There should be no ‘gay equality’

The term in quotation marks comes from an article entitled Struggle for Gay Equality Is Far From Over by Alice Thomson, a living argument against women equality among columnists.

Miss Thomson seems certain that the present generation has scaled moral heights that were beyond the meagre resources, or indeed dreams, of the previous 250 generations of recorded human history.

She clearly suffers from the presumption of progress, that clinically provable symptom of mental retardation. Hers isn’t an isolated case, for the underlying disease is pandemic, similar to the Black Death in spread and arguably outstripping it in destructive potential.

Moderns, even some cleverer ones than Miss Thomson, believe that the demonstrable progress in science and technology is part of the overall upward momentum of mankind. Yet an unbiased analyst will realise that those are the only areas in which progress exists.

It’s even easy to come to the conclusion that scientific progress is inversely proportionate to the development in morality, intellect and social fibre. Nor does scientific progress come free of charge.

Let’s not forget that the same technology that heats your house can also vaporise it; that the same car gadgets that help you find your destination also enable the state to spy on your every move; that the same insecticides that improve our crops can be used to murder millions of people.

There’s nothing as catastrophically dangerous as scientific progress married to moral decline. Empirical evidence of that is easy to find: after all, the most scientifically accomplished century yet, the twentieth, produced more violent deaths than the other 50 centuries of recorded history combined.

Miss Thomson would brush this observation aside even if it occurred to her, which it probably wouldn’t. To her, the giant strides made in equality testify to our steady ascent up the morality ladder.

If probed, she’d probably be confused about the true meaning of equality. Equality before God or the law is the right use of the word. But equality becomes a gross solecism when applied to good and bad, virtuous and sinful, beautiful and ugly. The right word for equalising those isn’t equality but anomie.

And anomie, if universally spread, spells a moral, social and intellectual collapse. The end of our civilisation, in other words.

Miss Thomson is upset that some troglodytes take exception to the announcement that the diver Tom Daley and his ‘husband’ are having a baby by a surrogate. One comment described the news as “both disturbing and disgusting”, while Miss Thomson’s less progressive colleague wrote “Please don’t pretend two dads is the new normal”.

Such views were mainstream a short while ago. In fact, Miss Thomson confirms as much: “The proportion of people who say they think same-sex partnerships are ‘not wrong at all’ has quadrupled from 17 per cent… in 1983 to 64 per cent in 2016, but that still leaves a third who feel ambivalent or hostile.”

It’s that Darwinist presumption of progress again: all change is for the better. Thus at some point within that 33-year period, two thirds of the British public underwent a Damascene moral catharsis, and Miss Thomson won’t have a moment’s rest until the remaining third follow suit.

I’m amazed that the proportion of holdouts still clinging to sanity is as high as that, what with people like Miss Thomson forming opinions and the state throwing its bulk behind them.

Modernity clearly didn’t heed Hilaire Belloc’s macabre prophesy: “We are tickled by [the Barbarian’s] irreverence, his comic inversion of our old certitudes and our fixed creeds refreshes us; we laugh. But as we laugh we are watched by large and awful faces from beyond; and on these faces there is no smile.”

Inversion of our old certitudes indeed, and equalising normal sexuality with what for 5,000 years was known as a perversion (or ‘abomination’ in that homophobic book troglodytes regard as sacred) is only a small part of it. Yesterday, for example, a Lancashire court passed judgement on a 14-year-old robber who hit a middle-aged woman on the head with a nail-studded club and left her for dead.

At different times in history, before the old certitudes were inverted, the feral creature would have suffered different degrees of severe punishment, from being simply put down to being locked up for decades.

Our morally elevated time is different though, much to the delight of Miss Thompson and her ilk. Hence the little animal received a sentence of a 12-month probation and a £20 fine, only payable when he is 18.

No doubt Miss Thomson wouldn’t spot any link between that outrageous miscarriage of justice and Tom Daley’s predicament. Yet it’s clear-cut: the presumption of progress is tantamount to the presumption of equality where none should exist.

The wielder of the nail-studded club is presumed to be equal to his classmate who wields nothing deadlier than a PlayStation. He did commit a sin, but the distance between that and virtue is minuscule by the standards of inverted certitudes.

“Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad,” and what is madness if not losing touch with reality? According to Burke, social reality is formed by prejudice, which is intuitive knowledge; prescription, which is truth passed on by previous generations; and presumption, which is inference from the common experience of mankind.

All these are overridden by the pandemic madness of modernity.

Even 20 years ago, someone suggesting that it’s perfectly normal for two homosexuals to marry and have children would have been considered mad. Now he finds himself in a majority, and no one dares to suggest this is wrong.

We’ve simply lost the ability to discriminate between good and evil, intelligent and stupid, normal and perverse. No doubt Miss Thomson and others whose name is legion would welcome this. Any kind of discrimination is to them evil, and the word has universally fallen into disrepute.

Yet no moral, intellectual or aesthetic judgement is possible without discrimination. Nor, without an ability to discriminate between normal and perverse, is any judgement possible of two homosexuals father/mothering a child.

Homosexuals must have equal rights before the law, but homosexuality shouldn’t. (“Love the sinner, hate the sin” was Augustine’s way of expressing the underlying concept.) Hence no homosexual, or heterosexual for that matter, should be abused, prosecuted without due process or denied employment opportunities merely on the strength of his sexuality.

But equalising homosexuality with heterosexuality when it comes to marriage and parenting goes beyond decadence. It spells a moral and mental collapse – with civilisational collapse predictably just round the corner.

You know, the sort of calamity the likes of Miss Thomson equate with progress.

White van strikes again

Van-driving schools struggle to cope with growing demand

An alleged white van allegedly driven by Alek Minassian allegedly ploughed through a Toronto crowd, killing 10 and injuring 15.

There, I hope I’ve satisfied the criteria of responsible reporting, where everything is only alleged – except the corpses. Those are real and indisputable.

I might have exaggerated slightly. Reports of the crime described neither the white van nor the way it was used as ‘alleged’. Only the criminal rated such consideration, this although hundreds of people saw him jump out of the murder weapon.

It’s not as if the driver escaped, and the police conducted a thorough investigation eventually leading to an arrest, with the man denying it all. In that case, it would be legitimate to report that the alleged driver of the white van has been arrested. But hey, every field has its technical jargon.

Let’s drop this parasite qualifier and state unequivocally that the white van was definitely driven by Alek Minassian, 25, student of Seneca College in Toronto’s suburb of North York.

That’s all we know about him so far. The police doubtless know more, but won’t tell.

