Ideology

New year, new repression

Wednesday, 2 January, 2019

The old year was ebbing towards its end when Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Iran, took to Twitter to wish people “from all races, religions and ethnicities — a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.” This is the height of cynicism, given that Zarif represents a regime that supports terrorism, pushes gays off buildings, forces women to wear mediaeval garb and refuses to allow the people of Iran free access to the internet.

Just as vile as the regime in Tehran is the regime in Hanoi, which has imposed a draconian new law requiring internet companies in Vietnam to remove content the communist authorities regard as “toxic” and compels them to hand over user data if asked to do so. The law also bans internet users from spreading information deemed to be “anti-state or anti-government,” as well as prohibiting use the internet to “distort history” and “post false information that could cause confusion and damage to socio-economic activities.” The law came into force a week after Vietnam’s Association of Journalists announced a new code of conduct on the use of social media, forbidding its members to post news and photos that “run counter to” the state.”


Marx and Mass and Moguls and Myanmar

Tuesday, 18 August, 2015 0 Comments

When he was a hard-left Labour activist and a militant atheist, the young(er) Tim Stanley saw life as a class struggle and believed that salvation could only come through revolution. That was then. And now? In the Catholic Herald, the historian and journalist explains his epiphany in “Why I became a Catholic“. Snippet:

“I’ve abandoned Marxism (a whole other complicated story) in part because I’ve realised that you can’t save this world by trying to tell others what to do. Politics is impotent compared to a kind word or a helping hand. Not that I’ve become a saint over the past 10 years — on the contrary, I’m more conscious of my failings. When you become a Catholic you find lots of new ways of feeling guilty.”

Citizen Hollywood: How the Collaboration Between LA and DC Revolutionized American Politics is the title of Tim Stanley’s latest book. In it, he argues that the film industry has “helped to forge a culture that is obsessed with celebrity and spectacle.” George Clooney and Matt Damon may be big at the box office but this does not make them experts on domestic or international affairs.

Stanley’s analysis of the West Wing phenomenon is funny and frightening. The series is “a Bible for liberal reformers the world over”, he says, pointing out its writers “are all former Capitol Hill staff, many of Obama’s staff are huge fans, and the character of Matt Santos was actually based on Obama when he was still an unknown Illinois politician.” Most terrifying of all, however, is the fact that when Myanmar (Burma) was transitioning from military rule, “its new government learned how to run a democracy by watching West Wing DVDs.” General elections are scheduled for Burma on 8 November, but the Wall Street Journal has spotted clouds on the horizon: “Myanmar Military Strengthens Grip Over Ruling Party as Election Nears” it reported recently. Looks like the West Wing did not unduly impress the colonels.


English vs. Chinese

Thursday, 20 November, 2014 0 Comments

Sarah Fay interviews Ha Jin for the Paris Review. His books are banned in China because he writes about “taboo subjects”. And there’s another reason he’s unpopular with the authorities: “I write in English, which is viewed as a betrayal of my mother tongue.” Talking of language, here he compares Chinese with English:

“English has more flexibility. It’s a very plastic, very shapeable, very expressive language. In that sense it feels quite natural. The Chinese language is less natural. Written Chinese is not supposed to represent natural speech, and there are many different spoken dialects that correspond to the single written language. The written word will be the same in all dialects, but in speech it is a hundred different words. The written language is like Latin in that sense; it doesn’t have a natural rhythm. The way people talk — you can’t represent that. The accents and the nongrammatical units, you can’t do it. You can’t write in dialect, like you can in English, using a character to represent a certain sound, because each character has a fixed meaning.

When the first emperor wanted to unify the country, one of the major policies was to create one system of written signs. By force, brutal force, he eliminated all the other scripts. One script became the official script. All the others were banned. And those who used other scripts were punished severely. And then the meanings of all the characters, over the centuries, had to be kept uniform as a part of the political apparatus. So from the very beginning the written word was a powerful political tool.”

Read the whole thing and give thanks for the freedom that allows you to read it.


Dear Prime Minister, Iraq and IS

Sunday, 17 August, 2014 0 Comments

The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nicholas Baines, writes to Prime Minister David Cameron. Snippet:

2. The focus by both politicians and media on the plight of the Yezidis has been notable and admirable. However, there has been increasing silence about the plight of tens of thousands of Christians who have been displaced, driven from cities and homelands, and who face a bleak future. Despite appalling persecution, they seem to have fallen from consciousness, and I wonder why. Does your Government have a coherent response to the plight of these huge numbers of Christians whose plight appears to be less regarded than that of others? Or are we simply reacting to the loudest media voice at any particular time?

