Sunday 28 February 2021

The PR Business

It’s the Americans who declare they have government of the people, for the people, by the people, but increasingly they are realising they have no such thing. And just as we never had the equivalent of the Gettysburg Address, neither have we ever, really, had any such form of government. We have, instead, a government and an opposition, loosely formed around class divides, with neither side truly representative of the people they supposedly, er, represent.

To the notional right we have the Conservative and Unionist Party, originally comprised of landowners and wealthy potentates but now, increasingly recruiting from the lower orders. Yes, Eton old boys are still prominent but once upon a time that alma mater would have been a given. The main thing people hate about The Tories is the belief that the patronage from rich donors means they are always and only on the side of the elite.

At least, that is the relentlessly lazy attack line from the other side. Labour, from its inception took the side of the working man, but its parliamentary party is now overwhelmingly comprised of Oxford PPE graduates, former hardened trades unionists, and various other adherents to dogged Marxist dogma. With the exception, possibly, of wanting ownership of the means of production, Labour appears to have no firm principles. Instead it insists on fragmenting along numerous identity-based fault lines.

And that’s it; that’s your choice; those are your only options. Unless you think that tactically voting for the various unelectable minor parties – the Greens, Libdems, Monster Raving Loonies, etc – rather cleverly prevents one of the others winning a seat. Much was made of Ukip’s huge surge in the 2015 general election, taking 12.6% of the vote and winning precisely one seat. Proportional Representation, they claimed, would have meant some 70+ seats and a place at the table.

But it wouldn’t be an answer. It really wouldn’t. PR would mean that every election resulted in a grand shuffle of the fringe players, those who had got in on a surge in local popularity, or (more likely) partisan funding for nefarious purposes. A large part of the parliamentary seats would be held for single terms by inexperienced political players. That’s great, you might think; we’ve had enough of career politicians. And you’d have something of a point, except I’m pretty sure you’d opt for a career dentist rather than somebody who just fancied having a go.

No, I’m afraid we are stuck with a political class who love the game, who are steeped in playing parliamentary poker, unblinking through a haze of cigar smoke and constantly checking out the mirrors. The unprepared have no chance – as evinced by many of the gaffs of Labours child MPs like Zara Sultana and Nadia Whittome who regularly parade their callow naivety for all to jeer at. But were they not using the amplifier of their party for their tiny voices they would have no voice at all.

Under PR those who held seats relentlessly would form their own allegiances – I’d guess along Labour and Conservative lines – and the power would forever be held by them, as now. But the weird coalitions that we would have to endure between the start of the PR experiment and the eventually return to a form of uneasy vaguely-left/vaguely-right sanity would be a nightmare. Imagine two, or three parliamentary terms with no direction; it would be much like the European Union.

Oh, except the EU has no real democratic structure, all the power residing in the star chamber of a handful of individuals acting as a monolithic autocracy. When, in 2011, we did have a referendum on an alternative voting system it was overwhelmingly rejected by those who bothered to turn out; and only 42% of the electorate bothered anyway. My conclusion is: not only would PR be doomed to failure, it also, ironically, wouldn’t even be popular enough for people to vote for it. Meet the new bosses; same as the old bosses.

Friday 26 February 2021

The Happiest Days of Your Life

Another year, another obstacle to believing that western education actually achieves very much. And, just as throughout history, the adults of today are suspicious of the stuffing that teachers are using to fill the heads of their current charges. Actually, on second thoughts, the historical tendency is not to blame the teachers so much as the pupils themselves. A moment’s consideration, however, of the master-apprentice system and honest reflection of our own past will reveal that callow youth has never been fully-formed clay.

What was always expected of school was that they would turn out literate, numerate, sentient, learning-enabled rough-casts which could be further refined into worthwhile citizens. Young people who knew their true place in society as half-adults, who would then learn a trade, earn their spurs and go on to take their full place in the national convocation. It worked for centuries and teachers were an important, but expectedly neutral cog in the wheel.