Such reticence encourages idle speculation, and this is what I propose to indulge in for a minute or two.

First, the crime distinctly lacks novelty appeal. Many identical crimes have been committed before, usually by alleged – no, scrap that – unquestionable Muslims, who both simplified forensic investigation and reconfirmed their inspiring faith by shouting “Allahu Akbar!”

This method of expressing piety has been recommended by Al Qaeda, in an article entitled “The Ultimate Mowing Machine” appearing on its website. A pick-up truck or a van, explained the article helpfully, can be used as “a mowing machine, not to mow grass but mow down the enemies of Allah.” Non-Muslims, in other words.

The article was both building on experience already amassed and looking into the future. For murder by vehicle has a long, if inglorious, history, with such incidents occurring recently in North Carolina (2006), Jerusalem (2014), Nice (2016), Ohio (2016), Berlin (2016), London (2017), Stockholm (2017), London again (2017), Barcelona (2017), Edmonton (2017), New York (2017).

All these incidents involved Muslims as active agents, against only one in which they found themselves on the receiving end. A chap called Darren Osborne drove his van through the crowd outside London’s Finsbury Park Mosque, by way of a retaliatory strike.

Obviously, whatever religion he espoused provided insufficient motivation, for he only managed to kill one worshipper. Followers of what our politicians describe as a ‘religion of peace’ invariably score in double digits.

So what about Minassian? Is he a Muslim? If Canadian police follow the same government guidelines as other Western police forces, they won’t say, not immediately at any rate.

Governments insist on such reticence not because this kind of information is irrelevant, but because it may incite anti-Muslim sentiments not yet incited by previous atrocities.

That’s the official explanation. The unofficial, true one is that we can’t sin against multi-culti probity. Yes, most such atrocities have been credited to Muslims. Yet this purely coincidental fact has nothing to do with Islam.

Nor should the past encourage any conjecture on the present and future. The statistical dial is reset after each atrocity. The next one could be committed by a Methodist just as easily as by a Muslim.

Our governments seem to have been informed by Bertrand Russell who argued, among his other fallacies, that one can’t assume the sun will rise tomorrow just because it rose yesterday.

Applying this misconception to ‘the mowing machines’ leaves simple mortals like me merely speculating on the religious identity of each new driver, in this case Minassian.

Although he unhelpfully neglected to shout “Allahu Akbar!”, on the balance of statistical probability Minassian has to be a Muslim. If the sun has been rising every day for millions of years, it’ll rise tomorrow, whatever Russell said.

On the other hand, Minassian is an Armenian name. And Armenians aren’t just non-Muslims but actively anti-Muslim.

Such unfashionable feelings mostly date back to the 1915 massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by the Turks, although there have been many others, both in the Ottoman Empire and in Azerbaijan (the latest one in 1990).

If Minassian isn’t Muslim, why did he choose the murder method to which Muslims can justifiably claim proprietary rights? That’s letting the side down, or rather both sides.

You see what kind of thorny paths one is forced to tread if denied proper information? Alas, these days reporters aren’t allowed to report, nor, in many cases, investigators to investigate. The rule of PC law won’t be compromised.

A liberal calling liberals black

Liberals, as seen by Prof. Tombs

The title of Prof. Richard Tombs’s article, Liberals Are Undermining Western Civilisation, made me regret all the nasty things I wrote about our universities yesterday.

Here’s a Cambridge professor – of history! – speaking my language, I thought. Alas, repudiating my view of modern universities has turned out to be premature. For Prof. Tombs doesn’t really speak my language. He only knows a few words of it.

The words he knows defend the teaching of Western civilisation at universities and castigate those who believe this discipline “smacks of racism, imperialism and claims to ethnic or cultural superiority”.

Digging deep into his lexicon of ‘illiberal’ phrases, Prof. Tombs then insists that “there is an important thing called western civilisation, defined by history, not geography.” True, and spoken grammatically with perfect inflection.

But then Prof. Tombs undermines his polyglot credentials by slipping into his mother tongue, the language of a congenital liberal only different from the tongue spoken by his targets by its greater sanity, not greater understanding.

For this is how the good professor defines western civilisation: “It is the sum total of our laws, our values, our arts, our institutions, of the habits of mind and heart that enable us to live, fairly harmoniously, together: to trust each other (to some extent); to look out for each other (sometimes grudgingly); to understand each other (sometimes imperfectly); even to tell jokes about each other.”

I dare say, if that’s all there is to it, perhaps the subject shouldn’t claim pride of place in university curricula. For no academic discipline will teach anybody anything if its object of study is ill-defined.

For example, a medical student will end up confused and misguided if he’s made to study “Childhood sex abuse as the cause of hysteria”. That claim by Freud (along with all his other claims) has been thoroughly debunked by modern science. Hence the object of study is defined so poorly that a student would be better off studying something else.

Prof. Tombs’s definition of Western civilisation is meaningless to the point of being ignorant. It could have been made meaningful and enlightened by tagging on a four-word phrase at the end: “ – all animated by Christianity”. But that phrase went missing.

Defining Western civilisation without mentioning Christianity is a feat of which any card-carrying liberal would be proud – and only if he were an activist, not just a rank-and-file member.

Once Prof. Tombs tumbled on that slippery slope, the law of acceleration kicked in, and he slid towards the intellectual abyss at an ever-increasing speed. Deceiving by omission, rather than commission, Prof. Tombs denied Christianity any place at all among our civilisation’s formative influences:

“It is indebted to ancient Greece for the foundations of its philosophy, partly transmitted by Arabic scholars; to ancient Rome and medieval England for its two great legal systems; to the 17th-century scientific revolution and the 18th-century Enlightenment for much of its modernity – themselves stimulated by contacts with the rest of the world… Its diversity, eclecticism and capacity for evolution are defining characteristics.”

‘Partly’ is the operative word in the first item on the list, for both Plato and Aristotle were studied at medieval institutions of learning long before Arabic scholars had a role to play. Surely the learned professor has heard of Neoplatonism, an influential trend in both theology and philosophy that predated Islam by some 400 years.

It’s true that the philosophical apparatus of the West was largely designed in Athens. But an apparatus is only an instrument: it’s what you do with it that matters. A knife can save a life in the hands of a surgeon or take it in the hands of a murderer.

In the hands of the greatest minds in the history of the West, the instrument was fine-tuned to work within Christian doctrine. Aquinas adapted Aristotle to Christianity, not Christianity to Aristotle. Aquinas’s Aristotle is very different from Averroes’s.

