Arts Council and its protégés openly celebrate taxpayer-funded racial favouritism.



Some £50,000 was blown on office Christmas parties in two years. Christmas cards accounted for another £22,000 in 2009.

Something tells me the Arts Council has picked the wrong fight.


“Something tells me the Arts Council has picked the wrong fight.”

Despite the howling and rending of garments, the cuts only amount to around 20% - actually it’s less than that, as extra lottery money will cover some of the reduction in public funding. The nation’s cultural life is unlikely to grind to a halt. We’ll just have to cope with fewer third-rate beatboxers taking gratuitous jaunts to the Arctic. And Francesca Galeazzi will have to “courageously” release her canisters of CO2 somewhere closer to home.

As Peter Whittle noted,

“When he founded [the Arts Council] in 1946, John Maynard Keynes saw it as a temporary measure. He believed that after a period the arts should stand on their own two feet. What would he think of the empire of bureaucracy and box-ticking that has been created since?”

Patrick Brown

The squat thing reminds me of that thing Zaphod Beeblebrox said in the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - "property is theft, therefore theft is property, therefore this is mine."


I wonder if someone were to cleanse all that nasty corporate software from their Apples, they'd be annoyed?


"Despite the howling and rending of garments, the cuts only amount to around 20% - actually it’s less than that, as extra lottery money will cover some of the reduction in public funding."

And of course local councils are still spending money like a drunken sailor on all sorts of ancillary 'services'...


What’s interesting to me is that Polly Toynbee and her peers routinely refer to cuts in Arts Council subsidy as “ideological,” and thus of course invalid, while their own assumptions – say, that fringe theatre is a necessary function of the welfare state – aren’t regarded as remotely ideological. Presumably Toynbee, Forgan et al regard themselves as giving money to the needy and therefore see themselves as virtuous by default. Where and how that money is obtained doesn’t seem to figure prominently in their moral calculation. See this exchange, for instance, from Channel 4 News. And note how Jon Snow smiles approvingly at one guest and suddenly becomes much more quarrelsome and prone to interruption when talking to the other. No ideology there, obviously.



Now you're having a go at the 'sainted' John Snow!

Fantastic. You have no idea what a relief it is to stumble upon somebody(else), at last, who is interseted in the arts without feeling the need to be a pseudo-Marxist.

Long may you keep poking these egotistical non-entities.



“…interested in the arts without feeling the need to be a pseudo-Marxist.”

Well, that’s the prevailing conceit, isn’t it? That an interest in visual culture, music, etc should coincide with an urge to make others pay for whatever it is that tickles you, or for whatever is deemed to improve the species by Liz Forgan and her colleagues, i.e., People Loftier Than Us. But how did the subsidy of commercially unviable art – or cretinous pseudo-art - become a permanent function of the welfare state? Depriving individuals of some of their income – i.e., their autonomy - shouldn’t be done lightly and taking money from people via taxes in order to indulge artists whose work wouldn’t succeed on a commercial footing isn’t an entirely persuasive reason. And objecting to this process doesn’t make one mean or vulgar, despite endless claims to the contrary.

The Arts Council’s unspoken ethos is, and has always been, We Have Your Wallet And We Know What’s Best. And yet somehow they’re the victims.



I couldn't agree more and I am not entirely unqualified to comment. As a former indie band guitarist (unsuccessful) and Architect I could be said to have had two artistic 'careers'. Having grown up on a council estate with no access to any parental assistance I had to do it all in the usual way' funding my musical and architectural fumblings and most of my academic education out of my own pathetic post-tax income stream (apart from my under-graduate grant). I wouldn't have it any other way; nobody could possibly have been expected to fund my early creative disasters. I can't imagine any exceptions, though as an economically enforced miser, I am happy not to have to pay to enter the Tate Modern.



What irks, I think, is the presumed entitlement to other people’s earnings and an implicit assumption that they, and they alone, can guide us to the light and make us better people. Not as elevated as them, obviously, but maybe half way.

Interviewed in the Times, Liz Forgan said,

“If there’s one thing that really enrages me it’s the idea that the arts are a luxury…”

But this misses the point. It isn’t just about luxury. It’s about racketeering and control. The basic key question is whether the public should be coerced into paying for art (or pseudo-art) selected by an elite caste that shows little regard for the people whose money they take (and intend to go on taking until someone stops them). Why not let the public decide for themselves whether art is a luxury and which forms of it they might indulge? For instance, whose tastes and interests are being catered to with this project? The public? Taxpayers? Who?

