Let’s all be proud about Gay Pride

Major cities around the world were yesterday regaled with exuberant homo- trans-sexual festivities going by the name of Gay Pride Day.

New York, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Toronto all witnessed joyful processions of LGBT persons rightly proud of their unorthodox take on human sexuality. And far be it from me to deny that practising various forms of penile or extra-penile gratification is a legitimate source of pride.

LGBT, in case you’re wondering, isn’t a telephone service splitting away from British Telecom, but an abbreviation for a valuable, some will say defining, social trend of our time. So of course its trailblazers have much to be proud about.

Just think of the T part of the acronym.

Ponder the courage it takes for a man to have a significant portion of his anatomy surgically removed and another part fashioned in its place out of the now useless folds of skin. Add to this debilitating hormone treatments, electrolysis, voice coaching, necessary sartorial modifications, and you’ll realise that it takes a well-nigh inhuman power of one’s convictions to go through with such an upheaval.

Yet even that pales in comparison with the ordeal of a woman undergoing a similar process in reverse. After all, she too has to suffer amputation, in this instance of her bust and, possibly if partly, buttocks. But then she also has to have something sewn on, which is always harder and more fraught with discomfort than snipping it off.

I don’t know whether male and female T’s have a reciprocal agreement, with one half swapping their breasts for the other half’s penises, but that sounds like a logical transaction, and one preventing unnecessary waste. In any case, if the determination to suffer for one’s innermost convictions isn’t something to be proud of, I don’t know what is.

I’m assuming that my friend, the New York journalist Vladimir Kozlovsky, is wrong in suggesting that the word ‘pride’ is here used in the same sense in which it describes a pack of large feline predators.

One detects a tinge of underhand sarcasm in this suggestion, which betokens latent homophobia so prevalent among persons of Russian extraction. Though Vladimir and I grew up at the same time and but a few Moscow streets apart, I’m happy that I don’t harbour any such latent hostilities.

Nor do I object to turning one’s sexuality into a political statement. After all, modern politics have become so voluminous that they can accommodate practically any novel form of self-expression.

For example, by proclaiming a preference for nut patties over beef burgers, a person sends an important message: he/she/it refuses to squeeze his/her/its individuality into the yoke of convention. The message certainly has a political aspect, but it transcends it by insisting on upholding a more stringent morality than that prescribed by the Abrahamic religions.

Vegetarianism also strikes a blow for freedom of individual choice and against any attempt by… well, anybody to impose any arbitrary diktats. LGBT lands the same blow with an even more resounding thud.

It’s a matter of individual choice to decide how or by whom/what one’s orifices are penetrated, fondled or otherwise stimulated, and to what use plastic straws or root vegetables can be put. And when the right to any individual choice is forcefully upheld, this also promotes personal freedom in general.

Just think of all the intrepid freedom fighters throughout history, think of all those heroes who died for their rights – and vicariously ours. They had to rush chest first into machinegun fire, walk to the pyre, ram an enemy plane with their own.

What, you object that LGBT heroes fight for their cause without taking similar risks to life and limb? How wrong you are! Think of all those complicated surgical procedures that can go wrong with fatal consequences. Above all, think of Aids, that man-made blight undoubtedly synthesised by the conservative establishment to exterminate those courageous LGBT fighters for human dignity and good taste.

Have you thought about it? Well, then you must have realised that any such person has as much right to be proud of his/her/its erotic achievements as any RAF pilot flying his Lancaster into a cloud of flak.

My only concern is the slight unfairness of it. After all, if we accept – as we must! – that one’s sexuality, especially if it’s at odds with Judaeo-Christian morality, can be a source of pride, why limit it to LGBT?

This is nothing short of discriminatory, and we all know that discrimination of any kind – sex, race, age, aesthetic – has replaced the seven outdated sins as the ultimate, nay only, unpardonable transgression. Certainly all LGBT persons regard it as such, which is why I’m sure they’ll bend over backwards to support the initiative I’m hereby putting forth.

Why not have Adultery Pride Day? Bestiality Pride Day? Necrophilia Pride Day? Masturbation Pride Day? Incest Pride Day? And so forth? Assuming that there are enough days in the year to cover every known deviation from what’s criminally described as the norm, wouldn’t this be a natural extension of amorous self-respect into true universality?

If these milestones were enshrined in our calendar, I’d proudly march in all ensuing parades, even though I’m not admitting any natural or existential entitlement to march in any of them.

It’s just that every person who cares about his/her/its freedom must fight for the freedom of others. Discriminating against any person or his/her/its sexuality diminishes me, to paraphrase John Donne ever so slightly. No man is an island, Lesbos or any other.

A rat is running around the Vatican. Can you smell it?

My nose may be over-sensitive, but I smell trouble.

There are indications that the Catholic Church can follow our own C of E into the abyss of secular PC modernity.

To begin with, when a conservative organisation, which the Church is supposed to be by definition, uses modern polling methods to determine its policy, alarm bells ought to start ringing in every belfry.

Yet that’s what the Vatican did when last year questionnaires were sent to 1.2 billion Catholics all over the world. Considering that about half of them are undereducated Latin American peasants, the polls probed rather deeply into some recondite theological areas.

Here are two sample questions:

Question 1 a): “Describe how the Catholic Church’s teachings on the value of the family contained in the Bible, Gaudium et spes, Familiaris consortio and other documents of the post-conciliar Magisterium is understood by people today?”

Question 2 a): “What place does the idea of the natural law have in the cultural areas of society: in institutions, education, academic circles and among the people at large? What anthropological ideas underlie the discussion on the natural basis of the family?”

It may be disrespectful but true to suggest that even many seminary-educated priests would struggle with such queries. As to the lay Catholics in underprivileged parts of the world, their idea of the natural law is probably vendetta bequeathed from one generation to another.

Anyway, the results are now in and – make sure you’re sitting down, the shock will be so overpowering – most Catholics don’t seem to follow the Church’s dicta on such things as sex before, in or outside marriage, divorce, contraception and cohabitation, heterosexual or otherwise.

In fact, as the Church concedes, its stand on such issues is “commonly perceived today as an intrusion in the intimate life of the couple”.

Now, by unerringly predicting such findings, any sensible person could have spared the Vatican the vast expense of producing and distributing hundreds of millions of questionnaires.