It might have escaped Prof. Tombs’s attention that “Medieval England” credited with producing one of the West’s “two great legal systems” was Christian. This isn’t a case of post hoc, ergo propter hoc, for every item in English Common Law is derived from Judaeo-Christian morality.

It would be tedious to have to point out the Judaeo-Christian antecedents of our legality. Leaving the Decalogue aside, even the dry laws of adjudication are directly traceable to the Old Testament.

As to Roman law, it’s indeed the foundation of most legal systems on the Continent – but again not in its undiluted form. The concepts of jus commune were fitted into complex systems of civil law based on Judaeo-Christian moral premises.

Prof. Tombs doesn’t seem to see any link between “the 17th-century scientific revolution” and Christianity, which is obvious to serious thinkers.

Thus R. G. Collingwood explained why natural science in any modern sense could only have appeared within Christendom:

“Aristotle thought, and he was not the only Greek philosopher to think it, that by merely using our senses we learn a natural world exists. He did not realise that the use of our senses can never inform us that what we perceive by using them is a world of things that happen of themselves, and are not subject to control by our own art or anyone else’s… This metaphysical error was corrected by Christianity.”

As to the “18th-century Enlightenment” to which our civilisation is indebted “for much of its modernity”, that much is true. The problem is that the Enlightenment and the modernity it spawned aren’t so much the development of Western civilisation as its denial.

The Enlightenment itself was a violent and systematic rebellion against Christendom, targeting not just the religion but everything it had produced, including its ancient institutions. This space doesn’t allow going into this in detail – I may selfishly recommend a few of my books on this subject.

Suffice it to say here that Prof. Tombs’s eponymous liberalism was the Enlightenment’s first-born child, and the baby was from the start devoted to belying its nice-sounding name. Its rabid post-natal atheism was manifested not only intellectually, as a denial of Christianity, but also violently, as an orgy of destruction.

The great French medievalist Régine Pernoud estimates that in the hundred years following the revolution, 80 per cent of Gothic and Romanesque buildings in France were destroyed. Note that this outrage continued for a century after revolutionary ardour must have abated.

What we’re witnessing now, the sort of things that so upset Prof. Tombs, is the triumph of the Enlightenment, which is to say the wanton destruction of what according to him doesn’t even seem to exist: the Judaeo-Christian roots of history’s greatest civilisation. That’s why Western civilisation is at best treated as one of many in our university curricula, and not even as primus inter pares.

It always was what I call an asset-stripping civilisation: it gratefully accepted everything it found useful in other civilisations and discarded the rest. But “its diversity, eclecticism and capacity for evolution” aren’t, as Prof. Tombs claims, its defining characteristics.

They are strictly derivative from the religion whose essence is love. Diversity and eclecticism are only useful when they are hoops revolving around the immovable axis. Remove the axis, and the hoops spin out, becoming deadly projectiles.

But yes, liberals are indeed undermining Western civilisation. By the sound of him, Prof. Tombs is one of them, if saner than most.

Universities shouldn’t be too Open

A few days ago the same newspaper carried two articles on universities, one by Stephen Glover, the other by David Blunkett, former Education Secretary.

Mr Glover wondered whether or not universities were fit for purpose, while Lord Blunkett had no doubts on that score: they are, which is why we must keep the Open University going.

To answer the question posed in the first article, we must first agree on what the purpose of a university is. Considering that the first such institution, University of Bologna, was founded in 1088, we’ve had a long time to reach such an agreement, yet none exists.

Though perhaps this was never expressed in such terms, medieval universities set out to equip a student with the intellectual tools required for pursuing the truth. Coming to the fore were such subjects as theology, philosophy, history, law, mathematics, music, astronomy, logic, rhetoric, grammar.

The corpus of knowledge in some of those disciplines was considerably smaller than it is today, but there’s no doubt that those universities justified their name by giving students universal education. Essentially, the medieval university was thinkers and scholars training thinkers and scholars.

I don’t know how many graduates of, say, the University of Paris at the time of Albertus Magnus left academic fields for careers in inn management or timber trading, but I suspect not many.

Without passing any unfashionable quality judgment, one simply has to observe that the concept of university has changed somewhat since that budding young scholar from the village of Aquino travelled to Paris to study with Albertus.

How much richer young Thomas (and we along with him) would have been had he learned not Aristotle but, say, ‘The Art of Skinning a Bullock’ or ‘The Plight of Women in the Agora’. So I hope you’ll join me in rejoicing at the progress we’ve made since those uncivilised times.

For this is precisely the direction in which the situation has changed. Universities have systematically deemphasised general, universal education in favour of specialised professional learning in narrow – and often useless – fields. The purpose is no longer the pursuit of the truth. It’s the pursuit of a lucrative career.

England, boasting Europe’s third-oldest university, managed to uphold the old principles longer than the Continent. Until very recently, a boy or a girl from a decent family could study something like philosophy for three years only then to go to the City, get some on the job training and eventually graduate to seven-digit bonuses.

But even in England this is becoming rare, and, say, in France such a career path is well-nigh impossible. If a youngster’s degree is in history, he can teach the subject or work in the archives. No one will hire him as a trainee stockbroker. Specialisation verified by documentary evidence reigns supreme.

However, as Mr Glover reminds us, even the university in its modified form wasn’t universally, as it were, accessible in his generation, which is to say in the sixties. At that time only five to ten per cent of youngsters went to universities. The rest muddled through life without a framed degree certificate adorning their wall.

That was the tail end of sanity, when most people still accepted the demonstrable fact that not everyone is qualified to gain higher education. Some youngsters, most actually, have neither the requisite minds nor the academic inclinations.

This obvious observation is of course anathema to the ideologically egalitarian, which is to say modern, mind. Everyone is supposed to be equally able to succeed in any field, except football. Granted, not everyone has the talent to score 30 goals a season. But everyone can get a university degree. It’s just a matter of opening paths.

Both John Major, who’s intellectually deficient but not evil, and Tony Blair, who’s both, declared that at least half of the population should be blessed with university education. The implicit assumption was that the chunk of the five to ten per cent of the population deemed fit for university admission 50 years ago has grown at least five-fold.

This ignores the evidence of the legions of youngsters leaving secondary schools without being able to read and add up properly. British schoolchildren’s performance in all exams other than pregnancy tests is consistently at the bottom of European leagues.

Hence it’s clear that no five-fold increase in the number of qualified university entrants has occurred, quite the opposite. But, once announced, the numerical target had to be met.

That has been done by modernity’s favourite method: sleight of hand. Countless polytechnics have been rebranded as universities, while failing to provide even the level of professional training they had provided as polytechnics.