But today the locus of concern is the teaching profession, and in particular the teaching unions, with their avowedly Marxist leanings and their certain intent on social engineering. Let society do the engineering, I say, and relieve the teachers of their assumed duties as the guardians of moral propriety. Teach ABC, not LGBT and let those kids form their own opinions. When they are ready.

So what are we to make of the decision to let teachers determine the future prospects of pupils not by exam results, but by opinion? For – let there be no doubt – no matter what safeguards are in place, no matter what evidence is required, pupils with the right ‘attitudes’ will benefit from appraisal by teachers who know them and approve. This isn’t even corruption; it is normal human behaviour.

One outcome might be that students with the most malleable personalities, those who seek favour, will become the beneficiaries of inflated grades. And if those biddable sheep enter higher education, perhaps persuaded to go into politics, economics, social studies and the like, maybe we will see yet more ideologues wedded to leftist programmes, eventually influencing public policy. Maybe this is what you want?

But before you give it the thumbs up, whatever happened to simple merit? Given that exam grades are a poor predictor of future ability – exam grades are merely the entry requirement to the next stage – why not, instead, look at what employers want? Instead of ramping up qualification requirements – qualifications only poorly correlate with competence anyway – let employees take on whoever they wish but lower the tests for dismissal.

Employers know what they want, but they are hampered by labour laws, burgeoning human rights and the fear of cancel culture should they make the wrong personnel decisions. If the company culture does not easily accommodate diversity, then remove that burden from them. Any decent employer will take on those who best fit their ethos and advance the mission. Let them. And if it doesn’t work out, allow them to fire without fear of reprisal and with minimal financial penalty.

Who cares what exam grades their teachers wish to bestow on them today? How many prominent high-fliers actually boast of low academic achievement? And forget about schooling for individual fulfilment; there is little enough time for the basics, let alone life goals. We expect adults to comprehend difficult issues, to sort the wheat from the chaff and to then make voting decisions based on their analysis and informed preferences.

Education, education, education...

That is the least likely outcome from the right-on, full woke, protest-everything, kiddy-power institutions of academe. Give me the child till seven, said the Jesuits, and I will show you the man. Yes, but give me the child till eighteen and I will fill his head with my ideals, say the educators of today. It is little wonder to me that the western world is currently so riddled with strife and uncertainty; the child lunatics, made mad by their schooling, are running the asylum. This isn’t just about education; this is about the future of democracy.

Thursday 25 February 2021

The Russians Are Coming!

Wherever you stand and whatever your personal investment in the notions of free-thinking, critical thinking, rational debate and the like, sooner or later you will come across people who believe you are the irrational one. This past year has been an orgy of indulgence in the most fanciful of theories; lockdowns have given those idle hands plenty of opportunity to spin the most bizarre of conspiratorial webs.

While rational conspiracies undoubtedly exist – to collude, to hide the truth, to smear, to monopolise, to maintain power, to unseat power - most weapons-grade conspiracy theories begin with a fallacy. Probably the most fallacious of all are those posited on world-wide mind control, on subjugation of the population. For some reason they believe that wealthy capitalists want us all held as slaves.

Surely, what capitalists want is for as many people as possible to participate in consuming what they produce, whether that be physical products, services, or even just ideas. They have no need of the troublesome and probably expensive business of shackling anybody to anything; humans have shown themselves all too ready to clap themselves in ideological irons. What capitalists want is lots and lots of gullible people with money to spend.

Whether it is politics, race, religion, sport or whatever, humans will quickly adopt a tribe, and once that tribal bias is formed it is a rare and exceptional individual who can fully break free of the biases it brings. Being rational, thinking humans of course, we instantly dismiss any rebuttal of our concerns as evidence for the same concerns. After all, if we are so unimportant, why would anybody take the time to try and deconstruct our fears and our antipathies? But if, tight-lipped, the supposed conspirators refuse to debunk the theories, that must itself be evidence of a cover up.

