Anti-Semitism vs anti-Americanism

Pope Francis in the Vatican and Justin Webb in The Times have decried blanket hatred, the Pope towards Israel, the hack towards the US.

Without in any way wishing to imply parity between the two gentlemen, I can’t help noticing superficial parallels in their lines of thought, and also some fundamental divergences.

The Pope says “To attack Jews is anti-Semitism, but an outright attack on the State of Israel is also anti-Semitism… the state of Israel has every right to exist in safety and prosperity.”

No decent person would take issue with the second part of the statement, but some might disagree with the first. It’s possible, they’d say, to dislike Israel without being anti-Semitic.

It is indeed possible. However, purely empirical observation suggests that those who are most vociferous in their disapproval of Israel also happen to be at least latently anti-Semitic.

It doesn’t have to be that way, but it just is. In a way this is understandable.

After the Holocaust, hating Jews betokens such putrid nastiness that all but outright fanatics refrain from public manifestations of anti-Semitism. Yet camouflaging them as, say, anti-Zionism begins to flirt with social acceptability, though care must be taken not to sound too virulent.

One can get away with saying “I detest the theocratic aspects of Israeli statehood” without sounding as anti-Semitic as one really is. However, saying “I could kill every Zionist with my own hands” just may put one beyond the pale, as it were.

His Holiness, to his credit, left room for disapproval of some aspects of Israeli politics without being anti-Semitic. However, and again the Pope mentioned this, disagreeing with political measures without which Israel would be obliterated is crossing the line.

To his even greater credit, he made an honest attempt to build bridges and not to rely on time to heal all wounds. Some wounds require immediate medical help, and His Holiness has tried to provide it.

He is used to expressing himself in clipped, evangelical messages, communicating the truth but not necessarily trying to explain it, leaving exegesis to assorted commentators.

For hacks like Justine Webb that’s not good enough. He has to look for deep psychological explanations to utterances that by themselves manifestly lack depth.

This starts with the title of his article: Those Who Hate the US Actually Hate Themselves. The statement struck me as not just controversial but daft. Nonetheless I read on to get to the kernel of the argument.

This is the gist of it: we all have an American inside us, trying to get out. Hence whenever we find anything wrong with the US it’s the American part of ourselves that we actually abhor.

This took me out of my depth, for I invariably look askance, or more typically out of the window, at statements of such psychological profundity.

I found myself lost even farther at sea when Mr Webb explained that politics lies underneath it all, with “the right distrusting [America’s] happy-go-lucky approach to society building, the left hating the way that society operates.”

This was a loose paraphrase of a loose statement by the French pseudo-philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, who also said that “Anti-Americanism comes from the fascist tendency in French thought.”

Displaying enviable erudition, Mr Webb counters that not all anti-Americanism is political. This deplorable tendency actually predates America as a political entity. “Throughout the 18th century serious people had been sent to America and reported back that the place was a dump.”

Here lies the difference between my two protagonists.

The Pope felt duty-bound to comment on a real, soul-destroying problem of long standing and wide, almost universal reach.

The hack concocted a problem where no problem really exists. Of course some people hate America, and of course left-wing fanatics hate her for being the epitome of capitalism, while right-wing fanatics hate her for insufficient racial and ethnic purity.

But, while there can be no legitimate reason for hating Jews or indeed the Jewish state, there may exist perfectly valid reasons for disliking America – or, to be more precise, Americanism.

Ignoring this possibility, Mr Webb chose as his hypothetical targets primitive ignoramuses who come up with spurious justifications for their anti-Americanism.

One wonders how he’d respond to serious criticism voiced by his intellectual equal or, God forbid, superior.

For example, a thinking Christian may point out the US is the first purely secular, in effect atheist, state in history. He may further state, quoting from Thomas Jefferson and other Founders, that the First Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees not so much freedom of religion as freedom from religion.

A political philosopher may expand on that theme by showing that the American Revolution was inspired by exactly the same ideas as the French one – and at a deeper level even the Russian one.

The US was – and remains – an Enlightenment construct, the first such state. America adumbrated our materialist, anomic, culturally and spiritually subversive modernity and remains its flag-bearer.

She is the living embodiment of the revolt against the religion, culture and civilisation of Christendom – this for all the fulsome protestations of piety one hears everywhere in America and even reads on her banknotes.

I’m not coming down on either side of the argument (I do in my books, which, in the spirit of self-serving American capitalism, I commend to your attention). It’s possible that serious counterarguments could be voiced by serious commentators, of whom Mr Webb clearly isn’t one.

His article is basically drivel, while the Pope’s statement, ostensibly made on a kindred theme, has much value. Far be it from me to suggest that it’s Christianity that lends verisimilitude to moral and intellectual attitudes.








Finally a true voice in our journalism

I often target The Times for my slings and arrows, lamenting that the formerly respectable paper has descended to the level of a tabloid both in physical size and intellectual content.

So much more pleasure it gives me now to say something laudatory about an article published in this receptacle for my bile: Matthew Syed’s piece It Is Roman Abramovich Who Shames Chelsea.

Mr Syed, who usually writes on sports, doesn’t talk about Chelsea’s catastrophic start to the season, its manager, players or tactics. Instead he fumes against “one of the great, unfolding scandals in English football. The money that has bankrolled Chelsea these past 12 years, which has brought many trophies while sanitising the image of one of the most dubious individuals ever associated with British sport, was corruptly amassed.”

‘Criminally’ would have been a more precise adverb, but let’s not quibble. At least Abramovich is no longer described as a ‘socialite’ or an ‘astute businessman’, rather than the gangster he really is.

As his barrister, Jonathan Sumption, QC, comments on the source of Abramovich’s wealth, “there was an agreement to support the president of Russia in return for privileged access to state-owned assets.”

Allow me to translate from the lawyerly: Abramovich and a handful of others were given a leasehold (never a freehold – that belongs to the KGB/FSB) over Russia’s vast natural resources. The quid pro quo was that they’d act as conduits for the money purloined by the KGB to flow into the laundries of assorted offshore havens.

Whenever Putin or one of his cronies needs a few billion for staging a sporting event, conducting a nice bombing raid, buying a 300-foot yacht or building another palace, Abramovich and a few others crack their chequebooks open with alacrity.

Abramovich, continues Mr Syed, “is a manipulative chancer whose money was gained through dubious means,” and he doesn’t know the half of it. Yes, Abramovich acquired most of his wealth through the rigged privatisation programme of the 1990s. But he already had to be wealthy and influential to be allowed to play the game of all those voucher schemes, collateral auctions and loans for shares.

