Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

The Old Comrades:

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Why is Sally Bercow trending? *innocent face*

...Because a backbiting and disingenuous woman has got her comeuppance.

High Court: Sally Bercow's Lord McAlpine tweet was libel

A tweet published by Sally Bercow about Tory peer Lord McAlpine was libellous, the High Court has ruled.

The wife of Commons Speaker John Bercow tweeted two days after BBC Newsnight wrongly linked a "leading Conservative politician" to sex abuse claims.

Amid widespread speculation about his identity, she wrote: "Why is Lord McAlpine trending. *innocent face*."

Her claim that this blatant innuendo was merely a factual enquiry was always an insult to the intelligence of anyone who heard it. But should there be an offence of libel at all?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Color Purple, faded

Prize-winning author Alice Walker gives support to David Icke on Desert Island Discs.

Not a headline you see very often.

For those that don't know, Alice Walker is a "an American author, poet, womanist, and activist", Desert Island Discs is a long-running BBC radio programme in which celebrities say which eight records (look it up) they would take with them to a desert island (I suppose the gramophone must be one of those wind-up ones), and David Icke is a former Green Party spokesman who believes that, among others, the Queen, President George H. W. Bush, President George W. Bush, Al Gore and Boxcar Willie are really twelve-foot alien lizards.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

If you do not want to see the BNP vindicated, try not proving them right

Rape, enslavement, child prostitution go unpunished for years. The victims' complaints are dismissed by social services. The accusations are not seriously investigated by the police. With a few honourable exceptions the politicians and the media won't even discuss the issue.

No one disputes that the crimes themselves are the responsibility of the criminals, but who is to blame for the conspiracy of silence?

Why, the first man to break it, of course!

In the comments to my earlier post, Jaded Voluntaryist pointed out an article by Sean Thomas in the Telegraph "...which blamed Nick Griffin for the events in Oxford, since by talking about this issue no-one wants to talk about way back in 2004, he made it impossible for anyone else to talk about it seriously. Yes, I’m sure if he had kept schtum it would have all been sorted out years ago…"

Here is said article: Oxford gang rape: did people ignore this sort of scandal because racist Nick Griffin was the first to mention them?

Mr Thomas has wisely opted not to allow comments. They would be radioactive.

He wrote,

As long ago as 2001, Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP, was making claims about Asian grooming gangs. In 2004 he repeated these allegations in a speech clandestinely recorded by the BBC for a TV documentary, Secret Agent. He was arrested and charged with inciting racial hatred.

Which is exactly what he was doing, of course. He was making his allegations to stir up ethnic strife. Right-thinking people, aware of the BNP's record as liars, presumed that these stories were just racist demagoguery. No doubt Griffin feels vindicated today: for telling the truth before anyone else. And yet it was thanks in part to his thuggish intervention that society felt able to ignore the scandal. And thus the abuse continued.

[UPDATE 17 MAY 09.45: As those viewing Samizdata on the morning of 17 May will have seen, I tried to edit a minor error in the post and somehow deleted the text from this point onwards. A kind person has emailed me the lost text, which now follows. I will gradually reinsert the links. Apologies for this interruption - NS]

Some background on “the events in Oxford” here.

...a jury at the Old Bailey convicted seven men responsible for running an underworld child sex abuse ring in the Cowley area of Oxford of 43 charges of rape, child prostitution, trafficking and procuring a backstreet abortion. Six victims gave harrowing evidence during the three-and-a-half month trial, but police believe the number of girls recruited by the gang and abused numbers more than 50.

The gang – who were of Asian and north African descent – targeted extremely vulnerable white girls as young as 11 on the streets of Cowley and sold them for £600 a time to be raped and violently abused over an eight-year period. Two other men were cleared by the jury.

A litany of failings by police and social services had allowed the men between 2004 and 2012 to groom young, vulnerable girls they met on the streets, outside schools and in cafes, entice them with the promise of alcohol and trinkets, and subject them over years to sexual atrocities and torture.

“Asian” generally means Pakistani background, although two of the perpetrators here were Eritrean. All the abusers were Muslim. None of their victims were. This was not coincidence. The men generally targeted girls from children’s homes and disrupted family backgrounds. The abusers saw their victims as promiscuous white trash, in an utterly different category from their own wives and daughters. This is the latest of a string of such cases, all following the same pattern, such that a report produced by the police-staffed Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre “found that more than a quarter (26 per cent) of suspects reported to Ceop were of Asian origin, and the majority of groups identified were Asian”. There have been other trials of similar “Asian” (specifically British Pakistani) grooming gangs in Rochdale, Rotherham, Derby, Telford and Keighley.