The inaction of Cameron and Obama in the face of Islamic extremism is very disturbing, and their apparent embarrassment in addressing the plight of persecuted Christians is alarming. Once again, the West is sleepwalking towards a catastrophe.


A one-woman revolution

Sunday, 6 April, 2014 0 Comments

“A year ago this coming Tuesday, I was travelling to London on a train, correcting the proofs of my biography of Margaret Thatcher. As we reached Charing Cross, I signed off the last page of the book (which concerns victory in the Falklands war). When I got off the train, I discovered she had died.” […]

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A tremor of intent in Crimea

Monday, 24 March, 2014 1 Comment

The writer Anthony Burgess noticed his hand shaking one hungover morning in 1965. “That”, his wife said to him, “is a tremor of intent”. Thereupon, Burgess conceived an eschatological spy novel titled Tremor of Intent, which would offer an alternative to the humourless fiction of John le Carré and the jingoistic fantasy of Ian Fleming. By terming it an eschatological thriller, Burgess was expressing his view of the Cold War as the “ultimate conflict” for which Good and Evil were, he felt, inadequate terms.

Tremor of Intent Synopsis: The ageing, amoral MI6 Agent Denis Hillier, posing as a typewriter technician, journeys to Crimea aboard the cruise ship Polyolbion on a mission to infiltrate a convention of Soviet scientists and return to Britain his school friend Roper, who has defected to the Evil Empire. En route, he encounters the sexually curious sixteen-year-old Clara Walters, the obsequious steward Wriste and the sexually experienced Miss Devi, secretary to the sinister epicure Theodorescu. All of this allows the genius creator of A Clockwork Orange to describe hilariously graphic scenes involving food, drink, sex, politics, philosophy, history, religion, treason and murder. When Hillier is forced to spend three days in the seedy Babi Humayun (Sublime Portal) hotel overlooking the Bosphorus, Burgess hits his musical stride. Snippet:

“Istanbul disturbed him with its seven hills, as though Rome had tried to build herself on another planet. The names of architects and sultans rang in his mind in dull Byzantine gold — Anthemius, Isidorus, Achmet, Bajazet, Solyman the Magnificent. The emperors shrilled from a far past like desolate birds — Theodosius, Justinian, Constantine himself. His head raged with mosques. The city, in cruel damp heat, smelt of wool and hides and skins. Old filth and rusty iron, proud exports, clattered and thumped aboard under Galata’s lighthouse. Ships, gulls, sea-light. Bazaars, beggars, skinny children, charcoal fires, skewered innards smoking, the heavy tobacco reek, fat men in flannel double-breasteds, fed on fat.”

In this age of Putin and Snowden, it is our misfortune that there’s no Anthony Burgess around to novelize the comic aspects of their Cold War II symbiosis.


The disgusting quenelle of the repulsive Nicolas Anelka

Monday, 30 December, 2013 0 Comments

Anti-Semitism is a hallmark of savagery, and one cannot expect anything from savages except further savagery. That’s the context in which the quenelle gesture used by West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka during Saturday’s Premiership match with West Ham United has to be viewed. Anelka is a friend of the racist comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala whose provocative downward version of the Nazi salute has won him a huge following in France.

“Anti-Semitism is the sign of profound mental and social failure — and a harbinger of more failures and errors to come,” notes Walter Russell Mead in The American Interest. The essay is titled “Jon Stewart, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and the Zionist Takeover of Egypt.” Snippet:

“Rabid anti-Semitism coupled with an addiction to implausible conspiracy theories is a very strong predictor of national doom; Nazi Germany isn’t the only country to have followed these dark stars to the graveyard of history. Many liberal minded Americans (though loathing both anti-Semitism and chowderheaded conspiracy thinking themselves) don’t like to look this truth in the eye. It leads to some very uncomfortable reflections about the potential for democracy in many countries beyond Egypt, and casts a dark shadow over the prospects for the development of a stable and prosperous Palestinian state. It suggests that there are narrow limits on what we can expect from diplomacy with Iran.”

There is no place in football for the poison that Anelka is spreading. Boot him out!


