Friday, September 20, 2002
It's the British Broadcasting Corporation that's immoral, not the British people
ON QUESTION TIME last night, we again saw a TV audience of British people laughing at Charles Kennedy's only distinction between Israel and Iraq: that the former is a "fully functioning democracy". I don't know whether the people in question were grotesquely ignorant, or whether they do not accept that a nation fighting terror in the way Israel is doing can be called a democracy. But I really do not understand why the Middle East can summon up so much misguided anger.
First, I do not believe the cause is anti-Semitism. I don't think many British people, outside radical Islamic circles and what is usually called the 'far-right', even comprehend anti-Semitic feeling. I do not accept that even the most vigorous left-wing critics of Israel say what they do because of racial hatred. Though I have no fondness for the British left, I think they are rightly just as puzzled when accused of anti-Semitism as are people on the right when accused of fighting a class war. I don't think race even enters their heads when considering these issues, any more than class does the right's. Second, I do not believe that it can be explained only as an off-shoot of anti-Americanism, with the US's key Middle East ally being assumed to be guilty by association. Certainly this is the case among some, but I do sense a deeper sympathy for the Palestinians than that extended to them by those who will side against anyone friendly with the United States. I think the cause among the rest is no more than a complete ignorance of the situation in the Middle East, fed by most of the papers that cover the region in detail, and of course by the BBC, which refuses to call any suicide bomber or gunmen 'terrorists' even when Palestinian moderates do just that.
The anti-Israeli left is exploiting the British people's sense of fair play. A natural desire for justice and sympathy for the underdog exists in nearly all of us. So if the facts were made clear, I am sure that Israel would be supported by most decent people. But when day after day there are reports of "occupied territories" and "Palestinian civilian casualties", as though accidental deaths of Palestinian civilians can be compared with the state-sponsored mass murders and suicide bombings of the Arafat regime, it is no wonder that ignorant people should take the exasperated parent's view that "you're both as bad as each other" or worse, blame Israel, merely because she happens to kill more people, as though a bodycount were the way to determine good and evil.
But this ignorance exists because of constant misinformation from those who claim objectivity and then broadcast their political views as fact. When does the BBC tell people that the PLO was formed in 1964 - three years before any territories were "occupied" - to destroy the nation of Israel? When have you heard it mentioned on television news that Israel targets only terrorists - not civilians, and that she uses ground troops, not bombs or nuclear weapons, precisely because she cares about the lives of the innocent? When was it last made clear to people that, but for Israel, across the entire Middle East there is not one democracy, nor one country where homosexuality is not a crime? When terrorists use innocents as human shields, and inevitably civilians die, television news gives huge coverage. But when was the last time you heard any time given to the deaths of Palestinian "traitors", who cooperate with the Israeli police and help to end bombings and murder? Why is Bin Laden's role model, Yasser Arafat, treated on the news like some sort of great statesman instead of the bloodthirsty warlord that he is? When is it mentioned that he names public squares after the suicide bombers who murder and mutilate dozens? How often is it made clear that it was Arafat who broke down the Middle East peace process, rejecting Israel's offer of 97% of the territories he demanded? Why, when Bush called for Arafat to go, was the universal response that the Palestinian people should decide this, giving the impression that they have a say in who rules them? Why does no one make clear that every single Palestinian could have lived in a proper home, instead of a refugee camp, from the early 1980s, if only all the money spent on terrorising Israeli civilians had been spent on the Palestinian people? How clear is it made that the Palestinian Authority is a Mugabesque kleptocracy, with friends of Arafat gaining all the land and homes they want while ordinary people continue to suffer? How often do you hear those who admit that their goal is the destruction of Israel described as "extremists", implying first that it is possible to be a terrorist and not be extreme, and second that this is not a general aim of all those who fight what they call only the "Zionist entity"? When is it made clear the level of brainwashing and indoctrination that are an official and enforced part of every Palestinian's education, including holocaust denial and some of the most filthy anti-Semitic propaganda since the Nazis? How often is it wrongly claimed that Israel is in breach of three UN resolutions? We see John Pilger and Gerald Kaufman and their clones denounce Israel on television every week. But how much airtime is given to those who actually defend Israel and defend the government that seeks to root out those who assassinate elected politicians and blow up babies?
