Tag Archives: Douglas Murray

Culture for the Future (Note #1)

The cultural critic, Raymond Williams (1976), once said that “culture is one or two of the most complicated words in the English language”. Many people use the word “culture” to refer to specific artefacts or use it to refer to a set of rituals and customs that are practised by primitive tribal societies in the rain forests of South America or Central Africa. Some people use words like “cultured” to describe someone who has “good taste” in music and the arts. Such people will invariably come from upper middle class and upper class backgrounds and are acculturated at an early age to appreciate only those forms of culture, like classical music, opera and Shakespeare’s plays,  which have been consecrated by a legitimating authority (Bourdieu, 1989). Any cultural form that is produced outside this narrow band of cultural production will be regarded as vulgar by those people who regard their culture as something sacred. Hence the term ‘subculture’, which describes any cultural form that is produced by ordinary people and regards them as inferior. While it is tempting to think that such views are limited to the bourgeoisie, this narrow view of culture can also be seen among groups at the opposite end of the socio-economic scale, who have been educated to think that the culture they create isn’t culture at all or it is inferior. Other people, often those whose cultural interests never stray beyond bourgeois art, insist there should be nationally approved forms of culture. But the people who call for state-sanctioned culture pretend to know more about culture than they do in reality.

In the last four or five years, there has been a succession of politicians and political commentators who have remarked on the need for some kind of British national culture. Douglas Murray, for example, demanded that the government create what he called leitkultur to snuff out other cultures as a means to prevent young British Muslims from joining jihadist groups (sic). Such an idea is naive as it is dangerous. If the word leitkultur looks German, that’s because it is. It was coined by German-Arab sociologist, Bassam Tibi in 1998 to refer to a “core culture”. Unfortunately, whenever this word is used it tends to be cited in the same breath as monoculturalism and national identity. Like nationalism, monoculture regards all forms of culture that do not have the state’s seal of approval as a possible social contaminant. In Murray’s world, anything that sounds or looks Middle Eastern would be banned, as too would hip-hop, Bollywood and even West African high-life music.

A national monoculture has to be constructed by hand-picked cultural experts (presumably chosen by the government of the day or some other state body) who then project this construction onto the people. Here’s an example: when the state of Israel was created in 1947, its cultural nationalists rejected Yiddish as the national language and chose Hebrew (modernized)  instead. This is despite the fact that the majority of Israelis spoke either Yiddish (Askenazim) or Arabic (Mizrahim). Ladino, the language of Sephardic Jews, wasn’t even considered. Hebrew was the language of religion and of the law, it was not the language of everyday life. Yet it was imposed as the Israel’s official language.

Monoculturalists, the vast majority of whom are ethno-nationalists (some of whom are in denial), rail against the idea that immigrant groups should continue their cultural practices once they’ve moved to Britain. They constantly complain about multiculturalism, citing it as the principle reason for Britain’s economic and social decline, and for incubating ‘terror’. Yet, much of what we consider to be British culture was brought to this country by immigrants. Fish and chips, pizza and tandoori masala are a few examples of cuisine that had origins elsewhere in the world. Words like ‘bungalow’ and ‘pyjamas’ are examples of Hindi words that are now part of the English language. We have listened to jazz, R&B, soul, rock ‘n’ roll and other forms of American music for decades, often to the dismay of the Britain’s self-appointed cultural cognoscenti. When rock ‘n’ roll first became popular in the 1950s, the BBC’s initial response was to ignore it.  The BBC Light Programme grudgingly commissioned The Saturday Club to cater for this new youth market but sometimes, the songs played on this programme were performed by the BBC’s house band rather than by the original artists. The BBC eventually yielded to pressure but only when it was too late. By then, Radio Luxembourg and the pirate stations had stolen a march on the fusty old Beeb, who had to petition the government to outlaw the pirates. Radio One happened ten years too late and even then, it wasn’t much good.

So when I say that there needs to be a cultural intervention, some people will be confused and others will ignore me, believing culture should come a distant second to marching, demonstrating and signing petitions. Some people don’t think twice about culture and others will see it as irrelevant. According to Gramsci (2003) the dominant ideology maintains its grip on power through cultural hegemony rather than outright coercion. The dominant class controls mass cultural production and is thus in a position to influence the way people think of themselves and others. Simon Cowell is a member of the dominant group (he votes for and supports the Tory-led coalition) and is an exemplar of cultural hegemony. His cultural production line creates boy and girl bands who sound and look the same. This kind of standardization can also be found in fast food outlets like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. Cowell produces music that is bland, but catchy, yet says nothing about real life. You will never find Cowell’s acts commenting on poverty, inequality or anything that the audiences who watch X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. It is the worst of the ‘bread and circuses’ notion of culture, which reduces arts to commodities.

