Monday, 27 February 2012

Proud, not prejudiced: English Defence League

click to watch Proud and Prejudiced on 4oD
click to go to the English Defence League websiteThe Channel 4 documentary Prejudiced and Proud might easily have been depressing viewing: the English Defence League was referred to yet again as a "far-right" group, despite its eschewal of David Cameron’s “multiculturalism has failed” narrative putting its members to the left of over half of the MPs in Westminster. The narrator referred to founder/leader Tommy Robinson’s "misguided beliefs" with no corresponding disapprobation of fellow Lutonian Sayful Islam’s doctrines; and Islamist protesters’ faces were pixillated out, a courtesy not extended to EDL members. In short, the documentary observed the shibboleths of "liberal" media values which must have giants of political liberalism like Locke and Jefferson turning in their graves.

click to go to the British Freedom websiteAnd yet, members of the EDL and its friends in the British Freedom Party were celebrating, some literally, at the unprecedented coverage of the EDL’s aims and methods, the League’s website nearly crashed through the volume of traffic and during the programme Tommy’s name trended internationally on Twitter.

It’s a programme the BBC simply couldn’t have commissioned. For one thing, not having attended public school or gained a degree, Tommy’s not somebody whom BBC bosses would call "one of us". For another, the Establishment worship of beard-and-burqa extremism is so entrenched that Jeremy Paxman, in his infamous Newsnight interrogation of Tommy, refused to accept that there was any more of a problem with Pakistani paedophiles than with those of any other ethnicity.

Tommy RobinsonTommy’s closing comments were invaluable, and it was brave of Channel 4 to broadcast them: "People are angry, and they need some way to express their anger...Take that away, and you’ll start to see things get blown up." I hope those politicians who were happy to let the IRA bomb its way to the negotiating table, and to watch Basque and Palestinian terorrists do the same, engrave those words on their hearts.

Click to find out more about Proud and Prejudiced and watch the documentary

Saturday, 25 February 2012

The Death of Klinghoffer - English National Opera

click to go to English National Opera's homepage

a protester at 'The Death of Klinghoffer' opening nightIt was a restrained protest, very British: the single protester (who gave me permission to photograph him) carried a placard reminding patrons of the English National Opera that the opera they were attending featured the murder of a disabled Jewish man.

Personally I didn’t find watching the London première of The Death of Klinghoffer a comfortable experience, but a treatment of how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict played out on board the hijacked Achille Lauro is perhaps the wrong place to look for chicken soup. However, Act I is prefaced by the Chorus of the Exiled Palestinians and the Chorus of the Exiled Jews, in a declaration that neither side was going to be demonised – or get an easy ride.

I had expected to feel nothing for the terrorists, but Alice Goodman’s intelligent, harrowing and nuanced libretto got under my skin. When a Palestinian confided to the ship’s captain that his first toy had been, at age 5, a real assault rifle, I found myself wondering "what kind of pig would put a gun in the hands of an infant?" A sequence where an ostensibly motherly woman, all but suffocated in hijab, encourages the young executioner to walk soon in paradise made me question the extent to which he was master of his fate, let alone captain of his soul.

A line that the hijackers had had a chance to awaken "consciences that slept secure" seemed a metaphor for the Kierkegaardian task of disturbing us from slumbers, existential and otherwise, that Goodman and composer John Adams had set themselves. Having thought we would be invited to question where the line is drawn in fighting for what one believes in, I left wondering whether the line is a dream, and The Death of Klinghoffer a wake-up call.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Click to go to English National Opera's homepage

ADDENDUM I stated elsewhere that I left the theatre when during the curtain calls, the enthusiastic applause became rapturous for the actors who played the Palestinians. My own prejudices had gotten the better of me: had I investigated, I would have found that they were making their first appearance in opera. And had I stayed, I would have witnessed the standing ovation for Michaela Martins, who played Leon Klinghoffer's wife and whose performance near the end of the opera as Marylin Klingoffer, hearing of Leon's death, had people crying. I was blinded by my determination that my preconceptions enabled me to see more clearly than those who differ from me. If I had had a little more humility, I might have seen that The Death of Klinghoffer exposed my own hypocrisy as much as, and possibly more than, anybody else's.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Christians not above law: fifteen-year-old newsflash

Bernard Manning’s supporters used to defend the comic’s caustic wit by saying that he was inclusive – he insulted everybody.

Trevor Phillips - click to find out moreTrevor Phillips (right) seems to be going for this defence – perhaps he's trying to ingratiate himself with every political viewpoint so he can keep his post after the next General Election?

The EHRC chair’s says today that Christians "aren’t above the law". This is manifestly obvious. We’ve seen workers sanctioned for wearing crosses at Heathrow Airport, an Islington registrar fired for refusing to marry same-sex couples, and owners of a Bed and Breakfast told that their rights are "trumped by gay equality".