The BBC is horribly biased on many issues, but on the Middle East it is perhaps at its worst. A full length report by academics showing this can be read at www.bbcwatch.com. In devastating detail it exposes the way Britain's only state-run, poll-tax funded broadcasting corporation has been misrepresenting the truth about the Middle East conflict. Returning to it helped me as I struggled to understand those who can laugh at the very idea of Israel fighting a good fight or being a free democracy.
Until next Thursday night, the aforementioned episode of Question Time can be viewed online by those who have RealPlayer.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 20:07 | Permanent Link |
More private pensions are better for all
BRITAIN IS ALONE in Europe in having a pensions crisis that is broadly under control. We must not be complacent about the future, but nor should we be fearful about it, as nations across the EU should. Britain was not distinct in its controlled pensions crisis twenty-five years ago, it should be noted. It was the Thatcher government's politically unpopular decision to link pensions to prices rather than earnings that ensured these better conditions. Equally, we should be willing to face up to unpopular decisions again. Raising the retirement age to 70, as recommended today in a Pensions Policy Institute report is a good idea both for pensioners themselves and for the country at large.
Of course, the "retirement age" is not usually the age when a person retires, which is basically up to them and the job they do, but the age at which the state gives money to those who retire. As the population gets older, people should be expected to work longer and provide for themselves more. Raising the retirement age is a good measure of encouragement to those who might otherwise shirk their need to save for their old age. When more and more people do this, the pensioners themselves are more secure and wealth in their retirement, and the tax burden falls, too.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 15:26 | Permanent Link |
The Telegraph reports that Tony Martin could be released next week. I certainly hope so.
We need more teenage pregnancy, says Frederica Matthewes-Green, though it should of course be between married couples. A compelling argument for an end to marriages at an average age of 27.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 14:21 | Permanent Link |
Thursday, September 19, 2002
More vital research ...
EVERY VOTE FOR the Conservatives is a vote for two extra suicides per day, academics report. You can just imagine Guardian journalists wetting themselves with delight when this news came in. Their coverage was certainly interesting.
Suicide rates have tended to rise in the UK when a Conservative government has been in power during the last 100 years, with the big exception of Edward Heath's 1970-74 administration, according to a scientific paper published today.
Nope. Actually, every one of those 35,000 would still have died, albeit later. It's a statistical fact that everyone dies.
People kill themselves be cause of family or marital problems, mental illness, and for other personal reasons, they say. "But the context for these individual influences and risk factors cannot be ignored."
Well, I have a theory of my own to explain this. One thing everyone knows about regarding suicide rates is that they go up during Christmas time. Why? Because sad and lonely people, seeing everyone else having fun and enjoying their holidays are, in their misery, tempted to kill themselves. Perhaps this applies not only to religious events but to the party in power as well. Miserable, suicidal people looked around and saw everyone else enjoying the Conservative government and couldn't take it any longer. Or maybe the survey is just stupid.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 03:44 | Permanent Link |
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Wednesday, September 18, 2002
A moral, popular alternative to Section 28
WITH SECTION 28 and the Conservative Party's attitude to it likely to open up more painful splits in the Official Opposition, Melanie Phillips is masterful in showing a way through the controversies that will ensure a policy that all but the fringes can agree upon:
The cynical purpose [of Labour, in scrapping Section 28,] is to expose the profound divisions in the Tory party between those who propound a heartless, manipulative and utterly destructive libertinism, and those who are developing a concept of social justice that helps protect and liberate the vulnerable rather than do them more harm.