Not to bother you with technical details, a group of young crooks (most of them drawn from the ranks of the Young Communist League nomenklatura) were given millions in public funds to ‘buy’ billions in public assets.

How Abramovich found himself in that privileged group is best described in Paul Klebnikov’s 2001 book Godfather of the Kremlin. Shortly after its publication the author, head of the Forbes Moscow bureau, suffered a rather extreme form of literary criticism.

He was riddled with bullets in the centre of Moscow. The hit (or ‘whack’ to use Putin’s favourite term) was done with two automatic weapons fired from a fast-moving car.

The authorities regretted that unfortunate event, which they attributed to the jealous rage of a wronged husband. Well, since there were two assault rifles involved, there must have been two wronged husbands, not one.

Mr Klebnikov must have been a real lothario, but his exploits in that area still don’t quite explain the mode of the assassination, which is quite rare in the annals of crimes passionnels.

Also, as any expert will tell you, it takes a high degree of murderous professionalism to hit someone by firing full auto from a moving vehicle in a crowded street – especially without sending bits and pieces of innocent pedestrians up in the air.

Klebnikov’s book accused Boris Berezovsky, the eponymous godfather, of all sorts of shenanigans, including the odd bit of murder. Abramovich was at the time Berezovsky’s partner, later to become his enemy.

Their feud was eventually resolved in a London court, and only one man, Abramovich, was left standing or indeed alive.

Mr Syed doesn’t go into such detail, but even what he does write makes his article the most honest and incisive piece of journalism I’ve ever read on this subject in the mainstream press.

Perhaps some of the accolades should go to the paper’s brave editor, and its legal department, which had the courage to allow this excellent article to run. Congratulations to all.







Russian fascists and British conservatives

This is the text of the talk I gave last week:

Oscar Wilde said that the best way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Unfortunately many Brits use this method for getting rid of the fascist temptation.

When they find something wrong with Her Majesty’s government, they turn their thoughts not to restoring history’s greatest constitution but to extolling the virtues of foreign politicians who detest our constitution – fascists of various red, black or brown hues.

Hence after the First World War many Britons became groupies to the murderous maniac Lenin, his worthy successor Stalin and his equally worthy disciple Hitler.

Lenin, in one of his few lucid moments, ungratefully called his Western supporters ‘useful idiots’. Mussolini and Hitler treated their fans with only marginally more respect.

Meanwhile the Bloomsbury set loved red fascism, and the Cliveden set the brown variety. George Bernard Shaw delivered a speech saying that he could die happy knowing that the future of the world was safe in Stalin’s hands.

Unity Mitford expressed her admiration for the brown cause by having group sex with SS officers.

Moura Budberg, Nick Clegg’s Russian great-aunt, used a similar method for converting British celebrities to the cause of the Soviet secret police she served.

Thousands of volunteers inspired by Bloomsbury propaganda went to give their lives for the noble cause of trying to turn Spain into Stalin’s colony complete with the GULAG.

A few years later British youngsters were joining the SS Britishches Freikorps – in smaller numbers, but then Hitler’s Germany was at war with their country.

This tradition of useful idiocy is alive and well. Today’s object of adulation is the regime that pulled together the red and brown strands, adding one of organised crime for good measure: the kleptofascist KGB junta fronted by Col. Putin.

Driven to despair by our own self-serving Quisling government, good conservative people are looking for angels where only demons can be found.

One hopes this is mostly caused by ignorance. If they really realised that Putin’s regime is indeed a KGB junta, indeed kleptofascist, and indeed mortally dangerous to the West, they’d recoil in horror.

Then again, I suspect that, just like the Bloomsbury lot, those who don’t know simply don’t want to know. For the facts are as much in the public domain now as they were then.

Every time I describe Putin’s regime as kleptofascist, some of my conservative readers target me for their slings and arrows.

Yet Putin’s regime is just that, kleptofascist, and to prove that I propose a short list of characteristics shared by all fascist regimes, different as they may be otherwise.

Let’s see how many of these boxes Putin ticks.

BOX 1: Populism combined with chauvinism.

All fascist regimes rally the masses by redirecting their national resentments into the conduit of jingoism.

It’s the regime’s task to correct an historical wrong and restore the nation to her past grandeur. For Hitler that was the Germanic conquest of the Roman Empire, for Mussolini the glory of ancient Rome.

Putin is doing exactly the same with Russia. He has described the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”, and vowed to right that wrong.

Using the most thunderous and nauseating propaganda this side of Stalin, Putin is rallying his largely impoverished population under the banners of Russia’s past redemptive glory, both under the tsars and the Bolsheviks.

BOX 2: Externalising evil.

Since Russia herself is a priori perfect, whatever privation people have ever suffered or are suffering has to be put down to the perfidy of outside enemies.

All fascist regimes, including Putin’s, cast the non-fascist West in that role, especially those ‘Anglo-Saxon’ vermin inhabiting Wall Street and the City of London.

In addition, each fascist regime has its own special enemies, such as Jews for Hitler or Ethiopians for Mussolini.

In Putin’s Russia these are ‘Ukrainians, ‘Anglo-Saxons’ and all those neighbours who cling to a modicum of independence.

BOX 3: Internalising the good of the nation within the person of the leader, whose approval must gravitate towards 100 per cent.

In Russia this idolisation of Putin is reaching Stalin’s proportions, though his public support is still somewhat short of the 105 per cent Stalin tended to score.

Putin’s Western groupies cite this adulation as proof of Putin’s virtue. Doesn’t public support justify any regime? Vox populi and all that.

Well, when public support gravitates towards 100%, the only thing it justifies is the certainty that the country has no free press.

BOX 4: State control of the media and their almost exclusive use for propaganda purposes.

Outbursts of public enthusiasm require a population house-trained to respond on cue. Hence the use of media for that purpose, accompanied, as it is un Russia, by the suppression of dissenting publications and broadcast channels.

And it’s not just the media. Putin recently told historians that their task is to defend “our views and interests”, for example in explaining the Nazi-Soviet pact.

Toxic falsifiers of history claim that it pushed the button for the Second World War. The two most satanic regimes in history formed an ad hoc alliance to divide Europe between them.

They then kicked off history’s most devastating war by assaulting Poland from two sides.

Yet, explained Putin, historians must teach that none of this is true.

The Pact proved Stalin’s peaceful intentions.

And as to Poland, she had only herself to blame. Didn’t she grab a chunk of Czechoslovakia in 1938, when the Germans moved in?

Those media outlets in Russia that don’t go along with Putin’s view of the world have been either shut down or brought under government control.

