How to turn a twofer into a threefer

Dental vs mental health

In case your command of American slang is less than perfect, a twofer is someone who ticks two boxes on the list of woke credentials. A threefer is someone who ticks three such boxes, and so on, although not quite ad infinitum.

Thus Kamala Harris is a twofer, or even a twoandahalfer. She is a woman – tick. She is also racial minority – tick. And then perhaps another half-tick because, in addition to being half-black, she’s also half-Indian. That’s two racial minorities for the price of one, can’t beat that.

Now she has the Democratic nomination more or less sewn up, barring a likely dip in the polls, all those ticked boxes are supposed to establish – dare I say circumscribe – her presidential credentials.

Having twice indulged their appetite for diversity candidates, American voters may not be quite sated yet. After all, by being black, Obama ticked only one such box.

By the way, both Jim Crow segregationists and woke ‘liberals’ have an identical racial criterium: a drop of tar, all black. Hence Barack and Kamala are universally accepted as black even though their mothers were, respectively, white and Indian. That’s as if mothers – women! – didn’t count, which strikes me as rank misogyny. Tell me where to report such reprobates.

Some naysayers still insist that, in the absence of any other discernible qualifications, being a twofer may still not be sufficient to take Kamala to the White House. Now, if she were a threefer… Wait a minute.

True, Kamala is neither a cripple nor a lesbian nor a trans, but presidential candidates never walk, or for that matter run, alone. They have a VP candidate in tow as part of the ticket. And if Kamala herself can’t be a threefer, her ticket certainly can be.

The choice of her running mate therefore makes itself: Pete Buttigieg, the openly homosexual Transport Secretary. And as an extra benefit, he’s a white Midwesterner, thereby adding both chromatic and geographic balance to the ticket. Sorted, as they say on our side of the Atlantic. Hail, President Harris.

This reminds me that there’s no such thing as corrupt politicians, not in democracies at any rate. There are only corrupt, or rather corrupted, electorates. Yes, what I’ve written so far today is a mocking spoof. But you can only mock something that exists, and what exists is Kamala Harris who may well become the next president of the United States.

This at a time when the West is in what Americans call clear and present danger. Russia, inflamed by Nazi propaganda, is waging brutal war against the West’s eastern flank. In that undertaking she’s supported surreptitiously yet unequivocally by China.

Also, according to recent intelligence reports, China is about to invade Taiwan, thereby disrupting the supply of silicon chips to the West and holding its economies to ransom. And at this critical time, political analysts are discussing the woke boxes Kamala ticks or doesn’t.  

It takes a thoroughly corrupted electorate to vote for Kamala strictly on the basis of such extraneous qualifications. And if any other basis exists, I’m at a loss to see what that might be.

I’m not an enthusiastic admirer of Trump, but he is beginning to look better by the minute. Say what you will about him – and I’ve said plenty – at least he doesn’t play the ticket-balancing game.

Trump chose as his running mate a likeminded man he thinks will be a good vice president and potentially president. J.D. Vance is an eminently capable chap who doesn’t balance Trump’s ticket in any way: he is white, conservative (as the term is understood in the US), populist – and he doesn’t come from any swing state.

My opposition to Trump is largely a matter of style and rhetoric but, compared to Harris, he comes across as a present-day Demosthenes.

For example, here’s how Kamala communicated the idea that the present must be viewed in a historical context: “I think it’s very important… for us at every moment in time and certainly this one, to see the moment in time in which we exist and are present, and to be able to contextualise it, to understand where we exist in the history and in the moment as it relates not only to the past but the future.”

Or this is how she expressed her resolute support for Roe vs Wade: “I think that, to be very honest with you, I do believe that we should have rightly believed, but we certainly believe that certain issues are just settled. Certain issues are just settled.”

I read up on such verbal problems when working on my book about Tolstoy’s philosophy and religion. One chapter was devoted to the writer’s mental health, as analysed and recorded by psychiatrists.

They reached the conclusion that Tolstoy suffered from epilepsy, one of whose symptoms is perseveration, a tendency to repeat the same words and phrases within the same sentence. This may be a symptom not only of epilepsy but also of some other organic disorder or brain injury. And Kamala does perseveration with the best of them.

Joe Biden’s tenure has brought the issue of mental health into focus, but now the focus can be profitably shifted to Kamala, who doesn’t seem to be quite compos mentis either.

Just look at this passage where she explains Artificial Intelligence to the uninitiated: “It’s about machine learning, and so, the machine is taught – and part of the issue here is what information is going into the machine that will then determine – and we can predict then, if we think about what information is going in, what then will be produced.”

I’d be curious to hear what a psychiatrist would have to say if exposed to that text without attribution. He’d probably notice perseveration and might conceivably even diagnose mental retardation – that gibberish sounds as if it was delivered by someone half a century younger than Kamala.

If her oratory is laughable, her record is well-nigh non-existent. Politically, she won the 2017 Senate election in California, where having a pulse is the only requirement for a Democratic candidate to win. When she ran solo as a presidential candidate in 2020, Harris was blown off in the early primaries. Even impeccably Democratic commentators openly mocked her tendency to talk drivel and laugh uncontrollably at the most inappropriate moments.

(An interesting aside: in America political candidates run; in Britain they stand. Can one extrapolate that the American national character is more dynamic?)

Kamala then provided that vital balance to Joe Biden’s ticket and became his VP. Now, it’s commonly believed that US Vice Presidents’ responsibilities are seldom more onerous than those of a doorstop. There is some truth to that belief, but it’s not the whole truth.

Sometimes presidents assign specific tasks to their VPs, which was the case with Kamala. She was given the immigration brief, specifically that of controlling the eternally porous southern border to stem the influx of illegal migrants.

On her watch, at least seven, and by some estimates as many as ten, million illegals crossed the border with Mexico. The situation that had always been dire became catastrophic. But not as far as Kamala is concerned.

Proud of her accomplishments, she said: “We have a secure border in that that is a priority for any nation including ours in our administration.” Mrs Cicero strikes again but, rhetoric apart, if Kamala thinks the Mexican border is secure, there are some properties I’d like to sell her west of Malibu in her native California.

How this nonentity can be considered as a possible candidate for presidency is beyond me. Yet the problem isn’t just with Kamala Harris, the Democratic Party or the thoroughly corrupted US electorate that can be swayed by woke credentials even in the absence of any other.

For similar outrages are happening all over the West, with manifestly unfit candidates rising to power on the basis of irrelevant criteria. My view is that we are reaping the crop planted by the Enlightenment, but this is something to ponder not in an article but in a book (such as any of mine, apart from the aforementioned one on Tolstoy).

The puffery of political pietism

One clever lady

“Europe will never be like America. Europe is a product of history. America is a product of philosophy,” said Margaret Thatcher.

That was a memorable aphorism, and it was almost right. Yet, like all such adages, it needs unpacking, which is what I’ll try to do.

Thatcher meant specifically the Enlightenment afflatus that inspired the American Revolution and its founding documents. And it’s true that, while European polities developed organically over centuries, the American state was created in one fell swoop as a political embodiment of Enlightenment philosophy, or rather ideology.

However, this doesn’t mean that European history was free of philosophical inputs. Any state probably, and any Western state certainly, is a physical expression of a metaphysical fact. It’s just that the metaphysical core of Europe took more time to develop – after all, as an older civilisation Europe did have more time at its disposal.

America’s Founders, on the other hand, were men in a hurry: their task was to form not just a new state but a new nation, and to do so quickly. And a nation has to have not only genetics but also metaphysics at its foundation, for without that symbiosis of body and soul it would remain stillborn.

