Don’t you just hate hate crimes?

The Law Commission feels that hate crimes are, well, hateful. Hence they have no place in the socially engineered machine that’s stubbornly clinging to its old name, Britain.

The problem, according to the Commission, is that the current laws don’t provide a broad enough coverage. Fair enough, a delinquent who as much as jokes about a victim’s race, religion, disability or sexual/transsexual proclivity is covered by existing legislation, with not so much as a toe sticking out.

Thus Bernard Manning, to name just one late comedian, would be looking at serious prison time for one of his stock jokes. I have to overcome my own revulsion over Bernie’s blatant, criminal racism to repeat it here: “A black chap with a parrot sitting on his shoulder walks into a pub. ‘Where the hell did you get this?’ asks the landlord. ‘In Africa,’ replies the parrot. ‘There’s fucking loads of them’.”

Since race is classified as a ‘protected characteristic’, the wages of Bernie’s sin would today be a custodial sentence and a hefty fine, though I happen to think it would be an excellent idea to reintroduce the death penalty for just such transgressions. Well, give them time.

Meanwhile, the Commission is debating how to stretch the hate crime laws – and God knows they do have enviable elasticity built in – to cover misogyny, age, sex workers (aka prostitutes), homelessness, alternative subcultures and philosophical beliefs.

So make sure you refrain from cracking silly jokes about old, homeless whores deeply immersed in punk deconstructionism. None of the wisecracks starting with: “This old bitch is turning tricks by day and reading Derrida by night on a park bench to the accompaniment of Cybergoth music…”

I am specifically talking about jokes here because assault and physical threats are already criminalised under existing, ancient laws. But what’s even a grievous physical injury compared to the lifelong psychological trauma suffered by, say, an LGBTQ+ person when clobbered with a joke? Just imagine: “Q: How do you know you’re in a gay bar? A. The stools are upside down.”

If you were an LGBTQ+ person, you’d dial 999 faster than you could say hate crime. I know I would.

I’m proud of Britain. Nowhere else are people so protected from life-destroying insults and silly jokes whose sole purpose is to traumatise.

You may ask how Britain can devote so much time and attention to hate crimes. After all, isn’t our legal system already creaking at the seams under the load of other, more traditional crimes, such as burglary?

Funny you should say that. You seem to be unaware that burglary, to name one such crime, puts no pressure on our law enforcement because we’ve made it legal.

Well, perhaps not exactly legal in the de jure sense, but certainly unprosecuted and even uninvestigated de facto. That way our cops are free to hunt down criminals spouting inappropriate statements and wags telling injurious jokes (such as the ones I reproduced above over my own inner objections).

Quite right too. After all, burglary is only a crime against property, the sort of thing old, reactionary laws were devised to protect. But hate crimes, while doubtless traumatising their victims, also assail the whole progressive ethos, the mainstay of liberal ideology.

And every progressive country in history, such as the Soviet Union or Cuba, has always punished crimes against the ideology more severely than those against property. Property, after all, is theft, according to such progressive thinkers as Marx and Proudhon.

Hence a burglar merely robs the robbers, assisting the state in its noble mission of redistributing wealth. An offensive joker, on the other hand, hurts the state by kicking dents in its ideological body.

So is it any wonder that the Law Commission has nothing better to do than pondering hate crimes? Social engineering is a serious matter, and no effort dedicated to it is ever wasted. I just hope that new laws will also protect white, heterosexual, Thomist freeholders.

P.S. Another lesson in the English course taught by football commentators. They all adore the word ‘amount’ and loathe the word ‘number’, although that doesn’t qualify as a hate crime. And when they do utter the despicable word, they have to augment it with their preferred one.

Thus, a commentator praised a team the other day for “throwing a great amount of numbers in the box”. I would have just said “great numbers”, but then I wasn’t born to the language.

Ivan wasn’t terrible at all

So says Nikolai Patrushev, head of Russia’s Security Council, displaying the kind of sensitivity to historical truth we’ve learned to expect from Russian security services.

Actually, ‘Terrible’, though it describes Ivan IV accurately, is a mistranslation of the Russian Grozny. The nickname is closer in meaning to Wrathful or Fearsome. Yet Patrushev, a career KGB officer, was making a point of substance, not semantics.

For him and his lifelong friend and colleague Putin, there was nothing terrible about Ivan. All Russian bloodthirsty tyrants, from Ivan to Stalin, are making a PR comeback there because the present rulers see them as their role models.

When the news broke yesterday of Patrushev explaining that it’s only Russia’s enemies, namely all Westerners, who regard Ivan as terrible, I sat down to write about that. But then I realised that doing so would be a case of self-plagiarism, for I had already written that piece – five years ago.

So I’ve decided to rerun the same article, putting my faith in Marie Antoinette’s adage “There is nothing new except what has been forgotten”.

Every country honours its iconic personages, those seen to have served the nation particularly well. And the choice of icons is telling.

The English erect statues to Nelson. The French, to Louis XIV. The Italians, to Garibaldi. Acting in the same spirit, Putin’s government has unveiled a statue to Ivan the Terrible. That’s like Boris Johnson honouring Jack the Ripper.

Vlad obviously traces his geopolitical and spiritual lineage back to the first Russian tsar, as did Stalin. Yet even Stalin never went so far as to commission a statue to the crazed monster.

Though later known for rabid attacks on Russia’s neighbours, Ivan began his reign by declaring war on his own people: “From time immemorial, the Russian people [wanted] to wipe out our whole dynasty…” To preempt that calamity, Ivan launched a punitive campaign against the perfidious culprits, the Russian people.

Before striking, he had presciently tried to secure a fall-back position. To that end Ivan had his shaggy-bearded emissaries approach Queen Elizabeth of England to propose marriage or, barring that, a mutual guarantee of haven if their respective subjects rebelled.

Her putative virginity must have been a factor in Ivan’s proposal, for he prized chastity in his brides. In fact, when on their wedding night his fifth wife turned out to be not quite virginal, Ivan had her drowned in a pond, as one did.

