Far from being edgy, Jason Manford’s anti-racist spiel just lashes out at the marginal

Jason Manford, Jan 2013, University of Salford Press Office

Every era has its own political boilerplate, statements that can be unthinkingly uttered to win you friends whilst gaining you few enemies that matter.

These are based on the taboos, prejudices and groupthink of the times. If you wish to play to the gallery, after all, you need to know what they like. And once you have that you can soak up the cheap applause:

Right now in our island’s history, it is a bad time to be a racist. Better, perhaps, than when New Labour felt confident enough to “rub the Right’s nose in diversity”, but much worse than the decades following the Second World War, and especially the old days of the Empire which rather shows up the institutional racism we now practice.

Fascism is in similar straits. The fringe left in Britain loudly proclaim their commitment to combating it, but the modesty of this was highlighted by the groups themselves when they confronted some chapter of the far right at Piccadilly Circus in a London demo earlier this year. As the lefties accurately observed at the time: “There are a lot more of us than you.”

Sniping at fringe righties, far from being brave and edgy, is thus the definition of the punching downward that comedians on the Left are supposed to disdain. After all, the front benches of the Commons are not stocked with “closest racists” (in prime minister Call Me Dave’s phrase) but with those that largely hold socially liberal views, especially as regards migration.

True enough, there are some establishment backers of the Kippers and their political kin. But as anybody with a brief acquaintance of these groups could tell you, they are largely made up of white, working-class, middle aged men – in other words those that the Islington intellectuals in Labour used to court, but now treat with disdain and mockery.

There’s no sorrow in the fact that racism is treated with scorn and hostility, nor that fascism or homophobia is given the same reception in most civilised quarters. But there’s no nobility in trashing the ignorant, inarticulate and inept, and nobody should pretend otherwise.

Header Image – Jason Manford, January 2013 by University of Salford Press Office

Why feminists don’t want you ’beach body ready‘

Beach Body Protest, May 2nd 2015, The Right Dishonourable

If there is one thing likely to rouse the Fleet Street paps to an event (besides, obviously, the promise of booze) it is a guarantee of what the pressman’s lexicon has as “totty”.

One therefore has to admire the cunning of those who decided to gather London’s feminists near Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park in nothing but their bikinis. That the assembled were there to protest the recent “Are you beach body ready?” advert, which they say places unfair expectations on women, was a neat irony, but feminism has rarely been shy about recruiting flesh to its cause in the past.

Though some 70,000 people signed a Change.org petition and several hundred complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) – which has duly prohibited it with questions over health claims, offensiveness and social irresponsibility – almost all of the thousand who said they would attend the Hyde Park protest bottled it at the last minute, as the rain clouds hung over London’s sky.

Such was the mismatch between journalists and protestors that it was hard at times to tell who outnumbered whom, a fact that may not be reflected in the impending reports which will doubtless feature images of the shivering would-be swimmers, many of whom had scribbled across themselves in felt-tip pen.

Though many were offended by the adverts, the main complaint was that such imagery was hurting people. Karl, one of a dozen or so men who had turned out to protest, said that he had known someone who had suffered anorexia as a result of pressure to be slim, a problem that has been widely reported in secondary schools around the country.

His friend Agnieszka said that while she believed people should watch their weight and exercise, she herself did not find the image of the advert’s bikini-clad model Renee Somerfield attractive. “To be honest I don’t want to look like that. I want to be thin, I want to be healthy: but it’s too thin.”

Despite this there was a reluctance to ban the pictures outright. Carolina, a mother who had attended with her two adult daughters, said: “I think there’s always people who will side-step government regulations.” What she called for was a “community-driven” approach, the kind of campaigning that is much in vogue among feminists as they seek to deter what they see as bad behaviour without government involvement.

Beach Body Protest at Hyde Park, May 2nd 2015, The Right Dishonourable

Worthy censorship?

Few would dispute that one of the hazards of modern life is a troubled relationship with food. Data from the UK’s National Obesity Observatory showed that 62 percent of adults aged at least 16 were obese or overweight in 2013, with men 10 percent more likely to be so than women. In the year to October 2013 some 2,560 people were admitted to hospital with eating disorders, an 8 percent increase on the year prior, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre, a public stats body.

But some question whether it is wise to combat this problem with increased censorship of the media. Bernie Whelan, an occasional writer on the radical website Spiked, was one of the few who looked on the event with dismay. “It’s so insulting to women to say you can’t stand an advert,” she said.

Like many critics of modern feminism, she cites a growing “victim mentality” among the current crop of women’s rights activists, which has led many to support censorship as a means of improving society. “I suppose even in the 80s many feminists were censorious, but at least there were some feminists for free expression,” Whelan added with not a little regret.