That’s where the Founders ran into a problem. After all, their country was first settled by religious dissenters who had to believe God was on their side because no one else was.

The new continent greeted them with the fangs and claws of wild animals, and the tomahawks and scalping knives of irate natives. The new settlers had to find inexhaustible resources of strength, and they found them in a sense of their messianic mission.

As early as 1630 their leader, the Puritan lawyer John Winthrop, delivered an oration in which he alluded to Matthew 5: 14 by describing the new community as a “city upon a hill”. That was the beginning of American exceptionalism: the neonatal nation saw itself as a messiah destined to lead the world to goodness – after all, Winthrop and his friends knew the rest of that proselytising verse: “Ye are the light of this world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.”

Such was the country’s metaphysical heritage, and the Founders had to take it into account. Yet their Enlightenment provenance left no room for divinity. Most of them were deists at best, if not agnostics or downright atheists (to me, the differences there are anyway slight).

Hence they faced the task of wrapping their secular project in religious verbiage. Having started with the message of a nation worshipping God and doing his work on earth, they gradually replaced it with the idea of a nation worshipping itself – while paying lip service to God.

In 1809 Jefferson tried to express the principle of America as a beacon without relying on biblical references: “Trusted with the destinies of this solitary republic of the world, the only monument of human rights, and the sole depository of the sacred fire of freedom and self-government, from hence it is to be lighted up in other regions of the earth, if other regions of the earth shall ever become susceptible of its benign influence.”

Tastes differ but facts shouldn’t: America wasn’t “the only monument… and the sole depository… of freedom and self-government”. England, to name one other country, had form in those areas too. But then the puffery of political pietism knows no bounds.

Subsequent American politicians have had to find a workable blend between their secular desiderata and requisite quasi-religious cant. Even today every political speech in America has to have divine references, if only “God save America” at the end.

In his acceptance speech the other day, Trump – who has never been accused of excessive piety – acknowledged that tradition by saying: “I stand before you only by the grace of almighty God.” Though rather tame by the standards of American politics, that statement tugged on the heart strings of the nation. The country stood ready to believe that Trump had been saved by divine interference rather than by Crooks’s poor marksmanship.

At least Trump didn’t ascribe divine powers to his country, as did, for example, Thomas Paine in his revolutionary gospel Common Sense: “We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation, similar to the present, hath not happened since the days of Noah until now. The birthday of a new world is at hand…”

Later the lexicon of American exceptionalism was expanded by the journalist John L. O’Sullivan who in 1840 coined the term ‘manifest destiny’. Said destiny was according to him divine: it was incumbent upon America “to establish on earth the moral dignity and salvation of man”.

At about the same time, John Quincy Adams averred that America’s founding document was a simulacrum of Genesis: “Fellow citizens, the ark of your covenant is the Declaration of Independence.”

Such sentiments had to find an artistic expression, not just the verbal kind. That’s why sacral visual imagery abounds in American politics, as do mock-religious shrines to past leaders.

George Washington in particular is worshipped in a religious manner as the ‘Great Father of the Country’. The interior of the Capitol dome in D.C. displays a fresco entitled The Apotheosis of Washington, where the sainted Father is surrounded by Baroque angels and also representations of other Founders in contact with various pagan deities, such as Neptune, Vulcan and Minerva.

In the same vein, the Lincoln Memorial is designed as a Greek temple and is actually identified as such in marble: “In this temple, as in the hearts of the people, for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.”

The Jefferson Memorial, not far away, is also a replica of a pagan shrine, with various quasi-religious references inscribed. Cited, for example, is a quotation from Jefferson’s letter to Washington preaching that: “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? … Commerce between master and slave is despotism”.

It’s useful to remember that these ringing words were uttered by a man who had his chattel slaves flogged to mincemeat for trying to escape. Jefferson also openly despised every Christian dogma and sacrament.

The statement would therefore be either hypocritical or even cynical if we were to forget that by then ‘God’ had become the shorthand for ‘America’. Thus the sacred shrines in Washington’s Tidal Basin attract millions of secular pilgrims every year, those eager to worship at the altar of American exceptionalism.

Margaret Thatcher was right: Europe will never be like America. Europe has abandoned her religious heritage; America has converted hers into pagan self-worship.

It’s hard to say which is worse. But it’s easier to understand why British conservatives wince every time an American politician waxes quasi-devout to an audience happy to put their hands on their hearts.

Yet by now that reaction is more aesthetic than philosophical. Which, of course, makes it much stronger: taste runs deeper than any philosophy. One thing for sure: contrary to Churchill’s quip, it’s not just the common language that divides the two nations.

Atheist Jew isn’t an oxymoron

Dr Ruth Westheimer, RIP

There’s no such thing as a good ideology, as far as I’m concerned. All ideologies are wrong practically by definition.

They are all political constructs built out of such materials as rancour, powerlust, sentimentality, envy and other deadly sins – never out of high intelligence, common sense and morality as laid down in Exodus and Matthew.

Ideologies are secular religions that, on false pretences, demand the kind of obedience and worship that real religions command as of right. This creates an incongruity that offends any developed aesthetic sense. All ideologies are in bad taste, which is even worse than being downright subversive.

That’s true even when they are preached and practised by good people full of good intentions. For example, I know and like quite a few people who support Trump. However, whenever they talk or write about their hero, I wince as if touching a slug by accident.

They all have good reasons for supporting Trump, and they can discuss them quite rationally and persuasively. Alas, one can detect another layer either above or beneath their reason, that of ideological, messianic devotion. They worship Trump as if he were Moses guided by God to lead them into the promised land of right-wing rectitude.

Hence they treat any criticism of Trump not as disagreement but as heresy or even apostasy. Trump, like Caesar’s wife, is above suspicion. He is the messiah embodying God’s will, someone who can only be worshipped, not decorticated.

Whenever any politician – and I do mean any, throughout history – is talked about in those terms, I smell a rat, the kind that died in one’s basement at the beginning of a hot summer. An ideology raised to the level of cult is at play there, and that cancels out in my eyes any sound policies Trump has in mind – and many of them are indeed sound.

Let’s not lose track of the historical fact that Moses wasn’t a candidate for the presidency of Judaea, nor was Jesus an MP for Galilee South. Both of them signposted their territory way above politics, and any politician claiming or receiving similar devotion is a trespasser. This, no matter how attractive his policies or sterling his record.

Now we are on the subject of Moses and his people, the Jews suffered a tragedy in the 20th century for which one struggles to find any close parallels in history. About half of the world’s Jews were murdered by satanic ghouls in the name of a satanic ideology.

It’s testimony to the fortitude of the Jewish people that they have risen Phoenix-like yet again, having recovered from the worst wounds few nations have ever suffered. Yet wounds leave scars. These may become paler and less achy with time, but they never disappear.

In this case, the scars are mental. Just imagine 35 million Britons murdered within a few years (the same proportion as the Jews murdered by Hitler and his henchmen), and you’ll know that such scars demand treatment, for otherwise the wounds will fester for ever.

The Nazis, those from Germany and occupied countries, especially but not exclusively in Eastern Europe, defined Jews by their ethnicity. A Christian or an atheist Jew was still a Jew to them, and as such slated for extermination as a member of the lowliest race.

Such a descending scale of racial ranking was a purely ideological construct, abhorrent not only to Jews and other putative Untermenschen, but also to Christians and any decent people whose moral compass hadn’t gone haywire.