Moreover, universities now offer credit courses that have no academic value, nor indeed much practical one. As usual, the US leads the way with such courses as ‘The Lesbian Phallus’ (The Occidental College, LA), ‘Philosophy and Star Trek’ (Georgetown University) or ‘Maple Syrup Making’ (Alfred University, NYC).

But British universities manfully hold their own, with courses like ‘How to Train in the Jedi Way’ (Queen’s, Belfast), ‘Harry Potter Studies’ (Durham), ‘The History of Lace Knitting in Shetland’ (Glasgow, graduate course) or ‘The Life and Times of Robin Hood’ (type-cast Nottingham University).

And of course such invaluable courses as black studies, women’s studies and, presumably, Che Guevara studies are routinely offered by all universities, old and new.

In his article, Lord Blunkett defends the proliferation of so-called universities and so-called courses. In particular, he extols the Open University, which allegedly elevates young minds to academic excellence.

As proof of this allegation, Lord Blunkett cites the example of a woman he knows, a social worker who got a master’s degree in her chosen field and now feels qualified to tend to the poor.

One only wonders how all those nuns in the Middle Ages managed to look after the poor without the benefit of advanced degrees in ‘poverty management’ or ‘social studies’. Somehow they got by on little specialised training, mostly contained within the Gospels.

Mr Glover justifiably complains that such an inordinate proliferation of universities is bound to indoctrinate half the population in ideologies of the Left. On the basis of anecdotal but empirically demonstrable evidence, he estimates the proportion of left-wing dons at about 85 per cent.

My observation of Western universities over the past half a century suggests that, if anything, this figure is too low, especially in the humanities. And of course the social damage of half the population brainwashed in Marxism is greater than it would be if only five to ten per cent were exposed to it.

One can think of any number of reasons explaining the leftward bias in the university. One is the same as the reason for left-wing bias anywhere: envy.

If at the time of Albertus and his star student, theology and philosophy were the axis around which society revolved, today’s societies pursue happiness (i.e. material comfort), not the truth. Hence it’s not dons but fund managers who are the priests of this godless religion.

Seeing that a young man can make in a year what a professor makes in a lifetime, the professor often feels envious and resentful, correctly perceiving himself as marginalised. And socialism is the creed of the envious, resentful and marginalised.

I remember many years ago talking to a friend, who at that time was Head of Humanities at a major university. As a youngster he used to sell Firestone tyres, and I often heard him complain that, had he remained in that field, he could have become a wealthy Vice President of the company, rather than a measly professor.

One could detect genuine regret, of the kind that Albertus Magnus probably didn’t feel about his own career choice. Can you imagine his complaining, “Oh Thomas, if only I could have sold carriage wheels, I’d have lots more ducats…”

If it were up to me, 90 per cent of all universities would be shut down or reclassified as polytechnics. And those that remained would be obligated to teach only traditional academic disciplines.

Society would be a lot healthier, not to mention cleverer. And… well, no point overdosing on the indigestible pie in the sky.

Poor old BBC Proms

Princess Nokia: Sir Henry Wood would be proud

The BBC has announced it hopes to book Princess Nokia for this year’s BBC Proms.

There’s no doubt Princess Nokia belongs in the Royal Albert Hall. She’s royal, it’s royal – a natural fit, right?

Well, on second thoughts, perhaps not. The Albert Hall is indeed royal, but Princess Nokia really isn’t.

She isn’t to be invited to perform at this year’s Proms because of her noble heritage. It’s strictly on artistic merit, ignoble though it may be in the eyes of some stick-in-the-mud reactionaries.

As a lifelong champion of progress, I can only sit back and admire. Founded 120 years ago, the Proms used to be strictly a series of classical concerts. Featuring on the programmes have been such utterly boring pieces as, for example, Schubert’s lieder.

It was all “Mein Vater, Mein Vater” or “Tränen in meinen Augen”. Even those overachievers who knew these meant “My father, my father” and “tears in my eyes” must have suppressed a yawn. So all champions of progress like me should welcome Princess Nokia with her immortal masterpieces containing lyrics of ineffable poetry. Such as:

“Talk shit, we can cast spells// Long weaves, long nails// Corn rows, pig tails// Baby fathers still in jail// Good witches, I f*** with// Bad bitches, we run s***// 4 bitches, 4 corners// North, East, West, South shit// Good witches, I f*** with// Hopped off my broomstick// Witchcraft, bitch craft// Light magic, it’s nothing.”

Erlkönig, eat your heart out – here’s an example of how to make mysticism fun. Granted, not everyone understands what these lyrics mean, but then – hand on heart – how many of us understand every German word of Erlkönig? I know I don’t.

And it’s not just my main woman Nokia who’s going to grace this year’s Proms. I’d say we’ll go the whole hog, but won’t, for fear of offending our Muslin friends.

As an upgrade on the likes of Fischer-Dieskau and Janet Baker, we’ll have Serpentwithfeet, another great singer, albeit in a different genre. Mr Serpentwithfeet is a leading practitioner of ‘pagan gospel’, whatever that means.

Not only will he introduce this vocal genre to Sir Henry Wood’s venerable platform, but he’ll also regale the public with visual delights. For every inch of Mr Serpentwithfeet’s body is densely covered with tattoos – and he even sports a huge golden nose ring. Match that, you superannuated baritones and overweight sopranos!

Multi-culti enough for you? No? Well, don’t fret. For the Proms will also feature – in a debut performance! – the Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour and his band Le Super Etoile de Dakar. The superstar of Dakar is about to become the superstar of the BBC Proms, and aren’t you proud.

Still not enough? Knew you’d feel that way. So – are you ready for this? – the Proms have other delights in store for you. Such as the Cuban group Buena Vista Social Club.

This versatile ensemble doesn’t restrict itself to merely one form of reggae – it does them all. And there I was, not even realising there are different forms within this exciting genre.

And speaking of versatility, also working his magic at the Proms will be Jacob Collier, the multi-instrumentalist, multimedia prodigy who plays every instrument in His creation.

Mr Collier, 21, has slapped together an audio-video rendition of Stevie Wonder’s song Don’t You Worry ‘bout a Thing. The number went viral on YouTube and enabled young Mr Collier to follow in Sir Henry Wood’s footsteps.

Now, out of idle curiosity, why are they doing this? Why are they debauching, nay prostituting, a century-old institution? Is it just to sell more tickets?

Perish the thought. No one can accuse the BBC of crass commercialism. After all, they don’t have to be crassly commercial, being financed by our taxes, £150.50 a year per household.

As a public institution, the BBC has its Charter, thereby being committed to “sustaining citizenship and civil society, promoting education and learning, stimulating creativity and cultural excellence.”