Overwhelming empirical evidence aside, even cursory familiarity with Genesis would lead to the conclusion that most people are sinners. If that weren’t the case, Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular would be superfluous.

Let my learned Catholic friends correct me, but my impression is that this institution, and others like it, have been brought into this world precisely to assist people’s salvation in spite of their being sinners.

Part of this mission has to be communicating in no uncertain terms what sin is and how it must be avoided or, that failing, repented and atoned.

Yet the Church’s reaction to the poll results seems to be that, if most people sin against its doctrine, the doctrine must be revised and the very concept of sin redefined.

This reaction is as predictable as the results themselves. After all, what would have been the point of wasting millions on this poll if the Church hadn’t been prepared to readjust its doctrine to public opinion?

To be sure, Church officials couched their plans in the language of public relations. They didn’t come out and say that the doctrine was going to be changed. Instead Monsignor Bruno Forte only said that “We will not close our eyes to anything. These problems will be considered.”

What problems would they be? That most people are sinners? One would suggest that this problem has been adequately covered both in the Scripture and the subsequent theological literature.

And what’s the point in considering such problems, or indeed finding out about them by sending out useless questionnaires, if the Church remains firm in its adherence to doctrine?

The only proper response to such findings would be that the Church must redouble its efforts in offering doctrinal guidance to parishioners, telling them what’s right and what’s wrong, perhaps explaining to them that their salvation may be compromised if they go wrong.

After all, even secular laws don’t automatically change because many people break them. Nor are they adjusted to accommodate lawbreakers. If they were, Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise, to name just one department, would have to be abolished.

One would expect an even greater rigidity in matters of Church doctrine. Alas, secular trends inspired by political correctness these days trump tradition everywhere you look. This, regrettably, includes even organisations whose raison d’être is to protect tradition from secular fads.







Poroshenko isn’t a Nazi, not the way Putin means it

Putin was the ventriloquist, his stooge Sergei Glazyev the dummy. Fairness thus demands that the former be given credit for the words mouthed by the latter.

The words were inspired by President Poroshenko’s having agreed to sign a trade agreement with the EU, which angered the KGB colonel no end.

Hence, talking through Glazyev, he spoke from the heart: “They organised a military coup in the Ukraine, they helped Nazis to come to power. This Nazi government is bombing the largest region in the Ukraine.”

A reader not blessed with fluency in KGB language may require a translation. Here it is: any Ukrainian, or for that matter any denizen of any former Soviet republic, who opposes the KGB domination of his country is ipso facto a Nazi or, to diversify the vocabulary, a fascist.

It would be useless to insist on etymological precision – the KGB/FSB has its own lexicon that only ever overlaps with the accepted one by accident. However, if we insist on staying within the bounds of convention, Poroshenko is a centrist by any Western definition.

Moreover, the two Ukrainian parties that could be legitimately described in such disparaging terms collectively polled about 1.5 per cent of the vote in the last election. In Russia herself similar parties consistently claim the better part of a quarter of the electorate. Nazi-style marches are also much more popular in Moscow than in Kiev.

Never mind: Poroshenko’s government is resisting a takeover by the truly fascist gangs armed, trained, inspired and largely staffed by Putin’s sponsoring organisation. That makes Poroshenko a Nazi in the colonel’s eyes, and that’s all there is to it.

There’s a more interesting subject there, trying to emerge out of the blobs of KGB effluvia. Poroshenko isn’t even remotely a Nazi because he’s resisting a KGB takeover of his country. But is he one because he’s playing footsies with the EU?

In other words, is the EU a crypto-Nazi setup, a Fourth Reich achieved by stealth rather than violence? Is Angela Merkel in the direct line of descent from Bismarck, Kaiser Wilhelm and Hitler?

It’s tempting to answer these questions with an unqualified yes and, at my lazy moments, I myself have yielded to the temptation. Yet such an answer is simplistic, perfectly acceptable in a dinner-table argument, but unfit for serious analysis.

The EU was brought to life by a confluence of factors, and some of its German founders were enemies of the Nazis. Konrad Adenauer, for example, was their vociferous opponent who only by miracle didn’t end up in Dachau with piano wire round his neck. As it was, he was arrested several times and had his job, house and bank account taken away from him.

After the war, as West Germany’s first Chancellor, Adenauer sought his country’s redemption for her wartime sins. The contemporary French leaders, such as de Gaulle, were also trying to heal their wounds, especially those inflicted by the country’s defeat in 1940.

I like to describe this meeting of minds epigrammatically: the Germans no longer wanted to be like Germans, but the French did. This confluence of subterranean emotional streams made both nations receptive to the rhetoric of the hardcore federalists committed to creating a single European state.

Now that group wasn’t as immune to accusations of Nazi sympathies as either Adenauer or de Gaulle. In fact it came together during the Nazi occupation of France, when the two bureaucracies were partly merged. Working side by side, they discovered they had much in common.

Nor could all of them be absolved of direct collaboration with the Nazis. For example, the Belgian Paul-Henri Spaak, one of the principal architects of the EU, had clear pro-Nazis sympathies and campaigned feverishly against Britain and France declaring war on Germany.

And Walter Hallstein, the first president of the European Commission, held a number of important posts under the Nazis. Though he never belonged to the NSDAP, he was a member of many other Nazi organisations and, in his capacity of law professor, preached Nazi legality to his students.

Personalities apart, the idea of pan-European integration was at the time the sole property of the socialist hard Left, be it in its national or international incarnation. Assorted Nazis and fascists espoused the principles of European federalism even before the war, and certainly during it. This was one debt of gratitude that Hitler, according to his recorded conversations, owed to Marx.

Our own Oswald Mosley, for example, was a keen federalist and in fact, as a foretaste of later publishing ventures, his newspaper was called The European. The Nazis also talked about a single European state in terms indistinguishable from those used by Barroso or Juncker.

In fact, if one juxtaposed the communiqué of the 1943 Nazi conference on united Europe with the text of the Maastricht Treaty, one would be struck by the similarity of both language and underlying animus.

Specifically, the EU programme of economic development follows faithfully the plans first laid down by Walter Funk, the Nazi Economics Minister. (Despite being as guilty as the other defendants, he was mysteriously spared the death sentence at Nuremberg.)