Elizabeth wasn’t so much reluctant to accept the proposal as perplexed: she had only a vague idea of Ivan or indeed Tartary, as contemporaneous English maps identified Russia. Hence she didn’t let Ivan’s wooing succeed where Leicester’s had failed.

(Giles Fletcher, Elizabethan traveller to Russia, renders this offer more eloquently, if a bit archaically: “Further, the Emperor requireth earnestly that there may be assurance made by oath and faith betwixt the Queen’s Majestie and him, that yf any misfortune might fall or chance upon ether of them to go out of their countries, that it might be lawful for ether of them to come into the other countrey for the safeguard of themselves and theyr lives…”)

Undeterred by amorous rejection, Ivan pressed on with his campaign regardless. To begin with, he created the first oppressive institution in Russia: oprichnina, the somewhat more liberal precursor of Putin’s own KGB.

The oprichniks ransacked the land, torturing and murdering anyone who offended against the tsar’s ‘word and deed.’ In fact, those became the magic words that opened the doors of oprichnina barracks to any snitch willing to denounce anyone he wished.

Those denounced would be first tortured and then, with few exceptions, cut to pieces or broken on the wheel – this even if their crime was only to have uttered a sentence beginning with “If I were tsar…” The just punishment would ensue inexorably even if the sentence then said “…I’d be even tougher on treason.”

However, the oprichniks were more even-handed than the KGB: they tortured not only the accused but also the accuser, to make sure he hadn’t borne false witness – biblical commandments had to be enforced.

Ivan, after all, was a pious man who knew the Scripture by heart. Nevertheless he murdered priests wholesale and practised rituals that openly mocked Christianity.

For example, Ivan set up a sham monastery for his cronies, in which they impersonated monks, with him as the abbot. There they alternated religious rituals with massacres, tortures of prisoners and orgies (the tsar boasted of having raped a thousand girls, many of whom he then killed in a fit of post-coital aggression).

The new statue appropriately shows Ivan raising the Orthodox cross – by serving as an extension of Putin’s (and before him Soviet) oprichnina, the hierarchy of today’s Russian church lives off Ivan’s blasphemous legacy.

Ivan also had a heightened aesthetic sense. He especially enjoyed the spectacle of his victims being sautéed in oil, to which end giant frying pans were erected in Red Square. As people were being evenly browned on all sides, the tsar would laugh and applaud whenever the executioners displayed more than average creativity.

Having thus hardened himself, Ivan opened large-scale hostilities. First he struck out in a north-westerly direction, systematically sacking every Russian town in his path.

The oprichniks murdered all prominent citizens, robbed everyone else and, as a final touch later duplicated by Lenin and Stalin, either confiscated or destroyed all grain. This worked by delayed action: those spared the oprichniks’ axes would succumb to starvation during the winter.

After capturing Tver, the oprichniks first robbed and murdered all the clergy, including the bishop. Over the next two days they sacked every house, looting what appealed to them and burning everything else.

Finally, the oprichniks rampaged through the streets, murdering everyone they could seize, including women and children. This they replicated in their subsequent conquests: 1,500 people were massacred in Torzhok alone, and it was a small town.

In January, 1570, Ivan captured Novgorod. That Hanseatic city with parliamentary traditions had always irritated Ivan, and finally he had had enough.

By way of a warm-up, all Novgorod monks were clubbed to death. Then Ivan summoned the city’s aristocracy and trading elite, accompanied by their wives and children. They were all tortured ‘unimaginably’, as a contemporary described it.

Many were burnt with a chemical compound personally developed by the talented tsar, who had an aptitude for science too. Those men who were still alive were then drowned in the Volkhov river, followed by their wives, tied to their babies and pushed under the ice.

Then Ivan had all food in the city destroyed, along with all grain silos, fowl and cattle. Consequently, on top of the 60,000 corpses already swelling the Volkhov, the denizens had to suffer horrendous famines. Cannibalism was rife. Corpses were dug out of their graves and devoured.

A true pioneer, Ivan can also be credited with one of the first Jewish pogroms in Russia. When in 1563 he captured Polotsk, he massacred all the Jews living there.

Countries are like people: whatever they learn in their youth stays with them for ever. Ivan’s lesson on government has since entered the nation’s viscera. Rather than trying to expunge it, Putin gleefully shows it’s there to stay.

Keep Russian trolls from British papers

A headline in The Times stopped me dead – “Raab: Putin’s trolls are targeting national newspapers”.

Keep up the good fight, Mr Raab

“Britain,” ran the opening paragraph, “is to launch an international effort to combat Russian propaganda this week, after a new study found that a network of trolls is targeting national newspapers to spread pro-Moscow views.”

Now, I’m not sure Peter Hitchens, Rod Liddle and their ‘conservative’ admirers add up to an actual network of trolls, but they definitely spread pro-Moscow news. So at last, I thought, here’s a kindred soul. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is on to them.

I read on: “Research funded by the Foreign Office has found that pro-Russian trolls are posting provocative statements in the online comment sections of The Times, the Daily Mail, The Sun and the Daily Express to give the false impression that the public supports Russian aggression towards Ukraine.”

Now that’s what I call a let-down. Online comment sections? What about the Op-Ed pages? Just about every Sunday, readers of The Mail are regaled, courtesy of Hitchens, with a vindication of Putin and his aggression towards the Ukraine. (In France, Eric Zemmour provides the same service at Le Figaro.)

The 2014 revolution was, according to Hitchens, a “putsch”, which is a nicely evocative word. One thinks of the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, with Hitler and Ludendorff marching at the head of a motley Nazi gang through the streets of Munich.

‘Putsch’ is neatly harmonised with Kremlin propaganda, where the movement that secured the Ukraine’s independence from Russia’s KGB junta is routinely described as ‘fascist’. Any musician will tell you that harmonies don’t happen accidentally: they need to be meticulously developed and eloquently brought out.

Yanukovych’s puppet government, criminal through and through, was, according to our Op-Ed troll, democratically elected and therefore anointed by God. Hence, in addition to being unlawful and generally ghastly, the ‘putsch’ was practically sacrilegious.