And just as ready as we are to accept complicated explanations that confirm our preconceptions, we are quick to dismiss simple explanations that go against them. And so the perfect conditions for disinformation, it seems, are baked into our very nature. Offer somebody the hand of friendship and a body language expert will manage to turn that honest gesture into a deceit. Show the receipts and somebody, somewhere will concoct supposed evidence of a forgery. In a reversal of Occam’s fine razor, the simplest explanation suddenly becomes Russian meddling.

Maybe we want to believe we are cleverer than we are, and that any simple solution has to be the smoke and mirrors of the media? In a world where we have been persuaded to assume that malevolent intent is behind every person in office – shilling for the elites, being useful idiots for the communists – we have lost the concept of simple trust. Does the homeless man on the street corner assume that every coin in his cup is somehow proof of the plot to keep him down?

Perhaps there is nowhere a more insidious twisting of the human psyche than the promulgation of critical race theory. ‘Ebony and Ivory’ was released forty years ago, for goodness’ sake, and yet here we still are. And with each passing year, white people – a minority in the world – are more boldly painted as the bad guys. No matter what concessions are made, apologies offered, or reparations paid, it is not enough. To be white is to be racist, and to try not to be racist is more racist still. I reckon the Russians are behind it all, mark my words! 😉

Tuesday 23 February 2021

Kes Lives

I was in Peregrine, my brothers in Hobby and Merlin. The fourth house was Kestrel, as fitting a name of a house in a Yorkshire grammar school as one could wish for. I don’t recall our required political leanings, but our school motto was Victor Qui Laborat, instilling in us a lifelong recognition that real success comes from toil and not from empty virtue signalling.

The house system promoted competition, a sense of pride and a desire to win, instincts which we are nowadays berated for possessing. No doubt today, naming school houses for birds of prey would be seen as elitist and ‘reactionary’ and promoting hard work and success as discriminatory. Why not be inclusive and progressive and name those houses for the many distinguished BAME figures in the town’s history?

Well, about those inspirational dusky exemplars… er let me check. Nope, not a one. Much like our national history the only impression made on the town by anybody other than its white forebears was made by post-war immigrants, to wit, the Hung Moey (nicknamed the Hung Moggy, naturally) Chinese restaurant, which appeared in the 1960s. Some decades later an Indian takeaway appeared. And then, later still, inexplicably, a halal abattoir which was shut down on animal welfare and hygiene grounds. Don’t say we don’t understand diversity.

But at least we never had our faces rubbed in it, as larger cities have had. And the school retains its predatory house names. And judging from photographs on its web site, continues to remain disgustingly white, although, in readiness, they do have a nominal ‘inclusion unit’ but as yet no content to share. Long may it continue. The pupils graduating from this school will be rounded, grounded, normal and level-headed. And while this may poorly prepare them for life at major metropolitan universities, it will stand them in good stead when faced with the ludicrous excesses of the whole diversity industry.

And it is an industry; not in the sense of producing anything useful, but in providing rent-seeking means of income for malcontents. I mean, we are currently in self-declared Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans History Month. A whole month, you rightly ask? Even taking the diversity alphabet soup as a whole, I doubt they have a ‘history’ worth recounting beyond the odd afternoon seminar in some gloomy right-on junior common room.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans History Month?

Am I, therefore, a bigoted transphobic, homophobic, right wing zealot? If I am, I’m in good company. Because although the likes of Wirral Police and other unthinking hostages to the whims of victimhood keep flying their flags in our faces, they are but a very thin rainbow line. The rest of us, the normal, white, straight rest of us can carry on being as hawkish as we like.

Monday 22 February 2021

The Ascent of Man?

All land was once free; it belonged to nobody except in so far as it had been marked out by various animal species defining their territories. But those animals never had a deed of ownership. We invented that and thereafter land came to be a commodity and have a recognisable and exchangeable value depending on a whole bunch of factors including utility, resources, and simple possessive instinct. Oh, and a nice view always helps.

Whose land is it? Well, once you have settled it, improved it, farmed it, worked it and raised generations on it, it’s yours until you sell, or are moved on by circumstance. But generally, the longer you are there, the deeper your roots the less likely it ought to be that you will suddenly up-sticks and leave because somebody claims it is not your land, but theirs. Once upon a time this was only accomplished by warfare. Now, however, your displacement from your ancestral home is facilitated by governments you thought you had elected to represent your interests.