You must agree that, in order to fulfil such lofty desiderata, the BBC must cast its cultural net wide, to include all ages and all sub-cultures. As part of this commitment the BBC is trying to attract a younger audience to the Proms, and just playing Bach and Beethoven won’t do that.

Now that’s a noble goal if I’ve ever seen one. In order to expose the young to the better things in life, the BBC is serving up the worst things. Works for me. I’m only sorry that this worthy effort is somewhat halfhearted.

In its pursuit of musical populism, the BBC has missed many tricks. Such as – and I’m happy to offer even unsolicited advice – live sex on stage. That’ll put young bums on seats and, not to be ageist about it, some old bums as well.

Specifically for the delight of younger audiences, the price of every ticket should include an Ecstasy tablet, an ounce of marijuana, a syringe and (for those attending the live sex concert) free mac rental.

Every concert should be billed as a rave or, to add a touch of spirituality, a Black Mass, ideally complete with sacrificing a virgin. I’m sure that pagan gospel singers will be happy to provide the accompaniment.

This is just a little taste, a teaser to whet your appetites. I have many other ideas in store, but I’ll keep those to myself in the hope of eventually being engaged as a programming consultant to the BBC.

It should be clear to anyone boasting an IQ in excess of room temperature (centigrade) that the same youngsters who’ll happily attend one of my imaginary concerts or one of the real ones mentioned above won’t then cue up to listen to a Mahler symphony.

So what is it that the BBC wants to attract a younger audience to? Princess Nokia? But there’s no need to prostitute a great institution for that purpose. Princess has plenty of other venues at her disposal.

Despite being a lifelong champion of both progress and multiculturalism, I can’t help thinking that the BBC seeks to destroy the Proms simply for the sake of destruction. It’s not about helping young people; it’s about destroying old institutions, every one of them.

That’s what we pay our £150.50 for, making every one of us an accomplice. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves.

What liberal values, Manny?

President Macron should replace In Praise of Older Women with Aristotle’s treatise on logic as his bedside book.

A couple of months of intense study, and he’ll be able to rid his oratory of such oxymorons as ‘the EU’s liberal values’ or ‘EU democracy’. Another month or two, and he may even learn to follow Mark Twain’s advice to use the right word, not its second cousin thrice removed.

Speaking to the European Parliament (another oxymoron, by the way), Manny rued that: “There seems to be a sort of European civil war at the moment where nationalism and egotism takes precedence over what brings us together” – all because of “fascination with the illiberal”.

This statement contains more than one logical fallacy per word. One of them is called petitio principia (‘begging the question’). That means using the desired conclusion of an argument as its premise.

A civil war is a war between different factions within the same country, which the EU isn’t, not yet. However, Manny, as a fanatic of European integration, would like Europe to be a single country, with him as president and Angela as PM. Hence his logical lapse.

And exactly “what brings us together”? Some kind of a Franco-German protectorate over the whole continent, with lesser lights humbly submitting to whatever obscenity the Manny-Angela axis would wish to shove down their throats?

That could be a single currency predictably reducing weaker economies to basket cases. Or an unqualified welcome to millions of cultural aliens, which is guaranteed to make Europe considerably less European – if not drowned in blood. Or imposing on other countries laws that go against their instincts, culture and historical experience. Why, it could be anything fathomed by Manny’s and Angela’s fecund minds.

If Manny meant things that bring him and Angela together, then he should have said so, without using the unwarranted collective ‘us’. I doubt that, say, Victor Orban sees himself as part of that pronoun.

“Fascination with the illiberal” is implicitly another case of petitio principia. The underlying assumption is that the EU espouses liberal values.

Of course the modern political lexicon is so open-ended that denotation has fallen out. Only connotation remains, and in this case Manny uses the word ‘liberal’ in its traditional sense: free trade, small central government accountable to the people, individual liberty trumping collective security.

Which of these apply to the EU in the real, as distinct from fantasy, world? Actually, none.

The EU is rather the opposite of free trade – it’s a protectionist bloc, constantly provoking outsiders into trade wars. It’s also the opposite of small central government.

The purpose of the EU is to create a giant superstate, dissolving all governments small and big within itself. That’s never going to happen, but, if it does, such a Leviathan could never be accountable even if it wanted to be, which it doesn’t.

On the contrary, the whole idea is to put much mileage between the state and its subjects, breaking off every feedback channel. A Transylvanian peasant or a Polish miner would have no mechanism whatever to hold such a state to account. He’d have to swallow without demurring any rancid dish cooked up by Manny-Angela. He’d huff and puff and swear, but he’d be helpless.

“Nationalism and egotism”? Manny probably meant ‘egoism’, not ‘egotism’, so perhaps he should add Mark Twain’s collected works to Aristotle on his bedside table. But let’s not split linguistic hairs.

Instead let’s remark that nationalism can easily be confused with patriotism, and egoism with concern for national interests or indeed sovereignty.

A nationalist not only loves his country but believes everything it does is good because it does it. A patriot loves his country and is prepared to defend not only its borders but also its soul.

Manny may be smart enough to detect such nuances, but not when his dander is up. It is now, and it’s all Hungary’s and Poland’s fault.

Those two countries got into Manny’s bad books by refusing to accept the EU’s mandatory immigration quotas. How very nationalistic and egoistic of them not to open their arms to a few hundred thousand Muslims.

(I’m guessing the probable demographics of potential immigration, on the assumption that, say, Canadians are unlikely to want to settle in Hungary or Poland in large enough numbers to make a difference.)

Taking a wild stab in the dark, I’d suggest that Manny, for all his absence of ‘nationalism and egotism’, isn’t out to increase the Muslim presence in France beyond the present 10 per cent of the population, and neither would he wish such a fate on other countries.

His diatribe isn’t about immigration; it’s about control. Manny detests any manifestation of independence on the part of what he sees as his vassals.

A parallel with the American Civil War is begging to be drawn. The North inscribed abolition of slavery on its banners. But its bellicose reaction to the South’s secession was caused not by slavery but by its in-built imperative to retain and expand the power of the central government.

Lincoln said as much: “If that would preserve the Union, I’d agree not to liberate a single slave.” Note also that his Gettysburg Address includes not one anti-slavery word – and in fact Lincoln dreaded the possibility that he himself might be portrayed as an abolitionist.

I’m not surprised that the people of Hungary and Poland, who have experienced every type of tyranny known to man, are ready to fight for the last vestiges of their freedom. Manny describes this as populism, as in “populism will lead us into the abyss”.