The Andropov Apprentice

Tuesday, 17 September, 2013 0 Comments

Yesterday, here, we mentioned Radek Sikorski, Poland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, who claims he was the first to suggest that Moscow should assume responsibility for Syria’s chemical weapons stocks. It’s worth noting that Sikorski is married to the American journalist Anne Applebaum, a long-time observer of Vladimir Putin and his philosophy of power. In February last year, Applebaum gave a talk at the London School of Economics titled Putinism: The Ideology in which she detailed the autocrat’s suffocating dogma:

“Applebaum identifies the central tenet of Putinism as the carefully managed elections that ensure there are no accidental winners because there are no accidental candidates. Putin very carefully maintains the appearance of democracy — building up a campaign atmosphere during elections despite doing little actual campaigning and allowing fringe opposition parties to exist — but Russian voters are at no stage allowed to genuinely intervene in the democratic process.”

Anne Applebaum has spent many years developing her theory of Putinism. On 10 April 2000, the Weekly Standard published an article by her titled Secret Agent Man in which she revealed that Vladimir Putin tried to join Yuri Andropov’s KGB “at the tender age of 15”. Yuri Andropov Eventually, Putin fulfilled his dream of Soviet espionage and when he came to power in the Russian Federation that succeeded the USSR he enacted a tribute ceremony that was truly revelatory. “He chose the site with care: the Lubyanka, once the headquarters of the KGB and its most notorious jail prisoners once exercised on its roof, and were tortured in its cellars — and now the home of the FSB, Russia’s internal security services,” wrote Applebaum. “He also took heed of the date: December 20, a day still known and still celebrated by some, as ‘Chekists Day,’ the anniversary (this was the 82nd) of the founding of the Cheka, Lenin’s secret police. In that place and on that day, both so redolent of the bloodiest pages of Russian history, Vladimir Putin solemnly unveiled a plaque in memory of Yuri Andropov.”

Andropov’s apprentice is flying high now, but his repressive agency, the FSB, is not having it so easy. You see, Will Cochrane stands in its way. Never heard of Will Cochrane? He’s the “Spycatcher” and we’ll meet him here tomorrow.


Blond on Thatcher

Monday, 15 April, 2013 0 Comments

Mrs Thatcher A cover story in the February 2009 edition of Prospect magazine ensured fame for Phillip Blond, the English political thinker, Anglican theologian and director of the ResPublica think tank. His celebrated essay on Red Toryism proposed a radical communitarian traditionalist conservatism and railed against state and market monopoly. Blond noted that Thatcherism was determined to end state monopolies and markets would then become the vehicle by which prosperity would be attained. “But the free market fundamentalists often did little more than create new monopolies of capital to replace those of the state,” he noted.

At the weekend, Phillip Blond revisited these issues for readers of the Dutch publication, The Post Online, and in “The legacy of Margaret Thatcher” he painted a picture of light and shadow in which the late British Prime Minister was praised for her many international achievements but criticized for what Blond saw as her lack of domestic social conscience. Snippet:

“She simply had no account of the social or the intermediate. For her there were just individuals and everything she tried to do was to create the type of individuals she believed would make Britain great again. The lack of any account of the social blinded her to the fate of her people — human beings need structures to help them in life especially when faced with economic change. But nobody in the north was offered anything except welfare and indifference bordering on hostility.”

And then there’s this barb:

“In respect of negative legacies others abound, her justified hostility to the European project blinded her to the possibility that Britain’s rise back to power might also be through Europe. If she had not disliked non-English speaking people so, she might have helped save Europe (and so fulfil Britain’s historical role on the continent) from the terrible consequences of the euro.”

Phillip Blond has written one of the best Tory essays on the legacy of Margaret Thatcher that we will read this week.


A meshugener in the Haus der Kunst

Sunday, 14 April, 2013 0 Comments

When the Nazis decided to erect a monument, one that would glorify the concept of art as propaganda and venerate their Aryan supremacist ideology, they chose Munich, the “Capital of the Movement”, as the location. The Haus der Kunst (House of Art) “) at Prinzregentenstrasse 1 opened on 18 July 1937 with the Große Deutsche […]

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The Manchurian Candidate in London

Thursday, 4 April, 2013 0 Comments

“The escalating tension over North Korea, which has led to nuclear tests by the regime, is a product of a long term increase in sanctions and other measures against the North Korea, and a recent surge of US and South Korean military activity in the area.” So speaks Pyongyang, right? Wrong! That’s, actually, a London-based […]

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