Thus, though it’s crude to equate the EU with Nazi Germany, it’s impossible to deny that a strong Nazi (or fascist, if you’d rather) strain has been present in that organisation since its founding.

The very notion of a giant corporatist state divorced from national accountabilities and dominated by a close-knit quasi-Gnostic elite has a distinct fascist ring to it. Hence, if one wanted to paint Poroshenko with the Nazi brush, one could allude to the nature of the organisation he’s so eager to join.

The accusation wouldn’t survive being held to the standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt, but at least there would be some truth to it. However, such subtleties would take the functionally illiterate Col. Putin out of his depth. It’s so much easier to stick to the proven formula: anti-KGB means Nazi.

In their current mood most Russians are willing to accept such simplicity of political thought. Worryingly, so are some Westerners (Peter Hitchens, ring your office.)

Dubya-Tony are no longer there, but their cause lives on

The current shambles in the Middle East came about as a direct consequence of the criminal invasion of Iraq in 2003.

There’s no point arguing about this: sensible people know it anyway, and the neocon fanatics will remain deaf to reason and blind to facts no matter what.

The immediate question is how to handle the situation, now it has arisen. What do we do next? More important, what should we not do?

One doesn’t have to know the difference between Shiite and a trip to the lavatory to answer this question. Good old common sense will suffice.

The invasion set the whole region on fire, and there’s little we can do now to extinguish it. Our first concern ought to be not to let the Arab Spring turn into a nuclear winter.

Again, preventing a homemade dirty bomb from going off in the middle of a Western capital is worth an effort, but it’s likely to be futile.

With the European countries having lost control of their borders de jure, and the USA de facto, it’s unrealistic to expect our police to be able to examine every suspicious-looking suitcase carried by every swarthy-looking person.

Partly this is because singling out swarthy-looking persons for such treatment will result in crippling lawsuits faster than you can say ‘racial discrimination’. Either our policemen check all suitcases or they check none, and the former is a logistic impossibility.

Hence the doomsayers predicting an imminent terrorist act somewhere in the West are probably right. The nest has been poked, and the hornets are buzzing all over the place.

The cause to which we must devote all our efforts is keeping factory-made nuclear weapons away from Muslim states likely to use them. In the most immediate future, this means Iran.

Thanks to earlier American blunders, the arguably nasty but generally pro-Western Shah was in 1977 replaced by Muslim fanatics, who remain in power to this day. Since then they’ve been hatching all sorts of madcap plans that can be summed up with one word: murder.

The potential victims cover a broad spectrum: every Israeli goes without saying, but then there are also Sunnis, Westerners, Christians, infidels, apostates, Iraqis, anyone who disputes Iran’s leadership of the Muslim world and so forth.

The list is long but, without nuclear weapons, Iran’s reach is short. Granted, some of the entries in the hit list can be dealt with without such weapons. An AK would suffice or, for old times’ sake, a scimitar.

But neither Israel nor the West can be defeated, or even grievously hurt, with conventional weapons, and without those targets the list looks woefully incomplete. That’s why a nuclear capability is a must for the ayatollahs, and that’s why they’ve been striving to acquire it with their characteristic combination of fanaticism and stealth.

When Iraq harboured similar ambitions, the Israeli Air Force took out the Osirak nuclear reactor in a daring 1981 raid. Since then the possibility of Iraq developing a nuclear capability has existed only in the fevered imaginations, and mendacious propaganda, of the Dubya-Tony set.

The Israelis could probably do a similar job on Iran, though some experts dispute their technical capability to succeed. Yet should the Israeli force be augmented by US aircraft carriers, the task would definitely become feasible.

However, one critical element is missing: the will. The most sophisticated and devastating military force is impotent in the absence of the determination to use it, and such determination is nowhere to be seen.

Instead our wishy-washy leaders have relied on sanctions, which at best could slow down the process of Iran’s nuclear empowerment, not stop it. But at least until now the West, specifically its Anglophone part, has been making the right noises.

Now even the noises have changed. The Sunni thugs are close to overrunning Iraq, Syria and possibly Afghanistan, a prospect that understandably displeases Nato analysts. The onslaught has to be stopped, but the question is how. And by whom?

The Americans have punched themselves out, as they usually do after a few years. The Brits, ably led by Tony, only went to war to kiss a certain part of Dubya’s anatomy and, now that part is no longer in the presidential chair, we’re certainly not going to go it alone.

Who then? Who will wipe out the ISIS, especially now it’s about to be reinforced by a large Syrian contingent? The answer the battle-weary Yanks have come up with is similar to that first proffered by the jaded Romans.

The latter had lost their taste for fighting and decided instead to hire others, specifically the Visigoths, to do their fighting for them. To that end they trained and equipped those chaps, gave them battle experience and elevated some of them, such as Alaric, to reasonably high command. We all know what happened next.

In an exact parallel, the Americans, presumably with our acquiescence, have decided to use Iran in the same capacity as the Romans used the Visigoths, as mercenaries.

But mercenaries have to be paid – not just in cash but also in respect. Alaric eventually turned against Rome because he felt underappreciated, not just because he was underpaid.

We know how the West will pay the Iranians in cash: the Fed’s printing presses are in working order, and no amount of paper will present a problem. But how, besides money, will the West show its gratitude?

The only gesture the ayatollahs will accept is the West’s help, or at least acquiescence, in Iran’s fulfilling her strategic objectives. These, as I’ve suggested, are inseparable from their push to acquire nuclear weapons.

Therefore, using Iran the way Rome used the Visigoths is tantamount to arming Iran with nuclear weapons. The consequences of this could be, almost certainly will be, even more catastrophic than Alaric sacking Rome, and yet the only alternative the West has so far come up with is sending 300 Special Forces men to Iraq.

One wonders if all those neocon champions of democracy in the Middle East are beginning to have second thoughts about the whole enterprise. Probably not: these chaps are incapable of any thought, first or second.

In their own way they’re as fanatical as the ayatollahs, which is perhaps why they feel a certain affinity for them. The rest of us can feel nothing but disgust tinged with fear.














It’s not monotheism that’s the problem. It’s Matthew Parris

Matthew Parris is ‘invigorated by a new idea’, which seems preferable to some other things by which Mr Parris is known to be invigorated from time to time.