Then, of course, Hitler’s regime was also democratically elected. One has to assume that, had Hitchens et al. been writing in the 1930s, they would have fought tooth and nail for the inviolability of the Third Reich. Oops, sorry. I forgot that Nazi analogies are reserved for our ally, the genuine Ukrainian democracy.

Putin is routinely described as a strong leader our Op-Ed trolls wish Britain had, while his murderous regime gets away with only the odd slap on the wrist. Yes, it’s at times naughty, but nevertheless Russia “is the only conservative, Christian country left in Europe.”

I wish Dominic Raab had turned his attention to Op-Ed trolling, although the problem he did highlight is serious too, especially if ignored.

The FSB, previously known as the KGB, must be praised for the ingenuity of their operation, and Russia in general for her progress in public education. In my day, people who could write native-quality English were thin on the ground. Yet the success of Putin’s trolling op shows things have improved no end.

Then of course the Petersburg troll factory may also employ native speakers of English, either full-time or freelance. Some of them might even offer their services free of charge, out of heartfelt commitment to the conservative and Christian values embodied in the KGB.

One way or the other, the trolls compose messages of support for Russia’s crimes and, having signed them with English names, post them in the comment sections of British papers. The comments are then recycled by RT, Sputnik and other propaganda arms of the FSB, and used as proof of a groundswell of British public opinion in favour of Putin.

(I’m singling out Britain for obvious reasons, but the same attacks are being launched in 14 other countries. I’m sure they too have their Hitchenses and Zemmours, augmenting this noble effort in the Op-Ed pages.)

Dominic Raab described this recycling exercise as Russia “behaving exceptionally badly”.  Britain, he said, was in an “attritional struggle” with Putin’s regime. In other words, Russia is waging war on Britain, for, any way you cut it, war of attrition is still war.

If so, it must be fought by both sides. And the first sine qua non of informational war is that enemy propaganda must be stopped.

This can only be done at some cost to that fundamental virtue of civilised society, freedom of the press. However, I see no problem with this at war time, and neither has any Western country throughout history.

If we acknowledge that Putin’s junta is indeed waging war on Britain, then it’s hard to discern any substantive difference between today’s trolls and William Joyce, Lord Haw-Haw, eventually strung up for spreading Nazi lies.

I’m not suggesting that the same fate should befall our own trolls, Op-Ed or otherwise, nor that Putin’s regime is every bit as evil as Hitler’s. It isn’t, yet, and our response to a threat must be commensurate with its severity. That’s why I propose the blue pencil, not the gallows, as the defence weapon.

Our editors should realise we are at war and temporarily suppress their libertarian impulses. They know how to do so already, as I can testify from personal experience. Now they should put that expertise to good use and keep Putin’s propaganda off their pages, readers’ comments or Op-Ed. Desperate times, dangerous measures and all that.

P.S. I’m continuing to expand my English vocabulary by listening to football commentators, native speakers to a man (and these days increasingly woman).

One of them mentioned the other day that a certain team likes to “keep their fullbacks intact”. My first reaction was surprise that the team should limit its concern for the players’ health to fullbacks only.

But then I realised he meant keeping them in place, i.e. limiting their attacking instincts. Isn’t it marvellous how flexible English is? Words can mean whatever we want them to mean.

Economic problem, sorted

Archimedes with his bath, Newton with his apple – and I. We all had a flash of genius, and I use this word advisedly. Theirs was displayed in physics, mine in economics, and that’s the only difference.

Or rather, false modesty aside, I’m an even greater genius than those underachievers, because their eureka moments followed years of thought, whereas mine took barely a minute or two.

Some naysayers may demand proof of my status next to those giants, and I can just see those smug yeah-yeah smirks on their faces. Wipe them off, you negativists – proof is on the way.

The problem is serious. Our greengrocers are in danger of having nothing to sell, while our pubs and restaurants may have no one to sell their wares.

The first group suffers from a severe shortage of fruit pickers, meaning that this year’s crop may well rot unpicked. The second group also faces a recruitment crisis, with no one to fill roughly 350,000 vacancies for waiters and kitchen staff.

Both problems, according to our analysts, are caused by a mass exodus of Romanians, Bulgarians, Spaniards, Italians et al. due to a combination of Covid and Brexit. Facing a hiatus in their employment, with the hospitality business temporarily out of business, and fruit taking its time to ripen, those foreigners have upped their sticks and decamped back to their native lands.

Sea resorts are about to reopen in the sunnier European climes, and those money-grubbing ingrates think they can make a better living out there than over here. Moreover, they may inexplicably prefer, say, Portofino to Portchester and decide to stick around, leaving their former British employers in the lurch – after all we’ve done for them.

If our eateries run out of staff, they won’t reopen their doors, and if greengrocers run out of fruit, they’ll close theirs. But you can count on me to solve such seemingly insurmountable problems with room to spare.

I took my tattered thinking cap off the mothballs, put it on and sat down to mull the problem over. Since robots can’t yet to be programmed to be rude to customers and still demand tips, while fruit can’t be trained to pick itself, there’s no substitute for hands on deck.

And since those hands have hitherto belonged to foreigners who have now gone home, the employment pool must draw on homegrown talents. Yet here’s the rub, according to one of London’s prominent Italian chefs: “There is no chance of finding a Brit to do this job.”

Hence the problem appears to be tripartite. Part 1. Restaurants and pubs have 350,000 jobs to fill, and orchard owners perhaps another 50,000. Part 2. These jobs used to be done by foreigners who are no longer available. Part 3. Britons (a better locution than ‘Brits’, by the way) can’t be bovvered to do those jobs.

The solution is also a multi-stage process, which starts with three questions. Why won’t young Britons wish to be gainfully employed, if only in menial jobs? Do they have better jobs? If not, don’t they need food? (See St Paul to the Thessalonians: “He who does not work, neither shall he eat.”)

It turns out that 575,000 young people aged 16-24 are currently unemployed. And yet one hardly ever encounters a starving native-born youngster stumbling down the street. Ergo, as Newton might have said, they don’t work and still eat.

Then I posed a follow-up question. Assuming that most of these youngsters can work and yet don’t, how do they feed themselves? The answer came to me in an instant: they don’t feed themselves. We do.