Even the pro-Western websites I regularly read here have been blocked inside Russia. And Russia is researching the feasibility of shutting down the Internet altogether.

BOX 5: The leader’s will replacing the rule of law.

This means, among other things, that the leader can choose how many or few people he wants to terrorise.

How many he does terrorise therefore reflects not the essence of his regime, but its current needs.

On Putin’s watch the number of people killed, roughed up or imprisoned for political reasons is in the thousands, not the tens of millions Russia lost under Lenin and Stalin.

But no safeguards exist to prevent Putin from unleashing mass terror should he so choose.

Law enforcement in Russia doesn’t enforce the law. It has been turned into a giant Mafia family, specialising in all the traditional Mafia pursuits, from extortion and protection rackets to robbery and contract killings.

Russians are scared of the police more than of criminals, because the police are the criminals.

Beatings and torture – sometimes to death, as in the Magnitsky case – are everyday occurrences in Russian police stations. Yet, on the rare occasions such crimes reach the courts, the sentences are either derisory punishment or acquittal.

BOX 6: Acquisitive aggression against neighbours. Fascist regimes see expansionism as self-vindication. They equate greatness with size, the bigger the better.

As a pretext for aggression they highlight their former ownership of an adjacent country or parts thereof, or else the plight of their ethnic brothers in that country, such as Hitler’s Polish and Czech Germans – or Putin’s Ukrainian Russians.

Hence the next flashpoint could come from Putin’s attack on Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, all with large Russian minorities.

Putin has personally started three aggressive wars: against Chechnya in 1999, Georgia in 2008 and the Ukraine in 2014. The Middle East could well be next in line.

The capital of Chechnya Grozny was bombed flat, even though its population was 80% Russian.

Georgia was baited into attacking her former province Abhazia, which Putin’s stooges used for shelling Georgian territory. That gave Putin the pretext he needed to bring Georgia back into the fold.

Then of course came the naked aggression in the Crimea and the Ukraine.

Meanwhile, bringing to mind the words ‘teapot’ and ‘kettle’, Putin’s media are describing the Ukraine’s government as fascist, out to exterminate the Russians, along with every other minority.

This even though the extreme-right parties only polled a mere 1.5% of the Ukraine’s electorate, as opposed to the 25% such parties routinely get in Russia herself.

And regular neo-Nazi marches carry their swastikas through Russian cities without being harassed in any way.

BOX 7: Creating or, if they already exist, supporting likeminded groups around the world.

The pattern is well established. The Bolsheviks bankrolled every communist party in the world, using them for espionage and subversion.

The Nazis did exactly the same by financing their own network, including such organisations as Friends of New Germany, the German American Bund and the British Fascist Union.

Following the example set by his role models, Putin is actively cultivating neo-fascist groups in Europe.

It recently came to light that the Russians are financing France’s National Front, Belgium’s Vlaams Belang, Greece’s Golden Dawn, Hungary’s Jobbik, Italy’s Northern League, Austria’s Freedom Party.

When these facts became known, Marine Le Pen insisted that accepting Putin’s millions doesn’t mean following Putin’s policies.

Of course it doesn’t. Her party supports the rape of the Ukraine on merit, while Putin funds her for altruistic reasons alone.

BOX 8: Corporatist economy.

Unlike socialist or communist states to which they are closely related, fascist regimes typically eschew de jure nationalisation in favour of de facto control.

Rather than shooting owners, the regime turns them into managers beholden to the leader.

In Putin’s Russia it’s possible to amass a large fortune only by Putin’s permission, which is granted only to his henchmen.

What’s in Russia called ‘the vertical of power’ goes right through the economy, with the so-called oligarchs having only the leasehold on their wealth.

When they step out of line, their businesses are either destroyed or taken over by Putin’s cronies, while they themselves are killed or imprisoned or, if they’re lucky, allowed to flee abroad.

BOX 9: Allowing political opposition for window-dressing only.

Such conditions existed in Germany and Italy, and they are also observable in Putin’s Russia. The country’s parliament, the Duma, is filled with Putin’s cronies.

Political protests in Russia are actively discouraged. Those daring to protest are often prosecuted on trumped-up charges, roughed up or murdered.

Many politicians and over 100 journalists have been murdered during Putin’s tenure, all of them his opponents.

Most of those murders go unnoticed in the West, and only the more spectacular ones, such as those of Anna Politkovskaya and recently Boris Nemtsov, reach our papers.

The London murder of Alexander Litvinenko did make a bit of a splash, mainly because of the esoteric murder weapon, Polonium.

BOX 10: Militarisation. This can be used either for actual aggression or blackmail.

Russia is overhauling her armed forces to the tune of 290 billion pounds, with a particular accent being placed on strategic arms.

New weapon systems are being brought on stream at a rate far exceeding Nato’s. Among them are disguised armoured trains with nuclear missile launchers.

The overall strength of the Russian army is about a million, a quarter of them reservists, and growing fast. Last month they conscripted another 100,000 recruits.

Many training activities involve airborne troops, whose strength is being beefed up to 60,000, roughly four to five divisions. By contrast, the US has only one fully trained airborne division, 82nd. (Some others are called airborne but do no jump training.)

Paratroops are offensive: they are too lightly equipped to be much use in defence.

Tanks are another clearly offensive weapon, and here the comparison between Russia and Europe is most instructive.

The three biggest Western European armies, French, German and British, have, respectively, 423, 408 and 407 tanks.

By contrast, Russia officially boasts 15,500 tanks in active service. But even that number is misleading.

Unlike Nato, the Russians don’t destroy decommissioned tanks. They mothball them in warehouses.

Should the need arise, those obsolete but perfectly usable machines can be taken out and thrown in.

That’s what happened in the Second World War, when the Germans wiped out the regular Soviet tank force in the first few days.

Much to their astonishment, new Soviet tank divisions appeared out of thin air, and the German intelligence couldn’t figure out their provenance.

How many of those mothballed tanks are there now? In the 1970-80s the Russians had 50,000 tanks, more than the rest of the world combined.

Many of those machines can probably still be thrown into battle should the need arise. And the Russians are giving every indication that the need may arise.

They are calling up reservists, constantly increasing both the duration and frequency of such call-ups.

They are conducting joint exercises with their puppet Belorussian army.

Other large-scale military exercises are being conducted in every border area from the Baltic to the Black Sea, from the Far East to Kaliningrad, formerly Konigsberg.

Putin is clearly creating two powerful salients, the southern one in the Crimea and the northern one in Kaliningrad, where short-range, radar-busting Iskander missiles are being deployed.