Perhaps. However, the best way to preempt a populist reaction to tyranny is not to impose tyranny in the first place.

Then again, Manny still hasn’t followed my advice to keep a volume of Aristotle by his bed. Alas, In Praise of Older Women is unlikely to give him a firmer grip on logical nuances.

Che Guevara lives on in footie

Pep Guardiola, manager of Manchester City FC.

Pep Guardiola is one of the best managers in football, which he has just proved yet again when his Manchester City won the Premiership with five games to spare.

Glowing tributes have poured in, deservedly so. Yet one tribute, though meant to be glowing, sounds very much like actionable libel. An article on Yahoo describes Pep as “football’s Che Guevara”.

That sounds as if the article is claiming that Pep is a sadistic torturer, mass murderer, a man who tried to impose sadistic torture and mass murder internationally, and, incidentally, a homosexual (not that I’m comparing this little quirk with Guevara’s crimes).

Implying that the happily married serial father is a closet case no longer constitutes libel, quite the opposite. But likening a public figure to mass murderers and torturers is definitely libellous. What if I described the nice Mr Guardiola as ‘football’s Himmler’? ‘Pol Pot’? ‘Fred West’?

I can’t help feeling he’d take exception to that, and a letter from his solicitor wouldn’t be long in coming. Yet I’m equally sure that Pep took the Yahoo description in the spirit in which it had been offered, as unqualified praise.

For lost in the popular mythology is the direct and obvious parallel between Guevara and Messrs Himmler, Pol Pot and Fred West. They are generally regarded as not very nice, while Guevara is seen as a romantic hero.

After all, what else can a revolutionary be other than a romantic hero? There’s only one sane answer to that: a sadistic torturer and mass murderer. But that’s not the answer accepted by most people, even those who don’t sport Guevara’s likeness on their T-shirts or bedroom walls.

Guevara the revolutionary is exhaustively summarised in his fond recollection: “I ended the problem by giving him a shot with a .32 pistol in the right side of the brain, with exit orifice in the right temporal lobe.”

Only a coldblooded murderer would describe an execution with such enviable anatomical erudition and such blood-chilling moral detachment.

And Guevara the Marxist chieftain in Cuba is best understood through this heartfelt statement: “The executions by firing squads are not only a necessity for the people of Cuba, but also an imposition of the people.”

I’d suggest that the question “What do you think of Che Guevara?” is a useful and sufficient test of political convictions – and, I dare say, morality. No conservative would disagree with my assessment of Guevara; no leftie would agree with it.

(Another such test, but with a smaller moral dimension, could be the question “Do you think the right side won the Civil War in a) America, b) Spain. The unequivocally conservative reply would be a) no, b) yes. Any other combination is suspect.)

So let’s apply this test to some public figures, starting with my favourite pundit Peter Hitchens, who once wrote:

“[Che’s] death meant a lot to me and countless like me at the time, he was a role model, albeit an impossible one for us bourgeois romantics insofar as he went and did what revolutionaries were meant to do – fought and died for his beliefs.”

That Mr Hitchens was 16 in 1967, when Guevara finally got his just desserts, is a mitigating circumstance. But not an exculpating one: like conservatism, communism is above all a matter of temperamental predisposition, and this doesn’t change with age. Witness Mr Hitchens’s enthusiastic support of another mass murderer, Putin.

Nelson Mandela, another idol of the Left, described Guevara as “an inspiration for every human being who loves freedom”.

Well, all my friends and I love freedom, but none of us is inspired by Guevara. Mandela undoubtedly was, hence the torture and murder centres his ANC set up before it gained power. Hence also the ANC’s widespread practice of ‘necklacing’, whereby an old tyre was filled with petrol, put around a dissident’s neck and set alight. Guevara would have been proud.

To Jean-Paul Sartre, Guevara was “not only an intellectual but also the most complete human being of our age.”

I agree with the first part: only an intellectual would be so intimately familiar with the anatomy of the brain through which he fires a .32 calibre bullet. But the most complete human being? Surely Stalin was even more complete? Actually, Jean-Paul loved Stalin too.

Graham Greene remarked that Guevara “represented the idea of gallantry, chivalry and adventure.”

Given that, what’s a bit of sadistic torture and mass murder? But then Greene probably could have said the same thing about Pol Pot.

And even Murray Rothbard, the shining light of libertarianism, described Guevara as a “heroic figure”, who “more than any man of our epoch or even of our century, was the living embodiment of the principle of revolution.”

That view would be unimpeachable had Mr Rothbard equated the principle of revolution with mass murder and sadistic torture. But his description of Guevara as heroic, rather than evil, suggests he meant something more positive than that. He obviously doesn’t share my belief that the only real purpose of mass murder is the murder of masses.

This goes a long way towards vindicating my view of libertarianism being more leftist than conservative. But I won’t expand on this now, fearing that some of my friends and readers may suffer dental problems brought on by the gnashing of teeth.

I wonder how successful Guevara would have been had he applied his talents to football management. Not very, would be my guess.

Revolutionaries are good at destruction, but creating even something as trivial as a winning football team is usually beyond them. Anyway, I doubt footballers would play for a manager whose training techniques include sadistic torture and mass murder.

Christendom won’t pass!

Bishop’s Park is lovely this time of year: narcissi, daffodils, magnolias, camellias and tulips are all in bloom. And then there’s this eyesore, commemorating the local residents who fought with the loyalists in the Spanish Civil War.

The text should more appropriately read: “To the eternal shame of those fools and knaves who fought side by side with some Spaniards to spread Stalinism and enslave first Spain and then all of Europe.”

The rousing words ¡No pasarán! the memorial extols were uttered by Stalin’s communist agent Dolores Ibárruri, during the defence of Madrid against Franco’s assault.

Ibárruri was commonly known by her nickname La Pasionaria, though it’s not commonly known how she acquired it. In fact, that crazed sadist merited the soubriquet by biting through a priest’s jugular vein, thus establishing her atheist credentials and proving herself worthy of her paymaster in the Kremlin.

The pandemic of useful idiocy clearly hasn’t been expunged, which is why even today most people assume that the wrong side won the Civil War. Franco, they say, was just awful. Fair enough, El Caudillo was no angel.

But the choice wasn’t between Franco and Mother Theresa. It was between Franco and Stalin, and still pining for the latter goes beyond simple idiocy. But of course reason has nothing to do with it. The prevailing attitude comes from the deep existential malaise of modernity.

Spain was the only European country that managed to reverse the initial success of modernity within its borders, and delay its full advent by almost half a century.