According to Theodor Adorno (1991), each cultural product is produced industrially (like tins of baked beans) and bears the stamp of the dominant ideology. This is a rather crude way of looking at mass culture, which is produced by the same class that runs the country. The claim made by the artists who labour under this system is that all art should be free of politics. This suits governments and those who support them. The last thing they want is people asking questions and making demands. However all art is political, even if it denies it, because the artist has made a political decision to take an apolitical position. The old style stand-up comedians of the pre-alternative era would often claim that they weren’t political. This is absurd. The racist and sexist jokes they told expressed dominant social positions, whether they admitted it or not.

Whenever an authoritarian regime takes power, the first thing it does is arrest artists and musicians. Then they arrest academics and intellectuals who disagree with them. The authoritarian-libertarian Thatcher government effectively starved Britain’s political fringe theatre companies out of existence, not only because they were being subsidized but because they opposed the cultural status quo. Cutting off their funding wasn’t as violent as the brutality meted out to musicians, say in Pinochet’s Chile, but it was a form of what Bourdieu refers to as “symbolic violence”.

Finally, I spotted this article by Guardian columnist, Suzanne Moore, who asks if right-wing people are “more uncultured” and then adds that they (the right) “don’t “get” culture”. It’s not that the right doesn’t get culture, they have their own view of culture, and they tend to view it as something created by people who have “taste” and who possess the right kinds of qualifications.  In other words, culture should only be created by people who have been sanctioned to do so: the offspring of the rich, for example . As I said in this blog, the right’s idea of culture is heritage, which isn’t a living being but a corpse. The event discussed in the Moore piece mentions celebrities, who may be cultural, others are not.

So they had Michael McIntyre and Kirstie Allsopp providing youth and edginess with some interchangeable TV presenters, and those stalwarts of light entertainment Cilla Black and Bruce Forsyth. What a rum do. The Tory brand still appears toxic.

I’m not surprised to see the anodyne comedian, McIntyre, listed here. In some respects McIntyre’s ideologically neutral style is exactly what the right-wing view of culture is all about: it’s politically disinterested and socially disengaged.

Culture for the future. Culture for the 99%.

References

Adorno, T. (1991). The Culture Industry, London: Routledge.

Adorno, T. and Horkheimer, M. (1996) The Culture Industry: Enlightenment As Mass Deception in Durham, M.G. & Kellner, D. M. (Ed.) Media and Cultural Studies Keyworks. Oxford: Blackwell

Bourdieu, P. (1986) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, London: Routledge.

Gramsci, A. (2003) Selections From The Prison Notebooks, London: Lawrence & Wishart.

Williams, R. (1976) Keywords: A vocabulary of culture and society. London: Fontana

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Census 2011: can you feel the hate (and hear the lies)?

Douglas Murray: bigot and warmonger who does a nice line in Zionist apologia.

Douglas Murray: bigot and warmonger who does a nice line in Zionist apologia.

The results of the last census have been released and give the racists something to complain about. Religion is on the wane, immigration from Eastern Europe and the Indian subcontinent has increased and the numbers of people who identify as mixed race is on the rise.

I expected to see (Fr)Ed West complaining about the numbers of mixed race people. But he’s been quiet. Last night, the ever-hysterical Douglas Murray was part of a panel on last night’s Newsnight and, as you’d expect, he wasn’t pleased. This morning in the Daily Heil, he writes,

The 2011 census shows that white British people are now a minority in the capital city, London, the first time this has happened in any major region in Britain.

This sets the tone for the rest of the article.

For the first time, too, less than 90 per cent of the country is white, while the population is increasing in size at an unprecedented rate as a result of immigration.

Of course, it is vital to point out, as those of us critical of the immigration policies of successive governments always have done, that immigration is not in itself a bad thing. On the contrary, if conducted in a controlled manner, immigration brings huge benefits to the life of a country.

Yeah, but it’s those damned coloureds, Doug, they’re taking over! Here’s some more,

For countries to cohere and for people to feel any common bond or purpose, it is vital to have common points of cultural and historical reference.

This is revealing: he talks here about a “common bond or purpose”. The reason why nation-states exist is to fight wars; these are wars that Murray wouldn’t fight personally, though I am sure he would be more than happy to see working class kids go off to kill people with different religions and darker skin in the name of “freedom” and “democracy”. That’s the kind of guy he is.

The truth is that immigration has happened at such a rate that, far from augmenting and enhancing our national life as it did in days gone by, it has completely changed it.

This is pure sophistry: immigrants have not always been welcomed in Britain nor have their contributions always been recognized. Murray is talking about a particular kind of immigrant and not one that has dark skin or speaks in an Eastern European accent either.

You may — like so many of our politicians — feel joy that this change has been brought about. Or you may — as some of us do — feel sadness about it. Sadness that we were never asked about this change. Sadness that our concerns were never listened to.

And sadness at the realisation that it is now probably too late to do anything to prevent Britain from becoming so very different a country.