Acting as the intermediate stage in this process is the Exchequer, which makes us pay taxes and then uses the realised revenue to feed 575,000 youngsters who don’t want to work but still want to eat, thereby defying St Paul.

It took me about 30 seconds of juxtaposing all those numerals before a bolt of lightning struck.

If the Exchequer removed their welfare cheques without reducing their appetite, those youngsters would have to look for money elsewhere. And what do you know: money is on offer, in the shape of the roughly 400,000 vacancies  mentioned above – and they won’t even have to risk prison by stealing.

There we are, all the dots connected, job (or rather 400,000 jobs) done. Pubs and restaurants reopen, greengrocers don’t close, all those youngsters are no longer humiliated by handouts, finding instead the pride of honest work.

All that’s left to do is for someone to nominate me for a Nobel prize in economics – or, more realistically, to report me to the authorities as a crypto-fascist badly in need of re-education and possibly incarceration. Any volunteers?

P.S. Greta Thunberg has been half-vindicated. Since this month is the coldest April in 99 years, climate is indeed changing. Alas, it’s changing in the wrong direction. Please, Lord, can we have global warming back?

Desperate times and dangerous measures

The former call for the latter, said Guy Fawkes and then tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. The adage rings true, provided the times are desperate enough and the measures are not self-defeatingly dangerous.

They do look like hordes, don’t they?

Granted, a military, or otherwise violent, coup is never desirable in a civilised country. But when is it justifiable?

Never, says David Aaronovitch, he whose intellectual outlook is mostly formed by popular TV shows (see the PS to my yesterday’s piece). This unqualified view lacks nuance, which puts it in the category of ideologies, rather than ideas.

I can think of at least two military coups within the past century that qualified as a justified response to an impending catastrophe: one in Spain, 1936, the other in Chile, 1973.

Neither Franco nor Pinochet would have had his application for sainthood favourably reviewed. However, they stepped in when their countries were in the throes of bloody, communist-inspired anarchy threatening national survival.

Azaña’s minority government was well on the way to committing Spain irrevocably to the Popular Front, which in those heady days more or less meant Stalin (NKVD officers openly referred to it as “our operation Popular Front”). But for Franco, Spain would today be like Romania, if not worse.

Allende’s government already was communist in everything but name, with Allende himself in the pocket of Castro and hence the Soviets. A fanatical Marxist, Allende in his younger days made his bones fighting in European streets as a member of the Popular Front’s paramilitary Kriegerbund, although I’m sure Aaronovitch would see him as a fellow liberal.

Going back in history, one could say that Napoleon’s coup was also justified, although there the situation was perhaps less straightforward, considering an estimated 1,000,000 Frenchmen who perished in the subsequent wars. (As a matter of record, Napoleon didn’t actually start any of them, although on a few occasions he struck the first preemptive blow.)

What drew Aaronovitch to this subject was the letter written by several top French generals, co-written by hundreds of other officers and endorsed by Marine Le Pen, who is neck and neck with Macron in the presidential polls.

The generals seemed to think that France is so far gone that they must take over to prevent social disintegration. They were particularly unhappy about the on-going Islamisation of the country, with all the ghastly consequences this process entails.

Quite apart from an increasing number of grisly murders committed to the accompaniment of the battle cry ‘Allahu akbar!’, the outskirts (banlieues) of France’s major cities, especially Paris, have become no-go areas for Frenchmen, including the police. Lawlessness reigns there, or else sharia, which in any European context is the same thing.

Children there are educated to become either welfare recipients or terrorists or, more typically, both. The question of their adaptation to French ways no longer even arises.

Consecutive French governments have been practising the ostrich strategy of ignoring vast tracts of their country being turned into a European answer to the Gaza Strip. They tend to throw money at the problem, hoping it’ll go away. It hasn’t, and it never will in the absence of decisive action.

I’m not sure the situation has got to a point where it’s ripe for the decisive action proposed by the epistolary generals, but neither can it be blithely dismissed as trivial. Yet this is exactly how Aaronovitch treats it, adding nice touches of his customary ignorance.

He rebukes the “frenzied tone of the generals’ letter, in which the five million overwhelmingly peaceful Muslim inhabitants of France were described as ‘hordes’…”

True, not many French Muslims cut off people’s heads, drive cars through crowds or shoot up magazine offices. Yet this is a specious argument. Most Germans weren’t Nazis either, nor most Soviets communists, which didn’t prevent their countries from being an existential threat to civilisation.

Both countries serve as a useful reminder that thousands (in Russia’s case, hundreds) of evil rabble-rousers can at the drop of a hat turn “predominantly peaceful” millions into rampaging beasts. In this case the situation is even worse because Islam is fundamentally incompatible with the European ethos.

That doesn’t mean all Muslims are so incompatible. Many of them are good Frenchmen or, in our country, Britons. But the likelihood of their becoming fully paid-up Europeans is inversely proportionate to their commitment to Islam. The only good Muslim is a bad Muslim.

The chap who stabbed to death a woman inside a police station in Rambouillet (an affluent suburb of Paris) is a typical illustration of France’s lackadaisical attitude to the problem. He is a Tunisian who entered the country illegally in 2009 and yet was granted residency 10 years later.

He had no criminal record, and no evidence of any radicalisation has come to light. Yet he demonstrated tangibly that he was indeed radicalised, as are thousands of other young Muslims living in the banlieues. There are enough of them about to merit the designation of ‘hordes’, even though the pejorative connotation of this word seems to displease Aaronovitch.

In 2005, President Sarkozy called rioters, many of them Muslim, something worse: racaille (‘scum). French lefties were up in arms, and, as a gesture of solidarity, our own dear Guardian, Aaronovitch’s spiritual home, described Sarko’s language as “inflammatory”.

Yet such words are accurate when applied to crowds of enraged, deracinated aliens holding France hostage. Words, however, aren’t going to solve the problem, and I’m not aware of any establishment figures in France who have so far proposed any constructive measures. The generals have, whatever we may think of their ideas.

Aaronovitch displays his erudition by likening the epistolary generals to the OAS, an organisation of veterans who plunged the country into civil war after the government reneged on its promise to keep Algeria French. He also displays his ignorance by comparing that situation with the collapse of the British Empire.