The trouble is that the source of his excitement doesn’t qualify as an idea, and neither is it particularly new.

Mr Parris has recently found himself involved in ‘a ground-breaking exploration of a massive problem’: God. The way he words the topic already contains the answer. To Mr Parris and his supper companions, God constitutes a problem, not the solution.

That’s fair enough – faith is a gift in the literal meaning of the word: something presented by an outside donor. Since the donor is the active party in the transaction, it’s up to him to proffer the gift or not, though one is allowed to ask for it.

Mr Parris, or anyone else, is therefore to be pitied for his atheism, but not blamed. However, using atheism as the starting point of idiotic musings is no one’s fault but his own. For this Mr Parris must be rebuked.

In what sense is God ‘a massive problem’? And what eternal verities did the ‘ground-breaking exploration’ reveal?

“A supreme supra-national being [tends] to draw loyalties away from the secular state” is the answer to both questions.

This statement strikes one as remarkable even by the standards of Mr Parris’s consistently crepuscular thinking. For the underlying proposition has to be that the secular state should inspire loyalties higher than which none should exist.

True enough, those secular states that proceeded from the same assumption had little tolerance for religious faith. The most up-to-date examples, which must have served as the models for Mr Parris to follow, are provided by Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany.

Apart from their propensity for murdering large numbers of people, usually by category, the two regimes shared two other characteristics. They were both socialist (like Mr Parris), and they both detested Western, which is to say Christian, civilisation (ditto).

One can understand how they felt: if there is one secular conviction that must logically flow out of Christianity, it’s that the individual is primary and the state is secondary. When Christ said that his kingdom was not of this world, he established an immutable pecking order: his kingdom was higher than this world.

Etched into a Christian’s soul is the innate knowledge that he’s transcendent but the state is transient. Hence in everything that matters he can only regard the state not as his master but as his servant. If the state’s actions suggest that it’s assuming the role of master, then the believer may either resist it or pretend at a moment of weakness to be going along to protect himself from persecution. But inwardly he’ll never acquiesce.

Preaching the primacy of the state is tantamount to negating at a stroke the 2,000 years of our civilisation – and the worrying thing is that Mr Parris doesn’t even realise that’s what he’s doing. Nor does he seem to be aware of the identity of the modern states that were especially arduous in practising what he preaches.

He deplores “the moral absolutism that a higher God than parliament underwrites: abortion, divorce, gay marriage, IVF research, Sunday trading, pacifism and gambling, for example”.

Contextually, Mr Parris believes that none of those ought to be resisted on moral or any other grounds, which is his privilege and, in some of those areas, also his personal choice. Yet in his two model states, those that enviably didn’t allow any conflicting loyalties, homosexuals were routinely castrated and even executed (Nazi Germany) or imprisoned (the Soviet Union). Perhaps then, monotheism isn’t the only culprit.

Mr Parris hasn’t been blessed with a far-reaching intellect, but his instincts are in working order. It’s true that the modern secular state to which he has pledged his undivided loyalty is at odds with Christianity.

The two are in fact incompatible: just as the early Christians went to their death for refusing to accept the divinity of the Roman emperor, so will today’s Christians never accept the state’s supremacy over God.

That’s why all modern states without exception are trying to expunge Christianity or, failing that, to marginalise it. That is also why the power of all modern states is steadily growing pari passu with the diminishing power of the individual.

In the West this tendency takes the shape of democratic despotism, what Tocqueville, and Mill after him, mistakenly called ‘the tyranny of the majority’. In fact, in our so-called democracies the majority merely acquiesces in the tyranny imposed by a small political elite, to which Mr Parris, a former Tory MP and now a Times columnist, belongs, however tangentially.

I don’t know what this elite has established as its membership qualifications, but Mr Parris’s example proves that the ability to put together a cogent argument isn’t one of them.

He thinks he’s saying something of substance, whereas all that comes across in his gibberish is that Matthew Parris hates God. Who cares?

However, I for one would love to find out how God feels about Matthew Parris.




Sports commentary in the service of ethnography

Much can be inferred about a nation by watching sports on its television.

Or at least this is my excuse for spending hours glued to the screen, what with the World Cup and Wimbledon overlapping this June.

Somehow I have to justify this waste of time by intellectualising it, pretending that I thereby study the cultural differences between England and France, where I happen to be at the moment.

Such pretence isn’t altogether groundless, for French commentators do provide ample material for ethnographic research.

The operative word in their job description isn’t ‘commentators’ but ‘French’. That’s what they are and they never let one forget it.

The other day one of them explained, just as a defender threw himself into a potentially leg-breaking, possibly life-threatening, tackle, that football isn’t just physical. Au contraire, it’s replete with philosophical and specifically metaphysical subtexts.

The French, I hasten to disclaim not to upset my local friends, are a very intelligent race. However, they aren’t as collectively intelligent as they seem to think. No nation is.

Whether this lack of self-awareness is tasteless pretence or woeful misapprehension is hard to say. Nor does it matter: overhearing waiters arguing which of them is Pascalian and which is Cartesian still makes one laugh or, if the main course has been too long in coming, wince.

Such incidents prove that teaching philosophy as a compulsory subject in secondary school isn’t necessarily a good idea. The football commentator I mentioned provides further proof, if any is needed.

No single generation in any country is ever blessed with more than a handful of people able to grasp the subtleties of metaphysical philosophy. At the risk of committing the cardinal sin of generalising, I don’t think that such overachievers are to be found in the ranks of football commentators.

Even less likely is that the tattooed gentlemen who play the game professionally ever ponder its philosophical implications. Nor do their coaches explain the immanent nature of the game or its existential aspects. They just tell their defenders to ‘let’im know you’re there’, meaning ‘try to kick him out of the game without getting yourself sent off.’

Then there’s partisanship. It would be presuming too much on human nature to expect football commentators to be dispassionately unbiased. They aren’t automata. They’re men of flesh and blood, and of course they’re going to support their team.

The question is how far they should go in communicating their feelings and which team they regard as their own.

That French commentators want to see France win goes without saying. But what about teams from Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Algeria or Belgium?

One quickly finds out that, while being French can only be regarded as a generous and unparalleled gift from God, being French-speaking is second best. Once a nation has been anointed with Francophone culture, it becomes for ever French, or almost that.