Unfortunately, Jews and other decent people reacted to that ideological savagery with an ideology of their own. Their ideology isn’t savage and, in fact, it’s perfectly understandable. Yet it’s an ideology nonetheless, and therefore impervious to facts, common sense and in fact to the evidence before our very eyes.

The essence of that ideology is that Jewishness has no ethnic or racial component whatsoever. The logic is, as I said, understandable, but it’s still shabby.

Since Hitler treated Jewishness as ethnicity or race, and Hitler was a murderous monster, Western Jews and, in due course, Westerners in general decreed that thenceforth any such characteristics no longer applied. A Jew is a synonym of a Judaist. If he isn’t a Judaist, he isn’t a Jew. And anyone who insists on an ethnic component to Jewishness is a Nazi sympathiser.

This gets me back to the title above. If we follow this logic to its natural conclusion, then an atheist Jew, or one espousing any other religion, is a contradiction in terms. Yet anyone with eyes to see knows that’s not so. One doesn’t have to be a Nazi to observe that, say, the late Dr Ruth Westheimer looked Jewish and, say, the late Grace Kelly didn’t.

Yet it’s meaningless to say that Joe Biden looks Catholic or Donald Trump Presbyterian. Religion lives in the mind and soul only and doesn’t produce any physical characteristics.

If, however, many members of a large group do share such characteristics, they have some genetic commonality. This observation doesn’t exonerate Hitler or other anti-Semites, whose name is legion, and a rapidly growing one at the moment. It’s just a statement of fact free of any ideological overtones.

Israel is a religious state in ways that in the West are things of the past (one is tempted to say unfortunately). Hence it has a state religion, and more power to it. But, unlike the state religion of England, Israel’s is interlaid with ideological strands, and this is evident in its Law of Return.

According to it, any Jew living in any part of the world is automatically entitled to settle in Israel and receive Israeli citizenship. This noble law was a direct response to the Holocaust. Jews of the world had to be told that they could always find a safe haven in Israel, no matter how persecuted they were in their native lands.

All that remained was defining a Jew, and that’s where ideology crept in. The Law of Return applies to any person who has a Jewish mother, and also to the children and grandchildren of Jews, as well as their spouses and the spouses of their children and grandchildren.

Any atheists within that group are welcome, which suggests that the criterion at work there is purely ethnic. However, the Law doesn’t cover any Jew who espouses any religion other than Judaism. This is illogical on many levels.

Historically, the Nazis treated Jewish Christians the way they treated all Jews – with murderous hatred. Today’s anti-Semites also ignore religious nuances (as the Russians say, it’s not your passport but your mug that gets punched), meaning that, push come to shove, Jewish Christians would be as much in need of a refuge as Jewish atheists.

Moreover, the former are religiously, philosophically and typologically closer to Judaists than atheists are – after all, the Old Testament is part of the Christian canon. An atheist Jew isn’t an oxymoron, but then neither is a Christian Jew.

This is what happens when ideology barges in: logic goes right out of the window, as does factual evidence. When queried on this subject, Israelis simply walk away from an obvious infidel.

By the same token, Trump’s right-wing admirers refuse to discuss some demonstrably left-wing policies he favours, such as protectionism. Ideology has a way of cauterising one’s brain, at least the part of it where capacity for dispassionate analysis resides.

So no, an atheist Jew isn’t an oxymoron. But a good ideology is.

Now that’s what I call argie-bargie

France’s squad, Euro 2024

When Argentina players were celebrating their victory in Copa America the other day, they sang a chant going back to their 2022 victory over France.

Considering that France is in Europe and hence took no part in Copa America, I don’t understand why the Argentines chose to revive that song. But I do understand perfectly the indignation expressed in no uncertain terms by the French Football Federation (FFF).

In fact, when I glanced at the lead paragraph in the article about that outrage I too was incandescent, as a part-time resident of France. Apparently, the chant claimed that all French players were from Angola.

“How dare they!” I said out loud within Penelope’s earshot. Everybody knows Angola used to be a Portuguese possession, not French. Don’t they teach geography in Argentina? They should have sung that all French players came from Senegal or Côte d’Ivoire, then everyone would be happy…

It fell upon Penelope to do her wifely duty and get me on the straight and narrow. Read the whole article, she said. Then you’ll know why everybody’s up in arms.

So fine, I read the whole article, or rather the first half of it, and as a result my anger subsided somewhat but didn’t disappear altogether. Here are the offensive lyrics:

“Listen, spread the word, they play in France, but they are all from Angola, they are going to run well, they like to sleep with trans people, their mum is Nigerian, their dad is Cameroonian, but on the passport it says: French.”

Fine, Cameroon indeed used to be a French colony, I’ll grant them that. But Nigeria was British, so what on earth does it have to do with anything? Those ball-kickers are still geographical ignoramuses, and the FFF has every right to be aghast.

To their credit, Argentina footballers redeemed themselves in my eyes by praising the athleticism of their French colleagues (“they are going to run well”) and their broadminded approach to the most burning issue in today’s global affairs (“they like to sleep with trans people”). Anticipating that the FFF would excuse the geographical faux pas, balanced as it was with unreserved accolades, I then read its statement in full:

“Faced with the seriousness of these shocking remarks, contrary to the values of sport and human rights, the President of the FFF decided to directly challenge his Argentinian counterpart and FIFA, and to file a legal complaint for insulting remarks of a racist and discriminatory nature.”

Excuse me? Racist? Discriminatory? Legal complaint? I had to go back to the chant’s lyrics to see if they contained any derogatory remarks about other races – and found none. If we abandon geographical hair-splitting, the chant simply stated a fact in lexically neutral terms.

Looking at France’s 26-player squad at Euro 2024, anyone can see that all but four of its players are of African origin. That makes most of them, if not quite all, as the chant claims. But hey, what’s a little poetic licence among friends?

And how is the contention that France players like to sleep with trans people discriminatory? If the claim were that they hate to get their jollies with transsexuals, now that would be clear-cut discrimination.

According to the prevalent ethos, transsexuality is perfectly normal, and in fact commendable. Thus denying people sexual favours just because they used to be another (not the other!) sex would be discrimination at its most blatant. Granting such favours, on the other hand, means striking a blow for diversity, equity and inclusivity. The FFF should have congratulated Enzo Fernandez and other Argentina players on being so free of bias.

Enzo drew most fire in England because he plays for Chelsea FC. It has to be said that protecting the delicate sensibilities of the French has seldom figured high on the British list of priorities. But we can rise above parochial concerns when an accusation of racism wafts through the air.

The outcry was thunderous, especially since Fernandez isn’t the only Argentine player in the Premier League or even at Chelsea. Some of his teammates unfriended and unfollowed him on social media. Others complained to the FA (this stands for the Football Association, not its do-nothing approach to its job).

The FA and Chelsea FC have had to launch a forensic investigation, which one wouldn’t think should require the detective skills of a Sherlock Holmes. In fact, the purpose of this effort isn’t to establish guilt or innocence – anyone accused of racism is guilty as charged – but to decide on the commensurate punishment.

So far the talk is of a lengthy ban, 12 games or more, not a criminal prosecution. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the Met got interested too. After all, since London is famously crime-free, our police can concentrate on things that really matter.

Actually, South American players have some previous in this area. Two years ago, Edison Cavani of Uruguay and Manchester United was banned for three games. When a Uruguayan friend had congratulated him on his performance, Cavani wrote back, saying “Gracias negrito”, which means “Thank you, my dear friend” in Uruguayan slang.