For the first time since Brezhnev, Russian strategic bombers are regularly buzzing the airspace of Nato members, while Russian fighters are tracking Nato planes.

Hardly a day goes by that Nato planes aren’t scrambled to intercept Russian bombers all over the world, including the California coast. In Syria Russian and American planes find themselves on a collision course every day, and Turkey’s airspace is being routinely violated by the Russians.

Russia lacks any obvious allies, which was proved when the UN General Assembly condemned the annexation of the Crimea by 100 to 11, with the rest abstaining.

Apart from the former Soviet republics located a few hours from Russia by tank, her 11 allies included Cuba, North Korea, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Therefore Putin knows he has to be prepared to fight his corner all alone and he’s beefing up for it.

Putin’s Russia ticks all these boxes, which makes her undeniably fascist. Comparing Putin specifically to Hitler, however, one must out of fairness point out a significant difference, and this is why I describe Putin’s regime as not just fascist but kleptofascist.

Hitler’s regime wasn’t organically fused with gangster groupings – in fact both he and Mussolini suppressed organised crime.

Putin, on the other hand, has a long history of not only working hand in glove with gangsters but actually being one himself.

Just take a look at the dossier published by Marina Salye, who in 1992 headed the Petersburg Council commission investigating Putin’s business machinations when he was still a lowly deputy mayor.

Among other choice bits, the documents shows that Putin signed deals to export $100 million worth of raw materials in exchange for food. The raw materials dutifully left Russia. No food came back in return – this at a time of rationing in Petersburg.

It’s no wonder that under Putin, Russia’s economy is criminalised from top to bottom, and he himself is one of the world’s richest men, with the lowest estimate of his personal wealth standing at $40 billion.

Yet Putin is still claiming his share of fans in the West.

They read that Putin bans homosexual propaganda and nod their approval. But then neither Hitler nor, say, Osama bin Laden was known as a champion of homosexual marriage.

They read Putin’s criticism of Western decadence and agree enthusiastically. But then ISIS are saying exactly the same things about the West, most of them correct – so are we going to support them too?

They see footage of Putin and his cronies going to church, and don’t realise that these new-fangled believers often forget that Orthodox Christians cross themselves from right to left, not from left to right as they do in American films.

Putin’s fans insist that any frank assessment of Putin’s regime is a sign of Russophobia, even if it comes from independent rating agencies.

I looked at such ratings – only to find confirmation for the feeling deep-seated in the breast of most Russians and Peter Hitchens: the whole world is against Russia. All those rating agencies collude to cast Russia in a bad light.

Judge for yourself. In the rule-of-law category Russia came in at Number 92, out of 97 countries rated. That’s one rung below Belarus but – a glorious achievement! – one above Nicaragua.

In upholding fundamental rights, Russia’s rating was even higher: 82, one behind the Emirates, where you can go to jail for a little hanky-panky outside marriage. One is prepared to cheer, but then one’s ardour is doused by the cold water of some other ratings.

Russia ranks 148 out of 179 on freedom of the press. That rating places Putin’s Russia below Bangladesh, Cambodia and Burundi.

Russia haters refuse to look on the positive side: Putin’s bailiwick is still above, if not by much, Iraq and Gambia. If that’s not the crowning achievement of Putin’s reign, I don’t know what is.

Oh yes, I do. Russia, I’ll have you know, didn’t drop any lower than Number 127 on the corruption rating, where she finds herself in a nine-way tie with such bastions of legality as Pakistan and, again, Gambia.

And still some British conservatives cheer Putin on.

Those good people don’t realise what it means that the Russian government, from Putin down, is made up almost entirely of KGB officers.

In fact, the eminent Russian sociologist Olga Kryshtanovsky, who’s actually a Putin supporter, has analysed the CVs of the top 1,061 government officials in Russia. She found out that 80% of them are career KGB officers.

Some Westerners don’t seem to realise that party and KGB officials could under no circumstances rise to their positions without being profoundly evil men.

All communist countries had this in common, which incidentally raises interesting questions about Angela Merkel, who held a high-ranking position in the East German Young Communist League.

Hence Western triumphalism about the collapse of communism in Russia was misplaced. Communism didn’t collapse.

Following the First Law of Thermodynamics is was simply transformed into something else, evil by any other name.

After all, the precedent of Nuremberg trials established that membership in a criminal organisation, in that instance the SS, is itself a crime.

Yet the SS was responsible for at most 10 million murders. The KGB murdered 60 million Soviet citizens.

There’s another important difference between the SS and the KGB. The German government has repented Germany’s sins.

In Russia there was no repentance. On the contrary, Colonel Putin and his gang are openly proud of the Soviet Union and its criminal history.

“There’s no such thing as ex-KGB,” Putin once said. “This is for life.”

Had Western leaders and commentators had the benefit of the kind of experience I’m cursed with, they would be less prepared to disarm, with the British army, for example, being reduced to a size it hasn’t seen for two centuries.

And they certainly wouldn’t be singing hosannas to Putin, the strong leader of Peter Hitchens’s fancy.

The Russians, they say, live so much better under Putin. Yes, which is why the male life expectancy there is way below 60, why 20% of the population live below the poverty line which in Russia is a paltry $174 a month, why 25% of Russian households have no sewerage and 20% no plumbing.

And, as we have seen, every characteristic of a fascist state is clearly visible in Russia.

Unfortunately the West traditionally displays severe learning difficulties when it comes to lessons of history.

For example, the Second World War could have been easily prevented by a resolute early response to German aggression.

Instead the West vacillated. The mantra of appeasement and ‘peace in our lifetime’ was the order of the day.

We were forewarned, but we weren’t forearmed. A tragedy followed.

And today, forewarned means foredisarmed. I hope and pray that no catastrophe will ensue. I fear it might.

Put this date in your diarrhoea

For the last several days I’ve had to have lunch in town, which – and I realise I’m not being original here – has involved communicating my order to a waitress. Each has been easy on the eye and eager to serve.

One slight problem though has diminished the pleasure I took in their company: they couldn’t often understand my order in every detail, nor provide lucid explanations whenever the menu wasn’t explicit enough.

I don’t know if it’s still legal to describe non-British EU ‘citizens’ as foreigners, but I’ll have to risk censure by telling you that’s what they were. That, by itself, doesn’t present a problem, especially to someone who himself wasn’t born where he lives.

However, surely it’s not unreasonable to expect that those serving the public ought to know enough English to communicate with the public they serve. Alas, even such an eminently reasonable expectation is routinely frustrated nowadays.

