High life

The death of free speech

20 June 2020

9:00 AM

20 June 2020

9:00 AM

Oh, to be in America, where cultural decay and self-destruction compete equally with hyper-feminist and anti-racist agendas. Gone with the Wind is now off limits and Robert E. Lee’s statue in Richmond is unlikely to remain standing (I give it a week at most). And over here poor old Winnie is also in the you-know-what. Why didn’t anyone tell me Churchill was a Nazi? The Cenotaph also has to go; those guys it honours were racists.

Two weeks ago in these here pages Douglas Murray said it all about a US import we can do without. Alas, when Uncle Sam sneezes, the British bulldog gets the flu. The scenes may be less dramatic in the UK, but the hypocrisy is the same, if not greater. (Get killed fighting for your country at Waterloo à la Thomas Picton, and have some thug tear your statue down.) Should we Greeks destroy our monuments to, say, Pericles because he had slaves? (Try it in Athens, assholes, and see how far you get.)

I don’t know why, perhaps because I’m a naive little Greek boy, but the outrage expressed by all these activists and celebrities rings hollow. I regularly speak to the film director James Toback who is in the Bagel writing his memoirs — his description of the first time he dropped LSD at Harvard, with cars flying through the windows at him, is brilliant — and even Jimmy, a man never at a loss for words, had trouble describing the disaster that is Mayor de Blasio: ‘Fossils dating from the sea bed 2.1 billion years ago would be more effective than this clown.’

Freedom of speech in the good old US of A (as well as the UK) makes the USSR in 1950 resemble Speakers’ Corner by comparison. Any questioning of PC orthodoxies might mean instant dismissal from work, even if you’re the boss — especially if you’re the boss. Today’s climate is one that makes Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four seem like a children’s book. Say ‘All Lives Matter’ or ‘Buildings Matter’ and you risk losing your job or position quicker than the presumption of innocence went out the window in the Woody Allen case. Anything that might be interpreted as racist is a death sentence, one handed down by self-appointed judges in the media, academia and the arts. Mind you, real murder is also giving it the old college try. Both New York and Chicago are having a Back to the Future moment. Seven people were shot, in three separate incidents, in the space of ten minutes in Brooklyn last week. Chicago, always trying to catch up with the Bagel, did much better: 18 people were killed in 24 hours at the end of last month, young men and women, all African-Americans, as are most of the suspects. (I don’t think the New York Times even bothered to report it.)

Back in 1970, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote a memo to President Nixon advising him to exercise ‘benign neglect’ where African-American communities were concerned. Before you go digging up his grave, the senator was no racist. On the contrary, he was an intellectual and a professor concerned about the potential negative consequences of affirmative action. He also pointed out that children growing up in fatherless households — which stands at 53 per cent among the African-American community — condemns these young people to a life of poverty and potential crime. The senator may have had a point, but in the current climate I am risking being cancelled even by bringing up his name.

Mind you, if the proverbial Martian were to arrive in the land of opportunity nowadays, his antenna would be ringing off the hook about the 65 million white supremacists, which is how some on the left in America now describe anyone who has voted for — or might vote for — the Donald. The thought police are everywhere, and Mao’s Red Guards of the 1960s have nothing on them. These so-called activists don’t address those rap ‘artists’ whose lyrics glorify drug dealing and murder. Any deviation from woke-speak is equivalent to hate speech. Just look at our own J.K. Rowling and the help she got from the scummy types she made rich.

The irony is that most people who ended up in America went there in the first place because they were tired of kneeling. Now they’re kneeling all over again — to the mob. My favourite New York story is that of two lawyers, a woman born in Pakistan and a man with a Jamaican mother, a Princeton graduate making $250,000 per annum. They were arrested after having made and thrown Molotov cocktails at police cars and are now facing a prison sentence. (I predict they’ll get off.) Why did they risk it? I think it is because they suffer from an overwhelming desire to become woke stars overnight.

It’s a perfect time for opportunistic lefties, with America regressing into a form of social engineering and the definition of racism expanding ever upwards and outwards.

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