However, the FA gentlemen didn’t care about the niceties of Uruguayan usage. They cared about the pejorative meaning a partial homophone of ‘negrito’ can have in English. This isn’t just a matter of semantics, but also of phonetics.

Words like ‘niggardly’ have been known to get officials in trouble, and I wouldn’t be surprised if barmen serving Negronis had their collars felt. This gives a palpable meaning to the expression ‘I don’t like the sound of that’.

If a perplexed Cavani was banned for using a normal term of endearment, Enzo could well be drummed out of English footie for good. Since he is aware of that possibility, he hastily produced a profuse written apology. One can admire his eloquence in English, for just a couple of months ago he could barely manage “My name is Enzo” in that language:

“I stand against discrimination in all forms and apologise for getting caught up in the euphoria of our Copa America celebrations. That video, that moment, those words, do not reflect my beliefs or my character. I am truly sorry.”

I’ll let you in on a secret. Nobody is genuinely offended by that unfortunate chant: not the FA, not Chelsea FC, not Fernandez’s teammates – not even the French who do tend to offend easily. However, the governing woke ideology mandates that they all register their indignation, the more hysterically the better.

English football chants in general aren’t known for heightened sensitivity to voguish taboos, including racial ones.

Thus Liverpool supporters are treated to “Your mum’s your dad, and your dad’s your mum, you’re inbred and you’re benefit scum.”

Tottenham Hotspur, based in a largely Jewish neighbourhood, is regaled with the chant of “Yid army!” and “Where’s your foreskin gone?// where’s your foreskin gone?// where’s your foreskin gone?”

The Spurs Korean striker Son plays to the accompaniment of: “He’ll run and he’ll score, he’ll eat your Labrador.”

And then there’s the ubiquitous chant of “There ain’t no black in the Union Jack!” at all football venues.

Sexual allusions are also rife, such as: “[Player’s name] is queer, he takes it up the rear.” (This, irrespective of the player’s sexuality.)

Such is the culture of English football, and the background against which Fernandez’s transgression should be judged. Footie in England is a working class game, mostly played by athletes who grew up in degrading poverty. Many of them come from racial ghettos in Britain and elsewhere.

Holding them and their fans down to the standards that woke ‘liberal’ intelligentsia wishes to impose on society the better to destroy it is criminal. People like Enzo are more sinned against than sinning.

The cock-up version of history

Kimberly Cheatle, vox DEI

Imperfect people can’t produce a perfect world, which doesn’t prevent them from hoping. And when hopes get frustrated, people refuse to blame their own failings.

Proceeding from the presumption of their own infallibility, they have to ascribe all sorts of problems to some dark and unidentified forces conspiring against everything that’s good in the world.

In the distant past, the culprits nominated for the role of conspirators were all supernatural: demons, witches, the devil himself. The demons were exorcised, the witches were burned at the stake, the devil was told in no uncertain terms to go back where he had come from. Yet nothing worked: life went on and problems multiplied.

Since then mankind has moved onto a less mystical ground, and human candidates have assumed the role of conspirators in the public mind. Jews and Freemasons, the Bilderbergers and the Club of Rome, vaccinators and cryptocurrency mongers, the Deep State and the New World Order, the World Economic Forum and Skull & Bones all figure prominently among the likely conspiracies planning either to destroy or to dominate the world.

This leaves me frustrated at never having been asked to join. Every time a prominent individual is described as a member of one such group, I have to ask that popular rhetorical question: “And what am I, chopped liver?”

This levity shouldn’t suggest that I don’t believe any conspiracies have ever existed. They have, and communism springs to mind as an obvious example as a vast plot to take over the world. Yet, while specific actions planned by the communists were usually kept secret, their goals weren’t.

In fact, anyone scanning the works of communist chieftains will notice their commendable frankness: they never bothered to conceal their plan to foment a world revolution, which is to say a violent global conquest. It’s not for nothing that the Soviet state emblem featured the hammer and sickle superimposed on the whole globe.

However, that real conspiracy hasn’t satisfied the public’s hunger for mythical ones, those concocted so deeply underground that no evidence of their existence has ever been uncovered. Blaming the Soviets or the Chinese was too humdrum. On the other hand, blaming the Judaeo-Masons or the Illuminati tickled imagination into onanistic satisfaction.

Moving on from big to small, every attempt to assassinate a public figure has been blamed on a conspiracy even in the presence of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And fair enough, some were indeed fiendish plots hatched by villainous groups.

Many other assassination attempts, however, weren’t. They usually resulted from a confluence of two factors: existence of a deranged individual with a firearm and a monumental lapse of vigilance on the part of the security detail. A cock-up in other words, and this version of history appeals to me more than any conspiracy theory.

With that in mind, let’s put conspiracy theories aside for the moment, whip out our Occam’s razor and try to cut the most direct path to the attempt on Trump’s life.

The first precondition was in place: Thomas Crooks with his AR-15 rifle. The lad is generally described as a deranged loner, and perhaps he was just that. Spy services have been known to recruit such people “in the dark”, to do their dirty work often even without knowing the employer’s true nationality.

The possibility of such a false-flag recruitment shouldn’t be discounted altogether. But first we must consider a simpler and likelier explanation: Crooks was an impressionable youngster who was misinformed.

Since before his teens he had been exposed to grownups highly placed in government and media telling him that Trump threatened to destroy American democracy and introduce a fascist dictatorship. Now, if you were certain that some individual harboured such dastardly designs, and that you could save your country with a well-placed shot, wouldn’t you at least consider it?

By the same token, as C.S. Lewis once explained, medieval people had no doubt that every natural disaster and pestilence was a result of witchcraft. Hence they burned witches as a way of saving the crops and livestock that fed their families. That was a failure of education, not morality: most people would kill to save their families from certain death.  

The same thought process might have led Crooks to believe he was a hero, dying so his country would live. He might have been led to this conclusion by wily conspirators, but it’s not beyond the realm of psychological probability that he reached it all by himself.

But why was he allowed to get those shots off in the first place? Again, one hears all sorts of theories involving plots hatched by Iran in cahoots with the Democratic Party. In the absence of concrete evidence, these proceed from the old cui bono principle.

If anyone wishes to investigate the crime on that basis, good luck to him. The number of groups wishing to see Trump dead runs into dozens, and the number of such individuals into millions. Hence I have to be sceptical about any such forensic investigation ever reaching an end other than a dead one.

The cock-up explanation lacks the cachet of an involved conspiracy theory, but it offers the advantage of simplicity and greater probability. The cock-up in question is produced by the pandemic of moral and intellectual corruption infesting every public institution in the West.

The source of that corruption might have been partly conspiratorial at the very beginning, a century or so ago. But by now it’s so all-encompassing that it has infected great swathes of Western public opinion. I’d describe that source as the primacy of ideology over reason and morality, or else as the triumph of virtual over actual reality.

Various ideologies have always made inroads on decent life, but society used to be robust enough not to cede its core even when accepting minor compromises at the periphery.

That strength has now been lost, and the West is reeling from the blows delivered by one cock-up after another. People like me, those who used to live under the sway of pernicious ideologies, shudder with recognition.

We’ve seen it before: important public jobs from government ministers all the way down to lowly cops filled not with the best candidates but those who pass the test of ideological purity. In Russia, one got ahead by mouthing Party drivel with eye-popping conviction and also by having simon-pure ancestry (no relations abroad, no capitalists, no Jews or other undesirable ethnics, ideally several generations of manual workers).

That eventually led to the whole country becoming one giant cock-up at every level, a megalomaniac exercise in ideology-induced incompetence and corruption. And now the West is going the same way and for the same reason, if led by an ostensibly different ideology.