No real harm was done. I didn’t go hungry and, even though some condiments were put on the food rather than on the side as I had requested, I didn’t gag. Moreover, I had to tell myself not to be a grumpy old man and just go with the flow – the girls have to make a living, and a waitress doesn’t have to be an accomplished linguist to collect her tip.

However, the situation becomes more fraught when a linguistically challenged person, rather than serving hungry people in restaurants, treats ill people in hospitals.

As any doctor will tell you, talking to a patient is often as essential a diagnostic and therapeutic tool as any test. One word misunderstood by either party in such an interview can have dire, possibly lethal, consequences.

That’s why doctors must have perfect command of English, and one would think such a skill would be as important to a physician as the knowledge that we drive on the left would be to a bus driver.

Not so, according to Dr Tomaz Frylewicz.

The good doctor graced the NHS with his arrival from Krakow in 2006 and in the intervening nine years has failed an English test three times. Such ineptitude puts patients at risk, ruled a tribunal, which then suspended Dr Frylewicz until his English improves.

Looking at it from the doctor’s perspective, the tests have been coming thick and fast: three of them in the last year. That means Dr Frylewicz had been working in the NHS for eight years without ever being asked to sit such an exam.

Considering that his colleagues testified they were never sure he understood either them or, more critical, his patients, this strikes me as negligent.

In his defence Dr Frylewitcz explained that “this exam does not give the true knowledge of English.” Well, I don’t know how to explain this to you, doctor, so that you might understand, but an exam’s function is to test knowledge, not to give it. See the problem?

The reason the General Medical Council was so tardy in giving Dr Frylewicz linguistic skills by testing them is that – I’ll italicise this for your benefit – until last year testing doctors from within the EU had been against the law.

Allow me to rephrase. Until 2014 doctors were able to treat patients even when proper communication between the two parties was impossible. I’ll let you consider the deadly possibilities; my own imagination doesn’t go so far.

But wait a minute, perhaps an injustice has been done. Perhaps Dr Frylewicz’s English is perfectly adequate after all.

He certainly thinks so: “Every day to my home the Wall Street Journal comes.” Presumably he then the Wall Street Journal reads and it understands. But he really ought to have allowed a native speaker to make statements in his defence, for Dr Frylewicz digs the hole deeper with every word he utters.

Even assuming that he can follow stock market quotations with commendable fluency, this task taxes one’s proficiency in English much less than having to have detailed conversations with patients, whose own language may often break through the limits set by elementary textbooks.

For example, there are at least 50 major dialects spoken on the British Isles, and God only knows how many minor ones. Some of these dialects are difficult even for native speakers to understand, as anyone who has ever heard Sir Alex Ferguson speak will testify.

All such speech patterns are amply represented among NHS patients, and we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the problem. Even if a patient speaks textbook English (who does these days?), his speech may still be full of nuances that’ll go right by a foreigner – even one capable of reading that the FTSE 100 is two points down this morning.

Still Dr Frylewicz thinks he has been hard done by. He doesn’t like the new empowerment given to the GMC: “In my opinion it is a bad law, an anti-freedom law.”

I agree. Dr Frylewitcz’s freedom to cut off the wrong leg has been infringed – and a good job too. But then I understand what he means (I think). Any law contravening an EU law is by definition bad. Who does Britain think she is, regulating her own medical practice?

Frau Merkel is going to hear about this.


All dare call it treason

Elizabethan poet John Harington made this astute observation: “Treason doth never prosper:// What’s the reason?// Why, if it prosper// None dare call it treason.”

Now some new documents have been declassified, the Cambridge spies are very much in the news, with commentaries ranging from factual to emotional to spurious. One formerly respectable paper actually attributed the chaps’ spying for Russia to their clubbable backgrounds.

However, everyone agrees that Messrs Philby et al were despicable traitors, and no sane person will contest that designation. I certainly won’t, happy in the knowledge that their treason didn’t ‘prosper’.

But the notion of treason interests me, for over history it has evolved like few others.

For example, ‘the Great Condé’, Louis XIV’s cousin, not only was one of the principal military leaders of the princely uprising known as La Fronde, but he also twice led Spanish armies against French royalist troops.

In any modern democracy Condé would have been put up against the wall and shot. Just imagine the fate of Montgomery or Patton had they led Waffen SS panzer divisions against their own countries. Why, William Joyce, ‘Lord Haw-Haw’, was strung up in 1946 merely for having aired Nazi propaganda during the war.

Thus by the standards of liberal democracy Condé was a traitor who didn’t deserve to live. Yet by the standards of a Christian monarchy that France was at the time he was a naughty child who ought to be grounded, or in that instance exiled to his castle in Chantilly.

Clearly, at the time treason to the state wasn’t the greatest sin, nor loyalty to the state the greatest virtue. It was understood that the state was fairly low down the list of objects to be venerated.

That changed with the advent of the Enlightenment, which misnomer is used to describe a massive atheist revolt against Christendom. The nation or, to be more precise, the state began to demand a loyalty than which none could be higher.

People en masse no longer accepted that loyalty to an idea could supersede loyalty to the state – regardless of what kind of state it was, or what kind of idea. Working against one’s own country was now regarded as not just any old betrayal but as apostasy.

Yet some people continued to cling to the obsolete pecking order. They insisted that a country couldn’t expect loyalty automatically. She must earn it – or not, as the case might be.

One such man was the Russian patriarch Tikhon, arrested by the Bolsheviks for preaching against their bloodthirsty revolution. He was personally interrogated by Dzerjinsky and Kamenev, both ranking Bolsheviks.

“We are the state,” they explained to the recalcitrant prelate. “Each state has its laws. Do you feel obligated to obey state laws?”

“I do,” replied Tikhon. “As long as they don’t contradict higher laws.” (Tikhon in general had a nice turn of phrase. When a sewer underneath the Lenin mausoleum burst, flooding the interior, he quipped, “The incense fits the relics.”)

In other words, the patriarch, along with many of his flock, believed that loyalty to an idea could stand higher than loyalty to the state. They wouldn’t have described  working against an evil state as an act of treason.

On an infinitely smaller scale, I too worked against my state when I lived in the Soviet Union. Since I spoke English, leaders of the dissent used me to transmit to the West, mostly the US, information about Soviet brutality.

I wouldn’t have been able to formulate succinctly what it was that I loved, but I knew exactly what I hated: communism in general and the USSR in particular. Hence in my own eyes I wasn’t a traitor but a man doing his moral duty.

Now if I reserve for myself the privilege to act against my own state when I disagree with it, do I have the moral right to deny the same privilege to others?