Thus French commentators shriek their support for the teams I mentioned with almost the same jingoistic passion as that they reserve for France.

This is in stark contrast to English commentators, who are unlikely to give preferential treatment to a team from, say, Ghana or Nigeria. England yes, Scotland maybe, Jamaica most unlikely.

One also notices that, when covering teams from France or her former territories, the commentators aren’t much given to meiotic understatement.

Chaps, let’s be serious here. Missing an open goal is neither  a tragedy nor a catastrophe. Going one-nil down isn’t a calamity of cosmic proportions. Even – dare I say it? – losing a match to Brazil isn’t quite the same as losing a war to Germany.

And, while we’re at it, a referee who gives a penalty against your team just may be either right or honestly mistaken. He shouldn’t be automatically assumed to be in the pay of the evil forces personified by France’s opponents.

Also, lowering the decibel level of the celebrations following a goal scored by France or, for that matter, Ivory Coast (that is, Côte d’Ivoire) would go down a treat. It’s not as if Hollande had been kicked out of office, or France’s labour unions had decided they shouldn’t call massive strikes every week.

Another thing is phonetics. English commentators aren’t all classically educated polyglots, but at least they make an effort to pronounce foreign names in a vaguely foreign way. Sometimes they make too much of an effort, for example when insisting on pronouncing the Castilian interdental consonant in names like Lopez.

The French make no effort at all. All names, regardless of their provenance, are pronounced according to the strict rules of French phonetics. That leaves one wondering who the hell Marqueguess is until, at an epiphanic moment, one realises it’s our good old Mark Hughes.

The same goes for the tennis commentators, with minor yet telling differences. The first thing one notices is that they refer to all French players by their Christian names, not surnames.

Thus our sole world-class player is Murré or perhaps Ondeemurré, but French players are just Jo-Wilfried, Julian, Richard or Jéremy. Like the twelve apostles they have no surnames – forget about Tsonga, Benneteau, Gasquet or Chardy.

Such intimacy is reflected in the programming. One of the world’s top players, say, Roger Federer, may be playing the world’s Number 23 on Centre Court. However, if a French girl ranked Number 67 is at the same time playing a lower-ranked opponent on Court 16, that’s what the French TV will show – and if you don’t like it, you can suck un oeuf.

Perhaps sensing that no one, not even the French, gives two flying balls about the match, the commentators will typically chat about unrelated subjects throughout, not even bothering to comment on the game in progress.

A propos, Jacques,” they’d say in their smiley, carefully enunciated French, “would you remember whom Henri [Leconte] beat  in the third round of the 1985 Australian Open?” “But no, Jean-Pierre, I don’t, I’m desolate.” “Well, guess…” This can go on until the next commercial break, with the match on the screen never rating a mention.

Perhaps one really ought to consider the metaphysics of it all. Or else turn the sound off and watch the game proceed in dignified silence.



Juncker is beginning to look better and better

Generally, unless some cataclysmic event is under way, I avoid writing two consecutive pieces on the same subject.

However, I’m warming up to Jean-Claude so rapidly that a single article can no longer contain all the burgeoning affection.

The more he’s criticised, the warmer this emotion becomes, with both the personalities of his detractors and the nature of their arguments acting as Bunsen burners.

In fact, all worthy men must praise Jean-Claude for what his critics see as his disqualifying habits.

Apparently Juncker likes a drink, which makes him almost Churchillian. One has to admit regretfully that my friend Jean-Claude has little else in common with our wartime leader, but even some resemblance is laudable.

Cognac at breakfast? This means the man wants to start his day in high gear, ready to take on the world. A shot of brandy in a cup of strong black coffee is the best upper known to man, this side of the law, that is.

To continue the flattering parallel with Churchill, Winston reportedly drank a bottle of booze and up to five bottles of champagne every day. Simple arithmetic would suggest that he must have started at breakfast too, for otherwise there wouldn’t have been enough hours in the day to get so much alcohol down his neck.

So let’s scratch that as a minus, chalk it up in the plus column and move on. My new friend also smokes, thus ignoring the diktats of health fascists. Surely this has to be a sign of good character?

It’s also an indication of a refined sense of style, for it would be aesthetically incongruous for someone who drinks spirits at breakfast not to accompany – or, better still, precede – his first shot with a cigarette.

Jean-Claude’s nemeses don’t specify his brand but, since I feel an intuitive empathy for him, I bet I know what it must be. Unfiltered blue Gauloise, black and strong, just like the two espressos Jean-Claude drinks at breakfast to dilute his hair of the dog.

He also swears in half a dozen languages, which only a prissy middle-class wimp would hold against him. Show me a man afraid of flouting bourgeois conventions, and I’ll show you one whose sphincter needs loosening, surgically if need be.

Switching from one language to another when swearing is a sign of impeccable manners. It’s rude to swear in a language one’s interlocutor doesn’t understand. False modesty aside, I regard myself as a man of irreproachable decorum, which is why I always abuse fellow motorists in their language, not my own.

This goes for semiotic swearing too. Thus it would be rude to flick two fingers (about which later) or make an onanistic gesture in front of one’s forehead at a Frenchman, who’s unlikely to understand the message. The polite alternative is to shoot one’s forearm up while simultaneously slapping one’s biceps.

I don’t claim to be as much of a polyglot as Jean-Claude, but we both try our best to strike a blow for propriety by gearing our self-expression to our interlocutor’s understanding.

Here he’s reported to be laying into a government colleague: “I f*** where, who, and when I want – do you get me? You could f*** too, but you can’t even do that – your German correctness… won’t allow you to.”

One can take many positives out of this tirade, and only two negatives: it should be ‘whom’, not ‘who’, and the word f*** in the second sentence requires a direct object. Yet these minor solecisms are outweighed by the mighty spirit (or spirits, if you’d rather) shining through. 

Certain animosity to the Germans, shared by all worthy men including most Germans, is also discernible, giving the lie to the slanderous accusations of Jean-Claude being Frau Merkel’s minion.

As to the f-word, it doesn’t really matter whether it was used literally, in an amorous sense, or metaphorically, in the sense of treating someone harshly. The whole phrase shows an independence of spirit(s) that would be incompatible with Juncker’s putative servitude to Frau Merkel.