It would be counterintuitive to expect the US Secret Service to remain an oasis of sanity keeping ideology off-limits. So, if such is your wont, you are welcome to ascribe the ease with which Crooks climbed that roof and started firing to a conspiracy. I ascribe it to an ideological cock-up.

First question: how come no agents were placed on the roof offering a perfect firing position just 150 yards from the target, practically point-blank for the AR-15? Kimberly Cheatle, head of the US Secret Service, explains that oversight was deliberate.

“That building in particular has a sloped roof at its highest point,” making it dangerous for Secret Service agents to climb there, she says. British readers will instantly identify this reply as pervasive obsession with ‘elf and safety. People must be protected from every manner of danger – and their managers from every manner of lawsuit.

Now, Secret Service officers are expected to take a bullet aimed at their charges. Compared to that, climbing onto a sloped roof seems to be a doddle, and in fact the roof from which Secret Service snipers fired at Crooks was just as sloped.

Cheatle’s reply is thus nonsensical, or would be had it come from reason. But it came, in fact, from the visceral reaction of an apparatchik loyal to the dominant ideology, not to her job.

‘Health and safety’ is only a minor part of that ideology. Much more important is DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion), an eerie reminder of the Soviet accent on ideological purity. Cheatle wouldn’t be in her job if she weren’t a DEI martinet.

Thus, she said that by 2030 she wanted at least 30 per cent of all agents to be women: “We need to attract diverse candidates and ensure that we are developing and giving opportunities to everyone in our workforce, particularly women.”

It has to be obvious to any sensible person that women have certain physical disadvantages that may curb their performance on the muscle end of law enforcement. It’s possible that some women may overcome such innate weaknesses and become, say, great Secret Service officers. Yet putting a percentage target on such overachievers suggests that women would be recruited simply on the basis of their sex.

In fact, when Cheatle took over and spelled out her life’s philosophy, many officers quit, leaving the service grossly understaffed. But Trump’s security detail did include three women, whose response strongly suggests they were DEI hires.

All three were short and overweight (chivalry prevents me from saying ‘fat’). After the shots were fired, they had no idea what to do. They were running around in circles, pointing their guns at all and sundry. One fumbled with her holster, unable to put the weapon back in. Another, about a foot shorter than Trump, embraced him and put her head under his armpit, leaving his head exposed.

Meanwhile, a male officer tall enough to shield Trump from another possible bullet was behind him, which showed a remarkable lack of coordination. Even worse was the lack of coordination between the Secret Service and local police, drawn in to secure the wider perimeter.

The whole thing was a cock-up, and the ideological explanation of it strikes me as more plausible than the conspiratorial one. One way or another, I fear we’ll never know the truth, which doesn’t prevent me from hoping we shall.

More Trumpist than Trump

Donald Trump’s choice of running mate has won a ringing endorsement – not only from the Republican Convention but also from Putin’s propagandists.

“Reasonable people could come to power in the States,” commented Alexander Dugin, the ideologue of Russian Nazism. Translated from the Russian Nazi, ‘reasonable’ means ‘willing to deliver the Ukraine to Putin’.

But fair enough, J.D. Vance is indeed an intelligent and capable man. And he is misguided the way only an intelligent and capable man can be.

Vance’s intelligence was honed by his career as venture capitalist, just as Trump’s was by his lifetime in property development. It’s understandable that both men have to see the world at least partly through the prism of their experience.

Alas, that prism tends to distort the real picture. That’s why Trump seems to think that any foreign threat can be nullified by ‘making a deal’, a phrase I think should be banned from political discourse.

Property developers think deals; political leaders think alliances, blocs, partnerships, treaties, power relationships. Property developers make deals on the basis of short-term profit. Once the project has been completed and all the cheques have cleared, the deal is done – on to the next one. Political leaders, by contrast, must think on a loftier timeline: decades, possibly even centuries.

Property developers and their clients engage in a bit of give and take to strike a mutually beneficial deal defined in monetary terms. The only moral requirement is to stay a hair’s breadth inside the law. Political leadership relates to that activity the way philosophy and morality relate to double-entry accounting.

Everything that can be said about property development also goes for venture capitalism. This isn’t to say that men trained in such professions can’t rise to statesmanship and strategic thought. They can, but such an ascent requires a qualitative upward shift, making which is never easy, and it becomes harder with age.

Vance is young enough to make it, but the starting point should be a realisation that so far his thinking on foreign policy has been at best shallow. He doesn’t seem to understand the tectonic shifts in world order currently under way.

Vance doesn’t see Putin’s Russia as “an existential threat to Europe”. Speaking about the biggest European war since 1945, he said: “I got to be honest with you, I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or another.” And in any case, Trump will “bring this thing to a rapid close so America can focus on the real issue, which is China. That’s the biggest threat to our country and we are completely distracted from it.”

Trump doubtless shares this point of view, yet even he doesn’t pronounce on “this thing” so forthrightly. Moreover, when Trump suggested he’d stop the war in 24 hours, he didn’t go into much detail. Cutting aid to the Ukraine is what he probably had in mind, but Vance has already acted in that spirit in the Senate, by manfully trying to block the aid package for the Ukraine.

He couched that effort in pragmatic-sounding but in fact spurious terms: “We lack the capacity to manufacture the amount of weapons Ukraine needs us to supply to win the war. By committing to a defensive strategy, Ukraine can preserve its precious military manpower, stop the bleeding and provide time for negotiations to commence.”

‘Defensive strategy’ and ‘negotiations’ are in this context synonymous with surrender. As to America’s inability to make enough weapons, that claim is simply false. The US was able to act as ‘the arsenal of democracy’ (also of Stalin’s totalitarianism, it has to be said) under the much greater demands of a world war. That enabled her to emerge as a great power and undisputed leader of the free world.

In this case, America wouldn’t even have to manufacture all the arsenal that could win the war for the Ukraine. Much of it already sits in warehouses ready to be decommissioned and replaced with the next generation of weapons. Yet what has become obsolete for the US army could be life’s blood for the Ukraine.

For example, the USAF is now flying 5th generation fighter planes, which will be replaced with 6th generation by 2030. However, a few hundred 4th generation F-16s could throw a security blanket over Ukrainian cities and infrastructure. Such planes wouldn’t have to be manufactured: they are already parked in hangars, and there’s some life left in them yet.

In common with his boss, Vance is suspicious of America’s Atlanticism. He sees NATO as “a tax on America”, which no doubt plays well in the swing states. Yet this is sheer demagoguery because the ‘tax’ comes with a hefty refund.

This isn’t to argue that Europe shouldn’t spend more on defence – its approach to such matters has been criminally irresponsible for decades. If Trump only threatens to withdraw from NATO to make Europe loosen its purse strings, I hope this works. Yet it’s hard to overestimate the economic benefits America derives from being the dominant Western power.

Without going into too much detail, the 1944 Bretton Woods agreement established the dollar as the world’s reference currency, which was consistent with America’s newly acquired global status. Should America relinquish that status, just think what would happen if her staggering $35 trillion debt were denominated in some other currency, such as the yuan. The ensuing catastrophe is hard to imagine.

Also in common with Trump, Vance feels that America’s vital interests lie in the Pacific, not the Atlantic. Yet he is wrong to discount the “existential threat” of Russia while emphasising that presented by China. Both threats exist, and in fact they are one and the same.