It takes time and effort to develop a society and a culture. It requires a shared endeavour and involves the manufacture of the artefacts of your culture. The output of artisans once defined who you were; farmers, builders, jewellers, bakers, weavers, smiths, coopers and all manner of ‘wrights’ even gave their names to identify you. You knew where you were, you recognised your home, and you recognised the people who belonged there. Can you say that today?

Symbolically, the Amish come together to raise a barn, but equally symbolically the modern world now turns to global finance to raise money to pay a corporate giant to dump a barn on your land and claim it as theirs. The village shops gave way to supermarkets and Amazon, the trades were outcompeted by the Samsungs and Huaweis and now nobody knows how to do anything for themselves anymore.

Are we fighting back? Are we hell. The essence of the consumer economy is to come up with something for people to consume, then aggressively market it until people feel they need it. But in place of local industry, we are opening more coffee shops, chicken shops, betting shops… places where you go to throw money at things you could easily do for yourself. This is an economy which makes little that society could not live without it. Nobody with an ounce of worth in their lives could sanely mourn Costa and Starbucks for more than a second.

But not only have we given away our industry, our ingenuity, our pride in creation; we have also abandoned our character and somehow persuaded ourselves that ancestral artisanry is worthless. If our history has no value and our pride is nothing but bigotry, is it any wonder that generations are being raised who do not recognise whose country this is? Ownership and stewardship of our lands are being abandoned in favour of corporatism and short-term gain, but in return for what?


In return, it seems, for abandoning the fight. We allow ourselves to be berated for our own history and then stand helplessly by as that history is rewritten in front of our eyes. After centuries of progress to become a nation we are now rapidly regressing to tribal divisions; and those divisions are seemingly breeding ever finer divisions. It takes a village to raise an idiot, it has been said. It takes the global village to make idiots of all of us.

Tuesday 16 February 2021

A Little Less Conversation

In the sermon on the mount, according to Matthew 5:5, Jebus H. Christ is supposed to have declared that the meek will inherit the earth. Why go and give those losers ideas? And now look what’s happened; everywhere you go the meek are flexing their muscles and demanding their pound of ground. And what are the bold doing? Cowering before the toothless onslaught, it seems.

Dunno ‘bout you, but I’m getting a bit tired of feeling I have to work out how to address somebody for fear they may take offence. I’ve long thought the lazy salutation ‘all right, mate?’ was crude and assumptive, but now there is a high degree of probability that such a hail-fellow-well-met would be countered by “Did you just assume my gender?”

We’ve all been there; minding our own business and along comes yet another opportunity to demonstrate that we are unthinking dinosaurs, all to ready to wield words as weapons to dismantle the self-esteem of the fragile-at-heart. Actually the phrase ‘self esteem’ has much to do with it, if you think about it. Once, such a fellow – and there I go again with the gender insensitivity – would be a popinjay, a self-regarding, pompous arse. But now it has been decided (by the meek, no doubt) that we should all value ourselves way above our worth.

So, what are we worth? Once we were valued by what we produced, what we did to make things better and how we lived out lives. Nowadays it seems it is the War of the Words as people are most highly remunerated not by economic productivity, which can be directly measured and compared, but by rhetoric, whose true worth is often literally immeasurable.

So many people now appear to make a living from spouting whatever pops into their vacuous little heads. From Ash Sarkar’s ludicrous ‘luxury communism’ to Femi Arseholuwole’s daily invented grievances. The truth, it seems has little value, people preferring to believe comforting lies, or rousing Owen Jones’ style, class-warrior tub-thumping. If only there was a bug going round, a common cold, to lay low these alien interlopers.

I had these thoughts while listening to the podcast version of the superb Moral Maze on the daily commute this morning. But as worthy and considered as are the arguments put forth, they consist entirely of words; words voiced without the problem or responsibility of putting them into action. It’s quite a lucrative business, I imagine, putting the world to rights, one enormous grant cheque at a time.