This last case embodies the mess that is equality legisation. The EHRC’s resource page for teachers is titled "equal rights, equal respect", but nothing could be further from the truth. As shown by the John Terry case, a white man accused of insulting a black one is presumed guilty; a man accused of rape is presumed guilty before the trial begins (unless his name is Julian Assange); and womens’ rights stop where the competency of the Sharia courts start, as shown by the 9- and 11-year old girls forced into marriage in Islington.

Phillips compares Christians who seek respect for their beliefs with "Muslims trying to impose Sharia on Britain". Where has he been the last fifteen years? Sharia courts are up and running all over the country, imposing their medieval precepts on British Muslims.

Surely the kernel of British ways of living – the very thing under attack today – is tolerance of those things we would not choose for ourselves, the other side of the bargain being that our choices will be tolerated by those who disagree with them and us?

The opposite of this is totalitarianism, and can be seen in any courtroom, town hall or tribunal near you.

Joe Daniels
300 words

Friday, 10 February 2012

council prayers: is it time for a crusade?

I would not like to be Malcolm Hey, who walked out of a meeting of Portsmouth City Council last year during a prayer said by an Imam invited by the Lord Mayor.

The Conservative councillor had good reason. He told Asian Image:

Although I am happy to learn about Islam …it is different to participating and worshipping in the religion, the Gods we worship are very, very different.

Christianity is our official religion and, although we have various Muslims in Portsmouth with an immigrant population of about 5% with the Muslim population within that, it doesn’t seem appropriate when the majority call themselves Christian or have an affinity to Christianity.

I am wanting to maintain the status quo. If we start having prayers to Muslims, Buddhists and so on, how long will it be before we allow the Jedi Council to have their part?

Trevor Phillips: click to learn moreHowever, actions like those of Mr Hey could be seen as contributing factors to the High Court’s ruling that prayers cannot be lawfully held as a 'formal' part of council meetings. In what the Christian Institute called "an extraordinary judgement" – and head of the Equality Commission head Trevor Phillips (right) called "nonsense on stilts" – the National Secular Society has won its case against Bideford Town Council on the grounds that no councillor is compelled to say prayers.

Unlike Mr Hey, I’m not worried about Buddhists or even Jedi. I’m worried that if Islamist councillors want their prayers they will go ahead and make that happen and nobody will touch them for it: and the law-abiding majority will lose out yet again precisely because they are law-abiding.

Although I’m usually in favour of more direct action, I reckon this situation could be solved by prayer.

How about a prayer crusade? We could meet to pray in council chambers, during meetings.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Question Time: Steve Coogan's offensive Harold Shipman remark

blessed memory: Robin DayTowards the end of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership, Tony Benn referred to those who had "left their faces in the Falklands", and finally apologised on Question Time when Robin Day (right) – also nearing the end of his tenure – told him of the offence his remark had caused nationally.

How things have changed.

Steve Coogan on Question Time - click for episodeDuring the latest episode, comedian Steve Coogan compared the Government’s NHS reforms to "putting Harold Shipman in charge of your local GP surgery".

The audience laughed; they seemed to appreciate left-wing humour, but I wasn’t laughing, and I’m not even related to any of Shipman’s 215 confirmed victims. There was no attempt by chair David Dimbleby to rebuke Coogan or even indicate that he thought the remark was in bad taste. Would he remain silent if faced with a shot about the effective massacre of up to 1200 people in Stafford Hospital?

exposé: read Melanie Phillips on Ross and BrandQuestion Time is recorded shortly before the broadcast unless it’s a live "special", and there were no indications that this was a special. So why wasn’t the remark edited out? The BBC has learnt nothing from when Melanie Phillips gave the nation a heads-up about the Ross and Brand scandal, when the BBC aired a pre-recorded programme featuring obscene messages left on andrew Sachs' answerphone.

You can apply to join the Question Time audience which, since the BBC is the cultural wing of the Labour Party at its most centrist and extends leftwards from there, lends itself to self-selection. If you think you could attend, don’t just sit there: apply!

And/or if you are in the UK, please take check out the remark for yourself – the NHS question starts at 49:45 with an audience-member asking if Andrew Lansley should be taken out and shot, which at least got a reaction from Dimbleby. If you’re unhappy – complain!

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Click here to view the 9/2/12 episode of Question Time

Click here to go to the BBC's Complaints page

Monday, 6 February 2012

BBC documentary on the Queen is rough diamond

click t oread about Andrew Marr's tie-in bookBBC1's The Diamond Queen looked fondly at the woman who has headed our nation for 60 years - but what was not said was at least as interesting as what was.