“Britain, by contrast, retreated from its empire with relatively little fuss at home,” he writes. So she did. But there was a fundamental difference between, say, Nigeria and Algeria.

Nigeria was a colony of the British Empire. Algeria, on the other hand, was a part of France, like any other département. As such, it was similar to Wales or the Isle of Man, not any British colony.

Every nation gets the government it deserves, wrote Joseph de Maistre. The same can be said about political commentators, although I still think Britain deserves better than what she gets.

Scratch Britain and you’ll find USSR

I’d like to thank Uxbridge police for kindly providing an illustration to my yesterday’s article on gender tyranny.

Totalitarian terrorism at work in North London

They pounced on John Sherwood, 71, a Christian pastor preaching in the street, clapped handcuffs on him and dragged him off to the station where he was held overnight, bruised and shaken.

Mr Sherwood’s crime was quoting the same passage from Genesis 1:27 that I had the gall of mentioning in my piece: “Male and female He created them.” True to his remit, the pastor used that verse to question the validity of any marriage other than one between a man and a woman.

Some good citizen felt compelled to inform the police who promptly turned up, which left one wishing they displayed the same alacrity when answering burglary calls. After a brief and rather one-sided struggle, Mr Sherwood was arrested under the Public Order Act for making “allegedly homophobic comments”. This, according to the Act, constituted “abusive or insulting words” perceived as “harmful” by someone, anyone else.

Yesterday I drew a parallel between the Soviet Union, circa 1970, and today’s Britain. Disproving Euclid and vindicating Lobachevsky, these parallel lines are converging – and by the looks of it even faster than I suggested.

The pastor was doing his job by obeying Christ’s order “…go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” Doing the same at a street corner of Moscow, circa 1970, would have produced the same outcome: summary arrest.

In both cases, the crime was identical: going against a newly sacralised secular orthodoxy, communist there, woke here. But the similarities go even deeper than that, dealing as they do with imposing tyranny through open-ended laws.   

Just laws are defined by many features, but tightly and narrowly defined culpability is perhaps the most important one. Such laws protect individuals against the state, but totalitarian and quasi-totalitarian states pursue an opposite objective: they need loose, open-ended laws they can use to put their foot down on any dissident.

The pattern was set by arguably the most evil politician in history, Lenin, and I am aware of Stalin’s and Hitler’s heroic efforts to challenge Vlad I for that distinction. However, unlike them, Lenin, a lawyer by training, could bring his professional expertise to bear on jurisprudence.

In 1922, the great leader was contemplating the first draft of the new penal code, one of whose articles stipulated the death penalty for “anyone promoting the restoration of capitalism”. Lenin looked at the text and saw it was good. Yet something was missing, although he couldn’t quite put his finger on what exactly it was.

Then that eureka moment arrived in a flash. Lenin took out his trusted blue pencil and added the words “or capable of promoting” after the inordinately restrictive “promoting”. Now the law was perfect: it gave the Bolsheviks legal means to shoot anyone they disliked (or everyone, if they so wished).

Our own dear Public Order Act doesn’t yet provide for a bullet in the nape of the neck as a punitive measure. Yet it soars just as high to the summit of legal perversion.

Using the Act, the police can arrest, if not yet execute, every subject of Her Majesty. For who among us has never uttered a single word that someone could construe as insulting and therefore damaging? I for one can be arrested for just about every piece I’ve ever written, and as to my oral statements… well, lock me up and swallow the key.

The good pastor issued a statement that shows how profoundly ignorant he is of Britain’s new concept of legality: “I wasn’t making any homophobic comments, I was just defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. I was only saying what the Bible says – I wasn’t wanting to hurt anyone or cause offence.”

What he was or wasn’t wanting is a matter of utter indifference. What matters is how his words were perceived by someone in his audience. If just one listener felt his psyche was irreparably damaged, Mr Sherwood violated Section 5 of the Public Order Act. Off with his head (so far only figuratively speaking).

That’s how tyranny advances in formerly civilised societies, not by giant strides, but by small steps. It takes longer that way, but ultimately the same distance will be travelled.

At some point, the people will realise to their horror that they can no longer see the starting point in their rear-view mirror, and there is no going back. But then it’ll be too late.

Each small step may look unobjectionable in itself, or at least not too objectionable. But, as that other evil tyrant, Mao, explained, that’s how every thousand-mile journey starts, with a small step.

P.S. Speaking of small things, whenever I read an article, I like to check the author’s cultural perspective for it says a lot about the starting point of his ratiocination.

Thus, in his article today, David Aaronovitch makes five cultural references: Country Life magazine; Frederic Forsyth’s book The Day of the Jackal; the TV series A Very English Scandal; another one, The Crown; Francis Wheen’s book Strange Days Indeed. Is it any wonder then that Aaronovitch writes either arrant nonsense or facile truisms on every subject he touches?

Stop gender terrorism before it stops you

If we define terrorism as sowing fear to achieve political ends, then the ongoing gender-bending craze is just that.

Maya Forstater, victim of terrorism

Granted, sane people who dare resist still only lose their livelihoods, not lives. But, as I can testify from personal experience, that was the case in the post-Stalin Soviet Union too.

An imprudent word could only get one sacked, not imprisoned or killed. To be thus punished, one had to commit a real crime, like reading Orwell or passing 1984 on to a friend.

Yet sane people who were physically unable to mouth the mandated gibberish lived in permanent fear. Loose lips could get one not only sacked but also blacklisted, turning, say, a professor of physics into a street sweeper.

Fear was so pervasive that the USSR definitely qualified as a terrorist state even during its vegetarian period. And it’s heart-rending to see Britain turn into a milder but perhaps even more sinister simulacrum of a communist state.

Normal people have to watch every word they utter in public, lest they may be denounced to the authorities and summarily sacked – just like in the Soviet Union. What makes Britain’s version more sinister is that here one can’t easily identify the source of danger.

Back there, everybody knew the enemy: the Party and its punitive arm, the KGB with its army of snitches. But who represents the threat here? The state? Parliament? MI-5? Police? Friends and colleagues?