The two evil powers work in concert to destroy the post-1945 world order, as underwritten and enforced by NATO. China is the senior partner in that relationship, the feudal to Russia’s vassal. Xi is using Putin the way the Golden Horde used Russian princes who did much of its fighting, mostly against other Russian princes.

China herself stays on the side lines, openly encouraging and secretly supplying Russia’s war effort, while buying up Russian hydrocarbons at dumping prices. Meanwhile, China’s own designs on Taiwan have never gone beyond hysterical threats, and it’s far from clear that Xi is planning an invasion.

His vassal Putin, on the other hand, is already attacking Western interests on the battlefield. Hence Vance’s belief that America needs to keep her weapons for a potential war with China is misguided. And if he doesn’t realise that the Ukraine is defending our vital interests, he hasn’t delved into this issue as deeply as it requires.

In any case, his main problem with China has to do with matters economic rather than martial. According to him, too much production is outsourced to China, which makes American workers suffer. His – and Trump’s – solution is to impose stiff tariffs on Chinese imports, stiffer than the 10 per cent Trump put into effect during his first term. In fact, Trump is threatening to slap protectionist tariffs on all imports, not just Chinese ones.

This is bad economics, which has been known since at least the 18th century. Thus Adam Smith: “To give the monopoly of the home-market to the produce of domestic industry… must, in almost all cases, be either a useless or a hurtful regulation. If the produce of domestic can be brought there as cheap as that of foreign industry, the regulation is evidently useless. If it cannot, it must generally be hurtful.”

Protectionism “must generally be hurtful” because it raises the price of goods produced by uncompetitive domestic industries, thereby diverting funds from the competitive ones – and hurting consumers in the process. Limiting or even eliminating trade with hostile powers is a different proposition, but that’s achieved with sanctions and boycotts, not tariffs. All such measures spring from political necessity, not economics.

I recall seeing bumper stickers in America, saying: “Buy a foreign car, put 10 Americans out of work”. One would expect the once and future leaders of the free world to think of the economy on a higher level than the owner of a pickup truck with deer antlers attached to its roof.

At my advanced age, I know better than to take politicians at their word. It’s possible that Trump and Vance won’t act on their statements, coming up instead with a sage policy designed to contain and roll back evil powers. But something tells me they are likely to practise what they preach, which would be bad news for all of us.

Trump is earmarked for the White House

I think the Donald will miss a trick if he doesn’t start his speech at the Republican Convention by saying: “Friends, Americans, countrymen, lend me an ear”.

On the one hand, this will demonstrate his knowledge of English classics, an erudition he has so far securely kept under wraps. On the other hand, it’ll show he’s a man who can afford treating English classics cavalierly, which only highly educated people can get away with – and only in the company of other highly educated people. And then, of course, taking his near brush with death so lightly will reinforce his image as a man of courage.

Unfortunately, I’m not in a position to offer unsolicited advice to any politician. Hence I’m sure Trump won’t make light of that tragic episode. Then again, he doesn’t have much in the way of a sense of humour, at least none that’s instantly discernible.

American politicians in general tend to come across as sombre people who don’t find the world a laughing matter. They are inclined to take the world, and especially themselves in it, seriously. Sure enough, they all have a repertoire of stock jokes they deliver at the beginning of their speeches, but then they tend to wipe the smile off their faces and start waxing serious or rather solemn.

When they do crack a humorous aside, it often comes across as rather inappropriate and heavy-handed. Thus J.D. Vance, Trump’s running mate, attempted humour by identifying Britain as the first Islamist nuclear power. “I was just beating up on the UK,” he explained when asked what he meant. That’s a time-honoured kind of fencing, but perhaps it would be better if practised with a rapier, rather than a cudgel. Anyway, what happened to making France the butt of American jokes? She too is a nuclear power, and she has more Muslims than Britain does.

Ronald Reagan stood apart from most American politicians, what with his ready chuckles and “oh shucks” asides. His famous joke about his age during a debate with Walter Mondale (“I’m not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience”) was probably pre-prepared, but I remember his amusing lines delivered off the cuff at talk shows even before he was elected president.

But Reagan was rather an exception – just compare his reaction to being shot with Trump’s. Reagan’s response was a charming quip delivered with a smile; Trump’s, a gesture of belligerent defiance made with a scowl.

In general, it’s hard to imagine an American politician like Boris Johnson, a P.G. Wodehouse Englishman pretending to be a P.G. Wodehouse Englishman, full of one-liners, wisecracks and anecdotes, all introduced with “I say…”. The desired impression to convey thereby is that there is a man of substance lurking behind the light-hearted exterior.

A closer examination of Mr Johnson’s political career, however, reveals no such man ready to spring to action from the depth of his real character. The flimsy outer shell is all there is.

By the accounts of people who know him personally, Johnson is a joy to have around at a dinner party. But when it comes to leading the Tory Party, one would rather have a man short on sense of humour but long on character. And even public figures who have a knack for keeping us in stitches with witty epigrams and clever asides should limit that ability to a bare minimum.

People like humorous men, but they follow serious ones – even in Britain and certainly in America. That point was made by the advertising guru David Ogilvy, a Scotsman who spent most of his career in the US. “People don’t buy from clowns,” he wrote. True. But they used to buy from salesmen who charmed them with inoffensive humour.

When advertising was at its best, in the second half of the 20th century, it was full of humour both in Britain and the US, but more so in Britain. It wasn’t wit of the calibre of Oscar Wilde and P.G. Wodehouse or, for that matter, Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce. But then neither was it usually the hard sell preaching that a different brand of toothpaste or deodorant could change a person’s life.

If we study the famous witty aphorisms by American and British politicians, we’ll find that most of them go back decades if not centuries. As time went by, politicians apparently began to lose their sense of humour, or perhaps politics no longer attracted people endowed with that talent.

Again, this tendency is more noticeable in the US than in Britain, though my experience of the two nations doesn’t suggest that Americans in general are any less humorous than Britons. The explanation, I think, has more to do with class than with nationality.

Until relatively recently, it was the British upper classes that staffed most political institutions, including government. And not taking themselves seriously, or at least not showing that they do, is a hallmark of British aristocracy and the upper reaches of the middle class. Actually, that attractive feature cuts across the whole British social ladder, but skipping a few steps in the very middle, those occupied by unsmiling nouveaux riches bourgeoisie.

And yes, I agree that my blackish jokes at the beginning of this article aren’t in the best of taste. But I can afford the luxury of questionable humour. After all, I’m not standing for any political office – and, between you and me, hold a rather dim view of those who do.

“Today, Mr President, we’re all Republicans”

When President Reagan lay on the operating table having lost half his blood after being shot in 1981, he told the masked surgeons: “Please tell me you’re Republicans”.

The lead surgeon, a life-long Democrat, responded to the brave joke with the words in the title above. That wasn’t just a witty and noble response. It was accurate political analysis.

An attempt to kill a president starts a wave of sympathy carrying even many former detractors on its crest – especially if the target responds with courage. Reagan was seriously wounded: the bullet had punctured his lung, and he had difficulty breathing. He still found the strength to smile at his wife Nancy and chuckle: “Honey, I forgot to duck”.

The assassination attempt happened shortly after Reagan had been inaugurated to his first term. John Hinckley’s shot and the president’s response to it made a second term practically guaranteed – and would have done even if Reagan’s record hadn’t been as good as it was.

Political assassinations have political consequences, and what happened yesterday won’t provide an exception to that rule.