One of the ‘witnesses’ was David Miliband, the thwarted former Labour Foreign Secretary now making a fortune by anybody’s standards as a mouthpiece for International Rescue. Charity used to be a calling, a vocation; now it is quite the little earner. But for all his grandstanding, all his berating of the nasty capitalists for not doing ‘enough’, it was still all just words.

Don’t get me wrong, a stirring speech, a rousing injunction to go over the top one last time, a call to arms, a rallying cry… these, used judiciously and delivered from the heart, can often spur men to valour. But when you end up in a world where it is all jaw-jaw and not enough war-war; where the battles are fought entirely away from the action, where the men in the field lie listless awaiting leadership which never comes, nothing ever gets done.

This isn't working, is it?

In the words of the Immortal Bard: “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English dead. In peace there's nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility; But when the blast of war blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of the tiger…” Or, as Elvis put it, somewhat more succinctly, “A little less conversation, a little more action, please. All this aggravation ain't satisfactioning me.” Common Sense has left the building.

Wednesday 10 February 2021

Woke up!

You know comedians, right? If somebody mentions, say, Billy Connolly or Jasper Carrott, or Micky Flanagan, or Ken Dodd, or Lee Mack, or Jimmy Carr – and the list goes on – you smile, you recall their catchphrases; you may even recite some of their material. “Don’t mention the war! Going ‘out’ out. Ooh, you are awful…” But say the name Robert James Blair Simpson, aka Rufus Hound, and what is your immediate reaction?

Oh, come on, you know the fella – he sometimes wears a wacky moustache. It makes you want to like him – if the moustache has that much personality the wearer should surely radiate charisma? Nope, you say; who is he, what has he done? Anybody? I suspect that among the more assertive respondents he is more renowned for being an insta-blocker on social media than for any oeuvre of note. Give me one joke, one monologue, one catchy phrase… just one. 

Nobody?

He seems to be one of those people who are ready at a moment’s notice to fill a gap on a panel show, following a late cancellation by somebody funny or famous. The kind of guy who is always skulking about at oxymoronic events such as Comedy Relief. An also-ran, forever willing the phone to ring so he can say yes to yet another opportunity to pocket a fee on false pretences. Comedian? The joke is on us.

But he is also, in his own small way,  a champion for social justice – aren’t they all, the fame hungry with little else to offer? And now he is squaring up to Andrew Neil, pitting his excruciatingly and mundanely imitable wit against the real thing. What is his objection? That Mr Neil has dared – dared, I say – to misappropriate a word. Actually, I am too generous in calling it ‘his’ objection because in order to express it he had to use an idea already voiced by many others. Let’s catch you up.

On Good Morning Britain, Neil explained that, contrary to the ridiculous claims of the group ‘Stop Funding Hate’ (Oh the irony!) there ‘will be no hate’ on his channel. He went on to say that it is the ‘woke group’ which is enforcing a cancel culture in opposing the launch of GB News. Woke listeners reacted furiously – of course they did, it’s what they do – taking to Twitter to hatefully tell him how hateful he was, in hatey words… of hate.

Andrew responded “The original definition of woke is out of date. As a "concern for social justice", nobody could object. But it has morphed into a cancel culture that seeks not just to disagree but to close down ideas and people with which it disagrees. Insidious.” Cue the entrance of our freedom fighter, the ferocious Rufus who responded with what he thought was a clever redefinition of AF Neil’s tweet: “People who have a concern for social justice coined the term woke, so we - the people who can't face being confronted by what social justice looks like and hate being ignored - have redefined it as a pejorative.

This is neither original nor particularly clever, and coming from a ‘comedian’, working in a genre where credit is demanded and plagiarism derided, utterly lacks the edge that somebody like Ricky Gervais or John Cleese would have given it. You see, comedy is so much more than repeating other people’s words; it is investing words with real significance… and, ideally, actually making people laugh.