We don’t know who the terrorists are. But we do know they are out there.

Both countries operated by secular sacralisation: raising wicked political causes to a status of mock-religious orthodoxies. There it was just communism; here it’s any old cause that catches the bastards’ fancy – including gender-bending.

If I had a sackable position, I would have been fired long ago by enunciating what any sane person knows anyway. Outside grammar and recondite psychiatry, there’s no such thing as gender. Pronouns have genders, either masculine or feminine; people have sexes, either male or female.

I do realise that’s not quite all there is to it. Some marginal or intermediary cases exist, but such – extremely rare – exceptions are the kind that prove the rule. A person may be born with two heads but that doesn’t change the fact that a normal person has one head – even though folk wisdom says two may be better.

As I said, I can’t be fired for such heretical notions. But just about anyone who can be, will be. This brings me to the case of Maya Forstater, who in 2018 was sacked from her job at a Westminster think tank for saying roughly what I’ve just said.

Writing her profile in The Sunday Telegraph, which, I’d like to remind the outlanders among you, is our most conservative broadsheet, Jane Gordon helpfully explains the relevant semantic nuances.

“While sex is defined as the biological categorisation of people as male or female, gender refers to socially constructed roles – an individual may see themselves [sic] as a man, a woman, as having no gender, or as having a non-binary gender.”

This is bilge, of a kind that leaves one in no doubt of where the author’s sympathies lie. Anyone who follows a singular antecedent with a plural pronoun should be banned from writing on pain of death, which punishment for non-compliance I’d gladly administer personally. Miss Gordon, whoever they are, is clearly a crypto-terrorist themselves.

Miss Forstater, on the other hand, has a long history of anti-terrorism. In one of her tweets, she mocked Pips Bunce, a Crédit Suisse director, who sometimes goes to work in women’s clothes as Pippa and sometimes in a suit as Phil.

It goes without saying that nobody can tell Bunce to choose one or the other and stick with it. But, as Seneca said, though none of it can be helped, all of it can be despised – which Miss Forstater laudably does.

The old acronym game kicked in, and she was forever stigmatised as a TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist), insensitive to the feelings of the groups identified by a term that easily rolls off the tongue: LGBTQQIP2SAA – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, pansexual, two spirits, androgynous and asexual.

(A note to lexicographers compiling such designations: chaps, why don’t you just enrol the whole alphabet, from anti-climate to xenophobia? That way you could save time and space by referring to yourselves as simply ABC activists.)

When Miss Forstater took her sackers to a tribunal, she was nailed to the wall by the revelation that she had previous as a TERF. Apparently, when she was a Scout leader (I thought girls had Guides, not Scouts, but then I’m even more retrograde than Miss Forstater), she mistakenly [sic] referred to another, ‘non-binary’, Scout leader as ‘he’ rather than ‘they’.

That was no mistake, this side of a loony bin. ‘They’ is a plural pronoun that can only apply to a singular person suffering from dual personality disorder. (When the Scottish goalie Andy Gorham was diagnosed with schizophrenia, empathetic fans chanted “There’s only two Andy Gorhams.”)

But then I myself am a TERF at heart. Justice James Taylor manifestly isn’t. That’s why he ruled against Miss Forstater, declaring that her “absolutist view” was not “worthy of respect in a democratic society” and that she had no right “to ignore the “the enormous pain that can be caused by misgendering.”

Evidently, His Honour’s idea of a democracy is a society where a few sideshows representing an infinitesimal fraction of one per cent of the population can be used as a sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of decent, sane people making up the overwhelming majority.

The English Common Law works by precedents, and Justice Taylor established one. Now gender terrorists can step up their diabolical efforts to destroy normal everything: morals, people, families, children, decency, thought, taste.

I realise that the few genuine hermaphrodites and people with gender dysphoria must have a hard time, and I do sympathise with their suffering – as I would with the plight of a bicephalous chap getting sick and tired of hearing “two heads are better than one” and being asked whether he uses a bra for a hat.

But suffering is a constant, I dare say normal, part of the human condition. I, for example, suffer grievously when I hear pop music in public places, especially restaurants. Most modern architecture also makes me nauseated, as do people sporting tattoos and facial metal.

Miss Gordon also made me suffer when she wrote: “It seems to me – and I put it to Forstater – that a little more tolerance on both sides of this argument might make the issue less angry and confrontational.”

Would she say the same thing to victims of Muslim terrorism? The silly twit doesn’t even realise what a grossly tactless thing she wrote. Miss Forstater is a victim of gender terrorism: she lost her livelihood for a spurious, wicked reason.

Now the precedent has been set, anyone can be sacked and blacklisted for daring to suggest that, say, asking little boys and girls to ‘identify their gender’ when entering kindergarten is evil. Yet no one can be fired for issuing such a questionnaire, so there’s no equivalence anywhere in sight.

This “argument” doesn’t have two sides, and it’s not even an argument – in the same sense in which one doesn’t argue with a chap claiming to be God or with a terrorist about to blow up a bus. One tries to commit the former and stop, ideally kill, the latter.

If you have any way to communicate to Maya Forstater your solidarity with her, please do so. She needs to know there are other people like her out there: decent souls who deplore what’s being done to her – and all of us.

Their cities, our language

Have you been to Firenze lately? Followed the news from Kyiv? Enjoyed Beijing duck?

It’s Florence, not Firenze

Well, I haven’t and never will. For me these cities are, have always been and will forever remain Florence, Kiev and Peking.

I do respect, as one has to, the right of any people to call their cities any names that strike their fancy, no matter how ridiculous. I may grumble about it if I don’t like the name, but eventually I’ll have to go along.

Thus, if Italians decide to rebaptise Florence as, for example, Città di Gramsci, I’d toss off an indignant article about the obscenity of naming an ancient city after a communist subversive, but eventually I’ll have to accept the new name. There’s really no other option.

I may bitterly resent seeing Saigon called Ho Chi Minh City, but this fait is very much accompli. The bastards won the war and now they can play fast and loose with urban nomenclature – that’s not the greatest catastrophe that has befallen the Vietnamese.