Thus the ad hominems levelled at Jean-Claude lack any substance whatsoever, and the same goes for the feeble attempts to besmirch his politics.

As I suggested yesterday, Jean-Claude’s devotion to European federalism is simply a job requirement. A believer in national sovereignty can no more become an EU functionary than a pacifist serve in the SAS.

Yesterday the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith ignored this obvious fact, choosing instead to whip the decomposing carcass of the dead horse.

“If they give Jean-Claude Juncker a job,” he said, “this is like literally flicking two fingers at the rest of Europe… I have always been of the view that there needs to be major change within the European Union if Britain is to honestly think this is a viable enterprise for us… At the end of the day every elected MP has a free vote, they have to take the decision of their conscience.”

On the evidence of Mr Duncan Smith’s statement, the proposed English test as an ironclad requirement for residency ought to be extended to our cabinet ministers as well.

The fingers on one hand, including the two flickable ones, won’t suffice to count the solecisms he managed to jam into just three sentences:

Juncker isn’t after ‘a job’. What Mr Duncan Smith doesn’t want him to get is ‘the job’.

The proverbial flicking is in this case metaphorical, not literal.

Anyhow ‘they’, meaning continental federalists, wouldn’t ‘flick two fingers at us’, for the reason I outlined earlier: this manifestation of opprobrium is strictly British.

‘To honestly think’ is illiterate: government ministers may get away with splitting hairs, not infinitives.

‘At the end of the day’ is a meaningless, parasitic cliché to be avoided in cultured speech.

Since the antecedent ‘every elected MP’ is singular, it should be followed by a singular personal pronoun, which ‘he’ is and ‘they’ isn’t.

If the word ‘his’ burns the lips conditioned to utter politically correct usages only, it’s possible to get around this offensive pronoun without coming across as an ignoramus. Had Mr Duncan Smith said ‘all elected MPs’, he would have been on safe grammatical grounds.

Jean-Claude probably uses English better than our own leaders, which wouldn’t be difficult, and this is yet another argument in his favour.

But the argument to end all arguments is the one Mr Duncan Smith only hinted at: Juncker’s appointment to the presidency of the European Commission would strengthen the Out vote in a future referendum.

If so, all one can say is ‘Go, Jean-Claude!’. We need you.  






Juncker for president: trust Dave to stand on a moot point

By combining a French Christian name with a German surname, Jean-Claude Juncker carries the very essence of the EU within him.

A Europe dominated by Germany, with France bringing up the rear and all other countries doing as they’re told, is the ideal towards which the EU strives.

The ideal was achieved in 1940-1941, but it wasn’t sustained long enough to turn a toehold into a firm purchase. Therefore it had to come back in a different incarnation bearing a less aggressive name. The European Union sounds so much more benign than the Third, or for that matter Fourth, Reich, wouldn’t you say?

One has to acknowledge ruefully that this ideal, attractive though it doubtless is to some, goes against the grain of both Britain’s political tradition and the intuitive knowledge of her people. But then the EU wasn’t created for our benefit – its purpose from the very beginning was to convert Germany’s national socialism into the international variant.

Not only every Commission president, from Hallstein to Barroso via Delors and Prodi, but every EU functionary and indeed enthusiast is aware of its nature and supports it wholeheartedly.

The differences among them are slight and strictly personal, mainly springing from the branch of Marxism they used to espouse but pretend not to any longer, or else from the specific tactics they favour.

Just as one assumes that any lifeguard can swim, so can one be certain that any candidate for Commission presidency, or any other post in the EU bureaucracy, is committed to the cause of a single European state dominated by you know whom.

This makes Dave’s last stand against the forces of federalist evil, as personified by Juncker, either stupid or cynical or, more likely, both. Yes, Dave, the muscular lifeguard at our municipal pool knows how to swim, and, yes, Juncker or any other candidate for the position is a federalist. What else is new?

Any British statesman, evidently an extinct breed, would work tirelessly towards taking Britain out of this foul abomination. Not being a statesman, and being British in the technical sense only, Dave intends to do nothing of the sort.

In what passes for his heart he’s as committed to the cause of European federalism as is Barroso, Rumpy-Pumpy or, for that matter, Juncker. Unlike them, however, he has to be clever about it if he doesn’t want most of the Tory party to vote Ukip in the next election.

Such a shift would hurt the cause that Dave holds even dearer than European federalism: himself, Dave. Hence he has to pretend he’s fighting the EU tooth and nail, trying to wrench a better deal for Britain out of it.

Like all modern politicians, Dave counts on the public being ignorant, which in this case means not realising that no better deal exists, nor can exist.

Britain’s destroying her constitution is a treasonous act for which there can be no redemption – a pre-gnawed bone tossed our way from the EU table isn’t going to feed those hungry for restoring the country’s ancient sovereignty.

Dave either doesn’t understand this or pretends not to. Hence, rather than declaring that he and his party will call an immediate In/Out referendum and campaign for the Out vote, he froths at the mouth and rolls on the floor trying to block Juncker’s candidature.

In the process he comes up with all kinds of specious arguments, such as that Juncker is a federalist. And who isn’t, this side of Nigel Farage?

Now he has come up with a real clincher: Juncker is a sot; he drinks cognac for breakfast. Yes, Dave, but in spite of that he’s still a nonentity, and a pernicious one at that. Now name a EU functionary who isn’t a federalist and win a valuable prize.

Dave’s campaign against Juncker is like Patton’s phantom army 70 years ago, pretending to be ready to invade Pas-de-Calais, while the real invasion force was sailing for Normandy.

Dave’s principal objective is to keep Britain in the EU, and himself and his cronies in cushy jobs when they become unelectable in their own country. Everything else is a smokescreen.










Russian disinformation about fracking: now there’s a surprise

‘Vodka’ and ‘samovar’ apart, the Russians have contributed mostly unpleasant words to the English language.

‘Pogrom’, ‘nomenklatura’, ‘apparatchik’, ‘collectivisation’, ‘golodomor’, ‘gulag’ all fill the darker niches of lexicon, each denoting something for which there’s no indigenous equivalent.