Forgan continues,

“We’re going through a fundamental re-examination of our way of life and our priorities. That’s a frightening thing to go through and having the insight of artists to reveal and discuss those events is useful.”

But is that really what publicly subsidised art does, or does well? It seems to me Ms Forgan is awfully close to the conceit aired by “artist and activist” John Jordan, editor of We Are Everywhere: The Irresistible Rise of Global Anticapitalism, and who demands public subsidy because art, or rather approved leftwing art, will “show us how to live differently.” Being a devout leftist, and therefore more enlightened, he will show us how to live.



The thing that irks me most is the deliberate use of obscure language in order to inflate the importance of certain types of art and intimidate the heathen masses into silence. By their words they (the artistic establishment) declare themselves to be above us all and refuse to accept criticism of their deeds on the basis that we cannot possibly understand them. My dislike of bullshit almost cost me my architectural career, to me beauty is instinctive and doesn't require rationalization, to them without the bullshit art appears to nave no meaning at all.

This same intellectual terrorism is rife in all areas of life including politics where the left assumes itself to be more educated and more civilized than the rest of us and the closing down of debate is, to them, the only civilized course.

I can't stress enough how great it is to read the incredibly articulate and frequently hilarious offerings by you and your contributors on this site.

Have you written any books?



PS: Sorry if I sound like an obsessive fan-boy, this site is just too perfect.


“Have you written any books?”

None that I recall.

“…this site is just too perfect.”

Happily, I have a very high tolerance of flattery.

Time for some music, I think.


"Time for some music, I think."

Great. Something my Dad would have appreciated.

Col. Milquetoast

I'm surprised at the attention paid to the facial hair of pastor Jones. It seems to get mentioned everywhere. Chester A. Arthur and Kaiser Wilhelm I (or II) would have a difficult time in today's world.

Mark my words, eventually Peoples with Facial Hair will be a legally protected group and when someone gets beheaded a mustache mocker will be the root cause.

Col. Milquetoast

I once had classmate who spent every summer at a commune. The struggle between the leeches, the planners, the workers, the slackers, and those who thought their effort was undervalued over time resulted in a somewhat totalitarian and hierarchal system. All decisions were made by "the founders" despite a putative democratic process and constant talk of equality. Eventually, the founders did no work and the newer people were required to be worked like dogs to prove they weren't leeches. Leeches and who might become a leech were a constant concern.

He put a lot of thought into analyzing what kept going wrong but he kept going back. I think it essentially collapsed every year. One problem would be dealt with but then the solution would spawn more problems. Utopia always kept just out of reach. In retrospect, I wonder if it was a cult, but I guess a true cult wouldn't have let him leave.

One year he came back early after a collapse caused by a struggle over the idealism of sharing/community and a several people who brought laptops and actually wanted a turn at using them. And apparently one slutty girl can also cause a huge amount of trouble because free love doesn't rule out jealousy amongst the New Socialist Men. He was my favorite type of socialist - he spent his own money.


Col. Milquetoast
If only they discovered currency, and markets....

Andrew Duffin

“Your property is theft. Mine is out of bounds.”

Reminds me of one of the very few times I bested a Leftie in argument, while at Uni.

After a long and winous (and very cold) St. Andrews evening spent debating the likes of "property is theft", I simply picked up his nice warm coat and put it on when I eventually decided to leave. His expostulations (" but that's MY coat...") gradually faded out, to general amusement.

I regret that I didn't then have the courage actually to leave the building with it. Ah, the cowardice of youth.

Col. Milquetoast

If only they discovered currency, and markets….

What a coincidence, I was just about to say the exact same thing in reference to the Art Council spending " more than £300,000 on public opinion research"

There were some way they could bypass surveys and create some sort of fine-grained, sophisticated mechanism where even individual citizens could direct money to areas they have an interest.


The Arts Council’s unspoken ethos is, and has always been, We Have Your Wallet And We Know What’s Best. And yet somehow they’re the victims.

Consider yourself bookmarked. ;D


The people of England have the administration for which they repeatedly voted. Carping intellectuals like Letts are at best a flea on the back of very mangy dog.

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