Over the last 48 hours there has sprung up a debate. Where did the use of ‘woke’ come from? What does it really mean? And why does the left think it should have a monopoly on the approved use of words? Ultimately, words are just a codified way in which thoughts get out of our heads and into other people’s. Language changes as words are claimed and reclaimed, warped and bent out of shape and the pejorative use of ‘woke’ is as valid as any other. It is actually an immediately recognisable shorthand for what might otherwise take volumes to express.

Add a funny caption... Rufus couldn't think of one.

It’s a debate worth having but concluding that the other side has no right to mangle or ridicule your slogans has no merit whatsoever. Rufus has continued banging on about this issue but everybody has already tuned him out, much as one would do had you the misfortune to attend one of his gigs (Comedian? Seriously?) If it isn’t already a famous stolen quote I would advise him, “If you have nothing to say you had better keep it to yourself”. Rufus Hound? More like Rufus Who. 

Tuesday 9 February 2021

GB Views

It is not unheard of for the nominal right to engage in a touch of hyperbole. Having lived through the closest we actually came to British Communism in Harold Wilson’s union-dominated government and seen the lust for power in Michael Foot’s rheumy revolutionary eyes, we have occasionally been a tad over the top in our accusations of red flagism. The more honest of us know that a little bit of thoughtful socialism can only be a good thing. But those who repeatedly claim that they alone possess the moral purity to rule society make our exaggerations look unambitiously modest.

I say ‘the nominal right’ because unlike the battalions of card-carrying, hard left warriors for the cause, righties tend to be more taciturn and far less likely to bother with pointless things like membership, or constantly redefining what we are for or against. This is largely because we know what we stand for and that is family values, tradition, and giving a man a fair go. We are, in fact, the majority and the fat cats the left always point at are nothing to do with us any more than Sir Keir Starmer can be said to be typical of Labour voters.

One of the defining traits of the organised left appears, irrefutably, to be a level of hypocrisy that would astonish the most ‘agile’ mind. The holding of two contrary views is said to induce the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance, which can only be resolved by an effort of ideological subversion of logic. So the claims that trying to ban an alternative view news channel in the interests of ‘free speech’ comes as no surprise at all. Let’s face it, if they can champion women’s rights while simultaneously insisting they admit women with cocks and beards into their exclusive spaces, pretty much anything is possible.

This is, of course, the story of Andrew Neil’s nascent GB News channel, which has yet to air a single broadcast and whose fairness and balance has yet to be tested, and the extremity of the opposition. The usual voices are raised in banshee wails of woe and the most ridiculous claims of bias. Woke slebs across the land – and especially on Twitter – are demanding that their acolytes boycott advertisers who dare to try and find a market via a channel which will likely appeal to people with more spending power than, say, Novara Media… or Owen Jones’s hobby echo chamber.

So finely tuned to offence and ‘hate speech’ and ‘far right’ themes are the usual lefty suspects that they can actually see future offence. Somewhere in the bowels of Labour HQ, you can imagine a trio of precogs channelling their predictions into the left’s own Minority Report, all the better to prosecute the crime before it has even been thought of. That they cannot see the sheer nonsense of all this is a mirror of how they will not condemn the violence directly caused by BLM yet froth excitedly over supposed ‘terrorism’ at the US Capitol on January 6th.

Labour's new Policy Unit

How much further can the left fall before they finally see their reflections staring soullessly back up at them from the void they are creating? How many times can you excuse an action on your side while condemning a much less intense version from the other side? How can they rally support for physical intimidation of Conservative figures, yet be enraged, offended and wounded by merely hearing their voices? Hypocrisy used to be a criticism... I think they now take it as a badge of honour.

The left dominate media, the world of entertainment and, increasingly, the world of sport. But not at the grass roots level they imagine. People who would once have unquestioningly voted for left-wing parties must now be embarrassed to be associated with them and their ridiculous crusades and feel uneasy at the clamorous readiness to cancel voices yet to be heard. So we await GB News with anticipation, and if Andrew Neil can cause the explosion of a few lefty heads, then all the better.