Hence Franco is still singled out for vitriol sputtered at him by every hue of modernity, in amounts far exceeding those reserved for evil ghouls like Lenin or, say, Che Guevarra.

Stalin’s Comintern mistakenly identified Spain as the West’s weakest link. The error was caused by the false Marxist methodology Stalin tended to apply to his analysis of societies he didn’t know first-hand.

The latently feudal Spain was the least ‘capitalist’ of Western European countries, which to a Marxist was a sign of weakness. In fact, Spain was at the time Europe’s most aristocratic and pious country, Christendom’s last holdout against modernity.

Not having had the benefit of a pre-Enlightenment cognitive methodology, Stalin singled Spain out for a greater dose of Popular Front subversion than any other country in Western Europe, except possibly France.

At first his strategy seemed to be succeeding. Having destabilised the transitional regime of Primo de Rivera, the Popular Front, inspired by the Comintern (which is to say NKVD’s Foreign Department), installed its own government that was eventually taken over by the ‘Spanish Lenin’ Largo Caballero.

In short order, Spain sank into anarchy, with every traditional institution being destroyed and even the army disintegrating into chaos. In Stalin’s eyes, that made the country ripe for a Bolshevik takeover: the ‘revolutionary situation’ seemed to be in place.

What Stalin didn’t realise was that Spain was perhaps the only place where Christendom wasn’t yet extinct as a social force. That the Soviet chieftain didn’t get away with this misapprehension was owed to Providence that plucked the right man out of relative obscurity and put him in the right place at the right time.

Just as the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand ignited the First World War, Franco’s revolt was triggered by the assassination of the conservative deputy Calvo Sotelo by communist paramilitaries. Franco had had enough.

He wasn’t a political general. Simple in his theoretical constructs, Franco thought along the lines of God and country and probably was uncertain where one ended and the other began.

He succeeded because his country, unlike most others, hadn’t had to endure a century of modern erosion. And Comintern subversion had had merely a decade to wreak havoc – enough time to plunge the country into anarchy, but not enough to corrupt it to the core.

There was enough spunk left in Spain, and all Franco had to do was channel it into the right conduits. This he proceeded to do, armed not only with patriotism but, fortunately for Spain, also with pragmatism.

That enabled him to look for help anywhere he could find it. Internally, it led to an alliance with the fascist Falange; externally, to one with Mussolini and Hitler. Actually, an alliance is perhaps an inadequate word to describe what essentially was a one-sided arrangement. Franco accepted Hitler’s help but managed to promise nothing but money in return.

Not only did Franco refuse to enter the Second World War on Germany’s side, but he even denied Hitler the right of passage to Gibraltar. Franco joyously traded salutes with the Nazis, but balked at trading favours. It was by design that he was so unreceptive to Hitler’s overtures that the latter likened talks with Franco to having his teeth pulled out.

Even as Paris was worth a mass to Henri IV, Madrid was worth an outstretched right arm to Franco. But he was far from being the fascist of modern mythology.

Franco was the leader of the anti-communist coalition that also included Carlist monarchists, devout Catholics, conservatives and simply decent people who understood the evil of communism.

Franco was the last defender of Christendom among the great leaders of the world, which earned him the undying enmity of the full political spectrum of modernity. For modernity detests Christendom above anything else.

That’s why the International Brigades, Stalin’s Comintern army, could boast roughly 1,000 times the number of British volunteers that Franco could attract. Stalin was a champion of modernity; Franco of Christendom.

(Peter Kemp was one of the few British volunteers who fought with Franco, in the Carlist forces. His book The Thorns of Memory is a moving account of that time.)

In the face of that difference, the relatively insignificant political disagreements among the moderns were swept aside. As his Homage to Catalonia shows, even someone like George Orwell had more in common with Stalin than with Franco. (Orwell fought with POUM anarchists, and he thought Stalin wasn’t hard enough.)

Now, almost eighty years after the Civil War, and forty since Franco died, moderns still haven’t relented. To them it’s immaterial that, but for Franco, Spain would have been turned into something like Romania c. 1950.

Modernity will never give Franco the benefit of the doubt. Even Lenin, Stalin and – in France especially – Trotsky are still seen as having possessed redeeming qualities, much as those are begrudgingly admitted to have been offset by unfortunate brutality.

Yet Franco, who saved his country from the rack of modernity, rates nothing but visceral hatred. That’s why, much as I’d like to campaign for the removal of that eyesore from my favourite park, I won’t. I’m too old for futile gestures.

Out of the mouths of babes

https://www.facebook.com/The.Russian.Federation/videos/10157193691648539/

This 7-year-old girl featured in Russia’s Talents, a contest programme on one of the country’s top TV channels.

As you can see, Russia is still producing gifted thespians – and geopolitical prodigies. For the doggerel recited by the little girl with so much mastery, if slightly histrionic emotiveness, repeats what Putin’s grown-ups are screaming at the Russians every minute of every day.

 In a few poignant lines the girl explains the history of relations between Russia and the West, analyses the present situation with remarkable insight, issues a deterrent warning to the West and explains the innate moral and spiritual superiority of Russia.

 She tells the West in no uncertain terms to control its urge to occupy Russia, thereby acquiring more terrain for baseball diamonds, rugby pitches and golf courses – or else.

To those with ears to hear, she also tells everything there’s to know about Putin’s Russia. Those who are deaf to such overtones will doubtless nod their agreement – but I’ve undertaken not to say nasty things about Peter Hitchens today.

 I’ve translated the doggerel verbatim, without bothering with rhyme and meter. But if you watch the video, you’ll be able to appreciate the ringing pathos of the oration:

Dear overseas neighbours, well-fed, haughty like gods,

Don’t wake up the Russian bear, let him sleep peacefully in his den!

Don’t stop his reigning and ruling, eating and drinking while his heart still beats.

You can’t even imagine how this will backfire on you.

Many times you’ve already kicked him, humiliated him, smeared him with dirt,

Crucified him on the Russian birch tree, burned him with fire, drowned him in the swamp.

Yet when you already trembled sweetly, certain of victory, the Russian bear’s mighty roar thundered at your doorstep.

Why do you, brothers, fly out of your homes attracted by the aroma of Russia’s land, to tear it from the bear’s paws?

For how many years have your papers been overflowing with wily thoughts,

Saying “What rights do we have to one sixth of the planet?”?

We’ve been sent here by God’s will, and we haven’t besmirched our honour in any way.

And it’s not up to you to judge us – we haven’t stolen our wealth.

Ladies, gentlemen, senors, senoras, don’t stumble over the line,

Don’t tease the Russian bear – your tricks will backfire on you.