Such, for example, as Philby et al, who conceivably saw communism as an ideal that superseded British patriotism. Since the UK was the USSR’s political antipode, they felt they had to choose – and did choose.

I think they chose wrong, and I would have happily shot them myself. But now we’ve left the realm of absolute values to enter one of relative ones.

I regard the Soviet Union, along with its Putinesque child, as evil and Britain as, well, not quite as virtuous as she used to be, but certainly not all bad. But mustn’t I allow that others may have different views?

One might say that, if a state rules by law, as it does in Britain, this law must be obeyed and enforced. I agree wholeheartedly. But when Diana, wife to the heir to the throne, was sleeping around, such acts constituted high treason according to the law then in force. Yet no one even bothered to mention that at the time.

I have no conclusion to offer – other than suggesting that treason is a tricky word. But then we live in a tricky world. 








Don’t get arrested in Russia whatever you do

This advice is often ignored, which adversely affects life expectancy statistics. For, just like under Stalin, arrest in Russia increasingly means death.

So far this year 169 people have died in police custody, and we still have two months left. The most widespread diagnosis is heart failure, suggesting that crime attracts many Russians suffering from poor cardiac health.

Some diagnoses are more interesting than that. They range from defenestration to insides ruptured by a champagne bottle shoved where the sun doesn’t shine.

This week’s example of the former is a fraud suspect who fell from the ninth floor of a remand prison in Rostov. I’ve only heard of one champagne party, Russian style, but, when all is said and done, the actual technique is immaterial. It’s the thought that counts.

I’d also like to reassure those who bemoan the state of public health in Russia, especially its cardiac aspect. Granted, it’s rather poor even – and this is saying a lot – by comparison with the NHS.

Yet those dying in police stations don’t really suffer coronaries and strokes. In case you haven’t yet guessed, they are tortured to death.

That’s what happens when a country is so humane as to ban capital punishment. Law enforcement has to bypass the law it’s supposed to enforce and exterminate those vermin off the books.

Or perhaps this theory doesn’t really hold up under scrutiny. After all, one doesn’t hear of many such cases in Western Europe, where there is no death penalty either.

But, in case you haven’t noticed, Russia isn’t Western Europe. She has her own legal, or rather illegal, tradition, and didn’t Vlad Putin say that Russia must tread her own path in life?

Let’s not be beastly to the Russians though. They may not have boasted too many Magna Cartas or Bills of Rights in their past, but they too try to do things by law.

To prove that, the Duma has just passed the first reading of what in anti-Putin circles is nicknamed ‘the sadists’ law’. The vote was 240 to 59, which in the West would be a landslide but in Russia constitutes a major parliamentary revolt.

Russian leaders are used to enthusiastic unanimity, and Vlad must be upset about the 59 holdouts. Who do those MPs think they are? What’s wrong with letting prison staff torture inmates who step out of line?

That’s the essence of the new bill. Should it pass into law, warders will be allowed to use electric shock, beatings and other forms of torture to maintain discipline. Champagne bottles aren’t mentioned specifically, but no law can anticipate every eventuality. There has to be some room left for private initiative.

As the Magnitsky case shows, none of this is to say that prisoners aren’t already being tortured, often to death. But warders who either kill prisoners personally or order other inmates to do so on their behalf are at present violating the law.

That is counterproductive, for ideal Russian citizens are thereby criminalised simply for doing their job. For the moral health of the nation, they must be allowed to do legally what they’re already doing illegally.

It has to be said that even in Western countries prison administration isn’t the kind of profession that typically attracts Tolstoyan preachers of non-resistance to violence. Our warders too must have their share of sadists.

That’s why civilised countries ruled by law introduce measures curbing such people’s natural tendencies. The common premise is that prisoners have inviolable rights, just like everybody else. They may have broken the law, but they’re still entitled to its protection.

In Russia even everybody else is somewhat bereft of rights. And as to prisoners, they are fair – soon to become legal – game.

A Russian warder will soon become a law unto himself. It’ll be up to him to charge a prisoner with breaking the rules, sentence him to torture and administer the punishment. Judge, jury and executioner come together in one breast. Bring on the truncheon and cattle prod, tell the morgue to stand by.

In parallel with the sadists’ law, another proposal under parliamentary rubber-stamping discussion is to ban NGOs designated as ‘foreign agents’ from monitoring human rights in prison.

No matter how dirty the linen, it won’t be washed in public or, truth to tell, at all. Lock up, beat up and shut up seems to be the order of the day.

The upshot of it all is as simple as truth itself: if you plan Russia as your next holiday destination, don’t get arrested there – not even for jaywalking. You may live longer.

Our police aren’t multi-culti enough

Such is the pronouncement of our Home Secretary, that darling bud of Theresa May. Not only do some police forces have few black officers, but – are you ready for this? – they may also be short of female officers as well.

And that’s not all. Women, as she announced with horror dripping off every sound, make up 51 per cent of the population but only 28 per cent of the police force!!! Wait a second, let me recover from the shock… fine, I’m a bit better now.

Mrs May also enlarged my vocabulary, which at present is shamefully short of acronyms. One missing acronym was BME (black and minority ethnic), and Mrs May helpfully filled the gap.

“There are only two BME chief officers in England and Wales, and 11 forces have no BME officers above chief inspector rank,” she lamented. “That is simply not good enough.”

This intolerable situation violates the historic principle of ‘policing by consent’, according to our Home Secretary. “We must ensure that the public have trust and confidence in the police, and that the police reflect the communities they serve.”

And there I was, thinking that the police should not so much reflect their communities as protect them. Sorry, ma’am, my mistake. It’s all society’s fault.

Robert Peel, who created the modern police force, never realised what kind of Pandora box he opened. He didn’t anticipate the predicament the occupier of the same office would have 165 years after his death.

Let’s say a neighbourhood is blessed with many alms houses, or whatever such establishments are called these days. There’s no way the locals could possibly have ‘trust and confidence’ in their bobbies unless they too are octogenarians.

Public services must reflect the demographic makeup of the public with actuarial precision, that’s all there is to it. If they don’t, if, to use Mrs May’s example, 51 female per cent of mankind (personkind?) are policed by a force that’s merely 28 per cent women, lawlessness will descend.

How can a woman possibly trust a male officer to save her from a rapist? Or, if the prospective victim is black and the PC isn’t only a man but also white – why, she’d have so little trust in the cop that she might as well relax and enjoy.

Looking at our steeply rising crime statistics, one could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps we have a shortage of police officers, full stop, never mind their race or sex.

Another forgivable thought would be that exactly the same perverse culture that demands demographic rectitude is also responsible for not letting the few policemen we still have do their job properly.