For example, one institution that has affected her loyal subjects more than any other was not mentioned, at least in this first part. The EU has progressively constricted freedoms for law-abiding people while protecting lawbreakers to an unprecedented level: the presenter might at least have tried to address the issue of whether the tangle of treaties our political class has signed up to has rendered Her Majesty an EU subject.

The presenter was Andrew Marr, who admitted during a 2006 BBC conference on bias that the Corporation had a "cultural liberal bias". During this conference the subject of the BBC’s stance on Islam was covered, with submissions to the effect that "executives would let the Bible be thrown into a dustbin on a TV comedy show [Room 101], but not the Koran, and that they would broadcast an interview with Osama Bin Laden if given the opportunity."

During a section filmed in Abu Dhabi, there was a mention of detecting bombs on aircraft en route from Yemen, so the BBC is starting to wake up to the fact that all is not well in Islam’s garden. While it was possibly inappropriate to speak of the scandal of Muslim men grooming British girls for sex, the media have been forced to admit the problem by groups such as the English Defence League and Casuals United. The exclusion of these loyal supporters of Her Majesty was mean-spirited, especially as they fight considerable odds to push reports of the exploitation of her vulnerable subjects through news-blackouts.

Diamond Queen has two more episodes left. Based on the highly selective nature of the material aired in the first, I hope the beeb refers the other two to a better-informed editor.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

John Terry juggernaut rolls on

accused: John TerryIt’s not often that a sports story reaches the top reaches of the news agenda without a spectacular win, crushing defeat or David-versus-Goliath scenario going on. But the story of John Terry’s (right) being stripped of the England captaincy is running and running, with no sign of the juggernaut slowing anytime soon.

undermined by the FA: Fabio CapelloTerry has been charged with racially abusing QPR’s Anton Ferdinand. He denies the charges, and the court case has been adjourned – therefore he has been found guilty of nothing. The FA decision – in which England manager Fabio Capello (left) was not invited to be involved – stated that it was made without inferring “any suggestion of guilt in relation to the charge” Terry faces.

So what rattled the FA’s cage?

I don’t know whether discrimination occurred, I wasn’t there. But increasingly, management committees, unions and tribunals buy into the belief that discrimination exists whenever it is perceived to exist by the person who makes a complaint of being discriminated against.

If this belief applied to every discrimination case we would at least have a level-ish playing field; but there is a caveat built into this belief-system that "white people" (ie the majority of blue-collar Brits) when involved in discrimination cases tend to be the guilty party. If combatting discrimination - including kicking racism out of football - is about challenging assumptions, why has this one escaped unscathed?

Fabio Capello, who still considers Terry the England captain, has been dropped in an invidious situation. If Terry leaves the national team then Capello must replace the players who voiced unhappiness about Terry’s merely being on the squad so as to avoid being seen to take sides regarding the allegation. After the almost certain defeats to follow in Euro 2012, he might then ask the FA if they want a team of angels or a team of winners.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Islington scandal: how committed is Margaret Hodge to accountability?

Margaret HodgeThe Telegraph’s Sue Cameron has highlighted a row about demands that individual civil servants report directly to the Public Accounts Committee, headed by Margaret Hodge (left).

Margaret Hodge should know all about responsibility and answerability, having avoided these comprehensively as leader of London’s Islington Borough (1982-1992) when children under the council’s care were made available to paedophiles.

Paedophiles have stalked Islington for many years, and I am not claiming that Hodge is a beast. Her dereliction of duty, however, worsened the situation. She failed to intervene when childrens’ services managers announced that gay men were less likely than straight ones to abuse children, and on that (unresearched) basis started a recruitment drive.

Baby P: click to read about the Islington connectionPaedophilia is unrelated to any mature sexuality, and gays are no more or less likely to abuse children than straights or bisexuals. However, the die was cast: paedophiles came out of the woodwork to work with vulnerable children in Islington. Affirming grotesqely Shakespeare’s tenet on the longevity of the evil that men do, one of the abused would later be associated with Baby P in neighbouring Haringey. Nobody claims he abused Peter Connelly (right), but the authorities’ failure to detect him in the family evinces establishment apathy towards vulnerable children.

Hodge would reluctantly accept some blame in the paedophile scandal, so her Islington neighbour Tony Blair’s choice of her as the first Minister for Children was bewildering and concerning, after all the disappearclick to go to the IKWRO websiteances of evidence and interference with police investigations. (Is it totally coincidental that when the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation found nine-year-old girls forced into marriage it was in Islington?)

If Margaret Hodge wants to force officials to be accountable, I challenge her to do what she should have done years ago and give all help possible to a parliamentary inquiry into the Islington Council child abuse scandal.