Keighley, as it happened, was where Nick Griffin made one of the speeches that got him prosecuted. In that speech, Griffin said,

“These 18, 19, and 25-year-old Asian Muslims who are seducing and raping white girls in this town right now are not particularly good Muslims, they drink and all the rest of it, but still part of what they are doing comes from what they are taught is acceptable.”

It will be a cold day in hell before I vote for the Holocaust denier Nick Griffin’s literally fascist party, but I rather think that if Griffin feels vindicated that is because he has been vindicated.

Thug he may be, but his “thuggish intervention” in this case consisted of stating the truth when almost nobody else would – and being prosecuted for it. The charges covered many things said by Griffin, but the opening speech by the prosecuting counsel specifically featured his claims of “paedophile drug rape” in Keighley. (The prosecution was unsuccessful. Two juries acquitted Griffin and another defendant in two separate trials.)

Society did not just “feel able to ignore the scandal”, society – in the form of police chiefs, social workers, and the media – actively, cravenly dodged saying anything about it. Why? Because they were all afraid of being branded racist. As one of the few exceptions to the media silence, the documentary-maker Anna Hall, wrote, “…a senior children’s services manager said: “The men are Asian, Anna, but you’ll never get anyone on the record to say that.”” Or as Tim Loughton, the former Children’s Minister admitted, “There are clear cultural sensitivities around these cases that too often meant the relevant agencies were reluctant to intervene properly”. Or as retired police Superintendent Mick Gradwell said, “There is a problem with some members of the Pakistani community targeting young women in this way [...] In the past there have been major fears of being seen as racist, especially after the Stephen Lawrence inquiry at the Met police said the force was institutionally racist.” (H/T: Laban Tall at UK Commentators, who has followed this story for years.) Note how Gradwell described the former Home Secretary Jack Straw as “brave” for speaking out as late as 2011. He was, too, even though his fellow Labour MP Ann Cryer had been much braver in speaking out back in 2004 when she was MP for Keighley. Bravery was required to speak out because bad things were likely to happen to the careers of those who did, particularly if they did not have Cryer’s or Straw’s Parliamentary privilege.

And thus the abuse continued, Mr Thomas.

Incidentally, the police “requested” that Anna Hall’s documentary "Edge of the City" be postponed until the 2004 local elections were over, for fear it would send votes to the BNP. I thought the police were meant to be politically impartial.

There is a grain of truth in what Sean Thomas has written. When I first saw reports that the BNP claimed that Asian gangs were grooming white girls, my eyes skated over them because claims that “their” men are seducing, corrupting and raping “our” girls have been a staple of racist propaganda through the ages. Thus far, Mr Thomas was right. But to attempt to shift the blame for even a fraction of years of sustained, repeated evasion of their duties on the part of every organ of the establishment onto Nick Griffin is… inventive. Were the social services departments of multiple British towns really listening that hard to Nick Griffin? Did the chief constables of several different police authorities check that the chairman of the British National Party hadn’t spoilt the atmosphere before giving the go-ahead to investigate? Should we assume that the fact that in the last couple of years the Crown Prosecution Service has finally started to actively prosecute these gangs (following the initiative taken by Chief Crown Prosecutor for North West England Nazir Afzal, himself of Pakistani heritage, please note) is because the CPS lawyers have finally got over their sulk at Griffin making them look bad?

A question for the mainstream media: aren’t you ashamed that the British National Party reported what you dared not?

A question for the politicians, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service: do you now regret the prosecution of Nick Griffin and Mark Collett on charges of using words or behaviour likely to stir up racial hatred, specifically including his claims about Keighley? Do you acknowledge that your action in attempting to curtail and punish his free speech, in part for saying this type of crime was happening at a time and a place when it was, will certainly have deterred others from speaking out?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Edited back into history: the martyrs of Otranto

Within hours of the July 7 2005 bombings in London, the BBC stealth-edited its reports so that any references to "terrorists" that had initially appeared were changed to "bombers" or a similar purely descriptive, non-judgmental term. This was done in response to a memo from Helen Boaden, then Head of News. She did not want to offend World Service listeners. Given this reluctance to use the word "terrorist", suspended for a few hours when terrorism came to its front door and then reimposed, I often wondered what it would take for the BBC to rediscover the ability to use words that imply a moral judgment.