You see, blacks, to name one underrepresented community, make up a mere three per cent of Britain’s population. That means that policemen can be allowed to stop and search exactly that proportion of suspects, no higher – or else risk censure for racism.

They might defend themselves by saying that the proportion of young black men in the prison population is 10 per cent, not three, and this is a more relevant statistic to go by. But Mrs May won’t accept that argument – policing by consent means policing by demographics. That’ll be all, officer.

May I go out on a limb and suggest that, if I lived in a particularly violent area, I wouldn’t want 51 per cent of the cops to be women? The reason for this antediluvian prejudice isn’t ideological but physiological: age and training being equal, women aren’t as strong and fast as men are.

Since cops of either sex aren’t allowed to carry guns, I’d prefer a large man protecting me, rather than a small woman. Call me a reactionary fossil, but I can’t help thinking that a wisp of an unarmed girl wouldn’t stand much of a chance against a young buck with a handful of GBH priors to his name.

Proving that I’m even more retrograde than that, I’d go so far as to say that my ideal of femininity doesn’t necessarily include the ability to bark ‘You’re nicked, sunshine!’ with convincing menace. I thought I’d say this before such an attitude becomes grounds for a mandatory custodial sentence.

In any case, protecting the public isn’t what our police are any longer for, at least not exclusively. They are there to assuage Mrs May’s social conscience. To her, as to our whole deliberately subversive establishment, PC should stand for political correctness, not police constable.

They themselves don’t have to rely on bobbies on the beat to protect them from muggers, and that’s all that really matters to that lot. The rest of us are there to be brainwashed, socially engineered – and defenceless.

Never mind policing by consent, I’d suggest. Bring back government by consent – kick the darling bud out and let her take her ideas on a lucrative lecture tour. She’ll find plenty of suck…, sorry, I mean takers.









Angie is unhappy with Bibi over the Holocaust

An Israeli prime minister wouldn’t be one’s first choice of potential Holocaust deniers. Or second. Or third. He wouldn’t figure at all.

Yet, following his speech at the Zionist Congress, some papers are accusing Netanyahu of being just that. That’s unfair.

A Holocaust denier claims it never happened or, if it did, certainly not on the scale universally believed to be true. Netanyahu said nothing of the sort.

He simply remarked that Hitler’s original intent was to expel Jews, not to exterminate them (possibly true), and that the Holocaust only happened because Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, nudged Hitler that way (undocumented).

It does seem that Bibi got carried away there. Since Israel’s present enemies typologically descend from the mufti on a direct line, and since, like their progenitor, they daydream of killing every Jew, there’s political capital to be built on such a claim – and Netanyahu is a politician above all else.

And yes, the absence of evidence isn’t the evidence of absence, as the saying goes. But a politician’s fecund imagination is even less evidential.

Netanyahu cited the following conversation between Hitler and the mufti, for which there isn’t a shred of documentary support. He left a few lines blank, but my imagination can fill voids too:

H: What on earth am I going to do with those vermin? Oh I know, I’ll kick them out of Germany.

M: Mein Führer, I’m afraid that’s not good enough.

H: Why in Gottes Namen not, Haj?

M: Just use your noggin, mein Führer. You expel them, and where d’you suppose they’ll go? They’ll come to Palestine! Can’t have that, can we now?

H: What are you suggesting then? How do I get rid of the Juden?

M: Burn them, mein Führer.

H: Wundebare Idee! Why didn’t I think of that? Consider it done, Haj.

M: Heil Hitler!

H: Allahu akhbar!

I hope my Israeli friends won’t be cross with me, but I find such an exchange to be highly improbable, even though the mufti was a Nazi, a Jew-hater and a murderer.

Thing is, so was Hitler, and I doubt he needed any encouragement to act on his violent intentions towards the Jews, and certainly not from someone he must have considered almost as racially inferior as a Jew.

Hitler’s intentions had been transparent ever since the 1923 publication of Mein Kampf, where ‘fighting’ Jews is the central theme. ‘Fighting’ crystallised to mean ‘exterminating’ later, after the war with the USSR started. 

Since Hitler used the words ‘Jews’ and ‘communists’ interchangeably, his ever-present racial hatred was then augmented by political animosity, hitherto kept in check while Stalin was Hitler’s ally. He also needed a battle cry to rally the troops.

It was that combination that produced the Holocaust, not the mufti’s prodding, even supposing it had happened. If anything, Hitler was probably more encouraged by the way occupied Eastern Europeans responded to the massacre.

The enthusiasm they showed in torturing and murdering their erstwhile Jewish neighbours outdid even the Nazis’ ardour, with, especially, the Balts, Slovaks, Poles and Ukrainians making even the Germans queasy at times.

It’s not just for logistic reasons that the worst death camps were sited in Eastern Europe, not Germany proper: the ambient population welcomed them even more.

In post-war Germany, guilt over the Holocaust has become an essential psychological factor in creating a new ethos – or even, if you believe such a thing possible, the new German, a sensitive liberal in touch with his feminine side.

Take that away, and German self-image would lose a redemptive aspect, leaving only the less attractive parts, such as philistinism, obsession with bodily functions and readiness to take over Europe with banks, rather than tanks.

No wonder that, on hearing Bibi’s pronouncement, my friend Angie was up in arms.

“You can’t take it away from us! It’s ours!” she screamed. “What’s all this Scheiße?!? Himmelherrgott! Whatever next! You can’t change history, particularly not on this issue!”

It sounded as if changing history on other issues would be fine with Frau Merkel, but then she was agitated, and it was all Bibi’s fault. But who can blame him? He’s a politician after all.









Britain does a Faust

Goethe’s character sold his soul to the devil for the promise of earthly happiness, forgetting that any bet with Mephistopheles can have only one winner.

Translating this German tale to today’s British reality, our spivocrats Dave and George ought to remember that, while the nation can survive without China’s ill-gotten cash, she can’t survive without her soul – not that they are ever overburdened with such lofty concerns.   

Verweile doch,” they said to Xi in effect, “du bist so schön.” Stay with us, you’re so beautiful – or rather rich (reich). There went the nation’s soul, what was left of it.

I’m not going to burden you with gruesome stories about abuses of human rights in communist China. These are widely known.

Anyway, the term is imprecise. There are no rights there, and, if you regard freedom as an essential aspect of humanity, certainly no human rights.

It’s a slave economy built on the foundation of the most satanic ideology man has devised so far. China is a semi-starving country oppressed by a few murderous billionaires and their servile cronies.