Murray is an odd creature: paranoid and shrill, he couches his deep-seated prejudices in the language of social concern. He talks about “cohesion” but only in the context of forcing an constructed culture onto others. It should come as no surprise that Murray is now involved with the Heritage Foundation, an American right-wing think-tank and is the Associate Director of the warmongering Henry Jackson Society.

The Telegraph leader column, like the party it supports, blames the last Labour government for “unchecked immigration”.

Labour’s decade of virtually unchecked immigration has seen the number of foreign-born residents rise by nearly three million – to 7.5 million – since the 2001 census. It has left this country less white, more ethnically diverse and less Christian. More than one million households do not use English as a first language. The white British make up 80 per cent of the population of England and Wales and in London are now in a minority. There are a million Muslims living here, while the number of self-professed Christians has fallen by four million. All the while, social structures are changing rapidly. For the first time, fewer than half of households contain a married couple.

This would have happened with or without a Labour government. Again, we see Murray’s paranoia vis a vis religion, which is on the wane. But it’s not the decline in religious observance that upsets the right, it’s the kind of religion that appears to be replacing Christianity that irks them.

The Sun repeats Murray’s line about immigration but the article is confused. First it says,

Immigration can be a sign of a dynamic society. The South East in particular would grind to a halt without industrious foreign workers.

Yeah? So what’s the problem?  As if I couldn’t guess…

Controlled immigration of talented newcomers is welcome, and the Olympics showcased the friendly and positive side of the new-look Britain.

Get to the point!

But the sheer scale of the influx, and its pace, raise serious questions.

Labour, who recklessly threw open our doors to the world, never asked Britain if it wanted such a level of immigration.

We were never asked if we wanted our public services privatized and here is The Scum complaining the British people were “not asked” if they wanted these levels of immigration. Talk about priorities!

Nor did it consider how public services such as housing, hospitals and schools would cope. They can’t.

And unlimited cheap foreign labour is frustrating the Government’s attempts to make work pay better than benefits.

What nonsense. Workers in this country, whether they be native or foreign born have never been paid a living wage.  Wages are deliberately depressed for the majority in order to provide business for the banks, the credit card companies and legalized loan sharks like Wonga. If people were paid proper wages, they wouldn’t need benefits to help them survive in this cruel and often barbaric country. The Sun doesn’t understand this nor does it want to, because it colludes with the state in lying to the people.

But the ethnic make-up of the country doesn’t exercise the minds of all right-wing commentators, Andrew Lilico writing for Conservative Home (some people don’t have homes), focussed his ire on what he called the “housing shortage myth”. Divining from sets of graphs that accompanied the census results, he says rather unconvincingly,

Thus was born the notion that there was a “housing shortage” in London and the South East of England.  As house prices began to spike upwards in the early 2000s, that was widely attributed to the housing shortage.  It was claimed that house prices were rising because people were desperately out-bidding each other simply in order to have somewhere to live.  The government established the Barker Review of Housing Supply to investigate how housing supply could be increased, and the Communities Plan for increased housebuilding.

He closes with this,

Does any of this prove that UK planning policy is perfect?  Obviously not.  Ought the UK debate about housing to have been transformed by the 2001 Census data?  Surely.  Will everyone stop talking about a “housing shortage” now, having done so wrongly for about 15 years?  Surely not.  But one day the discussion will catch up with the facts.

Lies, damned lies and statistics. Lilico, like his Tory chums, is in denial about the housing crisis. There is a major housing shortage that was caused by Thatcher’s ruinous Right to Buy policy, which hasn’t been addressed by either the Tories or Labour, who seem wedded to the rather vague notion of “affordable housing”. The only homes being built are those which make a profit for developers. One thing to have come from the Census is that fewer people now hold a mortgage. This tells us that Thatcher’s idea of near-universal home-ownership has failed and catastrophically so. Will Lilico and his mates realize the game is up? Probably not. The government is actively encouraging people to buy their own homes – even if they can’t afford to do so. The words “sub prime” seem to have been entirely forgotten.

The 2011 Census was always going to get the right foaming at the mouth. Religious observance has been in decline for the better part of 30 years. There are more mixed race people in the country than there was when I was young.  I can remember being the only mixed race or, for that matter, brown-skinned kid at Monksdown Primary School in Norris Green, Liverpool in 1963/4. The name-calling was relentless and hurtful. I’m so glad that mixed race children don’t have to put up with what I had to deal with.

Countries do change over time and the right has been slow to understand the nature of human migration. What never gets talked about are the numbers of people who leave Britain every year to seek better lives for themselves and their families. Instead, we are treated to a never-ending stream of paranoid bigoted crap from the likes of Murray, West et al about how this country is being “contaminated” by immigration.

Britain is a multi-racial, multicultural society, get used to it.