Donald Trump wasn’t wounded as seriously as Ronald Reagan – Thomas Matthew Crooks’s bullet only grazed his ear. But the former president’s response was as courageous, if expressed in his own manner, not Reagan’s. Trump waved aside the bevy of Secret Service agents rushing to drag him off the stage, raised his fist above his bloodied face and shouted “Fight!”.

There, that’s the election sewn up. For gunfire, and courage under it, occupy a special place in the American heart. It was the gun that created the American nation, and it was the gun that delivered half the continent to it.

The first settlers keeping the tomahawk-wielding natives at bay, the revolutionaries taking on the British army, the Indian fighters during the westward expansion, the Yankees and the Rebs killing one another to put the finishing touches on the Constitution – the American nation entered the world stage to the accompaniment of gunshots.

Americans see the gun as a guarantor of their freedom, from foreign invaders and domestic tyrants alike. This is canonised in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, and it’s a culture that older European countries have difficulty getting their heads around.

Americans don’t care. They might have come from Europe, but they aren’t Europeans any longer. In fact, many of them agree with their novelist John Dos Passos, who said: “Repudiation of Europe is, after all, America’s main excuse for being.”

A culture in which the gun has a significant role to play is bound to feature assassination as a way of settling political differences. Four US presidents have been shot dead while in office – by comparison, only one prime minister of Britain, a much older country, suffered the same fate (Spencer Perceval in 1812).

In addition to the successful assassinations of presidents and other politicians, there have been many unsuccessful attempts as well. Altogether, at least 60 American politicians have been fatally shot in the country’s history, which is pretty good going for a young nation. Add to this the scores of unsuccessful attempts, and the context of Donald Trump’s shooting becomes clear.

This has everything to do with culture and nothing to do with the availability of guns. Until relatively recently, guns were as widely available in Britain as in the US. A hundred years ago, British commercial and other travellers routinely packed revolvers next to toothbrushes in their luggage, and handguns were completely banned only in 1996. And yet this never produced a free season on politicians.

Every time a widely publicised shooting occurs in America, there’s clamour to repeal the Second Amendment and ban all or most of the guns in private ownership. Apart from the practical infeasibility of confiscating such a vast number of weapons (393 million at the last count), such calls betray ignorance of, perhaps even contempt for, the national culture, as formed over the past 400 years.

Some other reactions to the attempt on Trump’s life are already in the public domain, and they range from legitimate to insane. The latter category includes insistence that Trump himself staged the botched assassination to boost his electoral chances.

We are still awaiting the results of forensic investigation, but even the preliminary frame-by-frame analysis of the assassination videos evokes the 1971 novel The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth.

There a professional hitman has President De Gaulle in his crosshairs, but just as he pulls the trigger De Gaulle moves his head and the bullet misses him by a whisker. Apparently, exactly the same happened this time: Trump turned his head just as Crooks fired, which made the bullet hit the target’s ear, not the middle of his forehead.

Suggesting that something like this could have been staged takes a madman or a fanatical Trump-hater, which is the same thing: any fanaticism presupposes a mental disorder. Yet legitimate questions do remain, and I hope we’ll get some answers soon.

First, how could a killer toting a rifle find himself on a roof a mere 150 yards from the presidential candidate? A Secret Service sniper instantly shot Crooks after the shots were fired – if the lawman was able to identify the shooter and draw a bead on him seconds after the attempt, why hadn’t he seen him seconds before? Was the protection detail spread too thin? Does this have anything to do with Biden’s attempts to have Secret Service protection removed from Trump following his trial?

It’s tempting to ascribe this crime to the divisive nature of current American politics, something on which I commented the other day. Yet this temptation must be resisted, even though the Democrats routinely portray Trump as a fascist and an existential threat to freedom. Republicans, especially those of the MAGA variety, respond in kind, which puts even more electrical charges into the thunderous political atmosphere.

However, anyone who looks at the hundreds of American assassination attempts I’ve mentioned, including the 60 successful ones, will find it hard to find a common political thread running through all of them, or to ascribe them to a particular political climate.

It’s true that the current scene is more polarised than any I’ve ever seen in a rather long lifetime, but pot shots have been taken at American politicians at all sorts of historical moments and for all sorts of reasons. Reagan, for example, was hated by many ‘liberals’, but he was shot not by one of them, but by a deranged man who wanted to impress the actress Jody Foster.

Kennedy was cordially detested by American conservatives, but it wasn’t one of them firing from the window of the Dallas Book Depository. In fact, Lee Harvey Oswald was a communist.

Anyway, let’s not second-guess the forthcoming investigation and try to predict its outcome. Predicting the outcome of the November election, on the other hand, is easier.

Trump was probably on course to win it anyway, but the physical courage he showed yesterday will put even more wind into his sails. He may well be unstoppable now, which I doubt was Crooks’s intent.    

Russia isn’t fascist

Any serious analysis thrives on precise definitions and dies on loose ones. And if there’s one word that many hacks – including, alas, me from time to time – use loosely, it’s ‘fascism’.

Thus, I’ve occasionally described Putin’s Russia as fascist, which is almost correct. But in the realm of serious analysis, it’s a miss as good as a mile. Almost correct means wrong.

Mea culpa and all that, but now is the time to atone for my sin. So here comes: Russia isn’t fascist. It’s Nazi, which is almost the same thing but not quite. So let’s sort out our definitions.

Umberto Eco famously enumerated 14 distinguishing features of fascism but, being a Leftie, he obfuscated the issue rather than elucidating it.

Eco and his ilk use the words ‘fascist’ and ‘conservative’ interchangeably. Hence all his 14 points spin out of an overarching definition of fascism as: “essentially rejecting the spirit of 1789, the spirit of the Enlightenment. Fascism sees the Age of Reason as the beginning of modern decadence.”

I suggested in an earlier article that we add another redolent spirit to the list, that of the Vendée. Following the 1793 regicide, the revolutionary government slaughtered 170,000 inhabitants of that province (about 20 per cent of its population) who had risen in protest against the closure and robbery of churches.

Thinkers like Edmund Burke and Joseph de Maistre instantly saw the link between “the spirit of the Enlightenment” and revolutionary violence, leading to a frontal assault on Western civilisation. And later commentators considerably brighter than Eco showed how ‘the Age of Reason’ begat modern savagery – including fascism and Nazism.

Both of them combine totalitarian control over the population with an aggressive foreign policy, corporatist economy and an ideology of national superiority. But their legitimising claims to such superiority differ.

Both fascism and Nazism seek support for that claim in their history as a smithy of national character. However, rather than staying faithful to historical facts, they interpret, pervert and often invent them. For example, Mussolini preached an uninterrupted continuum between the glory days of the Roman Empire and his Italy, which was good propaganda but shabby history.

Yet, though Mussolini and other fascists insisted on national superiority, their claim had no biological component. That’s where the Nazis are different: though they too accentuate their superlative national character, they ascribe it not just to history but also to racial genetics.

The fascists treated their opponents as enemies. The Nazis treated them as sub-humans, a category that included Jews, Gypsies and Slavs.

While the world always boasts a nice complement of fascist regimes, Europe was spared Nazi ones for a period demarcated by Hitler at one end and Putin at the other. That period was so long that it couldn’t last.

Putin and his acolytes routinely claim racial superiority for the Russians who, according to them, boast an extra gene of spirituality in their biological makeup. Conversely, Russia’s enemies, as nominated by Putin, are described as racially inferior – to the point of not being human at all.

As I often do under such circumstances, I let the Putinoids speak for themselves, with me acting only in the humble capacity of translator. So here’s how one of Russia’s leading TV channels responded to the outcry following the deadly attack on a children’s hospital in Kiev the other day:

“Such enemies can’t be regarded as human. We must accept this simple and frightening thought: there are no human beings on the other side. Not a single one. Our missiles aren’t killing people. Not a single person. There are no persons there.