Whether it is for good or ill, the influence of feminists in deciding what can or cannot be published is growing. Discussions over demographic representations in art, gendered toys for children and the alleged dangers of pornography are now the stuff of mainstream journalism, with even the folks at The Sun abandoning the decades old Page 3 feature. Perhaps the Mad Men will yet be tamed.

Is it time to boycott political intolerance?

Honolulu Pride Parade, 2012, Daniel Ramirez

The long debate over what exactly freedom is reached a head last week as various American states wrestled with rehashes of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The bill – signed into federal law by US president Bill Clinton in 1993 – seeks to stop government forcing the religious to disobey their own principles, and has lately been mooted in state form in Indiana and Arkansas.

Such legislation seeks to mediate between individual conscience and “compelling government interest”, most notably over the issue of religiously-inspired discrimination. Handily for the media, a prime example of this emerged in the form of Memories Pizza, whose owner Crystal O’Connor said she would not serve a gay couple’s wedding due to her Christian beliefs when asked about the bill.

The backlash against O’Connor and her husband was swift, with the listing for the pizza joint on reviews site Yelp pelted with negative reviews and lewd images. The website of Memories Pizza was also seemingly defaced, and a charming (and presumably, in US parlance, liberal) high school sports coach took to Twitter to threaten the couple with arson.

This is some turnaround for a country that only struck down its prohibitions against sodomy in 2003. As the orthodoxy of homophobia has eroded in the West campaigners have gradually replaced it with a new one, criminalising the expression of old prejudices. Hate speech laws have spread over much of Europe, with countries such as France, Germany and Austria even outlawing the denial of the Holocaust.

The current furore also follows shortly after the defenestration of Brendan Eich, whose brief role as chief executive of the Firefox creator Mozilla was brought to an end last April after acolytes of the nonprofit discovered he had donated money in support of Proposition 8, a law blocking gay marriage in California.

Eich’s politics were no doubt unsuitable for his role at the open source firm, which prides itself on inclusivity. Yet the threats to boycott Mozilla in the wake of his appointment point to a far uglier trend in progressive politics: that of threatening a person’s livelihood when you find their beliefs repugnant.

In the case of Memories Pizza it was not enough for people merely to protest or boycott a malign policy: the business had to be shut down or forced to comply through the law. Such a case has been mirrored in the UK, with the No More Page 3 campaign against the Sun newspaper’s snaps of naked ladies seeing supermarkets obscure the tabloids in their displays.

When taken together such events show the desire for ideological conformity remains alive despite decades of rebellion from the greyness of the post-war years. So long as people exist there will always be puritans on the Left and Right who cannot tolerate any dissent from their viewpoint, and will punish those who openly express such things.

Unsurprisingly such progressive illiberalism has grown as such measures become unnecessary. Even in famously prudish America firms as big as Apple, General Electric and US retailer Walmart rushed to slate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, realising that the progressive markets are increasingly more lucrative than conservative ones.

That is not to say, as UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage recently recommended, that we rub out the anti-discrimination laws. But it is worth asking what sort of democracy we are creating if any dissent from orthodoxy is punished through boycotts and threats. It is also worth asking if such shrieking changes the minds of people, or merely pushes their complaints underground, where they fester and grow more noxious.

Image – Daniel Ramirez

Confused King Cole drives tank to BBC HQ

Many will have heard of the bemusing petition to have Jeremy Clarkson reinstated after what the BBC conveniently dubbed a “fracas” with a Top Gear producer, thus exempting journos from having to spell out any of the widely known allegations against the motorhead.

Led by political gossiper Guido Fawkes, the document has now reached 1,000,000 signatures, shortly after Guido lieutenant Harry Cole drove a tank up to BBC Broadcasting House just off Oxford Street in London to deliver those already collected.

In a bizarre interview to hacks gathered outside the Beeb’s HQ, Cole attempted to justify the petition’s request whilst skirting the fact that Clarkson is alleged to have sent a man to A&E for want of a warm steak, the kind of behaviour that would warrant a sacking from most any other job.

Source: on demand news

“Punish Clarkson all you need, but don’t punish the viewers,” Cole said, ignoring the obvious fact that in his terms they are one in the same, given that he deems the presenter “an integral part of the most popular show the BBC makes”. If the Beeb cannot harm the fans, what power do they have over Clarkson?

“Not everyone has the same leftwing, metropolitan, liberal-elite outlook on life that the BBC have,” he continued to bluster. Does he mean to suggest that prohibiting workplace violence is some radical leftwing ruse?