UPDATE: 12/12/12 @ 1223

As predictable as clockwork, Fred Ed West has squeezed out a blog about the “evils” of immigration. He also tells us that he has written a book about the subject, which is due out in the New Year. Here’s an excerpt,

But you can have too much of a good thing, and liberalism is a fragile prize. The main cornerstones of liberalism, things such as the jury system and parliamentary rule, are themselves products of very mono-ethnic societies, namely England, Denmark and the Netherlands, where people felt a lot of trust for fellow citizens. The Left likes “diversity” because it hates racism, and because immigrants overwhelmingly vote for the Left, they assume it can only make the country more liberal. But what I suspect (and perhaps fear) is that this demographic experiment our leaders have embarked upon (without asking whether or not we wanted it) is going to make us less liberal. All the evidence, from social sciences and from history, tells us that that highly diverse societies tend to be less trusting, less free, more unequal and more corrupt. These are not the sorts of societies where people will willingly pay for each other’s housing when hard times fall.

That’s probably not what people in nicely diverse middle-class areas of London want to hear, because tolerance is so highly prized. But tolerance is not a faultless good; it can also be the flipside of apathy and selfishness. That’s why “celebrating diversity” is so easy to do.

My bold. What “evidence” is he referring to? It isn’t obvious. I suspect that when he talks about “social sciences” he’s referring to Francis Galton and others.

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UKIP did well but they’re still a far-right party (and a bunch of liars)

So UKIP are now the official protest party of British politics. The Lib Dems lost their deposit in 2 seats and the Tories were pushed behind the English Democrats in Rotherham. Labour won all of its safe seats and Farage is crowing.

But what do you think the following statement means?

“End support for multiculturalism and promote one, common British culture”.

That’s the offending line from UKIP’s policy on immigration and guess what? It’s been removed from their site.  It says “404 Not Found” This has happened only since the Rotherham Fostering Farce. The Cat is entitled to ask, “Why has it been removed”? I wonder if anyone has a screengrab of the removed page? If you have please send me a copy or post it yourself.

There is no common British culture. There never has been and there never will be. The only countries that force a common culture onto their citizens are totalitarian countries. The far-right loves this idea of a monoculture, they believe that it will erase other people’s cultures (presumably youth cultures too) from the landscape. Shrieking Douglas Murray speaks fondly of monoculture lietkultur, he calls it.

But people who speak of a “single common culture” think they understand what is meant by the word “culture”. Raymond Williams said “it was one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language”.  Anyone who thinks culture can be created in petrie dish and its serum injected into society is hiding something: their far-right tendencies.

The last time a people were deprived of their culture and had one forced onto them was in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden.

Their culture was demolished, their native language – Gaelic – was banned and marked as a hanging offence if spoken, the wearing of tartan was also made a hanging offence and even the Bible was not allowed to be learnt in their own language, never mind written.

This was the final nail in the coffin of the clan system and way of life. This approach, coupled with the broken spirit of the people, was so successful in Scotland that by the end of the 18th century three-fifths of Hebridean landlords were already absentees, preferring the soft life in London society to looking after their own people in the wild and barren Highland glens and rain swept islands.

UKIP claims that it doesn’t want to abolish the Scottish Parliament but says that it wants to replace MSPs with Westminster MPs.  Weasel words. The party also failed to take any seats in the last Scottish Parliamentary elections. I guess they’re not as “UK” as they tell us.

Finally, the Rotherham Advertiser tells us,

UKIP, the party at the centre of the Rotherham fostering storm, has been linked to far right groups in Europe by one of its former Euro MPs.

The ex-UKIP MEP Nikki Sinclaire said UKIP attended a press conference last week for the right-wing European Alliance for Freedom at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Ms Sinclaire said: “This is a pan-European political party, financially backed by the European Parliament.

“This particular party is of interest as it contains, amongst others, Front Nationale, Vlaams Belang, and the Austrian Freedom Party.

“Yorkshire MEP Godfrey Bloom of UKIP is also a member. A founder member, and an executive of the party, in fact.”

I reported Bloom’s membership of the EAF here.

 

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#Riots and the cultural backlash

In the aftermath of the worst rioting in England for over 100 years, it was inevitable that the usual chorus of right wing voices would point the finger of blame at ‘blacks’. Even when it was demonstrated that people of all ethnicities participated in the four days of rioting and looting, they refused to listen (have a look at some of the comments on Telegraph blogs). The chorus  then nominally shifted its emphasis from skin colour to the musical sub-genre of ‘gangsta rap’ . Some, like the reactionary imperialist and romantic Tudor historian, David Starkey, even went so far as to blame the way black people spoke as a factor.

A few months ago, I reported on Douglas Murray’s appearance on Question Time, in which he demanded a British monocultural response to what he called the “creeping Islamization” of this country. He proposed something that he described as “leitkultur“. But he failed to tell us what this leitkultur would look like and who would be responsible for constructing it – since it doesn’t actually exist in the first place.