“If we don’t accept this as a given, if we don’t forbid ourselves to consider them human, to pity and protect them – we’ll weaken ourselves. We’ll limit our capacity to save our own children. We’ll complicate our way to Victory.

“Yours truly keeps repeating (and I’m not the only one who talks and thinks this way) that: the only way of defeating terror is to annihilate the terrorists and petrify the nation that produces terrorists. If the aim of the Special Military Operation [Putin’s aggression against the Ukraine. A.B.] is to de-Nazify and demilitarise the Ukraine, then this is how this aim must be achieved: surviving Nazis [Ukrainians. A.B.] and their whole families must panic and flee to the West. Across the Polish border. Away from the shelling. Away from the ruins of their homes and cities. Dropping their yellow-and-blue flags and slippers [? A.B.] along the way.

“So yes – it may be simple and frightening, but we shouldn’t apologise for hitting a children’s hospital. We must say: ‘You want this to stop, friends? So surrender. Capitulate. And then we may spare you’.”

I must emphasise that this isn’t a one-off rant of a madman. It’s the standard fare nourishing the minds of Russians, and it’s cooked by everyone who ever appears in mass media: Putin himself, members of his government, MPs, columnists, talk show hosts and their guests.

Remove references to the Ukraine from that soliloquy, and it wouldn’t have looked out of place in an oration delivered by Adolf Hitler, Josef Goebbels or Julius Streicher, circa 1942. So let’s stop complimenting Putin’s Russia by calling it fascist. It’s even worse than that. It’s Nazi.

When I mentioned that extra Russian gene of spirituality to a friend of mine, he said wryly: “As is evident to everyone.” It is indeed.

Law as ordure

Starmer’s Justice Secretary

Our crime rates are climbing on a Harrier jet trajectory, and London is giving New York a good run for its money. Britain has already outstripped the US in many crime categories, most notably in car thefts. We are still lagging slightly behind in murder, but even that gap is closing.

As a result, our prisons are filled to the gunwales, and it has been announced that by the end of the month there will be no more room left in the cells. The situation is dire, but our new government has found an ingenious solution.

Before I tell you what that is, I encourage you to activate your common sense and decide what you’d do, given the same problem. I bet you won’t beat my own two possibilities that seem to be the only ones making sense even in theory.

One, we reduce crime, thereby lowering the demand for prison places. Two, we build more prisons. If there exists another possibility, I’d like to hear about it.

Actually I have, thanks to Starmer’s Justice Secretary Shabana Mahmood. In a recent interview, Miss Mahmood credited Islam with being her political inspiration: “My faith is the centrepoint of my life and it drives me to public service.”

If this inspiration is unmitigated, we can conceivably look forward to new punitive measures, such as mutilating thieves, stoning adulterers and throwing homosexuals off tall buildings. That, however, is hypothetical. For the time being, Miss Mahmood and her boss have outlined their solution to the problem at hand.

Their idea is the automatic release of prisoners who have served 40 per cent of their sentences. The current cut-off point is 50 per cent, which already constitutes a travesty of justice.

If you’ll forgive a blindingly obvious observation, imprisonment is there to serve three purposes. First, it keeps prisoners isolated from society they have harmed and could harm again. Second, it deters others from committing crimes. Third, and by far the most important, it serves justice, that cornerstone of civilised society.

Automatic release before the full term is served fails on all three counts, which makes it profoundly corrupt. Add to this the staggeringly lenient sentences routinely passed in the first place, the fact that some crimes, such as burglary, often go unprosecuted, and we begin to understand why our streets are unsafe to walk.

Not enough criminals are isolated. Crime isn’t sufficiently deterred. And a compromised system of justice encourages criminals, while discouraging society from seeking restitution.

So much for the theory. In practice, some 20,000 criminals will be immediately released to ply their trade at our expense. Before long, a quarter of our prison population will be unleashed into the streets. But, as Miss Mahmood hastily explained, terrorists and sex offenders won’t qualify for early release.

Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would comment. Terrorists I can understand. But why sex offenders? The implication is that maiming or even killing a woman is less criminal than having sex with her without permission. Surely that can’t be right?

Well, you see, killing a woman is a crime against her person, family and friends. But raping her adds a whole new dimension to the evil deed: it’s a crime committed against the dominant ethos, specifically against its feminist constituent.

In the same vein, planting an unwanted kiss on a woman’s lips is treated as a felony. Insulting a man racially is worse than assaulting him physically. Making statements tagged as transphobic incurs harsher sentences than burglary. In short, our Lady Justice isn’t blind. She is vindictively woke.

Getting back to Labour’s plan of how to reduce prison overcrowding, I think Starmer and Mahmood are missing a trick. For, given the confidently expected rate of recidivism, our prisons won’t stay empty for long.

Hence releasing criminals early is a palliative measure at best. Not only will most of the same chaps be back soon, but their soft treatment will encourage many others to follow suit. No, a more permanent solution is required, one that’s guaranteed to keep our prisons sparsely populated.

I can propose one that would be consistent with Labour philosophy and also with Sir Keir’s track record as the Director of Public Prosecutions. Whole categories of crimes should be made legal: drug offences, burglary, mugging, robbery, assault – the potential exculpating list is long.

Only sex offenders, racists, transphobes, misogynists, terrorists and – if you insist – murderers should receive custodial sentences. All other criminals should be told they should go and sin no more. They will then become choristers at their nearby churches and get jobs as hospice carers.

As I’ve mentioned, Starmer has form in this sort of thing. When he was the DDP, he was called ‘Sir Softy’ in some circles. Americans would have probably called him ‘Minimum Keir’, by analogy with ‘Maximum John’, Federal Judge John H. Wood known for his harsh sentences.

Thus Sir Keir secured the release of an arsonist who had racked up 36 convictions on 171 offences. Not only was he set free, but he also received £30,000 in compensation for ‘unlawful’ imprisonment. Sir Keir found a loophole through which that hardened criminal was unleashed on a terrified community, and 15 others soon followed in his tracks climbing through the same opening.

Another signature case was Starmer’s ruling to release Gary Afflick, a sex offender, drug dealer and satanist, who lured children into a life of crime. Known as a Fagin-like character, Afflick ran a gang of youngsters he controlled with beatings. Eventually he got 14 years for supplying drugs, kidnap, blackmail and indecent assault – only to be released early thanks to Starmer’s ruling.

Starmer’s record and first policies bode ill for the country. I have no doubt that the Labour government will destroy the economy, quickly making us all poorer, but that’s not the worst thing that can happen.

Britain can survive a collapse of the economy, but she can’t survive a collapse of justice. The rule of just law is the very essence of our polity – everything else is secondary or tertiary.

Justice must be done and be seen to be done, this seminal legal principle was established by Lord Chief Justice Hewart in 1924, and it’s among the most perceptive legal aphorisms I know.

A crime that goes unpunished, or insufficiently punished, disturbs social tranquillity, sending destructive waves through society. When such outrages multiply, society may never again find itself at rest, and the consequences will be unpredictably dire. Sir Keir and his acolytes are playing with fire, but it’s the electorate that gave them the matches.

A piece of unsolicited advice to the government: if you can’t reduce crime, build more prisons and fill them to the brim. If you are short of funds, just ditch your cretinous commitment to net zero – that alone will be enough to finance proper justice. That way we’ll be better off, not to mention safer.