Of these, ‘disinformation’ can take pride of place, and there too no indigenous equivalent exists. ‘Strategic deception’ is the best we can do, and it’s still two words, not one.

Like ‘nomenklatura’ and ‘apparatchik’, ‘disinformation’ adapts a Latin root to Russian needs, the prime of which is to subvert the West, the better to defeat it.

Since ancient times, the Russians have believed that they’re perpetually locked in mortal combat with the West. The battle has mostly been unilateral: the West has engaged it only occasionally, and then usually not so much to conquer Russia as not to be conquered by her.

This hostility reached maniacal heights after the 1917 advent of social justice, that is the Soviets first turning their own country into an abattoir cum concentration camp and then trying to spread this combination universally.

The Soviets correctly perceived that the nightmare they perpetrated upon Russia was so much at odds with Western civilisation that it could never be reconciled with it. One or the other would have to go.

No development in Soviet or post-Soviet policy is intelligible without realising that, one way or another, the Russians never cease to fight their battle against the West.

Like in any other war, the use of military force may be intermittent, but propaganda aimed at demoralising the enemy is continuous. Hence ‘disinformation’, a voluminous concept developed and practised by what in Soviet times was called the KGB’s First Chief Directorate. After perestroika, the same job is done by a quasi-autonomous foreign-intelligence service, the SVR (Sluzhba vneshney razvedki).

KGB disinformation has always pursued multiple objectives. Historically, its first task is to convince the outside world that the Russian nightmare is really a sweet dream.

An abbreviated list of variously successful disinformation operations would include Lenin’s New Economic Policy (NEP), which had nothing to do with liberalisation; Stalin’s ‘vertigo from success’ (ditto); Soviet ‘struggle for peace’ (while preparing for world conquest); Khrushchev’s ‘thaw’; Brezhnev’s ‘détente’; Gorbachev’s ‘perestoika’; Yeltsyn’s ‘collapse of the Soviet Union’; Putin’s ‘democracy’ and what not.

I’d describe such disinformation ops as metaphysical, designed to bring about a favourable shift in Western attitudes, rendering the West disinclined to resist Russia’s knavish plans.

However, just as important has been what could be called physical disinformation aimed at gaining military or strategic superiority over the West. A great part of it is something not unique to Russia: a large-scale operation to portray the country’s armed forces as weak when they are indeed strong, and strong when they are indeed weak.

Soviet disinformation in the run-up to the Second World War is a good example of the former: the country’s army was at the time stronger, in most categories, than those of the rest of the world combined, and it was deployed in an offensive setup. Yet the West was being fed the lie that the Soviet army was purely defensive in strength and deployment.

The opposite example is the Soviet aggressive posturing in the ‘60s, when they were severely outgunned by the USA, and yet managed to punch above their weight by spreading disinformation about the ‘missile gap’.

Such tactics have been known at least since the sixth century BC, when Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War. But the KGB can pride itself for having developed a disinformation technique all its own: energy blackmail in the nuclear age.

One part of it is straightforward. Europe never had in the past, nor especially has now, any conventional capability to stop the tens of thousands of Soviet tanks in their tracks. This can only be done by nuclear weapons.

Hence it hasn’t been the EU, as its fanatics have the gall to claim, but the US nuclear umbrella that has prevented a major European war in the last 70 years. Hence also a concerted Soviet effort to reduce the West’s nuclear arsenal or at least to prevent its wide deployment in Europe.

This is the strategic objective. The tactics include cultivating an army of ‘useful idiots’, influential Westerners who could be tricked, blackmailed or bribed into preaching the Soviet cause.

Some useful idiots are in fact witting agents of influence, but most are used ‘in the dark’, to use the KGB jargon. By a variety of subtle means they’re made to feel they’re fighting for a better world, whereas in fact they’re working to spread the most diabolical evil known in history.

Another important stratagem has been the financing of various front organisations, such as our own dear CND, the hatchery of so many prominent Labour politicians. Whether CND leadership worked for the Soviet cause wittingly or unwittingly is immaterial: one way or the other they did work for it.

An important corollary to the anti-nuke movement has been a lavishly financed campaign not just against nuclear weapons but also against nuclear energy, which effort gathered pace in parallel with the spread of nuclear power stations.

Courtesy of KGB disinformation transmitted through the CND and similar fronts, Western papers were filled with cartoons depicting nuclear power stations disintegrating into mushroom clouds.

Honest physicists screamed themselves hoarse explaining that, unlike weapon-grade Uranium-235, Uranium-238 used to produce electricity is a non-fissile isotope incapable of sustaining a chain reaction. All in vain: the safest form of energy has been hysterically portrayed as cataclysmically dangerous.

The Russians stand to gain from this in two ways. Their most immediate benefit is increasing Europe’s dependence on Russian hydrocarbons and thus keeping their price high. Since oil and gas provide most of the country’s wealth and, more important, Putin’s wealth, the benefit is crucial and immediate.

The other benefit is less obvious and more long-term. By increasing the West’s dependence on Russian and Middle Eastern hydrocarbons, the Russians strengthen their strategic position in their millennium-old war against the West.

They can easily interrupt their own hydrocarbon exports, and almost as easily disrupt those from the Middle East. This gives them a powerful blackmail weapon in peacetime and a decisive military advantage in any future shooting war.

Regarded in this light, their efforts to extend the anti-nuke campaign into one against hydraulic fracturing of shale hydrocarbons become both predictable and understandable.

Fracking can defang a great part of Russia’s offensive strategy by giving the West vast resources of domestic hydrocarbons. The example of the USA, where shale gas has already solved most energy problems, shows that fracking can hurt Russia economically, by reducing her exports and making them cheaper.

More important, making Russian hydrocarbon exports largely irrelevant can make Russia strategically impotent, no longer able to confront the West globally. This sort of thing was bound to focus the Russians’ minds and intensify their disinformation.

According to Anders Fogh Rasmussen, General Secretary of Nato, the Russians are secretly using various environmental groups to act as conduits for this campaign.

The techniques have passed the test of time: fracking is being demonised the same way nuclear energy has been. It’s supposed to present deadly dangers to the environment, while its economic effect would be negligible. Armageddon is upon us, and fracking is it.