Starkey and Murray like to give the impression that they understand the meaning of the word culture but like many people they haven’t got a clue. Raymond Williams describes culture as the “one or two most complicated words of the English language”. He also notes that in the nascent German Empire of the 1840’s that culture was used in much the same way as the word “civilization’. It was Otto von Bismarck who proposed the kulturkampf or “cultural struggle” against the influence of Catholics on the Prussian state. Catholic clergymen who resisted Bismarck were arrested or removed from their positions.

As I mentioned earlier, it is gangsta rap that has come in for a lot of the recent criticism of the riots. It has been singled out as the primary suspect in the crime of polluting the minds of our youths. But this way of thinking is not new. It happened in 1950’s America with R&B music, which was dubbed “race music” by the white cultural establishment. Such music, it was feared, would have a deleterious effect on the nation as a whole and it was kept largely separate from so-called white music.

An example of this ‘dangerous’ music is this song by Wynonie Harris, a blues shouter.

The phrase “rock n roll” was African-American slang for sex. It isn’t hard to work out what Harris means when he sings “All she wants to do is rock. Rock n roll all night long”. For the racists, this was a vindication of their belief that black people were essentially bestial.

By the 1960’s the conservative establishment had largely given up on black music and, instead, turned their attentions to white musicians who demanded an end to Jim Crow laws in the South and opposed the escalating war in Vietnam.

Barry McGuire a folk singer and contemporary of the Mamas and Papas, had a popular but unexpected hit single with The Eve of Destruction. It became a favourite with young conscripts in Vietnam. Here is McGuire appearing on The Jerry Lewis Show.

As the decade progressed, the dominant culture accused the bands and the hippies who listened to them of contributing to the moral decay of the nation. Like R&B earlier, it was seen as ‘dangerous’ and ‘subversive’. Like the drugs they took, the music, it was argued, would pollute the minds of the impressionable and convince them to grow their hair long and go on protest marches.

In 1975 the first punks arrived on Britain’s urban streets. Fleet Street greeted their appearance with a mix of fear and suspicion. Punks spat and swore and they fashioned clothing from bin liners. The most notorious band, in the eyes of the British cultural establishment, was the Sex Pistols, whose single God Save the Queen was banned from airplay. It is hard to determine which offended the British cultural establishment the most: the music or the defaced image of the Queen on the record’s sleeve. Despite it being banned from the airwaves, God Save the Queen became a number one hit single.

Causing further controversy was The Clash’s single Bankrobber, which the media described as “glorifying bank robbery” and called for it to be banned. In any case, the single was not banned and the numbers of bank robberies did not increase.

Though it was released in August 1980, Bankrobber remained in the charts until December.

Usually it is authoritarians who call for the banning of certain cultural products. Hitler and Stalin both did this and both for different reasons. Hitler saw jazz, in particular, as the music of an inferior people and Stalin considered western popular music to be decadent and bourgeois.

Those who demand some form of cultural cordon sanitaire should ask themselves deep and searching questions about what it is they’re calling for. Popular culture does not exist in isolation, it is influenced by a range of other cultural factors. Skiffle, for instance, would not have existed were it not for rock n roll, country or R&B music being imported into this country. Indeed British popular culture would look very different today if certain types ofmusic had been banned. In fact culture would cease to be a living organic entity and would become more of a cultural relic (it is no accident that Thatcher named her Culture Ministry the Ministry for National Heritage). The most vibrant cultures are organic and are created from ‘below’ by groups of people or communities. The leitkultur that Murray proposes will only stifle us creatively and turn us all into cultural zombies.

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H&F Tories and the right-wing ‘madrasah’

It’s called the Tory “madrasah” and it resembles an updated version of the long-defunct Federation of Conservative Students. The Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF), who are no less right-wing than their recent ancestors, was formed in 2003 as sort of boot camp for young right-wing activists. We’ll return to them in a moment.

The use of the word “madrasah” to describe them is a bit weird. But first let’s have a look the word.  Madrasah, or madarasa, is the Arabic word for school; any school. Some are attached to mosques and exist to provide religious education.  Others, particularly those in Pakistan, have been cited as hothouses for suicide bombers. But this is a new connotation and the word, when it is uttered by a Rightist, tends to take on a universal character. The suggestion is “madrasahs are responsible for the inculcation of Islamist terror”.  Is the use of the word “madrasah” ironic in the context of the YBF? Who knows? It has probably been appropriated in much the same way as the word “Mecca” or perhaps the word, “Kosher”. No doubt these people believe that they are the ideologically pure shock troops of today’s Tory party.

The YBF were in the headlines last year. Before the general election, Cameron was urged to distance himself from them. The Guardian said,

Asked about his links to the group last month, Cameron said: “I don’t know anything about the Young Britons’ Foundation.” But Cameron had already contributed to a YBF-branded guide to essential reading for young Conservatives, according to the YBF’s chief executive, Donal Blaney, a Kent-based solicitor.

