The closing down of debate worries me most

13 June 2020

9:00 AM

13 June 2020

9:00 AM

The Eastern Orthodox Church has decided that yoga is incompatible with Christianity. This is an enormous problem for me, as I am a regular practitioner of this interesting meditative calisthenic technique, but also someone who judges the sagacity of a person by the length of his beard and the mournful extravagance of his hat. So I must change my daily regimen somehow. I fretted a while — but then it dawned on me that modern Britain might come to my aid. The other evening I was required to ‘clap for carers’ while simultaneously going down on one knee in apologetic homage to an oppressed person who was walking past my house at the time. I found this a satisfyingly tricky operation to co-ordinate.

All we need is a couple more of these agreeable genuflections and I will have a new exercise regime. Perhaps I could put my legs behind my ears to show solidarity with the suffering of Palestinians and bend over and touch my toes to express support for the transgender community. (I don’t mean anything suggestive by ‘bend over and touch my toes’, incidentally. I just mean ‘bend over and touch my toes’. One has to be terribly careful these days, re. giving offence and stuff.) I don’t know what Bartholomew I, Grand Patriarch of Constantinople and thus head of the Eastern Orthodox congregation would think of this idea, but I have the suspicion it would go down very well with our Anglicans. In fact, the entire general synod is probably doing something very similar right now, while keening about austerity and refugees. (I hope if there is a God that He finds the relentless self-abnegation and whining of our clerics as hilarious as the rest us do.)

Meanwhile my wife, denied the opportunity to visit her usual hairdresser because of a lockdown which does not apply to lefties, is shaving off all of her straight blonde hair because she has been told by social media that it is oppressive and she ought to show solidarity with people who do not have straight blonde hair (and they don’t mean me).

It is an exciting world we live in, even despite the strictures of social distancing, no? I think that the writer Brendan O’Neill, of Spiked Online, is right when he says that it is as chilling a climate as he can remember. A cowardly ninny of a local police chief connives in vandalism by allowing a statue to be thrown in a river; the usual useful idiots of the self-flagellating liberal middle class parade through city centre in sweatshirts saying ‘I’m sorry’. So you should be, you mindless, grovelling saps, if not for the reasons you think.

Black Lives Matter has become the provisional wing of the BBC which, as usual, talks rot about the peaceable nature of those demonstrations, with misleading headlines (which it is later forced to alter) and — astonishingly, even by the BBC’s standards — editing photographs of the demos so they do not show people behaving in a violent manner. The Mayor of London, the terrible vacuum which is Sadiq Khan, has convened an inquiry into London’s statues, pledging that henceforth they will represent the thrillingly diverse ethnic mix of the capital. So in future, statues will be erected of people not because they did something wonderful, notable or historic, but primarily because of the colour of their skin. Disavow the BLM paradigm — that the UK is ridden with ‘structural’ racism (something which has not noticeably hampered our Jewish, Indian, West African, East African Asian or Chinese communities, nor stopped Rishi Sunak, Priti Patel, Sajid Javid and so on rising to the highest offices of state) and you may be sacked from your job for speechcrime.

Two thoughts immediately occur. The first is that according to every Human Development criterion, black people in the UK (and USA) are better off than pretty much anywhere else in the world. If you are black and would quite like a decent education, a long, healthy life, a reasonable income, a high standard of living, good medical treatment, democratic rights and suffrage — then it’s not Africa you look to, is it? And the second thought is that once again the liberal establishment — the woke coppers, the uni morons who wish to change Imperial College’s name, the BBC, the virtue-signalling private companies — is not remotely representative of the people of this country, who find the whole thing absurd. It is only a small minority in accord with this madness.

But then the Bolsheviks constituted about 0.04 per cent of the Russian population in 1910, and look what they achieved, what enormous pleasure they brought to their fellow citizens for 80 odd years. And they didn’t even have Emily Maitlis fighting their cause.

What is to be done, then, as Lenin himself once asked? The closing down of debate worries me most, as it worried Brendan O’Neill and many others. A US broadcaster was sacked for tweeting ‘all lives matter’ — just that, nothing else. And over here, Stu Peters, a broadcaster, was taken off air and suspended by Manx Radio for saying exactly the same thing. While interviewing a black caller to his radio show, Mr Peters then committed the even more heinous crime of suggesting he was not ‘privileged’ simply because he was white. Not just suspended, mind — he was even referred to the Isle of Man’s Communications Commission.

In a democratic country, where we are supposed to cherish freedom of speech, that is genuinely shocking. My colleague Toby Young has written to the IoM Communications Commission asking what they think they are investigating. Meanwhile, people who care about freedom of speech should boycott Manx Radio and listen to almost anything else instead, even that clown Rylan on Radio 2. It’s a small counterblast. But these things matter. You can do your bit by joining the Free Speech Union. It’s a precious thing, freedom of speech. It’s looking a bit green about the gills right now.

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