Greenpeace and other such groups reacted to the comment by venting their inexhaustible reservoirs of venom. A Greenpeace spokesman, for example, called it ‘preposterous’, adding as a clinching argument that “Greenpeace had thirty of its people locked up in Russian prisons last year, threatened with fifteen years in jail.”

That’s supposed to prove that Greenpeace wouldn’t have anything to do with the Russians. The level of the argument is staggering, as is the ignorance behind it.

Back in the ‘30s Stalin didn’t just threaten Western communists with prison but culled them in their hundreds. He had practically the whole leadership of the Comintern shot or, more usually, tortured to death.

That, however, didn’t prevent other Western communists from toeing the Soviet line slavishly. The Greenpeace statement is therefore yet another larcenous non sequitur in which lefties specialise.

Yet again I don’t care whether the shrill opponents of fracking are fools or knaves – in other words, whether they act in Russia’s interests wittingly or otherwise. I suspect most of them are being used ‘in the dark’ but, even so, it would be naïve to think they aren’t being used at all.


The madness of playwright Alan Bennett

This title, as you doubtless realise, is supposed to be consonant with the title of Bennett’s most famous play.

To achieve this phonetic effect, I had to compromise accuracy to some extent. For Bennett’s virulent attack on public schools isn’t so much mad as stupid. Even worse, it’s symptomatic of leftie thought, if you’ll forgive the oxymoron.

Speaking at Cambridge University, Bennett delivered himself of a diatribe jammed to the gunwales with at least two centuries’ worth of destructive idiocy: “[Private education] is not fair… Governments, even this one, exist to make the nation’s circumstances more fair, but no government, whatever its complexion, has dared to tackle private education.”

This is typical of our times: someone who’s competent in one field feels competent in all others, a claim that our celebrity-worshipping public gobbles up with relish.

Bennett is a decent playwright, a sort of poor man’s Terence Rattigan, not much more than that. Hyperbole reigning supreme in our lean times, he’s often anointed with more exalted adjectives than ‘decent’, yet it’s not my aim here to debate aesthetics.

Be that as it may, his ability to spin a good yarn doesn’t automatically qualify him as an expert in government, which his statement proves to resounding effect.

Governments don’t “exist to make the nation’s circumstances more fair”. They exist to keep the nation free, safe and just. This means protecting people’s life, property and freedom of legitimate action from wickedness, be it on the part of the state itself, domestic criminals or foreign enemies.

When a government is successful in this, its only legitimate, undertaking, all people will be able to seek their own level. Common sense suggests, and empirical evidence proves, that the number of levels is roughly equal to the number of people, and this applies to everything: wealth, culture, education – you name it.

The only way for a government to reduce the number of aspirational levels is to forfeit its legitimacy by excising from its remit the protection of freedom and justice. In other words, for a government to indulge in levelling so dear to Bennett’s heart, it has to turn itself into a tyranny.

This theoretical postulate has been amply proved wherever governments have pursued egalitarianism – with uniformly disastrous results. At one extreme, these ranged from ruining the nation’s economy by dispossessing the economically gifted groups to ruining the nation’s culture by eliminating the educated classes.

At the milder end, socialist governments achieve similar results more slowly and by less violent means, the degree of approximation to the ultimate carnage depending on the government’s zeal.

Specifically in the area on which Alan Bennett chose to enlarge, Britain has proved that any attempt to make everyone equally educated can only succeed in making everyone equally ignorant.

The wanton destruction of grammar schools (and Mr Bennett himself benefited from grammar-school education) predictably achieved the opposite effect from the one intended. It didn’t so much level the playing field as drown it in mud, thereby making it unplayable.

Hence the proliferation of minor public schools: responsible parents are willing to make tremendous sacrifices to prevent their children from turning into little Mowglis, unable to communicate in human speech.

To Bennett this constitutes “unfocused parental anxiety” about “class” and children having to mix with “rough” classmates. Karl Marx did reduce the entire complexity of life to class antagonism, but Bennett must realise that his spiritual father’s ideas have been compromised everywhere they’ve been tried.

The country in which I grew up was a prime example of this. Having gone to a school where half of the boys carried knives (I have a scar in my back to show for it), I can’t blame parents for wishing to protect their children from similar experiences.

Nor can I blame them for pinching every penny to keep their children out of schools that don’t even approach the literacy level taken for granted 150 years ago. It’s not about belonging to a certain class, Mr Bennett. It’s about hanging on to what’s left of our civilisation.

Bennett’s solution to the egregious unfairness of it all? Public schools must be rolled into the comprehensive system – the same one that has turned our education into the laughingstock of the world.

Of course socialist halfwits never give a serious thought to the practicalities. In this case, public schools are privately financed out of funds established for the purpose.

This means that an attempt to do what Bennett suggests would involve downright confiscation of private property – but then of course socialists never balk at this sort of thing. That’s what fairness is all about.

It’s abhorrent to Mr Bennett that some schools are better than others. What’s abhorrent to me is that he tries to justify this nonsense by dragging Christianity in.

Mr Bennett clearly worships the Gospel of Christ the Socialist, a heretical notion first mooted in the 1960s, the playwright’s formative years. The intervening half-century seems like an adequate time for some reflection, but Bennett must have been too busy knocking off his popular plays.

Nor does he seem to have made any effort to develop his logical faculty. Public schools, he says, are un-Christian because “Souls, after all, are equal in the sight of God and thus deserving of what these days is called a level playing field.”

The second part of the sentence is a flagrant non sequitur to the first. Souls are indeed equal in the sight of God, but only a mentally retarded chap would conclude from there that therefore, in this life, all schools must be identical.

Mr Bennett clearly understands Christianity as badly as he understands government. Spiritual, unearthly equality of all before the omnipotent God isn’t tantamount to the physical equality of all before omnipotent government.

Yet that’s what socialism of every hue preaches, or rather that’s the inevitable result of sermons similar to the one delivered by Alan Bennett. Christ himself disavowed social egalitarianism when he said, “For ye have the poor with you always…”

It’s woefully ignorant to be unaware that Christ’s mission was to show a spiritual path to eternal salvation, not to equalise social conditions in earth. Then again, socialist passions, when in full flow, trump all others.

Mr Bennett seems like a nice enough man, and he should realise that socialism isn’t nice. Sorry to be putting it in such simplistic terms, but I don’t think he can understand anything more complex.