Hmmm, “He doesn’t know anything about “Young Britons’ Foundation”. I’m not so sure I believe Disco Dave.  The Guardian

…has also obtained photographs of him meeting the organisation’s director of strategy, vice-president, and then operations director before he denied knowledge of the group. Its director of research, Alex Deane, was formerly Cameron’s chief of staff.

Wow! I want to see these photos. But I can’t. I presume they’re in the Guardian’s image vault underneath Farringdon Station. No matter, we can see this screen grab of Cameron meeting someone called Conor Burns. From the Gaurdian,

Ah, doesn’t that look cosy? Burns is now the MP for Bournemouth West but last year he was the YBF’s vice president.

Back in 2003, when the YBF was formed, Tom Happold of the Guardian wrote this about them

A new right-wing youth organisation – the Young Britons’ Foundation – has been accused of plotting a “Militant-style” take-over of the party’s youth wing, Conservative Future, by senior Tories.Disquiet about the group is such that the Conservative’s chief whip, David Maclean, recently told its chairman, former Tory MP Patrick Nicholls, to rein in its activities, Guardian Unlimited has learned.

The foundation’s website claims it exists to “help develop the talents of the young conservative-inclined political activists”, but senior Tories say it has been infiltrating Conservative Future, and even running a slate in its recent elections.

Further down the article we come to this,

The founder of the Young Britons’ Foundation, Donal Blaney, is also a controversial figure in the Tory party – he faced accusations of racism, and a complaint by the Commission for Racial Equality, when he ran a Fulham Homes for Fulham People campaign while a councillor in the borough. But Mr Blaney does have some influential friends; the foundation’s parliamentary counsel contains the former Conservative party chairman, Cecil Parkinson, Tory MP Gerald Howarth and shadow deputy prime minister, and likely future leadership contender, David Davis.

Yes, Donal Blaney was a Hammersmith & Fulham councillor. These days he’s described as a “Kent-based solicitor”.  Here’s some more,

Mr Blaney told Guardian Unlimited that it is compiling a dossier cataloguing examples of “socialist PC” bias on every course on every campus in the country. And he insisted that “all the stuff that gets fed back to us shows that the bias on campus is getting worse”.

The foundation’s website also says: “Leftists and their failed socialist ideology have run riot, in some cases literally, at campuses up and down the land for over 30 years.

“As a result non-political students or students who are conservative in outlook have been discriminated against in their grades and in their treatment by the authorities.”

They get this idea from an American neo-con site called Campus Watch, which claims that it is “monitoring Middle East studies on campus”. Long before it narrowed its remit it was involved in “exposing left-wing bias on campus”. My, how times have changed. The site is connected to the notorious Daniel Pipes, who runs the Middle East Forum.

Back to Blaney. It would seem that even some  Tories don’t like him. This blogger writes,

I guess Donal is the epitomy of all the negative coverage that political blogs have been receiving recently. Rejected by the higher echelons of the Conservative party, this sad time-wasting individual has risen to the delusional ‘heights’ he has by who he knows, not what he knows. ‘Fulham Homes for Fulham People’ is not a message that Cameron wants his conservatives spreading. Then again, perhaps his reluctance to get involved more practically and constructively with the Conservative party  is because Blaney might have certain individuals on his YBF Advisory Panel with an ever so slightly more colourful past that he’d hoped for. Who’s to say though; we wouldn’t want a mere student at the University of York becoming embroiled in a legal battle with blogging’s biggest bumbling bully, Donal Blaney, would we?

He was apparently threatened with legal action by Blaney. Unfortunately for this blogger, the YBF is now firmly entrenched in Hammersmith & Fulham.  More on that later. Blaney had this slogan “Fulham Homes for Fulham People”. His supporters have tried in vain to defend Blaney, but somehow it all looks futile and any attempt to explain it away looks pathetic and feeble.

The comments on Iain Dale’s blog from last February are particularly interesting,

At February 09, 2010 9:29 AM , Blogger DespairingLiberal said…Quite funny that if you Google Donal Blaney, the first image that comes up is him standing in front of a swastika flag.

I can’t help but wonder Iain why you are so drawn to Blaney, who seems to be a sort of neo-BNP’er inside the ranks of the tory party. I thought you yourself were a bit more centrist than that?

Dale replies,

That image of Blaney was photoshopped by a Labour blogger.

Donal is a good friend of mine. There’s nothing BNP about him at all.

Dale is not only a good friend of Blaney, he’s a supporter of the YBF too.

Blaney makes a few comments below.  Here he says,

Despairing Liberal – thanks for putting your head above the parapet. Anonymous abuse on the internet is easy to defeat now thanks to the case of Blaney v Person(s) Unknown in which I obtained a world first order allowing for such cyberbullies to be unmasked and served via Twitter (giving rise to what is known as a Blaney’s Blarney Order). Oh look, another victory.

He’s a card. Isn’t he? A tussle develops between “Despairing Liberal” and Blaney and ends with Blaney threatening legal action. This isn’t the first time that Blaney’s resorted to this tactic. Remember that article that I linked to at the beginning of this blog? Well, it has this at the top of it

The following note was added on Tuesday 9 March 2010

This article is the subject of a legal complaint made on behalf of Donal Blaney.