One answer was obvious. It was fine to describe bombing as a "war crime" if it was carried out by the Israeli air force.

But in general as the years have gone by the BBC stuck to what it knew best: obfuscation. For instance, this article from last December, describing how fifteen Christians had their throats slit in Nigeria described the perpetrators as the "Islamist militants Boko Haram". In venturing to describe the murders as a massacre, that article went further than most; the bombings of churches in Nigeria by Boko Haram are routinely described in terms of "unrest", or as "conflict" - as if there were two sides killing each other at a roughly equal rate.

However, on Sunday I observed something I had not seen before. An atrocity carried out by Muslims against Christians was described as an "atrocity". It happened in 1480, but still.

The BBC report says,

Pope Francis has proclaimed the first saints of his pontificate in a ceremony at the Vatican - a list which includes 800 victims of an atrocity carried out by Ottoman soldiers in 1480.

They were beheaded in the southern Italian town of Otranto after refusing to convert to Islam.

A reminder that "martyr" used to mean someone who died for his faith rather than killed for it. A reminder also of a centuries-long struggle against invading Islam that has been edited out of our history. You can bet the Seige of Vienna, which proved to be the high water mark of the Ottoman tide, does not feature in any GCSE syllabus. Nor does the rematch one and a half centuries later. The epic Seige of Malta was once celebrated in song and story, but don't expect to see a BBC mini-series about it any time soon. Damian Thompson recently said a lot of what I had been thinking when he wrote about the the mass canonisation of the martyrs of Otranto in the Telegraph (subscription may be required):

Martyred for Christ: 800 victims of Islamic violence who will become saints this month

The cathedral of Otranto in southern Italy is decorated with the skulls of 800 Christian townsfolk beheaded by Ottoman soldiers in 1480. A week tomorrow, on Sunday May 12, they will become the skulls of saints, as Pope Francis canonises all of them. In doing so, he will instantly break the record for the pope who has created the most saints. I wonder how he feels about that. Benedict XVI announced the planned canonisations just minutes before dropping the bombshell of his own resignation. You could view it as a parting gift to his successor. Or a booby trap.

The 800 men of Otranto – whose names are lost, except for that of Antonio Primaldo, an old tailor – were rounded up and killed because they refused to convert to Islam. In 2007, Pope Benedict recognised them as martyrs “killed out of hatred for the faith”. That is no exaggeration. Earlier, the Archbishop of Otranto had been cut to pieces with a scimitar.

Thompson continues,
There are, however, good secular reasons for welcoming this canonisation. Our history is distorted by a nagging emphasis on Christian atrocities during the Crusades combined with airbrushing of Muslim Andalusia, whose massacre of Jews in 1066 and exodus of Christians in 1126 are rarely mentioned. Otranto reminds us that Islam had its equivalent of crusaders – mighty forces who nearly captured Rome and Vienna.

The Muslim Brotherhood is still committed to a restored Caliphate; this week its supporters prophesied the return of a Muslim paradise to Andalusia. These are pipe dreams, it goes without saying. But they matter because they inspire freelance Islamists whose fascination with southern Europe has nothing to do with welfare payments. They think of it as theirs because they know bits of history that we’ve forgotten.

Our amnesia comes in handy in dialogue with Muslims: we grovel a few apologies for the Crusades, sing the praises of the Alhambra, and that’s it. But what does this self-laceration achieve? Arguably it’s counterproductive, because it shows Muslims that we’re ashamed of our heroes as well as our villains. Which is why the mass canonisation of 800 anonymous men is so welcome: it ensures that, even though the West has forgotten their names, it won’t be allowed to forget their deaths.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Breathtakingly crass propaganda by picture

This Comment is Free article, The Dark Side of Home Schooling by Katherine Stewart, claims that:

Several decades ago, political activists on the religious right began to put together an "ideology machine". Home schooling was a big part of the plan. The idea was to breed and "train up" an army of culture warriors. We now are faced with the consequences of their actions, some of which are quite disturbing.

According to the Department of Education, the home schooling student population doubled in between 1999 and 2007, to 1.5 million students, and there is reason to think the growth has continued. Though families opt to home school for many different reasons, a large part of the growth has come from Christian fundamentalist sects. Children in that first wave are now old enough to talk about their experiences. In many cases, what they have to say is quite alarming.