You’ll cheat him hundreds of times, take his last penny at the boozer.

With you, any favour has to be paid for; gold bars are your gods.

Your creed is divide and conquer; your truth is the truth of brute force.

You’re used to lording it over your flock, putting in the grave those you don’t like.

But a Russian sees everyone as his brother, rejecting greed and lies.

For him, Truth trumps all, and Justice is dearer than anything.

Because in any hell, where no one else will survive,

The Russian will suddenly rise out of the ashes, out of the morass and road slush,

Blow away the smoke of the bloody battle, wash his eyes in a limpid stream,

Pray to an icon and then burst into your place one night.

And, before you turn your lights out, he’ll ask you, summing up the past,

“Why did you come to my Russia? Do I owe you anything?”

Those who seek new lands for baseball, rugby or golf,

Read a few stories about Napoleon and Adolf.

Tone down the volume of victorious bugles, you’ll have to answer for your folly!

Don’t wake up the Russian bear – if you don’t, you just might get away with your life.

Then again, you might not.

Let me tell you, this little girl is going places. Unless of course Shakespeare had a point, when he made his Richard III say: “So wise so young, they say, do never live long.”

It’s not about Syria, chaps

Writing in The Mail, Peter Oborne makes it clear that he has no time for the neoconservatives, which shows his heart is in the right place.

And even if it isn’t, far be it from me to argue. After all, I wrote a whole book about this political perversion (Democracy as a Neocon Trick), in which I described it thus:

“Neoconservatism is an eerie mishmash of Trotskyist temperament, infantile bellicosity, American chauvinism (not exclusively on the part of Americans), expansionism masked by pseudo-messianic verbiage on exporting democracy to every tribal society on earth, Keynesian economics, Fabian socialism, welfarism and statism run riot – all mixed together with a spoonful of vaguely conservative phrases purloined from the rightful owners to trick the neocons’ way to broader electoral support.”

Mr Oborne rightly blames the neocons for inspiring the criminally stupid 2003 invasion of Iraq, which he regards as “the most morally shameful international disaster of recent times”.

I’m not sure about the superlative, but I have no doubt about the general sentiment. Obsessed with what they see as the absolute good of American-style democracy, the neocons – and, more important, the governments they form or inspire – refuse to acknowledge that trying to export it by force is guaranteed to replace nasty regimes with evil ones.

Anyone with elementary knowledge of modern history and half a brain not overridden by a pernicious ideology will realise that an Ayatollah is the only realistic alternative to the Shah, the Muslim Brotherhood to Mubarak, tribal ISIS cannibals to the Ba’athist regimes in Iraq and Syria, Erdoğan to a secular government beholden to the army. A George Washington isn’t an option on the menu in any of those places.

Mr Oborne’s analysis of the criminal folly of the 2003 invasion is hard to fault, as is his heart-felt regret that those directly responsible for it, Messrs Bush and Blair, haven’t been shamed and ostracised. My preference would be tried and convicted, but again this is a difference of detail, not principle.

Where Mr Oborne goes terribly wrong is in the conclusions he draws from his correct analysis. He seems to see a definite parallel between Iraq c. 2003 and Syria c. 2018. Yet these parallel lines vindicate Euclid by refusing to converge.

That the invasion of Iraq was criminally stupid doesn’t ipso facto make the on-going action against Assad’s chemical installations ill-advised. Failure to see the vital differences between the two is neither grown-up nor clever, and here Mr Oborne comes close to expunging himself from my good books.

A more appropriate parallel could be drawn with the devastation of Belgium in the First World War. I don’t think any of the warring parties had much against Belgium qua Belgium. It just so happened that they sorted out their differences using Belgium as a battlefield.

Granted, the parallel isn’t impeccably accurate. For the regime of Assad’s Syria is malevolent in ways that the regime of Albert I wasn’t. Specifically, Albert I didn’t use chemical weapons against his own people, and Assad has.

That action is in clear violation of every international law, specifically one of 1997 that bans not just the use but even the possession of such weapons. Laws mean nothing if they can’t be enforced, and the cruise missiles fired by the US, Britain and France may be seen as an equivalent of police truncheons and handcuffs.

Yet, at the risk of sounding like a cynical champion of realpolitik, I’d suggest it’s reasonably clear that the punitive action springs not from moral outrage, but from a clear strategic objective, one that Mr Oborne seems to think is lacking (“Western governments seem to have little idea of the long-term purpose of any intervention in Syria.”)

The objective. Mr Oborne, is to check Putin’s steady escalation of aggression against the West. There are risks involved, and Mr Oborne is alert to them: “… there is a genuine danger of an escalation to military confrontation between the United States and Russia.”

Moral equivalence strikes again. That’s like saying that there was a genuine danger of an escalation to military confrontation between Nazi Germany and Britain in 1940. While Putin isn’t exactly Hitler, not yet anyway, he’s the active agent in this escalation. Just like in Britain c. 1940, a refusal to confront the escalation would be tantamount to surrender.

Anyone blessed with elementary analytical ability will see that Putin is probing the West with a bayonet (Lenin’s phrase, by the way), just grazing the skin for the time being. Emboldened by the West’s nonexistent or feeble responses to a series of monstrosities he committed in Chechnya, Georgia, the Crimea, the Ukraine, London and Salisbury, the KGB colonel is on the lookout for other potential beneficiaries of Russia’s unmatched spirituality.

Just like his attacks with nuclear and chemical weapons launched on British soil, the good colonel is sending messages, gauging the replies. Egging Assad on to drop poison gas (kindly provided by Russia) on Douma is one such message. The cruise missiles hitting Syrian targets even as we speak is one such reply.

Our message seems to be “thus far but no further”. If we react this way to the gassing of 40 Syrians, Vlad, how do you suppose we’ll react to an attack on NATO members or for that matter the rest of the Ukraine?

Unlike the folly of 2003, our stance is reactive and defensive, while Putin’s is consistently aggressive. He himself described his life’s philosophy in the nostalgic recollections of his Petersburg youth, when he self-admittedly was ‘a common street thug’: “I learned always to hit first.”

That he has done, and not only first, but also second, third and fourth. But I do hope he gets the message – and that the message isn’t just a bluff: it has taken a while, but Western allies are now prepared to fight back.

But if Mr Oborne wishes to entertain us with stories about the neocons, I’m happy to listen. Why, I can even add a few of my own. But today’s situation isn’t about neocons, and nor is it about Syria.

It’s about the West trying to prevent a major war, not provoke it, as Mr Oborne (and many Putinistas on both the left and the right) seems to think.