I guess being a solicitor has its advantages. No?

Blaney divides his time between his practice in Kent and Florida where he is a member of FABB (geddit?), the Florida Association of British Business. He is described as a “British Attorney”.

Last year, James Delingpole penned this tribute to Blaney and the YBF,

I’ve noticed this same technique much in use in the student-rag left-liberal blogosphere, of late, over the small matter of the Young Britons Foundation. Because  the YBF’s splendid, funny and ideologically sound chairman Donal Blaney has called his organisation a “madrassa” for young conservatives,

He misspelled “madrasah”. It was actually Dale who described the YBF as a “madrassa” by the way. More drivel from Delingtroll,

I addressed the YBF in the Commons last week, and extremist is the very last word I’d use to describe them. “Not nearly extremist enough” would be my preferred definition of these pallid young politicos. These kids have been so effectively brainwashed by the propaganda of socialists like Ken Livingstone, Tony Benn, Ken Clarke, Dave Cameron et al, they actually think “progressive” means something worthwhile and that “investment” is what you do when you squander money you haven’t got on the least efficient healthcare system in the known universe.

I’m rolling my eyes here.

Here is the “About Us” page of the YBF’s website,

The Young Britons’ Foundation was co-founded in July 2003 by Donal Blaney, Greg Smith and Ben Pickering

Is that the same Greg Smith who’s a H&F councillor? It certainly is. Smith is the “Cabinet Member for Residents Services”. Cllr Smith is also the YBF’s “Director of Campaigns”. The blurb also tells us that he’s on the executive of the Thatcherite Conservative Way Forward. Though the site doesn’t list him as a member of the executive. Confused? So am I.

On the Advisory Board’s page we find Cllr. Mark Loveday,

Mark Loveday is a barrister specialising in property, local government and professional negligence law in London. A graduate of the University of Kent at Canterbury, Mark is a former intern at the Leadership Institute and a former White House staffer. He is a member of the Cabinet in the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham – where he has helped oversee two successive cuts in council tax since the Conservatives regained control of the Town Hall in 2006.

He’s “former White House staffer”. Fine. He’s also the “Chief Whip and Cabinet Member for Strategy” for the Tory group on the council. Like some of the others, I suspect he has his eye on a safe seat. He’s in good company. If you look down the list, you can see many other well-connected names like Matthew Elliot of the “non-partisan” Taxpayers Alliance and Thatcherite economist, Patrick Minford.

Not only is Hammersmith & Fulham a test bed for awful ideas, it is also a training ground for kamikaze Tories.

Back to the Staff page and we see that our old friend, Dan Hannan is the President.  It says,

Daniel Hannan is the President of the Young Britons’ Foundation and has recently been ranked tenth by The Daily Telegraph in its annual poll of most influential centre-right figures in Britain.

Like all those other members of the YBF that we’ve encountered, Hannan does not qualify as a youth. He’s is no spring chicken. In fact, he’s pushing 40. He’s more of a middle-aged man trying to relive his youth.

Here’s the YBF’s Speakers Panel. Do you  recognize any names? I do. Author, old duffer and ardent Europhobe, Frederick Forsyth is a keynote speaker. Previous speakers have included new peer and former MP, Howard Flight, who infamously claimed that the government’s benefit cuts would “encourage poor people to breed more”.  Douglas Carswell and Andrew Rosindell, who was once a member of the notorious Monday Club before IDS forced him  to resign, are also speakers. Carswell is a notorious Randist, like his friend Dan Hannan.Others on the speakers panel include the ever-shrill Douglas Murray and Anthony Worrall-Thompson. Nowhere Towers is baffled by the latter’s inclusion. We knew he was a Tory but is he a policy-former? No.

I expect the YBF to be at the Rally Against Debt next month along with the usual suspects.

For a more complete list of who is involved in the YBF, look at this page.

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Filed under Extreme right, Government & politics, Young Britons' Foundation

Douglas Murray, nationalism and monoculture

Douglas Murray is a busy little bee. First, he found the time to defend the English Defence League in this video.

Then to show his commitment to Transatlantic Judeo-Christian brotherhood, Murray also penned this article for the Wall Street Journal and this one for the New York Daily News. On Wednesday, when he appeared on BBC Radio 4’s The Moral Maze, he was at his most shrill, paranoid and delusional. You can listen to him attacking Kenan Malik for his ‘extreme left wing views’  here,

Now if Murray had bothered to do his research before going into the studio, he would have known that the Revolutionary Communist Party has been dead for quite a few years.  Murray doesn’t like views that conflict with his own distorted ideas on national identity and culture. Instead of responding to the points put to him, Murray chooses to play the man and not the ball. But “personal vendettas”? Please. Get real. On the subject of culture, he ends up sounding like a cheap version of Otto von Bismarck. Leitkultur? He’s more Kulturkampf“, if you ask me.