By the same token, if Kiev and Peking undergo a name change and become, say, Zelensky and Mao respectively, I’ll huff and I’d puff, but I’ll soon relent. Or not so soon, I’ll grant you that.

For example, when Leningrad again became Petersburg, I stubbornly referred to it as Leningrad for another couple of years or so. I genuinely believed, as I still do, that the city still has more to do with Lenin than with the patron saint of Peter the Great. But, having put up a valiant rearguard action, I eventually conceded the point.

Yes, countries are free to give whatever new names, no matter how offensive, to their cities. However, if the names remain the same, they have no right to tell us how to spell and pronounce them in English.

The way the Chinese pronounce the name of their North Capital, it has always come out closer to Beijing than to Peking, inasmuch as Chinese phonetics can be perceived by any European ear, that is. But so what? To us, it has always been Peking. (As, parenthetically, it still is to the French – bien joué to them. They cherish their language more than we do ours.)

We don’t tell the French and Italians that our capital is neither Londres nor Londra, do we? So they mustn’t shove Paree and Roma down our throats. To their credit, they don’t, and even the Russians are happy with our Moscow, although to them it’s the same as the river, Moskva.

This sounds like a small point to make a fuss about, but it really isn’t. For such name changes are symptoms of a ghastly disease, the politicisation of language.

A nation’s language is the most valuable part of its identity, more important than any politics. Over the past 250 years, France, to cite one country I know well, has been governed by several monarchies, a revolutionary committee, a Directory, a military dictatorship, an emperor, five different republics and, from 1940 to 1944, by the Nazis.

But she always remained France, her language has always been French and, as Maurice Chevalier used to sing to SS officers, Paris reste Paris.

To the English, politics matters more and the language somewhat less. Yet even here, English is a powerful national adhesive, uniting into an integral whole such seemingly irreconcilable people as Londoners, Scousers, Geordies and even Scots (apart from Glaswegians; they are sui generis). As such, it shouldn’t be used as an arena for scoring political points. But, alas, it is, very much so.

Variously pernicious groups are aware of the political power of language. He who controls English, controls the English – they sense that in their viscera. I refer to this process as glossocracy, government of the word, by the word but, unfortunately, not just for the word.

It behoves all intelligent patriots (which is a longer way of saying ‘conservatives’) to keep politics out of English, fighting lexical subversion every step of the way. However, when the enemy advances on a broad front, it must be fought for each inch of territory.

If we try to expurgate politicised, un-English woke usages, or at least refuse to use them in our own speech, we can’t cede ground elsewhere. And make no mistake about it, it’s for political reasons that some countries insist that their old city names should be spelled and pronounced the new way in English.

In this case, it doesn’t matter how we feel about the underlying political inspiration. We may sympathise with it, as I sympathise with Ukrainian independence, or deplore it, as I deplore China’s global bossiness. But English is the mainstay of our culture, not theirs. And, unless they change the names of those cities, they’ll bloody well remain Kiev and Peking.

Well, to me, at any rate.

P.S. Speaking of English, I continue to learn new usages by listening to football commentators. The other day, one praised England for “the emergency of many talented young players”. I’m still waiting for the NHS to start providing emergence services.

Another chap commended a winger for his “Olympian speed”, making me wonder if the player could qualify for the Olympian Games.

And of course they all talk about “the amount of goals”, proving yet again that one doesn’t have to be literate to earn a large number of money.   

The book I love by the writer I hate

The Bumper Book of Vitali’s Travels, by Vitali Vitaliev, Thrust Books, 612 pages (and you’ll want to read every bloody one of them)

Vitali is my friend and I hate him, as I’d hate anyone making me commit a deadly sin, in this case envy. No one from Russia – or, worse still, the Ukraine! – should be able to write such dazzling English and get away with it, certainly not in a review by another native Russian speaker.

It’s not only for this shameful reason that I’m a wrong man to review this book. For Vitali describes himself as a dromomaniac, meaning he is every inch consumed with wanderlust, which I every inch am not. Not only has he hopped around the globe several times over, but he has also been writing travel notes, which are collected in this volume.

Now, generally speaking, travel writing is far down the list of my favourite literary genres. In fact, it doesn’t even make the list at all. However, speaking specifically rather than generally, Vitali proves there is no such thing as boring genres – there are only boring writers, a category to which he manifestly doesn’t belong.

I’ve read The Bumper Book from cover to cover, but starting with the essays on the places I know well. Or so I thought.

Reading Vitali’s prose, I was humbled to discover that, like the hapless Dr Watson, I saw without observing, meaning I didn’t really see much. Conversely, like the eagle-eyed Sherlock Holmes, Vitali sees because he observes. And like the inspired virtuoso he is, he takes but a few words to make us see things we ourselves missed so blithely.

His quiver of metaphors and similes would be too bulky for anyone else’s back, but Vitali’s is broad and sturdy enough. And every arrow-like weapon is honed sharp enough to pierce any armour of tired old stereotypes.

As a rule, I avoid quoting a reviewed book too profusely, but I don’t know how else to convey Vitali’s mastery. Any attempt merely to describe it would be like trying to describe the taste of, say, avocado. A reader would never get an accurate idea until he has tried the fruit for himself. So here are a few delicious morsels:

“Didn’t I myself once compare London to a curvaceous bikini-clad blonde who has wandered by mistake into a drab, male-only Pall Mall club?”

“I have come to regard it [Venice] as an aging, yet still graceful, woman, suffering from insomnia and dragging restlessly around the house in her worn-out, loose-fitting slippers in the night. Soft splashes of water against the ancient Venetian stones are like shuffling of slippers across the floor…”

On Riga: “It was late afternoon in March. Stray cats were copulating frantically on time-beaten cobbles. A plush Volvo of the latest make was crawling up a narrow lane squeezing into the gap between houses like a gleaming dagger into a tight sheath.”

On Prague: “Baroque architecture… strikes me as somewhat beer-inspired: this excessive ornamentation, this profusion of curved and interrupted lines, these heavy and solid – almost stout – facades, this beer-foam-like multitude of cupolas and turrets… And isn’t it true that the best examples of baroque architecture can be found in beer-loving countries? Please correct me if I am wrong (which I probably am).” A wine-imbibing Roman would probably oblige with gusto, but Vitaliev writes so well, I don’t feel like correcting him on anything.