She attributes great insight and wisdom to Iain Duncan Smith, I hope rightly. She also shows a rare and entirely correct understanding of what made Blairism so popular:
Foolish people high up in the Tory party think that by going along with lifestyle choice, they will make themselves relevant, modern and electable. But they have fundamentally misunderstood both why they lost the last two elections, and the basis of Tony Blair’s appeal.
Was this not exactly the atmosphere of Britain in the dying days of the Major government? New Labour may have been little more than a coalition of anti-Conservatives, but the general feeling of the British people extended also to a hope that "community", that "society", be rejuvenated. Despite, or perhaps because of, Leftist politicians' inability to explain coherently how Thatcherism had harmed such notions, the prevailing myth of the time was that a return to "community spirit" was the solution to Britain's problems. It was an emotional attraction, not a rational critique. But when Labour ministers dishonestly quoted Thatcher's celebration of personal responsibility and liberty "There is no such thing as society", people took from that the message the Tories had deliberately destroyed social bonds that protected all.
One could see this in the bizarre popularity of transparent propaganda films like Brassed Off, whose appeal lay in its depiction of a community where everyone knew everyone else, got on with them and understood them, with no grey areas of class difference or social attitudes getting in the way of their common bonds. The unvoiced desire among many for such a fictional society - a panacea for all social problems - was the moral basis for Blairite support.
Thankfully, I think Iain Duncan Smith recognises that Britain's problem is not that no one knows their milkman's name any more, but that any notion of moral responsibility for our actions has vanished. Margaret Thatcher actually restored some of these notions, and certainly did not create the divided, envious, hostile Britain of the 1970s: she merely sided with the good guys in the decade that followed. By making the argument over Section 28 about the vulnerable people who suffer from the breakdown of the family, IDS could easily take this basically conservative support from New Labour. Phillips continues:
If another attempt is made to repeal [Section 28], Duncan Smith should turn it into a political boomerang.
Of course, this is absolutely right. The problem with schools is not so much that they promote homosexuality as that, in their refusal to mention love or marriage, they make sex seem an entirely amoral, clinical business with no emotional attachments or consequences. Section 28 could easily be abolished but replaced by something of greater effect and entirely positive: an ethical edge to the way schools teach their pupils, telling children of their duties to others and of the moral edge to their behaviour. By choosing bravely to call for this, IDS would be siding with so many normal voters, showing that the state is the opponent of their own loving parental control, with its free condoms and abortion pills given out to 11 year olds without parents ever knowing, and its undermining of all the moral teachings they choose to pass down. Section 28 could divide the party, or its replacement could be a source of unity and new support and, if implemented, a step towards a better Britain.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 02:30 | Permanent Link |
Bush is a relative of Churchill and Prince William - Daily Telegraph
President Bush's speech on education and history teaching yesterday was interesting particularly for its kind words in support of Lynne Cheney, the Second Lady. It encouraged me to listen to an online recording of a 1992 speech she gave on political bias in education. I strongly recommend it to you next time you get a spare half hour.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 01:44 | Permanent Link |
Tuesday, September 17, 2002
Criminalising anti-Islam jibes is the start of a very slippery slope
ONE OF THE most difficult things about being a Conservative is the absolute dominance the Left has over the political lexicon. John Derbyshire highlights the extent to which this is true in his column in today's National Review, but also points to a BBC report on a French court case that began today.
The trial of the prize-winning French novelist Michel Houellebecq on charges of inciting religious hatred has begun in Paris.
Free speech and jury trials having no real history in France, it seems far more alarming to us that criticism of Islam is a crime than to those in Europe. But even so, what precisely is the charge that the Islamic extremists level against the novellist?
France's Human Rights League has also joined them, saying that Mr Houellebecq's comments amount to "Islamophobia".