Thursday night, he appeared on BBC 1’s Question Time. Dimblebum introduces him as “neoconservative”. Fine. Neocon. Plastic Cassandra. Whatever. But once again, he gets into a tangle when he talks about culture. He loves his strawman arguments too. What’s all this stuff  about ‘forced marriages’? Has he never heard of the tradition of  the shotgun wedding made famous by this song?

Murray’s understanding of the word “culture” appears to stem from his notions about national identity and, possibly, so-called ‘high culture’.  But nation-states, as Benedict Anderson tells us, are imagined communities. That is to say they are conceived in the imagination and are imagined as a community by those who live within the borders of a nation-state.  Anderson also says  that “there have been no nationalist philosophers”. So what does that tell us about nationalism and those who wrap themselves up in flags? Nationalists, particularly extreme nationalists, have a fixed idea of both nation and national identity. Some people, in the eyes of these nationalists, do not fit in with the narrative that has been constructed around their idea of the nation. They may have a different religion or skin colour. They make speak a different language and have particular dietary habits that don’t chime with the  self-constructed ‘majority’. They are marginalized, smeared and attacked in the streets by those calling themselves ‘patriots’. In short, nationalists are caught in a mental feedback loop, where they can only view the world in binaries. Good and evil. Black and white. Us and them.

Murray self-describes as a neoconservative but is he, at his very core, an extreme nationalist? Well, his idea of leitkultur tells me that he is. He may not like me describing him as an “extreme nationalist” and may even try to connect that phrase with words like “Nazi” or “fascist”. But extreme nationalism can exist outside Nazism or fascism. For example, Israel’s Likud Party could be described as an “extreme nationalist” party. It is a party that is dedicated to a particular strain of nationalism:  Revisionist Zionism. Murray is a supporter of Revisionist Zionism. In fact, he works for the Israel-based NGO Monitor, which claims as its objective, to “make NGO’s accountable“. It has in mind certain NGO’s, in particular those NGO’s that provide relief for the Palestinians as well as the various human rights groups that are working in the region.

So who is going to pen the mawkish national hymns? Who will write the breast-beating jingoistic stories of derring-do, complete with rock-jawed heroes battling against the odds? Is Murray volunteering himself and his cohorts at The Centre for Social Division Cohesion to do the work? Heaven help us all.

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Filed under Ideologies, Islamophobia, Society & culture

The thing about research is…

..it can be pretty awful, faulty even dangerous stuff. I’m not talking about my own research, rather the research that is conducted by think-tanks, political parties or their members. Political parties like the Conservatives, Labour and UKIP will present research as though it was conducted in a hermetically sealed chamber. Meanwhile the media will cherry-pick the best parts of the research because it makes a good story. Remember all those news items about the ‘latest medical research’ and how the telly journo told you that ‘butter was worse for you than margarine’?  Yes, that nugget was cherry-picked.

The upmarket tabloids like the Daily Mail and the Daily Express thrive on moral panics and health scares; they will produce ‘evidence’ that they have filleted from some piece of research and present it as factual. Recently I posted an example of some ‘research’ that was carried out by former UKIP leader, Malcolm Pearson that claimed the BBC was institutionally biased against them and other Europhobes. A certain MEP who appears frequently in this blog, presented the research as ‘methodologically sound’ but was it? Well, for a start the research was conducted with the outcome already in mind. That is to say, the outcome was already established before any research took place; it was self-confirming and selective.

Think tanks will always produce ideologically skewed research. For example anything that comes from Policy Exchange or the Centre for Social Cohesion needs to be examined against an ideological backdrop. In the case of the CSC, we know that its director, Douglas Murray, is a neo-conservative whose appearances on the BBC’s Question Time or his many speaking engagements act as the means to disseminate CSC’s research. But the research that is conducted by CSC is on the same subject: Islam and the so-called Islamization of Europe. The message is repeated ad nauseum and ad infinitum.

Last year, Policy Exchange produced some research that informed us that it would be better if people moved from the north to Oxfordshire to take up [phantom] jobs there. But the research was based on a flawed premise: that the North is beyond help. It also helped to reinforce the north-south divide in the mind of the southerner. I also talked about this research in an earlier blog. Because of its potential for embarrassment, Cameron rejected it. But this doesn’t stop some Tories from holding an image in their minds of an entire region full to bursting with work-shy people.

Singling out Sunderland as an example of a town in decline, the report says: “It is time to stop pretending that there is a bright future for Sunderland and ask ourselves instead what we need to do to offer people in Sunderland better prospects.”

The Conservatives were desperate to distance themselves from the report last night, which threatened to damage months of work by a team led by William Hague to win northern urban strongholds held by Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

So the real reason behind this ‘research’ was electoral rather than social? Well, there’s a surprise.

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Filed under Research, Think Tanks