It’s a country where the criminal gang of Party chiefs can order women to abort their children on pain of punishment. It’s a country that can mow down the unaborted children who grow up and dare to voice their disapproval of the regime.

More important, it’s a country that presents a clear-cut strategic menace to the West, of which we’re still part. In today’s world China is as close to being satanic as any major country comes.

Does this mean we should do no business with China at all? In an ideal world, one run by moral dicta rather than pecuniary gain, the answer would be yes. Decent countries ought to boycott evil ones.

But we don’t live in an ideal world, nor have ever lived in one. In the real world, governments have to balance moral imperatives with economic and social needs.

Britain would never have built the greatest trading empire in history if she had insisted on doing business only with virtuous regimes. Such an intransigent stance would have been as fiscally ruinous as it would have been morally admirable.

So by all means, let’s trade with China. But there’s trade and there’s trade.

Buying cheap clothes, I-phones and fake watches is one thing. Making our energy supply dependent on the good will of a totalitarian regime is another.

No responsible country wishing to survive for a while longer will place its strategic interests in foreign hands – especially if these are the kind of blood-stained hands decent people would refuse to shake.

Yet this is precisely what Britain has done by signing the much-vaunted £40-billion contract commissioning China and France to build our next generation of nuclear power stations.

At least France being part of the deal probably means that the resulting facilities will be reasonably safe. While Chinese workmanship is as shoddy as slave labour always is, the French have a good record with nuclear power.

Hence those plants probably won’t do a Chernobyl on us – but they can do something worse. They can give an evil regime (I mean China, not France for the moment, provided Hollande’s tenure doesn’t last) control of our energy supply, a vital strategic resource.

This is yet another instance when morality and pragmatism converge, as do their opposites. It’s immoral to sell our souls to an evil regime. It’s impractical to let it jeopardise our strategic position.

What I found truly nauseating wasn’t the sight of our governing spivs brown-nosing to the Chinese. One expects nothing else from these spivs.

Even the sight of English Roses waving miniature Chinese flags only caused a minor gagging effect, although at least 60 million died in the shadow of that flag, and hundreds of millions have been turned into slaves.

But the sight of the Queen playing lickspittle to this satanic lot was truly unbearable. Her Majesty’s government hasn’t put her in such a humiliating position since Ceaușescu came to town on his pre-execution tour.

I wonder how many Brits realise that our governing spivs are doing the same thing to the country as Faust did to Gretchen. And, like Gretchen, it’s the nation that’ll pay the ultimate price.



Nadal is now in the homosexual striptease business

This morning I was stuck on a bus going up Piccadilly – the street itself and Hyde Park Corner were partly blocked to accommodate the Chinese gangster who’s staying at Buckingham Palace.

That was bad enough, but having to look at the back of the bus in front of me was even worse.

Staring me in the face was a giant ad showing semi-naked Rafael Nadal striking a seductive pose in Tommy Hilfiger underwear.

Now I have for advertising that special feeling I reserve for the profession that still continues to feed me 10 years after I left it. I also have an analytical reflex when looking at an ad.

Questions pop up in my mind the way pictures of fruit pop up in a Las Vegas one-armed bandit. What’s the target audience? What’s the marketing strategy? What’s the advertising brief? You know, that sort of thing.

Most advertising for most products these days relies on glamorising various deadly sins, such as envy, avarice, gluttony or sloth. In product categories like grooming, personal hygiene and clothes, especially underwear, the widely targeted sin is lust.

There’s nothing new about that – advertisers have always known that sex sells. Such ads have appealed to people’s sexuality since God was young.

Except that now they increasingly appeal not just to sexuality but specifically to homosexuality.

I don’t really know who buys Tommy Hilfiger briefs. In fact, until I saw the ad this morning I hadn’t had a clue who Tommy Hilfiger is.

Such ignorance is a definite indication that people like me, old, overweight, married chaps, aren’t the target market. If we were, you can be absolutely sure the advertiser would have found a way of reaching us with his message.

So fine, a roly-poly gentleman of a certain age who writes vituperative prose, drinks single malts and walks out of any establishment where pop music is played isn’t the target for Tommy Hilfiger intimate apparel.

Who is? This question is easy for an old advertising hand to answer.

The model, in this case Nadal, is supposed to cause sexual arousal by exposing his nude torso and shapely behind, creating in the viewer’s mind a subliminal bond between such a pleasurable feeling and the brand advertised.

Fair enough. This sort of thing works, and even I am man enough to admit to not being totally impervious to visual titillation. Except that what I find titillating isn’t a muscular naked chap. Those old Hello Boys! ads for Wonderbra are more my sort of thing. Or else – let me make sure my wife isn’t looking over my shoulder – the current Charlize Theron commercials for Dior.

I imagine some women may be turned on by an image of an undressed beefcake, but I doubt many women sport men’s underwear. They may see the pouch sewn in at the front as superfluous.

Some women must buy underwear for their men, but there probably aren’t enough of them to justify spending many millions on an advertising campaign – and take my word for it, many millions is what this campaign cost.

That leaves only one audience both susceptible to a bare-all tennis player and large enough to pay for the advertising budget: male homosexuals.

When I got home, I looked on Google and instantly found a TV commercial for the same product. It shows Nadal catwalking toward a fitting room, dropping his clothes as he goes.

When he’s down to his Tommy Hilfigers, he pulls them halfway down but stops at the critical moment. He then smiles seductively and shakes his head, as if saying “Thus far, you naughty boy, but no further.” Cut to the logo.

Now every advertising agency keeps a thick volume of information on potential celebrity endorsers. These are rated according to their credibility for various audiences and product categories.

For Nadal to justify his fee – and he doesn’t cross the street for less than seven digits – he had to rate very high on credibility for underwear aimed at a homosexual market.

Whether his own sexuality has anything to do with it, and it does appear ambivalent at times, I don’t know and frankly don’t care. But I do care about the nation’s moral health, and I doubt it’s well served by an open appeal to decadence.

In fact, in his book Le suicide français the French author Eric Zemmour partly attributes the eponymous suicide to the profusion of advertising explicitly aimed at homosexual audiences.

I rather think that Zemmour confuses cause and effect, as he tends to do. What he diagnoses as a disease is merely its symptom, but it’s a telling one.

Explaining his imposition of a urine tax, Emperor Vespasian (d. 79AD) presciently formulated the principle that now guides all commercial activity: Pecunia non olet. Money doesn’t smell.

If there’s money in it, even our government doesn’t mind kissing Chinese gangsters on the part so provocatively exposed by Nadal.

So can one expect a purely commercial enterprise to be concerned about the nation’s moral health? Of course not. Not these days, at any rate.