Aaaahhh! Well, that answers that one. Yet again it seems that the Left has first taken a viewpoint they don't like, next made up a word aimed at making out that this opinion is somehow a mental illness and finally managed to make the view seem basically criminal. What is the logical meaning of the euro-federalist's accusation of "europhobia"? Or the gay rights activist who accuses people who disagree with his agenda of "homophobia"? Now it seems a wariness of Islam is somehow a phobia and a mental illness.
I don't accuse someone of religious bigotry lightly, and I don't make that accusation against Michel Houellebecq, though his comments were clearly rude, unfair and ill-judged. But by goodness he has every right to believe such things. Atheists make comments like that about people of all faiths all the time without criticism. Fanatical humanists wrote dozens of illogical pieces after 11 September 2001 desperately aimed at linking Islamic fundamentalist terrorists with Christian fundamentalists who deny evolution. But particular emphasis on Islam or other politically fashionable views is somehow not only exceptional but criminal.
One novellist's rudeness being punished by law may seem a trifle unjustice, but with such legal penalties already coming over to this country, it is right to recognise incidents like this as a threat to the freedoms of us all. Governments must never be allowed to suppress the opinions they consider wrong. By using sensitivity to religious feelings to erode liberty of expression and freedom of speech, politically correct activists set a dangerous precedent for the future. As has been well said, the threats to freedom of the future will arise through those who protest against fascism, though their means of ensuring what they want will be just as fascist and just as threatening to liberty as that which they claim to oppose.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 16:01 | Permanent Link |
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Monday, September 16, 2002
The UN can be wrong
I AM PLEASED to see President Bush tackling head on the creeping return of moral relativism American and European liberals seem determined to ensure. This new version declares that right and wrong are whatever the anti-Semites and dictators of the United Nations think is right and wrong. In response to legendary dunderhead Tom Dasche's support for American makings its decisions based on what the UN wants, Bush was plain:
"I don't imagine Saddam Hussein sitting around saying, 'Gosh, I think I'm going to wait for some resolution or not'. If I were running for office I'm not sure how I would explain to the American people, 'You know, vote for me and oh, by the way, on a matter of national security I think I'm gonna wait for somebody else to act.' It seems to me, that if you are representing the United States, you ought to be making a decision on what's best for the United States."
A letter in the latest Sunday Telegraph made plain why the left prefers to trust the UN:
Surely it is better to have international and pan-cultural consensus on issues of right and wrong, rather than to leave moral decision-making to deluded religious bigots, whether they come from extreme Islam or evangelical Christianity.
Actually, each one is equally problematic: they are both a terrible basis for moral decision making, and of course they are far from the only options available.
It is easy to see why this idea that concensus makes right should take hold. In democracy, issues are settled through discussion, debate and argument and ultimately the majority then vote to have things their way. But in moral questions, it makes no sense to say that right and wrong vary along with viewpoints. For example, terrorism is wrong whether 0.9% or 99% think so. A moral perspective means precisely that you are prepared to disagree with the majority when you believe they are wrong. Majority verdicts by the UN - or anyone else - determining right and wrong is incompatible with any meaningful notion of morality.
There is also the trouble that what everyone else bases their convictions on. If what is popular among the masses is automatically right, then what are they to base their convictions on in the first place?
Such thinking may seem democratic, but it is essentially about eliminating every stage of reasoned discussion and debate from the democratic process, making arbitary decisions the sole moral judge. Thankfully, we are led by men who can tell right from wrong, and are prepared to be unpopular and face down international opposition rather than act immorally.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 01:54 | Permanent Link |
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Sunday, September 15, 2002
Black Wednesday gives the Tories hope for the future
WILLIAM HAGUE, Norman Lamont's Parliamentary Private Secretary when the latter was Chancellor, writes of the harm done to the Conservative Party by Black Wednesday, but is optimistic about the lessons it teaches for the future:
Black Wednesday was a single, shocking experience for the nation as a whole. I think, as the years pass, parents, patients and public transport users will each have their own personal Black Wednesdays: individual experiences and grievances which dramatise their disillusionment with Blairism.Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 20:51 | Permanent Link |
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