The article mainly consists of quotes from people who have posted at a website aimed at those who are unhappy with their home schooling. We hear that some of them have suffered from "depression, distrust of authority, and issues around sexuality." It concludes that "Families should be allowed to pursue sensible homeschooling options, but current arrangements have allowed some families to replace education with fundamentalist indoctrination." In other words it is a run-of-the-mill article that uses the spectre of every Guardian reader's favourite villains to protect the class interest of teachers at US state schools.

However, the picture the Guardian chose to illustrate the piece was out of the ordinary.

Commenter JohnCan45 says,

The accompanying photo of a shuttered home in Cleveland... reason? Perhaps the editor just mixed up a picture from this week's big story, but maybe they didn't. And that would be pretty cheap.
Seriously, that is the picture chosen to illustrate this article about home schooling. Go look at it now - it may change later. It shows a picture of a white clapboard house with the windows boarded up. And in case you didn't get what that meant, the caption says, "A house in Cleveland, Ohio. Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP".

It does not appear to depict the white clapboard house in Cleveland, Ohio with the windows boarded up in which three women were imprisoned, raped and brutalised for a decade and in which a child was born as a result of one of these rapes and lived her life in captivity. Oh, but, wait! The little girl was "home schooled". In other words, she received whatever scraps of knowledge about the outside world that her mother and the other enslaved women could give her in the same prison "home" in which she lived her whole life. That's your connection, there.

What estimate the Guardian makes of its readers can be judged by its evident belief that a smear by association of such crudity would work on them. The degree to which this estimate is correct can be judged by the readers' comments.

UPDATE: Commenter WDO has pointed out that, as predicted, the picture of "A house in Cleveland" has gone down the memory hole to be replaced by a picture of "a 1950s family at home."

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Où sont les neiges d'antan?

A year ago today, Polly Toynbee wrote this in the Guardian: Hollande and Europe are turning the tide. Where will it leave Cameron?

Labour gains from the triumph of the French Socialist leader with his intellectually cogent rallying cry for a new direction for Europe. Look how he won with a promise to tax the super-rich at a heart-attack rate of 75%, yet the French stock market actually rose slightly. Can he now turn the great liner of the EU's disastrous economic policy?

Looking at the comments to the above article "newest first", one AndyZama said,

Yes Polly. Time will tell. Maybe in time you will again have to squirm with embarrassment like when you wrote articles like this.

Which link, in turn, takes us to an article by Ms Toynbee from 2006 that said,

Twice a year Gordon Brown fills his party's sails with pride. His tornado of facts and figures magics up images of untold national wealth and success. Sixty per cent more personal wealth! Most chancellors sound as if chunks of their speech are penned by officials, not quite convincing in their grasp of macro or micro details. But here is the man who studies everything, consuming documents with the speed of a shredder. Standing at the dispatch box, the towering superiority of his brain makes intellectual pygmies of his opponents. George Osborne's feeble joke about Granita and the green chancellor (green with envy) died on his lips: lacking authority, unlike Cameron, he also lacks the likeability to compensate. Like Old Mr Brown and Squirrel Nutkin, the big Scots brain seems not to register Osborne's presence until he bites off his tail.

However, British politics is unaccustomed to intellect: the intellectual in politics has often been doomed to failure. A brainy chancellor running the economy from the engine rooms of the Treasury is one thing - but a great prime minister needs political genius. So far we don't know if Brown has it. Within a few months he may prove, as his enemies suggest, to be a character too inflexible, too inward and just too serious for the top job. Or we could possibly have the most formidable leader in many years. As David Cameron reaches the end of a shrewd first year, he has done the best he can, but now his fate depends entirely on the untried strength of Gordon Brown as prime minister.

Nothing new could be gleaned from his pre-budget report this week, with no new direction hinted at. His aces will stay firmly up his sleeve until he moves next door. But the more opaque he seems, the greater the surprises he must spring in his first 100 days in No 10. With some nervousness, those around him try in vain to lower expectations, but his party already yearns for the near-impossible. It wants the stability he brings from the Treasury, the iron chancellor who broke the boom-and-bust cycle with his bare hands.

I do sympathise, a little. The internet holds many more failed prophecies and assessments that turned out to be spectacularly wrong than just these two. There are even some of mine in there. But Polly Toynbee is so gloriously reliable. If wrong guesses were sold like music, she'd have a row of gold discs on her wall.