“Walking in Manhattan, where the traffic is so slow that it gives the impression of travelling backwards, I spotted an elderly woman asleep inside a capacious shopping trolley, her bare feet sticking out like two freshly bought overbaked baguettes.”

On New York’s Brighton Beach, mostly populated by Russians: “A couple of elderly immigrants, carrying an indelible ‘I-am-waiting-to-be-hurt’ expression on their faces, could be seen strolling along the wet wood-paved boardwalk. From time to time, they would stop and stare at the ocean, as if trying to discern the outlines of their native Odessa on the horizon.”

“While in New Orleans, I was tempted to compare it to:

“A joyful scream, a gentle shock; a sophisticated mess, like a Cajun dish; a cup of strong black coffee that cheers you up and keeps you awake throughout the night; a friendly blow in the solar plexus that leaves you bent over and gasping for breath, and yet with a blissful smile on your face…”

And on and on, the world comes alive one sentence after another beautifully shaped sentence, one page after another perfectly structured page, one chapter after another chapter short on words but long on startling imagery and X-ray vision. If the purpose of literature is indeed to enlighten and delight, then The Bumper Book does so with the verve and precision seldom found in this genre.

This gets me to the starting point: the authentic and yet idiosyncratic English this reprobate has the audacity of writing.

Whenever I am described as a Russian author, or a Russian anything, I invariably quote Joseph Conrad: “My nationality is the language I write in.” Vitali cites this retort too, in his essay on Andrei Makine, the French writer who, like us, was raised in the Soviet Union.

By that criterion, Vitali is a British writer par excellence. But he wouldn’t be the British writer he is without the experience of having been (and lived) just about everywhere. An experience I for one am grateful he has put to such a thoroughly enjoyable use.  

Official: Biden is demented

This melancholy conclusion is inescapable in light of Biden’s comments before, during and on the climate summit graced by the presence of 42 world leaders, including Vlad Putin.

GRU officers Chepiga and Petrov on the way to that Czech depot

It was that champion of ecological probity whom Biden chose to single out for special praise, in preference to the other 40: “I am very heartened by President Putin’s call for the world to collaborate on advanced carbon dioxide removal.”

It pleases me as a British subject that my country has also been singled out for praise. Britain, Bill Gates told the conference, is to play a leading role in helping subsistence farmers avoid the shocks of global warming. God help me, but the chap has gone microsoft in the head.

Had Gates plotted climate changes next to farming activity over the past few millennia, he’d know that warm periods marked the times of the greatest productivity and prosperity. And conversely, when the climate got colder, famines usually ensued, accompanied by large-scale migrations, shrinking populations, disappearing farms, disease and general misery.

Now Biden and Gates, along with the world’s entire progressive community (it is a community, isn’t it? – everything else is), cling to the daft notion that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is mostly produced by irresponsible people who fuel their lives with hydrocarbons.

This belief is so scientifically illiterate that one shouldn’t grace it with too much commentary. I exhausted my quota of articles over the past couple of months by siting on several occasions reams of scientific data that show that human input makes up an infinitesimally tiny portion of atmospheric carbon dioxide and an even smaller one of atmospheric gases in general.

Moreover, changes in CO2 concentration have little to do with climate, and next to nothing compared to solar activity, tectonic shifts, volcanoes, meteorites and hundreds of other factors beyond human control.

But let’s assume that great scientist Greta Thunberg is right. Even so, since carbon dioxide is a major resource of biomass generation, its removal will reduce the number of forests and trees in general. Since trees absorb CO2, its amount in the atmosphere will hence rise pari passu. This is one way in which nature maintains its balance, and trying to distort it artificially is fraught with incalculable risks.

But I shouldn’t compete with Greta on this subject – her educational credentials are too awe-inspiring. Tipping my hat, I’m prepared to agree with her and Joe Biden: CO2 is poison, and hydrocarbons are the work of the devil.

Now let’s juxtapose this premise with the fact that Russia’s economy is almost totally dependent on the consumption of hydrocarbons and especially their export. It’s oil and gas that keep Vlad and his jolly friends in the style to which they’ve lately become accustomed. Without hydrocarbons, Russia’s economy will collapse within weeks and, more important in this context, so will Putin’s regime.

So how sincerely do you suppose Vlad supports the wokish theories so dear to Joe’s heart? Not very, would be my guess. He merely wants to trick his way to a measure of international respectability, something to which he has never been entitled, and now less than ever.  

“President Putin and I have our disagreements,” acknowledged Biden, but these are insignificant compared to their shared commitment to… well, you get it.

I’m not sure ‘disagreements’ is quite the right word, unless he’d also use this word to describe US-Japan relations circa 1942. Just a couple of weeks ago – and I realise a fortnight is aeons in politics – Biden described Putin as a killer (or rather agreed with that description when asked).

Since the president gets intelligence briefings, and assuming he can read them with full comprehension, he must be aware of the reckless brinkmanship with which Putin teeters on the verge of full-blown war against America’s allies and even other Nato members. Biden must also have heard of the three aggressive wars Russia has waged in the past 20-odd years. Moreover, I’m sure the CIA informs him of the relish with which Vlad and his acolytes regularly threaten nuclear annihilation, specifically turning America into “radioactive dust”.

And speaking of other Nato members, a few days ago the news broke that the same two GRU officers who in 2018 poisoned the Skripals, British subjects on British soil, had four years earlier blown up an ammunition warehouse in the Czech Republic, which, unless I’m very much mistaken, belongs to Nato.

Two local residents died in the blast. I’m sure the area’s ecology must have suffered too, and we know how deeply Vlad cares about that. Let me tell you, wars have been started for much milder ‘disagreements’ than that, and Article 5 of the Nato Charter calls for a robust response to such hostile acts.

I’m not the first to question Biden’s mental health, nor shall I be the last. But I just can’t imagine anyone who is compos mentis choosing this time to pat Vlad on the back and compliment him on some empty promises he has no intention of keeping. I wish the security of the West were in safer hands.